Thursday, February 23, 2017

The First Alchemist - Chap 39

Chapter 39 - No Customers

After a night of sleeping under the cart, the next morning came, and with it the hustle and bustle of the market. Chem Al and his disciples opened up the wooden boxes to display the medicinal pills. Now they were ready for the day.

“How many pills do you think we will sell?” Sei Vi asked. She wasn’t the only one excited. The other disciples, plus all the villagers, were in anticipation of the money they were going to make. They expected a stampede of people rushing in to buy everything they had by the end of the day.

Chem Al didn’t answer her. Based on the journals, he knew that they weren’t going to sell very well. He just didn’t realize how bad it was going to be.

No one came.

An hour passed, then another, and another. Despite shouting out, “Medicinal pills for sale!” again and again, they didn’t sell a single pill. Although it wasn’t noon yet, they should have had at least one customer by now.

Then miracles of miracles, a passerby stopped and looked at their cart. It was just a cursory look, but it gave them hope. Sei Vi jumped in before he could leave. “Hey, mister! Come closer. Is there anything we can interest you with?”

“Just looking.”

“Ah, you have a decent cultivation, but what if I told you we have a way to make you stronger at a faster rate. Take a look at him.” Sei Vi grabbed Chem Au to display him. “This warrior is only fourteen years old but with a cultivation already at the twentieth level. Amazing isn’t it?”

The potential customer nodded. A poor village boy with that strength was practically unheard of.

"He got this strong because of this." Sei Vi held up a Primary Profound Pill. "You just need to swallow it and it’ll make you stronger. For the price of one high jade stone, it can be yours."

"One high jade stone?" the potential customer yelled, alarmed. "You expect me to buy a small thing like that at such a high price? Forget it!"

"But, bu..., I guarantee it’ll make you stronger. It is definitely worth the price."

"Do you take me for a fool? You probably hired some strong cultivator, lied about his age, and dressed him up like a poor villager to sell your fakes! You think I haven’t seen this trick before? Well I'm having none of it." The lost customer left.

Sei Vi watched him go; so did the rest of the villagers. This wasn't turning out like how she had thought it would be. One of the main reasons she wanted to practice alchemy was to make money. She looked over at her Master who didn’t look worried at all, which only annoyed her.

For the next hour, the disciples continued to try to sell to any potential customer. They either showed them the strength of the village's guards or lowered their prices, but there were still no takers. It looked hopeless.

The villagers looked at their village chief in dismay. They were selling ordinary crops that they had grown on their little farms, but they were selling better than his pills were. Why hadn’t anyone come to buy a pill?

Sorka Bo looked at this situation with glee. The villagers had placed a lot of their hope on the money they would make from this. He could already see the disappointment growing on their faces. And that disappointment would lead to anger, which would lead to throwing out the cripple and bringing back his father as the village chief. This was better than he could have hoped.

The three disciples were certainly disappointed, especially Sei Vi. She stomped over to her Master. “Why aren’t you worried? We’re not selling anything!”

Although Chem Al appeared casual, his heart did ache a little. His pride was hurt. These were pills made by him! Yet there were no buyers. He remembered in his past life people would pay exorbitant prices for one of his pills. Even if he was lazy and made a simple first tier pill, kings and sect leaders would come from thousands of miles just to get a chance to purchase it.

But this was no longer the case. He told himself that he was no longer the Grandmaster, and the fame of The First Alchemist hadn't yet spread, so he couldn’t rely on titles to sell his pills.

Still, although the journals told him that at this point in time selling the pills would be difficult, he didn’t expect that there would be absolutely no customers! This really hurt his pride as an alchemist!

Chem Al sighed, then tried to explain to his disciple. “Disciple, because of my amazing pills, you must have forgotten. In the outside world, medicine isn’t really trusted by the people. They do look for ways to help them get stronger and to improve their health, but they know that most of the so called medicine out there doesn't work. And let's face it, most of the people who sell what they call medicine at these poor markets are just scammers. Just listen...."

Sei Vi opened up her ears like her Master told her to. And that was when she heard them. Most of the people here were selling food and such, but ever so often she could hear someone shouting something deceptive.

"Do your legs not work like they used to before? Take these herbal roots and tie them to your legs. It’ll make them stronger so you can walk again!"

"If your loved ones are sick, burn this incense. I guarantee it will rid the spirits that plague them!”

"Snake oil! Get your snake oil here! It'll make you strong and viral, especially in the bedroom!"

Chem Al was reminding her why most people didn’t trust medicine. It was something he had learned last year when he came to this market. He was horrified at how backwards medicine was a hundred thousand years ago. That was not to say that there weren’t scammers in the future selling fake medicine. It was just that there weren’t quite as many as the ones here.

He looked down at his ragged clothes, and at the clothes that everyone else was wearing. Of course no one was buying from them. They were a group of poor villagers selling medicine from the back of a cart. Who the hell would trust them?

"Kind of reminds me when I tried to sell medicine at a market back when I was young," Sheng Yi said, then gave a light chuckle. She knew better than anyone else of how untrusting people were towards medicine.

“Then what she would do?” Sei Vi practically shouted. Changing the prejudice a city full of people had towards medicine seemed impossible.

“Relax,” Chem Al said. “We just need to spread the word about our medicinal pills in one giant leap.”

“How are we going to do that?” Sei Vi asked. Her fellow two disciples were wondering the same thing.

"Big brother!" Chem Al shouted.

Chem Au stepped up. "What?"

"I need you to win the city's martial arts tournament!"

Around 100,000 years later

Whoever the girl was, she looked scared and helpless. Her clothes were in disarray and she was sweating a lot as if she had been running. She stumbled forward like she was looking for a helping hand, then collapsed in front of the table where Mi Ling and his group was.

Mi Ling stepped up. "Are you okay?" he asked. She didn't say anything, but she gave a weak nod. Mi Ling picked her up and led her to a chair, feeling how soft yet malnourished her body was. He asked one of his three alchemist friends for some kind of recovery pill, then asked Mr Choco for some water.

The girl took the pill, then drank the water. She slowly recovered, her skin becoming less pale. She was breathing easier.

"Are you feeling better?" Mi Ling asked again.

"Y-Yes," the girl said.

"Good. My name is Mi Ling. Can you tell me your name? And what happened to you?" This wasn't the sort of situation that Mi Ling has ever been in before, but he read enough books to have an idea of what to say.

"My name is Su Li. I was shopping in the market when some people started to chase me. I ran in here looking for help."

"You poor dear. Don't worry, you're safe here," Mr Choco said.

"We should call one of the turtle shell guards," Mi Ling said.

"No." Su Li shook her head. "It's okay. I'll just stay here for awhile and hopefully they'll be gone by then."

"Are you sure?" Mi Ling said.

Su Li nodded.

After Mr Choco said that she could stay for as long as she needed, Su Li rested at the table where Mi Ling and his group sat. They continued to ask her more questions about who could have been chasing her, but she gave vague answers. It seemed that she either didn't know who they were or she didn't want to talk about it.

Seeing how shaken up the girl was, the group decided it was best to move onto other topics. They continued their discussions from earlier, with Ren Sha every so often trying to get Su Li to join in, to tell something about herself. That was his idea of chatting her up. She told them that she lived in a poor neighborhood with her ailing mother, but don't worry, she was recovering.

They talked for awhile until Fen Yue mentioned that enough time had passed for those who had been chasing her to wander off somewhere else by now.

"I guess I should be going. My mother is probably waiting for me," Su Li said.

