Sunday, September 25, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 13

Chapter 13 - Money, Money, Money

“The tournament? How are you going to make money from the tournament?” Chem Au asked. “I hope you’re not thinking of the prize money because there is no way I can win that.”

“Maybe not as you are now, but you’ll definitely win next year,” Chem Al said. “No, what I’m talking about is completely different.”

“What is it?”

“We’re going to spend money to make money,” was all Chem Al said before he went back to their parents. Chem Au let out a deep sigh and just followed him, feeling tired for some reason.

The night went by with their family sleeping under the cart.

The entire market woke up with the rising sun. For most, including the Chem clan, they didn’t have to do much but make their cart full of food look presentable, then they were off selling as potential customers from all over came into the city.

“Potatoes! Radishes! Get them here, fresh!” Chem Feng shouted, although his voice was almost drowned out by everyone else.

“Rice! High quality white rice! Get it here!

“I’ve got an entire desolate beast for sale. Meat to fill you up and bones to make your soup!”

“Coal! Plenty of coal to heat up your homes. Winter is coming, you know?”

And Chem Al was shouting along with his family and everyone else. It was fun and a little embarrassing, but it reminded him of his early days as an alchemist disciple during his past life, where he had to compete with all the other disciples to sell pills.

Time passed and the rush of customers turned into a trickle. The tournament was starting and they had all gone off to watch it.

When there were very little people left in their section of the market, Chem Al took this opportunity to ask, "Can Au and I go see the tournament too? Please? It'll only be for a couple of minutes."

Chem Feng thought about it, then said, "Okay, but only for a few fights, then come back soon."

“Can we have some money too?” Chem Al asked. “For snacks and stuff.”

His father frowned. “Al, you know how tight money is.”

“Oh, you, let them have their fun. It’s not everyday we visit the city,” Chem Mai said. She held out a single low jade stone. "Here, take some money with you. It’s not much, but you and Au can split a snack with it.”

Chem Al received the low jade stone like he was being handed a historical artifact. It was a tiny, round stone made of jade, about the size of a thumbnail. It was the first time he had seen the money used in this time period.

"Thank you, Mother. I’ll pay you back soon," Chem Al said before he dragged his brother off towards the tournament.

Along the way, they passed by a couple of stalls and carts that were selling whatever they had, but Chem Al ignored them because he had better things to do with his money.

As soon as they began to hear the cheer of the crowd, it wasn't long before they turned a corner and found the tournament grounds. It wasn't anything fancy like those big stadiums with stone platforms. It was mostly a dirt field surrounded by a couple of wooden bleachers. Still, it was packed. In a world where strength was respected, everyone loved watching a good fight.

"Okay, we're here. How do you plan on making money?" Chem Au asked.

Chem Al held up his low jade stone. “Easy. We’re going to gamble.”

“Gambling? That’s your method to make money?”

“Yes,” Chem Al said while looking around to find someone who was taking bets. There was always someone in these kinds of events.

“Little Al, if gambling was a sure way of making money, then I would have suggested that!”

But his little brother wasn’t listening as he had already ran off towards a man in a booth that had a sign hanging from it. At the top of the sign, it said "Preliminaries", and below that were names along with their odds next to them.

As Chem Al got closer to the booth, he thought about the eight names in The First Alchemist’s journal. He had read those journals so often that he had memorized every word. It wasn’t difficult to recall the names that would make it to the top eight in this tournament.

"Mister, I want to place a bet," Chem Al said.

The man looked down at the little boy. "You got money?"

"It's not much, but money is money." Chem Al held up his low jade stone.

The man snorted, then he shrugged his shoulders. "The next fight is Wujang Ko vs Li Qinli. Who do you want to bet on?"

Oh, there was one of the names from the list. "Li Qinli,” Chem Al said.

"Suit yourself. The odds are six to one against."

Chem Al handed him his low jade stone. The man accepted it, then thought nothing more of it as the little boy walked away. Even if that boy wins, he won’t get much from starting at such a low sum.

