Monday, February 27, 2017
Chapter 40 - Entry Fee
"You want me to fight in the tournament?" Chem Au asked. He wasn't as opposed to this as much as last year. Because of his increased strength, he was a little more confident that he could handle one or two opponents.
Chem Al shook his head. "You're not listening. I want you to win the tournament!"
"What?” Chem Au shouted. “Win? As in beat everybody?”
“Yes! For advertising. That way, when everyone asks how you got so strong, you can tell them about our pills.”
Chem Au was stunned. “Do you even understand how hard it is to win the tournament? Sure I’ve gotten stronger, but I’m still nothing compared to those guys out there.”
“But you’ve got to do it. You’re the strongest youth in our village!”
“What about Sorka Bo? His profound strength is at the same level as me.”
Chem Al shook his head. “No, he won’t do.”
“He’s too ugly.”
Chem Au didn’t know what to say to that. No matter what, his little brother seemed adamant that he should participate in the tournament. He sighed, his face looking disheartened.
When Chem Al saw how hesitant his big brother was, he said, "Have more confidence in yourself. I believe in you."
Chem Au wanted to say no, that his participation wouldn't matter because there was a good chance that he would lose. But he found it difficult to say no to his little brother who was looking up at him with such unquestioning belief. He sighed. “...Okay.”
Chem Al smiled. “Good! Now go put your leather armor back on and grab your shield.”
After his big brother went off to get ready, Chem Al was approached by his parents and Sorka Jiu, who had overheard their conversation.
“Are you sure about this?” Chem Mai asked. Chem Feng and Sorka Jiu said similar things, equally worried. Not many tournament participants were able to leave without injuries. A few of them have even died.
“Perhaps Sorka Bo would be a better choice,” Sorka Jiu said. “He has the same strength as Chem Au, but he’s older and has more experience in battles.”
“That may be true,” Chem Al said. “But think about it. Wouldn’t it look more impressive if someone younger were to win the tournament?”
After thinking about it, Sorka Jiu nodded his head.
“I’m glad you agree. Now please hand over your sword,” Chem Al said.
“What?” Sorka Jiu nearly shouted, surprised.
“Chem Au’s chances of winning the tournament would be greater if he has a weapon. He’s going to need that sword.”
“Uh….” Sorka Jiu couldn’t refute his village chief’s words. However, this sword was a family heirloom, passed down from his father, and one day he would pass it down to his son.
“Don’t worry,” Chem Al said. “I will get you a new and better one when this sword breaks.”
When the sword breaks? Not if? It was like his village chief was expecting the sword to break in the tournament. Sorka Jiu was very reluctant to hand it over, but once Chem Al said that this was his order as the village chief, he gave him the sword. In truth, he knew that his sword was weak, and that it would be easy to find a better sword out there to replace it and pass down to his son. But still….
“Thank you. With this sword, my big brother will definitely win the tournament,” Chem Al confidently said. After all, he knew that Chem Au would someday become one of the greatest warriors in all of history, gaining the title of the Turtle God. And this is where he’ll start to prove it.
“Just in case, we’re coming with you,” Chem Feng said. He had to be there in case his son got hurt. And it was one of his dreams to see his son fight in a spectacular tournament.
Chem Al nodded, expecting this.
When Chem Au finally returned, he still looked like a poor warrior, but he also looked ready for battle. Once he received the sword, the only thing left to do was to tell some villagers to watch over the Chem clan’s cart full of potatoes and radishes. And also, Chem Al had to fetch his bag before they left.
“What do you need that for?” Chem Au asked.
“In case you get hurt.” Chem Al lugged the bag over his shoulder. It contained his cauldron, plus a couple of medicinal ingredients. “Now let’s go!”
Chem Al pulled his big brother, who sighed and let himself be dragged along. Chem Feng, Chem Mai, and Sorka Jiu followed them. They all made their way through the city until they ended up at the tournament grounds. Like last year, they found a mass of people. Spectators, gamblers, just about anyone who enjoyed a good show was there. In a world where strength was respected, watching a fight between talented youths was the best entertainment.
Chem Al practically ran to one of the entry booths. "I would like to sign my big brother up for the tournament, please."
The booth man looked at the kid in raggy clothes, then tried to sense his cultivation. Oh! A village kid with a profound strength at the twentieth level. That was unexpected. He wasn’t as weak as he looked. “You’re lucky you got here in time. The tournament is about to start. Entry is one high jade stone.”
When the entry fee was paid, the booth man put down Chem Au’s name, then said, “Try not to die, kid.”
Chem Au gulped.
The booth man pointed out the waiting area for tournament participants. This was where the group parted ways. They all wished Chem Au good luck, then went off to find a decent place to watch the tournament.
Chem Au, all alone, went to the waiting area. He walked slowly, his feet seemingly having been turned to stone. His hands clutched his shield and sword tightly.
It was only when he got to the waiting area that he was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Although there were impressive warriors there wearing shiny armor, there were also a few villagers like him who had paid the exorbitant entry fee to participate in this tournament. This was good. He had no hope of winning the entire tournament, but his chances of making it to the higher rounds looked better. He told himself that he just needed to win a few times to show off his prowess. That should be enough to advertise the effects of the pills.
A couple of minutes later, someone came to tell them to get ready. Vera City’s martial arts tournament was about to begin!
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Chapter 39 - No Customers
After a night of sleeping under the cart, the next morning came, and with it the hustle and bustle of the market. Chem Al and his disciples opened up the wooden boxes to display the medicinal pills. Now they were ready for the day.
“How many pills do you think we will sell?” Sei Vi asked. She wasn’t the only one excited. The other disciples, plus all the villagers, were in anticipation of the money they were going to make. They expected a stampede of people rushing in to buy everything they had by the end of the day.
Chem Al didn’t answer her. Based on the journals, he knew that they weren’t going to sell very well. He just didn’t realize how bad it was going to be.
No one came.
An hour passed, then another, and another. Despite shouting out, “Medicinal pills for sale!” again and again, they didn’t sell a single pill. Although it wasn’t noon yet, they should have had at least one customer by now.
Then miracles of miracles, a passerby stopped and looked at their cart. It was just a cursory look, but it gave them hope. Sei Vi jumped in before he could leave. “Hey, mister! Come closer. Is there anything we can interest you with?”
“Ah, you have a decent cultivation, but what if I told you we have a way to make you stronger at a faster rate. Take a look at him.” Sei Vi grabbed Chem Au to display him. “This warrior is only fourteen years old but with a cultivation already at the twentieth level. Amazing isn’t it?”
The potential customer nodded. A poor village boy with that strength was practically unheard of.
"He got this strong because of this." Sei Vi held up a Primary Profound Pill. "You just need to swallow it and it’ll make you stronger. For the price of one high jade stone, it can be yours."
"One high jade stone?" the potential customer yelled, alarmed. "You expect me to buy a small thing like that at such a high price? Forget it!"
"But, bu..., I guarantee it’ll make you stronger. It is definitely worth the price."
"Do you take me for a fool? You probably hired some strong cultivator, lied about his age, and dressed him up like a poor villager to sell your fakes! You think I haven’t seen this trick before? Well I'm having none of it." The lost customer left.
