Chapter 42:

PlusFire vs. Lava Golem

Hour Empty Child


In the dungeon city Prom Pru, within the commercial side of the town on the northern-west side, was an inn that accepted Adventurers called ‘Spirited Care’. Inside the rather comfortable wooden inn, which resembled a simple cottage that eased the weary Adventurer’s mind from the outside, on the inside, it was completely expected to be relaxing.Bookmark here

Opening the door to the outside world from the inn, Kudo revealed himself with a bright smile on his face.Bookmark here

“Alright, let’s head out!”Bookmark here

With a sparkling smile and a raised fist into the air, Kudo shouted as he headed out gleefully. As he got out, his partner, Hinota, closed the door behind them and hurried over to Kudo’s side.Bookmark here

The PlusFire party had already stayed in that inn for several nights now, as their goal was to reach the incredible feat of the hundredth level for their Class. Known as the level far beyond any [C-Rank] Adventurer could reach, since the PlusFire members were already [B-Rank], they personally felt that they were too behind.Bookmark here

They hurried walked on the white stone path, passing through various shops and stalls that called out to others to buy their wares. The sounds of yells and cries resounded in the air, and the sky was bluish bright thanks to the sun shining down on them.Bookmark here

“Hinota, how’re you feelin’?”Bookmark here

He turned his head, facing the fiery young woman beside him whose sharp glare turned at him.Bookmark here

“In top condition!” Hinota shouted, raising her fist and showing off her slender yet toned right arm by flexing. “You didn’t have to order extra breakfast for me, you know.”Bookmark here

“How could I not? After yesterday, I never want you to ran out of fuel like that again.”Bookmark here

“Gah… don’t remind me of that.”Bookmark here

Hinota’s color turned pale blue after recalling yesterday’s mishap on her part.Bookmark here

■ ■ ■Bookmark here

Yesterday, when they finished their raid, paid their due fee, and were finally heading home, Hinota lost control of her body and fell over. Seeing this, Kudo and the other DCA members panicked as Kudo kneeled to see if she was injured.Bookmark here

*Grrraaarrr…* Hearing the roar from her stomach, mimicking a ferocious beast that was stalking its prey, Kudo heaved a relieving sigh, and calmed the other members by telling that it was hunger. It looked like she overdid it by continuing to fight without properly eating.Bookmark here

Kudo was still worried about her body, so, despite the other Adventurers coming over to see the situation, he swallowed his embarrassment and only thought: ‘I have to help her!’Bookmark here

He turned over Hinota’s body, her eyes slowly fluttering open from unconsciousness, and lifted her up, putting her legs on his right arm, and her back on his left.Bookmark here

In other words, a princess-carry.Bookmark here

“K-Kudo?!”Bookmark here

As her vision slowly recovers, she realizes that the warm embrace was Kudo’s arms holding her body, resulting in her cheeks reddening that reached to her ears, and her slanted glare widening to their limit.Bookmark here

“Sorry, Hinota! I’ll take you back to the inn!”Bookmark here

His cheeks were madly blushing themselves as Kudo exhaled with a gust of wind blowing out of his nostrils, eyes furrowed and full of determination.Bookmark here

With a kick in his step, he ran towards the inn. Whipping past the other Adventurers, they started making sounds with their mouths that sounded like encouragement, excited howling and suggestive whistling resounded in the atmosphere.Bookmark here

“K-Kudo! This is embarrassing!”Bookmark here

“This is more important than our image!”Bookmark here

Kudo shouted, to both Hinota and himself, as he ran with all his might to bring his partner the help she needed.Bookmark here

■ ■ ■Bookmark here

“Hah… that was so embarrassing…” Bookmark here

“Hey, that’s what you get for going overboard without telling me…”Bookmark here

Back at the present, Kudo could see Hinota’s shoulders slumped, her excited demeanor from before crumbled apart.Bookmark here

“I know that it was kinda my fault for going too far without eating… but did you really had to carry me like a princess? Honestly, you could have just carried me just by the arm!”Bookmark here

“Mmh? Princess-carry? What’s that?”Bookmark here

Kudo tilted his neck, his eyes completely filled with curiosity as he couldn’t recall hearing such a term before. Hinota was taken aback, her cheeks faintly blushed as she directed her gaze forward.Bookmark here

“N-Nevermind!”Bookmark here

She closed her slanted eyes, the blush on her cheeks still apparent on her face. Kudo tilted his neck the other side, becoming more confused.Bookmark here

The sounds of shouts and yells from the shops and stalls became louder, giving them a signal that they were near.Bookmark here

They found themselves in the plaza before the entrance to the dungeon, and just as before, it was filled to the limit with hopeful Adventurers who were looking forward to the dungeon again. The shops were more numerous, and the atmosphere was as always festive and exciting.Bookmark here

They found the same long line of Adventurers as before, but right as they were about to head towards the end of the line—Bookmark here

—“Yo! It’s the red hot Duo! Is everything alright, Guidebook? Is one of you okay?”Bookmark here

An Adventurer, dressed like a [Warrior], greeted them with a concerned look.Bookmark here

“I heard that it was the Red Queen that fainted? I was so shocked! Is everything alright?”Bookmark here

Another Adventurer added herself in, this time dressed like a [Mage].Bookmark here

During their constant raids over the few days that passed, they became rather famous by the Adventurers that gathers there. Everybody there knows the name of the PlusFire, and even then, they received their own nicknames. Hinota, her red hair and her gallant demeanor, was referred as the ‘Red Queen’, while Kudo, who would often help the Adventurers that asked him by offering advice as if he was a book filled with information, was referred to as ‘Guidebook’.Bookmark here

“Ah, everything’s fine, thank you for asking. She just got hungry and fainted.”Bookmark here

“D-Don’t answer so simply like that!”Bookmark here

Hinota shouted back to Kudo who answered for them. She didn’t want them to know her personal mistake which she continues to regret it.Bookmark here

“Hahaha, is that so? I’m glad that it wasn’t anything serious!” The [Warrior] had a look of relief, heartily laughing out loud.Bookmark here

“And you get to be carried off like a princess! You’re so lucky~” The [Mage] clasps her hands together to the side of her face, faintly blushing from the memory of the carry.Bookmark here

