Chapter 137:

Vol. 9 Chapter 1: Silver-Haired Heroine Part 2

Hour Empty Child

The Sterile Jungle—known as the most stand still location all across the Roprase country. The jungle remained the same way for various centuries. No matter how harsh the sun, or how disastrous the storms, the jungle remained the same ever since.Bookmark here

Despite their massive amount of preparation, they searched the location through the map they bought back in Triun. They always had to make sure that they can map out the jungle in their heads before entering. The Sterile Jungle is known to have several powerful monsters roaming about—it doesn’t hurt to take better care.Bookmark here

After researching the possible locations, they pinpointed the actual spot where they could find the Approl—deep inside the jungle, therein lies a ruin where there was actual civilization several hundred years ago.Bookmark here

Since it was too far in the jungle, they had no choice but to leave Chui on her own with the Steed as the party headed to the jungle on foot to get there.Bookmark here

Unfortunately, unlike how the sun showed in the sky, the air was bitter cold to their skin. The wind that picked up was even worse than the overall weather temperature, but they had no choice but to brace through it.Bookmark here

After entering, they made sure to pass through without taking down so many monsters like they usually would. This would undoubtedly increase their loot gain and experience points, but there was the matter of saving up potions and MP for the battle ahead. More than anything, taking on several random battles might throw off the adventurers.Bookmark here

Though the monsters still roamed, ever peerless in surveying the surroundings. That’s why the E-Plus took their time by taking detours along the way to avoid too many monsters excursions—though they had no choice if a monster so nonchalantly falls onto their lap, then onto its grave.Bookmark here

Because of that, they took several hours to pass through. Thanks to their daily training, their bodies were able to handle such a feat unlike so many other young adventurers their age that would most likely complain and whine, becoming completely exhausted in the process. Though not many other adventurers could be able to achieve level 200 as the E-Plus did.Bookmark here

“Okay…” Kudo stepped over the large roots of the trees. He turned his head to his party members who followed behind him. “Everybody is prepared, right?”Bookmark here

“Yes!”Bookmark here

The group responded, their voices lowered and filled with exasperation at their leader. Reason for their frustration is that throughout the entire trip, they have been preparing non-stop to the point of getting sick of it, so Kudo asking that got on their nerves.Bookmark here

“Hehe, nice,” Kudo, however, became unfazed as he smiled at that. There was nothing more beautiful than a prepared party.Bookmark here

They continued walking through the jungle by overpassing trees, looking over the monsters that passed their way, and hiding from other groups of monsters to avoid a large skirmish. Eventually, they finally found their way there.Bookmark here

They reached the center of the jungle where the ruin was lying in sight. It expanded several kilometers as if transforming the once dense forestry of the jungle into an old-aged society. Debris of stone covered everything, including the broken pathways and the devastated land that could have been a beautiful town. Broken buildings had rubble surrounding them, showing nothing but the destruction that once took here.Bookmark here

At the center of the wreckage was a large temple that pierced the sky with its tall height. It resembled that of a ziggurat that was desolate and wrecked, showing no sign of care throughout the years. A large staircase led upwards to the entrance of the ziggurat, but rubble blocked the entrance completely without any chance of being able to enter through.Bookmark here

“Whoa…” Kuki let out an awed voice. “That looks so cool…”Bookmark here

“Really? It looks so messy to me,” Raika gave a half-browed response to Kuki’s comment.Bookmark here

“You don’t understand, Raika. It’s every man’s romance to discover ruins on his adventure! Seeing this kind of place strokes a man’s fiery spirit for the mysterious!”Bookmark here

Tsuchi gripped his fist, his eyes burning fire within his pupils as if he himself became into a burning flame.Bookmark here

“In other words, it’s a stupid guy thing. Don’t mind it, Raika,” Mizuri placed her hand over Raika’s shoulder, getting Raika to say ‘Ah’ in understanding.Bookmark here

“Mmh, it’s a nice place, but where’s the boss?” Kudo said, his eyes darting left and right to scope out the boss.Bookmark here

“It should be here. Normally Named Bosses would stand around in the same place, right?” Hinota asked.Bookmark here

