Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 320
Tamarisk dunes were made of sand and dust particles carried by the wind, accumulating inside the webs of narrow trunks. Although it looked like any regular dune, one would find stray roots if they dug with a shovel.
Samedi, who received Jamal’s military shovel, dug into the sand at a frightening speed. Even the layers of the intertwined roots couldn’t bear Samedi’s cannon-like shoveling. His polyethylene rope-like brown muscles twisted and turned before sand and small roots shot up. Surprised, Jamal and Ahmad moved back quickly. The group watched the shoveling work, which progressed at an invisible speed, with their mouths hanging open.
Hehehe, this dude can earn 10 times more than the rest doing field labor.
Black Mamba’s gaze sharpened. Black Mamba envied Samedi’s strength despite his wealth, which could sustain him for the rest of his life. He still couldn’t escape the scarcity mindset of Korea, where food and clothes shouldn’t be wasted.
After a layer of sand was removed, thick entangled roots that looked like snakes coiled around each other were revealed. It was the tamarisks mentioned by Professor Orifice.
“Wow! What is this?” Jamal and Ahmad’s jaws hung wide open.
How could there be a bunch of tree roots under a pile of sand? It was a phenomenon, never heard of or seen before.
“Oh. It’s real.”
Black Mamba was surprised too. Although Professor Orifice wasn’t the kind of person to lie about such things, the discovery still took them by surprise.
“Hehe, a Grande École PhD isn’t something that one can earn by playing a trump card.” Professor Orifice raised his nose high into the air.
“Samedi, pull it out.”
Samedi used his strength to grab onto the tamarisk roots. His metal-like shoulder muscles and back muscles rippled.
The dried tree roots broke apart easily. He used his immense power to pull out rows of tamarisks that were as thick as an adult thigh.
“Dubai, what is that guy?”
Professor Orifice’s eyes widened. Although the man was well built, humans were humans and not horses or cows. Professor Shernion and himself didn’t know that Samedi was a zombie.
“A worker who I picked up on the way. Coincidentally, he’s strong,” Black Mamba said, which didn’t make sense at all.
Samedi’s figure overlapped with his as he recalled the time he spent wandering around Bang Tae San without his memories.
The person before him was good at picking up strange things. Dubai was someone who could be fathomed, and at times, not. Unusual and unique situations often took place around him. Professor Orifice was at a loss for words.
“Oi, just take it as it is. It’s not even surprising anymore.”
Professor Orifice shook his head at Professor Shernion’s words. It was true. To confine a person beyond comprehension with logic only caused headaches.
“Shernion, we did well to come here, right?”
“Of course. I didn’t know that such a strange yet exciting place could exist beyond my dreams.”
“Hehehe, I feel like a year will pass like a month as long as we follow Dubai around.”
“Are you a stalker? Follow me where!” Black Mamba shuddered.
Tears began to fill his eyes at the thought of two curious middle-aged men following him around.
Like an oven, the dunes had dried out the tamarisk branches for 100s of years. The fossilized tamarisk branches spewed fire to the point that regular tree branches paled in comparison. Two zombie corpses burned brightly in the crackling fire.
“Look at that kid. He’s not even crying,” Ibrahim said as he nudged Ahmad’s side and pointed.
It was the kid who had blocked the zombies with a stick.
“He’s a brave kid. I can see hatred emanating from his eyes. He looks like he’s about to chew the zombies out, even if it means jumping into the fire.”
Ahmad was intrigued. It would’ve been hard to recover from the loss of his parents, but he bared his teeth at the corpses and burned with rage. Black Mamba waved the kid over to talk.
“What is your name?”
Jamal took charge of the translation.
“Nejma!” the boy answered and bowed.
“It means shining star in Arabic,” Jamal explained.
“What a lovely name. How old are you?”
Black Mamba studied Nejma from head to toe. He looked about 15 years old. He was well built, had long legs and arms, a straight spine, short toes, and long fingers—the best physical conditions to learn martial arts.
Regardless of tribe, the Chad locals had dark skin like coal. Nejma’s skin color was closer to dark brown. His tall height, long limbs, dark brown skin, and small face were features of the Nilotic people. Nilotic people referred to the Maasai tribe of the Great Rift Valley, the Samburu tribe of Kenya, and the Arusha and Parakuyo tribe of Tanzania. That meant Nejma’s family wasn’t a native.
“Are you from the Maasai tribe?”
