Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 36
“I can’t say it doesn’t matter at all, but we have larger internal problems. Under Japanese colonization, Korea lost not only its economy’s politics but also its culture. Despite that, Korea managed to achieve political stability and economic growth, even after a devastating civil war.”
Chartres knew about Korea’s situation, as was expected of a history major.
“Korea’s political stability?” Black Mamba tilted his head.
They had a government that sent airborne forces to suppress its citizen’s protest movements, a government that aimed machine guns at its citizens. A protest group that threw broken cement blocks was responded to with aggressive police who threw down tear gas and metal bats. The same country that had tortured normal students and citizens to insanity was his home country, Korea. His friend, Kim Young Dong, had also become mentally retarded due to the torture.
His country greeted and ended the day with the sound of their combat soldiers’ footsteps moving in lines, accompanied by the sound of protest groups who screamed their chants. His country was the one who greeted their foul-looking president every evening at nine. Black Mamba had left his hometown because he couldn’t stand the sight any longer. He left his hometown because of the corrupted public power. How could there be political stability when the political reality was so dark?!
“It’s already been 200 years since France had its revolution. Not even 40 years have passed in Korea. You can consider it a rite of passage into democracy.”
‘Well, the nobility and Japan messed up Korea after all.’
Black Mamba agreed. The upper echelon who stood for Chinese ideals and pro-Japanese factions had robbed them of their national pride.
“There’s one phrase I engraved in my heart while I was studying history. It’s ‘what you worked for will become yours.’ There’s nothing that comes for free in international relationships. What is earned through others can easily be taken away. Korea’s resistance movement is a prime example. People like Lee Seung Man always lean on outside powers to gain their independence, leaving aside several thousand of his own people. I don’t like Korea’s terminology for its resistance movement. Why isn’t it a resistance war, instead of a resistance act?! In the end, Korea achieved its independence thanks to the united countries. The result of that is its current division.”
Black Mamba felt ashamed to the point that his face heated up. Korea was the outer land attached awkwardly at Asia’s eastern end, a country that remained apart from the world’s flow. Chartres knew Korea’s exact history despite being a mercenary. This was the difference between educated and uneducated.
“The only person who tried to achieve independence by using outside forces was Lee Seung Man.”
“It was the overall public opinion that pushed Lee Seung Man into the presidency, so you can say most were in agreement.”
An undeniable refute countered his awkward excuse.
He wanted to argue but didn’t have anything to say. He wanted to chew out France, but he didn’t know anything in-depth and didn’t speak the language very well. He felt as though he was being crushed by a stronger person.
‘Damn, what’s the point of having a strong body if the head’s empty.’
Black Mamba sighed internally. How nice would it be if his head had also become amazing alongside his body!
“Korea has a homogeneous ethnicity and high education. Even the politicians save their own hides under the citizen’s criticism. Korea will soon become a first world country. Africa is different from Korea. The people in power don’t care about the citizen’s opinions. Once they come into power, they only care about their own tribes. They’re b*stards who commit genocide on their own people because their tribes differ. Because their focus still remains on tribal concepts instead of national concepts, the future is dark.”
“The big problem Africa faces is blurred boundaries, poverty, and the illiteracy rate. Are you saying that Europe isn’t responsible for the current situation?”
“That’s not it. Of course, the responsibility lies with Europe. Current African traditions that have continued also have many problems. For example, the national funds being used under the name of saving Africa are being invested in cotton, cocoa, and coffee—crops that are exported. Individual farming businesses are extremely neglected. Every crop that’s funded from national funds is exported. Most of the paid fees from exportation go back in the hyenas and the small upper society’s pockets. All the farmers get are the leftovers. Individual farming businesses are nothing more than shoe polishers working at the nation’s foundation. Reality only fills the bellies of those in power. Natives can’t escape poverty. I feel like the national budget is only another method of stealing Africa’s money by taking advantage of people’s low incomes.”
“So in the end, this is about corrupted power. If clean power goes in, wouldn’t the situation change for the better?”
Chartres laughed with a twisted smile.
