Chapter 212

Chapter 212

Way too early in the morning the next day, Arthur was below, slicing open another leech to get at its body. The intervening hours and the slow dispersal of the bodies meant that they should, if they worked hard, get most of the shards. Shards only for the most part, though the occasional full stone was found.

As he sliced downwards, his hand slipped and the kris sliced across the edge of his hand, taking a chunk of flesh off the fleshy part of his thumb. Wincing as the skin flapped open, he was grateful he was utilizing a skinning knife rather than the kris, having switched out due to the sheer slickness of working with so much gore.

He watched as the blood poured from his wound, joining the sticky gore that covered the rest of his hands, the viscera and blood of multiple beasts, the sap that many had managed to pick up as they fell or the slime from the water itself. As for the smell… best not to even consider it.

“Your turn…” Arthur said, after a moment and unhunched his back to walk over to the only piece of non-bloody, non-corpse ridden land around them. He handed the skinning knife with a casual flip that nearly sent the blade flying as his slick hand fumbled the motion.

“You cut yourself,” said Mel. “Again.”

“I haven’t had any kopi yet,” Arthur replied.

“You haven’t had any since you came to the Tower. Why’s today any different?” she said. “Anyway, I’m sure I’ve got a pack of Old Town 3-in-1 somewhere.”

“Instant.” Arthur made a face.

“You know, almost everyone else drinks it.”

“Almost everyone else never had my grandfather’s,” Arthur said, smiling a little at the cherished memory. Not that he had many of them, but proper coffee; bought from a coffee roaster, ground down and then stored in Milo tins and then brewed at home before an unhealthy amount of sugar was added and the whole thing stored away in the refrigerator for the next day; was one of his foundational beliefs.

He wouldn’t dirty himself with instant.

Rather than answer him, Mel took the knife and glanced down at his wounded hand at the same time. She cleaned the blade by bending down and washing it in the water. “You should at least put some pressure on that.”

“I’ll heal it in a bit,” Arthur said, shrugging.

“You’re over-relying on that technique of yours.”

“Maybe. But I can also work on learning what it’s doing by giving it different kinds of circumstances to work on.” It was really weird how the technique managed to pull his body together. Or perhaps it was the Tower.

You would assume, with an open wound that wasn’t stitched together that new flesh would grow over. He might even end up with a divot in his hand. He’d seen that often enough in some of the industry workers, those who worked in industries that hadn’t bothered to modernize because the work was too dangerous or too finnicky for robots. People were cheaper, especially if you paid them under the table.

But here, in the Tower, that flap of flesh would slowly pull itself upwards. It’d stick itself back towards him, in some way that he had not managed to fully understand. Almost like a guiding hand took hold of the flesh and pulled it back, knowing where it should be.


It didn’t always happen. If the cut was too much, where the joining portions wasn’t sufficient. When the flap was jolted around too much or was reinjured. If the portion just didn’t matter, he assumed, like portions of his skin along his calves where it was half as much bunnions.

Pulsing his intention and focus through his body, Arthur could feel the Tower energy coursing through his limbs, pulling from the environment and down his meridians, breaking off from the major ones into smaller and smaller branches till it merged with his very body and worked its magic on him.

One portion of his attention was focused on the feel of the energy, another he kept on their surroundings. After dealing with so many – so, so many – leeches, the creatures had chosen to back off. Now, the concern were other, bigger predators seeking them out.

Which was why he had his spear in hand and his gaze flicking from side-to-side. Keen Sight as a trait was powerful in this regard, allowing him to pierce the shadows, to pick out camouflaged monsters like the snake or geckos that hid, waiting. Or even, to notice the ripple in the water, when something a little larger was coming along.

“Water.” His voice was calm, almost absent minded as he watched. No reason to panic.

Mel didn’t, of course. By this point, hours after they had begun processing the bodies, they were bone weary and used to these attacks. She picked the spear she’d left behind up, turned and thrust behind almost without looking.

Aimed Strike was not fancy. It wasn’t even a proper technique, as far as Arthur was concerned. It was almost useless outside of the Tower, because it relied upon the Tower to aid its use so greatly. It was also extremely costly. All reasons why Arthur had never even considered learning it.

But it did have some major advantages.

Including allowing Mel to attack the swimming eel and striking it without seeing it properly. She skewered the creature and then pulled, lifting the six foot purple skinned, yellow spotted creature out by its neck. She slammed it a couple of times into the tree, dodging the flailing tail before it stopped moving and then finished gutting it and tossing it back into the water before continuing her skinning.

An hour, and the patch of skin had stopped bleeding. It was not reattached, though it was well on its way. Mel was walking back over, the last of the monster shards being stuffed into her pocket as she returned. “Time to go.”

“Give me a moment,” Arthur said. He didn’t move though, till she was on proper ground and ready to take over the watch, then he began to bandage his hand, pushing the flesh back into place. He wasn’t entirely certain he’d gained a lot from his contemplations of the healing process, but he had gained… something.