The moment Chem Al stepped away from the booth, his big brother grabbed him by the shoulders. "Are you crazy? We could have at least used that to buy a snack to eat."

"Trust me." Chem Al smiled, then started pulling on his brother's arm. "Come on. If we don't hurry, we're going to miss it."

Late, they couldn't find any good seats, but they were able to find a spot to stand in to watch the match. A minute later, two young men stepped into the arena. They fought.

Chem Au could feel his blood pumping as he watched the explosion of swords and fists battling each other for supremacy, but Chem Al couldn't care less. The only thing he cared about was whether the outcome of this fight matched what he thought those list of names in the journal meant.

With one final blast of sword light, the fight ended. Li Qinli was the winner!

Chem Au cheered, lost in the excitement of watching a good fight, but then his eyes widened in realization. The winner of the fight was the person that his little brother had bet on. They actually won some money!

He turned his head to look at his little brother, only to discover that Chem Al had already ran off back to the booth. Hurrying to follow him, he got there in time to see the man hand over the money.

"Minus my fee, you've won six low jade stones," the man said.

Chem Au felt like jumping for joy after seeing the six jade stones in his little brother's hands, thinking of more things they could buy. But before he could say anything, Chem Al said, "Who is fighting in the next match?"

"Oh, pressing your luck, are you?" the man said. "The next fight is going to be (name) vs (name)."

Hmm, it wasn’t one of the names on the list. Chem Al kept asking him for the fights after that until he heard a name that he recognized, then he handed over the six low jade stones back to the man to make his next bet.

Chem Au wanted to shout. Did his little brother think that winning money once will win him more the next time? But before he could stop him, Chem Al was already running back to watch the next fight. “What are you standing there for, Au? Don’t you want to watch the next fight?” Chem Al said when he passed his brother.

Chem Au didn’t know what to say. He just ended up sighing, then followed his brother back to the tournament.

This process repeated three more times with Chem Au looking more and more shocked every time they won money. He was lucky that flies weren’t flying into his mouth.

As for the man, he was almost as shocked. He had seen repeat winners before, but never from a poor looking boy. “You’ve got great beginner’s luck,” he said as he handed over Chem Al’s latest winnings.

Chem Al thanked him, but then he said, “My brother and I have to go back soon so we won’t be here to watch the rest of today’s tournament. How about this? Instead of making bets for each individual fight, I would like to make a bet on who would pass the preliminaries.”

“Oh? You want to make a long bet?”

Nodding, Chem Al said, “Yes. I know it’s riskier, but I’m feeling lucky today.”

The man silently scoffed at the little boy. He had seen this many times. Men who were on a winning streak think that it would be safe to make bigger bets. “It’s your money. Who do you want to bet on?”

"I want to bet on these people." Chem Al listed eight names. He thought that maybe he should throw in a few losing names to throw off suspicion, but eh, this was going to be the only time he was going to gamble so he might as well make a killing.

After agreeing to the bet, the man accepted Chem Al's latest winnings and divided them to equally bet on each of the names, all the while making fun of the little boy in his mind. There was no way some of these names would make it into the top eight.

Throughout all this, Chem Au just stood by feeling helpless, then he followed his little brother back to their parents with his head tucked between his shoulders. He sighed, deciding to accept it. After all, his little brother might pull out a miracle and not lose all the money.

For the rest of the day, Chem Al and Chem Au helped their parents sell potatoes and radishes. Their parents didn't ask what they did with the low jade stone, assuming that they just spent it on a snack as little boys would do. As for Chem Au, he was constantly worrying about the money, while Chem Al was humming along like nothing was wrong.

While the Chem clan was selling their crops, the man in the booth was still making bets with other people. So far he was impressed that none of the little boy's choices had lost yet.

However, this next one would definitely lose. It was a fight between Li Qinli vs Jiang Ren. And Jiang Ren was this year's favorite to become the champion. There was absolutely no way that Li Qinli was going to win this fight.