Sei Vi watched him go; so did the rest of the villagers. This wasn't turning out like how she had thought it would be. One of the main reasons she wanted to practice alchemy was to make money. She looked over at her Master who didn’t look worried at all, which only annoyed her.
For the next hour, the disciples continued to try to sell to any potential customer. They either showed them the strength of the village's guards or lowered their prices, but there were still no takers. It looked hopeless.
The villagers looked at their village chief in dismay. They were selling ordinary crops that they had grown on their little farms, but they were selling better than his pills were. Why hadn’t anyone come to buy a pill?
Sorka Bo looked at this situation with glee. The villagers had placed a lot of their hope on the money they would make from this. He could already see the disappointment growing on their faces. And that disappointment would lead to anger, which would lead to throwing out the cripple and bringing back his father as the village chief. This was better than he could have hoped.
The three disciples were certainly disappointed, especially Sei Vi. She stomped over to her Master. “Why aren’t you worried? We’re not selling anything!”
Although Chem Al appeared casual, his heart did ache a little. His pride was hurt. These were pills made by him! Yet there were no buyers. He remembered in his past life people would pay exorbitant prices for one of his pills. Even if he was lazy and made a simple first tier pill, kings and sect leaders would come from thousands of miles just to get a chance to purchase it.
But this was no longer the case. He told himself that he was no longer the Grandmaster, and the fame of The First Alchemist hadn't yet spread, so he couldn’t rely on titles to sell his pills.
Still, although the journals told him that at this point in time selling the pills would be difficult, he didn’t expect that there would be absolutely no customers! This really hurt his pride as an alchemist!
Chem Al sighed, then tried to explain to his disciple. “Disciple, because of my amazing pills, you must have forgotten. In the outside world, medicine isn’t really trusted by the people. They do look for ways to help them get stronger and to improve their health, but they know that most of the so called medicine out there doesn't work. And let's face it, most of the people who sell what they call medicine at these poor markets are just scammers. Just listen...."
Sei Vi opened up her ears like her Master told her to. And that was when she heard them. Most of the people here were selling food and such, but ever so often she could hear someone shouting something deceptive.
"Do your legs not work like they used to before? Take these herbal roots and tie them to your legs. It’ll make them stronger so you can walk again!"
"If your loved ones are sick, burn this incense. I guarantee it will rid the spirits that plague them!”
"Snake oil! Get your snake oil here! It'll make you strong and viral, especially in the bedroom!"
Chem Al was reminding her why most people didn’t trust medicine. It was something he had learned last year when he came to this market. He was horrified at how backwards medicine was a hundred thousand years ago. That was not to say that there weren’t scammers in the future selling fake medicine. It was just that there weren’t quite as many as the ones here.
He looked down at his ragged clothes, and at the clothes that everyone else was wearing. Of course no one was buying from them. They were a group of poor villagers selling medicine from the back of a cart. Who the hell would trust them?
"Kind of reminds me when I tried to sell medicine at a market back when I was young," Sheng Yi said, then gave a light chuckle. She knew better than anyone else of how untrusting people were towards medicine.
“Then what she would do?” Sei Vi practically shouted. Changing the prejudice a city full of people had towards medicine seemed impossible.
“Relax,” Chem Al said. “We just need to spread the word about our medicinal pills in one giant leap.”
“How are we going to do that?” Sei Vi asked. Her fellow two disciples were wondering the same thing.
"Big brother!" Chem Al shouted.
Chem Au stepped up. "What?"
"I need you to win the city's martial arts tournament!"
Monday, February 20, 2017
Chapter 38 - Four Cauldrons and a Shield
The villagers finally left the forest without any further trouble, and was able to make it to Vera City before the sun went down.
Once inside the gate, they went off to the market in search of a spot to set up their goods. The market wouldn't take place until tomorrow, so like last year, the Chem brothers were able to get their parent's permission to wander around. Except this year, they were followed by Sheng Yi and Chem Al's three disciples.
And where else would they go but The Tai Smithy.
"That's it?" Sheng Yi said, looking at the dilapidated building. It was smaller and in worst shape than any of the other smithys in the area.
The three disciples were disappointed as well. Throughout these months, they had to put up with their Master's grueling teachings on all things alchemy. Considering that they started out not knowing how to read or do percentages, that was a lot of knowledge they had to stuff into their minds.
But all of it would have been worth it because their Master said that once they traveled to Vera City, they would be able to receive their very own medicinal cauldrons!
Who was the one that forged these magical, miraculous cauldrons? they would wonder. Who was the blacksmith that had such an amazing gift?
And then they found out that the blacksmith lived in what amounted to a shitty, stone shack.
But while they were disappointed, their Master was excited. "Come on!" Chem Al said, rushing inside. His big brother followed him in.
When Sheng Yi and the three disciples went in after them, they found that the inside was small, and there were no other customers. It was as they expected.
"Hello!" Chem Al shouted.
Tai Fu, who had just heard the sound of what might be customers coming in, went up to the counter. There he saw the strange little boy from last year, along with the boy’s big brother and four new people. He smiled, because you should always smile at a customer. "Hello, it's good to see you again."
"Do you have them?" Chem Al asked.
"Just one moment." Tai Fu knew what he meant. He went into the back of the smithy, then came out with four medicinal cauldrons made of profound iron, and laid them on the counter. "Well, what do you think?"
"They're everything I paid for and more!" Chem Al said, looking at the cauldrons with glittering eyes. Sheng Yi and the three disciples were doing the same.
These were going to be their very own personal cauldrons!
"I'm glad you like them. Might I take a guess that these cauldrons are for them?" Tai Fu pointed at the newcomers.
Chem Al nodded, then proceeded to pick up the cauldrons and handed them over. One for Sheng Yi, one for Bela Dor, one for Shu Tui, and one for.... Again, a look of reluctance appeared on Chem Al's face, but he eventually handed over the last cauldron to Sei Vi.
It's only a low level cauldron, Chem Al thought. She won't do anything bad with it.
Sei Vi held the medicinal cauldron. It was an exciting time for her, except for that one moment where she caught her Master wincing as he handed it over to her. Why did he do that? she would often ask herself. He sometimes made that same face to her these past nine months. It was almost as if he regretted making her his disciple.
Sheng Yi and the three disciples thanked Tai Fu, who blushed under the praise. He didn’t really understand what was so special about these cauldrons even though he made them. Why were they thanking him so full-heartedly?
“You’re all very welcome,” Tai Fu said, then he turned to Chem Al. “I do hope that that’s not all you came for, because I do have one more item that I think you might be interested in. Can you guess what it is?" Tai Fu said.
"No, what?" Chem Al said, except he already did know thanks to the journals. He just wanted to let the young man have his fun.
"You're going to be really surprised. Remember last year when you talked about making a shield from the shell of an Under Turtle? I decided to risk it and bought a plate of a shell, then made this out of it." Tai Fu held the item up with a smile. It was his greatest creation.
It was a normal sized shield, dark green in color. There was no design on it, only a polished smooth surface.
Although it looked simple, Chem Al knew what it truly was. This was the prototype for the shields of the turtle shell guards! A historical artifact, yet brand new, was right before his eyes. Although it wasn’t an alchemic artifact, it was still amazing.
