Chapter 253

Chapter 253

Smarter did not mean better. 

Slammed backwards by a shield bash, Arthur found himself in a flip, barely able to complete the simple procedure before he landed on his feet woozily. He managed to keep hold of his spear the entire time, bringing his weapon back in line with his opponent, forcing the Goblin King to bat the weapon tip aside before it could close on him.

Arthur stumbled back a few more steps, resetting himself fully while spinning his weapon, intent on keeping his opponent away from him. That was the point, after all, of having a spear. Longer reach, more flexibility in attacks. The chance to actually give himself time so he could pull off something interesting.

Unfortunately, his opponent had learnt its lessons well. Lessons that had come at the cost of his remaining bodyguard. Now, the Goblin King took hold of the spinning staff and pressed forward. It knew if it let Arthur reset, it would be worn down, tricked. Better to keep the pressure up, especially since it was better armoured than Arthur.

Of course, that assumed Arthur was going to let it. And the goblin wasn't the only one who had learnt. A slight switch of stance and the spear went shooting forward, a direct attack that the Goblin King used its shield to block. The spear struck and bounced off, but this time around, Arthur followed up not with a spinning attack but with his foot.

Focused Strike flowed through him, all but one other point of Tower energy gone as Arthur poured his attack into a front stomp kick. He hit with the heel of his foot, striking hard at the exact center of the shield. The shield had been hammered and struck repeatedly by Arthur, a crude wooden construction lacking an outer banding of metal to hold it in place. As such, a crack had already begun to appear in the center and with the application of foot to shield, all driven forward by the Tower technique, it shattered along with the arm behind it.

The goblin staggered back, though not without twisting its body at the last second, cutting at Arthur's retreating foot. It caught the edge of his foot as he pulled back, lopping off the bottom of the boot and part of his heel at the same time. The blade was jagged and ragged, tugging through and sending jolts of electric pain through Arthur as his foot came down.

The pair collapsed in unison, staring at one another. Arthur had fallen from the pain; the Goblin King from momentum and force. Together, they stared at one another across the span of space for a brief moment, eyes locked in impromptu standoff. The first to flinch and move was Arthur, hands sliding up the haft of his shaft before he thrust.

The spear shot forward, only to be deflected by his opponent's block. It still slammed into the Goblin King's chest, skittering off hardened leather armour before falling aside. Then, the goblin was scrambling on its hands and knees, sword aiming for Arthur's throat.

An upwards block with the flat of his arm saw more blood drawn. More cuts, but the awkward scrambling attack went over his shoulder. Rather than try for the spear again, Arthur grabbed the arm, pulling the weapon and wielder close as he utilised his forehead on its nose. And then, forehead on forehead and body, slamming over and over again to force his opponent into defense, before it stopped twitching under his arms.

Finally done, Arthur collapsed on top of the creature, exhaustion and blood loss robbing him of energy in a great wave. He lay still for long minutes, his breathing slowly evening out as his techniques finished clotting his wounds and began the arduous process of healing him.

Stripping the damn goblin of its armour to get to its monster core was a pain. Then, limping over with the aid of his spear was even more so, as he repeated the grisly process of carving into the bodyguards’ bodies. There was a disgusting intimacy to doing this to a humanoid being, one that looked significantly closer to his own species than the jenglot had. Even so, Arthur pushed on, rolling the freed beast stones on the ground to clean them before dropping the contents into his pack. While they would, eventually, dry out and the blood magically disperse, it was still disgusting and had a tendency to stain the pouches if he didn't at least try to clean them somewhat.

Funny, really, how the physics of what disappeared and what didn't, what ratio and rates, did not exactly follow any specific rules. In general, bodies disappeared, but blood that interacted directly with a Tower climber and their equipment didn't. Stuff in packs were a bit more iffy, though the general belief was that the climber's aura helped contain Tower energy, preventing the dispersal of Tower-constructed blood and viscera.

Of course, it didn't work out entirely. For example, the sword and broken shield that Arthur was now checking over would likely disappear, and almost certainly the armour. Didn't matter if you put them on, or wielded them, unless the Tower was being generous and decided it was loot. They were good as gone.

