Sungchul discovered familiar faces gathered behind the worn-down ingredient storage house. It was the Professor of Alchemy, Basil Philrus, and his students. Around this time, they would usually be sleeping or smoking pot, but they were gathered in the empty plot with lost faces as though they had lost their homes. Sungchul approached them.
“What happened here?”
No one answered. They only sighed with their heads down towards the floor. Sungchul asked once again, directing his question towards Basil this time, hoping to get an actual answer.
“What in the world happened here?”
The man who would be sleeping in the nude wore proper attire this time around. He looked up at Sungchul with a dejected expression on his face and spoke bitterly.
“Our school received a notice to disband.”
The complete story was this: The School of Alchemy, at some point in time, turned into a form of garbage dump of students that had been rejected by the other schools within Airfruit. The quality of students and the quality of the educator reflected this fact. Sungchul was fully aware of this. As the academy continued to fall into ruin, there was a movement to remove the useless schools. The School of Alchemy rapidly declined and couldn’t show any results as the final person with any form of renown, Philrus’s predecessor, had died. In the end, the School of Alchemy was forced out into the tents and had simply been waiting for the day they would be kicked out and be forced to disband. Sungchul had arrived just before that fated moment.
“Professor, we aren’t truly disbanded yet.”
A female student with thick dark bags under her eyes looked at her teacher and spoke with a sad voice.
“That’s true. It isn’t final yet, but that will only remain true for the week!”
Basil began pulling at his hair dejectedly while hanging his head down.
“What will happen if the decision for disbandment finalizes?”
“I’ll be kicked out, for one, and my students that can’t find another Guidance Counselor will meet the same fate.”
“We’ll get kicked out too. Only kids that have been rejected are gathered here.”
The female student with bags under her eyes spoke frankly, and Basil scratched his head in agreement.
“As long as something short of a miracle doesn’t occur.”
Sungchul’s eyes lit up at those words.
“So, there is a way.”
He could resolve their financial problems if nothing else, but the ‘solution’ that Basil spoke of was unexpected.
“It’s in regards to what the Emergency Management Committee talked about…They said they would disregard the disbandment if our School of Alchemy manages to produce some satisfactory final result.”
It didn’t look easy.
Reluctantly, Basil continued speaking.
“That’s right. They require an alchemic item that is of the fifth-level, minimum. Embarrassingly…there isn’t anyone among us who is capable of such a feat.”
It was at that exact moment when Sungchul’s breast pocket began to thrash about violently. Bertelgia vigorously vibrated her body like a cell phone on vibrate. She wanted to speak.
Sungchul excused himself before moving to a quiet location when Bertelgia shot out of his pocket, as though she had been waiting for this moment, and blurted out words that had been held back for so long.
“What? They can’t make a measly fifth-level item? Phew, what kind of idiots are they?”
Bertelgia was fuming.
Alchemic items synthesized through an Alchemic Cauldron had a different level system from other items. The Alchemic items were given levels categorized from one through nine with one being the lowest and nine being the highest. However, the highest grade Alchemic item ever synthesized by humans was known to be of level seven, but no Alchemist existed today who could produce that. Along that line of thinking, it might appear as though level five was a mid-grade alchemic item, but in reality, its relative difficulty was quite high. The Emergency Management Committee didn’t commission the School of Alchemy to produce a fifth-level item for just any reason.
“Sigh…Pathetic. Truly pathetic. How could a big-name school like this not have an Alchemy Professor that could synthesize a fifth-level item? This is ridiculous.”
Bertelgia appeared to be upset for some reason. Sungchul only looked upon the situation with amusement.
“So, do you have some method to solve this?”
“Of course. I am a codex of alchemic knowledge. I would obviously have level five items recorded in me!”
Bertelgia flipped through some pages with various alchemic items’ recipes as if to prove her statement, but he couldn’t understand any of it. As he had grown more adept with Magic tomes he understood that he lacked the necessary Intuition to understand, so he shook his head.
“Unfortunately, I can’t understand any of your pages.”
“Ah. How high is your Intuition? Just over 100, right?”
“Mmm…It’ll be hard to decipher for you, then. In that case, I’ll tell you the recipe directly. Although…I’m not supposed to, as the guide of the Creationist!”
“Ah. There was such a thing as a Creationist, wasn’t there?”
He had put it out of his mind after completing Eckheart’s quest.
“What? Have…have you forgotten about it? Forgotten that you’re walking on the path of the Creationist?!”
Bertelgia dropped out of the sky, seemingly from trauma, then popped back up before she hit the ground. She rose to Sungchul’s eye level and flapped her pages.
“Isn’t it enough that I remembered now?”
“Really…how can anyone be so rude! Whatever! Doesn’t matter! Whether you walk the path of the Creationist or not, I have no obligation to force you as a guide.”
Bertelgia looked peeved, but she did her job as expected of her.
“Anyways, I’ll list some fifth-level items that I know of which seems possible for you to make. Pick one that seems right for you.”
Bertelgia listed names of some alchemic items. Candlestick of Twilight. Rainbow Ingot. Buoyant Crystal. Alchemic Bomb (Dark), Medicine of Elfir. There was a total of five Alchemic items. Even the almighty Sungchul had only heard of the Buoyant Crystal.
“What’s the easiest among these?”
