Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 35
“This b*stard has less guts than Mr. Lee. A spineless coward acting up,” Black Mamba murmured in Korean.
Contact-based martial arts were composed of three parts. The first part provoked pain, the second disrupted the muscles, and the third ruined the nerves. Not even Black Mamba himself could withstand all three.
In order to recover from the second and third parts’ ruptured muscles and nerves, one needed the Higashi Hongan-ji’s secret highly-priced protective solution. A normal person would lose their mind or become mentally disabled by the end of the first part.
“Mike, if you lose your partner one more time, you’ll die. You’ll die like a tortured dog.”
“Uhh, I-I understand.”
Mike barely managed to reply by attempting to move his jaw, which refused to open. Only the fact that he could be hit again if he didn’t reply made him move his mouth.
Black Mamba threw the wooden stick away and sent a silent nod towards the Captain.
He had beaten the sergeant without permission from the team’s leader. It was a blow to the Captain’s leadership. Sergeant Paul pretended as though he hadn’t seen it at all. The other team members silently lifted their thumbs.
Bell Men poked a nerve-treatment injection into Mike’s still form on his thigh. Emil and Jang Shin then moved the unconscious man to the tent.
“As expected of Azrael!”
Ombuti had watched Mike’s pathetic beating from the beginning. A corner of Ombuti’s mouth started to rise; he felt avenged. A private beating up a sergeant wasn’t a sight he would see again.
The Captain looked around at his team.
“Yesterday, we lost our competent comrade, Mark. I’ll add another course to the SERE program about overcoming sadness. Mark would want us to finish our mission well. We must change our sadness and anger into courage in order to complete this mission. We’ve finished five hours of battle and been on the run for ten hours. Everyone must want to eat even the foulest hyena. Jang Shin, make an Addax barbeque, and Burimer, bring the Cap Corse. There’s a Korean saying that says you’re brave to die after eating. Let’s all die after eating.”
After the Captain’s speech, everyone began to shout.
“Oh ho, look at that man talk. He could stand on the national council,” Chartres exclaimed.
“What a boring joke. Even if I die, I wouldn’t want to die by a metal farming stick.”
The Captain managed to overhear the conversation with his sharp ears. During the French Revolution, angered farmers had charged into the council with their pitchforks. The nobles and council members of the bourgeois on the receiving end suffered deaths by pitchfork.
They had found an Addax while cleaning up the battlefield at Uldi Hamarl. It was a large one, over 220 pounds. It was the Musta scouts’ misfortune to have met such a cruel opponent. A place to party had turned into a community graveyard due to the coincidence.
Miguel and Emil dragged the Addax along, breathing harshly, while Burimer took out the wine box.
“Oh, Cap Corse!” Chartres brightened, ever the wine fanatic.
Cap Corse was an appetizer drunk specifically at 59 degrees, a Corsican specialty.
The production of Cap Corse was complicated. First, the grape juice had to be wrung out and fermented. The remaining grape peels were gathered at 104 degrees to create a distilled beverage. The distilled beverage was then added to the grape juice to stop the fermentation. There, they added herbs and medicinal plants, then continued fermenting for another three months to create the sweet and bitter taste of wine. They released the wine after six months of bottling.
Cap Corse wasn’t well known and was only produced in small amounts. It was usually spread across southern Europe by boat. It was beloved to the point that if someone in southern Europe didn’t know Cap Corse, they weren’t considered a true drinker.
Jang Shin came forth to demonstrate Mongolian barbeque. He was a studying chef who dreamed of opening his own restaurant in An-hui City after his mercenary contract ended.
His friends helped him create a hole in the ground and gather rocks to lay on the bottom. They built a tower of fire with dry twigs. The rocks heated, and by the time the coals began to spit embers, they had placed the leaf-wrapped Addax on top, covering it with sand.
The thick smell of roasting meat smoked out of the open vent Jang Shin had poked in the ground. The team began to drool, hungry after long hours of intense batting and running. There was no one who cared about Mike remaining on the outdoor cots.
Three days passed from the beginning of their mission. Their rations had decreased gradually day by day. Even the sadness of losing a comrade was placed on the back burner due to their hunger. Even mourning had to be done on a full belly. This was an undisputed genetic factor that came with the first priority of survival.