Two minutes later.

Li Qinli won the fight.

“What the fuck!” the man shouted. This was impossible! There was no way this could be happening!

And yet it was.

For the rest of the matches, all of the cultivators that the little boy chose never lost. Time and time again, until all of them made it to the final eight. The man could only stand there in shock, which was how Chem Al and Chem Au found him after their parents let them go when the day’s market was slowing down for the evening.

"How did my bets do?" Chem Al said, almost knocking the man out of his delirious state.

"Wha...? How?" He stared at Chem Al for a long time. Did this little boy somehow rig the entire tournament? Although it was very unlikely, it was the only explanation he could think of. He kept opening and closing his mouth, wanting to ask something, but not sure what kind of question would give him an answer that would explain all of this.

Meanwhile, Chem Al gave him a big smile. "How much did I win?"

Behind him, his big brother was almost hopping from leg to leg, wondering the same thing.

The man finally snapped out of it. "Y-you won ten high jade stones and eight mid jade stones,” he said, barely able to believe it. He wondered how much more the little boy would have won if he didn’t start out with a measly single low jade stone.

Chem Al tilted his head at that answer, still unsure about this time's monetary value, while his big brother jumped up like lightning was surging through his body. "Ten high jade stones? Did you just say that we won over ten high jade stones?"

"Is that a lot?" Chem Al asked.

Chem Au looked at his little brother, wide-eyed. "That's ten years of our family's income, and you just won that in one day!"

Chem Al only nodded. "I guess that will do.” He held out his hand to the man.

Throughout this whole conversation, other gamblers had been eavesdropping on them. They all watched as the man handed a bag to the little boy.

"Here you go," the man said. His hands were shaking.

Chem Al and his big brother quickly checked the bag’s contents to make sure all the money was there. Nevermind Chem Al, even Chem Au had never seen a high jade stone before. They were almost the size of a fist and made of a higher quality of jade than the mid jade stones.

While they were looking in the bag, the man was watching them. He had just seen a miracle happen right before his eyes. A miracle! It was not everyday he got to see something so amazing. “I hope you will come back tomorrow to keep testing your beginner’s luck.”

"Oh, we will!" Chem Al said, slightly louder than usual. "I plan to come back and win even more money!"

The brothers then left the tournament grounds and ran off into the streets.

As they ambled along, Chem Au couldn’t stop himself from humming and occasionally singing a song he made up on the spot, not caring about the looks he was getting from the people around him. But then he was interrupted by his little brother.

“Au, please carry me on your back.”

With a smile on his face, Chem Au said, "Little Al, after what you just did, I'll do that and more." He got down on one knee to allow Chem Al to climb on.

“Thank you. Now, at the end of this street, make a turn at the last corner and start running as fast as possible. We have to escape them.”

“What?” Chem Au asked. This change in topic threw him for a loop. He had been thinking that Chem Al wanted to climb on his back to celebrate this moment along with him, but then out of nowhere his little brother wanted him to run.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 12

Chapter 12 - The Blacksmith Tai Fu

Despite trying to move as fast as they could, bringing the Wyrm’s corpse hampered their progress. But there was no way they were going to dump it. The money it would bring in would help support the village.

Carrying it just meant that the guards had to be more vigilant, gripping their spears as they surveyed the forest, though this didn’t stop them from discussing the battle with one another. For a short while, they wondered why Chem Au carried his crippled brother into the middle of the battle. It almost looked like he did something to help the village chief defeat the Wyrm, but that was impossible. How could a cripple do anything in a battle?

All the guards soon dismissed what Chem Al did and only talked about the village chief’s epic fight with the Wyrm. All of them, except Chem Au.

“Explain to me again about how you did that? How can you predict that beast’s movements?”