“Carried like a princess…?”Bookmark here

“D-Don’t talk about that with him!”Bookmark here

His ears were suddenly covered by Hinota’s hands, causing Kudo to show more confusion on his face while Hinota’s face reddens from the other Adventurers’ laughter.Bookmark here

Before long, other Adventurers, who spotted the famous duo, would shout out to them and greet them. The atmosphere the PlusFire give off was different from the Dungeon Dwellers. Since they were easy to talk to, and they weren’t self-reserve, the other Adventurers would flock to them easily, eventually befriending them.Bookmark here

“How come everyone’s calling me ‘Guidebook’?! It’s so lame!”Bookmark here

As they finally got to be alone after greeting some of the Adventurers, Kudo laid out his frustration that was welling in his heart.Bookmark here

“That’s cuz’ you always give out good advice. Like your guidebook.”Bookmark here

“B-But that’s common knowledge!”Bookmark here

“Not everyone read the guidebook, Kudo. Just accept your fate.”Bookmark here

“Eeeh… but you got such a good nickname!”Bookmark here

“Why else? Not only because of my red hair, I’m also regal, like I came from royalty~”Bookmark here

Hinota flicked her bangs, creating an air of arrogance to surround her along with her confident smile. Kudo could only grumble in response.Bookmark here

“I see your head’s just as big as ever.”Bookmark here

“Why, thank you~”Bookmark here

“That’s not a compliment!”Bookmark here

The two talked as if they were doing a skit. As they headed towards the dungeon, they saw a group of Adventurers running towards them.Bookmark here

“Hey, you guys!”Bookmark here

The female [Thief] waved at the two, catching their attention as the thief was followed by the male [Warrior] and [Archer], each face formed a giant smile as if they were meeting longtime friends.Bookmark here

“Morning to you guys!” The [Warrior] tipped his helmet to offer them greeting, closing his left eye.Bookmark here

“It’s a good weather for raiding, eh? Not like we’ll be affected as much, haha!” The [Archer] bellowed as he laughed heartily.Bookmark here

“Morning to you, Cute boy-chan!”Bookmark here

The [Thief], however, closed up to Kudo by her shoulder, leering at him with a lecherous gaze from top to bottom.Bookmark here

“M-Morning to you all too…”Bookmark here

Kudo answered desperately, his inner senses catching onto the [Thief]’s gaze practically licking all over his body. The word ‘cute’ also delivers a heavy blow to his manly pride.Bookmark here

“Back off, Milda. You know he doesn’t like that.”Bookmark here

Hinota grabs hold of Milda’s shoulder and pulled her away, her eyes closed but her intimidating aura was emanating from her, causing Milda’s body to shiver.Bookmark here

“Aww, don’t be so stingy!” Milda, the [Thief], brushed off the shivers, and lashed back. “You’re the only one who gets to be around him 24/7. It’s not fair!”Bookmark here

Not minding her older age, Milda’s arms squirmed around like a hormonal teenage girl. The other two beside her could only produce a cold sweat down their temples.Bookmark here

“That’s because if I’m not around him, you might do something drastic.”Bookmark here

“D-Drastic?!”Bookmark here

Kudo shrank back in shock, peering at Milda with a look of disbelief causing her to make her hands fly around her like she was swatting flies, yelling ‘that’s not true!’Bookmark here

“Sorry about Milda. She’s a sucker for cute little boys.”Bookmark here

“We try to fix that, but it can be pretty vexing.”Bookmark here

The moment Quinn, the [Warrior] and Ramp, the [Archer], said that, Milda, her eyes furrowed, moved stealthily in front of them, and flicked them on their foreheads. The sharp pain from her needlessly high [STR] stat caused them to temporarily agonize in pain.Bookmark here

“You guys can go to hell! Either way,” Milda changed her tone quickly. “We saved you a spot in the dungeon! We signed you up as our party members, if that’s okay with you guys.”Bookmark here

“Oh! That’s great! Thanks so much, Milda!”Bookmark here

Kudo formed a bright smile, and seeing it underneath the shining rays and how his jade-colored eyes reflected the light, Milda’s body quivered in excitement.Bookmark here

“Let’s go before our spot’s taken!”Bookmark here

Taking Hinota’s wrists, he dashed towards the dungeon with Hinota following suit with a smile, leading the other Dungeon Dwellers to their destination.Bookmark here

On the second day, the Dungeon Dwellers asked… well, pleaded them to join their party.Bookmark here

Unlike the current atmosphere that was going on, Kudo, at first, was nervous to bring in more party members, but Hinota assured that having more party members would make receiving experience points easier. In return for their joining, she demanded that the PlusFire would be the ones to kill most of the monsters, reminding them of their goal to reach the hundredth level. The Dungeon Dwellers were then ordered to help support by bringing in more of the monsters to their leaders.Bookmark here

Going back to the dungeon once more, the PlusFire, along with the trio, continued their passage deeper through the floors. As time passed on, along with the trio’s aid, Kudo and Hinota received more experience points than before. During so, the amount of loot and money were also increased.Bookmark here

Passing through the floor where they were in the interior of the castle, walking in the hallway that was filled with rich decorations that seemed too luxurious for everyone’s tastes there, Kudo and Hinota looked at their status menus with a deep gaze.Bookmark here

“Hinota, you’re level…?”Bookmark here

Kudo’s tone was deeper than before. His eyes were dead set on his level number.Bookmark here

“99. And you?”Bookmark here

Hinota also answered back with the same, solemn tone.Bookmark here

“99… we’re so close!”Bookmark here

“What we need is enough experience points to make us jump to 100 instantly! But, we can’t just tackle on some weak opponent! No… we need something big to make our memorable achievement!”Bookmark here

Hinota tightened her fist, her eyes were brimming with a passionate fire which Kudo responded to equally.Bookmark here

“I know just what you mean… I won’t be satisfied just killing a goblin for our final level! We’re getting close to it… the castle’s inner sanctum, the deep volcano resting inside. In there, we’ll face the one that we haven’t beaten yet!”Bookmark here

Kudo’s eyes were furrowed. His perfectionist side resonated with Hinota’s while forming a fearless smile.Bookmark here

