Chapter 180

Chapter 180

“How dare you!” A hand slammed on the table, cracking it. The cups of water that had been placed on the table spilled, and the box of bakkwa tumbled off. Thankfully, that had been shut firmly, leaving the glistening, tasty meat unspoiled by an impetuous child. If not, Arthur was sure he’d have to kill the boy for ruining it. He could only think of Nicholas as a boy, even if the lad was his age and pretty tall.

Arthur bent down, picking up his spear where it had fallen and propped it against his shoulder. He did so slowly, not just because everyone was jumpy after the boy had shouted and struck the table, but also because he wanted to irritate him further.

Seated properly, Arthur continued, “I didn’t dare anything. All I’m asking is if Harley is okay.”

“She’s fine. She’s always fine with me,” Nicholas snapped. “I’m her boyfriend. Of course she’s fine.”

“Sure, sure.” Arthur nodded along. “But I hear she got hurt, talking to you. And you brought her back, against the protests of her friends?”

“She fell and hit her head,” Nicholas said. “I didn’t hurt her. I would never!”

“Okay, but you did take her without her agreement.”

“I’m her boyfriend!”

“According to my people, that’s not true.”

Now Nicholas looked a little unsure. He hesitated for a moment, before adding, “We’re having a fight. She saw me talking to someone else and over-reacted.” Cutting his gaze over to Mel, who was standing behind Arthur’s chair, he added, “You know how women are.”

Arthur was definitely not dumb enough to answer that. Among other reasons, there was no lock on his bedroom door. Instead, he pivoted the conversation. “Well, can we see her?”


“Because she’s my people, and I have to check on her condition. If she wants to stay, she can. If she’s injured, we’ve got some things we can try to help her heal faster.” For that matter, a small knock on her head was something that the healing technique would fix soon enough, Arthur was sure.

“And if I say no?” Nicholas glared.

“Why would you?” Arthur said, refusing to rise to the bait. “She’s your girlfriend, right?”

“Uh, yeah. But she’s still resting.”

“I can wait,” Arthur said. “Maybe Mel can check on her while she’s sleeping.” He gestured at Mel. “She learned a little about how to fix people from Amah Si. You know Amah Si from the first floor?”

“No,” Nicholas said.

“Well, if it’s not a problem. It should be fine, right, Kong Hua? For Mel to see Nicholas’s girlfriend? Let the girls talk it out?” Arthur smiled at the gang leader who had been watching the entire interaction with strained patience, biting his lip while the kid paced around.

Arthur could guess at the undercurrents here, since it was an all-too-familiar thing. Nicholas was a nepo baby, a nephew of someone important. So he was being babied all the way up the Tower by the Suey Ying tong, till their numbers decreased as the floors went higher and the Ghee Hin situated above took over. Till then, he was a precious jade that couldn’t be dropped, or their entire tong would be in trouble.

Didn’t make it any easier to have a kid like this strutting around, causing trouble.

“He doesn’t get a say in this. That’s my girlfriend,” Nicholas growled.

“But this is my organization,” Kong Hua said, finally fed up with the blatant disrespect.

Nicholas looked surprised to be contradicted, but Kong Hua continued, his voice growing gentler as he tried to mollify the young man. “And it’s just this girl, right?”

Nicholas looked unsure, before he nodded. “Fine. Just the girl, though.”

“Great.” Arthur gestured to Mel who stepped forward. Kong Hua sent her off to see Harley with the thug who had brought them into the Suey Ying headquarters before Nicholas could say anything else. In the meantime, Arthur took a casual step forward, picking up the box of bakkwa. Before straightening, his spear dipped dangerously close to Nicholas. “Why don’t we sit at a new table,” he suggested. “Have a drink or two. You can tell me about what you’re doing out here while we wait.”

“Give me a gift and then you want to drink my alcohol . . .” Kong Hua grumbled, but he had stood up too and walked with Arthur, forcing Nicholas to hurry after them.

“Eh, I’ll settle for a good kopi ping if you have one.”

“Kopi ping? Got, got.” Kong Hua looked surprised. “You don’t?”

Takde.” Arthur shook his head in negation. “We’re still setting up. Luxuries come after, you know?”

“Understood. Same also,” the older man said, lounging back in a chair. He waved for his people to serve cups of coffee, though not iced as Arthur had requested, as that would be a bit much. A little too eagerly, Arthur picked up the cup and breathed in deep the smell of Malaysian coffee, the aroma of cheap coffee beans and evaporated milk filling his lungs. “Maybe we can help one another, eh?” Kong Hua said genially.

“Long time before I can deliver more things regularly,” Arthur said. “Communication, you know?” After all, the only way to get information to the floors below was to actually get out of the Tower and tell someone who was going in and let them handle things.

It was why the floor lords were mini-bosses.  The people who actually stayed on a floor were either too weak to progress or the ones lording it over the weak. Being a floor leader wasn't as good as getting out of the Tower, of course, because one was basically trapped. But if you didn’t mind that, it wasn’t a bad life either.

“I can wait. Not going anywhere,” Kong Hua replied.

“Are you . . . trying to cut a deal with him?” Nicholas said, having finally caught enough of his bearings to cut in. He looked between the gang boss and Arthur in disbelief. “Why?”

“If he survives, his clan is going to be big, you know?” Kong Hua said. “Better to make deal now than later.”

Arthur had to smile at those words, though their weight was slightly undercut by the way Kong Hua’s gaze kept drifting to the box of bakkwa, which had been brought to their new table. Then again, Arthur could understand it. If you were stuck here forever, then life wasn’t just about monster cores and getting stronger; it was the little luxuries, the things one missed from the real world.

And Kong Hua wasn’t wrong. If Arthur managed to get out, the Durians were going to be massive. A clan building on the first floor of the Malaysian Tower? Anyone with any brains on them would definitely try to exploit that. With size also came stability, which meant a good and semi-consistent flow of goods. Which, of course, meant luxuries.

“Whatever,” Nicholas said. “Boring shit. I’ll make my own group, when I get out.”

Kong Hua managed to not roll his remaining eye, but Arthur could swear it was a close thing. He chose not to continue their conversation though, not with Nicholas here. They could follow up on deals later, when the boy wasn’t there. So instead, they sipped at the coffee, waiting. Neither of them missed the way Nicholas would glance backwards to the private rooms once in a while.

Which was why, when Mel came out with Harley and Nicholas reacted badly, neither were at all surprised.

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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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