Chapter 218

Chapter 218

The water was shallow enough, at points for the zombies to rise. Other points, they swam upwards, buoyed unnaturally to the surface by withered flesh and stringy muscles to reach for the boats, tearing at string and ivy and at the edges. Faces, familiar in the bioprop way of being in the background of every movie, stared up at them, faces melted, eyeballs missing or falling apart, bone beneath.

They were dressed in torn t-shirts and worn jeans, in underwear or nothing at all, so rotted through that they might have just been skeletons. They glowed in Arthur’s cultivation sense, seeming to pull energy from the Tower towards them to power their movements.

Myth and movies failed them. No one needed to be told to aim for the head, to crush skulls and pierce braincells, to destroy what was meant to empower them. But these weren’t really zombies, these were hantu air and because of that, they weren’t powered by a twitching mass of brain cells but something more, something darker.

Something that much preferred its space.

A spear shot forwards from Arthur’s hand, piercing an eye socket. He swirled it a little as he twisted and lifted, pulling the head off the body to bring the entire weapon down in a swirling loop down onto another that had managed to get half of its body on the boat.

It crushed the skull, both of them. But the first body had not stopped scrambling, moving a little more mindless now, unseeing of the world around it. It continued to attempt to rise, even as a curved scythe sliced at fingers and dropped clambering monsters to the water.

“They’re not dying,” Arthur swore over the racket.

Not just people shouting and grunting and crying as they fought, of course, but the crack of bullets striking bodies as Rick unloaded his weapon. He fired swiftly and constantly, the retort of bullets piercing enemies continuing to fill the air.

Of little use.

“Body, body, body!” Uswah said, eyes almost seeming to glow. “The Yin energy, it’s collected in the chest. Strike the chest!”

“What?” Arthur said, surprised. But he was too trained to stop just because he was surprised, too experienced to let himself freeze. One of the creatures was nearly over the stern, fuller and more put together than the others. His spear shot outwards, crashing into the body, piercing all the way through. He yanked the weapon backwards, felt it catch and swore as he booted the now unmoving thing off his spear.

Feeling fingers grasp at his leg, pulling at his stability. He stumbled sideways, using the edge of his spear to trail along the water, across bodies as he sunk it into flesh. A darting figure took the fingers off, giving him a little reprieve to set himself.

“Body shot. Body shot!” Uswah kept calling, taking a swipe when she could.

Balance set, he struck. He had a few moments to handle himself and focus, and to attack back and so he did. His spear pierced bodies, its shaft crushed ribs and the occasional boot took a monster in the sternum to send it off his boat. Where they had been nearly overwhelmed, they gained space.

Enough for him to look up and assess the damage.

It was bad.

Rick and Jan were doing fine. Though now that he had a moment, he realized he’d not heard the retort of the loud – yeesh, guns were loud – pistols going off for a bit now. One was holstered, he could see. He wasn’t certain where the second one was, as Rick fought with a parang and a bowie knife in either hand. Strong as he was, he took off limbs and punched through fragile rib cages with overhand crushing movies with the parang or stabbed and sliced with the bowie knife.

Jan was doing fine on her end as well, spinning her spear and battering monsters aside with casual ease each moment. Together, the pair were mostly settled.

The problem was Mel and Yao Jing. Mel was nearly overwhelmed, fighting by herself on her boat. Only the pulse of power as she triggered her own cultivation techniques, sending energy rippling along the edge of the spear to empower the attacks kept her in the game. But all too soon, she’d run out, Arthur knew. And then, the monsters still clambering over would overwhelm here by sheer volume of numbers.

As for Yao Jing…

“Where’s Yao Jing?” Arthur cried, eyes widening. The man in front was gone from the boat, the zombies that had clambered up it milling around puzzled.

That was all the time he had to think, before he had to get back to stabbing. The creatures kept coming without stop, forcing him to strike out against again and again whilst quietly cursing their lack of mobility. With ten or so feet between each boat, providing direct aid was impossible.

But he had to do something.

As he fought, he pulled energy into his hand, pouring it into a Refined Energy Dart. Inspiration and madness ran through him, as he saw Mel slowly get overwhelmed. As her spear attacks were shortened and then the weapon dropped, traded for knives and elbows.

Energy built up, each moment. Rather than releasing it, he kept the energy contained. He took the precaution at least of pushing it to the outside of his hand, within his own aura but not within his skin. It was harder than ever, and he felt energy drain at an exponential rate.

Control began to slip aside, and he turned to the bow. He released it, just overhead, just as a zombie was clambering up.

The explosion of bones and flesh threw the corpse away along with other bodies. He grinned, triumphantly, almost getting clobbered by a swinging hand as he reveled in his victory.

“Oy! Move.”

“Right! Jump to her. I got this,” Arthur said. “Give me… five!”

Uswah booted another figure away, saw his left hand begin to glow and nodded.

He just hoped that her jumping to help Mel was not sending her to her death.

Like Yao Jing’s.

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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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