Mi Ling could see that she still looked worried. "Don't worry. We'll go with you."

"We will?" Da Xiang spoke up, surprised. He still had two and a half tons of brownies left to eat.

Mi Ling nodded. It wasn't like they had anything more important to do. Since the three alchemists were meant to guard Mi Ling, everyone paid their tab and then followed Su Li out the door. Their carriage was still there, and after Su Li gave the driver directions to her home, they were on their way.

They passed through the crowded market and the usual hubbub of noise.

"Coffee beans! Fresh coffee beans straight from the rainforest!"

"This sword can cut down any foe and will make you the envy of your friends!”

"Snake oil! Get your snake oil here! It'll make you strong and viral, especially in the bedroom!"

Passing through, it took nearly an hour for them to enter a poorer neighborhood. Finally, they stopped in front of Su Li's home. It was quaint, but a little run down.

"Thank you for the ride. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this," she said, but when it came time to exit the carriage, she still looked worried even though there was no way the people who had chased her would have followed her all the way here.

"I'll walk you to your door," Mi Ling jumped in.

Su Li thanked him, and the two walked to her home. Before they reached the door, Mi Ling gathered up his courage and said, "Here is my transmission mark. If you need any help at all or you just need to talk, contact me with a jade transmission slip."

Su Li smiled. And it was a genuine smile that seemed to wipe away almost all of her worries. She looked more beautiful than ever, and Mi Ling felt like a hero for bringing such a smile to her face.

"Thank you." Su Li kissed him on the cheek before entering inside.

A smile of his own plastered itself on Mi Ling’s face, although his was more slightly stunned. He stood there for a second looking at the door, then slowly strolled back to the carriage.

Before he made his way back, Fen Yue quickly turned to her two fellow alchemists and said, "Find out everything you can about that girl."

Author Notes: Sorry for being gone. I had a spot of laziness eating my soul. I will be more professional in the future.

Author Notes #2: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.

Prev Chap | Next Chap

Monday, February 20, 2017

The First Alchemist - Chap 38

Chapter 38 - Four Cauldrons and a Shield

The villagers finally left the forest without any further trouble, and was able to make it to Vera City before the sun went down.

Once inside the gate, they went off to the market in search of a spot to set up their goods. The market wouldn't take place until tomorrow, so like last year, the Chem brothers were able to get their parent's permission to wander around. Except this year, they were followed by Sheng Yi and Chem Al's three disciples.

And where else would they go but The Tai Smithy.

"That's it?" Sheng Yi said, looking at the dilapidated building. It was smaller and in worst shape than any of the other smithys in the area.

The three disciples were disappointed as well. Throughout these months, they had to put up with their Master's grueling teachings on all things alchemy. Considering that they started out not knowing how to read or do percentages, that was a lot of knowledge they had to stuff into their minds.

But all of it would have been worth it because their Master said that once they traveled to Vera City, they would be able to receive their very own medicinal cauldrons!

Who was the one that forged these magical, miraculous cauldrons? they would wonder. Who was the blacksmith that had such an amazing gift?

And then they found out that the blacksmith lived in what amounted to a shitty, stone shack.

But while they were disappointed, their Master was excited. "Come on!" Chem Al said, rushing inside. His big brother followed him in.

When Sheng Yi and the three disciples went in after them, they found that the inside was small, and there were no other customers. It was as they expected.

"Hello!" Chem Al shouted.

Tai Fu, who had just heard the sound of what might be customers coming in, went up to the counter. There he saw the strange little boy from last year, along with the boy’s big brother and four new people. He smiled, because you should always smile at a customer. "Hello, it's good to see you again."

"Do you have them?" Chem Al asked.

"Just one moment." Tai Fu knew what he meant. He went into the back of the smithy, then came out with four medicinal cauldrons made of profound iron, and laid them on the counter. "Well, what do you think?"

"They're everything I paid for and more!" Chem Al said, looking at the cauldrons with glittering eyes. Sheng Yi and the three disciples were doing the same.

These were going to be their very own personal cauldrons!

"I'm glad you like them. Might I take a guess that these cauldrons are for them?" Tai Fu pointed at the newcomers.

Chem Al nodded, then proceeded to pick up the cauldrons and handed them over. One for Sheng Yi, one for Bela Dor, one for Shu Tui, and one for.... Again, a look of reluctance appeared on Chem Al's face, but he eventually handed over the last cauldron to Sei Vi.

It's only a low level cauldron, Chem Al thought. She won't do anything bad with it.

Sei Vi held the medicinal cauldron. It was an exciting time for her, except for that one moment where she caught her Master wincing as he handed it over to her. Why did he do that? she would often ask herself. He sometimes made that same face to her these past nine months. It was almost as if he regretted making her his disciple.

Sheng Yi and the three disciples thanked Tai Fu, who blushed under the praise. He didn’t really understand what was so special about these cauldrons even though he made them. Why were they thanking him so full-heartedly?

“You’re all very welcome,” Tai Fu said, then he turned to Chem Al. “I do hope that that’s not all you came for, because I do have one more item that I think you might be interested in. Can you guess what it is?" Tai Fu said.

"No, what?" Chem Al said, except he already did know thanks to the journals. He just wanted to let the young man have his fun.

"You're going to be really surprised. Remember last year when you talked about making a shield from the shell of an Under Turtle? I decided to risk it and bought a plate of a shell, then made this out of it." Tai Fu held the item up with a smile. It was his greatest creation.

It was a normal sized shield, dark green in color. There was no design on it, only a polished smooth surface.

Although it looked simple, Chem Al knew what it truly was. This was the prototype for the shields of the turtle shell guards! A historical artifact, yet brand new, was right before his eyes. Although it wasn’t an alchemic artifact, it was still amazing.

Chem Al turned to his big brother, who was looking at the shield with shining eyes.

Tai Fu also caught Chem Au's interest. He handed over the shield to let him hold it, knowing that it would make him even more interested in it.

Chem Au held the shield reverently, seeing his reflection on its dark, smooth surface. He banged his fist against it. It was the hardest thing he had ever touched. "Let's buy it,” he said to Chem Al.

"Hm, I don't know,” Chem Al said, trying to hide his enthusiasm. “Sure it's made from the shell of an Under Turtle, but the turtle you got this from was young, probably less than a hundred years old. It had not yet developed its full hardness yet."

Tai Fu's smile dropped lower and lower listening to Chem Al pointing out the shield’s flaw. He couldn’t stop himself from shouting, “How the hell could you know that?”

“I can tell the age of anything,” Chem Al said.

Tai Fu settled down, wondering again of how strange this boy was. Yes, he had to admit that he bought a plate from the cheapest shell that was on offer, but it was still damn expensive! It was the best he could afford. He had only bought it because he thought he could make a decent profit from this kid, but now that no longer seemed likely. "Look, I know that the shell that this shield was made from isn't the best quality, but I'll stake my life that this is the hardest shield in all of Vera City!"

"Oh, I have no doubt about that," Chem Al said. "That's why I would like to buy it..."

Tai Fu's smile came back.

" an affordable price, of course."

And then disappeared again.

Chem Al took out a bag of jade stones from under his clothes. One of the reasons he wanted to become village chief was to get access to the village's jade stone reserves. He knew that Sorka Jiu had saved a lot of money over the years … which he will now spend.

He dropped the bag on to the counter and a couple of jade stones rolled out; some of which were high jade stones.

Even though those beautiful jade stones were right before Tai Fu’s eyes, he only looked sad. Sure it was a lot of money, enough to buy a couple of medicinal cauldrons at least, but after a quick calculation he realized that he would barely make a profit from this.

