Hour Empty Child
Despite walking a few meters away from the horrific sight, blood still lingered in the air around them. Perhaps the stench clung on to them, but right now, it didn’t matter to them.
The silence could only be heard in the atmosphere. Their tension were still high, as if someone mentioned a taboo word. As they walked away from the sight, Hinota was the first to speak.
“...Kudo, do you believe in karma?”
The word passed Kudo’s mind, making him tilt his head as he never heard of such a word before.
“It’s a sort of a spiritual sense of payback. If you do something good, then good things happen to you. But if you do something bad, then bad things happens to you.”
“Oh… that sounds really simple.”
Kudo now knew the word’s meaning, and he felt that it was something that fits the situation perfectly.
“They probably stole from a lot of people. They probably even killed others for their hard-earned valuables. Not even the guards noticed them, so they could have continued doing this. But…”
As Hinota pointed out the bad points of the bandits, her voice became shaky and her tone was filled with melancholy.
“…It still feels bad to me.”
Though it was the first time Hinota has seen dead bodies, her attuned mind helped her calm down. But the fact that they died from monsters’ attacks left her unsettled and queasy inside.
Kudo was left silent after hearing that. Then, Hinota continued.
“Kudo, if we saw them getting attacked, and we knew that they were bandits… would we help them?”
Hinota, for some reason, asked this difficult question. However, to Kudo, it seems hardly a difficult one to answer.
“I think we should,” He answered honestly. Hinota was surprised to hear such a fast reply and asked.
“Why should we do so? Even after what they have done?”
“It’s…” Kudo took a moment before answering. “Because I can’t just let someone die in front me. If I have the power, I would help. Besides, I would feel like crap if I was killed like that when I would go on adventures.”
“…I see,” A soft smile formed on her lips from hearing those words. That answer settled her queasy feelings inside her heart. “That sounds like something I would do too.”
“Hehe, yeah…” Kudo chuckled as he felt proud of giving a good answer the both of them could enjoy, but then he changed into a solemn expression. “the Rounins are more dangerous than I thought. I don’t know how strong the bandits were, but the rounins took care of them all easily, considering how one of them moved just fine.”
Hinota put her finger to her chin and analyzed the situation.
“It looks like they were all killed by poison after being bombarded with shurikens like that. Also, I can tell that more than one rounin killed them. From the amount of shurikens thrown at them, and how the many bandits were there, it might be possible that there were about dozens of rounins that came after them.”
“Sounds like a really small army…”
“That’s ri—” Before Hinota could even answer, Kudo’s comment filtered into her mind, causing her to slowly realize what he just said.
“…Was that supposed to be a pun?”
“Haha… S-Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.”
Kudo blushed intensely as he made a small chuckle from his poorly given joke. Hinota didn’t know how to respond to that, but she formed a small smile because of that as the words ‘That was so bad…’ left her lips.
“Ah…” Kudo sulked as his joke completely flopped, but then he returned to the topic. “Rounins are known to attack in groups when facing powerful-looking enemies, so we need to be careful of their ambushes.”
“I see. Though if worst comes to worst, we can rely on our PlusFire combo.”
“PlusFire combo…?” Kudo trailed off as he tries to figure out the name, but to no avail.
“The name of our combo attack of 【Plus Bomb】 and 【Fireball】. Pretty good name, huh?”
“Oh, I like it! Our own special move!”
Kudo responded positively. Though Hinota responded confidently, in fact, she was nervous about naming their skill, which turned out to be useless. However, their light-hearted atmosphere was ruined as rustling sounds of leaves were heard around them.
“Ah! Here they are!”
Kudo shouts as they both brandished their weapons and faced each other back-to-back. As they heard the rustling sounds of leaves becoming louder, a shining object whipped past the air and headed straight for them.
“Look out, Kudo!”
Hinota moved faster than Kudo could react. The shuriken coated in dark-green liquid was thrown at such speeds that Kudo could hardly even react to.
Moving in front of his path, Hinota angled her katana to block the incoming shuriken. As she blocked, the throw of the shuriken was so precise, the shuriken continued to spin, causing the shuriken to grind against the blade of the katana, creating small yellow sparks before it was deflected, and its path was diverted to a nearby tree.
