Chapter 16:

Plus Pulse and Training

Hour Empty Child

It became the end of the busy day for the PlusFire. The moon shone brilliantly in the blackish sky, dark clouds blocking the luminescent light as the townspeople of Loune prepares for their venture into their homes and into their slumbers.Bookmark here

But the PlusFire were not done yet.Bookmark here

Inside of Hinota’s room in the ‘Heaven’s Wings’ inn, inside the spacious room where they put away all the furniture to the side with a single candlelight lighting the dim atmosphere. Heavy breaths were let out in the air, the air becoming hot and steamy as the residents’ loud voices overlapped with each other.Bookmark here

“Hinota… I can’t go on…”Bookmark here

“Come on, Kudo! Just one more round!”Bookmark here

Hinota urged him on, but his tired voice groaned out of his mouth.Bookmark here

“I-I can’t…” Kudo could feel his entire body contorting in pain as he spoke these words. “I can’t go on anymore! You’re splitting me apart!”Bookmark here

Kudo pleaded as Hinota was currently on top of him, bending his arm behind his back, completely dominating him. Hinota heaved a heavy sigh as she lets go of her grip, relieving Kudo of the hold.Bookmark here

Hinota stood up, showing off her supple, toned body as she wore a black tank top and short pants, her usual wear for personal clothing. Her mature body, to which was nearly bursting out of her clothing as sweat drenched her body, made her seem much more daring than before.Bookmark here

Kudo was also wearing his usual wear for inside use, wearing a black shirt and gray shorts. He looked up to Hinota, his head down on the ground due to exhaustion, and saw the image of the candle’s light hitting on Hinota’s sweating, glimmering body. Hinota turned her sight to Kudo after she has taken a small tower and placed it on top of her neck.Bookmark here

Kudo’s cheeks redden as he looked away from the beautiful sight Hinota was showing.Bookmark here

“Kudo, you’re seriously weak. It’s unbelievable.”Bookmark here

Hinota made her analysis after their silence. This hits Kudo deeper than the spar they just had.Bookmark here

“Ghh! I... I have no excuses…”Bookmark here

“Though your grip strength is amazing, thanks to your work on your farm, the rest of your body is severely lacking. How is it that you’re weak despite having worked on a farm?”Bookmark here

“Eh… probably because I usually don’t do much work. I only take care of the animals and take care of expenses…”Bookmark here

“Expenses?”Bookmark here

Hinota became interested as Kudo finally sat up, feeling his inner emotions calming down as he explained.Bookmark here

“See, my parents taught me basic math, but they weren’t really good with expenses. So, because I was trying to raise Jib for my License, I took over trying to take care of our expenses. Food, maintenance, taking care of the animals. I tried everything I can to keep ourselves out of the red.”Bookmark here

“O-Oh…”Bookmark here

Kudo felt like he was admitting a big secret, feeling a little ashamed as he explained his reasoning because he felt that it must sound like an excuse to Hinota.Bookmark here

“Though, I know that I should have trained harder than this…”Bookmark here

“H-Hey, don’t worry about it,” Hinota stuttered. “Still, this is surprising. I didn’t know that you had a job like that.”Bookmark here

Rather than chiding him, Kudo saw the look of awe in Hinota’s face, looking as if she was impressed.Bookmark here

“W-Well, it’s not that hard, once you know how to do numbers.”Bookmark here

“But, taking care of expenses even though you were younger. It’s no wonder you turn out so well as an Adventurer.”Bookmark here

“Eh?” Kudo became surprised from the sudden praise, and sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as he formed a silly smile. “Hehe~ you think so?”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

Hinota shared a smile, but then that smile disappeared as she crossed her arms.Bookmark here

“However! This cannot continue!”Bookmark here

Her suddenly loud and crisp voice nearly made Kudo topple as she stands resolute.Bookmark here

“I can’t have you be this weak as my partner! From now on, we’ll be doing strength training and vitality training! To raise your [STR] and [VIT] stats! We’ll also train your dexterity to improve your speed! Every night, we’re doing this to raise our physical stats!”Bookmark here

“Oh…” Kudo sounded impressed, thinking that this was a good idea, but then his face contorted into immense terror. “Eh?!”Bookmark here

