"I've informed the others. We will proceed to Shan Mao's position as fast as possible," Lei She, the commander, said gruffly. "Our sentry on the main road into town has reported that a group of twenty soldiers has just returned, but that guy wasn't with them."
Dabiao threw the rest of the energy bar down his throat and jumped from the stone. "Ready to roll, sir!"
"Let's go!" Lei She kicked off the ground, sprinting off in a flash of silver light.
Dabiao grabbed the rocket launcher and followed suit, leaving behind a trail of green air.
Luo Dabiao, who had two bronze life rings, was called the Lethal Weapon.
Jiang Shaoliu was dragging a big hedgehog back to the cave.
Most of the monsters in the vicinity of the cave were cautious and had already escaped far away. Only this hedgehog stayed behind and Jiang Shaoliu killed it.
But it was so small, only 3 meters tall and 4 meters long, it was not even enough for one meal for him.
The surroundings became quieter as he came nearer to the cave. His sensitive ears picked up the sound of the gentle breeze blowing in the forest and the rustle of every single leaf, and every ripple in the water of the nearby stream.
He slowed down and eventually stopped, letting the hedgehog's paw fall to the ground.
A flicker of sunlight glittered on the lens of a scoped rifle in the distance.
As the order sounded, three snipers simultaneously pulled their triggers and three alloy bullets burst towards Jiang Shaoliu's head, heart and abdomen.
Jiang Shaoliu instantly dropped to the ground. The bullets missed him and one of them took a spike off the hedgehog carcass.
Four submachine guns fired at the same time, blocking the way ahead in a deadly crossfire.
"It's the Gangxing Group again!" Jiang Shaoliu rolled out of the way and ran straight through the hail of lead, his heels kicking up clods of dirt. "They show up everywhere!"
A small master was playing with a dagger in his hand behind a big tree. He eyes said he was there to find trouble.
Another master was kneeling behind a huge boulder not far away, wearing an alloy steel claw like a big cat.
"Shan Mao, this guy is too fast! We can't hit him!" someone shouted in the distance.
The master wearing the alloy steel claw narrowed his eyes.
Jiang Shaoliu was a blur heading in his direction with bits of bark, dirt and leaves flying all around him, torn up by the storm of bulllets.
He was zigzagging rapidly, getting closer and closer to the gunmen.
"Shoot him while he's running! Fire from cover and keep your distance from him!" Shan Mao roared into the forest, "Prepare for close combat when you run out of bullets!"
Shots rang out from all directions.
Jiang Shaoliu leaned forward and heard a bullet whizz over his head, so close he could feel the heat coming off it.
The rate of fire was starting to slow down.
The gunmen began to change positions in the distant undergrowth, firing on the move. There was still a storm of bullets flying in his direction, but not enough to pin him down. Now was a good chance for Jiang Shaoliu to charge!
Jiang Shaoliu grabbed a stone off the ground and sped up even further. Now his true qi was flowing into his right hand through the meridians, which made his skin feel burning hot.
He spotted the distant gunman. "Go die!" with a flick of the wrist, the stone was sent on its way.
The sound echoed the remote forest. Some small trees were broken in half while the older ones were pierced straight through, scattering leaves and broken branches across the forest floor.
One of the gunmen was spraying bullets from his machinegun as he ran, his skin bronzed, when the stone caught up to him.
He stumbled as his sternum was suddenly blown out of his torso, collapsing to the ground with his finger still tightly squeezing the trigger of his gun.
Bullets flew everywhere, ripping trees and shrubs apart.
"Qiang Zi!" Shan Mao's eyes became red with fury. Green air enveloped his legs as he stormed towards Jiang Shaoliu, screaming, "I'm gonna kill you!"
All the gunmen stopped running around and aimed at Jiang Shaoliu.
"Next." Jiang Shaoliu calmly clutched a handful of gravel and sent it hurtling into the undergrowth like grapeshot from a cannon.
Another sniper stopped in his tracks and looked down at his chest with incredulous eyes.
A handful of small holes had appeared on his tactical uniform as if he were shot by a shotgun, blood staining his shirt. He staggered a few steps, then fell to the ground in blood, died.
"Charge!" the four remaining gunmen dropped their sub machineguns and roared in anger as they rushed towards Jiang Shaoliu with cold steel in hand.
One of them picked up his sniper rifle again and jumped up onto a tree branch, aiming at Jiang Shaoliu with his finger on the trigger.
The short master flourished his dagger with bloodthirsty eyes as he dove at Jiang Shaoliu.
"Nope!" shouted Jiang Shaoliu and dodged him to run off to fight Shan Mao.
Up on the distant tree, the sniper's eyes flashed as he pulled the trigger.
On the ground, Shan Mao was rushing towards Jiang Shaoliu. He snarled savagely and thrust into Jiang Shaoliu's abdomen with his steel claws.
Jiang Shaoliu winced and backflipped out of the way.
With a thud, the sniper's bullet drilled itself into a tree trunk at high speed and sent up a shower of splinters.
The short guy was still angrily chasing after him, his raised dagger gleaming with cold light.
The sniper pulled the trigger again.
Jiang Shaoliu contracted his muscles, crouched down to gain momentum, and kicked off the ground with a blast of gravel, twisting and flipping himself horizontally.
A bullet whizzed right past his nose, its heat making his eyes tear up.
"I've gotta take out the sniper first." Jiang Shaoliu dropped to the ground and closed his eyes.
He clenched his fists and entered a deep silence. There was no light in front of him, nobody, no trees, no stones… Total darkness, as if he had extricated himself from the world and entered the void.
The four masters from the Gangxing Group encircled him and were getting steadily closer, staring at him cautiously.
In their eyes, this guy was a dead man already.
