Chapter 59

Chapter 59

By the time Mel and Shar made their way back to the group, the other women were practically vibrating with interest.

“Tell, what is it lah?” Jan said. “What happened? Is it damaged? If it’s damaged, I kill him, okay?”

Arthur’s eyes narrowed, letting one crossed arm rest near the hilt of his belt knife. Not that he intended to draw it, but if things went bad, he certainly wasn’t going down alone. He’d have to hurt Rani first though, since she still stood behind him. Backwards roll, put the dagger into her foot, maybe take out the Achilles tendon. Grab the spear with the other hand and toss the knife underhand.


“Nothing bad,” Mel said, sharing a smile with Shar. Then, lifting her hand, she showed the somehow clean and unbloodied object to the others. “In fact, he might have given us a clue.”

The group frowned, staring at the amulet. Eventually, Uswah called from her position near the door. “Is it not darker?”

“It is. The bronze has darkened, a little,” Daiyu said. “It was brighter before. And . . . is that a teardrop forming?”

“Looks more like a comma to me,” Shar said. “But a drop, or teardrop, might be right.”

“Deeply creepy. And so not cheesy,” Arthur half-said, half-sung. Tension bled off a little, even as he rhymed. Stupid training, stupid rhyming brain. He didn’t move his hand from the hilt of his knife, though he did uncross his other arm. “I wonder how much blood it can soak up?”

“You’re so weird,” Jan said, the tension in her voice fading as well.

“He’s not wrong, though,” Mel came to his defense, looking at the other jenglot bodies. “I think it might be time to see what happens when we soak our amulet in blood.”

“Not me,” Rani called out, stepping back and giving Arthur his space once more. He glanced over his shoulder to see her holding both hands up with a smile on her lips.

“Not me!” Uswah added. “I’m on watch.”


Denials rang out from the group, except from Mel and Arthur. The pair exchanged looks before they both shrugged at one another. Arthur stood, and the pair wandered over to the nearest corpse.

“So, how we doing this? Blood pool or . . . nope, you’re just going for it, I see,” Arthur said. He watched as Mel dropped the entire amulet right into the gaping wound in the monster’s neck where blood had pooled, going so far as to shove it in and swirl it around to make sure the blood had properly coated it. “Well, that’s one way of doing it.”

In reply, Mel just smirked.




Not long after, the group regathered at the doorway. As they had predicted, no jenglot came down to bother them, even though Uswah had kept watch just in case. The amulet, mildly altered, sat displayed on Mel’s palm for them to marvel at.

Now that he had a chance to properly examine the amulet, even Arthur could guess at the changes. On the backside were little teardrops. The initial golden-bronze colour of the pendant had darkened to a muddy red-bronze, but even as he watched, that colour faded back almost to the original. But one teardrop darkened. It looked almost like a ruby, so glittering was its countenance now.

“Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six . . .” Rani muttered under her breath, her finger hovering over the amulet as she counted.

“Forty-eight,” Mel stated firmly.

“You made me lose count again!” Rani huffed.

“It’s forty-eight, I counted it before. It’s the same now,” Mel said, jutting her lower lip out. “That means we got to kill another forty-five jenglot and soak the amulet in their blood.”

“Yeah, but why not forty-four?” Shar said, frowning. “We had four kills here, but only three teardrops filled.”

Mel shrugged.

Jan snorted. “Maybe the fool broke it.”

“Maybe you’re broken,” Arthur snapped back. “Anyway, ever heard of decay?”

“Maybe my English isn’t that broken lah.”

Uswah waved at them to stop bickering and focus. “Are you thinking of game mechanics again?”

“Exactly. Monster decay speeds up in games, so maybe we just took too long getting the amulet into the blood,” Arthur said. “Whatever it’s soaking up might have faded already—and maybe it’s not just blood, creepy as that is.”

“Souls.” Shar shuddered.

“The Allamah says that none of the monsters we meet or kill in the Tower have souls. Their destruction is mubah,” Uswah said from where she was watching the stairs. “No souls, so nothing to suck up.”

“You’ve seen their eyes, seen how intelligent they are. If not souls, what is it that drives them?” Shar said.

“Malevolence. Demonic forces . . .” Rani said, her voice pitched a little high, almost as though she was mocking the very idea.

“Energy then,” Arthur said, cutting them off. That kind of philosophical discussion could drag on forever, really, and was not something he ever wanted to listen to. “It’s absorbing the energy spent on them. The Tower does that, we know it. So . . .”

“Take too long and there’s not enough.” Mel inclined her head a little at Arthur. “As good an explanation as any.”

“Better than some, which has no real income,” Arthur muttered but then grinned when Mel glared at him. Hey, coming up with rhymes on the fly was hard. “So what now? We rest up and get to the fighting later?”

When no one had a better suggestion, the group pulled away from the door, taking post at various locations on the big floor. They wandered into individual rooms, choosing some privacy. Uswah, still paranoid, lay a few simple traps to alert them if someone tried to sneak in through the main door.

Arthur did the same for his own room before slumping on the inside, back against the door so that it would jar him awake if it was forced open. Then, and only then, did he let out a long-held breath, tension bleeding out of him.

It seemed that their long, long journey was coming to an end. Or at the least, the journey’s end was in sight. Even if they had a lot more jenglot to kill. Still, with seven of them banded together, the danger was significantly reduced now.

Until, and unless, of course, they decided to betray him.

And wasn’t that a cheery thought?

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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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