Jang Shin pushed the dirt away by the time the smoke stopped and pulled out the Addax.
“Woah!” shouted the mercenaries.
The well-roasted smell of meat made their senses happy. Black Mamba dug into some with his knife.
“Ooh la la!”
When Black Mamba raised his thumb, everyone else raised theirs. Jang Shin’s face turned into one of pride. He was now engraved in the team’s memories as someone more than an explosives soldier.
It was rock-roasted meat with salt and pepper. There was no sauce or spices, but the ghouls who were held back ran forward like hyenas. Black Mamba also became greasy from holding and gnawing away at a rib.
The living had opened a barbeque party in the middle of a bloodied land of the dead. It was the way humans survived in the cursed, black land of Sahel. No. It was a universal human way of survival.
Herds of lions, including fathers, mothers, and children, bumped into each other while trying to tear at muscle and internal organs during their successful buffalo hunts. On one side of the chaos was an aunt lion who had her belly ripped open by a buffalo’s horn, breathing out her last breath. Survival consisted of battles. The dead were unable to participate, forgotten. There was nothing different about humans. They were eaten if weak, and left behind when fatigued. They lived in the same world.
The amount of blood in a protein meal was within 40 percent. This was the same for even-toed mammals with hooves. Pigs, who had small legs, were over 50 percent blood. 88 pounds of meat were enough to satisfy ten people’s appetites.
The team members who filled their bellies went back to sleep. They were sleeping so that they could move at dawn. Black Mamba, who slept to his fill, woke up and volunteered for first guard. The Captain attempted to stop him, but he stubbornly went off.
A crescent moon shaped like a scimitar rose in the sky. The empty land and crescent moon, the short howls of hyenas, and the ringing winds were present in the desert night.
Black Mamba was standing on top of a 20-foot stone pillar. It was the best place to watch all sides. At the same time, it was the best place to be shot, too.
When a person had nothing to do, that person turned to stray thoughts. Stray thoughts increased especially during silence. When moving scenery was added, emotions ran wild, whether that was for better or worse.
The deaths of those young guerrilla soldiers clung to his mind more than his teammate Mark’s death. They had barely been over ten years old. He kept recalling their blank gazes, the same eyes as his friends who were involved in the explosion at his hometown bridge.
Eyes without light, thin arms and legs, frizzy dry hair, and the protruding ribs seemed to hold onto his consciousness for a longer period of time.
“Black Mamba, are you on guard?”
A gun clicked. It was Sergeant Chartres, explosives and RPG-7 launcher expert. Chartres, who had enrolled in the Legion Etranger during his doctorate program at Paris’ Second University, was the oldest out of all the team members at the age of 36.
Chartres was also in the same 4th company, 2nd platoon, and 1st squadron, like Black Mamba, who was his best friend. Most mercenaries were fakes or had particular personalities. Chartres always insisted that he was a reincarnation of Sartre, an extensional philosopher. He also said that his father had named him Chartres after dreaming of Sartre before he was born. Of course, everyone thought of it as a joke, because Chartres was a history major.
No one knew why he became a mercenary to the point of deceiving his own nationality. The Legion Etranger couldn’t dig into a person’s past as long as the individual didn’t reveal it. The mercenaries didn’t reveal their pasts as much as their dark histories. There were many mercenaries who hid their real names and only used nicknames.
Black Mamba jumped down from the top of the rock.
“Seem like you’re alive, considering how you’re thinking so much. I thought you were dead since you weren’t moving.”
Chartres committed a crime by twisting Sartre’s famous words. Black Mamba caught the hip flask Chartres threw.
The moment he opened the flask, the unique sweet smell of Sciacarello, famous red wine, swelled up. Chartres looked at Black Mamba as if he was looking at his younger brother.
“Cap Corse is too rough and sour. I like Sciacarello, too. Drink up.”
Black Mamba enjoyed Sciacarello more than the high-quality wine from the retirement village. Chartres, who was an alcohol lover, enjoyed strong vodka, but he had purposefully brought Sciacarello with him.
Black Mamba drank to the point that his adam’s apple moved, then burped out refreshingly. Chartres immediately smiled.
“Ha, it’s my first time seeing someone burp from wine instead of vodka. Who would call you a mad dog when they see you like this?”
“Mad dog! Who said that?”
He had never imagined he would be called a loose screw back in Africa.
