Chapter 238: Solace Hall
"Red Dangos for sale, 3 silver each! Get em fresh!"
"Selling Preparatory Packets, 12 silver for two!"
"Get yourself a Muric Herb, it's 20 silver, but will boost your mind power!"
Dorian soaked in the yells and shouts of the busy street he was walking on, taking everything in. He kept his guard up as he moved, secretly scanning his surroundings.
A smooth, grey stone-paved road spread out around him. The stores on this street were all lively and colorful, with clear glass windows and bright signs below blue or green tiled roofs. There was a certain festive echo in the air from the live music that serenaded the street, fluttering in the background as hundreds of passersby moved along the road.
Humans, Shades, Aethmen, a veritable plethora of humanoid species walked on by, dressed in a wide assortment of clothes.
Dorian had joined them in a plain, unassuming looking human form, blending into the wild crowd.
And, as he moved down the street, his eyes trailed over to what sat at the end of the street.
An enormous castle that seemed to defy gravity as half of it protruded hundreds of meters high into the sky. It was a tall tower, with large connected chunks simply hanging in the air with seemingly almost zero support. Sparks of energy floated off of eight huge yellow stones that were implanted on each of the eight outstretched and floating arms that stood high in the sky.
The castle was made from black stone that had grown cracked and faded with time, but gave off a majestic appearance simply because of the shape of the odd building.
It was the largest facility Dorian had ever seen here in the 30,000 Worlds. Alongside its enormous height, it stretched more than 500 meters long and wide, a massive edifice that could easily house tens of thousands of students.
And it was his ultimate goal from the start of this journey.
The Free School of Thunder.
Three days had passed since he had crossed over the Lesser World of Kale.
In that time, Dorian had blazed a trail at a rate few, if any, creatures could match. His movement had been uninterrupted for the most part, no creature in existence daring to stop him. After crossing two planets and three World Bridges, he had finally arrived on the planet he'd needed to.
The Greater World of Monta.
His first impression of the Greater World of Monta had been a simple one.
'It really is huge.' It had taken him an entire day to travel from the World Bridge he'd arrived on over to Knowledge City, the home of the Free School of Thunder.
He could cross most planets in merely a few hours, yet to cross roughly 30% of the Greater World of Monta, it had taken 20 hours.
This was the key characteristic of any Greater World.
They were giant, enormous planets that could house countless billions of creatures. Despite the planet's massive scale, gravity acted with the same force as it would on a Lesser World, one of the magical aspects that made life on a Greater World possible.
Monta was a veritable paradise of a planet. It was covered in mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, forests, and grassy plains. Powerful beasts roamed the land, but mostly stuck to mountains and forests, leaving the open plains to the various humanoid species.
Within Knowledge City, Dorian could sense a large number of powerful figures. The number of King Class experts in the city was at least in the triple digits, an astonishingly high number.
Most of them seemed to be concentrated all on the grounds of the Free School of Thunder, something that didn't surprise Dorian.
'So this is the school Kaladin created, huh?' Dorian mused silently as he walked ever closer to the towering edifice at the end of the street.
The front gates of the school were currently swarming with people. There must've been at least a thousand people waiting and talking, standing in several long lines out front. There was a large courtyard set just in front of the entrance, where people could stand and wait exactly as they were.
He could see a number of tables and chairs set out, with more than 20 brown-robed monks sitting patiently. Each monk had several books and sheaths of paper with them and were talking to the people that came up in an engaging manner. From a single glance, Dorian could tell that each of these monks was a Lord Class expert, none of them weaklings.
Dorian nodded when he saw this.
This all matched what he knew.
The Free School of Thunder had announced that they were essentially giving out information, training, and manuals for free, and anyone that wanted to come was free to come here and study. This elite school had typically been a secretive organization that had high recruitment standards. For them to open up so quickly out of the blue…
Well, it was certainly convenient for him.
'Could that be Kaladin's doing?' The fact that the Thunder Saint had returned from the seeming dead was a fact that had not yet spread to the general public, as far as he could tell.
Dorian continued to walk towards the towering castle. The closer he got to it, the more he could sense the presences of the various King Class experts inside. Some of them seemed to be meditating, while others were practicing intently. He could even sense a few of them fighting.
'None of them are stronger than me, though.' He thought after a few seconds, causing him to smile. His energy level was almost overwhelmingly strong at this point.
He carefully scanned over each of those energy presences, trying to pick out any familiar ones. None of the ones he detected felt exactly like any of the ones he knew, leading him to conclude he didn't actually know anyone here. It wasn't too surprising of a realization, in the end.
