Hour Empty Child
Kudo remained there, his inner turmoil rising up from the pit of his stomach to his chest. It started to burn, as if waiting to jump out of him and unleash the fiery fury.
Within the silence, Arnold pushed his glasses against his face, his lips curling into a smile.
“Hello there, boy. Would you kindly leave us and go to the other way? We are having a private chat.”
In response to that, Kudo narrowed his eyes. It was obvious what his answer was.
“If you’re here to take this girl away,” Arnold pointed his sight to Saka, then back to Kudo. “Then I’m afraid that’s impossible. You see, she has no life here. There is no life for someone like her—she can only be with us, and us alone.”
Kudo turned to Saka as Arnold smiled. Saka turned away from his heavy gaze, a sweat streaming down her temple as the nerves were getting to her.
(I knew it… that look… he’s really angry at me…!)
Saka thought as she wanted nothing more than to get away from him. She knew from the start that once he learned about her real origin, he would start to hate her like all the other Dark Players that did him wrong. It was obvious… yet she still hoped for something better.
“Saka, why don’t you knock some sense into him? Tell him about how you really feel.”
Arnold turned to ask. Saka pursed her lips as she faced against Kudo once more and raised her head.
“Kudo… You need to stay away. This has nothing to do with you—not anymore.”
Her heart ached when she said it, clutching onto her shirt as she spoke. Kudo finally returned back to his senses when he noticed Saka’s hurting words.
“Now then, let’s get out of here, shall we? It looks like Shinezu needs to teach this kid some manners on interrupting someone’s private time.”
Arnold put his hand on top of Saka’s shoulder. With a smile on his face, Saka turned her sight away, but she reluctantly shouted her skill.
A smog of purple smoke suddenly appeared, covering both Saka and Arnold in a rapid pace. Though usually if someone were to touch her, the skill wouldn’t work. However, as long as Saka permits it, she can transport the person along with her. Kudo ran forward, his hand outstretched to catch them. But he was too late. The moment his hand reached through the smoke, once again, they left his clutches.
Kudo shouted, wanting to kick himself for forgetting his original purpose. Tightening his hands into fists, Kudo growled as he turned to the one person who he could take out his rage on.
“Oho, you look pretty pissed,” Shinezu responded, placing his hands on his hips. “I’m still here—why don’t we have a chat since we have some history together?”
Kudo once again examined his opponent—he looked nothing like his past appearance. Now, he was completely black, with some parts retaining like his tanned skin on his right upper body and some part on the bottom of his face. The rest was completely black, with some scales stuck to his skin like some monster fused with a human being.
His eyes showed to be normal, only with bright yellow irises just like before. Those eyes that kept hunting him throughout his nights that remained in the back of his mind ever since the day of the incident.
Kudo tightened his fist, his nails cutting deep into the skin of his palm. Blood began to trail from his hand, but he could care less of the injury.
“Oh man, you look totally different than last time,” Shinezu said, putting his hand over his eyes to pretend to take a closer look. “How long has it been? Four months? Man, you sure changed a lot.”
Shinezu chuckled, his body moving along with the strange sounds emitted such as his scaled parts hitting together and scraping against each other. Kudo felt a sudden chill down his spine, but he ignored it.
“The last time we saw each other… oh, right, it was when I blew up that building back in Peranim… where was it? Vipory, right? Oh wow, that was such a long time ago. That’s when I got like really strong then, hahaha!”
At this point, Kudo lost his sense of self. He saw nothing but red in his eyes, and his face slowly distorted and showed his glaring expression once more.
He gritted his teeth, and with a shout—“Aaaaah!” Kudo rushed forward, bringing out his bastard sword from his inventory screen to swing at him.
Ting! The blade made contact with Shinezu as Kudo felt the sword grind up as if against metal. He looked down, only to notice that Shinezu blocked the sword with his arms.
The sword grinded up against the arms, sparks flying out in reaction against the opposing forces. Kudo widened his eyes at the fact that his darkened skin was more resilient than he realized.
But then he looked up to see Shinezu’s smiling face. His face, darkened by his scaly skin, only caused Kudo to lose his sense of self as he continued to slash at him with his bastard sword.
He continued to slash at him, his sword that he created with the intense burning feeling all those months ago. The black blade with the red coloring at the center, signifying his inner rage boiling within.
