Chapter 25

Chapter 25

The pair crashed into one another, Arthur throwing Budo’s planned trajectory off course entirely. The pair slammed into the ground moments later, Arthur’s initial impact cushioned by his opponent’s body. Bouncing off body and ground, they rolled till he managed to stagger to his feet, his arms and wrist throbbing.

Good news. His hands had managed to free themselves. Bad news, that was because he’d broken some bones in his hand and wrist. Further good news: Budo was struggling to get up and looked worse for wear after falling and being crushed. Bad news: he was still standing and looking even angrier than ever.

For a fraction of a second, Arthur debated running. If Budo had managed to injure one of his legs, Arthur might still get away. His own legs hurt, but nothing was screaming broken or twisted at him. Just “slammed into ground and branches repeatedly at high speed.”

Then as Budo staggered to his feet, hands bare of weapons and looking angry but woozy from a bleeding wound on his head, Arthur made up his mind. He was done running, and especially done running from that asshole.

Letting out a yell, he charged forward, forming energy around his fist. Budo eyes cleared as his enemy neared, his grin widening in savage glee as he dropped a little and waited for Arthur to reach him. 

Only for Arthur to jump and twist, throwing a reverse axe kick that arced up high. A last-minute flinch made Arthur miss his target, leg coming down on Budo’s shoulder and neck rather than temple and head. Budo crashed backwards even as Arthur recovered, spinning around with his energy-laden fist read for a Focused Strike.

Unfortunately his opponent had recovered just as fast and stabbed forward with fingers held straight. They plunged into Arthur’s side, sinking into the flesh just under his floating ribs and eliciting a pained grunt. Budo tore his fingers out, blood dripping from them. The pain from the eviscerating strike radiated through Arthur.

His control of the energy surrounding his own Focused Strike disappeared even as his hook hammered into the side of Budo’s head. Much of the energy and power had been robbed from the twisting blow, as Arthur’s pain and surprise messed up his attack.

Budo still tottered aside, his eyes going blank for a second. It seemed repeated strikes to the head were a bad idea. The pair stepped back for a second, each of them dealing with the wounds they had acquired before they surged at each other as though a start gun had gone off.

The pair exchanged a flurry of blows, jabbing, crossing, and blocking strikes. Within a few rounds, Arthur understood that he was outmatched. Budo was faster and stronger, though he had a bad tendency to flinch when he was hit.

Making a choice, he stepped much closer to Budo. In-fighting was not his preferred method of doing battle, but it had the advantage of not being the preferred fighting range for most others either. Some people actually liked getting close—grappling or aggressive snuggling, as he liked to term it. But stand-up in-fighting with elbows, headbutts, knees, and short-range hooks? Not the same.

Budo reeled backwards, trying to get away to a range he was comfortable at. In-fighting was for the crazy and insane, the stupid and violent. There was nowhere to go, no way to distance yourself from the harsh panting, the breath on your face, the spittle flying and the crunch and pounding impact of blows. No way to escape blows, just mitigate them. Hit harder, push with knees or angle with shoulders and body to disrupt balance. 

Power generation was all kinds of weird too; no long wind-up attacks that came all the way from the proper twist of an ankle and snap in the hip but had to form and extend in short, twisting motions. Off-balance, on one foot, using muscles directly from the core or in the back.

Back against the cliff face, nowhere to retreat. Budo was struggling now, losing the most important part of the fight. The mental one, where even if he was stronger and faster, he was beginning to pull in and protect himself, instead of looking for ways to hurt Arthur.

As for Arthur, he kept hitting, hard and fast, shoving hands aside, using elbows to dig in strikes. Down low and then high, always attempting to open up that vulnerable head and temple. In non-subjective time, it was over in less than a minute. For the pair, an eternity.

One that finally had Budo collapsed, repeated elbows at short range to his skull driving him to the ground. Unconscious, if not dead. And Arthur, leaning against the tree as blood dripped down his side and heaving with desperate need for oxygen.

But for all that . . . victorious at least.

“Well, well . . .” the voice behind him was familiar, if unwanted at this time. “You’re more than a little surprising, newbie.”

His words forced a long-suffering sigh from Arthur as he turned around.

It really was becoming that kind of day.

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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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