After he finished that, he studied the long line out front for a few moments in consideration before shaking his head slightly. He then turned down an alley between a bakery and a fine glass-ware shop, slipping off of the main street.
This part of Knowledge City was well maintained, with no litter, garbage, or anything of that nature coating the floor. Dorian had been quite impressed when he first found the city, first by its scale, spanning more than two dozen miles in length, and then by its cleanliness and sheer variety.
He'd passed by more than a dozen hospitals, where people applied Light Magic to heal the injured, multiple large schools, free public housing, and more. From what he had been told, this city was entirely self-sufficient, a type of City-State that depended on the Free School of Thunder for funding.
This was the closest 'ideal' city he had come across.
Dorian waited for a couple of moments as people walked past his alley. Finally, after a few moments, when no one was looking his way…
'Man, I'll never get used to this form.' Dorian blinked as he closed and opened his eyes, looking around him.
He could see nothing.
This wasn't unexpected, given that he had just transformed into his Grey Mantor form and simultaneously activated its Ability to step outside of both Fate and reality.
The sensation of having everything disappear, one's very connection with reality vanish, was incredibly unnerving. Dorian could not feel even a single thing, all of the energy presences he had so keenly detected vanishing as if they had never been. He couldn't hear anything, see anything, smell anything, nothing.
After a few seconds, however, a frown appeared on his face.
It was true that he could not feel anything here… but for some odd reason, something was fluttering at the edge of his senses. A vaguely familiar sensation that he couldn't quite place, as if it was too distant for him to fully notice.
The feeling eventually vanished, leaving him alone once more.
"Ah well, let's get to it." He muttered to himself as he began to take several confident steps forward, using his force of will to move through the nothingness, only limited by his imagination.
By using his perfect memory, he could track an exact path that would lead him directly where he wanted. His mind power was more than enough to handle plotting everything, and given that he was literally stepping through reality right now, things like walls or magical barriers couldn't even touch him.
Dorian hummed to himself merrily as he walked through several walls and hundreds of people undetected, completely skipping past every single defensive barrier the Free School of Thunder held.
In no time at all, he found himself at the limits of what he had seen. He had considered taking to the sky with one of his smaller flying forms, but ultimately decided against that in the end.
A random human walking in the city, and a lone bird flying high in the sky, were two very different things. There might not have been much risk if he did get spotted, but Dorian had opted to lay low as much as possible right now.
After his loss to Zero, he did not want to leave himself open to anything ever again. Keeping to the shadows, or hiding in plain sight, was his best bet for something like that.
Dorian returned to reality.
The moment he did, however, he instantly transformed into a tiny, hand-length long red lizard, with a small ring wrapped around its right claw.
'Success.' Dorian smiled as he looked around, a small, split tongue flicking out from his mouth as he tasted the air.
He was currently crawling in the middle of a stone hallway, within the Free School of Thunder. This particular hallway was one Dorian had been able to see through a window on the exterior of the tall castle, one that he hadn't seen anyone passing through and seemed to be relatively unoccupied.
And, as he'd hoped, the hallway was deserted. He quickly glanced up and down it, finding several small connecting doors spaced about evenly. The hallway was rather cramped with very basic lighting and nothing else in it.
'Perhaps it's a service hallway?' After a few moments, he nodded his tiny lizard head. That was his best guess at the moment.
With that thought in mind, he began to scamper down the hallway. Despite the minuscule size of his body, he was still a monstrously powerful being, meaning he practically flew down the hallway with a simple twitch of his leg.
He began to rapidly maneuver through the huge castle grounds.
The Aurelius Family had given Dorian intel on exactly where he needed to go.
Deep within the Free School of Thunder, there was a huge library called 'Solace Hall.' Within this grand hall were thousands of records, copied Inheritances, and books written up by experts as they explained the core concepts of the Law each one had mastered.
This repository was famed to be the single largest and most expansive store of mystical knowledge in the entire 30,000 Worlds. While individual clans, families, or schools might have specific knowledge about one Law or another that the Solace Hall lacked, in terms of overall knowledge, the Free School of Thunder was second to none.
Dorian made his way down this service hall, crossing into a main hall, and through several other passageways, all while maintaining his secrecy. He hid his presence as best he could, dampening his energy and isolating himself. Because he was stronger than every other being present, he had an easier time covering his presence up and preventing them from finding him by dint of their strength.