It was one reason people were hesitant about putting on and using newly acquired items. The last thing you wanted was to have your armor or weapon disappear on you in the middle of a fight. Of course, it mostly happened within the first hour or so, but there were stories of weapons disappearing hours later when said Tower climber was in the middle of a boss fight. Which was another reason most Tower climbers didn't use such weapons till the next floor. Or at least, had the gear checked out by Tower personnel.

"I'm being greedy, wanting a big sword that is stabby, but that's all I got, the love of... rot? got? No, used got... got, rot, bot, fought...?" Arthur muttered to himself, one leg splayed out. He was using his Multi-tasking trait, forcing himself to think about silly rhymes to ignore the pain and the aching loss of damaged footwear. Maybe he'd be able to find a cobbler, but even if he did, he was not certain they could do much about the lost enchantment.

More importantly, watching bits and pieces of his body grow back was a disturbing sight. He didn't want to focus on it too much, though in another way, he was ultra-focused on the progression. He could feel how his technique was pulling energy towards his foot, the way it had stemmed the flow of blood, how it was even now layering new tissue over it. He could direct the energy, but for the first time, he was beginning to sense the blockages. A part of him knew what was supposed to be there. The curve of the heel, the nub of the skeleton. The soul, the body, knew what was missing. Fleshy pad that was meant to take impact was gone, and the body, in its haste to recover, was just papering over the cracks.

But another portion—the technique, his soul, his DNA—wanted to fix it properly. It was trying but was being held back by the speed of the healing process, the overlay of new flesh and bone. It was fascinating, to watch two competing healing processes fighting one another, each with their own objectives.

All he had to do, Arthur realized, was put his own weight down one way or the other. 

Easier said than done, of course. He could feel the competing directives, feel how they intended to move; but figuring out which particular directive came from what flow of power and how those directives balanced against one another was infinitely more complex. Pushing down on one side, slowing down energy flow through one meridian point or speeding it up in another, altering the mix, had cascading effects throughout the entire technique.

A failure could result in multiple issues. Growths that ran rampant, the creation of cancer within his own blood. Too high blood pressure, cracking the seal around his wound and causing it to weep. Inflammation as more white blood cells flooded the region, turning to attack the stem cells. Stem cells, given no real direction, rebuilding on the core but years too far behind.

One problem after the other, Arthur could feel it coming on. Sometimes, he relaxed on his techniques, letting the normal and perfected method take over to remove the issues. Other times, he pushed on, knowing he would suffer later as he sought the fix. Arthur lost track of time until, suddenly, there was nothing else to heal.

Eyeing the scarred and misshapen heel, Arthur winced. "Club foot isn't really a weapon of choice..." 

Then again, allowing the Tower to push the notification through, he could not help but grin.

Accelerated Healing – Refined Energy (Grade IV) - 11.2%

He was on the right track, finally. After so long with his trusty technique’s progress in abeyance, getting poisoned, stabbed and cut seemed to have kickstarted things at last.

Now, all he had to do was lose another body part and figure out how to heal it fully.

Dismissing those thoughts, Arthur looked at where the bodies and weapons had been. He sighed. Of course the Goblin King had left nothing behind, no weapons, no broken shield, no armour. Nothing but a necklace of teeth that he hadn't even noticed it wearing. Grimacing, Arthur could not help but pick it up, eyeing the weird fetish before pocketing it. He'd get it identified later. He certainly didn't recall reading about it as a drop, which either meant it was so bad it wasn't worth noting in the wiki, or he'd forgotten it because it was so bland his mind had never retained that information. Or… it was so good that whoever chanced on it didn’t tell the world they had acquired it.

Probably the first of the two.

Whistling to himself and limping onward, Arthur went to grab his backpack. He was, finally, done with the damn fourth floor. And not a moment too soon as far as he was concerned. Once he rested, refilled his Tower energy pool, and added a few more points to his refined energy pool, he was gone.

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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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