Hour Empty Child
Inside the bloody plaza of the Lost City, filled with the stench of rotting death, right when Kudo was about to begin to exterminate the source of the nuisance, the 【Reach To Hell Bag】, he faced another terrible obstacle in his path.
The very same one that nearly choked him, and caused much trouble for their ‘PlusFire Store’ back in Loune. The very same [Warrior] that nearly threatened him to call the guards, and harassed Hinota without regard.
The very same man that held a spear-lance in his right hand, coupled with a sneer on his distorted face filled with scorn.
“Hey, shitty vendor,” The man spoke with a tone filled with malice, enough to fill Kudo with dread. “It has been a while. Didn’t expect you to come here to reap the rewards too.”
Kudo already knew that this will be a difficult time for him. His body quivered as the man’s voice continues to prattle, while on the inside of his mind, he was estimating a way to get past the rambling man and destroy the source of the zombies’ gathering.
“Oh?” The man asked in a surprising manner. “What’s up? Do you like my new look? I’m sure you do.”
Somehow, the man misinterpreted Kudo’s gaze, as he was trying to see what’s behind the man, not him directly.
“It was definitely expensive, this one. But when it felt so right, I just had to buy it.”
The man looked down at his new armor, which compared to before, it was an entirely new armor, made out of mithril.
—Mithril is a precious metal that is found only in treacherous places. Not only does a mithril armor can be able to take strong hits, it was also considered a powerful metal, able to cut through steel like a hot knife through butter.
The man’s armor was completely made of mithril. Compared to when he was in Loune, the man drastically improved.
It has improved to the point that it made Kudo gulp.
Kudo thought as his mind was working overload for a way out of this situation.
“What’s wrong?” The man asked, his face now crooked with a smile. “You look like you’re seeing a ghost.”
Why do I have to deal with him, of all people? When I’m doing something important too!
Sweat trickled down Kudo’s temple and on his back as he gripped his bastard sword tightly. As he was beginning to panic, Kudo instead relied on his words.
“…Do you know what you’re doing?”
Kudo spoke curtly, but he made sure that it made a deeper impact.
“What? Are you talking about this whole thing?” The man gestured by extending his hands apart from each other. “Just a little insurance to rank in some points, that’s all.”
Kudo became miffed from that, but he remained calm.
“This is… unfair.”
“Oh…?” The man responded, as if he was provoking Kudo to ask.
“This is unfair! This is unfair for all the other Adventurers that are trying hard to win! You’re dirtying the spirit of this event!”
Kudo shouted this time, making sure that all of his frustrations were clearly laid out.
“Oh, it’s unfair, is it?” The man spoke casually, swinging his spear-lance hybrid around like a stick. “It sure is, isn’t it? I mean, I’m just the kind of guy that if I have something that’s unfair, I would use it and take advantage of it.”
As the man glared directly at Kudo, Kudo could tell what he was insinuating.
“…Listen… umm…” Kudo trailed off as he just remembered that he has no idea on what to call him.
“Roark! It’s Roark!”
The [Warrior], Roark, shouted back so quickly that it nearly jolted Kudo. The sudden shouting, as his voice was loud enough to the point of sounding like a raging animal, made Kudo realize just how angry he really was.
“Listen, Roark…” Kudo made sure to pronounce his name properly. “This and that are completely different things. What you have is a forbidden and very dangerous item!”
He wanted to have a communication with Roark. Kudo knows that when someone is angry, they don’t think straight, but Kudo believed that if they could be reasoned, they could change.
However, Roark continued to glare at Kudo, as if he was looking at a little bug.
“So? What of it?”
Hearing Roark’s casual response, despite showing such animosity before, made Kudo felt more frustrated. However, he continued.
“Roark, please, listen! That bag is not just dangerous to other races! If you keep staying in the same location where the bag is, it will also produce terrible effects to humans. In other words… it will destroy your life!”
Kudo has tried very hard to make it simpler for Roark to understand.
But Roark still showed a malicious smirk.
“And? What are you gonna do about it?”
Roark responded with a tilted head, widening his smirk as he knew that this would make Kudo mad.
And it did.
