Chapter 209

Chapter 209

“Is that going to hold?” Arthur said, eyeing the newly constructed bunk bed. The Pakistani gentleman had come back with a bunch of his friends and after a quick, rather broken discussion, an agreement had been made. A half-dozen shards as pre-payment and the group had tromped off into the woods before returning with freshly cut branches that they began to lash together to produce the bunkbeds.

Yao Jing reached out and gave the entire thing a shake. Surprisingly the bunk bed barely moved, the multiple legs having been leveled and then a border added at the bottom to help stabilize the thing. Not content, the muscular man shoved harder, only for the structure to flex under his hand, shifting as the springy wood moved.

“I’d be more worried about the sap,” Rick said, arms crossed. “Not sure sleeping on newly cut wood is a good idea.”

Arthur shrugged. “They put some tar around the edges or something, it seems to have stopped it from leaking.” He had to admit, he was more city boy than intrepid wildlife adventurer, so what they were doing or constructing was entirely out of his experience. “But it seems to work, no?”

“Oi. You all, so prissy.” Jan shook her head, from where she lounged on her own top bunk. The men were still working, putting together the third bunk bed while another was outside, building a series of simple shelves with wood and vines. “This is fine, lah. And they promise, come back with proper wood later or fix these ones.”

“If they’re still here,” Rick said.

Yao Jing could not help but nod.

“If we’re still here,” Arthur pointed out quietly. “Not like we intend to stick around, eh?”

“How long you think?” Yao Jing asked, curiously.

“Isn’t it like two or three months to finish the floor?” Rick said.

Arthur was shaking his head already as the man spoke. That made Rick frown, and he gestured over to Casey as he continued. “Only if you wanted to do a stupid speedrun through the floor. Ms. Chin and I’ve agreed, we’re not doing that.”

Rick frowned. “Why?”

“No time to grow lah,” Jan said, scorn filling her voice. “Mesti ada masa untuk cultivate.”

“You know I don’t speak Malay,” Rick said, annoyed.

Jan snorted, but it was Yao Jing who translated. “We need time to cultivate. Fourth floor is very dangerous.” He glanced at Rick’s guns, both of which the man had finished cleaning and returned to their holsters under his arms before he added. “For most of us.”

Arthur tilted his head to the side, considering. That was a good point. With Rick, they’d picked up time by – literally – blowing away the competition. While his guns might not provide a huge advantage here, the leeches being mostly a matter of volume and finding them than difficulty, the fourth floor was almost perfectly suited for him.

But there was no guarantee that Rick would be with them through all the trials, and because of the way the trials were set-up, he wouldn’t be able to help them all through it. Still, it was an advantage that Arthur would be foolish to ignore.

“End of the day, there’s techniques we need to learn here. At the minimum, a good movement technique and another combat one,” Arthur said. “Or one that works as a distraction. Either or.”

The others were nodding along, all but Rick who studied the faces of the Durians one after the other before he relented. “Fine. But I don’t like spending more than I need to.”

“You can go ahead,” Arthur said, gesturing upwards. “Not as though we’re holding you back. You’re just a paying guest.”

“Not much to pay for, if I go before you.”

Arthur could only shrug at that comment. He was not wrong, but it wasn’t as though he could change it. More importantly, he was rather curious about something else.

“You don’t need a movement skill?”

“I have one,” Rick said.

“Really?” Arthur said, surprised. “You haven’t really been…”

“Moving much?” Rick chuckled. “Hard to do so when your front line isn’t moving either.” He shrugged. “Anyway, not much cover around. Lots of concealment, but not much cover.”


“One I can shoot through.” Rick said, miming the motion. “You want cover if possible, concealment if you can’t. Move and shoot is great, but moving in the jungle means I might hit you all, because you bounce around.” Then he shrugged. “Anyway, I always try to make sure I’ve got some easy cover if necessary. Close enough I can duck into.”

