The Imperial Hunter Chapter 83 - Metamorphosis (10)

Author: Dawn

Ingredients are limitless, yet food has class distinctions. The Chinese were obsessed with gourmet cuisine and went crazy over rare ingredients because what and how you eat signified your status. This tendency strengthened as you moved up the social ladder. If I was superior to others, then what I ate must be superior too.

Similarly, a meal served as a means to flaunt oneself to others. The reason Chinese business talks always unfolded over lavish banquets in restaurants was that providing distinguished guests with sophisticated dining expresses hospitality, but more fundamentally built up the host’s “face” or prestige. Knowing this, the guest would make sure to leave a little of each dish that came out, signaling that the host’s preparations were adequate and thoughtful. This was considered well-mannered behavior.

Therefore, when I had asked Gao Shusen to recommend a restaurant, it was tantamount to blatantly provoking the communist aristocrat’s pride. Even if there were extenuating circumstances, to make a guest wait hungry and indirectly point out that fact would be practically an insult to his face. He must have felt extremely humiliated.

Soon after, he called to reserve an entire restaurant at a lakeside eatery, preparing an excessively bountiful array of lavish dishes for the number of diners – all to indicate his regret that important business prevented him from joining us, but he hoped we would have a satisfying meal nonetheless.

Before entering the restaurant, we conducted a thorough security sweep, not because we distrusted Gao Shusen per se, but because if it was an establishment he frequented, other officials might have set traps or ambushes given the opportunity. We couldn’t even rule out the possibility of the Black Children’s Party planting a bomb or launching an attack, targeting the security bureau chief.

Kyung-tae, well-versed in dealing with the Chinese from his human hunting experience, voiced mild concern.

“Not doubting your skills in handling people, but don’t you think you provoked Gao Shusen’s pride a bit too much, Hyungnim?”

I casually dismissed his worry.

“First impressions last. I’m not his underling, am I?”

Sometimes I had to elevate myself for the other party to elevate me in return.

“Still, those highly ranked Party members tend to be petty-minded.” 

“Just enjoy the meal and give him my highest compliments later, saying it was the best feast ever. Don’t fret and listen up. The contrast of the crispy outside and tender inside is exquisite here.”

The exterior was crispy while the interior was soft. Our current dish was an entire suckling pig roasted whole – its skin crackling from the char while the meat would be succulent. These whole roast pigs were set in front of each diner, then expertly butchered and plated by the staff on golden trays. Each slice of the knife elicited crisp peels from the thin, firm rind. The decorative pork heads left intact with red fruits speared into the eye sockets were in rather poor taste, but it was hard to deny this was a rare delicacy. Bureaucrats worldwide knew good eateries.

Still, it would be difficult to finish this entire serving. The quantity per hog was excessive for a single meal, especially since we were preceded by 5-kilogram emperor crabs apiece. Clearly, these courses were intended to be sampled and then purposefully left behind. Kyung-tae, who tasted only the tastiest morsels before regretfully setting down his utensils, was reminded of something and spoke up.

“Oh right, Hyungnim.”


“I can control fire now.”

This meant awakening to a new primitive magic beyond physical enhancement. Although I had opened their circuits and the men had learned basic mana manipulation, they hadn’t had any successful manifestations yet. For me, who had been patiently waiting for the abilities to surface someday, Kyung-tae’s announcement felt abrupt. In the ensuing silence, I regarded him like a hound awaiting praise for its feat.

“…Since when?”

“Not long, just a few hours ago? I was circulating my mana as usual when flames suddenly burst out the size of a cigarette lighter. I quickly stopped like, ‘Whoa!'”

A few hours ago meant while the security team was on standby in a separate space as I waited for Gao Shusen. So he had undergone metamorphosis as a sorcerer inside the security bureau building. I narrowed my eyes slightly.

“You were somewhat careless.”

“Sorry about that. Since it really wasn’t working before, I didn’t expect it to manifest so suddenly.”

Kyung-tae smiled sheepishly as he scratched his head.

“But no one saw, cameras included. The fire was tiny.”

“I see. Do you think you can use it in real combat?”

“Well, let’s see. I could probably figure something out for close-quarters combat, but it’s still difficult. The firepower is weak, hard to detach from my body, and I’d need to develop new techniques to utilize it… Anyway, would you like to see for yourself?”

The room had already been swept, but I meticulously inspected every corner once more before slowly nodding my consent.

“Show me.”

Kyung-tae snapped his fingers to ignite a flame.

“Why do you snap your fingers?”

“It looks cooler. Even if it’s a small fire it needs to look cool.”


Regardless of form, the fire Kyung-tae conjured was genuine. Although low in heat and size, the mana flowing through his circuit was precisely as I had designed when first laying out his blueprint. It was free of obstructions and waste, promising ample room for development.

“Congratulations. You’ve done well.”

