“If we keep meeting like this, I’m going to want a name,” Arthur said, clutching his side. The bleeding wasn’t stopping and he needed to fix that soon. Though maybe making sure Budo didn’t wake up was more important. Or perhaps dealing with the three girls in front of him.
Damn. Blood loss really was kicking his ass.
“A name? How about I kick your—” the Northern Chinese girl fell silent as their leader held a hand up, cutting her off.
“Daiyu. Enough.” The leader stared at Arthur’s his bleeding torso, then shrugged. “Sure, why not. I’m Mel. That’s Daiyu. Rani.”
“Arthur.” He offered them a weak grin, then realised weakness wasn’t just in his ability to smile. His legs gave way and to his surprise, Rani caught him and helped him slowly sit with his back to a tree. Before he knew it, she had his shirt pulled up and a gauze bandage pushed against his side.
“Press on this,” she commanded. “Harder. No, harder!”
Hissing as the woman clamped down on his hand, Arthur found himself unable to breathe. Eventually the spike of pain faded, leaving him able to take slow, hissing breaths. The bandage itself was soaked through almost immediately with his blood. But resting on the ground and with the bleeding staunched a little, he was able to focus better.
Not that the math was hard. Women: not trying to kill him. Budo: tried to kill him.
So, kill Budo.
“Just give me a second. I just need . . .” Searching along his waist, he finally found the survival knife he had picked up from the forest corpse a few weeks ago. A flick of his wrist popped the sheath open, only for his hand to be clamped down upon by Rani, who had been looking for a bandage to wrap around his chest.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she said, her voice dangerously calm.
Maybe he was a little more loopy with blood loss than he had thought. Everything was rather hazy, but he was trying his best. “Going to stab Budo. Make sure he doesn’t wake up and finish the job.” A pause, then he added. “Of killing me. Trying to kill me.” Another pause. “Might have succeeded actually . . .”
He shivered, from the cold more than anything else. With adrenaline wearing off, he found himself shuddering more and more at how close things had gotten.
“Shit. Shock. I need to warm him up. He needs blood too,” Rani spoke up, pointing at Arthur. “If we don’t want him dead, we’re going to have to give him a Blood Replacing pill.”
“No way. Do you know how expensive those things are?” Daiyu snapped. “I’m not paying for it.”
“He did get us Budo. Which means we do owe him,” Mel said.
“Can’t owe a dead man. And he’s about to die.”
“You can’t be serious!” Rani said, having released him as she had finished wrapping the gauze and bandage around his body during the argument. “I know you don’t like men, but he’s done nothing to us. We can’t just let him die.”
“Watch me,” Daiyu muttered.
Arthur, having heard the argument, felt something flash in him and he raised a finger, pointing it at the bickering girls. The fact that the same hand was still clutching a knife helped emphasise his point, he figured. Also, he’d forgotten it was there till he started talking.
“Look here. Just take him and leave me. If I find you, we’ll call it as you owing me one. Got it? And if I die . . . well, she’s right. Can’t owe a dead man,” Arthur said.
“Why should we deal with you?” Daiyu sniffed.
“Bold.” Mel had a little smile on her face. “Sure. Deal. We’ll owe you one, if you survive. Girls, grab Budo. We’ve got some questions for him.”
“I—” Rani began to protest, only to fall silent as Arthur turned his head to her, giving her a tight grin.
“Look, it’s the Tower. The strong survive, the weak die. So, you get going and I’ll get to showing you all. I’m not weak.”
Rani bit her lip but eventually nodded and stood up. “You need to stitch that wound close, but we don’t have dissolving stitches. And if you do manage to survive, cultivator bodies heal too fast for normal stitches, so you’re just going to have to suffer. It’ll leave a divot in your body, but it should even out. Eventually.”
“Gotcha. Now, shoo . . .” Arthur waved his hand weakly, continuing to stay slumped against the tree. He stayed in that position until the trio had left, allowing him the peace and ability to do what he really needed to do.
“Not much refined energy,” Arthur groaned, checking his own core. Thankfully, Focused Strike did not use refined energy but raw Tower energy, so he had not touched his store as yet. That meant all he had to do was focus within, pull it out and begin the process of accelerating his healing.
Except this time, eyes closed, he focused first on dealing with the open wound, closing and stitching together blood vessels and other massively haemorrhaging wounds. At least, that’s what he thought he was doing—it was not as though he were pulling skeins of yarn with chopsticks apart. No, that would be easy. This was much more complicated, like picking out different kinds of noodles, while badly blindfolded and colourblind.
On the other hand, accelerating his overall healing replaced some of the blood he had lost, which cleared his head. That meant he was less likely to faint, which made the process he was undergoing slightly easier.
Step one. Stop the bleeding. Between clotting, bandages, and him finally managing to knot split arteries together, he managed that process. It was not perfect, but it was better than nothing. Next step, and the last partial point of refined energy he had left available was to shore up the wound itself.
After that, he was going to have to cultivate and refine energy from the surroundings. And hope that no monster came across his body before it chose to eat him.