Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 205
“F*ck, I’d rather die than suffer from an illness.”
Humans struggled to adapt to new situations outside the norm. The bridge village had clear, full streams, due to its many rocks. The fact that he couldn’t use the water in his hometown was incomprehensible.
It was the same water yet different in the Sahel and the bridge village. While one was a lifeline, the other existed like air. However, the bridge had suffered greatly from the damage.
That was the law of equivalence. Gaining one meant losing another. They had controlled the floods by building a dam, which in turn provided job opportunities, but that had destroyed the environment.
“I wonder if those things have disappeared since the river became sh*t.”
He suddenly recalled the soldiers sprouting up from the water like bubbles in the dark early evening amid the thick fog. He wondered if the soldiers, who used to march in meaningless orders of lines, had disappeared. He had thrown their corpses into the Nakdong River during the battle. Perhaps the FROLINAT soldiers he had killed were wandering around the Sahel aimlessly.
“I should concentrate on making the roasted pheasant.”
He sliced the pheasant’s belly with the tip of his thumb. The stomach spilled open as though it had been cut with a knife. He pulled out all of its intestines and slathered it with mud.
Jin Soon started the fire with dry twigs and threw the slathered pheasant into the fire. The two stared at the drying mud ball, which began to harden in the fire. Silence ensued.
“Oppa, can’t you do something about those things now?” Jin Soon said abruptly.
She referred to the humans as “things,” but there was no way Mu Ssang would misunderstand.
“It’s hard to resolve this in court. I was impatient, or should I say I went temporarily mad?”
“We have Kang Young Sook’s will and those things’ affidavit of admission, so how hard can it be to sue them? You need to get rid of the dirty crime that you have been framed for. However, it would be hard since that damned b*tch committed suicide.”
Jin Soon was persistent. They were crafty humans who had used her oppa’s strong sense of justice to push him into a trap. Looking at them living their lives well made her want to throw up all the rice that she had eaten four days ago.
“The thing is, it’s hard to get them with the law. I could kidnap and beat them up without thinking of the consequences. I should be able to get rid of the accusation of rape, but I would be charged for kidnapping and violence instead.”
He could have flipped the judgment on his own, but Sang Han, who would have assisted with the kidnapping, the weapons, and marks, would be a problem. The Jang family would happily make a fuss with the police and prosecutors. He didn’t mind, but the people around him would be affected.
“Then how will you clear your name, oppa?”
“Hehe, I couldn’t do anything since there were soldier-wannabes back then, but I can slowly start now.”
“What are you going to do?”
“If you stab a person, you need to charge the stabber. Of course, I can’t leave sewer trash alone, even if it was used as a weapon. I’ve wrapped up some stuff. Only the hand-axe gang remains. However, you see, they are nothing to me since I’ve seen worse on the battlefield.”
“Nothing? They messed up your life, oppa, and they’re nothing?” Jin Soon’s tone went up a pitch.
“Brat, I’m the one who’s affected. Why are you getting mad? Oppa’s life isn’t ruined. I got to drink foreign water and earn a lot of money thanks to the b*tch’s family, so it’s a good thing.”
Mu Ssang patted Jin Soon’s back.
“Back then, I even thought of killing the Jang family’s mother and children. I was found digging a burial hole for them by the teacher and got beaten up really bad. However, after returning from the dead several times, I figure they’re nothing to me. I feel like my father wouldn’t like it if I attacked my own family, either.”
“Oh, yes, what a saint.”
A saintly smile appeared on Mu Ssang’s face.
“I learned the only animal that can look directly at the sun is the chameleon. No human on earth is clean enough to face the skies directly. Sattvas are sattvas because we carry sins throughout our lives. I bet there are countless people out there plotting their revenge on me.”
“Wow, are you really my oppa? That old grandpa monk is amazing. He’s turned oppa, who held on to grudges, into a Buddha! So? You’re going to forget everything they did and live with the one-for-all, all-for-one mantra?”
He smirked even more at Jin Soon’s mocking. It was a smile as cold as early winter.
“I can’t do that. I’m planning to shake all the money out of that man I call uncle and the witch who serves money like Buddha.”
“That is ideal, but wouldn’t that be too weak a revenge?”
