Chapter 1:

Hour Empty Child Halloween Special~!

Hour Empty Child Halloween Special!


Brown leaves scattered all around them. It was the middle of autumn, the time when the winds cooled and the breeze changed to an earthy damp scent. The group of young adventurers searched for something as they traverse through the brown forest filled with brown before finally, the light shed through the shadows, revealing the innermost part of the forest.

“Well, here we are,” One boy spoke as his eyes caught sight of the location they were looking for.

Right in the middle of the forest was a construct not found usually anywhere. Much like the one in Ashspell forest, there was a large wooden house situated within. However, compared to the homey feel of the hut in the Ashspell forest, this house was constructed to look like an old mansion, yet, it became seriously eerie.

The house was barely constructed well as there were cracks and broken wood everywhere. It was dirty to the point of being able to see cobwebs and grime at most parts of the house. The color of the wood was a frightening gray color, not at all vibrant. Somehow, even the wind chilled at the sight of such a house as it passed right through the adventurers.

“Eeek, it looks so scary…” One nervous girl shivered at the wind and the feel of the house, her long yellow ears bounced up and down in fright.

“I-It can’t be as bad as it looks, right? I mean… it’s just a house,” One frightened boy spoke in denial, knowing full well how eerie the place looked.

“Oh, don’t be so scared, guys! “ One courageous girl shouted to the two ranged fighters.

“Hehe, all we gotta do is just investigate it, right? Sounds easy enough!” One easygoing boy chuckled in excitement.

“Now then, let’s keep going. There’s not much time left,” One sharp-eyed girl resolved after taking a glance at the clock in her hand.

“Right!” The leader gripped his fist. “Let’s go on in!”

The party of adventurers, the E-Plus, gathered their courage to enter into the house for their quest given to them by none other than their Alpha Heart guildmaster, Hikari Valkyria.

Let’s look back a couple of hours ago…

It was the time of the holiday. The city of Triun, the capital of Roprase, was celebrating a unique holiday where pumpkins were the main thing of advertisement. As brown leaves scattered around the city, the citizens enjoyed the festivities of the holiday known as Halloween.

Even for the Valkyria mansion, it was no different.

“Haha! Welcome, welcome!”

One hearty laughter coming from the bellowing guild master, as she was situated out near the entrance with her maids.

The mansion was practically decorated where fake cobwebs and banners for the holiday covered it entirely. The garden outside the mansion has taken a completely different form as there were fake gravestones and bones scattered everywhere that made it appear to be a graveyard to some, considering how realistic it looked. There were even statues that replaced the adventurer ones to show realistic monsters that actually exist, making them more horrifying to watch.

However, what surprised the E-Plus who were heading back from the guild wasn’t the complete change of the mansion, but what the people in front of them were wearing.

The maids showed up wearing different costumes of famous monsters known across the continent. Some were dressed as with classy taste, but some others were quite revealing as they showed nothing but what looked like a raggy bikini—a goblin costume, no less.

However, even the near-naked maids didn’t take everyone’s attention as the one who stood out the most was the master herself. Hikari Valkyria, known to wear her pure-white armor, wore the complete opposite color—completely black. Her armor covered parts of her body, revealing only the forearms, thighs, and navel. It was the female Dark Knight costume, and it fitted her robust adventurer body all the more so. Even her sword on her hip and shield on the other were completely black, with the shield’s center showing a round gem that had the color of blood.

“Uuh, Mom… what on earth happened here?” Kudo Valkyria Braven, the leader of the E-Plus party, had to ask for the sake of answering the many questions in his mind.

“Haha, Kudo, it’s Halloween! It’s necessary to wear a costume on Halloween. This is design to keep evil spirits away, so it’s natural to do so! Plus, you get to be something else other than yourself! It’s exciting, isn’t it!?”

“Uhh… yeah…” A sweat streamed down Kudo’s temple.

“But you didn’t come here under my orders just to see this. I actually have a request to make of you all.”

“Mmh?” Kudo tilted his head at his mother’s apparent request.

“You see,” Hikari took out a piece of paper out of her Magic Bag. “I received a request from the people here that apparently, in a forest near the city here, there’s a house that suddenly sprung up out of nowhere.”

“A house?” Hinota asked. “What about it?”

“Thing is, nobody saw it there before. And, there was nobody building it, as long as they know.”

“S-So,” Raika stuttered. “I-It just came out of nowhere…?”

“K-Kinda like a haunted house?” Kuki also shivered but tried to compose himself.

“Nobody knows,” Hikari put away the notice of the quest into her bag. “However, unfortunately, none of the guild members are able to take it. All of them are busy with the holiday going on, after all.”

“Yeah, figures,” Tsuchi held his head with both his hands in accordance.

“Still strange that every single one is busy, though…” Mizuri held her chin with her hand as she got curious.

“And so, the quest falls onto you all to complete it! Your quest is to investigate the house and see if it’s dangerous to the city. I’ll try to see what is it all about on my end, so you all need to check it out. It’ll be a decent experience for you all too, so it’ll all work out.

“I-I guess… still, hard to turn down a quest,” Kudo smiled as the excitement of searching for an unknown location filled him.

