Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 341
Mrs. Ha Dong, who was watching, blew her nose on her apron, and Deok San wiped away her tears with her ribbon.
“That lucky brat, she ruined her own makeup despite all that fuss she caused…”
When Deok San heard that her daughter’s manager had forcibly conducted a body search on her in the office until she was naked once the bus returned to the warehouse, she screamed. Although her heart was in pieces, she didn’t have it in her to stop her daughter from working. They didn’t have a single bit of land. If she stopped working, how would they survive and pay off her husband’s hospital bills?
After Mu Ssang came to visit, their dark household turned bright. Her husband, who had been bedridden for several years, managed to stand. They could work on Old Jin Bo’s land without having to pay rent. They had asked their daughter to stop working as a bus conductor, but their daughter refused.
She stubbornly persisted until she fell off the platform and broke her leg while dozing off. The company had claimed no responsibility. They said as much as it was her mistake, they couldn’t pay for her hospital treatment. Ultimately, they had to use the money that Kyung Soon had saved up to pay for her hospital treatment. Her injured leg had healed, but the admission fee that had to be paid right away became a problem. They began to feel sorrow as several memories resurfaced.
Ha Dong Daek handed her a bankbook and seal.
“What is this?”
“It’s Sang Chul’s rent account that Ssang entrusted me. He wants you to use it to pay off Jum Soon’s school fees.”
Deok San’s eyes grew wide like a cow’s. What kind of front-kicking ox story was that?
“It’s not for free. He said the amount needs to be recompensed, as much as it’s loaned out once Jum Soon finishes school.”
“Have you been fooled your whole life? There’s even interest. He said he wants you to give Old Jin Bo’s grave a greeting with soju every Daeboreum and eighth month. Ssang’s often overseas.”
Deok San clung to Ha Dong Daek as she cried. Her daughter had to hit the iron plate and shout “Alright” while all of the kids her age went to school carrying their school bags. Her heart ached because her daughter never got the chance to board the bus.
“Why’re you crying on me? Thank Ssang instead.”
“Of course, I should. For a young man, I don’t know how he can be so considerate.”
“He’s Choong Mu’s son, isn’t he? You know how kind-hearted that woman is. Whoo,” Ha Dong let out a deep sigh.
Just thinking about Choong Mu pained her heart. Her son had grown up to be such an amazing person, but where had the woman disappeared to!
“Oi, Jum Soon, you brat, is oppa yours? Why’re you clinging on to him?”
Gye Soon and Mal Soon rushed over and dragged Jum Soon by the back of her clothes, away from him. A smile rose on Mu Ssang’s face. That was the leverage effect mentioned in the Book of Changes: “One must be tougher on themselves during difficult times.”
Sam Chul ajussi’s family had fallen into a pit of poverty but managed to climb out of it the moment a foothold presented itself. It was because of his healthy family. A healthy family developed their own strength as long as there was an escape route.
Mu Ssang had never shown sympathy toward the beggars on the street. There were plenty of beggars on the streets of Paris, too. Those who were called “mendicants” were not only commonly seen in parks and stations, but also the Champs-Élysées, Boulevard Haussmann Street where there were clusters of tourist hotels, around luxury shops in Champs-Élysées, and Avenue Montaigne.
Mu Ssang had never thrown a coin at those mendicants. Those who didn’t work didn’t deserve to eat. There weren’t enough laborers in Paris to the point that the city hall would have been covered in trash and the Seine would have been filled with s**t if not for the Turks.
In all of Europe, the country with the largest number of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers was France. It was because they were rather tolerant of progressive immigration policies and illegal immigrants. They said it was because they valued human rights and freedom, but truly, it was because they required people to do manual labor jobs.
The mendicants in Paris could find a job whenever they wanted to. They could get a job immediately if they asked the employment center operated by the Employment Policy Bureau. If they didn’t like their job, they could apply again, up to three times. Still, the mendicants couldn’t abandon the beggar-like habits that they’ve picked up. He didn’t have a reason to look back at those who refused when an opportunity was presented to them.
What’s even funnier was that most of the mendicants in Paris raised dogs as a means of operating their business. It was never a large dog but a puppy. Their business strategy involved a chubby young puppy, a large paper cup or a dented silver plate, and a dirty fedora or a bowler.
Those beggars had reasons for raising dogs. Firstly, it was to avoid getting fined. In France, those who abandoned their pets would receive a harsh punishment. The police would have to assume responsibility for the dogs if they wanted to arrest the beggars. It was difficult to assume responsibility for the dogs, and if rumors of dog abuse spread during the arrest, the police would be put in a difficult position. Of course, arrests grew infrequent.
