However, he couldn’t just waste time after getting this far. Grasping at straws, Sungchul asked the man in front of him
“I wish to learn alchemy. Where do I start?”
“There are textbooks scattered on the floor, with the ingredients and the cauldrons all outside the hut.”
The man clucked in laughter before returning to where his friends were waiting for him; while speaking loudly for everyone to hear.
“That guy is so earnest! You know what he said to me? He said he wanted to learn alchemy!”
He exploded with laughter as though it was the greatest joke he had ever heard.
“Why would someone like that come HERE!”
The rest of the students snickered along as they continued to puff on marijuana cigarettes with smoke pouring out of their nose and mouth. In some sense, it had a similar atmosphere to that of the school of cosmomancy.
Sungchul didn’t bother with their taunts and began to look through the floor that was littered with beer bottles and trash in search of the lost textbooks.
“There. That book.”
Bertelgia whispered from his pocket. Sungchul discovered a thin book that was ‘stored’ under a pile of bottles and grabbed it with his hand.
<Beginner’s Alchemy that even Ogres can follow>
The students who were watching Sungchul with interest burst into laughter at the sight.
“Look at that. Mr. Serious Summoned managed to find a book!”
“Worthy of being Eckheart’s successor!”
With such an eye-catching title, the book appeared to be intended for children. Upon opening the book, it revealed the illustrations of a goofy-looking ogre stirring a cauldron. They were laughing because they knew about this.
As usual, Sungchul was not fazed by the mockery of such insignificant people. He left the torrent of mockery behind him as he exited the tent.
He could see several cauldrons and a storage made of out of wooden planks stuck together. The cauldrons were filled with dust and spider webs, and the storage cabinet was left neglected.
“Whew. Who were those bastards? Really? They dare call themselves alchemists! What a disgrace!”
Bertelgia squirmed once again.
“Alchemists are treated like dogs even now! They are all pathetic people who can’t see how great alchemy really is.”
Sungchul listened to her complaints and took a seat on a tree stump near an alchemic cauldron before opening the book. A distinct feeling came into mind as he turned the first page. Easy. It looked stupidly easy. He read through the entire ‘Beginner’s Alchemy that even Ogres can follow’ in one breath. There was quite a bit of content, but that wasn’t a problem for Sungchul. It was a moment when having being lost in the maze of indecipherable text for the past week had finally paid off.
“A warrior like you should know that combat raises associated status points; alchemy and magic also increase related status points the more you use them.”
Bertelgia piped up when Sungchul closed the book as though she had been waiting to speak. He pulled her out of his pocket and nodded.
She tottered along Sungchul’s palm like a human and spoke like an educator.
“Another thing. There seems to be some connection between that cauldron next to you and the book. In other words, successfully ‘synthesizing alchemical solutions within the boundaries of the academy using the cauldron and textbooks provided’ is considered as completion of a quest, and a suitable reward is given. This is a common teaching mechanism in Magic Academies.”
“Is that so?”
“Yep. Academies are, in essence, culminations of massive quests created by their predecessors. Even the oft-ridiculed Alchemy operates under the same principle.
While listening to her insight, Sungchul made a note in his mind.
‘Bertelgia. She can prove surprisingly useful at times.’
If what she had said was correct, it was time for some hands-on experience. Sungchul stood up from the stump, found a suitable branch, and brutishly snapped it off. It was about as thick as his arm, but it broke off like cornstarch block in his grip. He stripped off all of the straggling branches using nothing but the strength of his hand before pulling out his beginner blade from his Soul Storage.
The sword had been used extensively during his time in the Summoning Palace, but now it was a piece of junk which was simply taking up space inside his Soul Storage.
Sungchul held the sword over the flame that was burning underneath the cauldron until it had heated into a red color, then punched the blade with his fist to flatten it.
Bertelgia was speechless.
He looped the flattened metal around the branch a few times, using it to tightly secure smaller branches to it, creating a sturdy book holder. He embedded the book holder against the cauldron and placed Beginner’s Alchemy that even Ogres can follow on top.
“…Clap. Clap. Clap.”
Bertelgia couldn’t help but applaud as she looked over this spectacle.
Sungchul took a step back to observe his handiwork before he headed to the storage made of planks. The storage was locked shut with rusted chains, but it came apart as easily as cobwebs when tugged by Sungchul.
“You look as though you’ve done this often?”
Bertelgia teased carefully. Sungchul nodded at this and responded.
“It’s one of my few hobbies.”
There were countless ingredients placed on display. Bertelgia looked like a fish in water as she flew about taking a look around the storage. Sungchul couldn’t figure out how a book that had no nose, eyes, or mouth could observe the ingredients. On completing her examination of the materials, she returned to his shoulder.
“The ingredients aren’t preserved well, probably due to neglect. But it should still be possible to synthesize the lowest grade alchemical solution with them. Take this, this, and that for now. Yes. And that too.”
Sungchul picked out everything Bertelgia recommended and smelled them.
Note: It is commonly seen along the roadside, but due to its stabilizing nature, it acts as a neutralizing agent to otherwise reactive ingredients.
‘They’re different ingredients from what I’ve dealt with before.’
There was a noticeable difference between being clueless and having a dabbling knowledge, especially in regards to generating interest in a subject; the latter carried a significant advantage over the former. His interest reignited with such vigor that Sungchul gathered some other ingredients to check their alchemic properties.
“It’s a good habit to smell as many ingredients as possible. Like a lion spares no effort when hunting a rabbit, a great alchemist would never overlook even the most common of ingredients!”
