The morning after visiting the wall, Solus woke up and she wanted to die. But, since she was young, she was able to get over that before breakfast.
Now that she couldn’t direct her anger at what she had seen, her frustration about her lacking talents and her sadness from Mary’s cruel actions inwards anymore.
Those feelings had only one place to go. Outwards.
However, since she couldn’t hit Mary, what with her being an old woman and far too powerful, Solus didn’t know what to do.
Perhaps there was a way to resolve her feelings that didn’t involve physical violence but so far, she hadn’t found it.
All morning, she felt her frustration building up inside her like a grenade packed to the brim with explosives and finally, right after breakfast, she pulled the pin.
“I want to start cultivating. Now!” Solus shouted.
Mary raised her head from the cup of tea she had been staring aimlessly into and nodded.
Solus coughed but Mary made no move to explain what came next. She just continued to stare lifelessly at the cup of tea that had long grown cold.
“Ugh, Fine. I’ll just figure it out myself. Hope I don’t die or anything,” Solus declared with extreme melodrama, while she strode out of the room.
She racked her brain but, in the end, wasn’t sure what to do.
The problem with cultivation was that you couldn’t just pick it up casually as a hobby out of the blue.
Not only did you need to be eligible to join i.e. Have a decent constitution. You also needed someone to show you the ropes.
And that last part cannot be stressed enough. Without guidance, cultivating is like swimming in the dark, in an ocean, on the moon. You have no chance of ending up where you wanted to go.
‘But Mary is acting strange so who can I get to show me… Aha, I know, I'll use those green men,’ Solus cheered internally when she figured out her plan.
She would go to the plateau and learn something from the projections there.
The first, and major obstacle that lay between her and the Plateau was the door. She couldn’t open it.
‘That’s not a problem, I’ll just use a window,’ Solus decided.
First, she scampered around the bottom floor of the house, only to find that all the windows were locked and unopenable.
This was a major setback, but her plan wasn’t over yet. She climbed the winding staircase at the rear of the hall and stepped onto the floor she rarely visited.
The second floor was sparsely decorated and had little in it that could entertain or catch her attention, so Solus seldom came up here.
However, she remembered coming to hide up here when Mary tried to teach her about the so-called ‘Birds and the Bees’ last year.
When she was hiding, Solus had hidden behind piles of boxes in the storage room, and she had noticed that the storage room had a skylight.
‘If I stack up the boxes, I may just be able to squeeze out of the skylight,’ Solus postured, making up her mind to try it at least once.
The door to the storage room opened without a sound. Not only was the door quiet, but everything in this house was. The floorboards didn’t creak and hinges didn’t squeak, but that is to be expected when you consider that this house is made out of some extremely rare and precious materials.
The windows for example are made from volcanic glass that could stop mortar shells without cracking. The wood that makes up the walls and floorboards is spiritual wood from trees that have existed for thousands of years, absorbing vast quantities of Qi.
Solus tiptoed into the storage room and had to tilt her head all the way back to get a proper look at the skylight.
‘Perfect!’ she cheered to herself and began stacking the boxes full of unusual trinkets and ancient scrolls.
One by one, the boxes were arranged into a makeshift staircase that would give a safety inspector a heart attack.
Solus clambered up the staircase, clasping an ornamental sword in one hand. She jammed the tip of the sword in the window’s seam and yanked down on the hilt, causing the windows to spring open.
As the window snapped open, Solus lost her balance and fell backwards, causing the piled-up boxes to collapse as she fell into the midst of them.
She held her breath and waited quietly for Mary to hear the sound and come up to shout at her. However, after waiting for a couple of minutes, the old woman never came.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Solus restacked the boxes and climbed them, jumping out onto the roof of the house.
She stretched her hands out wide and walked along the edge of the roof like an acrobat might cross a tightrope.
Right then, she looked down and saw the ground far beneath her. How was she going to get down? Wasn’t this just like yesterday, on the wall?
Suddenly, Solus didn’t feel comfortable or daring while she stood on the roof, only deeply insecure. All it would take was one gust of wind and she would tumble off to her death.
Solus slowly sat down at the edge of the roof and gripped the pitch-black tiles so tightly that her knuckles went white.
The longer she looked down, the further away the ground seemed to get. She wanted to turn back and go back in through the skylight, but every time she tried to stand up, her knees would shake and tremble violently, forcing her to sit back down again.
