Sheryl went to a high-class looking building in the lower district of Kugamayama city. For the sake of her gangs business, there was some stuff that she had to do in the Hunter Offices main branch.
Sheryl took off her wasteland coat and handed it over to Erio. When she did that, everyone around her was amazed by her appearance. She was clad in a high-class old-world dress that was refitted just for her, which had cost 1,500,000 Aurum.
With Sheryls dress even giving a sense of dignity, it would be expected for the people who saw her to mistake her as someone from the inner wall. It was extremely difficult to see through that disguise and notice that she was from the slum city. Sheryl moved so naturally as if the mood around her did not affect her at all. With that amazing dress boosting her already attractive body, Sheryl looked like a rich lady. The armed young boy and the armed man next to her only served to deepen that misunderstanding since they looked like Sheryls bodyguards, those two were Erio and Darris.
Erio could not completely hide his nervousness, the nuance of the Hunter Offices main branch overwhelmed him as he looked around nervously while breaking into a cold sweat.
Sheryl then said to Erio to calm him down.
“Erio, take a deep breath and try to calm down. Its not like this place is dangerous. As a matter of fact, this place is way safer than the back alley of the slum city. So theres no need to be afraid.”
“A-alright. But still, Im sure you can understand it, right Or more like, how can you be this calm”
Erio looked at Sheryl who did not give off any nervous vibe and he could feel a sense of admiration and amazement. Sheryl was also a slum city child, just like him. Judging from that point of view, both of them were not supposed to be there. It was common for slum children to be kicked out from a building by some armed guards.
[…Well, Sheryl became the boss of the gang after she negotiated with that Akira, that in itself is amazingly brave. It reminds me again that shes unlike those common slum children… But now that I think about it, those common slum children wont even think of striking a deal with the Hunter who destroyed their own gang, huh…]
The girl who was once just a common slum city girl in the past had become a beautiful girl clad in a beautiful dress as if they were living in completely different worlds. Seeing that girl in front of her, Erio somehow felt a bit complicated.
Sheryl then warned him.
“If you stay like that, theres no mistaking that someone would call the guard to kick you out. So try to act casual.”
“I know… I know, but….”
“Take some deep breaths until you can calm down.”
Darris smiled bitterly and said.
“Can I go now I know you guys are having a hard time here, but Im busy, you know.”
“Sure. Thank you very much for taking us here.”
“Alright, later then. Ill still be somewhere inside the building. If anything happens, you guys can just call me, and if you cant reach me, just call Katsuragi. Well meet up again when its time to head back.”
Darris glanced at Sheryl, smiled, and said.
“…Well, as long as you have that dress and stay here, I bet no one would cause you any trouble. This place is the Hunter Office after all, so Im sure no one here is foolish enough to cause a ruckus. But still, women are scary, they can completely transform. Had I not known you in the past, I wouldve been fooled too. Geez, scary scary…”
Sheryl smiled gracefully.
“Ill take that as a compliment. Its a dress that I received as a present from Akira after all.”
Darris smiled bitterly and waved his hand at Sheryl before leaving. Although he took her there due to Katsuragis order, he had no plans to accompany her doing the troublesome administration work. So, he was planning to pass time in the shops upstairs.
A strong looking bodyguard had left that knock-off rich ladys envoy. While the weak-looking bodyguard still looked quite nervous. Everyones attention in that area focused on Sheryl and Erio. The main branch of the Hunter Office was often visited by people from both outside and inside the wall. Sometimes, there were even people from companies too. As such, even if Sheryl was indeed a rich lady, it was not a rare sight at all.
Sheryl looked at Erio and said.
“Do you want to talk about something for a little while until you can calm down If you are this nervous, people wont believe that youre my bodyguard. And if thats impossible for you, I still need you to do your job properly to protect me. Thats exactly why I brought you here with me, you know”
“Yeah, I know…”
Erio was there to protect Sheryl. At a glance, he seemed to be using a pretty good armour and he was carrying a powerful gun which could be used even without an augmented suit. Sheryl got that equipment by making a deal with Katsuragi. So, looking at Erio, most of the Hunters in that area would think that he was a pretty well equipped young Hunter.
But it was all just a disguise, his armour was needlessly heavy with almost no worth as protection, the aim on his gun was defective and his gun was broken that it might explode when used, Katsuragi even warned them not to try using it since that would be extremely dangerous. Going out to the wasteland with that equipment was simply suicidal.