Chem Al sighed. “Okay, the Wyrm looks like a snake, but it’s not a snake. Once you understand that, you can predict its attack pattern.” His older brother still looked confused, so he continued. “Have you ever seen a snake attack? It only bites at its prey or wraps its body around them. It never really uses its tail to attack. But a Wyrm is different. You might not see it, but they have four small protrusions on their belly and two on their back, which will someday grow into legs and wings. And because of this body structure, it’s not as flexible as a snake. So its only options are to either bite, slam its massive body, or swing its tail. It’s not like it can breathe fire yet. Once you understand all of that, you can predict how it will attack. Get it?” Chem Al said, but what he didn’t mention was that this wasn’t the first time he had seen a Wyrm.

Chem Au tried to understand what his little brother just said, but this only caused a dull ache to throb through his head. “I don’t really get it, but okay, you somehow know a thing or two about Wyrms. But that doesn’t explain how you could throw a sharp stick at it so accurately.”

Chem Al shrugged. “I was lucky.”

A long groan came out of Chem Au. Lucky? Was that really just luck? That was a nearly impossible shot! It was like digging into the ground and finding a vein of jade stones on your first try. “That’s it? That’s your explanation?”

“I was really, really lucky.”

Now Chem Au felt like vomiting blood. He rubbed his forehead when the ache started to sharpen. “Fine, fine, if that’s all you’re going to tell me, we’ll leave it at that.” He wanted to ask more questions, but he couldn’t stay away from his guard duties for too long.

Two hours passed. The sun was getting low, making the villagers more nervous. So it was with a sigh of relief when they finally reached the edge of the forest. The only thing left to do was march through some open fields and, in the distance, there it was: Vera City.

At the sight of it, Chem Al felt surprised. It was completely different from the Vera City that he remembered in his past life. It looked small and rural, like it housed less than ten thousand people. What’s more, the wall around it was pitiful, and he could barely see the roofs of small buildings behind it. Where were the towering structures that he had come to know? A part of him knew that Vera City would be different from his time, but he was surprised about how completely different it was.

A line of carts full of goods and food led to the gate. The people from the other surrounding villages were here for the same reason they were. It only took another hour of waiting before the city guards let them enter the city.

Again, Chem Al was shocked. Since when does a city have a dirt street? And why were the buildings so short and stumpy? Yes, it was a lot bigger than Sorka Village, but shouldn’t it be more impressive than this? Cities were supposed to be tall and clustered together, not wide open like this. He could only shake his head.

The village chief left with the Wyrm’s body, followed by some of his guards, and headed towards the Everything Auction House. That was the only place where he could get a decent deal for it in this city.

The rest of the villagers moved through the streets until they made it to the market area. It took them awhile, but they were able to find a good place to set up shop. With the sun going down, there wasn’t going to be many customers today. Besides, the city’s martial arts tournament will take place tomorrow, and that’s when the real business will begin. Until then, there was still enough time for Chem Al to check out the city.

“Can I, Father? I just want to take a quick look around,” Chem Al said.

“Ask your mother.”

Chem Al rushed to his mother. “Please? Please? Pleeeease?” He kept repeating, as annoying as a hungry dog begging for treats.

“Okay,” she finally gave in with a sigh, “but your brother has to look after you. And you have to be back in half an hour.”

“Yes!” Chem Al jumped, then he went over to where his brother was and pulled him along, not even pausing to ask him if he wanted to come.

Chem Au just let himself be pulled since he wanted to check out the city too. “Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“To find a blacksmith.”

“Good idea. We can look at the amazing weapons they make.”

“That, and I want to commission them to make a cauldron for me.”

“A cauldron?” Chem Au asked, then he remembered what his little brother had said two months ago. “You’re still on about that?”

“Of course. Just watch me. With that cauldron, I’m going to change the world,” Chem Al excitedly said.

The two brothers went on their way with Chem Au taking the lead. He knew where the tournament stage was, and that the blacksmith shops would be close by. It wasn’t long before they heard the faint sound of metal clanging against metal, and soon they saw a few stone buildings with smoke rising out of the top.

“Which one do you want to check out first?” Chem Au asked.

