Hour Empty Child
They gained some important information regarding their missing person. Aside from Sherald’s coarse demeanor, they got to know about his habits and routines, something that Cirya has taken very close attention to as his guardian.
Learning them all without a hitch, Hinota led the party towards the town to find some clues to his whereabouts. They stood on the open street where dozens of citizens were passing by. This was a street that hardly any ames drive by, so everyone could cross without worry.
Standing at the center of the street, where it diverges into an intersection, Hinota stopped the party with her in front, her arms crossed.
“For now, it’s best that we split up and look for some leads in these locations.”
Hinota then opened up her magic bag, and pulled out several pieces of white paper with writing on them. Hinota then handed them over to Kuki, Raika, and Tsuchi.
“On those notes are the directions to where you’ll be looking for clues. Raika, you look down south to the Knight station. Ask the knights if they have him since it might be possible that he’s apprehended.”
“U-Understood,” Raika nodded, though her nervous heart still beats rapidly.
“Kuki, you look towards the south near Raika, and get to the pub there. Cirya said that she checked already, but it’s possible that he might have come back.”
“Roger,” Kuki replied, his furrowed eyes showing his unease.
“Tsuchi, you and Mizuri go to the west to the Red-Light district. He might be there lounging around.”
The Red-Light district is where many adults go to relieve their stress by partaking in sexual entertainment. Usually, the district is not open to people under the age of 21, but if they flash their growth crystals and show their quest papers, adventurers who were underage could enter for the sake of the quest. As long as the Adventurer’s Guild is backing them up, the red-light district cannot restrict their access.
“Alright!” Tsuchi replied with an eager and overenthusiastic reply.
“Mizuri, you’re going with him so that he won’t get distracted.”
“Leave it to me.”
Mizuri nodded and pulled Tsuchi’s left ear with a strong pinch. Tsuchi whimpered and his left eye teared up.
“Finally, Kudo, you’re with me. We’re going to the local Adventurer’s Hub. We’re going to talk to his party members if they’re still there.”
“Got it,” Kudo nodded with a steady reply.
“Alright, ready?” Hinota raised her hands and clapped them. “Break!”
As soon as she said it, the party members headed out to their destinations without hesitation as told by their notes written by Hinota, who studied the directions from Cirya with perfect precision and wrote them down in a blink of an eye.
It was expected of Hinota who was nearing 1000 Intelligence.
Kudo and Hinota walked along the sidewalk towards their destination. The Ames drove by with a rushing roar of the engines behind it as various beeps and honks were heard from the distance.
It was traffic time around this area, and Kudo and Hinota were at the mercy of their loud sounds.
“Hinota, where do you think he might be?” Kudo knew that asking this question was like practically guessing, but he also knew that Hinota was a calculating person.
With her precisely sharp mind, it might be possible that she could have pointed out his location already.
“Honestly, I have no idea.”
Or at least Kudo thought.
“This Sherald guy seems like a person that’s a little unpredictable. One moment he’s calm, then the next he’s rampagin’. This kind of bipolar personality is really hard to pinpoint thoughts from.”
“I see… I guess looking for him might be harder than we thought.”
“Still, this is a C-Rank quest. If it were more serious it would have gone up a rank, so all we need to do is just collect the clues and find him according to those clues.”
“Figures that you would handle this without any problems, Hinota,” Kudo offered praise which Hinota gladly took by the look of her proud face.
“This much is nothing for me. We gotta beat everyone else first when we get back to the intersection.”
“Why are you making this into a competition, Hinota…?” Kudo wryly smiled.
He also figured that Hinota would get somehow competitive as well. Hinota then dragged Kudo along for the ride towards the Hub.
They reached their destination to the Hub that looked the same way as Triun except that it was a little smaller in height. Considering that this is a town and not a complicated city like Triun, the establishment for adventurers should be a smaller size as well.
However, the entrance of the two glass doors that opened on their own, and the cooling sensation passing through them was still the same old business. On the inside, the lobby looked similar to the Adventurer’s Hub back in Triun, with silver pristine tiles on the floor and pillars that supported the white-colored stone ceiling. It made the two share a deja-vu sense.
The adventurers coming in and out were the same sight to behold as always. Kudo looked left and right, seeing every different adventurer and turned to Hinota.
“So, who do we ask?”
“Well, Kudo, that’s where you come in,” Hinota turned to Kudo with a smile that made her eyes seem like they were glinting.
“Kudo, pick out the group of adventurers you think might be Sherald’s party.”