Of course, training with Hinota doesn’t sound like a dream that he likes to have, even if he gets t see something nice. However, Hinota’s glare proved that she wasn’t joking.Bookmark here

“H-Hinota, I won’t survive!”Bookmark here

“Kudo, I’ll work you over until you become a completely new man!”Bookmark here

Kudo could see Hinota’s burning spirit rising from her as she clenches her fist with fiery eyes. Seeing such resolution from her, a cold sweat trickled down his back apart from his warmer sweat.Bookmark here

“Ah… I’ll probably won’t be able to go to sleep after this peacefully…”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Kudo was right. After their spar, which was used to get Hinota to see how fit Kudo’s body was, she put up an extensive training regime where she pushed Kudo to the limits.Bookmark here

Basic exercises, endurance training, as well as strength training, Hinota made Kudo do it all inside of their room. Thankfully, the room was spacious as the inn offered tons of living space for their rooms, otherwise, they couldn’t be able to train as much.Bookmark here

Despite Kudo’s objections, he knew that when he would level up, his physical stats will increase, so he didn’t complain as much.Bookmark here

Kudo wasn’t able to sleep as much as he could since his body became extremely sore. At the next day, dark bags were shown in his eyes as Hinota faced him outside of their rooms.Bookmark here

“Kudo, you sure look worse for wear.”Bookmark here

“Whose fault do you think is that?!” Kudo shouted back with animosity.Bookmark here

“Well, let’s get some breakfast. We need our energy to grind our skill levels.”Bookmark here

“Ghh…”Bookmark here

Kudo’s tears nearly ran down his cheeks as Hinota casually ignored his plight, leading towards the cafeteria.Bookmark here

After their breakfast, the PlusFire began their grinding regime.Bookmark here

They left the city of Loune and headed towards the large river that streamed down south near the city. Nobody would dare go near the river as a group of monsters made it their home—Bookmark here

—Monsters known as Kappas.Bookmark here

They had the appearance of a goblin, except that they had a large beak, green hair with a cup on their head with webbed hands and feet. Their sharp teeth and red eyes make for a more frightening monster than goblins.Bookmark here

Though their levels were slightly higher than the PlusFire, with their raised skills and levels, the two managed to easily annihilate any Kappa that stood in their way.Bookmark here

Throughout the pattern, Kudo felt a disturbed sense, feeling a sense of dread, and Hinota notices it.Bookmark here

As they have finished their grinding session, Hinota asked about what she noticed.Bookmark here

“Kudo, did something happened?”Bookmark here

Walking back from the surrounding area of Loune, Hinota turned to Kudo, knocking him out of his head and faced her.Bookmark here

“Hinota… My skill, 【Plus Pulse】… I think I realize how it works.”Bookmark here

The PlusFire, during their grinding session, made sure to use their buffs whenever they can so that they can raise its levels, but after using the skill many times, Kudo saw a pattern in it.
“Last time, it gave us an increase in speed, right?”Bookmark here

“Oh…” Hinota recalled the last time he used his buff, getting her to feel the massive decrease in her weight. “Yeah, it made me go even faster.”Bookmark here

“I think I know why it just increased another stat. It’s because it only increases one stat, and it comes randomly…”Bookmark here

“Random?”Bookmark here

“That’s right,” Kudo’s face contorted into worry as he gazes at Hinota. “And it’s not just my buff that’s random either. My 【Plus Bomb】… do you remember back at Klein that I tried to blow up 4 goblins at once, but it didn’t kill them?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, of course. You told me that it might be because the damage was spread apart.”Bookmark here

“It’s not like that at all.”Bookmark here

Hinota widens her eyes as she recalled his last words.Bookmark here

“Then…”Bookmark here

“That’s right. The damage for 【Plus Bomb】 is random as well.”Bookmark here

Finally affirming his own theories, Hinota asked again.Bookmark here

“So, it could be extremely strong, or extremely weak, at random times?”Bookmark here

“It could also just deal normal damage, or everything in between… it’s too hard to see how much exact damage it could make.”Bookmark here

“No way…”Bookmark here

Words of disbelief escaped from Hinota’s lips. If his skills were all random, then they shouldn’t be trusted. After all, anything that doesn’t provide a solid power is not considered wise to use.Bookmark here

