Chapter 178

Chapter 178

“What’s wrong?” Arthur said. He gestured to the Tower guard and, when it failed to understand him, verbally commanded it to let Jaswinder in. “Why are you looking like someone made you eat a cactus and a bag of limes?”

“I need your help,” Jaswinder said immediately. “Please.”

Arthur crossed his arms. “Why should I?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do?” she replied, glaring at him. Then, seeing his coming refusal, she added. “Please?”

A slight clearing of a throat behind him made Arthur look at Mel. He noted her patient expression and eventually sighed. “Fine. I’m listening.”

“I . . .” Jaswinder gulped and then went on. “One of my people. She’s been taken. I need you to get her back.”

“And by your people, you mean the Lotuses still part of your group?”


“Okay. Next question, for a thousand dollars. Who?”

Again, the woman frowned. She was, obviously, not a fan of his tone or idiosyncratic way of speaking, but at least she did answer. “It’s Harley Lee. You don’t know—”

A raised hand cut her off. “I meant, who are we getting her back from.”

“Oh.” Now she looked nervous, chin jutting up as she found a modicum of courage. “Promise me you’ll get her back.”


“You have to.”

“Pretty sure I don’t have to do anything,” Arthur said, crossing his arms. “You, all of you, had the chance to join us. Weeks ago now! And you chose not to. But the moment you run into problems too big for you to handle, you run to me.”

“Only because you’ve stolen half my people!”

Arthur refused to feel guilty about that. Sure, she was right, but that was also characterizing his actions as stealing, when all he was doing was recruiting as best he could. And really, the sheer volume of people who wanted to join was now rather overwhelming. If they hadn’t needed to be careful about who they let in, he could have filled the clan building easily.

“Tell me who.” Arthur let a little steel enter his voice. But he wasn’t going to commit himself to a fight just because she wanted him to, no matter what his conscience might insist on. Or, at least, he told himself that.

Who really knew how good a man they were, till they were tested?

“The Ghee Hin.” Jaswinder said softly. Her shoulders slumped.

Arthur frowned. “I don’t understand. They’re not actually here, right? I know they have some presence on the upper floors, but mostly they’re not here?”

“Just one of their members. A nephew of one of the higher ups. Nicholas,” one of Jaswinder’s hangers-on spoke up. When Arthur looked at the woman, she continued, “Harley and I, we were coming back from harvesting. Nicholas saw us, wanted to talk to Harley again.”

“Again?” Arthur asked.

“They’d been dating for a bit. But she didn’t want to talk, they struggled, she fell and hurt herself. Then, Nicholas took her. To the Suey Ying headquarters.”

“Of course it’s the Suey Ying. Always has to be, right?” Mel said, exhaustion in her voice. She had, herself, been abducted by the Suey Ying tong on the first floor.

“Ixnay on the flag-ay,” Arthur said. “Otherwise, we’ll have a bad day.”

“Not the time!” Mel growled.

“It never is.” Arthur ran the numbers through his head, the political considerations. Then, he had no choice but to ask, “And you’re sure she went unwillingly?”

“Yes. I saw it myself,” Harley’s companion said, arms crossing. “She was still angry with him, because she saw him with someone else.”

This time, Arthur did groan audibly. Love problems. Who said being a clan leader was fun?

He sighed. “Get Rick and Yao Jing and whoever else in the A-team. Have them arm for bear. Looks like we’re going on a tear.”

At his words, Jaswinder looked both happy at his acceptance and a little wary. Which Arthur couldn’t blame her for.

If a rhyming fool wanted to help him, he’d be wary too. But since he was the fool in question, all she could do was . . .

“Say thank you,” he said, winking at Jaswinder. He waved her to stay and went off to get dressed for battle. After all, if he was inviting himself to a party, he should at least dress appropriately. Maybe even bring a few gifts.




“Sometime, someplace, I’d love to actually surprise someone,” Arthur commented to Mel, who was hurrying alongside him. The majority of his team was with him, along with a number of clan members that they’d managed to round up. Of course, such a large armed group moving through town was enough to get people following or running ahead in an attempt to figure out what was happening. So any chance of a quiet entrance was shot to death, much in the same way Rick had dealt with orang minyak.

Even worse, unlike on the first floor, he was now missing help from the 66. So it was going to be just his team against the entirety of the Suey Ying tong if it came down to blows. Not the kind of numbers that he looked forward to having.

Which was why, even without Mel haranguing him to consider something other than kicking the door down, he was thinking through other options. Negotiations, perhaps. Maybe bribes. Hell, he’d even pay a ransom if it wasn’t too absurd, though only if he thought he could push them back long enough for his clan to grow in peace.

The last thing he needed was to start a war with the Suey Ying and Ghee Hin at the same time. The Suey Ying were just a tong with a strong presence on the first few floors, but at the end of the day they were a small fry. They had not much more than local strength to contend with and if you managed to destroy that, they were done for.

The Ghee Hin, though, were an actual triad in the outside world. They had people not just in KL or all of Malaysia, but all across Southeast Asia. If you believed some of the more outlandish stories, they were a global underworld organization.

They could drown Arthur and his people in bodies, just by putting up a big enough bounty, and there would be nothing he could do about it. So, negotiation was definitely the first option. On the other hand . . .

“I can’t just leave her, right?” Arthur said softly to Mel. He kept his voice low, though between the hubbub of the audience and his companions and the clank of armour and weapons, it wasn’t easy to hear.

“No. She’s a Lotus, so she’s part of us. You leave her, you show you aren’t any better than the people we banded together to protect ourselves from.” Mel shook her head. “If you did that, what’s the point of joining the Durians?” Then a flicker of a smile. “Anyway, we’re not Benevolent otherwise, right?”

“I knew that name was going to bite me in the ass.”

She laughed, though the humour had an edge to it. He wouldn’t dare call it a hysterical laugh, but he certainly felt a little on the verge of mania himself. For all of their desire not to start a fight, if the Suey Ying and this Nicholas boy refused, they would have to fight. If nothing else, to protect their growing reputation.

All those thoughts pinballed through Arthur’s head as they made their way through town, only to be brought to a stop a short distance from the Suey Ying headquarters. A dozen men, armed and armoured as they were, stood in his way, blocking the entrance.

Immediately upon spotting Arthur, one of them—a muscular, tattooed man—shouted, “What you want? You nak mati, ke?” This did indeed feel suicidal.

Well, this was going to go great. Just great.

Back to blog

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.

Join Tower One for $5/month to read 3 weeks of advanced chapters or Tower Two for $10/month to read 8 weeks of advanced chapters.

Want to read new chapters in your inbox?

Receive new chapters of Climbing the Ranks either daily or weekly in your inbox.