Hour Empty Child
The rising tension filled with dread devoured their peace, getting the Adventurers of the PlusFire party to quickly head over to the other side of the Lost City, Azuria. Because on that other side is where Eruda has heard the malicious roars that resounded near her hearing range.
“Eruda, are you sure we’re going the right way?” Hinota asks as Eruda quickly nodded.
“Yes, I’m sure. I can’t explain it, but these roars… sound like they are in pain.”
Eruda took a moment to reassure her hearing, getting the other members to feel dread creeping up their minds.
As they closed in, they heard ragged breathing from their ranks. However, hardly anyone expended that much stamina the moment they ran. The only one with haggard breaths was the one leading them.
“Eruda?!” Kudo shouted at the panting Eruda.
“Eruda, what’s wrong?”
“I…” Eruda took a moment to answer Hinota’s question. “I don’t know. I don’t feel… very good…”
Mick’s ears pricked up to hear Eruda’s haggard breathing, and noticed Eruda’s skin being trickled down with sweat.
Eruda squeaked, surprising everyone else as she quickly ceased running, getting everyone to follow suit.
“Eruda! What’s wrong?!” Hinota asks as her shocked glare was apparent on her scowling face.
“T-The smell… it’s so bad…!”
“Smell? Ah…” Kudo wondered and took a whiff. He was able to smell some kind of sickening scent that lingered in the air, which was different than the rotting corpses of the zombies they faced. “Yeah, I smell it too. It’s pretty bad…”
“Ghh… It’s… coming from the north of here… Gah…”
Eruda spoke in intervals as she tried to get over the bad smell and pointed at the direction where the scent is coming from.
Before they could say anything else, raspy groans and roars resounded around them. It made a creeping sensation that it left Mick and Lailah to shiver, as if a cold wind blew past them.
“W-W-What was that?!” Lailah stuttered.
“C-Could it be zombies? But, it sounded like there are a lot of them…!”
Mick made his conclusion, but he didn’t want to admit it to be true. Hinota took a glance at Kudo, getting him to respond.
“Mick, Lailah, take care of Eruda. Make sure to stay quiet and follow us…”
Kudo gave his direct order, getting the lower leveled Adventurers to respond, “ “Y-Yes!” ”
“Got it. Let’s go.”
Without any forward conversation, the two looked at each other as their wills synchronized as the party closed in towards the source of the roars.
Bypassing the buildings and mysteriously avoiding any contact with zombies that they should have met up by now, the scent that lingered in the air caused Kudo’s nose to curl.
“I-I don’t know why, but this smells awful…”
“Really…? I can’t smell anything yet.”
Hinota was surprised by this. It took her a while to get used to rotting corpses as her sense of smell was strong. Yet, only Kudo could pick up this strange, sickening scent.
As they charged in, they saw the center point of the town. Nearing one of the buildings that circled around the spacious plaza, the PlusFire peered at the side, looking at the source of all the sounds and smells.
What they saw was unbelievable in their eyes.
Zombies, as far as the plaza can stretch out. Nearly dozens and dozens of zombies were crowding in the same area, standing motionless as their raspy groans escaped their rotting mouths. The scent that traversed around the air even got to Hinota and the others.
Hinota could take the rotting corpses, but now she was being affected by the scent that all of these zombies were emitting as she covers up her curling nose. Mick and Lailah also covered up their noses by tugging their hands deep into their faces. Eruda herself became even worse as she tries desperately to conceal her nose to block out the smell.
“I see now why Eruda couldn’t take this smell. To her heightened senses, it was amazing that she could withstand this much.”
Hinota made her analysis as she checked out the situation.
“What’s going on? Why are all the zombies gathered around here? Why aren’t they doing anything…?”
As she asked, she noticed that there were some Adventurers fighting against the standing zombies, providing no resistance as the zombies were quickly slain one after another.
“The hell…? What are those Adventurers doing? How come they aren’t getting attacked by them?” Mick asked as he and Lailah see the strange turn of events happening in front of them.