All he could do was push ahead. There was a woman who was counting on him to progress their healing technique and he would not let her down.

Perhaps, more than anything, that was what it meant to be a leader. To do the best for your people, no matter your own doubts.

Or at least, the leader that he wanted to be.




“Damn monyet!” Arthur snarled, dodging behind a tree as a clump of rotting food sailed past where he had been. He glared upwards at the monkey’s that were hooting and hollering, daring him to stick his head out. Switching hands and grabbing his sling, Arthur dropped a stone in it and began to whirl it around without looking. Sufficient momentum needed to be built before he could loose after all.

Behind him, a short distance away, Mel was hiding and doing the same, though her fumbling was a little more clumsy. As the leader of her own team, one that was balanced before with actual ranged attackers, she had obviously not grown as used to wielding the sling as he had.

“I thought they didn’t like marshlands,” Arthur snarled. Not that he was actually trained in the lives and ecosystems of Tower creatures, but he was sure he remembered them being an unusual add on this floor.

“You’re lucky.”

“Damn my luck!” Stepping out and then jerking back, letting the monkey’s waste their ammunition, he waited a beat before stepping out again and releasing the stone. He watched it arc through the air and miss by a good foot, receiving the splattered return of other fruit as he ducked back. “I need more practice.”

“You’re going to get it,” Mel said, amused. She could be, since the monkeys were mostly targeting him. Putting her own words to action, she sent a stone through the air and struck one of the monkey’s in the shoulder. It screamed and cradled the injured arm, wobbling away, it’s affliction unnoticed by the others.

Cursing, Arthur began spinning his sling once more, gaze darting from side-to-side in search of other ways around. He spotted a quartet of the creatures attempting to flank him and stepping away a little to give himself more space, he sent his stone winging over. It caught one of the monkey’s admist a leap, bowling it over and sending it crashing down.

More screeching, more screaming and even greater fury as they realized what he had done. Arthur smiled grimly, dropping another stone in his sling and spinning it up again even as the horde rushed forwards. This was going to suck.




“Why do they hate me so much?” Arthur grumbled, splashing more water on himself. Once they’d run out of easily accessible projectiles, they’d switched to bio-generated ones. Much less directly deadly, especially since the Tower didn’t bother with things like bacterial plagues or infections.

The battle – if you could call being pelted by a bunch of unmentionables a battle with few enough opportunities to return fire – had ended with a draw. After knocking off about four of his hair assailants permanently, the rest of the injured and angry monkey’s had left.

Leaving the pair to collect their winnings and then for Arthur to find a swifter flow of water to wash up. Thankfully, soap was not hard to come across. Not just from the Tower itself but from the creation of the smart and enthusiastic.

Swiping himself down once more, he dunked his clothing once again and then proceeded to wring it all out. Mel glanced over one last time, watching as he draped the still wet article over his body before he began to buckle on his armour.

“Didn’t think you were the kind to know how to wash your own clothes,” Mel said.

“Heh. I’m no rich kid.”

“Really? Because most training camps for the Tower are meant for the rich.”

“Not my tsifu’s.” Arthur shook his head a little. “He’s old school.” He paused, and added. “Real old school. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was squatting there. Place was made of corrugated metal and salvaged wood. No fans, you cooked with coal fireplaces and you liked it.”

Mel blinked, looking at him and Arthur shrugged. “I think he figured those of us old enough to be there full-time between our other jobs needed to learn to rough it.”

She grunted. “Unlike Rick. Or the princess.”

“Cassie?” He said, surprised. He’d not heard that nickname. “She hasn’t done that bad. Doesn’t complain.”

“Doesn’t do much unless she remembers.” Mel sniffed. “Her man does it mostly for her.”

“Well, I’m sure I’d be lazy too if I had a helper.”

“There’s a difference between having a servant and… well… what she does. You can tell, she’s grown up with them,” Mel said.


“How what?”

“How can you tell?” Arthur clarified.

“It’s just the way she moves, the way she reacts. It’s a thing,” Mel said, waving her hands around as she struggled to answer his question.

“A thing.”

“You’ll know it when you see it.”

“Except, I’ve seen her and I’ve not seen it.”

Mel just shook her head, refusing to get dragged in further to that conversation. Arthur finished buckling, then hefted the backpack he slung over his shoulder. It was rather heavy, what with the various necessities for camping and living outdoors including multiple sets of clothing and the rope they’d used to tie themselves off in the trees.

No tent though, and no gear for cooking food. Not necessary in this case, though they did bring water filters to at least make sure they could wet their whistle. One advantage of Tower bodies – not needing to eat directly.

Even if most did, if nothing else because the habit was hard to break. And all too tasty.

“So. One more day?” Arthur said.

“One more day. Good haul so far though.”

Arthur could not help but nod. So far, the third floor was a slog and a pain, but not too dangerous.

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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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