Hour Empty Child
Gliding across the forest-covered paths the PlusFire party made haste to get to the location where Eruda, the injured elf who came for help, lost her companions to the Monarch.
“Eruda, where is this place?”
Hinota, the [Hell Knight] user, asked Eruda who ran side by side with her.
“It’s at the mines, called the Parnir Mines. It’s to the northwest of here, a few meters over there.”
Eruda, the [Ranger] user, spoke quickly as her low stamina was shown on her face; her eyes showed a tired expression, and her haggard breaths could be seen.
“Eruda, are you OK? You should have stayed behind,” Hinota asked, forming a concerned look on her sharpened expression.
“It’s fine. I… can’t let myself do nothing while the two of you do something this dangerous…”
Though Eruda says that, both she and Hinota turned their heads backward to see the boy, Kudo Braven, the [?????] user, desperately trying to catch up to them, but his stamina was less than exemplary.
“…Especially when I might have made a wrong choice in choosing him.”
Eruda spoke as her sweat dropped from her temple, a guilty feeling eroding inside of her as she chosen someone like Kudo to take down a powerful boss.
Indeed, at this moment, Kudo cursed that he didn’t focus on his [DEX] and [VIT].
“Eruda,” Hinota spoke curtly which caught Eruda by surprise as she was taken out of her guilty conscious.
“How did you get ambushed? What happened?”
“A-Ah…” Eruda took a moment to explain the situation for Hinota. “We were a party of five. All of us were elves, so we picked classes that consist of one [Warrior], two [Mages], one Hunter, and a [Ranger] such as myself.”
“Mmh…” Hinota took a moment before she answered. “Sounds balanced, but there’s no one to heal your wounds.”
“We thought we can get by with our potions. They aren’t expensive, and there isn’t any one of us willing to become a [Priest].”
Being a [Priest] wasn’t very exciting. Plus, you have to take care of careless Adventurers, and they are often targeted by monsters. Being a [Priest] could be dangerous if taken lightly. Inside her mind, she commended Mick, her old ally in ‘Hunt the World’, for his decision to become one.
“So,” Hinota returned to the topic. “What happened?”
“It started out with us hunting around the mines. We took a quest to find a lost item that was taken from a carriage carrying some noble’s precious items. We were tasked to get it back from nearby Kobolds before they were taken into their stronghold.”
Eruda recalled the time before they got captured, and reminisced what went wrong.
“We were hunting down various Kobolds, but our party leader got greedy and wanted to take down more for loot and Experience Points. I advised that we should take a moment and regroup, but he became stubborn and forced us to continue.”
The word ‘forced’ entered badly into the PlusFire’s minds. It left a bad taste in their mouths as Eruda continued.
“We came in closer to the mines, and spotted a lone kobold. Our leader thought it would be easy and we annihilated it. But then, more kobolds came out of hiding from the trees around us.”
“So the kobold you killed was set up as bait to catch you guys?” Hinota became wide-eyed from hearing that.
“Yes—and because of that, we got surrounded. Before long, the Monarch itself appeared in front of us. We tried to defend ourselves, but our party couldn’t even lay a scratch on it. As every one of us became exhausted from a long battle, the kobolds took my party members and took them into their home. I was the only one that had escaped from their grip and ran out of there…”
Eruda looked ahead at where she was running, appearing to reminisce the expressions on her companion’s faces as she ran away. A pained look appeared on her face as she continued:
“I couldn’t… leave them like that. I can’t just forget about them as I live my life. No matter how bad Samken was…”
Eruda bit her lip in frustration, getting Hinota to notice that.
“I’m guessing that’s your leader’s name…”
Hinota figured, making Eruda nod silently. She can tell from the look of Eruda’s face that she held extreme animosity towards her leader.
“Don’t worry,” Hinota consoled. “We’ll rescue your companions.”
“…I thank you, umm…”
“Hinota,” Hinota said, a smirk forming on her face.