Erio himself had no skills to protect Sheryl in the first place, but it was still safer than coming alone. Although it was only for putting up an appearance, it was still way better than having nothing. And of course, inside that Hunter Office building, there was no one foolish enough to think of testing Erios skill. After all, causing trouble inside that building was the same as picking a fight against the Hunter Office.
Erio tried to think of a subject to talk about to help him calm down, but he ended up thinking about why they were there in the first place.
“By the way, I wonder what Akira-san is busy with. If he would accompany you, you wont even need me here.”
Sheryl calmly replied back.
“…Its for a Hunter job.”
“Well, I already know that much. But like, I wonder if its that important to even turn down your request.”
“…Its not like I pleaded with him to accompany me. Moreover, I cant just keep asking him to come with me every time I want to go to the lower district, right Although I asked Katsuragi-san to have Darris-san accompany us this time, I eventually would rely on you and the other gang members. So you better get used to it while you still have the chance.”
“Of course, but still… Hunter job, huh…”
Erio thought that it was perfectly understandable for a Hunter to be busy doing his or her Hunter job. But it could not be something that important, at least, it would not be enough for a reason to refuse a request from Sheryl, Akiras lover, to accompany her for a bit and to make sure that she was safe.
[If Alicia asks me the same thing, I would definitely prioritize her as long as I dont have anything too important.]
As Erio thought,if it was him and her girlfriend, he looked a bit confused, his expression was saying that he found something weird.
Right at that moment, Sheryl suddenly stopped smiling and whispered to Erio.
“Erio, are you, by any chance, suspecting my relation with Akira”
Her calm voice hid her anger, the usual sparkle in her eyes that would mesmerize any boys had disappeared. She sent a cold and dark gaze to Erio.
Erio fl.u.s.teredly refuted.
“No! Of course not! Its a misunderstanding!! Its the opposite!! I just thought that although both of you are so close, it was rather unexpected that you would give up… I mean… I mean it is a reason to go on a date with him! But well, I guess thats understandable, after all, it might be best to stop bothering him all the time… I mean… it must have been a sudden request to Akira, and he was busy, right!”
Erio was being desperate, it was rather unclear whether there was a need to change his wordings like that or it was just simply because he was trying to come up with an excuse on the fly.
Sheryl herself understood that her gang could not survive had Akira not supported her. Thats why Erio was trying his best to readjust his wordings since he thought that he might worsen the relation between Akira and Sheryl.
Sheryl understood that very well, but that was not enough to abate her irritation.
Sheryl did try to push her request when she asked Akira, but she was coldly rejected. Akira did not even consider her request, he had no intention to change his current plans just because Sheryl and her gang asked him something. So, he flatly rejected Sheryls request.
But her current irritation actually stemmed from her uneasiness. She was feeling uneasy about whether she could become someone important to Akira before he changed his mind. She was doing her best to do that, but she did not know whether she would even make it or that she was even already too late. She had no idea if that was the reason why her request was rejected this time.
Sheryl somehow returned her expression back to normal, she then smiled and said to Erio.
“Well, I guess thats fine. If thats the case… Just so you know, unnecessary misunderstanding tends to cause trouble later.”
“Y-yeah, Im glad that I can clear up that misunderstanding. Ill be more careful next time.”
Erio sighed in relief. His nervousness coming from being inside the Hunter Office had also disappeared.
Sheryl had finished half of the administration work beforehand. She just needed to wait for the Hunter Office to finish their part of the work. Sheryl and Erio were sitting on a bench on the first floor of that building while waiting for the Hunter Office to finish.
Sheryl was spending her time thinking about her plans for the future. To be more precise, she was thinking about what to do to sell the relics that Akira asked her to. She was working on her information terminal to reevaluate, revise, and refine that plan.
If she could make that plan successful, she might be able to be someone not worth abandoning to Akira. It might also be a chance to deepen their relationship even more. Sheryl thought so as she put her best efforts working on her plan.
As Sheryl was extremely focused working on her information terminal, somebody suddenly called her.
“…Oh, as I thought, thats really Sheryl! Sheryl!!”
A group of 3 Hunters walked toward Sheryl. It was Katsuya who looked rather happy, Yumina who just smiled bitterly, and the as expressionless as always Airi.
When Sheryl noticed them, she stood up from her bench. She then smiled and greeted Katsuya who came all the way next to her.
“Long time no see, Im glad that everyone seems to be doing well.”
Katsuya looked at Sheryls smile and blushed. That dazzling smile decorating her pretty face was the result of Sheryls hard work training herself.
Katsuya stood in front of Sheryl and happily said.
“I didnt expect to see you here. Im really happy to be able to see you again.”
