"That plate must weigh at least two tons! Damn, that guy is strong."
The onlookers began whispering amongst themselves in hushed tones as they stared at Jiang Shaoliu in amazement.
"That was awesome!" Liu Guang beamed with excitement in his VIP seat.
Liu Guang thought he could also break the ergometer if he tried, but back when he himself had taken the test, he only had two life rings and only left a two-centimeter-deep imprint of his fist on the plate.
His strength instantly propelled Jiang Shaoliu to fame.
Returning to the military reception desk, Jiang Shaoliu said, "Sorry, for making a mess and breaking your ergometer."
"That's alright," the female receptionist forced a smile but looked stiff with fear, "we will send someone to repair it. You are qualified to receive the model with the most advanced specifications. Here you go," she handed him a small box.
He put on the watch and activated it according to the instructions in the manual.
The female receptionist regained her calm and said in a sweet voice: "We will assign relevant tasks to you according to your power. Please give me your ID card to register. Your personal information will remain confidential."
Jiang Shaoliu handed her the ID card. "So, what should I do with the monsters I kill? It'll be a pain in the ass to drag them back here one by one to get my contribution points."
She finished the registration and gave the card back to him. "Mr. Jiang, there is a GPS feature in your watch. The military will send someone to deal with it if you contact them."
It sounded easy enough. He only had to kill the monsters and the military would be responsible for collecting the bodies.
"One more thing," she smiled politely. "Your watch supports panoramic video recording, and good footage of your fights against monsters can be exchanged for contribution points as well. Feel free to come up with an alias if you don't want to publicize your real name."
Jiang Shaoliu considered this for a while.
He used to be a vet, taking care of the monkeys of Huaguoshan. Now he could "cure" the mutant beasts that infested the Earth.
After making a quick footnote in his file, the receptionist said: "Should you be in danger, you may contact the military for support. Only the first time is free, though, so please don't waste it."
Jiang Shaoliu nodded.
The military was very generous. The three other factions might not have such good benefits for their martial masters.
With the formalities taken care of, it was time for him to leave.
Under the gazes of a great number of powerful men, Jiang Shaoliu walked out of the mall. Liu Guang followed him out with the big grey wolf.
"Shaoliu, did you punch with all your strength just now?"
Jiang Shaoliu shook his head. "I've no idea."
Liu Guang stopped in his tracks.
How could he not know that?
But he had to believe him when he saw Jiang Shaoliu's sincere face.
Seeing Jiang Shaoliu riding off on his tiger, Liu Guang and his big grey wolf went back inside. He had accumulated a lot of contribution points and he wanted to exchange them for something.
Xiao Bai sped up as they approached the suburbs, the scenery on both sides of the road whizzing past them in a blur.
Jiang Shaoliu was in deep thought.
He had told Liu Guang the truth: he was not sure whether that was the limit of his strength or not.
As he was trying to muster his strength and was about to strike, he found that his bronze life ring was being stressed to the extreme and the broken iron rod was ready to act, as if it was going to strike the golden hoop.
He had never experienced this before and he was afraid to imagine what could happen if he overstimulated his life ring.
Passing through the heavily guarded gates, they could smell the fresh air, mixed with just a hint of the scent of blood.
There were rolling hills and ravines in all directions. They didn't appear on the smart watch, so they had to be new.
"The land is still changing," Jiang Shaoliu remarked to no one in particular.
Thick forests sprawled in the distance amidst jagged peaks and torrential waterfalls. The wild calls of birds and beasts carried on the wind, as in prehistoric times.
"Let's get a drink there first, Xiao Bai."
In the distance was a lake, tagged as a danger zone on the smart watch.
However, the area of the lake seemed fairly small on the map, while in reality it stretched far into the horizon. Obviously, it had just recently grown.
Xiao Bai took off at full speed towards the water, consuming a lot of energy. It was fine to not eat for weeks at a time, but one couldn't last long without water.
As the tiger approached, dozens of reed-like vines came out from the lake bottom and slowly stretched toward Xiao Bai's front legs.
"Get back! Get back!" Jiang Shaoliu shouted.
Without hesitation, Xiao Bai sprung backwards from the shore, roaring threateningly.
The vines slowly receded under the lake surface, leaving trails of glossy, green and greasy mucus on the ground. Thin tendrils of white smoke began rising from the mucus as it corroded the sand and formed deep trenches.
"It's stronger than sulfuric acid!" Jiang Shaoliu gasped.
He didn't know if Xiao Bai's bronzed body could resist the corrosive substance, and he had no medicine to treat him if he got injured.
Jiang Shaoliu's stomach gurgled.
