Chapter 248

Chapter 248

Three more. Arthur only had to survive three more platforms if he pushed onwards now. Yet, staring at what awaited him on these platforms, he could find no energy to continue onwards.

"At least, this is safe. Ish," Arthur said. Then, compelled by his own idiocy, he added, "Don't you think, bish?"

Of course there was no answer. Never was. He struggled over to a corner, a nice little overhang and slipped the pack off. He took a moment to check over the bindings, winced as he realised one set of ropes had nearly burnt entirely through and fought against his fatigue to retie the moose hide and its antlers properly.

Funny, even though he'd collapsed barely a few hours ago, he was exhausted again. Perhaps, falling unconscious did not count as actual rest. The other reason might have to do with the poisons that his body was even now combating. Breathing in the stink of the lava fields had not been good for him. He remembered warnings of poison in those fields in a documentary he'd caught once, the TV blaring its dutiful noise while they drank and played Big Two on a card table.

Good times.

Arthur blinked, realising he'd curled up against his bag somewhere along the way. He tried to keep his eyes open, to set up some safeguards and traps, but he found himself unable to do so. Exhaustion pulled him down, the lack of danger washing away the desperate energy. His eyes drifted close and he slept.

Only to awaken with a gasp and jerk, leveling his spear at an unseen enemy. 

Empty air. 

He sucked in a breath, coughed a little, spat to the side at the taste in his mouth. Finding a water bottle and washing soot and other unnamable products out, Arthur checked around once more before relieving himself off the edge of the platform. Far below, his gift sprinkled across multiple platforms and a little mischievous smile had him attempting to hit the X below.

Then, tucking away his package, Arthur drank again and scrubbed at his face, cleaning it off with water and letting the rest air-dry. He grimaced at the dark rivulets that ran from his face and hands as he did so, wiping them clear a few times before slumping beside his pack. One last scan for trouble before he called forth the rather insistent notice from the Tower.

Toxin Cleansed!

Toxin Resistance in Accelerated Healing - Refined Energy (Grade III) increased due to repeated exposure.


"That bad, ah?" Arthur muttered to himself. He wondered how your average ascender would have dealt with that. Or if they would have. After further consideration, he figured if they weren't too damaged, they'd probably do the same as him and collapse and let the Tower's passive healing fix it. Also, they would likely have been out for much longer and be even more susceptible to the poison. "At least, I got something from that place..."

He wondered if this upgrade translated for the rest of his people. He hoped so. He couldn't see that particular platform working well for others otherwise. These platforms were what he would consider lethal, the kind of place that most Tower climbers would die if they faced it.

It was possible some might even have backed off and waited, tried to jump to another series of platforms.

Either way, he was through. Which meant it was time to deal with the next level.

"I really am not Tarzan," Arthur said. The lonely lost white boy with gorilla friends came to mind due to the hanging vines that seemed to appear from nowhere and were the only way to go from one platform to the next. Of course, none of them were close enough for him to reach out and grab, so he'd have to take a running leap, jump and swing over to the next platform.

And repeat the process.

"What do I do about my spear?" Arthur muttered to himself. He could strap it to his backpack horizontally, but it might smack into a branch and throw his balance off. Angling it might work, but he'd used a lot of the rope up already and the antlers were bulky. Still, it seemed his best option unless he wanted to leave it behind.

That wasn't happening.

Which meant repacking his backpack and the rest of his gear. While he did, he could also keep an eye out for potential trouble. He really doubted he'd be so lucky not to have anything bothering him, but thus far, he'd not spotted anything flying or swinging through the area.

Maybe on the next biome after this jungle one? That would be fairer, and simpler. He even hoped that was the case because, if so, he could deal with them without having to worry about how he was going to fight monsters while gripping the vines. He definitely was not like Lord Greystoke with buns of steel.

Nope, nope, nope.

Pack re-strapped and unable to think of any other options, Arthur made sure to loop his pack over tighter, made sure his kris was strapped in and the safety clip flipped over. Then, taking a breath and activating the Seven Stepping Cloud movement technique and the Refined Energy Dart, he ran for it.

The first grab and swing was easy. Only a single swing, no harder than playing at monkey bars. There was even a space for his legs to land on, though he barely needed it before he released and dropped onto the platform. The platform gave way a little, compressing a touch when he landed, which surprised him. 

What surprised him more was that it kept sinking.

"Oh shit." Arthur's eyes widened when he realised what kind of test this was. No monsters on this one. They didn't need monsters to kill him. This was a timed test. Every moment he lingered, the platform would keep sinking. Eventually, at some unknown distance below, it would just... fall. Taking him with it. Well, before that though, the next set of vines would be out of reach quickly.

Even as he was taking in all this information, he was running. Eyes flicked forward, taking in the platforms and the vines before him. There were two platforms, one closer than the other. But the closer one was a trap, because it had fewer vines, longer jumps between and a double swing. So he went for the longer jump and swing, using all the contained power of his Tower-ascended body to push him forward.

He grunted, smacking into the next vine with his face, sliding down it a little before he grabbed it securely. Momentum and timing lost, but he managed to land on the other side, nearly tipping over as the next level sank down. A kick backwards to form a cloud behind him gave him balance and allowed him to push off, to run faster.

Eyes were fixed ahead as he ran, taking in the platforms, plotting his course. He saw the dangers, the little tricks. Empty platforms with no ivy, or ivy that was a little slicker. No more footholds halfway through, so you'd have to grip with all your strength and hope you didn't slide off into the abyss. 

Arthur suddenly wished he had gloves, cursed at not carrying any. Ignored the fact that if he did, they'd probably have been too hot, or been burnt off or destroyed in the preceding levels. The Tower was many things but kind to clothing was not one of them.

He ran and jumped, bouncing between platform to platform. And if he laughed a little as he did so, who could blame him. After all, this biome might have been dangerous for anyone else. But he had a safety net in the Seven Cloud Stepping technique, his ability to split his attention and focus with Multi-Tasking and Quick Learner, and the ability to spot trouble with Enhanced Eyesight long before it became a problem.

This level might as well have been called easy mode as far as he was concerned.

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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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