Hour Empty Child
The two co-leaders had no choice but to cancel their date. Though with the current development, they couldn’t enjoy it either way, so they headed back to the guild headquarters to talk to the one person they should have been reporting and to ask for help.
“Mmh? Is there something you need?”
Hikari asked, sitting on the well-established chair that was as big as a person, with a comfortable sitting pad for herself. She was currently drinking extremely-strong alcohol from her giant mug on the table within the lobby.
As the guild members were mostly out on their quests at this time, the lobby was unusually quiet. The E-Plus party members were still around, pretending to be busy at their usual table as to avoid being confronted by their leaders.
“Mom, there was a problem,” Kudo asked, his usual gentle eyes furrowing.
“Master,” Hinota stated. “There was a girl being chased by someone. Kudo went in to try to save her, so he confronted the guy.”
“I see,” Hikari nodded widely, her eyes closed as if to recall the situation in her mind. “Then you got upset because Kudo went off to another girl while on a date with you. That’s quite cheeky of you, my boy.”
“I-I-It’s nothing like that!”
Kudo immediately retorted, shaking his fist up and down at his Mother. Meanwhile, Hinota turned her head to the side, her cheeks currently blazing red.
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Hikari chuckled. “So, what about the guy? Some creep after a pretty girl? Nice job, Kudo!”
“Mom…” Kudo understood that Hikari was misunderstanding, so his tone changed. “It was a Dark Player.”
The playful mood around them turned cold. The E-Plus members all stopped in their tracks and turned their heads to where the three were, all with concerned faces. Kudo and Hinota witnessed the moment when Hikari immediately turned serious.
Her eyes glared, and the shimmering light within her pupils shifted.
“…Is that true? You both met with a Dark Player?”
“Yeah…” Kudo stood for a moment, hesitating. “I’m sorry, but I confronted the guy.”
“Even though I told you not to, Kudo?”
Her words cut him deep. She had just warned him the dangers of Dark Players just recently, and he already went against her in an instant. He pursed his lips as he nodded his head, having no choice but to agree.
“…But I understand that it was because of someone’s involvement. You’re excused for that.”
Kudo let out a relieved sigh as Hikari turned to Hinota, her steadfast expression leaving Hinota to nearly shake from the intense atmosphere.
“Were the two of you hurt?”
“N-No, we weren’t. Before the fight got worse, the guy ran away.”
“I see,” Hikari stood from her chair, leaving her mug with her alcohol behind on the table. “And, what do you plan to do?”
“We want to find this girl,” Kudo demanded. “It’s the same girl that saved us. Even if we didn’t owe her, we need to find her because, for some reason, that Dark Player was chasing after her.”
Hikari paused for a moment, crossing her arms underneath her massive bust with a serious glare to the ground. “Any reason why he was doing that?”
“No clue,” Hinota answered. “But you can see what happened on the screen over there.”
Hinota then pointed at the television hanging near Hikari, making her turn her attention to the screen where it was showing a location somewhere in the city.
It was a newscaster who stood in front of the wreckage where the alley was supposed to be. The news reporter told how the damage has spread all across the blocks, causing immense property damage that could scale up to millions of Jib.
“He sure was brazen,” Hikari uncrossed her arms. “From the looks of things, it’s not looking so bright for that girl. Alright,” Hikari turned around, turning her head to the two behind her. “You two, follow me.”
“W-Wait! We wanna go too!”
The E-Plus that remained there stood up from their table and followed after the co-leaders. Each of them had panicking faces that told that they listened to what they were saying the whole time.
“Huh? I thought that you guys were busy?” Kudo asked, remembering what they told him before.
“Umm… we’re done?” Kuki answered, rubbing the back of his head while Raika, Tsuchi, and Mizuri all had wry smiles on their faces.
“O-Oh,” Kudo nodded. “Alright, then let’s go.”
Hikari led the E-Plus members down the stairs and straight towards the Crafting Garage. Though confusion riddled their faces, Hikari continued forward with a straight momentum. Kudo and the other followed her through the loud and destructive Crafting Garage where the other crafters were still experimenting with their items rather than going out on quests. Some were actually on their quests creating the items, though.
Eventually, they made it to the blacksmithing site after passing through the gate where there was a sign of a hammer and anvil out in front. Walking through the ore-riddled floor of the blacksmithing area, Hikari continued walking further with the E-Plus in tow.
