Sunday, November 20, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 30

Chapter 30 - Competitors

The next day began with the village chief sending his guards to inform everyone to come to the center of the village.

Once everyone had gathered in front of his stone house, Sorka Jiu shouted over the crowd's murmurs, "Thank you for coming, everyone. I have gathered you all here today because a fight is about to take place, a fight for the position of village chief!"

The villagers collectively gasped. This came out of nowhere. Who could be dumb enough to challenge Sorka Jiu? With a profound cultivation at the twentieth level, he was the strongest person in the entire village! When they questioned him about it, he told them to calm down, then said, "No one's challenging me. I decided to step down so I can have more time to cultivate.”

The villagers protested. They didn’t want him to retire. They asked him to please stay as their village chief. It was obvious how highly they thought of him.

Sorka Jiu smiled, a hint of moisture in his eyes. “I’m glad that you all wish for me to stay on, but I must step down to make room for the next generation. And I believe that these next two are good choices.”

This raised even more questions from the villagers. If the village chief was retiring, then naturally shouldn’t Sorka Bo become his successor? He was the most qualified person in the village, so why was there going to be a fight?

“One of these people is him.” Sorka Jiu pointed, and from the crowd came Chem Al, who walked up and stood next to him.

The villagers stared, stunned silent; Chem Al’s parents most of all. What the hell was happening?

Chem Al smiled at everyone. “Thank you, thank you. No words are needed. I can see how happy you are for me to become your next village chief.”

Nearly all the villagers burst out laughing. It was the funniest thing in the world! The little cripple was trying to become their next leader? This had to be a joke. Who knew the village chief had such a sense of humor?

But minutes passed and the look on the village chief's face remained serious. The laughter faded, then completely died. The entire village was very quiet.

Then the entire crowd exploded with shouts and questions, with feelings of anger and disbelief behind every word. They were thinking that they had been taken for fools to allow a cripple to become their next leader.

“Village chief, is this a joke?”

“How can this little cripple protect the village?”

“Is he blackmailing you? Tell us he’s blackmailing you.”

Again, the village chief tried to calm them down, but he failed, so he simply tried to speak over them. "I understand that you think this is a bad idea...,"

A roar of agreement came from the crowd.

"... and, at first, I did too. But maybe, maybe he can become a good leader for this village." Before the crowd could argue again, he continued, "Haven't you heard the rumors these past few months? From your friends, from your neighbors. About what this boy and the medicine woman did, about how they helped the sick and injured. And it's not just that. Weren't you all astounded when one of my guards, Chem Au, suddenly had a quick rise in cultivation? Well, I'm here to tell you that those rumors are true, despite it being hard to believe. This boy was the one that did all those things. Think of what else he can do for this village. That’s why I think he is fit to be a candidate for village chief."

The crowd of villagers settled down, muttering among themselves. These words came directly from their village chief, a good and trustworthy leader, so maybe there was something to those rumors after all.

"Of course, I don't expect you to take this on words alone," Sorka Jiu said. "And ... my son hasn't as well. So a proposal has been brought up. A fight to decide who will become the next village chief, Sorka Bo or Chem Al?"

The villagers laughed again. A fight between Sorka Bo and the cripple? There was no contest.

And then that laughter turned into cheers as Sorka Bo jumped forward and stood next to his father.

“Thank you!” Sorka Bo said. “Once I become village chief, I promise that I will protect you all from harm.” He basked in the cheers, then looked back and sneered at the cripple. It was obvious who the crowd wanted to become the next village chief.

Seeing how the villagers were acting, Sorka Jiu sighed, then said to them, "I know what you're thinking, that Chem Al couldn't possibly win, and you'd be right. So he has brought someone to challenge my son in his place."

Chem Au walked forward and stood next to his little brother. At the sight of him, the crowd suddenly went quiet, no longer sure of Sorka Bo’s win now that they knew who he was facing. They had assumed that the cripple would fight himself because, although they had heard of it happening before, what kind of leader would get someone else to fight in his place. Those kinds of leaders were considered weak. Their reigns never lasted long.

Sorka Jiu spread out his hands, indicating the two fighters before him. "These two will compete against each other. If my son should win, he will become the next village chief. If Chem Au should win, his brother will become the next village chief."

The villagers nodded at that. In a world where strength rules, that was the only way to decide who could be their next villager chief. And for quite some time, they had been curious about who would win in a fight between the two most strongest youths in the village, Chem Au or Sorka Bo? It looks like they were going to find out.

The crowd took several steps back, increasing the space between them and the village chief’s stone house.

Chem Au stood on one side, with nothing but his fists and leather armor.

Sorka Bo stood on the other side, wearing the same, but he also had his father’s sword hanging from his side.

The fight was about to begin.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 29

Chapter 29 - Throwing A Tantrum

Chem Al examined the the Hard Earth Pill in his hand. Its purity was at one hundred percent. He should be proud of that considering he was able to make it with a medicinal cauldron that was not built to handle this higher tier pill, but he wasn’t happy at all.

He looked down at the medicinal cauldron. It was now slightly misshapen; cracks appeared all around it, along with melted parts and burn marks, making it look little better than it would one hundred thousand years from now.

He couldn’t stop the tears from coming to his eyes, despite knowing, because of the journals, that this cauldron still worked. But still, to see it so damaged like this, how could he not feel like crying.

After uncaringly tossing the pill towards his big brother, Chem Al carried the damaged medicinal cauldron to a corner of the hut and sulked.

Chem Au stared at the pill he caught. It was brown with thin swirls of faded gold all around. It was slightly bigger than the Primary Profound Pill and the smell coming off of it was denser. "What kind of pill is this? What does it do" he asked his brother. Sheng Yi wanted to know that too.

Chem Al's voice sounded like it came from far off. "I call it the Hard Earth Pill. And it's not a cultivation pill, if that's what you're thinking. It's a pill that affects your body rather than your profound energy."

The confused look in Chem Au's eyes didn't disappear. He didn't really understand what his brother meant. However, after the amazing effect of the previous Primary Profound Pill, he trusted that this pill his brother made would also help him get stronger in some way.

Chem Au swallowed the pill.

He could feel it going down into his stomach, but after waiting awhile, there was no burst of power. In fact, he couldn't really feel anything happening at all. "What's supposed to happen?" he asked again.

"Give it time," Chem Al whispered, still hugging his medicinal cauldron.

At that moment, Chem Au felt something, almost like his skin was rippling over his muscles. It was a strange sensation. It felt like snakes were crawling all over him, but then they soon settled down as if they had been turned to stone. He then felt normal again.

The pill must have taken effect, but he felt no change. He summoned up his profound energy and even threw a few punches, but he didn't feel any stronger. "I don't get it," Chem Au said.

Sheng Yi had been watching the whole thing. She didn't understand either. "Disciple, stop sulking and come over here. Explain it to us."

With a sigh, Chem Al walked back over to the center of the room with limp legs. "It's simple." He grabbed the knife from his master, then stabbed his brother with it.

When he did that, both Sheng Yi and Chem Au understood, their eyes widening in amazement. But before they could exclaim in wonder, they heard a yell coming from outside.

Someone was shouting at the top of his lungs.

Chem Al woke from his depression. "Oh, it seems like the village chief told Sorka Bo about our meeting."

"What meeting?" Sheng Yi asked, still listening to the fading echoes of that almost malicious animal-like scream.

Chem Al explained to her what had taken place over an hour ago, surprising her. "Just like that? The village chief will step down just like that?" Then she had a frightened look on her face. "No wonder Sorka Bo sounded so angry. Do you think he might come here?"

