Everyone knew by now that mushrooms sucked. No, they didn’t just suck; they went above sucking. Their level of suck was so high they were endless vacuums of suffering. One of the reasons mushrooms sucked so much was because of how they worked.

Jake had encountered it before and knew that fungi were sneaky fucks. They liked to hide in things and make it look like there totally was an entire cavern full of mushrooms when it was actually just one single god damn fungus. This final boss floor was the same as Jake quickly came to realize. He tracked his poison in the large mushroom as it spread throughout the entire system of the fungus - the curse energy was divided and conquered by what had to be millions of mushrooms.

This made the entire fungus have an absolutely massive body covering well over a dozen square kilometers. And all of this was somehow linked to the Mushroom Man King. No, this wasn’t a case where the huge fungus was actually the body of the little guy, but far more likely one where the small Mushroom Man had stumbled upon an incredibly powerful natural treasure and then grown it to the huge fungus Jake and Draskil were now seeking to destroy.

Based on what Jake could see, it was possible to just repeatedly kill the Mushroom Man King until the massive fungus ran out of energy, but it was far faster to kill both at once. It would probably take Draskil in excess of two hours with the current speed he was expending the energy of the mushrooms, and Jake wasn’t even sure if the dragonkin would last that long if he had his boosting skill active. This approach of destroying the fungus also fitted way better with the theme of the dungeon as it wasn’t as much a fight against an individual as it was a task to poison an entire ecosystem.

Jake used One Step to get to the stem of the massive mushroom as he was surrounded by the blue glowing fucks. Spores were released from all of them, trying to poison Jake, but all it did was make him more aware of the nature of the fungus.

Kneeling down, Jake blew away some soil as he took hold of the massive root system beneath the ground. The largest roots were around the massive mushroom, and Jake would use that as his point of entrance.

Above him, explosions repeatedly sounded out as the Mushroom Man King tried to get Draskil away from him, but the dragonkin shrugged it all off as he continued his assault. One party released dozens of different spells every second while the other simply ripped and tore with his claws and tail, with Draskil dominating it handily, giving the Mushroom Man no opportunity to address Jake.

Jake had grasped hold of the massive mushroom and closed his eyes for a moment. Touch of the Malefic Viper activated, and with his high Perception, he quickly came to understand the massive network of roots. The cursed concoction had nearly run out of power while Jake got in position, but some of it still remained. He decided to take advantage of this.

Poison was pumped in as Jake sought to strengthen the cursed poison. At the same time, he delivered some more common fungicide to deal massive damage to the entire root system. He didn’t need to use any of the aspects of subtlety from the soul poison he used on the last big blue mushroom he killed but could just go all in.

A barrage of spells was then released down towards him, but Draskil moved to intercept as he teleported with a flap of his wings. Jake would have been fine either way, but his dragonkin buddy had clearly decided that the little king was not even getting a sliver of a chance.

Focusing on his task, Jake kept poisoning the monstrosity of a fungus. He believed he was doing a good job until suddenly he felt something… a push. Usually, when one used Touch of the Malefic Viper, it was an infusion. But to make an infusion, a connection had to be formed, and through this connection, the fungus now attacked.

Dense energy flooded through the fungus’ roots and into Jake. He considered letting go but knew that the fungus was now awake and would rapidly destroy the poison he had used if he gave up now. Even more importantly, then Jake didn’t want to lose out and give up when his dragonkin buddy was watching and doing a splendid job himself.

Gritting his teeth, Jake felt the energy invade his body and begin to ravage him from within. The fungus contained far more energy than Jake did… far, far more energy. It was like a massive battery of pure power, and Jake’s only saving grace was that it couldn’t discharge much of it rapidly. The closest comparison Jake had to the fungus was the curse energy in Eternal Hunger, but that was a pretty bad comparison considering the curse energy had not been actively antagonistic towards Jake and was also on an entirely different level in both quality and quantity. This fungus did contain a lot of energy, sure, but if what was within Eternal Hunger went rampant, Jake knew entire planets could be consumed by its hunger.

Jake and the mushroom continued their battle of push and pull as both tried to combat the energy they were injected with. Jake felt that the energy flooding him was surprisingly pure, not having any affinity. It was still trying to kill him, but he was now sure it was all controlled by the Mushroom Man King.