“Though… it’ll probably be really hard. We might be burned alive.”Bookmark here

“Heh, then aren’t you lucky that I’m practically resistant to fire?”Bookmark here

“The luckiest!”Bookmark here

The two turned their heads to each other, giving a nod to each other’s gaze. The trio could only remain in awe of their own version of a pep talk, filling the air around them with confidence.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

After entering into the 79th floor, suddenly a waft of hot air was blown onto their bodies.Bookmark here

They felt intense heat on their skins, as if they were about to be burned alive. Everything in their sight turned red, slightly blinding them from the light exuded from it.Bookmark here

Once their eyes adjusted to it, they were faced with an intense heat flowing downwards to the bottomless chasm of the floor.Bookmark here

It was lava. Pure hot, red liquid flowed endlessly from the holes on the walls. The lava flowed around the bottom of the floor, and what appeared in front of them is what seemed like a hot and reddened dirt path that leads upwards to the distant balcony-like ground that hung at the top.Bookmark here

The party’s bodies, after trying to adjust themselves, were already drenched in sweat within their armor from the constant heat of the lava. Kudo slowly nears towards the edge, seeing the bright and hot lava below him.Bookmark here

He looked back to Hinota, who was already sweating from her head, streaming down her round face to her slender neck. Though heat was nothing to her, her body was still human—even she felt the intense heat.Bookmark here

Without a word, the two shared a nod. They looked ahead and started marching to their goal.Bookmark here

Their path was rather linear—no traps or monsters in sight. Though in this location, the sight of any monster going around would be impossible unless they had wings. The heat continues to pile onto their bodies, wearing out their stamina, but they marched on.Bookmark here

Before the heat could get into their heads, they made it to the final ground. On top of the balcony, there was nothing but the hot and baking ground. At the distance, they could see it—the small and dark cave that, without a doubt, leads to the next floor.Bookmark here

But there was no boss monster in sight.Bookmark here

As the party headed closer to the center, Ramp tiptoed towards the edge of the balcony. Peering at the bottom, it was a large drop to the ultimate end which was filled with the hot lava that continues to become a burden to their heated bodies.Bookmark here

“One drop and that’s that…”Bookmark here

Ramp muttered to himself, clutching onto his bow as he stepped away from the edge with all his might.Bookmark here

—*Brrr…*Bookmark here

The grounds shook. The party gathered together to see the walls of the cave suddenly crumbled apart.Bookmark here

From that wall, A hand stretched out. Covered in rocks, and lines filled with lava resembling veins covered it. It clenched into a fist and then punched the wall that it was stuck in, causing more of the wall to break apart. The creature’s head was pulled out of the wall, the rocks falling onto the balcony like rain as the party remained in their stance.Bookmark here

Lava Golem. The large creature was clearly over dozens of meters tall, nearing to the high ceiling of the entire floor. Opening its large, yellow glowing eyes and its mouth cracked open, lava drooling from the corners, the hulking mass of stone and magma fused together made it step into existence, causing the ground to rumble and shake.Bookmark here

UOOOO!!!Bookmark here

The roar pierced the party’s hearing, making the trio cover their ears to protect them as the PlusFire furrowed their brows. Each of them gripped tightly to their weapons in hand.Bookmark here

“ “Bring it on!” ”Bookmark here

The PlusFire shouted together.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

The Lava Golem, as told by Kudo, holds incredible defense, and does not feel any pain. None of the trio’s attacks seemed to take any effect, including Milda’s 【Toxic Knife】, which upon trying to use it caused her pain to her hands just from the impact.Bookmark here

At this point, none of the other attacks from the males of the trio did any effect, but Ramp’s consistent attacks caused it’s body to backpeddle. Each step caused the ground to shake, causing instability on their balance.Bookmark here

So far, everything was going well, but Golem was only just passing time…Bookmark here

As an hour passed from their battle, their limit in the dungeon slowly withering away, the Golem opened its mouth and roared.Bookmark here

From that roar, lava spouted from within the veins, cascading down its rocky body and onto the balcony. The lava drops then formed into a humanoid creature, a creature known as the Lava Puppet.Bookmark here

Their shape was equal to that of the Golem, but more skinnier and smaller sized. They were smaller than even Kudo and Hinota, around a pre-teen’s size. Their bodies glowed bright yellow, and were steaming from the constant heat they were producing from their lava bodies.Bookmark here

The Golem created mobs from within its body. A special skill that belonged to the Boss of the 79th floor.Bookmark here

GRAAHH!!Bookmark here

The Lava Puppets growled, their arms raised and their bodies wiggled uncontrollably as they charged in towards Ramp.Bookmark here

“Kuh, dammit!” Ramp cursed as he nocked an arrow onto his bow, and shot it out at one of the puppets.Bookmark here

*Ting!* The arrow pierces the head of a puppet, knocking it down to the ground as the other puppets literally ran over it, not minding their fallen comrade as two puppets ran towards Ramp.Bookmark here

“These things are crowding everywhere!” Ramp scattered for more arrows in the quiver behind his waist, nocking several arrows at once and shooting them all accurately towards the puppets.Bookmark here

“Don’t falter!” Milda could not afford to attack them physically, so she used a small crossbow to shoot them down. “Ramp, keep these things off from the distance! Don’t let them near Cute boy-chan and Hinota! Quinn! You’re our last line of defense! Keep their attention on you at all times!”Bookmark here

Despite her usual demeanor, on the battlefield, Milda’s eyes were full of determination to live as she gave out orders to her trusted friends. She gritted her teeth as an oncoming puppet was attacking her by swinging down its arms, getting her to bring out her dagger to block it. The burning arm caused incredible heat to burn Milda’s arm and made her wince.Bookmark here

“Count… on me!”Bookmark here

Quinn grunted, his body being under constant pressure as he held onto his large tower shield that Kudo crafted for him several days ago. He held it over his body while kneeling himself to take a stand against the numerous puppets that were beating him. The numbers were more than usual, about 7 to 8 puppets more than the other two members of the Dungeon Dwellers.Bookmark here