Once he left the service passageway, he passed by dozens of students moving between different rooms. A third of those he passed were dressed in brown, white, or black monk robes, all dedicated students of the Free School. The others wore a motley collection of clothes, from clearly wealthy nobles, to down-on-their-luck students that clearly got in on raw talent alone, to those in-between, the sons of wealthy merchants or prosperous store-owners.
There were many more students here than instructors. He would, on occasion, peek into a doorway to examine what was happening in each room. Oftentimes, there would be a monk standing at the front of a large lecture hall, explaining one mystical concept or another.
Most of the instructors appeared to be Grandmaster Class at the weakest, Lord Tier at the strongest. The quality of teachers in the Free School of Thunder was certainly impeccable.
After moving for about fifteen minutes, Dorian had made it deep within the bowels of the school. He had been forced to transform into a Grey Mantor 3 separate times in order to skip past guarded and magically sealed doorways.
Finally, however, he made it past the third checkpoint, into the official 'Inner Region' of the Free School of Thunder. This was the location where the high-level Instructors resided and taught Inner Disciples, where the Headmasters office was located, where their Treasure Storeroom could be found, and last, but certainly not least…
Where the Solace Hall was situated.
'Huh, it's surprisingly normal.' Dorian's initial impression was that the place seemed decidedly un-special.
The final checkpoint had been a simple doorway with an old monk meditating quietly while reading a book. Once Dorian got past it, he found himself in yet another grey stone hallway. A large, arched doorway could be seen at the end of this hall, the symbol of a large book carved into the door itself.
Despite the heavy guard, the only thing about this area that stood out was the deep, ancient Aura Dorian sensed, coming from the room behind that carved door.
This Aura came from Dorian's final destination here, the Solace Hall.
A dozen other passageways led off from this hall, leading to various practice rooms, residential areas, and the Headmaster's room. Dorian ignored all of them as he skittered down the hallway, his eyes flashing with excitement.
However… when he was halfway down the hallway, Dorian slowly came to a halt. His beady little eyes narrowed as he flicked his tongue out, his tiny lizard face crinkling up in a frown.
For the second time, he sensed a familiar sensation.
None of the energy sources he could detect felt familiar. Dorian was absolutely certain that there was nobody here alive that he knew.
No, what he detected was something completely different…
It was an energy signature that someone had left behind.
'Ah.' The frown on his face deepened as he abruptly realized whose presence he had detected.
It was that of a fellow Anomaly.
'Mello was here… Yesterday? Yeah, yesterday.' Dorian stood still for several seconds, unsure of what to do.
He was almost 100% certain Mello was no longer in the Free School of Thunder. Unless his fellow Anomaly was hiding by using his Grey Mantor form, Dorian felt it a certainty that he would've been able to detect his brethren.
In fact, even if Mello had used his Grey Mantor form, Dorian's natural link to other Anomalies meant he still might've been able to get a feel for the Anomaly, as long as Mello took even a split second to enter reality.
'Why was he here at all? What is he doing?' Suspicion rankled Dorian's heart as his little baby lizard sat on the floor, torn with indecisiveness.
Before he could let his thoughts cloud his heart, however, a loud thud startled Dorian from his reverie.
"Yo, Micheal, down for a little combat practice to help a fella out? Sophia's been kicking my butt lately when it comes to practice." A rather oddly dressed human had just burst out of one of the many doorways, exiting a lecture hall. The human was dressed in a black set of pants and a black shirt, with a metal chain hanging from his right pocket. He had stark blond hair that was spiked up and gave off a Lord Class Aura of energy.
"No, Shin, I gotta keep working on my Law of Holy Light. I keep trying to form a set of Life Orbs, but I think I'll need to wait till I reach King Class. I'm gonna go look over Solace's new records in a bit." A brown-haired human male followed the first one out of the hall, smiling slightly.
"Fine, fine, but you better be ready for my onslaught of complaints as…"
The pair's conversation exited Dorian's attention as they left the main hall, trudging down one of the many side passageways off to a different lecture hall. A storm of other humanoids followed after the duo as one of the classes in the Inner Region finished.
'Right, Solace Hall.' Dorian stole a tidbit from those two student's conversation, regaining his focus,
'It doesn't matter what Mello is doing here, I just need to stay on top of my plans.' If he wanted to protect Helena, and the world she was part of, the reality he now lived in, he needed to get stronger.
And the first step to doing that lay at the end of this hallway.
Dorian's tiny lizard body slowly turned its head to look over at the large, arching doorway.
Its tiny feet went 'pitter-patter' as it made a beeline for the vaunted library, fierce determination blazing in his eyes.