Once he finished using the last of the refined energy in his body, some scrambling around allowed Arthur to find the parang that Budo had dropped. He pulled it along with him as he headed for another spot further along the wall, searching for a way back up. The cliff face was more steep than sheer, and with the amount of greenery growing on it, he could probably climb it.
If he wasn’t, you know, sporting a bleeding wound. On the other hand . . .
“This is a stupid idea,” Arthur muttered to himself when he had gotten far enough away from the smell of blood and terror of his initial fight that he felt safe stopping.
He eyed the cliff face, picking out the spots he could get a grip on, and then for a few seconds, juggled the parang location in his mind. Back of pants? Nah. Front of pants, even more of a no. Slung through the back of his clothing or tied off? He didn’t have enough scraps to do it that way. In the end, he settled for putting it in his mouth, blunt side tongue-wise, before he began the process of climbing.
Focus on legs, not hands. He couldn’t reach very far, not with the wound in his side. In fact, he was better off simply using his uninjured side and pushing with legs rather than manhandle his way upwards like he was used to doing.
His target was a small overhang, jutting outwards due to the remnants of a big tree that had fallen but whose roots still hung on tenaciously. The entire thing was growing haphazardly sideways, with smaller plants jutting out to form corners that it offered quite a bit of shade from those casting a cursory glance up. The trunk and branches would stop monsters from approaching him easily.
More importantly, it would make it impossible for the majority of monsters that he knew were on the first floor of the Tower to approach him.
The only problem was getting there.
Slowly he climbed, wincing with every stretch, each time he pushed with his feet. The soil underneath his fingers were crumbly and only slightly moist, the lack of rain over the last few days making itself all too apparent. He had to dig his feet in hard to push upwards, his footing always moments away from giving way.
Halfway up, his concerns played out.
Pushing with his right foot as he began to reach for another handhold, the roots holding the earth tight let go, sending him tumbling downwards. He fell, the hilt of the parang bouncing off his arm and the side of the cliff, making his jaw ache and cutting a little into his mouth. He scrambled for a second, ignoring the shooting pain in his side as he tried and managed to grab hold of an outcropping of rock.
Jerking to a stop, holding on with one hand, Arthur’s tender side wound burst open and poured warm blood down his body. He panted harshly, the iron tang of blood on his lips, even as he scrambled with his hanging foot for a stable point.
Eventually, he found one. Not very stable, but good enough that he was able to put more weight onto it. He hung on, wheezing at the pulsing pain in his side and the blade clutched in his mouth. Adrenaline shot through him, making movement hard but at least dulling the pain.
Control was difficult, but Arthur managed to find another foothold, a more stable one via feel more than sight. Then, carefully, he levered himself upward again.
He leaned his forehead against the cold earth for a second, before Arthur shook his aching exhaustion off. The adrenaline of nearly falling and the pain was giving him strength now, but when it faded, he would be even worse off.
No time to take this as carefully as before.
He extracted the parang from his mouth carefully, slipping it pass him and then stabbing upwards. Using the blade as a firmer handhold, he began to push onward, his destination a bare twenty feet away.
Stab, push, get new handhold or foothold. Extract parang, push, find new holds. Pull upward. Spit and curse, whimper and push. Look for new handholds and footholds. Find them. Push and reach. Stab and pull. New foothold.
Step by step, inching his way up, Arthur managed to make his way to the outcropping, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Noisy ants stopped by the bloody soil, testing and tasting before picking up pieces to bring back. Caterpillars searched the earth for carrion and beetles crawled across his face, even as Arthur kept moving.
Until, finally, he was there. A final surge of energy had him sprawled over the edge of the outcropping, legs dangling over the side. It took almost all his energy to flip over before the pain and exhaustion caught up, sending him into uneasy slumber.
Hours later he woke, wiping his face and wincing at his side. Something sharp and twisty in his torso. He searched, fingers brushing against hard carapaces. Quick movements sent away the damn ants that been attempting to extract blood and flesh, leaving behind itchiness and pain.
Another moment and Arthur managed to get his feet over the ledge and himself propped up against the wall. He had been lucky he had not rolled over while asleep, but it seemed his body was too exhausted to even consider that much movement.
Now, head leaning against the wall, he touched the puffy red sides of his torso and winced. Some degree of inflammation there. Minor toxins mixed in there from the damn ants. None of it great for healing.
Yet he had no time to worry about that. He had no refined energy to benefit his body, so he had to concentrate instead on cultivating. Draw in Tower energy so that he could fill his core and then refine it. Only then could he begin healing himself.
No time to waste then.
Settled in as best he could, having adjusted the leaves and branches to hide himself from prying eyes. Arthur closed his eyes and began the process of pulling Tower energy through his body, slipping it into his core and storing it away. It was going to take a while to get enough energy to refine, but it had to be done.
He couldn’t exactly walk around with a hole in his side.