Hour Empty Child
Sherald shouted, landing on the unforgiving cold ground and got covered in snow. Blood already trailed from his face and mouth, and his body was already screaming out in pain.
It made no sense—he was already killing more people than before. He should have been strong enough to take on everyone at once.
Yet… against this indomitable presence before him, he couldn’t do a thing.
He raised his head, giving glance at the one man who had put him through the ringer countless times without ever losing once. He shook, every time his giant feet took a step, it was like an earthquake sounded in his ears. His teeth were hitting against each other in pure cold, or so he would like to think, but in fact, it was just plain fear.
“S-Stay away!” Sherald held his hand up, visibly shaking in front of Adonis. “Stay away, you monster!”
“Oh my~ How could someone like you say such a thing to a pretty girl like me, huh? That’s quite hypocrite of you.”
Adonis stopped in his tracks, wiggling his body in what looks like embarrassment, though the image of a man wiggling his but like a naval dancer sent shivers down Sherald’s spine.
“Now then, fun time should be over now…”
Adonis said, his cheery outlook and speech turning solemn as it brought Sherald to a freeze. Then, in an instant, he swore he saw Adonis somehow grew in size, his eyes turning red and bringing up his axe on the side.
“Someone like you, who would go and take away other people’s innocence away… I will beat you down~!”
His voice strained deep as he swung his axe down right on Sherald.
“N-No! I don’t want to die… I don’t want to die!”
Sherald pleaded, seeing the sharp axe that was heading for his head and seeing his life flash before his eyes.
In his mind, the vision of his aunt slowly reaching out her hand towards the lowly being. Her smile was so sweet and gentle, it would metl away all the troubles in his heart and his mind, as if they were a clear fresh breeze.
Yet, that image was shattered the moment he grasped her neck with his hand. The sound of bone breaking occurred, and now that sweet and gentle smile broke down into tears and despair.
It wans’t because of the pain she was going through—not at the least. It was the fact that the one she cared and loved the most did this to her.
Her pained face, brought only by pity, was the last image he saw.
The axe landed right on his head, causing him immense pain… because the axe landed by the flat side, completely beating his head down with his massive strength. Sherald’s eyes turned white as he fell over, a giant bump on his head as he laid on the snowy street, drool streaming down from his mouth.
“Mmh!” Adonis scoffed, bringing his axe up and putting it over his hulking shoulders. “If you had someone important to you, you shouldn’t have gone down this path. …Stupid boy.”
Adonis said, his angered voice tinged with sadness and pity.
On the other side, the E-Plus were on their last legs.
They continued to be lashed at by Arnold, and Mizuri’s healing was not acting fast enough.
Tsuchi, their tank, was beginning to lose color. His face growing paler by the second. Blood traveled everywhere on his body while still holding onto his stance.
The fire finally burnt out, but Arnold’s attacks were still damaging him. His whip was too strong for them to face, so Tsuchi went on to fight himself.
Arnold continued to whip at Tsuchi, who summoned clay dolls to take on the attack. But Arnold, throughout the fight, became even stronger—he used a buff that increased his attack power to a maximum degree.
The buff was too strong, capable of destroying the clay dolls in a single flog. Tsuchi grinded his teeth as he summoned more, depleting more of his [HP].
Mizuri tried her best to heal him, but there was only so much damage she could heal. Raika and Kuki did their best to damage him, but their attacks were intercepted time and again by his whip that acted like it was alive.
But it wasn’t as if they were losing either—there’s only so much Arnold can do.
He struggled—it showed on his face. Sweat streamed down and his face was growing pale as well. He was using more of his mana more than he thought. The look of frustration was giving way on his face.
That made the E-Plus realize that he was close to giving in, giving them more of a reason to fight on.
And more importantly, Saka was right behind him. She still stood there, completely frozen stiff as she had no choice but to stay. As long as she was there, they continued to fight.
But again, there’s only so much they can do.
“How long… are you all going to keep surviving?!” Arnold shouted, his voice strained. “Just die already, all of you!”
“Tsuchi!” Raika shouted, notching another arrow to her bow. “Are you with us?!”
“Yeah…” Tsuchi groaned, his body sweating out his concerns. “I can still keep going… Honestly, if it wasn’t for Kudo-chii’s equipment, I would have died already…”
“Don’t say that!” Mizuri shouted. “There’s no way I’ll let you die!”
