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“I guess I can charge fifty gold a month…” Amelia murmured as she placed a hand on her chin.

Noele paused. “What? No—” she started.

“Twenty-five, then. But that’s the lowest I’ll go.”

“That’s…” the blonde girl trailed off. Noele pursed her lips, shaking her head. There was no point trying to argue. She might as well just come out and say it. “Amelia, a hundred gold coins isn’t a lot.”

“Seriously?” Amelia blinked. She frowned at herself, looking surprised. “I could’ve sworn that I read that most people barely even earn a hundred gold in their lifetime.”

Noele nodded. “And that’s true. A single gold coin is a hundred silver, and a hundred gold coins is worth a lot to normal people. But for adventurers? A-ranked adventurers earn a thousand gold a year. And S-ranked adventurers can earn that much in a month…”

“So it’s a lot of money, just not ‘fuck you’ money, I see.” The brown-haired woman rubbed her chin. “I don’t really need ‘fuck you’ money. I just need retirement money. So a hundred gold it is— that is if you can afford it.”

“I’m not exactly an A-ranked adventurer just yet, but I have quite a lot saved up,” Noele said as she stepped forward. “And I will do anything it takes if it means you’ll help me become as strong as you.”

Amelia nodded approvingly. “That’s the spirit. So for your first lesson—”

 

—--

 

Noele blinked as she took in her dark surroundings. She heard the clicking. She saw the slithering. Red eyes moving in the shadows, stalking her every movement. She raised her head, looking up at Amelia standing at the edge of the pit above.

The brown-haired woman spoke simply. “Survive.”

“Uh, what?” Noele opened her mouth to protest, but Amelia leapt away.

“Good luck. I’ll be back by sundown.”

“Wait, but this is—” The blonde girl raised her hand. And she watched as her mentor vanished into the distance. Slowly, she looked back down into the darkness.

All around her were the shadows of undulating creatures. They circled her, clicking and hissing as she reached for her sword. Her eyes narrowed.

And one of these long creatures lashed out like a whip. She raised her blade as she ducked under the attack. With a vertical slash, she tore through an armored segmented section of the monster’s body. It fell back in half, oozing green blood.

Noele bit her lower lip.

“These are… colossal centipedes. C-ranked threats. I should be able to deal with them just fine.”

Her eyes flickered. The clicking sounds grew louder, and she saw more and more of the monsters encroaching on her location. There were far too many of them to count. They were climbing the walls and the ceilings, each many times longer than Noele was tall. She hesitated.

“...I hope.”

And the colossal centipedes charged her as she braced herself.

 

—--

 

I leapt through the forests of Briar Glen, heading back to the city of Windrip. I could still see some remnants of smoking pouring out in the distance even though it had been two days since the Goblin Lord’s attack. Rebuilding a city wasn’t easy, and nearly half the populace was gone, having either fled Windrip, or having died in the battle. It was going to take a while before a sense of normalcy would be restored here.

I landed near the city, far enough away so as to not attract too much attention to myself. There was a perimeter of guards around where the walls had fallen, but they weren’t charging a toll for entry this time. I walked over the rubble and debris, nodding at the city guards as I passed collapsed buildings.

There was so much death and destruction everywhere. I saw women crying in the streets, and bodies were being burned en masse in large piles. I had expected them to only burn the bodies of goblins, but for some odd reason, they were also burning the bodies of their dead.

Despite seeing such a terrible sight, I remained mostly unbothered. I knew I was supposed to be upset— I did feel like what happened was wrong. But I didn’t grieve. I didn’t even feel like shedding a single tear despite all the deaths. Sure, I didn’t know these people. I had only been in this world for four days, after all. However, I couldn’t help but truly wonder why I felt nearly nothing for this tragedy.

I found the makeshift Adventurer’s Guild at the center of the city. It wasn’t running full operations again just yet— it was simply a large tent with a few adventurers loitering about. I looked for Justyn, but couldn’t find him.

“Oi, Amelia,” a voice said, drawing my attention. Garron sauntered over to me with a smile. He still had a glare on his face, which made his smile look slightly odd and intimidating, but I knew that was just how he was at this point. “How are things holding up with you?”

“I’m doing fine,” I responded simply. “Have you seen Justyn around?”

Garron shook his head. “He’s off work today. Spending time with his family, I reckon.”

The [Receptionist] had completely changed his tone around me after seeing me kill the Goblin Lord. While he was previously antagonistic, he was now quite helpful. In fact, he was the one who helped me locate that nest of colossal centipedes.

According to him, while these colossal centipedes were dangerous, they had been mostly left alone by Windrip since they scarcely ever left their nest. They were also incredibly numerous, so no one dared to exterminate them. I wondered if it was a bad idea for me to give Noele such a difficult task on her first day training under me.

I scratched my chin. “Hey, Garron, how do you think you’d fare against a nest of colossal centipedes?”

“Colossal centipedes, huh?” The burly man frowned. “Individually, they’re slightly weaker than the average C-ranked threat, but their immense numbers make up for their weakness. I’d say I need a team of B-ranks to back me up if I wanted to exterminate a nest.”

