Thursday, October 27, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 22

Chapter 22 - A Talk of the Profound

“Alchemy, huh?” Chem Au said. “That’s kind of a lame name.”

Chem Al smashed his fist on top of his brother's head, hurting his hand in the process. "Ow! What do you know? It's the most amazing name in the history of ... well, everything!"

"Okay, okay. You don't have to cry about it. It's a great name," Chem Au said. "Now, can you make another pill? If you want me to beat Sorka Bo, I'm going to have to get stronger as fast as possible."

Chem Al shook his head. "Not yet. I'm going to need to gather some more medicinal ingredients,” he said before turning to Sheng Yi. "Master, you can help me with that tomorrow."

"Okay, but once we gather those ingredients, you'll teach me how to use this cauldron of yours?"

Chem Al nodded, but then he stayed quiet for a long time.

"What's wrong?" Sheng Yi asked.

"Master, if I'm going to teach you alchemy, you will eventually need to increase your profound cultivation level."

Sheng Yi looked shocked, then she became flustered. "What? But I don't cultivate!"

"There's no need to deny it, Master. You're among friends here."

Chem Al and Sheng Yi stared at each other, one trying to hide something and the other trying to expose it.

Meanwhile, Chem Au just felt confused. "What do you mean, Little Al? You know women aren't allowed to cultivate profound energy."

"I know," Chem Al almost whispered, but what he was really thinking was, at least not yet. "But my Master does."

Hearing what his little brother said, Chem Au turned to Sheng Yi and tried to sense any profound energy from her. At first, he felt nothing, but after concentrating for a long while, he finally detected a trace amount of it. "What? She really does cultivate! Even though it's only at the very bottom of the first level, I can sense profound energy in her."

Hearing her secret exposed, Sheng Yi finally sighed and turned to her disciple. "How did you find out?"

"By accident. When you examined me, I felt a hint of profound energy invading into my body."

"But that's not possible. You were born with crippled profound veins. There's no way for you to sense profound energy."

Chem Al shrugged. "I just know." He couldn't tell her that he read it in a book.

There was no going back now, so Sheng Yi said, "Okay. A long time ago, I tried cultivating profound energy. But so what? It's not like I tried to increase my strength. I'm still at the measly first level. The only reason I cultivated in the first place is because I wanted to boost my senses, which would make it easier to diagnose patients. But what does that have to do with you teaching me alchemy? I just saw you do it, and you can’t cultivate."

"True, but it's like you said. It just makes it easier." Chem Al then walked over to his Master’s supplies and picked up the pestle and mortar. "Cultivating profound energy can help make things easier. Although most people use it to practice martial arts, others also use it to make them better at their jobs. Like blacksmiths, spies, construction workers, etcetera. Why can't alchemists do the same? Take this pestle and mortar for instance, which helps you reduce medicinal ingredients into a powder. What if I were to tell you I've been thinking of trying to create a cultivation skill that will help make that easier."

Chem Al then moved his hand over and picked up his Master’s knife. "And this knife. What if I invent a cultivation skill that can make this knife sharper, making it easier for you to cut through medicinal ingredients that would be impossible for an ordinary knife? I have so many ideas, but since I can’t cultivate, I’m going to need you to test out these new cultivation skills for me. For the advancement of alchemy."

Sheng Yi looked skeptical. "Do you understand how difficult that is? You can't cultivate profound energy and you're telling me that you can create a cultivation skill?"

"Yes." Chem Al smiled, confidence flowing off of him like wind from a storm. "But you're going to have to increase your level of cultivation, or else the skills will be weak and ineffective."

"Wait, wait!" Chem Au suddenly jumped in. "How can you not be surprised that she's cultivating profound energy?"

Chem Al looked at him. "Are you against women cultivating?"

"Well,, actually." When Chem Au thought about it, he realized he really wasn't against it. It was just what he had been taught growing up. In fact, he realized if the women of the village started cultivating, it would increase their overall strength, making life less harsh. However, he knew it wouldn’t be that easy. "But other people might be against it. Right now her cultivation is so low it's hard to sense, but what happens when she gets stronger? They will find out and a lot of people might not like it."

"We'll deal with that when it happens." Chem Al waved it off.

And now you’re suddenly wishy washy? Chem Au thought. This is serious, you know.

"So, Master,” Chem Al said. “Since my profound veins are crippled, I’m going to need your help. If you want me to teach you alchemy, you're going to have to increase your profound cultivation strength. Do you agree?"

Sheng Yi thought about it for a long time, but in the end she said, "If it makes me a better practitioner of medicine, of course I'll do it. Damn whatever anyone else thinks."

Yes! Chem Al mentally congratulated himself. This was another step forward for alchemy.

And then his brother broke apart his happy mood. "Hold on, I just realized something. Is that why you created this new kind of medicine called alchemy? So you can someday fix your crippled profound veins?" Chem Au said.

Because of his words, Sheng Yi suddenly realized it too. "Is that true? Is that what this is all about?" Before Chem Al could answer her, she had already concluded it in her mind. What other possibility could there be? Growing up, the boy had always hoped that she would use her medicines to heal him of his crippled profound veins, but she had failed every single time. So he tried to come up with a way to do it himself.

"Uh, yes," Chem Al said, not knowing how else to answer them.

"That's great! I know you can do it, Little Al. If anyone in the world can discover a way to heal crippled profound veins, it's you. And then you will be able to cultivate with me!"

"I ... will definitely try," Chem Al said while trying to keep his smile up. But he knew, according to history, that The First Alchemist never heals his profound veins, despite trying again and again.

"I'm sure you will succeed," Sheng Yi said.

Chem Al looked at their excited faces, unable to bring himself to tell them that that will never happen. “Anyway, that's for the future. Right now we need to focus on the tasks at hand. Au, you will have to get stronger in order to support me. And Master, you must learn alchemy as fast as you can. Together, not only will we take over this village, we will also make it better.” And that will just be the start, Chem Al thought.

They all agreed on the plan. For the next three months, they were going to prepare themselves.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 21

Chapter 21 - Alchemy

Chem Au thought there was something wrong with his hearing. “Did you just say you wanted me to help you take over Sorka Village?”

