Katsuya talked about a lot of things with Sheryl.
To be more precise, there was an obvious inclination in the subject of their conversation. They mostly talked about things related to Katsuya, like his story when he went to an old-world ruin or when he went on a monster extermination request, or about the gang that he belonged to–Drankam.
Katsuya thought that Sheryl was someone from the inner wall from the dress she was wearing. It was not rare for people from the inner wall to go out with some paid escorts. There were a lot of those escorts gathered in the big building sticking to the wall where the huge Hunter Office was located. The area around that building was considerably safer although it was still considered as a part of the lower district. Thus, it was pretty safe for people from the inner wall to walk around that area.
At first, Katsuya thought that the violence-filled daily life of a Hunter would be a boring story for someone like Sheryl. But since it seemed that Sheryl was listening closely to his story, he continued to keep telling stories about his life as a Hunter.
Katsuya felt very comfortable talking with Sheryl. Not only was she a beautiful girl that would listen closely to his rather boastful story, but she would even occasionally praise him right when he was expecting it. And when he told an unpleasant story or complained, Sheryl would look concerned and sympathize with his story as well as praising his will to get over that problem. Katsuya was drowned in the mood as he kept talking with her.
But Sheryl thought something was strange with Katsuya’s story.
Katsuya was quite a handsome boy, it could be said that his face was above average. If he was working a job where he had to serve customers, it would definitely attract a lot of girls. If his story was correct, he was a skilled young Hunter and one of the best Hunters in Drankam. Since he worked himself so hard to be able to help his other fellow gang members, it could be inferred that he kept his friends dear. In short, he was a good looking young Hunter with skill and good personality. Sheryl’s impression, opinion and intuition evaluated Katsuya highly.
And the other side of Sheryl, the part of her that coldly and rationally evaluated her opponent and continuously thought of ways to use that information to get the upper hand during a negotiation, also evaluated Katsuya highly. But compared to her intuition, it was relatively low.
To be more precise, her intuition actually over-evaluated Katsuya. Thus there was an obvious gap between that and her logical and calm evaluation of him. That was the cause of Sheryl’s weird feeling.
Although she did feel that there was something strange in her own evaluation of Katsuya, she did not let it show in her face as she kept her smile while talking to him. While she was keeping that up, it encouraged her further to evaluate him even more highly.
Sheryl unconsciously thought that there was no mistaking it, Katsuya was indeed a skilled young Hunter. Making a connection with that kind of Hunter would be beneficial for her gang. Before she even realized it, she started imagining inviting him for a meal and walking hand-in-hand through the lower district in order to deepen their connection.
In her imagination, she pictured herself walking happily linking arms with Katsuya like a lover. That scene felt so heart-warming.
Then she pictured Akira coming from the opposite direction. Their eyes met, but Akira did not change his expression at all as he simply turned back and cut his ties with her.
When Sheryl returned back to reality, her face had already turned stiff. Her body was frozen out of fear, but she quickly recovered as she reminded herself that it was only her imagination and not reality. But it was not like her nervousness and shivers immediately stopped. Sheryl tried to calm herself by taking short breaths since her heart was beating really fast.
Katsuya, who noticed Sheryl’s expression, worriedly asked her.
“…A-are you okay?”
Sheryl looked at Katsuya again, all of her baseless good evaluation of him had completely vanished. Her feeling was telling her that the young Hunter in front of her was simply a promising young Hunter, it was the same evaluation that her rational side was telling her.
She took a deep breath to calm herself. Once she calmed down, she then tried to dodge the subject.
“…I’m alright. I’m sorry to make you worry.”
“What’s wrong? Ah, did I say something that bothers you?”
“No, it’s just that as I was listening to your story, it somehow reminded me of a traumatic memory when I got attacked by monsters in the wasteland… I’m sorry that I made you worry.”
Katsuya worriedly asked her.
“Were you alright? Did you get injured?”
“I was fine. The Hunter escorting me saved me so I was able to survive the attack without any wound. As I thought, a skilled Hunter like Katsuya-san is really reliable.”
Sheryl smiled while observing Katsuya. He seemed a bit bashful as he smiled. It seemed that she was able to completely dodge the subject.