“It should be,” Kudo answered. “Named Bosses protect an area that normally contains treasure and such. Being in the ruins, I figured that the Approl should be guarding something here, but now…”Bookmark here

Kudo rubbed his chin, closing his eyes as he entered into deep thought. Having no other choice, Kudo asked Raika and Kuki to scout out the location.Bookmark here

As the ranged fighters went to do so, the party laid back and tried to uncover many mysteries within the ruins. Since it was the ruins, there was no hidden treasure or anything that could be good for them other than the usual dirt, grime, and gross bugs that littered the place.Bookmark here

Before long, the childhood friends returned, only to give no news with their arms covering them to warm them from the cold.Bookmark here

“Sorry, boss,” Kuki shook his head along with his body from the cold. “There was no sign of it anywhere.”Bookmark here

“Sorry…” Raika also apologized, lowering her head.Bookmark here

“No need to apologize,” Kudo raised his hand. “Still, it’s kinda weird that there’s no sign of it… it couldn’t have left, could it?”Bookmark here

Kudo kept delving into deep thought as the party members were scratching their heads at this conundrum.Bookmark here

As they were figuring out exactly what was going on, lying at the top of the ziggurat where the entrance was, several stones and rubble that blocked the entrance began to fall down.Bookmark here

Vibrations traveled through the ground. Kudo flinched. His mind began to blare loudly.Bookmark here

“It’s coming!”Bookmark here

Kudo swung his arm to order his party members to scatter. Each member did as he told and jumped out of the way from the center.Bookmark here

As soon as he ordered, the rubble of rocks that blocked the entrance combusted, the sheer force blew them away as something jumped out of the entrance. As the rubble flew and shattered from the force, the giant being flew across the air and landed right between the party members that managed to get away in time.Bookmark here

Its sudden weight broke the already-broken pathway, leaving a giant crater below it. Kudo had craned his neck to be able to see all of its size.Bookmark here

The creature’s white fur sheened from the blaring sunlight above. It cast a large shadow that enveloped a substantial amount of space on the pathway. It’s hulking muscles that seemed to bulge out of its white shimmering fur clenched as veins throbbed on them.Bookmark here

The Aproll, Axil—it opened its gaping mouth as it roared, showing its jagged teeth. It also raised its large arms up in the air and pounded his massive barrel chest over and over, the sheer force of those punches alone was enough to break the sound barrier from the noise.Bookmark here

Its red eyes peered at its surroundings, noticing the E-Plus members that gathered their weapons at hand and prepared themselves for the onslaught.Bookmark here

Axil sniffed the air and turned its head like a swivel, scratching its chest with its fingers. Kudo tilted his head, but then it got to him.Bookmark here

“T-This thing is ignoring us…?”Bookmark here

Kudo gritted his teeth. He never felt so insulted by a monster like this before. He recalled being laughed at by a goblin when he was just beginning, but he soon quickly taught it a lesson.Bookmark here

Now, even after leveling up this much and becoming stronger, he still gets annoyed by the monsters’ overconfidence.Bookmark here

“Kudo, what do we do?” Hinota, standing by his side, asked as she gripped on her katana.Bookmark here

Kudo growled, the insult done by the boss infuriating him. “Let’s show it why we’re something to look out for! Everyone, get ready!”Bookmark here

His voice booming, Kudo ordered the members as they steeled their gaze at the hulking giant that was nonchalantly scratching itself.Bookmark here

“Tsuchi!” Kudo turned to the tank. “Take its attention! Don’t let it get on anyone else!”Bookmark here

“Got it, boss!” Tsuchi replied, lifting his heavy hammer to the air with ease.Bookmark here

“Kuki, Raika, shoot at it to wear down its health! But not so much that you take its attention from Tsuchi!”Bookmark here

“Right!” Kuki answered, cocking his dual guns.Bookmark here

“Understood!” Raika shouted, nocking an arrow to her bow with precision.Bookmark here

Tsuchi ran forward, his hammer at his beck and call while the ranged fighters followed afterward. As Tsuchi stood in its way, Kuki and Raika separated from him and went on their own paths to Axil’s sides.Bookmark here