Chem Al turned to his big brother, who was looking at the shield with shining eyes.
Tai Fu also caught Chem Au's interest. He handed over the shield to let him hold it, knowing that it would make him even more interested in it.
Chem Au held the shield reverently, seeing his reflection on its dark, smooth surface. He banged his fist against it. It was the hardest thing he had ever touched. "Let's buy it,” he said to Chem Al.
"Hm, I don't know,” Chem Al said, trying to hide his enthusiasm. “Sure it's made from the shell of an Under Turtle, but the turtle you got this from was young, probably less than a hundred years old. It had not yet developed its full hardness yet."
Tai Fu's smile dropped lower and lower listening to Chem Al pointing out the shield’s flaw. He couldn’t stop himself from shouting, “How the hell could you know that?”
“I can tell the age of anything,” Chem Al said.
Tai Fu settled down, wondering again of how strange this boy was. Yes, he had to admit that he bought a plate from the cheapest shell that was on offer, but it was still damn expensive! It was the best he could afford. He had only bought it because he thought he could make a decent profit from this kid, but now that no longer seemed likely. "Look, I know that the shell that this shield was made from isn't the best quality, but I'll stake my life that this is the hardest shield in all of Vera City!"
"Oh, I have no doubt about that," Chem Al said. "That's why I would like to buy it..."
Tai Fu's smile came back.
"...at an affordable price, of course."
And then disappeared again.
Chem Al took out a bag of jade stones from under his clothes. One of the reasons he wanted to become village chief was to get access to the village's jade stone reserves. He knew that Sorka Jiu had saved a lot of money over the years … which he will now spend.
He dropped the bag on to the counter and a couple of jade stones rolled out; some of which were high jade stones.
Even though those beautiful jade stones were right before Tai Fu’s eyes, he only looked sad. Sure it was a lot of money, enough to buy a couple of medicinal cauldrons at least, but after a quick calculation he realized that he would barely make a profit from this.
Should he even sell the shield to this kid? The answer was yes, only because there were no other takers. No one else in the city wanted to buy it.
The other blacksmiths knew how incredible the shell from an Under Turtle was, but they spotted right away how inferior the one he bought was. Plus they thought that his smithing skills were pathetic, so the shield he had made must have been worthless.
As for the nobles, they didn’t want it because they were fine with their own shields that were made from dragon scales. He tried to tell them that his shield was a little tougher than theirs but they wouldn’t hear of it, especially when they found out that his was made from a slow turtle. Those bastards! He didn’t bother to tell them that their so called dragon shields were made by the scales of weak Wyrms and Dragon Newts, a far cry from a Flood Dragon.
Tai Fu sighed, then grabbed the bag of jade stones, agreeing to the transaction.
“Oh, is that all you wanted? Because I was willing to pay more for the shield,” Chem Al said. Slowly, he took out another bag of jade stones and dropped it on the counter.
Tai Fu couldn’t help himself. He grabbed the second bag and started counting the money. This was more than enough! He looked at the little village boy and hesitantly asked, “All of this?”
Chem Al nodded.
Tai Fu wanted to jump for joy. It was a bigger profit than he was hoping to get. Screw it, he was jumping anyway no matter how silly it looked. He had risk a lot of his money buying that single shield plate, and now he could finally breathe with relief again.
Meanwhile, Sheng Yi came up to Chem Al with a worried look on her face as she whispered into his ear. “Disciple, are you sure about this? That’s nearly half of the village’s jade stones.”
Chem Au, who heard what she said, was equally worried. He wanted this shield, but not at such a high cost.
Chem Al waved them both off. “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”
When Tai Fu finally settled down, Chem Al said to him, “I hope that you’re happy with our transaction.”
“Very much,” Tai Fu said.
“Good, because I want to make a proposal. Our village needs a blacksmith, and I was hoping that that could be you.”
Tai Fu paused. The boy was a good customer so he didn’t want to say no right away. He might have been the poorest blacksmith in the city, but that was still better than being a blacksmith in a poor village.
As if Chem Al knew what he was thinking, he said, “Yes, our village may be poor now, but who knows, maybe someday we will become even greater than Vera City. I just want you to think about that, and think about the future. Do you want to be a poor blacksmith in a city that doesn’t appreciate you for the rest of your life? Or do you want to be the first blacksmith in a village that will grow stronger and more powerful.” Chem Al then tilted his head a couple of times towards his big brother.
Tai Fu didn’t know what the little kid was doing, but he guessed that he wanted him to take a closer look at Chem Au. So that was what he did, and was shocked. He discovered that this cultivator’s profound strength was at the twentieth level! Wait, wasn’t he only at the thirteenth level a year ago? How did a cultivator from a poor village grow by seven levels in a single year?
He turned back to Chem Al and looked at him in a new light. Maybe the little kid’s words were something worth thinking about.
Chem Al said goodbye, then the six of them left The Tai Smithy, happy with what they got.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Chapter 37 - Journey through the Forest … Again
"Village chief, might it be time to get a move on?" Sorka Jiu said to him.
Chem Al was currently distracted by a rare species of Snapdragon Vines growing on the side of a tree. This was the third time this happened. Throughout their journey, he kept stopping when he spotted a rare medicinal ingredient, despite knowing that he didn't yet have a cauldron powerful enough to turn those ingredients into pills. He also knew that he didn’t have any spare wooden boxes to hold those ingredients so that they won’t lose any medicinal efficacy after picking them. Still, he couldn't help himself.
Like a chastised child, which he was, he slumped his shoulders and got back on his horse to continue their journey. This was the slowest they had ever traveled through the forest.
"Thank you," Sorka Jiu said, seeing Chem Al continuing on. "I think it would be a good idea if we moved a little faster."
"Oh?” Chem Al smiled. “Is there going to be any trouble?"
"My guards had reported sightings of a pack of Fang Wolves for the past month. It might not happen, but there's a good chance that they might attack us."
Chem Al nodded, although he wasn't worried. Fang Wolves were weak desolate beasts with low defense. The only thing they had going for them was their speed and bite force. With the village's current strength, he was sure they could be defeated.
The villagers meandered their way through the forest. It wasn't until an hour later that a guard ran up to Sorka Jiu and whispered in his ear.
Sorka Jiu nodded, then conveyed the message to Chem Al. "Fang Wolves, sir. We've got a confirmed sighting."
"Just one. But that doesn't mean anything. They hunt in packs, so there are definitely more out there."
Beside them, Sorka Bo hid a smile.
"I'll go tell everyone to be on their guard," Sorka Jiu said.
Chem Al shook his head. "No. Instead, tell all the guards to come here and grab a piece of meat."
"Tell all the guards to come here and grab a piece of meat. Do I need to repeat myself again?"
Sorka Jiu still looked confused.
Chem Al sighed. "Here's what we're going to do. We'll have all the guards hold some meat, and then when the Fang Wolves attack, the guards will throw the meat at them. And why should we do this? Because the reason those wolves are attacking us is because they're hungry. So do you think those wolves would risk their lives to attack us when a nice, juicy piece of meat falls from the sky in front of them?"
