Hour Empty Child
The crack of dawn’s light extends over Prom Pru city. The sun rising from the horizon gave a majestic feeling to those who watched it rise.
Over where the most difficult Dungeon in all of Peranim was, few Adventurers were gathering, making their trades and discussions over the dungeon itself.
However, all of them took a step back when they saw the Dungeon Dwellers coming in.
This group of Adventurers was famous for heading deeper into the dungeons than anyone else. It was said that one look at them will make an Adventurer tremble from their awesome might.
This group comprised of one [Warrior], a male whose body was covered in Heavy Class armor, using a Warhammer as a weapon holstered to his back. An [Archer] who was a burly man who wore Medium Class armor, using a large bow as his main weapon. Finally, in the middle was a [Thief], a woman who wore black colored Medium Class armor and two daggers holstered to her hips.
This group of ragtag Adventurers walked with a gait towards the dungeon, making everyone make a pathway like a road befitting only for them. Their titles, ‘Dungeon Dwellers’, isn’t just for show—they showed their dominance with their high levels and expensive armor. They were Adventurers who focused their entire careers into adventuring Dungeons.
A proud look was shown on their faces—one raised his nose in pride, and the other had a grin on their face for their upcoming battles—which made the lower leveled Adventurers cower in their presence.
“Figured that nobody would mess with us.”
The [Warrior] in question looked around with a snooty face.
“That’s obvious,” The [Thief] leader responded. “We’re the best around here. So naturally, we’ll be the ones to go first.”
“Nobody can get in our way,” The burly [Archer] spoke proudly. “We taught them this lesson the very moment we got out of the dungeon unscathed.
The reason they said that is because it was about to be 6:00 am—the time that the DCA allows people into the dungeon. However, nobody made a line to enter anyways because of exactly what the [Thief] said.
The Adventurers were afraid that they will feel the Dungeon Dweller’s wrath if they were to go first instead, and nobody wanted to mess with the Adventurers who managed to get as deep as 40 floors down the dungeon.
“Good morning, Dungeon Dwellers!”
An energetic shout pierced through the tense and daunting atmosphere the Dungeon Dwellers have made. They faced forward, only to see a frighteningly beautiful girl walking towards them, waving her hand.
That girl was Hinota Flamver.
“My goodness—you all sure are hard-working Adventurers! Waking up this early in the morning without looking tired at all!”
Hinota’s voice was slightly high-pitched, sending that incredible energy to them. Her smile was like that of a merchant’s, and her eyes showed nothing but a glittery admiration towards the Dungeon Dwellers.
“O-Oh, isn’t this girl…?”
“Yeah! That’s the pretty girl that asked us yesterday~”
The men of the Dungeon Dwellers had excited-looking expressions to see Hinota talking to them again. However, the [Thief] girl showed the opposite—a look of aggravation towards the bright-faced Hinota.
“Thank you so much for the advice yesterday. It was really helpful! Thanks to that, I feel like I can safely go down the dungeon for the first time.”
“O-Oh! No problem! We’re glad to help!” The [Warrior] excitedly shouted.
“Y-Yeah,” The [Archer] nodded vigorously. “Anything else you’d like to know, just come to us!”
Though they were older, they couldn’t help but try to impress the beautiful girl since they only ever hang out with one girl which was their cold leader.
It left the [Thief] leader snarling at them, baring her fangs.
“Oh, thank you so much! There is actually one thing I would like to ask…”
Hinota changed her voice into a sweeter, gentler tone. She changed her posture so that her appearance would look more adorable at a glance. It was, in fact, quite eye-catching that not only were the men flustered from it, even the [Thief] girl reddens her cheeks at such a beautiful image.
Though, it quickly sours as she realized what she has shown.
“You see, my friend and I really, REALLY want to go in first. We’re worried that we might not make it any further than a few floors, and we might lose our confidence if we wait any longer. So… we would REALLY appreciate it if you can let us go first.”
Hinota pleaded, putting more emphasis on her plead which made the men nearly buckle from the cuteness. The female [Thief], however, remained undaunted and raised her lips in disdain.
