Chapter 197

Chapter 197

Arthur watched the parang flash by his eyes, just inches from taking his nose off. He waited a blink, just far enough for the hand that gripped the parang to swing by his chest before he beat it with the knuckles of his right hand. He struck hard, slamming into the small bones of her hand and causing a shock through the tendons in her fingers, forcing them to spasm open.

Weapon clattering to the ground, Jan shifted her front foot back and pulled her injured hand away. At the same time, her opposite hand came upward, rotating over so that she could swing a knife hand strike at his throat. Arthur dodged the attack, lashing out with a cut kick to her new lead leg. She growled, pulling her leg back and moving away from his attack.

Arthur kept pushing, the pair flowing through forms. Occasionally he moved too slow, and the parang blade cut into upraised arms, bare torso, or his thigh. The weapon was blunted by the Bark Skin technique he had activated, but even so, it was not Iron Body or Steel Body or one of the higher-grade defensive systems. As such, with sufficient force, cuts bloomed along his body.

Blood and sweat ran down both their bodies. Rough exhalations and the occasional grunt of pain rose from around them as well. The pair were not the only ones fighting this morning along the land they’d fenced off near the clan building. The remnants of the neighboring building they’d purchased still showed, mostly in the wood of the fences they’d repurposed from the building.

When the bell rang finally, the pair sprang away from one another, creating enough space that a surprise attack was no longer possible. Then, and only then, did they relax. Arthur bowed a little to Jan automatically, a time-honored tradition ground into him over the years. Jan just grunted as she grabbed her parang from the ground and wandered over to where they’d left their water bottles.

Arthur joined her a moment later, grabbing a towel and wiping himself down. He saw the blood and sweat streaked across him, surface wounds beneath already half-closed. “Thanks for the fight.”

“You put more into Body, ah?” Jan said.

“I did,” Arthur said. “I’m up another two so I’m now cool.”

A snort from the sidelines which Arthur ignored. Everyone was a critic.

“Ei, don’t forget the rest, okay? If you forget, more problems,” Jan said. “You the boss, not Yao Jing. Even he got put points there.”

“I know,” Arthur said, firmly. “But we’ve got another trial coming up on the third floor, I’ve got to pass it.”

“Ya lah,” Jan said. “Just, remember.”

Watching her head over to speak with someone else, Arthur let out a long breath. They were coming to their final day. Casey had exited cultivating yesterday and she was the one with the most resources to burn. Truth was, he and the others were just passing time, training and fighting and cultivating while waiting for her. And, of course, setting up the clan further on this floor.

Given the spare moment, and while his breathing was still calming—though that was happening fast—

he called up his stats to review the changes.


Cultivation Speed: 2.371 Yin
Energy Pool: 16/21 (Yin)
Refinement Speed: 0.1421
Refined Energy: 0.823 (25)


Attributes and Traits
Mind: 15 (Multi-Tasking, Quick Learner, Perfect Recall)
Body: 12 (Enhanced Eyesight, Yin Body, Swiftness)
Spirit: 10 (Sticky Energy, From the Dregs)


Night Emperor Cultivation Technique
Focused Strike
Accelerated Healing – Refined Energy (Grade III)
Heavenly Sage’s Mischief
Refined Energy Dart
Bark Skin


Partial Techniques
Simultaneous Flow (41.2%)
Yin-Yang Energy Exchange (32.56%)
Heavenly Sage’s Heaven Beating Stick (31.8%)


He had poured more points and cores into his body than ever, refining the energy over and over again and empowering himself. He’d gone with increasing his Mind stat first, pouring as many attribute points into it as he could afford. Perfect Recall was the trait that he’d picked up this time, but the name was not exactly accurate. The trait improved memory for sure, but it was based off the Mind stat. The higher that went, the better his recall. And like the rest of his Mind traits, it synchronized well, such that he could feel his mind thinking and recalling and processing things faster than ever.

It was kind of scary, in fact, how much better he could think now. There were certain limitations in terms of what the improvement in Mind could do. You couldn’t turn someone of below average intelligence into Einstein. Certain fundamental aspects of an individual—or perhaps, of how they used their mind—just couldn’t be changed by the Tower.

On the other hand, a number of neurological or neurodivergent symptoms could be dealt with. Have trouble concentrating? Well, certain traits could help fix that. Not entirely, but often better than the drugs that were prescribed.

Arthur knew there were arguments about it on both sides. Some were all for jumping on the fixes, anything to help them live their lives easier or simpler. A fringe element considered the Tower and the way it altered the neurodivergent a genocidal act prescribed upon them. Of course, the them was undefined or just plain crazy – well, as crazy as calling the Tower creators green skinned aliens or shape-changers or floating jelly fishes, which since no one knew anything might not be that crazy – but it was a recurring theme of doubt and mistrust aimed at the Tower.

In either case, improving his Mind helped him study and gain the Bark Skin technique at last, which increased his overall ability to survive—perhaps even more than upping his Body attribute, though he’d taken the time to do that too. His Spirit required the least amount of improvement since he had a cultivation technique.

While he was not, in any way, feeling confident about their upcoming ascension, he figured that Bark Skin and an upgraded Body would help him at least survive initially. If Casey was willing to wait another week, he might even finish learning the Heavenly Sage’s Heaven Beating Stick technique, but that was as futile as expecting a politician not to take a bribe.


They were headed up, and whether the clan would hold or not in his absence on this level, he could only hope.

Anyway, the third floor couldn’t be that bad, right?

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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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