He had successfully condensed his second life ring after the battle with Sha Xing — the stomach ring.
According to the Great Sage's Formula, it would make virtual qi into true qi, turn consciousness into reality, and improve blood circulation so that one would feel fresh every day.
Now that the stomach ring had been condensed, he could get the true qi.
But before he could practice, he had to heal his wound.
He took out the fruit Liu Guang and Chen Anguo had given him and ate what was left of it, watching his various scratches and injuries heal so fast he could actually feel his skin grow and stretch over them.
"Oh that felt good."
His eyes closed, he took a deep, long breath and began to meditate.
With every breath he took in the vital force of Heaven and exhaled less turbid qi.
He seemed to see his entire body from the inside within his mind, with so many meridians contracting or expanding while so many clumps of sticky grey-white stuff were squeezed out.
He began to perspire, his sweat mixed with grey-white impurities. The true qi flowed through the meridians and pooled around the acupoints, which made his body tingle.
After his first life ring was condensed, he could feet heat flowing through him, which was not visible but existed indeed.
Now his second life ring was condensed, but it was not accompanied by the feeling of heat. This was the real true qi, flowing inside him to form a complete circle.
"This must be what is meant by consciousness becoming reality. As a result, you can't only feel your insides but directly observe them, what's called Internal Vision in the classical works of Chinese medicine."
The stomach ring was rotating at high speed, expanding and deflating like a pump to its extreme limits.
It absorbed heavenly energy from the air he breathed and extracted pure true qi into the blood much more efficiently than before the stomach ring had been condensed.
"My lungs aren't enough. It will take a long time to finish this whole process of improving the blood circulation since my true qi insufficient," he thought as his fingers formed convoluted finger formulas. "I'll have to rely on the Breath of the Air to extract true qi, so that I can make this process run faster."
The so-called Breath of the Air referred to the direct exchange of air between the atmosphere and the blood. Ordinary people could only breathe with their lungs, but Jiang Shaoliu was not bound by that circuitous pathway.
With his first life ring and with the Great Sage's Formula, he could breathe air via the pore on his skin.
Countless pores on his skin opened at once, sucking up innumerable microscopic breaths of cool air.
"That feels nice," he sighed with satisfaction.
Each pore could take in only a tiny amount of air, but with so many pores added up, they could breathe in as much air as a whole extra set of lungs.
Now he could absorb twice the amount of energy from heaven with each breath and convert it to twice the amount of true qi.
"It means dredging the channels and collaterals which includes the twelve main warps, the seven meridians as well as the other minor meridians too, which will consume more true qi."
It was obvious that the impurities had been removed from the body by the true qi, which made it now fully suffused him.
There were now many impurities inside the meridians, mainly in the waist and legs.
"My blood circulation environment can't have been too good since I was always sedentary as a vet. It would have been worse if I hadn't been walking around Huaguoshan all the time." Now Jiang Shaoliu could understand the potential risk of not removing such impurities, which may accumulate and cause problems when one grows older.
His eyes started to ache and tear up, and when he rubbed them some white-grey impurities were stuck on the back of his hand, mixed in with the tears.
Suddenly, the interior of the cave seemed brighter and clearer, as if a diaphanous veil had been removed from his eyes.
"The Great Sage's Formula is so amazing. It's great the ape ancestors left behind this breath guidance trick," Jiang Shaoliu thought.
After a few hours, Jiang Shaoliu stood up.
His T-shirt and trousers were soaked sweat, stinky and unpleasant. Fortunately, the stream and waterfall were not too far away, so he could take a bath.
His smart watch started beeping. It was a call from Chen Anguo.
"Lieutenant Chen, have you found Xiao Bai and the black bear yet?" he said before Chen Anguo could speak. "Please let Xiao Bai stay with for now, I will pick get him when I'm back."
Chen Anguo sounded a little dejected: "Yeah, they're here, but this bear is seriously wounded and may die."
Jiang Shaoliu blinked.
How could that be? He only hurt the bear enough that it couldn't overpower Xiao Bai while he was gone, but he knew when to stop. That punch couldn't have been fatal.
Maybe Xiao Bai…
He rolled his eyes and said, "Well, try to patch up the bear; just leave it if you can't."
