Thirty minutes later and Arthur eyed his cultivation pool. It was not halfway full, but close enough that it would do. It was weird, having a fractional cultivation speed. The Tower did not care; it simply pulled energy from him in whole numbers, though even he understood that those were approximations. It was not as though when he triggered a technique he was portioning things out in perfectly whole numbers. In fact, that was the point of practice. In time, one could, theoretically, lower the amount of energy being used at any one time, such that a technique could be wielded at fractions of what it was meant to use.
Of course, many techniques had a minimum amount of energy required, like the Refined Energy Dart that required the majority of a point since the dart itself needed to do damage. If anything, refinement in that case was about speed and accuracy rather than saving energy.
Pushing that thought aside, Arthur now had enough Tower energy that he didn’t feel half-drained. Next up on the list of things to do to stay alive was healing some of those nasty wounds. A half hour of passive healing layered on top of a Tower body’s accelerated healing meant that he was no longer bleeding at a steady rate.
But he could do better than that.
Gritting his teeth, pulling at the refined energy that lay in his core—called the dantian in some teachings—he poured that concentrated lightning in a bottle through his meridians, guiding them through the necessary movements to trigger his healing technique before he sent them towards the portions that ached. Some energy leaked out, of course, but that was fine. The Accelerated Healing technique was meant to heal all of him, so whatever healing energy leaked out to other parts of the body would do good there too.
And Arthur was very, very careful not think about cancers and tumours and anything else that rampant growth might cause.
Healing was never a pleasant process. It wasn’t necessarily painful—he didn’t have bones that were out of place, oh wait, there was one—but it was uncomfortable. This time, however, it was painful to feel torn skin connect to skin, dislocated bones and ligaments reattach, and inflammation decrease.
Ten minutes later, Arthur was panting, his body covered with light sweat. He grimaced and wiped himself clean, taking the time to wipe himself down with a wet cloth after unwinding all his bandages. He made sure to store those in a ziplock bag for washing later.
Sure, he could buy more cloth and bandages from the Tower on the second floor, but it made no sense to be profligate like that. Why spend cores or credits on mere cloth? Cores were valuable for growing stronger, while credits could buy techniques and enchanted items.
Anyway, decades of being a cheapskate and saving everything he could were not going to be washed away by suddenly becoming rich. Or, if not rich, at least connected to the Chins.
“Ugh. I hate when the scabs peel off. Either come off properly or don’t!” He prodded at a deep cut on his chest, portions of skin still stuck to the scab. He reached sideways, grabbing at a knife only to pause, realising that what he held wasn’t just a plain knife but a kris.
The cursed kris.
Staring at the details showing up before his eyes—or technically his mind, since even blind people saw Tower notifications—he sighed. Right. No stabbing himself accidentally with the cursed kris. Careful not to nick himself with its wavy-shaped blade, he sheathed the dagger-sword, then searched his belt for a pocket knife.
“Celaka! I must have lost it,” he grumbled. Frustrated, he pinched the scab on his chest and tugged, wincing as it ripped, and ignored the new bleeding. He finished wiping the rest of his body off.
Clean at last and unlikely to bleed much more, he stuffed everything back into his pack. The pressure from the Tower had been growing silently as he worked, indicating that his quiet time in this liminal space was coming to an end.
It’d be too easy after all, for other Tower climbers to quietly cultivate in between floors, gathering strength and power without any risk.
Whoever, or whatever, had dropped the Towers onto Earth must be sadistic sei baat gung—bastards in Cantonese, his family’s dialect—who liked to see people fight and struggle. No peaceful transition to a higher power for them, no cooking or baking or flower arrangement contests.
Only the strong and determined got to climb a Tower, the kind of people who didn’t mind murdering another person. And boy was that a whole can of repressed worms there, what with the recollection of his most recent fights still lingering and the kinds of problems those created.
A small part of Arthur was curious what it would be like in another fifty years. Already, the Towers had altered the entire global economy. They had changed the course of lives for an entire generation, his generation. They were studying for jobs that were low paying and almost guaranteed to be automated in their lifetime, and so now being a Tower climber was the profession they looked up to.
What happened when Tower climbers who were, for the most part immortal, started showing back up in the real world in larger numbers? Sure, they had to go back into the Towers eventually, climbing up harder Towers and getting even stronger. But some of the smarter ones were already using commerce to bypass the need to keep climbing.
More and more Tower climbers coming out of the Towers were feeding their betters with monster cores—also called beast stones by some—so they could extend the amount of time these ex-climbers could stay in the real world. At some point, all the governments would start helping them along, trying to keep their people happy.
After all, anyone in the Top 100 was worth an army all by themselves.
“Top 100. Heh. I don’t even know why I’m thinking of that,” Arthur snorted to himself. He was so far from those people, he might as well be an ant. Or a mortal.
He was only one floor done, and already thinking—vaguely—that he might one day join their ranks. Fool’s hope. Better to focus on what he needed to do next. Simple enough to make sure he had everything ready, slip the pack over his shoulders, and grab his black spear with the other hand. Then, he focused his attention on the next notification that the Tower was trying to push on him, letting it unroll.
Time to see who had survived and what the second floor had to offer him.