As Lily slept, she dreamed. She dreamed of the future. She dreamed of her life.
Shaking hands with nobles, she was in a great, well-decorated hall, attending a party to congratulate her achievements and her new appointment as a court scholar. She was surrounded by well-dressed, well-mannered people, wearing polite smiles that barely concealed their envy as they talked about her groundbreaking creations. As she laughed and smiled, someone came up before her and touched her hand softly and intimately. Smiling and turning around to greet her lover, Lily found herself suddenly shorter. Around her, the people turned around and walked away. Searching for the one who had held her hand. She saw only a retreating shadowy silhouette. Struck with fear and confusion, her gaze fell downwards, where she saw her thighs against the floor, with no legs to keep her standing. Her breath caught. Her body trembled. Then she screamed.
Lily awoke, breathing hard, covered in sweat. Taking several moments to calm herself, she took stock of her situation. The blood pack was empty, and she was feeling considerably stronger. Looking at her legs, she saw her burnt stumps, charred beyond recognition. With the wound sealed, she was no longer bleeding. Her dream flashed in her mind, causing Lily to grind her teeth, troubled. Indeed, without legs, it would be nigh-impossible to even find her way home, much less fulfill that simple dream of hers. She leaned back against the pile of junk and began to think.
She had seen prosthetic limbs before, but most of the time the people who used them had only one missing leg, and the limbs were just sturdy sticks of fake legs made of a single piece of metal. In her case, she was missing both legs; it would be impossible to walk with two unmovable, stiff legs.
In that case, the logical conclusion was to make the prosthetics as close to a true leg as possible, including the joints and bone structure. This was not normally done as it was pointless to have a jointed skeletal system without a muscular system to move it; but in Lily’s case, her degree of ability with Extension made this a possibility. When she reached out with her magic to assimilate an external object as part of her body, the magic formed a pseudo-muscular system, its output determined by the extent of her imagination. If she had a fake leg, she could assimilate it and operate it just like a normal leg.
That said, no longer having her own legs, Lily lacked a reference to work from. Frowning a bit, her eyes came upon the skeleton situated a few metres away from her. It was prone on the ground, with its arm reaching in her direction – or rather, in the direction of the box which had held the medicine. Lily supposed the person had been trying to reach the medical equipment when they had died. Casting a critical eye over their corpse, there was nothing left but tattered clothing, but based on the smallish overall build, it was likely the skeleton was a female. There was nothing of value that could be salvaged though. With her hands, Lily dragged herself over the the skeleton and ripped off the remains of its pants, exposing the full structure of the leg. As she studied the structure of the leg, a thought occurred to her.
She found herself feeling nothing about casually inspecting this dead person. While Lily had never really been an emotional crybaby, she did not quite believe herself to be someone who would feel nothing at all when performing what was to an extent a desecration of a corpse. She tried looking deep within herself, but found no emotion there. She smiled a rueful smile. She could not help but feel like she had lost something fundamental, but neither could she bring herself to care about it. Nonetheless, something in her had certainly changed. That said, now was hardly the time for self-searching.
She completed her study of the leg and started looking around for materials to work with. She may have been in a junkyard of nothing but metal, but she needed pieces in the right shape and size to work with. She instinctively reached into her coat pocket for her Machina Gauntlet, but did not find it there. She frowned a bit. It must have dropped out of her pocket when the dragon was shaking her around. She felt a pang of sorrow at the loss of this friend that had stayed with her for so long, but she quickly shook her head clear of nostalgia. She had more pressing concerns at the moment. She could cry over her lost equipment later.
She unbuttoned her shirt, sticky and heavy with dried blood, and took it off, placing it on the ground. around her abdomen was a tool belt, which she unclipped and lay on the ground. It was her backup, filled with more primitive tools, incapable of the same minute movements as the Machina Gauntlet, but for her purposes, it would suffice. The item she was trying to create was, after all, of a rather large size.
Scouting around, she looked for any suitable pieces of scrap in the mountain against which she lay. Carefully, meticulously comparing each piece with the others, time passed by as she searched. No matter how much time passed, the amount of light filling the wasteland remained unchanged; there was a Sun in the sky, but it never moved, casting a perpetual light upon the land. More time passed; Lily had no way of knowing if it was minutes or hours. Finally, she had all the suitable pieces placed before her, ready to begin work. She deftly plucked a hammer from the tool belt, twirling the tool in her palm with a practiced motion.
As she worked, the final product started to take shape. She paid no heed to the sweat dripping from her brow, and instead reveled in the physical and mental strain. It had been so long since she last had to use ordinary tools, and the feeling of the tools in hand was nostalgic, bringing back memories of the first days of her apprenticeship.
Eventually, she was done. Setting down her tools, she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, exhaling deeply.
Before her lay a pair of brownish-grey metal legs. They were slightly different in length, to compensate for the uneven height of the stumps on her legs. They were simple, consisting of simply three parts and two joints; one part for the missing segment of thigh, one part for the calf, one part for the foot. The foot itself was a singular, triangular piece of metal. Lily had thought about adding toes, but decided not to out of a desire to conserve the available parts. The leg itself had an age-worn appearance, due to the rusted state of the metal used in its construction. The joints were identical to the ones she had found on the skeleton, albeit somewhat bigger to account for the thicker metal of the rest of the leg.
Picking up the closer of the legs, Lily held it to the stump on her right and closed her eyes, concentrating. She imagined tendrils of magical energy moving and enveloping the prosthetic. The metal leg is part of me. The metal is part of me. The leg is my own leg. The leg is my own leg.
Somewhere within her, she felt a jolt and felt a full range of sensations from the metal leg. Experimenting, she tried to raise her right leg, the way she instinctively did it before losing her limbs. It worked. Ecstatic, she quickly did the same for the left stump with the other metal leg.
With both metal legs Extended to and assimilated, Lily pedalled her legs back and forth while remaining lying on the ground, proving to herself that the prosthetics worked. With a tender motion, she slowly brought up her new knees, placing the feet against the ground, then, using only her prosthetics, controlled by her Extension, she brought her body into a squatting position, then a standing position.
The moment she stood upright, she wobbled a little as she felt unbalanced from the lack of toes. Flailing her arms around, she swayed slightly as she tried to regain her balance. After a few more attempts at standing, Lily finally stood up without incident, growing accustomed to the new limb. She stayed standing, without wobbling, without tilting.
Lily flushed with excitement and accomplishment. She was rather shocked; who knew simply standing up could allow someone to feel this jubilant? She took an experimental step, and wobbled again, taking her time to right herself. She took another step. The same thing happened. Every step she took, she wobbled slightly, but the degree decreased as she took more steps.
One more step. One more. One more. Come on, one more.
After countless attempts, Lily managed to take five steps without wobbling, without falling, without shaking. She smiled. With these new legs, she could now search for a way out. She could now search for a way forward. With her own efforts, with her own two hands, she was moving ahead.
Leaving behind the medicine box and skeleton, Lily began to walk. She had no destination in mind. She had but a single goal: to escape from wherever in the Dungeon this was and start to achieve her dream of becoming a state-recognised machinist. Without a clear direction, she began to wander this land. Step by step, she ventured into the unknown; into the future.