Lily surveyed the patch of land. The ground was completely even, unnaturally so, all the grass and vegetation having been burned away. Occasionally, flush against the rest of the ground would be a circle of wood, with numerous age rings adorning it, the remains of any trees which had suffered the misfortune of being caught in Iris’ radial blast.

Lily stood in the middle of the plot of land and closed her eyes, imagining the dimensions of the building she intended to raise. As she did, her mind drifted back to her younger days in Azoria, when she had first discovered the structural layout of her house. She had been training herself in her use of <<Extension>>, and had Extended into the walls of her house, following along them to the wooden beams in the corner of the house which led her to the foundation. She had noticed then that along different lengths of the underground foundation, the soil felt different. The soil under the base of the foundation was densely packed, heavily compressed. The soil around the rest of the beam, however, was notably less dense, with ample air among it.

Intrigued, she had promptly applied for and attended a basic Magic Engineering Theory module in the Academy, learning the reasons for this difference in soil distribution. At the time, she had only taken such actions to placate her boundless curiosity, but she had never thought she would get to use it. The only magic she was capable of using was <<Extension>>, after all. Magic Engineering was hardly a field she was qualified to enter. Still, that knowledge had unexpectedly shown its usefulness in this situation. Lily indulged in a wry smile as she felt immense gratitude for being born with a curious and inquisitive mind, then allowed her eyes to snap open.

The first step to laying any foundation was to set the cornering pillars. She recalled her one-time question to her lecturer. Why was the soil beneath the foundation packed so much more compactly than the soil around it? This was due to the builders’ interference. A solid base meant a stabler foundation. To create a solid base, a wooden rod known as a pile was rammed repeatedly into the ground. This caused the soil at the point of impact to compact, displacing the air within and becoming denser. After the hole was created, the foundation pillar would be laid within it, placed at rest on the solid surface.

Usually, the pile was slammed into the ground using magic from the <<Telekinesis>> branch, but nobody in Lily’s party had the ability to use magic from that system. As such they could either perform the task manually, physically ramming a rod into the ground repeatedly, or they could attempt a more creative solution.

As the other girls watched her curiously, Lily strode over to where she intended one corner of the house to be. Kneeling, she placed a hand on the ground, Extending into the ground. She felt each grain of soil keenly, as a part of herself. Exercising a level of control only possible for a <<Paragon>>, she envisioned the grains of soil as an open palm. Concentrating, she pictured herself closing this palm and squeezing it tightly. As she did, the portion of soil in front of her hand began to collapse in on itself, slowly sinking. She felt each grain of soil, knew exactly how much air was in the spaces between grains. She furrowed her brow, squeezing tighter, and tighter, until the air in between grains became negligible. She let go of a breath and relaxed. The cylindrical hole had grown to a depth of about four meters, and a diameter of about half a meter.

Lily released her Extension, and immediately the sides of the hole began to collapse inwards. Panicking, she reconstructed the Extension, widening the hole back to the same depth and size. She turned her head back to face Iris without releasing her Extension.

“Iris, cut down a tree and thin it out to fit this hole perfectly. Needs to be at least four meters tall.”

Iris nodded and immediately dashed over to the nearest tree which fit Lily’s height requirement. Her right arm opened up, allowing a glowing blade of mana to blaze out from it, which she then used to quickly slice through the thick trunk of the tree with a precise, perfectly horizontal slash. She picked up the tree which was many times larger than her and laid it on the ground, cutting away the branches. Without hesitation, she used her mana blade to shave away the outer parts of the trunk, thinning it out until the trunk was exactly half a meter in diameter and had an exterior which was completely smooth. Iris shouldered the pillar of wood under her left arm, rushing next to Lily, precisely planting it in the hole. She drove it down as hard as she could, causing Lily to flinch when it struck against the soil that was currently a part of her body. Certain that the pillar was secure, Lily released her Extension and took a step back, watching the pillar warily.

The pillar rose to about one and a half meters above the ground, and stood firmly on its own. Lily gave it a push with about a quarter of her maximum strength, and was happy to find that it did not budge. She placed her hand on the smooth surface of the wood and furrowed her brow. It was sturdy, but it was still only wood. Wood was a reliable material, but it lost its reliability in rain. In Azoria, the wooden pillars of her house had been reinforced with mortar around it to protect it from the elements. It would probably be prudent to do the same.

There was a certain charm in living out the rest of her days in a wooden cottage, but ultimately it was impractical. It would require far more maintenance and care than a house of bricks, and it was completely at the mercy of the elements: one flash fire, one thunderstorm, might completely undo their efforts. Therefore, considering that Lily hoped for this house to withstand the test of time and shoulder the elements, a house made of brick and mortar was the best option. This, of course, invited the question of how they were to obtain bricks and mortar, substances which could not be found in nature.

Lily had some vague ideas on what they could do, but first it was more important to complete the foundation pillars. She laid her eyes on the wooden pillar in the ground once again and frowned. Even protected by a layer of mortar, wooden foundations could still deteriorate due to various factors. In Azoria, one of her house’s foundation pillars had been half-eaten by termites – a discovery which had been rather frightening to the young Lily. Besides that, there was also the risk of water being soaked through the base of the wood, which would be in direct contact with the soil.

Lily toyed with her fingers as she considered the matter of how to mitigate these problems, idly opening and closing her mechanical hands. Then an idea came to her. She stopped fidgeting and brought one hand to her chin, her mind racing. The problems with using wood as a foundation could be most easily avoided by not using wood for the foundation. Therefore, if she used a sturdier, more reliable material, these problems would be eliminated. She held one mechanical hand up to the sky, its waterproof surface reflecting the glint of the sunlight. The middle finger of the hand was adorned with a plain-looking ring: the <<Link Conduit>>.