The Imperial Hunter Chapter 73 - The Hunters (8)

Author: Dawn

Investment operations were Suyeon’s domain. Despite the sudden decision, Suyeon calmly proceeded as if carrying out predetermined tasks. Any aspects I had yet to consider would be adjusted through the practical process.

While Suyeon dealt with Neilson, Kyung-tae completed calls with the safehouse several times. Though impossible to use while moving, requiring a minimum of 1 minute just to get a signal, only working outdoors at that, without this insurance measure of satellite phones I would be quite anxious by now. This was why I distributed 300 units throughout the organization, paying around $1.9 million annually.

Kyung-tae reported.

“I’ve ordered strengthened vigilance and surroundings patrols, but they said no matching individuals could be found that you mentioned.”

I nodded.

“Expected as much.”

Whatever Grace the witch’s purpose in coming here, the black and white nun’s garb was overly conspicuous attire. Those aware of her could never fail to recognize it as a distinct marker.

‘Maybe only I could see that form.’

I was flustered then, unable to closely observe the other party. It wouldn’t be strange if Grace had concealed herself using some technique. Unsure if that was magically possible, but as a mage who had been in hiding far longer than me, keeping an open mind to such possibilities was prudent.

I checked the time. 1 hour 47 minutes had passed since sighting Grace. If I had deliberately exposed myself as bait and set a trap, something should have happened already if anything was going to happen. Her aims didn’t seem to include causing turmoil.

“We’ll have to be careful, but I don’t think we need to alter our schedule.”

“Is that so?”

“Low odds she came here targeting me.”

I mulled the thought I’d had before.

“It’s doubtful she even knows about the master’s betrayal of the Round Table. And even if she did, she and the Order of 7 Angles’ greatest foe is still the Round Table. Even if plotting something, the probability of targeting London’s Round Table over betrayer ‘Sir Crowhurst’ she doesn’t even have leads on is higher.”

“What if you cross paths again?”

“I recall saying something similar before… A person waging war can’t only travel to safe places. I won’t seek her out intentionally while still underprepared, but won’t waste my opportunity cost on pointless avoidance either.”

With me more apt to identify the other first if we did meet again. Then, on the premise no other clear dangers exist, directly following her could yield some findings. Even if we didn’t encounter one another, I’d have to observe the Richfield area again before leaving here.

The Round Table’s knowledge Grace might be aware of in the first place wouldn’t include artifacts like my “Eyes of the Golden Age” just worn on one’s person. Merely magical tools granting temporary wondrous vision through established rituals. My existence with soul and magical power circuits completely fused with an artifact was the product of my master’s extraordinary inspiration, persistence, intellect, and madness.

So I was one who hid in domains she might not have considered. This would earn me a minimum of half the advantage even in the worst situations.

The remaining flight soon resumed.

Despite the hunting tour becoming a mess, Neilson readily accepted my request to circle back and see the “Trembling Giant” from the air before returning. Enough fuel remained to manage that much flight and the fees paid stayed the same, plus I was an investor who had just promised investment on very good terms.

And he was in quite high spirits. The $3 million to be wired immediately upon contract signing, a negligible sum to me yet enough to swiftly resolve many of the human relationship problems he faced as a leader. Money is authority.

According to Suyeon, when conversing with Neilson, he had worriedly asked if my funds were actually coming from China. After finishing practical coordination, Suyeon relayed an intermediate report:

“No patriot should go near China. They are freedom’s enemy.”

A mundane cross-section of the anti-China sentiment or Sinophobia spreading like wildfire in this country since early this year.

「There in the mist is the famous ‘Trembling Giant’, considered the greatest mystic even in the current world where all sorts of anomalies abound. It’s the beech tree grove.」

Neilson explained like a guide as if I was seeing this place for the first time.

「So many come seeking it, but usually just end up seeing fog like now and leaving. On warm, clear days the mist level descends below the canopy around noon, but unfortunately, that’s not today.」

With snow yesterday, the sky wasn’t clear today either, so the mist completely shrouded one mountainside, only showing the faint outlines of the white forest. The mist flowing down along the ground was a spectacle in itself, but some may have felt disappointed at the obscured view of the hazy woods.

That goes for normal vision, of course.

I was fully satisfied with the scenery.

‘I can roughly make out the “life gate” and “death gate” from this distance.’