“Mom, where are we going?” Kudo finally asked, his curiosity brimming.
“We’re going to see Par,” Hikari answered, still facing forward. “She’ll give us the answer that we need.”
“W-Why are we going to Par for?”
Kudo asked with no sense of rudeness in his tone. The party knew that Par was the physical type of adventurer—using her body rather than using her magic. In this case, the party needed to find the girl that saved them, and if possible, they would like it if they could use some sort of magic to do so.
“I understand your concern,” Hikari now turned her head, her coy smile on her face. “But Par does much more than just creating armors and weapons.”
Kudo tilted his head at the statement. What does she mean by that?
Hikari finally led the party straight to the end of the blacksmithing site—where the leader of said faction of the Crafting Garage resided. The place was an absolute mess as always—blueprints scattered just about everywhere as well as broken parts and ores used for blacksmithing. Dozens of Portable Furnaces were in full swing, each burning a separate piece in order to finish them at a faster pace.
The table used as the center point of all blacksmithing creations were riddled with small items and whatnot that could leave neat freaks to have a seizure. It wasn’t something the proper co-leaders would get used to.
Meanwhile, the person in charge of the area herself, Par, was now sitting on her chair at the very center of the table.
Her eyes were covered with small goggles that had extended so far that at the end was just a small glass the size of a pea. She held an armor plate on her hands and, with the use of her super-extended microscope goggles, used a small machine consisted of a hot needle to carve an intricate design on the plate.
Her level of concentration mixed with her stern face as she delves into her work was enough to leave a lasting impression of a blacksmithing genius at work. For Kudo, it was art at work, something that he as a blacksmith himself could not help but stare in admiration.
Unfortunately, Hikari wasn’t the type to wait for her to finish. She yelled out to her companion with her hands cupped to the sides of her mouth, surprising the other party members as they turned their heads back in frustration at their guild master for messing someone who was so focused on her work.
But in their surprise, Par immediately stopped her progress on the small plate with ease while putting her burning hot needle on the small rack on her side. Par lifted her head while taking off her goggles, revealing the tanned skin and beauty of the blacksmith master with a surprised look.
“Oh, Master! What’s up?”
Her greeting didn’t fit someone who was so hard at work concentrating on such intricate designing. It was as if she was just doing a mundane task that anyone can do, leaving another everlasting impression on the party members, especially Kudo.
“Par, sorry for interrupting you,” Hikari first apologized. “But these kids need your help.”
“What kind of help they need me for?” Par tilted her head for a moment. “If it’s blacksmithing, then sure, but if it’s anything else, can I do it later?”
“Sorry, but this takes priority,” Hikari’s eyes turned solemn. “It’s a Dark Player.”
The friendly atmosphere chilled. Par’s face curled for a mere moment before her brows knitted, her glare intensified to the max.
“…You’re not kidding, are you?”
Par’s tone was completely the opposite of her jolly side she usually displayed. It was enough to rattle the young adventurers behind Hikari from how she turned.
“Why would I be?” Hikari answered. “Kudo found the person who saved them from their last quest. Turns out it’s a young girl with immense power—and somehow, she was chased by a Dark Player.”
“You’re kidding…” Par said, but she sighed as she accepted the situation. She held her head as she sighed. “What’s this world’s coming to? That’s just stupid.”
“It is, but there’s no time to whine,” Hikari stated, walking forward with her hand on her hip. “We need it—right now.”
“You mean the Locator?” Par lifted her head to face her guild master. “It’s still under construction, though. Sure, we had a full year, but remember, it still has lots of kinks to fix.”
“But it’s nearly done, isn’t it?” Hikari smiled. “We need it for a bit.”
“Umm,” Kudo stepped in, raising his finger. “Mom, what’s the Locator?”
“It’s a machine that can help us locate someone as the name said. However, it’s a special type of machine—one that relies on someone’s memory and mana perception.”
“Memory and… mana perception?” Kudo parroted, seemingly how every one of his party felt in their minds.
“Yes,” Hikari nodded. “I believe it’s perfect for this situation.”
“Alright,” Par hunched her shoulders. “But it won’t be my fault if it breaks or anything. It definitely won’t be my fault if it explodes.”
Her words hung in the air and left the adventurers stiff in anxiousness.
