Novel Name : Mercenary Black Mamba

Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 629

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“You should eat too, Mom. You too, Jin Soon. Where do you think you are going?”
Jin Soon, who was about to slip out, was caught in the act.
“You should eat with us, dear.”
“Yes, Mother!”
Jin Soon, moved, answered in a choked-up voice. She knew the meaning of that meal, those precise dishes. Mu Ssang had sung about it, calling it Mother’s haute cuisine. It was also the very dishes she cooked during their darkest times. She had made the same taro soup and pumpkin-leaf fermented soybean stew to comfort Mu Ssang’s alcohol-assailed stomach.
The very man eating spoonfuls of rice was who found the person who made it. She had to watch him collapse after the woman he loved left him and he couldn’t forget her. As a woman, it was hard for her too. A tear accompanied each spoonful of rice. No carefully made side dishes were needed. The condensed tears dropping onto the bowl of rice were as salty as sumac bark.
The old nickel silver table, whose rose patterns were weathered and faded, was like a reminder to themselves never to forget the dark days. She felt a certain fear. If she sat at the table, she felt like she would eat her tears as a side dish as before.
Kim Mal Soon sat close to her son. She deboned the hairtail, put kimchi on his spoonful of rice, took a piece of mung bean pancakes, and put it in his mouth. She seemed willing to chew it and feed it to him just like swallows do for their offspring. Mu Ssang willingly became a baby bird. This was not just food but pure life force shared by one’s mother.
“Mom, the rice is exquisite. Another bowl, please.”
“All right. Eat a lot.”
Kim Mal Soon placed the third heaping-full bowl of rice onto the table. Mu Ssang emptied the whole potful of rice made with a 30-person pressure cooker. In the 1980s, an average rice bowl contained 390 milliliters of rice. A “doe” of rice weighed 1,600 grams and when cooked, it weighed roughly 4,000 grams. These days, an average rice bowl contained 190 milliliters of rice, that is, 80 grams. By this measurement, Mu Ssang had emptied 40 bowls of rice.
That was a nice, cathartic burp. Kim Mal Soon gathered the scorched layer of rice on the bottom of the pot, placed it in another pot with water, and set it to boil. The sliding door to the kitchen opened. Aunt Hadong walked in with bushy hair.
“I recognized the sound of your footsteps. You love your son dearly.”
“Of course. I woke up early to cook him breakfast. Are you in charge of the kitchen?”
“No. I still live in Jipeun-dari. Jin Soon has been taking care of it for two years so far.”
“Is she taking care of all these houses? She’s a young lady but already very resourceful. Greenhouse-grown vegetables tend to be watery but these are not like that. Where did you get it? I’m in awe.”
Kim Mal Soon exclaimed. She has been cooking for 17 years but had never seen any rice or vegetables as fine as these. Each grain of rice seemed alive, bouncing about in the pot. The vegetables were fresh as if they had just been unrooted.
“Mother! You flatter me.”
Jin Soon smiled shyly. The vegetables eaten here were mostly grown here too. They got direct sun most of the year but during winter, they were grown in a greenhouse. The vegetables were fresh and delicious thanks to Kkamdung and Mu Ssang.
Kkamdung provided the nutrients the plants needed by refining the elements in the soil and air. Mu Ssang enlivened them with Resonance Wave. She was not to be complimented for it. Nevertheless, Jin-sun didn’t lose the chance to consolidate her place as her daughter-in-law.
“Auntie, with my mom here too now, just rent out your house and move in here.”
“What about the farm and U-sun?”
“Let the tenant farmers use the fields. U-sun can go to school here in Daegu.”
“I shouldn’t burden you further. You already take care of my daughters.”
Aunt Hadong hesitated.
“Don’t be like that, Auntie. It will be better for Mother to have her friend close by. I can also go overseas with peace of mind. All of your family is here. Why live alone? Let’s pack your things right away.”
“Sis, let’s do so. Us widows should rely on each other to live out the rest of our lives.”
Kim Mal Soon urged.
“If you are fine with it, I shall.”
Aunt Hadong yielded right away.
“The family will become bigger once again. I should make more money.”
Mu Ssang joked.
“I should get a job too. Maybe at a restaurant. To help out.”
At Kim Mal Soon’s words, Mu Ssang’s eyes widened. Yeon Soon and Gye Soon, who were just entering the kitchen, giggled. What Kim Mal Soon said was like saying pouring a bucket of water into the ocean.
“Mu Ssang, I’ll walk there.”
Kim Mal Soon had the car stopped in front of the Ilju gate.
“It’s cold outside. The temple is still two kilometers away.”
