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."