“Escort Hunter, huh. If you ever need an escort again, you can come to me any-“
“Katsuya! To think that you would leave us to hit on another girl like this!”
Yumina appeared from behind Katsuya, she was smiling but her smile was obviously projecting out anger.
When Yumina scolded him, Katsuya remembered that he was there to accompany Airi and Yumina. And at the same time, he also realized that he had forgotten Yumina and Airi as he was talking with Sheryl.
Katsuya flusteredly stood up from his seat and tried to calm Yumina while holding her with both his hands.
“Yumina! Airi!! It’s not like what you think!! It’s a misunderstanding!!”
Yumina cornered Katsuya further while still smiling.
“A misunderstanding? I see, a misunderstanding, huh. Then I’m sure you’ll give me a good explanation later, right?”
Katsuya looked at Airi, who was beside Yumina, asking for her help. But Airi only looked back at him with no emotion.
Sheryl could quickly understand that Airi and Yumina were Katsuya’s acquaintances from their exchange.
She then stood up from her seat and lightly bowed to Yumina and Airi.
“I’m really sorry. I was so interested in Katsuya-san’s story that I insisted him to keep going. Did I hold him back from some kind of promise?”
Yumina and Airi were so focused on Katsuya that they did not place much attention on Sheryl before.
But Yumina was surprised when she looked at Sheryl.
[…What a beautiful girl. That dress is also really pretty. It seems really expensive. I wonder if only people like this would shop in this boutique. Are we actually in the wrong place?]
Yumina ended up staring at Sheryl. She then realized that the beautiful girl in front of her had apologized to her, she got flustered for some reason as she replied back.
“I-I see. Well, uh, no, it’s not like we had a promise or something. It’s just that he said he would only take a short rest before returning back. So I was just wondering what happened since he didn’t come back after quite some time…”
“We were just talking about Katsuya-san’s experience as a Hunter. To be honest, I didn’t feel like he tried to flirt with me… Or was it only my imagination and you were actually trying to flirt with me?”
Sheryl smiled mischievously as she directed that question to Katsuya.
Katsuya shook his head in panic.
“No, I didn’t mean it that way at all, you know?”
In truth, Katsuya did not mean to flirt at all. But even so, although he did not do it intentionally, there were many girls who approached him after he said something which invited such misunderstanding. So he could not be sure that he did not say anything that would have caused such misunderstanding and ended his sentence as a pseudo question.
After all, since he really enjoyed talking with Sheryl, he felt that he might have said something that he should not without realizing it. That was why he could not give a straight answer to that question.
Sheryl then smiled to Yumina.
“Are you Katsuya-san’s girlfriend?”
“G-girlfriend!? No, I-I’m not his girlfriend though…”
Yumina was embarrassed and happy at the same time since Sheryl thought that she was Katsuya’s girlfriend. Her voice was getting feeble when she answered Sheryl’s question.
“Then, is the girl next to you Katsuya-san’s girlfriend?”
Airi’s long silence ended up with a no. Although she was still emotionless, her cheeks slightly turned red.
“I see. Since both Yumina-san and Airi-san’s names came up a lot in Katsuya-san’s story… I thought that one of you is his girlfriend… If I did something that bothers you, I apologize.”
Since Sheryl sounded apologetic, Yumina was only able to flusteredly reply back.
“N-no, it’s fine. Please don’t worry about it.”
If Katsuya really did say something to Sheryl that caused such misunderstanding, Yumina was really happy to know that. That was also the case for Airi too. Yumina and Airi’s mood suddenly turned for the better with that single exchange.
Katsuya blushed a little as he wondered if he really said something like that to Sheryl. But looking at the smiling Sheryl and blushing Airi and Yumina, it quickly slipped off his mind.
It was true that he did share a little about Airi and Yumina, but to be able to make a guess that they were his girlfriend only from what he said, it would require a lot of imagination.
Sheryl kept smiling while still looking at the three of them.
Celen suddenly came out and asked Sheryl for help with her dress adjustment.
“Excuse me to bother you, but can I ask for your help for a bit?”
“Of course, please excuse me.”
Sheryl lightly bowed to Katsuya, Airi and Yumina before she followed Celen.