“...Because they can’t attack them.”
Hearing Kudo’s words suddenly sounding grim, the party members looked at Kudo, to see his eyes widening to the point of looking angered.
“Look at the center of the plaza. That’s what’s causing the zombies to gather!”
Kudo pointed at the center, his eyes quivering as a tear escaped his left eye, showing that the scent was proving too strong for Kudo.
The party members looked at the center as he pointed, seeing a strange object lying in the middle. It looked like a hefty brown bag, bearing an insignia of a small goblin being dazed as stars spun around the top of its head. The members could see what appears to be yellow smoke rising from the opened top of the bag, which dispersed in the air.
“A 【Reach To Hell Bag】,” Kudo interrupted as he explained. “A forbidden item. Used to gather around monsters with lower levels and paralyze them by stuffing dangerous alchemy plants into its mix!”
Hinota couldn’t believe what she was hearing as the members continued to listen to him.
“I heard about these forbidden items in one of the Crafting books I bought. At first, it was a revolutionized item that can disable monsters of any kind and quickly kill them. Not to mention, it’s safe to humans, though it made a bad smell… but it didn’t just affect monsters.”
Kudo took a moment as he tried to recall the information from his books, leaving a grim look on the party’s faces.
“The ingredients used in the making of the 【Reach To Hell Bag】 are lethal to anything other than humans. Monsters, and other races. The reason Eruda was suffering was because of this bag!”
“No way! Then, these guys…” Hinota’s rising anger reached a critical point. “These guys are the reason why Eruda is suffering!?”
Though Kudo responded with a curt response, the look of his eyes showed that he was angered by their actions as well.
“Right now, the more time we spent here, the more Eruda will be in danger! If left too long near the bag, she could get some dangerous effect on her body.”
“W-We can’t let that happen!” Mick shouted as Lailah nodded furiously to it.
“We need to get Eruda out of here!”
“Mick, Lailah, get Eruda away as far as you can. Keep going until she’s feeling better. We’ll do something about this…”
Kudo made his plan while the two siblings widened their eyes as Eruda tried to get up, but the scent was proving too much for her as she faltered and fell.
“Y-You can’t! There are hundreds over there! And… what if those Adventurers won’t do as you say?”
Lailah asked in concern as Kudo responded with a steeled expression.
“There’s no way I can let this go on any further! It’s not just because it’s dangerous. They’re… they’re ruining the pride of Adventurers! They’re forsaking this event made to test the mettle of Adventurers! I can’t let this slide, no matter what!”
Hearing Kudo’s resolve on the pride of Adventurers, the siblings, Eruda, and even Hinota was taken aback. And, as if to follow on that, Hinota made an approving scowl.
“You’re right. Being an Adventurer, I can’t just walk away from this either. I’m staying here too.”
“Hehe, that’s great. Because I don’t really know what to do when I’m down there…” Kudo admitted sheepishly as he made a smirk which left Hinota to chuckle.
“Then…” Lailah trailed off as Kudo turned his sight towards the other members.
“Get away from here. We’ll call you if anything happens. Please, get Eruda away from here.”
Kudo, this time, asked as a friend, getting the siblings to nod quickly as Mick grabbed Eruda by the shoulders, getting her right arm over his neck to support her. Lailah carried her bag and weapon as the two siblings looked back.
“Be careful, you two!” Lailah wished for their safety as the two siblings and Eruda walked away, getting the two co-leaders to turn their sight to each other.
Kudo and Hinota synched up their resolved as the two of them headed towards the plaza, filled with rotting, moving corpses and ill-contempt Adventurers.
The smell of rotten corpses would sting people’s eyes if they were there. Nobody would dare go into this place and expect to smell cleanly afterward for months. Not just the stench, but the scent of rotten blood clung the air like clouds in the sky.
However, some Adventurers, the ones responsible for the calling of so many zombies together, did not care at all about the stench, and could only focus on one thing.
