Saturday, July 30, 2016
Chapter 7 - Two Months
Chem Al picked himself off the ground. I hate farming, he thought.
But he would never say that out loud because Chem Feng and Chem Mai had asked him to help them with the farm, and he had a lot of respect for the parents of The First Alchemist.
Nearby, the two were also toiling in the soil, although it seemed like it was only he himself that kept collapsing from exhaustion.
“Little Al, do you need to rest? You don’t have to work so hard,” his mother said.
Chem Al took a second to catch his breath. “No, I can keep going,” he managed to say even though his body groaned like an old man’s, or like his old body from his past life. He attacked the weeds again, drawing energy from his anger at the evil plants.
How could he stop? After living in their hut for the past couple of days, he had an clearer understanding of their situation. These crops were what fed them and gave them a living. His parents were barely getting by. How could he not work his hardest while they provided for him? Having a crippled body didn’t give him an excuse to rest.
Though the work was tiring, at least it gave him some time to think. He already knew that what he had to do next was create the medicinal cauldron, so all he needed to focus on right now was figuring out who had poisoned The First Alchemist’s body. For the past few days, that was all he could think about.
At first, he thought it was Chem Feng or Chem Mai. Although he had a lot of respect for them, that shouldn’t rule them out as suspects. They were close to home and all of his meals came from them. Even though they would eat the same food together, he would always watch them just in case they put a little something extra in his bowl. He would also only eat his meal after they had taken a bite.
Since he was still alive, nor did he feel sick, it would seem that they weren’t the poisoners. But a part of him already knew that.
His suspicions about them weren’t that serious to begin with. Just spending a little time with them helped him see that they cared about him. So it wasn’t his parents. That was good, though it still left the question of who the poisoner was.
“I’m back,” Chem Au said. He was carrying a wooden pole on his shoulders, with each end of the pole holding a bucket of water.
His parents went over and grabbed the buckets. “Thank you for working so hard,” they said. That was an understatement. Chem Au had the toughest job of them all. The only source of water around here was the river in the forest. Although it wasn’t that deep in the forest, there would sometimes be desolate beasts drinking from the river. Just to get some water, you would have to get in and out fast, or die. Chem Au was the strongest in the family, so it was always his job to fetch the water, even though it could be life threatening.
“That’s going to be my last trip for the day or else I won’t make it in time for my guard duties,” Chem Au said, but then he spotted his little brother who was still on his knees, weeding. “I guess I can spare five minutes. Do you need any help, Little Al?”
Chem Al wanted to say no, but his back rebelled at him. “Yes, please,” he gasped out, not trying to hide the relief in his voice. He really hated farming.
His big brother got down on his knees and helped him. It was because of moments like this that Chem Al also no longer suspected his big brother as the poisoner. Chem Au obviously cared about him as well, just like his parents.
Now that he had ruled out his family, he had to look at other people to try to find out who the poisoner was. But who?
The sun was setting.
Sometime after Chem Au left on patrol to guard the village, his father stood up and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I guess that’s it for today.”
Chem Al collapsed on the ground, relieved. His mother came over and gave him some water. After thanking her, he continued to lay on the ground.
“Aren’t you going to rush to the medicine woman like you usually do?” his mother asked.
“Just let me rest here for a minute.”
She smiled at him, then she reached down to rub his head. “Thank you for working so hard.”
Chem Al smiled back, but he knew he could do more, and one day he would do a better job of supporting his parents. After his body rested enough, he got up and walked out of their small farm land. “I’ll be going now,” he called out to his parents before he left.
They waved to him as he ran towards the edge of the village.
He hated farming. He was always glad when the day’s work was done because then he would have some free time to go learn from Sheng Yi. Along the way, he heard some children up ahead.
“Hey look, it’s the cripple!”
They surrounded him. This is different, Chem Al thought. No one had bothered him before when he went to Sheng Yi’s hut.
“Looks like you’re smart enough not to run like last time,” one of them said.
“I think getting hit in the head made him smarter. Maybe he’d like another one,” the biggest one in the group raised his fist.
The others snickered. “Good one, Lik Ku.”
Chem Al’s eyes widened. “Oh, I’ve read about you. You’re one of Sorka Bo’s sycophants.”
“Syco what? Did you just make fun of me?” Lik Ku said. “You should remember that I work for Sorka Bo. The moment he becomes the village chief, you’re going to get kicked out of the village. We don’t need cripples like you.” He punched Chem Al in the face.
Chem Al was more surprised than hurt. Before he could react, Lik Ku threw another punch at his stomach, then he started wailing on him while the other children egged him on.
Then suddenly, the world grew cold, causing everyone to quiet down. Lik Ku stepped back as he felt a chill go down his spine.
“You dare?” Chem Al practically growled. He was hunched over, bruised and bloody, but his eyes stared with death at Lik Ku. “You dare strike the body of The First Alchemist?”
Without realizing it, Lik Ku pissed himself. A powerful aura was billowing out from the cripple. This wasn’t profound energy, it was killing intent! All of the children now felt as if they were facing a dragon that would wipe out an entire city with only a single apology.
Chem Al roared as he launched himself at Lik Ku, pushing him to the ground. Despite having the profound cultivation at the ninth level, Lik Ku was too shocked to defend himself. It wasn’t just because this cripple had never fought back before, it was that every strike was meant to kill. The only thing that saved Lik Ku’s life right now was that Chem Al’s strength was too weak.
Although he was terrified, Lik Ku regained enough sense to throw out a desperate punch. Chem Al flew back and landed on the ground. He wasn’t moving.
“Is, is he dead?” one of the children finally asked.
“Lik Ku, you went too far! He may be a cripple, but we can’t just kill him. We’re going to be in so much trouble,” another one of them said.
“Shut up!” Lik Ku got off the ground, shouting to hide his fear. His hands were shaking. It felt like he had barely survived a life or death situation.
Everyone turned when they heard that sound. Chem Al had managed to prop himself up on his hands, although it looked like he was about to keel over. He was coughing blood. For one second, everyone felt relieved that he was still alive, but then they saw his eyes. The sharp eyes of a manslaughtering beast.