“Yes,” Chem Al said.

Chem Au stuck a finger in his ear. “Do you mind repeating that?”

“I want you,” Chem Al pointed at his brother, “to help me,” he pointed at himself, “get rid of Sorka Jiu so I can become the next village chief.”

“What!” Chem Au exploded. “Are you insane!”

Sheng Yi was shocked as well. “I have to agree with Chem Au. You do not have the strength.”

“I know,” Chem Al said to her before he turned back to his brother. “That’s why I need you, Au. Once you become strong enough, you can help me depose Sorka Jiu.”

“Why would I help you do that?” 

Chem Al tried to look innocent and confused. “Didn’t you just say you’ll repay me?”

“Yeah, but this? Why do you even want to take over the village in the first place? Sorka Jiu is a good village chief.” Chem Au then counted off on his fingers. “He helps with the village’s city taxes every chance he can. He trained me and taught me the Soaring Crane Skill. He lets me be a guard, which gives us some extra pay for our family.”

“And he’s fair,” Sheng Yi said. “Even though my medicines haven’t done much for this village, he still allows me to stay here, and shows me more respect than the other villagers do, mostly.”

“Yeah, yeah. You see? We’re lucky to have such a good village chief. Why do you want to get rid of him?” Chem Au said.

“Because our village is still poor,” Chem Al said. "Look, I know he's a fair leader, but what has he done in the past few years to help this village grow? He's barely holding it together. As for me, with the help of these pills, I believe I can make this village great."

Both Chem Au and Sheng Yi still doubted him, so Chem Al continued, "Just think about it. Master, if I could make more types of medicinal pills, how many lives can we save from sickness or injury? There will hardly be any deaths in the village. That also goes for you, Au. How many of your fellow guards have died while hunting just because they weren’t strong enough? I can help make them stronger. And that’s not all. Just think of all the money; think of how much these pills will sell for. People will go crazy for them, to the point where they would just tell us to shut up and take their money. What would that mean for our family, for the entire village? None of us would have to live in poverty ever again."

Silence permeated the hut as the two thought about Chem Al’s words.

"That's true. Your pills can do all of those things," Sheng Yi said. "But does it have to be you running this village? You're far too young; and in a world that respects strength, you’re far too weak. Instead, we could inform the village chief about these pills that you’ll make, and he can decide how they will be used to help this village."

Chem Al sighed. "I know this is going to sound selfish of me, but since I created these pills, I would like to be the one to decide how they will be used. I understand the possibilities of what they can do more than anyone else. And, to be honest, I would like to make the decisions concerning the future of this village without having someone above me controlling my actions. I really do think I can do some good if you help me become the next village chief.”

Sheng Yi was quiet. She couldn’t help but notice her disciple’s clear eyes. They didn’t look like the eyes that belonged to someone who was running after some lofty goal like a chicken with its head cut off. He somehow looked wise beyond his years. “You have great ambitions,” she finally said. “I suppose you have a plan?”

“Yes.” Chem Al nodded, and then he turned to his brother. “But I can’t do it without you, Au. People respect strength. They respect you. They’re not going to allow some wimpy kid like me to lead this village if I don’t have your support.”

“I don’t know….” Chem Au’s brow furrowed. He was never good at making big decisions like this. A part of him didn’t want to do anything bad to the village chief, but another part of him, a growing part, really did believe his little brother can do what he said. After all, didn’t he create this miraculous pill? What other miracles will he be able to do?

“If it helps,” Chem Al said after seeing how his brother was still hesitating, “it’s not like I’m going to banish Sorka Jiu once we depose him as the village chief. He will still be part of this village, and even hold a high position. Just not the highest one.”

Chem Au finally sighed. “You’re still going to do this whether I help you or not, aren’t you?”

“Does that mean I have your support?” Chem Al asked.

Chem Au nodded, then struck out his hand. “Why not? You’re family. You always have to support your family.”

“To family.” Chem Al smiled as he shook his hand.

“Okay, now that we’re going along with this, what’s your plan?” Sheng Yi asked.

“Yeah,” Chem Au said. “I’m still not strong enough. Even with your pills, it will take me some time to gain enough strength to support you.”

“You’ve got three months,” Chem Al said.

“Three months?” Chem Au cursed. “Hey, hey, Little Al, aren’t you overestimating me a little. I don’t think I can fight Sorka Jiu for the position of village chief in just three months!”

“Oh, you’re not fighting Sorka Jiu. I want you to fight his son.”

“Sorka Bo?” Chem Au said, surprised. “Hmm, right now his profound cultivation is at the sixteenth level, so with your pills, I guess that’s possible. But why do I need to fight him? Even if I win, that won’t change anything.”

“You’re wrong. It’ll change everything,” Chem Al said. “But first, you’re right, you’re not strong enough yet. So in three months I want you to increase your strength until you’ve also reached the sixteenth level.”

Sheng Yi cut in. “Wait. With such a fast cultivation, won’t the villagers noticed? What should he say if they ask him about it?”

“Just tell them the truth, that your amazingly awesome and handsome younger brother helped you do it,” Chem Al said.

Chem Au looked at him. “Is that fine? Are you sure you don’t want to keep these pills a secret?”

“Why would I want to do that? They’re going to find out about it eventually. So go ahead, tell them. Let the rumors spread.”

Chem Au nodded. “Okay. If they ask me how I’m getting stronger so fast, I’ll just tell them my ugly younger brother helped me. In the meantime, what will you be doing?”

Chem Al gave him a slight glare, then said, “I will, of course, be teaching my Master about making these medicinal pills.”

“You’d better. Or else I will beat it out of you,” Sheng Yi said.

Chem Al smiled. “If you haven’t noticed, I’m not planning to keep this new type of medicine to myself. I plan to teach you, and many others in the future. Someday, I want this knowledge to spread all across the world.”

His words seemed to have some weight. Sheng Yi and Chem Au didn’t understand why, but they felt as if they were getting a glimpse of the future.

“By the way,” Sheng Yi said. “What do you call this new type of medicine?”

Chem Al’s eyes brightened. This was what he had been waiting for. He took a slow, deep breath, getting himself ready to announce the one word that will change the course of the future. At the top of his lungs, he shouted, “Alchemy!”