“Sweet! These Mage Zombies dropped some nice loot!”
A crude voice rang out, belonging to a [Mage] Adventurer who has a scowl that belonged to a scoundrel, making a twisted smirk at the loot of one of the zombies he just callously murdered.
“Hey! That’s my zombie! That loot should be mine!”
Another crude voice appeared, catching the [Mage]’s attention. It was a [Hunter] who had a similar barbaric look on his face, except that his eyes were more beady looking than the [Mage].
“Ah?! What are you talking about? I was the one that killed it!” The [Mage] roared back, shouting as if his screaming alone would make a fair argument.
“I rendered it immobile with my skill!”
“Dumbass, they couldn’t move in the first place! I killed it with my spell!”
“Screw that, it’s mine!”
It was like a fight for children. The two shot back at each other whenever they can, trying to get a simple loot of a 【Spellbook】 which was hardly worth any Jib.
They didn’t seem to notice the PlusFire were closing in on them.
“W-Why are they fighting over for a 【Spellbook】?” Kudo could not understand the simplistic fact of their fighting over a lower priced loot.
“Kudo, these people are just low-minded. You can tell on their faces.”
Hinota cruelly spoke without hesitation, catching the attention of the two angry Adventurers.
“ “Ah?!” ”
The two responded in unison which was surprising for Kudo.
“What’d you say!?”
“What are you doing here?! Fuck off, this is our zone!”
“Mmh, if these two idiots think that they can take an entire zone for themselves, these two are worse than they look. How sad.”
The cold words shot out by Hinota rubbed them the wrong way, getting the two of them to have their veins popped out in anger.
“Ah, Hinota… please calm down…” Kudo cleared his throat to make his voice louder, figuring that before they start their own fight, he should convince them.
“Listen! What you’re doing is illegal!” Kudo started off with a loud, booming voice, ignoring his anxiety as the situation calls for his bravery. “That bag over there is forbidden! It makes a mockery of Adventuring, and it’s dangerous to other races! Please get rid of it!”
Kudo figured that if these two Adventurers hears how dangerous this item is, then they will respond by appealing to their humanity.
But apparently, there was not a single trace of humanity in them.
“Who cares?! Get the fuck out, or we’ll kill ya!”
The [Mage], despite having more [INT] stats, responded like an ignorant drunkard.
“Ah, but that girl can stay! Just look at her! She can be our cheerleader! Hehe~”
Compared to the [Mage], the Hunter put on a lecherous expression as he glanced at Hinota’s body from top to bottom, devouring her supple proportions with his eyes.
Hinota felt a disgusting chill down her spine after being a subject of the callous [Hunter]’s fantasies.
“Y-You guys! Don’t you care about the other Adventurers?! They’re all working hard to gain levels and win this event! You can’t just do this and hurt the other’s chances!”
Kudo tried to reason with them again, trying to bring up the spirit of the competition.
“So?! If we win this, we get tons of Jib! Who cares about others when you can have lots of money?”
The [Mage] responded back with a simple answer. Kudo felt the same kind of irritation when he was facing against Flash during the Crafting Quest, and shot back, this time with a deeper reasoning:
“Don’t you guys get it?! You’re gonna hurt other Adventurers of different races!”
“Shut up already! Who are you to tell us what to do? Fuck off!”
The [Hunter] grew tired of Kudo’s shouts, and even shot back a rude gesture by raising his middle finger.
“W-What’s with these guys… they just keep answering with the same answer…”
Kudo was now less angry, and more confused. How can anyone be this simple and rude? Do they not have any manners when they were raised?
“Kudo, when facing against these types of people, the best option is to do things by force.”
Seeing the frustration forming on his face, Hinota lifted the burden off of him by placing her soft hand on top of Kudo’s shoulder, getting him to look back at her determined face as she faced the crude Adventurers.
“If you guys aren’t going to get rid of the bag peacefully, then we’ll gladly do it for you.”