Kudo, for once, growled at Roark. It’s like trying to talk to a child! Tak and the other kids in my village are more mature than him!
Kudo thought that as he knew that he wasn’t good with children. Not even the children at his village would listen to him at times. Rather, he gets swept up by the other children’s mishaps instead.
However, Roark was a grown man. As a grown man, how could he act like such a child? It’s unbelievable!
“…What do I have to do to convince you to get rid of it?”
Kudo had no choice. He has no choice but to comply with Roark, hoping that it wouldn’t turn out like he thinks he would. The man then tilted back his head.
“There is one thing.”
Kudo quivered, “What is it…?”
Roark slowly positioned his spear-lance, placing the sharp edge upwards.
“Put your head in front of this blade. Put the tip right on your forehead, and just thrust the sword into it. After that, I’ll get rid of the bag.”
The man spoke so easily, as if it was like a game to him. Kudo shivered as the malicious aura that was spouted out of his mouth sent chills down his spine.
“Hehe, that’s the only way you’ll get me to forgive you for humiliating me weeks ago…”
“Humiliation…” Kudo trailed off as he tried to remember how exactly did he embarrass him that badly.
“That’s right. Sending that bitch after me, and making me a laughingstock in that town wherever I go! I will never forget that!”
“Wha—” Kudo could no longer hold in his frustration. “You did it to yourself! You tried to scam us by using that excu—”
“Shut the hell up!”
The man roared back, his voice grunted like a beast that has lost his mind. He brandished his spear-lance hybrid towards Kudo, his murky breath escaping his mouth.
“I’ll make you drown in blood for your insolence in humiliating me!”
Roark rushed in towards Kudo, his lance nearly reaching towards his face.
As Roark charged in, Kudo felt an extreme irritation appearing on his left side of his face. It was vague, but it was there.
——*Clang!* Their swords collided, creating a high-pitched sound that rang out in the battlefield. The zombies near them stood ever still, not even knowing exactly what is going on.
Roark’s spear was met with Kudo’s trusty bastard sword. Kudo managed to use his irritation to move his sword directly where Roark’s lance was heading. As he gritted his teeth in anger, Roark moved back his spear and thrusts again, this time, aiming for Kudo’s abdomen.
Once again, Kudo felt the same irritation, this time on Roark’s appointed target. Kudo had no idea what was happening, but he used that feeling and sidestepped, avoiding the lance’s tip.
As he sidestepped, he shifted his weight, pivoting his foot forward and directed his blade towards Roark. The blade made an impact with Roark’s armor, hitting his abdomen.
“Hah! It’s useless!”
Roark shouted with a giddy voice as the sword hardly did any damage. During its impact, Kudo could feel the sudden force that traversed through his hands and arms. It was quite a durable armor, that’s for sure.
After all, it is mithril—a well-known, powerful metal. However, Kudo hoped that it was so.
Roark then elbowed Kudo’s stomach, but Kudo’s armor made sure that the impact wasn’t deep enough. Instead, he used the force of the elbow attack to push himself away, causing some distance between them.
“Grr, stay there and let me cut you!”
Roark roared as he brandishes his lance once more, leaving Kudo to make his stance.
If this were a monster attack, then Kudo would have already won. Kudo could have pushed forward, pushing Roark down and aim for his neck that was open with a small blade in his [Magic Bag].
But he couldn’t. Because Roark wasn’t a monster. He was an Adventurer, like him. How could he fight against his own fellow Adventurer, no matter how badly rotten he was?
“W-Wait! Please! Adventurers shouldn’t fight each other!”
After making their bout, Kudo returned to his calm state, and tried to reason with Roark once more. But his demented look was still plastered on his contorted face. Enough to shake Kudo to his core from the look.
I ain’t fighting an Adventurer. I’m fighting a dead man!”
These words of contempt were uttered out as he rushed towards him once more. He held nothing back—Roark was truly planning on killing him.
Roark brandishes his lance towards him once again. He was precisely aiming the tip right at Kudo’s neck, and once more, the irritation of wanting to scratch his neck, but there was no physical part that needed to be scratch, happened again.
Could this be because of the skill I just gained?