His job is to take the attention of the mobs onto himself, taking on the damage like the tank he is with his increased defense. However, the job of the tank is a tough one. One needs to be dauntless against even the most powerful blows, enough to break a man’s body and his spirit as he had to stay there for hours on end.Bookmark here

“Grr… not enough… ——《Hate Cry》!”Bookmark here

Gritting his teeth, Quinn yelled with whatever stamina he had, causing a loud cry which made the puppets become more furious. His skill allows him to call forth the lower level monsters by stimulating their danger senses, making them believe that Quinn is the most threatening one. The other puppets that were causing grief to the trio members all headed towards Quinn as sweat ran down his face like bullets.Bookmark here

“Quinn! Don’t take in too many at once!”Bookmark here

Turning to face him, Kudo issued out a warning. Currently he was covered in burn marks and bruises, however, his concern at the time was the condition their tank was in.Bookmark here

“D-Don’t worry, Kudo!”Bookmark here

Quinn responded as he showed a fearless grin. The pressure from the puppets beating on his shield increased several times over.Bookmark here

Seeing his condition, Kudo furrowed his eyes and turned his attention towards the main boss.Bookmark here

—*Clang!* *Clang!*Bookmark here

A series of flashes of white line ran across the Lava’s Golem rocky exterior, making a terrible noise each time. Hinota slashed apart the Golem’s tough defenses, causing a small wound on its rocky exterior.Bookmark here

Hinota’s attacks were the only ones capable of inflicting any kind of damage to the Lava Golem. Her powerful strikes, despite being the fire element like the Lava Golem, delivered a powerful strike against the rocky skin by cutting apart the body like an actual wound on a human body.Bookmark here

It was the high Sharpness on her equipment. The increase in Sharpness from Kudo’s ring caused Hinota’s cuts to deliver a much deeper wound, bypassing the defense of the Lava Golem and delivering damage to it.Bookmark here

Hinota attacked constantly with her blade. She took flight by putting power into her legs, and jumped towards the Lava Golem, twisting her body in range before she swung her katana with all her might.Bookmark here

Her katana cut up the body of the Lava Gole by the leg, causing a visible would with lava spewing out like blood from it.Bookmark here

“Ghh, my weapon can’t take it much longer…”Bookmark here

In the air, Hinota’s face twisted. She saw the poor state of her weapon being nearly burnt to a crisp. After slashing, her katana comes into contact with the lava within the golem, so her weapon, with its already lowered durability, becomes closer to breaking.Bookmark here

The Lava Golem gazed downwards, and positioned its body to swing its arm down at Hinota. Thankfully, its movement was slow, so Hinota picked up its attacking motion and jumped away, dodging the incoming arm attack.Bookmark here

She landed on the ground a few meters away, brandishing her katana. Hinota’s body was also covered in scorch marks after having been unfortunately grazed by its arms. The Golem’s burning hot rocky exterior sent immeasurable pain to Hinota’s fair skin.Bookmark here

“Hinota! I’m going in!”Bookmark here

Seeing her state, Kudo put his bastard sword at a reverse grip, leaving a free right hand as it gathered mana.Bookmark here

“——《Plus Bomb》!”Bookmark here

He threw the white orb that gathered in his hand to the Golem. He then threw another one, and another one.Bookmark here

Five bombs were stuck on the Golem’s body, rearing its crackling head towards the one who threw them.Bookmark here

As the seconds passed…Bookmark here

—*Boom!*Bookmark here

All the bombs blew up one after another in accordance to the throws. Smoke gathered around the body of the Golem as the shockwave of the blast blown through to the party members.Bookmark here

“How’s that?!”Bookmark here

He spoke proudly. He knew that at this point, the bombs should deliver a lot of damage this time.Bookmark here

But his eyes widened.Bookmark here

The smoke cleared, and the golem stood without issue. The Golem continued to glare at Kudo, and swung its arm upwards towards Kudo’s body.Bookmark here

“You’re kidding me!?”Bookmark here

He pulled the worst luck. Of all the times the bombs delivered the minimal amount of damage, all five of his bombs chose this moment.Bookmark here

A look of disbelief was stuck on his face, and frustration welled in his chest as he received a powerful blow. The rock hand colliding with the bastard sword he used to protect himself, it was enough to send shocks throughout his body as he flew through the air and crashed onto the ground, causing internal pain and suffering on his front and back from the hot ground that continued to burn his skin.Bookmark here

“Kudo!”Bookmark here

She screamed, her panicked expression turning into rage as she turned her head to attack the golem.Bookmark here

But the incoming attack of its other arm caught Hinota’s attention.Bookmark here

“Ahh!”Bookmark here

Kudo opened its eyes, his skin was practically burning with burn marks and bruises. He heard the scream coming upwards, only to see Hinota’s body flying through the air from the golem’s attack.Bookmark here

“Hinota!”Bookmark here

Kudo’s voice pierced her hearing.Bookmark here

Seeing the major threat to it, the Golem reacted strongly to Hinota, and gave a much more stronger hit. It resulted in Hinota’s body flying across the balcony.Bookmark here

Hinota closed her eyes before she was smacked, wanting to reduce the damage further by making this gesture. But as her body flew, she felt incredible heat burning her skin on the other side. She popped open her eyes, and looked to where she was falling. Her body flew out of the balcony-like ground, and towards the lava pit where the liquid that would end her life was near.Bookmark here

“A-Ahhh!”Bookmark here

For once, Hinota felt fear. It has been a while since Hinota felt fear like that before.
Like the first month she started, she felt the fear of death closing in on her. She struggled, twisting her body in order to stop herself, but she couldn’t find anything to stop her fall.
Her slanted eyes popped open, seeing the lava becoming closer and closer.Bookmark here

But she stopped. Something took hold of her body, attaching itself to her shoulders and waist. Seeing the hot lava nearly burning her body, she was pulled upwards. She managed to spot the binds that have saved her life.Bookmark here

They were pure white chains, and the one pulling her up was the one who took her out of that hell of a forest.Bookmark here

Kudo’s strained face was shown, but his eyes showed determination to pull no matter what the cost. He pulled every ounce of strength out of his body and dragged Hinota’s body upwards.Bookmark here

Hinota quickly latches her hands onto the edge, getting Kudo to quickly drag her in, eventually getting herself over it. The hot ground that was scolding hot before was now pleasantly cooler compared to the heat before.Bookmark here