“T-Thank you, Hinota-san,” Eruda stuttered. “I’ll make sure to pay you two the needed reward.”
“Tell us that after we finished this quest you gave us.”
Hinota’s words sounded confident, making Eruda look at her with a warm expression. She felt a strong kindness from her.
After a while, the party finally reached towards the Parnir Mines. The mines themselves had an entrance—a cave formed with wooden structures that border the entrance, signaling that human contact was here once before.
“Ghh!” Hinota covered her nose before it could curl from the stench coming from the entrance. “This smell is awful!”
“This stench…” Eruda expressed a pained reaction to the smell, covering her nose in response. “The smell of kobold corpses.”
As they stood there, Kudo finally made it towards them, panting and breathing heavily as he tried to breathe in his air.
“Hah…hah… you two are way too fast…” Kudo spoke in intervals as he tried to regain his breath, sweat streaming down his temples.
“Kudo, you need more training,” Hinota spoke with a sharp glare, sending Kudo a small chill down his spine.
“G-Got it…” He gave up, knowing that he has no choice but to do as Hinota says. “A-Anyways,” Kudo then turned to Eruda. “Eruda, thanks for sending us here. Now, take this.”
Before Eruda could figure out what he meant, Kudo suddenly takes something out of his bag, and handed it towards Eruda by hand.
“W-What is… mmh?”
Eruda took a gander at what she was given, and widened her eyes.
“Isn’t this a Crimson Potion?!” Eruda shouted, her eyes widening to the point of making Kudo jolt, “This is too expensive—you can’t give something so precious to me…!”
Though Eruda tried to refuse, Kudo pushed back the potion she was trying to hand over to herself.
“Ah, don’t worry about that,” Kudo gestured by waving his hand, not wanting it back. “We got plenty more, so feel free to drink it. We can’t have you fall over, you know.”
Hearing him say that, she became stunned. No kind of Adventurer would give something so precious away to someone else, specifically a stranger. Though, knowing that it was alright to do so, Eruda became eager and opened the top of the bottle. She poured the crimson contents into her mouth.
Eruda reacted with a blue face as the bitter contents of the Crimson Potion nearly made her choke. However, she kept herself from hurling, and forced herself to drink it.
“Kahh!” Eruda puffed out her air as her throat was relinquished of the taste.
“U-Umm, I should have told you that potions with higher healing rate become more bitter…”
“I think you should have, Kudo.”
Hinota heaved a sharp sigh as Kudo sheepishly rubbed the back of his head.
As soon as they were done, Eruda’s body suddenly began to glow a bluish aura. Similar to an enchantment on a weapon, the wounds on her head and on several parts of her body began to slowly close up. The bluish aura dissipated slowly, giving Eruda a strong feeling of refreshment.
“T-This is… amazing. I’m completely healed,” Eruda responded after checking her status, seeing that her [HP] became full.
“Now, let’s head onwards.”
Kudo leads the girls into the Parnir Mines, since adventuring into dangerous places was his expertise.
Inside the mines felt similar to the Kuul Caverns. However, there was a track laid where the path follows, showing them that there was a minecart system that the miners from the past used. There was a wooden structure which built the caves, forming a pathway, and each interval of the pathway was a lamp that lightens the caves up. It’s a lamp that had a stone that glowed with moderately strong light.
“These lamps brightens up this cavern so nicely, what are they?” Kudo asked as he looked at the lamps which held the stone.
“I think these are called Mana Crystals,” Hinota answered. “They continuously used, and usually, they never get put out”
“Ooh! That’s amazing!” Kudo’s eyes gleamed, and begun to think of ways to utilize these Mana Crystals.
“Umm, I don’t think you guys are getting the urgency of this situation…”
Eruda spoke, her faith beginning to waiver as she believed that these two do not understand just how strong their enemy might be.
The Parnir Mines’ inside was colored with a bluish tint. Upon researching in his books, the Parnir Mines had some interesting mining points which had several rare metals, but after some trouble with the nobles, it was abandoned and was now overrun with the kobolds.
