Chapter 171

Chapter 171

The group got moving a half hour later, travelling deeper into the nearby woods towards the first of the orang minyak villages. Once the group had gone over the lone orang minyak’s body, verified where some of the larger vital organs were positioned, and dealt with their own wounds, they had begun the trek again.

Three times, they were attacked by orang minyak. Even Arthur’s Enhanced Sight trait was insufficient to pick them out from the undergrowth, the monsters’ camouflage technique keeping them entirely hidden from their senses till they chose to move. Only once was Arthur able to spot a monster before it shifted and that was due to a leaf dropping from above by pure coincidence, knocking the creature’s camouflage through a swift alteration before the stick itself blended into the fur again.

As the evening came to an end, the group gathered in a small depression and semi-cave near an overhang. Arthur chose to call a quick meeting to review what they had learned. As the team took seats, pulling out weapons and gear to conduct simple maintenance on their weapons and clothing, Arthur went over a mental list of information.

Over the remnant of the day, the group had slowly ironed their fighting strategies out. Rick now carried a parang along with his bowie knife, pulling both out to wield whenever they were forced to do battle. Of course, he still hung back for the most part, allowing the more experienced melee fighters to do battle unless there was an overwhelming number of monsters.

In addition, the team had gotten used to wielding their javelins and slingshots to take out smaller groups of monsters, whether it was a monkey swarm or a clutch of mutated, overly large spiders waiting to drop upon them.

Casey, after initial hesitation, had begun to fight with more care. She was, if anything, stiffer than before, her effectiveness having dropped significantly. Still, she no longer swung her weapon as wide and did her best to stick to formation, allowing logic to overcome her instincts. If anything, Arthur assumed, he’d have to speak with her about loosening up eventually; but for now, he’d take it.

As for the rest of the team, most were handling themselves as well as they usually did. It was only Uswah that Arthur was concerned for, her lack of a hand throwing off both her balance and her lethality at times. For the most part, though, she wielded her shadow strings and traps to slow down and disrupt attacks, allowing the rest of the team to take advantage of attackers.

All in all, for the second day working together they were doing well. There were few deep wounds and nothing that crippled their effectiveness.

“Alright, so today wasn’t bad. No one’s been injured, at least not too badly,” Arthur said, nodding to Yao Jing and Casey who both sported the worst of the day. “And we should be back up and running to nearly full effectiveness by tomorrow. Not bad for day two, not bad at all.”

“Yay,” Jan said, sarcastically.

“Funny,” Arthur replied. “But I wanted to talk about the orang minyak. Everyone saw the first corpse?”

“Yes. A bit disturbing, cutting it up like that,” Rick said.

“It works, doesn’t it?” Arthur said. He then pointed to his own body as he spoke. “Heart’s here, roughly. Lungs are wider apart, four instead of just two. So piercing the lungs won’t likely drown them in blood or anything like that.” He traced a hand down his side. “What looks like a liver here. And what seems like a single kidney, though I wouldn’t bet on it.” Then he tapped the throat. “Throat is good. There’s no soft palate under the jaw, though, so no piercing upwards. Temple seems quite prominent though, so side blows are good. Got it?”

“Ya, ya,” Jan said impatiently.

“Good, then you can write it all up for the clan records later.” Arthur grinned, making the woman grimace.

“Actually, I already started on that,” Mel said softly. “And no offense, but Jan’s handwriting is—”

“Oi!” the woman protested.

“It really is,” Uswah contradicted. “I can write better with my left hand.” Then she raised her stump and waved it back and forth. “And that’s a problem because I don’t have it anymore.”

Silence greeted her words, an uncomfortable one as no one knew whether to laugh at the poor attempt at humour or offer consolation. When no one laughed, Uswah sighed and Arthur pushed ahead.

“The worst thing is their camouflage. We’re only fighting one at a time right now, but it’s taking three of us to take one down.”

“Two,” Yao Jing said, chin lifting. “If it’s me and Jan.”

“Yeah, you took one down together,” Arthur acknowledged. “But that still means if we meet, say, three of them at a time, we might be hard pressed.”

“What are you suggesting?” Casey asked softly. There was an edge to her voice that Arthur noted.

“That we should attack the village. But not on this trip.”

“Scared?” she taunted.

“Yeah. Also, cautious.” He waved at the group. “We’re not strong enough. We all need to hit our second transformation first.” He stared at Casey as he repeated, “All of us.” Then, he continued, “We can try fighting two or three, which is why we’re still heading that way. But twenty?”

“We have my guns,” Rick offered. “It’s not useful in small groups, but for the village . . .”

“Yeah, and I considered that,” Arthur said. “And we’ll want to try your shooting at some point. But one step at a time. If we find those bullets don’t do as much damage as we think . . .”

Casey shook her head. “We promised to supply you a starting amount of cores to increase your strength. But the amount my family can supply at short notice, it’s not enough to get all of you to the next level.”

Arthur grimaced. “I know. It’s why we’re hunting. But attacking that village and just relying on Rick is putting the cart before the horse.”

“Except if we use the cowboy just for this,” Mel said, interrupting. “It could work then.”

“What?” Arthur said, surprised to see her on Casey’s side.

“We use the guns to kill the orang minyak in the village. Gather all the stones and the scouts after we killed them all. We’ll have whtat? Twenty? More? Then we go back while collecting more. At the end, we’ll have what? Another fifty? Add what Casey’s supplying us and what the rest of the Clan can provide…” Mel shrugged. “Might be enough to get at least a few others to the second stage. And then they can hunt and farm the stones to us.”

“While the rest of us cultivate?” Arthur said, slowly. It made sense, even if it was riskier than he’d liked.

Casey was smiling at Mel, having nodded along to every single suggestion.

“She’s not wrong,” Rick said, tapping his guns. “I can’t finish off twenty by myself, but if you cover me, I can take many down.”

“You’re sure?”

“Of course I am.” Rick sniffed. “Do you think I’ve been wasting my time here?”

Arthur hesitated but, as he looked around, realized he might be the only one concerned. Even Lam seemed less concerned. Perhaps he was underestimating Rick and the power of the pistols.

Letting out a long, thready exhale, he nodded at last.

“Fine. But the first sign of trouble, we run.” When he extracted an acknowledgment from everyone else, he added, “Then get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be busy.”

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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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