Chapter 230

Chapter 230


Arthur sighed as Kavitha replied immediately. Mel was nodding along just as fast behind her, and the other three members that made up the Thorned Lotuses on this floor look ready to rebel.

“Not long, just long enough for the others to appear and fill up the Clan ranks. Then, you let them get ready, show them the way and move on,” Arthur said.

“No way.” Michelle crossed her arms, looking mulish, the prominent sharp jaw jutting out further as she raised her chin. “Have you stayed here?”

As though to punctuate a point, a mosquito buzzed by Arthur’s ear, forcing him to snap it out of the air with one hand and kill it less it’s incessant buzzing around him distract him. He opened his hand to see the red splotch of blood which he grimaced and wiped away on his pants.

Pristine cleanliness in the jungle was just not something that happened. Germophobes would either go insane or learn to deal, because the constant humidity and heat would force sweat from pores, the dirt and grime from sand and soil and trees rubbing all over clothing and bare skin. And the ants, insects and beetles that made up the surroundings had no sense of personal space, much like a toddler who’d recently learnt to walk.

“I have. And it’s a lot to ask,” Arthur said. “But it’s necessary. We need someone here for the newcomers and you’re the best choices.”

“No way lah.”

“You’ll have a lot of chance to study the qinggong methods available here. And the new cultivation methods. You’ll need at least a few weeks to learn all those,” Arthur said.

“We can learn it on the next floor.”

“The one where people die?” Arthur said, raising an eyebrow.

“There are safe parts at the start.”

“But they aren’t as safe as the Clan building. And you would be much more prepared if you spent more time here.” He could see them shaking their heads again and he glanced between the two ring leaders. After a moment, he made up his mind and added. “I’ll also leave word that you don’t have to pay Clan taxes next level.”

“Just that level?”

“Don’t push it,” Arthur said, crossing his arms. “I can just leave one of my people behind if I have to.”

“No way lah. You need them.” Kavitha said.

“No, I need to get up fast. For the good of the Clan. Not waste time arguing with you.” He gestured at them, continuing. “You all took up their names, said you’re Thorned Lotuses and want to help others. But now you’re inconvenienced a little and you refuse? Maybe you aren’t who I think you are.”

“Reverse thinking?” Michelle said, sniffing. “Tak guna lah.”

At the same time, Kavitha growled. “Don’t tell me what I believe, boy.”

“Or what?”

“I don’t need you. You need me.”

Arthur opened his mouth to reply and then shut it.

“What? Nothing to say?”

He breathed in and out, forcing his temper down. He shook his head, refusing to acknowledge her prodding and forced himself to calm, counting off in his head till he hit seven before he spoke. He should have done ten, but well…

“I have a lot. But none of it is useful. You don’t want to help, fine. I get it. So let me talk to the others,” Arthur said. “You can’t say this isn’t good enough, the Clan isn’t good enough to join anymore. So you guys go. I’ll talk to whoever else wants to stay.” He shrugged. “They can just hide in the building if they have to to be careful.”

Kavitha frowned, then looked backward. The other three looked uncertain, none of them much older than in their early twenties at best. The youngest looked to be no older than fifteen, though he knew that was deceptive. No way they’d let anyone younger than eighteen through the doors, but looks could be deceptive.

“I don’t think they want to do it,” Michelle smirked as she said it.

“So what? What do you want to do?” Arthur said. “Leave the Clan building empty while you go gallivanting around later?” He received no answer, so he continued. “You know there’s no Clan building, nothing above us without me, right? If you don’t wait long enough for me to set it all up, there’s no real point in coming after.”

“No real point anyway. How many more buildings can you build?” Kavitha shot back. “The Chin might have a few, but not next floor. That’s just stage running. No place to set-up.”  Arthur had to admit, she was right. Even with the initial safer start points, the entire fourth floor really didn’t do much for people to rest before they had to tackle it. There was a finishing and resting spot at the end of the stage, but most people passed on to the fifth stage afterwards unless they had wounds to care for. Among other things, the fifth stage started much easier within a localized area that allowed for rest and resale of goods to an administrative building. Something the fourth stage didn’t. “So you got what? One more and then seventh? And then what?”

Arthur shrugged. “Ninth at least.”

“So no use lah.” Kavitha sniffed.

“And outside?” Arthur crossed his arms. “We’re going to be building out in the real world. Organisations, companies, buildings. We’ll be able to help your family,” he watched as Kavitha ignored the obvious bait but Michelle stiffen a little as well as the youngster at that mention, “even if you can’t do much. Jobs.”

“Nepotism,” Michelle grated out.

“Big word,” Arthur said. “And what are you? Some white collar elite from America? Of course it’s nepotism. That’s how we exist. That’s why we’re a Clan, not a damn Guild.”

Social and familial pressure kept people in line when you hired within the family, it made sure that workers put their all in and strengthened bindings of loyalty. And it didn’t matter, sometimes, if it was the idiot cousin you hired to mop the floors or play office assistant or gave a big but meaningless title to, when you then had the services of someone who was truly good.

It was the trade-off that cronyism, favoritism, nepotism, familial ties; whatever you wanted to call, played out. Sure, it could introduce inefficiencies – but it also introduced bonds of loyalty that transcended the individual. Maybe they do fire you, because you screwed up. But they were still hiring two thirds of your family, so that dishonour could be eaten for the greater good.

Or they asked you to work a few extra hours? Well, maybe you owed it to them, because your foolish niece who got an Arts degree needed a job and she was still learning. So you burn the midnight oil a little, but when the time to call in a favour came into play, you had tokens to offer.

It all worked out, give or take a little, so long as everyone was on-board and played by the same rulebook.

“I’ll do it.” The youngest girl, the one who looked like she shouldn’t even be in here, spoke up. “I’ll wait around.”

“Liv!” Michelle hissed. “We talked about this!”

Arthur’s eyes narrowed, suspicion given evidence. But he ignored it, as he stepped past Michelle and Kavitha, using his hand to push Kavitha aside a little when she tried to stop him. Yao Jing, standing behind, had stepped the rest of the way into her space, forcing her back by his sheer bulk.

“Liv? Interesting name.” Arthur said, conversationally. He noted, idly, how the others had moved back to give them space.

“It’s short for Olivia.” The young girl grimaced. “I hate that name.”

“Family name?”


“Liv Li.” Arthur smiled at the mild alliteration, then nodded. “Done. You stick around, hand off information and the scrolls to the ones after, make sure they’ll stick around and then you can go.Or you can stay here, longer. Your call.” He offered her his hand. “Deal?”

There was a brief hesitation, but she refused to look back to where Michelle and Kavitha were as she took it. “Deal.”

“Great.” Watching confirmation of her being added scroll past, he added. “Let’s talk.” A slight beat, then looking back to the others, he added. “Offer to join is still open. But no special privileges for you lot.” He raised a hand when they moved to speak with him, as he continued. “After we’re done talking.”

The angry looks the group were shooting to Liv and him as he led her back over the rope bridge, into the Clan hall, he ignored.

Teach them a lesson trying to put him over the barrel.

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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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