Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 3
Mu Ssang lay on the floor of the cave and stared blankly at the ceiling. He could hear drops of water falling.
“It’s the cave,” he sighed. Now, he was used to the coldness of the cave. He didn’t know how much time had passed nor how long he had slept, but his head was clearer now than it had been for a long time.
“I need to live!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.
He couldn’t track the passing of time inside the cave because his circadian rhythm was completely off balance. He couldn’t even tell whether it was summer or winter.
He had lived a hard life but had tried his best. “Why did I have to end up this way?” he wondered. His brain and heart began to pound because of this injustice and his anger.
“What did I do for you to torment me like this?” His sorrowful shout echoed around the cave.
He punched his fists into the air and jumped around, kicking and screaming. He felt wronged. All he wanted was to do was study and find his mother so that they could live as they had before. But the damned heathens didn’t leave him alone. He spewed curses and lamentations before collapsing on the floor.
When he calmed down, reality hit. He had realized when he saw the medical instruments and a girl’s corpse in the room, that he wasn’t dealing with normal people.
They were like the 731st region of the Japanese army, and he was like a Maruta Experiment. Before his brain was completely picked apart and his stomach ravaged, he had to attack.
Mu Ssang felt his heartbeat quicken. These guys acted so much like an evil organization; he had to be careful. That man calling himself a “priest” was crazy.
It began again, that pain that ran throughout his head and tore it apart. Ever since he had gone through the fourth needle experiment, it had become worse. It was a pain he couldn’t stand. Mu Ssang clutched his head and rolled around. He felt that he could laugh if he was merely being burned by a hot iron. But the pain of his brain being melted from the inside wasn’t something any human could bear.
After rolling around for some time, he lay exhausted on the ground. His heaving breath finally found its normal rhythm. The foam that had gathered in his mouth dripped out.
“F*ck this sh*t,” he mumbled tiredly.
Fortunately, before he lost consciousness, the secret door to the cave opened. And just as one of the assistants stepped into the cave, he swept over him like a predator, grabbed scissors from the man’s lab coat pocket, and stabbed them into his neck.
At 20 centimeters long, the scissors were sharper than a knife. They buried into the assistant without resistance, passing through the sternocleidomastoid muscle, tearing the carotid artery and larynx, and appearing on the other side.
The assistant had little chance to retaliate, but he was an abnormal opponent. As the food tray clattered to the floor, the assistant wrapped his hands around Mu Ssang’s neck.
The enemy’s thumb and forefinger dug into Mu Ssang’s vocal cords. He had forgotten that these assistants did not feel pain; hence, he was not in shock from being stabbed. Mu Ssang was about to pay a high price for his lack of attention.
The assistant’s power was surprising. Mu Ssang’s breath was immediately cut off, and his eyes turned dark. He gathered all his strength before pulling out the scissors stuck in the assistant’s neck and jamming them between his third and fourth ribs where the heart was.
The scissors were instantly buried up to the handles. The assistant, staggering with blood in his mouth, fell backward. This altercation in the darkness ended without a single shout. It was his first murder, and the fact that he already had an escape route had truly been a stroke of luck.
He had just exerted an explosive amount of power, and he attempted to calm his heaving breaths. His head was clearer, perhaps due to the rush of adrenaline or the blood pulsing through him.
He wasn’t shocked by this murder, as he expected, having read about murders in stories. Rather, he felt refreshed after achieving what he had set out to do. He had either gone crazy or had become desensitized after experiencing so much pain. He felt as if a different component of himself was controlling his limbs. His eyes turned red and power surged throughout his body.
There were still many enemies left. Thinking of the priest, anger raged in his head. Mu Ssang, frowning, left the cave through the door, finally escaping into the outside world.
He looked up at the sky. It was a dark night without a moon. If it had been out, its light could have reflected off the snow, revealing his position. The darkness worked in his favor.