Kudo screamed again, and continued to slash without mercy. His mind began to tether between logic and emotion as he continued to bash at him with his sword this time, only for Shinezu to keep blocking it with his arms.
“Heh, I guess nothing changed for you after all.”
Shinezu said as Kudo slashed at him at the diagonal right side. Eyeing at the sword, Shinezu blocked it with his fingers. Kudo gasped as Shinezu spoke again.
His dark hand started to glow, brightening Kudo’s sight before it exploded all around them. The smoke gathered between them as Kudo and Shinezu flew out from the smoke, the two of them sliding against the snowy ground with their feet, leaving a trail behind on the snow.
Shinezu continued to grin, his dark face enlightened by his flashy smile. He was looking forward to his distraught face when his beloved weapon would be destroyed. But as the smoke cleared, his face turned into surprise as Kudo revealed himself to be fine, with his black and red bastard sword still intact.
“Oho, nice… that’s a nice sword you have,” Shinezu spoke in high regard.
Kudo only responded with a low growl. He gripped onto the handle of his sword tightly, aiming it directly at Shinezu.
His sword was created out of pure rage and anger towards Shinezu, but it wasn’t only just that. He made it so that it would be resistant against all sorts of fire, including that of explosions. He continued to enhance it multiple times to increase its strength and, more importantly, its durability.
However, compared to his memory, the explosion was a lot stronger than before. Kudo swore that he felt his face melting off from the heat alone. Kudo gritted his teeth behind closed lips, realizing the worst that happened.
“Ah, so you finally noticed, huh?” Shinezu said, his tone half-mocking. “See, I told you—I got a whole lot stronger than before. Way more than that time I was in Peranim.”
Kudo’s teeth gnashed against each other. Shinezu continued talking, knowing full well what he’s doing to him.
“It was hard to contain such power, you know. It took me a while to just get used to it. So I had to kill lots more to get attuned with it, you see.”
Shinezu held his hand in front of him, and gripped it into a fist. “But goddamn, it feels so good to be this strong! Forget struggle—I can just blaze through everything with this power! But still, it’s not enough. It’s never enough for us adventurers, ain’t that right… boy?”
Shinezu faced him, his grin widening to a creepy extent. Kudo’s vein throbbed on his forehead, enough to be seen pulsing with surging blood.
Kudo shouted, and raised his hand into the air. A small orb of light gathered in front of it, showing the same orb that Shinezu has seen many times before.
“What, another [Plus Bomb]?” Shinezu sighed. “That’s just pitiful. Don’t you have any new tricks to show me?”
Kudo responded, surprising Shinezu. Kudo then looked above to his shining white orb, and shouted. The orb that was flashing as if ready to explode then suddenly separated into smaller orbs, floating on top of his hand.
Kudo threw his hand forward, launching the small orbs. The orbs flew straight in a long arcing curve that aimed directly at Shinezu. Once they made contact with him, the orbs created small explosions that directly hit his body, making concurrent explosions left and right.
The explosions made small dust clouds that picked up into the air. Kudo watched from afar, having a strange feeling that it was not done yet. And it wasn’t.
Out of the smoke, Shinezu appeared by swinging his arm to the side, a smile plastered on his face. He grinned at Kudo who only reflected back a frown and furrowed eyes.
“Well, that was fun,” Shinezu said, raising his hand upwards. “If I hadn’t used [Touch Bomb] on myself, I maybe would have gotten damaged… well, that’s a big maybe.”
Shinezu chuckled as Kudo pursed his lips. He took it directly and yet still came out unscathed with his fast reaction. Kudo gripped his fist as the two faced each other, the two not willing to give out an inch towards one another.
The city of Triun was in a constant sense of fear. There were barely any people at all in the city, either by hiding themselves in their homes or in the surrounding buildings. The city itself basically became a ghost town.
However, there were still some people out there causing mayhem within the city. The Dark Players sent by the malicious group to attack the innocent civilians that were in the city as a sort of distraction. The Alpha Heart adventurers all fought them off, pushing them back to protect their dear city.
The E-Plus managed to fool their eyes by covering themselves with the surroundings, pretending themselves to be part of the crowd that was still escaping from the possible attacks.