“You’re the one that created it,” Hikari smiled at her crafter. “I have every bit of confidence that it’ll turn out well.”
“Heh,” Par scoffed. “You know how I like flattery, Master.”
Giving a courageous smile, Par lifted herself off of her chair, her hands on her hips as her apron that draped over her massive chest shifted about.
“Alright! Then, let’s get going!”
“Huh?” Kudo stopped her for a moment. “B-But what about the armor plate you’re fixing right now? Is it okay to leave it behind?”
“Armor plate?” Par tilted her head to the side. “Oh! You mean the baby cradle. Ah, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it! I’ll just finish it later.”
“The plate’s for a baby cradle?!”
The party members wanted back their impression of her from a few minutes ago back, but instead, they left to go after the two ladies heading further down.
Hikari and Par led the party once again over to where another entrance behind Par’s area was at. It was another door, a brown-colored door with nothing engraved or anything expensive on it. It was a rather beaten door as if it has been used for several years as Par turned the knob and led the party inside.
After going through the staircase that went down for several steps, Kudo and the party members had their mouths hanging open before the view that expanded before them.
It was a secret room, colored in beige and had several blueprints just like Par’s area. However, it wasn’t the state of the messy room filled with machine parts that had daunted the party members. It was the giant screen that took nearly all the room with its size. Various buttons and switches were on the main board below the giant screen. All the gauges that had different colors swapping left and right messed with their minds as the party walked forward into the room with Par being the first to approach the giant machine and pressing on a single button.
The screen flashed white. Then, several names of locations popped up within the screen. They were situated in different parts of the screen with lines here and there that represented the streets.
“Is this… a map of Triun?” Hinota spoke out, studying the location’s names and recalling them.
“More than that. It’s a map of the entire Lerabelum continent,” Hikari responded with a smile.
“Whoa…” Kuki held onto his head in shock.
“So this is the Locator…?” Kudo asked again, stepping forward to look at the buttons and gauges on the board, then switched his view to the screen above.
“With this, it’s possible to find the person that you’re looking for,” Par said, bending over slightly to touch the buttons and readjusting the map size, turning it over to look at the area of the map. “Though, like I said, it still has a few kinks in the system, such as lagging and such. I want it to be perfect before we can use it, though.”
“Unfortunately, time is not on our side this time,” Hikari stated. “A girl’s in trouble thanks to a Dark Player. It’s our duty to help her out.”
“Right,” Par nodded, turning her attention to the young adventurers who were still in surprise. “Kids, this here beauty is a masterpiece in the works. We call it the Locator for simple reasons—to locate people we need to find. Usually, this was going to be used to find any Dark Player we come across, and then find them and bring them to justice.”
“Whoa… that’s so cool!” Kuki let out, becoming giddy like a small kid. “It’s like this is a secret organization of justice!”
“Technically,” Hikari corrected. “We are an organization. So you’re pretty much right on the money.”
Kuki let out a squeal, surprising the others as he nearly shook in excitement. Raika let out a sigh with a smile and let everyone know that this is how he usually is with this kind of stuff.
“Though, it’s still a work in progress. Honestly, I wanted to make it so that anyone can be found with just a mention of the name. But this machine needs more than that. See, this beauty is made with the combination of both blacksmithing and enchanting. By making the materials to make the base, we enchant it with a special formula that makes it so that this machine picks up their mana wavelengths.”
“Mana wavelengths…” Kudo whispered to himself. “Sort of like how I use the [Sixth Sense] skill to find other people?”
“Exactly, Kudo,” Hikari smiled wide. “As expected of my son. You get the gist.”
“That’s pretty much it,” Par winked. “You can sense someone’s mana wavelength from their own mana, which is something adventurers with high mana perception like mages and those with the [Sixth Sense] can be able to see. Others won’t see it so easily, unfortunately, but with this Locator—it’ll be a cinch.”
“But,” Hinota stepped in. “You said that the Locator needed something more than a name—what does it need?”
“Oh, baby, you need a lot.”
Par held her forehead with her hand, shaking her head to the side multiple times full of exasperation.
“It’s a masterpiece, but man, does it need a lot of info. It took me months to give it the juice it needs to actually activate it, but it needs even more info just to look someone up. For example, to find somebody, not only you need a name, but you also need to recall the face, appearance, and manner of body movements all at once—you have to be completely precise, or else it won’t work.”