He managed to gather all the necessary ingredients during Bertelgia’s stream of encouragements and laid his jacket next to the cauldron placing the ingredients on top
‘Then, shall we begin?’
It was a rare moment of gentleness. Sungchul opened the textbook on his handcrafted book holder and chose an ingredient among those laid out before him.
“It is effective to remove the roots of the Blindman’s Grass before synthesis. There are some impurities contained within the roots that hinder the neutralizing effects of the plant.”
Bertelgia continued to advise him by his side. Sungchul followed her instructions and carefully removed the roots of the dried Blindman’s Grass, and proceeded with a similar preparation procedure for the other ingredients. For example, a dried ingredient called ‘Flower of Happiness’ needed to have its stamen and pistil removed, and only the dark caps of Shadow Mushrooms were considered as useful alchemical ingredients.
“You’re quite good at preparing ingredients! I thought you were only good at smashing things.”
Bertelgia, who had been observing Sungchul while floating by his side, threw out a rare compliment. While preparing the ingredients, Sungchul realized how preparation for cooking and alchemy seemed extremely similar. Good ingredients were needed for good results, and dedication to cooking began from the preparation of ingredients.
Considerable time was devoted to preparing the ingredients before they were tossed into the cauldron. He then vigorously stirred the contents with a scoop. Mana continuously leaked out with each stir, and the alchemic cauldron filled with a vibrant light.
A green liquid filled the alchemic cauldron. Sungchul filled an empty bottle with the green content and proceeded to examine it.
Type: Recovery Item
Note: It is effective when rubbed onto wounds.
A message popped up when Sungchul finished observing it.
[Congratulations! You have succeeded in your first synthesis as an Airfruit Alchemist student.]
Reward: Magic Power +1, Intuition +1
Sungchul’s eyes flashed when he saw this message.
“It raises magic power too? Not just intuition?”
“Of course. It takes magic power during synthesis. It isn’t as simple as just reading a book and understanding the theory.”
+1 Magic power and +1 intuition. It was an insignificant amount, but to Sungchul who had been thirsting for growth, it felt like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.
He immediately opened the next page and attempted the alchemical process within, and with Bertelgia’s assistance, he managed to complete it in no time. By the time the sun had reached its zenith, he had completed the volume and all of its assignments. It had only raised his magic power by five and his intuition by three, but Sungchul wasn’t discouraged. There was a mountain of resources to be found within the tent.
Sungchul again entered the tent and found another book before turning to leave. The students, who were finally preparing to start their lessons of the day, saw this unfamiliar man wearing military fatigues and couldn’t help but tilt their heads.
“Who is that guy?”
As all the students that were smoking marijuana had left, there was no one there to answer them. There was also no one to give it a second thought. While being ignored by the students and the professor of the school of Alchemy, Sungchul steadily plowed through the textbooks at a breakneck speed under the instruction and guidance of Bertelgia.
By the time the pothead students saw Sungchul again, they were shocked to see the book he held in his hands.
“W-what? He’s already looking at Advanced Alchemy?”
Their disbelief was to be expected. The shabbily dressed man had been looking at the introductory textbooks for children just a week ago. And they couldn’t help but be surprised that this same man was now referring to Advanced Alchemy after merely a week’s time that even they wouldn’t dare attempt to read.
“He’s probably just pretending.”
A student said, looking unimpressed as he breathed out a puff of white smoke. With his reassuring words, the other students all laughed along in agreement.
“That must be it. How could that guy be looking at books that even we can’t understand? Elementary Alchemy is decently easy, but even Intermediate Alchemy makes me shit blood when I try to read it.”
“Agreed. And beginning with the introductory level alchemy, knowledge of how to correctly use alchemical tools becomes necessary. How can anyone self-learn the proper use of the tools without an instructor?.”
Their professor, Basil Philrus, was still wasted on alcohol and lying naked in his room. More mindful students might have pitied Sungchul and taught him some basics, but no such students were left within the school of Alchemy. They could only conclude that this man was holding on to the Advanced Alchemy book for show. However, they had no way of knowing that the alchemic tools that had been gathered into a corner of the tent had disappeared and that Sungchul had a much better teacher than some random alchemist.
“Good. Good. Pour it like that before squeezing out the rest. Though not too roughly!”
Sungchul carefully turned the centrifuge’s handle under Bertelgia’s guidance. As he could snap off the handle by being careless, he adjusted his strength as he cranked it to the highest possible speed and then noticed the liquid separating into two layers inside of the centrifuge.
“Good! Now use a mesh to filter out the upper layer!”
Under her guidance, Sungchul managed to fill a bottle with a clear white liquid. One of the benefits of being an Alchemist was being able to know the rate of success beforehand.
He broke into a faint smile before taking a break. On the contrary to what the students believed, Sungchul had already comprehended Intermediate Alchemy and had taken a step into Advanced Alchemy.
His intuition and magic power each had risen over 50 within the week, and his only obstacle now was his lack of mana. He was synthesizing so frequently that he was running out of mana, which resulted in failed synthesis. However, this problem was easily solved by using the power of money. He began drinking expensive magic elixirs to restore his depleted magical power and continued with developing his alchemy.
Sungchul managed to grow beyond anyone’s expectation, but it still wasn’t enough to satisfy him. No, this was simply the beginning. Sungchul, whose magic power and intuition had exceeded 50, set his sights on the House of Recollection.