“Eh…? I don’t know if my luck works that way…”
“Come on, just do it!”
Seeing Hinota urge him on with her glaring look, Kudo let out a sigh and turned back around towards the lobby, eyeing out every adventurer with his keen eyes.
Then, he spotted two adventurers together that caught his eye. One adventurer was a male Warrior, wearing steel armor and an axe strapped to his hip, and a shield over his left forearm.
He wore a brown crew-cut hair that was momentarily bare without a helmet. The other was a female mage, wearing a purple robe and a witch hat on her fushia-colored hair that reached her neck. She had a wooden staff as tall as she strapped behind her back as well.
“How about… those two?”
“You really think so, Kudo?” Hinota spotted the two with her own keen eyes and asked.
“Yeah, I got a feeling about those two.”
“Then, let’s talk to them.”
Hinota moved forward with Kudo following her behind as they weaved their way towards the two adventurers, bypassing everyone else that comes across them.
Eventually, they got within hearing distance as they could hear the pair’s conversation with their high-level hearing.
“Hey, did you contact Jax?” The male warrior spoke.
“I tried but he never answered,” The female mage said wearily. “Did he call you by any chance?”
“Not even a call…” The warrior disappointingly said.
“Where did he go? It’s been a few days since we’ve seen him.”
“I don’t know. You remember what he said before we left him?” The warrior asked.
“He said something about finishing his errands, but after that…”
The female mage let out a sigh alongside the warrior, so Hinota figured to step in here and now.
“Excuse me,” Hinota said aloud, catching the two’s attention.
“Yes? What is it?” The female mage responded while the male warrior looked back at her.
“Pardon me, but can you answer some of my questions? It involves your party member, Sherald.”
The moment Hinota said his name, the adventurers’ expressions briefly changed to that of disgust before turning back into a distasteful frown.
(Whoa…) Kudo was able to see that change and remained in awe.
“Ugh, it’s always about that guy… who cares if he’s missing?!”
The female mage spatted out in disgust, surprising the young adventurers.
“Looks like we hit the mark,” Hinota whispered to Kudo accounting his massive luck. Kudo smiled wryly before returning to the two adventurers.
“Listen, for the last time, like we told Cirya, we really have no idea where that bastard is. You can ask as many times as you want—we still don’t have a damn answer.”
“And we’re not planning on finding out anyways. I’m sorry, but I rather that he’d just be gone.”
The female mage and the male warrior quickly snapped back with venomous remarks to their missing person. Kudo and Hinota were in shock to see how bad the relationship was first hand.
“We’re sorry to bother you, we really are,” Hinota, in the midst of their toxicity, responded with a calm demeanor. “But for all we know, he could be in danger and his life may be in peril.”
“So what? It’s probably all his fault that he ended up that way to begin with!” The female mage shot back.
“He’s a real prick; Not the kind of guy you want to deal with. If he’s going through some peril like you said, he probably deserves it. Do you have any idea how many times I had to stop the guy from causing fights with other parties?”
The warrior complained, pointing at himself with his thumb, his armor rustling as he did.
“And do you have a clue on the kind of guy he is? Hardly anyone else wants to party with us with him for saying so many bad things about other races when he was drunk!”
Kudo and Hinota were left with their mouths slightly agape to hear that. Kudo furrowed his brows in worry as he decided to speak back.
“He may sound like a terrible person,” Kudo stated. “But that doesn’t mean that he deserves to die!”
Hearing Kudo state that out loud caused the adventurers to shrink back a little. The word ‘die’ made them anxious.
“And if he dies, and you’re all withholding information, you all could be considered accessories for his death.”
“H-Hey! That’s not fair!” The female mage responded to Hinota’s somewhat intimidating statement.
The two adventurers looked back at each other, both wearing expressions that were difficult to describe before turning back to the leaders.
“Listen, we really don’t know,” The male warrior responded. “If we knew, we would have told Cirya about it.”
“But you gotta understand that this guy is just messed up. He shouldn’t be allowed to be an adventurer since he can hold weapons and everything. He already made three strikes with us already, so we kicked him off the party.”
“You kicked him off the party?” Hinota asked for this sudden new piece of information.
“He had three chances to be a better party member—that’s the rule we put on him. He botched up on all three, so we kicked him like we promised,” The warrior explained, holding up 3 fingers to the leaders.
“He complained and complained so much, I thought I was going to get an ear disease,” The female mage rubbed her ears with her hands from remembering the sordid details of that night.
“I see…” Hinota placed her fingers on her small chin, her mind processing the information accurately.
