Chapter 11:

Party Issues and Yrekir

Hour Empty Child


After finishing off the lizardmen, they tried to look around to find the two missing members, though, according to Flash, only John was missing. But before they could find them, they stepped into the final room of the caverns.

What they encountered was something no ordinary civilian could ever see with their eyes.

A dark cavern, illuminated by the shining crystals found at the top of the caves, illuminating the running water cascading down to the large lake that stayed like a mirror as ripples coursed through. The lake itself was shallow, as the ground could be seen from the crystal-clear water. The party became astounded as they view the scenery with awe.

“I didn’t even notice that there was a waterfall here…”

“Maybe the caves here soundproofed the sounds of the water falling?”

The siblings conversed as they looked around the spacious area on top of the solid ground near the lake. However, what mattered most to Hinota was the other two’s missing presences.

“Where are they…? Kudo and John...”

“Like I said; Kudo must have—”

“He would never run. At least without telling me beforehand.”

“Mmh,” Flash snorted. “You think you know him, but it has only been two measly months, right? That’s not enough to know a person, Hinota-san.”

“And after a day, you think you know him better than me.”

Hinota responded with a stoic face, as if she pretended that she had just ignored what he has just said. Though, the siblings could pick up a rather cold aura emanating from Hinota.

——*Craah!*

The ground shook, and the water trembled intensely. The siblings shook, Flash turned around in a hasty manner, and Hinota quickly draws out her katana from her sheath. Soon enough, the ground that could be seen from above the lake crashed, leaving the water to be buried within the rubble as a gigantic creature appeared.

Zraaahh!

A giant creature, resembling a giant lizard, crashed out of the grounds from the lake and slithered its wavy tongue at the party. The party members quickly took out their weapons.

“It’s Yrekir!”

“So that’s the boss?!”

The siblings were ready to fight, but their will to fight was short-lived after seeing such a massive creature. It was shown that it was their first time seeing it.

Hinota was seeing it for the first time as well, but her eyes narrowed as she readies her weapon.

“A-Alright! It’s here. Now, go after it, Hinota-san!”

Flash stepped back as sweat trickled down his temple as he pointed the boss for Hinota to take out.

No plan and just charge in. He expected that Hinota can defeat it easily with her power. But the truth was, Hinota hesitated.

She hesitated because she has no idea what to do. She could always go ahead and fight how she pleased, letting the flow of battle direct her, but only after she received information suitable for battle. It was usually Kudo who would supply her with information.

But there was no information. Only orders. This made Hinota grimaced.

Where is he? And what is he doing right now? Hinota’s thoughts were in disarray as she had no choice but to fight.

■ ■ ■

In this remote location of the caverns, ever so close to the final room which they predicted the Boss monster dwells, Kudo Braven was facing turmoil unlike anything else he has ever faced:

A ferocious party member.

“Leave the caverns now and never get near Flamver-sama again!”

John remains ever resolute, dominating Kudo who was at the ground in amidst of his sudden banning. Kudo got up to his knees and responded like any sane person would do:

“W-Why do you all have a problem with me being with Hinota?”

“Stop calling her that! Calling her so closely with your filthy mouth is insulting to her! Leave now and never get close to her again!”

After seeing John’s stubbornness, Kudo’s inner frustration was taking hold of him. Not just because he was asking him to leave without taking the tail and getting the Crafting Skill. What made him become slowly frustrated is the fact that they’re trying to stop him from hanging out with Hinota.

Though not much time passed, it was a long two months which he enjoyed so much that it felt short. His days of smiling excitedly with Hinota filled his mind as he faces John. Kudo slowly got up, as if his will was becoming more powerful as he stares at John right in the eye.

“I can’t.”

“Ohhh…”

John’s vein popped out and his canine teeth became bare.

“I can’t just abandon Hinota. Just because you or Flash asked me to, I can’t do it. I… I want to be with Hinota just as much as you all!”

Kudo shouted, becoming resolute in his words. But then a sharp pain coursed through his mouth and cheek.

It was John hitting Kudo directly across his face with a punch.

Kudo’s body was thrown aside from the [Monk]’s power, making his body fly out before it hit the ground with a giant thud and leaving him on it.

“That was just a warning! If you’re still going back, I’m going all out and kill you! And nobody will know about it. Why would they? Nobody will miss you anyways! Not even Flamver-sama!”