“Hah...” Kudo heaved a sigh that seemed to carry his soul in it.Bookmark here

“So, that must be the reason why your Class relies on the [LUK] stat?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. In the end, it still needs to rely on luck for it be stronger… Mmh…”Bookmark here

Kudo continued to think deeply, putting his hand on his chin which got Hinota to notice this.Bookmark here

“Kudo, you always put your hand on your chin whenever you think deeply, don’t you?”Bookmark here

“Eh?” Kudo became surprised to hear Hinota say that, and he surprised himself when he saw himself actually doing it. “Ah… I guess I do.”Bookmark here

“You make such a serious face, and yet you show what you’re thinking so easily. Hahaha!”
Hinota chuckled as Kudo rubbed the back of his head.Bookmark here

“I guess… it’s kinda embarrassing now that I think about it.”Bookmark here

“Well, don’t worry about it too much. In the end, it still saved us many times, so it can’t be all that bad.”Bookmark here

As Kudo felt his face flushed, Hinota offered kind words to cheer him up. Hinota did a fine job as Kudo’s expression changed to a lighter one, opening up his skill list to see how much progress he made.Bookmark here

“Oh… I got a new skill!”Bookmark here

“Eh?! Really?”Bookmark here

Hinota’s eyes widened as Kudo himself was shocked. Seeing a new skill himself, his face turned slowly into that of hopelessness.Bookmark here

“Ah… it’s the same as always. There’s nothing there but garble.”Bookmark here

Kudo heaved a sigh as he showed his skill by swiping his screen away to Hinota.Bookmark here

【Minus Pulse】 Lv. 1 (Proficiency: 0%)Bookmark here

“Oh, it has a new name! 【Minus Pulse】… it sounds like the exact opposite of 【Plus Pulse】.” Hinota analyzed the skill in her mind, making several hypotheses already.Bookmark here

“I just hope it’s not a negative skill for me…”Bookmark here

“Geez, Kudo, don’t be so pessimistic. It could be another buff or something. Something like a debuff?”Bookmark here

Hinota recalled the word ‘debuff’ in the guidebook, mentioning making a negative status onto an enemy.Bookmark here

“Maybe… well, I won’t let it get me down. In the end, I decided to take this Class.”Bookmark here

“Exactly!” Hinota loudly smacked Kudo’s shoulder with her hand, offering a grand smile. “You just gotta believe in your skills!”Bookmark here

“Hehe~ Got it.”Bookmark here

Once the PlusFire has gotten back to Loune, they prepared for another venture as it was still early in the day. After picking up their supplies to go out again, Kudo bought a pickaxe from a nearby store with Hinota to start grinding his Crafting Skill.Bookmark here

“So, we’re going to look for more 【Iron Ores】?”Bookmark here

“Right. I figured we can get some stuff on our own rather than keep buying it. It’s less daunting on our pockets.”Bookmark here

“True enough. Then, where do we go?”Bookmark here

Upon asking, Hinota was shown on the map they bought along with the pickaxe with all the known mining points crossed out on it. Seeing their next destination on the map, the PlusFire quickly headed over there before any other Adventurer gets to it.Bookmark here

As they head over there, they began their next conversation.Bookmark here

“Kudo, if everybody looks for 【Iron Ores】, how can there be enough for us to collect? Wouldn’t it run out?”Bookmark here

“It would, but since the earth is made of mana, the ores created in the earth are also connected with mana. Even if dug out, the ore would quickly recover, returning back to its former glory.”Bookmark here

“Eh…” Hinota’s eyes remained in awe. “So everyone can mine it without limit?”Bookmark here

“Not exactly,” Kudo corrected. “When you pick out the ore, you need to wait for several hours, or days if it was completely destroyed, for it to completely recover. After that, you can pick it out again.”Bookmark here

“Ah… so we might get unlucky and never be able to recover some Ores.”Bookmark here

Hinota considered her timing to get the ores along with the timing of other Adventurers picking out the ores, getting her to sigh.Bookmark here

“Right. We might get unlucky, though. Sometimes the amount of Ores vary, so we might not be able to even get at least 4 ores…”Bookmark here

