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.
Opening the door to the outside world from the inn, Kudo revealed himself with a bright smile on his face.
“Alright, let’s head out!”
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.
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.
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.
“Hinota, how’re you feelin’?”
He turned his head, facing the fiery young woman beside him whose sharp glare turned at him.
“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.”
“How could I not? After yesterday, I never want you to ran out of fuel like that again.”
“Gah… don’t remind me of that.”
Hinota’s color turned pale blue after recalling yesterday’s mishap on her part.
■ ■ ■
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.
*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.
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!’
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.
In other words, a princess-carry.
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.
“Sorry, Hinota! I’ll take you back to the inn!”
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.
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.
“K-Kudo! This is embarrassing!”
“This is more important than our image!”
Kudo shouted, to both Hinota and himself, as he ran with all his might to bring his partner the help she needed.
■ ■ ■
“Hah… that was so embarrassing…”
“Hey, that’s what you get for going overboard without telling me…”
Back at the present, Kudo could see Hinota’s shoulders slumped, her excited demeanor from before crumbled apart.
“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!”
“Mmh? Princess-carry? What’s that?”
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.
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.
The sounds of shouts and yells from the shops and stalls became louder, giving them a signal that they were near.
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.
They found the same long line of Adventurers as before, but right as they were about to head towards the end of the line—
—“Yo! It’s the red hot Duo! Is everything alright, Guidebook? Is one of you okay?”
An Adventurer, dressed like a [Warrior], greeted them with a concerned look.
“I heard that it was the Red Queen that fainted? I was so shocked! Is everything alright?”
Another Adventurer added herself in, this time dressed like a [Mage].
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’.
“Ah, everything’s fine, thank you for asking. She just got hungry and fainted.”
“D-Don’t answer so simply like that!”
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.
“Hahaha, is that so? I’m glad that it wasn’t anything serious!” The [Warrior] had a look of relief, heartily laughing out loud.
“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.
“Carried like a princess…?”
“D-Don’t talk about that with him!”
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.
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.
“How come everyone’s calling me ‘Guidebook’?! It’s so lame!”
As they finally got to be alone after greeting some of the Adventurers, Kudo laid out his frustration that was welling in his heart.
“That’s cuz’ you always give out good advice. Like your guidebook.”
“B-But that’s common knowledge!”
“Not everyone read the guidebook, Kudo. Just accept your fate.”
“Eeeh… but you got such a good nickname!”
“Why else? Not only because of my red hair, I’m also regal, like I came from royalty~”
Hinota flicked her bangs, creating an air of arrogance to surround her along with her confident smile. Kudo could only grumble in response.
“I see your head’s just as big as ever.”
“Why, thank you~”
“That’s not a compliment!”
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.
“Hey, you guys!”
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.
“Morning to you guys!” The [Warrior] tipped his helmet to offer them greeting, closing his left eye.
“It’s a good weather for raiding, eh? Not like we’ll be affected as much, haha!” The [Archer] bellowed as he laughed heartily.
“Morning to you, Cute boy-chan!”
The [Thief], however, closed up to Kudo by her shoulder, leering at him with a lecherous gaze from top to bottom.
“M-Morning to you all too…”
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.
“Back off, Milda. You know he doesn’t like that.”
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.
“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!”
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.
“That’s because if I’m not around him, you might do something drastic.”
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!’
“Sorry about Milda. She’s a sucker for cute little boys.”
“We try to fix that, but it can be pretty vexing.”
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.
“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.”
“Oh! That’s great! Thanks so much, Milda!”
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.
“Let’s go before our spot’s taken!”
Taking Hinota’s wrists, he dashed towards the dungeon with Hinota following suit with a smile, leading the other Dungeon Dwellers to their destination.
On the second day, the Dungeon Dwellers asked… well, pleaded them to join their party.
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.
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.
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.
“Hinota, you’re level…?”
Kudo’s tone was deeper than before. His eyes were dead set on his level number.
“99. And you?”
Hinota also answered back with the same, solemn tone.
“99… we’re so close!”
“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!”
Hinota tightened her fist, her eyes were brimming with a passionate fire which Kudo responded to equally.
“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!”
Kudo’s eyes were furrowed. His perfectionist side resonated with Hinota’s while forming a fearless smile.
