Chapter 217

Chapter 217

Poling their way with their makeshift oar and rudder combination into the water, Yao Jing’s craft in the lead by sheer dint of skill, the group traveled the makeshift lake with bated breath. Weird to think that a marshland had a lake, but the clear water beneath them, the fish that darted in and out of sight at the edges of their vision told the truth of the lake beneath.

Why build a settlement on a flood plain? Why was it even a flood plain possible, when the marshland all around should have drawn in the water. Perhaps the land beneath had washed away? Perhaps the marshland had appeared afterwards? Perhaps the Tower builders had failed geography and landscaping class?

Questions, questions, questions.

As usual, few enough answers.

“Buildings are remnants,” Uswah muttered, crouched beside Arthur as she peered below. Her eyes were narrowed in thought, the occasional glimpse of a particularly sturdy piece of construction appearing in view. “Must be old.”

“Or the way the water came in and washed it away did a lot of damage quickly,” Arthur said. “Anyway, you’re supposed to be watching for monsters.”

“I am.” Uswah looked up and scanned the surface of the lake before shaking her head and turning back to stare underwater. “But there’s nothing above. So it’s going to be coming from below.”

“Yeah…” He sighed and turned to look backwards. The group was, mostly, floating singly. The makeshift boats they were using could fit two comfortably, three probably. Which meant that having everyone having their own boats left them with spares if trouble began.

However, Uswah was better off watching with her disability and Rick’s handguns were still their most powerful short range weapon. Of course, unlike movies, creatures didn’t drop immediately after getting shot once or winged, the bullets he used still did enough damage that it was foolish to put him to work poling when they might need his support soon.

On the other hand, having him team up with Jan might have been a bad idea.

“What you mean I’m splashing,” Jan growled. “You try oaring.”

“Rowing. No such thing as oaring.”

“Why not?” Jan said. “Pole. Poling. Sail. Sailing. Oar. Oaring!”

“That’s not how it works!” Rick said, exasperated. He ran a hand through his flopping hair, tanned skin and bulging arm muscle showing for a second. Arthur turned away, idly wondering if he was flexing on purpose while doing that or because he’d been hanging out with Yao Jing too much.

“Malaysia ah. I change.” She smirked.

“You don’t change a language just because you want to!”

“Why not?”

“Because that’s not how it works!”

Arthur tuned out their arguments, shaking his head a little. He knew their voices were likely carrying, but that was for the best. If they were going to be attacked, they might as well get it over now, rather than wait when they were in the middle of the lake.

Sadly, that idea had yet to bear fruit. Beyond some flying fish that had struck at them initially and been killed with ease, they had yet to be attacked.

“What do you think? Mythical or mutation?” Arthur asked, curiously.

“Myth.” Uswah replied immediately.


Hantu air.” She touched her lips and chest then, warding against bad luck as she looked around. “Dah banyak di sini.”

“Water spirits don’t really tell me much, you know,” Arthur said. “And that’s mostly malaria and dengue and dysentery from before. Nothing too worrying…”

“We are in the Tower.” Uswah’s lips thinned. “They made our beliefs into mockeries.” Then, a slight tilt of her head. “At least, the old ones. Not Allah.”

Arthur grunted. True enough. They might mock or pervert the older mythologies, even some of the current ones, but so far, he’d not heard of any creatures calling themselves gods appearing. Not Indian or Muslim or Christian or Norse. Angels, Valkyries, servants, surely. Including about half a dozen variants of them, in one form or another. But no gods.

Which was probably for the best. The kind of shitstorm that would create, Arthur had no desire to see. There were enough crazies trying – and failing – to blow up the Towers as it was. So much so that the UN had given up and even designated a Tower in the middle of a dessert to allow the most enthusiastic a chance to try their best.

Last he heard, the waitlist to try whatever explosive they meant to wield was half a year long.

“So. Hantu air,” Arthur said as he strained to push the boat onwards, shifting the oar from side to side and trying not to overshoot. Easier said than done, of course. “What exactly does that mean?”

“Depends. Lots of types,” Uswah said. “Mostly, spirits you cannot see. Just must be appeased.” She raised a hand and waved it around. “But we not Advanced yet, so no need to worry about the immaterial.”

Arthur’s lip twitched, grateful that at least one other person had a vocabulary. Well, probably Rick, though he might not admit to it. The man was strange. “Good. Because I haven’t learnt how to coat my weapons with my chi just yet.” He took his hand off the oar for a moment to waggle it around. “Only got my dart and those are…”

“Not good.”

“Exactly. So what else?”

“Beasts.” She replied. “Snakes, water skimmers. Fish and eel. Twisted humans.”

Behind them, a voice called out. “Zombies.”

“Nah, we don’t really have that tradition,” Arthur said, confidently.

“No. Zombies!” Mel’s voice grew more strident. “On the right.”

The pair turned, eyes widening to see nothing that disturbed the serene water. There were ripples of course, a low breeze blowing through the lake sufficient to create that, but nothing else. Except… Arthur looked down, trying to stare through the refracting water walls.

“Now this is just insulting,” Arthur hissed, reaching for his spear that he’d propped up beside him. “We don’t do zombies.”

“Now you know how we feel,” Uswah said, half-amused. “As bad as the gerak lu for changing things.”

Then, there was no time to talk, as their assailants reached them.

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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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