The ruins of the Spire of the Jade King continued to give birth to one Stone Soldier after another at a slightly reduced rate. Not having a dungeon core didn’t mean this place ceased to exist, but that it devolved into what was known as a ‘wild dungeon.’ The golems that appeared here were no longer leashed and would eventually spread throughout the area, possibly the entire mountain. It would take years, possibly decades for a new core to appear naturally, so the aimlessly wandering Stone Soldiers had plenty of time to reach civilization or destroy an ecosystem or two.
That is, if they survived that long.
A small, 1 meter tall mass of living steel ran through the hedge maze at a tremendous speed while letting out a piercing battlecry.
A heavy, bell-like sound could be heard as Fizzy smashed shield-first into a Stone Soldier’s shin. The force of her charge was strong enough to send several huge cracks up his bare leg. She then swung her trusty wrench with one arm before the out-of-balance stone statue could react. The repurposed tool smashed his fractured kneecap into dust. The Stone Soldier nearly fell over, but managed to prop himself up with his massive shield. He stabbed downwards with his spear, but Fizzy effortlessly dodged the awkward attack. The small Paladin followed up by crushing his other knee with three rapid swings of her weapon, forcing him to fall flat on his back.
The steel gnome jumped onto the Stone Soldier’s torso and ran across his abs. She swung her heavy weapon downwards at his well-sculpted pectoral muscles with enough force to cause a spider-web pattern of cracks across his body. She took a few more steps and swung at his head, which nearly split in two from the impact. Fizzy raised the slightly dented wrench high above her head and bashed downward over and over again, reducing the Stone Soldier to a pile of rubble.
Congratulations, you are now a Level 15 Metal Golem! STR +3. END +3. AGI +2. FTH +1.
“Yeaheaaah!” she cheered with a fist pump. “How’s it feel to get your ass run over by the pain train, fuckboy?! Choo-choo, motherfucker!”
Although the mad look in her eyes, wide, toothy grin, and high-volume shouting suggested the Paladin was under the influence of the Champion of Chaos Skill, this was simply not the case. No, Fizzy was screaming obscenities because she wanted to. This was only the 4th day after her transformation, and she had completely embraced her new life of violence and slaughter. The adaptability of the gnomish mind was truly a scary thing, and a thoroughly shattered one like hers was no exception.
“Oh, right! Levels! Skills! I hope it’s there this time!”
She stopped gloating and turned her attention to her Skill List. So far she had unlocked two Skills from her Metal Golem Job, and she was incredibly satisfied with both. Being allowed by Boxxy to choose her own path as a Steel Golem was a refreshingly liberating experience. This wasn’t out of benevolence, though.
While it was true that Boxxy had taken control of her development as a Paladin, that was mostly because it needed her to learn Holy Magic. But Fizzy’s Monster Job was different. The Skills she would obtain from it were closely tied to her species, and a mimic had no idea how a growing golem should or could develop. Therefore, it left that to her own judgement. Boxxy was confident the gnolem was the most qualified one to make judgement calls regarding her own body, after all.
As for Fizzy’s Skill choices so far, they consisted of Heavy Metal and Armored Charge.
Description: Allows the golem to gain a thicker skin
Requirements: Level 5 Metal Golem
Activation Time: N/A
Effects: Increases the density of the golem’s outer shell by 5% per Level of this Skill.
The former allowed the golem to bulk up more. Although it wasn’t visible, the armor plates covering her body had become both tougher and heavier. This had excellent synergy with the Toughness Skill from her Paladin Job, which raised the hardiness of all heavy armor she had equipped, even if that armor happened to be a part of her body. Fizzy had some doubts whether the extra weight would become a problem, but the ample STR provided by both the Skill and the Job was more than enough to compensate for it.
Description: Propels the golem forward like a living battering ram
Requirements: Level 10 Metal Golem, END 45
Activation Time: Instant
Cost: 35 MP
Range: 30 Meters
Effects: Charge in a specified direction at a high speed.
This Skill’s damage increases depending on distance traveled.
