Chapter 252

Chapter 252

Energy Pool: 4/24


Arthur dismissed the notification with a flick of his mind, pushing it away. He could feel the lack of energy, the dire dregs of how little he had left. Getting up, fast, had required liberal use of the Seven Cloud Stepping method. Going slow might have been fine, if the damn Tower wasn't literally spawning new goblins and mushroom-hoppers and feather-balls in the middle of the fight.

Damn cheaters.

So he'd gone fast, as fast as he could. That meant taking wounds and running himself ragged, bouncing across open air and trusting in his technique to give him footholds where there were none. Not the end of the world if he had to stop and kill his way upwards a few times when the route before him now was just giant pathways and ladders and monsters in the way.

Then, he'd had to use his Refined Exploding Energy Darts just to clear the walkways of the feather-balls. That had worked well for him, since their presence actually caused as much trouble for the other enemies as him. At least, so long as he had them on the backfoot and they didn't get near him.

Once they did, then it was all just havoc and explosions and concussions and ear damage.

But now, he was here. Last platform, just a straight shot to the glowing portal at the end which he knew marked the end of this particular level and entry to the fifth floor.

All he had to do was kill the Goblin King standing right in front of him. Well, Goblin King and two bodyguards.

Unlike your usual green-skinned, scrawny goblins that made up the lower levels, the Goblin King was almost as large as a human but on the shorter end; to compensate for height, it was bulky. And instead of utilising a spear, it held a sword and shield and wore actual armour. It was also, unlike its compatriots, silent as it waited for Arthur to cross over.

Not that he was intending to get started with that right away. Among other things, he needed to catch his breath.  With a force of will, Arthur pushed aside the Seven Cloud Stepping method, replacing it with Bark Skin. He considered trying to blast the damn Goblin King from range with his Energy Dart and would have if it was a spear user. That shield, though... he figured that creature knew how to use it.

He had his slings, of course, but the goblins were pretty fast, and the bodyguards looked to be bigger and stronger than the common ones below. And they weren't dumb monsters either, which meant that if he tried pulling out his sling, they'd likely charge him. Maybe he’d get one or two swings in, but then he'd be scrambling to get his spear in hand.

Not impossible, but it wasn't exactly perfect. This wasn't a game where he could just click over and be ready immediately, and if he fumbled the switch at any time, he would be down a weapon. 


Breathing slowing a little, Arthur shrugged off his backpack. He didn't need that. Bark Skin ready to be utilised, he moved forward smoothly as he poured energy into an Exploding Energy Dart. He wished he had learnt how to make more of them at once, but utilising this as a secondary, surprise attack was his best option. 

Other than Focused Strike. But he didn't have enough energy to use both Focused Strike and Bark Skin.

Closing in on the pair, moving slowly with a relaxed gait. That was the thing most newbies missed, those who hadn't actually ever fought before. Or those who had but hadn't received the training, the wisdom to help them survive better. There was no point in being tense, in being “hard” for no reason. A relaxed body used less energy, required less oxygen. Relaxed muscles reacted faster; relaxed eyes that weren't focused on a specific spot saw things easier.

Calm, collected, easy. You went into a fight that way, because tension was a killer. Made you miss things. 

Like the way the goblin bodyguard on the right was angling outwards faster than the one on the left. Hoping to stay on the outside of his spear. If he stepped towards the left, where he had more flexibility, he would open himself to attacks from behind and from the monster on the right.

If he turned with the monster on the right, he'd pull his gaze off the other two, especially as it kept trying to edge to the side. Giving him worse options each moment.

Rather than wait, Arthur charged, intent on covering the distance between him and the smarter bodyguard on the right. They used clubs instead of spears, weirdly enough. Not what Arthur would have chosen, what with their lack of lethality. But no one was asking him, and if the Tower creators actually did ask, he'd probably not have made a good suggestion anyway.

Two steps closer, he thrust at full extension. He let the spearhead dip at the last second, knowing his opponent was going to bat it away and hoping to slip under. Damn goblin was good enough to wait till he was almost fully committed and had started the dip so that it could block properly, leaving his own strike knocked off course.

Not an issue. 

Arthur spun the spearhead around, using the momentum of the attack to come back up in a semi-circle. The attack went high, forcing the goblin to duck low, the spear tip tearing a line across its scalp as it moved too slow. He let the momentum carry over, pulling it down even as he swung his back leg behind him, spinning his body and spear along to threaten the other goblin bodyguard and the king as they neared.

Kept it spinning, raising the whole thing above his head so that he could continue with the built-up momentum. He took a step forward then, swinging it low and around to threaten feet that jumped or hopped back, before he brought the weapon in close for a lunge. A short lunge, using body rather than arm and spear.

The attack came up short, the left bodyguard raising its weapon to block an attack that never made its way there. Then, a moment later, Arthur thrust forward with the full strength of his arms, shoving the spear point into the monster's chest. He could have targeted the head or neck, go for a guaranteed kill; but the way the goblin twitched its body, attempting to dodge was reason enough not to. Too easy to miss such attacks.

Whereas the unguarded chest, with only soft leather armour over its heart, was easy enough to pierce. He shoved, pushing through ribs and skin and flesh, twisted and yanked back even as the Goblin King rushed him. He took his left hand off the spear shaft, turned his head to the side and released the Refined Exploding Energy Dart at the smarter bodyguard, moments before it arrived to swing its club.

A little too late, the creature having moved faster than he had expected. It caught him with the edge of the club, jagged edges tearing and ripping across his shoulder pauldrons and skipping off. His own attack caused more damage, the explosion too close and hurting his ears, punching him across his body with the softball impact of released energy and expanding air.

Arthur recovered, only to find another weapon coming at him. He caught the attack with his spear, but with only one hand on the shaft, it did little other than divert an attack meant to chop his head open into merely glancing off and slamming into his chest. Arthur retreated, grabbing at his spear with his other hand, swinging it low and trying to dodge the return backhand swing, taking it across the elbow guards and feeling his fingers go numb.

Then, he had hold of his spear and a threat to the feet forced the Goblin King to stop its forward momentum. It hunkered down, protecting its legs with the shield and allowed Arthur to reset. 

Unfortunately, so too did the other two bodyguards. Both grievously injured, one with its face half-torn off, eye blinded and ear missing. The other clutching a seeping chest wound. They flanked their king now, letting it take the threat and forcing Arthur back. He tried to circle sideways and attack the bodyguards, but each time, the other two rushed him.

"Shit. I hate smart enemies," Arthur muttered. 

A few more steps, and he realised they were herding him. Back, to the start, off the platform. Every time he tried to circle, they pushed him back. He began forming another Energy Dart but knew it was not going to be enough. They knew that trick now. Still...

He passed his backpack far to the right, and then he knew what to do. Arthur thrust hard, let the bodyguard on the left beat his spear down. Took his hand off the spear, releasing the Energy Dart at the monster on the right. The Goblin King was waiting, darting forward to catch the Energy Dart on its shield, ready for the explosion.

It never came, the attack drilling into the shield but not exploding. 

In the meantime, Arthur jumped forward, spear left behind as he scrambled for the kris. He let the monster hit his upraised arm, Bark Skin activated to help diminish the club’s crushing impact as he absorbed the hit. Kris came up, sweeping across the neck and cutting deep. He spun the bodyguard by the club arm, bent low and flipped it over him to where the others were coming.

Came around, hand seeking the spear. He grabbed it close to the tip, pulled it close and grinned.

One down. Two to go.

And now he knew. He was smarter than them.

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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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