Chapter 22: Pretty Ojosan
“What about your lady? —She deserves better.”
“… Don’t look, it’s filthy.”
Toni, the man, looks at Anastasia as if he is judging her.
Brandt tried to prevent it, covering Anastasia with his back.
Anastasia stands behind the two, glaring at each other, unable to keep up with the situation.
“What, Senpai? Did you bring your junior?! He~”
She called out to Brandt timidly, and Tony cheerfully responded.
“No, no, it was your fault the party had already fallen apart. You’re the one who went after Meena and Jena.”
“I didn’t do anything—they were just making a fuss on their own.”
“Blegh… says the hot guy… The guy who had both of those beauties on his sleeves brings a girl of his own accord, which is why I’m so curious.”
Anastasia couldn’t understand the details of the argument between the irritated Brandt and the gleeful Toni, but she guessed that Tony was the person with whom Brandt had formed a temporary party.
Glancing over Brandt’s back, Anastasia saw that Toni was a man of medium build with no distinguishing features. His stubble made him look a little older, maybe in his early twenties.
“…If you don’t have anything useful to say, well, leave; we don’t have time for you.”
“Don’t be boring. So you’re going to the dungeon now? Where are you going? —You’re not going to the [Vampire Tower], are you?”
Toni asks seriously, abandoning her previous joking demeanor.
“…Yes, we’re going to the [Vampire Tower], and based on what I’ve heard, not much has changed, right?”
Brandt’s annoyed tone shifts to one of inquiry.
“No… We only got to the fifth floor the last time we were there, right? Even with what happened to Meena and Jena, that’s a low bar to clear. I returned a few times after that, but that time was the worst. I made it to about the seventh floor with a party that isn’t as strong as it was back then.”
“Do you think the difficulty level was higher back then?”
“Yes. When I asked around, I learned that the difficulty level had been higher that week or so—and that something similar had occurred six months previously.”
“Are you saying that the difficulty level increases every six months for a week or so?”
“That’s what I assumed… I asked a guy who has been going to the tower for a long time, and he said he had no idea… Perhaps it is a new trend these days. And the difficulty level hasn’t been raised in nearly six months.”
Anastasia listens to their conversation and ponders.
There are dungeons where the internal structure changes on a regular basis. Similarly, it wouldn’t be surprising if the difficulty of dungeons changed.
—But in my last life, no dungeon had ever felt like it had changed in difficulty. However, I’ve never conquered one before, so it may be that I just didn’t get stuck by chance.
“Some say that rare materials could be found during that time—If you’re going to the tower, you should bring a large party with you.”
“No, I don’t want to form a temporary group this time—we’ll go alone.”
“Hm? With ojosan? —What’s her rank?”
Toni’s eyes widen as Brandt responds matter-of-factly.
Anastasia stayed at rank 6 because she couldn’t get enough achievements while exploring beginner dungeons on the weekends.
She is about to qualify for the exam that will allow her to be promoted to rank 5, so she may be able to move up during the semester break.
“Huh! Rank 6? Are you out of your mind?! She’s not even allowed to enter the tower! “
“However, with a rank 4 with her, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
“No, that’s true… But she is still a beginner at rank 6… I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, Ojosan. But you’re not going to get anywhere with this guy. Instead, come with me, and I’ll teach you more gently.”
Toni peeks out next to Brandt, calls out something to Anastasia, and waves her over.
—It’s quite shady.
“No, I’m going with Brandt-senpai.”
Toni’s shoulders slump as Anastasia responds firmly.
“…Why is it always Brandt…? is it all about the face…?””
Toni turns over and mumbles bitterly.
Brandt sighed as he examined the figure.
“I thank you for the concern; we’ll be careful.”
“… If you want to thank me, introduce me to some pretty girls—I’m sure you’ll get a lot of them; just give me the ones you don’t want.”
“I won’t do it—that kind of rudeness makes you unpopular, doesn’t it?”
“Then give me the one you’re with! Leave the ojosan over there!”
“What kind of idiot abandons someone he cares about? —and don’t speak of her as if she were an object… Let’s go.”
Brandt grabs Anastasia’s hand and walks out of the Hunter’s Guild, as if he doesn’t care any longer.
For a while, they walk in silence.
She is overcome by the momentum and follows him, only to realize she is holding Brandt’s hand and is perplexed.
Her cheeks become hot when she recalls the words “cares about.”
She tries to calm herself down by telling herself that he only cares about her as a friend, but her face remains red.
“I’m sorry, Anastasia—It must have upset you.”
Then she hears Brandt’s apologetic voice, which confuses Anastasia because she doesn’t immediately understand what he means.
“That guy, Toni, has a very amorous side—he was rude to Anastasia…”
“N-No… It’s all right.”
Anastasia responds quickly.
She doesn’t believe he intended to be rude enough to apologize.
He was actually quite complimentary of Anastasia’s appearance, despite his somewhat vulgar tone.
Anastasia never expected to have someone like that, and at first she mistook the call for someone else, so she didn’t realize he was talking to her.
However, whether she liked it or not is a different story.
“It’s only… I got the impression he was unprincipled and would have been content with any woman—He even called someone like me “a pretty ojosan.”
“Huh? But it’s true. Anastasia-san is pretty.”
Anastasia muttered a sigh, but Brandt’s words came as a surprise, and she was absolutely embarrassed.
—What do you mean by that?
But Anastasia recognized it as flattery right away. It was a social call.
—I was never flattered before, but now that I’ve followed Regina’s advice, my appearance has greatly improved. So I guess I’ve progressed from being unflattering to being at least flattering.
I’ve also heard that there’s a notion that a young woman is beautiful just because she’s young.
Anastasia tries to reassure herself in this way.
“Even when I first saw her, I thought she was pretty; she may not think so of herself, but Anastasia is pretty.”
Brandt’s subsequent words perplex Anastasia.
Anastasia’s hair was shaggy and her back was curled when she first met Brandt, giving her an unattractive appearance.
So, what does it mean to say she’s still pretty, then?
Was that what he was looking at? Surely the face hadn’t changed. Or maybe he has very specific tastes. No, perhaps he’s too attractive and prefers different perceptions.
Anastasia, unable to think clearly, abandons her attempt to respond and casts her gaze downward.
Her cheeks and clasped hands are burning hot.