Hour Empty Child
The E-Plus fought against Arnold in a clash within the city. It would normally be easy for a four-man party to defeat one man, but this man was a Dark Player—his level was high enough to counter all four of them.
Arnold flogged at them with his plasma whip, the whip that continuously radiated with a powerful heat. The whip managed to hit someone—their tank, Tsuchi. He managed to take it with his hammer in the way to defend himself.
But the force was too strong. The whip practically blew him away, his feet scratching against the ground covered in snow. A powerful sound resonated in the air the moment it struck him, Tsuchi’s arms practically screaming out in pain.
But Arnold didn’t stop there. He retracted his whip and swung it down again at them, this time at the ranged attackers.
Kuki and Raika both jumped out of the way in time thanks to the vigorous training given to them by Kudo, but even that was only close to death as the plasma whip nearly destroyed whatever it was in its path.
It created a crater at the ground, with some parts melted and smoking from the heated whip. Arnold continued to whip at the E-Plus members, each time hitting a separate part of the street and building and destroying everything in its sight.
It was a blessing for the E-Plus that there weren’t any innocent civilians skulking about, since they even had a tough time trying to escape themselves.
“Damn!” Tsuchi cursed, his arms still numbed from the hit. “This guy’s too strong for me to take!”
“Then let’s resort to distance attacks! Everyone, get ready!”
Mizuri commanded as she led the attackers to strike with their skills instead. Raika and Kuki poised their weapons towards Arnold. Raika notched her arrow, becoming covered in electricity while Kuki’s guns charged on the wind that gathered around it.
The two ranged attackers charged up their attacks, and each one shot out an arrow covered in electricity and a bullet encased in raging winds. The two attacks flew right at Arnold to take him down.
“Hah, this is fun.”
Arnold said as he lowered himself to the ground and placed his hand on the broken street. His hand glowed a strange purplish glow once more as he shouted.
He shouted, and the surrounding area around Arnold began to glow a bright purple. In the next moment, as the bullet and arrow were closing in, the field glowing purple rose up from the ground, forming a fiery pillar of purple that surrounded the area around Arnold. The two attacks that phased through it melted upon impact, disabling them from even existing anymore.
Kuki shouted as the two childhood friends pulled back their weapons in shock. Arnold saw this and immediately smiled.
“Here comes what you asked for!”
Arnold shouted as he flew his hand forward, bringing the torrent of purple flames towards the adventurers.
“Damn it! Everyone, huddle! —[Oracle Recovery]!”
As the flames approached, Mizuri commanded the others to near up around her as she placed her pole to the ground. In the next moment, rainclouds appeared above them to form up together into a bigger raincloud. The cloud began to disperse rain onto the party members as the flames approached them.
The flames covered them entirely, causing some to scream out in pain. The party, however, were being recovered by the falling rain, so their [HP] were not dropping as much. However, the pain was still there, scalding their skin and bodies.
“S-Stop this!” Saka, who watched from afar and unable to do a thing, screamed out as the only thing she can do. “Please! Don’t do this to them!”
She pleaded, but Arnold continued to attack with a smile deepening on his face.
“It’s useless! I can make this go on forever! Now… let’s see you all squirm!”
Arnold shouted as he raised himself and brought out his whip once more. He raised his arm and swung down the whip at them. As the field of purple fire continued to burn at them, the whip approached them further and further.
“Don’t think you got us down! —[Call Claydoll]!”
Tsuchi called out his skill, the street below him beginning to crack open and revealed two humanoid-shaped dolls that surfaced. The clay dolls stood in front of the burning party as they defended the whip attacks by using their bodies.
Each strike came at them from the sides, completely taking out some parts of their bodies with a powerful crack. However, they stood steadfast against the attacks as per Tsuchi continuing to put in his blood for them.
“Tsu, don’t push yourself!” Mizuri said in between her struggle to keep the skill alive while trying to bear the pain.
“Don’t worry about me! Just keep attacking him!”
Kuki and Raika nodded as they still moved even when they were burning. The two ranged attackers pulled out their weapons and continuously attacks Arnold with their bullets and arrows, all the while Arnold continued to defend himself by whipping against the projectiles with his whip.