They panted, Kudo from his usage of strength, and Hinota to calm her nerves from her near-death experience. She looked to Kudo and spoke:Bookmark here

“Thanks… Kudo…” She managed to say as her breaths continued to exhale.Bookmark here

Kudo could only form a smile on his face after seeing Hinota alive and in one piece.Bookmark here

“Don’t mention it. You’re my best friend, after all.”Bookmark here

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Kudo suddenly popped open his eyes.Bookmark here

Ignoring everything else, the air stood still. Only heat was burning on their faces, with Kudo’s inner heat becoming hotter than the floor itself.Bookmark here

“Ah…”Bookmark here

A whimper of shock was released. Hinota had her eyes widened, looking directly at Kudo with her sharpened eyes.Bookmark here

“Did you… say—?”Bookmark here

“Ah! Well... you see…”Bookmark here

Kudo interrupted her instantly, completely flustered as he waved his hands around as if wanting to swat away the words he just spoke. His face was blushing intensely, and he kept looking away from Hinota’s persistent glare.Bookmark here

“Hey! It’s no time for you guys to have a moment!”Bookmark here

Milda’s irritated voice pierced the moment they were having, getting them to look back to see the Golem readying another attack.Bookmark here

The puppets were already dealt with. Without the two noticing, Milda was used a long whip to cover her distance. She used the whip to activate her poison skill, and took out the mobs by draining their health away with the Poisoned status.Bookmark here

The giant golem raised its right hulking arm, and slams it on the ground. The force from that impact made the grounds shake intensely. Out of fear, Kudo held onto Hinota’s shoulders in case Hinota goes over the edge again.Bookmark here

“K-Kudo, I’m fine!”Bookmark here

Hinota’s face heated up, feeling the intense grip on her shoulders. Seeing her reaction, Kudo took his hands off her as the two of them stood up.Bookmark here

“Kudo, this thing’s pretty damn annoying. I say it’s time to bring out the support!”Bookmark here

She grunted with a scowl that was directed right at the Golem.Bookmark here

“Yeah. It’s about time to go full out. I thought we could outlast it, but at this rate, it’ll take us out. We’re gonna have to go full on offense.”Bookmark here

Kudo turned his head towards the trio, putting on a furrowed expression.Bookmark here

“Can you three distract it while we prepare our arsenal?”Bookmark here

“Heh, you can count on us! Come on, guys!”Bookmark here

Without hesitation, Milda commanded Quinn and Ramp to head towards the golem to do as Kudo says.Bookmark here

Using their superb teamwork, Quinn took the Golem’s attention, with Ramp at the rearguard, attacking from the distance and piling on damage onto it while Milda commanded from the back. Seeing those three, Kudo felt a sense of relief like he hasn’t felt before.Bookmark here

This is the power of relying on your comrades other than just one person. Since he was always with Hinota, he didn’t bother with other people. But now, he was thankful that he followed Hinota’s advice on letting them in the team.Bookmark here

Kudo then looked back to Hinota, and saw the state of her weapon.Bookmark here

“Hinota, your katana…”Bookmark here

Kudo saw the poor state of the katana. It was nicked on the entirety of the blade, the scorched marks on its former silvery sheen, and the tapered point has already been chipped to its shortened state.Bookmark here

“Ah, yeah… I can’t land anymore hits with this.” Bookmark here

“Then this is where I come in!”Bookmark here

Kudo twists his waist, reaching towards his [Magic Bag] and opening it. Hinota peers into the bag to see what sort of item he will bring out.Bookmark here

He pulled out another katana, but other than its different colored hilt, only Hinota and Kudo could see that the blade shined with a mysterious light.Bookmark here

The sound of sharp metal could be heard as he brandished it in front of Hinota. The blade of the katana he carried in his hand had what seemed like silvery background, with white-colored waves on the front. Kudo turned the blade’s tip towards the side, handing the handle to Hinota.Bookmark here

“Alright!”Bookmark here

Hinota gleefully takes the katana into her hands, feeling the sudden heavy weight which surpassed her expectations. Quickly adjusting her grip, Hinota could feel already the incredible power of Kudo’s new weapon.Bookmark here

“I figured that you purposely took your katana to the limit just so that you can use this new one.”Bookmark here

“Hehe, figured me out, huh?”Bookmark here

“Well, I’ll let it slide this time, but treat your weapons better, okay?”Bookmark here

“Okay!”Bookmark here

With a strong nod, Kudo raised his fist with a grin on his face.Bookmark here

“Hinota, bring out the buffs!”Bookmark here

“Got it! “——《Enchant: Strength》! ——《Enchant: Speed》! ——《Enchant: Sharpness》! ——《Enchant: Intelligence》! And finally, ——《Burning Soul》!”Bookmark here

She lifted her hand in the air, and focused her mana solely on her body. In an instant, as she shouted each skill, her body glow in a different colored aura. Then, her body instantly became devoured in flames, revealing her burning soul mode.Bookmark here

“What’s more: ——《Plus Pulse》! Give us a good one!”Bookmark here

Kudo, adding in his own charm, raised his hand and released several white rings out of it. The rings floated up in the air, and expanded in size. The rings of pure white light then floated down gently, covering the entire field where only the party members were in.Bookmark here

“I-Incredible!”Bookmark here

“S-Somehow, I feel incredible power rising in my body!”Bookmark here

“S-So this is the Guidebook’s buff? It’s awesome!”Bookmark here

“Don’t call me Guidebook!”Bookmark here

After giving a retort, Kudo exhaled as he turned to Hinota.Bookmark here

“Go for it, Hinota! Show that stupid golem what it means to mess with us!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, leave it to me!”Bookmark here

She grips onto her new katana with both hands tightly, the ever-changing colors of her aura eventually covering the katana with its light.Bookmark here

Feeling her instincts becoming one with her mind, she jumps. In an instant, her body completely disappeared, only letting a trace of ember escape from her fiery, flowing hair.Bookmark here

Kudo could only turn his head towards the golem, who remained roaring and groaning, as if believing that it could win.Bookmark here