Draskil and Jake were fighting the same foe in the battle of attrition as Jake pushed in more and more energy. He allowed the mushroom to attack him in kind, believing in his body’s ability to take it. Considering the lack of affinity in the mushroom, Jake also began to pump in some dark mana. The nature of dark mana was to consume other types of mana and propagate itself, and Jake happily helped it do that to consume more of the mushroom’s energy storage. He controlled the poison through Touch and tried to attack the most essential parts of the massive fungus to kill it faster.

It was a game of cat and mouse. The fungus tried to eliminate the toxic energy Jake poured in, while Jake wanted to keep pumping. In the meanwhile, he also needed to keep avoiding getting what he had already put in eliminated. If the massive fungus could lock down what toxic energy he injecting, it would be able to instantly just flood it with mana and destroy it.

Hence Jake controlled it. He condensed the toxic energy as he focused. A vivid image of a giant network of paths appeared in his mind, and he instinctively knew it was a representation of the Soulshape of the fungus. It almost felt as if Jake was a small yellow circle with a mouth running around a maze being chased by ghosts as he slowly consumed more and more of his foe.

Realizing the fight was not going its way, the Mushroom Man King began trying to change its tactic. It saw Jake as the primary threat, and the now four versions of the little king began waving their wands and making tendrils of shroom emerge to attack Jake.

Jake, still holding into the roots of the massive fungus, kept his eyes closed as he focused. The tendrils flying for him suddenly began withering and turned into black dust that promptly scattered. More came, but they all met the same fate as Jake smirked unknowingly.

Every time the fungus moved, its Soulshape shifted slightly to represent it. All Jake did was split off some energy towards these moving parts, essentially sending toxic payloads into the tendrils to instantly destroy them. With the lacking ability of the Mushroom Man King to properly focus on taking down Jake while fighting Draskil, it had a tough time combatting this.

Jake kept up his part of the battle as he manipulated the toxic energy within the fungus like never before. At the same time, he also managed to do something else he usually didn’t: amplifying the existing toxin he had injected. Or, more accurately, thrown on top of the giant mushroom.

He felt like he had more control than ever before and felt like he was touching upon an opportunity. Rather than infusing toxins into the creature itself… what if he injected it directly into the toxin he had already placed there? Sure, it had to go through the fungus, but currently, it was more like Jake connected a facet of toxins to the fungus and just let it drain into the maze-like Soulshape of the fungus before finally taking control of it. What if he instead shot it directly towards the toxic energy already in there? So rather than connecting a facet, he shot a water beam straight towards his target.

Combined with Sense of the Malefic VIper and mayb-

*You have slain [Mushroom Man King – lvl 201] – Bonus experience earned for killing an enemy above your level*

*’DING!’ Class: [Avaricious Arcane Hunter] has reached level 172 - Stat points allocated, +10 Free Points*

*’DING!’ Race: [Human (D)] has reached level 173 - Stat points allocated, +15 Free Points*

Jake’s train of thought was interrupted by the entire Soulshape suddenly withering and breaking. His mind took a second to process what had happened as he looked up and saw Draskil with his mouth still open and a large black line cutting the large mushroom in two along with a few black rotting parts of the many Mushroom Man Kings falling to the ground.

He still stared as the dragonkin teleported down. ”It died,” Draskil said, a bit disappointed.

Jake felt the crumbling roots of the fungus in his hands as he sighed.

”Fuck me… be right back.”

Do you wish to experience the Legacy of the Malefic Viper? Uses remaining: 3

With that, Jake flashed out of existence for a moment as he went on a journey to experience the Path of the Malefic Viper – or at least a little snippet of it.

“Alright, we are closing in on the den,” a male elf wearing golden armor said as he lifted his hand, signaling those behind him to stop.

Four men and six women followed him closely, all wearing different equipment and wielding powerful weapons. Jake, who was observing this, instantly knew all of them were C-grade… mid-tier C-grade, he guessed.

Out of this group, many would perhaps put most of their attention on their elven leader, but Jake focused on someone else. A human-looking male with long black hair, wearing a relatively simple robe. He didn’t appear particularly threatening, and from how he was in the back and his equipment, he was clearly a caster of some kind.

However, the reason why he stood out to Jake was his familiar eyes and aura. This was the weakest iteration he had ever seen of him, but it was clearly the Malefic Viper fully disguised as a human.

“Strolas, do you have the flasks ready?” the elven leader asked as he turned to the one who would one day be known as the Malefic Viper.

“Yes, sir,” the Malefic Viper – going by Strolas – answered in a meek tone. “Just remember not to take too much damage, or the flasks may lose their effect.”

