Chapter 164

Chapter 164

“What are you doing?” Mel whispered frantically to Arthur as they walked back down the hallway, leaving the second-floor Lotuses still standing in the dining hall, stunned by Arthur’s abrupt departure.

“Testing her,” Arthur replied, keeping his voice low too. “And Jaswinder failed.” He shrugged. “So far. We’ll see if she recovers.”

“But we need her.”

“No, we need her people. We don’t need her,” Arthur said. “If I have to, we’ll leave this building empty till Amah Si sends more up. It’s not the end of the world.” By that point, they’d made it most of the way back down the corridor and he started knocking on the doors of the larger bedrooms.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for Casey. I’m still owed a cultivation manual, along with some cores,” he replied. “After that, we all need to spend some time cultivating to get up to speed.” He gestured back the way they had come. “In the meantime, we can spread word to the rest of the Lotuses and let them all stew on it.”

Mel stared at Arthur as he poked his head into each room after not receiving any reply to his knocks, before moving on. Just as he was about to rap on the final door, it swung open, revealing a sweaty and annoyed-looking heiress.

“What?” she said.

Arthur could not help but notice the sword in Casey’s hand. A real sword, not the single-edged, guard-less parang many Malaysians used. The parang was the Malaysian equivalent of the machete, a little longer and thinner than its Western counterpart, but similar in function. It was easy to acquire, plus cheap and effective as a weapon, on top of being a worthy tool.

Swords, on the other hand, while less restricted than firearms, still required a degree of skill to wield and were looked at more askance. While local police forces saw the necessity of weapons training, they much preferred that any training was conducted in private, not in public places. As such, anyone seen carrying swords or other melee weapons in public could expect to be harassed.

On top of the necessary skill and a suitable place to train, there was also a certain image that came with sword wielders. The parang was a weapon of the everyman, of thugs and the desperate. Sword wielders were either trained combatants and rich Tower climbers or, more likely, wannabes more intent on image than practicality.

All of which meant that, for people like Arthur, the spear was always going to be more commonplace.

“Just checking if you have my cultivation method?” Arthur said. After his initial automatic sweep of her body, he found his gaze wanting to drift lower. It wasn’t that he wanted to be rude, but the fact that she was wearing no more than a sports top that bared her midriff and shoulders and tight yoga pants was making it really hard, even with the cool Yin chi that poured through him.

He could almost hear Jan cackling, making jokes about his manhood, as he stared into Casey’s eyes. Which were, in their own way, just as dangerous.

“No. Once we have it, you’ll hear from me. Probably later today. I’m sure it’ll arrive soon,” Casey said firmly. “And before you ask, no, I haven’t heard anything more from Rick. He left right after you did.” She paused as a droplet of sweat ran down the side of her face, making her swipe at it. “Good job at handling him, by the way. He’s a little too arrogant.”

You all are. Arthur chose not to mention that thought, his gaze tracking the hand that she’d used to wipe herself. He yanked his gaze right back up, only to catch Casey looking back at him, her own eyes narrowed. “Right,” he said. “In that case, I’m going to cultivate.”

“Whatever.” She slammed the door shut, leaving Arthur shaking his head.

How rude.

Turning away, he found Mel staring at him, arms crossed.

“What?” he asked.

“Don’t flirt with that Chin girl,” she said. “She’s the golden goose that you do not want to fuck.”

“I wasn’t thinking that!” Arthur protested.

“Mm-hmmm . . .” Arms crossed, she continued, “Who is this Rick?”

“Oh, that’s a good question.” Waving her to follow him, he walked towards his own door, explaining as he went. By the time he was done, he was inside his room, having propped his spear against the bed and rolled out a meditation mat on the floor

“So you want me to deal with him when he arrives?” Mel said, guessing at Arthur’s objective after he was done speaking.

“Yup!” Arthur gave her a thumbs up. “Delay him a bit, have Uswah work out who he is. Get some information on him, what he’s been doing. We’ll probably want payment on a per-floor basis, either way. Don’t think we need a time limit if he’s actually good with those guns, I’m sure he’s on a limit himself.” He paused, then added, “Oh yeah, and you probably should check out the new recruit.”


“Blame Jan.” Pointing over Mel’s shoulder through the open doorway, he watched as Jan froze at the sound of her name. She turned around to catch Mel glaring at her. Jan offered a weak wave, making Mel roll her eyes. Yao Jing, who had stepped out right after Jan, looked between the two women and slowly slunk backwards into the room.

“And what the hell are you going to do while I do everything you’re supposed to do, Clan Head?” Mel bit the last two words off, making Arthur wince a little.

“Cultivate, of course.” He fished out the pouch he kept his cores in and waved it at her. “I got to get stronger, and you’ve got a little more time to do that yourself.” He hesitated, then tilted his head to the side. “I assume you are coming? Up?”

“About time you asked.” She sighed. “What exactly were you going to do if I said no?”

“What I’ve been doing since the start. Making it up as I go along.” He shrugged. “But I figured you and Amah Si had a plan, for when you found the clan seal.”

“If you could call it that,” Mel said. “It’s not as though we were sure we could get one. And we certainly weren’t thinking we would have the opportunities you’ve gotten. Or the need to move so fast. But . . .”


“We’ll spread the Durians.” Her lips twisted at the name, and Arthur couldn’t help but chuckle quietly. “So long as you keep your word and help the Lotuses, we’ll integrate them in. Make a clan that’s for everyone, not just for the rich.” There was a fervour in her eyes now, though she spoke softly. “We’ll make sure no one takes advantage of others again. We’ll build a company that benefits everyone, not just the rich. Not if we can help it.”

“But we’ll take them for all they’re worth before, right?” Arthur said carefully as he eyed Mel.

“Well, yes.” Mel blinked, shuttering her emotions again after a moment. “So I’ll do your work, but I do need to train too.”

“Promise I won’t be adding that much more to your plate. We’ll eventually have a proper setup.”

“Good. Now, go. Cultivate,” she said. “You are right, you do need to get stronger.”

With that she turned and walked out, pausing at the door before closing it. Arthur frowned. Well, that was enlightening. If a little scary. He’d have to keep in mind that his allies also had objectives of their own, some of which might one day conflict with his.

But that was a consideration for another time. For now, he had cores to cultivate and a cultivation manual to read. Whenever it finally arrived.

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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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