Uwaa… so cool~!
Though he was fighting for his life, Kudo’s eyes were gleaming from Hinota’s skilled performance. But then he heard something coming from his side. He sees another shuriken being thrown, and it aimed for Hinota’s back.
Ignoring the chance of being punctured and poisoned, Kudo stood in front of the shuriken’s path and angled his bastard sword. The large blade proved useful as the shuriken was stopped in its flight path and was deflected off the blade, though Kudo felt the strong pressure of stopping such a precise and deadly shuriken.
“T-These things aren’t so bad if you get used to it.”
“Looks like they’re aiming for us now. They plan on repeating the same thing they did to the bandits to us.”
Hinota was right at this point. The shurikens that attacked them before were thrown at the duo Adventurers, which made them block them the small, deadly weapons with their own. After about five shurikens being blocked, Kudo picked up on how to block them efficiently.
“Hinota, at this rate, they’ll get us! We need to get out of here fast!”
Though he learned how to block more efficiently, the strength of his arms was starting to dissipate from the pressure of being punctured and the strength of the throws.
“You’re right…” Hinota spoke softly as she put on an expression of realization. “Ah, maybe…”
Kudo looked behind to see Hinota suddenly sheathing her weapon.
“Hinota?!” Kudo widens his eyes from the sudden surrender.
“Kudo, back me up! I’m getting something out!”
Hinota knelt down and put her backpack in front of her, digging through the contents as Kudo widen his eyes and expanded his range of vision by focusing the area around him.
“W-What are you looking for?” Kudo stuttered as Hinota quickly but carefully digs through her backpack.
“Come on… please let it be here… YES!”
As the shurikens that were thrown at Kudo, who blocked each one of them wit precision, the throws suddenly increase in the amounts. As Kudo was beginning to feel his strength dwindling, Hinota shouted as she took something out.
Kudo widens his eyes as she took out a red colored wood with golden markings etched on it that was shaped like a square with one side missing, two interlocking metals at the first corners, and a string attached to the two ends without a side.
“W-What is that?”
Hinota spoke proudly as she then connected the joint locks between the two corners of the square. The wood then increased in length, eventually pulling the string wide enough to make a straight line as the square turned into a wooden bow.
“Uoo! It transformed!”
Kudo spoke with a glint in his eyes as his inner boyish side came out from seeing a newly formed weapon.
“My family’s great crafting feature; the collapsible bow! Able to fit into the bag with little to no resistance. Though the range decreases from the lack of strength of the string, if used with my skill…”
Hinota aimed the bow and aimed it at one of the treetops. She pulled out an arrow from her bag and nocked it as she pulled it to the point of stretching the string to its end.
Suddenly, she cast her skill and the arrowhead that she nocked with suddenly became clad in burning flames. Kudo’s eyes continue to widen as she releases her grip on the arrow.
The arrow flew in a fiery trajectory, eventually hitting right at a certain spot in between the leaves. The fire soon spread throughout the leaves, eventually making three rounins that hid there fall to the ground motionless.
“W-Wow! Amazing! You got three of them in one shot!”
“It looks like they can’t handle too much heat. One hit and they’re down!”
Hinota proclaimed as she sees another shuriken thrown at her from the other tree beside her, but Kudo managed to block that one with ease.
“Kudo, back me up! I’ll take them down when I can!”
“Y-Yeah! Leave it to me!” Kudo stuttered as a faint smile formed on his lips from the adrenaline pumping his veins.
“It’s my first time using this, so I might have a little trouble…” Hinota spoke softly, as if she didn’t wanted to admit that, but Kudo heard it loud and clear.
“E-Eh?! This is your first time using a bow?!”
“I practiced but I never actually used it in battle up to now.”
After she responded, Kudo sees another shuriken thrown at him, making him deflect it. Afterward, Hinota nocked another arrow that she picked up from her bag and shot it at the same tree that threw the shuriken.
The arrow clad in flames hit the target, making two more rounins burnt to a crisp fall to the ground.
“A-At this rate, we can beat them!”
“…Eh?” Hearing Hinota’s simple answer, Kudo traced his sight back to Hinota with a worried look.
