Katsuya was walking through the main road in the middle of the lower district together with Yumina, Airi, Reina, Shiori, and Kanae. They were showing the lower district of the Kugamayama city to Kanae, who just joined their team.
Since all the girls, who were together with Katsuya, were wearing dresses that were better than most of the dresses in the lower district and also with some of them wearing a maid uniform, Katsuya’s group gathered a lot of attention.
Kanae was wearing a maid uniform. It was not rare for female Hunters to walk around in the lower district with their Hunter armors, but it was rare to find them wearing a maid uniform. Because of that, most of the people around them were sending curious gazes to Kanae and the other girls who were together with Katsuya.
Reina sighed exasperatedly and turned to Kanae.
“Kanae, are you seriously planning to accompany me in that uniform from now on?”
Kanae instantly replied back.
“Yep, is there any problem?”
Kanae knew that her maid uniform was gathering a lot of attention, but she did not care at all. After all, she was that kind of girl.
But in contrast to her, Reina was a bit bothered by that.
“You’re attracting a lot of attention, you know. Can’t you at least take that off?”
“Nope, just because I have an augmented suit underneath it, I don’t want to take it off. After all, I have no hobby of walking through a public space in a tight suit. Even if you have a hobby to make others do that, it’s outside of my real duty. So I’ll have to refuse.”
Kanae was subtly poking fun at Reina, so Reina shouted back at her.
“I don’t have that kind of hobby either!! I’m telling you to change into something else!!! You can just use another Hunter armour that you have, right?!!”
“Even if you tell me so, this is the best one that I have. Just because I’m attracting some attention, I have no plans to change into another cheaper armour that might prove fatal for my survival. After all, no one would care when we’re out in the wasteland anyways. So it’s fine, isn’t it? Ahh, but I’ll rethink it if Milady would give me better armour. Although, to be honest, if Milady has money to buy me a present, I think it’s better if Milady spends it for better equipment instead.”
Reina could not refute that logic. Of course, she could not tell Kanae to change her armour into something cheaper just because she did not like her current appearance.
Reina turned to Shiori, requesting for help. But Shiori just shook her head.
For Shiori, Kanae was Reina’s shield. As Reina’s bodyguard, it was Kanae’s duty to protect Reina even if it meant that she had to sacrifice her own life in the worst-case scenario. Thus Shiori had no plans to weaken that shield.
Kanae smiled like it was none of her business and said.
“Well, at least until Milady becomes strong enough to the point that Milady only needs one bodyguard, Milady will have to deal with it.”
Basically, Kanae was indirectly telling Reina that it was all her fault for being weak, and if she had anything she wanted to complain about, then she should become stronger. So Reina stopped thinking of making any counter-argument then and there.
In the first place, if it was not because her family thought that Shiori alone was not enough as her bodyguard, then Kanae too would not have been assigned as her bodyguard. The real reason why that happened was all because of her own fault.
Reina looked dispirited as she sighed and hung her head low. It was because she understood very well herself that it was all because she was too weak.
Katsuya, who saw Reina depressed, tried to cheer her up.
“We’ll help you too, so let’s work hard and become stronger together. I’m sure you can do it.”
“…Ah, right, thank you… Hm?”
Thanks to him, Reina was somehow able to cheer up. But she then realized that Katsuya said something that bothered her.
To be more precise, what bothered her was the implied meaning behind Katsuya’s words which he himself made clear with his next words.
“That’s why, won’t you cancel your decision to break away from my team?”
Reina and Shiori were originally a part of a Drankam affiliated team with Katsuya as its head. Around the time when Reina had not recognized Katsuya’s strength, she somehow forced her way into his team.
And even after she recognized Katsuya’s strength, she continued to work as a part of his team. She even somehow forced her way to join difficult requests compared to her level in order to get stronger and to collect achievements so that she could catch up with Katsuya.
Then after they finished the Kuzusuhara underground city request, Reina decided to break off from Katsuya’s team. Katsuya thought that it was just temporary until her extra bodyguard, Kanae, arrived and Shiori fully recovered.
But in contrast to his expectation, Reina decided to formally separate from Katsuya’s team. And it was all because of Reina’s own wish.