After he said that, Katsuya noticed Erio next to Sheryl.
“…Uhhh, whos that guy”
Erio got fl.u.s.tered when Katsuya looked at him. It might be just him, but for some reason, Erio felt that Katsuyas gaze at him was not a friendly one.
Erios equipment and appearance was the epitome of what most Hunters usually mocked Katsuya and his team for. Just an inexperienced young Hunter using good equipment, or a stupid young Hunter misunderstanding the power of his own equipment as his own skill. Or at least, that was what Katsuya thought, and that might be unconsciously irritating him. Or it might be simply because he did not like the fact that a guy he did not think suitable for Sheryl was standing next to her. Whichever it was, Katsuya could not give a friendly gaze to Erio.
They then introduced themselves to Erio.
“Ahh, Im Katsuya, a Drankam Hunter. My Hunter Rank is 36.”
“Im Yumina. Im also a Drankam Hunter just like Katsuya.”
Erio panicked even more, the people standing in front of him were not just Hunters by appearance, they were real Hunters. Moreover, it seemed that Katsuya was putting some kind of pressure on him. Although there was no way he would kill him, it was still scary for Erio.
Erio tried his best to make a calm expression as he nervously said the line he had previously decided with Sheryl beforehand.
“…I was told not to speak.”
Erio only said that and looked away from Katsuyas group. It might be because he was too nervous that he sounded rather rude.
Katsuya got even more irritated by Erios answer. He might have thought that it sounded like an answer that someone would give to mock other people.
Sheryl apologetically said to Katsuya.
“My apologies, hes my bodyguard. He was told not to talk with other people unless its absolutely necessary since it might disrupt his duty as my bodyguard. So please let me apologize in his stead.”
Sheryl bowed to Katsuya and his friends, Katsuya fl.u.s.teredly replied.
“Ah, no. If thats the case, it cant be helped then, right”
Katsuya looked at Airi and Yumina, asking for their support.
“Yep, it cant be helped if thats the case. Were sorry too.”
“Duty is important, it cant be helped.”
Yumina and Airi returned back to their usual self as they saw Sheryl bowing to apologize to them.
Sheryl raised her head and smiled while thanking them.
“Thank you very much… As for him, well, it might be rude to say this, but please dont interact too much with him. Hes not used to his job yet, thats why hes high-strung right now.”
“Its alright, you dont need to feel bad about it.”
Katsuya blushed when he said that.
[Well, Sheryl did say that if I annoy her acquaintance, it might cause her to hate me too. So lets be careful about that. Alright then.]
If he left a bad impression on Sheryls acquaintance, it might also leave a bad impression on Sheryl too, and vice versa. Katsuya then threw a friendly smile at Erio.
Seeing how Sheryl was smiling at Katsuyas group and how Katsuyas groups behaviour changed in a snap, Erio sighed out in relief while also feeling slightly scared at the same time.
But that fear was not of Katsuyas group, that fear was of Sheryl.
[…I bet Sheryl is planning to trick them too, right People dont usually treat slum children like that, so Im sure they at least think that were from the lower district. In the worst-case scenario, they might be even thinking that were from the inner wall… Seriously though, is it really that easy to trick people]
Now that he thought about it, Sheryl actually also did the same thing to the Hunters that she met in the Higaraka Residence Ruin. Back then, Erio did not notice it since he was too nervous being in the middle of the wasteland. But now that he looked back, Sheryl actually did the exact same thing.
Erio knew Sheryl for quite a long time, he already knew her since the days when they were together in Sibeas gang. Because of that, he knew her very well.
But he could not say that with confidence now. Erio noticed that the current Sheryl was completely different from the past Sheryl.
When Erio was kicked out from the gang, Sheryl was actually thinking of a way to let Erio return back to the gang. He knew that from Alicia, it might be out of Sheryls pity toward someone who she had known well for a long time.
But if Erio got kicked out from the gang now, he was sure that the current Sheryl would just forget about him. Even if Alicia pleaded, Erio bet that Sheryl would not accept him back to the gang as long as he did not directly ask Akira to vouch for him.
Erio could not afford to make any mistake there, so he decided to keep his mouth shut to make sure that he would not leak any important information.
Katsuya smiled at Sheryl and asked her a question.
“By the way, what are you doing here Are you waiting for someone”
“No. I came here to complete some administration work. Right now Im just waiting until they process their side of work.”
“So, youre free right now… In that case, do you want to hang out with us”
Sheryl was surprised, but she quickly returned to her usual smile.
“Are you trying to hit on me”
Katsuya fl.u.s.teredly replied.
