Hour Empty Child
Running as fast as possible, their lungs burning with each and every step, the E-Plus took advantage of their speed stat to head further to where Raika pointed out Sherald’s location—the Plaza.
Hinota, being the lead runner, was the one whose heart beat the fastest, not out of running stamina, but the impending crisis that Kudo is putting himself through. As they pass through every citizen, even pushing some out of their way and apologizing to them quickly afterward before moving on, Hinota thought about what was going on with Kudo.
She didn’t want to bring it up, but she noticed that Kudo has been acting strange ever since they found out about Sherald’s actions. Truly, Kudo wasn’t the type to stay quiet for a while, as he had a goal of being more friendly and social since the start of his journey, and he has learned well over these past few months.
However, this was different. He wasn’t being antisocial—he was thinking deeply.
Something happened to him to the point where his own behavior changed without anyone noticing, and the moment Sherald was seen carrying a dagger to a public space, Kudo ran off without even waiting for his party members to back him up.
Not to mention, there was an expression on Kudo’s face that Hinota couldn’t read clearly before. Reading his expression was as easy as reading an open book, but for once, Kudo showed something that was difficult for Hinota to describe.
This made Hinota put more effort into her legs to run faster, even leaving a bit of distance from her friends before they shouted to her.
“Hey! Slow down!”
Kuki shouted to the running Hinota who kept a long distance of a few feet.
“We can’t wait! Kudo’s in danger!”
Hinota shouted back as she continued to run at full speed, having to scream it out for them to hear.
“B-But this is Kudo we’re talking about! He’s going to be fine!”
Raika shouted for the worried Hinota, knowing that Kudo’s strength should not be underestimated.
“I know that! But… something was strange about Kudo!” Hinota said, admitting the worry from her heart. “Something was strange, I know it! I don’t know what, but I have to get to Kudo as fast as possible! I can’t linger!”
Hinota dashed forth at an incredible speed that left the others behind. Kuki, Raika, Mizuri, and Tsuchi all looked back at each other before strengthening their leg muscles and pushed themselves further to run even faster.
After running for a while, they reached the plaza, mostly thanks to their heightened physical abilities from their training, and already there was a condensed crowd of people around the vicinity, blocking their way.
Hinota slowed down her run, heavy breaths escaped her mouth as her chest heaved to try to catch her breath. Her eyes narrowed as she moved forward, pushing away the other citizens which, upon turning back to scream at her before realizing that she wore armor like an adventurer, all moved aside for her to settle the matter. They probably assumed that she was here to fix whatever is about to happen.
As Hinota reached the end of the crowd, the two people moved aside like the parting of double doors that showed the scenery before her.
The other party members have also reached to where she was, and after pushing their way through the crowd, managed to catch up with Hinota to see what was going on.
“Hah, hah… Kudo!”
Hinota screamed out loud after catching her breath, seeing Kudo who was part of the scene watched by dozens of others. Kudo remained in front of the crowd, while the true reason for everyone surrounding the center was at the park where several people were also there.
One who stood alone was a tall blond-haired man with a gangly body wearing leather armor. In his right hand was a sharp-toothed dagger, stained with crimson red. His eyes were glazed and barely any sense of life could be seen within them.
In front of him were two people, whom Hinota knew was the warrior and the mage, but the warrior was in fact on the ground, creating a puddle of blood on the ground.
“W-What’s going on here…?”
■ ■ ■
Kudo ran after jumping down from the air with the help of his Plus Chain that was supposed to be illegal to use while in town. However, as it was an emergency, Kudo had no choice but to use it.
He ran and ran, running past every person that walked by without a care with an expression that would haunt others if they saw it. His fists were gripped tight, and his brows were furrowed to the extreme.
Nothing but moving forward plastered his mind. Nothing else mattered. For him, this was his chance to finally bring about the justice he should be delivering.
Even though the chance of that happening was slim, considering the evidence he saw back at the hut, and the fact that Sherald was responsible, he recalls the very same event that took his parents’ lives, and the reason for such a tragedy.
Killing to get experience—but in the most twisted sense possible. He remembers the words his mother told him when explaining the process of Dark Experience, an evil energy that can be gained by killing innocent people who have never killed anything before.
If the victim from before, the priest, has never killed anything before, then it would make sense that the one who killed him have gained Dark Experience as well.
This is not right. This should be illegal. It should have been illegal, but he did it anyway.
That means he is no longer human. Which meant that Kudo does not need to hold back nor adhere to his quest any longer.
