From the sky, Kanae surveyed Toadstool Forest and its vast vibrant canopy. She had labeled this tract of land off-limits following Mitty and multiple adventuring parties' near-death experience. The last time anyone came through was the incident with the inspectator Milton and an army of demons. Apparently, Revah often snuck in to collect fungi against Kanae's wishes.
There was no explanation as to why this place sprouted in No Man's Land. According to Parn and others who lived up here all their lives, Toadstool Forest didn't exist until Kanae used the Writ of Divine Lease. Rumor has it that there used to be a gargantuan forest with trees taller than Aidenhall's highest point. They were all long buried under the earth now, serving as a plentiful food source for detritus and fungi. The current hypothesis was that blessing the land allowed those decomposers to grow exponentially and resulted in this.
They might never know, but Kanae did know that Toadstool Forest contained a trove of dangerous substances Ortesia was unaware of.
Something cracked and groaned below. Kanae watched as a giant mushroom tree collapsed, the first of many to be felled. She descended to the surface after it toppled completely. Undead from Legion of the Dead swarmed it in seconds, hacking away at the fallen mushroom with axes.
"I can't believe you're making me use my undead as glorified loggers. I didn't sign up for this, Kanae! My necromantic powers are meant for conquest, not deforestation!" Edina shook her fist from the back of an undead dragon.
"We're doing this for the good of the Commonwealth! Besides, an army of undead alone isn't enough to fight back the Empire of Ortesia. We need to start using our heads," Kanae explained, tapping the side of her head.
The grumbling squirreling necromancer returned to compelling her undead to cut the mushroom into smaller pieces. Once the cap had been sawed off, adventurers dressed in protective cloth gear entered the scene to scrape spores from the gills and into ceramic jars.
Other adventurers who weren't on collection duty stood guard, watching for any potential attacks from dire beasts. The expedition was meticulously planned. Kanae marked all of the mana-burning spore mushrooms they were planning to collect. Mages casted ice magic on the caps and the gills underneath it to keep the spores from spreading. Edina's undead cut down the mushroom trees next since it didn't matter if they were crushed, hurt, or caught stray spores. One half of the adventurers came in after with Rown wagons to collect the spores, and the other half were on the lookout.
"Be careful with that stuff!" Rosaline slithered up to and yelled at a careless adventurer. "It will burn your mana dry, and if enough of it gets on you, that's a one-way trip to the afterlife. Have you ever been burned by mana-burning spores? I have! It's not a very fun time, let me tell you."
Ehmvier City's infamous lamia alchemist tagged along after catching wind of where Kanae was going. In fact, Rosaline had been vehemently opposed to Toadstool Forest being closed off.
"You could've just told me what to bring back to you," Kanae said.
"Nonsense. A true alchemist should visit the source of her materials and ingredients! How will I achieve my magnum opus by going about alchemy so half-heartedly? Nay! As the sole pupil of Elizabeth Bedlam, I mustn't simply trace her footsteps. I must slither over them! Which is why I need to experience these mana-burning spores first-hand!" Rosaline uncorked a jar to sprinkle over herself.
"ROSALINE, ARE YOU CRAZY?!" she cried.
"Ahh— Yes, it burns as much as I expected! Wait, this burns more than I expected— ieee, aahhh!" The touched-in-the-head alchemist writhed on the ground and started nibbling on her tail.
A couple of adventurers who saw what happened rushed to help until Kanae stopped them.
"No, don't help her! You'll get spores on yourselves! Just… put a barrier on her and wait it out." Kanae sighed.
They did just that, encasing Rosaline in a magical barrier so the mana-burning spores could run their course without harming anyone else.
"Don't mind me! The fiery sensation is just giving me inspiration!" Rosaline explained in twitching agony from within the barrier.
"That lamia is an idiot, isn't she?" Aisha, who had asked to come along to collect some herbs for witch doctor-y purposes, stared at the suffering Rosaline with indifference.
