Chapter 240

Chapter 240

Arthur twisted his body, felt his leg give way and found himself collapsing over the injured ankle. It didn’t stop him though as he adjusted the angle of his thrust, catching the mutated ant lion as it leapt in the underbelly and tearing through the softer chitin within. Speared through its body but still moving, it tore itself off the spear as it fell, twitching to the ground.

Panting, Arthur twisted and caught the next ant lion that went for his neck with his forearm. He felt the pincers close on his arm, crushing the bracers and hand at the same time. Pulling his hand towards him and then surging sideways, he slammed the trapped creature into the sand, watching as the curved body imprinted on the ground.

Once. Twice. He kept slamming it into the soft ground, feeling the body give way beneath his thrashing motions until it pulped and stopped moving. Rolling over, the insect still gripping him tight, Arthur scrambling to come to his knees and scan for additional threats.

As he’d counted before, this was the last one. Eighteen corpses lay on the ground around him, the last ant lion still hanging from his arm and occasionally twitching. Grimacing, he ground the spear deeper into the ground to ensure it wouldn’t slide off before gripping the ant lion pincer’s on one side and attempted to work it free. It took him a minute or so, angling the body for leverage and even putting it between his legs before he managed to work it free, having to stop at times as the pincers dug deeper.

Released at last, he untied his bracer and stared at the depressed flesh underneath it, watching as the entire arm began to mottle and turn purple. He pressed against his arm a little, wincing in pain at the tenderness before forcing himself to continue, tracing the edges of the injury.

“Not broken, I think. Maybe cracked?” Arthur muttered to himself. “And, I’m cracked for talking to myself, of course.”

Not that it would stop him.

Shifting again after he retied his bracer, gingerly, over his wound, he checked his ankle that had given way. That initial ant lion had come off during the skirmish, but his leg throbbed, the area around his boot ballooning to comic proportions and pushing against the laces.

“Oh, that’s not good.” Arthur pressed against it, shaking his head. The first attack had been bad, but the subsequent monsters seemed to sense his injury and had continued their assault, managing to inflict another scraping bite and a couple of ramming attempts on it during the battle. All of which had resulted in this, his final indignity. “Can’t tell if it’s broken, but it’s definitely not right.”

Not much he could do about it. Leaving it strapped in was incredibly uncomfortable and painful, but he was certain that it was the best option from what he recalled. Releasing his ankle now would likely mean he wouldn’t even be able to fit his foot back in the boot later. And he wasn’t losing these enchanted boots if he had any say of the matter.

Though, as he fingered the ragged edges where the sharp insides of the pincers had punched holes in the outer layer, he might have to give it up if it kept getting damaged like this.

Pushing aside that thought, he turned his attention to the corpses around him, pulling out his skinning knife. He reached for the nearest corpse, using the edge of his knife to peel the body apart and search for the monster stone.

The monster stone within was an inch in circumference, a rough edged sphere that glowed from within with flickering blue, yellow and green lights. He raised it to his eyes, staring at the lights that glinted and then smiled. Definitely larger and pulsing with a greater store of refined energy than the previous second floor.

He grinned, slipping open the laces of his pouch and then moving on to the next. You’d think that with all the technology of the modern world, they would have come up with something more than reinforced leather pouches and cords to keep monster stones. And, of course, there were in richer countries. But the problem with things like plastic ziplocs or velcro was that they had a tendency to break and were hard to replace in the dungeon. A string was simple enough to replace though, and pouches were cheap and effective.

Idle thoughts while he did the gross job of pulling monster cores out from the insect bodies around him. No matter how often he did this, Arthur could not check the instinctive disgust at putting his hand into slimy flesh he felt each time he dissected the monsters.

By the time he was done and had secured the pouch again, his arm was throbbing a lot less. Background healing from his technique was probably his most overpowered technique, Arthur had to admit. If he could just figure out how to upgrade it further, he had a feeling he would definitely be a real threat.

Still, for all that, a single step was enough to make Arthur hiss in pain and sink back onto his knees. “Can’t walk with this leg.”

Problem was, the longer he stayed put, the higher the chance another swarm of ant lions would find him. On the other hand…

“Maybe that’s for the best?” Arthur said, patting the pouch. He reached into his backpack, unslinging it long enough to drink from the water bottle he had attached to the outside before nodding to himself. He would wait and fight, because if he was going to get the most out of this floor, he might as well do so on the platforms that made sense.

Squatting carefully and placing his backpack aside, Arthur focused within. Best get to healing though, he didn’t want to do battle with an ankle that couldn’t hold his weight at all.




Two rounds of monster killing and looting later and Arthur limped parallel to the wall, his backpack once again slung over his shoulders. He used his spear to aid his movements as he scanned for trouble and watching the sand dunes for the faint tracks the ant lions had left behind.

It took him just over fifteen minutes before he found the nest. Rather than walking straight at it, he scurried higher up on the sand dune, grimacing as his ankle and body protested at the movements. Even forced healing had barely brought his leg back to working order, especially after the damn insects had kept coming after it.

Anyway, he wasn’t going to attack them directly, not if he had any choice. Even though he had resolved that, the lion ants were already swarming out of the hole in the ground coming directly for him. It wouldn’t take long for them to reach him, forcing him into battle again.

Which was why he was forming the Refined Exploding Energy dart in his left hand already, pulling the energy into his hand so that when he reached a position where he could look down into the nest, he could release it.

Targeting the opening, he released his attack. Immediately, he began pulling even more energy into his arm as the shrieking, swirling ball of energy flew through the air. A little twisting of the energy flows had it drop down a little as it arrived, so that it managed to fall even deeper into the nest itself.

The ensuing explosion shook the sand all around while sending solidified sand and clay into the sky. Arthur grunted, his ears ringing from the painful thump that he felt deep inside his chest. The attack agitated the ants even further, forcing them to scramble after him and he lowered his spear towards the first to reach him, thrusting at its clacking pincers.

He scored against its chitin, cracking the edge of its head and slicing off one of its antenna. Pulling his hand back, Arthur noted the nest was already beginning to swarm out of the thrashed hole in the ground. However, the sand and stone that made up the nest was still surging, the creatures only able to squeeze out in smaller numbers.

Rather than release his attack immediately, he swung and thrust his spear at the crawling insects. A half dozen attacks later, he finally managed to kill the first monster and bat the other two back down before he pointed his hand at the nest again.

The ensuing explosion made him wince, even as bits and pieces of the insect bodies crashed all around. He could see he had managed to damage a few of the insects and killed even more, but rather than release another attack, he gripped his spear again.

Time to get to work cleaning the ones near him before they grabbed and tore him apart.

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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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