Alchemy maintained an entangled place in the cultivation world bringing with it a mess of emotions from grudging respect to disdain, from greed to bitterness. Alchemy was like the questionable white lotus in amongst a sea of mighty forces; always needing support, couldn't be let alone, yet treated like a treasure that those forces couldn't sully, no matter how they wished to. It was a fact that Cultivators wanted and occasionally needed, the benefits that Alchemy brought to them. It was just that the Alchemists themselves were often so weak.
The other group to be considered a 'support' occupation in the Cultivation World were Scholars, but their reputations weren't nearly as mixed as that of Alchemists. This lie in the fact that Scholars could not be ring fenced as a completely non-combative class. From Scholars rose exorcists, for example. There were also those who focused their studies completely on, say, the sword; cataloguing it's variations, it's arts, studying the way that it is made, how to redesign or improve it, what crystals might work in conjunction with it and so on. A Swordmaster Scholar might appear weaker than a Martial Artist focused upon the same weapon, but the mind of a Swordmaster Scholar might be indefinitely more frightening.
And thus, it was Alchemy alone that maintained the awkward position amongst the varying schools of cultivation.
To that end, purely Alchemic families raised subordinate families or had alliances with Martial Artists or Beast Tamers to protect them using money and pills to maintain relations. Sects raised their own Alchemists and providing the necessities to them while claiming the bulk of the pills to raise their Mages, Martial Artists and other Cultivators. Lone Alchemists were far rarer, but not unheard of and usually had their own forces to protect them or help them seek herbs and things they required, but also, these men and women were Masters above Masters whose ability was so brilliant that they had gained this option.
These people held some respect within their households, sects or thanks to that lofty position, but just like an idol who would have both fans and haters, Alchemists would never be universally liked, especially in a world where strength was placed above all else. Alchemists, in general, were weak. Becoming a top Alchemist and gaining the unmovable position of one was such a distant, nearly unthinkable goal that the majority of Alchemists could only stare at the Heavens in lament. Many gave up, switched to becoming a Martial Artist or otherwise in order to become stronger faster... in truth, they would likely never become more than average in these fields also.
So why would one become an Alchemist? Perhaps it was the only option available to them, perhaps it was in their blood, perhaps it was fate. But it still remained true that the world of Cultivation would be at a loss without them.
As the most looked down on, therefore, when the opportunity arose, Alchemists would gather without hostilities to chat, complain and occasionally exchange tips.
At this moment, Teacher Sagi, along with Teacher Vine from the Inner School, was entertaining four Alchemy Teachers from the four visiting schools. Greetings had already been exchanged as well as compliments for the extensive range of herbs in Teacher Sagi's garden alone, not to mention the fields of the outer school. The Teacher from the Savage Red Sands Force lamented how pitifully small his own growing space was (though it was a stunning an oasis in their desert territory) and how poor a quality the herbs he had on hand were. The Teacher from the Tower's of Wisdom school agreed softly, jokingly adding that despite this, wasn't the demand for pills still high and complaints that the Alchemists were not fast enough to fulfil quotas?
Even the Teachers from the Azure Height's Finishing School and the Qilin First Academy couldn't deny her words, despite the former having a plentiful pool of Alchemists compared to other schools and the latter having access to many high quality and expensive herbs. All six Teachers sighed and chortled, smiles exchanged as the common ground uniting them was formed, despite all having very different backgrounds and circumstances.
"Have any Teachers here managed to pick up good seedlings this year?" The dark, sun-marked Teacher of the desert asked openly.
As expected there was a mixed response. "One or two," the cold and elegant female Alchemist of the Finishing School responded, though there was a slight frown upon her face as if these girls were still somewhat unsatisfactory.
"Actually, a talented youth did appear," the softly spoken Alchemist of the Mage Towers mentioned. "He's quite good."
Xiang Lim's expression was probably as grim as the man who posed the question.
The Savage Red Sands School was a militant School said to sharpen the already brutally tough edges of the people that dwelled in the South of Eastern Xulaphrey. They produced an array of tough, ferocious Martial Artists and fearless Beast Tamers from commoners and nobles who were already entrenched in the ways of warfare. With such a pool of warriors to source from, the resulting catches for an Alchemist tended to be on the thin side; a weak runt with mediocre roots on a good day, a lazy trash with no talent on most others.
Xiang Lim's Qilin Academy could be deemed not much better, just instead of the weak runts, they received the third sons' or fifth daughters' from noble side branches, who were expected to support the main family's heir who happened to be studying in one of the other schools of knowledge. Not that there wasn't a speck of jade to be discovered, yet on these rare occasions, more often than not, the child was whisked away, adopted by the main branch then could chose any path to study that they wished. It was seldom Alchemy. As for the policy of only teaching Nobles, while Xiang Lim had always agreed to it in principal, even he could not deny that it was truly restricting his ability to pass on the knowledge of his arts.
Xiang Lim had always loved the Alchemic Arts, had always poured his very being into making this disliked path something to be revered as much as any other. Thus it brought him no end of frustration when his good seeds vanished one by one, faltering after setbacks caused them to be scolded by their relations or even withdrawn from School as they were deemed 'no longer worth investing in'.
Perhaps they could see the difficulties he faced due to the frustration within his eyes, but no one pressed him; they all had different circumstances to face. In this respect, the Institute could consider itself quite well off. Although their Alchemy schools were less popular than the other schools within their folds, they had enjoyed raising several excellent students over these several hundred years. But then, they cast their nets wider, would take in any students with talent, even the so called 'trash' were not cast aside. If only ten percent of those students chose to enter the alchemy school, if only one in twenty of those had some potential, that was often still better than the students other Alchemists might be blessed to develop.
Of course the downside of wide nets were that the resources would be stretched thinner and potentially the most excellent might not get the full resources to see them truly soar, but somehow, the Institute managed to make it work. Xiang Lim might not be happy to acknowledge this point, being more in favour of the Academy's policy, but he also couldn't deny it.
"Teacher Sagi," a student interrupted their conversation, wringing his slender hands a bit nervously he approached. The youth bowed respectfully as all six Teachers glanced around at him.
"Juta, is something the matter?" Teacher Sagi called the student by his name, knowing that the youth had taken upon the tough task of weeding the fields. Those weeds having enjoyed the spiritual concentration within the fields were no longer like those causing issues in a farmer's landscape. They were tougher, more wilful and not willing to give up the blessed resources that were meant for the herbs. But they needed to be removed or the herbs around them would suffer and their quality reduce.
"There's a student from the Martial Arts school..." Juta explained, pointing towards the Herb Hall in the dimensional distance. "He says his small alchemist was attacked by outsiders and wanted to know whether Teacher wished to deal with them." He scratched his face sheepishly as he added that person's almost careless, final words; "Or else, he would expend the effort to... toss them over the nearest cliff, dealing with them that way."