Saturday, May 5, 2018

The First Alchemist - Chap 59

Chapter 59 - Forging a New Cauldron

“It’s you?” Tai Fu’s mouth hung open.

“Ah, you remember me. It must be my handsome face,” Chem Al said.

No, this can’t be, Tai Fu thought. He just got confused for a second because he had been expecting a powerful expert to walk through those doors, and instead it was that village boy from last year. There is no way that this boy could be the City Lord’s friend.

“Where is he? Where’s that powerful expert that lied to the City Lord and told him I was the greatest blacksmith in the world?”

“Powerful expert?” Chem Al tilted his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if you’re asking about the person who told the City Lord about you, it was me, and I wasn’t lying. You are the greatest blacksmith in the world!”

Tai Fu was stunned, his mind trying to process everything. How was this little boy able to even meet with the City Lord, let alone convince him with such a blatant lie?

While Tai Fu stood there frozen, the City Lord stepped in. “Blacksmith Tai Fu, would you like to take a look at my castle’s smithy?”

Tai Fu snapped out of it. He’ll worry about his questions later. “Yes,” he said.

The City Lord, Chem Al, and Tai Fu made their way to the other side of the castle, where the servants’ quarters lay. Just beyond the courtyard and on the edge of the boundary lied a huge smithy, out of the way so that the smoke wouldn’t affect the rest of the castle.

Tai Fu’s eyes were shining. This… this could all be his if he chose to work for the City Lord?

Even the largest smithy in all of Vera City paled in comparison to this. Not only was it spacious, it was filled to the brim with the best equipment and precious ores.

He jumped around and touched everything like a child discovering sugar for the first time.

After a few breaths of time passed, the City Lord coughed into his fist. “How is it?”

“It’s amazing!” Tai Fu shouted.

“Would you like to see your blacksmith apprentices next?” The City Lord waved his hand and a couple of people stepped in. Based on their soot-stained skin and calloused hands, it was obvious that they had some experience with smithing; plus the hammers they were carrying gave them away. “I would like to introduce you to Mo Yixing. He will be working as your apprentice for now.”

“Mo Yixing?!” Tai Fu’s eyes widened. “Aren’t you supposed to be the City Lord’s personal blacksmith? Why are you my apprentice?”

Mo Yixing answered by gritting his teeth.

That was when Chem Al clapped his hands once. “Right. Now that you have gotten acquainted with this new smithy and these apprentices, I’m going to need you to forge something for me.”

Tai Fu turned to him. Right, since they had called him here, they obviously wanted him to forge something, and he couldn’t very well reject their request since it was the City Lord (and his friend?) asking him. “What do you need?”

“Remember the cauldron you made for me last year? I need you to forge another one.”

“You want another cauldron? What happened to the last one?”

“It exploded.”

“Exploded…?” Tai Fu wanted to ask more questions, but decided it was best for his mental state to just stay silent about it. “If that’s all you need, then you need not fear. Just give me a day, no, a few hours, to make one.”

“Ah, here’s the thing. I want a more powerful cauldron this time, made from this….” Chem Al handed over the ore he got from the treasury.

“Blue mithril ore?” Tai Fu reached out and held the ore. He had heard of this material before, but this was the first time he had ever seen it, let alone touch it. How the hell was he supposed to forge something from this?

“Can you do it?” Chem Al asked.

“O-Of course!” Tai Fu lied. What else was he supposed to say in front of the City Lord and everyone else here?

“Good!” Chem Al took out a scroll which he then handed to the blacksmith. “Please forge the cauldron to these specific instructions.”

Tai Fu opened up the scroll, and sighed with relief. He remembered that last year this strange village boy had also drew some designs for the profound iron cauldron. Now with this, even though it looked much more complicated, it will make it easier for him to forge this more powerful cauldron.

Chem Al was extremely confident that Tai Fu would be able to forge the new cauldron, so after seeing him study the scroll, he and the City Lord walked away, leaving Tai Fu being glared at by his new blacksmith apprentices.

“Boss Mo, do we really have to follow this guy?” one of the apprentices whispered to Mo Yixing. Although their boss’s status had been reduced to match theirs, they still thought of him as the boss of their smithy.

“Yeah, Boss. I might be okay with it if it was someone who had some skill, but look at this guy….”

“This guy looks like he had only been holding a hammer for a month.”

The apprentices continued to grumble.

Mo Yixing wanted to voice his objections as well, but he held them back. That didn’t stop his eyes from flaring. “Quiet, all of you! This was an order from the City Lord himself! We have no choice but to obey. So you should stop thinking about throwing this guy into the burning forge, okay?”

Uhh… we weren’t thinking that at all, the apprentices thought.