At the edge of the roof, the little girl curled up into a ball, hugging her knees and trying her best not to cry.
She was just wondering if she should start calling for help when she suddenly felt a big warm hand grab her and whisk her off the roof.
Everything seemed to drop away from Solus and suddenly, she was airborne. Plucked from the roof like fruit from a tree.
“Mary?” Solus asked in a small voice, caught between reielf and anxiety.
A soft chuckle came from above Solus, “Do I look like Mary?” Came the reply.
Before Solus could look up to see who was carrying her, her feet touched the ground and she was once again, safe.
Immediately, she turned to see who had saved her and was shocked to find that she recognised him. In front of her was a thin, bespectacled man who she had definitely seen before. He had short blonde hair that was slicked to the side and a narrow, bookish face.
As Solus tried to think back to where she had seen this man before. The man began to talk, clearing up any doubts that she had.
“You look much better than you did during the evaluation,” he said with a smile.
“I… you, you were there?” Solus stuttered.
“Yes, I went with my daughter, the blonde girl. Didn’t Mary tell you what we had arranged?” The thin man asked in confusion.
“No… she has been kind of weird lately,” Solus murmured.
The thin man frowned, “Is that why you were on the roof? Were you trying to get her attention or something?” He asked suspiciously.
Solus looked down at her feet in embarrassment, “No, I was trying to get out of the house so I could go practice some cultivation. But the doors are too heavy for me to open so…” She trailed off while looking up at the skylight.
The thin man laughed at this, and his expression eased greatly, “That’s perfect then, since Mary had arranged for you to train with my daughter today anyway.”
Solus winced slightly, “But I wanted to go to the plateau and learn some techniques.” She protested.
“Where else would we go to train?” The thin man replied with a laugh.
“Solus, this is my daughter Morgan,” The thin man, who had introduced himself as Michael said with a smile.
A blonde girl who looked to be about 11 years old was standing at Michael’s side and when he introduced her, the little girl blushed fiercely.
“Hi, Solus,” she said quietly.
“Hi, Mary,” Solus replied.
Michael waited for them to say something else, but the awkward pair didn’t speak again. He shrugged and led the way from his house to the Plateau.
Along the way, Michael would randomly throw out facts about the surroundings. This statue was of this person. This shop was the only one that sold this. When he was a boy, he did this over there.
For the most part, Solus ignored him, too excited by the vibrant surroundings to pay attention. Likewise, Morgan was also enraptured by the luxurious streets.
In particular, Solus noticed that Morgan seemed to have a great interest in certain shops that sold artefacts.
Gathering up all her courage, Solus decided to talk to the other girl, “Do you want an artefact?” She asked nervously.
Morgan shook her head, “I don’t want one, I want to make them,” she said with an obvious longing.
Solus gasped, “An artificer, wow, I’ve heard it’s twice as hard to be an artificer as a cultivator,” she exclaimed.
“That’s right,” Michael replied, happy to be able to explain something, “But, all that effort is not for nothing. Artificers make a lot of money, even at fairly low cultivation levels,”
“I want to be one just like Reev the Hammer,” Morgan said, practically jumping with excitement.
“Who is Reev the Hammer?” Solus asked.
“He is our street’s hero,” Michael explained, gesturing to the jade statue at the end of the street they were currently on, “Every street has one and Reev just happens to be ours,”
“Who is your street’s hero,” Morgan asked in a small voice.
“Solomon the Many, I think,” Solus replied after a moment’s thought.
Morgan gasped, “Solomon the Many! He is my hero!” She cried out.
“I thought that was Reev the Hammer,” Michael pointed out.
“I can have two heroes daddy, especially if it's someone as cool as Solomon the Many,” Morgan said indignantly.
“What did he do?” Solus asked.
Michael pushed his spectacles up the bridge of his nose before explaining, “Solomon the many is best known for his technique Dark Reflection. He could create shadow clones of himself, the most famous use of this technique was when Solomon used it to defend a portion of the wall from demon attackers single-handedly.”
“However, a little-known fact about Solomon is that he helped to create the Plateau and more specifically, Memory Lane,” Morgan added.
“What is Memory Lane?” Solus asked in confusion.
“That’s where you and Morgan are going to train,” Michael replied mysteriously.