Just as she said that, she sensed someone running towards her hut at an extremely fast speed. The scared look on her face grew as she looked at the door. It smashed opened, almost exploding, the sticks it was made of splintering everywhere. A burst of cold wind blew into the hut.

Sorka Bo stood there, his aura like a vengeful beast.

The moment he spotted the cripple, he lunged at him. His claw-like hands were about to grasp his throat when suddenly someone grabbed his arm and pushed him back. Sorka Bo landed on the ground, back outside the hut. He looked up and saw Chem Au standing over him.

"Don't you dare," Chem Al almost growled.

Sorka Bo got up, his face contorted in anger. "You! You and your useless brother! What the hell did you do to my father?"

"Nothing," Chem Al said, coming around from behind his big brother. "I merely explained to him how it might better benefit this village if I became the next village chief."

Sorka Bo lunged at him again, but Chem Au grabbed him by the arms, holding him back, barely.

"You! Do you actually think someone as weak as you can become village chief instead of me?" Sorka Bo glared at the cripple, still trying to go after him. "I don't know how you tricked my father, but that's not going to happen!"

Chem Al laughed. "We'll see."

But that just made Sorka Bo push harder, trying to shove Chem Au out of the way to get at the little cripple. When he failed, he shouted at Chem Au. "Get out of my way!" His clawing hands tightened into fists. It looked like he was going to ignore the cripple for now and take on Chem Au.

"If you want to fight, save it for tomorrow," Chem Al said. "Unless you don't want to humiliate me by beating my big brother in front of everybody."

Sorka Bo stopped, a bit of calm cutting through his anger. He remembered that his cultivation was at the peak of the sixteenth level, while Chem Au had only recently broken through. Combined with his mastery of the second layer of the Soaring Crane Skill, he was sure to win. He took a step back, then stared at Chem Au. "That's right. Tomorrow, we fight. And I will show the entire village how weak you are, that you're not better than me. I'll remind everyone why I'm going to be the next village chief." He stomped off, a twisted smile on his face, thinking of the ways he was going to knock that bastard into the ground.

"Did you have to antagonize him like that?" Chem Au grunted, his muscles straining. It had taken almost all of his strength just to hold Sorka Bo back.

Chem Al shrugged. "Nothing I say would have calmed him down.” He then walked back into the hut. “Now hurry up and start cultivating. I've done everything I can to prepare you for tomorrow's fight. The rest is up to you."

With a worried sigh, Chem Au followed him into the hut, then sat down and closed his eyes, using every second he could to get himself ready for tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 28

Chapter 28 - Hard Earth Pill

Chem Al slammed open Sheng Yi’s door. "Master!" he greeted her, then rushed to a corner of the hut.

Sheng Yi sighed. Sometimes she wished for a disciple who didn't always make his entrances as enthusiastically as he did. "Shut the door, will you! You're letting out all the heat." She was sitting by the fire, preparing one of the medicinal ingredients for her next attempt to make a pill.

It was unnecessary for Chem Al to do what his master said because, right then, Chem Au walked in and closed the door behind him, wondering what got his little brother so excited that he ran all the way here.

In the corner of the hut, Chem Al picked up a wooden box. His eyes lit up. He opened it and there it was: the Golden Earth Dan Root.

He had stored it in one of his master's wooden boxes because, less than three months ago, he discovered something amazing. All this time he had been wondering how he was going to store medicinal ingredients without them losing their efficacy since spatial rings hadn't been invented yet.

As he wondered this, he began to notice something when he was working with his master to make pills. The medicinal ingredients they had picked up from the forest barely lost any of their efficacy when they placed them in the wooden bowls. This seemed like a miracle to him. He excitedly showed this to his master.

However, Sheng Yi just stared at him like he was stupid. She had already discovered this a long time ago. For something as simple as this, she was surprised that her genius disciple didn't know it. Medicinal ingredients didn't lose their efficacy as fast when placed into anything wooden. The older the wood, the better.

Chem Al had thought that the reason she used wooden bowls was because there was no other materials that were abundant enough and easy enough to make into containers, but it turned out that she had used them for this purpose. He couldn't help but look up at amazement at Sheng Yi. Out of everyone in history, she deserved the title of being The First Alchemist's master.

As for Sheng Yi, she felt good to be able to teach her disciple something. Very rarely was she able to do that.

At this moment, Chem Al brought the wooden box to the center of the hut along with his medicinal cauldron and his master's knife. He was nearly jumping for joy.

Seeing how he was acting, Sheng Yi grew excited as well because, whenever her disciple acted like this, it meant that he was about to show her something new and amazing, another step forward in the medical arts.

But Chem Au just stood to the side, looking confused. "Little Al, what's got you so excited? Are you going to make me something that will help me defeat Sorka Bo?"

Chem Al turned to him. "Au, what if I were to tell you that all the other pills I've made so far were pathetic, the weakest among the weak. But now, I'm going to make you something that will astound you to no end."

"You mean?" Sheng Yi asked.

"That's right. I'm going to make a third tier pill!"

Chem Au still looked confused, but Sheng Yi's excitement grew. Finally! All this time her disciple had only taught her how to make first tier and second tier pills, but now it looked like he was going to take it to the next level.

"I have been thinking about this for awhile, on how to make a higher tier pill. And only now I'm going to test out my theory to see if I’m right. The pill I’m about to make, I call it the Hard Earth Pill. And Au, if you take this pill, it will definitely help you win this fight against Sorka Bo."

When his little brother said that, Chem Au grew excited as well, his worries growing less.

Chem Al took the Golden Earth Dan Root out of the box. "And we start with this!"

Now Chem Au's excitement died down, disappointment touching his face. What his little brother was holding looked like part of a simple root, one you could find anywhere in this forest simply by tripping over them.

"Now I know what you're thinking," Chem Al said, noticing his brother's less than enthusiastic look. "But you shouldn't judge things by how they look. Since you haven't trained in alchemy, you probably didn't notice the slight, delectable smell coming off of this root, showing that it's hiding something inside." He then handed over the knife to Sheng Yi. "Master, have you been practicing the Sharpen Cultivation Skill?"

Sheng Yi nodded. It was one of the skills her disciple had been teaching her these past three months. But again, it had another shitty name. She swore that one day she will teach her disciple to have a better naming sense.

She grabbed the knife. Channeling her profound energy into her hand, she then transferred it to the knife, giving it a glow that seemed to vibrate like a mass of bees zooming through the air.

Seeing how the glow was vibrating at a faster rate, Chem Al nodded. His master had gotten a lot better since the last time he saw her used this skill, which honestly terrified him a little. He then handed over the root to her. "Now, normally you wouldn't be able to cut through this root with a simple knife made of pig iron, but using your skill, please carve out the outer layer of this root."

"What am I supposed to be looking for?"

"Gold. Well, not actual gold, just something with a golden color. I noticed a speck of it when I picked it up from the forest during our journey to Vera City a few months ago, and have been experimenting with the properties of that speck ever since," Chem Al hurriedly said, suddenly realizing that they might question him on how he knew about the gold inner core inside the root if he didn't have the strength to cut it open himself.

Sheng Yi nodded, then proceeded to slice open the root. For the next few minutes, they all watched her perform this action, Chem Al with bated breath, while Chem Au was left wondering. That Sharpening Cultivation Skill looked similar to the second layer of the Soaring Crane Skill, and he wondered if that was where his little brother got the idea from. Then he wondered if Little Al would teach him later.