The requests that Drankam assigned to each of the Hunter teams affiliated to it were based on the average Hunter Ranks of the members of each team. Of course, the higher the average rank of a team, the higher the reward and the difficulty of the request that Drankam assigned to that team.
If Reina broke off from Katsuya’s team, there was no mistaking that her team would only get lower-level requests with lower rewards. It would be almost impossible for her new team to get a high-risk high-reward request such as the underground city exploration request from the other day. So in the end, it would be harder for Reina to increase her Hunter Rank.
Reina understood that Katsuya was trying to stop her out of good-will. Most of the people would think that Katsuya was trying to stop her out of ulterior motives, something like because Shiori and Reina were real beauties, or because he wanted to get skilled fighters like Shiori and Kanae on his team. But since Reina knew Katsuya’s personality well, she knew that was not the case.
Even though she knew all of that, she still shook her head.
“I’m sorry. I have no plans to withdraw that decision. After all, this all happened since I forced my way to join your team and accepted that underground city exploration request. Because I took a request that was way out of my capability, I ended up causing Shiori a lot of trouble. That’s why I’m planning to start again by doing small requests that I can manage on my own from now on.”
Katsuya at least understood that something must have happened when Reina and Shiori separated from his team in the underground city. But even until now, he still did not know the details of what exactly happened.
He did try to ask for the details, but both Reina and Shiori refused to say anything. Katsuya only knew about the aftermath, Reina was so tired to the point that she could not fight while Shiori was sent to the hospital. That was all that he knew.
Katsuya regretted the fact that he could not stay near them and protect them. He thought that he might have been able to do something to avoid such an outcome if he was together with them.
He looked a bit bashful as he smiled at Reina and said.
“If you stay with my team, you should be able to get better requests. Not to mention, if anything bad happens, well, I can protect you. So, won’t you at least reconsider?”
Airi and Yumina, who listened to the conversation between Katsuya and Reina, showed 2 different reactions. Yumina just sighed exasperatedly while Airi looked slightly annoyed as she squinted her eyes.
Although Katsuya sounded as if he was trying to hit on Reina, he did not realize it himself. It was a common thing that he did numerous times in the past, but he always kept his word, he even had sacrificed himself to keep his promise.
Most of the time, it caused the girls, who he protected, to fall for him and this was the main reason why he kept amassing more and more girls around him.
Since Yumina had been together with Katsuya for years, she had given up on fixing that bad habit of his. As for Airi, since she was saved by Katsuya in the past, she could not tell him to stop doing that.
Because no one was trying to fix his bad habit, Katsuya’s team had a very unbalanced male to female ratio.
Both Yumina and Airi thought that Reina would change her mind with this, but her answer was rather unexpected.
Instead, Reina cornered Katsuya with questions.
“…Katsuya, I’m happy that you said that to me, I really am. But, am I really that bad? Am I so bad that even after I’ve got Shiori with me, and Kanae assigned to me, that I would still need to be protected by you too? Am I really that bad as a Hunter in your eyes too?”
There was no trace of ill-will in Reina’s expression. But her expression was serious and looked slightly desperate.
Katsuya was cornered by Reina’s questions, he could only flusteredly answer back.
“T-that’s not true. I just thought that we should help each other and we’ll have a better chance of survival if we stay as a team. It’s exactly because I recognize your skill that I want to have you in my team.”
Reina stared at Katsuya as if she was questioning if that was really what he felt, she then shook her head.
“…Sorry, I don’t think I’m that strong myself, that’s why I can’t take your offer.”
“I-I see. It’s really unfortunate, but it can’t be helped then. You can tell me anytime if you change your mind, I’ll wait for you.”
After Katsuya said that, everyone went silent.
Reina did not say anything back to Katsuya. Shiori understood Reina’s feelings, but since trying to carelessly cheer her up might be counter-effective, she decided not to say anything too. Meanwhile, Kanae thought that Reina would be angry at her if she said anything insensitive there, so she also did not say anything. Yumina did not know what exactly Reina was feeling, so she could not come up with anything to say to her. Airi was rather jealous that Katsuya tried to stop Reina, so she decided to just keep shut since she felt like she might say something unnecessary in that situation.
The awkwardness in that situation was palpable, and because of that, Katsuya’s attention was diverted to the point that he could not step aside when a young girl suddenly came out from the alley and crashed on him.
