Simple solutions were the best. Attributes were what linked everything together, from offering new Traits that helped differentiate one Tower climber from another to providing larger energy pools and more refined energy points. All of which was to say: If he had a choice, he’d always grab at more attributes.
It also helped that with the Yin Body, he was already ahead of the game. The increased in his attributes of the Yin Body by itself meant that he had done less work to build himself up than others of the same level of refined energy. It also let him keep cool, his mind calmer and clearer than ever before. Of course, in the greater context of the Tower, he was still a baby—not even having reached the second transformation yet.
Oh, he was looking forward to that. Ten points in each attribute. It was the easiest transformation to make—not counting the one you received when you first entered a Tower—and after which, things got complicated. But that was a common enough refrain that he could ignore it.
“I’ll take the Attribute point,” Arthur announced out loud.
A tad slow, a tad tired. He forgot that he actually should have chosen which attribute he was putting the point into. He felt the energy pour into him, into his refined energy core, urgent in its desires as though it refused to stay there.
A part of Arthur wondered why the Tower couldn’t just give them that refined energy all the time. Another part of him urged Arthur to figure out what he was dedicating that energy point to right now, damn it. Otherwise, he felt, he was going to burst like a balloon.
Mind, Body, or Spirit? Respectively, those improved energy refinement, energy pool capacity, and cultivation speed. And each attribute, when increased, came with many more subtle benefits, whether it was comprehending techniques, being physically more imposing and robust, or even just mentally and emotionally more resilient.
A thought flickered across his mind: Even if the Spirit attribute did provide resiliency, it did not seem to necessarily make people better. He forced it aside, not wanting to delve into those thoughts, though he knew there were significant philosophical debates about the role of the spirit or soul, the way the Tower improved individuals, and what, if anything, that meant about the initial and intrinsic qualities of humanity.
It was one of those late-night conversations that you had with friends while sipping a drink at the mamak stall and the teh tarik was flowing strong. The hours were long and your body was aching, but you had no better job to do because all the good work was already handled by the machines.
None of those conversations were particularly useful right this moment.
Mind, Body, or Spirit? He’d most recently increased his Body attribute, getting him to 8 points. That meant he was two off from obtaining another Body Trait. Important and highly useful, those traits. It was the way cultivators differentiated themselves. Whether it was by gaining an Iron Body or Cat Reflexes or a Malleable Soul, it was the traits that dictated the long-term growth path of a cultivator. It also could mean a significant difference between two fighters with equally matched attribute stats.
It almost made Arthur consider putting the point there without thought. After all, another point in Body meant he only had to dedicate a small amount of time—but a lot of resources—into gaining that tenth point. Also, a higher Body attribute meant he could, in most cases, fight on a much more equal level. Considering he was going in weaker than most people, having rushed his way through the first floor, that would be important.
Then again, he was now an ally of Casey Chin. The powerful Chin family were not likely to just let him get himself killed, which meant his direct conflicts with other groups and individuals were likely to decrease. Didn’t mean he was safe, just safer from random attacks.
On the other hand, he had a lot of other areas to improve in. Refinement speed was important; if nothing else, to help increase the rate he was going to improve at. Same with cultivation speed, though to a lesser extent. More importantly, an increased Mind attribute would help him understand more quickly the three techniques he had been practising. That, compared to a higher Body attribute, was more likely to save him.
Traits might be the flourish to an attribute, but it was techniques that were the wide strokes in the painting of their souls. If he had to choose, and he did, he might as well make sure those flourishes were broad and numerous.
Mind made up, he poured the power through his Mind meridian, guiding the choice that the Tower was imposing upon him. Arthur felt the energy enter his head, the pain of his body that he’d forgotten about intensifying briefly. Agony washed over him, bright lights flickered through his closed eyes, and he swore he tasted pink for a moment and heard laksa. Which, of course, made no sense.
Then again, the Tower was rewiring his brain or something similar to it. So what made sense, anyway?
Pain flowed through him and exited, leaving Arthur panting. After a few minutes, running his tongue along the back of his teeth, smacking his lips and pinching his body, he ascertained that the brief moment of disorientation was over.
All for the best.
“Now that that’s over, let’s see . . . the differential of two thousand, nine hundred, and forty three is . . .” Arthur paused, then snorted. “So much lalang. I still have no idea. I hate math.”
He flopped back onto the ground, starfishing on the flat and rather uncomfortable surface. At least it wasn’t stone or marble. Both had the tendency to suck all your body warmth away. Great for hot days, which was why so many floors in KL—Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital—were made of stone or marble rather than wood.
For that matter . . .
He frowned, turning a little to stare at the ground. His cheek pressed against the firm flooring, he eyed the white material. It was as hard as stone or marble, but it didn’t draw heat as fast. Maybe the floor itself was warm? It didn’t feel warm; in fact, it was a little chilly.
Not metal. That was even worse for sucking away heat. And not wood, because it was both harder than wood and also colder. Something in between then.
Arthur paused, wondering why the hell he was thinking of these matters when he had more important things to do. So far, the Tower had not seemed intent on kicking him out of this space, but there was no guarantee it wasn’t going to do that.
With a groan, he pushed himself upwards into cycling position. He crossed his legs, placed his hands together and straightened his back, then hesitated. He breathed slowly and began the process of drawing in Tower energy. He was critically low on energy, and if he were suddenly forced out of this liminal space, he’d need more of it.
Never know what world you’ll be pushed into.