“Hehe, as expected of my son… though, there’s only one issue,” Hikari raised her finger, showing a creased face.

“Mmh? What is it?”

“You all are severely under-dress for this occasion! You all need to wear costumes immediately! Maids!”

Hikari actually showed to be upset as she snapped her fingers and shouted, the maids behind her all simultaneously shouted ‘Yes, master!’ as they bowed quickly. They took out from apparently out of their Magic Bags several cloths and measuring tapes, their eyes showing to sparkle a menacing color as they closed in towards the party.

“H-Hey, wait!” Kudo held out his hand but then turned his head towards his party members. “Everyone, run! She’s serious!”

Their eyes widened in terror, Kudo ordered them to run at full speed. But even as they tried to spread out, the maids somehow jumped ahead of them in such record speed that it brought them all to a standstill. Some falling to the ground, the maids closed up to them as Kudo feared for the worst to come…

And it happened without a shred of mercy.

Back at the house in the forest…

“Still, I can’t believe we have to wear this for our adventure. It makes no sense…”

Mizuri complained as she wore not her usual garb, but a costume made for seafaring on a pirate ship. She wore a bright red overcoat with long sleeves along with white skintight pants held together with a strong leather belt in between. What made it exotic was that her chest was revealed, wearing a black bra band, and her pants showed more of her legs and butt, showing how rounded and well-toned they are. Along with black boots reaching up to her knees, she also wore a black pirate hat and a black eye patch over her left eye to complete the ensemble. Of course, it was a magical equipment that lets her see through the patch without any issue.

“A-At least yours look more dignified! I-I want to go home and hide in my bed forever!”

Raika shivered, her long ears bouncing up and down as she wore none other than the legendary bunny costume. A corset teddy fitted her body tightly around her torso with a short skirt. Her legs held tightly by the net stockings becoming the central attraction, revealing her feminine thighs even more. Going along with her bunny ears and tail, she also wore yellow furry gloves resembling that of a true bunny.

“Hey, it’s not so bad. The both of you look cool and cute!”

Tsuchi chuckled as he enjoyed the sight of the two girls with a bright smile on his face. Though his appearance showed nothing of his usual gentle nature. His face was painted to look more like a puppet as the sides of his mouth had several black lines as if his entire mouth was sewn in. He wore a suit that strangely fitted his buff body like a gentleman with the adjustments of his collar slightly spikier, and his gloves and boots showing white skeleton bones.

“Y-Yeah, Rai. It’s kinda hard to look at you, but you look really good.”

Kuki spoke with reddened cheeks contrary to how he looks. He wore a costume that’s designed to be a general in an army commanding his units. A large black trench coat covered his shoulders only as he wore a suit with several belts and badges fitting to him. To go along with his white gloves, he wore a general hat over his green hair, completing the costume.

“S-Stop looking, Kui! You p-pervert!”

“D-Don’t call me that!”

“Now, now,” Hinota spoke out. “Take it easy. All of you look very good.”

Hinota said as she also was forced to wear a costume. Compared to the others, she was more strangely into it as she wore a black dress that covered her from neck to knees. Only her arms were free as purple ribbons were tied on her torso and waist. The black dress was tight, so her chest stood out even more along with her curvy body. Wearing a purple bow to tie up her fiery red hair, she also wore black and purple boots for some reason that didn’t quite fit the costume. To top it off, she wore a black witch’s hat on her head.

“Somehow, Hinota doesn’t look like a standard witch…” Mizuri peered closer at the costume Hinota wore.

“I figured,” Hinota said, tugging onto her dress. “To be honest, it looks like the costume from a character I’ve been reading in a novel lately. She’s quite the eccentric character, as well.”

“Just like a certain someone…” Kuki turned his eyes away, giving his comment.

“At least you all look so cool! Why do I look like this?!”

Kudo, on the other hand, showed a stronger reaction as he turned around to face them.

Plushy. That was the word described for him. Instead of a more humanoid appearance, Kudo wore a plushy costume covering him entirely. The soft fur enveloping him was a bright orange color, and the mane on his head showed a deeper shade. It was a furry lion costume that was true to its name, covering his entire body with only his head and his azure hair poking out.

The moment he ‘squeaked’ as he turned, each one tried to stifle their laughter by covering their mouths.

“Don’t laugh!” Kudo shouted, extending his hand towards them but a loud squeak resounded afterward.

“I-I’m sorry, Kuu…” Mizuri said between stifled giggles. “You look so… threatening.”

“Hahaha! Threatening!” Tsuchi guffawed, repeating the last word.

“D-Dude, stop moving. You’re going to burst my insides… Hahaha!” Kuki tried to demand as he laughed louder than usual.

However, compared to everyone else who was snickering away at their unfortunate leader, Raika stepped forward, surprising the others as she reached out her hands and grabbed Kudo’s cheeks.

“Aww! It’s fine, isn’t it? You look so cute, Kudo!”

Raika showed the same usual beaming expression as she would when dealing with cute animals even while wearing her bunny outfit. She continuously grabbed Kudo’s cheeks with a smiling expression, squealing as she does which only made Kudo more uncomfortable as he became the recipient of Raika’s affection.