As he thought that, he adjusted his head slightly to the right. Kudo evaded the fast and sharp lance by a few centimeters, though it slightly grazed Kudo’s cheek. The irritation from before became stronger as soon as it was cut. However, he ignored it as he focused on the fight.
Kudo’s motto is to avoid unnecessary movement in battle. It saved him many times, including now which he needs the extra energy to handle this fight. As he noticed Roark trying to jump back, Kudo quickly stepped forward, his metal sabaton catching Roark’s front foot.
He was stuck. He couldn’t move at that exact moment. And in that exact moment, Kudo gyrated his body, swinging his blade right at Roark’s abdomen once again.
——*Clang!* The blade hits the abdomen once again. This time, Kudo put enough strength to get Roark to feel the hit.
In fact, the mithril armor, known for its resilience, was slowly starting to crack as small nicks were shown on it.
As the force was completed, Roark jumped back quickly as he tried to recover his stance, but Kudo did not stop.
Kudo rushed forward, swinging his sword vertically downwards, making Roark’s eyes widen as he had no choice but to guard against it.
He raised his lance up horizontally, and stopped the heavy blade’s path from connecting to him. To Roark’s surprise, Kudo was quite strong himself.
“Y-You…! ——《Rage Slash》!”
Becoming overwhelmed by his annoyance and frustration, Roark activated his skill. His lance glowed a reddish misty aura, enveloping it completely as Kudo felt the rising power being transferred into the lance.
Roark angled his lance, letting Kudo’s weight nearly fall along with his sword as Roark positioned his lance and swung upwards.
The sharp edge cuts Kudo’s chest in a diagonal shape, from his right hip to his left shoulder. Kudo’s face grimaced as he felt the strong impact on his chest. Feeling the intense force, Kudo backed away, trying to calm himself down by assessing the damage.
T-That nearly killed me! I thought the skill was helping me sense those kinds of attacks… Hah, It must be because it was still low level…
It was a new skill he has just learned. Of course, the level will be disappointingly low. It must only activate sometimes, or moves that were just too sudden for Kudo’s body to react to.
As he thought that out, he felt his chest to see if there was any damage. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any.
Both of them were surprised. What they saw was Kudo’s cuirass dented in a diagonal shape, but not cut. After a few seconds passed, the dented parts returned back to normal with a quick *pop!*, getting the cuirass’s metal back into place.
W-Wow! My armor can stand up against mithril equipment!
Kudo’s smile gleamed as his Crafter’s pride overwhelmed him. It was a dream for many crafters to make equipment as strong as mithril. But to make armor that was stronger than mithril? Kudo was ecstatic.
“Y-You…! Why won’t you die?!”
Roark roared, his temple and neck showed a pulsing vein. He took a step back and thrusts forward, trying to impale Kudo’s abdomen with his lance again.
In front of Kudo, a separate blade collided with the lance’s path. It was a thin blade, and as fiery red hair flowed beautifully in the blood-stinking wind, Kudo knew immediately who it was.
Kudo shouted as Hinota guarded Roark’s lance with her katana, appearing with a smirk across her gallant face.
“Hey, I remember you. You’re that scammer!”
Hinota made a surprised face, but to Kudo, it was actually a sarcastic look that made fun of Roark.
Roark jumped back, and regained his stance by lowering his knees, pointing his lance at the two while gritting his teeth.
“Kudo, you OK?” Hinota asked as she continued her glare at Roark.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Hinota, what happened to the other guys?”
Being curious, Kudo asked her situation.
“I put them out of service,” Hinota looked back, making a devilish smirk.
“As expected, they’re nothing to you!”
Kudo put on a triumphant face, proud of his friend as Hinota relished that as she put on a cocky smile.
“You… you’re the one that I wanted to face more than anyone!”
Their enemy roared, reaching to Hinota’s ears.
“I vowed to get back at you,” Roark’s teeth gritted as his eyes showed intense fury. “For the humiliation you gave me back at Loune!”
“I gave you?” Hinota responded with a half-smirk. “I think you’re mistaken. It was all your doing. There’s no way I can have such an honor of doing so.”
Roark growled, snarled like a beast as Kudo closed in towards Hinota.
“Hinota, be careful. He’s not thinking straight.”
