"Wait a second…"
I frowned deeply. "Didn’t you say you can cure your poisoning after I complete my mission? What do you mean ‘one more step’?"
The old man smiled. "Patience, young man. These Cyan Tiger Teeth are but one of the necessary ingredients to make the cure. I need another essential ingredient, a herb to be exact, to complete it. Without it, I won’t be able to teach you the ultimate secret art of legends to merge the Cooking and Alchemy skills together…"
The words "ultimate secret art of legends" tempted me greatly. Oh well, I was born to toil to my death anyway, so more or less work doesn’t matter to me.
I nodded and said, "What else do you need, senior? Tell me everything!"
The God Hunter nodded and said, "Directly south from here, around 30 minutes away, there is a place called Blood Skull Mound where a Night Creature Legion is garrisoned. These defenders number around a thousand or so, and they are elite undead warriors who have committed every crime that you could think of in this world. Feeding on human corpses, burning down human villages, anything. Child, I want you to head to Blood Skull Mound and kill all the Blood Skull Warriors residing in that area. I also want you to kill the undead lord, Blood Skull, and bring his head to me. I will use his rotten skull to make my cure…"
I frowned a little. "Senior, this cure is a bit intense, don’t you think? Are you sure you can handle it?"
The God Hunter shook his head. "You don’t understand. When a person gets old, their taste turns hardcore as well…"
Oh well, it’s none of my business. I quickly accepted the additional quest—
Kill Blood Skull (Current Quest Rank: SSS-)
Description: Head to Blood Skull Mound, kill all the undead defenders and the undead lord, Blood Skull. Bring his skull back to Zatch the God Hunter for a very generous reward!
God dammit, the saying "the road to happiness is paved with hardships'' definitely fit my situation right now. Heck, I didn’t even know what this so-called generous reward was. At any rate, I sure hoped that this was the last quest of the chain. This was a bounty quest, so it was a lot more difficult than grinding the Cyan Battle Tigers. However, the higher the quest rank, the better the experience reward, so it wasn’t all bad. Right now, my most urgent desire was to hit Level 150 as soon as possible. Even if I couldn’t become the first mounted warrior of Heavenblessed, I wanted to be ahead of Candlelight Shadow at least.
I bade the God Hunter goodbye and left for my destination again. The cyan energy of a draconic soul was coiling around my Cyan Netherworld Sword and growling softly from time to time. It looked very impressive as a matter of course. I didn’t disable the equipment’s visual effect because this was the middle of nowhere, and there was no one around to attack me. Even if there was, why would I fear anyone when I was the apex predator in this wilderness?
On the way, the Sky Obsidian Greedy Wolf happily ran circles around me and consumed mutated wild rabbits to fill its belly. For once, it got to satisfy its appetite to its heart’s content. Unfortunately, my little wolf’s ranking was a bit too low for my needs, and as a fifth-promotion player, I had three pet slots. I supposed I could capture a Level 1 version of some high-level mob and train it if it was fairly reliable, but pets had always been super rare in Heavenblessed. It had been months since I entered the game, and I had only ever encountered a handful of Level 1 pets!
[Author’s Note: I swear on the ceiling above my head that it’s because Heavenblessed is stingy with pets and not because I totally forgot that pets existed…] 
Zatch said that it would take half an hour to reach Blood Skull Mound, but he was basing it on the movement speed of an average warrior. My Storm Waves War Boots increased my movement speed by 80%, allowing me to only take 15 minutes or so to reach the edge of the map.
Looking at my minimap, the map was completely blood-red in color. Unlike Frost Mound, Blood Skull Mound was a completely open camp with no fence to protect it. In fact, the only structures I spotted were giant graves that were protected by a hundred or so undead warriors each. However, I appreciated the terrain though because it made completing the quest a lot easier for me. After all, all the mobs in this map were pretty high-level, and I was alone and without a priest. It was impossible even for me to grind them en masse.
I moved to a nearby grave and saw a high-level undead warrior clad in blood-red armor from head to toe watching his surroundings carefully. It wielded a long spear, and the pupils peeking from behind its helmet were blood-red. It was observing everything around it with overwhelming hostility. I didn’t even need to see its stats to know stats to know that it wasn’t a common mob.
I sucked in a deep breath and walked closer. I tried to check its stats, but most of them were obscured. Still, the tiny bit of info I gleaned was enough to shock me—
Blood Skull Warrior (Ancient)
Introduction: The guardian of Blood Skull Mound. These powerful undead used to be human elites until their souls and bodies were snatched away from them. Their emptied bodies were transformed into the servants of the Night Creatures, and these fallen creatures know nothing besides killing all that is alive in the world.
God damn, this was the first time I met an ancient-rank mob. I saw the mob ranking order on the forums, and Ancient came right after Shadow. For mobs that weren’t bosses, they were categorized as Common, Enhanced, Elite, Shadow, and Ancient. In other words, ancient-rank mobs were very powerful enemies with stats that rivaled even some minibosses, so much so that I couldn’t even see their stats. It’s so unfair, why is it that I could see the Star Dragon’s stats but not these mobs’?
