The Imperial Hunter Chapter 74 - Metamorphosis (1)

Author: Dawn

After staying in Utah for three more days, I had accomplished about half of my original goal. Why only half? Because I couldn’t properly interpret the newly fruited magical pieces in the white forest of fog.

What I had originally expected were functionally distinct magical phenomena like the techniques I use, and corresponding one-to-one “codes” for each phenomenon.

However, what the forest actually produced were dozens of tangled clumps like balls of yarn, with countless codes sharing parts of each other, interconnected by chains of sharing.

Seeing those clumps, even with the Eye of the Golden Age I couldn’t distinguish where the valid code ended and where the meaningless flow of magical power began. So each clump was like a collection of unsolvable equations and encrypted texts that I couldn’t guarantee decoding and interpreting even with great effort. It was in a messy state with lots of junk data mixed in, making it difficult to separate the pebbles from the gems.

The disappointment I felt from this was tremendous.

‘Is my soul too high to be a problem…?’

While the overwhelming biomass or difference in species could also be the cause, the core of the issue was still the quality and level of the soul. After all, it was a soul that might have existed even before the advent of modern humans. With the max estimate of the tree age being a million years, it was the time when Homo erectus was hunting with hand axes and learning to use fire.

If I had stayed in the forest from the beginning and observed the daily changes day by day, things might have been different. Or I could still settle in now to do research.

However, I was no scholar. To me, knowledge was just a tool for business, management, struggle, and desperate survival. I couldn’t devote my lifetime to researching one subject. Perhaps in the peaceful times after ultimate victory…

The reason I dwelled on this past disappointment was that I was experiencing similar frustration here in the Oregon forest I arrived at after leaving Utah.

The 2,500-acre kingdom of mycelia occupied by the mushroom as a single organism had burdened me with new troubles. At least the soul here was relatively young, not exceeding 870 years at most. That meant the difficulty level of the equations and codes it contained wasn’t as high as those of the Poplar Cluster.

Of course, relatively speaking. 870 years was by no means a trivial length of time. I felt the weight of that long history weighing down on me.

I was at my wit’s end.

The 2,500-acre mycelial entity that disappointed me with its primitive, localized circuits, in the beginning, was now tormenting me with some inscrutable technique. There were clearly outputs coming from the circuit, but no observable phenomena, which was bizarre.

As I was stressed like this, a group approached me. Smelling faintly of marijuana, they draw near, giggling. No weapons, many awakened to primitive magic but the average level was low. Their circuit development was imbalanced so they were useless as powers. I was getting a radio call from the security team.

“Some people claiming to be druids. They’re inviting us to join them.”

Tsk… Judging by their gathering to smoke pot together, they were not the orthodox CRP from the UK or the reformist RDNA from the US, most likely idiots just pretending based on hearsay and ‘spiritual experiences’. Even if they were orthodox, they were still pretenders.

I made a hostile expression to signal them to pass by, but these incapable bastards turned toward me, still giggling.

A woman with no outerwear, just a white dress, approached with a bright greeting.



“Are you alone?”

“I have companions. I just wanted to be alone.”

“Oh my. Did something bad happen to you?”

“Something like that.”

“Oh dear.”

The barefoot woman clasped her hands with a pitiful expression.

“People with bad things happening shouldn’t be alone.”

…Is this bitch crazy?

Ignoring her was tempting, but the problem was that if I just passed by this location, the continuous flow of circuits I had been observing slowly stopped, and it was annoying enough as it was. I was tempted to chase them away in a fit of anger, but it wouldn’t have been a good idea. 

Unlike the fog-covered forests of Utah, this kingdom was also drawing in numerous tourists and pilgrims with its massive spiritual presence. Similar to the Trembling Giant, there was no surface-level danger here, so many sightseers strolled through the forest, and there were plenty of government researchers and patrols trying to prevent forest damage, such as military personnel and National Park Service (NPS) Rangers.

This meant that if a violent incident occurred, armed military personnel and intoxicated young awakeners from all over would gather.

Thanks to that, as a tree that had managed to pass through Richfield safely, I was able to focus on my work as long as I remained hidden in the forest. This was also because, among the many awakeners, the one who would discover me and figure out how to suppress my magical field was a potential enemy.

As the woman in white spoke kindly.

“It’s fortunate. We are priests who convey the teachings of the great nature and our Mother Amillaria to those who find life difficult and painful. Would you like to join us? We were just about to prepare a meal. Have some with us and listen to some wise words. Your companions are welcome too.”

Armillaria refers to the entire genus of honey fungi. In other words, these were priests who worshiped mushrooms.

“Thank you for the offer, but I must decl-“

“Oh my, oh my.”

Before I could finish declining, the woman, delighted to have found something, bent over.

“Look, there were life’s fruits here.”

I frowned when I saw the lump she was picking up, calling it the fruit of life. The lump was a cluster of cells, referred to as Immortality Cancer, that continued to nourish themselves with magic power and mana even after the host’s death. Unlike the varied names for primitive magic and awakened individuals, which still differed by country and region, Immortality Cancer was widely called by the same name in many countries, perhaps because its traits were too distinct and visible.