Black Mamba nodded his head in acceptance. He heard the Maasai tribe were brave people with superior physiques who fought against lions.
“Nejma, what are you thinking about right now?”
“I want to become stronger.”
“And what do you want to do after you become stronger?”
“I don’t want to rely on other people for help.”
The ends of Black Mamba’s mouth curled up at the unexpected answer. That was a boy with self-respect. The boy looked exactly like him in his younger years. Children were a reflection of their parents. The parents who had raised Nejma weren’t some pushovers.
“Your parents have passed away. Can you live with your siblings in the village?”
There was silence.
The boy opened and closed his mouth, unable to reply.
“If you want, I’ll take you with me.”
“I want to follow you, mister, but I need to take care of my siblings.”
The boy’s eyes burned with desire and regret.
“I’ll take your siblings along too.”
“Can I become stronger if I follow you around, mister?”
“That depends on you. If you work hard, you’ll at least survive those kinds of dirty monsters.”
Black Mamba pointed at the burning zombies. The boy’s eyes sparkled.
“I’ll follow you around unconditionally. I raise goats well and farm milo well too. You can use me like a camel and squeeze me like a goat, as long as you can make me stronger.”
“Good. Bury your parents with your own hands, then follow me. I’m Dong-bang-bull-pae. I’ll give you the surname of Bulpae. You’ll be Nejma Bulpae.”
Native tribe people didn’t adopt surnames. Since there was no concept of lineage, they used their tribal names as surnames too. While the Maasai tribe did have surnames, they only received it after going through a rite-of-passage. The boy jumped and kneeled. An amazing warrior had given him his own surname. His heart swelled with joy at the fact that he was recognized as a warrior.
“Allahu Akbar, thank you. My father taught me to repay graces 10 times the amount received and devote my life to others if I’m indebted. Master, you took revenge for me and saved my siblings and myself. Nejma Bulpae is ready to lay down his life for master.”
“Jamal, look at this kid. He even knows proverbs! Hahaha!”
Black Mamba was satisfied. He’d felt a connection to the kid from the beginning. There was nothing more to a human’s appearance. The boy’s bravery and wit made him happy.
“He’s an educated child. I’m starting to wonder about the identity of his parents.”
“We can figure that out slowly. Nejma, don’t call me master. Call me wakil. Let’s bury your parents first. We need to bury them deep so that they’re not eaten by any wild animals.”
Nejma rushed to the task with a shovel in hand.
“That kid received the most powerful mentor he could gain in the world on the same day he lost his parents. It seems like the saying, ‘misfortune and fortune come as brothers’ is true.”
Tears accumulated in Professor Orifice’s eyes for a brief moment. His heart raced at the display of profound love for a child, despite the harsh words and the genuine heart of a monster who destroyed all the other monsters. The strange man of the East, Ddu-bai-buru-pa, was a person whose actual thoughts remained a secret like the layers of an onion. One thing was absolute—he’d met a genuine man called Ddu-bai-buru-pa.
Once Nejma finished burying his parents, he bowed deeply.
“Thank you, wakil. I won’t forget this gratitude.”
“This can’t be called gratitude. There’s nothing I can give to commemorate you becoming my family. Let’s see. Ah-hah! There should be a tombstone if you want to visit them in the future.”
Black Mamba dragged a line with his Vajra through the bottom of a sandstone menhir. The power of the Vajra was indecipherable. It sliced the rock like it was tofu.
The rock that was as tall as a pillar collapsed when he pushed it with his billion’s water armor. Black Mamba lifted the sandstone pillar and secured it onto the graves. He then smoothed out its surface with his palm.
Professor Orifice and Professor Shernion rubbed their eyes at the implausible performance. Despite witnessing it with their own eyes and several other out-of-this-world situations before, it was still unbelievable.
“Orifice, are we watching a movie right now?”
“Superman is a fake character that the Yankees made up. That is the real deal. That friend of ours should be called a new species.”
“Huh, I still can’t believe it even after personally witnessing it. How can such a person exist?”
“Not everything you see is the truth.”
Black Mamba turned to look at Professor Orifice, who was still whispering.
“Orifice, you know a lot of things. Don’t you have any good phrases for an epitaph?”
“I knew if I stayed around long enough, something like this would happen.”
“Whatever, you old man. That belongs on your headstone.”
Black Mamba glared at Professor Orifice. Then, he carved out words on the headstone with his finger.