“Alchemy?” Sheng Yi said, and then she started muttering. “Alchemy…. Chem Al…. Alchemy. You named it after yourself?”

“Yes!” Chem Al smiled. “Because as the first alchemist in all of history, I am just that awesome!”

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 20

Chapter 20 - Primary Profound Pill

Chem Al quickly checked the Primary Profound Pill … and sighed with relief.

He did it! It came out with one hundred percent purity! The pill was smooth, practically sparkling, and the smell coming off of it was like a raging fire, filling the entire hut in seconds.

“Isn’t it beautiful? Chem Al stroked the pill like it was a loving pet.

“Uh, what is it?” Sheng Yi asked.

“This is a medicinal pill, the future of medicine.” Chem Al smiled as he held it up for them to see. “Specifically, I call it a Primary Profound Pill. In theory, if a cultivator were to swallow this pill, it would help increase their strength.

"How?" Chem Au was skeptical, but the smell, there was something about it that attracted him.

“Simple. But before I tell you, let me ask you a question first,” Chem Al said. “How do you cultivate?”

“How? I just absorb the surrounding profound energy into my dantian. Isn’t that how everyone else does it?”

“Precisely,” Chem Al said. “But see this pill? It contains a concentrated amount of profound energy. If you were to swallow this pill, it will release a ton of energy inside of you; at least a lot more than you would get from your surroundings. Think of what would happen if you were to absorb all of that profound energy into you dantian.” He left the rest to their imagination.

" that really true?" Chem Au asked. He wanted to believe his little brother because there was no reason for him to lie, but such a thing sounded like some kind of miracle medicine.

Chem Al held the pill out towards him. "Why don't you try it and find out?"

Chem Au looked at the pill, then at Little Al, then back at the pill again, trying to make a decision. He knew that his brother wouldn’t intentionally poison him, but accidents can happen, especially with something new and unbelievable like this.

In the end, he grabbed the pill. After looking it over and taking a few whiffs, he couldn’t find anything wrong with it. But he still hestitated. The only thing that made him even consider doing this were the promises his brother had made about this pill. Was it too good to be true? Only one way to find out.

Chem Au swallowed the pill.

The moment it entered his stomach, it started to dissolve. At first, nothing happened. He didn’t know whether he should feel disappointed or relieved. But then he felt it. Concentrated profound energy was bursting forth. His eyes widened as he stared at his little brother, unable to believe it.

"You better start cultivating or else you'll lose some of that energy." Chem Al smiled.

Chem Au gasped, and then immediately closed his eyes and sat down to cultivate, channeling the profound energy into his dantian so he wouldn't waste one bit of profound energy.

Seeing his reaction, Sheng Yi’s mind started to race. She just couldn't believe it. But there was no other explanation other than this pill was working just as her disciple said it would. She stared at Chem Al like she was looking at a monster. What he had just created could change the world! Since the dawn of profound cultivation, countless people have tried to look for ways to increase their strength at a faster rate. And now that method has been discovered by this little boy from some poor village on the outskirts of the Continent.

A miracle was happening right before her eyes. She had to know more about this pill.

It didn't look like Chem Au would stop cultivating soon, so she took the chance to ask her disciple, "How did you come up with this?"

Chem Al had prepared himself for that question. "Oh, you know, I've noticed that a lot of powerful weapons had arrays forged into them to boost their strength with profound energy. So I thought, why couldn't I do the same thing with medicine? Why couldn't I forge something that could absorb the surrounding profound energy to refine a more powerful medicine? So I thought of this." He pointed at the medicinal cauldron. That was his story and he was sticking to it. He couldn’t very well tell her that this miracle wasn’t invented by him, but by The First Alchemist, and he was merely just stealing the idea.

Sheng Yi nodded, as if his words made sense. She was about to ask another question, but then Chem Au opened his eyes. A smile spread across his face as he jumped up into the air. “I’ve broken through!” he shouted. “My cultivation has finally reached the fourteenth level!”

“Congratulations,” Chem Al said, not surprised. The journals had mentioned that Chem Au was at the peak of the thirteenth level around this time. He just needed a little push to make a breakthrough.

Chem Au was bursting with joy. He could feel a lot more energy surging from his dantian and into his profound veins. “I thought it would take me at least a month or two to reach the next level, but this pill, this incredible pill, helped me break through in just a few minutes. Little Al, you’re amazing!” He hugged Chem Al, almost crushing him to death. “How can I ever repay you?”

“First … let go,” Chem Al barely gasped out. After his brother released him, he took a few seconds to recover, and then said, “Actually, there is something you can do for me.”

“Just name it.”

Chem Al paused. “Help me take over Sorka Village.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 19

Chapter 19 - The Birth of Alchemy

The villagers settled back in after returning to Sorka Village. As night was falling, Chem Feng unloaded the cart while Chem Mai cooked dinner. There was nothing for their sons to do, so they were free to do what they wanted until dinner was ready.

Sheng Yi was also getting ready to settle down at her hut. But that was no longer possible when Chem Al barged in.

"Master!" Chem Al shouted at the top of his lungs.

Sheng Yi jumped, startled, then placed a hand on her chest. “Oh, it’s just you. Stop shouting! Can't you see how old I am? My heart can't take it."

"Master, look at this!" Chem Al had the bag with him. He pulled out his medicinal cauldron and held it up for her to see. His eyes were shining, as if expecting her to praise him.

She just looked confused. "So? What is it? A pretty cooking pot?"

Chem Al almost wanted to scream, but he held back because, of course, Sheng Yi had to be treated with respect. "Why does everyone keep saying it's a cooking pot?"

"Because that's what it looks like?" Chem Au said as he walked into the hut, finally catching up with his little brother.

Sheng Yi looked at him. It wasn't everyday she sees the older son of the Chem clan. There was no need to since he was always healthy, and hardly got hurt during his hunting tasks. "Why are you here? Are you hurt somewhere?" she asked him.

Chem Au shook his head. "No. My little brother just told me to follow him because he wanted to show me something."

"Yes!" Chem Al shouted. "I wanted to show you this!"

This time it was Chem Au that looked confused. "Why? I’ve already seen it."