John points his index finger at the downed Kudo. His ferocious eyes, looking like a guard dog readying to attack, gazes at Kudo with a hostile aura coming out of him. However, seeing Kudo slowly getting back up, he felt a change in the air.

S-Something’s off…

For a moment, John hesitated. Kudo’s body emitted an aura that was unlike any other. John, as a physical fighter, was keen on picking up their fighting instincts and auras, but coming from Kudo, he felt that it was incredibly strange.

It was like Kudo was getting ready to fight.

Kudo got up, his gaze meeting with John’s.

“I can’t… forgive myself if I leave now.”

“A-ahh?”

John gave a surprised shout as Kudo continued.

“If I leave now… it’ll be the same as always. I’ll just go back to how I was before. I don’t want that. I don’t want to go back to fearing what I would say or do in front of other people… and… I don’t want to abandon the only friend I have!”

Kudo glared at John with determined eyes. To John, it was like he was a different person. Kudo’s aura changed, transforming into somebody else entirely.

“Y-You’ll regret this!”

John hesitated for a moment, but charged right in towards Kudo. Kudo narrowed his eyes and observed every movement John is creating.

Right foot step. Arms swinging. Sudden stop. John’s body was close to him. His eyes became wide and bloodshot. He steps forward with his left foot. His right foot pivots. He swings his right arm. He clenches his hand into a fist. And finally, he swings his fist towards Kudo’s face once more.

Seeing these movements, it seemed slower than expected. Thinking this, Kudo kicked the ground beneath him.

Before John could deliver his punch, Kudo used his entire weight and tackled him, making both of their bodies fall down, with Kudo on top. The sudden tackle rattled John’s head for a moment.

“Ghh! You bastard!”

John showed an incredibly angered look, feeling as if his pride as a [Monk] was being insulted by Kudo’s supposed fighting ability. As John was about to recover, Kudo took this chance and pushed his chin upwards.

“Hey!”

John shouted as he tried to push back. Before long, underneath his weight, John struggled against Kudo’s movements, which he was at an advantage as he was on top of him. Kudo continued to push John’s chin upwards while trying to push away his hands that were trying to grab just about anything they could grab.

Seeing this, he finally saw his chance. Kudo pushed his chin upwards strongly, exposing his neck widely. Kudo pulled back his other hand, clenched it into a fist, and punched right at the neck.

“GAH!”

John’s breath escaped as his neck was punched with no hesitation. The sudden pain that coursed through his throat made John’s voice stagger and shake, trying to bring back the air he once lost as his hands squirmed in the air.

But he was not done.

Another hit right at the neck. The pain coursed through once more, and his breath escaped once again. John’s eyes widened as his pupils started to shrink in fear.

Then, once more, Kudo punches John’s neck without mercy.

Before long, there was hardly any breath that could escape anymore. John’s eyes start to whiten up as he was slowly losing his consciousness.

John starts to realize the situation he is in. After a single second, Kudo bypassed his defenses and was delivering powerful attacks to his vital spot. As he observes the situation with widened eyes, he finally sees Kudo’s expression.

It was dark. His eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed. He had an intimidating look on his face that told everything John had trouble realizing until now.

He was about to die.

Kudo could be able to deliver one more strike—one strike that could potentially be fatal to John’s throat. If it happened, John’s neck might be crushed, and he won’t be able to breathe. It made him remember what he has just said, “And nobody will know about it!”

These words made John shivered as Kudo was winding up his arm upwards one more time.
John’s eyes widened as he believed that he will really be killed like this.

But he stopped. Kudo’s fist remained in the air, and his face softens into a gentle expression.

“This is what my guidebook taught me, “If there’s a chance that there’s a dispute with your party members, settle it with your fists.” Use this technique to show that you mean business, but never deliver the final blow. Because you want to show that you want to work with them, not hurt them.”

Kudo spoke out loud, his eyes softening as John’s eyes trembled and his breath slowly returned.

Kudo got up from his mounted position, leaving John on the ground as John coughed various times, trying to regain his air back.

“Let’s go back. Our party members need us.”

“…”

John took a look at Kudo’s eyes. They showed that he was not joking.

■ ■ ■

The battle against the mighty lizard Boss Yrekir raged on at the final room. Hinota fought on with her skills and movements, befitting her Class title [Hell Knight]. However, she was alone.

As she fought tooth and nail against the brutally violent Boss, her sweat trickling down her temple despite the cold air that was constantly brushing against her soft skin, Hinota landed near the party members as Yrekir was swaying about in the battlefield, not minding the destruction that it was doing.