Increases the collision force of this Skill by 10% per level of this Skill.
This Skill was the move she had used at the start of the fight. Activating it allowed her to cover the maximum range of 30 meters in a matter of seconds. The strangest part of it was that both acceleration and deceleration were instantaneous and caused no strain on her body whatsoever. This Skill ignored all the principles of inertia and momentum the Artificer side of her knew of, which was probably why it cost MP in the first place.
However, such a move came with its own set of dangers. For one thing, Fizzy found out that she was unable to stop or change direction during the Armored Charge itself. There was also the matter of recoil damage. Slamming her body into a hard object like a Stone Soldier wouldn’t leave her unscathed. She had to be extremely careful when using it, lest she end up throwing herself off a cliff or running face-first into a wall.
“Yesss! It’s heeeere!” she cheered.
Description: Upgrades the golem’s overall speed and mobility
Requirements: Level 15 Metal Golem
Activation Time: N/A
Effects: Permanently transforms the body’s joints to allow for more limber movement.
Increases the effectiveness of the AGI Attribute by 2% per Level of this Skill.
Provides an additional +2 AGI per Level of this Skill.
This was what she was looking for. While she may have gotten stronger and tougher ever since her transformation, her movements had degraded significantly. Her body felt stiff and clunky, as if it wasn’t obeying her properly. So how come those damnable Stone Soldiers were so agile, despite being golems like herself?
The answer was simple. It wasn’t a matter of mindset, practice, or a difference in Attributes. Her steel body was just ill-equipped to move in the way she wanted it to, and this Skill would provide her with the solution to that particular problem.
Proficiency level increased. Advanced Joints is now Level 1. AGI +6.
Fizzy’s body froze in the next instant. It seized up completely and refused to move no matter how hard she tried. She couldn’t even blink, let alone speak. Her face may have been frozen in a fierce smile, but she was panicking on the inside.
Oh God! What the fuck!? she screamed inside her head.
What’s going on?! This is the complete opposite of what I wanted! This isn’t hap- No!
Her pathetic habit from her old life almost resurfaced, but she managed to stop herself.
Come on, Fizzy! You’re not that weak, pathetic creature anymore! You’re a cold-hearted ass-kicking engine of destruction, so fucking act like it!
Now that she had given herself a little pep talk, she was able to calm down and think things through. Advanced Joints was a Skill that involved a permanent physical change, so maybe this was simply part of the process. In a flash of inspiration, the steel golem used her Metallopathy on her own body. Being consciously aware of her insides like this was a bit weird, but it did the trick. She was able to confirm that her internal bits were currently transforming and reconstructing themselves. She even started picking up faint grinding and screeching noises coming from beneath her plated skin as her body did its own thing.
It made sense now that she thought about it. Replacing obsolete or damaged parts while a machine was currently operating was a stupid idea. This was something she should have realized a lot sooner, given her Artificer background. Therefore, her current paralysis was probably her body’s natural reaction to being remodeled, a self-preservation instinct of some kind.
A few minutes passed by before Fizzy started worrying again. The Stone Soldier’s corpse she had been standing on had dispersed and turned back into the raw mana from whence it came. The sudden shift in her footing had caused the smiling, gnome-shaped statue to fall over. She imagined that the sudden jolt might somehow interfere with the reconstruction process and cause some sort of permanent defect in her body. It was also possible that she was overthinking things since the Skill continued to do its thing undisturbed.
Then came the biggest problem with her current state - the golem was completely defenseless. If another Stone Soldier came by and decided to stab her in the face, then she would be powerless to stop it. Then again, it was highly likely that this was another baseless worry since the Stone Soldiers had become quite disorganized ever since the core was taken out of the dungeon. Not only did they wander around completely on their own, but they also sometimes fought and killed each other. A number of them simply wandered off into the mountains, never to be seen again. All of these factors had significantly thinned out the population of golems within the dungeon, so one of those randomly coming across the paralyzed Fizzy was a longshot at best.
