Chapter 1 - I Am an Apothecary!

2589 Words
“CARL!” Carl sat at the top of the mountain and ignored the clearly antagonistic shouts coming from the foot of the mountain. His eyes were slightly unfocused as he looked up at the sky. The sun had set and two moons hung high in the sky. “Carl! Are you deaf?” Several teenagers charged up the side of the mountain in no time. Their leader was a plump teen who looked around 16 or 17. His limbs were chubby, he had a spare tire around his waist, and his face bore close resemblance to a pig. Even his nose was slightly pink. The source of the shouting was the miller’s son, Parker, and all his little lackeys. The bullies surrounded the boy before their leader grabbed hold of Carl’s collar and yelled in his face, “You little bastard! I’ve been shouting for you all day! Why didn’t you answer me?” “He clearly did that on purpose.” “It’s one thing to ignore us, but how could he do that to you, Parker?” “I think it’s best that we teach him how to show other people some respect.” “Thrash him!” The boys continued to threaten the young boy, pushing him back and forth. Carl had a distant look in his eyes as he let them bully him in whatever way they liked. There was no way his skinny, younger body could put up any sort of resistance. Pak! Parker slapped him across the face. “I hate it when you look at me like that.” The other boys began taunting Carl, competing with one another to punch and kick the younger boy harder and harder each time. It did not take long for the boy to be bruised all over and for his lips to start bleeding. He collapsed weakly to the ground like a deflated balloon after enduring the bullying in complete silence. He did not fight back and did not even make a single sound throughout the whole ordeal. Parker concluded that bullying Carl was no longer as fun as it had used to be, so he turned to the rest of the boys and said, “Let’s go.” “The next time I call for you, you’d better come running over like a good doggie. I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” said Parker before giving Carl another kick and walking away. “Parker! Wait up!” The other boys ran after Parker and left with him. Carl’s body ached terribly. He remained on the ground for a long time before he finally climbed to his feet and hobbled down the mountain all by himself. The sky was dark, so the two moons shone brightly overhead. The red and green glow around them was mesmerizing yet strange. This town was a very small one with just a few dozen households. More accurately, this was a village that was within the jurisdiction of a count. Carl’s soul had transmigrated from Earth to this youth, and today was his third day in this new body. He had inherited all the memories from the body’s previous owner and knew that the world he had found himself in was not Earth at all. In fact, the previous owner of this body was also someone named Carl, and even more mysteriously, he looked exactly like Carl when the Earthling was his age. Taking those things into consideration, Carl decided that this place was a parallel universe of sorts. According to the memories he had inherited, the most powerful people in this town were the sheriff and the tax official. Their houses were situated in the center of the town and made from stone, so they looked much prettier and more modern than the houses made from mud and straw around them. Just next to these two houses were the houses of the miller and the apothecary, two professions that were seen as only one level below that of the sheriff and tax official. Carl’s father was the town’s one and only pharmacist. His house had more than five rooms, and that alone was considered a luxurious house in this little town. As far as Carl’s previous memories went, his father was an alcoholic, and he had no memories of his mother whatsoever. Once his father got drunk, he would punch and kick Carl. Even when his father was not drunk, he would treat his son more like a slave, ordering him to run all sorts of errands and do all kinds of menial work. Carl did not have any evidence to prove this, but he felt that the previous owner of this body was not the biological son of this man. Half a month ago, Carl’s awful father fell into the river while drunk and drowned. However, what really affected Carl was not that his father had passed on, but that the residents of the town had started treating him differently shortly after his father’s death. Parker, in particular, would always call on some of his lackeys to tease Carl, beat him up and make life difficult for the boy, seemingly just for fun. Carl would break down in tears and plead for mercy, but he never got any. When he asked the other residents for help, they either gave him the cold shoulder or they distanced themselves from him. After his home had been broken into and he had lost all his valuables, nobody wanted to help him even though he reported it to the sheriff’s office. He did not have any money left, so he could not buy any food. Nobody was willing to chip in to help, so he had no choice but to pick fruit to stave off hunger. Sometimes, he would find something to eat. Sometimes, he had to go hungry. In the end, in an unfortunate twist of fate, the boy ate a poisonous fruit and died. That was how Carl’s soul had been able to take over this body. After transmigrating into the new body, Carl was able to analyze the whole situation clearly, having access to all those memories. All of this happened to him because of this large house in the middle of the town. He was a boy who was all alone and did not have the protection of any adults, but had inherited this luxurious house by some stroke of luck. His situation was no better than a toddler walking through a busy street by himself with some money in hand. Someone could take the money easily and not face any consequences. It was obvious that Parker was bullying him so badly because the miller had instructed his son to do so. Never in their wildest dreams would the miller imagine that the Carl they were just bullying was no longer the same boy they had been tormenting before. Carl was no pushover. There was no way he would ever allow himself to be beaten like that without uttering a single word or fighting back. He just did it in a different way. He did not hold to many philosophies in life, but one thing he believed in was “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” During his time on 21st century Earth, he was a reticent but vicious fellow. He even had a domineering nickname: the Lethal Poisoner. Even though many things in this universe were different from Earth, medicines and drugs still worked the same way. He was sure that he would be able to carve his own path as an apothecary here, provided he did enough research into this world’s substances using the knowledge he already possessed. Over the past three days, he had collected all