Hour Empty Child
Clash of metal rang out in the air. Sparks flew out between these clashes, brightening up the area around them. The darkened sidewalk becamed enlightened more other than the street lights. However, despite how it looks, only one side was showing absolute dominance—the other completely beaten.
“Ghh, h-how?! How are you this strong?!”
Sherald shouted, his fingers growing numb while barely holding onto his dagger, already nicked and showing ugly scratches.
“You don’t honestly think you’ve grown that strong, did ya, honey?”
The giant man Adonis, his figure completely imposing, responded. He placed his giant double handed battle axe easily with one hand over his shoulders. He put up his puffy lips, showing slight disappointment.
“Of course, I have!” Sherald defended himself. “I-I killed so many… I’m the strongest in the world!”
Adonis did not say a word. However, his look said it all. He pursed his lips, his expression showing the pain held in his heart.
“W-What’s with that look?!” Sherald demanded an answer.
“No, just…” Adonis answered. “I knew someone like you once. I heard about you from Kudo-Kudo. You… just reminded me me of someone from the past.”
“Ghh…” Sherald groaned. Somehow, his words cut deep into his chest.
“I’m sorry… I know I shouldn’t reminisce from the past. Alright~” Adonis threw aside his solemn attitude and took on a cheery outlook. “As a bonus for that, I’ll teach you some manners on how to act like a true adult!”
Adonis picked up his axe and swung it around with ease. Wind picked up just from his swing alone, becoming almost that like a gale for Sherald who shook just from his single movement.
“I’ll teach you… the true ways of reaching your highest peak~”
Adonis winked, sending a shiver down Sherald’s spine.
The two stepped back before the changing creature that they just fought seconds ago. Shinezu transformed right in front of their eyes, his darkened form becoming more grotesque by the second.
His mouth began to jut out fangs, and his darkened hands became sharp as claws. His legs bent and twisted to look more like a hind-legs of a quad-pedal creature. Then, a long tail grew from his behind, and small bursts the size of peas kept exploding on the tail.
The PlusFire’s eyes grew wide at the change, surprised that it wasn’t some sort of skill earned as an adventurer.
The creature, who now finished his transformation, opened its jutted mouth wide and roared. It was a scream that didn’t resemble that of a human at all. A sort of mix between a roar and a screech, a sickening sound that came from the bottom of their nightmares.
“W-What the hell?” Kudo said, his voice lowered and cautious.
“That’s not normal…” Hinota said, gripping onto her katana’s handle harder than before.
Shinezu reared its head to the side, his usual yellow eyes disappeared to show nothing but absolute yellow. After a moment, Shinezu turned his head at them, and charged at them by digging onto the ground with his claws and using it as a stepping stone for a burst of speed.
“Hinota, stand back!”
Kudo figured that, since his weapon was the most durable compared to Hinota’s, he would stand in to defend her. Upon Hinota doing so, Kudo stepped forward and moved his sword in front of himself, taking on the dark creature’s charge by himself.
The weight was too much—if Kudo had not trained himself to bear so much weight in his daily training, his arms would have been crushed by now. It was that hard to face on. But Shinezu turned his head and roared at Kudo, his body glowing brighter.
Right as Kudo shouted, an explosion occurred between them without Shinezu saying a word. As the smoke covered the field again, Kudo flew out of the smoke and landed on the ground, taking apart the construction objects that were in the way.
“Kudo!” Hinota shouted, noticing Shinezu coming out of the smoke by roaring loudly, the air pressure blowing the smoke away. Hinota growled as she put her hand up. “—[Fireball]!”
Hinota shot off another fireball right at Shinezu. As it closed in, Shinezu didn’t even turn his head as he moved his exploding tail like a whip and slashed at the incoming fireball with a swift strike.
“No way!?” Hinota shouted, her instincts making her draw her sword. “Then, how about this?!”
Hinota rushed forward with her blade pointed at Shinezu, aiming right at the same spot that she hit before, right where the shoulder is.
She raised her sword high and slashed at his shoulder by the side, managing to cut him a little bit as blood spurted out.
As Hinota was about to be relieved that she was able to damage him now, her eyes widened when his body began to glow again.
Another explosion occurred, this time bringing Hinota down as she was blown away from the force.