The mood was a bit awkward between those that were left there, so they decided to return back to browsing clothing.
Yumina remembered about Sheryl while she was picking clothes. From her point of view, Sheryl’s dress looked very refined. She was looking for a similar dress in that shop, and right when she thought of that, Kashua was standing next to them while looking at them.
“Uhmmm, can I ask something? About the dress that the girl who was sitting over there was wearing…”
“Are you interested in that dress? That dress set is all from this shop. You can get the same set if you want to, so how about it?”
It was true that Katsuya reacted positively to that dress. So if she used the same dress, it might increase his evaluation of her. As she thought so, Yumina accepted Kashua’s offer.
Airi who was listening to their conversation suddenly jumped in.
Kashua smiled as she said that. Although that dress set was not an expensive set available in that shop, if she could sell 3 sets of that dress, it would fetch her quite a lot of profit. She gleefully proceeded to fetch the articles that Airi and Yumina asked.
Kashua quickly prepared the dress set and handed them over to Yumina and Airi. Yumina and Airi immediately tried them on, they then looked at their own reflection on a mirror before showing it to Katsuya. Katsuya looked at both of them and frowned.
“…It’s not bad at all, but…”
His reaction was bland, but that was not enough to sour Yumina and Airi’s mood. They both looked at their own reflections on the mirror, glanced at each other and mumbled.
“It’s true that it’s not bad…”
To be honest, it was quite decent. In fact, they looked pretty good and all of them agreed about that. But Sheryl, who was wearing the exact same dress, looked way better; way more beautiful. They could not help but compare themselves with Sheryl.
Even Kashua could not say that they looked good in that dress even if it was only for lip service.
“If it didn’t satisfy you, how about changing the upper half into something else? I’ll bring something that might look good on both of you.”
Kashua smiled as she left and picked some dress for Airi and Yumina. Of course, she chose more and more expensive articles for her recommendation.
After they finished paying for their dress, Yumina, Airi and Katsuya sat on a table inside that shop to take a quick rest. In the end, they bought a completely different dress set than what Sheryl was wearing. All of it was packed in an expensive-looking box to make sure that they would not wrinkle.
Katsuya then threw a question to Yumina and Airi.
“So then, what’s your next plan? Are we going to another shop?”
“This is the last shop, we did use all our budget here.”
“Me too, it was expensive.”
In order to have Katsuya accompany them browsing through a lot of shops, Yumina and Airi were planning to be frugal with their budget. But they ended up spending all of it in that shop. But with that being said, they did not regret spending their money there. After all, as long as they got a positive reaction from Katsuya, they were all happy with that.
Katsuya looked tired as he said.
“I see. In that case, let’s go to a nearby restaurant and take a rest there while having a meal. There should be some good restaurant around this place.”
“Let’s do that, but let’s take a rest here for a bit more.”
“… Me too… I’m tired.”
Both Airi and Yumina were Hunters. Their job included strolling through the wasteland with heavy equipment and fighting monsters. To be honest, they were confident with their physical stamina, but that was not the case for their mental resilience. After buying dresses that were way more expensive than they usually bought, Airi and Yumina were mentally drained. After all, it would be a huge disaster if they were not careful and got their expensive dress torn.
Katsuya turned his attention to the direction where Sheryl went. Kashua, who was standing in the same direction, thought that Katsuya was calling for her.
“Do you need me?”
“Ah, no, I just thought that Sheryl went that way, so I was wondering what she was doing.”
“If it’s about that girl… We’re readjusting one of her dresses.”
Kashua was unsure as to how much information could be given to Katsuya, but she then decided to give him that short answer.
Yumina who was listening to them seemed interested in that subject as she joined in.
“Yes, other than selling high-quality clothing, we can also refit them. If you have any dresses that need readjusting, please, by all means, come to us.”
“Well, I am interested, but isn’t that usually expensive?”
“Since it’s readjusting an already finished dress, I can only say that it depends on the dress. But our professional fitter will give nothing less than perfect, I can guarantee that you’ll find it satisfying.”
Kashua gave her best smile when she said that.