“We are seeing a great monk. It is not courteous to drive the car up to right under the temple.”
“As you will.”
Mu Ssang got off the car and held Yeong-a’s and Kim Mal Soon’s hands. To strangers, they just seemed like an ordinary family with a young daughter, visiting a temple in the mountains for a picnic. The Citroën was blocking the only narrow path to the temple but no one worried. During winter, the already-rare visitors to the temple dried up.
The mountain trail was calm and quiet. The breeze swept up the fallen leaves and the snowflakes that had been dancing in the air since yesterday began to pile up. A roe deer sang a long note somewhere.
“Brother, the baby deer must be hungry.”
Yeong-a prodded Mu Ssang’s leg.
“A baby deer? How do you know that?”
Mu Ssang asked, feigning ignorance. The deer continued to bawl. Yeong-a, listening, became teary-eyed.
“It says it is orphaned. It may starve to death!”
“Yeong-a is too kind. Deers have their own world. We shall go.”
Yeong-a must have some of the touch in their family. She precisely figured out what the deer meant with its bawling.
“I feel pity…”
Yeong-a hesitated.
“Every living thing deserves pity!”
Mu Ssang lifted Yeong-a and put her on his shoulders and advanced in long strides. After two kilometers of hiking, the forest cleared and there was a wide basin. A small snow-covered sanctum and two small houses appeared like a painting. The empty temple grounds were full of fresh energy. The wind bells tinkled in the distance. It was a pastoral scenery of a temple.
“It is quite fine. I don’t feel any evil spirits or energies.”
Kim Mal Soon marveled. The monk must be someone of great spiritual powers to raise her son into who he was now. She couldn’t wait to acquaint herself with the great monk.
“You are here!”
One of the houses had its door flung open. Mrs. Yang ran up to them, dragging her shoes on the ground. Noticing Kim Mal Soon, she abruptly stopped.
“Who is this?”
“My mother.”
“My God! You finally had your dream come true. It’s all thanks to the Buddha’s grace! This is why the magpies were so loud this morning. Thank the Buddha!”
Sister Yang cheered and prayed.
“Mother, this is Sister Yang.”
“I’m Kim Mal Soon.”
Kim Mal Soon joined her hands together too.
“Ma’am, welcome. Your son calls me Sister but I’m just Yang Mija, who was saved by your son. I have a lot to learn from you.”
Sister Yang joined her hands together.
“Has Teacher gone out for alms?”
“No. He finished the morning prayers and went out for a ride… There he’s at it again!”
Sister Yang, startled, pointed at the slope near the garden rock.
A low exploding sound was accompanied by the sound of gravel scattering. A heavy silver motorcycle showed itself halfway up the slope. A 1,820cc original CVO relentlessly sprinted down the mountain slope covered with trees, bushes, and rock.
“Oh my!”
Mu Ssang frowned. The motorcycle didn’t slow down as it approached a gorge roughly 20 meters wide. Then it soared, rearing.
“It’s flying!”
Yeong-a marveled, mouth open agape in awe. The motorcycle, after successfully crossing across the gorge, skidded right in front of Mu Ssang. It was a quite professional-looking performance, better than most renowned bikers. Mu Ssang cleared the thick dust with Resonance Wave. A short old man took off his leather bandana and waved it at them. His glistening bald head embarrassed the beholder.
“Did you see?”
“Teacher! Wear your helmet.”
Mu Ssang yelled. He was fearing for the unlikely worst but the steep mountain was covered in snow. Teacher was a human after all. Even with his supernatural powers, he still had normal human bones and muscles. If he lost balance, his already weakened bones would all shatter.
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Kim Mal Soon’s eyes were full of dismay. The glistening bald head. The fully wrinkled face. The stature reminiscent of a dried-up dead goby on a salt farm. The shiny leather jacket. The leather pants with gaudy tassels. There was no great monk but a simple old thug. The skin-tight leather clothes and his low-hanging white beard made for great contrast. It was great consternation for all of them.
“Haha. Hey, I am in my most natural form. Have you ever seen a fish with an oxygen mask?”
Monk Dae Woo reared the front wheel of his bike and whirled around on the back wheel.
“Please behave!”
Mu Ssang said.
“You look so cool!”
Yeong-a raised both hands high up in the air.
“I practiced for 10 days and only Yeong-a appreciated my feat! You cute little angel.”
Monk Dae Woo squatted in front of Yeong-a.
“Do you know me?”
Yeong-a scrutinized the monk’s face. She was surprised that a stranger knew her name.
“Of course. Ever since you were born, or I just know, you know.”