Secondly, the dogs were used as a substitute for a heater when the weather was cold. Hugging them in the morning and evening during wintertime turned them into a useful bio-heater. Thirdly, when an unemployed person raised a dog, the regional office would provide pet subsidies. That money, no, the dog’s money would become theirs.
Lastly, they were used to amplify sympathy. Compassionate people would worry if those beggars would starve their dogs. They would give those beggars money so that they could buy dog food. The beggars in Paris were basically running a business. The Paris mendicants who lived off the money passersby threw into their fedora were very unlikely to stop their business. Mu Ssang called those beggars “businessmen without services.”
When he was little, his mother would offer food to the visiting beggars, but his father said he would pay them if they helped him sow the farm or pull out some onions. Still, there wasn’t a single beggar who agreed to work and get paid. His father didn’t budge despite his mother’s scoldings.
Ssang, the worst b*stards in the world are thieves and the most pathetic people in the world are beggars. B*stards who try to fill their stomachs without working are b*stards with rotten minds. If your mind is rotten, no matter how healthy you are, you become a useless person.
He learned from his father that there was nothing free in the world. The reason why Mu Ssang hated free-riders that much was also because of the countless beggars he had witnessed in his youth. They could only be beggars and nothing more.
“Ajussi, are you happy?” Mu Ssang asked out of nowhere.
“Of course, I’m happy. I feel like I’m finally living life nowadays.”
A smile lit up on Sam Chul ajussi’s face.
“Why are you happy? Ajussi, you need to rely on a walking stick and have no savings.”
“Look at my daughters laughing. Damn, you have no idea how happy I am. I used to be paralyzed because of my broken back, but now I can walk, I have land that I can work on, and a daughter who is attending school next year. That’s enough to be happy about. Isn’t happiness determined by how much you can achieve without relying on others but yourself?”
The corners of Mu Ssang’s mouth curled up.
Happiness is the condition of being human!
Happiness wasn’t a matter of “where” but “how.” Happiness was a very subjective concept of self-realization. If one searched for happiness relying on the perspective of others, they would be like a bluebird in search of happiness until they died. If he looked at his life subjectively, the positive satisfaction called happiness was already within him.
Sam Chul ajussi, who became disabled because of his leg, answered back with “how” when asked what determined one’s happiness. Happiness wasn’t a zero-sum game called “your sadness is my happiness.” It was a pie game in which everyone involved had to be happy. If the pie grew in size, everyone’s portion of the pie would increase too.
Happiness was a by-product obtained from an individual’s efforts to preserve existence and life. In the end, the logic of living to be happy was wrong, and the logic of being happy to live was right. In the end, Mu Ssang’s compassionate heart for others was his form of happiness.
Mu Ssang suddenly felt like he had an awakening. Instead of worrying about the future, there was happiness in living fully in the present. One of the questions he had been constantly thinking about finally received an answer.
Jin Soon led her siblings into the temple to start the large-scale temple and side building clean-up. They had to quickly clean first before the event could commence.
“Yeon Soon, take Jum Soon with you and bring out all the laundry. Gye Soon, you grab the broom, Ou Soon, grab the rag, and Kyung Soon and Mal Soon, head to the main prayer room. We need to clean up quickly and get ready.”
She ordered her siblings around busily like a veteran officer on the field. When seven girls started moving around, the peaceful temple soon turned into a marketplace.
“Sister, you really raised your five daughters well. Once Gye Soon enters next year, you will have three college students. God, you’re the only person in Jipoon village to successfully send your children to university. It’s all due to the good fortune you’ve accumulated.”
“University is impossible for someone of my ability. It’s all because of Ssang. What fortune? I’ve done nothing…”
Ha Dong grew embarrassed because of Deok San’s praise.
“When Mr. Park teamed up with the In-Dong’s to run over Choong Mu, only you and your husband cared to do something about it. I couldn’t say a single thing because I was scared of being bullied. I’m really ashamed before Ssang, you know. If I’d cared a little bit, Mrs. Choong Mu wouldn’t have run away. We’re all in the same difficult situation, I’ve no idea why they did such a thing… the In-Dong’s will receive heaven’s punishment one day.”
“It’s all in the past. Mrs. Choong Mu will be happy since Ssang grew up so fine. We should do all the hard work. Those brats should lead better lives than us.” Ha Dong stared at the kids who were chattering.
“Of course. We don’t mind suffering as long as our children can live better lives.”
“That’s true. Jin Soon asked me to prepare a few dishes. Let’s go make some jeon and bake some beans or prepare fruits in the kitchen.”
“You think it’ll be okay to let the temple smell like oil?”
