Chapter 155:

Vol. 9 Epilogue: The End of a Long, Dark Night

Hour Empty Child


After a long, loud, and dangerous night, the sun finally dawned on Triun. The Dark Players that were skulking around the city to help with Shinezu’s explosions were all caught and apprehended by the Alpha Heart members, gaining all the adoration from the public.

Within Alpha Heart’s lobby, the television was on for all the members to see. This time, rather than some scandalous channel, they were watching the news as their own guildmaster was on the screen, speaking in front of the dozens of people forming the crowd to hear her response as part of the council of the city.

Hikari stood behind a wooden podium, dressed in her normal black-clothed attire with a pleasant smile on her face. However, the members all spoke how much she wished she could get out of there just from her expression alone.

“Last night was by far the most frightening experience for everybody,” Hikari said through the microphone, her voice resounding throughout the air. “But we, the Alpha Heart, and the honorable knights of our fair city apprehended the criminals causing the mayhem. More importantly, we have also finally captured the notorious Shinezu, a well known serial killer that has committed such heinous crimes over the years.”

The crowd all reached out their hands in the air as they cheered for that news. Hikari stood silent for a moment for them to bask in the joy.

“He was taken down by none other than my own son, Kudo Valkyria, and his partner Hinota Flamver. As of right now, Shinezu is taken by the knights and is under heavy captivity, where he will no longer lay a hand on an innocent civilian ever again—we will make sure of that.”

The crowd cheered again in a thunderous roar. The over-enjoyment they showed was enough to prove how much was a blessing to have someone like Shinezu finally off the map. Hikari also basked in this as she continued.

“I hope that we can continue working together like this, where both adventurers and knights can go hand in hand when our city faces these unexpected trials. I, of course, will do my best to ensure the safety of my city and all my citizens as the guildmaster of Alpha Heart.”

The cheers of the crowd continued as she finished, Hikari raising her hand to wave at the populace which in turn, caused the adventurers in the lobby to cheer and laugh in joy.

Meanwhile, Hikari herself was sitting at her usual chair, her elbow resting on the table with her hand holding her chin.

“This is so stupid,” Hikari said. “The knights didn’t do jackshit. All they did was take away the Dark Players. We did most of the dirty work.”

Hikari complained as she downed an entire mug of her favorite alcohol to sate her anger. Kasara and Kagero chuckled as Kasara poured in more of her alcohol by her side, getting Hikari to drink again.

“You can’t help it,” Kasara consoled. “The council will have a fit if their knights are shown to be so useless in front of the populace’s eyes.”

“But it’s so dumb!” Hikari said, downing another mug. “Puaah! I need Kudo to recharge my battery! Kudo!”

“You better take it easy, Master,” Kagero said. “Look, he’s still banged up from what happened.”

Kagero took a glance at the side where next to them, the E-Plus sat on their table.

The six of them were worse for wear. Kuki, Raika, Mizuri, and especially Tsuchi were heavily bandaged, completely misshapen compared to their time facing the Extreme Boss.

Kuki and Raika couldn’t even use their fingers to eat the foot in front of them, so the two had to eat with their mouths in recompense. Kuki devoured the chicken in front of him while Mizuri helped Raika on feeding her some rice.

Kudo and Hinota were also bandaged, and even after drinking their potions, there was only so much they could do. Potions don’t solve all the problems the body faces, so they actually needed physical care. It took them several hours to recover, and especially after draining so much of their mana from before.

“Look at them,” Kagero commented. “You can barely tell them from before.”

“That’s what happens when you face against powerful Dark Players,” Kasara sighed. “But I suppose you can’t help it when there was someone important on the line.”

Kasara said, which in turn made the party smile no matter how banged up they were.

“Oh, now that I think about it,” Kuki poked his head up, his lips and mouth covered in the sauce of the chicken. “Where is Saka, anyway?”

“Oh, Mom is taking care of that. But for now, since her Dark Experience is cleared, she’ll be in peace.”

Kudo picked up the mug filled with orange juice and drank from it, a smile on his lips. The other party members somehow relaxed after that.

“It’s incredible that you could clear away Dark Experience like that,” Hinota said.

“Yeah,” Kudo answered. “I can’t believe it myself. Now… I can finally take down a Dark Player without actually killing him.”

Putting down his mug, he raised his hand as it turned into a fist. His serious glare was much gentler than it was before. Hinota watched that face of his turn, witnessing a big change in his expression.

(Kudo’s gotten so strong to be able to put aside his hatred for Shinezu… He’s just too nice a guy to do anything bad to others.)

Hinota smiled as she thought, taking a bite of the entire piece of chicken with her single fork.

“And you’ll be happy to know,” Hikari spoke. “Shinezu will be jailed and will stay there for… probably centuries. He had a big killing spree, so he won’t see the light ever again. And we even know the group he was a part of—Dark Pulse. A guild made of Dark Players.”

