Chapter 14:

Loune and PlusFire

Hour Empty Child


The familiar sound of wood clattering against the dirt reverberated. Kudo Braven was once again waiting inside of a carriage as it took him to the next town.

Kudo Braven, the former village farmer turned Adventurer, waited to get to the next town as he stares out into the open air in the back of the carriage.

Usually, he would read his books to pass the time, but instead, he now has a friend to talk to.
Hinota Flamver, a former noble princess turned Adventurer, rode along with Kudo as they were in a party together.

Throughout the ride, they conversed in many things. Such as:

“Kudo, that guidebook,” Hinota spoke up, catching Kudo’s attention. “It’s the one that showed you all of your techniques, right?”

“That’s right. I learned everything that I know about from this book!”

“Eh…” Hinota sounded impressed as she recalls the advice she learned from him. “Then, you must really treasure the book. It looked so used and worn out.”

“Haha, I do try to take care of it every now and then. But sometimes I get too rough with this book.”

“Hehe, then…” Hinota took a moment before responding. “Would you… hate it if I ask to read it myself?”

“Go ahead!”

The quick response received from Kudo nearly made Hinota flabbergasted.

“E-Eh?”

“You can read it whenever you want! Don’t mind me.”

“B-But isn’t it precious to you?”

“Of course it is. My parents worked hard to get this book for me for my birthday when I became 5 years old. I treasured it ever since.”

“T-Then! It shouldn’t be left to me! It’s too precious!”

Knowing that it was such a precious book, Hinota tried to refuse even farther.

“Hinota, I don’t mind. If it’s to help you, you can have the book. It helped me dozens of times, so if you want to read it, go ahead.”

“Kudo…”

Hinota felt the kind generosity Kudo exuded from him as he happily handed her his precious guidebook, letting her feel the heaviness of its weight, and the thickness of the covers.

“Wow, quite hefty…”

“It’s a little dirty, and some papers are a little ripped…” Kudo rubbed his head sheepishly as his cheeks redden due to his various mishaps in his past.

“No… this book is very well taken cared of. I can feel it.”

Hinota opened the guidebook, and as if she was enchanted, she could feel the memories spent with the owner of the book, in a way. As she flipped through the pages, a myriad of information flowed into Hinota’s mind.

“It sure is a lot, isn’t it? It has about hundreds of pages in there.”

“Yeah. I learned a lot,” Hinota answered, which left Kudo to widen his eyes.

“B-But, Hinota, you haven’t read it yet…”

“Eh? I… didn’t I? I felt like I did.”

Kudo took a moment to realize something. He just saw Hinota flipped through dozens of pages in a single second. Then, she said that she learned a lot…

“…Hinota, did you read the book already?”

“…Ah.”

A feeling of surprised amazement was left on their faces.

“Hinota, that’s amazing!” Kudo was the first to respond with a loud yell, surprising Hinota herself.

“N-No way… it wouldn’t take this short of time to read an entire book. Usually, it would take me a couple of days…”

Hinota was left in shock as she just recalled all the information that she has just read easily.
“Hinota, what was shown on page 268?” Kudo decided to test her to prove that she really did learn it all.

“It showed the picture of a three-horned Unicorn, and how its horns are used as a medicinal powder and could be sold for lots of money.”

Hinota instantly answered, replaying the information she has just read.

“A-Amazing! That’s exactly right!”

Being the one that read it countless times, Kudo knew the page numbers by heart, and was taken aback by her suddenly remembering exactly what was on that page.

“Kudo, could this be the side-effect of raising my [INT] stat?”

“I think so… but I didn’t think the benefits would show up so soon! Hinota, that’s amazing!”

“Kudo,” Hinota couldn’t help but giggle. “You keep saying ‘that’s amazing’ too many times!”

“A-Ah, really? But it is! Imagine, now you can easily read books and gain [INT] and [WIS] stats!”

“Oh, so like with raising the physical stats by doing physical training, I can raise my cognitive stats by studying?”

“That’s right. You’re already getting everything down, huh?”

Kudo couldn’t help but smile. He couldn’t help but be glad that Hinota is getting more and more stronger by the second. Hinota responded with a smile back, getting Kudo to feel a sense of pride by helping her improve so much already.