Even Yumina always desired a custom-fit dress like that. But buying a dress set in that shop already took a huge chunk of her money. Her expression changed as she calculated the gap between reality and her dream.
Sheryl returned back after some time. There were 4 chairs around the table that Katsuya and his friends were sitting. So one of them was still empty, but Sheryl did not want to interrupt their conversation. Thus she chose to sit on another table.
Katsuya who noticed that invited Sheryl to sit together with them. Although she refused at first, she eventually gave up. She lightly bowed and took that seat. Katsuya could not help but start smiling.
Yumina looked at Sheryl. From Sheryl’s outer appearance, Yumina thought that she was a lady from a rich family. Both her smile and her dress gave off a refined feeling as if they were living in a whole different world. It somehow made Yumina lose her confidence.
[…She’s not only beautiful, she’s just too different from me.]
Katsuya was rather popular among the girls around his age in Drankam. Because of that, there were many girls who had romantic feelings toward him, and that included Yumina. But even among all those girls around him, none of them was like Sheryl.
Yumina thought that difference came from the fact that she was a girl who went to the wasteland with weapons on a daily basis while Sheryl was a girl from the inner wall who was blessed with prosperity.
But that was a huge misunderstanding. The reason why Yumina felt that much difference was because of something else.
Sheryl’s smile was nothing more than her weapon to get an upper hand when talking with other people. It was a technique that she learned with a substantial amount of effort. That smile was the first thing that caused Yumina to feel a big difference between her and Sheryl.
Just like Yumina, Airi could also feel the difference between her and Sheryl. But unlike Yumina, she more or less understood the real cause of that difference.
Sheryl had no romantic feelings toward Katsuya at all. Although she might act all nice since Katsuya was a promising Hunter, she did not show any interest as the opposite sex at all. Airi noticed that. It was something that was very rare among the girls who interacted with Katsuya. Even among the girls who only approached him to make use of him since he was a promising young Hunter, no one gave him the kind of treatment that Sheryl was showing.
Although Airi noticed that, she did not say anything. After all, she did not want to make any enemies unnecessarily and she thought that it was not something important to tell others.
Airi looked at Katsuya. He was smiling happily. Thus she decided to stop worrying about it.
Katsuya did not think too deeply as he threw a question to Sheryl.
“By the way, I heard that you’re readjusting your dress here.”
“Yes, the size was a little too big for me, so I’m refitting it.”
“I wonder how much that kind of thing would usually cost. Is it okay to ask you how much it took you?”
“I’m really sorry. To be honest, I don’t know much about it. So it might be better to ask that question to the clerk. As for my dress readjustment, it was 1,500,000 Aurum.”
Katsuya, Airi and Yumina were dumbstruck when they heard the exact cost. It was way more than what they expected.
Looking at their reaction, Sheryl thought that 1,500,000 Aurum was a huge amount of money even for promising young Hunters like them. It reminded her of how amazing Akira was since he easily paid that much money.
Kashua thought that it might disrupt her future business if they used that amount as a standard, so she interjected.
“It was a rather special case, thus it might be better if you don’t use that amount as a standard. Although it still depends on the request, it’s possible to refit a dress for 500,000 Aurum.”
Yumina frowned as she said.
“…But still, if it takes more money to readjust the dress compared to its original cost…”
“Since we’re refitting old-world clothing, we need to employ some special techniques. Not to mention, the tool and the fabric that we need to readjust the dress also cost a lot of money. Thus, I believe that it’s a justified price. Of course, if you want to readjust a normal dress, it would be cheaper too.”
That news shocked Katsuya and his friends. Not only did Sheryl decide to modify an old-world relic that might fetch her a lot of money if she sold it in a pristine state, she even paid 1,500,000 Aurum to have it refitted.
Katsuya could feel a gap between him and Sheryl. He smiled at her, but there was a slight shadow mixed in that smile.
“You’re really amazing.”
“…That would be true if I’m the one paying for it, but unfortunately, someone else is paying for me. Thus, I believe that it’s not me who is amazing. I think that Katsuya-san is much more amazing for being able to live independently working as a Hunter.”
Sheryl’s smile was obviously clouded, her voice was low when she replied. Although she intentionally did that, the words that she said were her real opinion. Except for one thing, she was actually thinking about Akira and not Katsuya.