“I only got about 2 more arrows to shoot with…”
“Eh?! You only had 4 arrows?!” Kudo shouted as a feeling of wanting to hit her with a paper fan rised up inside of him again.
“I-It’s not like I’m a bow-user! I only kept them if I ever needed to shoot an enemy farther away. I didn’t have enough space to bring in so many!”
“Gah… if only we had the [Magic Bags] already…”
Kudo cursed his luck, despite having an extraordinary amount of [LUK] points, as Kudo and Hinota continued their survival against the rounins. Hinota would eventually shoot out two more arrows clad in flames, ending up killing about 6 more rounins.
However, the shurikens did not dwindle in the amount which left Kudo to feel somewhat drained from the defensive stance he put himself into.
Soon, another shuriken was thrown right at him. His arms became heavier as he tried to deflect the shuriken. Though he managed to avert the shuriken, as his arm strength was decreasing, the shuriken deflected off the blade and eventually shot upwards, cutting Kudo’s cheek with its sharp, coated edge.
“Aggh!” Kudo felt an extremely burning sensation on his cheek, causing him to grunt and scream.
Hinota shouts as she hears Kudo’s anguished yelp, noticing that his wound created by the coated shuriken was sizzling as an acidic substance was left on it.
“S-So they used acidic poison… Gah! It hurts! Hinota, we gotta escape! We need to get to a place where they won’t have an advantage!”
“Kudo, your face!” Hinota shouted as she kept looking at the burning mess formed on his cheek.
“Forget that now! Let’s go!”
Kudo ignored the searing pain of his burning flesh as he grabbed Hinota’s hand and led her away from the clearing. The rustling leaves became louder as they followed the duo Adventurers towards their next location, throwing precisely aimed shurikens at the two.
As they ran through the maze-like forest, they saw a blinding light at the end of the path obstructed by large trees. Kudo and Hinota ran faster than normal, hoping that the next location would be the perfect place to fight against the rounins. As the sounds of running water were within their hearing range, they imagined the location before they could reach to it.
They got out of the dense forest to see a riverbank, covered by gray colored gravel of small rocks. Their feet stepped onto the gravel, feeling the dozens of small rocks under their boots as their ragged breaths escaped their lips.
“Kudo! Your cheek! You need treatment!” Hinota shouted , concern in her tone of voice as she stares at the cheek that was practically melting from the acidic substance with a pained look on her face.
“D-Don’t worry, Hinota. I’m prepared…”
Taking their time before the ronins arrive, Kudo put his bag out and rummages through it, eventually taking out two small glass bottles filled with different colored liquids.
The beige-colored bottle was the Cleanser which Kudo poured it on his wound. “GAH!” Kudo grunted as his face grimaced from the searing pain on his cheek as it burned when the liquid of the Cleanser was poured on it.
Hinota also had a pained look on her face with her hands covering her mouth as she watched.. The Cleanser bottle then shattered to pieces, the shards turning into dust once the Cleanser was used.
The glass bottles used by potions were made alongside the contents. This is so that there won’t be a mass case of discarded broken bottles everywhere in the country when thrown aside by Adventurers. This happens again as Kudo drank from the Red Potion, the bottle with red-colored liquid, and the bottle soon became dust in the wind.
The wound that was melting on his cheek recovered immediately as a blue glow on his body appeared. The wound on his cheek gradually lessened, and eventually recovered to his smooth white skin.
“Oh, thank goodness…”
Hinota expressed her worried tone as she heaved a sigh of relief. Kudo was thankful that he didn’t have to bear more of the pain. But unfortunately, their time to relax was over as they heard the tree leaves rustling behind them.
“Hinota, you ready?”
Kudo prepped Hinota up as they see the rounins finally appearing in front of them. Since the trees were far away from the riverbank, the rounins jumped off the trees and gathered in front of the duo Adventurers.
Fifteen of the rounins, each having different colored light robes on their bodies, gathered up and showed their scowling furry faces, growling with sharp teeth that contradict their cute appearance. As they decided to go for close-combat, they replaced their shurikens in their hands and took out small knives out of their bags, holding them perfectly as they were trained to handle them.
The rounins then began to charge after the two Adventurers. The two glanced at each other and nodded.
