Chris looked deeper inside the ruined construct. The internals were no longer as dark as before and he thought he could see the glimmer of crystals far ahead.
Still, he didn’t for a moment consider crawling through the golem’s stone gullet to retrieve them. Had he been under the effects of mana, absolutely. As it was, it just didn’t look worth it. Not when there were other avenues of acquisition to explore first.
Still, the thought made him wonder how much he had changed. He’d actually dealt with the golem rather calmly. Before it all, without mana driving him to stupid deeds, he would have noped out the moment he saw a building rise and try to kill him.
Now, it felt like just any other day at the office—an office where he saw a building rise and try to kill him. It had only been a bit over a week, and here he was, laying down the smack on big, dull rock monsters, all for some smaller, shinier rocks. His priorities had really taken a U-turn.
If anything, the mana that had once run rampant within him—and still would without intervention—had left an odd legacy. Eight days to turn him into someone who faced down danger rather than fleeing from it. Yes, that was very odd.
As much as the incomprehensible energy had been detrimental, it had also been beneficial. Would he have gotten strong without it? Would any of the newly-inducted humans have even gone out to the barrier to fight the Gnolls if they hadn’t been pumped up on mana? Sure, it would have caused problems when the Starter Protections fell without warning. However, perhaps mana wasn’t solely something that screwed people over until they learnt to control it.
As Chris himself had seen, back in Kingscastle, it was very much a poor man’s courage.
But how many humans would know how to control it? How many presumably human settlements—with the golden orbs hanging above them—would have been devastated by the unrestrained ego that mana imparted? He didn’t really want to know the answer.
However, as he pulled out of the golem’s mouth and began clambering up its side, Chris received the first glimmerings of what he wanted to do. There were people out there, aimless and lost. Perhaps Allison, his girlfriend, might even be among them. They were undoubtedly in danger, not only from monsters and Enlightened, but themselves. Even without Traitors stalking in their midst, unrestrained mana lent a significant degree of aggressiveness and narrow mindedness.
They needed help. Humanity needed help. And who was better equipped to help them than him? He had so many titles, so many advantages. And he had, for better or for worse, squandered them so far on small things. He wanted more than that, perhaps selfishly, he wanted a legacy, to be the reason that humanity was thriving by the time it left the tutorial and rose up to reclaim an Earth besieged.
He nodded to himself. That was a good place to start.
Chris reached the top of the golem, then tugged at the ballista on top. It rose upward, as he had expected it to do. A pneumatic hiss sounded from below as several seals and valves released. He lifted the ballista up, farther and farther until the entire contraption pulled free.
The ballista sat upon a crystal cylinder half-filled with poison and blobs of Slime. The base of the cylinder was covered in a residue of wood pulp, but beneath the shredded plant matter, he thought he could see the gleam of several Skill Gems. Was that how the golem worked? Did it use Skill Gems to power the conversion of plants into its alchemical bolts? He’d be interested in carrying the entire contraption off with him, if so.
He also noticed a braid of silver wire stretching from the ballista like horsehair, running deeper into the deactivated golem. It was the same silver wire as had been connected to the golem’s golden panel. Fascinating.
He reeled in the wire, feeling a moment of resistance before it came free in his hands. Like that, he had a ballista and an alchemical processing station. Not a bad haul, if he could say so himself.
He lay it to one side, along with the golden panel and stared into the newly exposed cavity in the golem’s body. Inside was nothing special, a few tubes connecting deeper inside, and a mash of leaves and wood pulp swimming in a vegetable soup down below. Nothing notable. Nothing lootable. Not easily at least.
Given how visible the tower vine was, he didn’t want to tarry too long. He could, no doubt, break open the spider golem and see what lay within. But that would have to wait for next time. For now, he wanted to check the Skill Gems. They were what he had come here for, after all.
Most were trash. Powerful, yes. But powerful trash, all the same. Alchemical Agglomeratives aided in combining matter together—likely for the creation of the bolts. Hardeners solidified those same bolts. Various extraction type Skill Gems pulled toxins and substances from the plants. Others concentrated the poison. Yet more helped aid in developing the nature of the poison—that was useful, but too niche.
There were of course, among the Skill Gems, some real… well… gems. One called Aerosolization allowed for easy dispersion of alchemical mixtures in gaseous form. Yet another, Internal Alchemy, allowed for alchemical treatment of reagents within an enclosed environment. Finally, something called Alchemical Flesh allowed for conversion of organic matter into an alchemical suspension solution.
From what he had seen so far, the spider golem seemed to be a walking weapons platform—although he still hadn’t seen the mechanism by which the gas was dispersed in a cloud around it, or where all the other plant mulch went. There was certainly more space in the cavity within it, but Chris was getting worried about the time he’d spent inside the Tower of the Manifold Adept.
All haste, Chris lifted the golden panel, along with the ballista and the trailing wires. He lifted it all, bringing it back to his backpack a stuffing most of it inside—the ballista didn’t fit of course, but the golden panel did.
His shield was still lodged within the ballista’s mechanism. It was still hosed down with cat piss and stunk like hell. He pondered bring it with him for only a second, before knocking it away. Some things just weren’t worth it.
He lifted his pack, hammer, and looted ballista—crystals and poison vat still attached. Then, he began dashing back the way he’d come from. The Skill Gems were still attached to the crystal vat and he had to caution his arm every minute or so whenever it began slinking toward them. Honestly, Sid acted like a badly behaved child sometimes.
He ruminated over what he wanted. He had been immediately taken by the spider golem’s ability to create alchemical solutions based off of what he had consumed. As such, Internal Alchemy and Alchemical Flesh were basically a given. Combined with the Carnivorous Pharmacopeia trait, it would hopefully synergize and turn him into a walking alchemy lab—able to consume materials, analyze their properties, and then spit out potions at will. At least, that’s how he hoped it would work.
Those two Skill Gems he would actually absorb, rather than letting Sid eat them and crossing his fingers for a rare Assimilation ability trigger. Aerosolization seemed cool, but he wasn’t a walking stone spider golem. Chris was skin, bone, and a decent amount of Slime. Exposing himself to gaseous potions probably wasn’t the best idea, even with his poison resist.
The others were busts. Well, not exactly busts. He might have been a little harsh in calling them trash, they were just too niche and lacking in synergy for him. He only had five slots, and he’d already decided on two. He’d let his arm eat the rest and see if he got lucky.
He pulled a few leaves from nearby trees as he ran, then absorbed them. He was pleased to see that one variety was useful in creating soaps. He desperately needed to clean himself off.
He stuffed the leaves into a pocket, then plucked the Internal Alchemy and Alchemical Flesh Skill Gems from the poison vat the ballista was mounted on top of. He absorbed them, and they slid into his skin without difficulty, imparting some additional information how to use them. Alchemical Flesh was simple, it changed organic material to a proper potion suspension solution. It applied to his skin and bone—which just seemed like a bad idea—but most importantly it would allow him to modify his Slime to fit the purpose better. From what he understood from the Class Skill, Slime was a pretty decent potion suspension solution already, and magically receptive to boot, needing only a few adjustments to pH and viscosity to serve as the ideal medium for creating potions in. Since it was nearly optimal by default, Alchemical Flesh would require less mass to convert it into a fully-functioning solution. Brilliant!
Whereas Alchemical Flesh was simple but effective, Internal Alchemy felt complex from the moment it slid into his skin. He stumbled as all its functions hit him. Damn, that was a lot of information.
He couldn’t wait to test it all out, but first he wanted to see if he’d get lucky with more of the Skill Gems.