Should he even sell the shield to this kid? The answer was yes, only because there were no other takers. No one else in the city wanted to buy it.

The other blacksmiths knew how incredible the shell from an Under Turtle was, but they spotted right away how inferior the one he bought was. Plus they thought that his smithing skills were pathetic, so the shield he had made must have been worthless.

As for the nobles, they didn’t want it because they were fine with their own shields that were made from dragon scales. He tried to tell them that his shield was a little tougher than theirs but they wouldn’t hear of it, especially when they found out that his was made from a slow turtle. Those bastards! He didn’t bother to tell them that their so called dragon shields were made by the scales of weak Wyrms and Dragon Newts, a far cry from a Flood Dragon.

Tai Fu sighed, then grabbed the bag of jade stones, agreeing to the transaction.

“Oh, is that all you wanted? Because I was willing to pay more for the shield,” Chem Al said. Slowly, he took out another bag of jade stones and dropped it on the counter.

Tai Fu couldn’t help himself. He grabbed the second bag and started counting the money. This was more than enough! He looked at the little village boy and hesitantly asked, “All of this?”

Chem Al nodded.

Tai Fu wanted to jump for joy. It was a bigger profit than he was hoping to get. Screw it, he was jumping anyway no matter how silly it looked. He had risk a lot of his money buying that single shield plate, and now he could finally breathe with relief again.

Meanwhile, Sheng Yi came up to Chem Al with a worried look on her face as she whispered into his ear. “Disciple, are you sure about this? That’s nearly half of the village’s jade stones.”

Chem Au, who heard what she said, was equally worried. He wanted this shield, but not at such a high cost.

Chem Al waved them both off. “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

When Tai Fu finally settled down, Chem Al said to him, “I hope that you’re happy with our transaction.”

“Very much,” Tai Fu said.

“Good, because I want to make a proposal. Our village needs a blacksmith, and I was hoping that that could be you.”

Tai Fu paused. The boy was a good customer so he didn’t want to say no right away. He might have been the poorest blacksmith in the city, but that was still better than being a blacksmith in a poor village.

As if Chem Al knew what he was thinking, he said, “Yes, our village may be poor now, but who knows, maybe someday we will become even greater than Vera City. I just want you to think about that, and think about the future. Do you want to be a poor blacksmith in a city that doesn’t appreciate you for the rest of your life? Or do you want to be the first blacksmith in a village that will grow stronger and more powerful.” Chem Al then tilted his head a couple of times towards his big brother.

Tai Fu didn’t know what the little kid was doing, but he guessed that he wanted him to take a closer look at Chem Au. So that was what he did, and was shocked. He discovered that this cultivator’s profound strength was at the twentieth level! Wait, wasn’t he only at the thirteenth level a year ago? How did a cultivator from a poor village grow by seven levels in a single year?

He turned back to Chem Al and looked at him in a new light. Maybe the little kid’s words were something worth thinking about.

Chem Al said goodbye, then the six of them left The Tai Smithy, happy with what they got.

Around 100,000 years later

Da Xiang opened the door. What Mi Ling found inside Chocos was not what he expected.

It was a tavern, but clean and brightened with the glow of so many profound lamps that it looked like day, despite having no windows. There was no swill on the floor or broken chairs, and the customers looked like respectable alchemists enjoying a good time. There was even a sugary smell in the air.

Da Xiang quickly found them a table. It wasn't long before a big man showed up, laughing. "Da Xiang, you made it! Ren Sha, Fen Yue, you’re here too, but who’s he?"

"This is Mi Ling. We're showing him around," Fen Yue said.

“Oh, the rumored Mi Ling? Call me Mr Choco. Me and my wife are the owners of this spit shined establishment.”

“Mr Choco?”

“It’s not my real name, but everybody calls me Mr Choco,” he said. “So what will we be having today?”

Everyone placed their usual orders, while Mi Ling got a menu, and wished he hadn't when he discovered how pricey everything was. He ordered the cheapest thing, which was a chocolate flavored beer, the same thing that Fen Yue got.

"I don't really like sweets that much, but their house beer is good," Fen Yue said.

Da Xiang got a chocolate cake, brownies, and enough sweets to feed an entire village full of teethless children. He also got a couple of drinks too, and seemed to be enjoying himself.

After serving the food and drinks, Choco came and sat down with them. "How is it?" he asked Mi Ling, referring to the beer. "My wife and I came up with this place. I wanted to make a bar and she wanted to make a chocolate shop. We combined the two and it seems to work."

"A lot of students from the academy come here to relax," Ren Sha said. "Da Xiang especially likes it."

Da Xiang muffled something with food in his mouth. He swallowed, then said, "Best chocolate cake in the city. But that's not why I wanted to come here today. Mr Choco, tell me about the information you mentioned to me earlier."

"Information?" Fen Yue said.

"Wait, you didn't just come here to stuff your face?" Ren Sha asked.

Da Xiang looked at him like he was stupid, then turned back to Mr Choco. "Well?"

"I saw the sketches that the turtle shell guards were passing around, and I recognize two of them. The young girl and the old woman."

Fen Yue and Ren Sha sat up, looking surprised. Although they were supposed to be guarding Mi Ling while he was acting as bait, they also came here to enjoy themselves and show Mi Ling around the city. But it looked like Da Xiang chose to come here for another important reason: a lead that might get them closer to the three criminals.

"Tell us everything," Da Xiang said.

"That young girl came in here awhile back. She seemed to enjoy my wife's desserts and my drinks almost as much as you do. Anyway, that old woman came in and called her away for some reason. The young girl paid her tab and then left."

"Names? Did you get their names?" Ren Sha asked.

"I don't know the name of the old woman, but I heard her call the young girl, Wan Yan. That's all I know," Choco said.

They continued to question him for any other detail, but it seemed like that was really all he knew.

"Wan Yan. At least we got a name," Ren Sha said.

Fen Yue nodded. "A name to go along with the face will make it easier to find out who she is. We should report this now to the masters."

"You do it," Da Xiang said. "I still have half a cake to finish."

Fen Yue took out a jade transmission slip. She contacted each of the three masters and told them this new information. Master Zhou Gei was especially on it, getting ready to contact his underground network. He thanked Fen Yue for the info and told her to standby for now.

Since the masters have been informed, the three disciples decided that there was no harm in hanging out in the tavern for awhile longer. They enjoyed themselves, especially Mi Ling who wasn’t the type of person that hung out at a bar.

Then suddenly, the door slammed open and a girl stumbled in, out of breath. “Please help me.”

Author Notes: I'm starting to get some idea where this is going. The only question now is why did my brain come up with a chocolate themed bar?

Author Notes #2: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The First Alchemist - Chap 37

Chapter 37 - Journey through the Forest … Again

"Village chief, might it be time to get a move on?" Sorka Jiu said to him.

Chem Al was currently distracted by a rare species of Snapdragon Vines growing on the side of a tree. This was the third time this happened. Throughout their journey, he kept stopping when he spotted a rare medicinal ingredient, despite knowing that he didn't yet have a cauldron powerful enough to turn those ingredients into pills. He also knew that he didn’t have any spare wooden boxes to hold those ingredients so that they won’t lose any medicinal efficacy after picking them. Still, he couldn't help himself.

Like a chastised child, which he was, he slumped his shoulders and got back on his horse to continue their journey. This was the slowest they had ever traveled through the forest.