Finally, Sheng Yi removed the outer layer of the root, revealing a tiny, twig thin piece of gold. She had never held gold before, but she imagined that it was like holding a rock, and this medicinal ingredient certainly didn't feel like a rock. It felt soft and malleable.

Chem Al carefully took the piece of gold from her, the true form of the Golden Earth Dan Root.

He felt the urge to give a lesson on how this rare root, at least rare in his past life, was actually powerful enough to make a seventh tier pill. However, with such a massive loss of medicinal efficacy since he first tore it from the ground, it could only be used to make a measly third tier pill. But that lesson was for later, so he kept quiet as he placed the root, along with a few other medicinal ingredients he gathered from around the hut, in front of him next to the medicinal cauldron. He was ready.

Sheng Yi watched closely, ready to learn every detail, but then she saw her disciple stop. He was hesitating, and a sad look covered his face. "What's wrong?" she asked.

He looked up at her, his eyes nearly brimming with tears. "I forgot. In all this excitement, I can't believe I forgot."

"Forgot what?"

Chem Al grabbed the medicinal cauldron and hugged it to himself. In almost a whisper, he said, "This is a simple cauldron made of profound iron. And a third tier pill is bound to be more powerful, more difficult to make. I, I think that this cauldron will barely be able to go through with the process."

"What? You mean that doing this might destroy the medicinal cauldron?"

Chem Al shook his head. Ha, how could a simple third tier pill be able to destroy The First Alchemist's mighty cauldron, but still.... "No, but it will probably greatly damage it."

"Then what's the matter? If your medicinal cauldron will still work after this, then get on with it."

"You're a monster! Don’t you have a heart?" Chem Al shouted at his master. He wondered if she would be so uncaring if she met an owner who told her he was about to kick his puppy. "Just give me a few moments like this," he said, hugging the medicinal cauldron tighter.

Sheng Yi and Chem Au looked at each other, but they didn't make any comments because they had been around Chem Al long enough to know how weird he can be. They waited a few minutes, letting him hug the cauldron, but when those few minutes turned into nearly an hour, they could feel their patience about to snap.

That was when Chem Al stopped hugging his medicinal cauldron. They sighed with relief. It seemed like he had finally gotten over it. But then the next thing they knew, he started rubbing his cheeks against it.

"Stop being creepy again!" Sheng Yi hit her disciple on the top of the head. That was the fifth time he did this ever since he first showed her the cauldron. Honestly, she couldn't help herself from hitting him every time he made that perverted face.

"Ow!" Chem Al dropped the cauldron onto his lap and rubbed his head. Damn, he must have made that face again. He told himself that he really needed to stop that, unless he wanted to ruin The First Alchemist's reputation even more.

"Are you ready yet?" Sheng Yi said, impatience eating at her.

Chem Al nodded, trying not to cry. He had to do this, for his big brother, for the future. That was what he kept telling himself. It had to be done.

Chem Al placed the medicinal cauldron on the ground in front of him. Taking half of the Golden Earth Dan Root’s inner core, he dropped that in first. Then with a few flicks of his hands, the rest of the medicinal ingredients went in. Soon the cauldron began to glow.

Clearer than before, Sheng Yi and Chem Au could feel the profound energy in the hut swirling around them, disturbing the still air.

A slight pressure beared down on Chem Al, but it didn’t bother him. For beginning alchemists, making a third tier pill would strain their mind, but he had enough experience from his past life to make this feel like a simple task. What actually bothered him was when the inside of the medicinal cauldron started to glow brighter.

There was a crack in the iron, and a part of him died. Another crack, then another, and then part of the cauldron started to partially melt and burn. Chem Al cried inside, but he had to stay focus. Soon there was one final crack that sounded like far off thunder to him, and then a brown, golden pill flew up from the cauldron. He caught it.

Chem Al had successfully made the Hard Earth Pill.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 27

Chapter 27 - The Meeting Between the Current Village Chief and the Future Village Chief

It was snowing again the next day. While escorted by his brother, Chem Al took a bag of tea leaves and went over to the village chief’s house.

And there it was, in the center of the village, the only house made of stone. Although he still considered it small, compared to the other huts, it was like a mansion, especially with the storage sheds around it, which probably housed things like spears and leather armor.

Chem Al’s eyes were shining, not because of the tiny building he was seeing now, but because of what he knew it would become in the future. This was where the central tower of the Alchemist Association would be. He looked up at the sky. Yep, that was where his office will be one day.

Before they went over to the stone house, Chem Au asked, “Little Al, this won’t be just a simple talk, will it? Is this it? Are you going to make your move to become the next village chief now?”

Chem Al nodded. “Wish me luck.”

“All the luck in the world.” Chem Au smiled, then moved forward. After taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door. "I've brought my brother, sir."

"Come in," Sorka Jiu said with his deep voice.

Chem Au opened the door, then stepped aside to allow his little brother to walk through, unable to believe how calm Little Al was.

Yes, Chem Al was calm, or at least that was what it looked like. He was doing everything in his power to stop his legs from trembling. Was it because of this simple, lowly village chief? No. It was actually this meeting.

His mind wasn’t as brilliant as The First Alchemist. What if he failed? What if he couldn’t convince Sorka Jiu to give up all his power as the village chief? Then the future of everything would change. He couldn’t allow that to happen.

Chem Al took a deep breath to try to slow down his heart rate, then he shook the snow off of his head and shoulders, and walked in.

The door was shut behind him.

It was dark, the windows blocked by thick pieces of cloth to keep out the cold and wind. The only other source of light was the fire in the middle of the house, lighting up Sorka Jiu's smile. "Thank you for coming."

"Wouldn't miss this for anything," Chem Al said, then walked over with the bag in his hands. "I've brought some tea.

"That sounds good." Sorka Jiu nodded his head to a corner of the room where some simple pots were. It wasn’t before two wooden cups of tea were served.

"Ah, that's nice. Now let's get started, shall we? I want to--," Sorka Jiu began, but was cut off.

"What did you think of the tea?"

"I'm sorry?" Sorka Jiu said, confused.

"What did you think of the tea? Did you like it? I put in a little extra Bleeding Heart Root to heighten its aroma." Chem Al looked closely at Sorka Jiu's face, watching for any reaction that might give him away.

"Um, it was okay." Sorka Jiu didn't know what else to say. He didn't really notice anything different about the tea.

There was no reaction.

Chem Al sighed. So it wasn't him, he thought. Ever since he found out that the body of The First Alchemist had been poisoned, he never stopped thinking about who could be the poisoner. One of his suspects had been Sorka Jiu.

Chem Al put down his cup of tea. He didn’t actually put any poison in the cups. He just wanted to see if Sorka Jiu would do anything that would reveal whether or not he knew of Bleeding Heart Roots. But it would seem he had never even heard of the poison.

That only left three suspects. Sorka Bo, Sheng Yi, and the last suspect he didn't even want to think about.

Since the little cripple seemed to be lost in his thoughts, Sorka Jiu cleared his throat, then said, “I think it’s about time we get down to business.”

Chem Al snapped himself out of it. Then he nodded, although a bit hesitantly. Again, that feeling of possible failure welled up inside him.

This was it. Although the journals mentioned this meeting, it wasn’t like this conversation was written down word for word. He had to figure it out on his own. He just hoped he was good enough.

"I'm sure you're very curious about this." Chem Al took a small, red pill out of his pocket and held it up.