“No… no more… please…”
Saka pleaded, but knew that her words were going on deaf ears. She kneeled on the ground, her heart cracking into pieces as more time passed.
Kudo continued his maddening onslaught on Shinezu, holding nothing back. He figured, if one weapon was not enough, then he’ll bring out his entire arsenal.
He pulled out his weapons—his spear, his dual swords, his bow—he brought out everything he had on him to keep an edge on Shinezu. But Shinezu did not even falter against such weapons.
His skin, dark and scaly, deflected most of the attacks. The weapons and arrows were also enhanced as well, enough to be considered pretty rare weapons, but his skin still deflected it like a powerful shield made out of strongest materials.
Kudo grimaced, putting back all of his damaged weapons back into his inventory, and only bringing out his bastard sword. He gripped on the handle as he charges in once again, bringing the sword down at his shoulder to strike him once again.
“You sure are perky,” Shinezu spoke before the sword landed on his shoulder.
At last, Kudo could see a small glimmer of hope. His sword managed to cut slightly onto his shoulder, noticing the small blood streaming down from the fresh wound. However, Shinezu still showed his defiant and smiling look, showing no sign of agonizing pain on his face.
The madman then was about to grab onto the sword with his hand, possibly to try to use the skill once again.
Kudo slid the sword back in quick response, managing to slice a little more skin than usual. He jumped back to gain some distance, managing to get enough space between themselves.
He didn’t stop there—Kudo brought his hand up into the air to strike again.
[Plus Missle], which is another variant of [Plus Bomb], started gathering on top of his hand. It was about to be launched again at Shinezu, but Shinezu lowered himself to the ground first.
Shinezu’s hands started to glow red, and the ground beneath his hands began to heat up more and more. The ground exploded, then it continued its path towards Kudo in a string of explosions.
Kudo stopped what he was doing and jumped away from the incoming blasts, bringing an explosion to his side.
Since it was a string of explosions, there was more dust cloud than usual, even blocking Shinezu’s sight. He frowned as his skill can get annoying like that.
He tried to scope out the scene for the boy, but Shinezu couldn’t find him. His eyes darted around to try to find him, but to no avail.
But then something got stuck to him. He looked down to notice the bright white-colored chains sticking onto his chest. He could feel a tug on his skin that didn’t hurt, but he looked forward to see why it was tugging.
Kudo jumped forward, and using the momentum of the chains returning to himself, he launched forward through the air, using the same strategy he did on Hikari nearly a month ago.
(If I can just stick a [Plus Bomb] on him…!) Kudo thought as he flew towards Shinezu in a heartbeat.
“Hehe, nice trick, but I think you forgot the reason why this isn’t a good idea…”
Shinezu said with a smile, sparking Kudo’s memory of the time he used his [Plus Chain] on him. He would use the same skill he used before, the [Chain Explosoin] skill, to blow up the chain and along the user as well.
Right when Shinezu was about to do so, repeating what happened in the past, his leg felt something akin to being bitten.
Shinezu looked down, and he noticed the small creature that was currently biting his leg with all its little might.
“What is this…?” Shinezu said, tilting its head at the small white-colored creature with a metal plate on its head.
The small creature looked up, showing the small kitten Shiro with determined green eyes to try to stop the villain once and for all. His fangs kept biting at him to try to do as much damage as possible, but the skin on the leg was too tough for Shiro to completely bite on.
Shinezu raised the bitten leg, getting Shiro to let go and land on the ground with a thump. Shiro looked up to see the leg he was just biting onto lift high into the air, its giant boot aiming right at him.
Kudo called out, putting his hand forward. Shinezu was just about to stomp on the poor little creature before Shiro immediately disappeared in small particles, the giant boot landing right on the ground. The boot was enough to make the ground crack open from the sudden force.
“Tch,” Shinezu clicked his tongue as he turned around.
Kudo was right at him, with his [Plus Bomb] on his hand.
He launched the [Plus Bomb] forward, the bomb continuing its flashing light before it stuck onto Shinezu.
The area between them became shrouded in black smoke. The explosion took place right near them as Kudo fell out of the smoke from the blast.
