Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 253
The explosive scream suppressed the sound of the crashing currents. With a stroke of luck, Black Mamba jumped out of the water like a cannonball and landed on the terrace.
He exhaled a deep lifeless breath. If it wasn’t for his Gorgon, escaping would have been impossible even with the power of an adult male horse. While regular muscle contractions burned carbohydrates and fats to produce energy, explosive muscle contractions consumed large amounts of ATP accumulated through anaerobic reactions. His upper limb muscles and lats, which had exploded with energy, quivered. A part of his fascia was damaged.
That kind of power would have overturned a heavy truck in its momentum. If the whip was a climbing rope of moderate thickness, it would have snapped, unable to support the weight. He was thankful for Ocelot, who had discarded the whip and fled. No, he was grateful for Ombuti and Emil, who had respectively taken care of the whip and repaired it. There is this, so there is that. Because this occurred, that happened. It was one for all and all for one.
“Woah, it’s greasy ice.”
He stabilized his balance and inhaled. The terrace’s width was barely half the length of his hand. If he hadn’t activated his night vision and dimensional sight, he would have overlooked it. He’d barely managed to gain a foothold on the terrace, but that wasn’t the end. The wet vertical wall was so slippery that a fly would have fallen off. If he hadn’t been whipped with his teacher’s staff during the physical balance training in Chun Saeng mountain’s valley, standing up would have been a problem.
The strong currents flowed at lightning speed under his watch. It moved so quickly that a lump of metal would be swept away if it was thrown in. He turned away. He felt as though he’d fall into the currents if he kept looking at it.
He patted down his chest, relieved at the fact that he was still alive. It was a miracle that he had even managed to escape without physical injuries. He thanked his ancestors and the bones of Wol Song San in his heart. The Azrael of the Sahel and Ddu-bai-buru-pa of the Middle East fell to his knees before nature’s tyranny.
How could he have known if the waterfall ahead was 1,000 or 1,000,000 meters deep? The fear of the unknown overwhelmed the fear of the present crisis.
He’d escaped the first trial, which was the ice-cold currents. Now, the game was on. He didn’t know how far he’d fallen underground or if there was an exit. His only hope was that air continued to flow through.
He had to loosen up his stiff muscles to climb up to the surface. He embedded the Gorgon’s handle into the cave’s wall and secured himself by wrapping it around his waist. He loosened up his stiff muscles with breathing exercises and kept his body warm with resonance waves. Movements slowed down with colder body temperatures. His body had to be in top condition so that he wouldn’t miss any chances.
“去去去中知 行行行裏覺” was a saying in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. It meant one would learn while going, going, going, and understand while doing, doing, doing. Among many of Black Mamba’s motto, this was one of his favorites—a person who wasn’t prepared couldn’t seize the opportunity, and a person who did not act would not see any results.
The water was cold as ice, but the ground was hotter than that of a summer day. The temperature in Aleppo during the Ruman plan had been 18 degrees Celsius, which was quite refreshing. The temperature of the cave had exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. With every 100 meters into the underground, the temperature increased by three degrees Celsius. He was roughly 700 meters below ground.
700 meters underground! It was horrible. He might have to wander several 1,000 kilometers before making it back to the surface. After all, he had wandered seven months around Bang Tae San before finding an exit. He grew frustrated.
“It’s not 7,000 meters, so 700 meters should be a piece of cake.”
As always, Black Mamba handled the situation in a collected manner. No b*stard would help him even if he cried. He’d only waste his energy whining about something that he should be handling alone.
The cave was like a cauldron filled with lava and limestones. The existence of limestones meant that the place used to be the sea. It had been the sea since its beginning. Lava had flown due to a volcanic eruption. Then, a reverse fault had occurred due to a massive earthquake.
His head automatically ducked at the grand dynamics of nature. Before nature, he was nothing but a day-old dog despite his physical strength and martial arts skill. If humans were a day-old dog, then he’d be a mosquito!
When he moved 10 meters forward, the cave terrace disappeared. The surface of the wall, which shone like a mirror, had formed a 120-degree overhang. That indicated a recent plate movement.