“Eh, that sounds troublesome…”Bookmark here

The PlusFire continued their adventure, reaching towards the next mining spot. It was near the cliff side, where many boulders were strewn about on the ground. Gray boulders, with a slight shine, shimmered from the sunlight not blocked by the hanging cliffs which caught Kudo’s attention.Bookmark here

“Hinota! I found it!”Bookmark here

Kudo shouted at Hinota who was looking at the other path, getting her to look back and saw Kudo running towards the small boulder.Bookmark here

“Is that the Iron Ore spot?”Bookmark here

“It should be. It has a shine right here, so I think this might be it.”Bookmark here

“Alright then,” Hinota clap her hands together, making a sharp sound. “Start working!”Bookmark here

“Got it!”Bookmark here

As if he was reinvigorated by her words, Kudo picked up his pickaxe from his [Magic Bag], and began to mine the stone.Bookmark here

Raising the pickaxe over his head, he swung it down with an immense force onto the stone. *Crack!* the pickaxe pierced the stone slightly.Bookmark here

“Whoo… tough rock.”Bookmark here

“Well, nobody said that it would be easy…” Hinota assessed as Kudo swings the pickaxe at the stone again.Bookmark here

Each time he swings, the pickaxe destroys the stone slightly. With each swing, his stamina decreases.Bookmark here

“Hah, it hurts…”Bookmark here

“Kudo, what’s wrong?”Bookmark here

Hinota sounded surprised to Kudo, even though Kudo believed that it was her fault, since his body was still sore.Bookmark here

“H-Hey…” Kudo spoke after swinging it once more. “C-Can you help out, at least?”Bookmark here

“But, Kudo, this is your job.”Bookmark here

Hinota responded with a slightly sarcastic tone. Kudo looked behind, seeing her making a coy smile which made him realize something.Bookmark here

D-Don’t tell me this is also part of training?!Bookmark here

His body shivered as he recalls the training from last night, and now he had to go through it all again with his sore body. With every aching pain coursing through his arms, legs, and torso, Kudo’s face nearly contorted into a painful expression.Bookmark here

T-This is not fun anymore…Bookmark here

Kudo never wanted anything more but to kick his younger self for not training hard enough.
After a while, Kudo has finally picked out the Ores that was held within the stone. After checking out the Ores, each one had a surprised look on their faces.Bookmark here

“Hey, Kudo… correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the usual rate of getting ores out of a stone was about 3 or 4?”Bookmark here

“Yes,” Kudo responded. “It should be.”Bookmark here

“Then…”Bookmark here

Hinota trails off as she and Kudo saw, on the ground rested on a blanket, 6 shiny 【Iron Ores】 that were picked out by Kudo.Bookmark here

“How come we got so many Ores out of one stone?!”Bookmark here

“I-I don’t know! Maybe… we just found a really fruitful stone?”Bookmark here

“…” Hinota assessed in her mind, and quickly realized an answer. “Could it be because of your high [LUK] stat?”Bookmark here

“What?” Kudo retorted. “No way! I mean, the [LUK] stat also raises the chances of getting items? I think that might be pushing it a little.”Bookmark here

“Mmh… don’t we still have to get more?”Bookmark here

“Mmh? Ah, yeah. I need at least 50 Ores…”Bookmark here

“Then,” Hinota put on her serious expression. “Let’s find them quickly!”Bookmark here

As Hinota suggested, the PlusFire continued on their personal quest to find more 【Iron Ores】. With each stone they find, Kudo was to be the one to mine them out. Not only that it was for his training, it was also to see if Hinota’s hypothesis would come true.Bookmark here

As the day slowly turned over to the evening, her hypothesis came to be.Bookmark here

“It’s… unbelievable…”Bookmark here

Kudo responded with a shocked expression, with Hinota sitting by his side as she watched the Ores in front of them.Bookmark here

Kudo has amassed about 86 【Iron Ores】, all from only finding 14 stones throughout the day.Bookmark here

“How could I get the maximum amount of Ores from all of them?! That’s insane!”Bookmark here

“I knew it. So raising your [LUK] up to a large point does affect the chances outside of battle!”
“B-But that’s… no way…”Bookmark here

Kudo couldn’t believe it. If he wasn’t a Crafter, if all these Ores that were on the ground in front of him proved no use for him, he could sell all this and could live out his life in a medium luxury…Bookmark here