“Don’t worry, Kudo,” Hinota responded in a soft voice. “Right now, focus on getting rid of that bag.”
“Yeah, got it!”
“Like I’ll let you!” Roark shouted, hearing what the PlusFire said. “Don’t you know… just how difficult it is to find an exotic monster now?!”
“ “…Eh?” ”
The duo responded as Roark shook slightly, his hands shaking with rage.
“Every day, we have been looking for those damn monsters at each zone. But whenever we would find one, it’s always a dead body, freshly searched and emptied! Somebody else already took them!”
“ “…Ah.” ”
Both PlusFire members uttered out in total shock.
“We’re on the last day! There’s no more chance of finding them today, but with this bag, it’ll only be a matter of time!”
As Roark rambled on about his chance to win, both Kudo and Hinota whispered to each other.
“Hey, Hinota, you don’t think we’re the cause of him doing this, right…?”
“N-No! Of course not! This idiot could have just tried harder. Instead, he cheated. Yeah, this is all his fault.”
Kudo already knew that Hinota just didn’t want themselves to be the blame. It was part of the competition. They can’t help winning with their higher luck and skill.
“Listen to me, you fuckers!”
Roark believed that he was being made a fool. And though they didn’t mean to do it, Kudo and Hinota, as long as they were together, can no longer see Roark as a threat.
“We’d like to, but hearing you is like hearing a cat’s dying wail. It’s uncomfortable hearing you whine about how unfair everything is. That doesn’t mean that you can just endanger everyone’s lives and do whatever you please.”
Hinota finally responded to Roark, but no sweet words were there. Only cold, harsh words pierced through Roark’s head.
“Grr… then…” Suddenly, Roark curled his lips into a snarling smile. “I’ll put everything in my favor!”
Suddenly, Roark turned, opening up his [Magic Bag] at his waist. As Kudo and Hinota became on guard, they were shocked to see him pull out three items.
“—3 【Reach to Hell Bags】!”
Their eyes widened as Roark completely lost his mind. If one bag was able to call out these many zombies, what would happen if more bags were brought out?
“I’m getting that exotic monster to come out, no matter what!” Roark proudly screeched as Kudo could no longer hold back his anger.
“You idiot!” Kudo chided. “With that many, it’ll affect the rest of the zone! What if other people of different races are here? They could get affected!”
“Like I care! I’m bringing out that exotic bastard even if it means killing everyone around me!”
Roark did not care at all about anything else as he threw the bags near the first one as the gas was let out from the openings of their bags, causing the smoke of yellow gas to slowly spread across the air, making the zombies growl intensely louder, and some began to stumble around.
Kudo could only growl at him, gritting his teeth in desperation.
“Kudo, don’t worry,” Seeing her friend in a panicked state, Hinota calmed him. “All we have to do is beat him and eradicate those bags.”
“R-Right!” Kudo returned to his senses thanks to Hinota’s words. “Let’s get rid of them immediately!”
“Just try it!” Roark spread his arms apart, as if calling them out. “I’ll kill you all before you can even move!”
A moment of stillness took over—The PlusFire against the raging Roark. As the raspy groans of zombies grew even louder due to the increased effect of the 【Reach to Hell Bags】, Roark rushed in.
With a senseless roar, Roark closes in on Hinota specifically, as his anger was directed straight at Hinota.
Hinota knew he would aim at her. Being the one that humiliated him the most, she was the target of his rage.
Predicting the actions of a madman was easy for the highly-calculative Hinota. She can even predict the lance’s path with her highly-tuned senses. Roark pierced the air with his lance, directing it right at her neck—Hinota’s vital spot.
But she could tell that path in an instant.
Following Kudo’s advice from long ago, Hinota expended no stamina as she fearlessly tilted her head, missing the lance’s tip by a small gap, no graze upon her fair skin. Hinota glides across towards Roark, gyrating her body clockwise and swinging her katana at a precise location—
—Right at the part of his cracked, mithril armor. The crack widened, making the sharp katana slice through a bit of Roark’s abdomen, enough to make him yelp in pain.
Taking this chance, Roark extended his right knee, using its force to hit Hinota’s abdomen.