the materials he needed from the forest. The formula he was following was a nerve-numbing drug recorded inside an old and tattered notebook that had been very precious to his father. Carl walked into his father’s lab. Ceramic bottles, crucibles and vials of all shapes and sizes were placed in their own corners of the room, while a large cauldron hung in the middle. It gave off a faint but very unpleasant smell. He had only one word to describe these things: crude. Everything here was truly at the same standard as Earth in the Middle Ages. As far as his inherited memories went, this father of his was actually an apothecary who was not very well-versed in medicine and did not really seem to know what he was doing when patients came to see him. In conclusion, his father’s medical expertise was as good as none. It was so bad that Carl wondered if this man had ever been trying to save his patients or just wanted to kill them. Even so, this man was able to gain a footing in this little town since he was their only apothecary, and this status granted him a level of respect. Alas, the moment he passed away, many in the town were quick to distance themselves from his only surviving kin. Well, Carl certainly did not intend to take this lying down. He proceeded to light the fire beneath the cauldron. Each portion of herbs that he had carefully chosen and picked was skillfully mixed and placed inside the cauldron, all in correct order and specific proportions. The resulting brew in the cauldron slowly became thicker and thicker, bubbling wildly as it boiled and giving off a putrid smell. He put a wet towel over his nose and mouth, patiently waiting for the mixture to be ready. After a long time, the water had evaporated, and the fire had extinguished. The only thing left in the cauldron was a light blue powder. Carl frowned. The powder was not pure enough, so he was not too pleased with the result. He had hoped to use this powder in a spray. Given the circumstances, he had to make do with whatever he got. He carefully scraped the powder into a tiny bottle. Before he could put it away, he heard the sound of people clamoring outside his door. Doong! Doong! Bam! Bam! Someone was trying to knock his gate down. Carl stopped to listen and his lips curled into a smirk. “So,” he thought, “they’re finally here for me.” He meticulously hid the little bottle away, then took his time to walk outside. He was just in time to see the crowd slam through his gate. A heavyset man with large cheeks and a red nose stormed into the front yard with more than a dozen others. “Carl! Look what you’ve done!” the man roared furiously when he spotted Carl. He raised his fat palm with fingers as thick as carrots and brought it down toward Carl’s cheek. Swoosh! Carl saw that slap coming and dodged it. The man was caught by surprise and became even angrier from failing to slap his target. “Carl! I know it was you! You must have been the one who did this to Parker!” “Mr. Bob, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Carl with an innocent look on his face. “Let go of my hands… Untie me…It’s so itchy, so itchy… This is killing me… Let go of me… Please, please let me scratch it, please…” The crowd parted to reveal Parker. He looked terrible. His hands were tied together and his face and neck were covered with red sores as well as deep cuts from repeated scratching. He was almost unrecognizable. A sinister look flashed in Carl’s eyes. Indeed, this was his doing. When he was walking around the forest the day before, he had found a poisonous mushroom. He let the mushroom dry in the sun, ground it into powder and sprinkled some spider urine on it. This simple combination was a poison, albeit of primitive sort. So, when Parker had wanted to beat him up earlier, he had secretly thrown some powder on the bully. As time passed, the powder would be mixed in with Parker’s perspiration and seep into his skin. This resulted in itchy sores that made Parker scratch himself so much that he ended up like this. “Parker, my poor, poor Parker!” wailed Bob miserably. He really wanted to hug his son, but he was afraid of this strange rash, so he just howled loudly from a safe distance. “Wasn’t he alright in the morning? How did he suddenly come down with this strange illness?” “May the heavens bless his soul.” “Do you think it’s contagious?” “Shush, not so loud! And don’t stand so close to the boy.” Several people in the crowd began whispering among themselves. They had no idea what was wrong with Parker, so they were feeling fearful and anxious. Bob had overheard some of them, so he shouted angrily at them, “Parker’s not ill! Someone caused him to become like this! It’s Carl! Carl’s the one who caused this!” “He’s right.” “That’s exactly what happened.” “I witnessed Carl do it…” The crowd chimed in agreement, but they didn’t actually believe this was really the case. Most of them believed that Bob was just exploiting the situation to frame the boy he hated so much. The man did not want to elaborate further, so he raised an arm to gather the crowd and said with a vicious look on his face, “Get the boy! If he can save Parker, then I’ll spare his life. But if he can’t… I’m going to send him to the gallows for conspiring to kill my son!” A number of burly men immediately rose up from the crowd. Carl put a hand into his pocket and gripped the little bottle inside tightly. The atmosphere was incredibly tense. All of a sudden, they heard the distinct sound of a horse galloping toward them in a great hurry. Before anybody could figure out why there was a horse running at them, a shadow suddenly appeared before their eyes. A strong wind accompanied the galloping horse and it neighed loudly as an armored knight pulled its reins to make the horse stop. The knight stared down at the crowd around him and asked in an authoritative but anxious voice, “Where does the town apothecary live?” Nobody dared to say anything as the mob exchanged nervous glances with one another. Bob was the only one who knew a little more about the world than the rest, so he plucked up the courage to answer in a trembling voice, “M-my lord, the town apothecary died half a month ago.” “What?” The knight sounded disappointed and a little angry. His horse seemed to sense its owner’s foul mood and raised its front legs. The knight pulled on the reins and drew his sword to vent his frustrations. The sword sliced through the air with an ear-piercing howl, sending a shapeless wave of light that glowed like the moon toward a pillar that was as thick as a vat. Bam! The pillar broke and the roof looked like it was going to collapse any moment. The crowd panicked and quickly moved away. Doong! A hardened piece of mud landed on Carl’s head. Carl got a shock and his soul was trembling, but he yelled out immediately, “I am an apothecary!”
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