“Here’s my friend right now!” Hinota turned around, waving at the one who was coming towards her.
(Wow, I wonder how cute this friend of hers will be!)
(Seeing her, I bet it’s another looker! Come on, act impressive for once!)
The men whispered to each other as they eagerly wait for that cute friend of hers to come. But when the friend appeared, they gaped in surprise.
The cute friend that they were thinking of turned out to be Kudo Braven.
(He’s cute, alright…)
(But it’s a man…)
The men sulked.
“This is my friend. We were hoping if you could let us go in first. It would really make us happy, right, Kudo?”
Kudo blushed, twiddling his thumbs to subside his nerves, but it wasn’t working right.
(W-Will this really work…?) Kudo thought as he tried to follow Hinota’s plan exactly to the best of his meager acting abilities.
The men, however, didn’t look quite fond of giving up their first spot to them. Even if it was to Hinota and more cute girls, they can’t just give up their first spot like that. However, Hinota wasn’t paying attention to them.
She was paying attention to the female [Thief].
Her face blushed and her eyes widened as she looked at Kudo. She was taller than him, so she looked at the upturned Kudo who was told to look directly at her. Then, her facial expression changed to haggard breathing with a blushing face, leaving a creepy feeling to run up Kudo’s back.
(T-This boy! He looks like someone who doesn’t know anything about the world. Such a cute face for an Adventurer! He’s so cute, I just wanna eat him up! Ahh~! So cute~~!)
The female [Thief] continued to have naughty thoughts, but it was all apparent to the wise Hinota.
(Hehehe, I knew this would work! Considering her lack of romance on her face, she looks like someone who hasn’t met any handsome men in a long while. For Kudo, it would be like a sunshine in the midst of ugly men everywhere. Kudo, you’re our ace in the hole—to manage to get lucky enough to get a desperate old lady to fall for you at the first glance! This kind of skill should be called 【Lucky Charm】!)
Hinota, within her covering hand, sneered maliciously at the female [Thief] as she preyed on her social weaknesses.
(What am I even doing here…?)
Kudo was just too confused to see what was going on around him.
“I-I don’t know about that…”
“Yeah, I mean, we would love to help…”
The men, after considering their circumstances, decided on their decision.
“But, we still gotta—”
The men gaped in shock after the female [Thief] suddenly agreed without consulting the others.
“Thank you so much! We’ll cherish this! Come on, Kudo.”
Hinota smiled warmly—and laughed victoriously inside of her mind— as she dragged Kudo and walked past the Dungeon Dwellers to head towards to the entrance of the dungeon.
Feeling grateful, Kudo turned his head and saw the Dungeon Dwellers once more, and waved at them.
“Thank you very much!” He shouted with glee that they could go first in the dungeon.
With a smile that fitted his cute face, the female [Thief]’s heart skipped a beat, her face reddens as she waved by twirling her fingers seductively at him.
“Hey, Hinota, why did you make me look at her anyways” Kudo turned back to ask Hinota.
“It’s like I said, Kudo. You’re rather dangerous.”
“In what way?!”
Kudo had a shocked expression that he was considered dangerous as Hinota smiled deviously to herself.
After they cleverly tricked the Dungeon Dwellers, the PlusFire practically marched their way towards the entrance, with Kudo having a slight skip in his step. They were the first to go in the dungeon, after all. Sitting near the table near the entrance of the dungeon was an officer of the DCA.
The DCA officer was a young man wearing a purple vest over his black shirt, having a bright face and a brighter smile as he greeted the PlusFire.
“I take it you guys want to go in?” The officer happily asked.
“Yes, please,” Kudo answered.
“Then, please show me your party’s official documentation and we’ll get you guys in the dungeon in no time.”
Speaking semi-formally, the young man took their documentation, wrote in his papers, and had the PlusFire sign their names on many papers as well.
“So much work…” Hinota sighed.
“Just imagine the loot afterward, Hinota.”
Hinota felt satisfied just thinking about the rewards as the customs were over and done with.
“Please, have a good day of adventuring and always be careful.”
After a slight bow, Kudo and Hinota faced against the ornated doors. Their hearts were beating in excitement, and after they looked at each other, they felt as if their hearts have synchronized.
