Hour Empty Child
Normally, it would have been about an hour for anyone to drive from Triun all the way to Korjack, the city where the next E-Plus quest will be in.
But having Hikari’s specialized ame to drive in, with Chui as the driver, it made the process of going over there flash by in a blink of an eye. To be exact, it was about 20 minutes or so of driving.
Keeping themselves entertained by watching a movie with the big plasma TV that hung from the ceiling of the ame, the E-Plus were enjoying their comfortable ride before Chui finally chimed in.
“Everyone~ We have arrived at Korjack!”
Ringing out with her charming voice, Chui drove the car around the area, eventually coming to a stop near the sidewalk of a street. Looking out the window, Kudo notices the change in scenery comparing to Triun.
It was vibrant, but not as bustling as Triun. There were buildings of variable sizes, but none as big as the skyscrapers in Triun, but there were still many signs and TV’s that hung about in the air to catch the attention of would-be buyers.
He could see, even from a distance, a large tower that expanded above as if to pierce the sky, taller than any other building around made out of steel beams. Kudo tilted his head to see what that tower might be used for.
Kudo stepped out of the ame thanks to Chui’s assistance and looked around the open air. The people that walked by eyed at the expensive looking Ame that Kudo came out of along with the other members.
“So this is Korjack…” Kuki let out in wonder of the atmosphere.
It was nearly quiet, save for some people whispering and talking amongst themselves, even taking a picture or two at the expensive ame they came out of.
“Then, Master Kudo, I will be taking my leave then,” Chui stepped up to Kudo and gave a graceful bow to him, one that fits her status as a Valkyria maid.
“Thanks, Chui. I’ll call you later.”
“Understood, then, may the gods bless you on this quest.”
Chui blessed them with her words of prayer as she heads back into the ame and started the engine. After seeing the ame drive by and leaving them on the sidewalk, Kudo could faintly hear the roaring sounds of the engine slowly disappear.
“Alright,” Kudo turned to his party members who were craning their necks to view the sights. “First thing on the list is to meet with the client. Our quest is to find the client’s missing friend, so we need some information on the guy.”
Kudo relayed his plan that he talked with the others back in the ame, getting everyone’s attention as they nodded in agreement.
“The quest note said that we can meet the client at the plaza, in the center of the city. Let’s head there immediately.”
Hinota pointed at the east side of them to point at the center. Hearing her orders, everyone followed the leaders to the center.
They began to get a grasp on the town’s layout as they walk towards the center. It’s a necessary skill for adventurers to try to map out their area in their heads so that they won’t get lost.
Some have it easier than others, like Hinota, who can remember the map they had on them the location of the plaza with ease.
With Hinota guiding them, they walked on the sidewalk of the streets where few ames drove by to provide noise for the city. Some beeping to get ahead, and of course, the usual yelling of road rage. It was nearly equal to being in Triun.
The people bustling about like worker bees in a hive weren’t so different either in matter of clothing. Each boasts high-end fashion, colorful and bright which was also equal to Triun’s trends. Some wore trench coats for the cold weather, and others had on hoodies that nearly covered their faces.
And as usual, there were some adventurers here and there scattered about, each having their weapon sheathed at their hips and backs, with their flashy armor rustling about as they walked down the lane and into the busy street to get started on their business.
“Figures that the city close to Triun would be the same,” Tsuchi commented at the atmosphere of the city as they waited on the side of the streetlight above to go green. “Everything here feels so nice.”
“This is the closest city to Triun. They’re practically reaping the benefits from the tourists that drive their way to Triun,” Mizuri added in her remark on the city.
“So it’s all just about corporations taking advantage of people to rake in the dough. Damn bastards…” Kuki grumbled, crossing his arms with a crease in his brows.
“Oh, Kui, shut up about the failing economy…” Raika nearly sighed, having no more of the nihilistic views from Kuki.
“What’s so special about this city, though?” Kudo asked, turning his head to them.
“Nothing much, really,” Mizuri answered. “It’s just a city close to Triun. I think it has nice hotels and restaurants, but there’s nothing special about this place.”
“You read about this city the day before while you were preparing, weren’t you?”