“Are you going to kill me, Lik Ku?” Chem Al’s words were quiet, but they rang louder than thunder. “Because if you don’t, you’re going to be the one to die.”
Fear struck Lik Ku’s heart. He ran.
Seeing their leader running away, the other children quickly followed him, leaving the cripple on the ground. Chem Al coughed again. Barely any blood came out this time. That was good. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes longer, allowing his body to recover enough before he stood back up.
With shaky legs, he walked towards Sheng Yi’s hut, passing a few villagers along the way, but they didn’t offer any assistance. There was no point in helping a cripple. Chem Al didn’t let it bother him. He just kept focusing on not falling over.
“What happened to you?” Sheng Yi asked after he stumbled through the door.
“A bunch of disrespectful brats.”
Sheng Yi frowned, then she looked him over to check what injuries he had. He winced as she touched his stomach. Thank goodness, these seemed to be only light injuries. Easily treatable.
She got up and gathered the medicinal ingredients she needed. After she started applying a salve, she said, “I know I don’t have that much influence in this village, and I’ve never bothered to intervene before when those children bullied you, but now you’re my disciple. I’m going to do something about this.”
“No need,” Chem Al said. “I don’t think they’ll be bothering me again.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Although they may be bullies that like to hurt people, it wasn’t to the point of death. I think it was their first time facing a situation where their life was on the line.” And it was true. Despite Lik Ku punching him so many times, there was no killing intent behind his fists. He just wanted to hurt, not kill.
Sheng Yi looked at him with questions in her eyes, but he didn’t say anything else about it, so she continued to apply the salve.
While she worked on him, Chem Al thought back to the fight. His anger had settled down by now, allowing him to think more clearly. Those children hadn’t wanted to kill him. Neither did any of the adults he passed by on the way here. Every villager he has ever met these past few days either ignored him or looked at him with disdain. There was no killing intent in their eyes, nor did they look surprised when they saw that he was still alive.
This led him to one conclusion: None of the villagers had poisoned The First Alchemist. At least, not the average villager. It had to be someone that could convince Sheng Yi to keep quiet. Because that was what it came down to, wasn’t it? She knew who the poisoner was, but she wouldn’t tell him.
Could Sheng Yi be the poisoner herself? That nagging thought had been creeping inside his mind these past few days, and he hated himself for thinking it. There was no reason for the great Sheng Yi to poison The First Alchemist. Besides, she seemed to care about him just as much as his family did. He might be bias but he just didn’t think that Sheng Yi was the poisoner. At the very least, he’ll only investigate her after he ran out of other suspects.
Because there were still three suspects left, and one of them was the village chief: Sorka Jiu.
He has the influence to silence Sheng Yi. If she were to cross him, he could give the order to have her banished. In this world where danger was around every corner, banishment was the same as death.
The only thing Chem Al couldn’t figure out was for what reason did the village chief want to poison him? He sighed. He’ll have to figure that out later.
“There. All done.” Sheng Yi finished wrapping a long piece of cloth from his waist to his shoulder.
The pain had dulled a little, but Chem Al could still feel some aches here and there. That salve’s healing ability was weak and slow. He really needed that medicinal cauldron. With alchemy, all of these injuries would have been completely healed by now.
“Now that that’s settled, let’s start today’s lesson.” Sheng Yi grabbed her bag and took out a medicinal plant she had found this morning. “Do you know what these are?”
“White Tiger Stalks!”
Sheng Yi sighed. “Of course you do. Why do I even bother asking?” She went over and picked up her knife. “I suppose you also know how to prepare White Tiger Stalks too.”
Chem Al nodded, then said, “But I want to watch you do it.”
“Are you even learning anything from me?” Sheng Yi asked, but deep down inside, she felt proud to show off her skills to someone who appreciated them. Even though her disciple already knew what to do, she couldn’t help but explain as she placed her knife on one of the stalks. “The White Tiger Stalks are a good medicinal ingredient for mending bones. However, they have these black veins that can have a negative impact on the body. To prepare White Tiger Stalks, you’ll have to cut around these veins….”
Listening to her teaching was like heaven to Chem Al. This was how he spent his time as two months went by. During the day, he would help his parents with the farm, and when the sun went down, he would learn something from Sheng Yi.
Not every day was perfect, but it was mostly peaceful. It was kind of nice, actually. Although, if it was possible, he would like to do away with the farming. He really hated farming.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Chap 6 - Chem Au
Despite the added task of trying to find out who poisoned The First Alchemist, it still didn’t change anything. He still had things to do to make sure that history played itself out right. He had managed to become Sheng Yi’s disciple, now what was his next step?
Chem Al placed a hand on his chin. According to the journals, the next thing he should do was…
“Little Al! Hey, Little Al!”
Who dares to shout the name of the great First Alchemist so lightly? He looked up, then his jaw dropped at the sight of the person running up to him. It was Chem Au!
Suddenly a painting flashed in his mind; a painting that showed a powerful warrior in black armor fighting back thousands of enemies with his trusted hammer. Fierce, deadly, and unstoppable. When cultivators who practiced martial arts spoke of Chem Au, this was who they imagined.
But right now, Chem Au was just a young teenage boy wearing leather armor on top of his raggy clothes. He was shorter, his muscles were less nourished, and he just didn’t look that tough. Even the painting had more killing intent than he did.
Still, none of that mattered. This was Chem Au! The older brother of The First Alchemist!
Chem Al immediately bowed. “This lowly brother greets Chem Au.”
“Chem Au? When did you start calling me that? We’re brothers. Just call me Au like you usually do.” Chem Au wrapped his arms around his little brother and squeezed.
Chem Al felt like his ribs might break. He coughed, almost spitting blood.
“Oh, oh sorry. I keep forgetting that.” He took a step back, then he looked over his brother. “Little Al, are you okay? Mother and Father told me that the sickness did something to your mind?”
“I’m okay. I just lost a few memories.” Chem Al waved it off.
Chem Au frowned. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you. I just got back home after the changing of the guards.”