He couldn’t place his foot anywhere on the slick cave wall.
He activated his dimensional sight. Its range was limited since he was exhausted. He concentrated until his head started ringing. 100 meters was his limit.
70 meters ahead, the air moved in reverse directions. When air mixed, it meant that there was another space. His experience from searching for an exit in Bang Tae San had helped. The distance between the water’s surface and the ceiling was barely 1.5 meters. He couldn’t move in a pendulum motion as he had in Kaparja Valley.
He slapped his forehead. He’d forgotten about his Kukri the entire time he was using the Gorgon. He pulled out the Kukri from its holder. The light-blue blade, which downed large amounts of blood, glowed silently. It was acting out since it had been overlooked.
“You damn brat, the rule is that the first wives are put on the back burner with the arrival of a concubine. First wives are only remembered when the man’s struggling, you understand?” he muttered.
He’d continued to question and answer himself while trapped in Bang Tae San. He’d even conversed with himself using different voices. The habit, which he’d formed to control his destructing mind, returned. It was an ideal solution during isolation.
He wrapped the Gorgon around his waist and pulled out five darts with his left hand. Although it was made of tungsten, he needed five to support his weight since it was as thin as chopsticks.
The Kukri embedded itself deep into the cave’s wall. He maintained his balance with the Kukri, reached out his arm, and shoved the bunch of darts into the cave’s wall with his left hand. Next, he shifted his weight onto the darts and moved his Kukri to embed it into the next part of the wall. He moved both of his hands to proceed across the cave’s wall like a monkey swinging through the jungle.
It was easier said than done. It was an impossible move for the average human. Like drilling an anchor bolt, one would have to gather enough strength and repeat the motions of embedding a knife into the solid rocks, push their body forward with one arm, use their muscle strength to embed a bunch of darts, and pull out the knife before embedding it into the rocks again. The process required a lot of energy. His sweat poured down like rain. The humid air also played a part.
“There has to be a small cave. A limestone cave always comes with a smaller cave. I’ve struggled enough. I’m not an earthworm. I need to be rewarded. I’m going to have a feast on a grassy field under the shining sun. Kimchi soup, bean paste soup, and budae soup—I’m going to have it all. I need to bear babies with a woman too,” Black Mamba continued to mumble.
A deep well would reveal its bottom when water was continuously collected. A Lamborghini wouldn’t run without fuel. His sight blurred. His cheatable strength hit bottom. He felt as though he’d fall into the swirling currents if he didn’t stop talking.
The scent of the air changed. At the height of three meters, there was a black hole with its jaw wide open. Without hesitation, he grabbed the darts embedded in the wall, twirled around like a gymnast on an iron bar, and jumped into the air.
It was a false alarm. The back of the terrace, which was barely the width of a cheek, moved straight down. The cave continued with its direct descent. Surprised out of his wits, Black Mamba immediately shifted as much power as he could to his toes. It was too late. His body, which couldn’t overcome the inertia, quickly rolled into the black hole.
The Gorgon swung toward the other side of the wall. He used his remaining strength.
It always missed by an inch. The Gorgon was six meters long. Considering the length of an average arm, this meant that it was vertically over seven meters. He fell without wings. Suddenly, his lower body felt empty, and the world grew quiet.
His shout echoed for a while.
Black Mamba spread his limbs wide open and tried to figure out the most stable falling position. He was either going to live or die. If he was going to die, there was no reason to waste time worrying about death since it was a promised fact in life.
A piercing wind swept past his ears like a knife. It was the type of free fall he had experienced countless times in the Deuxieme Rep. He used to spin around, switched directions, and held hands with his comrades. Now, he was trying to slow down his falling speed. There were two differences. Firstly, he didn’t have a parachute, and secondly, he was about to hit the ground instead of the sky.
If one fell from the sky, a grave was prepared, but if one fell into the ground, a burial was out of the question. He didn’t want his skeleton to roll around if he died.