Hinota’s skills were on their target, but it didn’t seem to be affecting this Boss. Her 【Flaming Strike】, her most powerful attacking skill, seemed to bear no fruits of labor despite using it so many times. She hesitates on using her first skill 【Fireball】, for she might need her [MP] for her second skill. Needless to say, she seemed to be out of options.

Before long, Yrekir stopped swaying about randomly, and aimed its beady, yellow eyes onto the target Adventurers.

“I-It’s coming here!”

“Flash, use your traps! Maybe we can get it to stop moving!”

One of the frustrating things about Yrekir is that its slithering body, resembling a giant snake, swayed and moved quickly, without any expense in its stamina. This is one of the reasons why Hinota was practically running ragged.

“What?! No way!”

The sudden refusal of her party leader caused Hinota to widen her eyes.

“Why?!” Hinota bared her teeth as she bitterly shouted.

“My traps are too small to catch this big thing! My best option is to just let you attack it, tire it down and then we all go after it!”

“F-Flash-san! That’s dangerous! Hinota is already getting tired, just look at her!”

Mick, being the voice of reason, showed Hinota’s distraught state of appearance, looking nearly battered from the random attacks Yrekir made.

“Shut up, Mick! You don’t know Hinota-san like I do! She’s part of the great Flamver family, known to be powerful Adventurers! To say things like that, you’re insulting her very power!”

“N-No, that’s not what I—”

“If you’re so keen, why don’t you go out there? I don’t see you doing anything!”

“B-But…”

“Are you crazy, Flash-san?! My brother’s a [Priest]! Braven-san said that—”

“Don’t listen to that sad excuse of an Adventurer! I’m the party leader, and what I say goes!”

Flash shouted back, his voice starting to grate against the three member’s ears. To the siblings, the once proud leader that they had followed suddenly broke down into a million pieces.

“Ghh… Lailah, I need you to stand back and shoot your skills at Yrekir! Maybe it has a low Magic Defense like the other lizardmen.”

“R-Right! I’ll try!”

Lailah’s mind returned to normal after making a terrible realization as Hinota’s voice rang through to her. Hinota faced against Yrekir, whose giant body was closing in.

“Here I come!”

With all her power, Hinota kicked the ground and faced against Yrekir one more time. Yrekir was exactly as she feared— incredibly fast.

Hinota was aiming at the feet, but Yrekir knew where she was aiming and quickly lifted one of its feet, causing Hinota to stop in her tracks. It’s already bad enough that she was tired, but she had to stop herself to avoid going into a bad position. Using the same foot, Yrekir stomped to where Hinota was. As Hinota sees the incoming stomp of its giant foot, she quickly expended more stamina by dodging out of the way, causing the foot to stomp the ground and nearly breaks it and form into a crater.

As Hinota takes its attention, Lailah was preparing her spell, her eyes closed as she focused on pouring her mana into her glowing staff, filling the air above it into a glorious flame.

“——《Flame Orb》!”

Lailah points the staff towards Yrekir, launching the furious, flaming ball of red fire at the giant Boss.

But, it was as if it had eyes on the back of its head. When the flame orb was reaching towards its target, Yrekir slithered and climbed the walls in the blink of an eye. The flame orb misses its target and destroyed part of the wall at the other side of the room.

“N-No way!”

“It’s so quick…”

“What are you doing, Hinota-san?! Show your power as a Flamver!”

The sibling’s shocked looks on their faces showed how difficult the situation became. Flash continued to yell out to Hinota as she grimaced once more.

“That’s not helping!”

What she hated the most was the fact that she was referred so much as a Flamver. She was still low level compared to this Boss. Despite the siblings’ best efforts, since they were not front runners, Hinota was facing the Boss by herself at her low level.

This caused her to grit her teeth as Yrekir moved its quick, giant body, taking advantage of Hinota’s distress.

“W-Wha—?!”

Before Hinota could even react, Yrekir’s tail made an impact with her body. The force that was gathered in its tail launched Hinota far away, making her crash into the nearby wall where the party members were at.

“Flamver-sama!” “Flamver-sama! Hang in there!”

The siblings’ voices carried their concerns to Hinota as they closed in on her. Mick could see the wounds that Hinota’s body carried. Finally, Mick was able to help in this situation.

“Hinota, I’ll heal you! “——《Heal》!”