“Though… it’ll probably be really hard. We might be burned alive.”
“Heh, then aren’t you lucky that I’m practically resistant to fire?”
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.
After entering into the 79th floor, suddenly a waft of hot air was blown onto their bodies.
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.
Once their eyes adjusted to it, they were faced with an intense heat flowing downwards to the bottomless chasm of the floor.
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.
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.
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.
Without a word, the two shared a nod. They looked ahead and started marching to their goal.
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.
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.
But there was no boss monster in sight.
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.
“One drop and that’s that…”
Ramp muttered to himself, clutching onto his bow as he stepped away from the edge with all his might.
The grounds shook. The party gathered together to see the walls of the cave suddenly crumbled apart.
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.
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.
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.
“ “Bring it on!” ”
The PlusFire shouted together.
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.
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.
So far, everything was going well, but Golem was only just passing time…
As an hour passed from their battle, their limit in the dungeon slowly withering away, the Golem opened its mouth and roared.
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.
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.
The Golem created mobs from within its body. A special skill that belonged to the Boss of the 79th floor.
The Lava Puppets growled, their arms raised and their bodies wiggled uncontrollably as they charged in towards Ramp.
“Kuh, dammit!” Ramp cursed as he nocked an arrow onto his bow, and shot it out at one of the puppets.
*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.
“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.
“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!”
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.
“Count… on me!”
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.
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.
“Grr… not enough… ——《Hate Cry》!”
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.
“Quinn! Don’t take in too many at once!”
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.
“D-Don’t worry, Kudo!”
Quinn responded as he showed a fearless grin. The pressure from the puppets beating on his shield increased several times over.
Seeing his condition, Kudo furrowed his eyes and turned his attention towards the main boss.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Ghh, my weapon can’t take it much longer…”
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.
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.
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.
“Hinota! I’m going in!”
Seeing her state, Kudo put his bastard sword at a reverse grip, leaving a free right hand as it gathered mana.
He threw the white orb that gathered in his hand to the Golem. He then threw another one, and another one.
Five bombs were stuck on the Golem’s body, rearing its crackling head towards the one who threw them.
As the seconds passed…
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.
He spoke proudly. He knew that at this point, the bombs should deliver a lot of damage this time.
But his eyes widened.
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.
“You’re kidding me!?”
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.
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.
She screamed, her panicked expression turning into rage as she turned her head to attack the golem.
But the incoming attack of its other arm caught Hinota’s attention.
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.
Kudo’s voice pierced her hearing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They were pure white chains, and the one pulling her up was the one who took her out of that hell of a forest.
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.
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.
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:
“Thanks… Kudo…” She managed to say as her breaths continued to exhale.
Kudo could only form a smile on his face after seeing Hinota alive and in one piece.
“Don’t mention it. You’re my best friend, after all.”
Kudo suddenly popped open his eyes.
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.
A whimper of shock was released. Hinota had her eyes widened, looking directly at Kudo with her sharpened eyes.
“Did you… say—?”
“Ah! Well... you see…”
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.
“Hey! It’s no time for you guys to have a moment!”
Milda’s irritated voice pierced the moment they were having, getting them to look back to see the Golem readying another attack.
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.
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.
“K-Kudo, I’m fine!”
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.
“Kudo, this thing’s pretty damn annoying. I say it’s time to bring out the support!”
She grunted with a scowl that was directed right at the Golem.
“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.”
Kudo turned his head towards the trio, putting on a furrowed expression.
“Can you three distract it while we prepare our arsenal?”
“Heh, you can count on us! Come on, guys!”
Without hesitation, Milda commanded Quinn and Ramp to head towards the golem to do as Kudo says.
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.
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.
Kudo then looked back to Hinota, and saw the state of her weapon.
“Hinota, your katana…”
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.
“Ah, yeah… I can’t land anymore hits with this.”
“Then this is where I come in!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I figured that you purposely took your katana to the limit just so that you can use this new one.”
“Hehe, figured me out, huh?”
“Well, I’ll let it slide this time, but treat your weapons better, okay?”
With a strong nod, Kudo raised his fist with a grin on his face.
“Hinota, bring out the buffs!”