As he closed in, he saw a crowd forming near the center of the plaza. Was he too late? No, it shouldn’t be. He came here as fast as possible. He should be there.
He can’t be late again—not anymore.
He ran even faster, beating the crowd before they could form together to head to the center of the plaza. After finally getting there, with his sweat trailing down his forehead, he wiped it away while trying to catch his breath as he looked beyond to see the very same person he was charged of looking for.
“Sherald…” Kudo muttered to himself, his tone drained of any lightheartedness.
He saw Sherald with his dagger in hand, pointing at the two who he knew were the same adventurers he saw back at the Adventurer’s Hub.
“H-Hey man, what are you doing?!”
The warrior shouted, a crease on his brows that was natural to show to an ex-teammate who suddenly brought a weapon out in public.
“Have you finally lost your goddamned mind?!” The female mage spat at Sherald. Obviously, she wasn’t keen on this.
“Hahaha, oh you two, always saying such mean things about me…”
Sherald responded with a slight chuckle, his tone high as if he was reminiscing the times from before.
“What do you think you’re doing with that dagger?! You think you’re gonna hurt us?!” The warrior pointed at the dagger, knowing full well the color that was on there.
“Ah… well… I’m kinda in a stupor, you see. I’m not of full mind as of yet…” Sherald raised his dagger and scratched the back of his right ear as he looked upwards, as if he had already lost his mind.
“We guessed that the moment we first saw you! Now you really lost it!” The female mage yelled.
“If you don’t put it down, Sherald, we’re gonna have some problems… and it’s not going to end pretty for you.”
The warrior stepped forward, unsheathing the axe from his holster and shield and arming himself with them. Usually, it’s illegal to bring out weapons as well, but when someone already brought out a weapon to use on you, it’s natural to fight back with another weapon and they won’t get charged with the same crime. Sherald’s head tilted to the side, continuing to smile and glare at the warrior putting himself into a stance.
“Hehe, try me. You’re gonna see that I’m not the same as I used to be…”
The moment he said those words, Kudo could see that he wasn’t joking.
A swirl of black mana surrounded from his core. Though it wasn’t as dense and potent as the one he saw before, but true enough, it was the same feeling he felt back in Vipory. His teeth gritted at the sight once again, a vein throbbing on his forehead.
The warrior rushed forth, his axe raised high and his roar resounding in the air. The other people in the crowd all raised gasps to see a fight between adventurers actually happening.
Seeing that it’s unusual to see such an event between adventurers according to the strict laws of the adventurer’s guild, the other citizens raised their phones and took pictures, bright flashes showing from the crowd to take a memorial picture of adventurers who are soon going to be incarcerated.
The warrior slashed diagonally down at Sherald without remorse, expecting an easy victory as usual. He would usually fight against Sherald, often becoming the winner. However, at this time, he only aims to disarm him rather than hurt him. He has no intention of killing this poor fool who has lost his mind. He swung down, aiming to stop this madness.
But then it doesn’t happen.
Instead, he saw himself blocked by the tiny dagger in comparison to the big axe it was colliding against in an angled position, and with such strength behind the dagger that it left the warrior’s hand shaking.
The warrior responded with a shock after seeing Sherald block his powerful strike with just his dagger. Sherald pulled back his dagger quickly, leaving the warrior to stumble forward, then—
A sound of metal being pierced resounded.
The warrior spat out blood from his mouth, the red carmine spilling over on Sherald’s face as it trickled down his tan skin, all the while his smile never leaving his face.
The female mage gasped and shrieked in terror, holding her mouth with her hands as Sherald pushes the warrior forward.
The warrior falls to the ground, holding his stomach as he arched his body in pain while blood continued to spill from his wound. Everyone in the crowd all shrieked in terror to see an injury so quick and fatal, each one gasping in shock and calling whatever emergency line they could make.
Kudo widened his eyes before glowering them towards Sherald, gritting his teeth and gripping his hands into fists. Before long…
Kudo hears the similar voice from the crowd. The E-Plus arrived on the scene, only to see the spectacle that made them slack their jaws.
“Kahahaha!” Sherald’s laughter resounded, similar to a crow’s cawing, sending chills down everyone with working ears.
The E-Plus shivered, like they have received that laughter to their very cores. The female mage ran up towards the downed male warrior, kneeling down to him while picking up his torso to hold his head near hers.
“What do you think you’re doing, Sherald?!” The female mage cried, her eyes tearing up as she did.
Though he struggled, the warrior slowly lifted his head, gritting his teeth as he bears through the pain coursing through his stomach by clutching the wound tight with his hand.
