Chapter 30 - Competitors
The next day began with the village chief sending his guards to inform everyone to come to the center of the village.
Once everyone had gathered in front of his stone house, Sorka Jiu shouted over the crowd's murmurs, "Thank you for coming, everyone. I have gathered you all here today because a fight is about to take place, a fight for the position of village chief!"
The villagers collectively gasped. This came out of nowhere. Who could be dumb enough to challenge Sorka Jiu? With a profound cultivation at the twentieth level, he was the strongest person in the entire village! When they questioned him about it, he told them to calm down, then said, "No one's challenging me. I decided to step down so I can have more time to cultivate.”
The villagers protested. They didn’t want him to retire. They asked him to please stay as their village chief. It was obvious how highly they thought of him.
Sorka Jiu smiled, a hint of moisture in his eyes. “I’m glad that you all wish for me to stay on, but I must step down to make room for the next generation. And I believe that these next two are good choices.”
This raised even more questions from the villagers. If the village chief was retiring, then naturally shouldn’t Sorka Bo become his successor? He was the most qualified person in the village, so why was there going to be a fight?
“One of these people is him.” Sorka Jiu pointed, and from the crowd came Chem Al, who walked up and stood next to him.
The villagers stared, stunned silent; Chem Al’s parents most of all. What the hell was happening?
Chem Al smiled at everyone. “Thank you, thank you. No words are needed. I can see how happy you are for me to become your next village chief.”
Nearly all the villagers burst out laughing. It was the funniest thing in the world! The little cripple was trying to become their next leader? This had to be a joke. Who knew the village chief had such a sense of humor?
But minutes passed and the look on the village chief's face remained serious. The laughter faded, then completely died. The entire village was very quiet.
Then the entire crowd exploded with shouts and questions, with feelings of anger and disbelief behind every word. They were thinking that they had been taken for fools to allow a cripple to become their next leader.
“Village chief, is this a joke?”
“How can this little cripple protect the village?”
“Is he blackmailing you? Tell us he’s blackmailing you.”
Again, the village chief tried to calm them down, but he failed, so he simply tried to speak over them. "I understand that you think this is a bad idea...,"
A roar of agreement came from the crowd.
"... and, at first, I did too. But maybe, maybe he can become a good leader for this village." Before the crowd could argue again, he continued, "Haven't you heard the rumors these past few months? From your friends, from your neighbors. About what this boy and the medicine woman did, about how they helped the sick and injured. And it's not just that. Weren't you all astounded when one of my guards, Chem Au, suddenly had a quick rise in cultivation? Well, I'm here to tell you that those rumors are true, despite it being hard to believe. This boy was the one that did all those things. Think of what else he can do for this village. That’s why I think he is fit to be a candidate for village chief."
The crowd of villagers settled down, muttering among themselves. These words came directly from their village chief, a good and trustworthy leader, so maybe there was something to those rumors after all.
"Of course, I don't expect you to take this on words alone," Sorka Jiu said. "And ... my son hasn't as well. So a proposal has been brought up. A fight to decide who will become the next village chief, Sorka Bo or Chem Al?"
The villagers laughed again. A fight between Sorka Bo and the cripple? There was no contest.
And then that laughter turned into cheers as Sorka Bo jumped forward and stood next to his father.
“Thank you!” Sorka Bo said. “Once I become village chief, I promise that I will protect you all from harm.” He basked in the cheers, then looked back and sneered at the cripple. It was obvious who the crowd wanted to become the next village chief.
Seeing how the villagers were acting, Sorka Jiu sighed, then said to them, "I know what you're thinking, that Chem Al couldn't possibly win, and you'd be right. So he has brought someone to challenge my son in his place."
Chem Au walked forward and stood next to his little brother. At the sight of him, the crowd suddenly went quiet, no longer sure of Sorka Bo’s win now that they knew who he was facing. They had assumed that the cripple would fight himself because, although they had heard of it happening before, what kind of leader would get someone else to fight in his place. Those kinds of leaders were considered weak. Their reigns never lasted long.
Sorka Jiu spread out his hands, indicating the two fighters before him. "These two will compete against each other. If my son should win, he will become the next village chief. If Chem Au should win, his brother will become the next village chief."
