Chapter 107

Chapter 107

Pao?” Yao Jing asked as he entered the room, proffering the large white bun. The hulking cultivator looked quite smug and happy with himself, which had Arthur squinting at the other suspiciously. Even if the two of them had fallen into a comfortable routine, almost a friendship, with surprising ease, Arthur still could not forget that they had only known one another for a few days.

“Which kind?” Arthur asked.

Tai pao,” Yao Jing said. Arthur eyed the double-sized pao and snorted. He should have known. There weren’t many white buns that came in that size.

“Why’d you buy one?” Arthur said, curious. “You know we don’t have to eat.”

“Need and want are not same,” Yao Jing said.

“Also, how? I mean, the ingredients . . .”

“Can be bought from the Tower. So you better enjoy it, because that pao is worth one whole core.”

Arthur winced but took the pao gratefully. Sitting back, he peeled the leaf that had been used to cover the bottom of the pao in place of the usual rice paper and split the still warm pao apart. Inside, bamboo shoots, sliced pork and chicken, yam beans, and a boiled egg were revealed, all giving off the rich smell of soy sauce and oyster sauce. Arthur’s tongue began to salivate almost immediately, having not had actual food to eat in ages.

However, he held back long enough to say, “So, what else?” before he put half of the pao in his mouth and chewed.

“You sure you don’t wanna eat first, ah?”

Arthur shook his head, even as he took his time chewing. The warm, soft, and bouncy outer skin mixed with the rich taste of the savoury filling, the chewiness of the cooked egg a subtle difference compared to the well-cooked sliced meat.

“Okay.” Looking mournfully at the food in Arthur’s hands, Yao Jing continued. “Took some time to find Osman and his gang. They had some trouble in their area, during the time they brought so many people to help us.” Yao Jing frowned. “They’re not so strong as you think. They got the usual gambling halls lah, brothels lah, and moneylenders lah—I mean, core-lenders. Anyway, trouble. That’s why it took so long.” When Arthur simply nodded, Yao Jing sighed a little.

Arthur made a note to praise the man more. Obviously, he was one who liked verbal and other forms of recognition. A smack on the back of the head and simply giving orders didn’t motivate people enough. Arthur’s sifu would have called them lazy, but Arthur figured people just were people. 


“Osman’s people are getting pushed out from their area. At first by the Suey Ying,” Yao Jing said, which surprised Arthur since the Suey Ying had actually been smaller than the Double Sixes. “But now, some of the other triads are also pushing them. Osman’s strong people went up to the next floor already. I think that’s why, now, Osman wants to use your rooms, build up his people here. Safe and cheap-cheap, right?”

It made sense. Sticking around in newbie inns was expensive, even if it was the safest method. Doing cultivation in other locations, especially in areas that might be attacked, was less optimal. Arthur’s clan building, on the other hand, provided peace of mind—which facilitated cultivation and training—as well as an environment with denser energy.

“Anyway. They have a few people ready to cross the first threshold. In a few weeks’ time. But until then . . .” Yao Jing waggled his hands in concern.

“Hmm . . .” Arthur chewed on the pao, mind flicking over possibilities. There might be an opportunity there. A very good opportunity to not just build up the clan but also bind the Double Sixes to them. “Any other news on the kind of things they do? Drugs? Blackmail and slavery, murder and torture, that kind of thing?”

“No drugs. There’s no supply. Tower doesn’t sell anything. Kinda impossible to get regular supply of anything from outside.”

“Okay fine, no drugs. Summore?”

“Murder: more killing than usual, lah. Sometimes beating people up, the usual thing.” Arthur frowned at that, but it was not as though he didn’t know what he was getting into. “But not like horrible, horrible.”

Not the best of results, but not the worst. So long as they limited the alliance to this floor, it shouldn’t be too bad. Maybe creating new alliances and groups on each floor made sense, rather than tying themselves to any organization as a whole.

It might make them a little more vulnerable though.

“When we meeting them?” Arthur asked before he took another bite, surprised to see that he had finished most of the pao already. He also noted that he’d switched back to Manglish. All too easy when you spent a lot of time with people who spoke it.

“Two days’ time. They come here. I think they want to move in on the same day.”

Arthur winced and then pointed to the door. “Okay. Sort the spacing out with Mel? We need to empty out this place anyway. Or figure out more places for people to stay. I don’t think we can keep all the Thorned Lotuses here, and I’d like us to get to the point of only Clan here.” He paused. “Or as much as possible, what with my earlier deals.”

“Got it, boss.” Giving a wave with two fingers, Yao Jing exited the room, leaving Arthur to the remnants of his meal and his documents.

All in all, that could have gone worse. Arthur still had lingering doubts about Yao Jing, but if he was going to expand the clan beyond the Lotuses, he was going to need to trust others. He just didn’t have the time to take it slow.

Case in point: almost right away, there was a knock on the door. A group of rather furtive-looking individuals were hanging around outside. They had been cleaned up, faces and hair washed so that the dirt stains and blood were gone. Nothing could be done about the threadbare rags they wore though, which earmarked who they were.

Not that Arthur had anything against threadbare clothing. He recalled his own return to the village just a few days ago, his own clothing barely hanging on. 

“Ready or not?” Jan said. Not that she had given him much opportunity to say no, what with the crowd already filing in. But at least she had asked.

Shrugging, Arthur pointed for her to enter and eyeballed the ragtag group. Now, how did he want to handle this?

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Climbing the Ranks is a LitRPG cultivation novel by Tao Wong that publishes serially on Starlit Publishing. While the whole novel will be free to read, you can purchase a membership to receive chapters weeks in advance of the public release.

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