After she landed on the other side, becoming assaulted by the snow, Kudo managed to pick himself up from the ground. His head was bursting from the pain, but he ignored it when he noticed the fight between the two while he was down.
“D-Does this mean that his entire body is made so that it explodes everything upon contact?”
Kudo figured, witnessing this event about twice now which was more than enough for him.
As if noticing their plight, Shinezu’s jutted mouth formed a toothy grin. Then, he used his powerful hind legs to jump up into the sky, and landed on the building’s wall by the side. The PlusFire tried to keep an eye on him, but Shinezu continued to jump around.
All the while, menacing laughter emanated from his being.
His voice became disturbed like his roar, jumped around at incredible speed. The PlusFire could only watch in horror as his laughter dug deep into their souls, possibly tormenting them with just that alone.
Knowing the danger of being left alone, Kudo and Hinota ran towards each other, avoiding the contact of the jumping Shinezu, and stood back to back against each other. They watched from each side as Shinezu jumped around with crazed speed, his laughter echoing now to the pits of their souls.
Shinezu laughed again as he made another charge—this time at Hinota.
“Hinota!” Kudo said, his mind sparking an idea. “Get behind me!”
Hinota did as he said and stepped backward. Kudo faced in front of the charging Shinezu, ready to tackle him and blow him to bits again.
“—[Plus Summon: Plus Knight]!”
Kudo said, making sure to summon the right creature this time.
His hands glowed a white bright light along with the insignia of the summoning circle on the ground. As Shinezu flew, the being of pure white turned up by appearing from the circle, understanding immediately what he needed to do.
The purest white being, the Plus Knight, a stark contrast of the blackened Shinezu, put his hands up as he charged up his special move.
A rounded barrier appeared before him. The barrier covered both Kudo and Hinota together and stopped Shinezu’s rapid charging attack.
Shinezu roared again, this time his body glowing as well. An explosion occurred again, but fortunately, none of the inhabitants inside the barrier was harmed.
Shinezu screamed with laughter as he winded up his arms and attacked the barrier with his claws. Each time he attacked, an explosion occurred, causing more irreparable damage to the surrounding area other than the barrier.
The Plus Knight, his hands holding up like a proud knight holding up his shield, began to quiver as his arms shook from each intense blast of explosion.
“Kudo… Plus Knight won’t be able to handle this much longer…”
Hinota said, the two dreading for Plus Knight’s health and safety as he continued to defend them with his life.
As the barrier was becoming rocked by the explosions, Kudo and Hinota turned to each other, hoping that one of them had a plan, but none said a word.
Was it impossible after all? Their expressions told that much. The loud explosions became a natural thing to hear now. Kudo turned on his brain to act faster than his entire body, thinking of a plan to do. Then, he got one.
But it was drastic.
“Hinota, do you trust me?”
Kudo turned to Hinota, asking this sincere question. When Hinota found his determined look on his jade-colored eyes, she raised her lips into a smile.
Kudo smiled. “Plus Knight,” Kudo turned to the knight in front. “Put down the barrier.”
Plus Knight looked back at Kudo, no change in its face thanks to the helmet. However, it was clear to Kudo that he was showing a look of extreme shock. Kudo understood what he felt, but he nodded his head to accent his decision.
Plus Knight slowly nodded, and did as he told. The green-colored energy barrier that was protecting them dissipated to nothingness.
The area was already submerged in smoke thanks to the constant explosions that took place. The solemn white beauty of the snow was nowhere to be seen, only nothing but pure smoke. Shinezu landed right in front of them and when the barrier went down, his mouth smiled widely, showing a disturbing grin.
Shinezu laughed again as he charged in, digging his hands into the ground and used it as a stepping stone to propel him further. The smoke surrounded them as Shinezu whip past the smoke and headed right for them.
Shinezu swung his claw down at them, and managed to cut someone deep into the gut.
Shinezu’s smile grew wider. He looked up, but noticed something strange. There was no blood. No squelch sounds that emerged from the possibility of their organs being crushed to pieces.
Instead, there was a slight disturbance of air. Shinezu felt this through the scaly skin of his hand.
It wasn’t a person he stabbed into—it was a shadow.
A being that had a form but not an actual person. It was completely red, showing nothing but a crimson substance that had arms and legs, and even a head. It was enough to call a person when seen from the distance.