Kudo fell onto the ground as the momentum took him tumbling backward, his entire body covered in soot and smoking. After stopping himself, Kudo looked up to see where Shinezu was, hoping that at least that got him somehow.
But as the smoke cleared, Kudo gaped at the sight.
Shinezu dusted himself off as the smoke cleared, his body covered in soot as he tried to clean himself off. His expression showed a frown, but it wasn’t even an angered frown—just an annoyed one.
“This… is the difference between us. No matter how hard you try, our levels are just too different.”
Shinezu then smiled, that same smile that managed to haunt Kudo’s dreams and mind up until now.
“I’ll show you an even bigger difference.”
Shinezu put up both of his hands forward, the two starting to glow a deeper shade of red than before. Even without knowing what he was planning to do, Kudo’s body shivered, his body knowing exactly what was about to happen.
“A new skill I learned during these months…—[Explode the World]!”
Shinezu shouted, and his hands then glowed so brightly that it blinded Kudo.
Hikari stood in her office, waiting for whatever good news there was in this mess. As she looked outside at the window in the back of her office, the snow becoming bigger as they fall down, she gritted her teeth behind closed lips at the worrisome thought in her mind.
She knew that Kasara was right—that even with all the luck in the world, there was still a chance that Kudo will be brought down by Shinezu.
But if she doesn’t let him do this, then his mental state will never recover in his entire lifetime. If she were to go ahead and take away his chance of revenge by taking down Shinezu herself, she was sure that he would never forgive her in a way.
She didn’t want that, but she also didn’t want Kudo to be killed either. Either to be hated for life, or losing the very life she cared for all this time—it was the choice that no mother should go through.
But then, in the distance, she saw a bright light that nearly covered an entire space within the city.
An explosion that was as high as one of the skyscrapers took place within the city, once again causing the earth around them to rumble, including inside Hikari’s office. Hikari put her hands on her glass, looking out at the window with widened eyes.
She knew first hand what that kind of explosion was. She also knew that Kudo was out there, where that explosion was. She knew… exactly what he was going through.
Whether she would be hated forever, it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing is more important than her son being alive. She turned, forgetting her promise to herself, and ran out to the door to get to the scene.
Getting out through the door, she noticed both Kagero and Kasara standing by the side. Kasara turned to her with her usual glaring look.
“…Let’s go,” Kasara said, without even offering another word.
“Alright,” Hikari said, nodding her head.
The three went out. Even if they were to earn Kudo’s ire, it won’t mean a thing if Kudo is gone for good.
Back at the lot, the black smoke covered everything in its surroundings. Pain riddled his body, and even as he tried to open his eyes, Kudo could feel his own [HP] dropping at an astronomical amount.
Every part of his body burned with a passion, and it ached from the tumbling about from the large explosion. It was like his entire body burnt up in the explosion, but miraculously he survived.
His body was on the ground, unable to move from the pain attacking him at all sides. His fingers dug onto the ground to try to get himself up. His body felt the bitter coldness of the snow around him, mixing together the burning sensation and the cold feeling to become an incredibly painful experience.
But his ears picked up footsteps. His mind was currently dazed from the blast, unable to even pick out the different sounds from the loud screeching in his ears.
Somebody grabbed his collar. It was enough for his throat to feel blocked for any air to go in. He opened his eyes, and through the blurry sight, he could see Shinezu’s darkened and smiling face.
“Come on,” Shinezu said. “You must have something in ya left.”
He said before he punched Kudo right in the gut. Kudo coughed out, his blood splattering all over Shinezu and the ground. The pain was already unbearable—it was too much for him to get hurt now.
“Come on, try to kill me! Don’t you wanna take revenge for your sweet mommy and daddy!?”
Shinezu punched Kudo again right in the same spot. Kudo coughed out more blood than before—each time his body screaming out in pain and asking for the sweet release.
Kudo could only say before once again he was punched in the gut, then in the face, then finally, in the gut again. Shinezu kept punching him over and over, not bringing down any sort of mercy.
Throughout all that, Kudo kept thinking to himself. What was he doing all this time before it came to this?
He swore that he has gotten stronger, but it was obvious that it was not enough for this hulking mass of levels that were gained unfairly. If he had the same amount of levels, he could have probably fought him better.