“Haha…oh, Rai…” Kuki chuckled wryly, but he noticed something which he then pointed Raika to.

“Mmh?” Raika took a moment off of holding Kudo’s cheeks as she turned around, only to be met with a dire presence.

Hinota’s aura was somehow seeping all around her. Her usual fiery sharp eyes were now overlaid with a shadowy presence, marring her beautiful face with a dark shadow that only made Raika shiver even if it’s just for a moment.

“S-Sorry, Hinota! I didn’t mean to!” Raika said, instantly letting go of Kudo’s cheeks.

“Mmh? Whatever do you mean, Raika?” Hinota returned to normal as she instantly asked in a uniformly way.

“N-Nevermind…”

Raika, with her hands behind her back, backed away as she chuckled while the rest of the party members let out wry smiles.

Kudo cleared his throat loudly. “Okay! Now that we’re done making fun of me, how about we head on over?”

Now that everyone stopped making fun of him, Kudo moved ahead as he squeaked. Once again, everyone else nearly chuckled which caused him to turn with a glare before heading back towards the house.

They closed in towards the house, the atmosphere around it becoming harder to breathe for the weak-willed Raika and Kuki. Kudo and Hinota moved forward standing by the side as they tried to open the door with the dirty and cobweb filled knob.

The moment the door opened, they faced a haunting chill of the wind passing through them, despite the fact that it was inside the house. Their bodies shivered even with their high levels as if something was about to approach them and they had no idea what it could be.

The inside was just as horrendous as it was outside. The wall colors were peeling off, revealing the innards of the house. The paintings of something or other that could have been presented were scratched up as three long diagonal cuts ripped in the middle. There were holes on the wooden walls as well as the dust and grime that surrounded them everywhere. It was the definition of a poorly maintained household.

“Geez…” Tsuchi groaned.

“Y’know, when compared to the mansion, it falls even below the E-Rank…” Mizuri commented to herself.

“I-It may look like this now… but we gotta head inside and check it out. Quest orders and all.”

Kudo swallowed the air in his throat before giving the order to the party, and as usual, he and Hinota became the first to go inside. The others slowly followed.

They walked along the entrance hall with slow footsteps, the sounds echoing across the hall with a haunting tone that left Raika shaking her head horizontally.

“Ugh, why do we have to do this… shouldn’t an expert adventurer explore an unexplored region first before we go?”

“That’s why we’re here, Rai,” Mizuri said, a sparkle in her open eye from her confidence.

“T-That’s not what I meant…” Raika let out a short sigh.

As the party moved forward, eventually trying to get to another room, they found themselves into an even bigger room. The place was the same as always, but now there was a doorway on the left, stairs that led to the second floor, and even a basement door that led down to the underground. As they stopped right in the middle of the room, Kudo stepped forward and turned back around.

“Guys, at this rate, it’ll take us forever. Hinota, can you give me the clock?”

“Right,” Hinota said as she took out a round clock from her Magic Bag. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Kudo said before turning back to the party. “Mom said that this place sprouted up from out of nowhere and is treated as an unexplored location. The reason for that is because she had some people looking up on it, and they found out that, for unknown reasons, this has a time limit.”

Kudo then showed the clock to the party. They peered in closer to notice that the clock wasn’t actually a clock, but a timer as it was telling the numbers 2:00:00 before going down to 1:59:59 and so forth.

“We got about two hours before it disappears,” Kudo explained, getting everyone other than Hinota to widen their eyes.

“W-What do you mean ‘disappear’, Kudo?” Kuki asked for everyone else’s sake.

“It’s like that. It just ‘disappears’. That’s what Mom told me, and that’s why we gotta explore this place and see what it’s about. Maybe even take some things from it for further study. But before that, we gotta put priority into escaping from here before the two hours are up. If we don’t get out of here after that…”

Kudo remained silent, but the silence was enough to finish the sentence as everyone swallowed the air in disbelief.

“Now that that’s out of the way,” Kudo put away the clock into his own Magic Bag as he continued. “I think we should split up from here. Hinota, your turn.”

As Kudo squeaked when trying to give room for Hinota, sparking another stifled laughter and an annoyed glare from the fluffy lion, Hinota the witch came forward, showing her solemn expression.

“We’re going with the same usual party with the most synergy. So then, the childhood friends stay together. Tsuchi and Mizuri, you go up the stairs into the second floor for investigation.”

“Oh!” Tsuchi and Mizuri both grunted in accordance.

“Kuki and Raika, you guys go to the basement.”

“G-Got it…” Raika said while raising her shaking hand as Kuki nodded.

“And of course, Kudo and I will head out in this floor. Everyone, keep your phones in check in case somebody needs help.”

As each one responded simultaneously, Tsuchi called out by putting his hand over the side of his mouth.

“You guys better not take this chance to score some candy with each other!”

After that, each one of the party members aside from Hinota and Kudo yelled out in accordance, each one whooping and oohing while Raika herself blushed at the thought of it.

“W-We’re not! Shut up already!”

Kudo stepped forward to silence the very thought, but as he squeaked, the group laughed out loud as they couldn’t hold it in any longer, once again making Kudo’s anger reach his peak.

“Just go!”