Slightly displeased, I decided to do away the skulking and just murder the hell out of them. No matter how powerful they were, they were just Level 164 mobs. Also, this was the perfect opportunity to absorb the undead soul sparks. With luck, I should be able to become an Asura King after clearing out the map!
One of my racial skills, Deterrence, helped weaken the Blood Skull Warrior’s stats to a certain degree, but I had no idea about the exact number because it involved many factors and many interactions. It was impossible to determine the exact formula.
I kicked off the battle by launching a cyan blade energy at the head of the nearest Blood Skull Warrior.
Not careless enough to underestimate the enemy, I withdrew to the back and launched another Dragon Slaying Slash at the skeleton. After the mob started growling and chasing me, I immediately activated Thunderous Charge!
A successful stun later, I launched my usual combo, Burning Blade Slash + Universe Break right across its chest. A series of damage numbers appeared above its head—
I had thought this might be the case. The ancient-rank mob was so tanky that even with my Cyan Netherworld Sword I wasn’t able to deal an overwhelming amount of damage to it. Another player might find it very difficult to penetrate its armor without a buff like Martial God.
After the Blood Skull Warrior recovered, it let out a low growl and retaliated with a heavy swing to my shoulder, causing me to wince in pain and lose 2459 HP at the same time. This was just the basic attack. Before I could recover myself, the blade of its spear suddenly shone bright red, and it thrust the weapon straight at me!
Holy shit, its Attack is ridiculous! Thank goodness I didn’t choose to aggro multiple mobs at once, or I would die like a bitch for sure. In the end, no matter how powerful I got, I was still just a warrior. Without a shield or a mount, I could never be as tanky as Gui Guzi. I really should avoid getting hit as much as I could.
The good news was that I had plenty of HP, and I triggered the Cyan Netherworld Divine Dragon effect just before the mob could go to town with me. The dragon soul engulfed their Blood Skull Warrior and killed it where it stood!
After the powerful armored skeleton slowly collapsed to the ground, it dropped a pair of bloody metal armor wristguards. I picked them up from the ground and gave them a look. Tsk tsk, better than I expected—
Bloody Dawn Wristguards (Purple Gold–grade, Outstanding★★)
Magic Resist: 440
Passive: Increases user’s physical attack power by 6%
Outstanding Property: Cruelty, increases user’s attack power by 8%
Property: Bloody Dawn Equipment Set, Wristguards
Level Requirement: 125
Jackpot. I was overjoyed to say the least. This Purple Gold–grade set was almost as good as the Split Galaxy set, and since this was a loot I found myself I didn’t need to surrender it to the guild warehouse. If I could gather a complete set and leave it at the auction house, it would probably be sold for at least a million RMB. The chance to exploit my current advantage and earn money had finally arrived!
Of course, this method of grinding only worked for a high-Defense, high-HP and high-Attack warrior like me. More importantly, my level was high enough—it was only a 24-level difference—that the level penalty wasn’t too severe. Had it been someone else or even a hundred-man party, they would be spotted by the Blood Skull Warriors long before they reached the mobs and be hunted down like prey. It would’ve ended in a party wipe.
This was why no one was willing to explore the fringe maps even though they knew that there were plenty of excellent leveling grounds, and the mobs might drop Purple Gold or even Spirit–grade equipment. It was because it would only result in certain death. Even those who couldn’t resist the lure of wealth eventually learned to rein it in after countless deaths.
I picked up the Bloody Dawn Wristguards and threw them into my bag. Then, I extended a palm toward the body and absorbed its undead soul spark. It felt wonderful, like inhaling a bag of weed. The blood aura surrounding the body vanished and became a part of my spirit energy.
After that was done, I cautiously moved over to the next Blood Skull Warrior and baited it to my location with the Dragon Slaying Slash. Slow and steady.
Some time later, Gui Guzi sent me a message: "Hehe, boss Broken Halberd, we’ve captured exactly one hundred Cyan Battle Tiger mounts, and the second group of magic knights has already arrived. I’ve decided to burn the midnight oil and squeeze every last drop of value from this precious map. What do you think?"
I replied with a smile, "Sure, do as you please. Work hard to create our own Cyan Battle Tiger cavalry troops. Heaven’s Rain will be part of your division as well."
"Does that mean I’m a division commander now? Hehe…"
"Haha, division leader is not that impressive. Just wait, when the guilds grow big enough, I’ll let you become a commander-in-chief and command tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of troops at once!"
"Okay! I’m going back to the grind now!"
1. And I swear on the ceiling I'm leaving this in the text instead of making it a footnote to make sure people see it. Now we know why he suddenly and randomly mentioned grinding Venomous Wasps in hopes of finding a Level 1 version when the ASDS party got wiped by 30 Mad Dragon players.