“Whoah! Watch where you’re going!”
Katsuya ended up scolding that girl out of annoyance. That girl, in turn, looked at him with a desperate and utterly scared expression.
Katsuya thought that his scolding was the reason why that girl looked so scared. So he decided to put his feelings aside and tried to calm her down as he smiled gently at her.
“Are you okay?”
It looked like it was effective since that girl’s expression relaxed. With that one sentence, Yumina looked exasperated while Airi’s face turned stern. Both of them mumbled.
Katsuya quickly noticed that someone else was coming from the back alley where that girl just suddenly popped out. That girl’s expression quickly returned back to looking very scared.
She then hugged Katsuya and screamed.
“Please help me!! I’m being chased!!”
She was the one who stole Akira’s wallet, Alna.
While the other person that popped out from the back alley was the person who was chasing Alna, Akira.
Akira was surprised, but he quickly grasped the situation.
Alna, who stole his wallet, was clinging to Katsuya. Yumina and Airi looked at Akira with disdain and hatred, they quickly put their guard up against him. Katsuya covered Alna with his left hand while his right hand was ready to pick up his rifle anytime. He was already looking at Akira with a hostile gaze.
Reina and Shiori also quickly grasped the situation although they were surprised at first. As for Kanae, she was just smiling as if she was enjoying what was going on.
Both Akira and Katsuya had finished registering all the information in front of them.
Alpha then warned Akira, who was overly cautious of Katsuya’s team.
“Akira, calm down and don’t do anything reckless.”
“You don’t even need to remind me.”
Alpha and Akira were talking through telepathy. Akira was calm enough to remember to reply back through telepathy. The moment he was facing Katsuya’s team, the moment he knew he was facing skilled Hunters that he should be careful with, Akira quickly regained his composure.
“Alpha, what do you think? That pickpocket, is she that guy’s… Katsuya, was it again? Is she his acquaintance? If she is, does that mean that girl is a Hunter who works as a pickpocket as a side job? Is she affiliated with Drankam too?”
“It depends on how much of this is a coincidence. If it’s all pure coincidence, then I bet it’s just that she bumped into a kind-looking Hunter and made some random excuse to ask for help. But if it’s not a coincidence, then she must have run through the alley, which she knew well, into an area where there are many Hunters who patronized pickpockets. Those Hunters might have promised to protect her if she gets caught.”
“…I guess this must be a coincidence then. I don’t see any Hunters here who look so poor that they would go as far as to work with pickpockets.”
“Well, you can’t really judge a book by its cover. And even the small income from pickpocketing can become a huge sum once they pickpocket enough. But if you ask my honest opinion, I agree with you. This is just a coincidence. So, what are you going to do now?”
If they just stood there glaring at each other, it would not solve anything. In order to achieve the reason why he was there, Akira opened his mouth first.
“I have some business with that girl, so can you give her to me?”
Alna shivered when she heard that. Katsuya could feel her shiver since Alna was clinging at him. And his wish to protect her grew stronger, it was also further fuelled by his hostile disposition toward Akira.
Katsuya’s impression of the situation was fully cemented. He thought that Akira was chasing the beautiful girl Alna because of some kind of no-good reason.
And so, he was obviously showing his hostility with his glare.
“Do you really think that I’ll just give her to you because you tell me to?”
Akira more or less knew that Katsuya would give him that reply, his expression turned stern thus showing his intent.
Yumina and Airi readjusted their position so that they could jump to Katsuya’s help anytime. Shiori slowly moved in front of Reina, who was still confused by the sudden turn of events, as she watched carefully how the situation developed.
In the middle of that situation where everyone’s tension was rising, Kanae was the only one who was still so relaxed. It was not like she was enjoying the situation, it was because she was a battle maniac who loved fighting.
Kanae then interjected with a cheery voice that did not suit the situation.
“So then, why are you chasing her?”
“She stole my wallet.”
Everyone turned to Alna. It was obvious that she was starting to panic. Kanae then asked Alna with the same cheery voice as before.
“That’s what he says, so, did you?”
Alna desperately clung on Katsuya.
“It’s not me!! That boy just suddenly started chasing me with a scary face!!! That’s why I was running as fast as I could!! I’m telling you the truth!!”