"But not what it can do!" Chem Al said. He placed the medicinal cauldron down in the middle of the hut. "Remember how I told you that I was going to change things? Make them better? This is how I'm going to do it!"

Sheng Yi and Chem Au looked at each other, then at Chem Al. They each remembered something about him telling them that he was going to do something like that, but was still unsure what an iron pot had to do with it.

As they stared at the medicinal cauldron that was sitting silently on the floor, Chem Al was scurrying around the hut like a squirrel searching for hidden nuts. "Where is it? Where is it?" he muttered under his breath.

"What are you looking for?" Sheng Yi asked.

Picking up herbs one after another and sniffing inside the wooden bowls, Chem Al kept looking around. "Aha!" he shouted, picking up one of the medicinal ingredients. "Ten year old Lowe Leaves! One down, two to go."

Chem Al kept looking around. It wasn't long before he found the Green Gerbera Seeds and five year old Udumbara Buds that he needed. Even in his past life, these were some of the most common ingredients out there, so much so that he wasn’t surprised when he saw them during his first visit to Sheng Yi’s hut. He suspected that she was experimenting with them, but had not yet discovered their true medicinal effects.

With all three ingredients in hand, it was time to prepare. The Udumbara Buds were fine as is, and the Lowe Leaves were already perfectly dried out to the point of crackling, which was what he wanted. All he needed to do now was borrow his master’s pestle and mortar to grind the Green Gerbera Seeds into a powder.

A few minutes passed, and honestly, Sheng Yi and Chem Au had never seen someone grind something with such excitement.

“Finished!” Chem Al said before he poured the powder into a bowl. He then carried all of the ingredients towards the middle of the hut, where he sat down with the medicinal cauldron in front of him. An air of expectation radiated off of him, even Sheng Yi and Chem Au could feel it. Something was about to happen.

With solemn respect, Chem Al picked up the ten year old Lowe Leaves and held it over the medicinal cauldron. This was it! The birth of Alchemy!

Exhilaration surged through his entire being, until... Wait, this was the birth of alchemy! Right here, right now! What if he screwed it up? What if he screwed up? What if he screwed up? That was what went around and around in his mind. What the hell had he been thinking? He could never live up to The First Alchemist’s name.

All the joy he felt washed away, replaced by a tinge of nervousness that grew and grew into a storm. A knot twisted inside his stomach, and his hand, which was as still as stone, started to shake, in danger of losing its grip on the Lowe Leaves at any moment.

Sheng Yi looked down at her disciple, surprised. This strange, wise kid who had astounded her so much with his knowledge of medicine now looked like the little boy that he was. Since the beginning, as his master, she felt like she had nothing to teach him.

But now…. This was a first.

She leaned down and closed her hand around his fist, tightening his grip on the Lowe leaves until they crackled. "Disciple, if you wish to practice medicine, then know this. You're going to see sickness, blood, and death. This is not a world you can be in without a steady hand."

At first, Chem Al didn't react, as if he didn’t hear her, but then the worried look in his eyes faded away as his hand became still.

She was right. Why was he hesitating? The pill he was about to make was one of the most basic pills in all of history. He had made it himself hundreds of times. Even back when he first started learning alchemy, it had been easy.

Yes, he felt a little nervous because this was the pill that would introduce alchemy to the world. But so what? If he failed, he would just try again until he succeeded. If he was going to take the place of The First Alchemist, he couldn't let something like this stop him here.

Once he overcame most of his worries, Chem Al faintly smiled. And with that smile, Sheng Yi let go of his hand, sure that her disciple had overcome whatever inner doubt had momentarily plagued him.

Chem Al dropped the Lowe Leaves into the medicinal cauldron. It might have just been his imagination, but he swore he could feel the air around him shift. Next went in the Green Gerbera Seed Powder, and then the Udumbara Buds.

A faint, swirling glow started to shine from inside the cauldron.

Once the last ingredient went in, even Sheng Yi and Chem Au could feel something in the air. The profound energy all around them started to gather into the hut; a trickle at first, but then it started to grow. Although it was still very faint, they could feel it. With wide eyes, they stared at the medicinal cauldron. What the hell was this thing?

They then turned their eyes towards Chem Al, who was holding his hands over the medicinal cauldron. His smile was as wide as a sunny sky. Only a hint of worry touched his eyes. Was he good enough? Was it going to come out perfect?

But then he shook his head. Worrying about failure would only lead to failure. He focused his mind, concentrating on refining the ingredients.

And then it happened.

There was a burst of light, and a light red pill jumped out of the medicinal cauldron. As it fell, Chem Al held out his hand, palm up, and caught it. He did it! He created the first medicinal pill in history!

He created the Primary Profound Pill!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 18

Chapter 18 - Back to the Village

Chem Al and Chem Au stopped by a food cart on the way back to their parents and bought a baked sweet potato with their last low jade stone, which they shared between them.

Chem Au gobbled down his in a matter of seconds, while Chem Al barely tasted his. Coming from a time where cakes and ice cream were the norm, this sweet potato didn’t do that much for him. Instead, he focused more on the bag he was carrying.

One medicinal cauldron, one blue journal, and the Golden Dan Root he had kept in his clothes all this time ever since he had found it during their journey through the forest. Combine that with the four extra cauldrons he had ordered, this trip was more than worthwhile.

By the time they got back to their parents, the market was packed.

“Finally! What took you so long?” their father shouted over the hustle and bustle of the crowd. “Get to work!”

The two brothers hurried to help their frantic parents. There was such a rush of customers that, less than an hour later, they sold out of radishes. The customers groaned, and then left for the other carts, leaving the Chem clan to collapse on the ground, tired but happy. It wasn’t every year they managed to sell all of their crops.

Chem Feng and Chem Mai eagerly counted the money they made. Most of them were low jade stones, with a few mid jade stones here and there. All together, they made over one high jade stone. A decent profit for a year worth of radishes.

Seeing their parents’ smiles, the two brothers, especially Chem Au, couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. Just awhile ago, they had a lot more money than that, and could have brought a bigger smile to their parents’ faces if they had shown them all of the high jade stones they had. However, Chem Al managed to bite back his guilt as he reminded himself that he would make a lot more money than that next year.

