Chapter 198

Chapter 198

It wasn’t that bad. It was worse.


He could never tell, which was the right word. In either case, the damn third floor was a pain in Arthur’s ass. First, of course, was the teleportation that happened, which dumped him away from his friends and in a random location. Except, of course, the distance that they were being transported was even broader. Normally not as much of a problem, because there was a mountain that was used to guide people to, where in the shadow of the mountain, everyone had gathered.

Except the mangrove swamp he was located within was a marsh. A nasty, boot sucking, mud-covering marsh that threatened to drag him down if he fell in rather than traverse the roots of the mangrove trees or the occasional raised spots.

It helped, of course, that the boots he wore were literally meant for this. He’d take slightly too large sizing for the enchantment laid on the boots themselves.


Water Skimming Boots of the Insect
Enchantments: Increases surface area of the standee, allowing dispersal of weight across a wider surface area. Water-wicking effects of the boots keep feet dry whilst traversing puddles and shallow streams.


Of course, the degree of help the water-wicking effects had were negligible if you spent the whole day wading through swamp water which was what Arthur found himself doing more often than not. After the second time he’d slipped and managed to put half the valley’s water into his boots, he’d taken the socks he was wearing off and went barefoot, just because he – occasionally – managed to get his feet entirely dry thanks to the spell effects.

Even so, mud-sucking ground, a humidity level well over a hundred percent on the regular, omnipresent heat that bathed the surroundings and created heat mirages were all annoyances but expected ones. After all, he’d read enough about the upcoming level to know to expect this.

No, what he knew about but was not ready to experience were the leeches.

They came in three forms. Each more aggravating – and dangerous – than the first.

The tiny leeches, that crawled all up your legs and down into booths or other, warmer areas. The leeches were all searching for nooks and crannies that were warm, which meant wearing tight underwear synched up tight was ultra important. There were just certain spaces you never wanted to find a tiny leech hanging off, of.

No, these tiny leeches – most no more than an inch long and a millimeter wide before they were fed – might be numerous but were just annoying. More often than not, they’d crawl into boots and hang out in the gaps between toes, drinking their fill before moving on. Other than leaving small, puckered flesh that bled freely for a while before the toxins they introduced were washed out and you clotted again, they were disgusting wiggling annoyances.

But annoyances.

Next up were the larger leeches, the ones the size of a slug, a couple of inches long and nearly an inch thick. These were found inside the marsh waters, most likely to stick to a body when one fell in. No surprise that his legs were their most common attack points, though the occasional leech that fell from a hanging branch onto his head or arms were a pain and a half.

Again, their bites were neither painful or – singularly – debilitating. As a cultivator, he just needed to cycle a little more chi, increase the consumed among of chi within him to actually provide the blood that they fed upon so eagerly. It did leave his clothing streaked with blood like he had exited a bad slasher film, one who was about knee high, but that was; again, an inconvenience but not a danger.

No, the biggest problem with the leeches were the third type. And big was the answer. Going from idly opportunistic feeders to full on predators, having consumed sufficient amount of Tower-enriched blood, these leeches ranged form the size of a flat palm to an elbow.

When they fell or attacked, they did so in swarms. While their attacks in of themselves were not dangerous immediately, once properly latched on and their pharynx attached to the body, they began to consume blood and Tower energy in equal measure.

That was the greatest danger, for if a cultivator ran out of Tower energy entirely, there were forced to cultivate to make their body move. Of course, in that case, even more leeches would arrive to consume them. Only luck and sufficient stamina might allow the cultivator to survive such a fate, as they drew in enough energy and produced enough blood to survive the consumption by multiple bodies.

Much better then, to kill the creatures before they landed their attacks.

Arthur was battling his first swarm, standing precarious along the roots of reaching mangrove trees and swinging his spear with speed and alacrity. Burning energy to enhance his Bark Skin technique meant that it required a well placed strike to pierce his body and allow the monsters to latch on.

Which was a good thing, for the seven leeches coming for him were not taking their turns in their attacks. A swing with the butt end sent a leech flopping backwards, its muscular, segmented body flopping over backwards even as its rear sucker kept it attached to the root it had hung upon.

Then, a thrust caught a lunging leech in the body, black spear scraping along bottom suckers before biting into flesh and tearing the monster apart. Blood, consumed from another victim, rained down in a sickly mess, filling the surroundings with the smell of half-consumed and rotted blood, viscera and old, marshy water that surrounded him.

No time to be disgusted though, for he had to keep the shaft spinning to bat away another strike, jerk his head to the side to keep his eye from another and then step backwards right onto a body and grind his feet into another, just to reduce the number of attacks.

Of course, moving around and fighting on top of a squirming body was tough; but the greater grip and surface area provided by the boots helped. It let him grind downwards and still have grip on the roots, even as he spun and ducked, both ends of the spear tearing into bodies even as the creatures bounced off armour, his Bark Skin technique and the spearshaft.

A hectic minute of fighting later and the last of the bodies were laid out around him. He’d managed to dodge or block the majority of attacks, leaving only a single monster attached to his lower hip on the bottom left.

Twisting around, Arthur lips tightened. He extracted his kris and sliced with it, over and over again, quickly applying the enchanted effects on the monster. He could try to pry it off directly, but that left the chance of leaving the head and the pharynx lodged within him. And while he could burn it off, or even use salt – he had a couple of bags – he’d found that the yin poisoning to work just as, if not better, than both those efforts.

Soon enough, the creature curled up, detaching itself from Arthur’s side. Blood dripped from his open wound even as Arthur finished the kill, cutting open the leech to check within. No full stones, not in this or any of the other bodies.

But there were monster core shards, which could be used for other alchemical techniques. Which was good enough for now. Storing them away, Arthur scanned the surroundings, listening as much as he was looking.

The biggest problem about this floor and the leeches involved?

The constant bleeding put the scent of blood in the air, which drew one of the other Tower monsters to him. With as much blood dropping into the water as he was doing, he might as well have lit a bonfire, put out a bunch of refreshments and put a notice that it was an open bar for the creatures.

Time to go. And go fast.

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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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