As time passes by, the driver of the carriage ended up shouting:

“The city’s in sight!”

Hearing that, Kudo and Hinota checked out the area in front of them using the small window at the side of the carriage, and they became astounded.

The city seemed larger than in Klein. Compared to Klein, the town had a rustic feel with their wooden houses, making it seem more at home for the country boy Kudo.

The carriage went through the same system, the driver showing his license to the guards, allowing them entry inside after the long line they had to wait in.

As they entered, the riders got out of the carriage, revealing the two Adventurers with an expectant look on their faces.

“Here it is, Kudo,” Hinota looked up at the city with a happy glare which still looked frightening to everyone else, except for Kudo.

“Yeah, it’s Loune!”

—Loune is a large city within the Peranim country, and it is one of the main port cities of the country. Loune houses various ships which brought in many foreigners from other countries, making this city one of the main hubs for various foreign citizens.

In short, lots of different countrymen visits here.

“Wow… there’s so many people here…”

Going against his personal concern to meet up new people, Kudo was impressed at the amount of people walking through the streets. He doesn’t have a problem seeing people as long as they don’t talk to him.

“Not just our people. There are also people of different races as well.”

Hinota looked at one side, prompting Kudo to look. He sees at the commercial district of the port city various shops, and visiting those shops were people who had different characteristics that aren’t exactly human.

One species had long, pointy ears with a beautiful, nearly angular face—the Elf race.

Another was short as a child, yet it was buff and stout like an old man—the Dwarf race.

A being with scales for skin, resembling a ferocious dragon—the Dragmer race.

A person resembling that of an animal in the wild—the Beastman race.

A feminine being with glittering wings at its back—the Pixie race.

In Kudo’s eyes, he was seeing every person as different races, astounding his young, inexperienced mind.

“Wow…!”

“Kudo, don’t get too excited—if you do, the other races might feel offended.”

Being the more socially experienced, Hinota offered wisdom to the unknowing Kudo, surprising him.

“Ah! Oh, I didn’t think…”

“Don’t worry,” Hinota calms him down as she explained. “There are some extreme cases where other races might misunderstand, and think that they were on display for you to enjoy. Be calm when you’re talking to them, and pretend that they’re human, like you.”

“A-Ah, right. Got it,” Kudo nodded vigorously. “Thanks, Hinota. You saved me from making unnecessary enemies…”

“It’s what I do.”

Hinota answered with a cool face, practically emitting cockiness from her smile. Giving out a chuckle, Kudo looks out to see his surroundings.

“The Guild Hall should be around here somewhere. Let’s look for it!”

Kudo and Hinota set off towards their destination which was the guild’s location in the deepest part of the city.

After traversing in the districts, Kudo and Hinota see the guild hall, which compared to the feeling of home that the Klein Adventurers’ Guild Hall showed, this particular one was reinforced with stone and had garrison-like structures around its perimeter.

Kudo and Hinota entered through the guild hall which they felt an indescribable feeling of nostalgia hitting against them.

The galvanized sounds of iron and metal clashed together like a symphony of loud screeches. Though for the duo Adventurers, after spending so much time here, it sounded like as if they were back at home. The Adventurers clashed together in a sea of rambunctious chaos, but it only made Kudo smile.

“Kudo, let’s head on over and sign up with the guild.”

“Right, otherwise, we won’t be able to participate in quests.”

Kudo told Hinota beforehand that singing up with the guild meant that they must sign up in order to participate in quests. If they don’t, even if they take a quest and complete it, they will be charged with acting a job that they did not sign up properly for and could be severely punished and charged with acting illegally in Loune’s grounds.

“They’re really strict with these rules. I thought anyone can just take a quest and complete it,” Hinota spoke her mind after recalling the rules to participate.

“I read in the guidebook that there are a lot of imposters that acts like Adventurers so they can take the easy quests and rake in Jib for themselves—though I never seen it happened before.”

“Unforgivable. They can’t pass a simple exam for the Adventurers’ License, yet they act like real Adventurers. How unsightly.”

Hinota shared her disgust as she thought about those imposters.

“Well, it’s not just the exam. They also had to pay such a large fee…”

Being the one that worked 10 whole years just to get enough for the License’s fee and other necessary items left Kudo to feel conflicted about it.