"Rosaline is actually a genius alchemist, but it comes with a cost…" Kanae sighed.
"Master, the wagons are at 20% capacity. We're well on our way to filling them in about three hours. I would also like to express some worry. Twenty wagons worth of mana-burning spores is a lot. I believe this would be considered a war crime under the Radevic Convention," Esta said, gesturing to the ass loads of crates in the back of each wagon.
It wasn't a surprise that a knight as chivalrous as Estaline von Cleisseldor would worry about war crimes.
"I don't know what the Radevic Convention entails, but as far as I know, we're only allies and the Commonwealth was never formally signed into that. If this is a war crime, then I can't wait to be written into their history books about it." Kanae shrugged.
"That succubus who carpet-bombed the Ortesian armies with mana-burning spores. Has a nice ring to it. Sure as three hells show those high and mighty elves a thing about war!" Edina beat her fists together.
"I hear high elves tend to squeal the most when backed into a corner. I'm more interested in watching your undead tear through their ranks." Aisha clasped Edina's hand.
"You're talking my language, baby! Kanae, where'd you find this chick? She knows what's up!"
Something rumbled in the distance. The adventurers on guard raised their weapons, and Esta lifted an arm to shield Kanae in case anything approached.
Three novice, beastmen adventurers ran for their lives. A horde of undead and other adventurers, composed of humans and elves, were the ones chasing them.
"What the fuck is going on? I can't control them! Stop it!" Edina hopped off her dragon only to get trampled in the stampede.
It took a death knight swinging the flat side of its sword to knock away the attackers. Undead caught in the hit were pummeled into bone dust, and the adventurers went lights out upon hitting a tree. The rest were quickly defeated and subdued by adventurers who weren't going nuts.
"What happened? Why are they going crazy?" Kanae asked the three who were fine if not winded from running.
"We went to collect… some other mushrooms like you asked… A couple of them went to check inside a cave, then they came running out with their weapons drawn!"
"That's why we started running. They looked like they wanted to kill us!"
Did mushrooms do this? Maybe a hallucinogenic effect of some sorts?
"Kanae, look!" Edina kicked the skull of a defeated skeletal grunt up to her feet. "There's weird growths on it. Gross."
Kanae kneeled down to inspect the skull. An orange and white web of slime pulled across the cranial bone, and some of it slipped inside both sockets. Edina was holding an arm bone that had the same substance on it. Actually, all of the bones had it. The adventurers who were acting weird did, too.
"This looks like a mystery only an alchemist can solve!"
"Wha— How did you get out of the barrier?" Kanae gasped as Rosaline sidled up to them.
"Oh, I stopped the burning sensation with a neutralizing agent!" Rosaline smiled.
"That didn't answer my—"
The lamia continued, "More importantly, my winged friend, we are looking at what's called mycelium. These root-like webby structures are grown from mushroom spores. They had likely taken root inside their brains and bodies."
Kanae shuddered. "That sounds like the start of a zombie apocalypse movie… Wait, so are we in danger out here?"
Rosaline shrugged her shoulders. Great. Maybe 20% of the wagon loads was good enough.
"But my alchemist senses are tingling. I intend to find out!" Rosaline dashed in the direction the adventurers and undead had come from.
"Are you kidding me? Get back here!" Kanae shouted, but the alchemist was already too far.
"We can just leave her," Edina suggested.
"I'm in agreement with Edina. Rosaline has always been able to handle herself. Following her into a cave when she has explosives on her is also dangerous," Esta added.
"No, we can't just leave one of the two best alchemists on this continent behind. I also don't want Mikki to be sad about losing her mentor! Aisha, Edina, Esta, with me. Everyone else, continue collecting the spores," she ordered before taking off in Rosaline's direction.
They followed the trail left behind in the dirt by a lamia. It led them to a sinkhole in the ground. A few mushroom trees had fallen into it or were leaning heavily inwards. This must have been where those adventurers and undead were when it collapsed. The bottom of the hole wasn't very far, but a tunnel seemed to lean farther in. Now the question was… did Rosaline really go inside?