“What?!” Tsuchi screamed out. “That’s impossible! I mean, name and appearance sound easy, but even how they move, too? Isn’t that asking for a lot?”
“We’re talking about a machine that can find anybody in the whole continent—trust me, I would have made it easier if I could, but it needs a LOT of information to actually find somebody. That’s why, though we certainly can’t do it, one of you who actually found that girl needs to give the info.”
Par then moved to the side, and pointed at the small gem encrusted to a lever on the side of the board. The gem was sparkling with a purplish pink glow, dazzling the party members from the well-cut gem that was rounded to fit into somebody’s hand.
“Y-You want us to give the information ourselves?” Kudo said while pointing at himself, his skin beginning to moisten from the sweat and his nerves hitting him.
“Yep. You two found that girl, right? Then one of you need to give the info. Just touch on the gem and imagine the girl you need to find. After that, the Locator will pick up on the memory you’re showing and it will lock on the girl’s mana.”
“Umm…” Kudo rubbed the back of his head, his eyes darting to the side. “I didn’t really take a good look at her. I was… more focused on the Dark Player.”
“Then, I’ll do it,” Hinota stepped forward, her usual glaring eyes showing determination. “I got a high [INT] stat, so I should remember pretty much everything about her.”
“That’s the plan!” Par snapped her fingers. “Then, come over here and I’ll get you adjusted.”
Using her hand to motion Hinota forward, Par showed her to the gem on the lever and made her place her hand on it. After touching it, the smooth jaggedness that somewhat fitted her palm perfectly without any issue, Hinota turned her attention to Par.
“Alright, now close your eyes and picture the girl in your head.”
Page gave the instructions as Hinota did as she said. She closed her eyes, and her mind retraced the time when she first saw the girl walking about in the street.
Par and the others turned their attention to the screen when it finally showed something. On the large map of the city of Triun, there was a small blue dot that appeared out of nowhere. The map then started to shift graphically, changing the name of the locations around it to another area with different names of the locations. The blue dot appeared near a square shape that seemed to be a building of some sort.
“Alright! We got a visual!” Par shouted, gripping her hand into a fist.
However, her excitement is short-lived when the dot suddenly disappeared out of nowhere. The people had their mouths hanging open at the sight.
“I-It’s gone!” Tsuchi shouted.
“Did Hino lose her focus?” Mizuri said, turning her attention to Hinota whose brow twitched for a moment.
As everyone wondered, the blue dot that disappeared reappeared the moment afterward, surprising everyone that it is now in a different location than the last one.
“It showed up again!” Kuki shouted this time.
“Ah! It’s gone again!” Raika let out as the dot on the screen disappeared.
Then, it continued forward. The blue dot would disappear out of nowhere and reappear in a different location. Each person in the room tilted their heads in confusion after witnessing the sudden flashing dot on the screen showing up on different locations.
“Par, could it be freaking out on us?” Hikari asked, making sure that it was a fault in the system.
“It has kinks, but it never showed that before. I think the girl in general is actually… showing up in different places all at once.”
“That can’t be possible!” Raika let out. “How can somebody be able to travel that fast in such a short time?”
As everyone started to discuss that the machine might actually be breaking, Kudo rubbed his chin with his finger, his eyes gazing at the brown floor of the room.
“What if… it’s a skill? It’s a skill she’s using that’s letting her change places really quickly?”
“So then, it’s a skill,” Hikari crossed her arms under her chest. “Never heard a skill that can do that, but if it’s a Special Class, then it might be possible.”
“That might explain how she can get here into the city in just a day without an Ame,” Kudo said, remembering the conversation he had with Hinota from before.
“Then, what do we do?” Kuki stepped up, pointing at the screen with the flashing dot. “If that’s her skill, then how can we even catch her? At this rate, we’ll never find her!”
“There’s no other choice.”
Kuki and the others turned their heads to their leader who spoke out in a stern voice. His eyes were furrowed, and the shimmering light within his jade eyes spoke thousands of times more than what he just said.
“She’s in trouble. A Dark Player is going after her. No matter what, we have to help her.”
Kudo raised his hand, and slowly gripped it tightly, grasping at whatever chance he had to find her. The others felt a wave of confidence brimming from his person. It wasn’t something they were used to, but the E-Plus all nodded their heads in understanding.