Especially in the smoke where it could be mistaken as someone’s silhouette.
“W-What is this…?” Shinezu spoke in awe at the being before him.
Hinota’s skill belonging to her original class—[Cross Shadow].
It was a skill that Hinota barely used since her attacks would be enough to deal lots of damage, but originally, it was used to create a second attack for Hinota’s strikes. However, it had a bad mana consumption, even for Hinota’s standard. It was the sort of skill that was put away for bad efficiency.
But now, it was used as bait.
The red being in front of Shinezu looked down, completely unshaken by the attack. On its head, two white eyes showed up, the same glaring look he was used to seeing from the girl.
“D-Damn it… making a fool of me…!”
Shinezu whined, his voice distorted more by his anger and embarrassment.
But something tugged at his side. He looked down to notice once again that he was captured by the Plus Chain. He followed the chain to see the two adventurers that managed to trick him into attacking the shadow.
Their faces filled with determination, Kudo roared as he pulled Shinezu up towards the sky with his strength.
The chain pulled Shinezu high into the air. No matter how much he weighed, he was still picked up by Kudo high into the air, about several meters into the night sky.
The darkened monster was shined on by the available streetlights, and the stars that covered the sky. Shinezu gritted his teeth as he looked down at the adventurers who craned their necks at him.
“You think you can just take me down like this?!” Shinezu shouted, his distorted voice grating their ears. “Once I come down… I’ll rip you both apart!”
Kudo shouted, ignoring Shinezu’s threat. Hinota stomped on the ground, a show of resolve on her gallant face. She put her hand up towards Shinezu, beginning to glow a bright red and becoming submerged in flames.
Hinota shouted, the fire that was devouring her hand formed in front of it into a giant orb of blazing fire. The flames that gathered in front of her then got shot out, blazing through the night sky with a powerful straight torrent.
The flames shot out like a laser, a completely compressed heat of flames that shot right at Shinezu at the sky. The force of the fire torrent was too much for Shinezu to bear as he screamed out in pain. It was also too much for Kudo to hold on, but he withheld his stance by gripping onto the white chain for dear life.
His fingers burned as the chain nearly began to slip out, but he held onto them as much as he could.
Hinota groaned, her own hand being burned by the intensity of the flames, the sheer power of her flames that have supported her all this time.
The [Fire Force] skill—a skill that she learned throughout the time she was with Tsuchi and Mizuri before they met Kudo’s party. It was a powerful, last-resort skill that gathers all the heat around herself and all the mana she could muster into one desperate and final attack. Forget about mana efficiency—this was enough to completely drain her mentally.
However, if it could completely decimate Shinezu, she’ll use whatever skill she had in her arsenal.
“Gaaah!” Shinezu shouted, gritting his teeth from the constant heat burning his body to high heaven. However, he persisted. He groaned but surely, he withstood the attack.
Because once the attack was over, and once he goes down onto the ground, he will pull out his biggest move.
Unfortunately, Kudo will not let him do so.
He noticed, with whatever sight he could muster, Kudo charging up something behind his back. Behind him, a glowing white light flashed in his hand, the orb becoming stronger and stronger as each second pass.
Kudo attacked once the [Fire Force] was losing traction, the flames dissipating in the air. He put his hand forward and launched another torrent of bright white energy towards Shinezu. Right as Shinezu was beginning to feel gravity working for him, the torrent of white energy blasted him again, making the force of the energy blow him back up to the sky.
Just as agonizing, and just as painful, Shinezu felt his [HP] go down as their suspicion was right on the money.
Physical attacks didn’t work much against his darkened skin unless it was used with enchantments and skills. However, magical attacks still worked against him. Though small magic power could barely faze him, a strong magical power would be enough to take him down.
However, it depends on how much he could take that could get him down.
The energy of light was beginning to lose power now, and the torrent of white light ceased to exist. Once again feeling the gravity, Shinezu showed the most ferocious look towards the young adventurers on the ground, his teeth bearing at them with intent to kill.
But Shinezu now saw another torrent of blazing fire heading right for him.
The torrent of fire burned him, blasting him into the air again. The pain and the burns was beginning to get to him—an eternal hell of powerful attacks one after another.
And when the torrent of fire was even about to cease, the torrent of white energy once again showered him with its intense heat and power.
