Chapter 224

Chapter 224

Climbing the tree was a process. The first step was crossing the threshold between clear bark to the first of the branches. That had seen a major change in geography, since they no longer had to hold tight to gaps but could instead lever themselves upwards on massive branches. There were still gaps between, large amounts of space as massive branches shaded the world around them and forced the group to leap, grab and shimmy over.

But it was easier. Much easier. Which was why, of course, when the monsters came; the trio were entirely unsurprised. After all, this was the Tower. If something looked easy, it was almost definitely a trap. On the other hand, the nature of their new enemy had been a surprise.

Dual wielding his kris and his rather abused knife, Arthur fought and shuffled along the branches carefully, deflecting the leaping wood ticks that sought to latch their spindly legs and their snapping thoraxes on him.

Dark brown in the majority with streaks of lighter colour, the insects had hard shells that made strikes from their knives from above futile. Luckily, their attackers had a habit of leaping at them just as often as they shambled along the branches to clamber upwards. In those leaps, it offered the group the opportunity to plunge a knife into the softer chitin beneath.

Of course, doing so required exquisite timing. A factor that was made more difficult when multiple such creatures were attacking at once, whether leaping for one’s face or crawling along branches – and eventually, legs.

“Why are they all horde creatures?” Arthur complained, shaking the impaled body of one wood mite off his kris while deflecting another. He tried not to do that too often, for deflected monsters tumbled far off below them, either to fetch against new branches and begin their ascent once more, or all the way down; where they might rain splattered shells on his friends.

Jangan lah! You’re losing the cores,” Jan complained, watching the body fall away.

Also, that.

Jan had more time to complain, being perched on a branch that had risen above his own. Sometimes, it was hard to tell which was the best way forward, and so leaping between each as they explored was required, shuffling the order of ascent randomly.

“You want to take over?” Arthur challenged as he backed off another few steps in the hope that some of the mites might try the leap to bother Jan. He bobbed a little as he did so, the branch he was on thinning dangerously.

Tak mau.”

“Give. Me. Satu. Second!” Each word was punctuated by a crunch, as Yao Jing fought gleefully closer to the trunk and the opening that the mites had crawled out of. Wielding his favorite brass knuckles on each hand, the brawler was finding the battle more to his taste. Each punch crushed chitin or cracked legs, leaving the insects to squirm.

Of course, the wood mites weren’t leaving them alone. At least three of them were clambering over Yao Jing’s body, one hanging off a thickly thewed arm as its mandibles closed on an army in attempt to bite I into two. But the sheen of dark energy surrounded Yao Jing, as the man triggered Bark Skin, providing protection. Even so, blood fell from torn shirts and ripped skin, blood that the man ignored with great aplomb.

“This isn’t going to work,” Arthur snarled, as a mandible clamped around his ankle. He collapsed a little, using the pommel of his knife to strike at the creature rapidly and shattering eyes and feelers before freeing himself. “Jan, take over.”

“I already said no!” But for all her complaints, she leapt forward to put herself between Arthur and the oncoming horde, kicking and stamping and booting the monsters aside. Her single knife cut with speed, Focused Strikes slicing monsters apart with ease.

“And she was complaining about me!” Arthur muttered, finishing off the few that were still behind with a series of stabs and stomps. Leaning sideways and favoring his leg, he focused on his left hand, slipping the kris back into its sheath as he did so.

Pull energy through the lung and kidney meridians, turn it through the gall bladder meridian and then collect at heart 3 and lung 6 before moving on, always flowing through him. When it was ready, push it to the outer edges of his aura where he contained it by sheer force of will.

Build up the power, forming it not into a single shaped dart but a swirling cone of a missile. Taking inspiration from a fan favorite anime, he adjusted the energy to keep swirling as he knitted the Explosive Energy Dart together. It could not stop moving, but he felt as the tendrils of energy he’d laced and sent spinning compacted further.

When he could no longer hold it together, Arthur pointed his hand at the crack the mites had emerged from and let loose. The Energy Dart flashed forwards in a screaming shriek, dark blue and white energy tinting the attack as it entered the shadowed recesses.

Moments later, light flashed and wind roared as the attack, contained within the very body of the tree itself exploded. Along with the wind came sap and portions of wood mites, the insects shredded by the power of the attack in a tightly contained environment. A deluge of sticky innards and sap rained upon the pair, the majority coating Yao Jing who nearly fell off, grasping on with a single hand and furiously wiping with the other.


“Careful ah!” Yao Jing cried, more concerned with nearly falling than the dirt. Or at least, he said so, though he still wiped and scrubbed as he hauled himself up one-handed, massive arms flexing.

“Showoff…” Arthur grumbled, but he did make sure to deal with the remaining wood mites before his friend got himself situated. After all, jealousy was not sufficient reason to let someone die.

Anyway, all that bulging muscle was unnecessary as Climbers. Entirely unnecessary.

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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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