“Eh! Ah, no, uh, its not like Im hitting on you or anything…”
Katsuya casually invited Sheryl, he did that almost purely out of habit.
Sheryl smiled bitterly as she apologetically said.
“Katsuya-san. I understand that you invited me without any ulterior motives. But, honestly speaking, I dont think its something that you should do when youre already accompanying another girl, you know That would be rude very rude, not to me, but to the girl whom youre accompanying.”
Sheryl shifted her gaze towards Airi and Yumina. Katsuya followed Sheryls gaze to them too. Yumina somehow looked exasperated as she sighed. While for Airi, she looked slightly conflicted.
Yumina smiled bitterly and said to Sheryl.
“Dont worry, this guy is just like that. You can say that its his habit.”
“…Humans can really get used to anything.”
Airi vague mumbling somehow sounded pretty convincing. Sheryl then replied with a bitter smile to both of them.
Katsuya could feel a slight pressure coming from the girls. He then fl.u.s.teredly tried to defend himself, but instead, he sounded like he was only making excuses.
“No, well, uhh, you know, it seems that I offended you this time, so I just thought that if youre free, I could make up for it. Not to mention that we could not talk to each other that much the last time we met, right Thats all theres to it.”
Yumina looked at Katsuya, although it was only an excuse, Katsuya was not lying. Moreover, he did feel sorry for what happened too. Yumina could read that far since she had been together with him for quite some time.
Yumina was not sure what to do, but she eventually decided to go along with Katsuyas plan. In the first place, they were actually out in the city that day to cheer up Katsuya. So she decided to just let him do what he wanted to do.
[…Well, I guess its fine, huh. It might cheer him up for a bit talking with someone else whos not working in Drankam.]
Yumina then cautiously asked Sheryl.
“Well, its not really that comfortable talking while standing like this. So, do you have time to hang out with us for a bit Were actually thinking of taking a short rest too.”
Sheryl looked surprised.
“Is that really okay I might be a bother to both of you.”
“Its fine, were the one whos inviting you anyway.”
Sheryl thought for a bit, it was an easy thing to refuse that offer. Erio also felt uneasy about their offer. But since it might cause them to doubt Sheryls identity, he decided to not say anything there.
While on the other hand, if Sheryl refused that offer, she might be missing a good chance to gather valuable information. If she could get some valuable information from Katsuya and his friends, she might get some insight to help her plan to sell her relics.
Not to mention, Akira was quite happy with the information that she gathered last time. Thus Sheryl reached a conclusion.
Sheryl smiled gracefully and said.
“In that case, please let me accompany you.”
Katsuya smiled happily when he heard Sheryls answer.
They then moved to a cafe inside that building. After all, for the sake of the administration work that she was planning to finish that day, she could not afford to leave that building.
They found an empty table and took a seat on that table. Erio was the only one who was not sitting, he was just standing-by next to Sheryl without saying anything.
Since lunchtime was getting closer, Katsuya, Airi and Yumina ordered some meals for their lunch. While Sheryl only ordered a cup of coffee.
Leaving Erio who was standing there as Sheryls bodyguard aside, Sheryl was the only one not ordering a meal, so then Katsuya casually asked her a question.
“Are you sure youre okay not ordering anything else Just a cup of coffee”
“Yes, please dont let it bother you.”
Sheryl was smiling like usual when she said that, but Katsuya somehow felt there was a slight disturbance in that smile. So he inadvertently asked her a question.
“…I actually chose this place since its pretty cheap considering the quality of the meal they serve here. Do you, by any chance, not find it to your liking”
Sheryls dress was obviously a high-class dress. It was an old-world relic fitted exactly for her, so of course, she was giving off a different vibe compared to the other people with common dresses.
Even Katsuya could not imagine how much that dress would cost him if he tried to buy one. So considering the usual expense of the people who would casually use such a dress, Katsuya was worried if he had picked a cafe that was too cheap for Sheryls standard.
Sheryl lightly shook her head, she looked slightly embarrassed as she said.
“No, thats not it… Uhh, the reason as to why I didnt order any meal is not because I dont like the food in this cafe… Its… Uhh, to keep my bodys proportion under control, so…”
Katsuya could not catch what Sheryl was implying, so he just tilted his head and asked further.
“Your bodys proportion”
Yumina and Airi immediately jabbed at him.
“Katsuya, shut up!”
“Katsuya, you should think before you speak!”
As Yumina and Airi were glaring at Katsuya, he finally noticed it. He immediately fl.u.s.teredly tried to come up with an excuse.