The group left under the fluffy lion’s orders. Tsuchi and Mizuri headed towards the second floor by heading up the stairs. Raika and Kuki left for the basement, and finally, Kudo and Hinota went for the hallway there.

===

“Damn, what’s with those guys…” Kudo said, his cheeks blushing madly at the thought of Tsuchi’s call.

“At least that got everyone brave enough to head out on their own. It’s just a sacrifice to make as a leader, Kudo,” Hinota spoke, her maturity showing through her tone.

“Y-Yeah, I guess…” Kudo scratched his cheek in shame for getting so embarrassed over such a matter while Hinota didn’t show anything at all.

However, since he was only looking forward trying to avoid Hinota’s face, Hinota herself was taking this chance to hide her own blushing face as she tried to compose herself after hearing Tsuchi’s call.

===

“Now then, Let’s see…”

Tsuchi said as he searched around the hallway that connected with the second floor. Upon reaching there, Tsuchi and Mizuri walked about with a steady pace with no hesitation, but with caution as well.

“Looks creepy, but there doesn’t seem to be anything here…” Tsuchi commented, shrugging his shoulders.

“We gotta find something, Tsu,” Mizuri said, her head on a swivel moving left and right. “Or else we can’t face the adventurers in Alpha Heart.”

“I know, I know, but still…”

As Tsuchi wasn’t the kind to be good at hide-and-seek in the past, he noticed something strange. After taking a closer look, he noticed something far away from him, the air becoming colder as he raised his finger.

“Hey, Mizuri-chii, what’s that…?”

“Mmh?”

As Tsuchi pointed it out, Mizuri raised her head forward and noticed it herself. In their line of sight, the old and musty hallway that seemed to continue on forever somehow changed dramatically a bit of a distance later. Now, the hallway connecting to the old one was practically a white shiny color, the walls were clean and practically like mirrors and the floor and the paintings were restored to their utmost limit.

“W-Wha…?!”

“Yeah… that’s strange, isn’t it?”

Tsuchi agreed with Mizuri’s expression as they also noticed the final thing that was wrong. At the end of the clean hallway lies a door that seemed so majestic it was similar to that of Valkyria mansion. The two childhood friends turned towards each other, talking with their eyes on whether they should enter or not.

===

“Kui… I’m scared…!”

“You’re always scared, Rai…! Damn it!”

Though Kuki answered to the fearful Raik who continued hiding behind his back, Kuki couldn’t stop himself from shaking as the duo were unfortunate enough to search around the basement of the haunted house, the area around them completely dark and unable to traverse properly.

What they could make out was that everywhere around them had a damp smell, as if mold grew everywhere and overtook the basement. They noticed a few things thanks to the small lighting they have with their candle. There were some broken furniture on the floor as well as shelves that lined up the walls with some rather peculiar items such as skeleton heads, jaws filled with random items that had lizard tails and even disfigured hands, and finally, some dolls that had a clean appearance, but their faces looked as if something possessed them as their eyes were popped wide open.

They took careful steps forward to try to complete the mission as much as possible, but each step they make, a sound somehow escaped from their footsteps. It caused an urging sound of groans and moans that sounded like it came from the creaking of the old wooden boards, but Kuki and Raika always mistook it for some kind of monster groaning in hunger.

“Eeek! W-What is that!?”

Raika’s highly sensitive hearing caught wind of small footsteps traversing around them, causing her to jump up in fright, her skirt nearly floating up and down as she held onto Kuki even tighter than before.

“R-Rai! T-That’s just a rat!”

“E-Eh?”

With Raika grabbing onto Kuki’s throat with her arms, Kuki tried to relieve Raika of her worry as he pointed out the culprit of the sudden noise. It was a small rat that scampered throughout the basement, suddenly stopping in the middle as if to show Raika what it was.

“O-Oh, it’s just a small rat…” Raika said as she loosens her grip, finally giving Kuki some much needed air.

However, as the rat turned, it showed the two fearful adventurers that it was holding something in its mouth. Its teeth jabbing onto some soft flesh that made the adventurers’ eyes widened and their bodies completely chilled up.

It was a human finger.

“Kyaaah!”

“G-Gyaaah!”

Raika became the first to scream as she grabbed Kuki’s throat tighter with her arms, only making Kuki scream afterward not just from the fear, but also from the possibility of being strangled. The rat soon quickly scampered away after they screamed, taking the finger away in its mouth.

“I want out of here! I want out of here so bad right now! Kui, let’s leave!”

“W-We can’t, Rai! We got a quest to complete!”

“Ooh… oh?”

As Raika groaned in terror, still nearly making Kuki suffocate from her random strength, Raika noticed something in the distance. At the distance, everything that was old and moldy transformed into a grand and clean hallway with neither dirt or grime staining its walls. The only thing that showed to be more expensive than the rest was the over-polished wooden door that had a golden knob with intricate design, getting both Raika and Kuki to close in, taking another look at each other.

“You think this is…” Raika said.

“Yeah… I think we should look into it.”

Being the brave one of the group, Kuki had no choice but to moved his hand towards the knob, and turned it to check inside.

===

“Hinota, this is getting intense…” Kudo said as his costume squeaked, somehow actually calming him down despite his reluctance with it before.