“What’s the plan then, Kudo?” Hinota stepped forward and asked, a determined look on her face.
“We’ll find her at all the places she’s at. We’ll split up and go to those places and catch her when we find her. Only thing I’m worried about is whether she’ll think that we’re enemies.”
Kudo gazed downwards at the floor while giving his plan, delving into it further the more he spoke.
“Then, we’ll make it easier for you guys. I’ll pin the signature so that we can tell where she is without Hinota having to stay here.”
Par smiled before she turned to the Locator and started pressing some buttons on the board. As the screen changed multiple times, the flashing dot on the screen now had a square bordering it, flashing along with the dot.
“Thanks, Par,” Hinota thanked as she was glad that she didn’t have to stay.
“Though I would love to help,” Hikari frowned, shrugging her shoulders. “But since she saw you guys, she’ll probably think that the other members of the guild would be the ones going after her. It’ll probably make things worse.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” Kudo nodded. “We’ll find her on our own. I had every plan to.”
“I see…” Hikari grinned. “Good to see that you’re taking the job well.”
Hikari moved to stand in front of the E-Plus. Even within the small room, Hikari’s stance made her seem bigger than how the E-Plus perceived her as she gave her statement.
“Then, as guild master of the Alpha Heart, I order you all to find this girl and save her from being the next victim for the Dark Players. I have every expectation that you’ll succeed this time without any failure~”
Her words reminded them of the mistake they made from when they took the Extreme Quest. It was enough to get Kudo’s heart to wince in pain from the guilt, but he ignored it as he and the others looked forward, their eyes flashing fire of determination.
“Understood!” The party responded with gusto.
The E-Plus left behind the guild after leaving the room, but not before they took a bit of time to prepare for the possible battles at hand. Before leaving, Hikari gave each one of them an application of the Locator into their phones so that they can spot out the girl they needed to save at whatever the time.
Unfortunately, even after downloading the map and checking out her location, she was still disappearing and reappearing everywhere she could be, damping the burning spirits of the E-Plus members a little.
What was worse was that the weather was becoming colder, the bitter wind cooling on their skins at every chance it gets, making them involuntarily shiver at every moment. Though thanks to their insulated armor, it was only their open faces suffering from the cold.
“Man, this is gonna be a pain,” Kuki let out, rubbing the back of his head with one hand while holding onto the phone showing the flashing dot on the screen.
“What should we do?” Raika asked. “Even if we go to one of the places the girl was before, she disappears instantly. We won’t have enough time.”
“There’s no other choice,” Kudo repeated. “We just need to go to one of the places and catch her before she leaves.”
“Well, there’s no point in skulking about here,” Hinota answered, moving forward towards the street. “Let’s get a move on before we waste any more time.”
Garnering understanding from the party members, the group of adventurers left each other in accordance with their plan and left for the city at large.
Each one separated and headed off into a different section of the city according to the locations the dot has entered so far.
Though they entered in some places here and there according to the location, even as they entered, there was no sign of the girl there at all. When they switched to another location, the girl disappeared before they could even find a trace for her.
It continued on like this for a whole hour.
“I can’t find her anywhere…”
Kudo was the first to complain despite being the one who urged the party to move forward. Kudo was currently standing on the sidewalk being smothered by the other pedestrians who were walking by on their own business. The noises of the masses hurling his ears into disarray, he turned his attention to his Mana Phone.
The map was displayed on his phone, and the same dot that connected to the missing girl was still flashing—meaning that the girl was still moving about at fast speed. On the small section of his phone, it revealed the many names of his comrades who were on the phone as well in speaker mode.
“She’s getting to be a real pain to find!” Kuki complained through the phone.
“And we’re all just trying to help her out. Man, she needs to know when to chill,” Tsuchi groaned, Kudo imagining him rubbing the back of his head in frustration.
“Maybe she’s even more in trouble than we thought?” Raika’s faint voice managed to break through. “Could it be that the Dark Players have her cornered and that she’s moving so much because she’s trying to get away from them?”
“If that’s so,” Hinota’s cool voice entered. “Then we better shift gears. There’s no more time to waste.”
“You say that, Hino,” Mizuri now stepped forward with her voice. “But you have any idea where to catch her?”
“Yeah, we gotta be lucky if we’re gonna catch her,” Kuki said.