“Well, forget about that now. Let’s get going.”

“Right!”

As quickly as they came in, Kudo and Hinota got up to the receptionist, upon which Kudo had no difficulty unlike last time. The both of them lined up together to face the receptionist.
“Welcome to Loune’s Adventurers’ Guild Hall! I take it you are new Adventurers looking to signing up for the quests?”

The receptionist this time was another well-defined beauty like in Klein. Another beautiful woman with long, straight black hair. Her eyes were the brightest blue like a shining sapphire which, along with her bright face, left an impression on the young Kudo.

“Umm… uh…”

Kudo was left nearly speechless. Only unintelligible words were coming out of him.
And then suddenly, pain entered his rib cage.

“Ghh!”

Kudo’s rib was elbowed by Hinota, whose scowl was apparent even more so on her face.
“Ah… W-We like to sign up!” Kudo hurried up his transaction, leaving the receptionist to ignore what she just saw.

“Alright, then please sign these documents here. After that, please pay the admission fee in order to participate in the Loune’s Guild Hall quests. As you know, by paying this fee, in accordance to the Adventurers’ Pact, you are allowed to take on quests and receive rewards if you manage to complete one.”

The receptionist continued her explanation as the duo Adventurers take their time to write.
At that moment, Hinota noticed something. While her writing was well-defined and wrote perfectly, Kudo’s handwriting was crude, and had a lack of precise writing.

In fact, it looked like it was impossible for Kudo to write anything at all with his writing.
Now that I think about it… he never went to school.

As a noble, Hinota was given education at a fairly young age, learning how to read and write properly like a proper intellectual. Of course, that was only possible for nobles who had enough money to give her that education.

But what about poor citizens that belonged in simple villages? Kudo Braven, a boy raised in a village, has never properly gone to school. Therefore, he had nobody to teach him how to write or even read. Kudo had excellent taste in reading, but his handwriting leaves much to be desired.

Mmh… This caught Hinota’s interest as Kudo sent his documents to the pretty receptionist, getting Hinota to follow also.

“…Ah, you have a hard time writing, huh?” The receptionist, which was named Yenna on hr name tag, looked at Kudo’s documents and nearly squinted as if it could help her see his writing much better.

“Ah, I’m sorry…” Kudo felt embarrassed as Yenna replied with ‘No problem!’ as she continued her work.

After a while of documentation, Yenna took their admissions fee, sharing no problem with it.

“You two are now eligible to partake in quests! Please be careful from now on.”

“Thank you very much,” The two responded back as Yenna takes another look at them.
“Excuse me,” Yenna asked politely. “If you don’t mind me asking, are you two part of the same party?”

“Oh, yes, we are.”

Kudo responded with a prideful look on his face.

“Then! You two can sign up your party to become an official one!”

Yenna responded with a gleeful look, clasping her hands together to signify her excitement.
“Official…?” Hinota tried to recall what she meant by remembering the guidebook, but there was nothing that she can remember by.

“I’m sorry, but what does that mean?” Seeing Kudo ask that question, Hinota realized that this wasn’t part of the guidebook.

“Ah, see, this was created some time ago. By creating a link between Adventurers, using their Licenses—as in their Growth Crystals—you can become part of a party together. In a party, when you go and kill a monster, whether it’s one or the other, the both of them gain the same amount of experience!”

The surprised look on the two Adventurers’ faces left Yenna feeling quite fulfilled.

“Eh?! Can you do that? Share Experience Points?”

“Of course!”

“B-But that sounds nearly impossible!” Hinota nearly banged on the counter. “How can that happen?”

“Well, it’s rather complicated,” Yenna had a look that spoke that it’s too troublesome to explain. “So I’ll give the short version. Basically, both of you link up your mana through your Growth Crystals, and when you kill monsters, when you gain their Experience Points, all the points goes to each of you.”

“T-That’s amazing…” Kudo was left gaping at the unbelievable feature of his Growth Crystal.

“However, it’s not like a powerful Adventurer can just power-level a low level Adventurer so easily. First, if there’s a big difference in levels between the party members, it won’t work. Second, when one Adventurer kills a monster, he gains all the Points. The other member that did nothing gains about a fraction of the points.”