"Wait. You want to feed the wolves that will attack us?"
"Better than risking our lives to fight them."
"But, bu... The meat! They're our biggest seller in the market. Our profits will go way down if we just throw it away."
Chem Al paused, taking a second to compose his answer. "Sorka Jiu, I respect you, but you need to change your way of thinking. There's a difference in what this village used to be and what this village is now. This village used to be desperate for money in order to buy necessities, to the point where given the choice between saving a cart full of meat and saving someone's life, we would choose to save that cart. No longer!" He swept out his hand. "Do you see the cart that my horse is pulling? See all of those wooden boxes filled with pills? Remember that they will make us more money than a mountain of meat. So I want you to change your mind about what's important. Why risk the lives of anyone in the village if we could just toss away a piece of meat?"
Sorka Jiu was stunned. It was one thing to know something in your head, and another to realize it with your whole body. He looked back at the carts full of meat, seeing it with new eyes. Last year, they barely hunted enough meat to fill three carts, but now there was seven carts filled to the brim thanks to the increased strength of their guards. With such a plentiful amount, it no longer looked valuable.
Beside them, Sorka Bo lost his smile after hearing what the cripple said. "Wha, what are you saying? Are you saying that our guards can't handle a couple of Fang Wolves?" he shouted. He could see his plan going out the window.
Chem Al turned to him with a look on his face that said he was tired of dealing with this guy’s tantrums. "That's not what I'm saying. Our guards are certainly not weak. I'm just saying why risk it? We need each and everyone of them to live and get stronger so they could handle the real threats to our village."
Sorka Jiu looked at his village chief with wonderment in his eyes, then he nodded and proceeded to inform the guards of these new orders.
One by one, guards came up to grab a piece of meat, then left to return to their positions surrounding the villagers. They looked a little confused. Sorka Bo and his followers had to do this as well, although they didn't like it.
Half an hour later, when the reports came in with more sightings of Fang Wolves, it was time to get ready. It was almost anti-climatic when Chem Al saw three wolves jumped out of the forest, growling. The same was happening all over. They were surrounded.
It has been such a long, long time since Chem Al saw a Fang Wolf. They weren't that big and their white, grey fur wasn't that tough. The only thing threatening about them were the two fangs protruding from their jaw.
At the sight of them, the villagers felt fear, but also confident that their guards could handle them. The guards moved forward, but instead of throwing their spears, they threw pieces of meat. It seemed almost comical.
The meat landed in front of each and every Fang Wolf. The wolves growled for a few seconds longer, then they looked at the meat, then back at the villagers, then back at the meat ... again and again. They were very confused. But although they thought that this was very suspicious, it was free meat. They didn’t have to waste energy or risk their lives to get it. No carnivore in the world would pass it up.
The pack leader, which was a Fang Wolf slightly bigger than the rest, was the first to grab a piece of meat with its jaws, then it slowly backed away while continuing to face its suspicious two-legged enemies. Following their leader's example, the other wolves did the same.
All the villagers watched with open mouths as one of the threats of the forest just walked away instead of trying to kill them. This was a first.
Chem Al thought nothing of it, and proceeded to tell his horse to keep moving forward.
It took everyone else a couple of seconds to recover from their shock, then they followed their village chief, still a little unsure at what just happened. They were slow on the uptake because this went against every way of thinking they had been brought up on.
Sorka Jiu looked down at his sword that was still hanging from his belt. They had just encountered a pack of beasts and he didn't need to unsheathe it. That was hard to wrap his head around. He looked up at his village chief in awe. "Chief, you are amaz--"
"Holy shit! A six hundred year old Regina Nightshade!" Chem Al jumped off his horse and ran towards a rare medicinal plant.
Sorka Jiu looked stunned. He didn't know whether he was dealing with an amazing leader or a little child.
Friday, February 17, 2017
Chapter 36 - Nine Months Later
Chem Al stood there, proud, as he saw everyone loading up their carts. It was harvest season, so it was time for another trip to Vera City.
On the surface, the village hadn't changed much. It was the same size; no expansion at all. Some of the villagers still grew crops while others hunted for food. It really didn’t look that different.
However, under closer inspection, there was a strange happiness and relaxation that wasn't there a couple of months ago. The guards looked the same, but they had an air about them that felt stronger, more confident. No one in the village went hungry because they had plenty of meat to eat, and no one died from any stray desolate beast that wandered into the village.
The strength of the guards wasn't the only thing that had changed. There was also a new storage house built right next to the village chief's home, filled with wooden boxes that contained medicinal plants and herbs. For an outsider, this building didn't mean much, but to the village it was practically a sacred place. Because of it, no one died from sickness and it was the reason the guards were stronger.
Sheng Yi exited the medicine house. It was where she lived now, much bigger and more comfortable than her broken down shack on the edge of the village. Now she lived in the center right next to her disciple.
Sheng Yi walked over to the village chief’s home where Chem Al was. “Are you going to just stand there all day looking pretty? I didn’t raise no lazy disciple. Get to work!” she yelled at him.
Chem Al jumped, then ran off towards the medicine house.
Behind Sheng Yi, the three disciples had just left the medicine house, holding wooden boxes in their hands. They snickered when they saw their Master run past. It was always funny to see how the old medicine woman was the only one in the village that could scare their Master like that.
Sheng Yi whipped around to glare at them. “I don’t see you three working.”
The three disciples gulped. They rushed to put their boxes onto the cart, then went back to the medicine house to get more. Chem Al and his disciples repeated that process, loading up the cart with dozens upon dozens of wooden boxes, each one of which holding who knows how many medicinal pills.
Meanwhile, Sheng Yi found a patch of grass, then sat down and watched them work. Ah, if it wasn’t for her damn old bones, she would be right there helping them, yeah, that’s right.
Watching from afar, Sorka Bo was grinding his teeth as he stared daggers at the cripple. He had been doing that a lot lately.
Sorka Bo’s sycophant, Lik Ku, was standing next to him, also watching Chem Al, but with a worried look. "I don't know about this. Are we really going to do it?"
Sorka Bo turned on him. "Of course we are! Do you want that cripple to stay as village chief?"
"No, but isn't this risky? We might lose the pills."
Sorka Bo paused. Although he was reluctant to admit it, he had been using those pills these past couple of months to help increase his strength. "I don't deny that those pills are valuable, but that doesn't mean that a weakling like him should be allowed to be village chief. He should stay in the sidelines and give out those pills as support while real men like my father should be village chief,” he said. “Or are you backing out of the plan?"
"No, no, no, of course not," Lik Ku said, taking a step back. "It's just that maybe we should go for a less risky plan, one that doesn't put the cripple's life in danger?"
"How else are we going to show how weak the cripple is?" Sorka Bo said. "Look, everything will be fine. For awhile now we've been seeing a lot of Fang Wolves around these parts, so it's likely that they might attack us when we go through the forest. All we need to do is guard that cripple, then at the last second, we'll coincidentally be somewhere else when one of the wolves attack him. We won't left the wolf kill him, just scare him a little. Then we'll take out the wolf. And when it's all over, we would have shown everybody how weak the cripple is. If he can't even protect himself, how can he protect this village? Those pills of his might have hypnotized everyone into accepting him for awhile, but at the end of the day they respect strength above all else. They will finally wake up from this nightmare."