Mick showed a determined look as he lifted both of his hands to direct his mana onto the wounded Hinota. There were several cuts on her head, causing her blood to stream down. There were several bruises on her body indicating sore and nearly damaged parts. Her eyes shook in an intense glare as she tries to get used to the pain.

But then the pain slowly faded away. Mick’s mana, illuminating her with white light, slowly recovered her body. The bruises slowly dissipated and the wounds began to close.
Hinota opens her eyes as she felt her body returning to normal. A refreshed feeling wafted through her as she picked herself up and felt her hands, making sure everything was in its right place.

“Mick, thank you.”

Hinota saw Mick’s efforts and thanked him with a tone of respect.

“Flamver-sama, I recovered your [HP] and took away your wounds, but I can’t recover blood loss and stamina. I don’t think you should fight anymore…”

“What are you talking about, Mick?! Are you saying we should lose our progress up to now? Hinota-san can handle that giant lizard!”

Flash, who closed in on them, supported Hinota’s strength with his voice alone, but the rest of the party members began to scowl, especially Lailah.

“Flash-san, look at her! She can’t go on!”

“Don’t spout nonsense! Hinota-san, hurry up and defeat that boss already!”

Issuing a simple order, Hinota bit her lip as she tried to get up to her feet. It took longer than expected, making Mick’s diagnosis to be true. She managed to get up, picks up her katana that fell along with her, and stood in front of her party members, glaring at the Boss that was ready to fight again.

Where is he…?

“Aaraaaaaaa!”

Hinota’s eyes widened. The rest of the party members’ eyes widened as they turned around and saw, from the entrance that they used to get in, the azure-haired Adventurer running toward Yrekir with a fierce expression and a bastard sword in his hands.

“Kudo!”

Hinota shouted as if her savior came in. Her tone of voice was higher as she widened her eyes with almost a glint coming from them.

“W-What?! W-what happened to—?!” Before Flash could even ask, he saw, after Kudo came in, the [Monk] that disappeared along with him.

“John-san!”

Lailah shouted with vigor as John ran after Kudo, a fierce look that came with baring his canine teeth as he readies his gauntlets by punching them together, showing his intensity.

“John, distract it! I’m going to go after its legs!”

“Don’t tell me any orders!”

John responded coldly, but he still moved toward Yrekir’s front, his fierce look on his eyes glaring right at the Boss’ expression.

“Hey! Stupid lizard! Bet you can’t even take me down!”

As John screamed, proving to be a powerful distraction as John ran towards Yrekir and jumped towards it, swinging his fists into Yrekir as it cleverly dodged his attacks. In the meanwhile, Kudo ran behind the squirming Boss and directed his bastard sword in hand at one of the hind legs.

“Come on! Hit!”

Though Yrekir squirmed furiously, Kudo, with all his strength, pinpointed the exact moment that Yrekir would move, and pointed his sword to the hind legs.

ZRRAHH!

The blade pierced into the skin, revealing at the hind legs was the weakness as they hardly contain any scales to defend against it.

“Yes! Now…!”

With Yrekir squirming even more so than before, John was able to see much better its patterns, and used his skill to attack the chest of the nearly standing Boss.

“——《Furious Strikes》!”

As the name implies, John’s punches were quite furious. He quickly lashed out several punches at once—his strikes were so quick that other eyes could hardly see.

Yrekir roared loudly as Kudo continued to hang onto his bastard sword as it remained pierced into the hind leg of the squirming Yrekir.

“How… about… this!”

Kudo, his body swaying about, took hold of its balance as he directed his feet towards the hind leg. Using the leg as a foothold, Kudo held on greatly to his bastard sword’s handle, and then—

——*Crrk!* Zraaaah!

Kudo spun the sword’s handle with his powerful wrists, causing blood to spray out and the Boss to squirm painfully.

“U-uwaah!”

“Awesome!”

The siblings were amazed at the two boys’ battle as Kudo flashed a smile across his face.

“Hehe, now what are you gonna—!”

Before Kudo could enjoy his handiwork, the tail that squirmed viciously directed itself towards Kudo. The strong impact of the tail brushed off Kudo like a fly and made him land onto the ground. “Ghh! Ahh!” Kudo screamed as he landed on the tough terrain with several cuts made and a giant bruise on his back from the tail’s strike.

“Kudo!”

Hinota ran towards Kudo to provide aid as John, who continued to fight by himself, was suddenly grabbed by Yrekir’s giant mouth.