“T-This is amazing… with this much, I can even make Steel equipment!” Kudo shouted as his eyes nearly glimmered from the idea of making a new, powerful equipment.Bookmark here

“Mmh…” Hinota remained quiet as an idea popped into her head.Bookmark here

“Hinota?”Bookmark here

“Kudo…” Hinota spoke to him with a serious tone, but formed a devilish smile. “I got an idea. Let’s get back to town!”Bookmark here

Kudo saw her devilish smile, forming a malicious aura which resembled the times when she would bargain for impossible prices.Bookmark here

After recovering all the 【Iron Ores】, they quickly returned back to town as night quickly sets in. Bookmark here

Once they settled in, Hinota suddenly grabs Kudo’s wrist, and dragged him out of the inn, going to a linear path to the southern part of town.Bookmark here

“H-Hey, Hinota, where are we going?”Bookmark here

Kudo’s innocent mind tried to find out the answer from his suspicious friend.Bookmark here

“Kudo, from now on, follow my lead. And don’t say anything, got it?”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes…?”Bookmark here

Kudo had no choice but to agree. Knowing her, she knows that it’s for the benefit of their party. But after a while, Kudo was starting to get suspicious…Bookmark here

What they saw was a sketchy neighborhood, filled with translucent shops that sold various oddities that…satisfies the common people. What they entered was the aisle for adults, called the ‘Pleasure Welcomes’.Bookmark here

“H-Hinota, are we allowed to be in here…?”Bookmark here

“Of course we are. The legal age is 15, you know.”Bookmark here

“I-Is that so…?”Bookmark here

After Kudo was nearly taken aback by the sights, involving lots of dolled up pretty women and various sketchy men in luxurious clothing, Hinota brought Kudo to the one place where all kinds of commotions were taking place.Bookmark here

“It was called the ‘Gambler’s Den’.Bookmark here

It was a run down building, separate from the others. Various people, suspicious people, would come in and out, laughing loudly in the night. The smell of alcohol and smoke wafts in the air as a single red drape covered the entrance.Bookmark here

“…Hinota!” After taking a moment, Kudo finally realized something. “You’re not thinking of—”
“—Of course I am!” Hinota interrupted him. “Now, follow my lead.”Bookmark here

After putting on a serious face, Hinota got Kudo to move along, dragging him inside the den.
Going into the building, the smell would overwhelm the young farmer boy.Bookmark here

“Gah… this smell…”Bookmark here

“Yep, this is exactly where it would be back in Erijo,” Hinota commented on her birth town as she brought Kudo along inside the den.Bookmark here

Inside the den was various tables, holding games that had a dealer along with a bar counter to sell alcohol to the players. Music was playing along at the back part of the den played by various [Bards], a Class that uses instruments to give buffs to Adventurers.Bookmark here

Kudo looked around the den with fresh eyes, getting used to the many people often contorting their faces to pure pleasure when they were playing games, and some frantically pulling their hair from the losses.Bookmark here

Soon, Hinota stopped, getting Kudo to knock himself back into reality.Bookmark here

“Here it is. Kudo, go play here.”Bookmark here

Hinota showed what was in front of them. It was a long table with various players sitting by the edge. A single man stood by wearing a black and white suit, held a cup in his hand which he shook continuously, making the inside of the cup rattle as if something was being thrown aside inside of it.Bookmark here

The dealer looked back, wearing a scar across his temple to his left eye, nearly shaven brown hair, and droopy eyes which along with it came a smile that sent chills down the children’s spines.Bookmark here

“Oh-ho… we have some wild players already. You two are 15 years old, right?”Bookmark here

The dealer took a moment to stop shaking and addressed the PlusFire. The look on the dealer’s face got Kudo to nearly shake in his boots.Bookmark here

“That’s right,” Hinota responded, not being taken aback by this atmosphere. “My friend here wants to play. Do take it easy, though. He’s new at this.”Bookmark here

“Oh…” The dealer took a long look, moving his sight up and down at Kudo who stood frozen. “I see. I can tell that he’s a noob at this.”Bookmark here

The dealer then moved aside, showing a free seat near the two players, a man dressed in a suit and a woman who wore a silk hat and a fine dress.Bookmark here

“Come on over. I’ll show you how this works. If you’re willing to pay, that is.”Bookmark here