Jin Soon tilted her head. Money could be earned. How could taking money count as revenge? He had truly become soft ever since he had left for a foreign country.
“Hehehe, those humans have an entirely different perspective on money from us. What do you consider most important?”
“Of course it’s you, oppa, and my family. I have nothing to compare your value with, so should I say it’s absolute?”
“That’s it. Soon, what would you do if someone takes oppa and your family away?”
“I’d go mad. Ah! I see.” Jin Soon came to a realization.
Losing her oppa was a horrible thought. There would be no point in living. They considered money as God, so taking it away would cause extreme pain to them. Oppa was someone who kept his word. She suddenly found the Jang family very pitiful.
“Wow, oppa, you’re evil!” Jin Soon exclaimed.
Oppa wouldn’t sit back and watch. No, oppa truly was an amazing person.
“Huhuhu! Stop praising me. It’s almost done. We should visit my father’s grave afterward.”
The clay had turned brick-red while they were chatting. Mu Ssang cracked the clay open. The feathers stuck to the clay came off cleanly as though a plastic wrapper was being removed.
Its white skin appeared with steam coming off. He sprinkled salt and pepper all over the pheasant and wrapped it with arrowroot leaves. Then, he covered it with mud again before placing it back in the fire.
Farmers who always climbed mountains were bound to finish their meals there. They always came prepared with basic spices like salt, pepper, and pepper powder. It was the same for Mu Ssang. Since his youth, he always carried spices in his pockets. The habit remained until now.
“Brat, my patience is at its limit. Let’s eat.”
When he cleared the mud, a sweet smell exuded off the pheasant immediately. Jin Soon swallowed her drool. Oppa was a magician. He was a magician who performed solely for one audience. Her consciousness floated around in happiness.
“Thanks, oppa. Oppa should have been there when King Sunjo fled to Uijo. I heard he chewed on uncooked rice since he was too busy running away.”
“No, brat. I hate the country called Joseon and that human, especially. If I had been guarding him, I would have kicked him into the Imjin River.”
Mu Ssang shivered. He hated the Joseon dynasty’s kings, but he hated Injo, Sunjo, and Gojong even more. He felt as though lice were climbing all over him whenever he thought about them. They were the icons of incompetence, stupidity, childish immaturity, and jealousy.
The person who had abandoned his people and fled during the night, the person who had lit the Imjin River with oil to navigate his way, the person who had accused Lee Soon Shin of being a rebel out of jealousy, and the person who didn’t even appear on the battlefield—that was King Sunjo.
When Sunjo wrote his memorandum about the deceased honorable servant, Lee Soon Shin, he said, “The pity towards him will always remain a regret in my heart. I will raise his position to the right minister to reassure his bright soul and return all my debts by opening a temple to hold his funeral. Only his soul will be honored by my special favor. Here I proclaim, and so it will be.”
My special favor? That was a frustrating phrase that would raise one’s blood pressure. The people who lived under such a useless king were pitiful.
“Ugh, again, that temper of yours!” Jin Soon ripped the pheasant’s leg off and stuffed it in his mouth.
She would have to hear a history lecture if she let him be. Oppa was good overall, but he cared too much about the country’s well-being.
History lectures were boring. What did it matter whether Sunjo had abandoned his people in the past or not? Rent and their university registration fees was an existing problem.
“You brat, damn!”
Mu Ssang looked at Jin Soon and smiled in satisfaction. The sight of her tearing the meat up with her bare hands looked so natural. If Edel was the careful, intelligent beauty, then Jin Soon was the natural, pure friend.
He flinched. How did he end up thinking about Edel?
“Wow, this is amazing. It’s so good!” Mu Ssang exclaimed in surprise.
Mu Ssang was an ignorant fool when it came to relationships between men and women.
“Jeez, I told you not to eat the bones, didn’t I? You still are! Land animals have thin and strong bones, so it’s more dangerous.”
Jin Soon didn’t know that a Paranthropus’ teeth were stronger than a hyenas’, and their digestive juices were like a crocodile’s.
“Stop scolding me, shut up!”
He stuffed Jin Soon’s mouth with a pheasant’s leg.
