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.”
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.