"Thank you," Sorka Jiu said, seeing Chem Al continuing on. "I think it would be a good idea if we moved a little faster."

"Oh?” Chem Al smiled. “Is there going to be any trouble?"

"My guards had reported sightings of a pack of Fang Wolves for the past month. It might not happen, but there's a good chance that they might attack us."

Chem Al nodded, although he wasn't worried. Fang Wolves were weak desolate beasts with low defense. The only thing they had going for them was their speed and bite force. With the village's current strength, he was sure they could be defeated.

The villagers meandered their way through the forest. It wasn't until an hour later that a guard ran up to Sorka Jiu and whispered in his ear.

Sorka Jiu nodded, then conveyed the message to Chem Al. "Fang Wolves, sir. We've got a confirmed sighting."

"How many?"

"Just one. But that doesn't mean anything. They hunt in packs, so there are definitely more out there."

Beside them, Sorka Bo hid a smile.

"I'll go tell everyone to be on their guard," Sorka Jiu said.

Chem Al shook his head. "No. Instead, tell all the guards to come here and grab a piece of meat."

"Uh, what?"

"Tell all the guards to come here and grab a piece of meat. Do I need to repeat myself again?"

Sorka Jiu still looked confused.

Chem Al sighed. "Here's what we're going to do. We'll have all the guards hold some meat, and then when the Fang Wolves attack, the guards will throw the meat at them. And why should we do this? Because the reason those wolves are attacking us is because they're hungry. So do you think those wolves would risk their lives to attack us when a nice, juicy piece of meat falls from the sky in front of them?"

"Wait. You want to feed the wolves that will attack us?"

"Better than risking our lives to fight them."

"But, bu... The meat! They're our biggest seller in the market. Our profits will go way down if we just throw it away."

Chem Al paused, taking a second to compose his answer. "Sorka Jiu, I respect you, but you need to change your way of thinking. There's a difference in what this village used to be and what this village is now. This village used to be desperate for money in order to buy necessities, to the point where given the choice between saving a cart full of meat and saving someone's life, we would choose to save that cart. No longer!" He swept out his hand. "Do you see the cart that my horse is pulling? See all of those wooden boxes filled with pills? Remember that they will make us more money than a mountain of meat. So I want you to change your mind about what's important. Why risk the lives of anyone in the village if we could just toss away a piece of meat?"

Sorka Jiu was stunned. It was one thing to know something in your head, and another to realize it with your whole body. He looked back at the carts full of meat, seeing it with new eyes. Last year, they barely hunted enough meat to fill three carts, but now there was seven carts filled to the brim thanks to the increased strength of their guards. With such a plentiful amount, it no longer looked valuable.

Beside them, Sorka Bo lost his smile after hearing what the cripple said. "Wha, what are you saying? Are you saying that our guards can't handle a couple of Fang Wolves?" he shouted. He could see his plan going out the window.

Chem Al turned to him with a look on his face that said he was tired of dealing with this guy’s tantrums. "That's not what I'm saying. Our guards are certainly not weak. I'm just saying why risk it? We need each and everyone of them to live and get stronger so they could handle the real threats to our village."

Sorka Jiu looked at his village chief with wonderment in his eyes, then he nodded and proceeded to inform the guards of these new orders.

One by one, guards came up to grab a piece of meat, then left to return to their positions surrounding the villagers. They looked a little confused. Sorka Bo and his followers had to do this as well, although they didn't like it.

Half an hour later, when the reports came in with more sightings of Fang Wolves, it was time to get ready. It was almost anti-climatic when Chem Al saw three wolves jumped out of the forest, growling. The same was happening all over. They were surrounded.

It has been such a long, long time since Chem Al saw a Fang Wolf. They weren't that big and their white, grey fur wasn't that tough. The only thing threatening about them were the two fangs protruding from their jaw.

At the sight of them, the villagers felt fear, but also confident that their guards could handle them. The guards moved forward, but instead of  throwing their spears, they threw pieces of meat. It seemed almost comical.

The meat landed in front of each and every Fang Wolf. The wolves growled for a few seconds longer, then they looked at the meat, then back at the villagers, then back at the meat ... again and again. They were very confused. But although they thought that this was very suspicious, it was free meat. They didn’t have to waste energy or risk their lives to get it. No carnivore in the world would pass it up.

The pack leader, which was a Fang Wolf slightly bigger than the rest, was the first to grab a piece of meat with its jaws, then it slowly backed away while continuing to face its suspicious two-legged enemies. Following their leader's example, the other wolves did the same.

All the villagers watched with open mouths as one of the threats of the forest just walked away instead of trying to kill them. This was a first.

Chem Al thought nothing of it, and proceeded to tell his horse to keep moving forward.

It took everyone else a couple of seconds to recover from their shock, then they followed their village chief, still a little unsure at what just happened. They were slow on the uptake because this went against every way of thinking they had been brought up on.

Sorka Jiu looked down at his sword that was still hanging from his belt. They had just encountered a pack of beasts and he didn't need to unsheathe it. That was hard to wrap his head around. He looked up at his village chief in awe. "Chief, you are amaz--"

"Holy shit! A six hundred year old Regina Nightshade!" Chem Al jumped off his horse and ran towards a rare medicinal plant.

Sorka Jiu looked stunned. He didn't know whether he was dealing with an amazing leader or a little child.

Around 100,000 years later

Mi Ling climbed into the carriage, followed by Fen Yue, Ren Sha, and Da Xiang.

“So, where should we go first?” Fen Yue asked.

Mi Ling shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”

“Come on, you’re the bait. Where do you think they will most likely try to capture you?” Ren Sha said, causing Fen Yue to kick him. “Ow!”

“I really don’t know where to go. I don’t know my way around this city. In fact, before all of this started, I was planning to explore it to get to know it better,” Mi Ling said. “Where would you recommend?”

“Perhaps the Turtle Warrior museum,” Fen Yue said.

“How about a burlesque club?” Ren Sha said. “What? Don’t look at me like that. When was the last time we had any free time like this? If it weren’t for our masters being busy training for the tournament this year, they would be holding us in some dungeon telling us to do this, do that, you’re not doing that right. Why can’t we enjoy ourselves?”

They all just stared at him.

Ren Sha folded his arms. “Fine, fine, let’s do something boring instead.”

“What about you? Any suggestions?” Mi Ling asked Da Xiang.

Da Xiang stayed silent.

“Don’t worry about him,” Ren Sha said. “He only talks to people he respects.”

“You’re an idiot,” Da Xiang said.

“See? He respects me,” Ren Sha said. “So where do you want to go, you big lug? Cake shop? Ice cream parlor?”

Da Xiang sat completely still. “Chocos.”

“Oh, good choice,” Fen Yue said.

Ren Sha nodded. “I agree.”

“Wait, what’s Chocos?” Mi Ling asked.

“You’ll see.” Ren Sha smiled at him. “Just tell the driver to head there.”

“Uh, okay.” Mi Ling turned around to face the driver on the other side of the partition window. “Could you drive us to, oh, aren’t you the same driver from that other day?”

“Yes, sir, I am. I’m surprised you remember me,” the driver said.

“You must have been caught up in that poison attack too. How are you feeling?”

“Just fine, sir. They patched me up real good. Poison’s gone.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling okay. Could you please drive us to Chocos?”

The driver nodded. He got the boar to pull the carriage onto the street, and then they were on their way.

The carriage went around the city for half an hour, during which Mi Ling got to know the three disciples better. Fen Yue was the same as usual, but Ren Sha sure was talkative. He didn’t seem like a disciple to one of the three masters. And then there was Da Xiang, who stayed silent but had excited eyes.