The surroundings were silent except for the cries of a fox that shook the air. The snow shone subtly in the starlight.
“I’m out!” He breathed in the fresh, cold air, filling his lungs. His mind became more alert, and he remembered his task clearly.
“Kill!” His command rang in his head.
He approached the log house like a shadow. He knew its structure: four rooms, a living room, and a kitchen. The larger room was used by five assistants, and the room next to that was the infirmary. Chui Do Shik’s office/bedroom was opposite the assistants’ room.
Mu Ssang gathered his breath and relaxed his body. And, slowly, he recalled the memory of the Salix Koreensis forest from his childhood. The pretty leaves that shook and the howling sound as the wind passed between the trees, the white mushrooms that appeared shyly underneath the rot, the surface of the water that turned red during sunset, and the fish that jumped up…. His tumultuous mind instantly calmed.
He also abandoned his desire to kill the priest. He destroyed his intentions one by one.
“I am the wind. I am the silent and soft wind that barely tickles the ear,” he thought. “I am the grass. I am the weak grass that shakes with the most gentle wind, the weed that grows between rocks. I am a rock, the large boulder before the log house, the rock that is wet with dew.”
Mu Ssang became the wind, the grass, and the rock. Without realizing it, he had entered a realm of co-existence, existing yet non-existent.
Mu Ssang had unknowingly reached the highest level of an assassin’s potential: living a non-existence. If Chui Do Shik, the successor of Higanshi Hongan-ji’s martial arts had learned about this, he would have been indignant and coughing up blood.
Of course, this awareness was only temporary. The moment Mu Ssang regained his senses, this ascendance flew by like the wind.
Chui Do Shik’s door opened without a sound; it wasn’t locked. Well, who would have dared approached Chui Do Shik?
Mu Ssang held a stalactite in one hand and a scalpel in the other one. An illusion, he moved across the darkened room. The priest was lying on a tatami mat. Mu Ssang didn’t even think of the priest as his target. Right now, he was an organism without intention.
Like a programmed robot, Mu Ssang approached and pierced the priest’s neck with the stalactite. It was a movement without an ounce of hesitation.
“Kuk!” Chui Do Shik’s shout was weak due to his destroyed vocal cords. Mu Ssang woke from his trance at the priest’s shout. Blinking, he became confused.
The stalactite had pierced the neck completely. He momentarily recalled the beef skewer his mom always handed him at the restaurant when he was younger.
“Hi— Hiissss.” Chui Do Shik glowered and bounced up like a dragon from a river.
Mu Ssang, reading the situation, moved like the wind. Then the scalpel in his left hand entered Chui Do Shik’s belly, just below the belly button, dug in up to the end of its handle. He had aimed for the chest, but Chui Do Shik’s movements were fast.
And Chui Do Shik couldn’t handle the shock of a stalactite piercing his neck and a scalpel nearly buried inside his body.
Chui Do Shik’s body shook like a leaf, and blood foamed at his mouth. He lifted a finger and attempted to say something to Mu Ssang with his piercing gaze. But all that could be heard was the sound of air escaping his punctured neck.
Blood leaked out of Chui Do Shik’s neck. He had managed to stop the blood coming from his lower stomach, but even he couldn’t do anything about the stalactite in his neck.
A smile appeared on Mu Ssang’s face knowing that this crazy bastard was about to die. He had managed to kill someone he had wanted to kill for such a long time. He had never felt such happiness for as long as he could remember. It was refreshing, an intense release from pent-up anger and hatred.
“How’s the feeling of becoming a pig for slaughter?” It was something he had wished to say after the countless times he was tortured.
The frustration of 10 years washed away. Chui Do Shik only kept glaring at him with bloodlust in his eyes, but he was not in a situation where he could talk.
“Oh, my ax!”
He noticed his wood ax in the corner of the room. He had to finish off people like Chui Do Shik properly. When Mu Ssang grabbed his ax, Chui Do Shik’s eyes widened.