“H-How did you get so strong? T-That’s impossible…” The male warrior said before he expulsed blood out of his mouth with a cough.
“Hahaha! I ain’t so weak now, am I?!” Sherald shouted, bringing the bloody dagger used to pierce the warrior close to his face, the blood dripping from the blade and to the floor creating a small puddle.
He opened his mouth and licked the blade across the shaft, tasting the crimson blood that stained his teeth red. The two before him shook after seeing such a sight.
“Ah, tasty… so this is human life. This is Dark Experience!”
The moment Sherald said those words, Hinota suddenly widened her eyes. Her body shook, as if a jolt passed through her as her memory flashed through her mind. The very words she heard screaming every so often have come surging through, reminding herself of the one person who nearly ended it all for her.
“No way…” Hinota uttered, catching the attention of Mizuri who looked back at her and noticed her terrified reaction.
“Hino, what’s wrong? You know what he’s talking about?”
The others looked back at her, surprised to see her react this way, and even noticed her trembling. Hinota held her left arm, trying to stop the shaking, but the memories were flashing in her mind from three months ago, and they weren’t stopping.
“That’s… Dark Experience is… the evil side of experience points you gain… only by killing innocent people who never killed before.”
The E-Plus now shared the same exact terrified expression. With gaping mouths and widened eyes, they saw Hinota barely explain as she looked forward to the scene.
“And that’s not all,” Hinota continued. “Dark Experience is worth 5 times more than just normal experience points, so just killing one is enough to earn a lot of levels.”
The E-Plus couldn’t believe it. Experience points gained from killing people? That’s just not possible. You can only gain experience from killing monsters, or so they learned from Adventurers’ school. Any other wa is impossible, yet they were seeing this right now in front of their very eyes.
Each one looked back at each other, seeing if this was true for themselves.
“But… when you do… I think you lose a part of yourself.”
Hinota surmised, her eyes furrowed only at Sherald who had the gall to do such a thing. After she explained that, the E-Plus could finally see it come true for themselves.
The crowd remains in shock, the citizens were left gaping at the sight as Sherald swung his dagger, the blood that was left splurted on the ground, like paint over a canvas painting it red.
The female mage whimpered as she tried to back up along with the warrior, but Sherald was closing in little by little with each disturbing step.
“I got it from that bastard that kicked me off the party. He had the gall to come to my special place, to tell me what I did wrong!”
Sherald explained, a glower on his expression as he recalled the bitter memories that happened recently. The female mage widened her eyes along with the warrior.
“Telling me that he had no choice. Telling me that I was too wild and hard to manage… that bastard kept running his mouth, like he can just say whatever he wants to me! Even though his only aim is for Cirya, he thinks he can just say whatever he wants to me! So… I used this knife to make him shut up for good!”
Sherald cackled like a maniac after finishing, his guffaws leaving a chill down to everyone listening, making even some of the children who were watching cry out in fear.
The warrior was left with a gaping mouth, “Y-You didn’t … is that why we couldn’t find Jax? Y-You killed him?!”
The warrior shouted, gritting his teeth as blood trailed from his mouth, before long clutching his stomach hard as pangs of pain ensued within him.
“H-How could you…? How could you do that to Jax?!” The female mage shouted back, tears leaving her eyes.
“He only aimed to go after my aunt! That bastard deserves it! And when I gave him what he deserves, I got so much stronger… it turns out that I can gain Dark Experience from killing people that I don’t like…”
He continued to walk further, each step bringing terror to the young girl’s eyes.
“I can get more… from all of you! So do me one last favor… become my experience points!”
He raised his tone along with his dagger up to the sky, the stained blade shimmering from the sunlight which caught the female mage’s eyes.
“Kyaah!” She held the warrior tight, hunching her body towards him to avoid seeing her demise.
The dagger was left in mid-air, as if time has stopped for Sherald.
His eyes grew wide, and his head slowly turned towards the voice that stopped him. Kudo turned, as well as the E-Plus, towards the similar voice they heard before.
Standing to the side was a young woman in her office suit, both tiny fists gripping as hard as they could, with a scowl on her face that was enough to send chills.
“That’s enough, Sherald! You’ve done enough!”
Cirya shouted, gritting her teeth in disgust.
Here comes Cirya to save the day!? Can she bring Sherald back from the brink of despair? Or will she…?
I hope everyone is enjoying this so far! This is the last chapter (before the epilogue, of course), so soon I’ll be telling my news. I hope everyone is ready for the climax of Vol. 8!
As always, if you like it, like or vote on this chapter, and comment if you wanna say anything! Peace out!