On the small lumpy tumor the woman found, there were wings, feathers, and a head. Judging from the small black and white stripes on its tiny head, I wondered if it might be a type of chickadee commonly found in North America. Feathers sparsely remaining like a cancer patient’s hair shook in the cold wind.

“Now, come down.”

The woman, who had coaxed the ants that had been pecking at the tumor, tapped it gently, causing the flesh to tear. She then called her companion over to put the plump tumor into the basket he was holding. Seeing the contents, I narrowed my eyes again. The basket was half-filled with similarly sized magical tumor masses.

Wait. Didn’t she say they were about to prepare a meal?

“You’re not planning to eat that, are you?”


The priestess smiled and answered.

“It’s a gift bestowed on us by great nature, isn’t it? There’s no reason not to eat it. Once you dress the meat, carve slits, and marinate it, it’s delicious baked medium. We sell the rest too.”

“…Are you saying there are people who purchase it to eat?”

“That’s right.”

A relaxed explanation followed her light affirmation.

“First, individual vegetarians privately request it. They don’t eat meat because they dislike slaughter, not because they dislike meat, so since this isn’t meat deliberately killed, it’s okay to eat. If they can just overcome the revulsion from how it looks.”


“And more and more people from China have been looking for it. They say they use it as medicine. What was it called, roker? Lowker? Something like that.”

From the pronunciation, it was probably nutmeg. (+) [1]

“I heard the medicinal effects vary depending on what kind of animal it originally was and the energy of the land where it grew. In special places like the forest of Mother Armillaria here, especially miraculous fruits filled with energy are produced. I don’t know the details, but it’s fortunate for us.”

Seeing the guileless smile of the self-proclaimed druid, I felt mild disgust. I had predicted early on that Immortality Cancers swelling up everywhere would provide tremendous additional calories and nutrients to the ecosystem, but I hadn’t considered that humans would eat it too.

‘The Chinese bastards are somewhat understandable at least…’

Those bastards eat elephant tusks and seal testicles claiming they are medicine, grinding rhino horns and tortoiseshells into medicine too. They were a tribe that went crazy and shoved anything that looked remotely beneficial into their mouths. How charming Immortality Cancer cells that didn’t die even when the host died must have looked to them.

Come to think of it, there were signs several months ago. The corpses and meat of awakened animals started being traded at high prices in black markets around the world. The ringleaders, smuggler bastards, and Chinese medicine doctors interconnected with the black market must have squeezed those expensive snouts. Doing it to make some money talking about energy flow and human meridians, taking advantage of the opportunity.

In fact, except for the revulsion, Immortality Cancer was the ultimate food. An infinitely regenerating lump of meat if you just slice off pieces to eat. It might already be in use as food for many populations. Much of the world was experiencing intensified poverty compared to before, and eating cancer cells was a better choice than starving or cannibalism.

Once dissolved in gastric acid, Immortality Cancer was just a mixture of protein and fat in the end. You’d suffer if you swallowed too large a lump raw, and some types may be toxic.

“So, what do you think?”

The priestess invited me again.

“Have a meal with us, pour out the lump in your chest, and listen to the good word about merging with all creation in happiness and freedom from any worries or pains. Mother Armillaria bestows all we need.”

I smiled wryly.

“No pains? Can you call it a gift when someone gets Immortality Cancer?”



“That person received a calling. Their body becomes a gift returned to nature, and their soul enjoys eternal happiness in Mother’s embrace. So when we receive the calling, we bid our loved ones farewell with joy, receive our siblings’ blessings, and cast off the garment of flesh ourselves to move on to a higher dimension.”

In other words, suicide.

The priestess closed her eyes and chanted as if in a trance, hands joined as if in prayer.

“Pain comes when you reject nature and Mother’s calling. When you refuse the calling, refuse to give as you have received, and cling to a meaningless life. When you want to remain in this world longer than the time Mother has allotted you… 

Now, the priestess who had opened her eyes again concluded.

“In the end, pain is the individual’s responsibility for going against the way. In not knowing that greater happiness awaits after shedding the flesh, they meaninglessly prolong the time writhing in pain. It really is such a pitiful and wretched thing. So as the ‘enlightened ones’, it is also our task to spread Mother’s teaching.”

Happily insane bastards.


I shook my head.

“Go on your way. I have no interest in your teachings.”

“That can’t be. I must save your soul.”

“I said I don’t need it.”


“I don’t need it. Stop wasting my time.”


The smile slowly disappeared from the priestess’s lips. Staring blankly at me, the woman who had looked at me expressionlessly eventually conveyed her disappointment in a soft voice.

“The wisdom of Mother I imparted was just a waste of time to you?”


“I see…..”

Lost in thought, the priestess turned away.

“You really are a bad person.”

In her receding back, or more precisely, in her pitiful magical field, I detected a strange ripple.

  • 1. TLN: I’m not so sure about this but, the author put this 로우꿔(肉果/육과) in the raw. This “肉果/육과” if translated is “fleshy fruit”. But, after searching on the internet I only found nutmeg as the closest one. However, Wikipedia says that Nutmeg doesn’t have any medicinal value, although people use it in traditional medicine.
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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