The golem opened its mouth wide and roared again. OOOOAAAA!! The golem raised its hand again, readying to throw it down at the ground with enough force to what seem like would break the ground.Bookmark here

—*Slash!*Bookmark here

This time, no sound of rocks being smashed, or even the sounds of rocks breaking. Only a sharp, crisp sound of something slashed was heard.Bookmark here

The hand that was supposed to crush the ground once more fell from the tall height, which ironically crashed onto the ground. The grounds shook again, but the trio were left with gaping mouths as they saw the now cut up arm, the end of the cut up arm filled with lava dripping like blood from a fresh wound.Bookmark here

UUUUOOOOOO…!Bookmark here

The Lava Golem cried out in pain.Bookmark here

For the first time, the Golem felt pain. It wasn’t supposed to happen. Yet, it cried out in agony.Bookmark here

Kudo could see that a bit of the aura was left on the cut up arm of the Golem. For a moment, he could see the aura surrounding the wound, causing sizzling steam to come out of it. It was possible that the high quality of mana produced from the blade made the Golem finally feel pain from its wound.Bookmark here

(As expected from Hinota. She could make the impossible happen!)Bookmark here

Kudo grinned fearlessly. He charged another Plus Bomb in his hand and charged right at the Golem.Bookmark here

Hinota continued to appear and disappear instantly. Each time she appears, her body floated in front of the Golem. It widened its eyes widely, as if what it saw before it was the very vision of death itself.Bookmark here

—*Ting!*Bookmark here

Another flash of white line ran across the golem’s other arm, cutting it apart from its body and fell.Bookmark here

Rather than the famous grim reaper, it was a fiery angel that flew without wings. Her flaming hair waved on the side, her eyes glowing and leaving traces of small fire.Bookmark here

“Hinota! Let’s finish it off with the PlusFire combo!”Bookmark here

“Yeah!”Bookmark here

She shouted back to Kudo after seeing Kudo’s bomb already made in his hand. Still in the air, an ember quickly formed in her hand, combusting into a powerful flame covered in various colors of her auras.Bookmark here

“Go for it! ——《Plus Bomb》!”Bookmark here

Kudo threw his bomb onto the Golem’s cut up body.Bookmark here

“And… ——《Fireball》!”Bookmark here

She shot out her attack, aiming right at the bomb.Bookmark here

The result was obvious by now.Bookmark here

—*BOOOOOOOM!*Bookmark here

The golem exploded, causing a massive shockwave which left the trio gaping to the extent of their mouths. Bookmark here

Compared to the usual explosions, it was rather mild to the PlusFire. Considering their location, they didn’t want to blow themselves up, so they lowered the output. However, since their skill levels were higher, it was clear that the damage would increase as well.Bookmark here

After recovering themselves from the shockwave, the party saw the golem’s result.Bookmark here

The smoke that appeared when it exploded finally dispersed, and revealing inside was several piles of rocks that formed a small mountain, the liquid hot magma forming a trail underneath it.Bookmark here

“Hahaha! Hah… ahhh!”Bookmark here

Hinota laughed, but only for a short while. Because she quickly realized that she was still in the air, so gravity played a roll.Bookmark here

And unfortunately, she was about to land right where the trail of lava was traversing.
Once again, she was about to be burned up.Bookmark here

“Again?!”Bookmark here

A look of frustration, fear, and shame was shown on her face at the same time. This will most likely follow her for the rest of her life. If it continues from this moment, that is.Bookmark here

“——《Plus Chain》!”Bookmark here

As if on cue, white chains came out of Kudo’s hands, wrapping themselves around Hinota’s falling body as her body and hairstyle returned to their original state while being dragged away.Bookmark here

Her body was pulled towards Kudo, getting herself caught in Kudo’s embrace again.Bookmark here

Once again, it was a princess-carry.Bookmark here

With her back and legs firmly caught in Kudo’s well-developed toned arms, she looked up, her katana pointing at the other side, to see Kudo looking down on her.Bookmark here

“I always got your back.”Bookmark here

Kudo answered with a beaming smile.Bookmark here

For a moment, Hinota’s cheeks faintly blushed and her heart throbbed. Normally, she would try to get out of such an embarrassing carry.Bookmark here

But she couldn’t. For a moment, her strength left her.Bookmark here

It could be possible that after defeating the Golem, her body was just tired. After falling so many times, nearly burned by lava a few times, her physical and mental parameters were at their lowest.Bookmark here

She felt as if she has just done a tiresome errand that took all day, and just sat down on a comfortable and warm bed. She didn’t want to move away in that instant.Bookmark here

Hinota clutches her katana’s hilt tightly, and a smile was formed on her lips.Bookmark here

“Yeah!”Bookmark here

Her smile was so bright, it was dazzling.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Despite the hot atmosphere nearly reaching its boiling point, the rest of the Adventurers did not mind, as the dropped loot was currently on their minds.Bookmark here

The Dungeon Dwellers have done an excellent job supporting the PlusFire on taking down the boss. Needless to say, in Kudo’s personal opinion, if it wasn’t for the trio’s efforts to thin down the extra mobs and distracting the Boss in time, the PlusFire wouldn’t have made it to where they were now.Bookmark here

As such, Kudo and Hinota left them the loot in return.Bookmark here

In short, it made them ecstatic.Bookmark here

As the Dungeon Dwellers took the loot and fought over who gets to take what, the PlusFire were in their own little world, creating an atmosphere of tension and stillness.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

They both stayed quiet. As of now, they should have received enough experience points to level up. However, their patience were running thin, and each showed a disgruntled expression, saying ‘this should be enough…!’ on their faces.Bookmark here

Suddenly a screen showed up near their faces. The two quickly looked without notifying each other.Bookmark here

———————————————————————————————
You have reached your current Class’ maximum level.Bookmark here

Your Class has undergone a new transition to the new Class…Bookmark here

Your Class has transformed into [Crimson Archmage]!
———————————————————————————————Bookmark here

Then, they felt their hearts wrenched.Bookmark here

Their eyes whitened up, and suddenly, the power flowing through their bodies exploded.Bookmark here

Hinota’s body was wrapped in small flames, covering herself to the point of leaving the ground beneath her to be ensnared in fire. The fire bursts, creating a pillar of fire similar to her buff skill.Bookmark here