The life and death gates. Concepts of portals opening and closing Kyung-tae had mentioned before. I felt some repulsion toward the expression itself initially, but clear terminology aids communication with subordinates, and no more suitable phrasing exists, so for now I was just repurposing the meaning.

Without having surveyed the woods beforehand and thoroughly grasping the spiritual circuits’ core and foundations reaching deep underground, I couldn’t have so easily discerned the difference between life and death. The essence didn’t change just because a vessel grew bigger or smaller after all. The impact of material growth or loss on the soul was literally expansion and contraction.

Boom, boom, boom!

Sounds of industrial explosives detonating. At a spot about 100 meters from the mist, excavation gouging the earth in straight lines was underway. After hollowing spaces several meters across, they coated both sheer sides with concrete to eliminate space for roots to spread.

In short, part of military operations to halt the “Giant’s invasion”.

In the midst of all this, several groups of people caught my eye entering the mist from different directions.


Seeing where I looked, Neilson voiced their identity even before I could ask.

「Friends promised rewards for exploring that beech mist forest and blazing safe paths. Evaluations of routes pioneered differ based on how deep they went and if they completed multiple round trips without health issues.」

「How much do they pay to assign such work?」

「Nothing too publicized but quite generous basics. Only tau-runners qualify, and it’s a location of global interest. I know the state and federal governments sponsor exploration, along with many corporations and organizations.」

So a new economy emerges this way too. Interesting. A day may come when intellectual property rights to the paths and usage fees are claimed.

「Did you consider such work in naming Pioneer Hunters’ team?」

While not as intuitive as Pathfinder, the pioneer also shared the meaning of a trailblazer.

Of course, the militia predated magic’s return, but they might have created a separate corporate name when transitioning to a profit-seeking entity.

Asked, Neilson laughed briefly.

「It’s just a coincidence. We simply followed a nearby mountain’s name. But we do hope to undertake Pathfinder requests someday. Fame builds pedigree, good for winning government contracts. Please note this is a briefing from me as a business manager to an investor.」

「I’ll keep it in mind. I’ll provide further investment if the outlook is decent.」

「And I’ll remember your words.」

Government contract bidding. Despite business inexperience, he had the direction right.

I believed as armed groups of awakened primitive magic awakeners, these hunters could only grow in a direction similar to private military contractors. How and how many trained awakeners could be mobilized would soon become an important national security issue.

The helicopter circled south of the Giant’s domain and then headed north along an eastern valley. All the way to a mountain reservoir, I could see the landscape of numerous explorer and hunter camps set up along the winding roads and rivers below.

And ever-present throughout these camps were the mobile stores and trailers sent by various corporations. The Walmart ammo transport vehicles seen when first taking off from Richfield were visible, and the temporary runways delineated on flat ground and chopper landing pads were even occupied by aviation fuel trucks from oil companies.

Each camp had erected perimeter fences and watchtowers. Armed personnel stood guard atop the towers. A site where hunters’ demand bred demand for hunters.

Neilson spoke.

「Until early this year, I couldn’t have imagined Utah’s mountain valleys bustling like this. Really feels like the world has changed.」

The helicopter passed between two tall mountain peaks and crossed over the reservoir, steadily gaining altitude. The beech forest shrouded in mist was now to the chopper’s left.

「We just went by Big Flat Peak. The highest terrain around here.」

Despite the name, the desolate peak was the opposite of flat, teeming with people in colorful mountain gear. Drawn purely by the “world’s greatest mystery”. The skies were hectic here too, with frequent helicopters transporting tourists, military, hunters, broadcasters, and more coming and going like autumn cicadas.

Atop the peak stood a viewing platform seemingly recently built. A framework of H beams and other structural steel let wind pass through, with wood laid over it for finish.

Kyung-tae marveled at the milling crowds below.

「Whew. It’s like a dedicated tourist spot.」

Not dedicated, but the tourist attraction itself.

From this vantage, the beech forest revealed another face. The distinct downward expansion of the forest’s domain. Only the lakes it had absorbed seeking water were exceptions to such growth. The magical forest was moving toward environments favorable for its expansion.

…Though the forest desiring all land currently belonging to humans would be problematic.

But that was merely a line arbitrarily drawn by humans.

I was no fool who believed humans had special rights. No exception existed in the destiny of survival struggle given all species. Humankind had simply forgotten that fact for long by virtue of superior power – the fact they too were part of the food chain – and were now realizing it in a new dimension.

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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