“Hey! You big fatass!” Tsuchi waved his free arm to the air, yelling out his lungs. “You’re so ugly! Here! This is for you!”Bookmark here

Smiling wide, Tsuchi lifted his hammer high into the air, and swung it down with force right onto Axil’s giant toes. The hammer swung at it and hit it hard, causing a loud thunk that actually made Tsuchi’s arms shake in vibration.Bookmark here

“W-Whoa!?”Bookmark here

Tsuchi stepped backward, the vibration traveling through his arms and straight through his body. “The toe’s so damn hard! It feels like I just hit a ten-ton wall of steel!”Bookmark here

Tsuchi craned his neck to check whether or not Axil took it to heart—unfortunately, the giant monster barely even noticed even after it perked its ears.Bookmark here

“And it’s not even paying attention to me! What the hell?!”Bookmark here

For once, Tsuchi displayed anger, his brows knitted in fury as his pride as a damage-dealing tank went up in smoke.Bookmark here

Kuki and Raika kept shooting at it with their bullets and arrows. Kuki would aim precisely at the soft spots he would think of—the chest, the head, even its ass—while Raika kept shooting at its head hoping for swift damage.Bookmark here

However, each bullet and arrow were deflected without landing a scratch on its fur and skin. The bullets and arrows practically fell down to the pathway, either bent or even broken in half.Bookmark here

“T-This thing is impenetrable!” Kuki shouted, holding his guns up in the air. “My bullets can’t do a single thing!”Bookmark here

“W-What is this?” Raika lifted her bow to her chest. “Even the arrows that Kudo crafted to its fullest can’t even hit it!”Bookmark here

The ranged fighters and the tank continued to deal damage that seemed futile. Kudo gritted his teeth, but this time it was in pure concern.Bookmark here

“I didn’t think that it could withstand this much…” Kudo turned around. “Hinota, get ready!”Bookmark here

“Got it,” Hinota nodded before turning to the last member staying in the rear. “Sorry, Mizuri. I want you to stay behind us and keep supporting.”Bookmark here

“Don’t you worry ‘bout me,” Mizuri smiled. “First priority is taking down the boss! I got your backs, so fight without any worry!”Bookmark here

Receiving Mizuri’s vote of confidence, Kudo and Hinota nodded to her before turning their attention to the boss. They ran with full force, closing in on Axil as the other party members were reaching their limits.Bookmark here

“Guys! I’m pulling a support! —[Plus Pulse]!”Bookmark here

Kudo lifted his hand. Submerging itself with a white aura, rings of bright white color ascended in the air. They expanded in size as the rings fell right down to the pathway, covering the entirety of the party. Since the skill was highly-leveled, its range enlarged to cover nearly everywhere as long as the user is present within it.Bookmark here

As each ring fell to the ground, dissipating as it fell, the party members soon glowed with a white aura. Their senses filled and their bodies experiencing a positive flow.Bookmark here

Each ring granted a buff that increased all their parameters, including their attack, defense, speed, as well as their magical attack and defense. It was an all-powerful support buff skill that was granted to him after having received the title by Ritheru himself.Bookmark here

“Alright!” Tsuchi shouted, lifting his hammer over his shoulders. “Time for round 2!”Bookmark here

Tsuchi then swung his hammer again, hitting Axil right in the foreleg. This time, the sound of the hammer hitting the leg sounded more like a true hit to a limb, making more of a ‘thud’ sound similar to that of hitting a soft pad.Bookmark here

Axil groaned, its jagged teeth protruding from its lips began to grit. Its red eyes peered below, knitting its brows.Bookmark here

“Oh, now I got your attention, huh?!” Tsuchi grinned at his success.Bookmark here

“Now’s my turn!” Hinota said, brandishing her katana as its blade sheened from the sunlight.Bookmark here

She positioned her katana behind herself as she rushed in, her upper body lowered with her head raised high at the enemy before her. Her slanted eyes steeled at Axil, readying to decapitate it at any cost. Her run picked up speed as she voiced out.Bookmark here