Kuki and Raika ran up with all their might using their high Dexterity while Tsuchi and Mizuri used whatever they can to avoid being spotted.
Eventually, the two groups met up with one another after turning the corner to another street, frightening themselves for a moment.
“Oh, it’s you two,” Tsuchi said after finding out the two who immediately tried to go for their weapons on their hips. “Guess you haven’t been so lucky, huh?”
“Yeah…” Kuki said, putting his hand away from his gun on his hips. “We know where she’s at, but somehow the map was being buggy…”
He put his hand on his phone to show it to the others. The map displayed the same as usual, but the dots were still wobbly, as if phasing out of existence every few seconds. It meant that Hinota was not focusing hard enough on making the dots appear correctly.
“You think something happened to Hinota?”
Raika said, and it somehow brought the boys to purse their lips in response. Mizuri noticed this and immediately interjected.
“T-There’s no way that Hino will be downed by those guys! She’s super strong, you know! Plus, with Kuu’s luck, he might even have spotted her by then!”
“Y-Yeah, you’re right.”
Kuki said as he raised his head up to face Mizuri, but his expression still showed unease rising from him. Mizuri sighed as she continued.
“How about we stick together for a bit?”
She said this in a way that’ll make everyone feel more relaxed when together. The other party members raised their heads, and without even asking, they each nodded their heads in agreement.
“I-I think that’s a good idea,” Raika said, hoping that it wouldn’t sound cowardly.
“I second that,” Tsuchi said, putting a bit of a smile.
“Hold on right there!”
A voice pierced through the conversation. The other party members each flinched, their shoulders trembling, before they turned back around to face the on who shouted at them.
“…I remember you all before…”
The man responded, getting each of the members to realize who it was and had their minds blown. They retracted themselves from the person before them, pulling out their weapons forward.
“Y-You’re…” Kuki said, stuttering in his words.
Mizuri finished what Kuki said as she pointed out the man in front of them. The nearly-naked man, Sherald, grinned widely, barely wearing any clothes as his torso was bear, only wearing shorts on himself. He looked dirty, as if he was rummaging through the dumbster for something. Grime and dirt covered him, but more disturbing than that, traces of blood could be seen on his skin. The same as before, he held a knife on his hand from back in their quest, getting each of the party members to be on guard.
“I… remember you all! You were with that bastard that did me in! Well…” Sherald raised his hunting knife, licking the side of the blade. “Looks like I’ll be having my fun with you all before I get to the main course!”
“H-He’s gonna go after us!?” Raika shouted, her nerves reaching the best of her as she stepped back away.
“Damn it, there’s no time!” Mizuri shouted. “You better get on out of here if you don’t wanna get your ass kicked by kids!”
“Hah!” Sherald shouted. “That’d be great! If I kill you all them, I’ll get all the Dark Experience points to myself! I wonder how tasty it’ll be like…!”
“Ghh,” Tsuchi groaned. “Mizuri-chii, this guy completely lost it.”
“Yeah,” Mizuri agreed. “Does this mean that whoever gets Dark Experience lose their minds…? But then…”
Kuki shouted as Mizuri was about to divulge into her thoughts. After getting shouted at, Mizuri knew what she needed to do as she shook her head to get rid of the thoughts.
“No point in staying here,” Mizuri shouted. “Let’s get out of here!”
The three shouted as Mizuri turned and ran to the other side. Like she said before, they had no time trying to play with Sherald there as their most important priority is to save Saka. Noticing that the group of worthy mobs were running away, Sherald gritted his teeth.
“Wait! You bastards!” Sherald shouted, aiming his knife at them. “Come back here and let me kill you all!”
He was about to rush forward, but then, something stood in his way.
An axe. It was a fairly large axe, coming from up above him. Sherald looked towards the one who did so, only to be shocked at what he saw.
“Hello there~” The giant man in in twin-tails said. “I’m afraid I cannot let you go to those kiddies like that. See, I’m under orders to let them go~”
Sherald jumped back to gain some distance from the weapon, completely shocked at what he saw. He knew that there was nobody there, yet somehow, this giant… strange man came up unannounced right near him. He gritted his teeth against the visibly colorful man with a manly body yet feminine movements that came forward, aiming his large axe right at him.
“You…” Sherald shouted. “Get out of my way!”