Hinota asked. Kudo noticed how Mizuri’s cheeks flushed red from that question.
“W-What’s wrong with that? There’s nothing wrong about studying up on the place, right?”
Mizuri asked as if it was something embarrassing or something that she did wrong. Hinota and Kudo chuckled from her fluster.
“That’s the perfect thing to do.”
Kudo answered to relieve Mizuri her embarrassment. Mizuri let out a short sigh to see that Kudo was on her side.
“We’re nearly there, so let’s keep up the pace.”
Hinota said which caught the attention of everyone who was drifting away to look at the city a bit more. Soon enough, they finally reached their way to the center of the city—the plaza.
After the streets diverged to form into a large circle, seeing the various streets that head to the different districts of the city, it wasn’t surprising to see that there were many people crowding this place.
At the center of the plaza, surrounded by the circled street that had many ames driving by to get to their desired district, was a resting area for everyone who parked by for some relief. In there, there was a greenish landscape filled with freshly cut grass and a few trees to provide a nature-filled feel within the bustling city. On that small park were several benches for sitting, and a statue that stood mightily on a pedestal wearing warrior’s armor with a sword aiming at the heavens above.
“Whoa, nice…” Kuki admitted after taking a look at the nice scenery at the center.
“This should be where we’ll find our client… ah.”
After scanning the area for a little bit, something in Hinota’s mind clicked after spotting out an interesting person sitting on one of the benches of the resting area.
She pointed with her finger to point at the individual, catching everyone’s attention so that they can check out the client. There was a lone girl sitting on the brown wooden bench, the wind blowing by which swayed the tree leaves and the girl’s neck-length hair that caught her face.
Pulling down the pink hair, the girl showed to be very young looking—having vibrant yellow eyes and a petite mouth as if to resemble a little girl. However, she appeared to be an adult as she had a tall fit body and wore a black office woman’s suit.
She looked around, her hair swishing left and right as she does so, trying to find the person she’s looking for. After turning forward, she let out a sigh as she lifted her hand and placed it above her chest to relieve her beating heart.
The young woman flinched, her heart nearly came out of her mouth after hearing a sweet voice call out to her. She heard several footsteps before she looked up, seeing the six extraordinarily dressed people walking towards her.
“We are from Alpha Heart—the E-Plus,” Hinota introduced for everyone. “Are you the one that contacted us?”
The young woman looked up, her eyes widening as if she saw an amazing spectacle.
The E-Plus party stood around while Hinota sat down by the young woman on the bench, seating properly to show that she has nothing but professionalism in her mind. Kudo, on the other hand, stood upright beside her to let Hinota deal with talking with the client.
“Your name is Cirya Holsteim, correct?”
“Y-Yes,” the young woman, Cirya, responded.
“It is a pleasure to see you,” Hinota continued. “My name is Hinota. This is Kudo besides me, and our party members; Tsuchi, Mizuri, Raika, and Kuki. We’re the adventurers who have been charged with your quest.”
Hinota pointed to each one of her members while stating their name. Cirya nodded slowly while looking over to the party members who either waved or smiled at her.
After all, it is only etiquette to introduce yourself the best way possible.
“T-This is surprising…” Cirya lowered her head, hunching her neck down as if trying to get back into her clothes like a turtle.
“What is?” Hinota asked.
“I figured that adventurers would be more… rugged,” Cirya said with mild nerves eating her alive.
“Ah, I suppose that’s the general viewpoint for adventurers. But I assure you, we’re just as professional when it comes to quests. You can leave your problem to our capable hands.”
“Ah…” Cirya’s eyes looked up at her and sparkled over Hinota’s calm and cool explanation.
Kuki and Raika were both astounded and in awe over at how Hinota changes her tone when it comes to clients, but figured that since she was a noble where she came from, this was expected of her.
“S-So then, you are all adventurers… who is the leader?”
Cirya asked what sounded like a good question, though she already turned to Hinota, knowing who it might be already.
“We actually have two leaders—me, and Kudo here.”
Hinota pointed at herself then to Kudo standing behind her. Kudo responded with a wave and a smile, something that he made sure to perfect when it comes to clients.