“Got it! “——《Enchant: Strength》! ——《Enchant: Speed》! ——《Enchant: Sharpness》! ——《Enchant: Intelligence》! And finally, ——《Burning Soul》!”
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.
“What’s more: ——《Plus Pulse》! Give us a good one!”
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.
“S-Somehow, I feel incredible power rising in my body!”
“S-So this is the Guidebook’s buff? It’s awesome!”
“Don’t call me Guidebook!”
After giving a retort, Kudo exhaled as he turned to Hinota.
“Go for it, Hinota! Show that stupid golem what it means to mess with us!”
“Yeah, leave it to me!”
She grips onto her new katana with both hands tightly, the ever-changing colors of her aura eventually covering the katana with its light.
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.
Kudo could only turn his head towards the golem, who remained roaring and groaning, as if believing that it could win.
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.
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.
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.
The Lava Golem cried out in pain.
For the first time, the Golem felt pain. It wasn’t supposed to happen. Yet, it cried out in agony.
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.
(As expected from Hinota. She could make the impossible happen!)
Kudo grinned fearlessly. He charged another Plus Bomb in his hand and charged right at the Golem.
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.
Another flash of white line ran across the golem’s other arm, cutting it apart from its body and fell.
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.
“Hinota! Let’s finish it off with the PlusFire combo!”
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.
“Go for it! ——《Plus Bomb》!”
Kudo threw his bomb onto the Golem’s cut up body.
She shot out her attack, aiming right at the bomb.
The result was obvious by now.
The golem exploded, causing a massive shockwave which left the trio gaping to the extent of their mouths.
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.
After recovering themselves from the shockwave, the party saw the golem’s result.
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.
“Hahaha! Hah… ahhh!”
Hinota laughed, but only for a short while. Because she quickly realized that she was still in the air, so gravity played a roll.
And unfortunately, she was about to land right where the trail of lava was traversing.
Once again, she was about to be burned up.
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.
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.
Her body was pulled towards Kudo, getting herself caught in Kudo’s embrace again.
Once again, it was a princess-carry.
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.
“I always got your back.”
Kudo answered with a beaming smile.
For a moment, Hinota’s cheeks faintly blushed and her heart throbbed. Normally, she would try to get out of such an embarrassing carry.
But she couldn’t. For a moment, her strength left her.
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.
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.
Hinota clutches her katana’s hilt tightly, and a smile was formed on her lips.
Her smile was so bright, it was dazzling.
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.
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.
As such, Kudo and Hinota left them the loot in return.
In short, it made them ecstatic.
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.
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.
Suddenly a screen showed up near their faces. The two quickly looked without notifying each other.
You have reached your current Class’ maximum level.
Your Class has undergone a new transition to the new Class…
Your Class has transformed into [Crimson Archmage]!
Then, they felt their hearts wrenched.
Their eyes whitened up, and suddenly, the power flowing through their bodies exploded.
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.
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.
“W-What’s going on?!”
“A-Are they doing their Class Up?!”
“No way! This is the first time I’ve seen this!”
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.
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.
The air turned back to normal, the atmosphere became easier to breathe in, and the power surging from them decreased in potency.
The pillars of fire and light slowly dissipated, and finally, the PlusFire members returned to their original state.
However, the trio could see the moment when Hinota’s eyes opened, they saw something that fascinated them.
Hinota opened her eyes, and a strong fire burned and blazed within her irises.
The flame withered down, revealing her purple colored eyes.
It was enough to leave them speechless.
“H-Hinota, did you Class Up?”
“Y-Yeah… it felt weird…”
Hinota managed to say, then looked at Kudo’s side.
“Kudo, are you…”
But she trailed off. Hinota saw that Kudo’s eyes were still closed.
After a moment, Kudo’s eyes finally opened, but the view left them in awe.
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.
It left Hinota captivated, and left the trio stunned.
Before long, Kudo quickly blinked, and his irises returned to their normal jade color.
Kudo mumbled, feeling his head was about to burst. He held his head tight, shook it slightly, and turned his attention to Hinota.
“H-Hinota… are you okay?” He asked first, surprising Hinota.
“Y-Yeah… I’m fine. Are you? You look like you took a while…”
“Yeah… I just feel a little dazed. I thought… I saw something for a moment.”
Kudo could only answer.
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.
