The current was swift, and there were some vaguely glowing vines rippling under the surface.
They reached a rocky outcrop of jagged stones, splattered with blood and torn rags from human clothes. It seemed as if there had been a big battle there.
The further they went, the bigger the trees became. They were now amongst 100-meter-tall trunks, with thick canopies covering the sky. Flying monsters nestled on the branches and there were also monsters on the ground, but they didn't dare to provoke Jiang Shaoliu.
Jiang Shaoliu didn't bother to kill them because an ordinary monster was barely worth 10 contribution points. It just wasn't worth his while.
"This is…" Jiang Shaoliu squinted his eyes.
It was already over an hour since they'd entered the danger zone and the path was becoming more and more difficult.
Patches of sunlight shone through the high canopies above them in places. A light grey mist began to rise and spread in the air, alongside occasional swampy bubbling sounds.
Xiao Bai growled in a voice, glancing around alertly. He was itching to test himself against another life-ring beast.
"Up ahead is the territory of the monsters with life rings. That's where we'll fight! Let's go!" Jiang Shaoliu yelled.
Xiao Bai roared wildly to the sky, causing a shower of leaves to fall from the trees around them and the beasts skulking around them to stampede away in fear.
Xiao Bai leaped forward and fell knee-deep into the swamp, but managed to crawl out onto drier land.
The plants in the swamp were different from the ones behind them, the trees even higher and hardier. There were many thick, slimy vines winding there like pythons, trying to sneak up on them.
From the berries that grew on the bushes dripped a sticky, corrosive juice that sizzled as it hit the damp ground.
There were no monsters in the mist.
"It's like a natural barrier to stop the weak ones from entering…" Jiang Shaoliu was lost in thought.
As long as he focused on the Great Sage's Formula, the poisonous gases of the swamp, which would have stopped most other people from going any further, would be purified immediately as they entered his lungs.
Anyone who could cross this mist had to be a strong person or monster with life rings.
It was over half an hour of trudging through the mud before the emerged from the mist and could enjoy a deep breath of fresh air.
A vast mountain range sprawled far into the hazy horizon. A waterfall gushed down from the nearest peak like an entire galaxy pouring from the heavens with the deafening sound of ten thousand galloping horses.
Multiple rainbows hung in front of the waterfall while strange fish played in the pool beneath it, their scales gleaming in a strange light.
The booming roars of giant beasts rumbled across the sky. The territory of the life-ring beasts was filled with a sense of antiquity, like another world, untouched by time.
"What do you think those fish taste like?" Jiang Shaoliu thought aloud.
Xiao Bai's stomach gargled eagerly.
"Are you hungry again? You ate half a giant eagle less than an hour ago!" Jiang Shaoliu looked at him wide-eyed, but the tiger's abdomen had already become flat, which meant the eagle meat had already been digested completely.
Throwing a piece of eagle meat in the tiger's mouth, Jiang Shaoliu tapped the beast's head and Xiao Bai reluctantly kept on moving, casting the occasional wistful glance over his shoulder at the strange colorful fish swimming in the water.
They had a clear goal: they had to hunt and kill monsters with at least two life rings.
It was not challenging enough for Jiang Shaoliu to kill monsters with one life ring since he had already killed so many in the cave for practice.
A snow-white python with angry, blood-red eyes coiled at the foot of a 500-meter bluff, its large silver scales coming off its long body as if it was shedding.
There was a bump on its head and its hide was broken as if something was coming out.
An evil monster spiraled downwards in the sky was poisoned to death immediately by a spray of yellow poison, its bones sizzling on the ground under the corrosive liquid.
The python squirmed and coiled as a bony protrusion broke out through the top of its head.
It coiled itself around a huge rock, pale scales and flakes of stone piling up beneath it while the protrusion on its head kept growing.
"Well…" Jiang Shaoliu shook his head in awe. "Here comes the monster."
The rock cracked under the weight of the giant snake the python reached the final stage of desquamation.
Once its old hide was completely removed, it became a monster with two life rings.
"Now that's a big snake. A whole mammoth is probably not enough to fill that thing's stomach!" Jiang Shaoliu's eyes opened wide.
The python that emerged out of the old skin was more than thirty meters long and more than three meters in diameter. Its scales shone in the sunlight and two very sharp and poisonous white fangs protruded from its upper jaw.
Jiang Shaoliu charged forward with bright eyes.
Xiao Bai remained riveted in place.
The python's huge poisonous fangs and horn were a little too much for the big cat.
"Stay away from it, Xiao Bai!" shouted Jiang Shaoliu. He was following the Great Sage's Formula and the warm flow was boiling inside him as he prepared to strike with the Ape Fist.
The ancestor ape could subdue a dragon; now he wanted to defeat the python!
As this was the most critical moment of the shedding, great anger flashed in the python's murderous eyes. It opened its huge maw and sprayed out a stream of yellow venom at Jiang Shaoliu like a pressurized water cannon.