That was right, Chem Al remembered. Chem Au worked as a guard for the village chief. Just from that, their family was allowed to live closer to the center of the village and was given a little farmland.
“It’s okay. You couldn’t have done anything,” Chem Al said. “Besides, just look at me. I’m fine.”
And Chem Au really did look at him. His little brother indeed looked healthy, even happier. There was now a constant glimmer of hope in his eyes and none of that quiet sadness from before.
“See? You don’t need to worry about me. Instead, it’s you we should be worried about,” Chem Al said. He finally realized what his next step was supposed to be: use alchemy to help raise the strength of The First Alchemist’s brother.
“What? What about me?”
“You are fifteen years old, yet your profound cultivation is only at the thirteenth level.”
“So? Why is that a problem? I might not be as talented as the village chief’s son, but my cultivation is still pretty decent.”
Chem Al could only sigh. He knew from the journals that at this point in time, the son of the village chief was fifteen years old with a profound cultivation at the fifteenth level. That might be amazing in a small place like this, but in a city or a sect, that could only be considered less than average. These were only the lower levels after all.
“But are you satisfied with that? You do know that cultivating would become more difficult the higher you go, right? It wouldn’t be strange if the level of your profound cultivation only went up once every ten years, or every fifty years.”
Chem Au’s shoulders sagged a little. That was something he worried about from time to time. When he was younger, his cultivation level would go up two or three times per year, then only once per year, and now he would be lucky if it at least went up once every two or three years. And it would only get harder from there.
Seeing the sad look forming on his big brother’s face, Chem Al quickly said, “But what if there was a way to increase the speed of your profound cultivation?”
“Increase the speed of cultivation?”
“Yes! Then you can become even stronger than you are now! Soon the village chief’s son would seem like an ant to you.”
Chem Au scoffed at that. “Impossible. Unless you have a cultivation skill that is well suited for me, there is no other way to make me stronger.”
“Oh, but there is.” Chem Al’s smile was almost maniacal as he spread his arms out wide. “The answer is all around us. This village is surrounded by a forest, and in that forest are plants and herbs that you can make miracles with.”
“Plants and herbs? That’s your answer to increase my cultivation speed?”
“Well, it’s not just that. We will also need….” Chem Al froze. “Shit!”
He started to pound his head with his little fists as he kept cursing. How could he have forgotten? He was an idiot, that’s why. The real First Alchemist wouldn’t have made such an obvious mistake.
When Chem Au saw his little brother acting so agitated, he grabbed his arms to stop him from hitting himself. “What’s wrong? Is this a side-effect from your sickness?”
“Cauldron!” Chem Al shouted.
“A medicinal cauldron! I need one!”
“What are you talking about?”
Chem Al didn’t answer. He had just realized that there weren’t any medicinal cauldrons in this era. Alchemy hadn’t been created yet, so why should there be?
Back in his past life, he had grown so used to medicinal cauldrons always being around. You could always find a store that was selling them. But now? There wasn’t anyone in the world who had even heard of them.
Now what was he going to do? Chem Al settled down. He just had to think. Medicinal cauldrons didn’t pop out of nowhere. Someone had to make them. And he didn’t need anything complicated or made from special materials, at least not yet. A simple iron cauldron would do.
That was, after all, what The First Alchemist’s very first medicincal cauldron was made from.
Suddenly a glittering light erupted from Chem Al’s eyes, and he broke out into a happy dance.
“Uh...what’s wrong?” Chem Au nervously asked.
“Oh, happy day! I can’t believe I didn’t realize it until now! I get to be there when the very first medicincal cauldron in all of history is created! I will get to touch The First Alchemist’s cauldron when it’s newly made! Yay!” He kept dancing, but eventually calmed down with a thoughtful look. “I just have to remember where the first ever cauldron was created. That’s right! It was made by a blacksmith in Vera City, the closest city to Sorka Village! Au, please take me to Vera City!”
“Yes!!” Chem Al grabbed his big brother’s arm. “Come on, let’s go!”
Chem Au didn’t move at all. “Little Al, it’s like you said. This village is surrounded by a forest. A very dangerous forest filled with desolate beasts. You’ll need to move in a group to make it safe enough to travel through it.”
“Well, then, bring some people along.”
But Chem Au shook his head. “If you want to go to Vera City, just wait until after the harvest.”
“The harvest?” Chem Al asked.
“Is this another one of your memories the sickness has taken away?” Chem Au sighed. “Remember? After the village harvests the crops, we will all go to Vera City to sell them at the market.”
“Oh. When will that be?” Chem Al asked.
“Two months? I can’t wait that long.”
Chem Au suddenly gripped his shoulders. “Little Al, I don’t know what this cauldron is or why you want to go to Vera City so badly, but it can’t be more important than your life. Promise me that you won’t go into the forest alone. Promise me.”
This made Chem Al pause, dampening his excitement. He wanted that medicinal cauldron. He really, really wanted that cauldron. But his brother was right. His life, and this body, was more important. He could wait two months.
He nodded, making the promise.
Chem Au smiled, relieved. He clapped his little brother on the shoulders and said, “Come on, let’s go home. Mother is making breakfast.”
Chem Al’s eyes widened. He will get the privilege of eating The First Alchemist’s mom’s cooking? He practically jumped up and ran back to the hut.
“You’re that excited about potatoes and radishes?” Chem Au said as he watched his little brother running home. All he could do was shake his head as he followed Chem Al while the sun was rising.
Chapter 5 - Poison
Since the boy knew the name of the Bleeding Heart Root Powder, Sheng Yi guessed that he also knew what it could be used for. That only left one question.
“Who did you give this Bleeding Heart Root Powder to?” Chem Al asked.
The bowl only had a little bit of the reddish powder left. Sheng Yi hadn’t had time to replenish her supply of it. “I give it to anyone who needs it. If you know what it is, you know that it can help numb pain.”
“Yes, but in large doses, it can become a weak poison that numbs the body until they die in their sleep.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that when I woke up earlier, there was a faint taste of Bleeding Heart Root Powder on my tongue.” He held the bowl up a little more. “And you’re probably the only person in this village that has this powder.”