This was the main reason the pint-sized Paladin was on her own right now. She had temporarily parted ways with Boxxy in order to cover more ground. It was simply a more efficient way of raising everyone’s Level under these circumstances. Of course, the Mimic had only allowed that after she had unlocked her Armored Charge Skill. It allowed her to close the gap between herself and her much taller opponents in an instant while simultaneously bypassing their large shields. Dismantling them at that point was child’s play.
The main reason she was able to do so while she was only a Level 10 Metal Golem was because she had her Level 25 Paladin Job to rely on. However, that proved to have its drawbacks as well. The XP she earned seemed to split itself between the Paladin Job, which was maxed out, and the Metal Golem Job, which showed stunted growth as a result. Still, the fact that she was able to defeat enemies above Level 40 meant that she was able to gain a whole 15 Levels in as little as 3 days. An impressive feat, to say the least.
Boxxy had experienced much slower growth in comparison, which was to be expected. The difference between a Level 1 and a Level 48 was like comparing a valley to a mountain. Fizzy had obtained 10 whole Levels by the time Boxxy had gotten up to 15% past Level 49. To say that the sentient chest was envious would be an understatement. The Mimic’s selfish desire to quickly get up to Level 50 was the other reason it had ordered everyone to split up. It could move and kill much more quickly on its own.
The bottom line was that Fizzy was paralyzed while all on her own and inside a dungeon. It was hardly an ideal situation, even if it was unlikely she would be attacked. So, rather than mope around, she decided to further investigate the insides of her newer, shinier self with Metallopathy. She really didn’t want any more nasty surprises like this one and had literally nothing better to do.
Fizzy spent the next few minutes silently studying her body. Looking inside herself so much really drove home the idea that she was now a magical, non-living construct. As best as she could tell, the source of the magic keeping her alive was a small, fist-sized, spherical core buried inside her chest cavity. It seemed to regulate the magic that dwelled inside her steel shell, not unlike a heart that pumped blood. This also seemed to house her thought processes and memories. Probably.
Well, such things were certainly not in her head. That had now become little more than a hollow container, which made Fizzy into a literal airhead.
The important part was that she understood what kept her alive. If she suffered too much physical trauma then the magic clinging to her steel flesh would disperse and she would die. Needless to say, the same would happen if her core was destroyed, so she had to make sure to protect it at all costs. Having her head chopped off, on the other hand, wouldn’t kill her on the spot, although the loss of sight, hearing and speech was bound to lead to her demise soon afterwards.
Of course, she wasn’t just assuming things in this regard. Her repeated battles with the Stone Golems in this dungeon had given her a good bit of insight into how they were put together. Simply crushing their heads was not enough - she had to thoroughly tenderize their bodies in order to kill them. She still liked aiming for the head, though. Hitting it was oddly satisfying.
Then there was the matter of sustenance. As a golem, she no longer required mundane things like food, sleep and water. Attempting to ingest such things simply made them pass clean through her and fall out of her butt a few seconds later. Given the circumstances it was safe to assume that elixirs, potions and other alchemical goods would show little-to-no effect, but she lacked the means to verify this theory at the moment.
However, she was still capable of tiring herself out. Lugging her heavy steel butt around probably consumed a lot of energy, and her reserves were not limitless. The odd part was that, rather than feeling out of breath, it was simply a matter of her body slowing down and becoming lethargic, as if entering some sort of ‘low-power’ mode. At least replenishing her vigor was a simple matter of sitting down and taking a short break every few hours.
On the matter of injury, her steel body seemed to recover more or less on its own, much like her flesh did. And while it was questionable whether potions would work on her, healing magic most certainly did. Using Holy Light on herself not only restored her HP, but it also instantly buffed out any dents or scratches, restoring her steel shell back to its shiny luster. It also seemed that, much to her relief, she didn’t have to worry about herself rusting.
