Chapter 86

Chapter 86

“Who the hell are you?” Arthur could not help but ask, staring at the man. They had less than a dozen feet separating them, a short enough distance that either one could have jumped at the other and struck out. Yet the presence of the patrolling guards, the knowledge they would be killed for breaking the peace, stymied physical violence.

Leaving only the verbal and emotional. The truly dangerous, painful ones being wielded. Now it was a battle of threats.

“You don't know me? Hah! Maybe that's why you dare steal from me. I'm Boss Choi.” Smacking his chest, he leaned forwards. “How you get my kris?”

“Picked it up along the way,” Arthur said blithely. He let his hand fall onto the hilt, running a finger along the filigreed handle, feeling the carvings of the wooden hilt pressing into his bare fingertips. The cold of the metal and the enchantments pulled away at his Yin-dulled body heat.

“Don’t lie.”

Arthur shrugged. He kept his left hand turned away a little, fist clenched to hide the seal. Not that it was easy to spot, not with the bandage he’d wrapped around it, stained with dirt and blood. He knew better than to allow such information to escape, and the simple bandage was both innocuous and practical.

“Okay. You don’t answer me, I cut answers out from your little friends,” Boss Choi said, grinning.

“You do that, you declare war with the Thorned Lotuses.” Arthur’s voice was cold. 

To his surprise, Boss Choi just laughed. When he finally stopped and noted Arthur’s puzzled mien, he shook his head. “Ants. I can crush them anytime.”

“But why start a fight you don’t need. Let them go. We can discuss the return of your kris. For a suitable reward,” Arthur offered the man a tight smile. Maybe playing mercenary might work here. He certainly wasn’t giving away the powerful weapon for nothing. Not when, he knew, they’d be warring with one another anyway after Boss Choi learned what happened to his brother.

“No bargaining. You give it back and tell me where is my brother.”

“I told you, I picked this up,” Arthur said.

“You lie again, and I start cutting fingers,” Boss Choi snarled.

Arthur surveyed the crowd of onlookers behind the thug. Some looked disgusted, others a little embarrassed that they were not saying or doing anything to stop this. Mostly though, they just looked curious.

The Tower was a hard place, and whilst torture was uncommon, most knew better than to get involved in other people’s business. Better to focus on themselves and their own survival. Or end up floating down the river, a kris shoved in their back.

No help from there then.

Also, no sign of his friends. Captured or not.

“Why should I believe you’ve got my friends?” Arthur said, branded fist closing and opening in nervousness. Could he risk it? Would he risk it?

“I no lie lah, not like you.” Smirking, Boss Choi took a step forward, only for Arthur to back off two steps. He stopped, eyes narrowing. “Lying is bad, for us leaders.”

“Tell that to our politicians,” Arthur muttered.

“We are cultivators. Better than any politicians,” Boss Choi snapped. “You can say I lying. But you run, and I hurt them. And then, I’ll get my kris. And the truth.”

Commotion, from the crowd. Arthur’s eyes narrowed, seeing a guard turn the corner, moving towards the two. He hesitated for a fraction of a second. Could he, would he, wait? Give up the kris, solidify the enmity?

Or do what he had said he would do. He had ordered.

When put that way, what other choice was there?

He turned and ran as the guard approached, chased by the shouts and curses of Boss Choi. It was time to get this done.

And trust in his team.


“Lai Tai Kor!” Arthur skidded into the room, sling-shooting himself through the door with one outstretched hand as he waved the other maniacally. He barged right past the queue of beginners, more than a few glaring at him. Attendant Lai was busy working with a customer, but he looked up at being called.

“Who . . . oh, you!” Attendant Lai exclaimed in surprise, as Arthur pelted forward. 

Before Arthur could speak, he found a hand landing on his shoulder, pushing him back. The man who had just been served growled at Arthur, breathing right into his face, which made Arthur flinch. Someone needed some fresh mint gum.

“Eh. You doing what? Go line up, lah,” the customer barked.

“I got to ask him a question.” Fishing into his pouch, Arthur grabbed a small handful of beast cores and shoved the handful into the customer’s chest. Automatically grabbing at the sharp objects, the man’s jaw dropped as he stared at the handful of cores, then bent over quickly to snatch at the couple that had slipped his fingers and bounced on the ground. Already, others were diving to grab at the cores, forcing him to pay attention to the potential thieves rather than Arthur.

“I see you’ve done well,” Attendant Lai said.

“After traipsing through hell.” Arthur paused, then inclined his head. “But I have got something important to ask. And register.” He hesitated for a second and clenched the fist of his bandaged left hand. The knowledge would escape soon enough, no matter what he did. Might as well go on as he meant to. “But I need you to tell me how to do something.”

“Of course. That’s my job.”

“How do I register this?” Yanking the bandage off, which tore at his skin a little, he opened his fingers wide to display the clan brand on his skin.

“Is that—it is!” Jaw dropping low, Attendant Lai leaned forward and grabbed at Arthur’s hand greedily, peering closely. “This is real? Because I tell you, if you are trying to cheat . . .”

“It’s real.”

Taai si. Hou taai si.

“I know. Now, how do I register this?”

The attendant frowned, before he inclined his head. “One second. This . . . I can’t do. I’ll get someone who can.”

Arthur nodded, and Lai waved a hand behind the desk. Then, shooting one last incredulous look at Arthur’s still extended hand, he hurried away, stopping only long enough to speak briefly to a guard that had appeared from another room before moving deeper into the clan center. 

Leaving Arthur to stand alone, watched by the suddenly very curious group of cultivators. Many who were now eyeing him with significant, predatory interest. 

Back to blog

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.

Join Tower One for $5/month to read 3 weeks of advanced chapters or Tower Two for $10/month to read 8 weeks of advanced chapters.

Want to read new chapters in your inbox?

Receive new chapters of Climbing the Ranks either daily or weekly in your inbox.