“Gah!”

“John-san!”

Lailah screams and Mick widened his eyes as he feared the worst when John was trapped between the jaws of Yrekir.

However, their fear came to pass as Yrekir only throws John aside like a rag-doll, falling onto the unforgiving cold ground as the two siblings rushed after him.

“John-san! Are you OK?!”

Mick shouted with worry as he began to heal up John who groaned in pain.

Hinota ran up to Kudo. She showed a more happier look rather than concern, “Kudo, you came…! What happened?”

“Ah… just some trouble. But I managed to clear it up.”

Kudo knew the answer, but decided to leave it be as he stood up with Hinota’s help.

“That Boss has a strong defense, but I think it’s beginning to wear down.”

“If he’s wearing down, then we need to deliver a finishing blow. But it’s quite tough. My 【Flaming Strike】 hardly did any damage to it.”

Hinota reported her understanding of the Boss as it squirmed viciously, trying to recover from its wounds. Kudo observed the Boss with keen eyes, and put his hand on his mouth to try to think up of a plan.

“… Wait. Hinota, did you use your buff?”

“My… no, I haven’t!”

Hinota slowly realizes her new skill that she has gained this morning, and felt stupid for not remembering it sooner—especially in this certain situation.

“Then, let’s test it out—our new powers!”

A grin flashed across Kudo’s face. Hinota nodded as they both separated from each other, leaving Hinota to make a stance as the rest of the ‘Hunt the World’ members looked in awe.
Hinota breathed in, inhaling the cold air which filled her lungs. Then, she activated her new skill:

“——《Burning Soul》!”

Hinota shouted with vigor and intensity. Her voice was filled with power, and along with it, the mana that she had stored inside suddenly burst opened.

A pillar of fire consumed her entire body. It was a raging fire, which for the ‘Hunt the world, it seemed like she was burning alive.

But Kudo knew better. He could feel it stemming forth from the fire. It wasn’t hot, but it was warm enough to heat up the area around them. He could feel the power surging as waves from that spot alone, leaving him in shivers as he watched the pillar of fire consuming his friend.

The screams of the ‘Hunt the World’ resounded as the raging pillar of fire ceased to be—only to get everyone around Hinota to be shocked with awe and amazement.

Hinota came out of the pillar of raging fire that messed their sense of aesthetics. Though Hinota was still on fire, she looked so divinely beautiful, as if a fire goddess has descended to aid them in battle. Her looks have not changed much, all except that her already fiery-red long hair was aflame with a beautiful flare. Her hair wafted like the burning fire from a candle, with the acting grace of a young woman in her prime. Hinota’s eyes were closed, but as soon as she opened them, her tapered eyes were aflame with a fiery red, her gaze becoming more frightening—and more beautiful.

“W-Wow…”

Kudo was dumbstruck—if that could even explain his astonishment. His eyes were completely fixated on the new fiery look that Hinota has produced. Of course, the ‘Hunt the World’ were no different. They looked in astonishing bewilderment. Every trouble and despair that they faced before have suddenly just… vanished.

“…My power has increased!” Hinota returned to her senses as she felt her soul being inflamed with strength. “I can feel it. Absolute power is coursing through my veins. It’s making me feel like I can take on anything!”

Hinota spoke after a while—her eyes brimming with excitement as she felt the power coursing through her. She called out her Status menu and saw the difference in power.

“A-Amazing! My attack power increased a lot!”

“T-That’s amazing!” Kudo expressed his excitement as his inner boyish side came out.

“Kudo, try yours out as well! I’ll use my own to take down that guy while you do it!”

Hinota fiercely grinned as she began her assault. After angling her katana, she rushed in with blinding speed. Only a trail of fire was left behind as she dashed towards Yrekir which even surprised it from the sudden speed.

“——《Flaming Strike》!”

Her favorite move. Hinota jumped up so quickly that Yrekir could only see the formless fire suddenly disappearing in front of its eyes. Hinota actually jumped over Yrerkir and falls right onto it.

——Zraaah!

The red line of a slashing blade, clad in fire, blazed through Yrekir’s tough scales, causing it to roar in response as steaming blood sprayed about.

“Yes! My power has risen so much!”

Yrekir was about to strike back by using its long tongue to capture Hinota, but her blinding speed left Yrekir to hit only the ground.

Hinota ran back to her group, which was quite far away before Yrekir could do anything, as she waited on Kudo.