"No." Chen Anguo said with curt finality. "Most monsters are not afraid of death and there are not so many that are successfully tamed by human masters. Let me take it back to base and we can save it for sure."
Jiang Shaoliu could hear Xiao Bai growling through the smart watch. He sounded very satisfied.
After the call, Jiang Shaoliu walked out of the cave and enjoyed a soak in the stream, but no matter how hard he scrubbed, he couldn't wash out the sticky impurities out of his clothes, so he was forced to walk around in his shorts. His smooth, well-defined muscles shone in the bright sunlight.
Jiang Shaoliu roamed the forest until he came across a giant wolf, which he promptly killed and roasted for food, also using the wolf's skin to fashion makeshift trousers and a vest. After that, he continued meditating.
When he returned to the cave, the fragrance of the red plant had grown stronger and the pale fruit in the center had grown ruddier. It was almost ripe.
Jiang Shaoliu had to bathe every other hour when he practiced at the beginning, but now he only needed to do it about once every five or six hours. The more he practiced, the more impurities were forced out by his true qi.
One day and one night passed before all the major meridians and almost half of the minor ones were cleaned.
Only the conception vessels on the abdomen and the governor vessels on the back still had a few stubborn clumps of impurities in them, which no amount of true qi could dislodge.
After trying for two hours with no progress, Jiang Shaoliu gave up and stood up to practice his martial arts.
He no longer breathed white steam when he exerted his qi, but rather invisible hot air.
There were some movements that Jiang Shaoliu would only practice after one or several specific meridians were cleared, refining them using his qi.
After much trial and error, he also made a few additions and modifications to the forms and stances, adjusting them for a human physique.
Simians and humans were different. The apes had mastered powerful techniques, but they were never meant for humans.
He went through the forms of the Ape Fist again and again until steam began rising from his skin. Each time he punched a blast of compressed gas would shoot out of his hand and whirl all around the cave, causing the red fruit to sway.
The true qi circulated faster and faster inside him, rattling the conception and the governor vessels. The stuck impurities were blown apart and the two life rings were rotating crazily.
A thick, hot stream of true qi rushed across his back, shoulders and chest, then reached his abdomen.
He could hear a buzz on both ears and feel a rumble inside as if an entire snow-capped mountain had been instantly sublimated into steam. The river of true qi surged with infinite power for a moment.
Now the conception and governor vessels were completely clear.
Jiang Shaoliu's eyes shone brightly as he bellowed with excitement:
Then, with a peculiar expression, he sniffed the air a few times and turned around.
The fragrance of the heavenly fruit assaulted his nostrils. The red plant's leaves were smoldering and burning up from the stem toward the fruit at the top.
With a startled gasp, Jiang Shaoliu shot forward like a bolt of lighting and snatched the fruit before the fire could reach it.
"Hot-hot-hot!" he opened his palm and a small cloud of steam wafted up. The skin of his palm was red.
He stared at his hand.
"My hand can stop a bullet from a sniper rifle; how hot is this thing that it could burn me?"
The plant, which was previously fresh and bright red, had burned up into a pile of ash.
"Incredible." Jiang Shaoliu shook his head.
It seemed as if the fruit had devoured nutrients from the stem and leaves by scorching them.
Had he known the truth, he wouldn't have bothered trying to save the fruit and getting his hand scalded
"Humph. Sometimes kindness comes to no good."
The fruit cooled gradually and Jiang Shaoliu carefully examined and smelled it. Just the scent of the fruit made his face redden and his true qi start flowing faster.
"This fruit is some kind of stimulant," he frowned.
He wondered if he would explode after eating this?
This fruit was quite different from the previous two medicinal fruits. It could stimulate the body and could prove very useful in a critical moment.
"I just hope I can never have to use it in the future." Jiang Shaoliu put on his wolf clothes and walked out of the cave barefoot.
He was starving by now and he wanted to find something big to wolf down.
A thin and short master from the Gangxing Group was squatting on the branches of a big tree in the thick of the forest, holding a pair of binoculars. He spoke into his smart watch in a low voice: "Sir, there is no military presence. He's alone."
The cold voice of the commander replied, "Contact the nearby members and cooperate with the snipers. Failure is not an option."
After a short pause, he added:
"Engage at your discretion. I want to see his corpse in 30 minutes."