“And you think that I poisoned you?”
Chem Al’s eyes widened at that, then he laughed. “What? Of course not. What reason can you have for poisoning me? Besides, you’re Sheng Yi,” he said, like that was supposed to explain everything. “No, I was thinking that someone was pretending to be suffering from pain in order to trick you into giving them some of this powder, but what they really wanted it for was to poison me. So let me ask again. Who did you give this Bleeding Heart Root Powder to?”
Sheng Yi didn’t say anything for a long minute. She knew that Chem Al had lost some of his memories. This seemed to be one of them. “If you don’t remember, then you don’t need to know.”
That wasn’t the answer he was expecting. Did she mean that The First Alchemist knew who had received the Bleeding Heart Root Powder? If that was true, then that just led to more questions.
Why didn’t The First Alchemist do anything to protect himself? No, wait. These were still the early days of his childhood. The First Alchemist might not have learned about medicine yet, so he might not have known that the Bleeding Heart Root Powder could also be used as a poison. And he might not have known that the poison was meant for him.
Chem Al felt confused under the weight of so many questions, but then he shook his head. It would all become clear if Sheng Yi told him what he needed to know. “Yes, Master, I don’t remember. Can you please tell me?”
“Like I said, you don’t need to know.”
Chem Al froze. He realized that the biggest question of them all was, why was Sheng Yi protecting the person who had poisoned The First Alchemist?
Sheng Yi saw the look in his eyes. She got down on her knees so that they could talk face to face, then she put her hands on his shoulders. “You really don’t have to worry about this anymore. I promise that the person who had poisoned you won’t do it again. You have my word, if that means anything to you,” she said, remembering that for some reason he deeply respected her.
Chem Al gave one slow nod, but there was still the question in his eyes.
“You are my Disciple and I am your Master. This relationship may be new and we might still have secrets from each other, but I need you to trust me, okay?”
He nodded again, more emphatically this time. “Yes, Master.”
“Good.” She smiled. He smiled back. Then she patted him on the head before getting back on her feet with a groan. “Ack, I’m getting old.” She pounded her back.
“Master, let me do that for you,” he said, holding up his two small fists.
“Just get out of here, kid. Go home. You don’t need to keep seeing this ugly face any longer.”
“Master, you’re not that ugly.”
Sheng Yi stared at him. “Did my disciple just call me ugly? I’ll have you know I use a cream made from White Terra Clay every night to keep my youthful appearance.”
Chem Al frowned. “That doesn’t do anything.”
Like a reflex, her leg kicked out, but the boy dodged with a smile. He then ran out of the hut, laughing, while she cursed at his back. Seeing him running away with such enthusiasm soon brought a smile to her face, then she went back inside.
While in her hut, she looked over all the medicinal plants and mixtures that Chem Al said didn’t work, especially the White Terra Clay cream. For one second, just one second, she seriously thought about throwing them all out, but then she shook her head and said, “Stupid kid,” before putting them all back where they belong.
The last thing she did before going back to bed was to pick up the bowl of Bleeding Heart Root Powder. She had been planning to replenish her supply of it soon because it really was useful for numbing pain, but then she decided to put it off until later. She washed away the last remaining traces of the powder.
While she was doing all of this, she didn’t see the smile on Chem Al’s face disappearing as he walked home. He was deep in thought.
He had just become Sheng Yi’s disciple, but he was already planning to disobey her. Someone had poisoned The First Alchemist. Even though she had told him that the person who committed the crime wouldn’t do it again, he couldn’t let it go. That person needed to die in the most heinous way possible, preferably with his skin removed.
Chem Al sighed. A part of him did trust his Master, and yes, he held her in high esteem. But if there was one person in all of history that he respected more than Sheng Yi, it was The First Alchemist.
The person who would dare poison The First Alchemist will dearly pay.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Chapter 4 - Medicinal Knowledge
After agreeing to take Chem Al as her disciple, Sheng Yi thought that that would be enough to placate him and send him back home. He wasn’t suffering through anything life threatening, and she couldn’t fix whatever was wrong with him. He seemed to be fine for the most part.
But Chem Al stayed where he was, staring at her with curious eyes that said teach me something, Master!
Sheng Yi sighed. “After I teach you one thing, will you go home?”
Chem Al nodded like a child, excited.
She got up and went over to her bundles of herbs. Picking one up, she said, “This is--”
“Blood Ginseng!” Chem Al shouted before he could she finish.
Her eyes widened. “You know what this is?”
“After drying them in the sun, you could eat them to treat indigestion, but they might also cause blood to appear in your stool.” He then had a look on his face like he was asking her to praise him.
“Wha? How?” she stuttered through, but then she put the herb back where it belongs and picked up a bowl. “Fine. You know about one plant. Can you tell me what this is?” The bowl held a brown powder.
“Willow Bark Powder! Chewing the bark can help with fevers, but the effect is slow and weak. Turning it into a powder and making a tea out of it will make it more effective, although it would taste very bitter.”
Sheng Yi was rocked back on her heels, not knowing what to say. She then put the bowl down and started picking up one thing after another, asking him what they were. But he surprised her every time with the right answer. Whether the plant she showed him was whole, powdered, or in liquid form, he identified them perfectly. He even named her experimental pot of fermenting Wolfsbane Petals with a single glance.
It was only when she held up the Cila Leaves that she saw him frown. For a moment, she thought that she had stumped him, until he named them and said, “That doesn’t do anything.”
“What? Yes, they do! If you eat them, they help cleanse the body of alcohol. Every time I gave these to someone who was drunk, they felt better.”
“Or the alcohol just naturally left their body after a good night’s rest.”
Sheng Yi wanted to bite back, but she couldn’t think of anything that could refute his claim.
Suddenly, Chem Al got up and started poking and sniffing around the room. He began to name and identify some of the things that she hadn’t picked up, but there were a few he just shook his head at and said, “That doesn’t do anything.”