“Hahaha! A clean government in Chad! Expect a tusk from a boar instead. Even if they want to come clean, everything they’ve done until now will hold onto their ankles. Africa is suffering from chronic capital outflow. Any capital input immediately goes back out. The euro is its representative. Most of Africa’s euros are in possession of western powers. Basically, the money they earn from selling oil is given to the western powers in rations. Even if those in power keep their integrity, Africa still has to work to the bone and repay its debts, plus interest. They can’t build their own capital. Cotton is basically oil for Chad. You could say Chad’s future is as dark as their skin.”
“Wouldn’t the situation become better if a godlike leader appeared to unite the tribes?”
“You could say that it’ll be hard as long as the national consciousness remains in tribal units. I’ve worked in Korea as a researcher for a year. Koreans are always hard-working and prideful in their work. It’s to the point that their fervor for education burns them out. Education is the core working force of a country’s development. I believe that Korea’s the only country that can catch up to Japan as a developing country.”
“Huh! I left Korea because I didn’t like it. I was kicked around by power and people.”
The country he was born in, the country he loved but couldn’t like, was Korea. He laughed tonelessly at Chartres’ praise of it.
“Black Mamba, if you generalize an individual experience, you get stuck in a narrow frame of mind. You and I are members of the same squadron and friends. You may be the best soldier, but you’re too young and pure to dirty with so much blood on your hands. Sometimes passion blinds young people. It’s not good to wash your hands in blood. I really want to encourage your return to your studies.”
“Sigh, thanks for your advice. I want to study again, too.”
Black Mamba sighed automatically, but Chartres’ words had ripped the scab off his old wound.
“I also find Africa’s reality unfortunate. Korea’s strongest advantage is its single national ethnicity. As I’ve said before, Chad doesn’t have national pride; they only have tribes. Northern Arabs used southern Africans as slaves for a long time, with abuse. The hatred and grudge between them make unification impossible. The northern Arabs still think of southern Africans as slaves, but all of Chad’s economy is gathered in the south. What do you think will happen?”
“There won’t be an end to their hatred, jealousy, and envy.”
“Yes, their relationship will worsen. It’d be better for the country to break apart.”
‘Hmph, you wouldn’t be saying that if you hadn’t regained Normandy and Flanders from England after the 100 Years’ War!’ Black Mamba laughed at Chartres inwardly. He was surprised at Chartres’ knowledge, but it was hard to agree with him. Africa’s internal conflict, from Black Mamba’s point of view, was created from the western countries’ power struggle. If they hadn’t placed the borders to their liking, the tribes’ conflicts wouldn’t have increased.
Chartres found Africa’s situation unfortunate, but he only had crocodile tears. He, too, couldn’t step out of his country’s viewpoint. If his country, France, was divided or under German rule, he wouldn’t have been able to say the same. He found Chartres’ opinions uncomfortable, but couldn’t argue due to his lacking knowledge and language skills.
Chartres rummaged through his bag and pulled out a cigarette case. In the case was a cigar as thick as his pinky. Chartres sliced the end of the cigar off and gave it to him.
“It’s a COHIBA SIGLO, Cuban tobacco. It was a little expensive.”
“Expensive? I see.”
Black Mamba was still unable to leave his country-style mind behind. At the explanation of its expensiveness, he immediately lit his own.
The thick smell of well-fermented tobacco leaves rose from the cigar. He had learned how to smoke and drink when he served at night. It was cigarettes he had forgotten about as he trained under his master. He breathed in a waft deeply, and his head spun.
Chartres also lit his cigarette. The two sat together and smoked without a word. Smoking was forbidden for snipers, because the smell was obvious and spread too far. Both knew this fact, but both ignored it.
“Black Mamba, you’re not someone who should be in this place. Dream greater, think larger,” Chartres emphasized once more.
“Chartres, thank you for your advice. Please understand, my French is lacking.”
“We’re friends and comrades. There’s no respectful language in French. I’ll say this again, but we’re just tools. Don’t think about it too much. Those b*stards are people who’ve killed innocent locals. They’re our enemies, beasts. Those young soldiers are killing machines who lost their humanity. It’s unfortunate, but there’s no need to become attached. You’ll see the reality of it soon.”