Although he had received a fatal hit, Chui Do Shik’s eyes did not change.
Chui Do Shik managed to throw his body against the unlocked door. He began passing through the doorway like a ghost.
“Ha!” Mu Ssang, startled, swung his ax.
The ax had been his friend ever since he was young. The techniques of creating a path through the forests of Chuk Ryung San and Bang Tae San were executed flawlessly.
The ax cut through the air. A few strands of Chui Do Shik’s hair flew off as he ran through the doorway. The ax, which had swung horizontally, cleaved one of his arms like a tree branch.
The closing door exploded outwards. Chui Do Shik left his arm and a scream behind as he disappeared into the darkness. At the situation before him, Mu Ssang stood blankly for a moment before moving.
Mu Ssang then plastered himself to the wall on the side of the door. And at that moment, an enemy came through the doorway. He reached out as far as he could with his right hand.
“Huk!” The sound of expelled air rang out.
The end of the stalactite had pierced the enemy’s neck. Despite the critical injury, the enemy slashed down with a metal pipe held in his hand. It was instinctive, but Mu Ssang had already predicted the counterattack.
He whirled around, and the ax flew according to its trajectory.
The enemy’s neck, which had been in the trajectory, and its attached head, flew up. Blood spurted up from the enemy’s body, a meter into the air.
Mu Ssang jumped in his seat. Senses that were several-fold stronger than a normal human being’s senses scouted the surroundings. They weren’t what he had been predicting, and it wasn’t one of his usual morning hallucinations. And it definitely was not the cave.
“Haah!” He sighed deeply. That damned dream, no, not a dream. That memory. It had been calm when he was receiving his teachings from his master, but it had started up once more.
“Did you have a nightmare?” The old woman who was sitting beside him asked worriedly. She was an intelligent woman, fluent in English.
“I’m sorry. Fine.” Mu Ssang nodded his head.
“You’re sweating. Here, dry off.”
“Thank you.” He took the tissue that the old woman held up and wiped his face. His forehead and cheeks were wet with sweat. He held his palm to his nose and sniffed; it had blood on it but did not reek of iron.
This dream-like experience continued. It was the process of undoing Chui Do Shik’s conditioning and reclaiming his original memories.
The suppressed memories would return when he rested. It was something that had been happening, periodically, for the past several years. Professor Giz had said that his original memories would all return to their proper places through this process.
Mu Ssang pushed his buttocks deep into his seat and closed his eyes. His mood for sleep had evaporated instantly. The anxieties of the old woman beside him also became a burden.
His meeting with his teacher had been anticlimactic. In the process of digging a hole in the forest in which to bury people alive, an approaching old man found him. The old man, who was as thin as paper, had hit him violently. It was a memory that made him smile.
“Martial Arts is the practice of boosting one’s strength for a period of time. It’s the effective use of a power that is different from the enemy’s power. The distributed power and even the breathing create the illusion of strength.”
“So you’re saying a martial arts practitioner is powerful on the outside, but everything else is a hoax?”
Glancing at his disappointed disciple, the old man continued his words.
“That’s not true. The human body is mysterious and can create its own waves once trained continuously. What we call “ki” is also a part of those waves. Perhaps calling it inner strength is more accurate. I have managed to gather quite a bit. Are you familiar with Resonance?”
“It’s a situation where two high frequencies collide and create an explosion, but how do you know that?”
Mu Ssang was fascinated. After all, his master only had the sutras as reading material, so his mention of a physics theory was strange.
“I see you only think of me as some old man who memorizes sutras every day. I know things, you hear? Now, where did I leave off?”
“Ugh, you brat. I’m over 80 years old. When I’m interrupted, my train of thought goes, as well. Resonance is energy. It creates a bridge between martial arts and its techniques. I’m trying to say that waves will be created from simple, fast, and precise movements. The most representative of this is Tong Bei Quan that uses the obstacles in its path to create Resonance and destroy what is within. Words like ‘Ge Shan Da Niu’ and ‘Sword Ki’ are all legendary moves those practitioners had created after realizing this.”
