Thursday, July 28, 2016
The First Alchemist - Chap 4
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?”