Chapter 186

Chapter 186

“You’re insane,” Arthur snarled.

“I’m not,” Jan said. “We can do this lah!”

“She’s right. We can do this,” Casey insisted, leaning forward over the dining hall table and encroaching on Arthur’s space. He refused to budge, instead raising two fingers and using them to push her head back  rather rudely.

“Firstly, personal space. Learn it, live it, love it.” Arthur cocked his head to the side. “Unless, of course, you intended to kiss me. Then, you know, feel free to come that close again. But otherwise, please don’t get into my personal space unless you’re a lover or . . .” He considered it briefly. “Well, a sparring partner. But when we’re sparring, kissing is not allowed.”

“No?” Mel said with amusement. “Why not then? I’d think it was quite distracting to the opponent.”

“It is. Except, you know, what do you do if they kiss you back? It’s rude to really get it on in the middle of class. And if they don’t, you might end up with a broken arm. So here’s another rule: Don’t break your partners.”

“You sound like you’re talking from experience,” Mel said.

Arthur shook his head.

“What? So shy now?” Jan tried to tease it out of him.

“While Arthur’s love life in all its variety and forms is fascinating, we were talking about finishing the final village,” Casey said impatiently.

Behind, Arthur noted that Lam was looking a little tired. He’d mention that, but he doubted Casey cared. For that matter . . . “We just got back three hours ago,” he said. “My hair is barely dry. And you want to go out again? We’ve been out for seven days already. People need a break.”

“But you saw how well we took the last two villages. Barely any injuries!” Casey waved her hands around excitedly. “We can do this.”

“Sure, because we’re in a max-sized group and cheating with guns.” Arthur shrugged. “So what? We still have to worry about finishing the next floor.”

“Exactly!” Casey snapped her fingers. “If we finish fast on the second floor, we can churn and burn on the third and finish there faster.”

“Churn and burn?” Mel asked.

“Churn through monsters and burn through cores,” Casey explained. “There’s no specific quest there, just a guardian.”

“Which we have to pass, individually,” Arthur pointed out. “So rushing here doesn’t help.”

“But we’ll be able to use more powerful cores on the third floor,” Casey said.

“No clan building there though,” Arthur countered.

“We have a building we’ll turn over to you,” Casey said.

“Assuming we don’t lose too much time finding one another, finding the third-floor town, and getting that building transferred.”

“All the more reason to get it done now!”

“Except most of us will be underpowered for the third-floor monsters,” Arthur said. “We haven’t pushed into the deep wilds at all. We’re still vulnerable, even as a group, if we’re up against third-floor monsters. Or a gang of climbers.”

“They wouldn’t dare challenge us.” Casey glowered. “Just tell them you’re under Chin family protection.”

“That assumes they let us talk. I don’t think monsters will.” Arthur still remembered the mangled body he’d left behind on his first few days here and the token he had looted off the corpse but had yet to utilize. Something to deal with, soon enough. “We need to strengthen up here.”

“Fine, then we stay here for a bit after we take out the fourth village,” Casey relented. Arthur noted that Lam, her bodyguard, looked relieved when she gave in. He didn’t blame him, since Lam likely would have been blamed if Casey got killed, even if he had no way of protecting her during that vulnerable period right after being transported to the next floor. Only later would getting tether enchantments be viable.

Or perhaps they had some already? Arthur had never asked, but it would make sense to provide some to someone like Casey and her bodyguards.

“Well, what do you think?” Casey said.

Arthur hesitated a little, glancing to the side. Jan gave him a thumbs up, while Mel—who was the only other individual to have turned up to this impromptu meeting—looked hesitant.

“We still need to rest here. Decompress a little. Restore some of our energy reserves,” Arthur temporized. “Going out under strength is a bad idea.”

“Fine,” Casey offered, crossing her arms. “One day.”



“Deal,” Arthur stuck his hand out, offering it the other woman. She took it reluctantly, shaking his hand before releasing it with a little smile and leaving the room. That smile made him wonder if he had been conned by her. Hopefully she was gone to train and refill much-needed reserves.

That was what he was headed to do anyway, once he checked in with the rest of the team and left orders to let everyone else know about their shortened timeline. He wasn’t entirely happy about it, but they had previously promised Casey to do a speedrun.

“I’ll inform the others,” Mel offered.

“Me too,” Jan chimed in, standing up.

“You guys sure this is the right thing to do?” Arthur said as he surveyed the hall. It had gotten busy again, word of his presence spreading as hopeful recruits streamed in. Most were, of course, previous members of the Thorned Lotuses, but he was sure there’d be a small scattering of other hopefuls hanging on. As though his thoughts had made Jaswinder appear, the dark-skinned woman ducked through the doors, smiling at Arthur in a predatory way.

“It’s what we agreed,” Mel echoed his earlier thoughts. “Just trust that Jaswinder will find someone good. And that we’ll be able to find someone good too on the next level. Or at least have someone good assigned from this floor.”

Arthur could only grimace at that thought. Rushing to get buildings built up was all well and good, but if he couldn’t assign floor leaders, it was just going to be a mess.

Heck, assigning floor leaders who weren’t of any use was going to be a mess too. But for now, he could only hope to muddle his way through and figure out how the other clans managed to deal with these issues. He had a speedrun to complete in the meantime.

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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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