"I'm telling you, man. We should just leave her," Edina said.
"You can stay here if you want. I'm going down to drag Rosaline out by the tail if I have to." Kanae jumped into the sinkhole only for the other three to land a moment later.
The four of them nodded to each other and ventured into the tunnel. Daylight soon vanished, its light replaced by carpets and rods of glowing mycelium. Some were even pulsing as if they were blood vessels connected to a beating heart. The strange cave system had no pattern to it other than every path continued to descend. Their only evidence of Rosaline coming through here was a trench in the soft dirt only a serpent could make.
"You don't think the spores will grow and control us, do you?" Aisha asked, brushing away a curtain of hanging mycelium.
"I wonder… If Master is controlled by mushroom spores, am I still beholden to serve her? Or will I be serving the mushroom?" Esta wondered aloud to herself from the front.
"Let's not get into deep philosophical questions while hundred feet below the surface. If the spores can control us, it's already too late. No choice but to keep going," Kanae said.
They eventually stumbled into a corridor with harder walls of compacted dirt, stone, and old, decaying wood. Deep holes, like someone repeatedly plunged a spear into the walls, dotted the length of the tunnel.
Kanae stopped to peer into one. A worm squirmed its way out of a hole. At least, she believed it was a worm at first. It had a cap like mushrooms. The shaft was long and smooth. Tiny holes on the umbrella cap oozed a gooey, white liquid reminiscent of ejaculate. As more mushrooms protruded from their holes, a dirty thought crossed her mind. She grabbed the base of one and opened her mouth.
"What do you think you're doing?" Aisha folded her arms.
"N-Nothing!" Kanae tensed up. "Just inspecting the mushroom."
"This is glory-hole galore for Kanae. You wanna suck and fuck some shrooms, buddy?" Edina teased.
"Of course not!" She stormed ahead, fighting the disappointment of being cockblocked.
The curtain of mycelium grew thicker the farther they delved. They went from tiny tendrils to tentacles as thick as Chappy's molesting appendages. It didn't help that Kanae was getting horny from their slimy arms brushing against her skin.
"Help!" Aisha cried from the back. "I can't move… These stupid things are constricting me!"
As they turned to help, the draping tentacles snatched their limbs.
"Hold on. I can break us free with Necrotic Touch!" Edina grabbed a tendril, causing it to turn black and wither. The effects traveled to the others and eventually reached Esta.
"Edina, that stings!" Esta winced.
"Stop the spell! Now!" Kanae ordered strongly.
The squirreling flinched. In doing so, it allowed the mycelium to regenerate and hold them again.
"M-My bad!" Edina shrunk.
Kanae shot a worried look at Esta. Hopefully that necrotic magic didn't do anything to the baby.
The mycelium tentacles yanked them all into the wall, Kanae and Aisha on one side, and Esta and Edina on the other. Behind them, the earth began to open up. They were sinking into it.
"Oh, fuck—" Edina squeaked as she sank in.
"Master!" Esta sucked in a deep breath and spewed a thin jet of flames at the mycelium on Kanae's arms.
"Esta, no!" Kanae produced a knife to carve her feet free, then raced up to Esta just as she disappeared into the earth. "Esta! Edina! Can you two hear me?!"
"Don't forget… me, too…" Aisha muttered, slowly sinking in just like the others.
Kanae hurried back to cut Aisha loose, and the remaining mycelium retracted into the earth.
"We have to find them! If something happened to Esta and Edina… or the baby, I'll—" A quick slap struck Kanae across the cheek.
"Calm down, you slut." Aisha shook the hand that slapped her and grimaced. "I don't plan to die here either. I might not have an offspring coming, but death can wait until after Will gives me as many children to rival you and Mitty. Now… I just need some material…"
The witch doctor went around collecting mycelium, rotting pieces of bark, and collecting the cinders from Esta's breath. She grinded them all together into a wooden bowl hanging from her waist. It was a goopy, black and green paste when she was done. Kanae felt magic emanating from it, too.