“…Is that so?”
As Katsuya timidly asked that question, Sheryl replied back firmly while smiling.
When he saw her smile, the shadow behind Katsuya’s smile vanished. He just continued to smile while trying to hide his embarrassment.
Yumina and Airi had recovered after a short rest. They thought that it would be a bad idea to stay there for long although they no longer had any budget to buy more clothes. Thus they decided to leave that shop.
“Katsuya, let’s go.”
Katsuya stood up and carried Yumina and Airi’s luggage. He hesitated for a bit before deciding to invite Sheryl too.
“Ahh, by the way, we plan to eat in a restaurant nearby. If it’s okay with you, do you want to come too?”
Yumina let out a big sigh.
She had been together with Katsuya for a long time. She knew him well, he had no ill-will toward Sheryl nor was he trying to flirt with her. She knew that Katsuya was simply inviting someone that he considered as a friend.
The usual pattern dictated that the invited person would misunderstand, and when she finally realized the misunderstanding, she was already so in love with Katsuya that she could not separate herself from him.
That was the reason why the team that Katsuya led in Drankam was always filled with girls. Although there were boys from time to time, they did not stay long, it might be because it was hard for them to stay in that team. Some people even started calling Katsuya’s team as a harem team.
As Yumina thought that the usual scenario would play out this time too, she looked at Sheryl with a resigned expression.
But unlike what she expected, Sheryl lightly bowed and refused Katsuya’s offer.
“I’m really sorry. For helping the readjustment, I can’t afford to leave this place. Not to mention, I’m also waiting for someone. So thank you for the invitation, but I have to refuse.”
Katsuya and Yumina were obviously surprised. Katsuya assumed that Sheryl would not refuse, that was also the case for Yumina based on her long experience with Katsuya.
But that was not the case for Airi. She was not that surprised, after all, she did think about that possibility.
“I-I see. Well, it can’t be helped. I’m sure we’ll meet again somewhere, someday.”
Katsuya was a bit taken aback as he replied. It was because he almost never got refused before.
“Yes, please be careful out there.”
Sheryl smiled at him. Katsuya looked at that smile and was relieved since it seemed that he did not offend her there.
After they left that place, Sheryl sat back on her chair and reviewed her conversations with Katsuya and his friends in order to extract any information that she could find.
Sheryl was especially happy to get the information about Drankam. Although it might be subjective information from Katsuya, it was still better than nothing. At least, it was enough for her to get a rough picture of Drankam.
She smiled happily thinking that information would be useful for Akira who was also working as a Hunter.
Not too long after that, Akira returned. Sheryl, who saw him, immediately smiled.
Akira took a seat on the same table with Sheryl and asked her.
“I’m sorry that it took me so long. Replenishing my ammo reserve turned out to be more time consuming than I thought. Well, you didn’t call me at all, so everything is fine, right? Or did something happen?”
“There’s nothing. If I have to say something, some Hunters from Drankam came here to buy some clothing. I ended up talking with some of them. Do you want to hear about it?”
That reminded Akira when Sheryl extracted information from a Hunter called Dale not too long ago.
Akira winced back as he thought that Sheryl must have done the same thing again.
“I-I see. Well, I can listen to your story.”
Sheryl then told Akira all the information that she gathered and it was indeed an interesting subject for him too.
“…I see. So all the relics that Drankam Hunters gather are given to Drankam before selling them. So it’s not like the Hunters who gather those relics sell the relics themselves, huh.”
“Yes. It seems that they are paid a wage based on their Hunter Ranks and given bonuses depending on their track record. They are categorized to different groups like relics Hunters and monster Hunters, then the gang would distribute request depending on the group that they belong to.”
“So they get wages although they work as Hunters, huh. That somehow does not sound right to me. But that means that they’ll still get some basic wage even if they can’t get good relics, right…”
“But in exchange, the gang will earn a lot of money if they get expensive relics. But even so, some Hunters still hunt for expensive relics to increase their Hunter Rank regardless of the reward. And for the Hunters who don’t seriously hunt for relics, I heard that they get transferred to monster hunting group.”