The very same ones that Eruda spots a few short moments later.
Eruda yelped, but then quickly covered her mouth as Kudo and Hinota helped her find cover. They hid behind the discarded mine carts and used their wide size for cover, and began to survey the area.
They spotted 2 monsters which have the appearance of dogs in human form. They stood on two legs, and their bodies were covered with one of them brown and the other gray. They wore leather armor, consisted of banded chest and forearm with metal platings. Each of them carried a rusty one-handed axe and prowled the area, as if they were skulking around the area.
“It looks like they expected for Eruda to come back,” Kudo mentioned which resulted in Eruda to become rattled.
“T-Then they’re looking for us, aren’t they? All because of me…”
“Don’t worry, Eruda,” Hinota comforted by patting Eruda’s shoulder. “We’ll take care of them.”
“But, they are very dangerous,” Eruda began to surmise their abilities. “They can be able to take lots of attacks, and are very hard to take down. Their skin is tough, so it’s hard to cut with a sword or pierce with an arrow.”
Hearing Eruda’s warning, Kudo only made a fearless smile.
“That only works for Adventurers who have poor gear. Hinota, go and take care of them!”
Hinota, following Kudo’s order, stood up from her hiding spot, and presented herself in front of the kobolds. Eruda watched as her eyes widened from the sudden decision.
“Come at me!”
Hinota unsheathes her katana, releasing a small sheen from her keen edge of her 【Lonely Katana of Ages】. The kobolds took notice of her and howled.
The brown-furred kobold howled as he charged in, giving up any thought about her counterattack. It swung the axe up high, forgoing any defense, and swung it down with a great deal of force. Following her instincts, Hinota angled her katana in a position where the axe glides down the blade, releasing a wave of sparks to fly out. The kobold, putting all of its strength into its attack, stumbles forward.
She pulled herself back, pointed the katana’s edge to the heart of the kobold, and thrusts into it.
The kobold made its final howl as the sharp katana pierces its chest, a sprout of blood released from the wound. Hinota then mercilessly pulled out the sword quickly, splattering its blood across the ground as the body fell forward to the ground.
The gray-furred kobold bared its canine teeth, and charged in with its own axe. It appears that by killing its comrade, Hinota would be tired, and so it continued to lunge towards her.
But it was also stabbed.
Without it knowing, Kudo pierced it from the side, cutting its abdomen with his 【Bastard Storm Sword】, and before it could even react, Kudo turned the bastard sword around, the sound of its guts being crushed by the weight was heard and slashed it horizontally.
The gray-furred kobold could only stumble; its knees fall to the ground as blood sprayed out from its wound, drenching the ground in blood as it falls over onto the ground.
“Whoo, it really does have tough skin,” Kudo said as he flicked the sword’ blood without remorse, showing a surprised look. “If I hadn’t upgraded the sword, my wrists would have been damaged.”
“Of course, there’s also the [STR] training I gave you, Kudo,” Hinota began to praise her training as she started ‘looting’ the kobold, opened its body with her knife—bought by Kudo—to get any loot.
“Ah, that’s true. I did feel like I’ve gotten stronger,” Kudo nodded as he put his sword away and started to loot the kobold in front of him as well.
Meanwhile, Eruda, who remained hidden as told by Kudo, watched the scene with shock and amazement plastered on her face.
T-These two are incredible! With one strike, too!?
Eruda watched these two in awe, gaping at their prowess and skill, but soon her face contorted into disgust as Kudo and Hinota began to desecrate the bodies of the kobolds.
After the whole desecration, Eruda asked Kudo who led the party down to the deepest part of the mines.
“Umm, I know this might seem rude,” Eruda hesitated. “What level are you two?”
“Oh, we’re over level 45,” Hinota said, not mentioning the exact number to safeguard their actual levels.
Eruda believed that they were at least over 30, but her eyes nearly shrunk down after mentioning the number 45.