Kudo’s body was wrapped in warm white light. It covered his entire body, even affecting the ground itself. Similar to Hinota’s, the light burst open and created a pillar of white light that reached to the ceiling.Bookmark here

“W-What’s going on?!”Bookmark here

“A-Are they doing their Class Up?!”Bookmark here

“No way! This is the first time I’ve seen this!”Bookmark here

Milda, Quinn, and Ramp obviously noticed the surge of power flowing from the PlusFire’s bodies. A small wave of air was produced by their presence, leaving the trio in awe.Bookmark here

They felt the air change, the tension increasing, and their bodies quivering from the sudden power. Their eyes widened, as if they were seeing their comrades that they have just fought with evolving into divine beings.Bookmark here

The air turned back to normal, the atmosphere became easier to breathe in, and the power surging from them decreased in potency.Bookmark here

The pillars of fire and light slowly dissipated, and finally, the PlusFire members returned to their original state.Bookmark here

However, the trio could see the moment when Hinota’s eyes opened, they saw something that fascinated them.Bookmark here

Hinota opened her eyes, and a strong fire burned and blazed within her irises. Bookmark here

The flame withered down, revealing her purple colored eyes.Bookmark here

It was enough to leave them speechless. Bookmark here

“H-Hinota, did you Class Up?”Bookmark here

“Y-Yeah… it felt weird…”Bookmark here

Hinota managed to say, then looked at Kudo’s side.Bookmark here

“Kudo, are you…”Bookmark here

But she trailed off. Hinota saw that Kudo’s eyes were still closed.Bookmark here

After a moment, Kudo’s eyes finally opened, but the view left them in awe.Bookmark here

At first, it was nothing but an empty, jade color. There was no light in his eyes. But after a few seconds, the color exploded. Lights were suddenly born and created an aurora of blue and green together.Bookmark here

It left Hinota captivated, and left the trio stunned.Bookmark here

Before long, Kudo quickly blinked, and his irises returned to their normal jade color.Bookmark here

“H-Huh…? What?”Bookmark here

Kudo mumbled, feeling his head was about to burst. He held his head tight, shook it slightly, and turned his attention to Hinota.Bookmark here

“H-Hinota… are you okay?” He asked first, surprising Hinota.Bookmark here

“Y-Yeah… I’m fine. Are you? You look like you took a while…”Bookmark here

“Yeah… I just feel a little dazed. I thought… I saw something for a moment.”Bookmark here

Kudo could only answer.Bookmark here

While he was transforming, he felt as if someone was calling him. In his mind’s eye, he saw what seemed like an area where nothing existed. It was pure black. But then, a small light shined in the darkness.Bookmark here

The light slowly transformed the dark place into a bluish space filled with glittering stars. It expanded, widening his mind’s eye.Bookmark here

That was all he could remember.Bookmark here

“Mmh… weird…”Bookmark here

“Maybe it has something to do with your strange Class?”Bookmark here

Hinota answered as Kudo returned to reality, getting him to put his hand on his chin, entering into a pensive state.Bookmark here

“Mmh… well! It doesn’t matter!”Bookmark here

He quickly got rid of the questions forming in his mind, and formed a beaming smile which surprised Hinota and the trio.Bookmark here

“So, how’s your stats? Tell me!”Bookmark here

Seeing him quickly get into his Adventurer mode and turning his attention to Hinota, she could only give a small chuckle and shouted ‘Stat Menu!’ out loud.Bookmark here

A small screen showed in front of her, getting her to quickly read it.Bookmark here

“…Whoa! Kudo, look at this!”Bookmark here

Hinota called Kudo in, getting him to look at her stats.Bookmark here

———————————————————————————————————
Name: Hinota FlamverBookmark here

Class: Crimson ArchmageBookmark here

Level: 101Bookmark here

HP: 7260, MP: 10650Bookmark here

Attack: 1633, Defense: 831Bookmark here

Magic Attack: 2184, Magic Defense: 577Bookmark here

STR: 78 INT: 545Bookmark here

VIT: 72 WIS: 34Bookmark here

DEX: 75 LUK: 14Bookmark here

Available Points: 5
———————————————————————————————————Bookmark here

“Whoa!”Bookmark here

Kudo’s howl surprised the trio and made them shrink back, but the look of Hinota’s face showed a prideful and exhilarated expression.Bookmark here

“Isn’t it awesome?!”Bookmark here

“It so is! Amazing!”Bookmark here

“Isn’t it?! What about yours?”Bookmark here

Trading each other’s enthusiasm, Hinota asked what was on her mind this entire time. However, contrasting his earlier reaction, Kudo’s beaming face crumbled and turned into a look of despair.Bookmark here

“Ah… well… when I got the notification… All it said that my Class transitioned into… nothing. It just showed more question marks than before.”Bookmark here

It was like the air around Kudo’s head was slowly becoming colder, and it was starting to affect Hinota. Feeling the cold winds blowing through her face in her mind, she quickly shook it off and roughly grabbed Kudo’s shoulders.Bookmark here

“ “ “ “Hurry up and say it!” ” ” ”Bookmark here

Both Hinota, and the trio who were eagerly waiting for his answer, showed a look of curiosity beyond measure.Bookmark here

“Ah… okay!”Bookmark here

Kudo inhaled his breath, seeing that he has no choice but to show it now. He shouted ‘Stat menu!’, and his screen popped up, Hinota quickly got behind it and read the status.Bookmark here

———————————————————————————————————
Name: Kudo BravenBookmark here

Class: ???? ????Bookmark here

Level: 101Bookmark here

HP: 5390, MP: 6130Bookmark here

Attack: 1138, Defense: 831Bookmark here

Magic Attack: 2037, Magic Defense: 577Bookmark here

STR: 64 INT: 67Bookmark here

VIT: 64 WIS: 39Bookmark here

DEX: 62 LUK: 533Bookmark here

Available Points: 5
———————————————————————————————————Bookmark here

“Amazing, Kudo! Your stats really improved, too!”Bookmark here

Hinota moved her head closer to the screen, not minding Kudo’s face at all as his cheeks blushed in response to that.Bookmark here

