Arthur was never certain if it was a good or bad thing that finding monsters was easy. Previous Tower climbers had even noted an increase in the volume of monsters on the first three floors before the numbers leveled out.
Once you left the “safety” of town, you had to be ready to fight at any time. It was also why safe zones like clan buildings were vastly more important on higher floors, if there were any. Long nights camping alone was going to become a problem soon enough.
As it stood, for the first three floors, Arthur knew there was not going to be a significant change in the general variety of monsters. The Tower would reuse monsters from previous floors but make them larger, stronger, and more skilled, such that something as simple as the kuching hitam that Arthur was currently struggling with was the size of an actual puma now rather than a merely large tabby cat. And it was better at hiding in treetops.
Arthur knew that if he had not had a trait boosting his ability to spot things—so-called Enhanced Eyesight, hah!—he would have been surprised by the kuching. Well, more surprised. He literally caught sight of the creature moments before it chose to pounce, launching itself at him with claws extended. Bringing his spear haft up, he caught the creature just before it hit. Swinging the haft shed the cat-like monster aside, but only for a moment.
Then the fight was on.
The kuching hitam had struck the ground and bounced sideways, dodging Arthur’s follow-up stab. It countered by lashing out with a claw. He jerked his hand back, tried another stab, watched the monster dodge and swing at him again.
Arthur growled as the pair kept feinting and lashing out at one another, each dancing back and forth as they struck at one another. The creature was fast, faster than the first-floor version, but it didn’t seem that much smarter. In fact, if Arthur recalled, creatures like that had a tendency to run soon after their initial surprise attack. Which meant . . .
The cat leapt backwards after another feint. Then it jumped sideways towards a nearby bush and up to a broken branch. It was there that Arthur was waiting for the creature, shuttling his spear to his front hand with a surge and pouring chi into a Focused Strike. The attack caught the creature just as it landed, piercing through hardened fur and striking its heart.
The creature twisted, pulling away as blood ran from its side. It leapt again even as blood pulsed from its wound, before it stumbled and fell, landing in a nearby bush. Arthur brought the base of the spear down, cracking its back. Legs splayed out, the monster cried out in pain as a leg and chest cracked next.
Then another step and Arthur stabbed it once more. Spear tip plunged, exited, and then he swung the spear around, eyeing his surroundings.
Simple. Quick. Not that hard, unless it had caught him by surprise. Then those couple-of-inches-long claws would have rent him apart.
Bending down, carefully using the kris to break open its chest, Arthur pulled the body apart and took out the beast’s core. He grunted as he eyed the core, noting how it pulsed with energy. He put it in a pouch next to his belt and then stored the kris, scanning the surroundings again for trouble.
Not long after that, he was back up the tree he had kept his backpack on. Thankfully, no other kuching hitam or malevolent cultivator met him on his ascent, allowing Arthur to quickly secure his spear and then himself to the tree trunk with a quick-release tumble hitch knot before pulling his legs close in.
One last check for monsters, then Arthur cycled his breathing down as he extracted the monster core from his pouch. Time to see if all the information he’d read about second-floor cores and cultivation was true.
An hour later, Arthur’s eyes opened as he felt the core he had been holding crumble away in his hand, dispersing into motes of light. He watched them drift away, a slight wry smile on his face, and then called up his status. He didn’t actually need the notification, and there was something to be said about not relying on the Tower entirely since Tower notification screens were significantly curtailed in the real world, but he figured he might as well check. After all, he was only interested in one thing.
Refined Energy: 0.041 (6) (Yang – unusable 0.1717)
There it was. A 0.02 point increase in his refined energy pool. A small amount of increase in Yang energy too, though he knew he bled that out as time went along. At some point, he’d get good enough at Yin cultivation that he would no longer be forced to take in the literally scalding-hot Yang energy.
Perhaps when he got his new cultivation method from Casey.
That, of course, raised the question of what was best. Even as he scanned the surroundings yet again to make sure nothing had tried to sneak up on him, paused contemplation long enough to unstrap himself, hop over a few trees and kill a snake that had been slowly making its way up, snatch the core from it and then return to his seat, he considered his options.
He needed to finish healing up, which meant at least another ten minutes. But he was rather low on energy overall, which was not a great spot to be. He needed to conserve this energy for some of his techniques, as well as to increase his attributes.
Arthur really wanted some time alone to just cultivate, but he had a feeling that was not going to happen. And while he had three days to wait for his team to arrive, he didn’t want to flounce in at the last second. That would just be rude. Never mind the increased danger of sitting out here by himself.
On the other hand, going into town first, alone and injured, was a bad idea. Same with going into town without filling up his energy pools. Even in town, if he was hanging out by himself, the longer he was alone, the more danger he’d be in. He wasn’t like Casey, who might be his best bet to meet up with first. After all, she could head off most trouble just by dropping names—her own family name, that is.
Dropping his own name would just be asking for trouble.
Well, put that way, it kind of made sense. He should heal up, fill up more of his energy stores, and then go into town. He didn’t need to have full stores of energy, but he certainly could do better than what he had right now.
Of course, the question was how long it would take to fill them up. A quick glance at his cultivation pool showed he had four points out of a maximum of fifteen. Each ten minutes of cultivation added 1.2 points in his cultivation pool, and ten points of Tower energy could be refined down to 0.01 points of refined energy. It was almost doubly more efficient to simply draw energy from a second-floor beast core.
Problem was finding those cores, of course. Which was why some people preferred to just cultivate energy from Tower surroundings. Not a problem if you were doing that on the first floor, but the second floor onward saw increased danger from monsters.
Quests got you contribution points, they put you moving through the floor, meaning you’d be fighting and acquiring cores and, hopefully, leapfrog ahead with the question completion rates.
Something that he had not done much of, what with all his other concerns. Still, with the sheer volume of monsters hanging around, hunting was generally a better idea than merely cultivating in the wilds. There was a good chance of finding herds of babi ngepet, as sounders could usually be found trotting around—at least on the first floor, where he could kill half a dozen devil pigs in one battle.
Still, ignoring all that: He needed, say, 0.1 points worth of refined energy or about four more cores, before he felt comfortable going anywhere. And a full cultivation pool. So about an hour and a half worth of cultivating to fill up his pool.
And hunting for another three monster cores, which would require another three hours of cultivating those cores at least. So, total timeline of at least five and a half hours, probably closer to eight, before he was ready to head into town. Add another half day of travel, and he’d be arriving nearly a full day later. More than enough time for others to get there before him.
Mind resolved, Arthur got down to work, of which the first part was just healing up.