The carriage neared the market area where it finally stopped outside a dark, narrow alley.

“We’re here,” Da Xiang said, first out the door.

Mi Ling followed him out. “Uh, guys? Is this the right place?”

“Yes,” Fen Yue said.

“Are you planning on stabbing me and dumping my body here?”

“Don’t be silly, I didn’t bring a knife with me,” Ren Sha said. “Now come on. You’re going to love it.”

The four went down the alley. Mi Ling thought it would be full of trash and smell like piss, but it was surprisingly clean. They stopped in front of a hole in the wall kind of place, where there was a wooden door with a faded word etched into it.

It said Chocos.

Author Notes: I have absolutely no idea where I'm going with this.

Author Notes #2: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The First Alchemist - Chap 36

Chapter 36 - Nine Months Later

Chem Al stood there, proud, as he saw everyone loading up their carts. It was harvest season, so it was time for another trip to Vera City.

On the surface, the village hadn't changed much. It was the same size; no expansion at all. Some of the villagers still grew crops while others hunted for food. It really didn’t look that different.

However, under closer inspection, there was a strange happiness and relaxation that wasn't there a couple of months ago. The guards looked the same, but they had an air about them that felt stronger, more confident. No one in the village went hungry because they had plenty of meat to eat, and no one died from any stray desolate beast that wandered into the village.

The strength of the guards wasn't the only thing that had changed. There was also a new storage house built right next to the village chief's home, filled with wooden boxes that contained medicinal plants and herbs. For an outsider, this building didn't mean much, but to the village it was practically a sacred place. Because of it, no one died from sickness and it was the reason the guards were stronger.

Sheng Yi exited the medicine house. It was where she lived now, much bigger and more comfortable than her broken down shack on the edge of the village. Now she lived in the center right next to her disciple.

Sheng Yi walked over to the village chief’s home where Chem Al was. “Are you going to just stand there all day looking pretty? I didn’t raise no lazy disciple. Get to work!” she yelled at him.

Chem Al jumped, then ran off towards the medicine house.

Behind Sheng Yi, the three disciples had just left the medicine house, holding wooden boxes in their hands. They snickered when they saw their Master run past. It was always funny to see how the old medicine woman was the only one in the village that could scare their Master like that.

Sheng Yi whipped around to glare at them. “I don’t see you three working.”

The three disciples gulped. They rushed to put their boxes onto the cart, then went back to the medicine house to get more. Chem Al and his disciples repeated that process, loading up the cart with dozens upon dozens of wooden boxes, each one of which holding who knows how many medicinal pills.

Meanwhile, Sheng Yi found a patch of grass, then sat down and watched them work. Ah, if it wasn’t for her damn old bones, she would be right there helping them, yeah, that’s right.

Watching from afar, Sorka Bo was grinding his teeth as he stared daggers at the cripple. He had been doing that a lot lately.

Sorka Bo’s sycophant, Lik Ku, was standing next to him, also watching Chem Al, but with a worried look. "I don't know about this. Are we really going to do it?"

Sorka Bo turned on him. "Of course we are! Do you want that cripple to stay as village chief?"

"No, but isn't this risky? We might lose the pills."

Sorka Bo paused. Although he was reluctant to admit it, he had been using those pills these past couple of months to help increase his strength. "I don't deny that those pills are valuable, but that doesn't mean that a weakling like him should be allowed to be village chief. He should stay in the sidelines and give out those pills as support while real men like my father should be village chief,” he said. “Or are you backing out of the plan?"

"No, no, no, of course not," Lik Ku said, taking a step back. "It's just that maybe we should go for a less risky plan, one that doesn't put the cripple's life in danger?"

"How else are we going to show how weak the cripple is?" Sorka Bo said. "Look, everything will be fine. For awhile now we've been seeing a lot of Fang Wolves around these parts, so it's likely that they might attack us when we go through the forest. All we need to do is guard that cripple, then at the last second, we'll coincidentally be somewhere else when one of the wolves attack him. We won't left the wolf kill him, just scare him a little. Then we'll take out the wolf. And when it's all over, we would have shown everybody how weak the cripple is. If he can't even protect himself, how can he protect this village? Those pills of his might have hypnotized everyone into accepting him for awhile, but at the end of the day they respect strength above all else. They will finally wake up from this nightmare."

Lik Ku nodded, although still worried that something might go wrong. If the cripple were to die, then those pills would be gone. They say that the old medicine woman was the his Master, but everyone could see that the source of the pills really came from the cripple.

However, he decided to go with Sorka Bo's plans. He had always been a follower of Sorka Bo, and a bully to the cripple. So he knew that his position in the village would never rise up if the cripple stayed as village chief.

Seeing how his sycophant seemed more agreeable to the plan, Sorka Bo nodded. “Good. Now gather everyone else that agrees with us. We need to discuss final details and positions before we set off.”

Lik Ku left, trying not to look over at Chem Al as he went by him.

Chem Al didn’t notice. He and his disciples had just finished loading their cart with all of the pills they had made. Their cart was then pulled by the only horse in the village to the edge of the forest where everyone else had gathered.

Under the morning sun, Chem Al sat tall on the top of his horse.

Seeing all the villagers before him made him feel proud. Everyone had come a long way these past nine months. It was slow but they became more accepting of him and his pills. They had helped him and his disciples when a new storehouse needed to be built and when they needed help gathering medicinal ingredients from the dangerous forest.

He will definitely pay everyone back with a life worth living.

"Now before we go into the forest, I think this is when I have to give a speech like how Sorka Jiu did last year," Chem Al said. "Um..., what was it again? Oh well, you all probably already know the gist of it. Don't die. Don't fall behind. And also, don’t die. Do I need to repeat that last part again?”

The villagers smiled. They weren’t worried, at least not as much as the last time they traveled to Vera City. The guards surrounding everyone had more confidence. Their head guard, Sorka Jiu, had managed to make three breakthroughs in these past months thanks to those pills, increasing his profound strength to the twenty-third level. And both Chem Au and Sorka Bo had made four breakthroughs each, breaking the bottleneck to reach the twentieth level.

Overall, the strength of the village has gotten stronger. They were more ready than ever to make this journey.

“Let’s go,” Chem Al said, taking the lead.

They marched into the forest.

Around 100,000 years later

Mi Ling was sitting in the Grandmaster’s office again. After the poison had been cleared from his body, the alchemists in the hospital gave him the okay to leave.

He was currently reading through The First Alchemist’s journal, catching up on the time he had wasted while being knocked out and nearly poisoned to death. He sighed. His life seemed less stable now.

Just then, someone knocked on the door.

Mi Ling knew who it was. He debated with himself whether he should answer it or not, but since they already knew he was in here, he got up from the desk and slumped towards the door.

Opening it, he found Fen Yue on the other side, with Ren Sha and Da Xiang standing behind her.

These were the three that had been given orders to protect him, and although Mi Ling had to admit that they were the best this city had to offer, besides the Masters themselves of course, he still felt that they were quite not enough. But that was just his own fear and reluctance talking.

“Are you ready now?” Fen Yue asked.

Mi Ling sighed again, not really sure. That was why he had been holed up in the Grandmaster’s office for the last few days, telling himself and everyone else that he was busy with the journals.

But now he couldn’t avoid it any longer. It was time to be the bait.

He thought back to the part of the journal that he had just read. It was the part where The First Alchemist announced his plans for the village, about how he was going to turn it into an amazing city that would last over a hundred thousand years.