“Even I’m feeling it, Kudo. It’s not just you…”

The atmosphere around the air for the adventurers turned from cold to nearly freezing as Hinota, with her arms free of cloth, held them together to warm herself up. Thankfully, thanks to her fiery spirit nestled inside, she was able to keep walking without much issue.

Kudo had no issue whatsoever inside of his warm fluffy lion costume.

“I wonder if Master put you into that thing because of exactly like this?” Hinota asked.

“If so, she’s even more terrifying than this house.”

Kudo joked as he scratched his cheek, but then a loud sound banged against something, causing the adventurers to quickly turn. It turned out that a chair near them broke apart, the giant seat fell down and slammed against the wooden floor. They were within a hallway much like before, traversing through the cobwebs and grime that would make anyone queasy enough to hurl without a second thought.

“The smell is so bad…” Kudo swung his paw-covered hand in front of his nose to try to wipe the throat-scratching scent away, but it still persisted.

“Let’s keep searching. There’s gotta be something here worth finding…”

Using their spirit as adventurers, Kudo and Hinota continued walking down the hallway, the scent of whatever it came from still permeating their noses. As they continue walking, the scenery around them changed little by little with each passing step…

Before they knew it, the entire hallway changed to that of a pristine design, with no sign of dirt or grime in sight.

“W-What?”

Kudo let out as he and Hinota were caught by surprise at the hallway that now shined so brightly it resembled that of their home mansion. The walls were clean, the furniture they were seeing before turned into a divine-like design and the fact that the scent transformed into that of a fulfilling smell that made their brains melt, their hearts knew that something was very wrong.

“…Hinota, we didn’t teleport or anything, did we?” Kudo had to ask.

“Funny… I was just about to ask the same thing to you,” Hinota tried to joke, but the swallowing of air in her throat showed otherwise.

“How did this happen…?” Kudo walked up to the white-colored wall and rubbed it with his paw. The fact that not a single dirt or lint marred his fluffy fur showed how clean it was.

“Could it be an illusion? But it doesn’t explain how I couldn’t sense it.”

“You think it was some kinda skill by someone?” Kudo asked, turning back to the pensive Hinota.

“Someone… or something.”

“Some…thing?” He swallowed the air.

“I didn’t sense anyone else here,” Hinota said, rubbing up her arms to cover up her chills. “So something happened without anyone messing with it.”

“That’s…”

As Kudo was about to answer, the two heard a clanking noise like an unlocking of a door, making their heads turn.

A white-colored pristine door. It stood in front of them without making a sound or otherwise. The reason why they believed it didn’t make a sound is that the door wasn’t there in the beginning, and thus actually believed that it moved there.

Their hearts beat faster in the process, huddling closer together out of pure instinct.

“…Looks like we found ‘something’, alright…” Hinota said as she prepared herself by holding onto the sheath of her katana by her hip.

“Hinota, stick together with me. I’m going in.”

“Got it.”

Kudo said as he moved forward with Hinota in tow towards the door. As they closed in, Kudo let out a long breath and turned back to Hinota for a quick nod, prompting the same from her. Then, Kudo turned the golden knob on the door and opened it.

Before their eyes, a clean hall showed before them. With its outlandish walls covered in paintings showing men and women of old, a grand chandelier showered its light over the room. Other than the impressive display of the massive room, what made Kudo opened his eyes wider than normal was the mountain of sweets in the middle of it.

Covering all sorts of baked goods and candy, the mountain of sweets laid on top of a giant round table, practically calling everyone to come by and take them by hand.

“Ooh! Sweets!”

Kudo, with his costume’s tail somehow swinging left and right, rushed ahead of Hinota who widened her eyes at the sight herself, but not more than Kudo going on ahead without her.

“K-Kudo! Calm down! I know you like sweets, but it’s an obvious trap!”

Hinota couldn’t believe how Kudo, the usual calm and level-headed guy, would suddenly lose his mind over such an obvious devious trap. As she had no choice but to smack Kudo with her fist to bring him back, a cool voice pierced her hearing.

“Hinota~ Come over here.”

The cool and sweet voice that Hinota remembered way back into her childhood permeated her, making her turn around to find the culprit who called her over.

It was none other than the red-haired beauty, the vice-master of the Alpha Heart Guild, and Hinota’s older sister Kasara. Wearing the usual kimono garb from her old home in Peranim, Kasara was kneeling down on the floor, patting on her lap with a gentle smile over her cool face.

“Hinota, come over here. Come and rest up. Leave Kudo to enjoy himself, and more importantly, try to enjoy yourself.”

“D-Dear Sister?! B-But how… you weren’t…”

As Hinota’s mind tried to process this sudden appearance of her sister, her mind began to lose control as her eyes glazed over, and the one living eyes she displayed before were, just like Kudo, lost their light as she raised her lips into a smile.

“Ah… okay… Dear Sister…!”

Hinota squealed as she jumped up and landed near Kasara, putting her head immediately on Kasara’s lap. Snuggling up to the warm kimono near her face, Hinota showed a relaxed expression not usually found on her, acting like a spoiled child for her sister.

