Hey everyone, I’m posting five chapters of my new novel as a preview before I go on my work conference. Once I come back, chapters will start updating regularly along with the other novels I’m translating.
I love, love, love this novel and I hope you decide to give it a chance after reading all five chapters. It might be a bit dark and despairing at times but our little mushroom is always a ray of sunshine in it. In addition, please read the disclaimers of the table of contents if you haven’t already. Enjoy!
The cave was dim and damp, illuminated by the faint fluorescence of the plants. The stone walls were wrapped with vines that were a dark green, dark purple or thick black, just like large groups of entangled snakes.
A black flying insect staggered in. It had six hard wings and three mouthparts. The next second, a huge purple and swollen vine rose from the tangled up vines and split apart like a mouth. It closed in the next moment, swallowing the flying insect in its stomach. The vine wriggled slowly and the swollen part was gradually restored to its original state.
There was a sound like wings flapping in the cave. A drop of mucus dragged a translucent filament down from the top of the cave onto the sticky moss on the ground. It wriggled slightly and the mucus was quickly absorbed, disappearing into the ground.
There was a corner illuminated by the fluorescence of a green fungi. In the gap between the rock and soil, white water gushed out like a tidal wave. Covering a large area was white mycelium. It grew, spread and stretched out hundreds of millions of antennae, finally creeping toward the centre. It gathered and lengthened until it formed a body. A foot stepped on the soft moss, sinking into the moss until only a white ankle was revealed.
An Zhe looked at his ankle. This was a human limb that supported the skeleton, muscles and blood vessels. Joints could move but they weren’t flexible due to the limitations of the skeleton. The stratum corneum formed the fingernails, smooth, round and transparent. The final product was degraded and took the sharp tip of an animal’s claws.
He raised his leg and took a step. The moss, that had previously sunk down from being stepped on, was wet and elastic. It gathered together again after he left, like an upright earthworm. This time, he stepped on something else under his feet—the arm of a human skeleton.
In the darkness, An Zhe looked at the skeleton. Fungi and vines had taken root deep in the bones.Dark green vines were wrapped around the hip and leg bones while brightly coloured little mushrooms grew in the ribs like blooming flowers. Fluorescent mushrooms were born from its hollow eyes and sparse teeth. The green glow was like quicksand, blurred in the fog of the cave.
An Zhe looked at it for a long time. Finally, he bent over and picked up a backpack made of animal skin beside the skeleton. The contents inside the backpack weren’t affected by the moisture. There were a few pieces of clothing, human food and water as well as a black chip half the size of a palm with the number ‘3261170514’ on it.
Three days ago, the skeleton was a living human being.
“3261170514.” The young man’s voice had been hoarse and intermittent, the green fluorescence of the cave shining on his face. “My ID number. This is my ID card. I can go back to the human base with it.”
An Zhe asked, “Can I help you go back?”
The human smiled, his fingers of his right hand gently drooping against the side of his body. The chip rolled from his hand, hidden in the moss. He leaned back against the mountain wall, raised his head and pressed his left hand to his chest. There was a huge wound there. Grey bone spurs pierced his back and the skin around it was festered. Some of it was grey and the flocculent flesh covered the surface of the bone spurs. The other part was dark green and moved up and down with the rhythm of his breathing.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
He gasped a few times before whispering, “I can’t go back, little mushroom.”
Llr rtlga kjr atbgbeutis rajlcfv, tlr rxlc qjif, tlr ilqr vgs jcv tlr ybvs agfwyifv lggfueijgis.
Cchtf ibbxfv ja tlw jcv vlvc’a xcbk ktja ab rjs. Lf mbeiv olcjiis bcis weaafg atf cjwf bo atlr sbecu tewjc. “Cc If?”
“Tbe tjnf jiwbra mbwqifafis ifjgcfv atf tewjc ijcuejuf.” Ktf tewjc ibbxfv vbkc ja tlr ybvs.
In addition to the pus and blood, there were also white mycelium on his body. They had become part of his body. The mycelium grew in a winding manner and clung to An Ze’s torso and limbs. The purpose of the mushroom was to stop the bleeding for this dying human being. However, instinctively, the mycelium also absorbed and digested the fresh blood.