“I see. And how would someone like Noele deal with it?” I asked curiously. It was my first time mentoring someone. Dropping her into a nest of colossal centipedes was just to gauge her abilities. I didn’t want to get her killed immediately. Well, preferably, I didn’t want to get her killed at all.

“Noele’s quite competent for a B-ranked adventurer. Honestly, I’m surprised she isn’t an A-rank yet from what I’ve heard about her.”

“Is that so?” I peered at Garron, studying his face. He gave me a reassuring look.

“Besides, she’s the one who defeated the Goblin Lord,” he said. “So I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

“Right.” I bit my lower lip.

That was the lie Noele, Justyn, and I agreed to stick to since I didn’t want to take credit for killing the Goblin Lord because of all the problems it would cause me. Still, Garron seemed confident of Noele’s abilities, so I took his word for it.

“If you say so…”

 

—--

 

I’m not doing fine at all! Noele gritted her teeth as she raised her left hand. A blue barrier flickered into existence. A shield that formed a semi-sphere just ahead of her. A group of colossal centipedes crashed into it, and she backed against the wall.

Dozens more of the monsters crawled up to her, cornering her from every angle. Up, down, left, and right. There were so many of them. It had only been an hour, and Noele was certain she’d already killed hundreds of these creatures, but they wouldn’t stop coming. They gnawed at her barrier with their clicking mandibles, hissing and trying to break through to get to her.

Noele took in a deep breath. She had to remain calm. Panicking would do nothing to serve her here. The [Force Barrier] cracked, and she readied herself. The congregation of colossal centipedes piled up before her. She raised her free hand as a flame flickered into existence.

“[Grand Fireblast]!” she said as the barrier finally shattered.

And all at once, the golden fire burst out. It consumed the horde of monsters as they shrieked, burning from her flames. Noele stepped forward, walking past chunks of charred meat and melted chitin. She had to have taken out over a hundred of them all at once. Quite a few of them at the back fringes escaped, skittering away as their backs burned, still alive.

Noele watched them go. She smirked, panting as she came to a halt directly below the hole in the ceiling.

“Is that all of them?” she wondered aloud. “I really hope there aren’t more…”

Her eyes flickered as a blue screen flashed before her. A deluge of notifications from the World System.

[You have defeated a colossal centipede!]

[You have defeated a colossal centipede!]

[You have leveled up! You are now Level 48!]

She frowned. Noele raised a hand, dismissing these notifications as she shook her head. She had only leveled up once from this debacle, which made sense. These colossal centipedes were probably low Level 30s. Killing them didn’t provide much experience to her. That was as opposed to killing the Goblin Lord.

While Noele herself was not responsible for defeating Glutaz— Amelia was— the World System had rewarded the experience from that feat to the Noble Spellsword. As a result, Noele had leveled up twice from Level 45 to Level 47 and learned [Force Barrier].

If only she had [True Appraisal] or the like. She could evaluate her own status— track her strength more accurately. With each level up, she felt like she grew stronger, faster… better. But she couldn’t exactly quantify it in the same sense if she did have such a Skill.

Groaning, she cracked her shoulders and stood up straight. A few of her worst injuries healed just a little bit thanks to the level up. She didn’t have any healing potions with her because Amelia had brought her here by surprise, so Noele was grateful for any help she could get. Plus—

“The nest isn’t cleared out just yet,” the Noble Spellsword said as she raised her head.

If she had cleared out this nest, the World System would’ve informed her. The fact that it said nothing of the like just proved there were still plenty of colossal centipedes lurking about, even if she no longer heard the crawling of the monsters. Even if the last of the golden flames had been snuffed out.

“Amelia told me to survive, so do I just… wait here for the rest of them to show up?”

If so, this granted Noele a good chance to relax. A brief reprieve. She wanted to just slump over and rest. But she caught herself. She closed her eyes and exhaled deeply.

“No— I can’t just lie around and waste my time,” Noele whispered to herself. “Amelia took a chance with me. She let me be her apprentice. I know she’s probably somewhere out there, watching my every move, carefully evaluating my performance—”

 

—--

 

“Hi, yes, can I have this made for me by the end of the day?” I said as I slipped the piece of paper forward.

I showed the [Tailor] the sketch I drew out. My clothes were ragged and dirty. I also didn’t quite like the way I looked. The first step back to normalcy was shopping for new clothes. So I paid the coin and waited for my outfit to be finished.

He nodded eagerly as he rubbed his hands together. “Of course. It’s a little bit complex, so it will cost—”

 

—--

 

“I cannot disappoint Amelia,” Noele resolved herself.

So the Noble Spellsword raised her blade and dared to venture into the darkness. But she paused when she heard the clicking. A deep, resounding clicking. Slower than the footsteps of the colossal centipedes. Meticulous. Dangerous.

Noele took a step back as she scanned her surroundings. She paused when she caught a glimpse of a giant dark shadow. Something that was lurking in the dark.

Her eyes grew wide. “That’s…”

And she saw it. The massive mandibles. The serrated chitin. A hundred giant segments of body. A monster that extended a hundred feet. It emerged from the shadows, looming over the B-ranked adventurer as she stared on.

“That’s… a titan centipede. An A-ranked threat.”

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