Constantly, never-ending, and everlasting, the powerful attacks in their arsenal continued onward and forward to Shinezu. It kept pushing and blowing him to the sky without a chance of getting back down.
Once again, and then one more time—they continued their onslaught of powerful skills at him.
Kudo and Hinota continued their barrage of attacks without a care to their mana. Mana Deprivation? The sort of medical issue that mages go through when they run out of mana that include headaches and possible fainting? They couldn’t give a shit about that.
Even as their faces turned blue from the deprivation of mana, they continued to attack without remorse and without rest. Not until the murderous monster was put down once and for all.
However, there was only so much that they can do now. After the fifth repetition, their mana was barely noticeable now and their faces grew paler by the second.
The last Plus Beam that attacked him brought Shinezu to become a smoking body, completely black not from his skin but from the burns and soot. Now that the force was over, his body finally fell to the ground, a powerful thud resounding the moment he hit the earth.
Shinezu remained on the ground, completely sprawled out with his eyes completely white. His mouth foamed from the intense heat and pain, and his body shook profusely.
Kudo and Hinota, now that Shinezu was at the ground, looked back at each other then moved towards the body. They stood before him, their faces starting to regain their color.
“No matter how high level you are,” Kudo spoke, his voice hoarse and completely exhausted.
“If you get caught in a trap, you’re screwed,” Hinota said, her voice the same, but her smile rose.
Without a word, Hinota and Kudo both pulled out their weapons. Hinota shouted ‘—[Enchant: Strength and Intelligence]!’ on both her katana and Kudo’s bastard sword, making them glow an aura of intense colors.
They raised their swords high, and dug them deep into his gut.
Shinezu’s scream resounded in the air, however disturbed it was, as the blade pierced right onto his stomach and chest. The magic within the weapons, as if being a purifying power, caused his body to regress back into a human shape, the tail dissipating and the fangs and claws returning back to his normal form.
Shinezu breathed heavily, his darkened form exhausted most of his stamina. He coughed—blood spurted out from his mouth and onto his blackened chest. It dripped down towards the only part where his real skin was showing.
Compared to his nasty appearance from before, now he looked like a beaten man with nothing else to show. Seeing him like this, Kudo stepped forward, standing over Shinezu while he remained sprawled on the ground.
Every living being within Kudo resonated at this scene. His sweat and blood cascaded down on his body.
“You caused so much destruction…” Kudo said, his tone low and heavy. “You caused so much pain and suffering—for what? Just for some enjoyment?”
Kudo’s hand shook as he grabbed his bastard sword forward, the tip of his blade next to Shinezu. Hinota remained silent, but her eyes showed a glimmer of light.
“You destroyed families. You ruined innocent people’s lives. Including me, you made a lot of people suffer!”
His sword shook along with him. The urge to drive the sword right into him filled him up. Shinezu coughed again, blood trailing from his mouth over to his chin.
“Geh… come on…”
Whether Shinezu said it to hurry up or to complain, Kudo couldn’t comprehend. However, his eyes narrowed, distorting his face once more.
He snarled, and he raised his sword over his head. His bastard sword, the culmination of his rage and hatred, was beginning to crack in the center. However, it should still be good for one final swing.
He was ready to do it. He was there to finally give Shinezu the justice he deserves.
But while his sword hung in the air, memories started to pour in from his heart. The memories of the past and the most recent ones began to fill his mind.
His mother’s comforting words, Hinota’s embrace, and finally, his foster parents’ love and affection.
His mind blared, his heart beating rapidly. He could barely even think. His hands shook again, hesitating on the final strike.
He swung his sword down, wanting to end it all.
The sword broke apart. Hinota widened her eyes when the sword barely missed Shinezu and slashed at the ground instead. The force driving it caused it to shatter into dozens of pieces, the sword of hatred falling apart and becoming scattered on the ground.
Kudo breathed erratically, his chest heaving and his face riddled with sweat. His face, once distorted by anger, now returned to his normal but exhausted expression.
“…Phe,” Shinezu spit out the blood, a weak smile rose from him. “Weak all the way to the end.”
Even without energy, Shinezu still chuckled, sparking a look of ire from Hinota. But then she looked at Kudo as he knelt down and grabbed Shinezu by the collarbone.
