Saturday, July 30, 2016
The First Alchemist - Chap 7
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.