Chem Al looked around until he spotted it. “There it is!” he shouted. “The legendary Tai Smithy!”

Legendary? Chem Au wondered. The blacksmith shop his little brother was pointing at was a small, stone shanty with a crude wooden sign over it that said “Tai”. Before Chem Au could direct his little brother to one of the more impressive looking shops, Chem Al had already rushed towards the Tai Smithy, leaving him no choice but to follow him.

The moment they stepped inside, they were assaulted by enough heat to form sweat down their backs. There wasn’t much in the shop. The front had a few weapons hanging on the walls, with the furnace in the back taking up most of the space. The only other person in the shop was a muscular young man who was pounding a hammer against something.

When the young man noticed the brothers come in, he quickly went up to them, but then showed a disappointed look on his face when he saw their raggy clothes that only poor villagers would wear. His shoulders sagged. “If you’re not going to buy anything, please leave. Don’t waste my time if you’re just going to look around.”

Chem Au was about to argue, but then his little brother cut him off.

“Are you Tai Fu?” Chem Al asked.

Tai Fu raised an eyebrow. “Do I know you?”

Chem Al suddenly gave a deep bow. “No, but I know of you. I can’t tell you how much of an honor this is to me. Your work is famous! I’ve traveled a long way just to meet you.”

“Uhh….” Tai Fu felt confused. “Please stop it with the jokes. You don’t look like you have a lot of money and, as you can see, my weapons aren’t exactly great sellers.” He waved his hand at the walls.

“Whoever said anything about weapons?” Chem Al said, then an excited smile appeared on his face. “I want you to make a cauldron for me!”

“A cauldron?” Tai Fu felt even more confused. “You want me to make you a metal bowl where you cook rice or soup in?”

Chem Al could only sigh. “I want a special cauldron. It will be made out of profound iron. Not the shitty pig iron that cooking cauldrons are made from. One hundred percent pure profound iron. But it won’t be as simple as that. The outer surface of the cauldron will have a complex array etched into it. As complex as,” he looked around, then pointed his thumb at a shiny shield hanging on the wall. “...that.”

Tai Fu looked at the shield. It was the most expensive thing in his entire shop. Not only was it completely made out of profound iron, it also had a complex array that absorbed the surrounding profound energy to boost its defensive strength. It was impossible for a poor village boy to afford something like that.

Even Chem Au was looking at his little brother incredulously. That shield looked really expensive, and they didn’t have any money on them.

“You want a cauldron as complex as that shield? Enough with the jokes, kid. Get out of here,” Tai Fu said, making shooing motions at him.

Chem Al sighed again. “I know it’s not going to be cheap, but money’s no option.”

Tai Fu almost burst out laughing. It wasn’t everyday a lowly villager said something like that.

“I can see that you won’t believe me until I show you the money. So just tell me how much it would cost and I’ll bring it,” Chem Al said.

Tai Fu didn’t know whether he should just shove the boy out or laugh at him, but he was never one to turn away possible profit. He rubbed his chin. "Well, profound iron is really hard to forge. It takes a lot of strength. Of course, that’s nothing special for a blacksmith. The hard part would be to make the array, which takes a delicate touch. The more complex it is, the harder it will be. You know, not all blacksmiths have that kind of skill. You’re lucky that I’m one of them. All in all, the cost of such a cauldron would be...," he paused and held up two fingers, "two high jade stones."

"What the hell?" Chem Au shouted. "Two high jade stones?"

It was just as Tai Fu expected. They couldn’t afford it. "Hey, don't look at me. Such a thing is definitely worth that price. But I'll tell you what. I'll give you a good discount. How about just one high jade stone and eighty mid jade stones?"

Jade stones? Chem Al tilted his head. He had heard of these while reading historical books, but he didn't really understand their value. In his past life, the monetary system was made of gold taels, along with some silver and copper.

How much was a high jade stone worth? He didn't know, but based on the look on his big brother's face, it definitely wasn't cheap. Still, even if it costs the entire world, it would be worth it.

