Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 37
How small and insignificant man’s existence was compared to the great mysteries of the universe!
Defilement, as heavy as Mt. Sumi, melted like the filtering of light through the break of dawn.
The night sky by the bridge was what he missed from home, and Corsica’s night sky beautiful. The Sahel’s night sky was of great magnificence.
Black Mamba’s mind slowly crept from his current consciousness into the world of his deep subconscious. He forgot his grievances, his task, the devastating fighting, himself, and the night sky. Only a deafening silence and great solemness remained.
The solemness was so great that he couldn’t describe how it circulated through his veins and gave him a sense of electrifying happiness. His body started to tremble like a wave, an alarm that rang through his entire body.
The inner trembling began to show itself outward.
Whoosh— His surroundings started to reawaken his senses. Ten meters away, a brown scorpion moved as if it was dancing, a beetle, afraid it would get caught hiding, waited with bated breath, 100 meters away a horned adder dug itself beneath the sand, farther still several hyenas lingered, and underneath the hard ground, seeds tried to grow roots. It was the continuance of nature’s frail existence.
He had reached the stage where he could sense things not with his eyes but directly with his brain. It was like an impossible, intuitive sixth sense.
He felt a sense of fulfillment and humility as he became one with the world. Only when he embraced Hae Young, had he felt such fulfillment and humility. He shuddered. His consciousness became keener.
His ears were pierced with a high pitched sound like a crazy woman laughing.
Black Mamba’s meditation was broken. The rippling effect that had been flowing through his body quickly disappeared. Next, a throbbing headache rushed in. His head felt immensely heavy. It was enough to make him lose his sight for a moment.
A heavy disappointment flowed through him. He missed the chance to feel the great connection with nature that his teacher had told him about. Because of his oncoming headache, he could not concentrate anymore. There was nothing left but regret.
Black Mamba glared with angry eyes at the place from where the sound came.
In the distance, he felt two dark silhouettes and four red flames heading toward him. They were hyenas.
He slowly grabbed Dragunov. Those wretched creatures had interrupted him and caused his trance to be broken. He had lost his chance to feel the extent of the resonance.
“What! You must be joking.”
Before he pulled the trigger, he put down the gun. The smaller one was riding on top of the bigger one. Female hyenas are larger than the males. He was not so merciless as to shoot a creature during their mating.
“Damn, just my luck!”
He lamented. Based on what his teacher had told him, it was difficult to come to a big epiphany even once in life.
The desert’s magnificence and euphoria disappeared. There was only the discomfort his body now felt. His uniform was wet with sticky sweat. There was no water around him for him to wash up. He missed the clear streams of Mt. Bang Tae dearly.
Chartres’ assumption that instinct overpowered ideology was correct. Humans had the seed inside them to be like gods, but their innate characteristics were closer to an animal’s.
His existence was being molded by his experiences and learning. What he will become and what will happen no one could know, not even God. There was no point in determining one’s destiny, and there was no point in contemplating existence.
“Ombuti, stop staring at me with those seductive eyes.”
At the sudden sound, Ombuti jumped in surprise.
Black Mamba, who had been far away just a moment ago, suddenly was smiling slyly next to him.
“I was worried because you hadn’t come back for so long.”
“Thanks. Our comrades are getting tired.”
“You are a unique person. You were on guard all night, and you aren’t tired?”
Black Mamba checked the skies and was slightly surprised.
Stars had already started to disappear. A lot of time must have passed when he had been in his trance.
A warrior only engages in fights. He does not do other menial tasks. Black Mamba is the manifestation of Azrael, but he volunteered to do all sorts of random tasks. Black Mamba was a unique character that Ombuti couldn’t understand.
“For me, it was a good time that I would never be able to experience again. Thank you for your concern.”
“Of course. A servant must take care of his owner.”
Whether Black Mamba accepted it or not, in Ombuti’s case, it was required.
The old Tuareg warrior and Korean mercenary left a faded shadow as the last of the sunlight disappeared.
It was the fourth day of the operation.
Northern Chad, the Sahel belt, was characterized by steppes, badlands, and desert. Summer, which is March through June, could reach temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius even under shade.
On the other hand, November through February had drastic temperature fluctuations between night and day. At night, it would reach -10 degrees Celsius then rise to 30 degrees Celsius in the day. The temperature difference was a surprising 25 degrees Celsius.
In the Sahel area, an estimated 200 millimeters of rainfall would come per year. Between July to October, there would be a short bout of rain, but any time other than that, one couldn’t even see a drop of rain. For five years, it had been in a drought. All the vegetation withered and turned yellow. It was difficult to find fresh greens.
Team Ratel had entered the Sahel in October.
This was when the heat had drastically decreased, but the varying temperature difference was the problem. Almost all the mercenaries caught a cold. Only Black Mamba with his strengthened physique and the native Ombuti were fine.
After getting some rest, the mercenaries were able to make a full recovery. As mercenaries, death was always near them. Deep in their hearts, they buried the anger and sadness of losing their comrades.
When Black Mamba returned early in the morning, the captain led the group to avoid the day’s heat.
Emil had been leading the group and pounded the steering wheel with his fist. The moment their pickup truck fell into a pothole, a tire blew out. It was already the second time this happened.
The thick tires meant for the desert still could not withstand bone shards.
As they traveled farther north, they slowed immensely. There were heavily dried tree stumps, sharp boulder edges, and animal bones that threatened the state of the tires.
“Emil, can’t you do it properly?”