“Yeah, I’m weak,” Kudo said, gripping his fist. “But we still got you like this. As an added bonus for your help in getting us this far, I’ll cleanse you of all your filth, even if it’s pointless!”
As his fist tightened harder, a warm white light began to shimmer from it. Shinezu somehow felt a chill down his spine, his smile turning into a frown.
“This is for all the people you killed! For my parents—and for me too! ––[Minus Clear]!”
Kudo swung his fist, and this time, with all the force behind it, he slammed his fist to his face—a sound that could never be replicated echoed throughout the lot. Not only blood, but a couple of teeth fell out from Shinezu’s mouth.
Then, in an instant, light shined brightly from the two, nearly blinding Hinota’s eyes. She had to close her eyes to protect them. As the moment passed, the light began to die down. Hinota opened her eyes again to see the result, only to be shocked.
Kudo himself showed a look of dismay and awe as the two adventurers gazed upon Shinezu in his form.
His skin was no longer dark. There were no scaly parts in sight. His original skin color now returned back to normal. He once had hair, but now it was completely void of it on his head.
But what made them gape was how his body was completely dried up. His skin did have color, but it was mostly pale and wrinkled like an elder way past his prime. His mouth gaped along with blood that continued to pour from his mouth.
“W-What the…?” Kudo said, looking back at his fist that returned to normal.
“H-He’s like before now!” Hinota said, her tone filled with shock.
“And the aura… is gone.”
As Kudo said that, their ears picked up the squeal of wheels turning on the side. They turned their heads to see the familiar long and black Ame driving up to the side of the street. Once the engine died down, doors opened to reveal the group they were familiar with.
Both Kudo and Hinota said as their guardians came over, running to their side. Once they reached there, their expressions told them everything of how they felt.
“What on Yarim happened here?! This place is completely destroyed!” Kasara said, looking over at her surroundings then at the two in front of her.
“Man, you really teared this place up…” Kagero commented in awe, but then his eyes caught on the third person. “But wait, is that… it can’t be…”
“…Shinezu. That’s him?”
Hikari said, her expression showing none of her cheeriness and her tone devoid of merry. Kudo remained silent as he turned over to Shinezu once again, still astounded.
“What on earth happened?” Hikari asked, knowing that she was right.
“That’s… All I did was just clear him with my [Minus Clear],” Kudo said, remembering exactly what he did. “Then… his aura… his Dark Experience… just disappeared.”
“T-That’s impossible!” Kasara said. “You’re saying that your skill somehow… erased his Dark Experience points…?”
Kasara said in surprise while Kagero stepped closer along with Hikari to give a further look. Shinezu was practically skin and bones in their eyes, looking ever so familiar to that of an elder man.
“Judging from this,” Hikari said. “It’s as if… he just leveled down.”
“If I can make a guess, and this is a wild guess mind you,” Kagero said, his fingers near his mouth as he surmised. “He’s probably now… less than level 10.”
“H-He’s that low?!” Kudo shouted.
“J-Just how far did he go with Dark Experience alone…?” Hinota remained at awe, her hand near her mouth.
“Kudo… this is…” Hikari said in a low voice. “This is far too crucial to ignore. With this…”
Hikari said, her mind formulating the possible consequences this will bring. But then Hinota tugged on Kudo’s arm, getting him to turn to her.
“Kudo, we seriously need to find Saka!”
“O-Oh! Right!” Kudo slapped his forehead. “Damn it! This bastard made me forgot about her! We gotta find her ASAP!”
Kudo and Hinota then got into their bags as they pulled out all the potions and recovery materials they need to heal themselves up. Doing so, they completely ignored Hikari as Kagero and Kasara both watched on in awe.
“Puah!” Kudo shouted once he downed the entire bottle of his [HP] potion. “Sorry, Mom! We’ll listen to you later! We got something important to do!”
Hikari said, her once serious expression turning into a smile as the two turned and left them behind to get to their priorities.
“Master…” Kasara walked up to her, taking a glance at the downed Shinezu. “What do we do about this?”
“Well…” Hikari rubbed the back of her head. “Guess we’ll have to call the knights. They gotta be useful at least in this case, right?”Hikari smiled, her usual cheeriness returned as Kasara and Kagero smiled back, knowing that their master now has nothing to fear.