“Ah, no, I dont think youre fat, you know. And I do think its rather healthy not to be too skinny…”
“Geez, Katsuya, just shut up, will you”
“Katsuya, you should really put more thought before you speak.”
Yumina and Airi once again immediately shut Katsuya up. Thanks to that, Katsuya realized that he only made it worse, so he decided to just shut up as not to make it even worse.
Yumina smiled bitterly and apologized to Sheryl.
“Im sorry. I know that Ive been saying this again and again, but thats just his habit. I know it sounds like an excuse, but he did not mean to offend you at all. He just… What can I say, tend to go too far… Well, I know that its not good at all, I wonder if the effect from the last scolding has worn off.”
Yumina glared at him. Katsuya somehow understood what she wanted to say, so he then apologetically said.
“Im really sorry… Im sorry, Sheryl.”
Sheryl tried to show that she was not angry as she smiled at Katsuya and his friends.
“Please dont worry about it. Its also partly my fault for doing something that might cause a misunderstanding. Since were here, lets not worry too much about it and enjoy ourselves.”
Katsuya and Yumina smiled and blushed when they saw Sheryls smile. Yumina then tried to hide her embarrassment by changing the topic.
“Very well then, lets talk about something else.”
After that, meals and drinks were delivered to their table. They then started talking to each other while enjoying their meals and drinks.
Sheryl slurped her coffee as she sighed in relief since she was able to keep her image.
[…It seems that it somehow leaked on my face, huh. Im glad I was able to dodge it. But still, were really living in a different world, huh. For them, this cafe is a rather cheap cafe. I wonder how much I need to earn to be able to feel the same.]
The coffee that Sheryl ordered cost her 1500 Aurum per cup, seeing from the perspective of someone who used to live in the slum city, it was an extremely expensive cup of coffee. But even so, it was actually the cheapest thing on the menu of that cafe, and of course, it was not like she could just order water and leave. So after a lot of thinking, Sheryl decided to just order a cup of coffee in the end.
Inside that small cup that Sheryl could easily fit her hand into, it was only 70% filled with coffee. She spent 1500 Aurum for that cup of coffee, honestly speaking, she had a lot to complain about that cup of coffee as she put a lot of the free sugar and milk inside that coffee and mixed them together.
After putting so much sugar and milk inside her coffee, which would definitely cause a certain group of coffee lovers to rage, Sheryls coffee turned into a very sweet liquid. When she took a slurp, the sweetness quickly spread through her tongue and softened her expression. Her brain might have been seeking sugar to help clear her mind.
Up until now, Sheryl had never ever been in a situation where she could use sugar without worrying about the cost, and since she had spent 1500 Aurum for her coffee, she used so much sugar as if she was trying to make up for that price. Thus her coffee turned into a very sweet liquid.
Katsuya and Yumina were so surprised when they looked at Sheryl who used a lot of sugar on her coffee and how her expression turned softer when she took a slurp of that coffee. But on the other hand, they could understand why Sheryl would do that. It might be something that she had to do so that she could keep her body shape under control.
Sheryl noticed Katsuya and Yuminas expression.
“…Uhmm, is there any problem”
Yumina carefully asked.
“Uhh, isnt that too sweet for you”
Sheryl looked a bit confused.
“Yeah. Its sweet.”
“No, thats not what I meant… Uhh, sorry, its nothing.”
Yumina was about to ask if it was not too sweet, but she realized that there was not even any need to ask that question as she stopped herself.
Sheryl still looked a bit confused as she shifted her gaze from Yumina to Katsuya. Katsuya noticed that and fl.u.s.teredly asked.
“Uhmmm, do you like sweet things”
“Yes, I love them.”
Sheryl smiled, there was no lie in her smile. Although it was a dazzling smile, Katsuya somehow felt pressured by that smile. It must be because he was overwhelmed by how Sheryl could smile like that after drinking a coffee with that much sugar without showing any difficulty.
“I-I see, well, I can totally get that. A lot of my Hunter friends are girls and all of them like sweet things. Well, we move around a lot as Hunters, so I guess it helps with recovering their energy and healing the wounds. Thats why I think theres nothing wrong with eating a lot of calories. I know some girls who always eat a lot…”
Katsuya then kept on talking while trying not to touch the subject about Sheryls palate and hoping that he was not making a weird face. Yumina and Airi did not seem to plan on stopping him any time soon.
When they thought about that cup of coffee, they knew that it must be extremely sweet and could not help but to imagine how it would taste if they took a slurp of that coffee. Thus they were trying not to look at Sheryls cup in order to avoid thinking about it.