Without realizing it, she would frown whenever he said that. After practicing medicine for most of her life, she was disturbed to discover how much of it simply didn’t work. So she spent a lot of time learning and stockpiling medicine that she knew was effective. But now there was this boy who was telling her that some of her stuff was just plain wrong. She couldn’t just believe everything this boy said was accurate, right? However, her mouth started opening and closing like a fish as Chem Al proceeded to name every single medicinal ingredient in her hut. Every … single ... one.
Her mind must have blanked out for a minute because the next thing she knew, the boy was staring at her. “Are you okay?”
She didn’t respond. Maybe her knowledge of medicine wasn’t as vast as these villagers would like, but it was certainly something that couldn’t be learned in a day. Yet this boy was spouting out almost everything she knew like it was nothing.
“How could you know all this?” she suddenly shouted.
Chem Al paused. Did he say too much? He couldn’t just tell her that he was actually a very skilled alchemist from the future that had replaced the original Chem Al that died. The one she had seen grow up was now gone. He was just a stranger to her. What if she rejected him?
He couldn’t let that happen. History said that Chem Al was the disciple of Sheng Yi, and that’s the way it had to stay. He had to come up with the best lie he could think of. “I was spying on you.”
Sheng Yi almost vomited blood. Could you really learn all this by spying on someone? But wait. She remembered how Chem Al was always worried about his crippled profound veins. Maybe he did secretly watch her to try to find some clue on how to heal them, even though she had told him it was beyond her ability.
Was he telling the truth? Or was it a lie? She looked at him and saw how he was forcing himself to stare her straight in the eye, trying not to look away. Yeah, it was definitely a lie. Or maybe a half-truth. She just rubbed her forehead, feeling a headache coming on. In the end, she decided to let it go for now. “Fine, fine. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
Chem Al sighed with relief. He could tell that he hadn’t completely gotten rid of her suspicions, but at least she’ll stop asking questions for now. “Will you teach me something now?” His eyes started to shine again.
Her legs stumbled. “You still want me to teach you something?”
“Of course. We did agree that I will go back home after you teach me one thing.”
Sheng Yi could only groan. There was a time where she felt proud that the boy thought she was worthy enough to be his Master. That time seems so long ago. “Let me ask you something. With all that you know, why do you want to be my disciple anyway?”
Chem Al looked at her like she had asked a stupid question. “Because you’re Sheng Yi,” was all he said, like it was obvious.
Ah, an old hag arguing with a little child. She felt so tired. Sheng Yi took three steps forward and then slammed her fist on top of his skull. “You must be respectful to your Master at all times! There! I taught you something.”
There was a faint smile on her face as she stepped back, while Chem Al rubbed his head, trying to make the pain go away. A part of her thought that he would start yelling or at least be annoyed, but no, he surprised her by bowing. “I apologize if I seemed disrespectful.”
This boy is strange, Sheng Yi thought. He really did hold her in high regard. “Now that you get it, leave! I need to get some sleep.”
Chem Al bowed again, but he just stood there.
“Didn’t I just tell you to go home?”
“Yes, Master. But can I ask you something before I go?”
This piqued her curiosity. For awhile now, it had been him giving her answers, but now he wanted to ask a question. What did he want to know? “Fine. Ask away,” she said, trying to sound nonchalant.
Chem Al hurried to the back of the hut and picked up one of the covered bowls. Seeing it, Sheng Yi realized that she had been wrong. He didn’t name all of the medicinal ingredients she had lying around. He had missed one.
He brought the bowl back and took off the cover, revealing traces of a reddish powder. “Master, can you tell me about this Bleeding Heart Root Powder?”
Chapter 3 - Disciple
Seeing Chem Al kowtowing like that, neither his parents nor Sheng Yi knew how to react. They just stood there, dumbfounded.
“Chem Al, what are you doing?” Sheng Yi finally said, staring at the boy with his head still touching the ground.
“Please! This humble one wishes to become your disciple. I know I’m not worthy, but I promise to work hard and always pay attention to everything you say. I know that there are a lot of things I can learn from you!”
To Sheng Yi, Chem Al’s words could be compared to riddles. She had been practicing medicine for most of her life, but no one has ever asked her to teach them, let alone in such a desperate and respectful manner. It was like if the boy didn’t become her disciple right this minute, he would go through insufferable pain.
Chem Mai lurched down towards her son. “Little Al, get your head off the ground.” She tried to pull him up. He resisted. It took a lot of effort before she managed to lift him from the ground.
There was a little blood running down his forehead, but what struck Sheng Yi the most was the worshipful look in his eyes.
“I’m sorry about this,” Chem Feng said. “He has finally woken up from his sickness, but it did something to his mind.”
Sheng Yi stood up straight. That’s right, there had to be a reason why they would come to her in the middle of the night. It must have something to do with Chem Al speaking such nonsense. “What’s wrong with him?”
“We don’t know. What worries us the most is that he seemed to have lost most of his memories,” Chem Mai said as she rubbed her son’s head.
“Lost his memories?”
Chem Feng nodded. “After he woke up, he could barely remember us or even who he is.”
Sheng Yi gestured with her hands. “Come. Bring him in. I’ll look him over.”
Chem Mai and Chem Feng looked at each other. They didn’t hold much hope that the medicine woman could do anything to help, but they took him inside anyway. As for Chem Al, he was so excited that he felt like jumping up and down. He had been given the privilege to see inside the great Sheng Yi’s home. There was a bright smile on his face that worried his parents.
The inside was a shithole. There was dirt everywhere. It was obvious that this old hag had never bothered to clean up after herself. Plus there was a weird smell in the air, like perfume mixed with mud. Chem Feng and Chem Mai wrinkled their noses just like they always did when they came in here.
But Chem Al was able to see under the dirt, at the well organized wooden bowls and containers, and the meticulously placed medicinal ingredients.
Although this place did indeed look like a woman who gave up bathing, it was only because that woman could have extra time to study the secrets of the heavens. The only thing that bothered Chem Al were the living conditions. This hut, if you could call it that, was broken down, almost falling apart. On one side were a few rags on the floor. It was obvious that was where Sheng Yi was sleeping.
Chem Al could feel his anger rising up. This was the great Sheng Yi!.