Without an ounce of hesitation, Aisha scooped the slop up to her mouth and swallowed it. She wiped the rest from her lips and stuck her tongue out.
"What did you make?" Kanae asked as her hobgoblin sister-in-law's eyes glowed a deep forest green.
"Forest Strider," Aisha answered, scanning the tight space around them. "It's a druid spell. Lets the spellcaster see root systems of any plants, fungi, and trees. The spell is useless in a fight, but great for searching arable lands in a climate like the Badlands. I think I see them. Two figures, one small and the other big, wrapped like cocoons by mycelium. The third one near them is probably the idiot lamia. Follow me."
Relieved, Kanae followed after Aisha and kept her eyes out for any attacks by the mycelium again. It occurred to her that they weren't often alone together, despite being family. Well, family was an awkward word to describe them. Kanae knew she and Aisha came from very different backgrounds, connected only by Mitty and the kids.
"So, uh… You and Will? Still kind of hard to believe you two are an item," Kanae tried her hand at conversation.
"I thought I told you? It's only out of convenience. He's strong and capable of becoming stronger. I'm confident the children we produce will be mighty," Aisha said, though it was clear in the tone of her voice she hid other motives.
"You seem pretty desperate about having strong children. Is that just goblin and hobgoblin instinct?"
"Probably. Gabrul, that shitty old man of mine… We grew up with him always calling us useless, that we'd never amount to anything. Maybe he was right. The one he thought was most useless wedded a succubus queen and had a bunch of kids. Me? I thought I could grow strong by obeying him, and that it would keep my mother safe. How wrong I turned out to be…"
The one constant that all races suffered from— parental pressure.
"Leaving Gabrul out of the equation, I think Moira is plenty proud of you. I used to be afraid of letting my kids out of my sight. Probably sheltered them to hell and back, too. Your mom was willing to let you come to the Commonwealth with me, because she knew you were strong enough to protect yourself. If you ask me, that's something to be proud of. Better than a mother like Avaline who was willing to fight her own daughter," Kanae said.
"Drakelings, am I right?" Aisha chuckled. "I appreciate it. For a succubus slut, maybe you're not so bad."
They entered a hollowed out chamber with a thick, gargantuan mushroom in the center. Rosaline was attached to the trunk by a blanket of mycelium. She appeared to be unconscious. As for Esta and Edina, they were both trapped in glowing, vegetative pods suspended from the ceiling by mycelium threads.
"Hang out, guys! I'm coming to save you!" Kanae shouted.
"You will not," Rosaline awoke to say.
"Something's not right. All of the mycelium roots are lightning up. Especially the one in front of us! It's blinding me!" Aisha squinted and shielded her eyes.
The earth shuddered. Spores shaken loose from the central mushroom's cap rained down on Kanae and Aisha. They covered their noses. However, it was the ground that started reacting. Small mushrooms grew at extreme speeds. Kanae backed away and accidentally stepped on a cluster, causing them to burst with powder. Her vision began to distort in a colorful array of melting shapes.
"Oh, no… Not again…" Kanae groaned.
"What's… happening to… us?" Aisha asked, falling to her knees and turning into an erect penis.
Kanae rubbed her eyes, but Aisha was still a straight mast. The giant mushroom at the center of the room warped into a giant languisteed schlong, much like Titan's.
"I'm not falling for that! I know it's not real!" Kanae shouted.
"We forgive you for cutting down our kin, but you have trespassed into our domain. That cannot be forgiven. You will atone by becoming our sustenance," a deep voice bellowed.
While everything was spinning, a cool and slimy sensation stretched across Kanae's body. Mycelium? She glanced down to find herself drenched in ejaculate. Above her, dozens of large penises were dripping with cum.
"Alright, maybe I don't want to resist… This looks like heaven," Kanae mumbled, opening her mouth to catch the drops of honey.