Lik Ku nodded, although still worried that something might go wrong. If the cripple were to die, then those pills would be gone. They say that the old medicine woman was the his Master, but everyone could see that the source of the pills really came from the cripple.
However, he decided to go with Sorka Bo's plans. He had always been a follower of Sorka Bo, and a bully to the cripple. So he knew that his position in the village would never rise up if the cripple stayed as village chief.
Seeing how his sycophant seemed more agreeable to the plan, Sorka Bo nodded. “Good. Now gather everyone else that agrees with us. We need to discuss final details and positions before we set off.”
Lik Ku left, trying not to look over at Chem Al as he went by him.
Chem Al didn’t notice. He and his disciples had just finished loading their cart with all of the pills they had made. Their cart was then pulled by the only horse in the village to the edge of the forest where everyone else had gathered.
Under the morning sun, Chem Al sat tall on the top of his horse.
Seeing all the villagers before him made him feel proud. Everyone had come a long way these past nine months. It was slow but they became more accepting of him and his pills. They had helped him and his disciples when a new storehouse needed to be built and when they needed help gathering medicinal ingredients from the dangerous forest.
He will definitely pay everyone back with a life worth living.
"Now before we go into the forest, I think this is when I have to give a speech like how Sorka Jiu did last year," Chem Al said. "Um..., what was it again? Oh well, you all probably already know the gist of it. Don't die. Don't fall behind. And also, don’t die. Do I need to repeat that last part again?”
The villagers smiled. They weren’t worried, at least not as much as the last time they traveled to Vera City. The guards surrounding everyone had more confidence. Their head guard, Sorka Jiu, had managed to make three breakthroughs in these past months thanks to those pills, increasing his profound strength to the twenty-third level. And both Chem Au and Sorka Bo had made four breakthroughs each, breaking the bottleneck to reach the twentieth level.
Overall, the strength of the village has gotten stronger. They were more ready than ever to make this journey.
“Let’s go,” Chem Al said, taking the lead.
They marched into the forest.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Chapter 35 - Chem City
Almost half of the village had taken a step forward wanting to learn this new skill called alchemy.
Chem Al didn’t care about the majority, instead focusing on only three individuals in the group. "For those of you who want to learn alchemy, I thank you for your eagerness, but unfortunately I can only choose three of you. And the first person I choose is...." He pointed at a young girl around his age. "You, Bela Dor."
"Me?" Bela Dor said. "But, bu, ..."
"No need to be shy, come on up," Chem Al said.
Bela Dor wanted to learn this new skill because of how amazing it was, but now that it was becoming a reality, she grew nervous. Under everyone's eyes, she walked out of the crowd and stood before her village chief.
"Now the next person I choose is...." Chem Al pointed at a man that was missing a leg. "You, Shu Tui."
"Me?" Just like the young girl, Shu Tui was surprised as well. He only wanted to learn this strange new skill called alchemy because, ever since he lost his leg during that Colossus Bear hunt, he had become a useless person. Despite having a decent level of cultivation, he could no longer hunt or guard the village, so he decided to give alchemy a try because he had no other way to be of use to the village. He never thought that he would be picked.
Shu Tui stumbled forward, awkwardly moving with a wooden crutch and a single leg, until he stood before his village chief.
"And the last person I choose as my disciple is...." Chem Al hesitated. According to history, he knew who he should choose. But he really, really, really, really, really didn't want to choose her.
Sei Vi. One of the three disciples of The First Alchemist. He knew that she would be brilliant, quickly rising up as one of the most powerful alchemist in all of history. However, the terrible things she would do with the knowledge that he will teach her, he didn't want to think about it.
Ever since Chem Al woke up in this village one hundred thousand years in the past, he did everything he could to avoid her, but now he couldn’t do that any longer.
It was time to make a decision.
Knowing what he knows, should he make her one of his three disciples like history says? Or should he change history and choose someone else? There were consequences to both decisions. The question was should he stop her now before she becomes a threat in the future? Or will stopping her now create an even more disastrous future?
What should he do?
In the end, Chem Al grimaced and pointed his finger at her. ".....Sei Vi."
Sei Vi looked shocked, then a wide smile brightened up her face. She practically ran towards Chem Al, excited and relieved. Ever since her husband died during that Wyrm attack last year, she had lived a horrible life, unable to support herself. The only reason she had survived so far was because she was forced to live as a third wife to an abusive man in this village. She had no other choice. But now all of that was over. The sky was clearing up. She would be able to cultivate and make a lot of money. Her future looked bright.
Chem Al groaned. But he had no time to regret the decision because some of the villagers suddenly started to complain.
Why did he choose those three? What criteria was he basing his choices on? Why didn't he set up some sort of test to help him make his decision? That was what the previous village chief did when he chose who could become one of the village's guard.
"My decision is final!" he yelled, then waited for everyone to calm themselves. "Don't worry, these three before you are only just the start. Once we build up our resources, then we will teach alchemy to those who are capable of it. I don't plan to keep my knowledge a secret. I want to spread it everywhere...," Chem Al meant spreading his knowledge across the world, but he knew that these villagers didn't want to lose their advantage just yet, so he added, "...in the village."
The villagers finally settled down.
"Trust me, I will do everything in my power to make this village better. No longer will you starve for days and days. No longer will you live your lives with danger at every turn. You will not only survive, you will thrive. But I'm not going to lie. It will take a lot of hard work and the road will be bumpy from here on in. However, there will come a day where you or your children or your children's children will stand up tall and shout out that you're living in the greatest place in the world," Chem Al shouted. "From now on, this place will no longer be known as Sorka Village. It will be known as Chem City!"
The villagers were quiet, imagining such a future. But then someone asked, "Um, Chem ... City?"
"Wait. Did I say that? I meant village. That's right, Chem Village." Chem Al became momentarily flustered, but then he took a deep breath and his eyes looked far off, as if he was seeing something that no one else in the village could see. "But you know, what's wrong with that? Why can't we grow our village and become a city? And not just any city either. It will be a shining city, the envy of all, where there are towers tall enough to scrape the sky, where there are tasty treats around every corner so you don’t have to kill yourself trying to hunt or grow your own food, and where the biggest thing you have to worry about is getting stuck in traffic and being late for work." Chem Al grew quiet, but his voice still reverberated. "And where, late at night, when the lights are shining through every window in every building, it looks like a city filled with stars. And people can see it for miles. That is the city I want to build."
The entire village was silent as if listening in on a dream. No one was able to imagine what Chem Al was talking about, but they could hear the wonder in his voice. It washed over them, making them feel warm and hopeful.
When they finally woke up, they heard their village chief say, “Now let’s get started, shall we?”
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Chapter 34 - Three Disciples
Sorka Bo and Sorka Jiu made it back to the village without any trouble, and saw that there was still a crowd of villagers standing around Chem Al. On closer inspection, the new village chief seemed to be passing out something.