"Done," Chem Al said.

"What?" Chem Au grabbed his little brother's shoulders and shook him. "Have you gone stupid? We don't have nearly that kind of money."

Chem Al smiled. "Maybe not right now, but I can get it." He then ignored his brother and looked at the young blacksmith. "Do we have a deal? I'll bring one high jade stone and eighty mid jade stones by tomorrow, and you'll forge the cauldron that I want."

Tai Fu was reluctant because everything about the kid screamed poor, but he really needed the money, and was willing to look for it in unlikely places. He held out his hand. “If you can do that, then we have a deal.”

Chem Al shook it.

After that, the two brothers left the blacksmith shop with Chem Au still wondering what the hell just happened. "Did I miss something? Where are you going to get that kind of money?"

Chem Al pointed at the tournament stage in the distance. "It's simple. We're going to get the money from the tournament."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 11

Chapter 11 - Silent Vow

No one moved.

Whether they were stunned that it was dead or felt fear that it might still be alive, no one approached the Wyrm. It was only after seeing that it had stopped moving did they begin to feel the rising urge to cheer.

“It’s dead!”

The village chief did it!”

“Long live the village chief!”

The guards celebrated, shouting out their joy for the world to hear while thrusting their spears into the air. Some of them cried with relief, glad to still be alive.

After that, while holding his wounded arm, the village chief started commanding his guards. Some of them were sent to bring back the villagers, telling them it was safe, while others were told to clean up this mess. A few of the carts were smashed into pieces, while the meat, their best seller, was strewn all over the ground. To save what they can, they placed them in the carts that were still useable.

The most important part was figuring out how to carry the Wyrm to the city. Its corpse would surely bring in a lot of money. In the end, since they were unable to cut the Wyrm into pieces, they decided that the only way was to load it on five of the carts and pull it in a row. It would be awkward and slow going, but it was worth it.

While the guards were doing their jobs, the village chief looked up from the Wyrm and then tried to find the cripple, only to see the little boy standing right next to him.

“Let me look at your arm,” Chem Al said.

The village chief’s arm was bleeding profusely after the Wyrm’s fang had pierced it clean through. Chem Al ripped a piece of cloth from his raggy clothes and tightened it around the chief’s upper arm to slow down the blood flow, then he took out his waterskin and poured some of the water to wash out the wound. “Don’t worry, although Wyrms look like snakes, they aren’t poisonous. We just need to wrap up your arm and you’ll be okay. But this is all I can do with what I have. I’m going to need some sticks and clean cloths. And I think my Master has some Wormite paste. It’s not very effective, but it will do.”

“Your Master?” the village chief said.

“Sheng Yi. Although you just call her the medicine woman.”

The village chief nodded. “That’s good, I guess. If you can’t cultivate, learning other skills isn’t a bad thing.”

Chem Al looked at him, his eyes as steady as stone. “Even if I could practice profound cultivation, I would still choose to practice medicine. Don’t look down on it, and don’t look down on my Master. She will do more for this village than you ever will.”

There was something solid about his words, as if he was stating a fact like the sun rising in the east. The village chief couldn’t help but take a closer look at the cripple. He didn’t scurry away like he usually did as if he was afraid of being in other people’s way. Instead, there was strength in how he carried himself. This alone was stranger than his inexplicable knowledge about Wyrms.

At that moment, Sheng Yi arrived at the site of the battle, rushing there faster than the other villagers. She spotted Chem Al, along with the village chief and his bleeding arm. After seeing what her disciple had done so far, she nodded and said,  “Chem Al, apply this Wormite to his arm while I gather some sticks and cloth to make a sling.”

Chem Al did as he was told after she ran off. While he was putting on the paste, his parents suddenly wrapped their arms around him.

“What is wrong with you?” his mother said, while his father bowed and apologized to the village chief, just in case Chem Al got in the way during the battle.

The village chief responded with no, no, no, their son didn’t get in the way, and had helped instead. But his father didn’t seem to have heard him as he bowed again and again.