“The comrades who saw Black Mamba’s fight yesterday called you that.”
“Damn, and Chartres is one of them.”
“Well, considering their reactions, mad dog was the nickname.”
“How did you know?”
“A philosopher knows everything.”
“Ha. Yeah, right. Cheers to that.”
Black Mamba handed the flask to Chartres. The old and young mercenary sat together and shared the wine. Men felt camaraderie by simply sharing their alcohol. They were also pathetic animals who solidified their friendship with drunk ramblings.
“Do you feel weighed down? You’re exuding a dark aura.”
“Chartres, I want to kill every guerrilla leader. I’ve killed tens of children who haven’t even grown beards. They’re children who should be eating dinner with their families and playing with others their age. What the hell is wrong with this country?”
Chartres also became depressed.
“We’re soldiers. Don’t read too much into it. There’s a Chinese saying: ‘What disturbs us is not the mountain afar but the small pebble in our shoes.’ Just thinking about how to survive makes my head hurt. There’s no reason to waste your energy on something that’s already happened. Just shake that pebble out of your shoe.”
“Sigh, I don’t know. I’m angry, but I don’t feel guilty. That’s what make me more confused.”
“That’s an exemplar attitude for a soldier. This mission is already my third. I was also sent to Chad, here, three years ago. It was a civil war between Goukouni and Makumbo. At that time, a public massacre happened at N’Djamena, causing thousands of civilians to die.”
Black Mamba recalled the Chad civil war he read during his speed reading. There had been over a million people who died in N’Djamena due to the civil war.
“Is there a reason to create a genocide between citizens of the same country just to grasp power? The citizens themselves are starving and don’t have access to clean water. I was speechless when I looked around the streets of N’Djamena. To think that they’d fire at each other when their people were begging on the streets.”
Chartres stifled his laughter. Wasn’t Black Mamba also from a country that raised a civil war between their own kind?
“Didn’t Korea create a genocide of their own? A huge war that resulted in 20,000 soldiers’ deaths? You’re still aiming guns at each other trying to gain an advantage.”
“Damn, it really isn’t the time to be criticizing other people.”
Black Mamba laughed cynically.
“The Korean War may be an ideological war, but Chad is different. Chad is one of the poorest countries among third-world countries, with the highest illiteracy rate in the world. Stupid citizens are easier to drag about than a horse on a leash. It’s a war created by the smaller upper echelon who are using the citizens.”
“And of course, those who are called leaders are those who want more power and wealth.”
Chartres also laughed cynically. The man called Makumbo who the Ratel team had come to save was the dirty man Black Mamba had spoken of.
“We’re nothing more than hands and feet. We’re not in a position where we can discuss politics. Soldiers do nothing but follow orders. Your excuses and mine come from our positions as soldiers. Soldiers aren’t humans—we’re tools.”
Black Mamba nodded. He hadn’t understood everything due to his language skills which fell short, but he understood the core message. It meant that a leader’s greed and the citizen’s stupidity caused a civil war. This was also the reality in Korea. He agreed with the fact that soldiers were tools. As expected, Chartres was someone he could learn from, as knowledgeable as he was.
“Is it impossible for them to become a democratic state?”
“Most African countries gained their independence after World War II. Most of these countries are constructed so that one tribe’s leader holds more power and sway over the rest of the tribes. This means that they don’t have the notion of a ‘party leader’ at all. There are only political enemies whom they must kill. A change in political power only means the flooding of blood. It’s easier to think of ruling in Africa as a one-party power in government. There’s no foundation for a democratic state. The same goes for Chad. For a democratic government to take hold where competition and power balances come from the tribes’ equal political sway, not even a hundred years would help the matter.”
Chartres spoke like a judge who was declaring judgment on a sinner. Black Mamba felt like refuting Chartres’ opinion. If everything was as Chartres said, that meant there were only better tribes within Africa.
“Aren’t you looking down on Africa too much? The unstable power balance was born from the western powers who colonized Africa. The western powers caused friction between the tribes in order to have a better grasp of their colonies before they robbed them. The European powers plundered Africa and stole their opportunities for education.”
At Black Mamba’s refute, Chartres smiled. The most mercenary-like mercenary, yet at the same time, the unlikeliest mercenary of mercenaries, was Black Mamba.