“A guild made of Dark Players…” Kudo said. “Whatever they are, we can take them.”

Kudo said with a serious tone, but his smile revealed all the confidence he had within himself. Hikari smiled warmly at that as Hinota chuckled.

She then reached out to Kudo’s head and brushed his azure hair. “You did a good job, Kudo.”

“H-Hey, what’s with this?”

Kudo flinched when she did so, but as she rubs his head, he noticed just how dazzling Hinota was with that smile. It made him blush redder as he looked away from that beautiful image of her smile.

===

“Kudo! Come over to my office!”

Hikari waved at Kudo, showing a pleasant smile. Kudo stood up from his chair and headed over there alongside Hinota. Why Hinota came over when she wasn’t called is because she’s usually at Kudo’s side, so Hikari let her pass.

They headed towards Hikari’s office which Hikari took a moment before opening her luxurious door.

“Kudo, Hinota, prepare your eyes for the cuteness.”

“Huh?” Kudo tilted his head.

Hikari smiled before she turned the knob and opened the door, revealing to Kudo and Hinota the person inside.

“W-Wah!”

A small yelp sounded as the girl turned around, her heart skipping a beat. Both Kudo and Hinota gaped at the sight, their eyes practically coming out of their sockets.

“S-Saka?!”

Kudo shouted at the tanned-skin and silver-haired girl who hid herself with her arms as best she could, but her attire made it difficult for her to hide at all. She wore the very same uniform the Valkyria maids wore in the mansion—the same black dress and white half-apron adorned her attire, wearing a long skirt that reached to her forelegs with black high heels to boot.

The same colored headdress as Shokan, Hikari’s head maid, was worn on top of her head.

“M-Master, you never told me that he was coming so soon! I-I’m not ready yet!”

Saka said, her face tinted red in shame as she continued to hide herself.

“W-What’s going on, Mom?” Kudo turned to Hikari who moved over to Saka’s side, turning back around to the adventurers.

“As you can see, Saka will be working for the Valkyria mansion, and be part of the family. Her job will focus on being your exclusive maid.”

“E-Exclusive maid?!” Kudo stepped back in shock. “B-But why?!”

“Well, let me tell you what happened first,” Hikari put a hand on Saka’s shoulder, her still-reddened face continued to persist. “Nobody in the council knew about Saka being a part of Dark Pulse, but when I was taking her in, they asked about her history. Of course, we all knew of her past, and how troublesome it would be if they knew.”

The room turned silent as Saka listened and lowered her head. The two adventurers stepped forward as Hikari continued.

“That’s why I told them that she was a victim of the Dark Players, and forced to become their gopher. The knights were about to take her away, but thankfully, my precious maids made it easier for me by reciting the Adventurer Human Rights Law.”

“T-The Adventurer Human Rights Law?” Kudo tilted his head again.

“It’s a rule that said that when Adventurer is faced with an issue, and is forced to use a skill against her wishes, she is protected by that law but had to conform to certain conditions as per her caretaker’s words. In other words, I made it so that in order for her to live as a human being, she needed to work at my place.”

“C-Can that actually happen?” Kudo said, his voice rising in hope.

“Of course. That’s why she’s trying out her new uniform—she’ll be working at our mansion from now on until the council’s off her back. I’ll continue to work on making sure that she’ll be free of any trouble, but for now, she’s going to work for us. As for being your exclusive maid like Shokan is for me, Saka asked that personally. Ain’t that right, Saka~?”

Hikari cooed as she nudged on Saka’s cheek with her finger, getting her to blush even more. Kudo looked over at her.

“S-Saka, is that true?” He asked.

“Y-Yes…” Saka said, her low tone making it easy to notice how embarrassed she was. “I-I owe you my life, Kudo. If it weren’t for you… I could have never been here, with all of you here. So, I’ll work hard for all of you, and especially for you who gave me a chance to be a human again. I’ll do whatever I can to be of service to you!”

Though she blushed, Saka gazed on Kudo with a powerful determination, getting Kudo to blush at her sincere words. He rubbed the back of his head, struggling to form the right words.

“Okay…” Kudo smiled. “That sounds great!”

“T-Then…” Saka’s determined expression melted away, her blushing face returning back as she put her fingers together and tapped continuously. “I-If you allow me to… will you grant me a favor?”

“Mmh? Sure, I’ll do whatever I can,” Kudo answered.

“Then… can I call you Big Brother?”

Saka looked up, her arms lowered and her head hiding under her shoulders as she asked. Kudo held his head back in shock, along with Hinota who listened.

“B-Big Brother?” Kudo asked to make sure.

“Y-Yes… you see, it’s sort of embarrassing…” Saka said, looking away as she recalls. “Back to where I live… me and my friend knew a man who was incredibly kind. We would always call him Big Brother and he would offer us all sorts of sweets and candies, and would always help us out when we were in trouble.”