"I take back what I said. You're really just a degenerate succubus slut after all!" Aisha cried.
The layer of cum stiffened and stretched. Kanae's nipples were getting hard. Something poked out of the ground and stuffed itself into her pussy. She gladly bounced on it, riding the dick granted to her.
"We have seen you. Our kingdom is greater than all surface-dwellers combined. Ever since the myco-gods blessed us with sentience five and a half years, we have bore witness to your destructive tendencies. No more. Everything shall belong to us. Everything shall belong to the collective!"
"Five and a half… years ago? Isn't that when… I used the Writ of Divine Lease?" Kanae asked.
"W-What?" Their bravery started wavering. "No, that can't be it. Are you telling us that you are the myco-gods?"
"Hold on… I'm about to… Make your mushroom bigger! I want a bigger dick inside me! Make me cum!" She sped up her pace, bouncing on the swelling shaft.
Something liquidy sprayed into Kanae's womb. The feeling was intensified by the warm, pulsating mycelium on her body. They tensed and relaxed as if climaxing with her. The orgasm was so great, she let loose her own waterworks all over the ground.
"Stop that! Your urine contains too much nitrogen. It will damage the soil!" the angry mushroom yelled in Rosaline's voice.
Kanae snapped back to her senses. The colossal mushroom was shriveling up, and the pods containing Esta and Edina were withering.
"Aisha!" Kanae grabbed her shoulders and shook. "Piss on the ground!"
"You want me to— what?!" Aisha glared.
"Just do it, and watch your feet because there are mushrooms all over the place!"
"F-Fine, just look away! I'm not a pervert like you!" She staggered around to the back of the mushroom to do her business.
"Wait!" Rosaline, under the sentient mushroom's control, craned her neck to harp at Aisha. "Don't do that! Not so close to the base of my trunk! Nooooooo—"
The pods crashed to the ground. Esta and Edina spilled out of it, covered in a strange goo.
"Ughh… Getting this out of my fur is going to take ages!" Edina wailed.
"Esta, are you okay?" Kanae steadied the drakeling knight on her feet.
"Yes, but… where are we?" Esta asked.
Aisha was just now coming back, slightly red in the face.
"Great surface gods from above… Please forgive us. We did not mean to anger you. Don't urinate on us anymore!" Rosaline begged.
"Wha?! Rosaline's talking all weird!" Edina gasped.
"That's not Rosaline," Kanae said. "The mushrooms underground gained sentience after we used the Writ of Divine Lease five years ago. Look, we didn't mean to stumble into your underground kingdom. You can keep it for all I care. We only want to collect the mana-burning spores from above and get Rosaline back."
"This incessant yapping one came down here here scraping our kin into pouches. Take her. We don't want her here. As for the toadstools on the surface, those are not sentient. However, they do provide us with sustenance. All we ask is that you not cut them all down," it pleaded.
The mycelium detached, and a large tendril brought Rosaline safely to the ground. Kanae checked her vitals. She was fine, if not a little delirious from inhaling spores. Esta picked the lamia up, and they were about to leave when Kanae raced back into the central chamber.
"I didn't get your name yet. I'm Kanae Toyomi, Queen of the Commonwealth," Kanae introduced herself.
It didn't respond. Instead, mycelium tendrils stretched up Kanae's legs. Some inserted themselves into her pussy. She heard a voice speak inside her mind.
We are Kingdom. A pleasure to meet you, surface-dwelling god Kanae Toyomi.
"Before I leave… I was wondering if you have some of those hallucinogenic spores you used on me to part with? I, uh… I kind of liked what I saw," Kanae said.
The mycelium on her body stretched up to her arms. They formed a sort of leathery pouch. Inside it contained a grainy, powdery substance.
Spores of the edelitica fungus. Grow them. Their caps will contain pockets of spores to suit your… needs.
"Thanks." Kanae bowed and winked. "I hope both our kingdoms can prosper together."