At this time, their parents finally noticed the bag that Chem Al had carried with him to the cart.

“Where did you get that from?” Chem Feng asked.

“Oh, you know, I found it in someone’s garbage. Don’t worry, it isn’t dirty,” Chem Al said. He then took out the book and the cauldron, leaving in the the root that his parents had already seen.

Chem Feng and Chem Mai flipped through the book. “That’s a nice book,” Chem Mai said. “I don’t understand why someone would throw it out. As for this pot, although it looks pretty, you can’t really cook much in it. I guess somebody threw it away because they bought a bigger one.” Her husband agreed.

For the first time in this life, Chem Al felt a little annoyed at them. Even though they were the parents of The First Alchemist, no one should be allowed to call the first medicinal cauldron in all of history a mere cooking pot.

Chem Feng and Chem Mai didn’t think more of their son’s newly found stuff after that. Rich people threw out perfectly good things all the time. It wasn’t strange for their boys to find things like that in the garbage.

They rubbed Chem Al’s head, congratulating him on his finds. Then they were off to do some shopping. With the money they made, it was time to buy the things they would need to last them another year.

Pulling their children along, Chem Feng and Chem Mai went off to buy staples like flour, rice, and salt, along with cloths and sewing threads. They weren’t the only ones from Sorka Village to do this. The market was ending, and it was their last chance to buy the necessities.

As night fell and everyone began to clear out, the only thing left to do was to pay their yearly tax.

“I know it sucks, but it looks like you did well this year,” the village chief said as he came around.

"Yeah, we were able to sell our whole lot." Chem Feng handed over the money, though albeit reluctantly.

The village chief shook his head. "No, you don't have to pay that much this year. I was able to make a killing selling the Wyrm's corpse at the Everything Auction House. Someone bid on it for a lot of money.” He handed some of the money back. "I'll be able to offset the amount of tax our village has to pay to the City Lord."

Chem Feng smiled, which was a first during tax time. "That's great! I guess a rare creature like that would be interesting for the rich."

The village chief dropped the fewer amount of jade stones into his bag, and then, after taking one last glance at Chem Al, moved on to the next cart. This wasn't his favorite job to do, but it allowed their village to sell what they had at the city's market, along with allowing their village to exist in Vera City's surrounding land.

Chem Al watched him as he went around collecting money from his fellow villagers, and then ended up in a line that led to a finely dressed tax collector who was sitting behind a table. Two guards were standing close by, eyeing the line of people as if daring them to try anything. Chem Al didn’t know who this tax collector was, but he knew that there were many men like him throughout the city doing the same job, and all that money they’ll collect will end up in the hands of Tan Lan, the city treasurer.

Chem Al sighed. He didn’t want to deal with that man in the future.

Night fell. There wasn't much to do now but go to sleep under their carts. Those that had made a ton of money would go out drinking to celebrate, but none of these people came from Sorka Village, who had a few men that lamented over the fact that they couldn't even afford cheap liquor at times like these.

The next morning, before the sun was fully up, all of the people from the surrounding villages were now exiting the city, ready to make the trip back home. This included the people from Sorka Village.

Again, the village chief made the same speech about how they should be careful making their way through the forest, and to not fall behind because they had to hurry home before nightfall. Even though it was the same, boring speech, his tone still conveyed how serious these warnings were. Just because no one in the village was carting meat anymore didn't mean that they wouldn't attract a desolate beast.

So they began their journey back through the forest, their carts full of necessities.

They didn't know if it was a lucky year or not, but so far they hadn’t encountered a single desolate beast on their return journey. Most of them had smiles on their faces as they neared the end, realizing that only one person had died this time. It was a good year.

As they cheered at the sight of Sorka Village, none of them, except Chem Al, knew that this year was only going to get better.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 17

Chapter 17 - Journal

"Why do you need to buy a journal?" Chem Au asked.

“I have to document my life to show how awesome I am to future generations!"

What the heck? Chem Au scratched his head, wondering when his little brother had exploded so much out of his shell. "Well, you're on your own. I have no idea where the bookstore is."

"Don't worry, I do.”

"Wait. What do you mean you know where it is?" Chem Au said, but Chem Al had already ran off, prompting him to follow his little brother.

They traveled through the city until they made it to an area where the streets were cleaner and the stores were more pristine.

"I think it's around here somewhere," Chem Al said as they turned a corner onto a wide street.

Chem Au looked around and felt a hint of familiarity. Had he been here before? Surely not because he didn’t like the looks of disdain he was getting from the people around him. He hunched his shoulders close together while picking at his dirty clothes. He wanted to leave this area.

However, his little brother didn't seem to have noticed that they didn't belong here. "Ah, there it is!" Chem Al suddenly shouted. He pointed to a store that just gave the feeling of being square, where everything was neat and orderly. The sign at the top said: Du Bookstore.

Chem Al had seen it earlier when he was riding on his brother’s back as they ran away from the desperate gamblers that had been chasing them. All this time in Vera City, he had been keeping an eye out for this bookstore because he knew from The First Alchemist’s journal that this was where he would buy that very same journal.

Excited, Chem Al barged into the bookstore.

Chem Au followed him in, just in time to see his little brother take a big whiff. "Ha! No matter what time, a bookstore smells like a bookstore."

"Get out you two!" someone shouted at them.

The two brothers turned to look at where the voice came from. There was an old man sitting behind the counter, wearing dull colored clothes that was as neat as a suit for a funeral.

"Didn't you hear what I just said? Shoo! Shoo! This isn't the kind of place for the likes of you," the old man said, flicking his hand at them.

Chem Al pulled out his last high jade stone. "We aren't just here to browse. We're here to buy."

The old man froze for a moment, but then he continued, "I don't know where you stole that from, but even if you have money, a bunch of uneducated brats like yourself doesn't belong here!"

Chem Al sighed, while Chem Au grew angry at the old man. But before he could shout back, his little brother stepped forward and pointed at one of the books, which said: The Kuaisu Canyon and the surrounding area.

“The first page reads like this … ‘What is there to say about the Kuaisu Canyon except that it contained an absurd amount of wind element. I have studied it extensively, but could never find the source….’” Chem Al continued in a monotone voice.

