Chapter 155

Chapter 155

Three pairs of eyes locked on the girl carrying the large backpack as they stood in the middle of the cleared ground between forest and makeshift town. Light faded from the sky. Arthur was, as usual, doing his best not to think about how the “sun” worked in the Tower, since it would make no scientific sense. Then again, very little in the Tower made scientific sense. There were entire departments in universities that were churning out new papers on Tower science, three quarters of which were invalidated the next month by new studies. That things worked in the Tower was enough for Arthur, for now. Let someone else figure out the underpinnings of “reality” under Tower rule.

“What’s your name?” Arthur interrupted, the moment she tried to speak.

“Uh . . . Su Mei.” The petite Chinese girl ducked her head. Arthur noted her eyes were strikingly slanted, even for your typical Chinese Malaysian. A Mainland Chinese perhaps. Or Japanese or Korean. Mixed race babies were more common these days, especially after the major immigration waves in the second quarter of the twenty-first century.

“Well, Su Mei, you starting a store? Or just feeding an army?” Arthur asked.

“What army? Why would I feed them? We don’t need to eat?” Su Mei replied, looking confused.

Jan snorted, letting go of Su Mei’s arm to run a hand through her hair in frustration. When she spoke, her voice dripped with barely contained venom. “Oi, idiot. Don’t confuse her, lah.”

“Fine. Just answer the question. What’s the bag for?”

“It’s mine,” Su Mei said, hunching down a little. “I’m a courier. I got to deliver this.”

“Celaka,” Raahim swore yet again. “Deliver where?”

“And why you?” Arthur said, cocking his head to the side. “For that matter, how’d you get through the trials carrying all that?”

“What trials?” Su Mei said, looking confused. “I was just given a Level Up token.”

Stunned silence from the group greeted her words. All three of them looked at one another, before Jan shifted slightly away from Su Mei as she asked, “Who you working for?”

“The Tower. It’s my quest.” She looked between the wary trio and could not help but ask, “What’s wrong?”

“You know those tokens are incredibly rare?” Arthur said, slowly.

“No?” Su Mei replied, puzzled.

“Fools and idiots,” Jan swore.

“The last one that was taken out of a Tower and resold raked in tens of millions. US dollars,” Arthur said. He watched as her eyes widened, a hand flying to her mouth as she let out a startled little cry. He kind of felt bad for her. She’d had no idea that she’d blithely spent a fortune by using that Level Up token. “They can be used in any Tower.” He paused a beat and then stressed again, “Any Tower.”

“Oh shit. Oh shit. Ma always said I’d forget my own name . . . shit, shit, shit.”

“They didn’t give you another, did they?” Raahim asked, all too casually. Jan shot him a look, her hand clutching her parang hilt, but she ended up relaxing when Su Mei answered.

“No. Just one. They said I should use it once I was ready. And I was! So I did. And then I had to hike here and that was hard and I . . . shit.”

“I wonder what they’re having you deliver that’s so precious,” Arthur said, eyeing her bag. He was not a greedy man by most margins, content to make his way through life with hard work. Desiring what others had was a good way to get beaten down or end up spending what little money you had on “luxuries” that the corpos pushed on you. Better to just be content with what you had, so you didn’t end up in debt. All that said, he was still a rather curious person and he wouldn’t be human if he was not a little curious about what she had within that bulging pack.

“Don’t know,” Su Mei said.

Raahim was looking both contemplative but also wary, for Jan was wielding her patented “I will stab you and enjoy it” look on him. Having been subject to that look more often than he liked, Arthur knew how intimidating it was.

On top of that, while the majority of second-floor residents were ignoring them as they headed back into town, with most giving no more than a glance to the rather good-looking Raahim, a few cultivators were throwing more than cursory glances.

Rather than have a repeat of his own first-floor entrance, Arthur chose to still his curiosity for now. “Let’s go. Inside. We help Su Mei deliver her goods, maybe we get an answer to all our questions, eh?” When Raahim looked to object, he added, “Her employer, whoever they are, has been so generous already; who knows, maybe they’ll be generous again, eh?”

“Uh . . . why?” Su Mei began to say, but Jan had put her hand on the girl’s backpack and given it a little shove and the girl started walking, momentum doing all the work. Now that he was closer to her, Arthur could not help but confirm that she really was as strong as she seemed, the bulky backpack doing little to slow her down even as her feet sank noticeably into the turf with each step.

“You know, my Master used to say: There are three kinds of successful people in this world,” Arthur said, taking the left flank while waving Raahim to go ahead of them. The Malay man looked a little unhappy at first, but greed—and his own word—won out as he took position, waving others away as he strode in front of the group.

“You gonna finish or not?” Jan snapped at Arthur after he had fallen silent for too long.

“Oh, right. Sorry. Three types.” Arthur idly spun his spear around his hand as he walked, letting his voice run. “The rich, who are born into success. The hardworking, who push until they succeed. And the best of all . . .” He paused for dramatic effect to tease her.

“I can still stab you, you know,” Jan growled impatiently.

“I’ve really missed your loving conversation and threats of bodily harm. Really.” Arthur grinned, then ducked his head as she pulled her parang out. Of course, that also meant that she had it on hand, in case any of the people who had started to drift closer to them decided to try anything. He could be imagining things; perhaps people were just moving closer because it was more crowded in here than outside the town border.

Arthur continued, “But the last one is what I think you are, Su Mei.”

“What’s that?”

“The heaven-blessed lucky.”

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Climbing the Ranks is a LitRPG cultivation novel by Tao Wong that publishes serially on Starlit Publishing. While the whole novel will be free to read, you can purchase a membership to receive chapters weeks in advance of the public release.

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