Her name would spread further and longer than the name of Sorka Village, and yet these villagers had forced her to live in this hovel? She should be living in a castle! At the very least, she shouldn’t be given such a low status. Even his parents had a bed to sleep on. He had to fix this as soon as possible.
For now, all of his anger melted away when Sheng Yi placed a hand on his forehead. After wiping off the dirt and washing the blood away with cleanish water, she put some sort of paste on his wound. Chem Al took a sniff. Wormite. Indeed, covering a wound with a paste made from it would be a little beneficial, but he knew that using Wormite as an ingredient in alchemy, you could make a Soothing Yu Pill that could heal a small wound like this in seconds.
The next thing Sheng Yi did was prod his body in some kind of order. Finding nothing, she then secretly probed him with her profound energy. Although her cultivation was only at a measly first level, it was still enough to sense his crippled veins and meridians, but other than that, she couldn’t find anything else wrong with him.
Chem Al’s parents sat there, waiting for the medicine woman to tell them something, but seeing the expression on her face, it seemed that she couldn’t help them heal their son again.
“I think you should leave him here with me. Maybe just by talking to him and asking him questions will I be able to find out what’s wrong with him,” was all Sheng Yi could say.
Chem Mai and Chem Feng didn’t hold out much hope, but they still left their son there, knowing that at least he was safe with her. It wasn’t the first time they did it as they had once hoped that she could somehow heal his crippled profound veins.
Once the two left, Sheng Yi began questioning Chem Al. “What is the last thing you remember?”
“Waking up in bed a few minutes ago.”
“Nothing else before that?”
“Bits and pieces. I do know that the village chief of this village is Sorka Jiu. He has a son named Sorka Bo, who he is planning to leave the village to someday. The other…,” Chem Al continued on spouting everything he knew about this village and time period, making sure to stay away from his knowledge of future events. In his research of The First Alchemist, he had studied everything about him, including where he grew up. But historical records could only go so far, so some random facts was all he had.
“So you didn’t completely lose all of your memories.”
Chem Al shrugged. “I also know that you’re Sheng Yi, one of the greatest medicinal practitioners in the world. Your name is known far and wide.”
Sheng Yi snorted. “Now I know your mind has been damaged.”
Chem Al could only sigh. Maybe not now but someday it will be true, he thought. He then got up and stared at her with shining eyes. “At the very least, I know that one day the practice of medicine will evolve until it becomes just as respected as profound cultivation. There will be academies teaching this new form of medicine, and that people will pound down the doors trying to get in.”
Of course, she didn’t believe him. “Something doesn’t come out of nothing. Where is this new form of medicine going to come from? You?”
“Yes! Me!” His eyes were shining even brighter. “I will pave the way with this new form of medicine. One that isn’t made of superstition, but based on truths and proven facts. A medicine that is more effective than any other in history!”
A part of Sheng Yi thought that this was just the ambition of a little kid who hasn’t yet seen how harsh the world was, but a smaller, deeper part of her felt hope from his words. She had spent most of her life trying to heal people, so she knew better than anyone else how the current ways of doing things didn’t work very well. Although she had been trying to come up with better methods, she hasn’t gotten very far. Maybe this is what the world needed. A young boy whose thoughts and imagination have not yet been crushed.
“But it all starts with you, Sheng Yi,” Chem Al said as he got down on his knees. Before she could stop him, he pressed his head against the ground again. “Please take me as your disciple!”
“What are you doing? Lift up your head. Do you want to aggravate your wound?”
Chem Al spoke to the ground. “No matter what you do, no matter what you say, I will keep my head here until you take me as your disciple.”
Sheng Yi let out a heavy sigh. In the end, all she could say was, “Fine.”
“Do you mean it?” Chem Al didn’t lift up his head yet, but a burst of triumph threatened to explode from his chest.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll take you as my disciple, although I don’t understand why you want it so badly.” Her tone sounded annoyed, but deep inside, she felt something akin to happiness, just from the fact that someone thought she was worthy enough to learn from.
“Yes!” Chem Al jumped into the air.
Although he didn’t say it, he had been extremely worried. With the real First Alchemist dead, he could only rely on his own skills to make everything right. But what if it wasn’t enough? More than ever, history needed Sheng Yi to help Chem Al become the man he was meant to be.
With his first worry off his shoulders, Chem Al only felt joy. He was going to get taught by the great Sheng Yi! For many years, it had been him teaching disciples. When was the last time was he a disciple to someone else?
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Chap 2 - Sheng Yi
Once a part of him accepted the idea that he had somehow possessed the body of Chem Al, his mind was able to clear up enough to try to figure everything out.
This was a child’s body, his parents were still poor, and this village did not look prosperous. That could only mean one thing. This point in time was before the great Chem Al created alchemy.
In other words, someone had killed Chem Al with poison before he could introduce alchemy to the world! The consequences of this could change the course of human history!
No, this must not happen! He had to make it right!
But with Chem Al dead, the only one who could do that was him. However, he may have been the greatest alchemist of his time, but he didn’t know if his skills could match up to The First Alchemist.
The boy looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, not knowing if he could handle it. Meanwhile his parents were staring at him with worried eyes. “At least he’s not running around muttering things,” Chem Feng said.
“But he’s just standing there, not say anything,” Chem Mai said. “We should take him to the medicine woman.”
Chem Feng scoffed at that. “You know she can’t do anything.”
Suddenly, their son whipped around and faced them. “The medicine woman of Sorka Village? As in Sheng Yi? Take me to her now!”
Although he had been trying to figure out what was going on and what he should do next, a part of him was still aware of his surroundings. When his parents mentioned the medicine woman, he knew exactly who they were talking about because that woman was crucial to the creation of alchemy. If he was going to introduce alchemy to the world as Chem Al, he needed her help.
“What? Little Al, what’s wrong?” Chem Mai asked.
“Please! Please! Please! Just take me to her!” Chem Al grabbed his mother’s hands and started pulling her away from the hut.
“Okay, okay,” she said as she stumbled forward, trying to keep up. The father followed along.