“They do think about all kinds of scenarios, huh…”
As Akira heard about a different kind of lifestyle for a Hunter, he could not help but voice out his amazement.
“That was really interesting, thank you.”
He thanked Sheryl and she was delighted to hear that.
Sheryl almost never showed a fake smile to Akira. After all, from her experience, it had almost no effect on him.
“I’m glad that I could be useful to you.”
It reminded Sheryl that gathering information was indeed crucial.
Not too long after that, her dress was finally done.
Sheryl changed back to her original dress and returned to Akira. Celen thought that she did a good job as she made a satisfied expression, there was a shred of pride on her face too.
Sheryl nervously asked for Akira’s opinion while fidgeting.
“H-how is it?”
Akira looked at Sheryl with her newly readjusted dress and voiced out his opinion.
“Ohh, that really changed your outlook. You look really good in it.”
Sheryl was thrilled to receive such praise from Akira that she smiled happily while blushing.
The old-world dress, which could no longer be considered an old-world dress after the modification, looked beautiful on Sheryl, enough to make someone like Akira, who had a dead fashion sense, think that she looked good in it. The weird feeling that was present when it was slightly too big for her had completely vanished. While on the other hand, it was able to fully preserve the refined beautiful old-world design which further complemented Sheryl’s already charming figure. It seemed that Celen was indeed a skilled fitter.
Alpha smiled as she said to Akira.
“It seems that it is worth the 1,500,000 Aurum, right? If you had not given any good reactions, it would have meant that your fashion sense was really unsalvageable.”
“Even someone like me can recognize it. It was worth spending that 1,500,000 Aurum.”
Kashua then turned to Akira, who was amazed by that readjusted dress, and asked him.
“I hope you find it satisfying.”
“Of course. To be honest, I didn’t expect that it would change this much. I’m really satisfied with it.”
“Those praises are the greatest reward that we can ask for. If you need to readjust your dress, please, by all means, come to us again.”
Kashua smiled happily as she offered to do more business with Akira in the future.
After Akira and Sheryl left that shop, Kashua asked Celen.
“Celen, to be honest, that was way better than what I expected. Since when have you become that good?”
Celen smugly replied.
“It’s a mix of her base figure, the quality of the dress that she brought in, and my refined skill. That’s the reason I could produce such a miracle. To be honest, I don’t think I can ever do something like this again.”
Kashua was convinced by Celen’s explanation but she panicked when she heard Celen’s last remark.
“…What was that!? I did tell them to come here again if they need more refitting though?! There’s no mistaking that they’ll expect the same result next time, you know!?”
“Well, even if you tell me so. I’m going back to sleep now, don’t interrupt me this time.”
Celen left Kashua after she said that. She was already sleep-deprived when she started working. And since she was still exhausted, she planned to sleep until the next day.
She had done exceptionally well that day, thus she believed she would be able to get a good night’s rest as she headed to her bed.
Kashua, who was left behind, worried. But then, she reassured herself that it was a good advertisement for her shop and ‘all was well’.
Akira walked Sheryl back to her base.
On her way to her base, Sheryl was wearing the dress that she bought from Kashua’s shop. As for her dress that just got readjusted, she put it inside a strong box. She knew that she could not walk around the slum city in that dress because of the danger, even the dress that she was wearing was barely safe to use in the slum city.
The people around her gang’s territory knew well that Sheryl was backed by a powerful Hunter, thus none of them wanted to mess with her. But even so, if she wore the dress inside the strong box and walked around the slum city, there might be people who would try to attack her ignoring the fact that a strong Hunter was backing her up. That was why she could not wear that dress on her way back to her base.
After Akira walked Sheryl back to her base, he headed straight to his home. Although Sheryl found that a little unfortunate, she decided to focus on thinking about her next plan while she was inside her private room.
Sheryl glanced at her dress box. She changed to dress inside that box and stood in front of a mirror. She looked at her reflection that looked like a refined lady from a rich family. She then started smiling as she thought of a plan.
[As long as I have this dress that even Akira praised, I’m sure everything will go well.]
Sheryl smiled full of confidence with her next plan as she kept on looking at her own reflection on the mirror.