Chapter 203

Chapter 203

It took them two thirds of the journey across swaying walkways to the Tower administrative office before Rick chose to break the silence. Over wood and rope suspended throughpaths, between stilted logs over darkened water reflecting the fast falling light of the evening, Rick spoke.

“Why did you tell them to kill me?” he asked.

“Because I knew they wouldn’t.”

“How?” Rick asked, forcefully. He raised his hands before dropping them, choosing not to touch Arthur who strode ahead of him on the narrow bridges. Probably a good thing too, for right behind him, Yao Jing had narrowed his own eyes. After all, for all their friendliness, Arthur was his boss and the man he was meant to safeguard. “How could you know for certain?”

“Not certain, but there’s a rhythm and tradition to such things,” Arthur said, glancing back over his shoulder at Rick as he spoke. “You don’t shakedown entire groups by killing those who annoy you, not unless you need to prove a point. They also weren’t asking for too much, which is why most people just paid them and moved on.”

“I don’t understand,” Rick said.

“I know.” Arthur sighed, rubbing his face. How did you explain the intricacies of the street, the give and take and the quiet, unspoken rules that everyone lived by. You absorbed such information as you grew up, knowing where to walk, how to walk, how to speak and not give offense and when one needed to accept minor transgressions. And when it was time to be firm with one’s own boundaries.

“Look, it’s relatively simple. There were only four of them. They weren’t part of any larger groups, because they were letting anyone who was particularly hard or connected through. That also meant they had been around long enough to figure out who was who.” Arthur kept walking, his head on the pivot as he took in the surroundings. Clocking information as he took in the flow of climbers here too, slotting it into his mind.

“When you came up, they did a simple assessment. Unknown face, so that means you’re new. Your guns mark you as a Richie rich. So that’s dangerous, because there’s no guarantee you aren’t backed by someone else. If they killed you, in public, there was no guarantee they wouldn’t end up dead later.” Arthur shook his head. “Troublesome rich kids are better off killed in alleyways and in their beds, when there are no witnesses than out in public.”

“Why do you sound so confident about such things?” Rick said.

“We all have our pasts,” Arthur replied, turning a little as he replied.

That made Rick blanche and Yao Jing raise an eyebrow in amusement. Of course, the truth was, Arthur had never taken part in such things, but it was easy enough to fool a rich gweilo like Rick.

“Anyway. Killing you wasn’t in their best interest. If nothing else, that would make more people willing to pay for the boats. Even if the pricing might be a little higher and it take a little longer, no one likes dealing with the bloodthirsty.”

“Why didn’t they stop the boats?”

“Not enough people. They’re just small time thugs,” Yao Jing said, from behind.

“Exactly.” Then, stopping at the end of the platform and stepping aside to wait as another pair crossed the bridge ahead of them, he added to Yao Jing. “Don’t think I forgot you were part of that idiocy. I expected better from you.”

“Sorry, boss. I thought we boleh go lah. Didn’t think they stop the two of us.” Then, Yao Jing sniffed. “I had my side covered, lah.”

“No, you really didn’t.” Arthur sighed. “We’re new to the floor, remember? Everyone’s tougher than we are.”

Yao Jing opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap. He offered a sheepishly mouthed ‘sorry’, forcing Arthur to shake his head as he nodded thanks to the pair and got on the bridge to cross.

“So, Rick. You weren’t in danger of dying. Not unless you really pushed them to it. And the fact that killing you would leave a witness, one who had some contacts with you and had been, at least, willing to get paid…” Arthur shrugged.

“But what if they figured I wasn’t that important if you were willing to let me die?” Rick asked.

“Then, ooops?” Arthur said. That got him a glare. “What do you want? You’re not a Durian, right. And you started that fight. I don’t have any obligation to pull your idiot ass out of the fire.”

“I don’t like bullies.”

“Neither do I. But you don’t go challenging them unless you can win.”

“That’s not how Captain America does it.”

“He’s not real. And he has plot armour.” Arthur tapped his own breastplate. “This is all the armour I’ve got.”

Silence now. Which was for the best, because the trio were finally nearly the administrative building. A part of Arthur knew he had been reckless with Rick’s life there. He had reasonable assumptions and guesses, drawn from his experience dealing with other thugs and watching the way they interacted, but it’d all been a guess at the end.

There had been no guarantee.

And yet, a brief flicker of annoyance, a reckless choice to keep upping stakes had him play with the other man’s life. He hadn’t even gotten nervous doing it. Perhaps he had grown a touch more callous than he had thought.

Something to consider.


“About time…” Arms crossed in front of her, Casey regarded them. Somehow, Lam was with her, her faithful bodyguard managing to arrive beside her once again. He really did wish they had more of those tethers. Then again, considering how expensive those things were, Arthur wasn’t surprised he had not been offered one, if even the Chin’s had another to spare. “What took you so long?”

“It was a bit of a slog.” Arthur glanced past her at the Administrative building, his hand unconsciously raising to touch his neck where the cut was mostly healed. “And I ran into a kitty that was rather irritated with me.”

“The harimau hitam?” Casey blinked. “And you’re alive?”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Arthur muttered, waving bye to her as he kept walking. “I’ll just be a moment.”

She opened her mouth to speak further but closed it. After all, she was the one pushing for them to speed up. As he walked by, she joined him, ready to do her part in setting up the Clan Hall.

Now, he just had to see what they had to offer.

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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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