Not expecting that he would resort to close-combat, Hinota quickly guards the knee-attack with the hilt of her sword.
The knee made a large impact, enough to stun Hinota from the strength he exhibited.
Returning his lance upwards, Roark swings down the lance right at Hinota who was too stunned to counter.
——*Cling!* Kudo stepped in and blocked the lance’s path with his broad sword. The impact left Kudo shaking, but he managed to push him off, making some distance between them.
“Kudo, if I’m seeing right, isn’t that mithril armor?”
“Yeah,” Kudo returns to his stance after he recovered. “It’s a lot more durable than anything we faced.”
“I see… then, that explains why he’s so fixated on winning this event.”
“Eh?” Kudo looked back to Hinota, his face showed that he was begging her to explain.
“Considering the mithril’s costs, he must be in dozens of debts. Winning this reward would probably relieve him of them.”
As Hinota answered, a twitch was shown on Roark’s left brow.
“How can you be so sure that he’s under debt, Hinota?” Kudo’s curiosity got the best of him and asked Hinota.
“There’s no way that this kind of [Warrior] can get mithril equipment on his own.”
Hinota’s harsh answer, along with Kudo’s unexpectedly mean response, made Roark’s face become so increasingly red that it wasn’t even the same skin color anymore.
“I’ll kill you both!”
Figuring out his problems, it only heightened his anger, and made him charge after them like a blinded bull ramming its head in.
Though they could beat him in time, time is the only thing they don’t have. What made it difficult was the fact that several zombies have already come in, adding more to the zombies. What’s worse, as they were more closed in, the smell coming from the bags started to become unbearable. Their noses were curling to the point of being reformed.
As they put up their stances, suddenly, they heard someone yell:
“Look out, Hinota! Kudo!”
As the voice shouted out, heat started to rise from their backs, making them turn and noticed the giant flaming orb skill that they were so familiar with.
Following the voice, Kudo and Hinota easily sidestep, missing Roark’s hit as he just noticed the skill coming at him.
The orb explodes upon impact, with Roark being the target. His body burned as it became charred in the aftermath. Roark’s body flew at the side he just came from, landing onto the rough plaza ground making large clanking noises from his broken armor.
Seeing the damage done to him, Kudo looked behind to see two familiar Adventurers.
“So you guys are here…”
They saw Mick and Lailah running towards them with Lailah’s staff slowly diminishing its light as they closed in.
“W-We’re sorry, you guys…” Mick said, his voice staggering while regaining his breath.
“But we couldn’t just stay behind! We wanna help!”
Lailah responded with a confident look, showing that she was determined to help with or without their permission.
“That’s great and all,” Hinota responded, putting on her point. “But what about Eruda?”
Mick smiles and then pointed at the opposite side of where they were facing. Kudo and Hinota saw far out to where he was pointing, turning out to be a building near the plaza circle.
“She’s in there?!” Kudo shouted as the building was quite far—about nearly a kilometer long.
“Yeah! We decided to help, and Eruda insisted on helping too. We’ve been thinning down the zombies while you guys were facing these jerks! Eruda made sure to cover our backs, too! She can be able to shoot at such a long distance!”
Lailah spoke of praise for Eruda which left Kudo and Hinota to extend their brows.
“But Roark put up more bags! Even if she is far away, she could still get affected!”
Kudo put up more reasons to get at least Eruda out of harm’s way.
“But, she won’t leave, will she?” Hinota was the one that answered, leaving Kudo surprised.
“Yeah,” Mick responded. “She said that she doesn’t want to escape and leave her party members behind like she did before. Remember her summoned creature, Silphy?”
“Silphy… oh!” Kudo recalled something in his memories. “The summoning creature that controls the wind?”
Only certain Classes can have the ability to summon creatures from another plane. These creatures help support Adventurers or fight with them, using their special powers to aid the Adventurers in battle. They are known to have come from the Upperworld, and they return there once the summoner expends their mana.
“I see… she’s using Silphy’s abilities to manipulate the air around her, making a barrier of clean air to blow away the gas from the bags!”
Kudo made this analysis using the information provided for [Rangers] in his guidebook.
“That’s right… with all these commotions, I didn’t realize that Eruda could do that!”