“Well, they’re all pretty tough, honestly. You’re going to have to prepare yourself for a lot of failures. I only recommended these because their ingredients are easily accessible.“
As Bertelgia had said, fifth-level alchemic items weren’t so readily synthesized. The gathering of ingredients could be overcome through the power of money, but each item also required a distinct high-level Alchemic technique. For example, the characteristic of the Candlestick of Twilight required a unique crafting method from the Alchemist, the Rainbow Ingot required a deep knowledge of heat, and Alchemic Bomb (Dark) required dexterous handwork, along with proficient experience with weight scales. The rest of the items had similar problems. Each required a unique skill.
“Which will you make?”
Sungchul thought on it for a while before choosing the Alchemic Bomb (Dark) in reply. He thought it would be easier to ‘appeal’ to the upper echelon through force.
“All right! Then let’s go tell those fools! We will make the item, but the idiots will have to request the procedures for an assessment!”
He listened to Bertelgia this time. Basil Philrus was still shocked and was making a pathetic face along with his pupils.
Sungchul revealed his plans with a firm voice to those waiting in front of the tent.
“I seek to make a fifth-level alchemic item. It’ll take about a week. I only ask that you put in the request for judgement to the Emergency Management Committee.“
“What? You are going to make a fifth-level alchemic item?”
Basil, who seemed to lack the will to hold himself together, suddenly perked up at the news.
“That’s right. I want to give it a go.”
“It hasn’t even been a month since you entered the School of Alchemy. Third-level…no…have you tried making 2nd level items yet? At the very least, I don’t remember telling you about such an item.”
“A knowledgeable person I know is quite the Alchemist. I am receiving personal tutelage from that person.”
Basil looked as though he thoroughly disapproved of the plan, but still nodded reluctantly.
“I understand. Leave the request to me, but remember this, the judges that will be sent from the Emergency Committee will be the Professors of Pyromancy and Cryomancy. Playing a prank with those people will be very dangerous.”
Basil made it clear that he would make the request, but the name on the request would be of Sungchul’s. It meant he would take no responsibility for this incident.
Sungchul simply nodded.
“It doesn’t matter.”
He then headed on the path towards the city center of Golden City with Bertelgia and sought a store for Alchemic ingredients.
“Give me everything.”
Sungchul not only took the ingredients for the Alchemic Bomb (Dark) but the ingredients for the remaining four items as well. It was just in case the production of Alchemic Bomb did not turn out as expected. He had to expend a small fortune, but he had plenty left.
He bought out all other viable ingredients at the store before heading back to the school. The Alchemy students lounging beside the storage were already popping off their wine bottles during midday. There was also a thick musk of marijuana present in the air. Basil, who should have been leading these students, was laughing and enjoying himself among them.
Sungchul overheard their conversations despite his lack of interest; they were mostly lowbrow humor regarding sex. He went to the farthest possible location with the cauldron from them. Then, he pulled out a table that had been stored, laid a tablecloth on top, then arranged the various, purchased Alchemic ingredients and the required tools.
“Shall we begin, then?”
Bertelgia spoke confidently from his breast pocket.
“Right. What do I have to do first?”
“You should prune the Porous seeds from the Firecracker Tree first.”
Sungchul picked up the seed covered with thick hair among the ingredients on the table. It was about the size of a peach seed, and it felt rough. He held the seed to his nose and smelled it. It generally had the distinct vegetative aroma, but there was also a smoky smell of gunpowder underneath.
[Porous seed of Firecracker Tree]
Effect: Explosion upon impact or contact with flame
Note: Seed of the Firecracker Tree originating from the Great Meadow of East. Once the seed ripens, it grows more explosive until it self-detonates. This spreads the spores over long distances.
A single one of these seeds required twenty silver coins. The price was small potatoes to Sungchul, but it was enough to match a month’s wage for an Airfruit Academy staff.
“Delicately grab the seed’s shell and mark the exterior with the knife, then we need to extract the explosive extract contained inside.”
Sungchul quickly began his work.
“Careful. It could explode. This guy is dangerous enough to take a finger with a single slip.”
Bertelgia warned him to be careful, but the knife work of the master chef, Sungchul, was relentless. He smoothly handled the seed despite his inexperience with this foreign ingredient and extracted the thick red grains contained within.
‘He’s good. This guy.’
Bertelgia was slightly touched. She had felt it before, but the way Sungchul handled the ingredients was not normal. The porous seed of the Firecracker Tree was difficult even for properly educated Alchemists to handle.
“Uh…we just use the mortar to turn it into powder, but it’s easier if you prepare five seeds worth of extracts at a time before powderizing it.”
Sungchul immediately moved onto the next step. He handled the seeds with extreme precision and placed five seeds worth of extract within the mortar.
“Should I powderize it now?”
“No! You can’t JUST powderize it. You need to make and add a counteragent beforehand.”
“A counteragent…you mean the thing we made with the Blindman’s Grass?”
Bertelgia shook once forcefully within his breast pocket, and he immediately reached for the Blindman’s Grass. Bertelgia stared carefully at his fingertips at this moment.
‘I definitely told him to prepare the ingredients before adding them. Should I watch and see if he does it properly this time?’
Sungchul was lighting a fire under the Alchemic cauldron and pouring the distilled water. It was common sense up to this point. What was important laid after.
He once again grabbed the Blindman’s Grass that he had picked out and looked at it carefully until he eventually began the process of pruning the roots and the dried ends of the grass.
‘Gasp! He’s actually doing it right! This person!’
It was all beyond her expectations.
The plot’s going to thicken real good come next chapter:) Can’t wait to read your thoughts then^^