“Yes, that’s right… rest and take it easy… just for a few short hours…”

Kasara said as gentle as possible, but the way her eyes sharpened and her smile showed that of fangs protruding out of her fine lips showed otherwise.

===

“Hahahaha! This is so cool!”

Within the second floor, inside the very outlandish room through the expensive looking door, Tsuchi cried joyously out loud as he raised his arms up, followed by the various slender arms that embraced his whole body along with the softest warmth a man would ever dream of.

Surrounding him were various beautiful women dressed in all sorts of cosplay costumes, similarly to that of the Valkyria maids they embraced him, cuddled him, and fed him luxurious grapes. Tsuchi took one bite of the grape, and its juice flowed from the ripe fruit, filling his mouth with delight as he howled.

“This is the best place! I never want to leave!”

The ladies came over and kissed him on the cheek as he laughed out loud maniacally, and somehow he wasn’t punished for his excessive behavior by his childhood friend.

That’s because his childhood friend was busy enjoying herself while looking in the mirror.

“Mmh… now, this is nice… ooh, very nice!”

Mizuri continued to gaze into the mirror with deep interest, even winking at the mirror at the appearance showing in front of her.

Her pirate costume was completely filled with her newly grown assets. Her breasts, formerly flat as justice, were now completely filling her bra to the point of bursting through. Most of her muscles that took over her body from her daily grind were now replaced with smooth and silky skin that was clear as a pure pond. Her hips and stomach line curved in all the right places, getting her to continuously make various erotic poses that would make any man fall to their knees and crying out of pure joy.

“Ooh! Mizuri! Come over here and let me see that fine body!” Tsuchi cried out, enjoying the view Mizuri gave even more than the dozens of beautiful women on his side.

“In your dreams, Tsu. If you want it, you gotta dump those skinny bitches!”

Mizuri turned back around, noticing the other women whom their bodies, though fine and beautiful, couldn’t even compare to her own as the ladies themselves shot glares of envy at her. Their glares were all the compliments she needed to boost her own increasing ego.

===

“Ooh! You’re all so cuuute! So very, very cute! Ooh, I’m gonna hug you all!”

Raika squealed even more than she showed before she entered the house as within the basement of the haunted house, Raika was surrounded and covered by various small animals of different types that showered her with love and affection. Ranging from cute puppies and kittens to exotic baby monkeys and parrots, Raika enjoyed each and every animal that came across her with a giant smile on her perky face.

“You’re all so cute! Ooh, I wanna live here forever!”

As Raika continued to snuggle every kitten and puppy near her face as soon as she could before going to the next one, away from the cuteness, several targets popped out of nowhere. Each one was just a target with black rings on a white circle, and before they could even appear in the first second, they were shot without mercy—the scattering board dispersed all over onto the floor.

Hot smoke filtered out of the large barrel that was big enough to fit several fingers inside. The gun itself was practically too big to fit in one hand, but Kuki was able to hold them without any issue. He closed one of the huge gun barrels towards himself and blew out the smoke.

He then moved his other copy of the giant gun, and as soon as another target popped up, ‘Boom!’, another one gone thanks to the bullet as large as a cannonball.

“Ooh, nice shot, Kui!” Raika noticed the loud blast and complimented.

“Heh, this is nothing. I could do this with my eyes closed.”

Kuki spoke with a cool tone, adjusting his military hat as he spun his cannon guns around and neatly placed them onto his holsters.

===

“Mmh…!”

Kudo munched and munched on his favorite sweets which range from all kinds of sweets. Whether it’d be muffins, cakes, or pudding, he would eat them all without any worry of any stomachaches.

Meanwhile, Hinota was still resting on Kasara’s lap as she tells her story from her adventurer, sparking her sister to respond with an interested ‘ooh’.

As he munched in his stupor, a thought ran through his head. Usually, he wouldn’t eat so many sweets on the same day. Sure, he would often get seconds within the Valkyria mansion, but whenever he would ask for more, his stomach would start to bulge and that’s when he calls it quits. However, there was no sign of his stomach hurting even after going well over his limits.

Then another thought ran through his head. How long has he been eating?

“Mmh… something feels weird…”

It was lucky for him to think about this as he divulges himself into his sweets. After noticing the gorgeous display of the mountain of sweets in front of him, something within him stirred in a wrong way—which wasn’t from eating all the sweets.

“What… time is it?”

In his crazed dizziness, Kudo finally set down the muffin he’s been eating that has been mysteriously been reformed all the time to full appearance, he dragged out his clock from his Magic Bag and checked the time.

00:30:00…

“Wh… What?! Hinota!”

The very sight of the numbers decreasing that much brought Kudo to become wide awake. His eyes popped wide open as he shouted at his partner who also flinched at his sudden shout.

“W-What is it, Kudo!? What’s wrong?!” Hinota asked in worry after noticing Kudo’s shrill voice ringing out.

“The timer! There are only 30 minutes left!”

“W-What?! That can’t be! We couldn’t have been here for over an hour! It feels way too short!”

“Either way, we gotta get out of here! There’s not enough time!”