At first the old man didn’t understand what he was doing. And then he thought, was this boy reciting the words in that book verbatim? Hmph, that was impossible. He went over to the shelf, grabbed the book, and opened it to the first page. Then his jaw dropped lower and lower as he read it.

Was something wrong with his ears? Has he started hearing things in his old age? Otherwise, how else would he be hearing this little, raggy boy say these exact words?

It wasn't just him that was surprised. Chem Au couldn't believe it too. Somehow his little brother was speaking these informative words about a canyon he had never heard of. What was happening? Did his little brother regularly visit bookstores every time they visited the city, instead of staying behind to help their parents sell radishes? It was the only explanation he could think of.

After Chem Al finished, the old man just stood there, still as a statue. His face looked troubled. But then a light came to his eyes as if he realized something. "That's all you got? You probably stole a copy of this book from another store and memorized it just to trick me."

A look of annoyance grew on Chem Al’s face. "I didn’t memorize it to trick you. And even if I did, that still doesn't discount the fact that I learned something from a book. Doesn't that allow me to walk around inside your store, instead of judging me by what I wear or how dirty my face is?"

The old man paused, then he said, "Knowing some words in one book is not enough. How about this one?" He went to another shelf and picked up a book that said: Ode to the Lore of Lisao. “Do you know this one?"

Chem Al shook his head. Either he had never encountered this book in his past life or all copies of it will not survive one hundred thousand years from now.

The old man smiled like he had exposed the trick. "Oh? You don't know it? Then how about this one?" This time he pointed to a scroll. Again, Chem Al shook his head. He didn't recognized that one either. The old man's smile got bigger. "What about this one?" He pointed at another book, expecting the boy to shake his head again.

However, Chem Al started reciting the first page. When that happened, the old man grabbed the book and followed along. Again, it was word for word.

Once Chem Al was done, the old man slowly put the book back on the shelf with a shocked look on his face. But before he could point to another book or scroll, Chem Al said, "Look, sir. I'm not going to lie and say that I've read everything that's ever been written. I probably only know one eighth of the books and scrolls in here. But I love books, and I have money, so shouldn't I be allowed to look around?"

The old man wanted to say something, but his shoulders just slumped. "Fine, fine, have a look. But if any other customers come in, don't bother them. And don’t steal anything. I’ll be watching you."

Chem Al smiled, then he lazily breezed through the store. There were so many books and scrolls he had never read before. If it weren't for the fact that there were no books about alchemy, he would be salivating right now.

The old man watched as Chem Al walked between the shelves, as if he was completely at home, in contrast to his clothes that told of a life that had no time for reading. Who was this kid? He was completely different from the older boy, who looked bored, which was how raggy kids like them were supposed to look.

Chem Au yawned. This wasn't exactly a place that excited him. But since there was nothing else to do, he decided to skim over some of the stuff. Nothing interesting. That was until he unrolled a scroll that contained drawings of a man making specific movements. He didn't understand the written parts, but it only took a glance for him to tell that this scroll contained a cultivation skill!

Chem Au’s eyes brightened. Without realizing it, his grip tightened, his fingers biting into the paper.

Then out of nowhere, a heavy pressure surrounded him, making it feel as if he had been dropped into a large pool of icy water. His hands started to shake, dropping the scroll. But before the scroll could hit the ground, a wrinkled hand reached out and caught it.

"Be careful with that," the old man said. Chem Au didn't know when, but the old man was suddenly standing over him. "These are fragile. Damage it, and you buy it."

The old man examined the scroll for fingernail marks. When he saw that there were none, he carefully placed it back on the shelf.

The oppressive aura dissipated and Chem Au felt like he could breathe again. What the hell was that? He looked at the old man in a new light. He hadn't noticed before, but that old man's profound cultivation was at a high level. And there was something terrifying about his aura. Did the old man's cultivation lean towards the darkness element?

Chem Au calmed down. There were so many things he wanted to ask, but the most important one was, "Is that a cultivation skill?" he asked, pointing at the scroll. He had to make sure.

The old man looked at him with contempt. "Of course. I wouldn't be a respected bookstore if I didn't have a few of these around."

"How, how much is it?"

"Fifteen high jade stones."

"So expensive!" Chem Au shouted, while his heart sank. "How could a long piece of paper cost that much? You could buy a powerful sword with that kind of money."

"Hmph! Stupid kid." The old man shook his head. "Do you know how long it takes to make these books and scrolls? Even making one copy could take months, or even years. And some of the words are written down while being imbued with profound energy. They’re not some metal stick those crude blacksmiths make for you to swing at a tree."

The old man turned away to sit back down behind the counter, leaving Chem Au disappointed. He looked around the store. Now that he was searching for them, he could spot a few books and scrolls with titles that sounded like they could be cultivation skills.

More than buying a weapon, what he really wanted most in the world was to learn a new cultivation skill. The first layer of the Soaring Crane skill that the village chief had taught him was okay, but he knew better than anyone that he was just not suited for it. He had thought that the only way to get a new cultivation skill was to join a sect or the military, but now he realized he could just buy one right here. He groaned. If only he had that kind of money.

Chem Al heard his brother groaning, and he knew why. Books and scrolls were really expensive, especially the ones that contained high level cultivation skills. Before the invention of the printing press, every single word in all of these books were written by hand. Every copy was rare and valuable. This point in time was like a different world. There weren't even any public libraries yet.

Chem Al walked over to his brother and whispered, “I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll tell you this now. I will get you your own cultivation skill next year, and trust me, it will be far better and more powerful than anything you can find in this store.”

A heavy pause, then Chem Au gave a slightly doubtful nod. Maybe he believed him, maybe not. It didn’t matter right now. If all went as planned, he would be able to get his big brother that cultivation skill like he promised.

Chem Al then went back to browsing the bookstore, spending a few more minutes to look around. It wasn't everyday he could see written works that had been lost over the millenia. Once he had his fill, he went to a section of the store to find the blank books and scrolls.

And there it was on the bottom shelf. A blue book. The First Alchemist's very first journal, or at least it will be.

He picked it up and held it with respectful care as he carried it towards the counter. "How much for this?"

