Chapter 167

Chapter 167

Arthur sighed as he walked out of his clan building for the first time in three days. Behind him, the rest of the team were gathered, ready to start the process of completing the second-floor mandatory quest. Everyone was accounted for—except Casey’s second bodyguard, whom Arthur had yet to see on this floor. That left them with a group of seven, one below the maximum allowed for the quest. But Prime Group and the Chin family had no one else to spare for her to move up with. At least, no one that Casey was willing to work with.

“What do you want?” Arthur asked as he found Rick lounging on the stairs, waiting for someone to exit the building. Arthur wondered if he’d slept there, considering how early in the day it was.

“Ah!” Rick jumped up, grinning widely. “Showing I’m more than talk.” He reached into a pocket, pulled out a pouch and tossed it to Arthur, who caught it easily, feeling the cores within moving. “Eighteen cores. Payment for this floor, in advance. And I’m still willing to pay cash.”

Arthur opened the pouch, frowning at the cores within. He stayed silent for a time even as the rest of the team streamed out, looking between the two.

“Eighteen?” Mel said, eyebrows rising. “That’s . . . a lot for two days.”

“It was,” Rick said. Arthur looked up at last, eyeing the man and noting how disheveled he looked and the bags under his eyes. “And cost me a bit to get this many.” He gestured to the bullets on his belt in indication of what he meant.

Mel nodded slowly, then could not help but ask, “Are you going to be able to keep up when you run out?”

“If I run out, we’ve got more problems than my guns,” Rick said. “I’ve brought three times the number of bullets than my most pessimistic estimate.” Then he frowned. “And what do you mean ‘keep up’?”

“Yes, what do you mean by keep up?” Arthur muttered, looking over to his second-in-command. Meanwhile, Casey drifted closer, her bodyguard following behind.

“We could use him.” Mel nodded towards Rick. “Ranged attacks, money and support from outside…” She shrugged. “He’s also carried himself well enough.”

“Well enough?” Arthur asked.

Rick coughed. “If it’s about the brawl . . .”

“Brawls,” Mel interjected.

“They started it,” Rick insisted. “I don’t like being called a coconut. Or gweilo. Or mutt. And if that’s a problem, I’ll take my cores back.”

Arthur snorted. “Nope. I’m keeping them.” He grinned. “We share cores equally when we run, minus the clan’s take.” He jerked his thumb at Mel. “Mel’s second in charge after me.” Then he pointed to Uswah who had drifted up behind Rick, causing the man to jump in surprise at the woman’s silent appearance behind him. “Uswah’s next.”

Casey frowned. “I do not like this.”

“Yeah, well, your Uncle Willis agreed to my rules. So suck it up. You’re next after Uswah anyway.” Arthur then pointed to himself. “Finally, main rule. We keep me alive. There’s no clan, no deal, nothing if the Clan Head dies.”

“More like kepala besar,” Jan said derisively.

“Uh . . .” Rick looked at Jan, confused. Arthur guessed Malay hadn’t been part of Rick’s language education.I

“Means ‘big head,’ lah,” Jan said, rolling her eyes.

Arthur rolled his eyes too. He didn’t correct Jan though, even if he wasn’t the one who had created that rule. Amah Si had insisted on Arthur’s right to decisions in the initial discussion with Willis Chin when the agreement between the Chins and the Durians had formed.

“I hope you’re able to keep up.” Arthur descended the rest of the steps and turned down the alleyway, heading for the center of town. “Because we’re headed out to hunt right now.”

“Watch me,” Rick replied. A moment later, he stumbled, distracted by the sudden appearance of a notification before him. Moments later, he shuddered when the Tower bestowed clan member advantages on him. It took him a half dozen steps to catch up and he was grinning even wider by then. “Damn. That’s better than a good cup of coffee.”

“Quiet!” Jan snapped, slapping Rick on the top of his head. “Don’t talk about clan things in public.”

“You didn’t have to hit me,” Rick said, glaring. “In fact, do that again and we’re going to have problems.”

“Problems? What kind, ah?” Yao Jing suddenly loomed over Rick, arms crossed and biceps flexing. Rick’s hands crept to his gun handles.

Alerted by the increasing noise, Arthur turned around and glared at the group. “Oi! Same team. Jan, don’t hit him. Rick, listen.” Then he pointed at Yao Jing. “And you, aren’t you supposed to be guarding me?”

“Yes, boss. Sorry,” Yao Jing ducked his head and hurried over, ignoring the smirk Rick sent his way.

Arthur could just see those two clashing again, but he really did not have time for this. Looking to Mel and then Uswah, he flicked his hand between the two. It was Uswah who nodded, drifting over to Rick and bumping Jan out of the way as the group started walking again.

It took another block before Casey came over, a small smile on her lips. Somehow, she had a way of saying things without saying anything, enough so that in the end Arthur sighed.

“If he doesn’t work out, we’ll send him to work with others.” Arthur didn’t bother lowering his voice. “But Mel’s right. Hard to turn down help like those guns.”

“Sometimes, it’s not just about firepower,” Casey said.

“I know. As I said, if it doesn’t work out—”


Arthur contained his next sigh. Best not to let her know she had gotten to him either.

It wasn’t as though he were unaware of potential problems. Like Rick choosing to shoot him in the back. Accidentally or on purpose.

Truth was, sooner or later, people who really did want him dead were going to arrive. And he’d rather have Rick on his side, wielding those guns. Much better than turning Rick away, who might feed information about the clan to others. Or even bear a grudge against Arthur. He was rich enough to hire killers.

With those rather morose thoughts, Arthur led the group onward to register the whole party for the mandatory quest. The best way to safeguard himself from machinations was to get moving, get stronger, hopefully faster than those machinations were contrived.

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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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