Even if he tried everything, there was no way around the law of physics. When he accelerated, the wind pushed back his fat cheeks. During a free fall, the speed was at five meters per second in the first second, two seconds later at 14 meters per second, three seconds later at 23 meters per second, four seconds later at 32 meters per second, and five seconds later at 41 meters per second. After 12 seconds, gravitational acceleration and air resistance would counterbalance each other, causing one to descend at a speed of 53 meters per second. 53 meters per second was approximately 190 kilometers per hour. He was falling at a speed of 190 kilometers per hour, naked and without goggles.
He started the counter. But what was the point of counting when there was no bridle handle? Through the repeated training sessions, he had formed a habit where he counted meaninglessly.
He struck the wall with his Gorgon several times while falling. His prayers for a slower falling speed went unnoticed every time. He couldn’t overcome the falling weight even with the darts embedded in the cave’s wall.
His night vision was useless in the absolute darkness. There was no visual information. He could only fall into the endless darkness.
He activated his dimensional sight despite his weak state.
“F***, am I some kind of martial arts hero? I don’t need an odyssey!”
Black Mamba grew anxious. At this rate, he wouldn’t be able to avoid turning into a paste. A change occurred at count 48, point 2,200 meters. The direct descent into a hole of seven to eight meters wide ended. His dimensional sight expanded from 20 meters, 50 meters, to 100 meters. It meant that he was entering a large space.
At count 50, a big mirror-like plate appeared in the darkness. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. The plate immediately turned into a mat. If he could see something, it meant that there was light. He hadn’t thought about a light source several 1,000s of meters underground.
While he could identify an object’s shape and its distance using his dimensional sight, its texture and inherent meaning couldn’t be deciphered. It meant that the amount of information he had received was insufficient compared to what he had observed. The arched mirror, which was as large as a house, zoomed in before his eyes. Its shining parts floated in the air as though it had been cut off with scissors. It looked like the eyes of a huge beast or a crescent moon on earth.
“It’s a lake!”
Black Mamba was ecstatic. A bean-sized hope was better than having none at all. The mirror rapidly increased in size. He could see the lake with his naked eye, without any need for his night vision. His surroundings also brightened up a little.
At count 70, he crashed at approximately 3,400 meters. The water’s surface filled his sight. In martial arts novels, there were all kinds of godlike methods that allowed a person to walk on air or fly. A thousand horses air travel, eight-legged back flying, and heavens ascending light — all kinds of godlike abilities appeared without a plausible explanation. Fiction remained fiction. There was no way to slow down an object experiencing gravitational acceleration.
He got into diving position at count 90. A large lake appeared right before his eyes. The only way to minimize the physical damage of his landing was to decrease the surface area by dividing the water. He raised both of his arms next to his ears and placed his palms together. He had no choice but to leave his fate up to his strength and luck. An awl streamed down like the rain.
Two seconds later, he landed.
Kugh! Black Mamba gritted his teeth and swallowed his groan. It was comparable to landing on the ground. The abrupt shock jolted his intestines. His nerves were in disorder from the pain of his joints breaking and his muscles tearing.
He pulled up his knees close to his chest and spread his arms at the moment of impact. Every single joint in his body creaked at the sudden break. He would crash on the floor if the lake was shallow. It was better to suffer from broken joints and torn muscles than getting his brain smashed.
Fortunately, the lake was deep enough. The moment when gravitational acceleration and water resistance counterbalanced, he spun his body and rose to the surface. The black water turned blue as he approached the surface. There was a transmission of light coming from somewhere.
His wrinkled face shot out of the water. With skin that had turned blue, bloodshot eyes, and blood escaping through his gritted teeth and nose—he looked like a devil that had emerged from the water, no, the asura.
Black Mamba frantically inhaled the air. He felt like his shrunken liver would burst. His overworked muscles quivered. His lungs, which had stopped functioning, expanded rapidly.
Hup hup hup—
Hup hup hup—
He caught his breath first before implementing the breathing exercises.
Oxygen rushed in immediately.
“Amazing!” he exclaimed.
Although the air density was low, the oxygen saturation level was high. It seemed to be 1.5 times higher than the air at ground level. His boiling blood returned to its natural state, and his quivering muscles calmed down. When his body stabilized, he could finally take in his surroundings. 300 meters ahead of him, a blue land glowed. When he looked back, a horizon came into sight.