The Imperial Hunter Chapter 32 - August's Rows of Trees (5)

Author: Dawn


The Chief, who looked like he was suspecting a favor, asked again with difficulty.

[Isn’t this help different? You gain nothing from it.]

Thud. Suyeon placed a coffee in front of me. I took a sip and let out a long exhale. It was natural for someone who had been deceived and disappointed their whole life not to easily believe in unselfish kindness.

“Gain, huh.”

But what if he didn’t believe it? In reality, there was no hidden agenda in my favor. Reflecting on it again, the indigenous people would be forced to walk the Trail of Tears [1] , even half of their own will, under the coercion of invaders. I had no stake in the misfortune that the Chief would face. So…

“Think of it as friendship.”


“Yes. It’s the same ‘friendship without guarantees’ that I mentioned before, my friend.”

For a moment, the Chief was silent for the third time. Who in his life would have said such words to him? Those who had lived a harsh life have no immunity to emotions that were unexpectedly tender. I was currently touching those emotions. It was difficult at first, but once you touched it once, it would collapse like dominoes.

The old man, whose life had weakened more than ever, was speaking internally with prolonged silence that grew longer with each repetition. It was a static created instinctively to regain composure, not to expose weaknesses.

I tilted the coffee cup, made a sipping sound, and opened my mouth.

“Your population is about 10,000. Assuming a 5% infection rate and estimating medical expenses at $300,000 per person, the total would be $150 million. In addition, emergency support for the tribe members who have lost their jobs… Can the tribal government and the casino alliance handle this if you pay me separately?”

Even $300,000 per person was a conservative estimate. Because the medical facilities in the indigenous protection zones were meager and limited to clinics, they would have to outsource treatment outside the protection zone. The Indian Health Services had long become an ineffective organization due to budget shortages.

Furthermore, the indigenous people either couldn’t afford insurance or, if they did have it, the coverage was likely subpar. It meant they would have to pay whatever the hospital claimed. Even without that, the burden on the autonomous nation and the casino alliance, which had already spent a significant amount on lobbying, would be substantial. If everyone individually filed for bankruptcy, the future of the tribe would completely disappear.

“It does sound a bit strange.”

The Chief finally responded with great difficulty.

[What… do you mean]

His voice trembled.

“The kits we sent over there, there are already 5,000 of them. With one kit, you can perform a hundred tests, so even after the five tribes belonging to the casino alliance undergo the first and second tests, there will still be some left. Why do you need additional ones?”

[…It’s not like that, because they were taken away.]

“Who are you talking about?”

[Who else? Obviously, the Health Service Corps and those damn Federal Emergency Management Agency guys! We don’t have the ability to test ourselves even if we have the kits, so the gifts you send us first go into their hands.]

“I see.”

A good excuse for plunder. It was a question I already knew the answer to.

[Once that happens, the time for a ‘more urgent place’ justification will gradually evaporate. They’ll say there’s some administrative order about it.]

“But couldn’t you send the tribe members’ samples this way?”

[They have all the authority over disease control. Do you think they’d just willingly give us permission to transport the samples?]

“My apologies.”

The President was really doing well. The man who got irritated just because we sent test kits would probably explode in anger if he found out that the tests were also being conducted in South Korea. In the midst of all the tribal governments challenging the federal government, there was no way they would tolerate a single indigenous tribe hitching a ride on that wave.

There was also a legal basis for this. Executive Order 13909, which came into effect on March 18th, gave the federal government complete control over all disease control supplies in the United States and, like the previous administrative order on the sacred burial grounds of the indigenous people, it applied to indigenous autonomous territories as well. It was really a self-governing right that was only upheld when it was convenient.

For now, the infection in the United States had been somewhat contained, but because of the huge damage it caused and the fact that the virus had not completely disappeared, the President still had a reason to stockpile supplies for emergencies.

“There’s no choice.”

I said indifferently.

“I’ll try to secure more supplies. This time, it’s probably not the cost of the kits themselves that’s the problem but moving up in the queue. But if it’s around 10,000, we should be able to manage somehow. The competition won’t be as fierce as last time because the major nations have successfully suppressed the epidemic, so they’ll be competing with relatively easier Third World nations. The amount of bribes going in will decrease.”


The Chief sighed heavily.

[It’s really shameful, but I’ll still be in your debt this time. And…]

“And it’s okay if the thread leading to the Beaner Cartel takes longer to find. What’s the point of looking for it when you’re not even free to move?”

Beaner was a derogatory term for Mexicans, bean-eaters. It was ridiculous how Americans insult others for eating beans when they themselves eat baked beans. I shook the coffee cup and continued.

“Don’t waste your energy on feeling sorry for me. Take care of yourself. If you collapse, there won’t be anyone to protect the tribe. Your granddaughter still has a heavy burden on her shoulders.”

[Thank you, um, thank you.] (+) [2]

I pretended not to hear his choked voice.

“Since we’re on the subject, how is Mashath? Is she healthy?”

[She’s fine. She’s right here, listening even now.]

“That’s good to hear.”

[She sincerely wants to convey her gratitude to the Chairman. She believes that her well-being is also thanks to your concern.]

“You’re too kind.”