"Is that the pill?" Sorka Jiu couldn't stop himself from asking. When he had asked Chem Au about how his little brother helped him with his cultivation, he mentioned a pill.

"Yes. This is called a Primary Profound Pill. You just need to swallow it and your cultivation will increase by leaps and bounds." Chem Al failed to mention that this was the weakest of cultivation pills. It wasn’t time for the higher tier ones yet.

"And that's it?" To be honest, Sorka Jiu still had a little trouble believing him. It sounded like some kind of miracle medicine.

"That's it," Chem Al said before he tossed the pill to Sorka Jiu. "But words are cheap. Try it and see for yourself."

Sorka Jiu caught the pill, then he held it between his thumb and forefinger, close to his eyes. It looked simple, it had a nice smell, but.... "How do I know that this isn’t poison?" He was less trustful of the cripple than Chem Au was.

“You don’t. But consider this. If I poisoned you, then the villagers would attack me for hurting their leader. You die, I die. It’s as simple as that.”

Sorka Jiu nodded, thinking about it. What the cripple said was true.

And to be honest, he had doubts that the little boy could create a poison that could kill him, a profound cultivator of the twentieth level. He was strong enough to suppress any minor poison. But he had to ask in order to reassure himself. Since the cripple could create some kind of cultivation pill, then there was that slight possibility that he could create a powerful poison pill as well.

As he looked at the pill again, curiosity raced through his mind. He had been hearing rumors about this for months, and now finally he was going to test whether such a miraculous gift was real or not.

Sorka Jiu swallowed the pill.

In just a few seconds, there was a small burst of profound energy inside his stomach. Amazed, he quickly channeled it into his dantian.

When he finally opened his eyes, they were shining. Although he didn't manage to make a breakthrough, he could feel the amount of energy in his body increase. "Amazing! This is amazing! No, that doesn't even begin to describe it. This is ... I don't even know. But this is better than I'd hope for." Sorka Jiu grabbed him by the shoulders, practically salivating at the mouth. "How much more of these can you make?"

Chem Al smiled, slightly relieved. The bait had been taken. "As much as you need."

Sorka Jiu felt like he was about to explode from happiness. "Do you know what this could mean for our village? This will change everything! Chem Al, what you have accomplished for us, it is beyond words. I, and everyone in this village, will thank you forever."

With a cough, Chem Al interrupted Sorka Jiu's exuberance, and said, "I hope you don't expect me to make these pills for free."

Sorka Jiu wasn’t fazed. "Of course not. What would you like? A better hut for your family? More land to farm?" He began listing rewards again and again. Nothing was too much for these pills.

"What I want is ... the position of village chief."

Sorka Jiu stopped, his smile frozen. "Wha, what?"

"I wish for you to step down and make me the next village chief."

Sorka Jiu's mouth hung open. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You’re asking for my position?"

"Yes," Chem Al said.

"I don’t understand. You want me to make your father the village chief? Or maybe your older brother?"

Chem Al shook his head, frustrated that it was taking him so long to take it in. He pointed at Sorka Jiu. "I want you," then he pointed at himself, "to make me, specifically me, to be village chief."

Sorka Jiu stood up in shock, then he looked down at the little boy in front of him. "No. Definitely not. I'm sorry, but that is out of the question. Please ask for something else in exchange for those pills."

"There isn't anything else I want. You want those pills? Make me the village chief."

"But, but you're just a cripple. Not only that, you're a child. This village needs a strong and wise leader to run it. How can you possibly think a ten year old can become the next village chief?"

"Eleven," Chem Al said. "I just turned eleven recently."

"Makes no difference. There is no way I am stepping down for you. You're asking for too much."

"Oh, and here I am offering these miraculous cultivation pills that can help the entire village." Chem Al took out another Primary Profound Pill for Sorka Jiu to see. "It seems more like I'm not asking enough."

Sorka Jiu stared at that red pill until it was all he could see, everything else falling away.

Chem Al took a deep breath, readying himself. The pill was the easy part. Now he had to convince him with words. He looked at Sorka Jiu's face, especially the shadow under his eyes. "Let’s be honest here. You're tired of being village chief. Don’t deny it, I've been watching you closely for some time. It must have been difficult holding the village together. Not only that, but it leaves you no time to do anything else. When was the last time you cultivated? It must be frustrating for your profound cultivation to be stuck at the twentieth level for so long."

Sorka Jiu froze. All the cripple's words had hit home, although he tried to tell himself that they didn't. "Doesn't matter. I have a responsibility to keep, a responsibility I am certainly not handing over to you."

With a sigh, Chem Al said, "I understand your doubts. I'm a cripple, but who cares if I'm not strong if I can make everyone in this village stronger. And although I might be a child, I'm wise beyond my years. Do you think a dumb kid who just plays around would be able to create these cultivation pills?"

Silence filled the house, each person watching each other carefully. Sorka Jiu found himself on his guard, which he never had to do before around a kid. This child certainly didn't act like a child. "Hmph, your words won't sway me. Do you think you know how this world works? You haven’t seen it like I have. You don't fully understand what it means when they say that strength is the only thing that is respected." Sorka Jiu stood up and raised his hand. Profound energy surged all around him, which he pushed down onto the cripple.

Chem Al dropped the red pill as he fell to his knees, his hands on the ground. The air felt heavy, stifling. Sweat started to pour from his forehead. It was hard to breathe.

“For the good of this village, I demand you make those pills for us,” Sorka Bo nearly shouted.

Chem Al gasped for air, managing to say between breaths. "Threaten ... me all you want. ... But I'm not ... going to change my ... mind.”

Despite feeling worried that he was going a little too far, Sorka Jiu didn’t stop. "I can do this all day. Tell me that you will make those pills."

When the cripple still didn’t comply, Sorka Jiu forced himself to increase the pressure. A bone snapped, then another, and with every one of them the cripple screamed from pain. Then his legs gave out. He collapsed on the ground.

But somehow the cripple found the strength to lift his head and look up at Sorka Jiu. There was still determination in his eyes. "Is ... that all you've ... got?"

Sorka Jiu kept up the suppression until he noticed the Primary Profound Pill on the ground. It really was worth a lot to this village, but not as much as the creator of these pills. Not knowing whether the medicine woman could make these pills or not, he couldn’t risk killing the little cripple. He retracted his profound energy.

The air felt lighter again. Chem Al breathed it in, feeling happy. "Well, that wasn't as bad as I thought,” he said, smiling.

Sorka Jiu could only stare at him. How could the cripple seem so calm like that? He must be in great pain. "Come on, let me take you to the medicine woman."

One of Chem Al's arms wasn't broken, so he waved off Sorka Jiu's attempt to pick him off the ground. "No need. I expected this to happen." Groaning, he was able to reach into his pocket and pull out two pills, a white one and a blue one.

"What are those?" Sorka Jiu asked, curious.

"Just a few low tier pills. This white one is the White Calci Pill, which heals minor bone fractures. And the blue one is the Soothing Yu Pill, which can heal light injuries." He popped them into his mouth.

With the state of his injuries, the pills took over twenty minutes to take effect. But in those couple of minutes, Sorka Jiu was astounded. He had already heard of this from the villagers he had questioned, but to see it before his eyes was a completely different matter.

Once Chem Al was done healing, he got off the ground and sat down. "If you don’t know by now, the pills I make aren't just for profound cultivation. Some of them have other ways that can benefit this village." He spoke calmly, as if Sorka Jiu hadn’t just tried to crush him. "Think about it. Not only can I help increase the strength of this village, I can also decrease the amount of deaths. How many people have died while you were village chief? It must have ate at you."