Katsuya could not discern whether Alna panicked because she was accused of something that she really did not do, or because she was trying to hide something. But at least he understood very well that she was desperate.
Because of his bad predisposition towards Akira, Katsuya somehow sounded mocking as he asked Akira.
“Do you even have any proof that she took your wallet?”
Akira went silent as he was thinking of what to say, but Katsuya immediately interpreted that silence as a no.
“You went silent there, so you don’t have any proof, huh? I bet you just dropped it somewhere.”
Akira and Katsuya glared at each other, raising the tension.
Airi then approached Alna.
“I’ll search her, if she had really stolen your wallet, I should be able to find it if I search her body.”
“O-Okay, you can go ahead.”
Alna stepped away from Katsuya and raised both her hands in front of Airi. But before Airi started searching her body, Akira interjected.
“You won’t find my wallet on her. She took out all of my money from my wallet and threw it away to cover up her crime.”
After hearing that explanation, Airi stopped. She thought for a bit and then asked Akira a question.
“How much did she take?”
“About 100,000 Aurum.”
Airi took another look at Alna, who was wearing a complete set of clothes. But the clothes that she was wearing were those worn-out clothes normal for the slum city residents, at least, she did not look like she even had 100 Aurum with her.
Even if she found that Alna was carrying 100,000 Aurum with her after searching her body. There was still no proof that she stole that, she might be carrying that money by pure coincidence.
Airi turned to Akira. Even if she told him to back off since he had no evidence, it did not seem like Akira would withdraw at all.
This time, Yumina interjected.
“Is there any chance that it was just a pure misunderstanding or some kind of other mistakes? Are you really really sure that she’s the one who stole your wallet?”
“There’s no mistaking, it’s her.”
“Do you have any proof why you can say that with confidence? Do you have any proof that you’re not mistaking anything? Did she somehow run away from you after you caught her once before? Was the situation akin to you being with only her in a certain location when you realized you lost your wallet?”
“Well, about that…”
As Yumina asked him those questions in a calm manner without blaming him, Akira was rather troubled by how to answer those questions.
The one who noticed that he had lost his wallet was Alpha, not Akira himself. At least until Alna threw away his wallet, he was chasing Alna purely because he trusted Alpha when she said Alna was the one who took his wallet. He had no other proof why he thought that Alna was the pickpocket other than because Alpha told him so. But of course, he could not say that to Yumina.
Seeing how Akira could not answer her questions, Yumina pressed further.
“Is it because of the information you analyzed from your information-gathering device? I heard that some Hunters always keep their information-gathering device on and focus it to scan the area around them just to be safe.”
“No, that’s not the case either. Or more like, I got my information-gathering device destroyed in a fight.”
“So, is it because someone who was together with you, told you so? If it is, can we go to meet that person and ask for proof?”
Yumina’s guess was correct, but no one other than Akira could see Alpha. Thus he could not really say anything back.
“Is there any security camera around the area where you got your wallet stolen? There are multiple security cameras installed on the main road of the lower district, we might be able to find something if we check the recording.”
“…It happened when I was in the slum city, so I think there aren’t any security cameras around…”
As Yumina continued questioning him, Akira’s voice became smaller and smaller.
Compared to when they started, Akira sounded as if he had calmed down considerably. Yumina then continued with her still calm voice.
“I won’t say that you’re lying and I won’t say that you’re mistaken either. I do think that you have absolute proof that makes you say for sure that she’s the one who stole your wallet. But it seems that you have your reason as to why you can’t tell us the details about that. But again, as long as you won’t tell us anything or give us any proof, we can’t just trust your words and give this girl to you. You at least understand my point, right?”
Yumina stated that she understood what Akira was trying to say as well as asking him to understand her point. Akira also understood well why Yumina was taking that stance. So basically, she was not saying that he was mistaken or anything, while on the other hand, she asked him to not fully blame her either. Because of that, Akira was considerably calmed down, and the aura that was leaking out from him had also vanished.
After talking with Yumina, Akira had more or less regained his calm. It was not like Akira himself wanted to rope someone unrelated to his problem too.
The tension in the air had already lessened. It felt like at this rate, that incident would be solved without any fighting. Seeing how the situation had developed, Kanae looked slightly displeased.
