Chapter 191

Chapter 191

It was only a few hours before dawn by the time Arthur and Uswah rejoined the rest of the team. Casey popped right up when the pair finally made their presence known, making a small cacophony with the clatter of weapons and goods they were carrying. Most of the other team members woke, only Rick and Jan managing to sleep through the noise.

“What is all that?” Casey said, eyes bulging. “And what took you so long?”

“Their stuff,” Arthur said, tossing a bundle of spears into the center of the group where they bounced off the ground. Grunting, he unslung the heavy backpack he was wearing.

“You killed them,” Casey said, awed. There was something else in her voice, something Arthur could not place immediately.

“Of course not,” Arthur said.

“Oh.” Was that disappointment in Casey’s voice?

“Eh? Then?” Definitely disappointment in Jan’s as she helped Uswah with the bundle that was strapped around her back. She frowned as she dug into the pack, swearing a little as she cut herself on a badly packed parang.

“We stole their weapons and cores,” Arthur said. “Not all their weapons, just most of them.” He grinned, pulling open his backpack to showcase the three crossbows he had picked up and the bundle of bolts within. “They’ve got some parangs and swords left.”

“Took all their spears, though. And ranged weapons,” Uswah said, unable to keep herself from smiling.

“Really. So you thought stealing from them was the answer?” Casey said.

“Yes,” Arthur replied, waving the others over to grab the weapons. He then walked over to Rick and kicked at his feet, nearly jumping when the first thing Rick did upon waking was to grab and point his pistol, only stopping when he saw he had the weapon pointed at Arthur.

“Shit, man. Don’t wake a man like that.”

“Fine. How should we wake you?”

“Call my name?”

“Right, sweetie pie. Got it,” Arthur said sarcastically as he backed away and Rick holstered his weapon. He was not going to let Rick know he might have peed on himself a little when that all-too-big pistol was pointed at him.

Gods, he hated guns.

“Why’d you wake me?” Rick complained.

“More crossbows. Smaller than the one you have. Figured you’d want one?” Arthur said with a shrug. He had considered grabbing one himself, but he just did not know how to shoot one well. Problems for the future. Anyway, he had his sling and Focused Strike, which worked well enough with some modifications and experience using it.

“Oooh, I could, maybe . . .” Rick clambered to his feet, grabbing his own crossbow and the belt with bolts, buckling it on before wandering over. That was the point that Arthur realised the young man had literally slept with guns under his arms, which was . . .

“Uncomfortable, no?” Arthur muttered to himself. But since he didn’t get a reply, he left everyone else to divvy up the gear. Which, sadly, still left them with extras.

“What do you want to do with these?” Mel said, gesturing to the pair of extra spears and trio of parangs that no one had taken.

“We keep the parang,” Arthur said. “The clan could always use more.” The spears were a problem, since they were unwieldly to carry around. “Let’s chop off the spearheads. We can always make shafts, but the metal is harder to find.”

Jan and Yao Jing happily got to destroying things while Casey looked on disapprovingly. Deciding he should deal with that matter early, Arthur wandered over to the woman and raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Why not just kill them?” Casey said.

“Do you want to be partnered with a psychopath?” Arthur asked.

“No, but it’s more efficient. My uncle would have wanted them dead.”

“I’m not your uncle. Or your family,” Arthur said, though he made note of what she’d said. Not that it was particularly surprising. There was a reason the big players were, well, big players. A certain level of ruthlessness was required. “I’m not going to kill people just for following us. They might not actually have intended to hurt us but just pick up whatever they can. Or, you know, pick from our corpses.”

“And if they intended to attack us?”

“That’s why we stole their stuff.”

“What happens if they follow us?”

“Without weapons?” Arthur snorted. “If they’re still on our tail by tomorrow morning, we’ll deal with them.” He let his voice harden. “Permanently.”

Lam, standing behind Casey as usual, nodded a little, looking satisfied by Arthur’s answer. Casey on the other hand seemed less enthused, but she did reluctantly nod in the end. Arthur wondered if she was upset because he didn’t want them dead right now. Or for some other, unknowable reason.

People were complex and the rich and powerful even more so.

“Now what, ah?” Yao Jing said, holding aloft the broken shafts. He wielded one idly, as though he intended to use it as a walking stick now. Which made no sense to Arthur since he might as well as have used a whole spear, but that was not a point worth arguing. “Sleep? Or we’re leaving now?”

Arthur hesitated, then shook his head, recollecting how hard it was to travel in the dark. Never mind the few nocturnal animals he had to kill. A large group like theirs would be even more vulnerable for the noise they’d make. “No. We cultivate for a few hours and then once light arrives, we leave.”

Then he grinned, finding a comfortable spot and flopping down. “Or you guys will. I’m sleeping.” Then, closing his eyes resolutely, he caught finally some rest.

After all, they had a long set of days left before they reached the final village and their next trial.

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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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