Chapter 227

Chapter 227

Days later, the team were finally back. Delays had pushed them further behind schedule, everything from more frequent monster attacks to having to ward off that damn harimau hitam that nearly took Yao Jing’s head off. If not for Uswah reappearing on its back and throwing it off course, it would have. As it stood, she had been knocked into the water before the black tiger had been forced away.

The only advantage, if you could call it that, of the various attacks were the number of monster cores they had managed to accumulate. The one from the massive snake that had crushed Jan’s hips and chest was particularly large and was stored in a pouch all by itself by her side as she lay beside Rick.

“You could have just healed yourself,” Rick was complaining for the umpteenth time. “Instead of making me do all the work.”

Tak boleh. I wanna save my energy lah,” Jan rebutted.

“And avoid any fighting!”

“I killed that spider that reeled you in!” she mimed thrusting with the spear that she had laid beside her.

“I could have gotten free!”

“Okay lah.”

Tuning out the arguing behind him, Arthur stared at the small village with a smile. As he floated over the main bridge connecting to the village, he noted the lack of shakedown artists. Had they given up or been pushed away? Or finally ascended?

He shook his head, making note to check into it later. Not that he could do much about it either way, but knowledge was power. He also needed to check on the Thorned Lotuses on this floor and verify if they’d finally decided to join them.

But first…

“Let’s go,” Arthur said, grounding his boat against the edge of a tree, watching as his raft slid up one marshy root. He let his pole fall to the side, grabbed his spear where it had been lodged and jumped up, bounding on roots as he ascended, leaving the raft behind.

The team came after him at first, though they split off soon after to head for the Clan building. All but Yao Jing who followed Arthur as a good bodyguard was supposed to do.

Voices faded behind him as Arthur headed for the administrative building, a small smile pulling across his face as he listened.

“I can’t believe you have been faking being injured for so long!” Rick said.

“You so bodoh!” Jan taunted, as she bounded along happily beside him.

“I know what that means!” Rick shouted after her.

Tuning them out, Arthur slowed down as he neared the administrative building, a pair of familiar faces appearing. He watched as the women came up to him, arms crossed.

“Where were go?” Michelle asked, frowning at him.

“Out. Doing a quest,” Arthur looked the pair of Thorned Lotuses over, noting that Kavitha looked a little worst for wear at the moment. “What’s it to you?”

“You said you let us join, then you go away,” Michelle replied.

“You said you wanted to wait and watch,” Arthur shrugged. “And I don’t owe you information of what I’m doing, not yet.”

Kavitha made a little growling noise in her throat while Michelle narrowed her eyes. Then she sighed. “Fine.”

“Anyway, it’s good you’re here. Let’s talk tomorrow. I need to turn this quest in and then, we can discuss whatever you want.”

“Why tomorrow?”

“Because I want to make sure we get what we’re owed,” Arthur said.

Michelle hesitated, but at Kavitha’s nod, she stepped aside. Taking her movement for acquiescence, Arthur kept moving, choosing to let them follow him. If they succeeded, they would learn about this soon enough. And if not…

Well, he’d been embarrassed before. He’d survive.

To his entire lack of surprise, the administrative building was empty when he arrived. Middle of the afternoon was rarely the time that the building was crowded, since most would spend the days out of the village getting the most of their trip out.

“You’re back,” the attendant said, looking expectant.

Arthur grinned in reply, unsliging his backpack and dropping it with a thump on the table. He opened the ties and reached within, pulling the seed out and handing it to the attendant.

“What’s this?” the attendant said, surprised.

Arthur’s breath caught, his hand trembling at the man’s words.

Even as he spoke though, the attendant was reaching out to take the seed from Arthur, pulling it into his own hands. He frowned, turning it over. “This a fruit?”

“It’s the heart. As per the quest.” Arthur replied, trying not to let the panic escape as the man turned the fruit around and around. He was going to scream if they had really missed the point or had to cut down that tree. There was no way they could go back, cut the tree down and come back and make Cassey’s deadline.

“Is it?” the attendant shrugged, after a moment. “I guess we’ll find out.”

“Don’t you know?”

“Why would I? I just work here.”

Arthur stared at the attendant who was purposely ignoring him as he took the fruit and placed it behind the counter on a simple stone tablet. Leaving it on the tablet, he started drumming his fingers on the table. Each tap was like a nail pounded into Arthur’s ears as he waited, until he felt a familiar and insistent push from the Tower in the direction that wasn’t really a direction that marked his connection to it.

Of course, he allowed it to form.

Quest Completed: The Heart of the Lost City
Locate the rumored lost city of D’mai and retrieve its heart. Return the heart to the floor administrator for your reward.
Rewards: Seven Cloud Stepping Technique (Original), 3 * Seven Cloud Stepping Technique (one use per applicant), Clan Reputation increased by 7.

Arthur grinned and did a fist pump, the motion making Yao Jing holler too and then slap Arthur on the back. It made the smaller man stagger, wincing a little at the hard strike before he turned around and offered his fist for a bump. The pair of women frowned, watching the celebration in confusion.

“Yes, boss!”

“Ahem.” The attendant spoke the words out loud, drawing their attention.

Arthur turned and noted the scrolls he was holding out. Snatching it from the man’s hands and mumbling a quick thanks, he flipped the first open to glance through the details and verifying that the Seven Cloud Stepping technique was inscribed on them all.

“What is that?” Kavitha could not help but ask.

Shaking his head, Arthur put the scrolls in his backpack and waved Yao Jing to come with him. As the woman shifted as though she intended to block his way, he added. “Tomorrow.”

Kavitha hesitated but it was Michelle who pulled her back now. Arthur nodded to her firmly, then pushed past her, tightening his grip on his spear. They weren’t likely going to have a problem, but you never know.

He wouldn’t feel safe till he got the scrolls back to the safety of the Clan building before someone stole it.

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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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