Hinota commented as she placed her fingers to her chin as she thought.
“So you guys were thinning down the herd… that’s great! I was worried for the massive accumulation of the zombies here.”
Kudo smiled as he was glad for his friends’ great aid.
“Then, is it OK that we can stay here and back you up?” Mick asked, getting Kudo to look back to Hinota.
“Mmh, we can’t do anything to change their decision. Let’s let them help us.”
“Hehe, yeah!” Kudo responded positively to Hinota’s decision.
“Screw you all!”
The four of them looked behind, seeing Roark’s body getting up with the use of his sword-lance. His facial expression changed, now only serving to let the other see just how angry he was.
“It’s over, Roark. You can’t beat us.”
Hinota raised her katana before Roark, showing her dominance in her words.
“And, if you noticed, the bags are destroyed, thanks to our friend.”
Kudo’s brows rose as he heard that, and noticed the steaming pile of ash behind Roark.
Apparently, when Roark landed with his burning body, he landed on top of the bags placed there by him, burning them in the process and turning them into nothing but ash.
The smell was also starting to dissipate, turning into the fresh smell of corpses in the air. It wasn’t favorable, but he preferred that over the smell of toxins.
“Ssss… Screw you! I’ll kill you all! Starting with you, you fiery bitch! And then finally you, you weak-ass vendor!”
Roark’s face contorted, no longer appearing to be even human anymore as the PlusFire members readied their weapons, including Mick and Lailah.
As they were about to face off with a single madman, something shook.
A moment later, something shook again. As Kudo tried to figure out exactly what shook, the answer made him shocked.
It was the ground.
The ground slightly shook, making the others sense it. Kudo looked around, his body suddenly spiking in anxiety from his nerves. He looked around, and noticed the being behind Roark.
It was huge. The appearance was like a rotting corpse—only this time, it was much, much bigger. About 7 meters in height, the hulking mass of rotting flesh walked forward, walking near the unknowing madman Roark.
Not just the sight, but the smell which permeated the smell of toxins was ten times stronger than that of the flesh. It made their noses curl up, but seeing that giant creature, along with the smell, made them too stun to move.
But for Kudo, it was something worse. He felt something… strange. Something dark...
Then, he noticed that the giant creature appearing behind Roark’s maddening posture with a giant blade as large as it was. Kudo’s eyes widened as the blade was quickly swinging up.
“Hey! WATCH OUT!”
Kudo’s shouting voice pierced their hearings, his voice was so loud that it pierced the heavens in their minds.
Roark widened his eyes as he instinctively looked back, and widens his eyes in horror, his irises shrunk down to a minuscule level as he sees the blade coming for him.
It was done in an instant. The blade connected, and it was so quick, it made a clean slice through Roark’s body. His helmet did nothing. His armor did nothing.
His body began to split across vertically. In a single second, Roark’s body was cleanly split in half, with his blood spraying about like a large fountain. A second later, the blade reached the ground, nearly crushing it to pieces.
It was nearly impossible, but Roark’s body still stood, despite that it was cut in two halves. The PlusFire members watched in horror as the body continued to stand, blood spurting out from each side. Perhaps it was the strong hatred in his heart that he didn’t want to die, even if it’s just for a few seconds…
But it could no longer bear the imbalance, and both halves fall to the ground, lifeless.
The screaming voices of Lailah and Mick were heard as they have just seen an image that they can never erase in their minds. Their screams reached to Kudo and Hinota, but even they could not bear their ground from watching that.
Hinota remained silent, but her tapered eyes widened and her mouth started to quiver as she tried to observe exactly everything that has just transpired into her mind.
Kudo was left in a shocked state. His mind was left blank after seeing such a clean death. No… it was left blank because it was the first death that he just saw.
But he had to leave those thoughts behind. Because the cause of Roark’s death, the giant creature of rotting flesh and jutted bones showed up in front of the PlusFire members, its eyes glowing a sickly, bloody red, opening its jaws to make an open mouth.
The giant zombie roared, its bellows equal to that of a ghostly wail in the night.
Their frightening enemy was dismissed in a single second. Now, a more terrifying enemy appeared!