Offering another creepy smile, Kudo hesitantly looked at Hinota, getting her to nod slightly. Kudo walked over to the seat, and sat down as he was told the rules.Bookmark here

“Now, first off,” The dealer started. “You always pay up before I roll. Plain and simple. You can up the deal if you’re feeling lucky, or downsize it, but you can’t go under 500 Jib.”Bookmark here

The dealer started to shake his cup, making more rattling noises as he continued.Bookmark here

“There are two dice in this cup. You make the closest guess before I throw it, and you get paid by the amount. The closer your guess, the more your pay is increased. Make the correct guess, and you get double the pay. And that’s the rules.”Bookmark here

Finishing off like that, every player then began to pay up 500 jib, putting them onto the table. Seeing everyone doing, Kudo does the same.Bookmark here

“Now, make your bets!”Bookmark here

As the dealer shouted, the other players responded by shouting out a number. After everyone made their call, it was Kudo’s turn.Bookmark here

“Umm… Uh…”Bookmark here

Kudo could feel their stares piercing him, getting him to fumble and look behind for Hinota’s say.Bookmark here

“Kudo!” Hinota whispered strongly. “Make a guess!”Bookmark here

Seeing her response, Kudo had no choice but to shout, “F-Four!”Bookmark here

Once he shouted, the dealer then lets loose the dice. The two numbered cubes then fall onto the table. The dices rolled on until they came to a slow stop, appearing the numbers of each dice ‘2’.Bookmark here

“We have a winner! Correct guess!”Bookmark here

The dealer widens his eyes and shouted, getting everyone around Kudo to clap slightly at his win. Seeing that he just won, the dealer took everyone’s money that had a wrong answer, and paid Kudo with 1,000 Jib instead.Bookmark here

“I-I did it, Hinota!”Bookmark here

Kudo looked back, his face filled with shock and amazement.Bookmark here

“Yeah, now pay up exactly what you got, Kudo!”Bookmark here

Seeing her excited expression, Kudo nodded in agreement as he has done what she said.
For the next hour, Kudo gave his guesses, which turned out to be the correct one.Bookmark here

Each one, Kudo has paid up all of his winnings, getting double of what he just earned. With each correct guess, the payment stockpiled, enough to get everyone to become either excited or miffed at his success.Bookmark here

After the next hour, even the dealer was getting quite annoyed, as his left eye covered by the scar twitched slightly.Bookmark here

Seeing that twitch, Hinota made her move.Bookmark here

“Kudo, time to go!”Bookmark here

Grabbing his shoulder, Hinota dragged the shocked Kudo as his face contorted into shock.Bookmark here

“W-Why?! I was getting so much, Hinota!” Kudo asks as he was getting so into the gambling that he didn’t notice the awful auras that were emanating from the other players.Bookmark here

“And that’s exactly why we’re getting out! Now move it!”Bookmark here

Following her order, Kudo followed Hinota out of the den, escaping everyone’s malicious stares as they headed back to the inn.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Whoo… to think we would win so much Jib”Bookmark here

Kudo had a large smirk on his face as the Jib collected from the den were hiding in his [Magic Bag], getting him worried that there might not be enough space in there.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Now, we can take a break from adventuring…”Bookmark here

“Yeah! Though, I don’t know if gambling is considered adventuring…”Bookmark here

Kudo sheepishly scratched his cheek as he walked forward, looking forward to studying more of his books that he had in store in his [Magic Bag], but then, he felt a hand touching his shoulder.Bookmark here

It was Hinota.Bookmark here

“Kudo… don’t you think you’re forgetting something…?”Bookmark here

“E-Eh?”Bookmark here

Kudo could sense Hinota’s rising spirit coming from her body, getting Kudo to cringe in fear.
“It’s time to train!”Bookmark here

“N-Nooo!!”Bookmark here

Hinota dragged Kudo once more to the inn, getting him to nearly cry out in despair as he just wanted to read his books.Bookmark here

Throughout the night, the sounds of groans and moans from Kudo’s wailing were misunderstood by the other residents of the inn, believing that these two were doing ‘nightly’ actions to soothe their souls.
Good luck, Kudo! May you survive the hellish onslaught of Hinota's TLC! Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.