“Well, let me be the first to say… congratulations, you kids!”Bookmark here

Kudo and Hinota looked up to see the Dungeon Dwellers facing them with a smile on their faces.Bookmark here

When Hinota saw those smiles, she thought that they would be slightly frustrated that younger Adventurers like them managed to get their Class Up easily, meanwhile, they continue to level at a much slower pace.Bookmark here

However, she didn’t sense these kinds of feelings at all. Their smiles were sincere, as if they were truly congratulating them from their hearts.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“What? Hinota, you thought we were gonna curse you or something for achieving Class Up first? What do you think we are—brats?”Bookmark here

Hinota’s shoulders shrank after seeing Milda direct her gaze to Hinota, giving off a wink and a grin.Bookmark here

She was seen right through. Despite having more experience in reading the atmosphere, she was completely defeated compared to Milda in terms of understanding it.Bookmark here

“…Right. I apologize for thinking of you guys like that. And… thank you.”Bookmark here

Hinota bowed her head slightly, surprising Kudo as he looked at her, then quickly does the same action towards the Dungeon Dwellers.Bookmark here

“Hahaha! Don’t speak to us so formally now! We should celebrate this! Now come on, let’s go back and reap in the sweet victory!”Bookmark here

The warm atmosphere turned into a festive mood as Quinn and Ramp followed Milda’s lead towards the exit of the floor.Bookmark here

“H-Hey, what happened?”Bookmark here

Being the socially dense Adventurer, Kudo turned around and asked his partner, who was the expert.Bookmark here

“…Hehe, it’s nothing,” Hinota answered with a smile, but in a few seconds, it turned into a solemn expression. “But Kudo, didn’t you say something before?”Bookmark here

“…Eh?”Bookmark here

Kudo shrank back. He remembered the awkward situation that occurred between them during their battle.Bookmark here

He hoped that she has forgotten about it during the excitement, but then he quickly realized that her [INT] stat is extraordinarily high, so the chance of that happening as about as equal as finding a dragon.Bookmark here

“Ah… well…”Bookmark here

“You… said that I was your best friend, didn’t you?”Bookmark here

She asked simply, yet her aura was completely demanding an answer out of Kudo. Bookmark here

Sensing the powerful presence, Kudo wanted to run away. But seeing the solemn look on her face, her slanted and glaring eyes gazing heavily on Kudo, he knew that he couldn’t escape so easily.Bookmark here

So, he decided to tell her.Bookmark here

“I… Yes. I’m… I’m sorry if I was too forward.”Bookmark here

For a moment, Kudo returned to his usual self. The usual self that was always reserved as he gazed at the ground.Bookmark here

If Hinota disliked being called his best friend, then it would make the situation awkward for the both of them. He didn’t want that. That’s why he wanted to keep it a secret.Bookmark here

But now he has to hear the answer that he was so afraid of knowing.Bookmark here

“…I… also…”Bookmark here

Kudo’s eyes widened. He quickly turned upwards to face Hinota who was already starting to blush faintly from her cheeks.Bookmark here

“…I also think of you as my best friend.”Bookmark here

Her cheeks were still blushing, but she formed a smile. For a moment, in Kudo’s mind, time stood still.Bookmark here

The smile before, and the smile now, each time, Kudo’s heart throbbed for each time.
A powerful and exciting feeling welled inside Kudo’s heart, to the point of releasing it through his actions.Bookmark here

“Yeaahh! Hahaha! Thank goodness~!”Bookmark here

Kudo raised his arms up and shouted in joy. It surprised Hinota, but it left her to form a wide smile and laughed with him.Bookmark here

“Hah, I didn’t think that you felt the same way…”Bookmark here

“Wasn’t it obvious? I wouldn’t just share everything like that if you were a stranger, you know? Though… this is the first time that I have ever had a best friend, so I can’t really explain it very well…”Bookmark here

She gazed downwards, showing an embarrassed look which got Kudo to widen his eyes in response.Bookmark here

Being the socially advanced girl that she is, the fact that she has not made a best friend was shocking. So much so that she was embarrassed to admit it.Bookmark here

“Y-You never had a best friend before, either?”Bookmark here

“Well, it was hard to trust anybody in Erijo, and ever since I got out, you were the only one that I have traveled with.”Bookmark here

“A-Ah… I see.”Bookmark here

Knowing Hinota’s situation as a princess in a well-known family, Kudo could tell that making trustworthy friends would be a difficult wall for her to pass.Bookmark here

“Though, I know that I can completely trust you with my life. There’s nobody that I would rather show my back to other than you.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah, I feel the same way.”Bookmark here

Forming a smile, the two made a fist and connected it to each other’s, forming a fist bump. Then, a series of short chuckles of making such a lame action ensued.Bookmark here

Before long, the two went back on their way to the exit behind the Dungeon Dwellers.
As time passed by, Kudo remained unusually quiet. Hinota could see the struggle he was facing on his face as he looked downwards with a serious gaze.Bookmark here

Then, he turned to ask:Bookmark here

“…Hey, Hinota?”Bookmark here

“Yeah?”Bookmark here

“Should we… like, make nicknames for ourselves?”Bookmark here

Believing that best friends often have nicknames for each other, Kudo thought that it was some sort of right of passage, and asked Hinota.Bookmark here

Hinota looked at Kudo for a long time, and then, she answered:Bookmark here

“Sure, but only if you want me to call you Guidebook from now on.”Bookmark here

She smiled brightly, but it left a daunting sound in Kudo’s ears of being called Guidebook by Hinota from now on. Showing a face that looked like those words would hurt him deeply every time, he answered:Bookmark here

“…Let’s just stick with our names.”Bookmark here

“Hahaha!”Bookmark here

******************************************************************
It’s done! Their hundredth level, and it is official: They’re the best friends each could have! What will happen next to the PlusFire? Check out next time!Bookmark here

Also, I have a bit of news to tell later, so check the TrinityNovels Wattpad page for it. It regards the future of Hour Empty Child, and it’s very important…Bookmark here

…No, it’s not a cancellation, so none of you have to worry about that. It regards the timing and pacing of the story, and it is something very important to me. Check it out when you can! Bookmark here


Bookmarked
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