But pretty soon they came to a stop because Al didn’t know where he was going. Although the village was small, it was obvious he couldn’t tell where the medicine woman’s house was.
This added to his parents’ worries. He should know where her house was because they had taken him there often enough. Their son was born a cripple. He couldn’t cultivate profound energy so he’ll never become a cultivator no matter how hard he tried. In this world where strength was respected, this was a serious matter. Even if it was the smallest hope, they still took their son to the medicine woman to try to help him, but there was no result.
However, their son seemed to have no memory of this so his parents had to lead the way. They walked from the center of the village to the edge, passing by small huts and farmland that looked nearly barren. Soon they ended up at a broken down hut, close to the pathetically fragile wall that surrounded the village. The hut looked neglected. It was as far from a mansion as it could possibly be, but Chem Al didn’t care. He could already smell the wonderful scent of herbs and medicine coming from inside.
This was it. This was the home of the second person he most respected in all of history. He was about to meet one of his heroes. With a shaking hand, he knocked on the door.
After waiting a moment, he knocked again, this time a little louder. Still nothing.
Growing a little impatient, while still being respectful, he started banging on the door. Respectfully, of course.
“What the fuck? Who is that?” a hag-like voice came from inside the hut. Even if you had never see the face that the voice belonged to, you could already tell that it came from an old hag.
Chem Al’s smile slipped a little. Those weren’t exactly the first words he had expected to hear from one of his heroes.
“It’s the middle of the night! What are you bothering me for?” the voice shouted again.
Chem Al blanched. In all of his excitement, he had forgotten that it was nighttime. No wonder she sounded cranky. He hoped he hadn’t offended her. “Please forgive me. It’s just that I wanted to see the great Sheng Yi so much that I forced my parents to bring me here without thinking. I sincerely apologize if my presence has disturbed your sleep.”
No sound came from inside the hut, causing Chem Al to break out into a sweat. Coming here like this must have been unforgivable.
What he didn’t know was that Sheng Yi was standing on the other side of the door in shock. From the young voice, she could already tell that it was that Chem Al kid talking to her, but what shocked her were his words. He didn’t sound like he was being sarcastic. In fact, he sounded so apologetic that it seemed like he was half a second away from bowing. When was the last time someone had apologized to her or showed her so much respect?
Sheng Yi pulled open the door and saw a young boy that looked like he had been struck dumb. Chem Al wasn’t say anything. His jaw just hung there, open. It was almost like he had turned into an eternally surprised statue.
But it was Sheng Yi who was surprised with what Chem Al did next. The boy’s knees fell to the ground and suddenly he slammed his forehead into the dirt so hard it almost seemed like it shook the world.
“Take me as your disciple!” Chem Al shouted.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Chap 1 - Chem Al
He woke up and the first thing he noticed was the aftertaste of Bleeding Heart Root Powder on his tongue. “Poison?”
Bleeding Heart Root Powder was a relatively weak poison that could easily be treated, but just it being there had disturbed him. “Who dares try to poison me? Do you know who I am?” he shouted.
He snapped up in bed and looked around, finally noticing that something was different. For one thing, the bed and the blanket that was covering him was itchy and uncomfortable, in stark contrast to the feather bed that he would usually sleep in. The walls around him were made of sticks glued together with mud like some kind of hut that belonged to a poor villager. And it smells.
Finally, he saw a woman that was sitting on the ground who he didn’t recognize yet seemed oddly familiar.
The woman’s eyes opened after he shouted. When she saw that he was awake, she rushed over and placed her hand on his forehead. “Little Al? How do you feel? Are you feeling any better?”
He tried to push her away. “Get your hand off of me. Who are you?” he asked, but then he noticed how small his hands were. They were the hands of a child. Confused, he ripped the blanket off of him, only to see the scrawny body of a small boy dressed in rags.
“Little Al, what’s wrong?” the woman asked.
“What the hell is going on? And why do you keep calling me ‘Little Al’?”
“That’s your name, sweetie. Did the sickness do something to your mind?” She reached down again and held his head so she could look him in the eye. “Your name is Al. You were sick. Don’t you remember?” Seeing no recognition, she then asked, “Do you at least remember who I am?”
He looked at her, and although he couldn’t place her, she did seem somewhat familiar. But what he noticed most of all were the bags under her eyes. Whoever this woman was, she must have been really worried about him.
The light in her eyes died a little when he didn’t say anything. “Oh, Little Al, I’m your mother. You must remember that?” She saw no recognition at all. Her eyes moistened as if she was about to cry. “I’ll go get your father. Maybe he’ll know what to do.”
She turned around and ran out of the hut.
Mother? Father? He didn’t know what that woman was talking about. His parents had died centuries ago. Even if they were alive, that woman certainly wasn’t his mother.
Alone, he took the chance to try to figure out what was going on. The last thing he remembered was dying in a castle in the Capital City. He had just finished talking with that young man, Mi Ling, about writing a biography about The First Alchemist, who was the greatest alchemist in history. The next thing he knew, he was in the body of this little boy.
He reached up and touched his face. No wrinkles. No beard. His eyes could see more clearly and his hands didn’t have any liver spots. Not only that, but his body no longer ached. It was as if he was young again.
The only problem he could find were his withered veins and meridians. This was a crippled body.
The door burst open and that woman came back into the hut, followed by a large man. She was frantic. “See? He’s awake, but something’s wrong.”
The man came over to check on him. “Little Al? Do you remember me, son?” He looked closely at the boy. “I am your father.”
But there was no recognition in the boy’s eyes, although the man’s face did look familiar.
“What did I tell you? Something happened to his mind. We’ve got to do something to help him,” the woman said.
“Hush now,” the man whispered to her, then he turned back to the boy. “Do you remember anything at all? Your name is Al and you’re our son.” He then pointed at himself before pointing at the woman. “My name is Feng, your father. And that’s Mai, your mother. We are of the Chem clan.”
Finally, a light of recognition flashed in the boy’s eyes. He remembered where he had seen their faces before. It was from a painting. Although currently they looked younger and their clothes were raggy, they did look exactly like the two people in that painting. But that was impossible! Those two had died ages ago.