“But then you gotta be fast too. It’s like you gotta guess where you need to go to get her,” Tsuchi said.
As the adventurers began to converse with each other through the phone, Kudo rubbed his chin again. The constant usage of the word luck got him to think of an idea.
“Kudo?” Hinota asked. “What’s wrong?”
Showing a resolute expression, Kudo answered. “I got an idea. Though it’s a long shot.”
He turned his sight to the screen once again. He enlarged the map with the flashing dot on it. He scanned the map for any other location, specifically ones that the flashing dot has not got into.
He noticed that the flashing dot appears at random locations, but sometimes returns to the same location at different intervals. Kudo had no clue as to why the girl would go back to the last place she just was if she was looking for a place to hide, but he had no time to figure it out.
He scanned the best location for him to enter—or at least, he guessed.
“Alright,” Kudo let out a short sigh. “No other option but to try it out.”
He put his Mana Phone into his pocket and began his venture to the location.
He walked for several minutes, Triun being a big city as it is. After a while, he stumbled upon an area that he has never personally gone into.
The other people in the city became scarce, and several buildings that weren’t as dressed up as the ones near the center spread about. Some buildings, smaller in height compared to the skyscrapers, were grey and bland, and some of the glass windows showed cracks and even holes.
The street he was walking on was empty and dirty, filled with litter and grime that was the complete opposite of the clean busy streets he usually was in.
It was a small area near the border of the eastern side of town where it was still in development. There was yellow tape around the entrance from the Knights and the construction workers where they tried to keep away the rambunctious citizens from playing around due to safety concerns.
However, Kudo had no time to ask for permission he knew would not get accepted, so—making sure he doesn’t get caught—he jumped over the tape and sneaked in with slight hesitation.
He continued to move forward at a steady pace, turning his head around at each area with his studious eyes. Though he is ashamed to admit it, he was just going with his gut at this point.
He decided to try the very thing that adventurers shouldn’t so easily rely on—his luck. It was because of his luck that they were able to score more loot than usual, and sometimes find the right path needed when they were lost. Now, he was relying it on finding the girl that needed to be saved.
The reason why he doesn’t use it very often is that it doesn’t always work. At first, he would use it like crazy and would get lucky with numbers and items that seemed to increase in bulk whenever he does.
But sometimes he would get unlucky and get the worst rolls, leading him to sometimes get lost on a map which should have been easy. It goes one way or the other, but it goes on a much grander scale than the usual bad luck and good luck ordinary people go through.
If there was one time he would consider himself unlucky, it would be the time he lost his parents. It was in such a bad taste, it left Kudo bitter.
He shook his head—he had no time to delve into the finer details of his wavering luck. He continued to move towards where he believed she could appear—an abandoned building.
There were other abandoned buildings around him, but he was trusting his gut on this one. He didn’t felt that he would get the right one by just entering into the first one he sees.
No, he needed to find ‘the one’. The one building where he knew for sure the girl would pick as her next location to hide in.
It was an abandoned building that was at the end of the developing area. It was a smaller building compared to the others, but it had more cover since all the windows were covered up in dirty wooden boards and the entrance was closed—barred with more wooden boards that covered it in a crossed-shape.
Kudo moved towards the entrance and pulled out his bastard sword from his inventory screen. The sunlight shining down on the blade, causing a reflection of light from it, Kudo swung his sword down with force.
The wooden boards that crossed his way fell to the ground as they cluttered. Kudo wondered why there wasn’t at least a lock on the door like an ordinary door would, but he guessed that it was under development for that very reason.
He turned the knob on the door and entered into the building. His eyes and nose became victims of dust that scattered in the air, causing him to breathe it in and nearly choked on the dirty air.
He wiped the air in front of his face with his hand and looked up. The entire building was empty, save some for the discarded tables and chairs that seemed to clutter the gray walls. The color of the walls was a dampening gray color, with some parts that actually had the color peeled off like a banana, revealing a depressing white color beneath.
There was barely any light except for at the very end of the building where open rectangle windows were spread to the entire wall at the northern side. They revealed the sunlight that shined down on the remaining dusty floor.
It was there that his eyes widened at the shadow that stood where the sunlight was.
A beautiful girl stood where the sunlight beamed the brightest. Her form was shined on by the sun that it left a large shadow beneath her feet, reaching all the way to Kudo.
