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“As I add each of the ingredients,” he said, “I will infuse them with the appropriate and prescribed elemental Qi. Ginger infused with wood.” Green light blossomed around the spoon as he poured it into the cauldron. “Now I enhance the feather from an eagle with water.” An azure nimbus surrounded the feather as he added it to the smoking cauldron. “Finally, a single shard of jindan, mined from the mountains in the Hawk Clan’s range.” He held up a crimson rock shard with metal tongs. “As I drop this last ingredient in, I weave a flow with Fire.”

He released the chip and let it fall into the cauldron. At the same time, Xan saw a red band surround the cauldron. This wasn't too dissimilar from the cooking efforts, Xan thought.

They all waited a few moments. Instructor Fin grinned impishly, then held up his right hand, fingers angled down and over the little pot. “Le do thoil oibre an uair seo!” he intoned as solemnly as he could, a grin threatening to take over his face. He wiggled his fingers and ‘Bam!’, the noise rocked the room showing the downfall of the acoustics with a loud noise. Too late, the students clapped their hands over their ears. Glowing crimson smoke rose out of the bowl and the smell of burnt rotten cinnamon eggs rolled through the area. The whole kettle glowed with a brilliant red that pulsated for a few moments. Xan thought it almost pulsed in time with the beat of his heart.

Instructor Fin reached back into the crate and pulled out an earthenware mug. He set it on the table. Then he picked up a pair of circular tongs that formed perfectly to the cauldron and poured the glowing contents into the mug. It flowed out with the slow consistency of thick porridge, red glowing streaks looked like veins in the almost liquid.

“Who would like to try it?” Fin asked the students, one eyebrow playfully quirked. “No one?” The silence was deafening, broken only by the occasional pop from the concoction in the cup. He smiled and pointed at Xan. “How about you?”

Xan looked side-to-side “Me?” he squeaked. When Instructor Fin nodded yes, Xan sighed, resigned to his fate. He stood up and made his way up to the front. He could hear Jin and his cronies laughing at him as he passed them.

Instructor Fin gave him an evil grin as he came up and slid the smoking mug over to him. “Bottom’s up,” he said, then winked at Xan.

Xan narrowed his eyes at this prankster, lifted the cup and drained it in one long pull. It was surprisingly sweet, like grandma’s honey-buns. He set the mug down, swallowed and waited as the sludge crawled its way down to his stomach where is exploded like a bomb. Xan felt tendrils of energy running down his arms, legs, and up to the top of his head. His skin felt like he was covered in ants. The students gasped collectively, and Xan turned to look at them. Stunned disbelief painted just about every face.

“What?” he asked when he saw their expressions. Xan glanced at Instructor Fin, who’s face split with a massive grin.

“They can’t see you.” Fin whispered conspiratorially, from the side of his mouth.

Xan glanced at his body. It seemed translucent, though certainly not invisible. Still, it looked like all the substance of his form had washed away. He felt his arms and chest. They felt solid enough. He moved across the front of the class and no-one’s eyes tracked with him. Everyone was focused on where he had been a moment ago. He drifted over to the funny boys and touched San Shun on the tip of his nose.

San Shun cried out in alarm, flailing his arms about, but Xan had already moved on. He padded over to Sue and tickled her right ear. Then lightly punched Cho in the arm. He glanced up and Instructor Fin was looking right at him, seeming to be the only one who could see him. Xan moved back to the front of the amphitheater. Standing next to the table, he asked Fin “How long will this last?”

Instructor Fin smiled at him. “Forever,” he replied with impish glee.

“What?” Xan barked with horror.

Fin cackled with laughter that seemed out of sorts with one so young. It was the same laugh Xan’s grandfather had when he played practical jokes on Xan as a boy.

“I’m kidding. You are already coming back to being visible.” Fin wiped a tear from his eye. “Thank you, young master. You can go sit back down.”

As Xan faded back into view, the students nervously clapped in appreciation for the magic they had seen.

“That is a good example of Alchemy.” Fin captured their attention again. “Different ingredients and forms of Qi can produce better results, including a longer duration for the effect. During this session you will learn materials and how to combine them with elements and how it reacts as you burn them with elemental fire.”

The class murmured in appreciation.

“Done well, Alchemy can increase your ability with elements, help you access powers and even give you abilities like young Xan there.” Instructor Fin said, clapping Xan on the shoulder. Then, however, his face turned deadly serious. “There are some things you cannot do with alchemy and we will go into greater detail on that but, first and foremost is that you cannot bring back the dead, so don’t try.” He seemed to shudder at the thought.

“There are recipes here at the workshop”—he pointed at a book shelf packed with colored tomes—“and also books in the library. I would like you to pick out a Tier One recipe for the session and make that for your project.” He straightened up and adjusted his apron. “Any questions?” He was met with silence from the students. “Alright. Go put your gear away. You are dismissed.” The scrape of benches and students chatting as they left played havoc with the acoustics.

Once it settled down, Cho leaned over to Xan. “What was it like? Being invisible?”

Sue’s eyes shone bright with interest. Xan blushed under the intense attention.

Xan coughed and cleared his throat. “It was like being tickled with a thousand fingers,” he tried to explain.

“As opposed to being tickled with one?” Sue poked him in the ribs. Xan oofed. Then, he smiled at her, rubbing the spot in his side just as Cho punched him in the arm.

“Well, at least he didn’t hit you,” Cho said to Sue.

The trio headed out of the Alchemy area. Even though everyone seemed to know about Alchemy, Xan was excited with the myriad of possibilities. He thought this cycle’s crafting could be useful indeed.

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About the author

MarkStallings

Bio: I’ve been in Colorado since I was a young teenager. I live in the foothills of Pikes Peak with my wife, two children and various dogs and cats. I have a crazy technology background having founded several tech companies centering around human machine interfaces before I discovered a passion for writing.

When I’m not slinging the ink and trying to get paid to fabricate tales that entertain, I like to shoot competitively, drink craft beer, ride motorcycles and play games with friends.

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