“Right!” Kuki said. “We ain’t giving in to this bastard!”
The E-Plus only became tougher as time passed by. The archer and gunner continued their onslaught as their tank take in the hits. All the while, the healer continued her support from the back.
Facing on this party that had their synergy blasting through the roof, Arnold gritted his teeth.
“We’ll see about that, you little brat!”
He retracted his whip that continued to strike down the clay dolls, getting the party a needed relief. But as he retracted his whip, he grabbed it like a snake and pulled it along. The whip of pure plasma suddenly enraged after doing so, becoming fiercer and hotter.
It was his buff, the very same that made them get on their last legs. Tsuchi widened his eyes after seeing the very whip he was fearing becoming stronger. Arnold swung his whip high into the air, and swung it down to the ground.
It broke the ground, creating a hole that was dark and deep. Before, it only created a crater, but now it created a hole deep enough to hide in. Tsuchi and the others gulped in concern.
“Let’s see how you handle this! All my power!” Arnold shouted as he raised his whip into the air again.
“Please!” Saka shouted and begged. “Don’t do this! Just stop!”
“Shut it, brat!” Arnold snapped back at her. “I won’t let this band of shitty kids mock me! I’ll tear each and every last one of them to pieces!”
Arnold swung down his whip. The plasma whip that could take out anything flew at the one person protecting them—Tsuchi.
“T-Tsuchi!” Mizuri shouted, knowing full well how bad it could get. “Get out of here!”
“No way!” Tsuchi refused. “I’ll take this on… at least one last time!”
Tsuchi braced himself. He put up his hammer in front of himself, hoping that it could at least do something. But he knew deep inside that the whip could easily destroy it, and get to him.
But as long as his body serves as a shield for his friends, he’ll take on whatever is needed.
Another attack came forward from behind. It was a white chain that intercepted the whip, tying around it before it used force to completely disable it once and for all.
The whip dissipated into nothingness, surprising Arnold as he looked behind them.
Arnold, his tone and voice losing composure, had a throbbing vein on his forehead when he noticed the two adventurers running forward.
“Kudo! Hinota!” Raika shouted, her eyes beginning to glisten in tears to see the leaders back again.
“Sorry we’re late!” Kudo said, breathing erratically along with Hinota. “We were held up with someone…”
“Did you found us with the Locator?” Kuki asked, getting curious.
“Yep,” Hinota said, picking her phone up. “Thankfully, you guys made it easy for us to find you by keeping them in place. Good job.”
“Heh,” Tsuchi chuckled. “It was nothing…” but then he fell onto his knees.
“Tsu!” Mizuri came forward, catching Tsuchi as he was about to fall over.
“I-Impossible!” Arnold shouted. “Shinezu was supposed to kill you off! How on earth did you escape from him?!”
His voice strained, knowing well enough that Shinezu wasn’t the sort to give up so easily on new kills. Kudo came forward, surprising the others, as he stood against Arnold.
His stance was different than before—the party could tell that much.
“We took him down,” Kudo said.
“Lies!” Arnold’s usual composure completely broke down after hearing that. “His level was far beyond that of us. There’s no way under-leveled brats like you could do anything to him.”
His expression told that he could never believe him. But Kudo remained undaunted. He stepped forward, surprising even Arnold as Kudo walked past him, heading straight for Saka.
Saka was already on her knees, her eyes glistening with tears as they fell to the sidewalk. Kudo stepped forward and knelt down to her, ever so gently like a caretaker to a child.
Saka looked up, noticing Kudo’s face near hers. She groaned, trying to hold back the tears.
“Please… just leave me be. I don’t want anyone else to die here. Please… just forget about me. I don’t deserve it.”
Saka said, her voice breaking down and quivering. The E-Plus felt their hearts crushed by her words, but Kudo remained composed—and even smiled.
“Saka… do you want to get away from this kind of life?”
Kudo asked. Saka looked up to him, tears drenching her face.
“I… I just wanted to help my friend. That’s all I wanted to do.” Saka shook her head. “But she’s gone now… for someone like me who killed other innocent people, this is what I deserved—in hell where all the emissaries of Darkness belong.”
Her own words were enough to cause her to lower her head in shame, as if looking at Kudo’s bright face was too much of a blessing for her to receive.