“——《Plus Bomb》! ——《Fireball》!”
They cast their skills and launched their PlusFire combo at the group of rounins.
The result was a large explosion, making the area around them become engulfed in the flames and hot wind as the fires began to spread around the forest…
The bustling sounds of civilians passed by the dirty-looking store managed by the one and only Bag merchant Ouzan. While some gave dirty looks to the under-managed store, walking past it in a hurry, Ouzan remained standing next to his store as the sun was heating up his body from wearing his long robe and hood.
“I really shouldn’t have… those kids were still kids. One of them looked like a total beginner. Why did I send them…?”
Deep regret and guilt were displayed on his face for all to see, but none cared as they couldn’t even see his face. If he could, he would go back in time and stop himself from ever mentioning his personal problems.
The large clattering of a bag hitting the counter left Ouzan in shock, leaving him to nearly jump high in exaggeration. Ouzan turned his head around to see the culprit who nearly scared him to death, only to see the two very same Adventurers he asked to look for them.
“Y-You two! You’re both alive! And in one piece!”
Ouzan expressed his massive concern from the tone of his voice—since his face was covered—to spot the two Adventurers Kudo and Hinota, who both looked worse for wear.
The both of them had some scratches here and there as they were scratched up by the persistent rounins. Soot covered their bodies entirely since they had to use their PlusFire combo constantly.
“We got your ingredients, Ouzan! Every single one!”
“Those gems were harder to find. Turns out the rounins really like to collect shiny things.”
“Eh? Rounins…?” Ouzan trailed off as he hears their story.
“Yeah. We found the bandits—only to find out that they were killed by the Rounin Racoons. So we took them out instead and got back the ingredients from their bags.”
“N-No way!” Ouzan shouted in surprise. “But aren’t Rounin Racoons supposedly higher level? I heard most Adventurers don’t make it out of there once they set their foot in…”
Ouzan’s shocked look left Kudo and Hinota to look back at each other and formed a smile.
“Well, to keep things short, we like to work hard on our training.”
“Yep!” Kudo responded after Hinota’s claim, getting Ouzan to watch them with a glint in his eyes, and recalled the feeling he felt when he first saw them.
“Oh~ I see… Alright! Since you pretty much jumpstarted my business, I’ll be a man of my word and give you both [Magic Bags]! Please wait for about… 4 days. I’ll get started on them immediately!”
Though Ouzan’s face was covered by his hood, his lower mouth flashing a big grin was apparent as he flexed his arms.
As the duo Adventurers thanked him in advance, they separated from him and continued on back home, enjoying the heated warmth of the setting sun.
“That took a long while, Kudo…” Hinota heaved a sigh after the exhausting day they had in the forest.
“Yeah. Though it provided us with lots of Experience Points.”
Kudo showed the bright side of things to Hinota as she nodded in agreement. Then, a question formed inside Kudo’s mind.
“Though, I don’t know why he thought we were weak…” Kudo put his index finger on top of his chin as he gazed upwards while trying to find an answer.
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s your clothes!”
Kudo looked down where Hinota pointed and saw his banded-leather armor.
“W-What’s wrong with them?”
“Kudo, aren’t we over level 20 now? The equipment you’re wearing is still level 1! We need to replace them as soon as possible!” Hinota shouted, her eyes showing scorn at not to Kudo, but to his armor.
“Eh… but then, I have to go and talk to the vendors again…” Kudo recalls the time he had to ask the vendors to buy equipment, and he nearly froze from that.
“Don’t worry, because this time, I will come with you. I’ll help you get some clothes that actually fits you.”
“W-Wait, these clothes don’t fit me?”
“Let’s just leave it at that. Otherwise, I won’t stop talking.”
Kudo expressed a look of shock as Hinota grabbed Kudo’s wrist and dragged him towards the commercial district’s known shops.
In the commercial district, there was a store that showed a plethora of clothing known for their Medium class armors.
There are 3 known classes of armors: Light, Medium, and Heavy. Light is usually robes and cloth, so they’re best suited for [Mages]. Heavy is the plated armor that has an excellent defense, but it can be very heavy to wear, so they are suitable for strong [Warriors].