“We can handle this place, since kobolds are usually around level 30. Eruda, you are around level 20, right?”
Eruda became shocked as Kudo guessed the right level range.
“Y-Yes, I’m level 23…”
“That’s not good. If the party is the same, then this place was too much for them to handle. This leader of your should have considered the strength of your party better.”
“…My leader isn’t quite capable enough to make sound decisions…”
Her tone of voice held animosity at the mention of the leader. Hinota showed a stoic face, but she saw the change in Eruda’s posture and felt the hostility forming on her face.
The PlusFire—including Eruda—continued their venture, passing through kobolds like a sickle through grass. It was helpful for them as well, since they can gain more loot on the way there. Thankfully enough, their weapons didn’t decrease much in durability since they were able to get rid of the kobolds in an instant, so they had no need to repair the weapons and take more time.
“What happens to them if we take a while…?” Eruda fearfully said as she asked Kudo, whom she regarded already as a wise Adventurer.
“At most, they’ll probably be used as food to fill their bellies. They’ll first cut and gut them to get rid of any excess organs, and then pierce them with a pike to warm them over with a fire. Most likely, the meatiest one, girls with more fat, tends to be first.”
Eruda muttered out, her lips quivered as her body shook immensely. Upon seeing this, Kudo stepped closer to Hinota, and whispered:
“D-Did I say something bad?” Kudo asked as he put on a look of concern to Eruda’s reaction.
“Well, I’d say you’re the kind that is honest. There’s nothing wrong with that…”
Hinota made a heavy smile—one that insinuated that the action might not be good for Eruda to take. Kudo felt slightly guilty and turned around.
“D-Don’t worry! Before they do this, they gotta prepare everything first, and that can take a couple of hours. We already made it here lightning quick, so we got plenty of time!”
Kudo pumped his fist, showing a positive attitude to comfort her. Eruda, after seeing his desperate attempt, couldn’t help but form a smile.
“Thank you, umm, Kudo-san…”
“No problem!” Kudo responded with a slight tint of red across his cheeks.
After a long string of time, they finally reached the main end. They noticed a wide entrance and peered into it.
The spacious area looked completely trashed. Several piles of broken equipment and the bones of fallen Adventurer, along with the smell of feces and urine that clung in the air, the PlusFire saw several Kobolds preparing a large fire that burned brightly to the nearest ceiling. At the side of the kobolds was a large metal cage, enough to fit several people inside.
And there were actually people inside the cage.
“T-There they are!”
Eruda whispered loudly, her eyes widening as Kudo and Hinota saw their state.
All of them were elves, just as Eruda said. Each one had pointed ears, but some of them looked like they were nearing death. Each had blood trickling down their faces with tattered clothes, and one in specific, a [Warrior] Elf who wore heavy armor looked battered and bruised, as if he was the one who took the worst hits.
There was one male [Hunter], and two [Mages], each one a boy and a girl. The male [Mage] in particular was different—he had long silver hair, which compared to the other elves who had mixed colored hair, his hair stood out amongst the rest.
“So these are your friends, Eruda-san?” Kudo asks to be sure, even though it’s visibly obvious.
“Yes, but… what are they doing…?”
Eruda continued to look as one of the kobolds opened up the cage door. A series of yelps and whimpering was scattered throughout the elves as one of the kobolds held out its hand.
“W-Wait! Stop! Not me!”
The male [Mage] was the one closest, and desperately backed away. After much tossing around in the cage, he pushed the female [Mage] forward to the kobold. The kobold snarled as it just picked the one closest to it, turning out to be the female [Mage].
“H-Hyaaaaa! S-Someone, help me!” The young elven girl shrieked, her arm gripped with force as she was dragged out of the cage and was held upwards in the air, making the kobold holding her against her will to sniff out her bloody head. The kobold’s drool began to drop from the corner of its mouth, causing Eruda to widen her eyes.
