Eighteen days and dozens of monsters later, Arthur was feeling better. It had started with a lone snake that crawled into his tent and nearly eaten him alive. Most recently, he had been pursued by a pack of tiny cat-like creatures who’d found him while he was picking mushrooms for a gathering quest near his new camp.
No signs of further pursuit by the cats, and now Arthur was left to heal in peace—or as much as one did in the wilderness. Thankfully, the first level of the Tower was set up more as a training ground than a standard Tower level. Unlike upper levels, which were full-blown battlefields, the first few levels of a beginners’ dungeon were a gradual introduction to the world of kill or be killed.
All of which meant that monsters, while persistent and common, were not endless. Unless Arthur was looking for them, he could only expect a couple of battles a day at most. Most of the monsters present acted like real animals—even if they were larger and more dangerous—which meant they would choose not to attack someone like Arthur if he left them alone.
All in all, it meant he could spend the time cultivating and reinforcing his own strength. It was what many cultivators did in the beginning, spending time in a Beginners’ Tower to maximise their strength.
“But the drain is the problem, isn’t it?” Arthur said, turning over a monster core in hand. “I can already feel it . . .”
Every day, on a constant basis, his energy fled. Used, twisted, and swallowed by his body, consumed just like food. Every time he increased in strength, increased his attributes, the drain would increase. Sooner or later, the drain level would outpace any potential gains from staying on a floor. You had to climb further up to make use of the denser energy.
Artificial limits, artificial boosts, artificial monsters.
“Might as well be in an episode of Westworld,” Arthur sighed. Still, he should not complain. With a flicker of his hand, he eyed his own Status.
Cultivation Speed: 1
Energy Pool: 5/12
Refinement Speed: 0.01
Refined Energy: 1.03 (0)
Attributes and Traits
Eighteen days to get a single point of energy. Now, he did have another four cores, but each only gave a single point. Going higher in the Tower meant more powerful cores, which meant a larger amount of refined energy for the same amount of time.
For many who had friends and family outside, who could not afford to just sit on the lowest level, it was better to climb faster, even if one lost out a little on the optimal power progression. Otherwise, you could work with teams, paying for cores that others gathered for you so that you could continue one’s ascension.
“Can’t let the women or parents or kids wait…” Arthur said, remembering the faces of the hopeful, the grief-stricken, the lost in front of the Tower. That was his advantage, the advantage of one desperate enough to walk away from a potential life outside for a few decades.
He could wait, build his strength, take his time. His family, what there was of it, they would understand. Better to survive and progress slowly than never exit.
Shaking his head, Arthur focused on his point of refined energy. It was time, time to pour energy into an attribute and make himself stronger. Better. That was the entire point of refining the energy after all, taking the next step. The question was where.
Mind was useful since it would make his ability to comprehend energy techniques, fighting styles, and cultivation exercises better. On the other hand, he had none of those with him at the moment. The only other thing that would improve along with his Mind stat was his ability to manipulate the energy within him, increasing the amount of energy when he refined.
On the other hand, increasing Body would increase his base energy pool. That meant he could hold even more energy, useful for fights where he used his Focused Strike ability or whatever technique he learned next. It also meant he could build up more energy within himself so that he would not need too long a break when he was refining energy. Of course, there were the physical benefits of increasing Body too, like being stronger, faster, and more flexible than a normal human. Powerful cultivators could be six to seven times stronger than mortals who had never entered the Tower.
And finally, Spirit. It was the speed he could draw energy from within his body, refining it in his core. It also dictated his ability to handle the various energy types. It was, perhaps, the least important attribute at this time since it only directly affected his cultivation speed. But in the future it was an attribute that determined many important things like poison resistance or aura control.
Biting his lip, Arthur reviewed his options before he nodded to himself, understanding exactly what he needed to do.
Body it was, for now. Until he got to the breakpoint, he would dedicate points to it. He pushed the refined energy in his core, the coursing power that felt like live electricity and that could only be manipulated by spirit and mind together. He ran it through nerves, muscles, and bones all through his body, flooding energy into them and feeling it ripple through him, rebuilding him.
Pain, pushing through him, tearing him apart. He bit his lips, as he was remade. Thankfully, it was only a point of energy so the change, the pain, was not that significant. It hurt him, rebuilt him, and finally . . . finally! He was done.
Standing up, Arthur looked around, grinning a little. Time to test out his new body.
Climbing the Ranks is a serial LitRPG cultivation novel by Tao Wong that will publish exclusively on Starlit Publishing. While the whole novel will be free to read, you'll be able to purchase a membership to receive chapters weeks in advance of the public launch. To get updates on how to subscribe in mid-January, please join our newsletter or follow us on social media.