He and Xiao Bai hadn't eaten that day yet. Now he was hungry too, but Xiao Bai was a picky eater, so finding food was really a big problem for them.
"Let's go hunt something."
There was a 500 square kilometer danger zone northeast of them, where many giant beasts roamed, including ones with life rings in the center.
This was exactly where they were headed.
"It's pointless to kill ordinary monsters, as they're barely worth any contribution points," Jiang Shaoliu contemplated as Xiao Bai zoomed across the wilderness. "I will have to kill the monsters with life rings, preferably two or three rings."
He was nothing if not ambitious.
Though his golden life ring had been pressed down to a bronze one, Jiang Shaoliu still felt confident about his strength after his experiences in the cave and on the road.
His muscles stretched his dark green T-shirt dangerously as he tightly gripped Xiao Bai's back, but Jiang Shaoliu paid it no attention, his eyes eagerly focused on the horizon.
A thick forest came into view in the distance. The shortest trees were dozens of meters high and the tallest towered at around a hundred meters.
A light mist hung in the air as they entered the thicket. Faraway beasts' calls echoed amidst the thick trunks, as well as the tinkle of running water.
A bird the size of a small military attack drone shrieked as it swooped down from a high branch with a rush of wind, its sharp talons gleaming coldly like metal.
It was a really dangerous area, so some birds and beasts were bound to attack them on sight.
"That'll do!" cried Jiang Shaoliu as he jumped up from Xiao Bai's back, fist-first.
The giant eagle screeched and flew off in a circle, its crushed talons leaving a trail of blood on the ground behind it.
"Hey, where are you going?" Jiang Shaoliu dropped to the ground lightly and picked up a stone from the forest floor. "We're hungry!"
Letting the warm flow shoot up his arm, Jiang Shaoliu launched the pebble like a cannonball, which vanished from sight in a blur.
In midair, the eagle's torso suddenly exploded, blood falling like rain from its abdomen. Its internal organs exposed and its wings fluttering weakly, the giant bird dropped like a rock.
" Xiao Bai, catch!"
Before Jiang Shaoliu could finish the command, Xiao Bai already shot out like a whirlwind and pounced up nearly ten meters in the air, catching the eagle in its jaws before it hit the ground.
A small cloud of dust went up as the two giant beasts landed. The eagle struggled for a moment in the grip of Xiao Bai's fangs before its head drooped down and its heart gave out.
Jiang Shaoliu leaped with excitement: "Just you wait, Xiao Bai! You'll have a whole roasted eagle for lunch today!"
Xiao Bai couldn't wait and tore a big piece of raw meat out of the eagle's innards.
Xiao Bai had enjoyed good food since leaving the cave with Jiang Shaoliu, like the rare fruits as well as the delicious meat provided by Li Xiang. Now raw meat seemed not so delicious and he spat it out, anxiously digging up the ground with his front legs while Jiang Shaoliu got down to cooking.
A big chunk of flesh on a makeshift skewer hung above the fire. The meat was seared golden, oil dripping slowly into the flame and disappearing in thin tendrils of smoke.
"It smells great." Jiang Shaoliu swallowed his saliva.
Xiao Bai wanted to pounce on the roasted meat and swallow it up whole, but he had to stand watch to drive away any monsters that came to investigate the delicious smell. He had already killed a good number.
Other birds of prey had attempted to swoop down on them, but they were turned away by Jiang Shaoliu's stones. The rest didn't dare to dive from the high boughs after seeing their companions collapse to the ground in crushed and maimed heaps.
"Xiao Bai, catch!" Jiang Shaoliu suddenly cried out when the barbecue was ready.
With a startled yelp, Xiao Bai pounced into the air and caught the flying piece of charred meat in his jaws.
It was delicious, but that was not enough for Xiao Bai.
"Dig in, we have more than you could ever chow down in one go!" Jiang Shaoliu laughed.
Less than an hour later, they had devoured more than half of the giant eagle's flesh.
Xiao Bai's belly was bulging like a sack of potatoes as he lay dozily on the ground. Jiang Shaoliu sat comfortably, letting the warm flow circulate inside him while he digested his dinner.
After a while, Jiang Shaoliu packed and bundled up the rest of the meat into the basket on Xiao Bai's back, and jumped on the tiger's back armed with a big bag of stones.
The beasts wearily peeking at them from a distance got frightened at the sight of the stones. The giant birds in the branches above scattered and the monsters on the ground bolted in panic.
Jiang Shaoliu touched Xiao Bai's head and gazed into the depths of the forest ahead.
"Life-ring monsters, I am Jiang Shaoliu, and I'm coming!"