“Can you learn so much from eating my genes? The pollution index of this place is truly very high,” the human questioned.
Fragments of knowledge unfolded in An Zhe’s mind. After five seconds of conversion, he knew the pollution index meant the speed at which genes were transformed. Now genes were flowing into An Zhe through the human blood.
“Maybe… when I die, you will eat all my body… and gain many things.” An Ze looked at the top of the cave and his lips flattened. “I seem to have done something meaningful, although I don’t know if it is good or bad for you.”
An Zhe didn’t speak. His entire body moved in An Ze’s direction. He held An Ze’s shoulder with his newly grown human arm and a large number of mycelium came and piled up beside An Ze, supporting An Ze’s crumbling body.
In the silent cave, there was only the sound of the dying human gasping.
After a long time, An Ze finally spoke again. “I am a person whose life has no meaning.”
“…I have nothing outstanding so it is normal for them to leave me behind. In fact, I’m very happy not to go back to the human base. It is the same as the wild where only valuable people live… I’ve wanted to die for a long time but I didn’t expect to meet you, a gentle creature, a little mushroom, before I died.”
An Zhe didn’t have a clear sense of some of these terms, such as value, such as death. He focused on one noun again, ‘human base.’
He leaned on An Ze’s shoulder and said, “I want to go to the human base.”
An Ze wondered, “Why?”
An Zhe raised his left arm and his fingers dangled in the air. It was as if he was trying to grab air but he had nothing to grab. Just like his body. His body was empty. A huge hole was born from the deepest part of his body and there was no way to fill it, no way to heal. There was only the endless emptiness and panic that haunted him day by day.
He organized the human language and slowly spoke, “I lost… my spore.”
“My… seed.” He didn’t know how to explain it.
Every mushroom will have spores in their lifetime. Some were numerous while some only had one. Spores were the seeds of mushroom. They were born in the gill and scattered on the wind, putting down roots and become a new mushroom. Then this mushroom would gradually grow up, having their own spores. A mushroom’s only mission in life was to nurture and mature the spore. However, he lost his own spore when it was far from mature.
An Ze slowly turned his head. An Zhe could hear the click of his bones as he turned, like an old human machine.
“Don’t go there.” The human’s voice was hoarse and slow. “You will die.”
An Zhe repeated the word. “…Die?”
“Only humans can enter the human base and you can’t escape the judge’s eye.” An Ze coughed a few times before taking a hard breath. “Don’t go… little mushroom.”
An Zhe was at a loss. “I…”
A human hand suddenly grasped An Zhe’s mycelium. The human had used a lot of strength and his gasping became more rapid.
“Listen.” After a violent tremor and gasp, An Ze slowly closed his eyes and spoke in a low voice. “You have no attack or defense. You are just… a little mushroom.”
Sometimes, An Zhe regretted telling An Ze that he was going to a human base. If he hadn’t told An Ze, An Ze wouldn’t have spent his last moments stopping An Zhe. He might’ve been able to listen to An Ze tell a story. Maybe An Zhe could’ve taken him from the dark cave to look at the changing aurora in the sky for the last time. However, An Ze’s eyes didn’t open again.
The short memory dissipated in the air, just as An Ze’s life suddenly dissipated in this world. An Ze was only a snow-white skeleton.
However, he still wanted to go against An Ze’s wishes.
He slowly opened his five fingers. On the delicate skin and lines of the palm, there was a brass-coloured, metal bullet case that was very heavy. There were some incomprehensible and unusual lines on it. This was what he had found in the place where he lost his spore. He hadn’t let go of it once he found it.
If there was a one-in-a-million chance that he could retrieve his spore then the possibility lay on this shell, which was a human creation.
He sighed and placed the bullet shell into the animal skin backpack left by An Ze. He leaned down and picked up the clothes An Ze had worn. It was a blood-stained grey long-sleeved shirt, black pants and black leather boots.
