Chapter 247

Chapter 247

Rather than jumping straight up, Arthur chose to split the difference. He moved halfway up the slope first, then jumped upwards to see what he could expect. Upon sighting the next area, he was suddenly incredibly grateful he hadn't chosen to just jump straight up.

"Seriously, who goes from desert to plains to lava fields?" Arthur said as he dropped to the ground. 

Since he’d had an involuntary nap, he was not feeling particularly tired. Layering Bark Skin but not turning it on and then the Seven Cloud Stepping technique—which was ready to activate—Arthur made his way up the slope. It led onto rolling pools of lava and clear, open trails in between.

He could not help but shake his head.

"Shake-a-leg, start-a-break. We got lava on the left, and magma on the right," half-singing to himself, he carefully edged along. 

Whoever the designers of this platform were, they had to be sadistic. There was no other reason to set a fire moose on him the level below, burn him to a nice crispy bit, and then put him in a lava field next. Especially when, the moment he had stepped in, the temperature had shot up.

The only good news was, as far as he could see, there were no monsters. Or perhaps that was bad news. Definitely bad news.

It was this paranoia and the ensuing constant scanning from side to side that allowed Arthur to catch the salamander rising out of the pool of lava, moments before it spat a glob of fire at him.

Jerking backwards, Arthur felt the heat of the ball of magma pass him by, inches away from impact. With the creature a good dozen feet away, it was too far to kill with a spear strike. And worse, even if he did kill it, the damn body was likely to fall inside the magma. Since there was no real gain to be had, Arthur made a decision.

"Time to run, for the sun!" 

Starting out at a jog, Arthur hurried his way through, the spear held upwards and ready to deflect the globs of magma if necessary. Of course, breaking apart those fast-moving spheres were the very last thing he wanted to do, what with the likelihood of them just exploding on impact. Dodging and outrunning the salamanders—there were now more than one—seemed the best option, and it helped that they required a bit of time to refill their attacks.

Moving fast, head on the swivel and the Seven Cloud qinggong technique active; Arthur tore through the level. Sizzling globs of magma would fly through the air on occasion. Juking left, right, and sometimes even directly upward, Arthur dodged as best he could. 

The first time one of the globs of fire impacted him, it was on his back. If not for the sudden shove and change of energy, he might not even have known it. And, of course, unable to check on the damage, he could only keep running and hope that it hadn't frayed the ropes holding his burden together. Or burnt away the rest of his clothes or opened a gap in his backpack to tumble out all his beast stones.

That thought almost had him run right into a ball of flame, an instinctive block and twist of his spear deflecting it just enough to have it skip over his shoulder rather than impact him. It still burst apart slightly, leaking magma onto his arm and shoulder and causing Arthur to hiss and his grip to spasm tight and almost drop his spear.

Rather than stop, though, he kept running. Nothing good would come of stopping.

Seeing a trio of salamanders get ready to fire on him as he neared a particularly narrow portion of the trail, a trail that Arthur could swear was set up to ensure someone would get burnt, he waited. Waited until he saw the first one spit and the second follow before he jumped to the right.

Right into the middle of the lava pit, forming a cloud beneath his feet.

What he had not expected was how hard it would be to do so. The cloud struggled and fought him as he attempted to pull moisture underneath his feet. He almost failed, and only a last-minute surge of energy managed to form the unstable footing. Even then, he felt the entire chi construction give way beneath his foot as he pushed off, landing back on the thin trail and nearly stumbling face-first onto the other side and the lava pool there.

Cursing, Arthur let himself fall and scrape the ground, ducking low to dodge another magma ball before he pushed himself upward and began running again. He was sweating, desperately, over the near-miss and cursing himself out for not realising how dangerous it was. Of course the Seven Cloud Stepping technique would struggle here. It needed moisture after all.

And the one thing lava fields lacked was moisture itself.

Yet, even as he cursed himself and dodged, Arthur could not help but turn over the thought. Sure, he could not use water, but the technique itself was based off Tower energy. It was pulling together insubstantial items together, binding them all so that he could step on them in ways that would be impossible otherwise.

So why did it have to be water?

There was, after all, a lot of smoke here.

Breathing harshly, his body working overtime to heal him as he drew in poison from the air, Arthur could not help but turn the idea over in his mind as he ran and dodged. A part of him realised, for the first time, why this floor in particular was put here. It was a way of pushing the climbers, to make them think about their techniques. To make them better, stronger. 

And reward them, of course.

He grinned as he felt the fur on his back jostle, the pack pulling at him as he ran. A part of him wanted to lean into the test, to try utilising the smoke as a foothold. Another, more sensible portion noted that doing so could see him dead.

So he compromised.

Running, dodging, and wielding the technique while letting the Bark Skin method drop aside, Arthur focused on pulling at the smoke. Trying to build it around him, near his feet and where he would land as he ran. He focused on a spot a good distance away, so that when he stepped out—still on the trail, just a few inches higher—he should have been fine.



Magma ball.


Missed dodge. Hissing smoke and another ruined shirt...


Caught up in his tests, Arthur almost didn't realise he was near the end of the platform. Rather than a simple ascent, Arthur leapt, forming the smoky foothold. Kicking off the cloud of dust and soot to grab the edge of the cliff and haul himself upwards, so that he could see the next challenge in this hellhole of a level.

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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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