Dawn. When the first ray of sunlight penetrated the dense foliage of the forest, slowly lending it its warmth, the originally quiescent green world began to wake up once again. Various creatures started crawling out of their nests, beginning a new cycle of their daily routine —— hunting and being hunted.
On the ground, an unnamed little creature with wrinkled skin was stealthily making its way over to its destination. It was very small, only roughly the size of two human fists, but it dragged a wide flat tail behind it that was twice the length of its body.
It had no choice but to be careful. In this forest, 80% of the animals could kill it easily — and unfortunately, its meat was tender, so even though it was small and had very little meat, many of the larger creatures still wouldn’t mind hunting it as an appetiser.
Its intended destination was an area full of shallow water depressions up ahead. That area was a swampland, very suitable for its survival, because its light weight and body shape allowed it to move freely around the swamp without sinking into it. Aside from those creatures whose natural habitat was the swamp, other creatures could not even enter the area, making it much safer for the creature.
Of course, most importantly, there was food for it here as well, making it well worth its while to come here. It almost started drooling thinking of food — the fish in the shallow depressions here were just too tasty.
It finally made it there, smooth sailing all the way.
At this time, in the shallow water of the numerous depressions, fish the length of fingers were joyfully swimming around, darting from one depression to another. All of the depressions were connected by countless narrow streams of water — although these streams were much too small for bigger fish to get through, they allowed these small fish to swim between the depressions unhindered. In one particular depression, the fish were greedily nibbling on some of the water weeds, oblivious to the fact that their natural enemy had arrived and was getting ready to feast on them to satisfy its hunger.
The wrinkled animal entered the swamp and darted swiftly into one of the depressions. The fish scattered in fright, but swam blindly in their panic, ending up in a dead end … In the end, their only outcome was to be devoured by the agile wrinkled creature.
After eating up the fishes in this depression, the creature climbed out of it and shook itself, causing the water droplets on its body to go flying, until its skin was once again as dry and pristine as before.
It then rested for a little while. Hunting was not easy — actions that seemed easy actually took up a lot of its body strength. Still, even while it rested, it vigilantly kept a lookout on its surroundings, afraid that a strong enemy would appear to eat it.
Soon after, it had regained its strength, and had begun sneaking over to the next depression …
However, it did not notice — in the swamp not too far away from it, a pair of gelid eyes had locked themselves on its figure, prepared to ambush it during its next meal.
When it once again leapt into another depression to capture more fish, the owner of the gelid eyes struck. A thick black cable shot out, skirting by the edges of the depression, and the wrinkled animal was gone. The clear sound of flesh hitting water could be heard and then a water snake as thick as a man’s arm could be seen sitting in the middle of the depression, its lower half curled up neatly beneath it. From a glance, it looked like it was about three metres long, perhaps more.
In its mouth, the wrinkled creature was struggling with all its might, flapping its wide tail around, but to no avail. It was swallowed by the water snake, bit by bit, until it finally disappeared completely into the snake’s gullet.
The water snake raised its head, waiting for its food to travel down its throat into its stomach. And then, right at this moment, a large maw appeared abruptly beside it, sharp teeth glinting menacingly in the sunlight. Before the water snake could react, it had already been bitten, right where it was most vulnerable.
Of course, the water snake was unwilling to just lay back and die — before it died, it used the whole length of its three metre long body to wrap tightly around the opponent, hoping to bring it along with it into death. Unfortunately, the opponent was still clamped onto its vital point, so it could not hold on for long. It soon died, and its coils loosened around its attacker.
And then, a hulking creature climbed out from the depths of the swamp. Its overall appearance looked very much like that of Earth’s crocodiles, but compared to a crocodile, its body was even larger, and its four limbs were even thicker.
It was the king of this swamp, and its favourite food was naturally the fastest and stealthiest water snakes. However, water snakes were extremely hard to catch — the moment they saw its shadow, they would flee immediately, slithering swiftly into the swamp water and disappearing completely. Thus, it could only disguise itself and wait patiently – at times up to a whole day and night – to get its prize. Today, it would eat well.
It raised its head and opened its jaws wide, putting this large snake into its mouth, slowly tearing it into pieces as it chewed and swallowed. Halfway through its meal, while half of the snake’s body was still dangling outside its mouth, it caught sight of a dark shadow falling rapidly from above it with the corner of its eye.
Dammit, what creature dares to disturb the King of the Swamp at its meal? It did not even consider the possibility of an ambush — it was the undisputed king of the food chain here, no creature would dare think of hunting it …
Before it could take a closer look, it felt a bone-deep piercing pain starting from its mouth go through its entire body. It let out a furious roar, a sign of its rage and disbelief that a creature would dare to harm it. It wanted to tear that creature apart with its sharp teeth, but found that it could not close its mouth anymore.
No, it wasn’t that it couldn’t close it — somehow, sometime, a wooden staff had made its way into its mouth. It tried to dislodge the staff, but then found that it couldn’t move its body either.
Indeed, it was like it had been pinned to the ground. Aside from flinging its limbs around uselessly, it could not move at all. It had no idea what was going on, and as rage continued to build within it, it tried to roar again, but now found that it couldn’t even do that anymore. And then the pain hit, coursing through every part of its body, so intense that it couldn’t handle it. What the heck was going on?
"So troublesome." Along with this voice, an extremely fragile looking thing appeared by its head. And then, the creature’s final memory was of the strange creature lifting its scrawny foot above its head and stomping down viciously.
Without any change in her expression, Ling Lan pulled her foot out from the skull of this king of the swamp. She had no interest in watching the death struggle of the creature and so had kindly put it out of its misery by stomping through its skull.
Looking at the white brain matter all over her shoes, Ling Lan no longer felt the disgust she had felt at the beginning. The current Ling Lan was enveloped by an aura of honed aggression, just like a king of the jungle; she was no longer the weak and timid person she was before.
Of course, with Ling Lan’s current strength, fighting this creature in the swamp head on was not impossible. However, this fellow’s skin was as strong as steel and Ling Lan had no weapons which could pierce through it. This skin it had was exactly why it could withstand the water snake’s desperate counterattack at the end. Still, all creatures had their weaknesses and this swamp king was no exception.
The insides of the swamp king was very fragile, which was why the swamp king normally would not leave its mouth open. For the only way to attack its insides, was through its mouth. As such, Ling Lan had decided to conceal herself within the swamp and wait till the swamp king started hunting. And when the swamp king had started to eat, she had taken the opportunity to stuff a small tree down its throat, all the way to its tail, sealing its fate with one blow.
Getting to this point was not easy for Ling Lan. Many times, due to problems with emotional control, the swamp king had managed to sense her killing intent and evade her attack, causing her to lose her chance. Thus, Ling Lan had paid the price of death several times over before she finally grasped the ability to hunt flawlessly. The trials and difficulties she went through in the entire process were truly too numerous to be cited.