Sorka Jiu's mouth was dry, unable to form any words. Again, the cripple’s words hit him hard. Living in a poor village on the outskirts of the Continent was a harsh life, and he had lost a couple of people. It happens, that was what he told himself. But every time it did happen, he felt regret.

"My pills are worth it," Chem Al said, then he kneeled and touched his head to the ground of his own free will. "I know you still have your doubts, but please, I'm begging you, make me the next village chief. The villagers will be more accepting of me if you willingly step down and present me as your successor. I promise that I will turn this village into a place of glory, a place where the villagers would be proud to live, where they wouldn't have to live everyday afraid of death."

Sorka Jiu sat back down, his legs unable to hold himself up. There was a storm going on in his mind. This cripple in front of him was weak and a child. At least, that was what his eyes told him. But for some reason it felt like he was facing a wise yet desperate sage that cared about this village as much as he did. Maybe it would be safe in his hands. However, he sighed. “It’s not that easy.”

Chem Al almost smiled. He was almost there. Just another push was needed. “You’re talking about Sorka Bo, aren’t you?”

With a nod, Sorka Jiu said, “If I hand this village over to you, then I will have nothing to pass on to my son.”

Chem Al gave him a look of contempt. “And here I thought you were teaching me about how this world is ruled by strength, yet you’re giving Sorka Bo this position as if it was his right.”

“That is because my son is talented enough and strong enough to be the future leader of this village.”

“That may have been true once, but now there is another who can challenge him.”

“Who? You?” Sorka Jiu almost snorted, but then his eyes widened. He turned to look at the door where he knew Chem Au was standing outside.

Seeing his look of realization, Chem Al said, “That’s right, my big brother.”

Sorka Jiu sucked in his breath. “Is, is that why you helped him get stronger?”

Chem Al nodded. “I knew that sooner or later this would end in a fight. Your son is not the most agreeable person, and if he found out that this village wasn’t going to be passed down onto him, then well, let’s just say I will never be able to beat him in a fight. At least, a fair one. So I’m getting my brother to do it in my place. I promised him lots of treats if he succeeds.”

Sorka Jiu stared at this little cripple, who no longer seemed so weak. How long had he been planning this? But then he made another realization, that this cripple hadn’t planned this whole thing through. “You’ve made a mistake by telling me about this now. Yes, Chem Au has gotten stronger, but he’s still at the sixteenth level, just like my son. If they were to fight now, there is no guarantee that your brother would win. Or is it that you’re planning to wait until Chem Au gets even stronger?”

“You don’t need to worry. There’s a reason why I’m coming to you now. I believe that Chem Au is ready. And if he wins, will that put your worries to rest on whether I would be a good village chief or not? After all, winning this fight would mean I made someone from the younger generation stronger than your son. Think of what else I can do.”

Sorka Jiu looked slightly annoyed. “If you’re so confident that your brother could win a fight against my son, why don’t we put it up to a bet?”

“Okay,” Chem Al hesitantly said, or at least he tried to sound hesitant. He had to make Sorka Jiu think that this was his idea.

“If Chem Au wins, you will become the next village chief. Of course, you will still need to make pills for this village.” When Sorka Jiu said this, Chem Al nodded. That much was obvious. “If Sorka Bo wins, you will make as many pills as this village needs without any reward. Do we have a deal?” Sorka Jiu smiled, holding out his hand.

Chem Al slowly took his hand, again trying to look hesitant. They shook on it.

The next few minutes were spent talking over the details. Sorka Jiu mentioned that he wanted the fight to take place the very next day, and Chem Al made it look like he reluctantly agreed.

Once the negotiations were finished, it was time for Chem Al to leave. He opened the door and saw his big brother outside, standing amidst a sea of white snow with sunlight shining down. The clouds had cleared away.

“How did it go?” Chem Au asked, closing the door behind them before they walked away from the stone house.

Chem Al breathed a huge sigh of relief. “A lot smoother than I thought. Sorka Jiu agreed to make me village chief, more or less.”

“What? Just like that?” Chem Au shouted, unable to hold back his voice.

Chem Al laughed. It felt like a huge weight was off his shoulders. “Now the only thing we need to worry about is Sorka Bo throwing a tantrum. I trust that you will handle him when that happens.”

With a worried look, Chem Au said, “Are you sure I’m ready? I’m still not completely sure I can beat Sorka Bo.”

Chem Al smiled at him. “That’s why we’re going to cheat.”

He walked towards Sheng Yi’s hut, thinking of the Golden Earth Dan Root.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 26

Chapter 26 - Happy Birthday

Another month passed and again Chem Au made a breakthrough. The entire village was shocked. Making one breakthrough in such a short time was lucky, but twice? That was a miracle. No, that was what you would call a genius. Whenever Chem Au passed by them, the villagers stared at him in awe as if they were staring at a genius that made the most talented youth in the village look mediocre.

But it wasn't just Chem Au they were staring at, they were also looking at his little brother. Throughout these three months, whenever they asked Chem Au how he was able to make a breakthrough so fast, he would always say his little brother helped him. At first, none of them believed it, but now ... maybe?

Chem Al was walking through the snow, going home after another lesson with Sheng Yi. This time he left later than usual and took a roundabout route because it seemed like Lik Ku and his bunch was looking for him, either under orders from Sorka Bo or just curious themselves about the rumors of him helping Chem Au with his cultivation.

"Where the hell could he be?" Lik Ku shouted, frustrated after so many failed attempts to find the little cripple.

"Maybe he's over there," one of them pointed. They all went in that direction, his guess as good as any.

Hiding behind a hut, Chem Al watched them leave. Then he ran home, or at least he would have if he hadn’t knocked into Sorka Bo.

“Hello, little cripple,” Sorka Bo said, towering over him. “You’ve been avoiding my friends all month and I came to ask why?”

“Oh, those were your friends? I thought they were those you kept under your thumb. Pretty small thumb, to be honest.”

Sorka Bo was surprised again. More back talk from the weak, little boy, just like during their journey to Vera City. He grabbed him by the neck and squeezed. “Listen here, you little piece of shit. I don’t know how you got my father to believe in your nonsense, but you’re not fooling me. A cripple like you can’t do anything. You’re a weakling and you’ll always be a weakling.”

Chem Al clawed at Sorka Bo’s hand, gasping for breath. When Sorka Bo finally loosened his grip, Chem Al breathed in, then said, “I was wrong. It’s not only your thumb that’s small, but the rest of your fingers. Sorry for clawing at your hand there, I just really, really needed to say that. Woo, got that off my chest.”

Sorka Bo wanted to yell at the top of his lungs, but he ground down his teeth and restrained himself. “You know what? When I become village chief, after I banish you into the forest, I will be there to cut off your neck. I decided I’d rather be the one to kill you instead of letting those desolate beasts have the fun.”

“Okay. You do that.” Chem Al gave him his biggest smile. “...if you can.”

Sorka Bo’s grip tightened around cripple’s neck, almost crushing it, then he lifted him off the ground. “Just you wait, I will--.”

“What’s going on here?” Chem Au was running up to them.

Sorka Bo dropped the cripple, then turned around to face Chem Au. He tried to hide the anger on his face, but it was difficult because now he was facing someone else that he hated … but not as weak.

Two sixteenth level profound cultivators faced each other, yet one of them was younger than the other. Sorka Bo had always grown up with everyone praising him as the most talented youth in this village, but now all of that attention was being turned away by this upstart.