In all honesty, Mi Ling knew that Chem City wasn’t his city. He hadn’t grown up here. He didn’t care about this city as much as Gui Ying and the other masters did. In fact, he suspected that the masters cared more about this city than they did about his safety.

But reading that journal entry had just given Mi Ling an indescribable feeling that welled up inside him. This wasn’t his city but he wanted to protect it too. He wanted to be like the heroes in the stories he had read, risking his own life to protect the lives of others. He was kind of tired of how stable his life was.

Mi Ling looked at Fen Yue with shining eyes and a lot of trepidation, and said, “Let’s go.”

He left the office.

Author Notes: Do you remember Lik Ku from chap 7? He's back. I did not expect that.

Author Notes #2: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The First Alchemist - Chap 35

Chapter 35 - Chem City

Almost half of the village had taken a step forward wanting to learn this new skill called alchemy.

Chem Al didn’t care about the majority, instead focusing on only three individuals in the group. "For those of you who want to learn alchemy, I thank you for your eagerness, but unfortunately I can only choose three of you. And the first person I choose is...." He pointed at a young girl around his age. "You, Bela Dor."

"Me?" Bela Dor said. "But, bu, ..."

"No need to be shy, come on up," Chem Al said.

Bela Dor wanted to learn this new skill because of how amazing it was, but now that it was becoming a reality, she grew nervous. Under everyone's eyes, she walked out of the crowd and stood before her village chief.

"Now the next person I choose is...." Chem Al pointed at a man that was missing a leg. "You, Shu Tui."

"Me?" Just like the young girl, Shu Tui was surprised as well. He only wanted to learn this strange new skill called alchemy because, ever since he lost his leg during that Colossus Bear hunt, he had become a useless person. Despite having a decent level of cultivation, he could no longer hunt or guard the village, so he decided to give alchemy a try because he had no other way to be of use to the village. He never thought that he would be picked.

Shu Tui stumbled forward, awkwardly moving with a wooden crutch and a single leg, until he stood before his village chief.

"And the last person I choose as my disciple is...." Chem Al hesitated. According to history, he knew who he should choose. But he really, really, really, really, really didn't want to choose her.

Sei Vi. One of the three disciples of The First Alchemist. He knew that she would be brilliant, quickly rising up as one of the most powerful alchemist in all of history. However, the terrible things she would do with the knowledge that he will teach her, he didn't want to think about it.

Ever since Chem Al woke up in this village one hundred thousand years in the past, he did everything he could to avoid her, but now he couldn’t do that any longer.

It was time to make a decision.

Knowing what he knows, should he make her one of his three disciples like history says? Or should he change history and choose someone else? There were consequences to both decisions. The question was should he stop her now before she becomes a threat in the future? Or will stopping her now create an even more disastrous future?

What should he do?

In the end, Chem Al grimaced and pointed his finger at her. ".....Sei Vi."

Sei Vi looked shocked, then a wide smile brightened up her face. She practically ran towards Chem Al, excited and relieved. Ever since her husband died during that Wyrm attack last year, she had lived a horrible life, unable to support herself. The only reason she had survived so far was because she was forced to live as a third wife to an abusive man in this village. She had no other choice. But now all of that was over. The sky was clearing up. She would be able to cultivate and make a lot of money. Her future looked bright.

Chem Al groaned. But he had no time to regret the decision because some of the villagers suddenly started to complain.

Why did he choose those three? What criteria was he basing his choices on? Why didn't he set up some sort of test to help him make his decision? That was what the previous village chief did when he chose who could become one of the village's guard.

"My decision is final!" he yelled, then waited for everyone to calm themselves. "Don't worry, these three before you are only just the start. Once we build up our resources, then we will teach alchemy to those who are capable of it. I don't plan to keep my knowledge a secret. I want to spread it everywhere...," Chem Al meant spreading his knowledge across the world, but he knew that these villagers didn't want to lose their advantage just yet, so he added, " the village."

The villagers finally settled down.

"Trust me, I will do everything in my power to make this village better. No longer will you starve for days and days. No longer will you live your lives with danger at every turn. You will not only survive, you will thrive. But I'm not going to lie. It will take a lot of hard work and the road will be bumpy from here on in. However, there will come a day where you or your children or your children's children will stand up tall and shout out that you're living in the greatest place in the world," Chem Al shouted. "From now on, this place will no longer be known as Sorka Village. It will be known as Chem City!"

The villagers were quiet, imagining such a future. But then someone asked, "Um, Chem ... City?"

"Wait. Did I say that? I meant village. That's right, Chem Village." Chem Al became momentarily flustered, but then he took a deep breath and his eyes looked far off, as if he was seeing something that no one else in the village could see. "But you know, what's wrong with that? Why can't we grow our village and become a city? And not just any city either. It will be a shining city, the envy of all, where there are towers tall enough to scrape the sky, where there are tasty treats around every corner so you don’t have to kill yourself trying to hunt or grow your own food, and where the biggest thing you have to worry about is getting stuck in traffic and being late for work." Chem Al grew quiet, but his voice still reverberated. "And where, late at night, when the lights are shining through every window in every building, it looks like a city filled with stars. And people can see it for miles. That is the city I want to build."

The entire village was silent as if listening in on a dream. No one was able to imagine what Chem Al was talking about, but they could hear the wonder in his voice. It washed over them, making them feel warm and hopeful.

When they finally woke up, they heard their village chief say, “Now let’s get started, shall we?”

Around 100,000 years later

Mi Ling saw that it wasn't just the three masters that walked in, there was also Fen Yue and two others as well, who were introduced to him as Ren Sha and Da Xiang, the disciples of Master Gui Ying and Master Zhou Gei.

"Are you feeling okay?" Fen Yue asked.

"I'm fine," Mi Ling said, although he noticed that Fen Yue and the other two disciples also had faded purple bruises on their bodies. They must have been poisoned as well but they seemed to be dealing with it better than he did, probably because of his lack of cultivation to help suppress the poison.

After the pleasantries were said, Gui Ying turned to the girl in the white alchemist robe. "How is his condition?"

The girl squeaked like a mouse, then clumsily brought up the papers that contained Mi Ling's health status. "Um, yes, he's no longer in any serious condition. His organs had swelled at one point, but thanks to multiple doses of your antidote, Master Gui Ying, which shows how amazing you are by the way, he is getting better. His purple bruises will soon fade away as well. There was some traces of a sleeping gas in his system, but that's almost gone. He will probably be well enough to leave the hospital by tomorrow," she said quickly, almost in a high-pitch voice.

Gui Ying nodded. It was just as he thought while looking over Mi Ling's body, but he wanted his observations to be confirmed. "Thank you. Can you please leave us now?" he said to her.

The girl was disappointed, but she walked out the door, making sure to brush by Master Zhou Gei and Master Que Cue on her way. Then she excitedly went in search of her friends to tell them how she got to talk to Master Gui Ying.

Once she left, Gui Ying stood over Mi Ling. "Tell us what you know."

It was time to get down to business.

Mi Ling went over what happened to him earlier that day, all the way to when he fell unconscious.

"Do you remember anything else?" Gui Ying said. "Anything about the woman who attacked you?"

Mi Ling shook his head. "I only saw her for a second before that pink gas covered me, so there's not much I can tell. She was old, but not elderly. She wore a lot of makeup, so she was probably someone who worried a lot about her age, especially her wrinkles. And her dark robe was extremely high quality, so she either had a lot of money or someone with a lot of money gave it to her," he said. "I'm sorry, but that's all I know. I can give a description so you can have a sketch of her face."