"Kneel!" Shan Mao barked furiously.
They would never want this guy die peacefully since he had already killed two of their brothers.
"Kneel down, just do it!" the masters began vehemently snarling and growling at him, still inching closer.
Jiang Shaoliu stood in the center of the darkness, the voices near him enveloped him as if the whole world was spinning.
"The wind disappears, the leaves don't make any sound and the water stops flowing…"
Sweat mixed with grey-white impurities broke out on Jiang Shaoliu's forehead. His two life rings were shaking inside as the true qi gushed and flooded his pathways.
All sound gradually faded away.
The sniper rapidly fired two shots, the bullets hurtling towards Jiang Shaoliu's calves like guided missiles.
First they would destroy his legs, so that they could deal with him as they saw fit at their leisure.
Two bright, white dots appeared in front of Jiang Shaoliu in the endless darkness.
He almost imperceptibly narrowed his stance.
Two clumps of dirt exploded into the air by his feet.
Jiang Shaoliu seemed completely removed from his surroundings. Two grey-white tears ran out from his eyes and his eyelids trembled slightly; it seemed they would soon open.
"Kill him!" Shan Mao screamed and rushed forward suddenly, his alloy claws barreling towards Jiang Shaoliu's face with a strong wind.
Jiang Shaoliu stretched out his right hand.
He caught the alloy steel claw in his hand, crumpling it up like discarded paper. Sparks flew as the metal scraped against his palm.
Shan Mao was and his comrades stopped in their tracks, flabbergasted.
"How can that be?" Shan Mao muttered in disbelief.
Jiang Shaoliu opened his eyes slowly. His two eyes were like deep pools; clear, lucid and bright.
The world looked different.
The surrounding trees and bushes were more vivid and lively, colorful and clean, full of vigor.
The ground had changed too, as if every blade of grass and speck of dirt had been scrubbed and polished. Every crack on a stone and every grain of sand seemed to have a life of its own.
"Whoa, this is like a whole new world!" Jiang Shaoliu giggled.
Shan Mao's narrowed his eyes. He pulled his arm back sharply, the alloy steel claws still in Jiang Shaoliu's hands.
His fingers were curved like talons as he swung at Jiang Shaoliu's temple.
"Too slow!" Jiang Shaoliu threw away the claws and preemptively punched Shan Mao's wrist.
Shan Mao screamed and retreated quickly, his wrist shattered. Bone fragments pierced the skin, spraying blood.
The three remaining masters rushed madly at Jiang Shaoliu. The short one thrust his dagger at Jiang Shaoliu's eyeballs like a terrible venomous snake.
"You're so slow!" Jiang Shaoliu avoid the blade with a precise tilt of his head, then dropped to a knee and savagely drove his fist into the ground.
A shockwave blew in all directions with a deafening boom, bombarding the Gangxing Group masters with countless pieces of debris and forcing them, bleeding and shaking, to retreat.
Jiang Shaoliu turned around slowly and saw the sniper up in the branches still aiming at him. "That guy is really tenacious!" he snorted.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as the true qi was gushed through his meridians.
The Gangxing Group men stopped and stared.
Was he going to try to resist an alloy bullet head-on?
The sniper's bullet hit Jiang Shaoliu right between the eyes with a small shockwave that flung all his hair backwards.
"Well…" the crumpled bullet fell and Jiang Shaoliu caught it in his open palm. "That hurt a little!" he laughed with a wide, toothy grin.
This was more than Shan Mao could take. "Let's get out of here!" he screamed, turning around to run. "Run for your lives, he's too strong!"
The Gangxing Group masters were too scared to fight any longer and escaped in all directions.
In the distance, the sniper slung his rifle over his shoulder and jumped down from his tree, escaping with gritted teeth.
Jiang Shaoliu was so terrible that even an alloy bullet couldn't kill him. Only the commander could deal with him.
He bent down in the deep pit he'd blown out of the earth and picked up a rock.
They all had to be eliminated.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?!" Jiang Shaoliu shouted after them as he flung his arm and threw the stone.
The sniper stumbled mid-sprint and tumbled head-over-heels to the ground.
His right leg had been blown away below the knee, falling in mangled pieces around him.
"Ow!!" he clasped both hands around his wound and howled frantically, rolling miserably on the ground.
Jiang Shaoliu walked to him slowly.
In the distance, Shan Mao stopped and turned around toward Jiang Shaoliu. "Stop!" he screamed in a horrified voice.
The others stopped as well, watching apprehensively from a distance.
Jiang Shaoliu paid no attention to him and kept on walking toward the sniper.
Several human figures darted through the thick forest. Their leader, with an alloy nine-tailed whip tucked into his belt, was looking at his smart watch.
A red light was flashing on the small screen.
It was Shan Mao's position. They were close now.
"Bao Long," the leader turned around and looked at another master not far away, "let's pick up the pace. We don't want him to take all credit, do we? Let's make this worth the trip."
Bao Long was a strong and tall man carrying a big knife. He nodded and chuckled: "Okay, I'm ready to kill."
A strong green air flow appeared under the feet as he accelerated.
The leader snorted and sped up as well, zooming through the forest like a streak of green lightning.
The other masters behind them glanced at each other and sped up to keep up with them.
Jiang Shaoliu nonchalantly kicked the sniper's screaming head off his shoulders, finishing him off.
"Hmm, nothing's happening."
Looking at the sniper's body, Jiang Shaoliu screwed up his features in deep thought. The black iron bar in his mind's eye remained calm and still under the gold band.
"There must not be a heavenly weapon in him. He must have just learned how to fight on his own." Jiang Shaoliu shrugged and looked up.
Shan Mao and the other master were sprinting back his way, their eyes red with fury.
And further away, two shadows had appeared from the thick undergrowth.