The panicked shout from Eruda rang out, causing the kobolds to quickly notice and turn to where the PlusFire were at.
“Let’s go in!”
Figuring that they had no choice, Kudo and Hinota jumped out of their hiding spot, and ran towards the center. The kobolds snarled as they gathered around the PlusFire. The kobold holding the female [Mage], Uren, dropped her body and charged towards the PlusFire with its red, beady eyes furrowing at them and began to snarl.
“Eruda, go help them out!” Kudo shouted to Eruda that continued to hide, making her jolt back to reality. After a quick nod, she ran towards her group, to Uren specifically.
“There’s gonna be a bloodbath!” Kudo shouted to his partner as he brandishes his bastard sword.
“You picked a bad day to piss us off, you mangy mutts!” Hinota shouted and unsheathes her katana, pointing it at the kobolds.
Before long, the PlusFire and the kobolds headed into battle, each one aiming to kill the other. Meanwhile, Eruda ran towards to the cage, making the elves notice with shocked expressions.
“Eruda! Thank gods! I thought you wouldn’t come back to us~!”
Uren, her eyes brimming with tears, turned to Eruda as if an angel descended onto them. Uren and Eruda shot open their arms and enjoyed a joyful embrace.
“Uren, I’m so glad that you’re OK. Of course, I would come back to you guys.”
“Uwaahh~ I thought you might have…might have died from all the damage you had~!” Uren spoke in her crying fits, but then notices something strange as she released Eruda from her embrace. “B-By the way, how did you get healed so fast?”
“These kind Adventurers healed me. Here, drink these. Give them to the others as well.”
Eruda then pulled out several bottles of Crimson Potion—given to her by Kudo—to heal their health, causing Uren to widen her eyes.
“T-These are Crimson Potions! Did these human Adventurers give them to you?”
“Yes,” Eruda answered with a positive tone. “They agreed to help us.”
“Y-You mean those people…?”
Uren looked at the scene where the PlusFire members were fighting against the kobolds. She could see Hinota swiftly killing one by one, practically flying across the field and slashing every kobold she sees like a raging hurricane.
Uren then saw Kudo killing one kobold each with a precise blow, piercing their important vitals with his sharp blade, and turning their insides over, making a sound that grated against Uren’s sensitive ears.
“T-They’re amazing…” Uren spoke with praise, but then her tone of voice gradually lessens. “But they’re so strong… did you promise to pay them?”
“Yes… I have,” Eruda spoke grimly, despite knowing that the two were kind. They were still strangers to her—how can she trust them to not bleed her out of all of her hard-earned items and Jib?
“How can we pay them back? For all we know—”
“I’ll take responsibility for that. For now, we need to survive!”
Eruda interrupted, knowing what she meant. As she finished with a determined expression, Uren nodded in acknowledgment as she passed the potions around the elves inside the cage.
As minutes passed, each kobold in the room expended their last breaths as each one was slain by the PlusFire, who only had few minor scratches on their bodies.
“Whoo~” Hinota exhaled. “Handling so many at a time is pretty exciting…”
“It’s a pretty good workout~” Kudo exhaled a heavy breath as he tried to regain back his air. “For a moment there, they were almost going to slice my head off.”
“Hehe, could that be because of your luck?” Hinota smirked, getting Kudo red in the cheeks in embarrassment.
“I-I handled that on my own! I’m not invincible, you know.”
Kudo, for a moment there, felt that Hinota was denying his own skills as a battler, and thought it was all just luck. Hinota then chuckled as she figured that he would react to this.
“Amazing…” Uren uttered, her face plastered with awe. “They took on so many kobolds and won! With just by themselves!”
“Their weapons look so powerful,” The [Warrior] elf responded. “I could tell that they’re special. It’s like they are magical weapons or something. They are infused with mana…”
“Hey, Eruda,” The [Hunter] elf asked, concern in his tone. “Won’t they ask for a lot of Jib for their help?”
“I don’t know yet, but we should be thankful that they even got here.”