“I trust you,” the elf said with a smile. With that, the Viper handed out flasks to everyone in his group. They headed closer to the den, and once they did so, another caster of the group cast some magic before nodding. “It’s in there.”

The elven leader nodded. “Let’s go.”

Everyone drank their flasks. A few were a bit hesitant, but Strolas consumed his own instantly, making everyone else follow suit. Jake barely noticed a glint in the eyes of the Viper as the hunt began.

A massive beast firing out intense lasers of pure light magic emerged from the den and attacked. Jake watched on as the battle raged with what he quickly identified as a late-tier C-grade. It was a real struggle and a damn close fight from the looks of it, but the party of eleven persevered. Everyone took damage and was hit back, and Jake had to admit that any person shown in this vision would be able to kill him.

After nearly two grueling hours – that had felt more like a minute due to the entire fight getting fast-forwarded through - the giant beast lay dead, with not a single one in the group falling. The elf in his golden armor now had a bare chest as his armor had been broken, and one of the mages was missing an arm. The one healer in their group was spent, and everyone looked exhausted. All of them had done their utmost and pushed themselves… everyone but one person.

Jake had noticed how the Viper had gone easy. He had avoided nearly all hits and only allowed some attacks to hit him, making it look like he had taken significant damage with his singed cloak and scarred upper body, but in reality, he was in near-top condition.

“Good job,” the elven leader said as they all celebrated. He praised all the members with a genuine smile and also turned to the Viper. “Strolas, you have gone above and beyond once more. Those flasks surpassed my expectations. You truly are the best alchemist in the empire, and I will make sure to mention your performance to my father.”

The Viper seemed thankful as he went closer to the elf. “Thank you, sir, but if I may have one request…”

“What is it?” the elf asked, still happy as he got close to the Viper.

“Would you all kindly die?”

Pride of the Malefic Viper – or what would be known as Pride – descended as a domain appeared. The entire group of celebrating party members became alert as the Viper’s head flew forward and bit into the neck of the elf. At the same time, he lifted his hand into the air as it began glowing a dark green color… and Jake’s Perception of time slowed as he felt it.

Within every single person in the group, a toxin stirred, touched not by his hand but his domain. It was the flask they had all consumed before. Jake did not know what it was made of, but clearly, it had been an incredibly potent toxin in disguise.

The Viper ripped out the neck of the elf before he was blasted back by a flaming sword from the stumbling group leader. He looked at the Viper with shock as black scales emerged on his body and his body morphed into a large black wyvern in seconds.

He froze and didn’t properly react. Everyone did. Their mental states were disturbed, their bodies broken from the battle with the beast before, and their resources spent. They even came to learn that the potions they had consumed contained more hidden poison, making them all despair further.

It was a group that Jake felt the Viper could never beat alone in a fight. The elven leader was a match for Villy alone, and if he hadn’t been the main fighter against the beast before, they would have had a close fight. But with the element of surprise, them consuming an incredibly potent poison and their already weakened states, the outcome was obvious.

Even then, the Viper took damage as he killed them one by one. His wing was severed and his scales bleeding as he finally stood before the elven leader, who managed to hold on till the end.

“Why… what are you? How?” the elf said in disbelief as he was unable to stand any longer.

“The line between what is a poison and something helpful can be very narrow and blurred. Deceiving the Perception of an amateur in alchemy is not an impressive feat in the slightest. As for who I am… ah, it doesn’t matter, now does it?” the Malefic Viper said with a light smile. The elf had already closed his eyes and succumbed to the poison.

Time rewound.

Jake once more saw the moment he activated Touch of the Malefic Viper. He focused on the process and, the second time around, felt that the simple motion had been a marvel of control. He didn’t just activate the poison within them all but manipulated it. Amplified it. Sense of the Malefic Viper allowed him to see, Pride allowed him to extend his influence, and Touch to control.

Time rewound.

He felt it all again as more things became clear. He saw all their Soulshapes, and it was like a connection was made to each of them. Through Pride, it was formed...but Pride was not truly what created this connection. It was formed by Touch using Pride as a proxy, the two skills working flawlessly in synergy.

Time rewound.

Again and again, he saw it. He had already been on the precipice before and was just hammering out any flaws. He wasn’t even sure if he would have needed to use Path of the Heretic-Chosen to get the upgrade… but he had the uses, so why not? He also feared that the inspiration could leave him if he didn’t finish the upgrade there and then.

After thirteen rewinds, Jake got the notification as everything clicked into place, and he felt himself return to the real world once more.

A note from Zogarth

Thanks for reading!

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