Which was undoubtedly a good thing, because Fizzy absolutely adored her new body and couldn’t bear to see it tarnished. An odd sense of pride and satisfaction welled up within her whenever one of her companions glanced at its splendour. This was a first for Fizzy. She had never felt sexy or womanly, and had never took pride in her looks before. But then again, she didn’t have the body of a marvelous steel Goddess before. She had to admit, loving herself like this felt pretty damn good, and she had no intention of stopping.
“Oh? I can move again!” she exclaimed.
The golem got lost in her own little world for a second, so she didn’t notice her body had regained its functionality. Her Tick Counter Skill told her it had been precisely 6 minutes and 42 seconds since she had been rendered immobile. Fizzy made a mental note to avoid unlocking these ‘permanent transformation’ Skills in the field. Such a thing should only be done while she was lying down and had someone around to watch over her.
But what about Advanced Joints? The gnolem pushed herself off the ground and sat up. She moved her hands, shoulders and fingers around, and confirmed that they felt much more limber. They actually appeared to make even more fluid and precise motions than when she was a worthless meatbag. She finally felt like she could properly put together something truly amazing with her Artificer Job, and was eager to try it out.
Fizzy stood up from the ground, only to trip over something and fall down on her face. Well, that was a little embarrassing. Maybe she wasn’t used at moving her augmented body around, and had tripped over her own feet? She sat up again and looked down at her feet, only to realize her trousers had fallen down to her ankles, leaving her metallic nether regions completely exposed.
Now this was extremely embarrassing. But how come they came loose? She was certain she had strapped the suspender to her shoulder properly. Did it get damaged in the fight? Ah, but she didn’t actually get hit or anything like that. Not to mention that she was pretty sure the trousers were still on before she got paralyzed. Maybe the strap broke when she fell over? No, that wasn’t it. Looking it over confirmed that it was still in good condition. The only reasonable explanation was that someone had unbuckled this.
But who? And when?
Well, the latter was obvious. It must have happened at some point after her body seized up. However, the golem did not remember seeing anyone around her, living or otherwise. Even if she was paralyzed, she still had her PER-enhanced sight and hearing, so she was sure she’d detect anyone trying to mess with her. So the question of ‘who’ had caused this wardrobe malfunction hung around in the air like a stale fart. Fizzy racked her non-existent brains, but was unable to come up with a single suspect.
Deciding that thinking about it wouldn’t get her anywhere, the golem simply stood up, pulled up her trousers and firmly affixed the left suspender to her shoulder. She wanted to do the other one too, but the gauntlet that was now her left hand made that an impossible task. Well, it was hardly a bad thing. She liked her new, rather indecent look quite a bit. As expected, exposing her shiny metal skin made her feel quite good about herself, though fully exposing herself like some pervert was-
Fizzy froze. She heard the unmistakable sound of something hitting the hedge maze’s stone floor at her feet. Her neck craned stiffly as she looked down at herself and at the ground. The one responsible for that prank from earlier on her had been revealed and was at it again. Said culprit had undone the belt she had wrapped around the lower end of her tunic as a fashion accessory, and was just about to roll up said tunic and expose her shiny nipples. However, Fizzy had trouble believing the scene before her eyes, even though she had caught this culprit red-handed.
No, it would be more accurate to say she caught it ‘right-handed.’
Because the thing that was stripping her clothes off without her consent was her own right arm.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Species||Metal Golem (Steel)||STR||213||PER||151||Arclight Artificer||56||38%|
|Age||22 years||AGI||74||LCK||26||Metal Golem||15||4%|
|Guild||Erosa Craftsman Union||END||181|
|Clockwork Expertise||10||MAX||Electrical Expertise||2||32%||Armored Charge||3||12%|
|Explosives Handling||6||86%||Champion of Chaos||7||27%||Advanced Joints||1||4%|
|Optics Expertise||4||76%||Strength of Faith||7||32%||Dagger Mastery||3||53%|
|Physics||7||4%||Holy Scriptures||6||87%||Shield Mastery||5||24%|
|Component Forging||6||63%||Divine Wrath||5||51%||Holy Mastery||7||31%|
|Tick Counter||5||22%||Metallopathy||3||34%||Mace Mastery||7||62%|