Chapter 202

Chapter 202

Arthur hung at the edges, watching from the shadows. He was not the only one, for he spotted a couple of unfamiliar faces. Some were a little more blatant than him, one he had not even noticed till they had chosen to move and head for the boats, choosing to pay for a private ferry than whatever amount was being taken from those at the bridge.

He did not blame the man who slunk away. There was no discernible rhyme or reason for how much the group took from each individual beyond the appearance of strength or lack of it and wealth, or lack of it. Add in the ability to ingratiate oneself and the occasional times when they ignored others who strode right past the shakedown crew and it read as a recipe for confusion.

“So much trouble, for a handful of glittering stones. Better to have double, rather than take out loans. But to steal, is not a fair deal.”

Something to look at changing perhaps, if he had time. If he had the resources. Probably not this run, not when he was trying to get out and up. He started to stand, heading for the boats himself when he spotted commotion and a familiar pair of figures striding right up to the bridge.

He nearly smacked himself on the forehead as a foretelling of the future arrived.

Arthur began moving but knew he’d be all too late.

Bold as brass, Rick sauntered forward. Beside him was Yao Jing, shield unslung on one hand, sword still in the sheath at least. Of course, everyone was looking at Rick, the floppy haired, khaki wearing idiot with his pair of guns under his shoulders and the backpack across his back had a tendency to do that. Arthur had to admit, he wondered how someone as vain as Yao Jing managed to handle Rick’s ability to draw attention, but the pair seemed to get along well enough.

Maybe inflated egos, shared and joined together became stronger?

“What do you mean, I have to pay a dozen spirit stones to cross the bridge?” Rick said, eyes narrowing. He had stopped far enough away that a simple extension of a hand would not reach him. But way too close if he wanted to clear the pistols and not get stabbed. “Do you own the bridge?”

“For you, ya-lah,” the speaker, a wiry short man said as he glared up at Rick. It must have annoyed him, glaring upwards, because he was swaying from side-to-side as he spoke. “So bagi cepat!”

“I don’t know what you’re saying,” Rick said. “But I’m guessing my answer is still going to be, no.”

“Yeah. No!” Yao Jing said, shifting a little to put himself between Rick and the other two on his side. His shield was leading the confrontation, hiding the way he’d freed his sword a little from the scabbard to make it easier to draw. “Let us go, no one needs to hurt lah.”

“You think you boleh, ah?” Another gymbro, this one only two thirds the size of the muscular Yao Jing said. He flexed his pecs, making them dance.

Yao Jing narrowed his eyes and responded with a little flexing of his own. Rather than be challenged, the other man nodded in appreciation.

“I swear, if they start screaming muscle brothers unite, I’m going to cry,” Arthur muttered to himself as he stalked over. While the flexing over on Yao Jing’s side seemed to have calmed matters down, either from exasperation by the gymbro’s companion side and mutual admiration otherwise, Rick’s own confrontation was heating up.

“Stop speaking Malay. I can’t understand you, damn it!”

“You in Malaysia, can’t speak Bahasa? What kind of Malaysian are you?” sneered the man.

“I’m not,” Rick snarled.

“Oh…” the shortie nodded as if in understanding, then added. “Then pay double, k.”

“I’ll show you double…” Rick snarled, reaching for his guns.

Faster than he could react, a hand flashed upwards and lay against Rick’s neck. It glowed with an unnatural purple light, a flickering edge of energy running alongside it that sliced into the man’s neck gently and left a trickle of blood. Rick, thankfully, froze as did the others.

“Now, you pay triple.”

“You… Urk!” Rick shut up as the blade hand pressed upwards, forcing him to expose his throat further.

“Eh, boss.” Arthur called out, finally close enough to call out and intervene. “I know he’s an idiot, but three times is a lot.” A slight pause. “What is three times?”

“For him? Nine stones.” Shortie stared at Arthur, shifting a little without letting up the pressure on Rick. Not that the kid was looking that confident anymore, with his hands up and a blade against his throat.

“This floor?”


“This floor stones. Nine of them,” Arthur said.

“Ya lah.”

“Yeah… no.” Arthur shook his head. “Go ahead and kill him. Yao Jing, let’s go.”




Half-turned away, Arthur noted how they had shoved the blade even further up along Rick’s neck, drawing even more blood. One hand had twitched down towards his weapon, only for it to be blocked by the fourth member with his truncheon. However, they hadn’t actually killed Rick as yet, which meant Arthur’s gamble was correct.

“You know him, ah?” shortie called out, as Yao Jing stepped back towards Arthur.

“I do. He was with my group, but he’s not part of it, you know?”

“What’s your group?”

“The Benevolent Durians.” Arthur shrugged his shoulders. “We’re a new-”

“Clan.” Shortie frowned even more, glancing to the side. “You work with the Thorned Lotuses, right?”

“Yup. Absorbing those who are willing in.”

Celaka,” the Shortie cursed. “But this one, he isn’t with you?” he asked hopefully.

“Yeah. But he’s rather important.” Arthur shrugged. “Outside at least.”

Shortie looked at the guns then, the ones that Rick was still carrying. He had stopped moving since everyone was talking, and even started looking hopeful.

Celaka.” A violent shake of his head, one that did not shift his hand at all, much to Rick’s gratitude obviously. “Fine. One stone. Each.” He paused, then added. “Later.”

“Done,” Arthur said, turning back and walking to the man. “Shake on it?”

Shortie snorted, lowered the blade hand and dispersed the energy. Arthur noted that with interest. Obviously, the technique was the blade hand itself, and so could not be reabsorbed. Good to know for the future.

Sticking his hand out, he shook the man’s hand, adding. “Arthur Chua.”

“Leon Wang.” He grunted. “I’ll expect it in a week. Good?”

“Good enough.”

With that, the group parted, allowing the trio to enter the city. Arthur shook his head a little, as Rick pressed a sodden handkerchief to his neck and glared backwards in disgust.

Now, the question was, how would the boy handle this? Would he suck up the bruising of his ego and move on, or would he carry the grudge? Times like these defined a person, if not within themselves, to others around.

The question was, did Rick know that?

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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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