“I’m not gonna let you get to them. They’ve got something more important to go through than you, you poor pitiful boy.”
Adonis said, showing a look of pity at the young man who has lost his way.
The E-Plus party continued to run, one of them turning their heads back to notice the giant feminine man getting in the way of Sherald.
“H-Hey, is that Adonis?” Kuki shouted.
“He must have stopped him for us…” Raika said.
“D-D-Does this mean that he’s letting us go…?” Tsuchi asked.
“Guess there’s no point in thinking about it,” Mizuri continued, running forward with all their might. “For now, let’s focus on trying to find—”
Before Mizuri could finish, the party members sensed something was amiss. Their senses as adventurers rose whenever they would face a tough enemy, such as sensing a presence that was far ominous than usual.
It’s not as close as the [Sixth Sense] skill that Kudo had, but it was close enough to make their backs shiver and getting a cold sweat.
They turned their heads and noticed in the distance between themselves and the opposite roadside. Smoke began to gather around on the other side of the street, and before long, two people came out of the purple smoke.
The two people—one of them being exactly who they were looking for.
Mizuri shouted, getting their attention. Saka turned her head in response to the call, becoming shocked at their appearance.
“Y-You all as well?”
Saka could barely believe it. The E-Plus were in shock, but then they noticed her arm. It was no longer bandaged, showing the darkened and scaly arm that Kudo told them about.
When they noticed it, Saka immediately retracted her arm, hiding it with her body.
“…My, this is becoming quite bothersome.”
The other person that appeared with her sighed, pushing up his glasses against his face again. Saka turned to him in cold sweat.
“W-Wait! They have nothing to do with this!” Saka then turned to the party. “You all, please get away!”
Saka was about to place her hand on Arnold’s arm to get him away via teleporting, but Arnold stopped her by placing his hand forward, surprising her.
“Oh, don’t do that. See, this time, I’m going to teach them a lesson…”
Saka became distraught as Arnold stepped forward, a small smile rising from his lips. The other party members tensed up and got into their battle positions, eagerly preparing themselves with their weapons.
“G-Guys… I got a bad feeling about this guy…” Kuki said, holding onto his dual guns but his hands still shook a bit.
“Yeah…” Mizuri said, pulling out her pole to aim at him.
“N-No way…” Raika stammered, her hands shaking about with her bow.
“Good to see that my name precedes me,” Arnold spoke while moving forward, then stopping right before them with one hand on his hip. “But I’m still shocked that you all still think that you can face me with those meager weapons of yours.”
“Heh, just because you cheat by taking in dark experience doesn’t mean you’re invincible,” Tsuchi said, grinning. But his hands were also slightly shaking, his hammer wavering.
“Ooh… you have no idea how ‘invincible’ I actually am…”
His voice, cool as ice, brought the party to shiver at them.
“W-Wait!” Saka intervened. “You can’t! They have nothing to do with this! Just leave them be!”
“Saka,” Arnold responded. “I want you to see what happens when you make a decision that involves everyone else like this. By your actions, they will die thanks to you.”
“W-Wait!” Saka screamed, her voice struggling to get the words out. “They’re worthless! There’s no point in trying to kill them!”
Saka shouted nothing but awful words to demean their existence, but the party would be blind if they didn’t notice how hard Saka was trying to get Arnold off of them. Saka is stronger than them by level, and even she was begging for Arnold to ignore them. They knew that Arnold was stronger than her and that it all depends on his mood on whether they live or die.
They gripped onto their weapons tighter—their adventurer spirit telling them that they need to prepare.
“You seem to be misunderstanding something, Saka,” Arnold said. “As long as you’re within Dark Pulse, every action you make reflects us. I will not let go of these people, especially when they look so ripe for taking experience away from them…”
Arnold said while looking at the party, raising a grin and letting out his tongue to lick his lips. The party shivered in disgust compared to before, but they still held onto their weapons.
The man in the sharp suit then held out his hand as it glowed a sickly purple glow. The purple energy increased in volume as it took shape into a whip that, once materialized, he threw it at the ground. The result made it break the ground the moment it got whipped, cracking the street with its intense strength.
“Plus, I needed some venting after all this mess you made, Saka. These four will be perfect for it all!”
Arnold said as he tugged on his plasma whip while the other party members focused their all into their battle positions to fight him off.