It did not take long for Arthur to return to the tree where he’d stored his backpack. Climbing the tree, on the other hand, was an exercise of agony and patience, as strained muscles reported in varying volumes and quantity as he scrambled up. Still, he eventually found himself at the top, strapped to the tree trunk by rope once again. He dabbed and cleaned up some of the bandages that had started leaking blood, making his nose wrinkle before he settled in to cycle his healing technique.
Ten minutes later, his eyes flew open and he grabbed at the rope and kris with separate hands. Instinct had him shifting to the side, just a moment before a kuching hitam launched itself at him, claws tearing at a shoulder that he’d hunched. Battered armour barely held together while the attack tore deep into his deltoids. Still, having drawn his kris, the cat could not help but impale itself on the weapon after its leap.
Furious scrabbling with back feet had the cat throw itself backwards, tearing up Arthur’s pants and legs even as the cultivator tumbled out of the tree, the quick slip knot releasing as he pulled it hard and fell. Down five feet, before his turning body hit the bigger branch he’d aimed for, breath slamming out of him. Still, Arthur managed to sling one foot over the tree branch and roll himself up so that he didn’t fall off entirely.
Head turning sideways, he spotted the damn cat leaping at him, claws extended. Releasing his grip on one side, Arthur swung free and twisted himself such that he was now underneath the branch, the cat missing its attack as it landed on the branch, claws snatching and only tearing at clothing. Rather than jump away, the cat repositioned itself to tear into Arthur’s limbs that were still gripping the tree branch.
Rather than wait for that attack, Arthur pulled himself up again so that his body was pressed right against the tree limb. He could not see from this angle, but he only needed a moment to swing his kris up, sinking the wavy-bladed sword into the side of the creature. It missed the main body but it still scored a deep cut in the flank.
A burning pain along Arthur’s arms had his hand open reflexively, swinging him sideways as he let go. Holding on only by one slung leg, he pivoted and found his grip sliding. Rather than wait for the inevitable, Arthur released himself and twisted, grabbing at another branch with his free hand as he dropped. A couple of smaller branches broke against his body, slowing his motion as he managed to pivot far enough to get his feet on another branch and turn, swinging his kris blindly.
The kuching hitam had chosen to stay on the first branch rather than chase him. It glared at Arthur who stared right back as he settled his weight. The animal snarled a little, pacing and watching the kris that tracked its motion. The cat moved with a little limp as it did so, and Arthur could have sworn that there was a slightly dazed look to its eyes.
The kris’s poison was once again taking effect, slowing down his enemy. On the other hand, not at all to Arthur’s surprise, the cat chose the better part of valour: it turned to jump away, almost mockingly. Rather than release a Refined Energy Dart that he was uncertain would hit, especially with foliage in the way, Arthur chose to climb back up to his backpack.
Healing himself had mostly finished by the time that damn cat had arrived, but now he sported new bleeding wounds. More importantly, it seemed his current perch was not the best place to hang out in. He doubted he’d be lucky enough for the poison to kill the cat, which meant that at least one monster would know where he was.
Better to find a new place to hide.
Forty-five minutes, one snake, and a snuffling small babi later, Arthur was burrowed deep into the side of a hill under what he could only describe as a hollow. He’d woven a simple cover in the front of leaves and tree branches to hide the entrance and then placed a series of spikes driven behind the artificial cover as a surprise for unwelcome visitors. Then he began the process of cleaning himself again.
Surprising how few movies and TV shows showed this. Oh, you sometimes got the bandaging and cleaning parts in movies, but only to make a point about how damaged the hero or villain was. Mostly in shows that were trying for something a little more realistic.
In reality, all this running, jumping, and fighting meant that you ended up sweaty, injured, and bleeding more often than not. Add in dirt, mud, and sap from the various plants around and staying clean was at best a losing proposition. The best one could do was clean regularly, wipe down, and wrap any open wounds—and then heal.
None of which was new to Arthur, but the increased volume of monsters was now rather off-putting. He could almost swear that they were more aggressive too, and part of the reason it had taken Arthur so long to find a place to rest was because he thought he was being stalked again.
At some point, he had to take a break and night was falling. This hole in the corner was the best he could do. At least, with the sun set and the moon high above, a new kind of monster was in play, which meant his previous problems were gone.
Grateful that he was for the moment safe from being attacked, Arthur returned to the process of healing. Cycling energy from his dantian into the rest of his body, watching the refined energy that was in the center of his being flow through meridians before pushing into the appropriate paths, caused him to shiver a little and grit his teeth as the crazed itching ran through him, but he mostly managed to keep his complaints to his mind.
Twenty minutes later—plus a full core’s worth of energy and an hour’s worth of time basically wasted—
and Arthur got back to his initial plan. Which was, in this case, getting both his basic energy and refined energy cores up to speed.
He did debate holding off for a little longer, just enough for him to cycle the full extent of everything he had through his body and increase his attributes once more. It might even have been a good option, if he didn’t have to meet up with his team soon.
Resolved to stop playing around on the outskirts, Arthur pushed those considerations aside and focused on channelling the beast cores through his body. The faster he managed to refill his energy pools, the faster he could enter the town and meet up with his friends. Then, maybe he could actually get on with clearing this floor.