Her long silver hair sheened from the sunlight. Her tanned skin was revealed as her hood that covered her face was down. Her face riddled with streaming sweat, she continued to heave heavy breaths to catch her air. Her bandaged hand and arm, just as Kudo remembered it, hovered over her chest as it expanded and abated.
It left Kudo with a sense of wonder and admiration as if he was seeing the actual form of his Mother’s paintings in real life. He knew that she came from a specific race, but none that he knew of come to mind.
It left him paused, but after a moment, he shook his head to redirect himself back to reality. He stepped forward in order to catch the girl before she runs, but then, the girl spoke.
“Oh, god,” The girl’s voice soft yet stern, she spoke with her eyes closed as if she was speaking to someone in spirit. “Hath thou not tortured me enough? Why continue to push me through such trials and tribulations? My soul… my soul of darkness cries out in pain!”
The girl spun on her heel, her silver hair swished to the side as her head turned, the sunlight beaming on the other side of her face.
“But! I hath not forgotten my true self—I am the emissary of darkness! Sweeping through the shadows and staying away from the light—that is my destiny, lest I be faulted to an eternity of shame!”
The girl spun around, her body twirling and picking up the small dust to the side with the scuffle of her feet. Her tanned skin and silver hair made so much of a show that it left Kudo dazzled.
But there was something that he didn’t understand—isn’t the girl technically in the light right now? She’s being shined down like she was under the spotlight, contradictory to what her monologue was saying.
Kudo continued to think about this as the girl continued.
“I cannot—nay, I shan’t not go against my code! My very reason for existence is to be shrouded in darkness forevermore!”
“Umm…” Kudo raised his finger to subject. “You don’t have to be like that.”
Contrary to her eloquent and stern voice, the girl let out such a screeching yelp that it surprised Kudo with a shock. The girl winced and jumped back a meter, her hands near her chest and her hair shifting back to her side, the strands near her forehead falling out in panic.
“W-W-Wha… who art thou?! An enemy?! A fiend?! A p-p-pervert!?”
“N-No, no! I’m not anything like that!”
Kudo quickly denied, raising his hands to wave off the very notion, especially the last part. However, the girl’s eyes were wide, and the sense of panic riddled her sweaty face. It became the complete opposite of what Kudo wanted to happen when he met her.
It was then that Kudo realized what she was about to do. She was about to escape by using whatever skill she was using to transport herself to nearly every location that was flashing on the dot. If he doesn’t do something, then she’ll escape again, wandering about and not letting anyone help her.
Kudo didn’t want that to happen at all. He rushed forward, forgetting his stamina for a moment as he ran towards her. The girl’s surroundings became shrouded in a purplish smoke that rose up from the ground around her, about to envelop her entire body.
Knowing the skill, Kudo ran even faster. His heart beat so hard against his chest, it felt like it was about to burst. Even with his luck, who knows how long it’ll take to find her again?
Kudo reached out for her, his hand outstretched. He gritted his teeth—he was betting everything onto his hand to grab something, anything.
His hand pierced through the wall of smoke that was surrounding the girl, and with his best efforts, he grabbed something—a slender body part that caught the girl by surprise with another yelp.
Kudo shouted, noticing that he caught her bandaged wrist. The girl who saw this tried to wring her wrist out from his grasp. Kudo, knowing that her safety could be endangered if he lets go, tightened his grip despite the possible harm he might cause to her.
“Please, don’t go! I just—I just want to talk to you! I want to help you!”
He begged her to stop and consider. He didn’t care how he looked or how better he could have done it. All he wanted was to help her and make her feel at ease.
As the smoke was about to envelop them both, Kudo closed his eyes and wondered where they might go next.
But suddenly, the smoke dispersed itself, dissipating into nothing.
Kudo opened his eyes after feeling nothing in particular. He looked around for the smoke, but there was nothing at all. He turned to the girl.
The girl showed a surprised expression as well. Her head on a swivel, she turned around as she made small whimpers and yelps.
“—[Foggy Escape]! –[Foggy Escape]!” The girl continued to scream out loud. “W-Why hath my skill fail me at this most crucial time?!”
Even the girl was shocked to learn that her skill continued to fail. After a short moment of wondering, Kudo made an assumption.