Perhaps… but in the end, it was clear who was the winner.
“Hehe, I can see the despair in your eyes…” Shinezu said, looking ever closely at his deadpanned eyes. There were no longer any fire or light within his empty green eyes. “But it’s not enough. More… I need more despair!”
Shinezu was about to touch him again with his skill. Kudo knew that he can’t take another explosion like this. With his might, Kudo gathered enough energy in his hand to call forth his skill.
Kudo said, putting his hand forward to Shinezu’s own hand. As the two collided, another explosion took place.
Kudo was blown away once again and tumbled over to the other side. His body flew right at the nearby fence, hitting it once and fell right down to the ground again. It was hard enough that it caused a crack to appear on the metal plate over it.
Kudo, with all his available strength, picked himself up from the ground. Even as his body continued to scream out, his skin blistering and bleeding, and his insides nearly drowning in blood, Kudo spotted the sword that was on the ground. His sword filled with his rage and vengeance.
He tried to pick it up, but before he could, Shinezu jumped straight at him and kicked him in the stomach. The result brought Kudo to be blown away by the massive strength and fell right down onto the ground again.
Kudo coughed out blood once again. The complete crimson blood mixing with the pure-white snow created an image that would pierce his mind. He didn’t want to look. He didn’t want to look at his [HP] that was surely at the final digits now. That kick had so much strength that he felt that he was getting closer and closer to death itself.
Kudo held onto his stomach as he squirmed on the ground, the pain becoming harder to bear. Shinezu walked forward, with a smile on his face, and picked up Kudo from the ground by just his head.
Kudo groaned and whined as his head was the only thing that was getting pulled, with Shinezu holding onto his head with no issue at all.
“How does it feel… when there’s this much difference between us?”
Shinezu asked again, knowing that Kudo had no answer for that. Kudo managed to open one of his eyes. He could see the devilish smile on Shinezu’s face, his darkened face possibly being the last thing he could see before he finally leaves this world.
Kudo closed his eyes. He delved back into his mind once again.
There were still so many things that he wanted to do. There were still so many adventures to go through. He still needed to raise his levels. And after three more months passed, he wanted to go back to the village and give all the money he raised to his villagers as he promised himself.
Maybe even finding a girlfriend to bring back to his village as well. It was a long shot, but Kudo is a man after all—he wanted something like that.
Strangely enough, this got him to think about Hinota. What was she going to do when he’s gone for good this time? He was sure that she would most likely cry, and that was something he wished he didn’t have to see.
He wanted his very last thought to be about Hinota. Hinota was the only person who has made him so very happy with his life, completely filled to the brim. Even during the crisis of losing his parents, Hinota was there to fill the void left by them.
(…I still… haven’t told her how I felt yet.)
Kudo opened his eyes. The darkened and ugly image of Shinezu’s face showed up again, but Kudo’s eyes looked past that. There was something else he needed to do.
It was more important than anything else.
(I can’t… die yet!)
Kudo grabbed onto Shinezu’s hand on his head, and gripped it tightly. Shinezu frowned after seeing one last look from Kudo.
It was full of will and determination. His eyes furrowed even as his head was being grappled on without mercy. Even with all the pain, he still mustered to give one last look of defiance.
“Hahahaha! Now this is what I want to see! One more look of desperation before kicking the bucket! Thanks, boy! I really needed to see that!”
Shinezu laughed out loud before he grappled hard on Kudo’s head. Kudo groaned, but he refused to scream anymore. He will not give him what he wants at the very last moment.
He will survive, no matter how unbelievable it might seem now.
Then, he saw a flash of silver slash through Shinezu’s arm. The arm that was used to hold onto Kudo’s head began to bleed out in a straight line, causing Shinezu to groan.
For once, he screamed out in pain. His hand let go of Kudo’s head and got him to fall to the ground. Shinezu stepped back, holding onto his cut up arm with his hand as he looked forward.
Kudo felt his head banging, but he looked up regardless to see who it was that cut him up.
It was as if he saw light shimmering behind her, her flaming red hair flowing about and her gallant figure standing proudly in front of him.
“Kudo, you’re an idiot,” Hinota said, looking back at him with a smile on her glaring face. “You need to try harder than that.”