All his life he had looked for it. And why wouldn't he?
It was the ultimate goal of every alchemist!
He could still remember when he had been a young boy, overhearing two old men talking about it.
Later he had learned that they were alchemists. But it had not mattered at the time. All that had mattered was an impossible dream: Eternal life.
His young mind had not been able to grasp the idea of eternity, let alone living this long. Even now, decades later, he did not fully comprehend it.
As soon as he had become old enough, he had begun studying. There had been very little space for anything else, including housekeeping. When he had gotten trapped under a landslide of his research notes, he had decided to get someone who could assist him in that regard.
After a string of maids, butlers, assistants and whatnot, he had finally settled for a girl that always knew what to put away and what not, when to force him to eat and when to simply prepare something he could eat later when his stomach would finally overrule his brain. When his head was in the clouds, she grounded him without tying him down.
She also knew how to ease some of his... frustrations. This had brought them into circumstances that, society being as it was, had forced them to tie their lives together. It had not bothered him much, since it hardly influenced their daily life and she was very good at dealing with children and keeping them out of danger, as well as his hair.
Over the years, he had learned to appreciate his growing family more. Still his wife teased him about his early attempts of acting the part of a father.
The years had gone by, his first child had finally grasped the idea that he was „Papa“ and not some stranger living in the same house, but there had been little success in his alchemical work towards immortal life. This did not mean, however, that his research had not yielded any results. Some of the things he had discovered... they were revolutionary.
He himself had not seen it that way. At first he had not wanted to publish his findings. After all, they were not what he had set as his goal. Leave it to his wife to talk some sense into him. She had freely admitted not to understand any of his work but had still learned enough to get a general idea of what he was working on. After all, she would have to plan her schedule around it.
So every time she would find something valuable in his dismissed notes, she would convince him to properly summarise and publish it or, later on, give it to an apprentice to do that for him.
Over the decades, hundreds of discoveries accumulated under his name.
Te success had brought fame, which had brought admirers, which had brought potential apprentices. Swarms of them.
To thin them out, they had all gotten some of his notes to decipher. Most of them would give up at that point.
But not everyone had. He had worked with each of them to find out with whom he could work best and finally settled for a young man who was unobtrusive but had some good ideas on his own.
This apprentice grew into a fine assistant and later colleague, as well as close friend.
He had, however not been the only one to settle for one of the young men that would frequent his house, which he had failed to realise untill one of the former candidates had come on his employer's request and asked if he had two apprentices. This had caused some mild confusion that had been cleared when his wife had explained that one of the prospective young alchemists had gotten along very well with their eldest daughter while working under him and had visited her regularly ever since. Apearently, he had always made sure to greet his old master on those occasions, as his assistant would confirm.
Ever since, his family made sure that he actually knew who the guests in their house were.
But that had been then. Now it was now. And now he was old. Now he was dying.
Colleagues had come and gone. His friends and family had rarely left his side in the last few days and had made sure he was never alone. To help him if he needed anything, they would say. To tell everyone when it was over, was unsaid.
A coughing fit overcame him and one of his grandchildren jumped up from the chair besides his bed to help him.
He would not live forever. He would not be immortal. It was all a dream. An impossible dream. A dream he had dreamt up as a child, when he had been so full of live and...
He stopped casting his mind back. It was useless. What happened in the past could not be undone. But... was there anything he would want to undo? He tried to search his mind for any regrets but found none. Sure, there were some things he rather not have anyone remember but when he did recall them, they did not seem as bad as they had first seemed.
Mulling over this, he took a deep breath. Thought back on his life and what it had given him.
He had a loving family, and a rather extensive one at that. He had a lot of achievements to his name, that were already the foundation for a lot of branches of research and he had students that would carry his legacy on.
He thought back to great men of the past, founders of nations, their descendants kings, the great philosophers that had shaped the way people lived generations after their deaths, inventors whose creations were still used every day, all of them immortalised in the annals of history.
He chuckled slightly. He had set out to find the secrets of immortality, never to reach it. But in a roundabout way, he had. He felt like he had finally discovered the punchline to a joke that was about him. It was a rather nice one.
With a small smile on his lips he closed his eyes.
Content, he drew his final breath.