"Here you go." Chem Al took out a little red pill from a bag and handed it to one of the villagers. He did this one by one until everyone in the village who cultivated had one, then he stepped back to the middle of the circle. "Now you might be wondering about what I have just given you. As thanks for making me your new village chief, I'm giving you this as a gift. What you hold in your hand is what I call a Primary Profound Pill."
The villagers stared at the pill in their hands, wondering.
"What does this pill do, you might ask?" Chem Al continued. "This pill contains a concentrated amount of profound energy. After swallowing it, just channel that energy into your dantian. With this you will be able to increase your profound strength faster than normal.”
A slight commotion went through the villagers when they heard this. If what the cripple said was true, then this could change the entire future of this village. But still … it was kind of hard to believe. Such a miraculous thing like this pill had never appeared in this village before, especially so many of them. One or two may be possible, but how could there possibly be such a large amount of pills that every cultivator in the village could receive one?
In the end, there was nothing to do but to give it a try. One brave soul swallowed his pill. The villagers went silent, waiting to see if this person would either die or suffer through indescribable pain. But neither happened. Instead, he immediately sat down and began to cultivate.
At the sight of this, someone else swallowed the pill, then another and another until every cultivator tried it and discovered its amazing effects.
Profound energy surged through their bodies. Everyone who took the pill sat down and cultivated, channeling that energy into their dantians. The moment they opened their eyes, they looked at their young village chief in a whole new light.
Chem Al smiled, knowing this was how they were going to react. He didn’t hand over those pills out of the goodness of his heart, he gave them in order to convince these villagers that he would make a great village chief. He knew that he would need the cultivators, the strongest people in this village, on his side.
As the villagers clamored, telling each other how amazing this pill was, Chem Al spoke up. "I hope you realize what a pill like this could mean for our village, especially for our cultivators. Now they could better guard and hunt for our village. Surrounded by a forest filled with desolate beasts, we would be better protected and we will have a more ample supply of food.”
The villagers cheered.
“But that's just the surface benefits. I want you to think more of the outside world. How many people do you think would want these pills? Another question. How much money do you think these people will pay for these pills?" Chem Al rubbed his hands together. "Everyone, we are going to become rich!"
The villagers went silent, stunned. A pill that could make you stronger, they already realized what this meant for the overall strength of the village. But they could also use it to make money too? The villagers erupted with happiness. The days of being poor and destitute were going to be a thing of the past. Such a thought brought tears to their eyes.
"I'm glad you all understand," Chem Al said. "Not only will we survive, we will also thrive. More money means more resources. We could buy better armor and weapons for our guards. No more shitty spears with pointy stones at the end of it." When the cultivators cheered at that, Chem Al continued, "And for the rest of you, we can build better homes and afford more essentials like rice and salt, and alcohol." Everyone cheered at that.
However, Chem Al's voice suddenly turned somber, dampening the vibrant mood. "But this will all come with a cost," he said. "These pills, a lot of people will become interested in them. And some of them might not be willing to pay money to get them.”
His words doused out their excitement. The villagers paled, aware of how weak they were when compared to the outside world.
"Yes, these pills can help our village, but the decision to use them is too much for this humble village chief alone. On the one hand, we can choose not to use them and do nothing, staying weak and pathetic, living out the rest of our lives in our little corner of the world until we die with nothing to show for it. Or... we could use these pills and grow, becoming stronger and more powerful than this world has ever seen. Yes there will be some risk, there will be people who will want to stop us and beat us down and tell us no, but screw them! We will rise up!" Chem Al practically shouted that last part, but then his voice quieted down. "Of course, I leave this decision to you."
None of the villagers said anything, but their minds were racing. They could feel it. This was a momentous turning point. What happens now, whatever they decide, would affect them for the rest of their lives.
"Yeah, screw them!" someone shouted. "Screw everyone else!"
"We want to use these pills! We want to become stronger!"
"Just let them try to take it from us!"
"We'll show them what we can do! We'll show them we're not just weaklings!"
The entire village voiced their support. They were tired, so tired of being weak, of being beaten down and barely making a living. They grew up knowing that being weak in this chaotic world meant that they and their children had a low chance of surviving. It would only take one disaster to wipe them off the map.
They wanted to be strong.
"That's what I want to hear." Chem Al smiled. "Okay, so first thing's first. I know you think that I should start with strengthening our forces, and I will do that, but that will come later. First, I want to spread the knowledge of how to make these pills.”
Hearing that, the villagers muttered excitedly among themselves. Not only would their new village chief give them these pills, he was also going to teach them this secret miraculous skill? That was unbelievable.
Chem Al watched all of them, knowing that this was part of his plan. He knew that this village would be attacked soon, and by forces far stronger than a couple of low level desolate beasts. He had to increase their overall strength, but how strong could this village be if only the men were allowed to cultivate? If he could get these villagers to see that increasing the strength of the women as well would also benefit this village, then that would be another step forward in being able to defend themselves against the upcoming enemies ahead. But how to do it? It would have to start with his Master.
"The skill to make these pills is called Alchemy. Right now in this village, there are only two people who know this skill: me and this village’s amazingly incredible and wise medicine woman, Sheng Yi." Chem Al pointed to her.
Sheng Yi was never one to be shy, but this was the first time so many people were paying attention to her at the same time. She slowly stepped forward and stood next to Chem Al.
"Show them," Chem Al said, keeping his voice low.
"Now?" Sheng Yi whispered back.
"Yes, now. We planned this."
"I know you're wise beyond your years, my disciple, but I don't think you fully realize the prejudice everyone has against women who cultivate. It's just not done."
"The world changes every generation, Master. The world changes."
Sheng Yi sighed. "Okay...." She started channeling profound energy from her dantian until it filled her body. Now her cultivation, which she hid so well that it was almost nonexistent, could be felt by almost everyone in the village.
"What?" someone in the crowd shouted.
"She can cultivate?"
"What the hell is wrong with you? Who do you think you are?"
Obscenities and backlash fell from the villagers, mostly men, while some of the women stayed silent, contemplating.
"Settle down, settle down...." Chem Al repeated, trying to placate them. When that didn't work and most of the villagers continued to yell, he then shouted, "SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
The villagers slowly quieted down and stared at the eleven year old boy.
"You're against this, I understand. Since the beginning of civilization, most of the cultivators were warriors, those who could protect their loved ones and go out to hunt for food. And these warriors were men..." For now, Chem Al thought. "...so I can understand why you might not like the idea of the medicine woman knowing how to cultivate. But I want you to know that she didn't learn how to cultivate in order to fight, she learned it in order to heal. Don’t you want that? Someone who can heal you and your loved ones. Or are you a sick bastard that is okay with letting your loved ones die right before your eyes just because you don’t want a medicine woman who can cultivate to be there to heal them?”
The voices of protest stayed silent, although some were still on the edge, so Chem Al continued, “I don’t see why you’re against it. I mean your previous village chief knew that she cultivated, and he wasn’t against it.”
“What?” one of the villagers said as all of them turned their heads to stare at Sorka Jiu.
Sorka Jiu, who now found himself under so much scrutiny, looked flustered. “Um, yes… I knew that she cultivated, but as long as it helps her heal the villagers, I was okay with it.” He rubbed his throat, then glared at Chem Al for putting him under the spotlight like this.