“—[Burning Soul]! —[Enchant: Offense Up]! —[Flaming Strike]!”Bookmark here

Her skills that were burned right into her soul, her flaming red hair became alighted in flames, her eyes shined bright red like her hair. Her body, already glowing with the bright light of [Plus Pulse], began to glow once again in pure red color. Her blade also became encased in fire, the burning pyre brimming off of it. Bookmark here

Other than her usual skills given by her class, her [Enchanting] skill allowed her to imbue anything with enchants, increasing their power. This particular enchant allowed her to increase in all forms of offense—her attack, magical might, and speed. A custom-made enchant for her to use.Bookmark here

Hinota reached within its range and swung with all her might—her blade slicing through the air and slashed so fast that none could even see it happen.Bookmark here

Blood spurted out from the newly created wound caused by the burning blade. The wound even began to cauterize from the intense heat of the flames.Bookmark here

Axil roared now—this time in fury and pain as it stepped back from the sudden force. Its heavy footsteps resounded as it raised its hands as if to check out the newly created wound.Bookmark here

“That was pretty hard to cut even with all my skills,” Hinota surmised under her breath to not draw attention from her comrades. “This is going to be tough.”Bookmark here

Her hands were already beginning to numb from hitting such a hard surface despite it being an actual monster with no steel worn on its body. She jumped back and brandished her katana once again, facing directly at the enemy with a hardened glower.Bookmark here

Axil surveyed its surroundings once more. The attacks of the party members that kept shooting and slicing at it began to redden his sight. His already reddened eyes popped open, opening its mouth wide to roar.Bookmark here

It slammed its chest with its fists, causing another ruckus of noise that could destroy their hearing if they weren’t used to it already. Axil continued to roar, this time redirecting it towards the party members.Bookmark here

Kudo chuckled, “Now you can’t ignore us!” Kudo shouted, brandishing his bastard sword at the enemy.Bookmark here

===Bookmark here

An hour passed by. The E-Plus was still fighting Axil.Bookmark here

Usually, they would have excellent efficiency, but the boss broke through that with its strong might and will. Even after shaving off its skin with their weapons and burning its fur to cinders with their skills, Axil the Aproll remained undaunted, seemingly as if it had infinite health.Bookmark here

“Damn it, what’s with this guy?!”Bookmark here

Kudo shouted, sweat streaming down his body as he held onto his bastard sword. Blood also streamed from his temple and arm, cascading down his skin and dirtying his armor. The other party members weren’t so pretty to look at either.Bookmark here

Axil, the monster boss they were facing, continued to punch its chest with gusto as it roared at the party again, yelling to continue the fight. The party members were not so keen on responding.Bookmark here

The ranged fighters, Kuki and Raika, continued to breathe haggardly as their ammo was nearing the limit. Hinota and Mizuri were fine but they had a few spots of dirt on their clothes and a few scratches on their fair skin.Bookmark here

Tsuchi, on the other hand, was a lot worse. Blood practically poured from his face and body, covering his torso that stained him red. However, he still had a fearless smile on his face as he gripped onto his hammer.Bookmark here

“Hah, do your worst, you damn dirty ape!”Bookmark here

Tsuchi shouted, but now Kudo was nervous as to whether that was a good move to do.Bookmark here

Kudo and Hinota discovered that along with its strength and defense, Axil had troublesome skills. The reason that it is still up and standing despite being fought to the limit against the party is that Axil could regenerate its wounds.Bookmark here

After having sliced its chest, Hinota became shocked to notice that the wound she delivered to it gradually recovered, the wound closing on its own as the Aproll continued to attack them. Other than its regenerative abilities, its incredible jumping power made it difficult for them to land a hit on it. Despite its size, it was actually a lot nimble than it looks.Bookmark here

“At this rate…” Kudo cursed under his breath. Considering the options, there was no other choice. “We might have to make a retreat.”Bookmark here

Kudo made an error in his plans. He never expected that the Boss monster would recover gradually. Not only that, even with the defense-piercing skill from Hinota, she’s the only one who has the skill. Even as her Mana regenerates quickly over time, she still needed to dodge every attack Axil gives her. Due to her low defense and her glass-cannon build, she cannot keep attacking and give the final blow.Bookmark here