Having done all this, he walked outside the cave. The slightly loose clothes rubbed against his skin and small electric currents were transmitted from his fine nerve endings in the skin of the centre. It was the first time he was in a human body and he hadn’t adapted. He frowned and pulled up the sleeves of his loose shirt.
The cave was long and winding. The vines were piled up on the cave walls and pushed each other. As An Zhe passed through the cave, they receded and occupied the top of the cave.
After three turns, the wind entered. It was very humid. The mushroom opened the dead vines that fell from the mouth of the hole. Mushrooms, his kind, stretched out endlessly in his vision. They seemed to rise to the sky, everything calm and silent. Through the canopy, the dim light of the sky entered. The sky was grey with some green luster. An Zhe could smell the rain, fog, snakes and rotten plants.
It was currently evening. He sat down at the entrance of the tunnel under the canopy of grey mushrooms. He took out a dark yellow map from his backpack. There were different shades of colour on the map, marking the degree of risk in different regions. An Ze had once pointed out the approximate location of the cave where they lived. This was the blackest area on the map, which meant the danger level was six stars and the pollution level was six stars. It was called the ‘Abyss’. On the map, the area where the Abyss was located was also marked with many strange symbols. An Zhe checked them one by one according to the index on the lower right corner of the map. These symbols meant there were mushrooms, man-eating vines, man-eating bushes, simply mammalian monsters, mixed-type mammalian monsters, common reptile monsters, highly poisonous reptile monsters, winged monsters, amphibious monsters, mixed polymorphic monsters and human-like monsters in the Abyss. At the same time, there were valleys, hills, mountains, ruined human cities, road sites and other topography.
Up north and down south, his eyes went all the way up. Above the brightly coloured map was a pure white area marked by a red five-pointed star. The right side of the five-pointed star had the name of this area: Northern Base.
The green light of the sky was becoming brighter while the background became darker. At midnight, An Zhe could barely recognize the stars in the sky. He knew the brightest one was called Polaris and could indicate a direction.
He pointed the upward arrow in the upper left corner of the map in the direction of Polaris. He stepped on rotten wood, leaves, mycelium and soil, walking out step by step.
The night wasn’t dark. The changing green lights that humans called the aurora illuminated everything ahead. Only mushrooms filled his vision. They were yellow, red or brown mushrooms with large caps. Small, dense mushrooms were gathered on the mountain rocks. Round bacterial packages were scattered on the ground. Once they matured, spores would be ejected like fog and rain. These spores would land and divide in the moist soil, growing into spherical sacs like their mother. There were also mushrooms without caps. There were just white or yellow hyphae grouped together or separated radially, floating in the air like seaweed.
However, this wasn’t only a world of mushrooms. There were vines, moss, bushes, man-eating flowers and strange-shaped trees quietly lurking in the night. In the jungle of plants, there were some dark shadows and some strange shapes. Beasts or mixtures of beats and humans ran in the jungle, howling and fighting. Animals fought with animals, animal fought with plants or plants fought with plants. High and low howling hit the eardrums while the stones and mud were mixed with fresh blood. An Zhe saw a pine tree bend its trunk to swallow a snake with two tails. He also saw a giant toad stretch out a long, bright red tongue to grab a bat with human arms from the air. Five minutes after swallowing the bat, a pair of black wings grew from its back. This was only one of the thousands of scenes the mushroom had seen and he had grown used to it.
At this moment, a grey beast came over. It had four eyes and was covered with scales, feathers and fur. The head was like a crocodile and a giant wolf. Its seven teeth were exposed to the outside and it leaned close to An Zhe, sniffing him with a bloody nose.
An Zhe didn’t move. He quietly leaned against a mushroom and breathed evenly as his entire body was sniffed. The huge monster seemed to get nothing and dragged its heavy feet away.
An Zhe realized that nothing would notice him, even if he used a human body as a shell. Perhaps it was because mushrooms were everywhere, nutrient-free. They weren’t aggressive and were sometimes poisonous. Thus, he and the creatures of this world lived in peace.
Maybe it was as An Ze said. He was just a little mushroom.