Saka said, her shoulders slumping as the memories returned.

“When we were captured, he tried to save us, but he was killed by the Dark Players…”

Saka’s words hung in the air, leaving Kudo and Hinota to frown. Once again, the Dark Players took somebody important from Saka.

“So… when I saw you, I couldn’t help but feel relaxed around you… you were just like Big Brother… and I know it seems weird and it feels like I’m replacing him with you… but I wanted to call you that ever since I first saw you. I-It’s okay if you don’t want that! I understand, but…”

Saka continued to squirm, her arms rubbing up to each other in embarrassment. She didn’t mean anything wrong—it was something she wanted to do in order to fill the void. Kudo could tell that she felt a little guilty doing so as well.

But he smiled, knowing exactly how she feels.

“Sure, you can call me that,” Kudo answered, surprising Saka.

“R-Really? Truly? I-Is it okay?”

“Sure,” Kudo nodded. “I don’t mind.”

“T-Thank you very much, Ku—I mean… Big Brother! Thank you!”

Saka smiled, this time she showed a wide smile that she never showed before. Kudo couldn’t help thinking how cute she looked with that smile, and how he’d liked to see that every day on her face.

“Ah… this is quite nice,” Hikari said as she watched the two smile with each other. “Isn’t it, Hinota?”

When Hikari turned to Hinota for her opinion, she was shocked to see a different expression.

Hinota narrowed her eyes as if she found something unpleasant. Her glaring expression became more intense than usual.

“H-Hinota?”

“Master… this might be a problem,” Hinota said, taking Hikari by surprise.

“H-How so?”

“Kudo is a growing boy. It’s only natural that he would take this as an advantage to do whatever he wants to Saka. That’s why this might be a problem for his growth.”

“U-Umm, Hinota,” Hikari put her hands up, her sweat streaming down. “I don’t think it’ll be that big of a problem. I think you’re just over-assuming things…”

“No, this might be a really big problem,” Hinota was resolute in not listening to Hikari’s pleas. “I must do something before things get out of hand.”

Hinota stepped forward, leaving Hikari by herself as she sighed from Hinota’s intense emotions. As Hinota stepped forward, Saka noticed her coming and came up to her.

“Hinota!” Saka said. “If it’s okay with you… would you mind if I call you Big Sister too?”

Hinota immediately stopped in her tracks. Her entire body became frozen stiff. Her mind suddenly paused as well.

Only the words ‘Big Sister’ resounded in her mind over and over in her mind like an echo in a dark cave. The very words that she never expected to hear in her lifetime at all.

“W-W-W…” Hinota struggled to get the words out, her body shaking in shock. “W-Why would you want to call me that?”

“W-Well,” Saka once again became embarrassed. “You know the big brother I had back in my town? He was married to this beautiful and wonderful woman as well. We would often call her Big Sister too. She was always serious and would sometimes put Big Brother down whenever he gets thoughtless… so sometimes, you would remind me so much like her.”

Hinota’s pause melted away as she heard her story. The idea sounded as if Hinota was Kudo’s wife. Her cheeks blushed the moment that entered her mind. Saka raised her head, and tilted it as she asked.

“Those two were always together, and they always look so good together too. So if it’s okay with you, do you mind if I call you Big Sister?”

Perhaps Saka became more confident as she asked with a smile. Hinota became stiff after hearing the Big Sister word again to herself, causing her body to shake profusely.

“Umm, Hinota?” Kudo asked, holding his hand up to her after noticing Hinota’s strange acting.

“…Of…”

Hinota lowered her head, her shoulders trembling as everyone around them closed in to hear her answer.

“Of course, you can!”

Hinota exploded, surprising everyone. Hinota then came over and held onto Saka’s shoulder. Saka became surprised, but then noticed Hinota closing in on her.

“You can call me that whenever you feel like it! In return, I’ll call you my cute little sister, alright?”

“Y-Yes. I’m fine with that!”

“Great! Hehe… we’re gonna have a great time together, little sis!”

“I-I’m looking forward to it, Big Sister!”

Hinota squealed after hearing that again, rubbing up to Saka’s cheek with her own in pure delight. Kudo couldn’t help but chuckle wryly along with Hikari who looked on this scene with a strange sense filling the air.

Kudo finished chuckling as he revealed a smile. “Saka, I’m looking forward to being with you from now on.”

Hearing that, Saka turned to her big brother, and smiled as wide as possible.

“Yeah! I’ll work hard and be the best maid for you!”

Saka responded with high energy that brought everyone around her to close in on her and rub her head, making her chuckle in response to their kindness and care.

**********************************

Finally done! Took me a while, but I finally done it. Making this was really fun to do, and hopefully I'll make another one soon. Like this if you like it, comment if you wanna say something. I just love to hear your opinions on this so that hopefully I'll improve and make an even better volume the next time around. Till then, hope that everyone enjoyed this!

Hour Empty Child


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