Hinota, without a single doubt in her voice, responded with a scowl that sent chills down the others’ spines.
“W-What can you do about it, stupid bitch!?”
“Y-Yeah! We’ll destroy you!”
The two males almost stuttered from the malicious aura given by Hinota’s death glare, and raised their weapons; the Mage with a tome, and the Hunter with a shortbow.
“Kudo, I’ll take care of these retards. You go and get rid of the bag.”
“Wha— I can’t do that!” Kudo shouted back as his heart nearly shook with concern. “I can’t let you fight against two Adventurers by yourself!”
“Kudo…” Hinota took a moment to look at Kudo directly in his eyes. “Do you really think that I will have a difficult fight against these two?”
Hinota looked back at the two male Adventurers which got Kudo to look at them.
“What’d you say, bitch?! I’ll kill you!”
“What? No, I’ll be the one taking care of her! You go and kill more zombies!”
The [Mage] turned and faced against the [Hunter].
“Yeah, right! You just wanna have some fun with her after you’re done! You go and kill these zombies!”
“So you can do it yourself!? Bite me, you nerd!”
“What'd you say?!”
For some reason, the two moronic Adventurers began to fight each other, tugging at their collars as they continued to verbally abuse each other as their opponents looked at them with a sad look.
“…I’m sorry for doubting you, Hinota,” Kudo apologized as he regretted believing even for a second that Hinota would lose to them.
“It’s Ok,” Hinota forgave Kudo with a benevolent smile. “Now go!”
With that short response, Kudo left Hinota by herself as he was given the mission to get rid of the bag.
After leaving the would-be slaughter of the moronic duo, Kudo wiggled through the dozens of zombies that were too stunned to even move.
Whipping past the other zombies in a hurry, Kudo carefully planned out his path to the dangerous item that is bringing them all in.
Uuwahh… Kudo’s sense of smell was being corroded by the terrible stench of not just the zombies, but the 【Reach to Hell Bag】 that was emitting such a terrible stench. This is too much… can I even find it?
From a glance at a spot farther away, he could see the bag, but now that he was in the plaza, with all these zombies in the way, finding the bag was more difficult than he believed.
So he had no choice but to rely on his olfactory senses to find it.
And by the gods in the Upperworld, he wished that he couldn’t smell anymore.
Gah! So much stench…! Where is it…?
After a few minutes of searching for the bag, Kudo nearly teared up as he finally found the source of the terrible stench. The brown bag with the dazed goblin insignia waited in front of him, the terrible yellow fumes coming out of the opened bag that stank up the atmosphere around them.
Now, to blow it up with my skill…!
In that instant, he felt something strange. The entire time, he has been fighting many monsters and was put in dangerous situations one after another. So much so that he developed a strange feeling.
The strange feeling for when he was in danger. The back of his neck irritated, like a feeling of wanting to scratch, even though there was no physical part of his neck that needed to be scratched. It then started to burn slightly as the feeling rose to dangerous heights.
Kudo now knows what he needed to do.
Kudo jumped forward, rolling onto the ground as something whipped down where he originally was, crashing down to the ground which caused the floor to shatter into pieces.
《Proficiency increased. Acquired skill 【Sixth Sense】》
Kudo saw this message pop up in front of him as he recovered himself and stood up, ignoring the prompt as he sees the one who delivered the would-be fatal attack.
Kudo widened his eyes. He saw a similar appearance of a [Warrior] that had a full-plate armor, with horns jutting out of the sides of his helmet, with a long sword gripped firmly in his hands.
“Y-You’re…” Kudo’s throat ran dry as he sees the appearance of the same man who was forcing a bargain on him when they last made a sale.
“Yo… I’ve been wanting to see you again, weak-ass vendor…”
The [Warrior] spoke grimly, forming a malicious sneer across his face as he glared at Kudo with eyes that looked like he was looking at a weak prey…
Whoo! Another hellraiser, ready to attack Kudo once more! What is he going to do against the one person he definitely didn’t want to meet again!?