“Actually, that won’t do. The monk might not care about worldly matters, but we should still keep to the rules.”
“But, Ssang has to eat a lot of meat.”
“We can just make some snacks for the event or have something those brats are preparing. We can have dinner at the bridge village.”
“Ah, you’re planning to cook the seaweed soup at your house too?”
“Yeah. Meat goes in seaweed soup too.”
“Then, there’s nothing to do. You take a break, sis.”
Deok San patted her apron down and entered the kitchen.
“Old man, I couldn’t find the b*stards who tortured you because I went overseas. You said the b*stards who were in Sabuk’s Martial Law Division were called Kim Young No, Yoo Young Chul, and Jang Gye Jang, right?”
“Gosh, nephew, they aren’t police officers but government officials. You know how prideful they are. I’ve forgotten everything. Nephew, you’ve so much to do. Don’t mind such things.”
Surprised, Sam Chul ajussi raised his hands and shook them. He was a simple farmer who could live without laws but got scared when the government’s power was involved. That made dictatorship possible and allowed trashes to use their moderate power as beating sticks.
He’d answered to relive the man’s worries, but he still felt unsatisfied. A stick that beat up civilians under the guise of government duty, and officials, who were accustomed to bribes and gains—those were all something he had experienced. He wanted to cause a scene, but that wasn’t the Sahel.
He wouldn’t get caught in the Sahel even if he shook things around, but there were many obstacles in Korea. There was Ha Dong, his mother, his elders at the Ahchim village, and Mina. If possible, he wanted to live quietly as Mu Ssang and not Black Mamba.
There’s no choice if the wind keeps shaking the branches.
His mouth loosened into a cold smile. Although he couldn’t flip the entire thing around, he didn’t intend to overlook the pile of s**t in front of him.
That was the time of the year when daylight was the shortest. Suddenly, the day grew dark. The tables were prepared in the side building. Covering all the walls were banners and decorations that the girls had brought over. They even prepared a four-tiered cake and mini fireworks. A tear formed in the corner of her eye. Although she had been helpless when she was young, she still found it upsetting that her oppa couldn’t live for himself.
“Unni, I’m done. Bring oppa over.”
Yeon Soon pushed Jin Soon outside. Jin Soon made her way to the meditating rock. As she predicted, oppa was sitting on the rock like a still object. The snow had accumulated on his head and shoulders. Jin Soon hesitated to call him. Her oppa, who was currently meditating, seemed like an otherworldly person.
Mu Ssang’s eyes flashed open.
The snow that had accumulated on his head and shoulders scattered on its own.
She hadn’t seen him move but heard him speak as though he was right beside her. Jin Soon wasn’t even surprised. The monk and oppa were people with mysterious abilities.
“Mm, were you thinking about auntie?”
“She’ll be fine. Grandpa monk told you not to worry, didn’t he?”
“Of course, she’ll be fine. If she isn’t…”
Mu Ssang’s eyes glowed in red. Jin Soon grabbed Mu Ssang’s hands tightly.
“Oppa, since your exams are over, I’ll help you too.”
“I’m thinking of several ways.”
“Think about them later, and take care of yourself. Ajussi and mom are waiting for you.”
“Really? Let’s hurry. I feel like my back’s on my stomach.”
“In the blue water of the Duman River… Hic!”
Sang Chul, who was completely drunk, walked out of Yeongok village. His friend, who’d married a little late, had organized a 100-days-old celebration party for his daughter. The after-effects of drinking several bottles of Kumbokju and beer slowly crept over him. Sang Chul, who had been singing joyfully, suddenly stopped.
“What are those b*stards doing?”
He saw five shadows climbing the mountain under the moonlight.
“What strange b*stards. Are they planning to sell herbs, climbing in the middle of the night?”
Sang Chul tilted his head and continued on his way. Whether others climbed the mountain at night or picked their ears with a pole, that wasn’t any of his concern.
“Over and over our comrades’ corpses… My comrades who fell like petals, I bid you goodbye…”
A military song, which was off-beat and off-pitch, continued playing around the corner of the mountain.
Translator’s Note: In Korea, people living in rural areas are referred to by their place of birth. “Ha Dong” and “Deok San” are village names—where the characters were born—and not their names. For instance, the Soon sisters cannot be referred to as “Ms. Deok San” since they were born on Jipoon bridge. They’d be referred to as “Ms. Jipoon.” For example, if you were born in Washington, you’ll be referred to as “Mrs. from Washington” or “Mrs. Washington.”
 Daeboreum is a Korean holiday that celebrates the first full moon of the new year of the lunar Korean calendar. It is the Korean version of the First Full Moon Festival.
 A title.
 The name of the region where the gang originated from.