Chapter 207

Chapter 207

He had to admit, he was rather surprised that there was no screaming or any other cries of anger or surprise when Mel had disappeared. Even more surprised to find both girls returning, together, chattering away. When they caught sight of the boys, the fell silent, towels wrapped around their hair and in new, slightly damp clothing.

“Me next,” Rick said, jumping up and heading for the bathroom. He grabbed the one gun he hadn’t stripped down, pausing only long enough at the doorway to turn and look at everyone. “Don’t touch my stuff, will you?”

“As if,” Casey said.

Arthur just nodded, having chosen to follow the man’s example and take out his own weapons to clean. Not that the enchanted kris he had or the black spear needed much work, but it never hurt. Especially after trudging through the moisture laden and swampy marshland outside. The occasional spot where rust was beginning to show was buffed out before he began the process of sharpening the edges.

Very carefully in the case of the kris. He’d nicked himself a few times on the weapon and it had been less than pleasant when the Yin-poison had kicked in.

With Rick gone, Mel wandered over to his bed to look down at the pieces of the gun that he’d been cleaning. She frowned, the surprising among of springs and metal pieces on full display. The cloth he’d so casually discarded was dark and stained, the gun oil he’d been using capped.

Sangat complicated,” Mel said.

“And only useful in the Beginner Tower at most,” Casey said. “Unless you’re lucky enough and with the right kind of build.” She shook her head. “Wasteful.”

“Our techniques aren’t that much different though,” Arthur mused. “Very complicated in its use. Push through this meridian, shove it down that pathway, turn it around and pour it here. Only use this much energy, or else…” He shrugged. “It’s just that it all happens inside us. And the guns are outside.”

“I guess…” Mel said.

“Our way’s better. The Tower and its techniques are better,” Casey said, heatedly. “You can’t take away a man’s cultivation – not easily. Not like a gun. And what power you create within you, it’s yours forever. It can’t be stolen.”

“But it can be controlled,” Arthur said, a wry smile crossing his face. When Casey noted his look, she snorted.

“We’ve got a deal. That’s not manipulation.”

“Well, actually…” Arthur began and then dropped the tone, though he didn’t drop the point. “That’s almost exactly what a deal is. Manipulation, though it’s nicer, I’ll admit.”

Casey shook her head, but chose not to get into that argument. Instead, she sat down on her own bed and extracted her own weapons to do a cursory check. Most were well kept, only needing a minor polishing before put away. As she did that, she asked, oh so casually.

“Now what?”

“Same thing, isn’t it?” Arthur said. “We need to cultivate. Grow stronger. Pick up some qinggong or other movement techniques. Then, we’ve got to get collecting.”

“The stones.”

“Exactly,” Arthur said. With a slight pull, he extracted the floor quest.


Mandatory Quest
Collect twenty four (24) full third floor monster cores
Type: Individual


“With most leeches giving shards, and needing cores for our own use, this might take a bit,” Arthur said, out loud. “Even if the Chin’s are able to provide the necessary funds for some of us.”

“We will,” Casey said, rolling her eyes at his words. “But you’re not wrong. We need to spend more time hunting than I’d like if we were to use the cores to empower ourselves. Unless…”

“Not happening,” Mel interrupted, firmly.

“You don’t know what I was going to suggest.”

“Going up the floor as fast as possible, ignoring increasing our strength here.”

“Fine, you did know,” Casey said. “I mean, do you want to be here?” She waved a hand around and then snatched a bug out of the air, crushing it and tossing the carcass away before grimacing at the mess in her hand. She extracted a rather damp cloth and wiped her hand off, before putting it away back in her pouch.

“No. But I’m not going to get jumped by the Ghee Hin or anyone else waiting up there,” Mel said. “Nor is Arthur.”

“He can make up his own mind.”

The pair turned to look at him.

“Two ladies, staring at me. Loving me? No, for they aren’t my babies…” Arthur offered before he pointed at Mel. “But that one is right, we are doing this right.”

“You just used the same two words to rhyme.”

Arthur shrugged. They weren’t all going to be winners.

“Then, we should get cultivating,” Mel said, extracting one of the second floors cores she’d kept out from her pack. After a moment, she added. “How many shards to a main core anyway?”

“Varies, depending on the size of the shards, but anywhere from eight to twelve is common,” Arthur replied, citing from memory. “Occasionally a lot fewer. We’ll need to use some of those cores to pay for the furniture I ordered too.”

Casey didn’t answer him, instead focusing on her own core. Her breathing deepened as she began the process of extracting energy from the core into her core, threading the pull inwards.

Mel, having returned to her own portion of the room and making use of one of the few dressers, began to lay out the contents of her bag. She made a face as she noticed some of it had gotten wet, though the plastic Ziploc bags kept most of the material dry. Anything not, she began to hang out to dry.

“So, we got to wait for Uswah and Jan. I hope they’re fine,” Mel said, softly.

“Just Jan. I met Uswah on the way in. She’s on a job for me.”

“A job?” Mel said, looking up.

“Ran into a spot of trouble,” Arthur said, putting on a faux British accent before dropping it and explaining. Mel frowned in turn, before she shook her head in surprise.


“Didn’t realise we had that many up here,” Mel said, waving a hand around her. “I mean, sure, the organization was mostly focused on the first floor, and we certainly had people who managed to go upwards. But the numbers were always small. I don’t get why we’d be so strong here?”

“Neither do I,” Arthur said. “Maybe it’s an easy point to stop off at and slowly gain power? The fourth floor…”

Tempat mati.”

“Yeah.” While the first floor still killed the most people – by sheer volume since it was the easiest place to winnow and the most number ended up there – it was the fourth floor where even more people were winnowed out. It was deadly to the extreme, and as a percentage, more died on that floor than anywhere but the top floor of the Tower.

Or at least, that was what the numbers people had been able to put together said. As always, much of this information was second hand, put together by the curious or the analytical or, on occasion, as a sponsored study with numbers and estimates.

Which was partly why Arthur had turned down Casey’s suggestion they push ahead without further training. If not for the fact that the challenges were stepped – quite literally – and thus just appearing wasn’t a guaranteed death sentence, he would have thought she’d have an ulterior motive beyond haste.

As it was, he still didn’t like the fact that she kept pushing them.

Finished with cleaning and oiling his weapons, he sheathed and propped them next to him before standing up to retrieve a towel and a change of clothing. Moments later, Rick, singing She Bangs! Under his breath appeared, offering the group a grin before turning back to his bag.

“New rule,” Arthur declared, as he headed for the showers. “Everyone stays dressed.”

“Oh come on!” Rick complained. “I have a towel!” Gesturing down his ripped and toned body only covered by the towel, he continued. “I like to air dry!”

“Air dry in the shower then. Or shower somewhere else. But, we all stay dressed.”


“Agreed,” Mel said, nodding firmly as she continued to stare at Rick. “I think we should let him… umm… everyone wear what they want. So long as they cover themselves.”

Arthur rolled his eyes, ignoring her obvious lust as he left.

Some people.

He did, however, poke at his own abs when he stepped into the shower and stripped down. Entirely unfair that the Tower seemed to give some people a more ‘cut’ body than others.

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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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