Her demeanor became taciturn, but her party members didn’t much react to that.
—*Tch!* a crude sound was made from one of them, turning out to be the male [Mage].
“You fool, now these filthy humans will take everything from us!”
The male elf with long, silver hair spoke with a harsh tone, turning to Eruda with a look of contempt. Uren, her eyes becoming furrowed, turn to the leader as a vein bulged from her forehead.
“How dare you?! We would have been murdered if they haven’t come along!” Uren lashed out at him, but the male [Mage] looked down on her with a frowning expression.
“High Elves never asks for a Human’s help! Asking for their help is just as much as submitting to a lower being! Eruda, you have shamed me to no greater end by doing such a filthy act!”
“And what about you!?” Uren replied, a strong hate shown in her eyes. “You gave me up to the kobold to save yourself! You were going to let me die instead of you!”
“That was obvious!” The male elf replied, bearing his teeth. “A High Elf noble like me can’t die like this! You’re my servant, and must die for me if the time comes! That’s our hierarchy! We may have been in a party, but don’t forget your place as a commoner!”
Hearing his words, the other males looked away with a pained expression. He shouldn’t have done this, but Kudo couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation with his high hearing.
“Hinota… is this true?” He asked the knowledgeable Hinota for cases such as this.
“… The High Elves in any elven locales carries pure blood, the kind of blood that makes them perfect for controlling mana, so they usually end up as [Mages],” Hinota began to explain thoroughly as she flicks the blood away from her katana. “They are usually the ones with silver hair such as that guy. Because of this, the High Elves regards themselves as the only ‘pure’ race of elves, so they regard other elves as mixed race, those below their stature.”
“No way…” Kudo uttered out in disbelief. “But, aren’t they the same either way?”
“They are… they just don’t want to see it that way.”
Hinota spoke heavily, her eyes narrows as Kudo knew that kind of change on her face.
“The High Elves are regarded as sacred, so the mixed elves often serve as servants to them. Some even act as slaves for their amusement.”
“It’s the way they work. It’s not what I like, but I can’t do anything about it,” Hinota shook her head as she continued. “Messing with their system means messing with the elves, and that could bring a war on two entire races…”
“I-I didn’t think it was that deep into their culture.”
“Unfortunately, it is…”
Hinota made a look of grimace on her face, knowing that Eruda was one of the servants of that terrible High Elf. Kudo turned to Eruda, feeling grief for the girl who is so kind enough to nearly sacrifice everything to save them.
Sounds of slow, giant steps rang out and reverberated in the mines. In response to that, Kudo and Hinota readied themselves into a stance for fighting. The elves shook as they can remember those footsteps well within their hearts.
In front of them was another entrance, and in that entrance several kobolds ran out of it, each one carrying sharp weapons and upgraded armor. From the darkness of the entrance, a larger being came into view.
It was a giant size of a kobold. At first glance, it looked like a bodybuilder with fur all over its body, several scars marking on each part. It wore several plated armor on its shoulders, forelegs, forearms, and chest. He also wore Medium Class armor on the rest of its body to make up more defenses. Its eyes showed a deep bloody crimson as it breathed out air from its mouth baring sharp fangs.
It carried a two-handed maul half the size of his 4-meter body, showing spots of red which prove that it ended many lives before.
“T-The Monarch!” The squeamish [Hunter] screamed in fear as the elves back away in an intense panic. However, Kudo and Hinota remained where they are.
“That’s a pretty big weapon there, Hinota,” Kudo spoke calmly.
“Are you scared, Kudo?” Hinota asks, showing an intense glare to the kobold and a confident smirk.
“No…” Kudo muttered, his body shook, but not of fear, but of excitement. “My Adventurer’s blood is boiling!”
Kudo and Hinota showed no fear, and brandished their weapons against the giant kobold, getting it to roar at them as he brandished its maul towards them.
Next chapter, the battle between the PlusFire and the Monarch commences!