“Ah… amazing. Well, let’s see if this one can top it.”

Kudo knew, from Hinota’s glittering eyes, that she wanted him to activate his skill. Not being the one who would disappoint her, Kudo did so. Just like her, he focused his mana into one single point—his right palm. And then he aims the palm upwards in case that there would be an accident.

“——《Plus Pulse》!”

Kudo had a small doubt in his heart, thinking that it could be a very useless skill that couldn’t do anything. But he continued to activate it anyways, and sent out his mana.

What came out were white rings of pure energy that came out of Kudo’s palm. The white rings floated upwards, and then finally ascended downwards, increasing in length and size as it covered the entire area around them, affecting both the duo Adventurers and the ‘Hunt the World’.

At first, once the rings dissipated into the ground, nothing happened.

“Ah… no way…”

Kudo’s mouth was left quivering. It was a useless skill that didn’t do anything. But when Kudo’s fears were being realized, suddenly, a spike of energy has risen inside of him.

“W-what?”

Kudo didn’t understand it, but suddenly energy was filling his body and soul. Energy that felt like he could take on anything. Just about anything, including the Boss they were facing single-handedly. Of course, the rest of the members felt this as well.

“W-What is this?!”

“So much power…”

“This is…”

“Khh, I can feel it rising…”

The ‘Hunt the World’ each said their own comments on the sudden power up. Unlike Hinota’s power up, which only affected herself, Kudo’s skill affected everybody.

“K-Kudo! It’s a buff! My already risen power is rising even further!”

Hinota was the first to respond which left Kudo to be left with a foolish smile.

“Alright! Hinota, let’s do this! The PlusFire Combo!”

Kudo shouted with vigor as Hinota nodded to him.

The duo Adventurers faced the Boss that seemed to be closing in on them. Apparently, the Boss was getting tired of them running away and instead came after them itself. But that became its own undoing.

“——《Plus Bomb》! ——《Fireball》!”

First, Kudo’s bomb was shot first, sticking right at Yrekir’s forehead which left Hinota’s fireball to aim for it as it was shot right at the bomb…

——*Boooooooom!*

Outside the Kuul Caverns, right at the top what seemed like to be a mountain, it suddenly blew up in a glorious fire. A pillar was fire was shot right out of the caverns from the explosion that was the result of the two powered-up skills of the duo Adventurers.

It seemed so grand and powerful that the civilians of Klein again took cover from the loud blast that was made. This time, it was worse than the series of explosions that occurred in the forest near them.

Back at the caverns, the ‘Hunt the World’ was left in total shock. Their eyes seemed like they could pop out at any second, and their mouths gaped to no end. Only their quickened breaths that exhaled out in intervals were heard as the explosion nearly took them away, covering them in soot.

As for Kudo and Hinota? They were completely black with soot. Their coughs were heard before one of them opened his eyes and saw the devastation and destruction that they have caused.

The waterfall? Destroyed.

The lake? Nonexistent.

The Boss? The only thing left behind was its sorry burnt ass of a carcass as the rest of its body was blown away from the explosion. Everything around them, that looked so serene if not for the Boss that dwelled in there, was completely and totally annihilated.

Not a trace of serene beauty to be found.

“U-Uwaah…”

Though unbecoming of her, Hinota left out a breath of shock and awe as Kudo’s eyes widened from the power.

“… Hinota. That was so awesome!”

“It was so cool! It went like ‘BOOM!’ and the body is completely destroyed!”

Kudo and Hinota shared their similar excitement as they grinned at each other like fools. The ‘Hunt the World’ were left with shocked expressions as Kudo closed in onto the bottom half of the burnt carcass of Yrekir.

“Alright! At least the tail was left behind! Hey, guys! Let’s each take a bit and bring them back to complete the quest!”

“W-Wha…”

Flash’s face was contorted into shock and frustration. When Kudo seemed to be so useless and weak was actually the one that nearly saved them from a total wipeout.

As Flash started to grit his teeth in frustration, Hinota surprisingly closed in on him, leaving him in shock.

“No offense to you all, but I want to stay with Kudo only.” Hinota suddenly spoke up, catching their attention. “I hope you all respect my decision. And also, I thank you for helping us out.”

Hinota’s tone was completely different than before. It was serious and graceful, making her seem much more serious in her refusal to join the party. Flash’s face was left gaping as he saw Hinota’s back as she turned to Kudo to take their rewards.