The old man flipped through the book, growing annoyed. He should have known. Of course these raggy boys would buy a blank book, one of the cheapest books in the store. Since no one had spent months writing in it, it wasn't worth much, only about five mid jade stones.

But then he remembered the little boy holding up a high jade stone when he first came into the store, so he decided to double the price. "You're in luck. It only costs one high jade stone."

Chem Al became silent.

He was silent for so long it must be because he was stunned by the expensive price, or at least that was what the old man thought. The boy could afford it, but it didn’t seem like he wanted to spend it all on one book. However, unbeknownst to the old man, Chem Al was stunned because it was so cheap!.

To be honest, he had expected it to be cheap, but hearing the old man say the low price felt … wrong. This was The First Alchemist’s journal they were talking about! He remembered when he first saw it at the Everything Auction House and had won it with a bid of over a million gold taels. But now it would only cost him a single high jade stone.

For some reason, Chem Al suddenly burst out laughing.

It unsettled the old man. He thought that the boy was laughing at how absurdly overpriced it was. “Fine, kid. How about I give you a small discount? I’ll just charge you with nine mid jade stones and ninety-nine low jade stones. Deal?”

Chem Al laughed harder. The cheap price had gotten even cheaper!

“Don’t think you can swindle me, raggy kid! I’m not going to lower the price anymore than that. Hmph, I didn’t even want to sell you brats anything anyway. If you want this book, you can have it at that price, or you can leave,” the old man said.

“Deal!” Chem Al shouted, a little too enthusiastically as he held out the high jade stone.

What the hell? The boy was now acting like he had just made the best purchase under heaven. The old man grew confused. He flipped through the book one more time, and then probed it with his profound energy, just to make sure there wasn't some kind of secret he had missed, but nope, it was just a blank book.

After taking the high jade stone, the old man slid the book back to the boy, who grabbed it like a mother clinging to her lost child. He hugged it in his arms. It would have looked sweet if it weren't for the fact that he was hugging an inanimate object with such great care.

What was wrong with this kid? But the old man’s question was left unanswered as the two brothers left the bookstore.

Walking down the street, Chem Al hummed a delightful tune as he held the blue journal close to his chest, while Chem Au asked, “What was that laughing all about?”

“Oh, that? I was just happy that I was able to buy this book at such a good price!”

“Really? So you didn’t spend all of the money? How much do you have left?”

Chem Al reached into his pocket and took out one measly low jade stone.

“That’s it?” Chem Au’s shoulders slumped.

“Hey, at least we can finally buy a snack now,” Chem Al said.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 16

Chapter 16 - Reactions to a Pervert’s Face

Tai Fu’s fist smashed down on top of Chem Al’s head. “Ow! What was that for?”

“I don’t know. I just suddenly wanted to hit you when you made that face!”

“What face?” At first Chem Al didn’t understand, but then he remembered what his disciples had said in his past life. They, and a few other people, staged an intervention to stop him of this bad habit. It was one of the few times his three disciples had actually agreed on something so he took their warnings to heart.

Chem Al stared at the medicinal cauldron. More than ever, he had to watch himself carefully now. It was no longer just his reputation on the line, but the noble reputation of The First Alchemist. He must stop making that face!

"Uh, I don't know what you're talking about, but I'll stop," Chem Al said.

"Good, because it was really creepy," Chem Au agreed. "Now are we done here? Then let's go. I think we can still make it to the tournament before the fight ends."

"Oh, wait! Before you go, are you sure there isn't anything else you would like to buy?" Tai Fu said, thinking of their bag of money. "You mentioned my shield a few days ago. How about that? It's one of my most prized creations in my shop."

Chem Au looked at the shield hanging on the wall, then he glanced at his little brother, hopeful, but Chem Al shut that down. "Look, it might be one of your finest works, but that shield isn't really what you would call the best. There are many better shields out there. For one thing, it's just made out of profound iron, and although that is better quality than pig iron, it's still close to the bottom in terms of hard, defensive capabilities. I bet if we were to go to almost any other blacksmith in this city, they would have a better shield."

"That's not true, dear customer. Those other blacksmiths just focuses on making powerful swords and such. I assure you that you will not find a better shield in all of Vera City," Tai Fu said, feeling the money slipping away.

Chem Al hid his smile. "Hmm, well, maybe I would buy one if you had a shield made from the shell of an Under Turtle."

"What? Do you know how expensive that is?" Tai Fu shouted, but then he wondered, "Wait. How do you even know about that?"

Tai Fu stared at the little boy in dirty, ragged clothes. The shell from an Under Turtle wasn't exactly a secret smithing material, but hardly anyone in Vera City knows about it because it comes from another Continent. In fact, he himself had only heard about it, and has never actually seen it before. He doubts that any blacksmith in Vera City has seen one before.

But this kid, how does he know about it? Under Turtle shells were the perfect materials to make shields, and even armor. They were the hardest materials that could be found from a desolate beast; even harder than the scales from a Flood Dragon.

Tai Fu waited for the boy to tell him how he knew about Under Turtle shells, but the boy just gave him a smile, making him feel annoyed. "You know what, I don't care. Even if you know about it, it’s not like I’ll make it for you. You can’t afford it anyway.” Tai Fu failed to mention that he himself didn’t know how to handle the material.

"True. Maybe not right now, but by this time next year, I think I’ll have enough money to buy a couple."

Tai Fu paused. He couldn’t stop himself from asking, "How much is a couple?"

"Around a hundred or two. For starters."

"What?" Tai Fu shouted. Wait! Wait a minute! He made a quick calculation in his head. Sure, buying the materials were expensive, but if he succeeded in turning those shells into shields, or even armor, he would make a ton of money.

Drool started to drip from his mouth as he imagined the possible profits, but then he shook himself out of it. There was no way this little boy would be able to come up with that kind of money. But then his head snapped up as he suddenly remembered when he had thought that before, and how that same little boy dropped a bag of jade stones on his counter. Maybe, just maybe, he could do it.

As if Chem Al saw the realization in Tai Fu's eyes, he said, "Just something to think about in the future. For now, I would like to buy something else from you." He then motioned for Chem Au to take out the bag of money.