“Get ready, Hinota!”
Extending their hands, both Kudo and Hinota pushed the doors forward and entered into the darkness, closing the door behind with a loud thud.
Nothing could be seen. Everywhere around them was nothing but darkness. They cannot even see themselves in this ebony-like atmosphere.
“It’s too dark! I can’t see!”
“Careful! You might fall—Wuaah!”
The two have already failed their composure as the Kudo ironically falls after giving out his warning.
Before long, the atmosphere around them becomes slightly brighter, making everything around them becomes dimly. Kudo and Hinota finally saw what they were looking at.
And it was in front of each other.
“Ah! I’m sorry!”
The both of them quickly pushed each other apart to separate themselves—their faces become hot and flushed from the close contact.
“S-Sorry for being close to you…”
“W-Well, it was an accident, so I can’t blame you… How did you fall anyways?”
“H-Hey, yeah, how did I fall? There’s nothing here but a smooth floor. How did I trip?”
Kudo himself was amazed as he sees the perfectly smooth panel flooring.
“…Could it be because of your luck?”
“Wha—? You think I wanted to fall on you?!”
“Not really, but something tells me that you liked it anyways.”
“I-I’m not that perverted!”
Kudo shouted to stop Hinota’s thinking, but she only chuckled as she stood up.
“But you admit that you’re a little bit interested…”
Kudo found himself flushed, and looked away in embarrassment after seeing Hinota leer at him from her backside.
“Hehe, come on.”
Getting back her usual face, Hinota extended her hand, getting Kudo to reluctantly take it.
“You always make fun of me about this…”
“It’s because you’re too easy to tease. You wouldn’t stand a chance against an ordinary girl.”
“Now then, where are we?”
Returning to their situation, Kudo takes a good look around.
“I don’t know… but since it’s castle-themed, maybe we’re in a castle?”
“It looks like everything is lightened up on its own. Looks like it’s the work of phosphorescent lights within the walls…”
“Ah, it’s the kind of lighting that comes from a material rather than a flame.”
Kudo takes in the fact of the new word as he sees the walls around him and Hinota.
“Well, we can’t waste time here enjoying the view. Let’s head further in.”
“Right,” Kudo nodded. “Prepare yourself, Hinota.”
“Who do you think you’re talking to?”
“Exactly what I mean.”
Finally getting back at her, Hinota jabbed Kudo’s abdomen with her elbow. A sharp pain entered into his rib-cage thanks to her high [STR] stat, but he never felt more satisfied over a well-earned victory.
They waded deeper into the hallway. They did so because they didn’t know what kind of enemies will pop out and attack them. Though they were properly armed—their weapons were out and are ready to attack at any time—they can’t expect the dungeon to be easy.
“It’s kind of surreal… for a tower, I figured you would go up the stairs or something.”
Hinota admitted as she felt the tension getting to her.
“The floors are magically made, after all. I don’t know how, but basically, you go through the floors, defeat monsters and reach towards the stairs at the end of the floor deeper in. The trouble is finding the set of stairs that leads you upwards.”
“So you can just skip the monsters all together and head straight towards the stairs?”
“Basically, yeah. But that’s not why we’re here.”
“Right,” Hinota nodded with a grin. “We’re here ‘cuz we need to increase our levels. We can’t run away and skip all the experience points!”
“Heh, spoken like a true Adventurer, Hinota!”
Kudo praised as he sees the light from the front becoming brighter. The two of them finally saw the exit of the hallway.
They saw in front of them a large door with the lights from the small openings of the door being brighter than the rest of the hallways. The door itself was ornated with a bronze color, and the handle was shining brightly with a diamond-like brilliance.
“Ooh, fancy,” Hinota commented.
“Let’s see what we face.”
Being the lucky one, Kudo moved his hand towards the handle. He turned the handle and opened the door, getting inside.
A bright light blinded them for a second, but then they had adjusted their eyes to the light. They found themselves in another hallway, but this time, there were windows with black bars that were showering the hallway with daylight, and several barren wooden doors on the right side.