“Akira, let’s withdraw here. It’s true that we can’t expect them to trust us without telling them anything.”
Alpha also encouraged Akira to pull back. He also agreed with Alpha’s opinion.
There were many criteria that could be used to decide the winner and the loser, and they were often used to make a clear distinction between the loser and the winner in every case.
Akira, who had gotten his wallet stolen and his money taken by Alna, might be the loser here if he withdrew from this place without getting his money back. Then at the same time, it might mean that it was Alna’s victory for getting protected by Katsuya although she did steal Akira’s wallet, as well as it was Katsuya’s victory for being able to successfully protect Alna, who came asking for his protection.
But again, it was nothing more but a biased evaluation.
Katsuya looked confident since he thought that he had won there. Akira, who was leaking out intense pressure, had calmed down after Yumina talked to him. Basically, he had more or less successfully protected Alna from Akira who was chasing her. It boosted his ego, moreover, since the tension in the air had also died down, it gave Katsuya the leeway to think of something else.
Because of all those reasons, Katsuya suddenly mockingly said to Akira.
“Humph, even if it’s true that you got your wallet stolen, it’s your fault for being careless although you’re a Hunter.”
Yumina yelled at Katsuya. She then immediately turned to Akira to apologize in Katsuya’s place.
But the moment she saw Akira, Yumina froze.
The aura around Akira had completely changed. The peaceful aura around him from a moment ago had completely vanished, replaced by an ominous aura. It was somehow obvious that Akira would suddenly open fire anytime. Although he was looking down towards the ground, there was a foreboding ominous pressure exuding from him.
Akira then raised his face and looked at Katsuya, and suddenly started laughing.
“You’re right, you’re absolutely right, it’s all my fault.”
Akira continued laughing as if he had turned insane.
“It’s my fault for being so careless. It’s my fault for being negligent. It’s my fault for being barely able to react when my wallet was stolen. It’s my fault for being unable to protect my own wallet.”
Akira’s laughter was getting louder as he spoke.
“But that’s my money, the money that I earned, the money that I got from working my ass off. To reach this point, I had to consume a whole lot of medicines that it’s breaking my own body, all of that just to be able to move my body when I really need to move it. I even had to cross over dangerous bridges that almost killed me numerous times too. Then I got sent to the hospital and lost all of my equipment. That’s the money that I got after going through all of that stuff. But to think that money will be easily stolen from me like that!! There’s a limit to how someone can be so stupid and so pathetic!! Yeah, you’re right, I’m a big stupid dumb guy to make such a blunder!!”
Akira laughed loudly while admonishing himself. His laughter suddenly died down, only self-hatred and self-reproach were left on his expression.
“But I’ll erase this pathetic mistake from my history. I’ll get my money back and make the person who stole it, regret it. That’s one thing that I can promise you. And now I can finally erase it, or at least, I can deal with it to some point.”
The Akira in the past could not earn that sum of money, and even if he did, he could not get it back if someone robbed his money from him, since he simply had no right to carry any money. But the current him had worked so hard to the point that he could escape from such a situation.
But right now, Akira could not take back the money that was stolen from him. It was as if he had returned to his former self.
Akira wanted to show to the other people, and especially to himself, that he really had escaped from that position, that situation, that world. And that it was all not just his imagination.
Anger and hatred vanished from his expression, the only thing that reflected on his near-expressionless eyes were his target, and the obstacle that was standing between him and his target.
Alna was shaking behind Katsuya’s back. The reason why she did not try to escape from that place was because she unconsciously knew that it was the safest place in her current situation.
Then Akira said in a cold tone.
“Give her to me.”
Katsuya stood by his decision against the immense pressure from Akira and refused to handover Alna.
The reason why he refused to back down was completely unrelated to his dislike towards Akira. He had already resolved himself to protect Alna, who came for his help, even if it meant that it would put him in danger. He had such a kind of disposition and it would not allow him to hand over Alna to Akira.
Athena13: My old man always told me that having a good intention doesn’t make you a good person, a person is judged by his or her actions and not their thinking.
Silavin: Your old man is a good man.
But seriously, drama aside, Katsuya’s lack of self-esteem really showed off here.