"Oh, yes, of course. What is it?" Tai Fu said. Asking for shields made out of Under Turtle shells was a little unrealistic, but maybe the boy will buy something else from his shop that would give him a profit.

"I would like to buy four more medicinal cauldrons, please."

"Four medicinal cauldrons?” Tai Fu’s heart sank. “I'm sorry, dear customer, but didn't you say that you would be leaving the city soon? You had only asked for one, and I don't have any others made. If you’re asking for more of the same, it would take a couple of days."

"I know that. I don't want them immediately. A year from now would do when my village returns to this city, so I hope you can have them ready by then."

Tai Fu nodded. That was more than enough time.

"Then that's that," Chem Al said. "So four medicinal cauldrons. Although you gave me a good discount last time, you had mentioned that each one would cost two high jade stones. Since you do such good work, I'll pay the full price for these extra medicinal cauldrons.” Chem Al then placed eight high jade stones on the counter.

Tai Fu gulped. If he was completely honest, he would have mentioned that he had already made the mold for the first medicinal cauldron, so making these extra ones would be individually cheaper and easier. However, he couldn't stop himself from taking the customer’s money.

However, Chem Au protested. “Hey, can’t you at least negotiate a little? I don’t really get why you want more cauldrons, but you shouldn’t be giving away almost all of your money. You’re just going to be left with only one high jade stone left.”

"Please trust me on this," Chem Al said to him, and then he turned back to give Tai Fu a smile. "I hope you will use this money to buy something expensive in the future."

Tai Fu didn't really understand, but he accepted the jade stones. "Okay. So it's a deal. I'll have four more medicinal cauldrons ready in one year."

They shook hands on it.

After that, the two brothers left the Tai Smithy. Chem Au sighed, thinking about how almost all the money was gone, but then he tried to cheer himself up. "Now that that's over, let's finally go do something that I want to do instead. If we rush, I think we can still catch the last few minutes of the finals."

Chem Al stopped walking. "Umm, Au, did you forget how I made the money in the first place? If we go to the tournament, some desperate gambler might remember us, and then threaten us to hand over our money, even though we barely have anymore."

Chem Au's eyes widened, then he slowly collapsed on his knees. "So we’re going to miss the tournament finals?"

Chem Al patted his big brother on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, Au, for dragging you to only where I wanted to go. But I promise you that you will see the tournament next year."

"No, no, it's fine." Chem Au waved it off. He got off the ground and brushed away the dirt from his knees. "I had already watched the tournament last year, and the year before that. It's okay if I miss a year. Besides, I'm glad you're finally showing an interest in the city again."

“What do you mean?” There was a confused look on Chem Al’s face.

"Oh, is that another thing you don’t remember?” Chem Au said. “The last time you went around the city with me like this was when you were first old enough to come here. After that, you kind of just hung around our parents selling radishes while I went to watch the tournament by myself. So I'm glad, Little Al. I'm glad that we could hang out again in the city.”

Chem Al didn’t know how to respond. This was another tiny detail about The First Alchemist’s life that he didn’t know about despite reading all those books about him.

"Now,” Chem Au said. “I guess there's nothing else to do but go help our parents. The tournament should be ending soon so there will be one last stampede of customers before it's time to return to the village."

"Wait! Not just yet," Chem Al said. "There's still one last place I want to look at before we head back to the market."

Chem Au groaned. "Where?"

"A bookstore."

"A bookstore? What do you need to go there for?"

Chem Al smiled. "To buy a journal."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 15

Chapter 15 - Medicinal Cauldron

After deciding that Chem Au would be the one to hide the bag of money in his clothes, they went off to find a well to wash off the stink, and then made their way back towards the market where their parents were.

The next two days was business as usual, trying to sell their radishes to any potential customer that walked by. All the while, Chem Al was antsy, feeling every second pass by in slow motion, so much so that his father and mother wondered what was wrong with him. Thankfully, he managed to stop himself from pulling his hair out.

On the appointed day, the market was slow since almost everyone had gone off to watch the tournament finals. When there were very few customers left, Chem Al immediately begged his parents to allow him to go check out the city again. Assuming he wanted to go see the tournament, they said yes.

Chem Al shot off down the street, followed by his big brother who still didn't understand what the big deal with the cauldron was. It wasn’t long before they ran into the Tai Smithy.

"Where is it?" Chem Al shouted, despite him gasping for breath.

"Welcome," Tai Fu generically said from behind the shop, then he saw them. "Oh, if it isn't my most favorite young customers."

"Yeah, yeah. Now where is it?"

"Hold on. I just finished it less than an hour ago. Give me a moment to bring it out." Tai Fu went into the back again, leaving Chem Al to hop from foot to foot. Finally, Tai Fu came back to the front with history’s very first medicinal cauldron.

At the sight of it, Chem Au even more didn't understand why his little brother was so excited over something like that. It was basically just a grey pot the size of a man's head. Sure, it had a beautiful, intricate design wrapping around it, but it didn't look all that special.

However, Chem Al's eyes were shining.

"So how is it?" Tai Fu said. "I've never made anything like this before so I'm not sure if it turned out right."

"It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," Chem Al said. And it really was. He had never seen it when it was new. The last time he saw The First Alchemist’s medicinal cauldron, it had lost its shine, suffering a lot of damage over one hundred thousand years. But now it looked like it was glowing with its own light.

Tai Fu handed down the medicinal cauldron to Chem Al, who received it with great reverence. The moment it touched his hands, it was like wind was blowing through his hair as warm light wrapped itself around him. He could feel a surge of energy running through his body, shouting at him to free it, to change the world with it. His shoulders suddenly felt heavy. It felt like he was about to fall over any second.

Throughout all this, Tai Fu and Chem Au felt like yawning. They started to grow bored after watching Chem Al just stand there staring at the cauldron with bright eyes.

This was a new beginning, Chem Al thought. With this, he was going to change the world even though no one knew it yet.

Without realizing he was doing it, he then started to rub his cheek against the medicinal cauldron with a weird smile on his face.

At the sight of this, both Tai Fu and Chem Au felt creeped out. To them, Chem Al suddenly had a face of a perverted, old man who was rubbing his cheek against a young woman’s butt.