The light slowly transformed the dark place into a bluish space filled with glittering stars. It expanded, widening his mind’s eye.
That was all he could remember.
“Maybe it has something to do with your strange Class?”
Hinota answered as Kudo returned to reality, getting him to put his hand on his chin, entering into a pensive state.
“Mmh… well! It doesn’t matter!”
He quickly got rid of the questions forming in his mind, and formed a beaming smile which surprised Hinota and the trio.
“So, how’s your stats? Tell me!”
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.
A small screen showed in front of her, getting her to quickly read it.
“…Whoa! Kudo, look at this!”
Hinota called Kudo in, getting him to look at her stats.
Name: Hinota Flamver
Class: Crimson Archmage
HP: 7260, MP: 10650
Attack: 1633, Defense: 831
Magic Attack: 2184, Magic Defense: 577
STR: 78 INT: 545
VIT: 72 WIS: 34
DEX: 75 LUK: 14
Available Points: 5
Kudo’s howl surprised the trio and made them shrink back, but the look of Hinota’s face showed a prideful and exhilarated expression.
“Isn’t it awesome?!”
“It so is! Amazing!”
“Isn’t it?! What about yours?”
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.
“Ah… well… when I got the notification… All it said that my Class transitioned into… nothing. It just showed more question marks than before.”
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.
“ “ “ “Hurry up and say it!” ” ” ”
Both Hinota, and the trio who were eagerly waiting for his answer, showed a look of curiosity beyond measure.
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.
Name: Kudo Braven
Class: ???? ????
HP: 5390, MP: 6130
Attack: 1138, Defense: 831
Magic Attack: 2037, Magic Defense: 577
STR: 64 INT: 67
VIT: 64 WIS: 39
DEX: 62 LUK: 533
Available Points: 5
“Amazing, Kudo! Your stats really improved, too!”
Hinota moved her head closer to the screen, not minding Kudo’s face at all as his cheeks blushed in response to that.
“Well, let me be the first to say… congratulations, you kids!”
Kudo and Hinota looked up to see the Dungeon Dwellers facing them with a smile on their faces.
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.
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.
“What? Hinota, you thought we were gonna curse you or something for achieving Class Up first? What do you think we are—brats?”
Hinota’s shoulders shrank after seeing Milda direct her gaze to Hinota, giving off a wink and a grin.
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.
“…Right. I apologize for thinking of you guys like that. And… thank you.”
Hinota bowed her head slightly, surprising Kudo as he looked at her, then quickly does the same action towards the Dungeon Dwellers.
“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!”
The warm atmosphere turned into a festive mood as Quinn and Ramp followed Milda’s lead towards the exit of the floor.
“H-Hey, what happened?”
Being the socially dense Adventurer, Kudo turned around and asked his partner, who was the expert.
“…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?”
Kudo shrank back. He remembered the awkward situation that occurred between them during their battle.
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.
“You… said that I was your best friend, didn’t you?”
She asked simply, yet her aura was completely demanding an answer out of Kudo.
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.
So, he decided to tell her.
“I… Yes. I’m… I’m sorry if I was too forward.”
For a moment, Kudo returned to his usual self. The usual self that was always reserved as he gazed at the ground.
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.
But now he has to hear the answer that he was so afraid of knowing.
Kudo’s eyes widened. He quickly turned upwards to face Hinota who was already starting to blush faintly from her cheeks.
“…I also think of you as my best friend.”
Her cheeks were still blushing, but she formed a smile. For a moment, in Kudo’s mind, time stood still.
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.
“Yeaahh! Hahaha! Thank goodness~!”
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.
“Hah, I didn’t think that you felt the same way…”
“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…”
She gazed downwards, showing an embarrassed look which got Kudo to widen his eyes in response.
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.
“Y-You never had a best friend before, either?”
“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.”
“A-Ah… I see.”
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.
“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.”
“…Yeah, I feel the same way.”
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.
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.
Then, he turned to ask:
“Should we… like, make nicknames for ourselves?”
Believing that best friends often have nicknames for each other, Kudo thought that it was some sort of right of passage, and asked Hinota.
Hinota looked at Kudo for a long time, and then, she answered:
“Sure, but only if you want me to call you Guidebook from now on.”
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:
“…Let’s just stick with our names.”
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!
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…
…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!