Jiang Shaoliu zigzagged around it, the stones cracking below his feet and vortices of air throwing up dust around him.
Stone sizzled and smoked as the yellow venom splashed on the ground.
"Take that!" he roared as he picked up speed.
A blast of compressed air like a steel knife exploded from his fist as Jiang Shaoliu punched from the sky.
The wind roared as the python whipped its bronzed tail around.
A shockwave of compressed air blasted in all directions as the fist collided with the python's tail. Jiang Shaoliu somersaulted backwards and landed nimbly on his feet.
Its tail was extremely powerful and its thick new scales were tougher than tempered steel. It was not going to be easy to kill.
The python slowly retracted its tail, thin streams of blood staining the spot where Jiang Shaoliu's fist crushed a few scales.
It seemed the snake noticed that while this human was tiny, he had quite a powerful punch!
The pain from its tail only made it angrier.
The python slithered, leaving a deep ditch under its heavy body. Its head rose several meters off the ground, venom dripping from its fangs as it prepared to strike.
"Idiot." Jiang Shaoliu narrowed his eyes.
As a vet, he knew well the anatomy of snakes.
He focused on a spot about seven meters down its length from the head, exactly where the snake's heart lay.
"Die!" Jiang Shaoliu charged again and felt the life ring around his heart fill with energy. The warm flow flooded him, gathering in his fist until his knuckles glowed.
The python contracted its pupils.
It had its unique venom and the sharp horn; it had practiced so hard in order to become a dragon and didn't want to die so soon.
With a sharp hiss, the python's scales turned to bronze. The huge head shot forward like a lightning bolt and struck Jiang Shaoliu.
Its sharp horn, the hardest part of its body, could kill him for sure.
"Fool!" shouted Jiang Shaoliu, rapidly changing direction and striking just as he sailed over the snake's head.
The python shook all over while a shower of broken scales fell from its head. Blood streamed from its mouth as it squirmed and slithered away over hundreds of meters, crushing every stone and tree in its path.
It started gurgling as blood flooded its throat.
Its heart was ripped apart by the force of the blow and it was impossible for it to survive.
"Stop!" Jiang Shaoliu chased after the snake and struck it on the nape of the neck, severing its spine and nervous system just outside the skull.
The giant python's head immediately dropped to the ground, carving out a shallow trench. Its eyes went dark and the tense muscles slowly relaxed.
In the distance, Xiao Bai still didn't dare to come close and dug his claws into the ground nervously, growling in a low voice.
"It's over!" Jiang Shaoliu cheered as he jumped onto the python's broad head and punched again, crushing its skull.
Snakes had amazing vitality and didn't die so easily. As a vet, Jiang Shaoliu knew not to make the mistake of getting too comfortable too soon.
Xiao Bai approached slowly and carefully.
"Snakes actually don't taste too bad. We have to boil the meat first, though, because there are all kinds of parasites in it."
Suddenly, a red point appeared on his shoulder and slowly moved to his head.
The laser sight of a gun.
"Hide, Xiao Bai!" Jiang Shaoliu bellowed and leaped out of the way.
Xiao Bai roared and bolted behind a big tree.
Jiang Shaoliu picked up a stone and took off at a dead run, while the special alloy bullet kicked up a big plume of dust behind Xiao Bai. The python was hit as well, blowing a big, bloody hole in its flesh.
"Damn it!" Jiang Shaoliu snarled.
What an unscrupulous sneak attack.
Five masters from the Gangxing Group stood in the forest, one of them aiming a scoped rifle at Jiang Shaoliu.
"Oh shit, he's spotted us!" the lead master, carrying an alloy knife, exclaimed with surprise.
The sniper remained calm and squeezed the trigger every second, the cracks of his rifle echoing in the mountains.
Bullets whizzed around Jiang Shaoliu as he zigzagged amongst the rubble and splintered trees, throwing stone after stone at the attackers.
Blood splattered as the lead master was hit. The four other men around him were injured as well shortly afterwards.
"Support needed! Support needed!" the sniper screamed into the smart watch on his broken arm.
The other three masters beside him took out their alloy weapons and charged at Jiang Shaoliu, who covered the 500 meters between him and them in only a few seconds.
Jiang Shaoliu threw a punch and the tall master in front of him instinctively raised his hands to defend himself, smashing his alloy warhammer into his own skull.
Another tried to stab his dagger into Jiang Shaoliu's waist.
Jiang Shaoliu twisted out of the way and punched again.
The bronze light faded from the twitching body hanging on his arm. He slowly pulled his fist out from the man's ribcage.
"Are you…the devil?" the last master trembled all over as a wet stain spread on the front of his trousers. "Please, please…"
Jiang Shaoliu stretched out his bloodied hand and grabbed his neck.
"I'm not the devil, I'm just a vet."
Crack. The neck bone snapped.
The wounded sniper was about to get up from the ground but was held down by an angry Xiao Bai.