“Will I be able to return to a normal life?”
Black Mamba raised both of his hands and smelled them. The smell of blood was strong. It was a deal engraved in his soul.
“Don’t worry. The most acclimatizing beings on Earth are humans.”
Chartres patted Black Mamba’s shoulders and went down the hill. The smell of sour cigarettes filled his empty place.
Chartres had come to find him despite his tiredness. He felt warm at his camaraderie and had lessened his burden with their long conversation. He felt as though a large, comforting hand was on his shoulder.
Sahel’s night sky was vibrant. The stars filled the sky as if to make up for the dim moonlight. His past and current connections with others rumbled in his mind underneath the stars, which looked as if they were about to fall.
The unstoppable feelings were blown away along with the cigar smoke. He had forgotten about the stench of blood due to Chartres’ engaging conversation. What was the point of crying crocodile tears?!
Far away, the high and low growls and shouts of wild animals fighting over their feed echoed. The high-pitched sounds were the prey, while the low-pitched howling were the carnivores. A world in which creatures ate and killed each other, this was the world they lived in. Chartres’ advice of cleaning up his mercenary life and beginning the path of a student brought hundreds of thoughts.
The night sky above the bridge was too bright, making it sad instead. He ate his mother’s meal to his fill and laid on his father’s handmade table to stare at the sky. Who would have seen this many stars in the night sky while on duty?!
Who would have seen the white milky way filling the night?!
It was a dream and a story.
The word, which had a hundred meanings, caught in his throat like a blown-up balloon, barely escaping. He, who liked to play among the forest’s river and trees, was unable to escape its charm easily. He returned home late often, even when he knew he should return earlier.
His attempt to return home secretly was always found out by his mother.
“You little brat!”
His mother, with a shovel in hand, blocked his path like a ghost. The shovel was nothing but a threat. His mother always wrapped her playful son up in her skirt and led him to the kitchen. When she opened the metal pot, a cast iron pot used to make soup, soup and warm rice in the same shape as the eggs in a bird’s nest always awaited him. Sometimes, there were warmed sweet potatoes, too.
“Son, if you keep running around at night, the ghost will take you away. If you’re late again, Mom will really hit you, okay?” His mother’s non-threatening voice rang by his ears.
His chest twinged with love for his mother, Jin Soon, and Hae Young, the attachments of his past and pure youth. Wailing wasn’t the only way to grieve. This was the type of sadness that solidified in his chest like a hard rock, deep inside. He had become an adult without any chance to cry.
The night sky in Sahel was ten times brighter than the sky above the bridge.
The child had become an adult, but his story wasn’t over. The one stream of bright light streaked across the night sky. The sound of air whipping around rang across the Sahel night.
Was it the sound of the little prince’s night flight?
The stars sparkled due to fusion reactions. They were gassy masses that produced high-mass elements. Even if he knew the truth, a fairy tale was still a fairy tale. His master hadn’t been wrong when he had said one’s stream of consciousness followed one’s heart. His heart had stopped at the age of eight, without enough leisure to grieve.
The temperature dropped accordingly with the night’s progression. The stars became colder. The moonlight, too, turned cold. The stars began to approach him the colder they became. He felt as though he could grasp them if he jumped high enough.
All the possible zodiacs had gathered. One meteor shower covered half of the southern sky and streamed down. One strand of the night sky brightened as though fireworks had been set off.
It was the type of majestic beauty that no artist would be able to capture. There was no other word to describe the sight other than majestic. He was moved, feeling as though he was seeing the mystery of the Earth’s beginning. He could only feel envious of the little prince’s poetic descriptions.
It was the humans who lived in Sahel who were cruel, not nature. Nature simply existed. The humans who entered its grace were the ones who hated, despaired, and fought.
Humans were struck by famine, destroyed by grasshoppers, and died under armed militaries’ guns, but the night sky remained beautifully cold. Sahel was pure. Sahel was transparent. He recalled his master’s saying that things that could be seen by the eye were unimportant.
This was true.
He felt touched by Sahel’s night. The purity, transparency, and coldness could be seen with his mind’s eye. The desert’s shining night sky relieved the burden on his shoulders.