Arthur cocked his head to the side, watching as Yao Jing threw an uppercut. His closed fist, filled with energy, shook the monster and snapped its ursine head back. The creature roared, clawed paws striking but blocked by the man slipping away with dexterous movements. Feet shifted, putting him out of reach with one particularly smooth weaving motion before he pounded the bear’s ribs again with his hands, driving it back.
In the meantime, the rest of the team stood back, Uswah watching the surroundings for potential problems while the rest of the team observed Yao Jing having his solo duel.
“Exactly how did he convince us to let him fight it himself again?” Arthur said, half-puzzled, half-amused. Spittle flew and landed on the surroundings, blood mixing with the foaming froth of the angered monster as Yao Jing kept pounding away.
“He said it was necessary for his cultivation,” Mel said.
“Right, right. All for the might. But how does that work, exactly?”
The pair of women could only shrug, leaving Arthur snorting. Still, they had time to watch as the cultivator continued to pound away at the monstrous bear. The creature was a small ursine monster, barely taller than Arthur’s own shoulder even when it reared up. It was, however, massively strong and well-padded with muscle and fat. The powerful, bone-crushing blows that Yao Jing dished out merely wasted strength on its defences.
A day and a half later, Yao Jing had mostly managed to fit into the team. It was not a smooth integration, but it was good enough that he had a rough idea of the roles the group had formed for itself. It was a fortunate addition, since Uswah had pulled even further away from direct confrontations, lurking in the dark and using her shadows to pull monsters aside and occasionally launching an elemental version of the Refined Energy Dart.
Still, powerful as Yao Jing was, and confident as he seemed with his boxing—and it was very much boxing, rather than the mixed martial styles that so many other ascenders made use of—he lacked the pure power and strength required to put the bear down. At least, not quickly.
Then again, his latest companion was technically weaker than Arthur. Yao Jing was new to the Tower, only having his human strength to make use of and some surprising cultivation techniques and secrets. The fact that he needed to battle the monster on his own to build upon cultivation was strange, but it was not something Arthur felt it was his place to probe.
“What, exactly, is that thing anyway?” Arthur muttered. “I never knew we had bears. Or myths of bears.”
“Malayan sun bear,” Jan replied. “Real one very rare. And not so big.” She nodded at the bear, who having failed to crush Yao Jing again by rising up on its hindfeet and coming down with its paws, threw its head to the side, briefly exposing the patch of white underneath its fur. “See. Sun bear.”
“Huh.” Arthur rubbed his chin. “Are there legends about it?”
His question received only shrugs. It was unusual to find a monstrous creature that fit their country but not their legends. Even the snakes they fought often had some form of urban legend, if not older myths attached to them. So to see the sun bear, a creature he had not even heard about, running around was interesting.
“How come we haven’t seen one before?” Arthur asked, curiously. “After all the time we’ve been out in the forest . . .” A flicker of annoyance. How did you rhyme with forest?
“Rare boss, obviously,” Mel said.
“If that’s the case, should we be letting him fight it alone?” he asked.
Before she could answer, the tired bear managed to land a punishing swipe on Yao Jing. Missing his block, the man was sent spinning away to roll on the ground, bleeding from the swipe that struck his hip and torso. As he came back to his feet, shaking his head, the bear charged and bowled him over.
“And that’s enough,” Arthur growled, seeing his friend on his back. He charged forward, triggering both Focused Strike and Heavenly Sage’s Mischief. Speed boosted, he crossed the distance within moments to plunge his spear into the spot just behind the front right paw as it rose to crush his friend.
Startled and in pain, the bear twisted off-balance. To Arthur’s surprise, Yao Jing was lying on his back, one arm raised in protection but another cocked back and charging up. There was no more light on his protective arm as the man shifted the collected energy to the other hand, launching it forward with an ear-cracking thump as it landed on the monster’s jaw and neck, which sent it collapsing over.
Moments later, Jan and Mel arrived, the first just strolling while Mel seemed a little more concerned. The group helped haul the heavy monster off the bleeding and injured Yao Jing, who could not help but grin as he offered them a thumbs-up.
“Told you I could do it,” he said, sitting up gingerly.
“Pretty sure I helped,” Arthur pointed out.
“I had it without you,” Yao Jing said, stiffly. Then, standing up gingerly, taking the hand that Arthur offered to him and being careful not to put weight on his side, he added, “Though the help was nice.”
“You two, shut up lah.” Pushing over to Yao Jing, Jan began to pour water into the dirty, bleeding side. That elicited a low growl, but before he could say anything, she began cleaning it roughly. He straightened, breath growing tight before she shoved a bandage into his bleeding side. “Hold it there, idiot.”
“Me idiot, you—” Already, the woman had stomped off, leaving Yao Jing alone. He shook his head but did continue to put pressure on his wound. Now that he was looking, Arthur could not help but think that the entire thing probably had needed a good wash.
Then again, minor things like infections were much less of a concern in the Tower, and certainly not with their shared healing trait. Yao Jing watched Jan stomp off ahead of them, and Arthur chose not to say anything. If Yao Jing wanted it cleaned further, he would do so.
And if not, it would be a good test to see how fast he healed. As for the other complication . . .
“You going to do anything about that?” Arthur said, flicking his gaze over to Jan so Yao Jing could clearly note what he meant.
Arthur just looked at the man, waiting for him to get the clue. Yao Jing shrugged, choosing not to comment.
“Whatever.” Arthur shook his head. He certainly was not one to criticize. After all, his own minor crush had not gone anywhere, nor did he have the time or desire to pursue it. Never mind the fact that the Yin Body seemed to make the entire arousal and desire thing a little removed for him, he was just too busy.
The need for survival and training seemed to have driven much of that demand away. And it wasn’t as though he was one for jumping in bed on the regular. Navigating sex in Malaysia, whether the relationship was casual or serious, was always tricky between cultural expectations, Western ideals, and the practicalities of modern living and shared bedspaces.
There was very little sexy or romantic about alleyway trysts in downtown KL.
“Coming or not?” Mel said, standing up as she finished washing her hand and the bloody core. She slipped the entire thing into her waist pouch, and Arthur dismissed those concerns.
Someday, he’d find that time.
Just not today.