Monk Dae Woo changed the topic and waved away. The space was split apart then a baby roe deer appeared like magic.
Yeong-a yelped as she hugged the baby deer.
“It’s cute, isn’t it?”
“It’s so cute. What happened to its mother?”
“Caught in a hunter’s trap and died. I took the baby in because I felt sorry for it.”
“Poor little thing! Bad hunter!”
“I did well, didn’t I?”
“You did. You are so great!”
Yeong-a gave him a thumbs-up.
“Sister, get this deer something to eat.”
“Yes, Teacher.”
Sister Yang tottered to the kitchen.
Mu Ssang shook his head. Teacher, like the master schemer he is, mesmerized Yeong-a at once. But something didn’t feel right. He usually didn’t meddle with nature.
“Teacher, please behave. My mother is finally here.”
“Am I misbehaving?”
Monk Dae Woo shrugged. The thick chains slung over his shoulder clinked.
“You should have at least changed into other clothes.”
“You still talk dumb after all that I taught you! Does a monk’s robe billowing in the air equal enlightenment? Do skin-tight leather clothes suddenly un-awaken one? That’s why you still have a long way to go! Haha.”
Mu Ssang didn’t attempt to retort and gazed at a distant mountaintop.
“You should have come right away if you finally found your mother. Why did you tarry?”
“Did you know?”
“I didn’t. It was just a hunch.”
Monk Dae Woo said.
“Mother, this is Teacher.”
“I see you, great monk.”
Kim Mal Soon joined her hands together and bowed deeply.
“I’m no one great! I subsist on what your son gives me as pocket money. You have come a long way to get here.”
Monk Dae Woo bowed with one hand raised as if joining it together with his other hand.
“I was graced by the Buddha to reunite with my son. I have no further wish whatsoever.”
“Your husband’s good karma must have helped resolve your tangled bad connections. It is also thanks to your good luck. The Buddha wasn’t there to help you.”
Monk Dae Woo laughed.
“Great monk, I shall prepare tea.”
Sister Yang yelled from the kitchen.
“You shall. Yeong-a, you shall name this deer.”
Monk Dae Woo looked back at Yeong-a who was trying to feed milk to the baby deer.
“What shall I name it?”
Yeong-a bit her finger and pondered.
“Get it a beautiful name. Let us have some tea then.”
Mu Ssang tugged the hem of Teacher’s clothes, who was heading to the sanctum. Monk Dae Woo tapped the chain decoration over his shoulder and made it clink. The gesture meant that he was finely dressed to enter his sanctum. Mu Ssang didn’t let go of the hem.
“I see. You are no longer my student but a nagging mother-in-law.”
Monk Dae Woo grumbled and turned to the living quarters.
Kim Mal Soon giggled. It entertained her greatly to see her son and the old monk fight over something so trivial. The old monk’s charade-free, candid demeanor put her at ease.
* * *
“Sister, do you want to regain your memories?”
Monk Dae Woo set down his teacup and asked.
“Of course. Why not?”
Kim Mal Soon asked and lowered her gaze. The monk’s eyes, as clear as the tea itself, made her feel as if her stained body was being cleansed layer by layer. It was a stark contrast to when he acted like a thug with a matching costume.
“You blocked your memories yourself to protect your soul from insurmountable shock. Do you still wish to regain your memories?”
“Is there anything more shocking than a mother forgetting her own son’s face?”
Kim Mal Soon gritted her teeth and asked. She didn’t know what great shock the monk was talking about but she remember being sold to a brothel. Could there be anything more shocking? If she could, she would seal away the memories of the past 17 years and regain her memories before.
“Dear Buddha!”
Monk Dae Woo closed his eyes and counted his beads.
“Sister, if you regain your old memories and lose the recent ones, you will regain your son but lose your daughter. I am sure you understand this.”
Kim Mal Soon, surprised, bowed. The monk’s appearance didn’t reflect the greatness of his soul within. He was apparently able to read people’s thoughts. He was a monk with supernatural powers.
“Mu Ssang, can Dr. Giz be here right away?”
“Yes. My jet is in Novatopia. If it is refueled in Singapore, he can be here at midday tomorrow.”
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“Call him right this instant.”
[Mu Ssang, we’ll need Dr. Giz’s knowledge if we are to selectively revive your mother’s memories. With time, the seal will fade and painful memories will return too, but without the relevant parties around, her mental shock would be lesser.]
The telepathy from Teacher said something a bit different.
The rice bowls of the days before are something completely different from what we use today.
In the first photo, taken in the last days of Joseon, the size of the rice bowl is quite daunting.
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