“…What if there was a way for you to get back with us?” Kudo smiled again. “Would you take it?”
Saka looked up in surprise, but then she frowned.
“It’s impossible… I would… I would love to take it, I do. But, as long as I have this…”
Saka revealed her darkened arm. Her arm and hand, that was similar to a monster’s claw, continued to break her heart the more she looked at it. She could no longer feel the skin she once had that took her friend’s hand whenever they would go on a walk together. Kudo took another closer look at the arm, reminding him of the darkened form he took on before.
“No matter what I do, as long as I have this… I can never leave this life.”
“If that was gone,” Kudo asked. “Would you stay with with us?”
He asked again, this time, his eyes were dead set on hers. His gaze as strong as his will, Saka answered with brightened eyes.
“…Y-Yes,” She answered hesitantly.
“Then give me your hand. Your dark hand.”
He asked, putting out his hand in front of her. Saka hesitated to even move it, but his gentle eyes and serene tone caused her to move her dark hand towards it. Kudo grabbed onto her hand, causing her to flinch for a moment.
“I’ll bring you back no matter what!” Kudo said, grasping her dark hand with both of his. “—[Minus Clear]!”
His hands glowed a bright light, nearly blinding Saka as she closed her eyes. The E-Plus and Arnold gaped at the sight while Hinota remained smiling on her own, looking over at her with glee.
Once the light died down, Saka slowly opened her eyes. She felt different somehow. The sickening feeling she held in her hand was gone, and the slight discomfort from it vanished.
She looked down, only to feel her heart drop in shock.
Kudo held onto a normal hand, her original tanned-color skin returned, no longer appearing to be a claw. Kudo let go of her hand, getting Saka to hold onto it and feel it with her other hand.
It was normal. It felt the same as her other hand, as if it was completely cleansed from the filth she had before.
Her heart swelled, and her eyes started to wet. Tears streamed down as she gripped onto her hand harder.
She broke down. She bawled out loud, hugging her hand close to her chest. She hunched over, clutching onto her former darkened hand with renewed vigor.
“T-The dark color… is gone!” Raika shouted, her hands near her mouth in surprise.
“Y-Yeah!” Kuki swung his fist into the air. “Nice going, boss!”
His screams of delight infected the others to do the same, getting them to scream out Kudo’s name in delight for his success. But while the E-Plus showed nothing but exhilaration, Arnold stepped back—For once, he was shivering.
“T-T-That’s impossible… how?! How could you… the darkness… it’s gone!”
Arnold’s glasses fell off from his face from how much he shivered, leaving them to fall and break the glass the moment it hit the street. Kudo smiled as he stood up, and turned back around to Arnold.
He once again showed his narrowed eyes. “This is how I took it away. I have the power to take away all Dark Experience. They returned to the time before they even killed someone. That’s how I took down Shinezu.”
“I-Impossible!” Arnold’s voice shrieked. “That’s impossible! You can’t do that! That’s again the law of nature!”
Arnold continued to shout with no sense of shame. Kudo sighed as he moved forward, sparking Arnold to step back away in fear.
He held his hand out, and it started to glow a bright light.
“You want me to show you again?” Kudo asked.
“N-No! Nooo! Go away! Go away!”
The E-Plus were shocked to see Arnold completely change as he ran to the other side, falling over from suddenly picking up his feet too fast. He quickly picked himself up, screaming as he does as he ran away in full speed.
“W-What the…?” Kuki asked.
“Holy, what a coward…” Mizuri asked, holding her head with her hand in shock.
“S-Shouldn’t we go after him?” Raika asked, pointing at the cowardly man who ran for his life.
“The Knights can take care of him,” Hinota said, moving over to where Kudo was. “Plus, we’re all too tired. Just look at how fast he’s running. More importantly…”
Hinota said as the E-Plus watched over to where Kudo and Saka was. They all smiled as Saka continued to cry—not out of sadness, but from shock and happiness as Kudo knelt down near her again.
“I can’t believe it…” Saka said inbetween sobs. “It should have been impossible…”
Kudo smiled. “In return for this, you’re going to stay with us from now on. Got it?”
Kudo said, hoping it would turn out fine. Saka looked up, her tears drowning her face, but her smile rose widely.
“Yes!” Saka shouted.