His father’s grave in Yeongok village was clean. The grave was clean and covered with turf. There weren’t any weeds. It seemed that his father’s grave was regularly maintained. There weren’t any acacia trees or vines either, which meant that someone cleaned the grave every year.
Who was it?
No one would have cleaned it. The relatives at the bridge village? They’d rather wash their hands in bean paste. He would give them 100,000 dollars if they truly did.
Aunt Ha Dong? No. Unlike men, women weren’t interested in maintaining graves. The idea of maintaining an ancestor’s grave wasn’t appealing at all. He didn’t think his father’s old friends would take care of the grave either.
His right to the land had returned, and his father’s grave was regularly maintained?
There were two possibilities. Either his mother had survived and regained ownership, or his uncle had gone mad, returning his house and the surrounding lands.
The first was what he had hoped for. If his mother had returned, there was no way Ha Dong wouldn’t know. The two were closer than blood-related siblings, after all.
The second possibility had a slimmer chance than the first. The bridge turning into the sea would be more feasible than his uncle and aunt changing their minds.
Anyway, his aunt and uncle held the key. He felt as though he’d have to face his uncle’s family as soon as the prayer service ended. He felt extremely annoyed.
He arranged the offerings that Jin Soon had prepared. He finished the prayer and sprinkled rice liquor all over the grave before lighting a cigarette and leaving it on the incense altar.
“Father, you liked cigarettes, didn’t you? This is an expensive foreign cigarette called the Cohiba Siglo. You feel frustrated for passing away so quickly, don’t you? If you’d been alive, your son would have given you a pack of good cigarettes. Well, if you had been alive, I suppose I wouldn’t have fled overseas after the incident.”
Mu Ssang slumped in his seat and began to tell his story. Yeongok village came into view from the grave’s standpoint. He could see the paddies spread in front of the village and the dam on the left.
He could also see the field that his father used to spray fertilizers on. He’d been addicted to it. He used to play in the river while his father worked, catching eels and fishes. The happy, sad, and painful memories unraveled in his mind like a panorama.
“Dad, I made lots of money, just like I promised. You wouldn’t want your only son to starve. I’m planning to help the people living in difficulty and guide them to take charge of their own lives. Don’t call me invested. Humans only have 100 years to live, don’t they?”
Ten years ago, he had visited his father’s grave before escaping his uncle’s house. He had cooked crawfish and filled his smelly rubber shoes with water to set them on the altar. He had promised to earn more money and to give his father a grand feast.
He had kept his promise and earned lots of money. However, would his father welcome a son who was a mercenary?
He couldn’t tell.
He recalled his mother’s face, which he’d shoved into the deepest corners of his mind. It had been 14 years since his mother’s disappearance. His teacher’s words on how he shouldn’t resist the fate of connections or force them in a certain way had also been a burden.
What should he do?
He wasn’t a teenager anymore, and it wasn’t as though he didn’t have the power. He had even thought of uniting all the gangs in the country to order a search for his mother.
“I should study first,” he thought.
It was funny how he had to hold a book with his bloodied hands, but that was how human society worked. Those who became heroes from encouraging murder like Genghis Khan, Hannibal, Caesar, Alexander, and Napoleon were the true sinners.
The body count of his murders was incomparable to their human sacrifices. It would barely amount to the blood in a bird’s foot. A monster would even get rid of his past records as a criminal for an understanding relationship with others.
Including Hideki Tojo, the war criminals of Japan who were executed barely amounted to seven people. King Hirohito, who had the greatest responsibility, wasn’t even held responsible. In the afterworld, those who were dirty remained dirty, and those who were clean remained clean.
Look at him. He received a great amount of money and a medal for killing thousands of people. That was how the world worked. Whether one had to despair or attempt something, it was one’s own responsibility and life.
“Father, rest in peace. I couldn’t visit often. I was busy fighting in another country. I won’t be able to come by often. I’m busy studying and living too, you see. I’ll find Mother as soon as I can. Be well.”
After bidding him farewell, Mu Ssang swaggered down the mountain. Jin Soon didn’t open her mouth the entire time. Jin Soon knew when to talk and when to stay silent like a ghost.
A scream greeted Mu Ssang as he entered through the door.
“Kyaaaah, it’s oppa!”