[My sons, my daughter, don’t cry. We were happy because you were with us.]
Jamal explained the phrase to Nejma. It was only then that thick tears poured down Nejma’s face.
“Kuuugh! Thank you. Wakil, thank you.”
“Bow down twice.”
Black Mamba solemnly spoke after Nejma performed two bows.
“You need to visit your parents twice a year. Bow like today, and tell them how you’ve lived. Life is death’s beginning, and death is the beginning of another life. You can’t see your parents, but they’re still watching you.”
Jamal stuttered throughout his translation, unable to relay the words properly.
“I’ll be sure to keep the promise.”
Nejma clenched his fists and bowed once more. Wakil’s words were like God’s words. Although he had difficulty understanding, he understood that he had to visit his parents twice a year to keep them up to date about his life.
The flames of the tamarisks also died down by the time they were about to depart. The two zombies, which could have caused great catastrophes, turned into ashes and disappeared without a trace due to the desert’s wind.
Until Black Mamba and his entourage left, none of the natives living in Ounianga Kébir left their homes. People who lived in their own world could only act that way.
A day after Black Mamba and his companions left Ounianga Kébir, a Hercules helicopter appeared in the skies above Serir lakes. Light-blue parachutes drifted in the air like cotton. They were the two NAVY SEALs teams and the CIA agents who had been on board the Eisenhower.
The Hercules dropped down heavy cargo boxes. Once they organized their parachutes, the NAVY SEALs team members immediately rushed toward the cargo boxes. Piles of heavy firearms such as the M2 double-stranded heavy machine gun, the MK19 automatic grenade launcher, and the M252 81-millimeter mortar poured out. The NAVY SEALs team members also carried around FN MAG-58 7.62-millimeter machine guns.
The two NAVY SEALs teams immediately searched the Serir lakes once they armed themselves. Their search ended too quickly despite their excessive preparation. The two NAVY SEALs teams turned back like the tide after recovering two Grendel skulls.
The CIA agents gave Adam the following report:
[Targets are recovered from Lake Ouma at the marked point of Lakes of Ounianga. Direct sunlight destroyed the targets’ bodies, and only bones remained. There are no traces of battle. There are several broken bones. They most likely died after fighting each other. Immediate control of attack instincts required. There are no other abnormalities found.]
Black Mamba and the Senate’s clash got delayed. If Black Mamba had stayed around the Serir lakes, the NAVY SEALs team members would have been wiped out even before they could land on the ground. Mohammad’s advice had saved the lives of 50 people.
That was also an opportunity for Black Mamba to return to his country earlier than planned, without getting caught up in another situation. Operations sub-director Adam had once again avoided falling into the gutter. Sun Tzu once said, “Battles are like flowing water. Water may still be in the same place, but it’s not the same water as yesterday.”
“Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa, it seems like we took a wrong turn.”
Ahmad looked worried behind the wheels. A valley that was 10 meters deep and 20 meters wide stopped the Jeep’s journey. It was a lake filled with the teeth of weathered down sandstones. There was a big hole at the bottom of the lake and trees around. It was an unexpected turn of events.
“Don’t worry. I know the way to Lake Teli best. I’ve been there several times without my father knowing. If you head down north, there’s a red dune. If you go further right from there, there’s a wadi filled with black rocks. If you follow the wadi, there’s a dune with a flat top. If you follow the dune, a lake comes into view. My father tried to scare me by saying there’s a monster around, but I didn’t believe him,” Nejma explained confidently.
“Oh, this brat’s quite smart, isn’t he?” Ahmad flicked the boy’s forehead.
That was a brat who had fearlessly wandered around Lake Teli, where zombies and chimeras roamed. Black Mamba looked at Nejma and smiled. It seemed like he couldn’t fool his own blood. That brat behaved like someone with the blood of the Maasai tribe, the wanderers of the Sahara.
“Good. The night will fall soon. It’s often said that one needs to rest after meeting with trouble. Let’s enjoy the desert’s stars tonight.”
Black Mamba flung himself down on the sand. After getting rid of the Vodou rebellion in Doba, he’d rushed to Ennedi without sleeping. He even made his way to Ounianga Kébir to take care of the zombies after fighting those chimera monsters. Although his body seemed fine, he was mentally worn out.
Nejma quietly sneaked away. Soon, he returned with a bunch of dry grass. It was a tenacious grass known as Stipa Calamagrostis, which the locals called sbot.