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.
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.