“…We’re in the dungeon, right?” Hinota became astounded by the view.
Kudo and Hinota became amazed as they checked out the windows, seeing that the sun was shining down on them from above.
“Hinota, were there any windows on the outside walls of the dungeon?”
“No, it was all gray bricks to me. This shouldn’t even exist…”
“I see… so this dungeon is simulating a place. That sun we’re seeing isn’t the real sun—everything here is fake!”
“That explains a lot then… but this place…”
Hinota looked around with a skeptical look on her face.
“Could… this be a dungeon in the castle?” Kudo asked as he looked around as well.
“So… the first floor of a dungeon… is a dungeon.”
Kudo couldn’t help but laugh hard, holding his stomach as a tear welled up in his right eye.
“Kudo, this is a terrible pun.”
“But it’s so funny! The Dungeon made a joke! Hahaha!”
Hinota heaved a sigh after seeing Kudo’s disgraceful posture from laughing too hard. Then, out of annoyance, she jabbed him again with a left punch.
“Let’s hurry up!”
After they were done with their laughter—mainly Kudo’s—The PlusFire decided to head towards the first barren door they saw.
“This is usually the case of finding a treasure here… or a monster.”
“Yeah. Get ready, Hinota.”
Brandishing her katana, she nodded to Kudo. He lifted up the bar closing off the door and turned the handle, opening the door. The door grinds on the floor, making a horrible screech which disturbed their hearing.
Because of that, they were distracted when something came out of the door in a flash.
Hinota pushes herself against Kudo to dodge the incoming attack of the bulbous object that flew at them. From the ground, Hinota and Kud saw the creature before them.
The gelatinous blob continued to ooze infinitely, causing a stream of slimy shine on the flooring. The creature itself was blue, but its eyes and mouth were constantly being melted as its skin continues to ooze.
“What is that thing?! So gross!” Hinota could not hold in her disgust.
“That’s a Slime! I heard of those things, but I never expected to see it up close! It really looks gross!”
Despite saying that, Kudo looked excited like a child would.
“How come guys are always so excited over the gross stuff… It’s coming!”
Hinota saw the slime nearing them, looking like it was putting itself into another charge attack like before. She stepped in quickly, and swung her katana with all her might.
But the katana quickly went through the slime. The sensation alone made Hinota quiver in disgust.
“W-What!? It didn’t to a thing!” Hinota dodged the instant the slime charged in to tackle, missing its target.
“It’s completely immune to physical attacks, Hinota! We need to hit it with a magical attack!”
Kudo, preparing the day to face the slime from reading his encyclopedia for monsters, flexed his hand to prepare his skill.
“Oh, I get you!” Seeing Kudo’s hand readying to attack, Hinota did the same.
“——《Plus Bomb》!” “——《Fireball》!”
Before the slime could go ahead and charge at Kudo, Kudo released the bomb skill onto the slime, making it catch it with its slimy body. Then, Hinota’s fireball accurately hits the bomb at the same spot.
The colliding attacks caused the slime’s body to explode, resulting in its body mass to burst everywhere around it. Its slimy body went all over the place, and unfortunately, some landed on the PlusFire.
“I-I got to admit, that was really gross…”
The two were not happy about that as the both of them shivered from the slimy exterior put on their bodies.
“Hinota, look at this! This slime dropped some incredible loot!”
Kudo shouted after he got rid of the slime thrown on his body to check the loot. Hinota, with a wet towel rubbing against her fair skin, turned to him.
“What did that thing drop?”
Hinota closed in, and widens her eyes after seeing the items along with the rest the slime across the ground. She saw what looks like a small black sphere and several coins of Jib.
“Oh… the core must be from its body, but why did it drop Jib?” Hinota’s eyes widened, checking to see if the coins were real—which they were.
“This is a 【Slime Core】, perfect for crafting, and it dropped about 2,600 Jib in total!”
“It dropped that much?! This was just on the first floor!”
“No wonder why newbies like to farm only under the 10 floors… if it’s this much, they can not only pay enough for the 10%, they can also have enough to buy some good armor to boot.”
“But… if we go further in…”
“Then we can get even more than just this much!”