However, he had studied every inch of that painting, and the more he looked at these two, the more he felt that they looked exactly like those two people from that painting. But his mind couldn’t believe what his eyes were telling him. Because the two people in that painting were the father and mother of The First Alchemist!
“As in Chem Feng and Chem Mai?” he ventured a guess, barely more than a whisper.
The man’s and woman’s eyes shined. “You’re starting to remember!”
The boy felt like his head had gone through whiplash. He could barely think straight. “But you said I’m your son…you called me ‘Little Al’...that would mean….”
“That’s right,” the woman said as she came forward. “You’re our son, Chem Al.”
His mind exploded. Everything around him went blank, disappearing into darkness. If the world had ended at that moment, he wouldn’t have noticed it. They said that he was Chem Al, but the only Chem Al he knew of was The First Alchemist, the greatest alchemist in all of history.
The boy’s jaw had dropped. His eyes didn’t blink. He just stared straight ahead into nothing. Worried, the man snapped his fingers in front of the boy, but there was no reaction. He then started shaking him. Still nothing.
Just as the two parents were about to become frantic, the boy shouted one word. “Impossible!” He then continued to mutter this word again and again as his eyes danced wildly around the room, looking at everything. “Impossible...Impossible...Impossible….”
He jumped out of bed and stumbled around the room, touching everything, until he finally ran towards the door, without realizing that this was the first time he could run in decades.
After making it outside, he was assaulted by a strange yet normal sight. It was a village. A village at night. A village at night where the stars were different.
“Sorka village?” were the words that suddenly came out of his mouth, putting a stop to his rant.
“That’s right, sweetie. Sorka village. You remember it, right? You were born here. This is where you grew up.” The woman had followed him out, along with the man. They watched his every move, worried that he would start raving again.
His mind tried to reject everything his eyes were showing him, but it kept returning to one conclusion.
Somehow he had traveled around one hundred thousand years in the past and into the body of Chem Al, whom history would come to know as The First Alchemist.
“If you expose that to your skin, you’ll explode,” the Grandmaster said. “Don’t expect me to clean up the mess.”
Mi Ling quickly jerked his hand away from the bowl of liquid. “Grandmaster, I didn’t hear you come in.” He gave a respectful bow.
The Grandmaster seemingly ignored him as he made his way to his chair, looking tired. For awhile nothing was said. The Grandmaster just kept stroking his beard with an absent minded look.
Mi Ling didn’t know what to do but stand there shuffling his feet. There was no way he was going to say anything that might interrupt the Grandmaster’s thoughts. He was too scared. The Grandmaster was, after all, the greatest alchemist in the entire world. His discoveries and knowledge in alchemy has saved countless lives, as well as increased the overall strength of those who cultivate in the profound. There wasn’t anyone close to his level of skill.
“You’re probably wondering why I sent for you?” the Grandmaster finally said.
Mi Ling nodded emphatically, remembering the army of alchemists that showed up at his door, then brought him for miles and miles all the way here. What could such a powerful person want with him? He was just a lowly writer.
"I'm dying," the Grandmaster simply answered.
Mi Ling's eyes bugged out. He thought he might have heard wrong. "Uh...what did you say?"
"Do I have to repeat myself? I'm dying, you nitwit."
"Bu, but that's impossible! You're the Grandmaster, the greatest alchemist in the world! You created the antidote for the black scale poison, rediscovered the cure for the smooth stone disease, as well as treated other fatal maladies. What could you possibly be dying of?"
"Oh...," Mi Ling paused. "Couldn't you just take some Life Extending Pills?"
"Those pills could only go so far. I'm not just old, I'm ancient. I have lived far longer than most people have the right to.” He gave a sigh. “It's time for me to die. Who knows, there may be something that comes after."
Mi Ling didn't know what to say. He never realized how awkward it would be when someone was talking about their impending death.
The Grandmaster looked around the room as if he was appreciating every detail. "I have already made some arrangements. My disciples know what to do after I'm gone, or at least they won't squabble as much over everything. My last worry is with you."
Mi Ling stood up straight, ready to listen to why he was summoned here.
"You say that I am the greatest alchemist in the world, and although that may be true in the current era, in the past there was one alchemist even greater than I. The First Alchemist." The Grandmaster's eyes sparkled. "He was the one who discovered alchemy in the first place, over one hundred thousand years ago. Ever since then, no one has been able to match his knowledge and skill. I am probably the closest, but even I dare not say that I'm up to his level. He is simply the greatest alchemist in all of history."
The Grandmaster grew quiet again, then said, “I want you to go into my personal office in the Alchemist Association. There you will find journals, paintings, and everything else I've ever collected about The First Alchemist. I want you to go through it all, especially the journals."
"What for?" Mi Ling asked.
"So that you can learn everything there is to know about The First Alchemist, and then write his biography. A lot of time has passed since his death and there have been many books written about him. But those books only account for sections of his life and most of their information is based on ancient rumors. I want you to write one complete book that details his entire life so that everyone can read about this great man. I want everyone to see him just as I do." The Grandmaster's eyes shined with light.
Mi Ling finally understood, but he was still confused. “Why me? Why not some other writer?” he asked.
The Grandmaster waved off his question, not bothering to answer. “Rest assured, you will be well compensated for your work. Everything has been arranged. Anything you need, you will get.”
Mi Ling still had questions, but he wasn’t going to pass on the chance for paid work. His pockets have been a little light lately. "Rest assured, Grandmaster. I will write the greatest and most memorable biography in history. No one will ever forget The First Alchemist!" Mi Ling was excited about this project.
"I can't tell you how much that eases my mind. I just don't want The First Alchemist to become a footnote in history." The Grandmaster relaxed in his chair and closed his eyes. “Now that I no longer have any worries, I think I can finally die in peace. You may go now."
"Ah, yes." Mi Ling bowed. He waited for a second, but seeing as there was nothing else forthcoming from the Grandmaster, he went to the door and left the room, but not before taking one last look at the greatest alchemist in the world.
It was the last time anyone saw the Grandmaster alive.