Tsuchi continued to take in the hits, but the Aproll was too smart to take in his taunts and continued to directly damage Tsuchi immediately, making him end up battered and bruised.Bookmark here

Even with his support, Kudo can’t do anything at this point after having tried everything.Bookmark here

Being too fast, Kudo couldn’t debuff the Boss with his [Minus Pulse]. Mizuri is doing all she can to recover Tsuchi’s health, but her mana was running low and their potions were depleting by the second.Bookmark here

It was becoming more troublesome as time passed.Bookmark here

“Kudo!” Hinota shouted to him, being at the frontline against Axil. “What do we do?!”Bookmark here

Even Hinota, being the co-leader and often taking charge when Kudo could not, demanded an answer from him. At this point, Kudo understood her feelings of not wanting to give up without taking it down. But even she knew, logically, what they need to do. Kudo gritted his teeth behind closed lips as the blood trailed near his eyes, making him wipe it off with his arm.Bookmark here

“No choice… Let’s—”Bookmark here

Kudo’s gut was wrenching the moment he was about to shout out retreat, but then Ixal roared, interrupting him. Kudo and Hinota gazed in horror as Ixal the Aproll pounded its chest and jumped into the air with its massive body.Bookmark here

Every one of the members turned their heads up at the giant creature shadowed by the sunlight. The closer it got, the more terrifying it looked as the Boss was aiming for one of them—the one it was aiming at all this time.Bookmark here

Blood spurted out of Tsuchi, and when his eyes turned down, he saw a bit of him gone.Bookmark here

Axil’s fat hands were to his side, noticing that on those hands were razor-sharp claws that protruded of its fingernails. Blood seemed to stain the nails red and, a bit of flesh flew out from them.Bookmark here

Tsuchi turned back down again, noticing the big major gap on his body. On the lower-right side of his torso, a literal part of his stomach was gone, revealing the giant hole that poured out blood like a fountain.Bookmark here

“Tsuchi!”Bookmark here

Mizuri’s deafening screamed resounded. Her vocal cords could have been damaged from thatsort of scream.Bookmark here

Kudo couldn’t believe it. His hands shook as fear took over him now. Gritting his teeth, his next thought process forced him to run over to Tsuchi’s side.Bookmark here

As Axil had not finished with Tsuchi, it was ready to deliver another strike with its fingernails just as Tsuchi was just about to fall. Kudo rushed in and managed to catch him in time. Using his amazing strength, he pulled Tsuchi’s body up into the air and threw him over to Mizuri.Bookmark here

Mizuri understood what he did and caught him without any issue. His giant body was overbearing, but Mizuri caught him with ease as panic fueled the adrenaline within her body. Even as she caught him, tears flowed from her eyes as she gazed once again at Tsuchi’s ruined body.Bookmark here

Kudo sighed but only for a moment. He turned back around and pulled out his sword. The fingernails that were aiming for Tsuchi were now directed to him.Bookmark here

The fingernails and the sword clashed, creating a metallic sound that pierced his hearing. It was enough for his ears to ache in pain from even the sound alone—let alone his arms and body that had to take in the hit themselves.Bookmark here

Kudo’s body screamed out in pain, but he stood resolute to take the hit. Otherwise, he would have been torn to pieces.Bookmark here

“Kudo!” Hinota shouted, her slanted eyes showing panic for once as she rushed in.Bookmark here

“Get away!”Bookmark here

Kudo demanded, forcing Hinota to stop. He turned his eyes to her, gritting his teeth as his arms struggle to keep the fingernails away.Bookmark here

“I’ll take it on! Just keep back!”Bookmark here

Kudo said as he turned back to Axil who roared at him, wanting nothing more than to tear him apart flesh to flesh. Kudo’s fear began to grip his heart as his HP was being drained considerably.Bookmark here

If Hinota stepped in, with her low defenses, she could be wiped out. Not just that—with the tank gone, with Tsuchi out of the picture, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the party members would get destroyed, leading the E-Plus party to get wiped out.Bookmark here

A wipe-out… it was the term that made adventurers fear for their lives as adventurers. An outcome that would make or break a party of adventurers no matter how strong they were.Bookmark here

In this world, there’s no way to revive someone back even if they were wiped out.Bookmark here