Kudo stood up in a hurry, dusting off all the small bits and pieces of the sweets off of him as Hinota also stood up. However, a hand reached out and grabbed Hinota’s wrist, making her turn around to find out that it was Kasara.

“Hinota, please don’t go! I still want to hear more of your stories!”

“Ah… Dear Sister, I’m sorry. I really, really need to go!”

Though Hinota apologized sincerely, Kudo turned around and widened his eyes at the other unexpected appearance.

“Huh?! W-Why is Kasara here? She shouldn’t be here. She should be with Mom in Alpha Heart!”

“Eh?”

Hinota turned back around in complete shock. Kudo couldn’t believe that Hinota would not notice something like a fake Kasara. It was then that he put his finger near his chin.

“C-Could it be that there’s something here that’s keeping us in a drunk-like state? That would explain why the both of us were out of commission for so long…”

“T-That can’t be. T-This is Dear Sister, in the flesh. She looks just like…”

As soon as Hinota was about to turn around and prove Kudo wrong, her sharp eyes widened in terror after witnessing something she shouldn’t have seen.

“Hinota… stay with me…”

Though Kasara still spoke in her gentle tone and voice, her beautiful face was nowhere to be seen as it started to erode and melt away from her head, revealing the parts without the skin and soon Hinota could see into the bone of her face. Her eyeballs slithered out of her sockets, revealing a grotesque image that made Hinota’s skin crawl.

“Kyaaah!”

“H-Hinota!”

In her terror, Hinota swatted away the fake Kasara’s hand and jumped back towards Kudo, holding onto him for safety as she hid away in fright.

“W-What on Yarim!?”

Kudo let out a near shriek as well after witnessing Kasara’s melting for himself. Soon the skin completely melted away along with the muscles and organs. The only thing left was a skeleton that stood up from the floor, and raised its hands forward.

“Stay… with… me!!” The creature in front of them groaned, the voice low and terrifying.

“L-Let’s get out of here!”

“You don’t have to tell me twice!”

Hinota screamed as Kudo grabbed hold of Hinota’s hand and ran towards the door out of the room. After getting to the door, Kudo tried to turn the knob but it turned out to be locked as it refused to turn.

“Ugh, locked!”

“Kudo, just blast it!” Hinota suggested.

“R-Right! …Ah!”

“W-What’s wrong?”

“I can’t use it! I can’t use Plus Bomb!”

“What?!”

Hinota shouted as she turned to look at his hands. Surely enough, Kudo has been trying to use his skills, but when he tried, only a few bits of light sparked out of his hands before dissipating into nothingness.

“W-Why!? D-Don’t tell me that this place actually cancels skills?!”

Hinota made this terrifying conclusion as Kudo continued to use his skills along with Hinota using her Fireball, but their ultimate combo attack wouldn’t work at all.

“Stay… with… us!”

The once gentle voice was gone as their backs chilled at the horrid tone taken now. The two slowly turned back around to notice the scampering of feet and the group of beings running after the two.

Kudo’s eyes widened as he noticed that the skeleton was running toward them was followed by the actual mountain of sweets that continued to run without any feet at all. They showed to have eyes and actual mouths showing jagged teeth and swinging tongues all around.

“T-The sweets became alive! Aagh! Who knows how many I ate those things?!”

“Don’t think about it and just kick the door!”

Hinota, who wanted to forget about resting her head on the monstrous skeleton’s lap, screamed out loud as she and Kudo raised their feet together and kicked the door.

Even if the house cancels skills, it can’t cancel the high stats these adventurers had. The door completely burst open from the force of the kicks, leaving it to fall onto the floor and showing the hallway out.

“Let’s run and find the others!” Kudo ordered, getting Hinota to nod in agreement as they ran out to the hallway.

===

Running out of the room with their tails swishing left and right, Kudo led Hinota towards the center of the room where they were before, the other rooms in full view as they slowed down to a crawl to catch their breaths.

“Hah, hah… we should be far enough away from them now,” Kudo’s costume squeaked as he heaved, his inner frustration over it withering out like his breath.

“Ugh, I can’t believe that I thought of that imposter as Dear Sister… I’m so ashamed,” Hinota complained, her face turning blue at the horrid sight of her beloved sister’s image being ruined by that skeleton.

“Hey, you didn’t eat live creatures for over an hour like I did.”

“…You’re right. I’m sorry for sounding so arrogant.”

“Please don’t just agree with me so easily!”

As Kudo screamed for some comforting words from her, more footsteps resounded in the distance. The doors that connected to the second floor soundly slammed open, causing the two already in the hall to flinch in response for the enemies that might come.

“Waaaah! Save me!”

“G-Get off me, you stupid slimes!”

It was Tsuchi and Mizuri. Tsuchi ran out, his arms flailing about as tears welled in his eyes. Mizuri, on the other hand, was trying to rip something out of her chest which turned out to be gray slimes sticking onto her chest and butt.

“T-Tsuchi! What’s wrong? You look so terrified!” Kudo had to ask as the one who was built like a tank was screaming like a child.

“The girls! All of them suddenly turned so gray and scary! Teeth everywhere. Gross skin diseases and they all turned so saggy and wrinkly! They wanted to use me for experiments!”

