Up the tower and seven more jenglot murdered in short order. An amulet dipped in blood, until the tears on the backface were filled and there were but two more left to fill. The group stood around the most recent corpse as it slowly dissolved away, staring at one another.
“What happens now?” Arthur said.
“We kill two more jenglot,” Shar said flatly. “Then we go back, with our prize.”
“Don’t think they have respawned already, right?” Arthur said.
“Not in this tower. But there are the ones outside,” Mel said. “We have to clear them anyway.”
“If we can find them, lah,” Jan said darkly. “If they hide in the woods, then banyak susah lah. Tough for us to fight.”
“There’s also a lot more than four at a time,” Arthur said carefully. “We can deal with four, but when there’s more . . .” He didn’t have to finish the thought since they’d recently experienced what happened when they were surprised by the jenglot.
“We also have a place we can retreat to,” Mel said, gesturing at the tower. “If we work to thin them out as they rush us, and then pull back and fight them in the tower itself, we should be able to contain them.”
“Use the doors as chokepoints?” Shar said, musingly.
“Trap them,” Uswah murmured. “Including the ground-floor entrance.”
“All good ideas,” Mel said. “We’ve got a long climb down. And we won’t want to start until tomorrow at the earliest anyway. So let’s think about what we can do, and then do it.”
“I want my clothes back,” Rani muttered, pulling at her blouse that was made of patched-in pieces than anything else.
“How do you think I feel, with you all using my extra shirts?” Arthur complained.
“Probably grateful we haven’t discussed why you had your bag ready, when none of us did,” Shar said pointedly.
Arthur just shrugged. They all knew by now that he had been planning on leaving. He saw no point in hiding that, even from Mel. He was stuck with them anyway.
“Then we best get moving.” Mel gestured to the staircase before leading the group down.
Descending took significantly less time than ascending did. Knowing that the floors had been cleared of monsters meant that the group could skip down the staircase with impunity, never worrying about potential ambushes. And while the memory of monsters arriving from behind still kept everyone warily verifying doorways as they passed them, it was more of a reflex rather than the wary creeping they had undertaken to ascend.
Once they checked the last few floors more thoroughly—an easy thing to do with them being large, empty hallways—the group verified that the final door was closed before choosing to take that time to rest. Spreading out across the bottom floor in their respective spots, one after the other, the team fell into cultivation practice, refilling empty energy reserves.
In short order, Arthur had refilled his own reserves. The new Spirit trait had, unfortunately, not made cultivating itself any easier, since the energy he was cultivating was the Tower’s and not his. His trait only made already-cultivated energy easier to handle, making it “sticky” to his senses.
Still, he did not have a huge pool unlike some of the women. One aspect of his Enhanced Eyesight trait, he was coming to realize, was that he was beginning to gain a sense of the strength of his companions. Whether it was just a by-product of being with them so long or an increase in his Spirit attribute, he felt he had a better internal grasp of their individual dantian.
And, boy, was he low on the totem pole. Judging from the glow that someone like Mel had, he was only half as strong as her, and the others were at least as strong or noticeably stronger than him. He couldn’t grasp the amount of refined energy they had—probably, a higher Mind stat was required for that—but he assumed they were all at least as strong there too.
Casting those concerns aside, he made sure to wander over to Uswah. He had questions about his most recent cultivation attempt, just like he did after every session. And since she was here, asking her for help was simple enough.
Only when she had finished answering his queries and set him on his next step to getting better at utilising and filtering out Yang chi did he return to his original position to pick out a monster core. He could process his cultivated energy into refined energy, but considering the monster core he held would do the same thing much faster and not knowing how long they’d all be waiting, he felt better powering up this way.
Falling into the routine of drawing power from the core, he was surprised when the monster core finally crumbled that everyone else was done and moving about, putting into action their earlier discussion.
A simple lever trap with an attached parang above the door. Rope—his rope!—being tied up and added to the space across the door, blocking movement. The rope crisscrossed and was anchored in place by the broken portion of a spear, leaving only a small opening to the right that the group could duck through when the door was thrown open. Additional loops were set there, where metal pitons that looked all too familiar were waiting, probably to help hold the door shut.
Where did they get those metal sticks? Casting his gaze around, Arthur’s eyes widened.
“My backpack! You tore up my backpack,” he cried.
“Firstly, that backpack was given to you by us. So it’s more our backpack,” Shar said, coming over to Arthur as he walked to the shredded item. “Secondly, we needed the materials. It’s not as though there’s much in here we can use.”
Arthur had to grudgingly, if only internally, admit that they were not wrong. After all, the stone slabs that made up the tables were attached to the wall. There were no chairs to be found. On the other hand . . .
“How about breaking the doors down?” Arthur said. Then, he froze, for he noticed the wide grin on Shar’s face. “What?”
“Thanks for volunteering! Uswah is upstairs. You can join her.”
Cursing that he had fallen into such an elementary trap, Arthur still found himself complying. Not as though he could do much good here. Without materials, their only preparations were either what they were already doing or more cultivating.
“Fine. But I get another backpack, if we find one outside,” he grumbled.
Shar nodded magnanimously, leaving him to tromp upstairs to join Uswah.