Kudo cursed himself again. Where did he go wrong in his plans that brought his party to reach this state? He tried to search back but he had no idea at the time. All he could think about is a way to get them back on their feet and run away from the Boss.Bookmark here

If Kudo would have made the decision quicker, he would have been able to save Tsuchi from being hurt. He was still too immature as a leader.Bookmark here

As his arms were just about to give in, having no potion or healer to back him up, Kudo was readying himself to take in a big hit that could end his life.Bookmark here

But something jumped out from behind the temple. Under the glaring sunlight, Kudo’s eyes picked out a shadow that seemed to fly out from hiding and flew right down to where they were. Kudo could pick out what it looked like.Bookmark here

A single girl. Young, possibly in her teenage years like he is. Her long hair, however, was shimmering in silvery light in contrast to her tanned skin. Her attire was made entirely out of black—a white dress shirt covered by a black vest including a black jacket with golden trim on the edge of the jacket and sleeves. Her black folded skirt covered her tanned thighs with a bit showing through an opening on the sides covered in criss-cross lines.Bookmark here

Her black boots covered all the way to her knees, and her socks ran up higher even up to her thighs. If that wasn’t enough, a black cloak covered her back side, fluttering about in the air.Bookmark here

Finally, her right hand that was bandaged in white was holding something no ordinary girl would usually hold—a scythe, as large as her, glinting from the light of the sun. It was purple as its base color with a black blade that seemed to be made entirely out of darkness. On each side of the pole was a spike that shimmered just as much as the blade.Bookmark here

The girl, her red eyes showing nothing but the cold bloodlust, swung her scythe down with grace and might. The Aproll, Axil, could only turn its head to notice her presence coming in, and her blade reaching it.Bookmark here

With one slash, blood spurted as the girl landed seamlessly on the other side of the party. The party gaped when the Named Boss, the one that was about to nearly wipe them out, began to roar meekly. Its body that was slashed slowly separated from each other, leaving the two half-cut carcasses on the broken pathway. Blood poured from the open bodies leaving a puddle of red carmine.Bookmark here

The party members showed shocked expressions. Not one could move after witnessing such a powerful strike that had immediately taken down the Boss they were fighting so hard against.Bookmark here

Even as he is astounded and mesmerized, it took him a couple of seconds before Kudo turned around to find the girl that did the deed, only to find no trace of her at all afterward. The dark girl with silver hair disappeared without a trace.Bookmark here

He couldn’t even say anything, otherwise, he would have tried to call out to her. However, she was gone for good, and the boss can no longer stand. A feeling of frustration and amazement swelled inside of him as he gripped his fist.Bookmark here

“Tsuchi!”Bookmark here

Bringing his mind back to reality, Kudo turned to face Mizuri who continuously healed Tsuchi with her skill. The rain clouds covered Tsuchi and doused him in its healing rainwater, his body glowing a light bluish color. However, Tsuchi remained bloodied and unconscious, breathing haggardly as if tethering on life and death.Bookmark here

“Kudo! Hinota! Tsuchi isn’t healing! His health is still down!”Bookmark here

This brought the entire party back into reality as they ran towards the downed Tsuchi to view him up close. Surely enough, the wound that would have closed by now still showed, giving Raika and Kuki grimacing looks on their faces from the gaping hole on his stomach.Bookmark here

“I can’t… I can’t heal him! What should I do!?”Bookmark here

Mizuri’s eyes began to overflow with tears other than the rain, her voice cracking as her hands hover over Tsuchi to try to bring him back to life. But with the wound still there, her heart ached from the fact that her abilities were not enough.Bookmark here

Kudo flashed back to the time when he had a similar wound on his own stomach, back when he faced against Shinezu. He shook his head to ward off the fear as he gazed at him closer.Bookmark here

“Could it be… a debuff?” Kudo surmised. “Then… —[Minus Clear]!”Bookmark here

Kudo hovered his hand over Tsuchi, glowing a bright white light. The party members had their eyes squinting from the bright light emitted by his hand. As the glow faded, Mizuri remained stationary, her body still.Bookmark here