Sorka Bo looked down at Chem Au. “You should keep your little brother in line, teach him about his place in the world.” Then he stormed off.

“You know, he would look really cool with a flowing, dark cloak right now,” Chem Al said as he watched Sorka Bo walking off in a huff.

Chem Au stared at his little brother. “What did you say to make him so mad like that? Don’t you know how strong he is?”

“I wasn’t worried. I knew you were coming.”

“Uh, how?”

Chem Al shrugged. “Read it in a book.”

Chem Au felt as if he was getting a headache. His little brother was saying confusing stuff again. “Nevermind. Mom’s worried. You were out later than usual.”

“Sorry, I needed to avoid some people.”

“Anyone you need me to handle?” Chem Au said, cracking his knuckles.

Chem Al rolled his eyes. “Like I can’t handle a bunch of nitwits. Come on, let’s go home.” He then ran back towards their family’s hut, his feet kicking up the snow.

As Chem Au watched his departing back, he was surprised. There was a time when his little brother never opened up about his problems, but now, because of how carefree his voice was, it sounded like he could handle them easily.

Chem Au ran forward and caught up with his little brother, then they went home together.

Along the way, they passed by a few villagers, some of whom were thinking of reaching out to them to ask a few questions, but the two boys ran past before they got the chance. When they got home, Chem Al smelled something. Meat! It was just dry meat, of course, but there was so much of it on the table. What’s more, their mom was making mooncakes with the last of their sugar.

"What's the occasion?" Chem Al asked.

"We're celebrating your brother breaking into the sixteenth level, of course," Chem Feng said, proud. "Chem Au is now matched with the most talented youth in the village!"

"Stop it, you.” Chem Mai chastised her husband, then she went over and hugged Chem Al. “We're not just celebrating that. We're also celebrating your and your brother's birthday. I can’t believe my little boys are turning eleven and fourteen.”

"Our birthday?" Chem Al said. He knew that The First Alchemist and his older brother was born around winter, but he never found a clear date in the historical records, not even in the journals.

As he asked his parents, their answers implied that birthdays weren't that special, and that they just celebrated it whenever they had the chance during the winter. With Chem Au breaking through to the sixteenth level at the same time, it allowed them to celebrate that as well.

Birthdays, huh.... How long since it's been since I had celebrated a birthday, Chem Al thought as he ate some mooncake while his mother poured him tea.

In his past life, he was so busy that he had no time for things like that, and to be honest, he pretty much had no care for it. But now, surrounded by this family, eating the food that Chem Mai prepared, it was kind of fun.

Families and birthdays, it has been such a long time, he kind of missed it. It was nice to do these kinds of things every once in awhile.

As the party slowly died down, Chem Au thought it was time. "Little Al, today I was told by the village chief to bring you to him tomorrow. He wants to speak with you."

""The village chief?"" their parents said at the same time.

"What does he want with your little brother?" Chem Mai asked.

"Does it have something to do with those rumors?" Chem Feng looked at his youngest son. "Son, why--."

But he was cut off when Chem Al suddenly said, "Mom, do we have any tea left? I want to serve some to the village chief when we meet."

Chem Mai felt confused for a second by the change in topic, but then she brightened. "That's a good idea. Take the rest of our tea leaves. We don't want the tea you serve to be weak."

Chem Al nodded. His parents wanted to ask some questions, but he was silent for the rest of the night, alone in his thoughts.

It was beginning, and he had to prepare himself for the meeting that would change the course of history for this village.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 25

Chapter 25 - Three Months Before the Battle Part 3

The moment the village chief had walked into her hut, Sheng Yi went over and bowed to him. "This one greets the village chief."

Sorka Jiu nodded at her, then looked down at the patient … and was shocked. If Chem Au hadn’t personally told him of the battle with the Colossus Bear and how that beast injured this guard, he wouldn’t have believed it based on what he saw before him.

Other than a stump and some bloody rags, there was no sign of injury at all. There wasn’t even any scars. If he didn’t know any better, it would look like the guard was just sleeping.

Sorka Jiu glanced at both Chem Al and Sheng Yi. This was even more startling than the rumors.

For the past two months, he had been hearing from his own villagers how the sick and injured were healed by Sheng Yi and her disciple. He didn’t believe it at first, but when he did, he just put it off as the medicine woman finally improving her skills.

Not a moment too soon, too. The air was getting colder and they usually lost some people from sickness over the winter. With their medicine woman drastically increasing her rate of success, it could only count as a good thing.

But this … this was different. From what he heard, this guard was suffering from a life threatening injury and there was absolutely no way to save him with some simple ointments or tonics.

Yet, not only did she save his life, she somehow made it look like he wasn’t injured at all, and it hasn’t even been half an hour since the time of the attack. The only thing she couldn’t seem to do was regrow his leg, and Sorka Jiu already blew that off as impossible. Just doing this much would be considered a miracle.

Sorka Jiu looked around the hut. It had been a long time since he had last been here, and he remembered it looking more abandoned. But now, it was filled to the brim. Herbs, powders, elixirs, and all sorts of smells cluttered the place. The medicine woman had always been serious about her medicine, but now it looked like she was taking it to the next level.

It wasn’t just the medicine. There was also food and staples in abundance where there were sparsely any before. Rice, clothes, newly carved wooden bowls, it was obvious these were gifts from the thankful patients she had helped. Before, she had barely survived in this village with her poor skills, but now it looked like she was thriving.

What could have changed?

Sorka Jiu looked down at Chem Al who was sitting next to the patient, and shook his head. It couldn’t have been the cripple, could it? Maybe, but unlikely. Despite what Chem Au had told him about how his little brother was the reason his cultivation had risen, he had a hard time believing it. A cripple was still a cripple, and the last thing someone like that could help you with was profound cultivation.

There had to be more to it than that. Probably something to do with that concentration of profound energy he felt earlier when he had entered the hut, and that flash of light he saw in Sheng Yi’s hand, although all she was holding was some kind of powder.

He took a closer look with his profound energy, and to his shock her cultivation had risen to the fifth level! Chem Au making a breakthrough to the fifteenth level in less than two months could be considered a one-off, a lucky break, but now there was someone else whose cultivation was also rising at a rapid rate.

“How? How did your cultivation rise so fast?” Sorka Jiu lunged at Sheng Yi and grabbed her arms. He now fully believed that it wasn’t just luck, that there really was a method to quickly raise your cultivation.

“Village chief, you know I cultivate?” Sheng Yi asked. Chem Al was surprised as well.

“What? Of course I do. I’ve known since I allowed you into my village. As long as you do your best to help the sick and injured villagers then I don’t care if you cultivate or not,” Sorka Jiu said, letting go of her arms. “Nevermind that, please tell me the method to quickly raise someone’s profound cultivation!”

Sheng Yi and Chem Al glanced at each other and sighed with relief. That’s one less person they had to worry about objecting to a woman practicing cultivation.

“Well, if you really want to know….” Sheng Yi pointed at her disciple.

Sorka Jiu looked at who she was pointing at, then looked again. She was saying the same thing that Chem Au said, that this little cripple was the one who helped them increase their profound cultivation.

Impossible! How could such a thing be possible? It was like a blind person teaching you about the sky. Such a thing…. 

“Village chief,” Chem Al said. “You can choose whether to believe it or not, but the fact of the matter is that I’m the one who discovered the method that can help you and everyone else in this village raise their cultivation quickly.”