Chem Al just smiled at him, then he turned to the villagers, “See? There’s nothing wrong with a woman cultivating. And to learn alchemy to make these pills for you, she needs to know how to cultivate.”
“What about you?” a villager shouted. “You can do this… al kuh mee, or whatever else you call it, and you don’t cultivate.”
“True,” Chem Al said. “But that’s only because she helps me with the stuff that I can’t do. Believe me, cultivation might not be necessary, but it can make you better at this skill.”
The villagers nodded to themselves, thinking it over. They understood how someone who cultivated their profound strength were far stronger and more powerful than a regular person. So, the villagers thought to themselves, maybe it’s okay for a woman to cultivate as long as she uses it for healing. This was something that would take them awhile to accept, but they’ll accept this new idea eventually.
Seeing the villagers slowly nodding, Chem Al breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t much, but he managed to get his foot in the door. First cultivate to heal, then cultivate to fight. One step at a time.
“Okay, now that you understand,” Chem Al said, “I’m going to need to choose some people to help me make these pills. My Master and I can’t do it alone. So who would like to volunteer? You’ll need to have a strong mind and an aptitude for cultivation. Trust me, what I’ll teach you will be the hardest thing you’ll ever learn.”
The villagers looked at each other, then one by one, some of them stepped forward. The ones that didn’t move were mostly men, satisfied with only improving their cultivation to hunt and fight. They didn’t need to learn this new skill. The ones who wanted to learn alchemy were among the weakest in the village.
Chem Al nodded at this line up. It was as he expected. But he couldn’t choose all of them. According to history, this was the moment where The First Alchemist chose his three disciples.
And he knew which three to choose.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Chapter 33 - Revenge
Trees blurred past Sorka Bo. By the time he came to a stop, he didn't know where he was. He had never been this deep in the forest before.
But he wasn't afraid. Anger was still surging through his veins at the thought of that cripple becoming the next village chief. There was no way he was going to allow that to happen.
He punched a tree. Seething, grinding his teeth, Sorka Bo was so distracted by his rage that he almost didn't notice the sound of something moving through the snow, something that didn't bother trying to hide its presence because it didn't see him as a threat.
Sorka Bo turned around. Right before him was a Colossus Bear.
"Shit," he said, barely above a whisper. He didn't want to do or say anything that would spark the beast into attacking him. He tried to think of a way out of this. He had no weapon so fighting wasn't an option, and his profound energy was nearly depleted to the point where he could only run a few feet before he tired himself out, letting the bear catch up and claw through his back.
What was he going to do? If only his fellow hunters were here to help him. Even the weakest one could at least serve as a meat shield, giving him time to escape.
But Sorka Bo ran out of time. The Colossus Bear roared, then charged at him.
Just as Sorka Bo was about to try to escape, out of nowhere a white crescent light flew past him and struck the bear’s neck. Blood splattered over the clean snow as its severed head fell to the ground.
"Wha...?" Sorka Bo said, his mouth agaped. Then he saw his father walking towards him, sword in hand. "Father!" he shouted, deliriously happy to be alive.
Sorka Jiu wasn't smiling. The moment he stopped in front of his son, he struck Sorka Bo across the cheek. "Damn fool! How many times have I told you to never go into the forest alone? Especially not this deep! Do you think you can take on these beasts by yourself?”
Sorka Bo rubbed his cheek, more surprised than hurt at being struck. “Father, what are you doing here?” he asked.
“I followed you, of course. Do you think I’ll let my only son die out here? Come on, if you’re done sulking, let’s head back to the village before we run into anymore desolate beasts.”
Before his father could turn around, Sorka Bo shouted, “Wait!”
“What is it?”
“Why?” Sorka Bo asked. “Why are you allowing that cripple to replace you? Why are you allowing him to become the next village chief?”
Sorka Jiu looked at his son, and sighed. He knew that Sorka Bo would need time to get over this, and although the forest wasn't the best place to discuss it, he guessed that they would have to hash it out right here. "Son, it was agreed that if Chem Al's champion defeated you, he would become the next village chief."
"Yes, I know we agreed on that, but father, you're still stronger than Chem Au. You're still the strongest person in this village. You don't have to retire now. Keep your position as village chief for awhile longer, just until I become strong enough to prove myself worthy of being your successor."
Sorka Jiu sighed again. "I'm tired, son. Even if I wanted to continue being the village chief, I no longer think that I'm the best person for the job. It's time to retire and let the next generation take over."
"No!" Sorka Bo shouted. "I won't allow this. They cheated! That's the only explanation. I am more talented than they are so the only way that cripple and his brother could beat me is if they used some kind of cheat!"
"And what's wrong with that?" Sorka Jiu said, thinking of the Primary Profound Pills that Chem Al showed him. “Son, I’m sorry that you lost, but even if they used a cheat to help Chem Au become strong enough to win, don’t you see what this could mean for our village? We are weak, barely surviving on the outskirts of the Continent. Being the most talented or strongest person in this village means nothing. We’re a frog inside a well, unable to see how vast the sky is. But now, with the help of the new village chief, we will have an advantage. We can all become stronger." Sorka Jiu smiled at his son.
But Sorka Bo was still scowling. "That cripple is weak," was all he said.
Sorka Jiu groaned, then placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "I know that traditionally we needed a strong village chief to protect this village, but does that matter now? Who cares if he is weak if he can make everyone else strong."
Sorka Bo didn't say anything, clearly unhappy.
"What's wrong?" Sorka Jiu said. "Don't you realize what this could mean for you as well? Along with everyone else, you can become a lot stronger than you are now."
When Sorka Bo continued to keep his mouth shut, his father kept asking him what was wrong, what was he unhappy with. The pressure from these questions built up and up until Sorka Bo saw red. He exploded.
“I want to be the strongest! Me and me alone!” Sorka Bo shouted, finally admitting something he had barely admitted to himself. “I want to be stronger than anyone else. I want to be the only one who can protect this village. If the villagers are in trouble, I want to be the one that comes in at the last minute and save everyone. I want all the women to love me and all the men to be jealous of me. I want everyone else to stay weak so that I can be the hero!" After that outburst, Sorka Bo slowly breathed in and out, settling himself down. He looked ashamed.
The forest was quiet.
Sorka Jiu stood there, unable to believe what he had just heard. How did his son become like this?
"I want to be the hero, father," Sorka Bo whispered. "I want to be like the heroes in those stories you told me while I was growing up. I want to stand above everyone and crush anyone who opposes me. I just want to be the hero."
"Yes, but ... wanting everyone else to stay weaker than you?" Sorka Jiu said.
Sorka Bo looked away. He didn't say anything else as he brushed past his father and walked back towards the village.
"I am disappointed in you, son," Sorka Jiu said.
Sorka Bo tried to drown out those words, but instead they burrowed into his mind, fueling his hate. But it wasn't hate towards his father, it was directed at the cripple. This was all the cripple's fault.
But even though Sorka Bo knew that, there wasn't anything he could do about it. It seemed like the cripple would become the next village chief. And ... that's fine. He would allow the cripple to enjoy his time under the sun for now. But one day, Sorka Bo declared, he would have his revenge.