“Mizuri, please continue.”Bookmark here

“R-Right!”Bookmark here

Mizuri once again activated her skill, [Aqua Rain]. Gray clouds began appearing over Tsuchi as the rainwater fell from the clouds, once again covering Tsuchi’s bloody body with the faint bluish glow.Bookmark here

Finally, the gaping wound that continued to make the others wince for Tsuchi’s stead began to close on its own, covering the inside of his body from the outside air once again. The blood finally started to drip from his body, becoming cleared by the rainwater and dissipating away.Bookmark here

As the wounds closed, Mizuri’s smile resurfaced on her face, bringing a calming respite to the party members.Bookmark here

As the rain clouds dispersed, Mizuri held onto Tsuchi’s cheek with her hand, her face close to his.Bookmark here

“Tsu… come on, wake up!” Mizuri pleaded. “You’re okay now!”Bookmark here

Her gentle and panicking voice entering his ears, Tsuchi’s eyes fluttered open and closed before finally revealing them. His sight was blurry at first, but soon Mizuri’s teary face that was shined on by the sunlight surfaced in his eyes. The calming image of Mizuri’s face, shimmering from the wetness of her tears along with her crystalline yellow eyes made an everlasting image that would never go away for as long as he lived.Bookmark here

“Ugh…” Tsuchi groaned. “Mizuri-chii…? Oh… I’m alive…”Bookmark here

Tsuchi smiled despite the pain still being there, lifting his hand to see if he could still feel it. There was no issue, so Tsuchi turned to Mizuri who remained tearing up.Bookmark here

“Hey, come on. Why you look so bad? I’m fine…”Bookmark here

“Ghh… you goddamn idiot! You moron!”Bookmark here

Despite her insults, Mizuri grasped onto Tsuchi tightly, her arms wrapping around his neck which undoubtedly surprised Tsuchi to no end. Even the males of the party were surprised by this from the way their eyes were widened. But for the girls, they smiled with warmth in their hearts at the scene. Even with his shock, Mizuri continued to embrace Tsuchi, continuously shouting out insults.Bookmark here

“You stupid bastard! You can’t make me worry like that! You’re a tank—act like it!”Bookmark here

“H-Hey, alright already. I got it, so can you please ease up? My neck’s being strangled…!”Bookmark here

Tsuchi’s face was turning blue before Mizuri lessened her grip, but she continued to embrace him, not letting him go for a moment. As Raika and Kuki smiled and chatted with them, Hinota faced Kudo who was slightly farther away.Bookmark here

“What do you think that was?” Hinota asked, dusting herself off the dirt on her person.Bookmark here

“Probably a curse-type debuff. That thing was worse than I expected. It made it so that Tsuchi wouldn’t recover. It probably already realized his importance and tried to take him out immediately.”Bookmark here

“That’s…” Hinota turned her head down. “So he could have—”Bookmark here

“Died,” Kudo finished for her. “If it weren’t for her, Tsuchi would have died. Rather, we would have all died, because of me.”Bookmark here

Kudo gripped his hands into fists. His mistake could have cost the whole party their lives. The very idea haunted him.Bookmark here

“It’s not just you,” Hinota ascertained. “It was my decision too. I was there and I should have paid closer attention. We share the same burden, Kudo.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah,” Kudo raised his head to face Hinota, smiling at her. “I guess. Still…”Bookmark here

His eyes wandered over to the other side of the jungle, specifically where the girl apparently disappeared to.Bookmark here

“It wasn’t even our kill, but that would make this quest a success,” Hinota said, bitter at the result.Bookmark here

“Yeah… it feels wrong,” Kudo honestly answered. “We finished the quest because of her and she left before taking the loot. It feels wrong that we have to take it ourselves.”Bookmark here

“It’s not like we have a choice,” Hinota raised her hand and waved. “We have to accept what’s given to us and take the loot and reward ourselves.”Bookmark here

“Yeah… though, I would like to meet her again,” Kudo turned back to Hinota, this time, his smile was distant. “I would have liked to give the reward to her, at least.”Bookmark here

Recovering their losses, the E-Plus party made a trek back to the outside of the jungle, where Chui patiently waited for them before returning the party back to Triun in triumphant failure.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.