“There, so now we have no connection with him. We and our party leader decided that he’s no longer worthy of being in our party. So don’t blame us if he got himself in some kind of trouble.”
“Eh? Party leader? There’s one more?”
Kudo noticed their wording and looked to see if there was another one.
“Yeah, our party leader, Jax. He’s our healer. He’s the one that put the rule on him and kicked him off,” The warrior responded.
“And we all agreed. It was completely unanimous,” The female mage added in.
“I see…” Kudo lowered his gaze to the floor to hear such a turnabout.
“Uggh, if our leader didn’t have that stupid crush on Cirya, we wouldn’t have to deal with this problem at all…”
“Hey…!” The warrior tried to silence the female mage as she sighed and blurted out.
“Oh come off it. It’s so obvious that it’s plain to see! Cirya is definitely a catch, but with that nephew of hers always on the prowl, it’s not worth it!”
Somehow, the leaders heard something that they probably shouldn’t have. Kudo turned to look at Hinota with an awkward smile, but he saw that she put on a solemn frown.
“We understand,” Finally, Hinota answered. “Thank you for your cooperation. We won’t bother you again. Let’s go.”
Hinota turned to Kudo and nodded to him, urging him to follow Hinota to the exit.
“Hey! If you find him, tell him that he should be ashamed for making his aunt worry so much!”
The warrior shouted, catching Kudo’s ear as he turned around for a brief moment before getting back towards the exit.
Walking out of the Adventurer’s Hub, the air between the two was solemn and cold. Kudo crossed his arms while Hinota continued to remain in her thoughts.
“Looks like we don’t got anything…” Kudo said with a depressing tone.
“But we got some juicy info. Sherald apparently was kicked out of his party. That’s gotta sent him down to some kind of crazy spiral.”
“You think so, Hinota?” Kudo saw how Hinota continued to fiddle with her soft lips as she continues to think deeply into this.
“For now, we don’t got anything solid. But I got a hunch that Sherald isn’t exactly in his right mind,” Hinota surmised. Kudo felt a chilling feeling coursing through him.
The two stop for a moment, giving Hinota a chance to gather her thoughts. The chilling feeling never went away as Hinota turned back to him, her eyes furrowed with a sense of dread.
“…I believe we should find him as soon as possible, or else someone will be in trouble.”
“You mean Sherald?”
Kudo figured what Hinota said with those grim words. He swallowed his saliva as he thought of the worst to happen.
“Then, let’s get back to the intersection to meet up with everyone else.”
“Right,” Hinota answered to Kudo’s proclamation as the two of them headed towards the intersection with haste.
After a while, the two finally made it to the intersection where the streets diverged together. In this spacious street with no Ames around, they met up with their party members who were walking towards them one by one.
“Guys, how’d it go for you all?” Kudo asked everyone present. Raika stepped up, her body hunched forward with a sweat streaming down her temple.
“Each one of the knights said nothing useful… All they kept saying whenever I said Sherald’s name is ‘what did he do this time?!’ and stuff…” Raika let out a weary sigh.
“Everyone almost threw their mugs and trash at me when I asked if anyone knew where Sherald went…” Kuki stepped up, showing bits of smudges and dirt on his face and the smell of alcohol wafted from his hair.
“Nothing in the Red district either…” Tsuchi said with the most depressing tone. Hinota turned to Mizuri.
“He didn’t get to see anything raunchy, so he’s depressed.”
Both Mizuri and Hinota dealt a finishing blow to Tsuchi’s pride, as if a spear punctured his heart.
“Anyways, we didn’t see high nor tail of him. But we did hear that he might have gone somewhere…”
After Mizuri said that, everyone turned their heads to her.
“What did you find?” Hinota asked, slightly peeved that she lost the competition but kept it to herself.
“Some ‘entertainers’ said that they usually hear Sherald when he’s dead drunk that he has a special place where he can be himself. It’s way out of town, in the woods near here called the Ashspell Forest.”
“Ashspell Forest…” Kudo repeated, remembering the name to himself.
“Then, it looks like that’s our only lead,” Hinota continued to ask for more details. “Did they say anything specific about that forest?”
“They said something like… a hut? Like a small cabin made of wood.”
“Good, then we’re heading there immediately. Come on, everyone!”
After getting the only piece of information that connects to their case, Hinota felt her spirit driven as she led the others to head to the nearest knight to ask directions for the forest.
Finding their first clue, the E-Plus heads to find their missing Sherald! But wait, isn’t that hut where…?