Once they each took their part of the reward, they headed back towards the city of Klein on foot to finish the quest. It took nearly a whole day as the sun that showered its light onto them before they came in was now setting as an orange color illuminated their path back to town.

Throughout the way, Kudo and Hinota began to converse in their own little world while the ‘Hunt the World’ were left silent. It was like the atmosphere from before they came in the caverns suddenly vanished and replaced with a more upbeat mood.

Of course, through the walk, both the siblings and even John joined in their conversations, and everyone—all except for Flash—were thoroughly enjoying their conversations before they reached the guild hall of Klein.

Once they turned in their quest, they disbanded the party, said their goodbyes, and finally, Kudo and Hinota were by themselves.

As they walk back to their inn, Kudo and Hinota were left with a silent atmosphere for once, and usually, Kudo would be the one trying to not make things worse, but instead, he first spoke up:

“Hinota… I’m sorry that everything went kinda—”

“Don’t be, Kudo.” Hinota interrupted him. “Everything that happened was Flash’s fault.”

Kudo widened his eyes as they stopped in their tracks, getting Kudo to prick up his ears.

“I bet Flash made John go after you, and you had to deal with the trouble. In this case, I should be the one asking for forgiveness. I’m sorry that you had to go through all that, Kudo.”

“N-No, don’t be! It was still fun, at least…”

“Heh, I can see that you tried to have fun in that situation.”

Hinota offered a smile as Kudo felt that she saw right through him, getting him to chuckle awkwardly.

“But, Hinota, wasn’t Flash your childhood friend? To not join his party…”

“Trust me, it’s better that I don’t see him anytime soon.”

“W-What do you mean?” Kudo’s eyes widen as Hinota explained.

“I meant exactly what I said. I remember that guy—and I despise it. Both of us were nobles from the same city, so we ended up playing together. Flash was the sort of guy who would try to suck up the higher-ups to get what he wanted. Though, when his family came to power, he suddenly acted like I was below him. He pretended that we were inferior to him, and it went on for years. Though I wasn’t really affected by that.”

“Eh…”

Kudo widened his eyes as Hinota felt completely dirtied from remembering those times.

“However, after making seriously bad decisions, their family came into ruin and was now only a former shadow of itself. And guess what happens next…?”

“…No, he didn’t.”

Kudo couldn’t believe it and felt extremely embarrassed, as if he knows what he might have done without her telling him.

“He came back, and actually pretended that we were long-time friends. Of course, my family outright ignored them for a long time. So when I became an Adventurer, Flash must have somehow caught wind of me being one, and decided to try to get close to me by being an Adventurer himself.”

“T-That’s so embarrassing! And creepy!”

Kudo couldn’t bear the idea of sucking up to someone after treating that person so badly before. His heart raced as if he was Flash himself and felt absolutely disgusted by his behavior.

“To be honest, I never planned on partying with him, even if I had problems with you.”

“I-I see! And…” Kudo hesitated, but he felt resolute in knowing the answer. “Do you have problems with… me?”

“Of course not. There’s no way I would party up with anyone but you. You made me into what I am today.”

Hinota answered with a light smile on her lips. The moon illuminated her face, revealing a beautiful image, which along with her words, made Kudo’s face brighten up like the sun.

“Kudo? You OK?”

“Y-Yes! I’m fine! T-T-Thank you very much for staying with me!”

Kudo couldn’t help with the sudden rising blush and thanked her with his body straighten out like a totem pole.

“Puh— hahaha! You should have known that I wouldn’t just party up with him and just leave you behind. You’re my friend, you know?”

Those words resounded in Kudo’s mind as he shared a faint smile that went along with Hinota’s beaming expression. Together, the two of them went to their inn and decided to take the test tomorrow morning, bright and early.

Meanwhile…

“There’s no way I can be in this party any longer! Micky, let’s go!”

“Right, Nee-chan.”

Lailah, along with Mick, turned and faced their backs against the two remaining ‘Hunt the World’ Adventurers as Lailah turned back to talk to her former leader, Flash in the middle of the street.

“You’re not the leader that I respected! You’re the worst! John, I hope you can find somebody better to be with than this loser!”

With no hesitation in her words, Lailah left along with Mick to their inn, leaving John and the frustrated Flash behind.

“…Guess it’s just us—”

“Shut up, John!”

****************************************************************************
With that, the duo returns together again! What will happen now that they have attained the right to take their Crafting Tests?! Find out what happens!


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