Sorka Jiu looked down at Chem Al. It was those eyes again, the same unwavering eyes he saw during their journey through the forest. And then right there, he finally believed it. He kneeled down so he was eye to eye with the cripple, and said, “Then please--.”

“Not yet.” Chem Al smiled. “I’ll tell you the method, but not until my big brother’s profound cultivation reaches the sixteenth level.”

Sorka Jiu’s brow furrowed. “Why the sixteenth level?”

But Chem Al answered him with a shrug. “No reason. Don’t worry, though. He will soon reach the peak of the fifteenth level, so it won’t be long until he makes a breakthrough. You just have to wait one more month.”

“And then you’ll tell me?”

Chem Al nodded.

Sorka Jiu stood up. A part of him wanted to command the little cripple to tell him right this instant, for the good of the village, but the boy looked stubborn, and not in that child-like way where a spoiled brat isn’t getting what he wants. No, or some reason it seemed easier to squeeze blood from a stone than pry information out of this cripple.

When she saw that the village chief would let go of his questions for now, Sheng Yi stepped in and said, “Now that that’s settled. Is there anything else I can help you with, village chief?”

Sorka Jiu shook his head. “No. I originally came here just to check up on the injured guard that Chem Au told me about, and I can see he’s doing well.”

“Yes, he is. All he needs now is some rest. But I’m sorry we couldn’t do anything about his missing leg.” Sheng Yi looked down.

“You’ve helped him more than I expected. Keep up the good work.,” Sorka Jiu said. Then he left the hut, but not before looking back at the cripple and saying, “One month.”

Sorka Jiu walked towards the edge of the forest to wait for the return of the hunting party. A part of him thought about how rare it was to encounter a Colossus bear and how much meat it would bring to help the village through the winter, but a bigger part of him couldn’t stop thinking about that secret method that could increase one’s cultivation at a faster rate. It was so enticing.

Almost an hour later, the hunting party returned, dragging the corpse of the Colossus Bear behind them. 

The moment they saw the village chief, they started regaling him with tales of their little adventure. He had already heard it all from Chem Au, but it wasn’t everyday they had such a successful hunt so he stood by and allowed them to excitedly tell him everything. And to be honest, it felt nice to hear them praise his son for his part in taking down the Colossus Bear.

“Good job, son.” Sorka Jiu clapped his hand on Sorka Bo’s shoulder. “You do me proud.”

Sorka Bo beamed, then waved it off as if saying with his talent, this much was nothing.

After praising his son, Sorka Jiu turned to the hunting party and started shouting out orders. “Make sure to process the bear carefully. Even though there’s a lot to work with, we can’t waste any of it. The fur will make warm coats, the skin will make new leather armor for almost all of you, and remember to save the fat. But most important of all, don’t forget the meat! We’ve got to hurry to dry it so we can save it for the winter. Remember to distribute it fairly to the rest of the village,” Sorka Jiu said, and then he remembered. “Oh, and also save a portion for Shu Tui to thank him for his part in the battle, at least enough that could last him a month.” That was all he could do for the poor guard.

The hunting party looked surprised, Sorka Bo most of all. “He’s still alive? But with such a large wound, how can he possibly still be alive?”

“I don’t know. Somehow the medicine woman and her disciple was able to save him.” Sorka Jiu pointed his thumb behind him at Sheng Yi’s hut. “Son, I think you should try to become friends with Chem Au’s little brother. He may be able to help you with your cultivation.”

Sorka Bo looked over at the hut, his mind jumbled. “Father, do you actually believe all those rumors about that cripple? Just because Chem Au raised his cultivation really fast once doesn’t mean anything.”

“I know, I didn’t believe it at first either, but listen to me. Promise me you won’t offend the cripple. Promise me that.”

“What has gotten into you, Father? Is it because they somehow was able to save that guard’s life,” Sorka Bo said, but then he thought of something else. “Or…, wait, did they manage to regrow his leg or something?”

Sorka Jiu shook his head. "No, unfortunately. That seemed to be beyond their abilities."

Ha, Sorka Bo thought. A cripple was still a cripple. There was no way that someone like that could do the impossible. "Then so what? I don’t get why you suddenly started believing in these rumors, but just because they saved that guard’s life by healing his wounds or stopping the bleeding doesn’t mean anything. And besides, the life that Shu Tui would live now wouldn't be worth much."

Sorka Jiu looked down at his son, who didn't seem to care that a life had been saved. But he knew that Sorka Bo was right. A harsh life will only await Shu Tui now. "Just promise me that you won’t offend the cripple.”

But Sorka Bo snorted and walked away to help the other guards take apart the Colossus Bear.

Sorka Jiu couldn’t help but sigh. He understood his son’s disbelief so he decided to let it go for now. Given enough time, he knew that, not just his son, but everyone in the village will come to see those rumors as truth.

At that moment, a snowflake slowly fell in front of him. He looked up at the cloudy sky.

It was snowing.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The First Alchemist - Chap 24

Chapter 24 - Three Months Before the Battle Part 2

Sheng Yi watched as her disciple dug into the ground. "Did I ever mention how nice it is to have a disciple do all the work?"

Chem Al scraped at the ground with a wooden board, the closest thing he had to a shovel. He knew that it was an honor to be helping the great Sheng Yi, but still....

"Ah, Master, I think I hit it," he said, excited to finally reach the root.

"Then get on with it."

Chem Al tossed away the board, then scraped his fingers around the root, removing as much dirt as he could. There were little white tendrils sticking out of the root, almost like worms. He picked them up until there was none left, then tossed them into one of the baskets.

Sheng Yi eyed the basket. "I think that's enough Wormite for now. On to the next one."

Chem Al nodded, then pointed. "I'm sure I saw some Lowe Leaves over there."

"Hurry it up, then. We don't have all the day." She flicked her hand at the baskets, indicating for Chem Al to continue carrying them.

Okay, maybe Chem Al did want to complain a little. Here he was with no profound strength to help him, and yet his Master was now currently at the fifth level, thanks to all the Primary Profound Pills she had taken.

"Yes, Master," was all Chem Al said, although there were some words he wanted to add.

Just as he was about to pick up the baskets, Sheng Yi stopped him. "Wait. Someone's coming."

They both crouched down, ready to run. Even though they were already at the edge of the forest, and the village was nearby, it didn’t hurt to be safe than sorry. Sheng Yi’s profound senses couldn’t travel that far, but it was strong enough to pick up the fact that something was running towards them. "I, I think it's your brother."

Chem Al relaxed. "Oh, Au's back? So soon?" He looked out into the forest.

"Help!" Chem Au shouted when he saw his little brother so close by. A surge of hope pumped through him, and he ran the last stretch a little faster.

"What happened?" Sheng Yi asked when Chem Au reached them.

"There was an attack. ... Colossus Bear. He lost his leg. Can ... you help him?" Chem Au said between breaths.

Both Sheng Yi and Chem Al did a quick examination of the wounded guard, everything from his bloody red stump to his pale white face.

"He's lost a lot of blood. Get him to my hut quickly," Sheng Yi shouted.

They all ran back to the village, Chem Au the fastest despite carrying a fully grown man, and his little brother the slowest while holding on to a basket full of Wormite.

"Place him down slowly," Sheng Yi said when they entered inside, and Chem Au did, carefully putting the guard down on the mat in the middle of the hut.

"First we must clean the wound, and then stop the bleeding. Disciple, you know what to do!"

Chem Al grabbed one of the wooden buckets that was filled with water at all times, then carried it over to the patient. He then removed the improvised wrap that his brother had made over the wound. The flow of blood increased, but he had to risk it because there was plenty of dead leaves and dirt clogging everything. He washed the stump as best he could. "Any time now, Master!"