Mu Ssang pushed his face forward as if to hit his master. His curiosity was aroused.
“So you’re saying that martial arts practitioners aren’t all liars.”
“That itself is a lie. A human isn’t a machine, so how could a human revolve their ki or change the inside of their body according to their will?”
“So you’re saying that if I manage to command Resonance and strength, I can become a master.”
“Besides, in this day and age where guns are common, martial arts is all but a sport. Who would train themselves in one place for decades? One bullet is enough. Training is a waste of time.”
“How do you bring Resonance out?”
“You grow your ki and train so that the ki matches your opponent’s wavelength.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Obviously. Brat, if you could learn of all that through just words, then everyone in this world would become masters. You can train and see for yourself.”
“What about the dantians?”
“Nonsense. Resonance is from the brain. It’s inborn or caused by some special experience or earned by some special training. Brainwaves can be exaggerated by training the body. The body and brain don’t operate separately; training the body means training the brain. The Combined Receptive Expelling Theory is the claim that you can make your brainwaves as strong as a rope and as hard as a metal bat. When you reach the peak, you will be capable of controlling your opponent’s brainwaves. Of course, a human is incapable of reaching such a peak, but if you keep training with that goal in mind, you’ll be able to make something similar to a physical Resonance.”
“How long do I need to train?”
“You’d be able to use it in about 50 years.”
“Whaaat! Fif—fifty years?”
That frightened and discouraged him. What could he do when he was 70? In the end, he wouldn’t be able to achieve Resonance but would be able to learn the Five Combined Movements and still achieve great physical strength. Thinking about the terrifying and powerful Combined Receptive Expelling Theory made his head hurt.
A delightful, French marching band’s music resounded inside the plane. Mu Ssang flinched out of his musings. The old woman’s expression turned from anxiousness into relief. He was sorry and embarrassed. How uncomfortable she must have been sitting next to a guy with a few screws loose!
He had been drifting in and out of the flow of time and was thrown into Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport all the way across the globe. It had taken 25 hours in flight, including the layover in Singapore. And that was the fastest flight Hamilton could get for him.
“Peu de temps après nos passagers alors que l’avion arrive à l’aéroport de Paris. Ceinture de sécurité….” (Passengers, we will be arriving at the Paris airport in a few moments. For your security….)
With this fast-paced French introduction, he suddenly wondered if he would ever hear Korean again. His chest swelled in frustration.
Mu Ssang found the information center in the terminal, and with his insufficient English and limited French, he asked where he could find the foreign military police detachment. Foreign military members were sent there to serve.
All he knew was a handful of French greetings.
“Bonjour, monsieur!” (Hello, sir!)
“Es-tu Chinois?” (Are you Chinese?)
“Non, je suis Coreen.” (No, I’m Korean.)
“Comment-appelez vous?” (What’s your name?)
“Je m’appelle Mu Ssang, Park.” (My name is Park Mu Ssang.)
“Est-ce que vous aimez le legion?” (Do you like the legion?)
“Oui, beaucoup.” (Yes, a lot.)
“Qu’est ce que ton motif pour le legion?” (What was your motive for the legion?)
“En aborration de la terre.” (In abhorrence of the earth.)
“Haha, il est drole.” (Haha, this guy’s funny.) At his answer, the officer twisted his lips and laughed.
“Are you mocking me? Should I kill you off here and now?” Mu Ssang whined.
The conversation between Mu Ssang and this Legion Etranger soldier ended here. There was no way to understand or speak to each other beyond this. The rest was simply done with body language. At the end of his examination, the soldier gave a thumbs-up.
“Ha, what the hell, is he swearing at my face?” Mu Ssang frowned.