“Eh… then that’s not very impressive,” Hinota’s spirit of excitement nearly left her after hearing that.

“That’s still great news, Hinota! If we keep killing monsters over and over, those fractions of Points accumulate and become larger!”

Kudo is already seeing the bright side of this phenomenon, catching Hinota’s eye.

“Well… then, let’s sign up for it.”

“Then, please let me state the rules when creating an official party.”

And so, Yenna explained the rules to the Duo Adventurers.

First, they had to sign another document. Then, Yenna took out another small contraption, which was another pedestal that was similar to the one that gave Kudo his Class.

“Now, place your Growth Crystals on top of the pedestal for a moment.”

Yenna responded with a smile as the duo places their crystals on top of the green-colored pedestal. Once more, a screen of light appeared near their heads as the words cascaded down in it.

Their names, Kudo Braven and Hinota Flamver, showed up and the stacked on top of each other.

“There! Now you two are part of the same party! Now that you are in a party, the one who is chosen to be a Party leader can invite anyone else into the party by just placing their Growth Crystals together. That way, you can avoid so much signing up like this!”

“Wow, convenient~”

Kudo spoke up as Hinota nodded in agreement.

“Now that you two are in the same party, you are now able to communicate with each other from long distances.”

“W-What? Seriously?” Kudo’s face remained in shock as Hinota listened.

“That’s right. With this, all you have to do is just speak to your Growth Crystal. Just say ‘Call’ and then your party members’ name. Through the connection you just made to make your party, your mana will connect to the other, allowing your voices to speak through the crystals.

“W-Wow…”

“Please, try it out!”

Yenna offered a smile as Kudo and Hinota did so. They took their Growth Crystals into their hands. After that, Kudo was the first to speak.

“Call! Hinota!”

Kudo shouted to his Growth Crystal, causing it to shine and glimmer in a bright light, which then dimmed down.

“H-Hinota, can you hear me?”

Kudo spoke into it. During so made Hinota’s crystal vibrate.

“E-Eh?”

“The recipient must answer the vibrating call by pressing the crystal lightly to accept."

After having heard her explanation, Hinota did so by pressing gently to her crystal.

“K-Kudo?”

Hinota’s voice reverberated from Kudo’s crystal.

“Oh! It works! I can hear her!”

“Hehe,” Yenna chuckled before continuing. “Now that you two made a party, would you like to make a party name?”

Hearing that, Kudo and Hinota looked at each other in surprise but then realized that this is how it should work.

“It’s very important,” Yenna continued. “Because this way, we can better contribute to a named party with several Adventurers from another party who took the nearly same quest. To avoid infighting between several parties who took down the same monster, for example.”
“Ah, when you put it like that…” Kudo realizes as he places his hand over his mouth and considered the name.

“Hinota, what should we name it?”

Kudo had no idea, so he asked Hinota.

“Mmh, how about… PlusFire?”

“PlusFire… you mean our combo attack?”

“Right. Since the combo is sort of how we ended up together, I figured we would name our party the same way… is that OK?” Hinota asks as a look of concern flashed across her face.
“Of course! That sounds great! It sounds so mystical and cool.”

Kudo expressed his joy as Hinota nodded, turning her direction to Yenna.

“We would like to name our party ‘PlusFire’.”

“Then, that’ll make things easier!” Yenna then bowed slightly to them. “May Isabel bless you on your journey!”

Waving back at her, Kudo and Hinota left the counter. However, right before Hinota was going to follow Kudo—

“—Hey, come here a second.”

Yenna called over Hinota, catching her attention as she walked back to greet her.

“Yes, what is it?” Hinota asks as her curiosity got the best of her.

“You know, your boyfriend is pretty cute. That innocent-minded personality is a big plus as well. You should be careful not to let other women take him away from you~”

While Yenna spoke like a professional, as of every receptionist in every Adventurers’ Guild, Yenna’s facial expression changed to that of a gossiping young woman, winking at Hinota whose cheeks reddens like a teapot.

“W-We’re not like that! We’re just friends!”

Making sure that no rumors spread—And Hinota can tell that Yenna was the type of woman that would spread rumors—she wanted to make sure that Yenna is cleared up of her misunderstanding of their relationship.