Arthur considered, then nodded. Rick wasn’t wrong, though most times, he was right. Sticking the man directly behind the firing line – or at an angle or above – gave the other opportunity to open fire. But it did mean that when they clashed, he couldn’t afford to move much; at least not when they were dealing with the jenglot.

He also, he realized, never did ask the man what might work better. Which was, perhaps, a failing on his part. Making a mental note to get back to that conversation another time, he forced himself to focus on his initial question.

“So, you have one? What’s it called?”

“The Gunfighter’s Walk,” Rick said, completely unemberassed. Not even when Jan and Yao Jing laughed, and even Arthur had to smile a little. “I didn’t come up with the name. But it works.”

“How lah,” Jan said, blunt as always.

“I can move without affecting my aim when using it. It’s not meant for long runs, but for quick bursts. It’s very energy intensive though,” Rick said, making a face. “Really meant for those with a higher cultivation base. But when I grow into it, I can strafe without messing with my aim at all.” He raised both hands, floating them one above the other parallel to the floor. “Don’t even have to worry about terrain much either.”

“You fly?” Yao Jing said, excited.

“Sort of?” Rick shrugged. “I don’t actually leave the ground, but it sort of levels out for me as I move. Or I move like it levels out.”

“How does that even work…” Arthur muttered, trying to picture it and the physics involved. It made little sense, especially on a root and hole filled terrain like a jungle. But then again, it wouldn’t be a true technique without it messing with, well, causality and physics, now would it?

Echoing his unspoken thoughts, Rick just answered. “It’s the Tower.”

Dismissing the thought, Arthur also cast aside any hope of getting something useful from Rick. Something that cost a lot of energy was not what he was looking for in a movement technique. He wanted – needed – something efficient.

“So, Boss, what you thinking of?” Jan said, curiously as she cocked her head to the side.

“Not sure.”

“Really? You must have looked it up before you came.”

“I did. There’s options. Wind Steps is, of course, an option-”

“Boring lah!” Yao Jing complained.

“It’s efficient,” Arthur said, before he continued after getting interrupted. “But like Yao Jing says, it’s boring and commonplace. Which is both great because it’s easy to get access to, but also, everyone knows it. It’s also a little restricted.”

“No progression.” Jan nodded. “Or, well…”

“Expensive. Yeah,” Arthur replied. “The technique progression is expensive and fixing or improving it yourself is extremely expensive.” Then he held up his own hand, staring at the pale skin, before smiling slightly. He did lower his voice as he added, casting a glance at the additional company in their building. “There’s also Uswah’s…”

“Aiyoh!” Jan complained, not lowering her voice.


“Boss, you get that, if you end up passing it along…” She sighed. “Banyak susah lah.”

“I know.” He sighed. “Also, it’s a little restricted too and a little themey. Don’t want people to think umm…” He looked over at their guests and shrugged. He wasn’t too worried about Rick, nothing he’d said so far was exactly Clan secrets from the man who’d actually worked with Uswah. “Well, you know. Makes us look real sketchy.”

Jan grinned. “Exactly!”

“So? What else did you research?” Rick said, curiously. “I did a bit of a study myself too.”

“You did?” Jan said.

“No need to sound so surprised. I’m not a complete idiot.”


Rick pursed his lips, but Arthur held a hand up.

“There were a few. Flash step is useful, but no endurance. The technique is also more common in Japan than here, though I’m sure we could find it if we had to. Or purchase it from the Tower.” He ticked his fingers off. “There’s Gecko Sprint, which does some nice things for balance and grip but-”

Arthur continued, happy to talk techniques he’d researched. Talking it out might trigger additional memories, memories that he had suppressed. After all, as Jan had pointed out, he was not just focused on building up himself anymore.

Eventually, whatever he learnt might be passed on as bonuses for the Clan, or as embedded techniques in the Clan library. And in that case, he had to concern himself not just with this Tower but all the other Towers he would have to climb.

And that, if nothing else, required a complete different build.

If only he had the chance to put an ideal into play. But, as usual, he’d just have to scrounge and grasp, hoping that whatever he could get his hands on would fit.


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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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