Chapter 220

Chapter 220

By unspoken agreement and a bit of waving, the group had retreated and regrouped around the tree. No zombies around the tree itself, not even under the massive shade it cast. The creatures kept clambering around the skiffs, taking tents and bags to the water, crushing and separating their goods from the team, though somehow Rick had managed to snag his own bag when he went down, and so had Yao Jing his own set.

Dripping wet and grumpy, Arthur rested against a massive tree root, watching the slowly subsiding swarm, the occasional zombie still clambering around or trying to tear down the water. But his team was here, wet and injured and miserable, but alive.

“What the hell?” Rick said, dragging himself upwards along the root along with his bag. “What was that?”

Hantu air,” Uswah replied, swiping at her face with her free hand. It did little for the blood that dripped from a ragged cut along the edges of her tudong, the wet headscarf pressed against her head such that it had molded itself to her. She grimaced at the sight of the blood, pressing with her hand against the cut in vain attempt to stop the bleeding.

Arthur looked around, taking in the damage. He was grateful everyone had – for the most part – left their armour behind. The humidity, the sweat, the moss that grew on the armour and the constant threat of falling into the marshlands was enough to have driven them to discard the greater protection. It meant no one had drowned trying to swim over.

That, of course, meant that everyone was more exposed to getting cut and stabbed and otherwise injured though. Thankfully, one of the aspects of the hantu air was their lack of focused attacks. Human fingers just weren’t very good at clawing. Sure, you could rip surface skin easily enough if you didn’t cut your nails, but to get a good grab? And not tear off your own nails, especially when the same flesh that held those nails in place were rotting? Much more difficult.

And teeth… well, There were much the same problems. Nevermind the fact that unlike real zombies, the possessed corpses had been less likely to try for a bite or two. So the damage from each monster that had gotten into grappling range had been minimal, bruises and torn flesh and surface cuts.

But there had been a lot of them.

And there was, of course, the mental damage to be weighed too.

“So disgusting…” Mel complained, running fingers through her hair again. She managed to find another finger that had been pulled off and yanked it off her dark hair, tossing it into the water where it sank without a trace.

She was one of the worst off, multiple cuts across her face, upper arms, along her neck and down her torso. Her clothing had been torn quite a bit, though sports bras beneath ensured she had a decent amount of modesty preserved. The worst was along her left collarbone where a ragged flap of flesh hung loose, shifting and bleeding with each movement. Her other hand was pushed against that flap as she tried to staunch the bleeding.

“I want to know why they stopped attacking us!” Rick said, looking around at the recovering group. “Is no one else concerned that might just, you know, change?”

“Of course we’re worried,” Arthur said. “And I’d like to know that too. But we’re tired. And we have injuries to care for.”

“You got that healing technique, right? Just heal them,” Rick said dismissively.

Arthur shook his head, choosing not to answer the question. He should know by now it didn’t work that way. And if he didn’t, Arthur saw no point in making a point of it. More importantly, he was curious how the man managed to escape with barely a scratch.

When voiced, Rick shrugged. “I’m just that good.” A glance at Jan had her shrugging. She mouthed something, but Arthur had a hard time reading her lips. “How’d you manage to stay in one piece?”

Arthur smiled back, mockingly. “I’m just that good.”

Rick snorted, looking back to where the horde was slowly dissipating. “We got a lot of cores lost in there.”

“Not all of us ah,” Yao Jing said, tapping his bag with his knee where he sat. He was busy tearing up some of his shirts to offer them as makeshift bandages to the others. Not that most were bothering, the bleeding having already slowed. It wouldn’t be a waste anyway, what with their lack of supplies.

“Enough complaining already,” Mel said, when Rick opened his mouth. “We got hurt, but no one’s dead. Now we just have to heal and get ready.”

Rick frowned, and Arthur pointed to the man’s chest. “Don’t you have to clean your gun?”

“Gun.” Reflexively, Rick touched the hilt of his remaining weapon and grimaced. “Shit. We got to get my pistol back.”

Arthur waved his hand to the water. “Go ahead.”

“I can’t… I don’t have a full replacement!” Rick said, frustrated.

“I’m not getting into that water again, not anytime soon. And neither are my people.”

“What is your problem with me?” Rick exploded, stepping over to where Arthur lay, fists clenching by his side. “You’ve been riding me hard. I offered to join your Clan. I offered to pay you. I AM paying you. And even on this shit, where your precious Chin girl isn’t around, I came along when she wasn’t. But you won’t give me a break.”

Silently, Arthur returned the look then glanced at the clenched fists. He waited a beat, and then again, before he spoke, slowly. “You’re a spoilt rich kid who has been throwing his weight around.” Arthur raised a hand, cutting Rick off before he could speak. “I don’t care you brought guns to a Tower where most don’t. But did you ever consider what happens if you die and those weapons get stolen? What having you in my Clan might mean if you do die?”

“I can’t help the advantages I have. And I won’t tie a hand behind my back just because you don’t like it.”

“No one’s asking you to. I’ll even take advantage of it. But you don’t know what you don’t know, and you won’t admit it.” Arthur’s jaw jutted out, indicating Yao Jing. “Then you drag my people into trouble, and try to pull us deeper into your shit.

“You want to compare Cassie? Fine. She’s a spoilt rich girl too, but she knows it. And she’s not trying to join my group or act like she’s one of us. We’ve got a business relationship, and that’s just the way it’ll stay. Better than an ally that drags you into trouble.” Arthur pointed to the water, continuing. “You lost something important. But rather than asking for our help, you demanded it.

“So yeah, I have a problem with you.”

Tak ada manners. Guna please, lah!” Jan muttered.

Arthur shot her a look though, not needing her to contribute. Rick looked taken aback at the vitriol spewed at him, shock turning to rage. His fists trembled and his face turned red, suffusing the darker complexion as he almost snarled. Then, turning on his heel, he stalked off.

Silence filled the clearing for a while, a strained one as they all stared at Arthur. He turned away, not wanting to deal with them and stripped his shirt off, wringing it out. He really wanted to deal with his boots and socks, but that was later. He needed to be able to run if the zombies did come back after all.
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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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