The villagers nodded at that. In a world where strength rules, that was the only way to decide who could be their next villager chief. And for quite some time, they had been curious about who would win in a fight between the two most strongest youths in the village, Chem Au or Sorka Bo? It looks like they were going to find out.
The crowd took several steps back, increasing the space between them and the village chief’s stone house.
Chem Au stood on one side, with nothing but his fists and leather armor.
Sorka Bo stood on the other side, wearing the same, but he also had his father’s sword hanging from his side.
The fight was about to begin.
Around 100,000 years later
Que Cue sent a message with his jade transmission slip to his fellow masters, telling them to meet him.
Nearly half an hour later, Zhou Gei slammed open the door to their meeting room. “This better be important,” he said, seeing Gui Ying and Que Cue already there. The only reason he came was because Que Cue rarely came to meetings in the first place, yet here he was calling one.
“It is important. But before I begin, let’s come clean, shall we?” Que Cue said. “We’ve all had people following Mi Ling around.”
Gui Ying and Zhou Gei stayed quiet. But they didn’t deny his words either.
“Okay. Here is what I found out. I’ve received word from my disciple that there seems to be other people following Mi Ling around as well.”
Zhou Gei was the first to react. “Is this true?”
“There’s no doubt. According to my disciple, she accidentally saw them the last time Mi Ling went out into the city. Of course, it was only a suspicion. But now she saw them again, following him when he went to the Tai Smithy." Que Cue looked at the two of them, guessing correctly that they were already informed about Mi Ling's recent trip by their own subordinates.
"Do you know who these people are?" Gui Ying said.
Que Cue shook his head. "Not yet, but I have my disciple following them right now."
Gui Ying placed a hand on his chin. “Hmm, they must be after the information in The First Alchemist’s journals. I can’t think of any other reason why they would stalk Mi LIng.”
“I find that hard to believe.” Zhou Gei snorted. “If someone is going after the journals now, that could only mean one thing. They want to become a powerful alchemist, more powerful than us, and win the upcoming Alchemist tournament. But that’s impossible. We are the only eighth rank alchemists in the world. There’s no one else who has reached our level. With the tournament coming up so soon, even with the help of the journals, there’s no way they could learn from it fast enough to surpass us. The journals would be useless to them.”
“Unless….” Gui Ying was still thinking.
“Unless there’s a hidden eighth alchemist out there.”
The room went silent, then Zhou Gei started laughing. “That’s impossible. If there was another eighth rank alchemist out there, we would know about it.”
"The possibility is not zero," Gui Ying said.
Que Cue nodded. "He’s right. The way for someone to become an eighth rank alchemist is to have enough skill to create an eighth tier pill with one hundred percent purity. Hiding such a level of ability is not difficult. The only problem is....”
“Money,” Gui Ying said. As the one who handles the Alchemist Association’s finances, he understood this most of all. “The higher the rank you reach, the more money you need to increase your skills. More powerful cauldrons, rarer medicinal ingredients, it all costs money. Whoever is after Mi Ling must have a lot of it.”
“Wow, that certainly narrows it down. Someone who has a lot of money and wants to take control of the Alchemist Association.” Zhou Gei rolled his eyes. “Do you honestly believe that there really is another eighth rank alchemist out there?”
Zhou Gei truly found it hard to believe. If someone did hide their high level of alchemic skill, then they wouldn’t be able to gather the power and respect they deserved. Who would be stupid enough to do that?
And besides, he hated the idea that someone else out there could match his level. That would mean that Gui Ying wouldn’t be the only competitor in this tournament he had to worry about. Sighing, he looked over at Que Cue. At least he didn’t have to worry about him.
Que Cue spoke up. “It doesn’t matter if the person going after Mi Ling is an eighth rank alchemist or not. All we know is that they may be after the journals, so we should put a stop to them,” Que Cue said, seeing the look on the other two’s faces.
Gui Ying who respected their master and Zhou Gei who feared their master. He knew exactly what they were thinking. If they weren’t allowed to learn from the journals, then no one else can.
At that moment, Que Cue sensed a message from his jade transmission slip.
“What is it?” Gui Ying asked him, seeing the look on Que Cue’s face.
“Something seems to have happened to Mi Ling.”
Before Gui Ying or Zhou Gei could ask anything more, they also received a message from their jade transmission slips.
Author Notes: This is a rough draft. Please tell me in the comments if you see something wrong.
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