However, Cirya’s expression showed as if she was surprised.
“Him? Really?” Cirya tilted her head, her tone showing more shock than necessary. “But he doesn’t look reliable…”
Kudo became aghast. He didn’t expect something like that thrown at his face so suddenly. Kuki and Raika were surprised to hear that, while Mizuri scratched her cheek and Tsuchi putting his hands behind his head with a wry smile.
“He may look unreliable,” Hinota followed up with a smile. “But he’s a leader for a reason. Please rest assured.”
“Well… alright,” Cirya gave in to Hinota’s seducing-like words, fiddling with her thumbs. Kudo, however, asked in his mind ‘How do I look unreliable?!’ without an answer.
“Now then, let’s not beat around the bush. We may have received your quest, but we’re still in the dark about the circumstances. We like to hear more about our missing person, the one whom you issued a quest to find.”
Cirya realized the depth of Hinota’s professionalism in her words as she quickly got to the point. Breathing in calmly through her nose, then exhaling through her mouth, Cirya turned to the members with furrowed eyes.
“Yes… I’m looking for someone. My nephew—Sherald.”
“Your nephew…?” Hinota asked in a surprised tone. “But your quest asked that we were supposed to look for a young adult male.”
“My nephew is old—about 21 years old, I believe…”
Cirya gave the explanation, surprising the others from the age gap.
“I know, it’s surprising. But it’s true. My older sister had Sherald while I was about 5 years old. I arrived late in the family.”
“I see…” Hinota nodded.
“I looked out for him all my life. He’s like a little brother to me. So I’ve been taking care of him ever since.”
Kudo felt slightly off considering how the flow of conversation is going. She sounded as if she was the only one capable of doing such a thing.
“Umm… what about his parents?” Kudo asked, figuring whether or not it was the right thing to say.
Cirya lowered her head, biting her lip as she answered, “My sister and brother in law were… not really married, so to speak. And that made things harder for them to raise Sherald.”
Kudo knew that he stepped on a landmine. He would kick himself for asking a question that brought up unnecessary memories from the past.
He looked at Hinota, wondering if she was gonna give him a bad glare, but instead, she raised her hand to him and lowered it a few times. It meant that it was okay.
“Because of that, things were difficult for Sherald… He’s not a bad person, but… he can be difficult to deal with.”
“I see…” Hearing Cirya’s words, Hinota made several theories in her mind in the next instant. “So it’s possible that his personality could have caused problems with other people?”
“To say the least…” Cirya let out a weary sigh that came out of her chest. “He’s an adventurer, but he can be really impatient, and sometimes rude to other people. You could say that he’s pretty ignorant too, and a bit of a bigot…”
“Wow…” Hinota accidentally let out, covering her mouth afterward. Though, at this rate, the other members felt the same way.
“I know what you’re thinking—such a person like that would be better off going missing, huh?”
“No, of course not,” Hinota outright denied such a statement. “It doesn’t matter what kind of person he is. We don’t judge like that.”
“Well, then you’re all the first to think like that. Everyone else I asked said stuff like ‘he’s finally out of your hands’. I knew then that nobody would really support me.”
Hearing her circumstances, Kudo felt awful for how she was treated. Someone from her family goes missing, and nobody would bat an eye for him. He started to wonder just how bad this Sherald might be to have people treat him like that.
“His party members were also saying the same thing. Though I understand that they’re taking the brunt of his insults and screaming, since they’re in a party together, but still…”
“We understand,” Hinota intervened. “Don’t worry. We will not go back on our word. We will accomplish this quest, no matter the cost. That’s how the Alpha Heart works.”
Hinota gripped her hand into a fist to show Cirya her determination. From the look of her glaring yet courageous eyes, Cirya turned stunned by her sharp beauty.
“We’ll find him, and we’ll complete the quest. So, Miss Cirya, please tell us about his traits and usual habits and visits in this town.”
“Y-Yes! I understand!”
Cirya responded with a peppy answer. Hinota let off a smile as the party listened to every word Cirya said.
Looks like this quest won’t be as easy as they first thought. Oh well, just another quest to complete for the E-Plus!