Gui Ying shook his head, disappointed. "No need. Fen Yue and my disciple, Ren Sha, here already saw her face and the faces of her two fellow culprits. We are circulating their sketches around the city right now. Hopefully, someone has seen them." Gui Ying then whipped around and turned towards Zhou Gei, his eyes glaring. "Because somebody couldn't catch them!"

"Hey, it's not my fault," Zhou Gei said. "They went in three different directions, and we lost them. But don't worry, I have the entire turtle shell guards scouring the city. We'll find them."

"That's no excuse!" Gui Ying nearly shouted. "And failing to capture the criminals wasn't even the worst thing you've done today. Sending the turtle shell guards to do their job, that's fine, but why did you have to go personally lead them as well, instead of allowing the head guard to do it? You should have been here with me and Que Cue to make the antidote. It was a damn eighth tier poison! We are the only alchemists in the entire city that is capable of making the antidote. Why weren't you here helping us?"

Zhou Gei didn't look ashamed. "Because I trust you. I knew that with your speed you could make enough of the antidote for the entire city by yourself if you have to. And see? No one died. You did your job, and I was doing mine. And my job was important as well, trying to catch the culprits so they wouldn't be able to do something like this again!"

Gui Ying and Zhou Gei continued to argue while everyone else stood back.

"Don't worry about them. They fight all the time. Just let them let out some steam," Que Cue said to Mi Ling. "Now I want to talk to you about something important. We didn't come here just to see how you are, we also came to ask something of you."

Mi Ling sat up. This sounded serious.

"The poison that was used to attack the city was an eighth tier poison, certainly not something those three culprits we encountered could create."

Mi Ling thought about it, then understood. "You're saying that there's someone else out there, someone pulling the strings?"

Que Cue nodded. "Someone just as powerful as me or my two fellow masters."

“And so, what do you need me for?” Mi Ling had a bad feeling about this.

“They seem to be after you, so we’re going to need you to act as bait.”

I knew it, Mi Ling thought.

Seeing the hesitation on his face, Que Cue said, “I completely understand if you don’t want to do this. But it would be a big help if we could somehow draw them out. Don’t worry, we’ll have you under heavy protection by our best people. What do you say?”

Mi Ling thought it over. How did he get into this mess? He was supposed to just do a simple job of reading some journals and writing an all encompassing biography from what he learned. Now he was supposed to lure out dangerous people who thought of nothing of releasing a lethal poison that could have spread throughout the city and killed thousands upon thousands of people? How did his life turn into this?

While he was thinking it over, he noticed that Gui Ying and Zhou Gei had stopped arguing and were looking at him. In fact, everyone in the room was looking at him.

Mi Ling gulped. “Fine. I’ll do it.”

“That’s the spirit!” Zhou Gei smacked him on the back heavily. Everyone else thanked him as well in their own ways.

“Thank you. I wish there was another way, but this is our best option. I just want to keep this city safe,” Gui Ying said. He looked out the window and saw the city that The First Alchemist built, a city that has withstood every threat and disaster for a hundred thousand years. Night had fallen and Chem City was shining like stars.

Author Notes: I don't really like the last paragraph. It felt forced.

Author Notes #2: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The First Alchemist - Chap 34

Chapter 34 - Three Disciples

Sorka Bo and Sorka Jiu made it back to the village without any trouble, and saw that there was still a crowd of villagers standing around Chem Al. On closer inspection, the new village chief seemed to be passing out something.

"Here you go." Chem Al took out a little red pill from a bag and handed it to one of the villagers. He did this one by one until everyone in the village who cultivated had one, then he stepped back to the middle of the circle. "Now you might be wondering about what I have just given you. As thanks for making me your new village chief, I'm giving you this as a gift. What you hold in your hand is what I call a Primary Profound Pill."

The villagers stared at the pill in their hands, wondering.

"What does this pill do, you might ask?" Chem Al continued. "This pill contains a concentrated amount of profound energy. After swallowing it, just channel that energy into your dantian. With this you will be able to increase your profound strength faster than normal.”

A slight commotion went through the villagers when they heard this. If what the cripple said was true, then this could change the entire future of this village. But still … it was kind of hard to believe. Such a miraculous thing like this pill had never appeared in this village before, especially so many of them. One or two may be possible, but how could there possibly be such a large amount of pills that every cultivator in the village could receive one?

In the end, there was nothing to do but to give it a try. One brave soul swallowed his pill. The villagers went silent, waiting to see if this person would either die or suffer through indescribable pain. But neither happened. Instead, he immediately sat down and began to cultivate.

At the sight of this, someone else swallowed the pill, then another and another until every cultivator tried it and discovered its amazing effects.

Profound energy surged through their bodies. Everyone who took the pill sat down and cultivated, channeling that energy into their dantians. The moment they opened their eyes, they looked at their young village chief in a whole new light.

Chem Al smiled, knowing this was how they were going to react. He didn’t hand over those pills out of the goodness of his heart, he gave them in order to convince these villagers that he would make a great village chief. He knew that he would need the cultivators, the strongest people in this village, on his side.

As the villagers clamored, telling each other how amazing this pill was, Chem Al spoke up. "I hope you realize what a pill like this could mean for our village, especially for our cultivators. Now they could better guard and hunt for our village. Surrounded by a forest filled with desolate beasts, we would be better protected and we will have a more ample supply of food.”

The villagers cheered.

“But that's just the surface benefits. I want you to think more of the outside world. How many people do you think would want these pills? Another question. How much money do you think these people will pay for these pills?" Chem Al rubbed his hands together. "Everyone, we are going to become rich!"

The villagers went silent, stunned. A pill that could make you stronger, they already realized what this meant for the overall strength of the village. But they could also use it to make money too? The villagers erupted with happiness. The days of being poor and destitute were going to be a thing of the past. Such a thought brought tears to their eyes.

"I'm glad you all understand," Chem Al said. "Not only will we survive, we will also thrive. More money means more resources. We could buy better armor and weapons for our guards. No more shitty spears with pointy stones at the end of it." When the cultivators cheered at that, Chem Al continued, "And for the rest of you, we can build better homes and afford more essentials like rice and salt, and alcohol." Everyone cheered at that.

However, Chem Al's voice suddenly turned somber, dampening the vibrant mood. "But this will all come with a cost," he said. "These pills, a lot of people will become interested in them. And some of them might not be willing to pay money to get them.”

His words doused out their excitement. The villagers paled, aware of how weak they were when compared to the outside world.

"Yes, these pills can help our village, but the decision to use them is too much for this humble village chief alone. On the one hand, we can choose not to use them and do nothing, staying weak and pathetic, living out the rest of our lives in our little corner of the world until we die with nothing to show for it. Or... we could use these pills and grow, becoming stronger and more powerful than this world has ever seen. Yes there will be some risk, there will be people who will want to stop us and beat us down and tell us no, but screw them! We will rise up!" Chem Al practically shouted that last part, but then his voice quieted down. "Of course, I leave this decision to you."

None of the villagers said anything, but their minds were racing. They could feel it. This was a momentous turning point. What happens now, whatever they decide, would affect them for the rest of their lives.

"Yeah, screw them!" someone shouted. "Screw everyone else!"

"We want to use these pills! We want to become stronger!"

"Just let them try to take it from us!"

"We'll show them what we can do! We'll show them we're not just weaklings!"

