Monday, August 1, 2016
The First Alchemist - Chap 8
Chapter 8 - Journey through the Forest Part I
After two months had passed, the village was busy harvesting what crops they had, while the guards were trying to hunt for as much meat as possible while staying safe. All of this would be sold at the market in Vera City.
Chem Al moved as fast as he could, plucking the potatoes and radishes out of the ground and loading them on to their cart. Without any help from his big brother, who was away hunting for meat with the other guards, he and his parents had to rush their harvest or else they would get left behind.
By the time the cart was loaded up, the sun hadn’t risen yet. Whew, they actually made it.
Since their family didn’t have a horse, his father had to pull the cart. It wasn’t a problem even though his profound strength was low. They made their way to the wooden gate that was the only entrance to the village. Most of the other villagers had already gathered there.
In the distance, Chem Al could see his brother loading a dead desolate beast on to a cart. It was a Horned Rabbit, a low level desolate beast with not a lot of meat on the bone. It didn’t seem like his luck was good.
“Attention! Everybody, can I have your attention!” A man stood up on a cart that was harnessed to the only horse in the village. Chem Al, and the rest of the villagers, turned to look at the man. It was Sorka Jiu, the village chief.
“Before we leave, I want to remind everyone about the rules. I know you all already know this but it bears repeating, or else you might die.” Sorka Jiu coughed into his fist. “Once the sun comes up, we will leave immediately. It takes half a day to get to Vera City, so if there aren’t any problems, we will make it there before nightfall. I hope that I don’t need to remind you why no one should try crossing the forest when it’s dark.”
Sorka Jiu looked at the crowd, but no one responded. “Good. Now, once we get going, everyone must stick close together. No stragglers. If any of you fall behind, you better move quickly or else we’re going to leave you. And remember, everyone, always be on your guard.” His last words were solemn, hoping that no one would die on this trip.
Soon the sun broke through the horizon. It was time to set off into the forest.
Passing through the gate, they made their way down the trail. Nothing happened for the first hour. It was peaceful, almost to the point where those warnings didn’t seem to matter. Everyone stuck together, but some people would break off from their family’s cart to go chat with one of their friends. If it weren’t for the guards, with spears and leather armor, surrounding the villagers, this journey would look like a group vacation.
Chem Al certainly enjoyed himself, except for all the walking. He wouldn’t ride on his family’s cart because he didn’t want to become an extra burden for his father who was doing all the pulling. To him, the only good thing about this trip so far was that they were going downhill. Everything else was just foot sores.
He was chatting with his big brother at the time when he suddenly shouted, “Holy shit!”
“What?” Chem Au asked while starting to circulate profound energy within his body, thinking that his little brother had spotted a desolate beast. But no, Chem Al was just running towards a weird plant on the side of the road.
“Uhh...what are you doing?”
“Au, do you know what this is?”
“A pretty flower?”
“This is a six hundred year old Nine Colored Rainbow Blossom!”
There was no amazed reaction from Chem Au. He only said, “Is it rare?”
“It’s definitely not something you would find on the side of a road!”
Chem Au tilted his head. “Congratulations for finding it, I guess?”
Chem Al groaned. It wasn’t strange that his big brother didn’t know how amazing this was. Then he brightened up as he realized that Sheng Yi was someone that would understand. Chem Al carefully plucked the flower, then made his way towards his Master who was near the back of the group. She was giving a young girl some water after treating her bruise.
Without turning around, Sheng Yi knew who was calling her. “Please lower your voice.”
“Master! Look at this!” Chem Al practically shouted.
Feeling a little exasperated, she looked back at the huge flower that her disciple was holding. “Oh, a Nine Colored Rainbow Blossom?”
Chem Al’s smile widened. “Yes! Isn’t it amazing?”
“It’s very pretty. You know, a lot of nobles would use them as decoration for their homes. Once we get to the city, maybe you can find a noble who is willing to buy it.”
“Decoration?” Chem Al was stunned. “What do you mean by using it as decoration? It’s not like this blossom is just a common flower.”
“Isn’t it? I know that last year I saw twenty or thirty of those while I was walking around the forest looking for medicinal ingredients.”
“Twenty or thirty? Finding them by just walking around?” Chem Al couldn’t believe it. In his past life, he had to trudge through a vast, maze-like forest for over five weeks just to find one of these. Yet, his Master talked about them like you could just trip over any root and fall on one. That was impossible!
But wait. Was it really impossible?
Chem Al said goodbye to his Master, then walked back to his family’s cart while mumbling under his breath. He stared at the Nine Colored Rainbow Blossom in his hands.
This was one of the medicinal ingredients that no one, including The First Alchemist, had ever figured out how to cultivate, so it was impossible to grow them on a farm. Because of this, by the time he was born in his past life, this flower had become rare. But in this era, before alchemy was created, they must be as common as bouquets.