There was a flash of light behind him, and then Sheng Yi appeared with the medicinal cauldron in her hands. In it was the first tier medicine, Blood Ichor, a thick brown liquid that glowed red. She poured it over the wound, and immediately the blood began to clot, sealing everything.

The bleeding had stopped, but it wasn’t over yet. The patient’s face was still pale. There was a chance he might die from blood loss.

Chem Al cleaned out the medicinal cauldron and prepared the ingredients to make the Blood Replenishment Pill. Half a minute later, a dark red pill jumped out of the cauldron. "Yes, I did it!”

"Well, don't just stand there like an idiot! Bring it over!" Sheng Yi said.

Chem Al went over and stuck the pill into the patient's mouth. He then took a thin, wooden splinter out of his pocket and gave a small jab at the patient's neck, causing him to swallow the pill.

They looked down at the patient. His face regained its color and his breathing became less shallow.

Chem Au saw this too. “Is he going to be okay?”

“He’s stable, for now,” Sheng Yi said. “Leave him here overnight so your brother and I can watch him.”

Chem Au nodded. He could see that his fellow guard was in safe hands. A look of wonder appeared on his face as he watched these two, especially Chem Al, bustle around the patient. His little brother wasn’t strong, but at this moment he was very proud of him.

After he left, Sheng Yi examined the man’s stump from time to time, knowing how that would affect the man for the rest of his life. “Disciple, do you have any ideas on how to regrow his leg?” she asked.

“Maybe. I’ll work on it,” was all he said. Chem Al couldn’t tell her that he knew a few ways to do it. However, according to history, it wasn’t actually The First Alchemist who discovered it, so he couldn’t say anything. Even if he wanted to create that kind of pill, he wouldn’t be able to do it with his current medicinal cauldron. It was only made out of profound iron, far too weak to make a pill that powerful. “There’s nothing we can do about that leg for now.”

“Okay, then let’s just finish it off with a Soothing Yu Pill.” Sheng Yi sensed the patient’s body with her profound energy. “He still has a few minor injuries and slight internal bleeding that the Blood Ichor didn’t catch, plus the scarring on his stump. Nothing serious. He would be able to heal up normally with time, but the Soothing Yu Pill would be faster.”

“I agree, but you’ll have to make it.”

“Me? But I’m not ready. Every Soothing Yu Pill I’ve tried to make wasn’t as pure as yours,” Sheng Yi said.

Chem Al could only shake his head. His skill came from a lifetime of practicing alchemy, and here his Master was trying to catch up in two months. She was already able to create first tier medicine, like the Primary Profound Pill and the Blood Ichor, with one hundred percent purity so her abilities had already reached the level of a first rank alchemist. Considering she had been practicing for such a short time, her talent was astonishing, even surpassing himself, and he was called a genius back in his past life.

However, his Master couldn’t see how talented she was just because she had not been able to create a second tier pill, the Soothing Yu Pill, with one hundred percent purity. If she was able to do something like that in a mere two months, she would be a monster.

“How many times do I keep telling you that the pill doesn’t need one hundred percent purity to work? For now, your level of skill is fine,” Chem Al said, but then he had an idea. He reached for the basket of Wormite. “You know, I’ve been thinking of a new cultivation skill, and I think this one can help you. One of the medicinal ingredients for the Soothing Yu Pill is powdered Wormite. I’ve been trying to invent a cultivation skill that could instantly turn medicinal ingredients into powder without needing a pestle and mortar.” That was a complete lie. He had learned the skill back in his past life when he was just a first rank alchemist attending Sheng Yi academy, but she didn’t need to know that.

“That would make things easier,” Sheng Yi said.

“Yes, it would. I call it the Powder Cultivation Skill!” Chem Al looked so proud of himself.

Sheng Yi had a disappointed look on her face. “Such a lame name….”

“What? It’s a great name! Do you want to learn this skill or not?”

“Fine, fine. Yes, I do.”

Chem Al looked only slightly mollified. “Okay. Now hold out your hand, palm up.” When she did what he said, he placed a piece of Wormite on her hand. “Now start channeling energy into this.”

When profound energy began to flow into the Wormite, it began to glow.

“Good. Okay now smash the profound energy against each other,” Chem Al said.

“Smash? But it’s energy! It’s not like it’s a rock you hit an unfaithful husband with.”

“Just trust me. Smash your profound energy and let the Wormite be caught in it, like a house during a huge storm. But not a rough storm, a refine one. Enough to turn that house into tiny pieces of rubble.” That was the best Chem Al could explain it. In his past life, he had only needed a little bit of instruction before he managed to learn this skill. It took him a single day, which astounded the alchemist community.

Sheng Yi just shrugged her shoulders and did what her disciple said.

“Wait,” Chem Al said. “Don’t be disappointed if you fail on your first try. If you would like, you can put the Wormite in the pestle and mortar, then place your hand over it and try to activate the skill that way. Visual cues like that might be able to help make it easier to learn.”

“Let me try it this way first.” Sheng Yi focused on the Wormite in her hand. She imagined her profound energy as millions of tiny tiny rocks smashing against the medicinal ingredient. In just a few seconds, the Wormite turned into powder.

When she saw that it worked, Sheng Yi let out a relieved sigh of happiness. “Hey, look at that, disciple. That wasn’t too hard.”

But Chem Al didn’t respond. His jaw was almost touching the floor. First try, he thought. She did it on her first try. That was what he repeated in his mind again and again, shocked beyond words. First try, first try, first try….

“Hello?” Sheng Yi snapped her fingers in front of her disciple’s face. He had been staring at the Wormite powder for quite awhile.

Deciding that her disciple was broken and there was no way to fix him, she took the Wormite powder and tossed it inside the medicinal cauldron along with four other medicinal ingredients. She then placed her hands over the cauldron and concentrated.

The cauldron began to glow. Concentrate! Concentrate! She could feel it; she might succeed this time. But then, damn, her focus shifted for one second by the strain on her mind, and she could feel an imperfection.

A pill jumped out of the medicinal cauldron. She caught it. It was a blue pill, but the color was dull and the surface was gritty, nevermind the fact that the smell coming off of it was weak. Well, at least it was better than her previous tries. The shape of the pill was less misshapen. It actually looked like a round pill.

Sheng Yi sighed. How come when her disciple did this, he made it look so easy, while she strained with the effort. Must be the genius of youth.

Chem Al stood there watching her as she made the pill. He sighed, somehow relieved. His Master was a monster, but not as much as he feared. Although it was impressive that she could create a second tier pill in only two months, the pill was only at eighty percent purity. She had not reached the level of a second rank alchemist. Still, Chem Al couldn’t help but stare at her with respect. He had read that she was a genius among geniuses, but there was never this much detail about it. It was one thing to read about this and another to see it before his very eyes.

While her disciple was standing there doing nothing like he usually did, the lazy bum, Sheng Yi tossed the pill towards him, disappointed in herself. She went to a corner and continued to practice the Powder Cultivation Skill to make sure she mastered it.

Chem Al caught the pill, then gave it to the patient. Because of the pill's imperfections, it took quite a few minutes for the effects to take hold. When it did, Chem Al could see the scabs and scars on the patient's stump start healing at a faster rate, leaving nothing there but unbroken skin. Other than that, the pill should be healing any other tiny internal injuries. Now the patient looked even more restful than before.

That was when the door opened. Chem Al looked up and saw the village chief.