[If she had been harmed in any way, I wouldn’t have had the face to meet my children and grandchildren. I want to express my gratitude once again. Chairman, I’ve truly seen you in a new light…]

In this dry life, it had been a while since I’d felt like laughter might bubble up from below my throat. Somehow, I’d ended up in a situation where I was blending the current leader and the next leader of the casino. I savored the well-brewed coffee and composed myself. The skills of my secretary were always top-notch. I leisurely enjoyed the taste and aroma before setting the cup down.

“Chief, even in the lowest and dirtiest alleys, you can occasionally find unexpected humanity. For instance, the ‘Los Zetas Cartel’ who upheld loyalty not to the organization but to individuals.”

Loyalty among Los Zetas was a fairly well-known story in this business. Even the Chief, who despised drug cartels, couldn’t argue against this example.

“I may not be a good person, but I’m a more honorable human being compared to the savage scum in that previous war. While the distinction between good and evil may be blurred, I’m more certain than anyone in distinguishing allies from enemies. I can tell you that you and your tribe are unequivocally on my side.”

So, cling to me now. In debt to me, owing me your life, loyalty, and even facing my enemies in the fiery London that awaits us with bombs. I welcome you as my debtors.

“Over there, it’s probably around 3 PM now.”

I said while checking my wristwatch.

“If you don’t have any other business, it’s best to end the call quickly. I’ll do my best to send the requested items as quickly as possible, so Chief, please focus on overcoming that damned disease before the heat subsides. If you miss this timing, you’ll have to face a much harsher winter.”

These days, it was rare to find someone who didn’t know that viruses were weak to moisture and heat. Although the area near Tucson, where the People of the Desert reside, had a high average temperature, it was dry year-round, making it an unfavorable environment for disease prevention.

‘It’s during the rainy season that we might have a bit of humidity.’

When the humidity dropped to 0% and the temperature dropped during the winter, the virus would likely become active again. The young people I was targeting have a low risk of dying from lung disease, but if they suffered from complications, they wouldn’t be good recruits. For my sake, the Chief needed to do his best in disease prevention.


The voice I heard was firmer than before. A good sign.

[We will overcome this in the end. We’ll do our best, even if it’s to repay the Chairman.]

“I’ll look forward to better news next time.”

The call ended. Lost in thought, I tapped my fingers on the table a while later at Suyeon.

“Select a few scholarship students from the organization who could work as journalists.”

“Where do you plan to use them?”

“When the commendation comes from the Blue House, I’m thinking of sending them out for interviews about this support.”

Suyeon, who received the instruction, expressed a faint sense of confusion.

“Have you already made a decision?”

“A decision…? Oh.”

Suyeon’s mention of a decision referred to ‘becoming a patriot of this country.’ Until just before the call, I had no interest in short-lived fame, but it seemed I changed my stance shortly thereafter. However, that was a misguided assumption.

“No, it’s nothing. I just thought I might leave a footprint to deceive the enemy.”

This was a deception plan regarding the Round Table. In the past, my master tried to use me as a refuge, and the idea of the great Master of the Round Table fleeing with the body of an inferior yellow race [3] was something that imperialists, including my master, couldn’t even imagine. 

In a similar context, I could prepare a mechanism to deceive them.

Suppose, for example, that I was suspected by the Round Table, even for a moment. The investigation into me would eventually reach my unexpected acts of altruism and statements. The idea that the Masters of the Round Table, who was known for being friendly to the indigenous people, would be considered a terrible joke.

Even if it didn’t become decisive evidence to dispel suspicions, I could expect it to have an effect on lowering my ranking in the list of suspects.

“I understand. There’s no need for it to be reported on a grand scale.”

“That’s right.”

“If we look into it, we’ll find enough material for the article. I’ll also prepare the script and direction.”

“Leave it to you.”

It was so convenient to have a confidant who understood my intentions with just one word. I finished the leisurely aftermath of my meal by sipping the coffee that had cooled down.

Afterward, I inspected the trees that were brought to the headquarters. These were the trees that were removed from the area around the headquarters due to rapid growth, which damaged roads and sidewalks. Thanks to winning the bid with an overwhelmingly low price, I was able to sweep up all the awakened beings who were eyeing the opportunity.

These awakened beings, or rather, it would be better to call them awakened trees. Anyway, their primary purpose was to form an intangible defense line around the headquarters. In the event that hostile forces with magic or superpowers attacked the headquarters, the presence of awakened trees forming their unique barriers would interfere with or suppress the enemy’s ability usage.

In other words, it was the work of creating living barriers, similar to what Kyung-tae had mentioned about creating Life Gate and Death Gate. These preparations weren’t just for guarding against the Round Table but for any future disturbances. Such preparations might ultimately prove useless, but such tranquility was precisely what I desired. Insurance against accidents was best when there was no need for a payout.

Those who wish to live must always know fear. The difference between courage and recklessness was whether you recognized fear or not. Ignorance of fear was just a virtue of the expendable.

  • 1. TLN: The Trail of Tears was an ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of approximately 60,000 people of the “Five Civilized Tribes” between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government.
  • 2. TLN: The second thank you is more polite.
  • 3. Asian race
Author's Thoughts

This novel is a work of fiction! While it may incorporate elements inspired by our "real" historical world, including historical events, settings, and cultures, it is important to note that the story and characters are entirely products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or deceased, or actual events is purely coincidental. This work should be enjoyed and interpreted as a work of fiction and not as a representation of historical facts or reality.
Also, if you find some error in translation please do let me know by tagging me (@_dawn24) in our Discord server. Since this series is kinda hard to translate. But I'll try my best to make it at least readable :)
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