At that moment, seeing his new boss finishing studying the scroll, Mo Yixing sidled up to him. “So, uh, Boss Tai…,” He hated calling this weak looking blacksmith that, “... what should we do first?”

“Ah, yes, I guess we’ll, uh, just follow the instructions on this scroll?” Tai Fu tried to sound commanding, but it was hard to do that with the previous personal blacksmith of the City Lord glaring at him. Even though Tai Fu understood that, right now, his status was higher than this man, this was all happening too fast. He couldn’t get used to ordering him around. “Let’s, uh, start with melting down the blue mithril first?”

Mo Yixing reluctantly bowed. “As you command. Hey, the rest of you! Fire up the forge!” he shouted at the apprentices like he usually does.

“Yes!” The apprentices rushed about. Although it looked chaotic, they knew what needed to be done.

And soon… the forge was blazing.

“Um, thank you!” Tai Fu felt the urge to bow to these apprentices. Just earlier today, even these apprentices had a higher status than him, yet now…. He really couldn’t get used to this.

With the forge ready, Tai Fu tossed in the blue mithril ore like he would usually do with any ore he had worked with before, then he waited for it to melt.

...Nothing happened.

“Um, Boss Tai,” Mo Yixing spoke up. “That might work with simple ores like profound iron, but with blue mithril, you might need to add in some boiling purple velt water to help with the melting process.”

“Right, right, I knew that.” Tai Fu wanted a hole to appear under his feet right this second. “Heat up some purple velt water for me, please.”

“Sure…,” one of the apprentices said.

They all stood there, waiting for the purple velt water to heat up. The atmosphere was excruciatingly awkward.

How long does it take for purple velt water to boil? It feels like forever!

Once the purple velt water slowly came to a boil, Tai Fu then splashed it onto the blue mithril ore. Finally, the ore melted down, turning the metal into liquid and separating the impure slag to float on top.

From then on, everyone started rushing around. Mo Yixing and a few apprentices continued to purify the blue mithril ore, while Tai Fu and the rest of the apprentices quickly built a mold for the cauldron.

It was the first time Tai Fu had help from blacksmith apprentices. Thanks to them, the work was going along a lot faster and easier than it would normally take him to do alone. A job as complex as this would have taken him three to five days, but now he would probably finish it by tomorrow.

Eventually, they were able to create ingots of blue mithril which they used to forge into the shape of a cauldron.

Now comes the difficult part.

So far all they had done was form a shape, but now it was time for Tai Fu to follow the instructions on the scroll and etch the array on the side of the cauldron. These etchings were extremely complex; more complex than he had ever done before. However, he told himself that he will complete it.

It wasn’t like Tai Fu was blind. He could see out of the corners of his eyes the expressions on Mo Yixing’s and the rest of the blacksmith apprentices’ faces. They were frustrated at how slow and clumsy he was, how much he held them back in this smithy. But he’ll prove them wrong now. Even though he lacked strength, he had some confidence in this part of the work. After all, he did something similar last year for that village boy.

After placing the cauldron on a specially heated plate in the forge to keep the metal more malleable, Tai Fu took out his carving tool and began to chisel onto the side of the cauldron. The moment he finished five percent of the array, the profound energy around them changed, seemingly moving as if caught in a whirlpool.

Mo Yixing and the other apprentices weren’t surprised by this. Whenever they made weapons with built-in arrays that absorbed profound energy, the same effect would take place. However, this was the first time they had seen this happening with a cauldron.

As for Tai Fu, he barely noticed it, focused as he was.

The whirlpool of profound energy moved slowly at first, but then it grew wider and faster, converging onto the blue mithril cauldron.

Tai Fu continued to etch into the cauldron way into the night. Some would describe him as slow, but he liked to think of himself as methodical. It took until the time for the sun to shine in the sky that he had finally gotten close to ninety five percent done.

His brow was filled with sweat and he could feel his eyes blurring. It had taken a lot of concentration and mental energy to get this far.

Then… he made a mistake.

“Shit!” Tai Fu shouted.

The profound energy in the air suddenly became more volatile, jumping into the cauldron like a gushing waterfall; more than it could take. The cauldron started to glow red.

“Damn, the cauldron is absorbing too much energy. It’s going to explode!" Mo Yixing shouted. "We have to get out of here!"

“Not yet!” Tai Fu said. “I can finish this. I can get the cauldron to settle back down and stop the explosion. Just give me another minute.”

“Are you crazy? We don’t have a minute!” Looking over, Mo Yixing saw that Tai Fu wasn’t listening to him, and instead was rushing his hands to try to finish the array as quickly as possible.

With a shake of his head, Mo Yixing led all of the blacksmith apprentices out of the smithy. Just as they got outside….


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