As that went on, Chem Al wasn’t listening to them because he was being squeezed to death by his mother.

“Don’t you do anything like that again!” Chem Mai said.

His parents were angry, very angry, but Chem Al could see the worry in their eyes. He understood why. While their other son was also in the battle, at least he had some strength to protect himself, but their smaller, younger son was so weak a kitten could smash him into the ground.

“Mother, Father, I am sorry for worrying you, but please allow me to finish applying the medicine to the village chief’s injury,” Chem Al said.

Chem Feng and Chem Mai looked at their son and then at the village chief’s bloody arm. That stopped them from admonishing him. They knew he had been spending some time with the medicine woman and that he must have picked up a thing or two about medicine, so they left him alone as they went back to get their cart. Chem Al sighed with relief.

By the time he finished putting on the Wormite, Sheng Yi had returned with everything she needed. “Hold this,” she said as she began her work.

For the next few minutes, Chem Al couldn’t help but feel amazed. He had never seen someone prepare a sling so fast. In his past life, slings were used, but they were secondary knowledge when compared to making pills. No one really bothered practicing how to make them.

“Put your finger here,” she said. Chem Al followed his Master’s order, and with one final knot, she was done. “If you don’t agitate your arm, it should heal in three months.”

The village chief and Chem Al had ugly expressions on their faces. Three months was a long time. One of them hoped that there was a faster way, while the other knew that there was a faster way. The village chief could only accept it.

With his arm in a sling, Sorka Jiu stood up and addressed the returning villagers, who were cheering as they stared at the dead Wyrm, hardly able to believe that the village chief took down such a powerful looking beast.

“Everyone, I know that you want to celebrate, but we have to get a move on. We’re still in the middle of the forest, and who knows when the next attack will occur.” Sorka Jiu elbowed out his slinged arm. “And I don’t know if I will be able to help when that happens.”

The guards and the rest of the villagers gulped, then they ran around like ants, getting everything ready to keep moving. Some of them struggled to lift the Wyrm’s corpse on to five carts, but they managed to do it.

Chem Al glanced at the Wyrm. It might have been powerful, but it was only a mere desolate beast. Now, if it had grown up into a True Dragon, that was a different story. He would have done everything he could to strip its body parts for anything that could be used as medicinal ingredients instead of just letting the villagers sell it at a market. He shook his head. Everyone else might look at the Wyrm with money in their eyes, but it was nothing to him.

He looked away as he followed Sheng Yi around to check out if there were any other injuries, but there was nothing other than a few scrapes and bruises. “It’s a good thing that this battle only resulted in one serious injury. And only one death.”

Two of the villagers were carrying the dead guard to the side of the road, out of the way so as to allow the carts to pass through. Although they arranged the body in a respectful manner, that was all they did. They didn’t even have the decency to bury him.

The only one who seemed to mourn over the dead guard was a young woman with a scar going down her cheek. Chem Al turned away from her and the dead guard she was crying over.

Sheng Yi saw the look on Chem Al’s face. “Is this one of the memories you have forgotten? We live in a dangerous world, my disciple. Death is everywhere. Whether it’s beasts, sickness, or even other people, there are many things that want to claim our lives.” She shrugged. “It happens. You just have to accept it.”

Chem Al wasn’t a child. Logically, he could see that taking the time to bury and mourn the dead guard would only keep them longer in this forest, increasing the chances for other people to die. Doing everything you can to move faster was the right thing to do. He knew this, but he couldn’t stop himself from clenching his fists.

He knew that people die, but this..., this was different. Why was everyone acting so casual about this person’s death? Chem Al sighed. It must be because for these villagers, death was so common that they were almost numb to it. Instead of mourning this one death, they seemed almost relieved that there was only one death.

Chem Al silently swore to himself. Before, he had decided to help this village because that was what The First Alchemist did, but now, he was going to do it because he wanted to build a place where these villagers, and especially his family, could live in peace. A place where death was rare.