The entire village voiced their support. They were tired, so tired of being weak, of being beaten down and barely making a living. They grew up knowing that being weak in this chaotic world meant that they and their children had a low chance of surviving. It would only take one disaster to wipe them off the map.

They wanted to be strong.

"That's what I want to hear." Chem Al smiled. "Okay, so first thing's first. I know you think that I should start with strengthening our forces, and I will do that, but that will come later. First, I want to spread the knowledge of how to make these pills.”

Hearing that, the villagers muttered excitedly among themselves. Not only would their new village chief give them these pills, he was also going to teach them this secret miraculous skill? That was unbelievable.

Chem Al watched all of them, knowing that this was part of his plan. He knew that this village would be attacked soon, and by forces far stronger than a couple of low level desolate beasts. He had to increase their overall strength, but how strong could this village be if only the men were allowed to cultivate? If he could get these villagers to see that increasing the strength of the women as well would also benefit this village, then that would be another step forward in being able to defend themselves against the upcoming enemies ahead. But how to do it? It would have to start with his Master.

"The skill to make these pills is called Alchemy. Right now in this village, there are only two people who know this skill: me and this village’s amazingly incredible and wise medicine woman, Sheng Yi." Chem Al pointed to her.

Sheng Yi was never one to be shy, but this was the first time so many people were paying attention to her at the same time. She slowly stepped forward and stood next to Chem Al.

"Show them," Chem Al said, keeping his voice low.

"Now?" Sheng Yi whispered back.

"Yes, now. We planned this."

"I know you're wise beyond your years, my disciple, but I don't think you fully realize the prejudice everyone has against women who cultivate. It's just not done."

"The world changes every generation, Master. The world changes."

Sheng Yi sighed. "Okay...." She started channeling profound energy from her dantian until it filled her body. Now her cultivation, which she hid so well that it was almost nonexistent, could be felt by almost everyone in the village.

"What?" someone in the crowd shouted.

"She can cultivate?"

"What the hell is wrong with you? Who do you think you are?"

Obscenities and backlash fell from the villagers, mostly men, while some of the women stayed silent, contemplating. 

"Settle down, settle down...." Chem Al repeated, trying to placate them. When that didn't work and most of the villagers continued to yell, he then shouted, "SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

The villagers slowly quieted down and stared at the eleven year old boy.

"You're against this, I understand. Since the beginning of civilization, most of the cultivators were warriors, those who could protect their loved ones and go out to hunt for food. And these warriors were men..." For now, Chem Al thought. " I can understand why you might not like the idea of the medicine woman knowing how to cultivate. But I want you to know that she didn't learn how to cultivate in order to fight, she learned it in order to heal. Don’t you want that? Someone who can heal you and your loved ones. Or are you a sick bastard that is okay with letting your loved ones die right before your eyes just because you don’t want a medicine woman who can cultivate to be there to heal them?”

The voices of protest stayed silent, although some were still on the edge, so Chem Al continued, “I don’t see why you’re against it. I mean your previous village chief knew that she cultivated, and he wasn’t against it.”

“What?” one of the villagers said as all of them turned their heads to stare at Sorka Jiu.

Sorka Jiu, who now found himself under so much scrutiny, looked flustered. “Um, yes… I knew that she cultivated, but as long as it helps her heal the villagers, I was okay with it.” He rubbed his throat, then glared at Chem Al for putting him under the spotlight like this.

Chem Al just smiled at him, then he turned to the villagers, “See? There’s nothing wrong with a woman cultivating. And to learn alchemy to make these pills for you, she needs to know how to cultivate.”

“What about you?” a villager shouted. “You can do this… al kuh mee, or whatever else you call it, and you don’t cultivate.”

“True,” Chem Al said. “But that’s only because she helps me with the stuff that I can’t do. Believe me, cultivation might not be necessary, but it can make you better at this skill.”

The villagers nodded to themselves, thinking it over. They understood how someone who cultivated their profound strength were far stronger and more powerful than a regular person. So, the villagers thought to themselves, maybe it’s okay for a woman to cultivate as long as she uses it for healing. This was something that would take them awhile to accept, but they’ll accept this new idea eventually.

Seeing the villagers slowly nodding, Chem Al breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t much, but he managed to get his foot in the door. First cultivate to heal, then cultivate to fight. One step at a time.

“Okay, now that you understand,” Chem Al said, “I’m going to need to choose some people to help me make these pills. My Master and I can’t do it alone. So who would like to volunteer? You’ll need to have a strong mind and an aptitude for cultivation. Trust me, what I’ll teach you will be the hardest thing you’ll ever learn.”

The villagers looked at each other, then one by one, some of them stepped forward. The ones that didn’t move were mostly men, satisfied with only improving their cultivation to hunt and fight. They didn’t need to learn this new skill. The ones who wanted to learn alchemy were among the weakest in the village.

Chem Al nodded at this line up. It was as he expected. But he couldn’t choose all of them. According to history, this was the moment where The First Alchemist chose his three disciples.

And he knew which three to choose.

Around 100,000 years later

Mi Ling woke up and saw white. He didn't know where he was, only that there was a weird smell. If clean had a smell, that would be it.

He found himself on a soft bed, in a room that was completely white and had a single, large window that showed him the darkening sky. But that wasn't what caught his attention. Mi Ling noticed that his hands were covered in what looked like faded purple bruises.

"What the hell?" he said. Okay, what was the last thing he remembered. There was an old woman in a dark cloak breathing some kind of pink gas on his face. The next thing he knew, he was in some sort of hospital. What happened?

A door opened, and a woman wearing a white alchemist robe walked in. "Oh? Nice to see you're awake." She smiled at him.

"Where am I? What happened?"

"You're in the Shu Tui hospital. You were one of the victims in the widespread poison gas attack."

"Widespread poison gas attack? I don't remember anything like that. And what do you mean by 'one of the victims'?"

“Don’t worry about it. It’s all been taken care of. Three unknown people attacked the city with poison. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, purple bruises on the skin, and ends with their organs swelling until they finally explode, then death.” She smiled.

Mi Ling stared at his arms which were covered in purple bruises.

“Relax, you’re fine. They will fade in time.” She then had a dreamy look on her face. “Luckily, the incredibly handsome Master Gui Ying was able to create an antidote. It was a hodge podge one created at the last second, but after administering a few doses, it proved to be an effective treatment. I have to admit that it was touch and go for a moment, but no one died.”

"That's good," Mi Ling said.

Yes, it is. Now enough about that. Tell me, are you that Mi Ling everyone's been talking about? The one that flew in on the Grandmaster's dragon?" Her eyes were sparkling. It was obvious that she liked to gossip. "You must be because you're one of the very few that was able to get a private room."

"Uh, yes?"

"Ha, I knew it! Tell me what's it like to hang out with the three Masters. I mean I've heard rumors, but it would be nice to hear something from a first hand source. Is Master Zhou Gei as dangerous and dashing as people say? What about Master Que Cue? Is he as meek and quiet as he seems, so much that you just want to hug him?" She wrapped her arms around herself.

What the hell is going on? Mi Ling thought, but what he said was, "I see that you're a fan of them."

"Of course! If you train in alchemy, how can you not look up to those three. They were the three disciples of the Grandmaster himself. There hasn't been any disciples of a tenth rank alchemist since The First Alchemist a hundred thousand years ago. To be able to even talk to any of the three Masters would be an alchemist's greatest dream."

Suddenly, the door opened again and they walked in: Master Gui Ying, Master Zhou Gei, and Master Que Cue.

The girl looked like she was about to faint.

Author Notes: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.