Medium is a leather-based armor that provides little defense, but speed is its main target. Easy to wear, while also having enough defenses to last an attack or two, Medium class armors are best suited for the types of Classes that focus on agile movements, like [Archers] and [Hunters].
This store sold Medium class armors, and some were higher leveled than others. Since equipment has level restrictions, if Adventurers fails to meet up the level requirement, they cannot wear that equipment. If worn, the mana that was used to create the armor will reject the wearer by placing an incredible weight on him, slowing him more than it should which would enable the Adventurer useless.
But since Kudo and Hinota were higher leveled now. Hinota brought Kudo to this store that she had set her eye on for a while. After taking a long time considering the choices between the available armors —which caused Kudo to be nearly asleep from the time spent—Hinota found the perfect combination and got Kudo to try it out in the changing stall room used for trying out the Medium class armors.
“I-I don’t know about this, Hinota. This looks really expensive.”
Kudo spoke loudly as the door between him and Hinota, who stood out front, muffled his voice.
“Since we’re getting the bags for free, we can spend a little on getting good equipment. I’ll be fine since my armor is pretty good, but you need better armor.”
“I-I suppose that’s true…”
“It is true because I’m right about this.”
Hinota formed a cocky smile as the door behind her unlocks. She stepped aside and saw the door open, revealing Kudo in his new attire.
Kudo’s outfit’s theme had a brown color with a black scheme on some parts. Metal plates were banded in some parts such as the chest, forearms, forelegs, and left shoulder. He had the most trouble trying to wear the multiple belts that bound Kudo’s chest. He had long black pants and a long sleeve on his left arm, while having an open arm on the right. Black ribbons acting like a cloak were attached behind the pant legs, which flowed in the heated wind of the setting sky.
“Umu, this is perfect. As expected, you look good in Medium class armor.”
“This feels… kinda weird.”
Kudo felt his new armor with his hands, feeling out the texture and the protective security that was it was given to him.
“That’s because you’re now fashionably stable. It’s a given, considering that I chose them for you.”
Once they got Kudo settled into his new clothes, Kudo reluctantly paid the store owner for the Medium armor, and then the both of them headed back to the inn for their rest.
5 days have passed. Throughout the coming days, Kudo and Hinota were working hard on their schedule of grinding monsters and completing quests. When the time limit passed, Kudo and Hinota headed back to Ouzan’s store and received their [Magic Bags].
“Kudo, come on, I wanna get that next Rank today!”
Standing in front of Kudo’s room, Hinota put her hand on her hip as she waited for Kudo. Holstered on her hip along with her sheathed katana was a small, red-tinted bag that had several pockets, with the similar gem that they found when they first encountered the Rounins embedded in its center.
“Coming! Let me just put in a few more things!”
Kudo, at his room, responded to the shouting Hinota as he places his own bag on top of his desk. His [Magic Bag] was the same design, only that it had a black-tinted color instead. Kudo peeked the potion, a new potion that they upgraded to once they reached a high enough level called the Crimson Potion—an increased rank from Red Potions—near the bag. He takes the bottle, which was several inches taller than the bag itself, and opened the flap to peer into the inside of the empty bag.
Kudo moves the potion near the inside of the bag, and suddenly, something glowed. What appeared on the inside of the bag was a small portal which when looked outside, seemed to reflect the starry night sky. Kudo then puts the tall Potion into the portal, completely swallowing it whole, and then Kudo’s hand reappeared back out, this time with no Potion in hand.
“Hehe, now I can take it out as long as I think about it. It sure is useful that the crystal embedded on it connects with my mana.”
Kudo could still recall the sharp sting of Ouzan’s needle pricking Kudo’s index finger. The wound which dropped blood was then smeared onto the crystal which was used to only activate the magic dimension portals for Kudo only.
Soon enough, he finished his preparations and headed towards the door to open it, only to find Hinota waiting with a scowl on her expression.
“You’re late! Let’s go already!”
Kudo responded with a smile as he felt his [Magic Bag] holstered to his hip as the both of them headed out of the inn to start on their quests.
After finally achieving their Magic Bags, along with Kudo’s new armor, the duo Adventurers becomes stronger than ever!