“…Could it be that the skill won’t work if she’s being touched by someone else?”
Considering that it was a fog-type skill, it was possible that the fog wouldn’t work if something physical was still making a part of her body physical as her skill would make her entire body into fog. He doesn’t know the details, but after reading many skill descriptions in the past, he assumed that this is how it worked.
“U-Unhand me, you cur! Your devilish plot to capture me will fail!”
Now the girl was demanding for her release. She continued to try to pry her wrist away from Kudo’s grip, gritting her teeth and grunting about. However, despite her best effort, Kudo was able to hold onto her fairly well thanks to his rather powerful grip.
“Wha—Are you a statue?! Unhand me!”
“Umm, just wait a moment, please.”
Seeing that the girl has no way of being released any time soon, Kudo used his free hand to grab his cell phone from his pocket and called up to his comrades.
“Guys, I found her. I caught her in the farthest building in the development area. Come meet me here.”
Garnering surprise from the others over the phone, Kudo shut off the call and returned his attention to the pitiful girl still trying to escape.
“Graah!” The girl screamed.
“Please, calm down,” Kudo spoke in a low but firm voice. “I just want to say this.”
Catching his voice, the girl stopped screaming and turned her attention to him. The girl continued to glare at him, her red eyes making an impression on his mind, but he ignored such fascinating colors and continued.
“I just want to thank you for helping us out. If it weren’t for you… we would have lost someone a friend.”
Kudo spoke sincerely first since this was something he wanted to do first of all. The girl stopped glaring, showing a surprised set of eyes. Then, her cheeks reddened as she turned her eyes away.
“I… I do not recall such a thing.”
Kudo chuckled. “Even if you don’t, I still wanna thank you. Also…”
The mood around him changed the atmosphere, catching the girl by surprise and making her prepare herself.
“We want to help you. We know there are bad people out there that are trying to target you. If you keep being by yourself, you might get caught by them, and eventually…”
Despite his words, the girl remained unchanged. Instead, she lowered her gaze, pursing her lips as she listened. Kudo didn’t understand her expression, but he continued anyway.
“That’s why we wanna help you. Our guild, the Alpha Heart, is designed to help people from Dark Players. We want to help you in any way we could. That’s why we were trying to find you, so we can help you get away from them.”
Kudo loosened his grip. It wasn’t by accident—it was intentional. Seeing her composing herself, Kudo figured that there was no need to further grip and possibly hurting her. He was thankful that she remained still even after loosening his grip.
“Please, we just want to help. We don’t want anything in return—we just want you safe.”
His inner feelings flowed out from his voice. He wanted nothing more than to prevent the tragedy that occurred in Vipory. He wanted to make sure that this innocent girl who was so out of breath from running around to stay inside a safe area where everyone is there to be by her side.
The girl lowered her head. Her hand shook within Kudo’s grip. Her shoulders shook along with it, getting Kudo to smile.
“Can I ask for your name?” Kudo asked.
For a moment, the girl remained silent. After turning her head up and witnessing Kudo’s gentle smile and glowing jade colored eyes from the sunlight, the girl answered.
“…Saka. I am Saka Illusura—an emissary of darkness.”
“Saka…” Kudo repeated. “It’s a pretty name.”
The emissary of darkness, Saka, blushed at the compliment.
“So, this is the place?”
Mizuri said as the E-Plus party gathered around the abandoned building where the wooden boards scattered on the ground before the entrance. Their breaths waning from running all around the city, the E-Plus party remained there.
“Damn, how did Kudo find her so quickly?” Kuki asked, scratching his head at the supposedly impossible challenge.
“It is Kudo-chii—maybe he got lucky?” Tsuchi chuckled as he grinned.
“He’s really unfair sometimes,” Hinota answered, revealing a smile herself. “Though that’s always a good thing.”
As the party waited, footsteps resounded near where they are. They turned their attention to the two walking out, all of them showing surprised expressions when they saw Kudo holding onto Saka’s hand as they stepped out of the building.
“Everyone!” Kudo shouted. “This is Saka Illusura. We got her!” He then turned to Saka. “Saka, this is everyone from my party. They’re also here to help you.”
The girl remained silent, feeling the stares on her body as they waited for her to respond. The girl blushed for a moment before she opened her mouth.
“H-H-Hark, my name is… Saka,” Saka introduced herself the best she could.