“Thank you, Hyungnim. Ah, times like these call for a toast and a shot of soju, but…duty calls. Too bad.”

“Drink up.”


“A glass or two shouldn’t be an issue for your tolerance. So drink up.”

Without waiting for his response, I promptly summoned a server and requested the best liquor they had. Soon, the polite waiter brought out the famously elusive Maotai liquor – and not just any Maotai, but the premium Cai Fu line. Supposedly difficult to sample due to rampant counterfeiting rather than high price.

“Whoa, this is…”

Kyung-tae licked his lips expectantly as he received the bottle in both hands, savoring the aroma before tipping back and downing the drink in one go.

“Ahh, that’s the stuff!”

“Is it genuine?”

“Yes! Very nice genuine stock! I’ll have to grab some before we leave.”

Judging by his satisfied expression as he smacked his lips, it seemed he found it quite to his taste. If this guy says it’s real, it probably is – at the very least, not discernibly inferior to the real deal. Watching the bottle in my grasp momentarily lost in thought, I decided to pour drinks for everyone present instead. By now, Gabsoo’s bereaved family would have heard of his death.

“Let’s just all have a glass. Not to toast, but to commemorate Keop-soo’s dedication and passing.”

Joo-hee, who had barely touched the food thus far, gave a start at my words. I flicked my free hand toward the man seated opposite me.

“You take the first pour.”

“Oh, yes.”

Miju steadied the glass I filled to the brim with liquor. Rather than make the others line up, I personally made a round filling up each awaiting glass at the table. Thanks to bringing only a small team ashore, after completing the circle, less than half the bottle remained – just enough to avoid getting sloshed in one sitting. Finally filling my own glass, I held it up with one arm crossed behind my back and opened my mouth to speak:

“Up till now, luck has not been on our side.”

Indeed. When in Mexico have we not suffered casualties? Even if I spearheaded operations personally, a few losses would have been inevitable with poor luck.

“Yet to hope such fortune persists would be the escapism of a spineless coward. Gabsoo’s death…if we must attribute it, was closer to an occupational mishap or freak accident, but it can serve as an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge and clearly recognize one fact: no matter how highly ranked, safety is never guaranteed in this day and age.”

For a mid-to-upper-level executive to die during duty used to be exceedingly rare even in my unlawful organization. Back before the return of the Age of Magic, those in the riskiest roles like security and the smuggling division would only suffer a few deaths annually at most.

“I am deeply grateful for Gabsoo’s dedication.”

This was no lip service. Just the fact that he repaid his debt to me made him worthy of respect – in this world full of beasts who readily betray loyalty like a used tissue.

“And I am equally grateful to each of you who keeps your promises to me. The promises exchanged person to person are the most precious and invaluable assets I possess, the foundation and entirety of our organization.”

Even if the organization’s material foundation completely crumbled, rebuilding it was possible as long as people remained. Therefore, taking care of people was always prioritized over material assets. This was why I unhesitatingly accepted Suyeon’s risky suggestion.

“So, I will never use you as disposable commodities, no matter the circumstances. Even if I rely on you as a fortress, I won’t just hide safely behind the wall. And even if the ultimate fulfillment of promises is inevitable, I will remember it as a loss etched into my bones.”

The ultimate fulfillment of promises essentially meant repaying one’s life debt with another life. While it might evoke more irritation and anger than pain etched into my bones, it was, nonetheless, not a lie.

Behind my occasional forays into the field and willingness to take risks was also the intention to manage the loyalty of the organization’s members.


As I raised my glass to eye level, several others followed suit.

“For Gabsoo. And for me and all of you.”

A warm chill went down my throat. With a satisfying warmth in my stomach, it was unlikely that this would dull my senses. Tonight, I had to catch up on two days’ worth of pending approvals before sending a message to the Diamond Casino.

Even with the solemnity of honoring the dead and pouring out drinks, the atmosphere did not become heavy. Those who always worked with the unpredictable nature of unexpected deaths in mind, and mourning didn’t necessarily require a mournful sound. After placing down my glass, I closed the lid of the bottle and said to Kyung-tae.

“Let’s save the rest for Miju.”

“Oh, yes.”

As I pushed the bottle toward her, Miju hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do, before finally taking it and sighing. It was an amount of alcohol suitable for drinking alone and getting slightly drunk for one night. And the fact that I was giving her enough for her to get drunk meant that I would understand if she started work a half-day late the next day.

After finishing the gathering and returning to the passenger ship, Suyeon had already completed over half of the ship’s maintenance. As a mobile base and operational headquarters, it was ready to perform basic functions immediately. Especially impressive was the fact that the eight-bed mobile treatment room was already prepared for operation.

Yes, preventing the loss of personnel, whether mentally or physically, was crucial. Especially in what seemed like a long-term operation.

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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