Chapter 245

Chapter 245

Down, under the water. Hands scrabbling against his belt, feeling reddened skin and even more injuries stinging as he searched for his kris. At the same time, Arthur dropped the Bark Skin technique, picking up the Seven Clouds Stepping technique in its place. The movement of his chi felt twisted, pained as he tried to drive energy through him. Pouring energy through his body even as he pulled at a second technique, not a body technique but his Refined Exploding Energy Dart.

He should have done it the first time.

Kicking sideways, angling away from where the flame burnt, Arthur popped back up while his lungs were still burning. The flame attack by the fire moose was, at least, thankfully quite brief. That meant that when he did come up, there wasn't fire all around him, ready to set his hair and eyes and skin ablaze.

Instead, all he had to contend with was an angry, angry moose that stared at him and was ready to turn him into so much paste. 

Instinct drove his block, kris angled so that he could catch the heavy clobbering motion of the antlers as they came sweeping through, an explosion of steam arriving first as the antlers dipped into the water and heated it all. Once again, skin burnt from steam and proximity to the damn antlers as they struck his weapon, pushing his feet off him in the muddy ground and flopping him back into the pond his back.

He backpedalled and tried to get away, and surprisingly, managed to do so. Eyes wide with surprise, Arthur scrambled backwards, nearly losing his kris as he did so till he managed to make it to a further shallow and pop back up.

Only to see the fire moose standing where it was, shaking its oblong head, the flames on its antlers dimmed. It tried to take a step as it caught sight of Arthur, but then shuddered and stopped. Something in its eyes had grown dim, the fiery anger and aggression faded. Now, instinct pulled it back. It retreated, moving towards the deeper end of the water, slowly, trailing blood behind from the open, torn wound that gushed with each beat of its massive heart.


Arthur scanned the surroundings, unable to see his lost spear. Carefully, he backed away, releasing the weave for the Refined Energy Dart. Instead, he pulled that energy into him, across his body and all around as he triggered another full-body technique. All the while ready to flee using the Seven Cloud Stepping technique if he had to.

A small gibbering part of him noted that it was entirely insane for a creature to wander into the water. What kind of prey animal chose to go there, when crocodiles, alligators, giant catfish and water snakes lurked?  It wasn't just not safe, it was actively courting new danger.

But as the moose waded into the center, taking station there, Arthur had to admit that was what he was seeing.

Content that the monster was not going to attack him right now, he stumbled back to where he had arrived, using the sight of spreading blood in the water to gauge where his spear would likely have fallen. He found it, of course, by kicking it by accident. The only good news was that he hadn't kicked the pointy end.

Bending low, Arthur scooped up the spear, struggling a little to lift it out of the water. He had to shift his grip a bit as he came out, resetting it, the flush of adrenaline pulling aside and the pain of his myriad injuries coming to life in full. He grimaced, staring at the creature before him, the one that just stared and stared and refused to die.

Just standing there, in the water.

"You know, you could have just gone in first time..." Arthur muttered in frustration. Or thought he muttered. It was hard to tell what he said, what with his mouth not wanting to open properly, the damage to his throat and lungs and general exhaustion.

No answer, of course.

Leaning against the grounded spear, the pair of them just stared at one another. At one point, Arthur was sure, he faded out - not exactly unconscious, but his conscious mind checking out for some mi gorng and cendol. The good kind, from Malacaca, with proper gula malacca.

By the time he came back, the fire moose was still staring at him. Just... blankly.

“You dead?”


Of course it didn't answer. Arthur considered shooting it, but decided against wasting his chi. He'd need it. Eventually, he bent low and scrabbled in the water till he found a rock. Tossing it overhand, he had to try twice before he managed to land a rock on the unmoving monster.

Even then, it didn't twitch. Not even a bit.

"I guess so..." Arthur said. "Now, we have to sew... a jerkin?" 

Delirious, he couldn't figure out a rhyme or an ending that would work. Instead, realising he hadn't checked, Arthur looked for additional trouble. Finding none, he hurled his spear back onto shore and waded closer to the moose corpse.

Normally he'd use his rope or something to drag it over, but unusually, the antlers were glowing still and putting out heat. Nowhere near what it had been when it had caught him in his leg and hip - and he was not even going to look down there till his damn healing had taken care of it, because just from the radiating pain that made his steps hitch and the way the weaves of energy worked through him, he knew it was bad - but the antlers were still hot.

On the other hand, he'd never been burnt before. Never had to replace so much skin and flesh and muscle. A part of him, the part that had released the Seven Stepping Cloud technique, was cataloguing the way the technique was working. Learning from it. Split mind was damn efficient in that sense.

Mostly though, he was focused on trying not to whimper and cry as he moved. Not that it stopped the snot or tears leaking from his eyes, but those were physiological reactions to outstanding pain and the post-adrenaline dump crash. Arthur could not help but recall the number of times his master had smacked around newcomers for trying to tease the women - and the occassional man - who had teared up or cried after a particularly intense training session. 

The entire shaming of individuals, for things that their bodies could not help but do - at least till the body, conditioned after repeated trauma had normalised it all - was foolish. It was one of the reasons he'd liked his tsifu. Well, that and he was cheap and willing to let Arthur stay with him.

Especially after his parents and...

Mind reared backwards as he touched on that topic. He pulled away, his soul reacting to those incidents like his hands did at the thought of touching those antlers again. No, and no, and never.

Someday, he'd have to deal with that, but that someday was not now and that was good enough for him.

At the body now, almost up to his chest, Arthur debated how to get the body to him. He could gut the creature, pull out the entrails, but he wasn't entirely certain exactly how balanced it was what with the damn thing's legs locked out. If he unbalanced it, and then had to scramble to gut and skin it in the middle of the water, it would be even worst.

Better to see what he could do about dragging it or carrying it the way back. Of course, carrying it might be a problem. It was easily a ton or two. Probably two. Maybe three. Really, how heavy was a ton? Did humans really know? It was not as though he had a weighing scale and the ability to play with a bunch of weights to figure out how strong he was.

But at Body 15, he was at least twice as strong as he had been. Not exactly five times, somewhere in the range of three to four times if he had to guess. Body increases was not a direct linear increase in strength, what with him focusing on speed and reflexes. None of which would help him here.

"Where's Yao Jing when you need him?" Arthur muttered to himself, even as he got underneath.

No point in complaining.

Underneath, at the back rather than the front where those damn antlers were still, he submerged himself till he was under the creature. Then, slipping one shoulder over and bracing himself he tried to lift. Thankfully, between the water and his increased strength, it worked.

For about three dragging steps before the entire thing became a problem and he stumbled, the body crashing to the ground, the antlers bubbling and hissing as steam ran around. 

Grunting in pain, Arthur could not help but shift tactics. Feet digging into the ground, hands on the antlered hooves at the back, ignoring the shit and blood and other things coming out or the bubbling steam; he pulled. Dragging the submerged body along the ground, stumbling and fighting his way back.

One way or the other, he intended to pull the body out of the water.

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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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