Kudo read Hinota’s mind and had a sinister smile along with her. The two of them picked up the loot and put it into their new bags.
“Let’s keep going, Hinota!”
Before long, the two quickly went further in, opening the rest of the doors that came their way.
Like the first one, each time they opened a door, a different kind of monster popped out of the door. Each one was different, ranging from lizardmen to kobolds.
Once they got out of the hallways—the ‘dungeon of the Dungeon’ so to speak—they finally made it to what appears to be a garden before a large castle. Stepping onto the green grass, the two of them looked with awe at the garden filled with beautiful flowers, several fountains and a trail that led to the inside of the castle.
Of course, outside of the trails were several monsters for them to fight.
“You ready, Hinota?”
Without hesitation, the two of them had a good day cleaving monsters apart and getting their loot.
After slaying all of the monsters, they saw the ornated doors that lead to the castle. They opened the doors and saw a square room, but at the center of the room were a large set of stairs that lead downwards into the darkness.
“To think we would find the exit of the first floor soon. That was quick.”
Hinota, exhaling sharp breaths, commented on the difficulty.
“Better than staying an hour on the first floor.”
“I got a lot of levels just from the first floor! Hinota, what level you’re at?”
“Level 76!” Hinota spoke proudly. “I even got a new skill to boot!”
“Eh?! Seriously?! Let me see!”
Knowing that Kudo would ask, she already opened up her skill menu for Kudo to see.
【Fireball】 Lv. 42 (Proficiency: 36%)
The skill that shoots out your direct, flaming, passionate fire! Formed into a small sphere, it directly impacts your enemies, and blows them up in passionate fire!
MP Cost: 22, Range: 10m
【Flaming Strike】 Lv. 40 (Proficiency: 65%)
You are able to strike enemies down with your weapon clad in your passionate flames! Let them be burned by your hot passion, leaving them burnt to a crisp by your spirit!
MP Cost: 43
Must have a weapon in order to use this skill.
【Burning Soul】 Lv. 39 (Proficiency: 29%)
Call our your inner passion and the flames of your heart will envelop you! Enforcing you by giving you strength with a fiery blaze!!
MP Cost: 75, Duration: 15 minutes
【CrossShadow】 Lv. 1 (Proficiency: 0%)
Call upon your fiery spirit to aid you in your bout against evil! Your flaming strikes of justice stems from your blazing soul!
MP Cost: 105
This skill has no element affinity.
“Hinota, your description are so inspiri—”
“Don’t mention the descriptions again!”
Hinota punched Kudo’s abdomen, making his air escape from his lungs.
“What about yours?”
Despite seeing Kudo bending forward, Hinota asked him normally.
“Hehe, it’s actually promising this time! My new skill!”
“Seriously?! Let me see!”
“Yeah, just let me breathe for a second… Ghh…”
“Don’t be such a baby.”
After gaining his breathing pattern again, Kudo opened up his own skills menu to check.
【Plus Bomb】 Lv. 25 (Proficiency: 9%)
【Plus Pulse】 Lv. 22 (Proficiency: 68%)
【Minus Pulse】 Lv. 18 (Proficiency: 34%)
【Plus Chain】 Lv. 1 (Proficiency: 0%)
“Oh, it does sound promising! It looks like a constricting skill.”
“Yeah, for once, I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll turn out to be.”
“What are you talking about?” Hinota tilts her neck. “All of your skills were impressive! This one is no different!”
“But… if it turns out to be a worthless skill…”
“Don’t worry about it!”
Hinota slaps Kudo’s back with force, making him once again expel his breath.
“I always feel secured having you at my back. Your skills always help me out, like it did against that slime.”
“I guess… but I think it’s because they’re so compatible with you.”
“Hee, guess the two of us were just meant to be together!”
Offering her charming smile, Kudo nodded.
“Yeah! Let’s go ahead and show them how mean we can be together!”
“I was waiting for that! Come on!”
Seeing each other’s determination in each other’s eyes, the two of them marched towards the stairs to the next floor.
The first floor so far was a success! How will they fare against the next floor, and the others below it! Find out in the next chapter!