“Is that so?” A look of surprise was shown, but she continued with her teasing expression. “That’s quite a waste. You two look so good together!”

“T-That’s none of your concern…”

Hinota’s cheeks reddened again as Yenna giggled at her gestures.

“Ah, make sure that you look out for him. He seems to be a gullible type.”

Yenna offered her advice as she waved cutely at Hinota, getting her to turn her head, disgruntled as she walked back to Kudo who waited for her return.

“Hinota, did something happen?” Kudo asks to be sure if there was a problem.

“It was nothing. Come on, let’s go eat!”

Hinota quickly grabbed his wrist as she answered curtly, dragging Kudo away from their current position, or better yet, away from Yenna.

The duo Adventurers, now called PlusFire, went out of the Guild Hall and found an inn to stay and eat.

Once they got inside and paid their rent for staying in the inn’s rooms—The inn known as ‘Heaven’s Wings’—they headed towards the mess hall and found a table for themselves, deciding to make this table, farther away from the usual rabble of other citizens and Adventurers, as their official briefing table.

They felt comfortable as Kudo was not used to being near other people, fearing that they might talk to him, and for Hinota, who doesn’t want any unwanted men to come near her.
They ordered their food, and once more, the gap between the meals remained unchanged. Kudo’s meal had only a plate of salad, few pieces of meat and fruits mixed in it along with a glass of milk.

Hinota, on the other hand, had a full-course meal which nearly took up more than half of the table, filled with plates such as meat ribs, chicken stir-fry, rice with spicy curry, a cooked fish and finally a large tankard of fruit juice jam-packed with vitamins to get her going for the day. Though she was enjoying some succulent meals, Hinota had a stern look on her scowling face.

“Hinota?” Kudo noticed it after a while and asked. “Is anything wrong? You look upset.”
“Kudo, I thought you were over being nervous around other people.”

Hinota responded with a stern look, her eyes showing disappointment.

“Ah, yeah… I thought I was finally able to talk normally, but…”

Kudo sheepishly rubbed the back of his head, feeling embarrassed that he still gets nervous when meeting new people, particularly girls. This got Hinota curious.

“… Kudo, back at your village, were there any girls? Girls that were nice to look at?”

Hinota’s curiosity got the best of her and made her ask that question.

“Not really. My village, Arkhem, only had one child my age, and that’s me.”

A look of shock came over Hinota’s face.

“Only one? You were the only one in your village your age?”

“Yeah. The rest were different, most of them having more than 20 years than me, and the other few who are children which were about 7 to 8 years old.”

“I see…”

Hinota could now realize why Kudo would be nervous when speaking to people that weren’t the specific age set that Kudo was used to.

“Hah, other than you, I never really had a friend close to my age before…”

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Kudo,” Hinota formed a smile. “You can’t help that you were the only teenager.”

“Haha…” Kudo chuckled awkwardly, but then it was replaced with a warm smile. “Hinota, I’m glad that you became my friend. I don’t think I would have gone so far like this if it weren’t for you…”

Hearing Kudo’s words, Hinota felt his sincere words piercing her soul.

“So, umm… I hope that we can stay together for a long while!”

Kudo’s lips formed into a genuine smile which seemed so bright under the lamps around the cafeteria. Hinota felt relieved hearing that, knowing what Kudo thought of her.

As they enjoyed their meals, Hinota was thinking in her own world about his situation.
Kudo is very honest and sincere… if other women know of this, they’ll only use his naïve view of the world and take advantage of him. And since he doesn’t have any experience with women, they could twist his mind and think that this is how love works…

As Hinota thought, Kudo noticed her stern look once more, “Hinota, what’s wrong?”

Kudo asked again, however, Hinota remained quiet as she continued to think.

I can’t let that happen! I have to protect his chastity and guard him against other women! The world of women is frightening, and Kudo wouldn’t be able to handle that at all! I have to protect him!

Hinota made a silent fist bump to herself as she took on this solemn duty to become Kudo’s guardian, leaving Kudo who saw all that to make a question mark appear on his head and tilted his head.

“Hinota…?”

**********************************************************************
Hinota takes on her duty to protect him at all costs! Protect his chastity, Hinota Flamver! Don’t give up!


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