The skeleton king and the pirate queen ran down to the floor with the other two with Tsuchi nearly tearing his hair out on the sides, tears beginning to stream down his face in pure terror. Mizuri, finally ripping off the slimes off her body, threw them down to the floor and mercilessly stomped them to their deaths.

“And these stupid slimes tricked me into having a gorgeous body! They were trying to suck the living life out of me! Those slimy bastards!”

Mizuri sounded even more frustrated in her tone as she continued to grind on the lifeless slime under her boots, her teeth grinding against each other in pure rage.

“Well, it looks like we were all under the illusion of getting our greatest desires,” Hinota surmised as they had a similar experience.

“Waaaaah!”

“Aaaagh! Get away!”

More screams resounded as the door to the basement near them slammed open as well, showing the bunny girl and the army boy ran up to the central floor. Raika showed up with tears in her eyes while Kuki ran with all his might as his arms swung up and down stiffly.

“Kuki! Raika! You’re both okay!” Kudo was at least glad that everyone returned back together.

“Everyone! Thank god you guys are here! Let’s get out of here!” Kuki ran up to the group, his body heaved as he tried to regain their breaths.

“What happened to you guys?” Hinota grew interested to hear about their stories.

“All the cute little animals surrounding me suddenly transformed into little gross monsters! They kept surrounding me and I thought I was gonna die of terror!”

Raika screamed, her body still shaking as she recalled the cute, lovable animals suddenly transforming into vicious beasts raring to tear her apart.

“The damn cannon guns I was using suddenly blew up and turned into snakes wrapping my arms! Freaking snakes, man!” Kuki displayed his terror as he believed that his life ended right there if he hadn’t run away.

“Then, let’s get out of here,” Kudo said as he brought out his clock. “We only got… 5 minutes?!”

Everyone turned to him, their eyes widened. After showing the clock, everyone’s jaw dropped.

“L-Let’s get—”

Before Kuki could answer, the entire floor trembled as the E-Plus turned around, noticing that the doors that they closed were strangely shaking profusely.

Then the doors slammed open once again, this time revealing the monsters coming out. From the second floor, a group of gross witches that screamed out ‘experiments’ along with the group of slimes slithering about. From the basement, tiny imp-like creatures ran with all their might along with snakes that traveled with them. Finally, from the rooms surrounding them, a group of skeletons and monsters disguised as sweets ran towards the E-Plus, making each of their eyes widened and opening their mouths.

“Aaaaaaah!”

With their skills sealed, they had no chance of defeating the monsters. Rather than taking their stand and taking their precious loot, with little time remaining, the group ran out of the central floor and straight towards the entrance hall.

With the door that they came in through in sight, the door suddenly opened, revealing the outside shining light that peered through the darkness, as if acting as a guide for the terrified souls running for their lives.

They jumped through the door with all their might and landed right in the outside world. Landing onto the soft grass that tickled their revealing skin, they turned back around to notice the door leading towards the haunted house.

The monsters were coming their way, making each of the E-Plus members squeal out in terror before suddenly—Blam!—the monsters stopped right before the door as some sort of invisible wall stopped them.

“W-What happened?!” Kuki exclaimed.

“W-Why did they suddenly stop?” Raika asked.

Kudo tilted his head and looked at the clock again. Surely enough, the timer stopped right at 0.

“T-The timer ended…” Kudo let out a sigh of relief, the fact that they got out before the time ran out became his saving thoughts.

“T-Time acted really fast there. I-If we were just a second late, we would have been trapped just like them.”

Hinota said as her composure was nearly gone after stating the fact, getting everyone else to gulp imaginary air as they could have been trapped within the house forever.

Soon enough, the entire house trembled, making a make-shift earthquake that made the party trembled. The house then started to sink deep into the earth, bringing all the monsters currently trapped inside to scream out in terror before being silenced by the ground itself.

The house sank into the earth, leaving nothing but a trampled ground of dirt shaped like a square behind.

“…”

The party remained silent. Their hearts continued to beat faster even as they managed to get out safely. Each one of them imagined a fate worse than death if they had stayed there for too long.

A phone rang through, shocking everyone into a shriek before finding out that it came from Kudo’s costume. Kudo dragged his phone out of his lion costume’s pocket to get a video call from none other than Hikari Valkyria.

He opened the call and got a video message from Hikari, who was still dressed in her Dark Knight costume.

“Hey! You guys managed to get out, right?!” Hikari screamed into the phone, her eyes nearly widened from the panic.

“Y-Yeah… We got out in time, actually…”

“Good! We just finished our study and it turns out that the house is a rare form of dungeon! Not to mention, it is the worst kind of dungeon. You can’t use your skills or equipment, and the monsters’ levels ranged around the 900’s!”

The E-Plus gulped in fear.

“What’s even worse is that the time in the dungeon passes 10 times faster than normal! Just staying there for 10 minutes is enough to reach the limit! Oh, thank the gods…”

After letting that out, Hikari let out a sigh of relief as she blamed herself for sending the young adventurers out to something so dangerous. As the video call ended, the E-Plus looked again at the former location of the dungeon now showing nothing but air.

Even if it returns the next year, the E-Plus will not step foot into it even if they were paid with all the treasures of the world.

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