He thought back to The First Alchemist’s journals. There were times where The First Alchemist mentioned finding a rare medicinal ingredient, and he always felt envious of how lucky The First Alchemist was. But it turned out that The First Alchemist wasn’t lucky. Can you call someone lucky when they find a leaf in a forest?
Chem Al’s eyes started to shine. What other medicinal ingredients would he be able to find?
By the time Chem Al returned to his family’s cart, he was paying more attention to the sides of the road. If it wasn’t for how dangerous the forest was, he would have looked deeper. But just focusing on the grassy areas near the road provided a lot of fruitful gifts.
“Two hundred year old Scarlet Vein Heart Leaves!”
“One thousand year old Udumbara Flowers! Nobody touch them! They’re mine!”
“Venture Mushroom Caps! Yes, they’re just the right age!”
“Nine hundred year old Golden Earth Dan Root! Can someone help me pull this up?”
Gathering all of these things didn’t go unnoticed by the villagers, but they mostly ignored him, thinking that the crippled boy had something wrong with his head. There was even a mother who warned her son to never act like this.
Chem Al didn’t care. He was happily grabbing medicinal ingredient after medicinal ingredient. It was such a blissful moment.
When his hands were full, he went to his family’s cart to pile them on, but his father stopped him. “Sorry, Little Al. I can’t take any of that. It’s taking all of my strength just to pull these crops. How about this? Once the cart is empty after selling all of our crops in the city, you can put some of your plants in.”
Chem Al paused. He had been so excited about finding these rare medicinal ingredients that he didn’t think about what to do next. There was no way for him to carry all that he wanted by himself. “Please, father. Just take them to the city. Once we get there, maybe I can get a spatial ring to hold them.”
“Spatial ring? What’s that?” Chem Feng’s eyebrows furrowed.
Now Chem Al froze on the spot. A realization struck him. Stupid, that was what he was. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He was one hundred thousand years in the past. Since medicinal cauldrons weren’t invented yet, he should have realized that other things from his past life wouldn’t be here too. What else hasn’t been invented yet?
He thought back to the The First Alchemist’s journals, as well as other historical records describing this point in time. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t remember them ever mentioning spatial rings, or jade transmission slips, or bank cards. Shit. How was he supposed to store things? How was he supposed to send people messages? How was he supposed to carry around his millions and millions of gold taels?
Lost in thought, he couldn’t react in time when someone shoved him to the side, knocking the medicinal ingredients out of his hands. “Move it, cripple! Don’t just stand there in the middle of the road!”
Usually he would rise up in anger after getting treated like that, but all he could do was lay there in the dirt, watching the villagers stepping on the rare medicinal ingredients that he had dropped as they went by.
This is a completely different era, Chem Al thought.
For the past two months, he had been so overwhelmed by the fact that he was now in The First Alchemist’s body that he never truly understood how different this time was...until now. Modern conveniences that he took for granted didn’t exist. Those who practiced medicine were treated like dirt. All of his family, friends, and disciples weren’t even born yet. And he wasn’t the leader of the Alchemist Association anymore. He was no longer someone that even kings would bow to. He was just a cripple.
“Hey, are you okay? Let me help you…. Are you crying?” Chem Au asked, after he ran over to his little brother.
“No. Shut up. I’m not crying.” Chem Al rubbed his eyes.
“Okay, okay. Do you want me to hit the guy that did this to you?”
Chem Al just shook his head, then he sat there while watching the progression of carts go by. His brother stood there for a second, not knowing what to do, then he sat down next to him. It was quiet.
“I’m really far away from home, aren’t I?” Chem Al almost whispered.
“What? We’re less than half a day’s journey from the village. I know that might seem far to you, but after you grow up, it would seem like nothing.”
“No, I mean…. Nevermind.” Chem Al paused. It was quiet again. After awhile, he got up and walked to the middle of the road, making sure to avoid the villagers and their carts. He picked up the six hundred year old Nine Colored Rainbow Blossom.
Bruised and covered in dirt, it was in such a poor state that Chem Al didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In his past life, people would risk their lives to own one of these flowers, but in this era it was treated like mud on the bottom of boots. The same could be said for all of these other medicinal ingredients that had been flattened on the ground.
He looked around. The only thing that survived was the Golden Earth Dan Root. Before a cart came by, Chem Al hurried over and picked it up. Since it was so hard, it managed to not get crushed.
“I don’t know why these plants are important to you, but you can always get more,” Chem Au said, standing next to him.
Chem Al shook his head. “No. It was wrong for me to pick these up in the first place. Without a proper place to store them, they’ll just lose their medicinal efficacy.” He realized that he had never truly appreciated how useful a spatial ring was.
He held the nine hundred year old Golden Earth Dan Root in his hands. If he couldn’t carry all of these medicinal ingredients, he could at least keep this one. After all, it was the one that his big brother needed the most.