The captain raised his fist and shook it. When the pickup halted to a stop, the captain crashed his head into the rim of the window. A single strand of blood flowed down his forehead. Emil glanced over at him with a grim expression.
The captain muttered.
Inertia did not affect Black Mamba. Even with the sudden braking, he sat peacefully in his straightened position. Having shouted out in anger, he was the only one who became a spectacle.
Ombuti stared at Black Mamba, his eyes filled with respect.
When Black Mamba was not holding the Dragunov and kukri, he looked as peaceful as if he was a praying Imam. It was surprising that such an explosive wildness could inhabit such a pretty face and frail-looking body.
Ombuti burst out laughing upon seeing Mike beaten to a pulp.
“Emil, is Black Mamba a private?”
“Can a private beat on the sergeant?”
“It’s possible for Black Mamba.”
“Isn’t that not allowed?”
“I don’t know. Black Mamba is a special case.”
Ombuti nodded his head. Black Mamba was special. There was nothing he couldn’t do once he put his mind to it. He was Azrael.
“Is Sargent Mike alright?”
At Ombuti’s question, Emil pointed at the pickup truck.
Mike was observing the surroundings with a pair of binoculars. He looked fine.
“He likes to make a fuss. Yesterday he flailed around like a pig kicked by a camel, but he seems perfectly fine now.”
“I can see that, too.”
Ombuti and Emil were oblivious. The two of them considered Mike’s deep wound a mere exaggeration of pain.
Mike, who had been severely beaten by Black Mamba, was extremely subdued. He started to show signs of paranoia and would suddenly tremble or look around frantically with wide eyes. He didn’t talk much and didn’t cause fights with the other comrades. This was normal behavior from someone beaten to their senses.
Black Mamba was neither in a trance nor falling asleep.
He was trying desperately to recreate the sensation he had felt the day before. Having experienced it once, he knew that this mysterious sensation was different than his normal intuition. Even without being conscious of it, he could feel the small breathing of a bug. It was a power that could not only allow him to see the things around him, but it also let him sense the presence of things that could not be felt by normal humans.
“Hm, it’s not working.”
He tried with all his might to summon the feeling again, but the special world did not open up to him. All he could do was heighten his senses a bit more. He gave it up for the moment. It was not something he could force.
When he opened up his heart, the surrounding scenery came into view.
The grassland and crops had been massacred by the passing of grasshoppers.
The barely surviving grass and trees were wiped out from the drought. Even the roots had fallen apart and were left dry as a bone. Along the way, they saw remnants of baobab trees, acacia trees, bramble, and eucalyptus. It was why they called a grasshopper invasion a “plague.”
After passing through the path of obstacles, the pickup truck sped forward. Red laterite is clay that stays heated, doesn’t break apart easily, and leaves behind minerals and aluminum that create its orange color. It did not contain many nutrients and was bad for growing crops. Particles of it covered the windshield in an instant. The wipers had been working hard to scrape them off but suddenly halted to a stop. The motor had been burnt out by overuse.
“Crap, this place is a mess.”
Emil scraped at the dust as he muttered.
The presence of laterite sand revealed that this area used to be a tropical forest. According to scholars, the Sahara Desert had harbored a flowing lake and vast forests 6000 years ago.
The Sahel had weather like the Savannah. Depending on the location, some places received 500 millimeters of rain. With that amount, growing crops can be possible. There were other reasons besides the weather that the Sahel was turning into a desert. The spreading of the desert was mainly caused by ecosystem destruction. It was due to an increase in livestock and people that destroyed vegetation. The livestock ate all the vegetation, and the increase of plowed land made it impossible to recover from the destruction. As a consequence, it became infertile and started to become a desert.
The drought was making the situation worse.
Laterite sand became hard after losing its moisture from the harsh sunlight and dry winds. The dried land could not soak up moisture even when it rained. Even if a seed would sprout, it could not let down its roots. If vegetation could not put down its roots, then the desert spread that much faster. It was a vicious cycle.
They traveled in ease only for a moment.
The road was a mess. It was practically impossible to call it a road anymore.
There were potholes, stones, and debris everywhere. There were places where the path was gone altogether. There were remnants of a road, but it was not an actual road.
At any time, they would need to turn into engineers. Drenched in sweat, they would have to fill the holes using shovels and push and pull the car to get it out. Five or six people had to put in their efforts to do so.
Black Mamba missed the unpaved, new roads from his hometown. Although unpaved, people took care of the new roads. The government had set it up so that different towns would manage the roads, and the citizens would care for it.
The coordinators assigned the town leader a date, and one member per family would come out with a colander and tools to become a day worker. Black Mamba had always been the one chosen within his uncle’s household. “The morning bell has rung—A new day has come—” It was the song he had heard repetitively while he lugged stone with the colander. The heartbreaking memory came back to him as a fond reminiscence.
Two days passed, and Team Ratel was near Cortaro.
In two days, they had traveled a mere 160 kilometers. Because of the harsh conditions and horrific state of the roads, they could only travel about 20-30 kilometers per hour. Taking so many detours had eaten up a lot of their time. Even the captain who was accustomed to Africa shook his head in defeat.
In areas where the road was marked, 70 percent of them were not navigable. Whoever passed through had to deal with mud, wadi, pebbles, and boulders to arrive in the badlands. Plus, they were bombarded by hoards of flies and mosquitoes. The mercenaries were getting extremely stressed.
Once they traveled into Borkou from Kanem, the vegetation became drastically different. If Kanem was closer to the steppes, the Borkou was closer to the desert. The temperature increased. The team lost its will to fight or handle the temperature changes.