Friday, February 3, 2017
Chapter 32 - Escape
Sorka Bo woke up, groaning. Everything hurt. At first he didn't know where he was, but once the world came back into focus he saw the sky and the villagers surrounding him. However, they weren't paying attention to him, and was instead staring slackjawed at Chem Au.
He had lost. As that devastating thought crashed down on him, Sorka Bo felt like throwing up. He couldn't believe it. This was impossible. His entire future, his leadership position, all gone in an instant.
Someone reached down and carefully held his arm. Sorka Bo looked up with dazed eyes, only to see his father helping him up.
"Are you okay?" Sorka Jiu asked.
Sorka Bo didn't know what to say. He was still in shock, unable to believe what had happened. Dull pain ran through him as he stumbled on to his feet. He felt numb.
After seeing that his son was okay, although a little out of it, Sorka Jiu walked over and stood next to Chem Au. "The match is decided. Chem Au is the winner!" Sorka Jiu announced, but there was a hint of sadness in his voice because of the fact that his son would not be the one to become his successor. Still, this was what was best for the village.
The villagers stood still, trying to process everything. They were completely sure that Sorka Bo, the most talented youth in the village, would win. But now an upset had swept through them. Then suddenly, someone clapped. And then another. And another. Soon the entire village was cheering for Chem Au. They praised the strong because a strong leader would protect their village.
"And since his champion had won, that means that Chem Al will now become your new village chief!" Sorka Jiu swept his arm towards Chem Al, who then stepped away from the crowd and strolled towards the middle of the circle next to Sorka Jiu.
All the villagers went silent again.
Due to the excitement of the match, they had forgotten about this. What the heck? This was actually going to happen? The cripple was going to be their new village chief?
Just as the first voice of dissent was about to be uttered, Sorka Jiu raised his hand. "Stop! I know what you're all about to say, but his champion had won the match. The decision is final." He paused as he looked into the eyes of almost everyone in the village. "Trust me on this, he is going to do great things for our village."
Chem Al stood there, short, but standing tall and looking proud.
Both Chem Au and Sorka Jiu stepped back, leaving room for little Chem Al to make his speech. Chem Al coughed into his fist, then said, "Hello, everybody! I can see from your faces how happy you are that I have become your new village chief. First, I would like to say that--."
"NOOOO!" A voice howled with unsurpassing fury, interrupting Chem Al. Sorka Bo had woken up from his daze, screaming. "I will not allow this! How can you become the village chief?" Sorka Bo was pointing his sword towards Chem Al as if accusing him of cheating.
Chem Al just smiled. "Because I'm amazing."
That answer only infuriated Sorka Bo even more. Before everyone's eyes, Sorka Bo swung his sword which was glowing with white light. A crescent flew towards Chem Al.
Not only did the crescent seem to fly even faster than normal, both Chem Au and Sorka Jiu froze in place for a split second, unable to believe at what Sorka Bo had just done. By the time they reacted and reached Chem Al, it was too late. The crescent had struck him.
Chem Al's shirt was easily ripped through and soon a huge cut slashed across his chest. Blood started gushing out.
A high pitched scream rang out, coming from Chem Mai. Both of Chem Al's parents tore away from the crowd and ran towards their little boy, while his big brother was holding on to him asking if he was okay over and over.
Meanwhile Sorka Jiu ripped the sword away from his son's hands, then grabbed him by the shoulders and screamed at him, demanding for an explanation for what he had done. But Sorka Bo was just standing there, staring at the cripple. A little bit of glee ran through him, but there was something else, a feeling that something wasn't right.
As the crowd murmured at this event, a small voice spoke out. It was quiet but it cut through every other voice. "Can you stop fussing over me? I'm fine." Chem Al said, trying to convince his parents and brother to step back.
Chem Mai, with tears in her eyes, said, "Wha... my little boy, my little boy...."
"Mom, I know you're worried but please stop. What would the villagers think if they see their village chief be hugged by his mom?"
After a bit more fussing, Chem Al managed to convince his parents and brother that he was fine. Mostly because they, and everyone else, was beginning to realize that something was off.
The entire village was quiet, then Sorka Bo asked the question that was on everyone's minds. "Wait a minute! How could you still be alive after taking that attack?"
That attack was a profound skill from a sixteenth level cultivator used on a cripple with no cultivation strength at all. The cripple should have been cut in half!
But although Chem Al was bleeding profusely, he looked fine, albeit a little pale. Not only did he look okay, everyone also realized that the pain he must be feeling didn’t show on his face at all. When that attack had cut him, he didn't scream nor did he cry. The cripple was an eleven year old boy. He wasn't a warrior, he wasn't a cultivator, he had never been through any life or death battles, yet he took that attack like it was nothing.
In front of everybody, Chem Al reached into his pocket and took out a few Soothing Yu Pills. He swallowed them, and almost immediately the slash across his stomach slowly closed up. The villagers' jaws dropped. They stood there frozen in place as Chem Al tried to wipe the blood off of him. The wound was completely gone! Not even a scar was left.
Chem Al still looked a little pale, so he then took out a Blood Replenishment Pill from his pocket and swallowed that too. Soon the color returned to his face and he stood a little more steadily.
Most of the villagers couldn't believe their eyes. For the first time they saw the rumored pills that they had heard about, the ones this boy and the old medicine woman had been using to heal the villagers that had become sick. It was no wonder that no one, neither the old or ill, had died over the winter.
Seeing his little brother swallowing those pills, a realization came to Chem Au. He went over and asked, "Is that how you did it? You ate your own Hard Earth Pill?"
"Of course. I only used half of the Golden Earth Dan Root to make a Hard Earth Pill for you. What did you think I used the other half of that root for?" Chem Al said, but then a grimace came across his face. It wasn't from any physical pain; he had just remembered how making another third tier pill had further damaged his medicinal cauldron.
Chem Au sighed with relief. "You should have told me that sooner. Don't scare me like that."
"What? You actually thought such a weak attack could seriously hurt me?" Chem Al struck out his chest. "You're talking to the great Chem Al, you know."
"Yeah, yeah...." Chem Au smiled, glad that his little brother was fine.
As the two continued to chat like nothing had happened, the rest of the villagers, including Chem Al's parents, tried to figure out what they were talking about; something about a pill that helped the little boy survive that attack. That was when they realized what this could possibly mean. These pills, they didn't just heal the sick and injured, they could also help you survive in this dangerous world against those who were stronger than you.
A thought soon went through everyone's minds. Maybe, just maybe, with benefits like these, the little cripple could make a good village chief.
Sorka Bo watched as everyone's faces slowly changed to accept the idea that the cripple could become their leader. He couldn’t believe it. Everything he had worked for, everything he had trained for, was all gone, wiped away by the weakest person in the entire village. How was this possible?
The world seemed to close in on him. The crowd of villagers suddenly felt smothering, trapping him in a nightmare he couldn't wake up from. He had to get out. He needed room to breathe. Now! Sorka Bo ran towards the villagers, shoving them away in his desperation to escape. He didn't care about their complaints, he just needed them out of his way.
The moment he broke through, he continued to run. Run, run, run, until he ran out of the village and into the forest.