Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 384
He didn’t intend to wander the great jungle which was the size of Korea by losing his guide, not a single bit.
The forest was quiet to the point of offensive. The sound of Columbus monkeys quacking and Samedi cutting the vines and branches with his machete were the only things which shook the silence.
Crack, crack. Samedi slowed down, trying to break through a bush. The bush which was as thick as his ankle individually and had thorns like a crocodile’s teeth was on an entirely different level from the ones he saw at Wol Song San. Even Samedi had to pause and smack down all the bushes which were as strong as thorny iron fences. He sighed. At this rate, all the captives would die.
“Samedi, there isn’t enough time. We need to get through in three days.”
Samedi glanced at Ulumbo with a dissatisfied gaze. “That’s going to be hard, because of this weak one.”
“Is he mad?” Ulumbo lowered his head and pouted, afraid of the huge black man noticing.
It was impossible. It was 190 km to Mambasa in a direct line. Ituri Jungle wasn’t some park. There were infamous swamps, cliffs, and valleys. While the river could be crossed on a boat, they had no choice but to go around cliffs.
From his experience, Ituri Jungle wasn’t something that could be walked through quickly out of desire. No matter how fast one went, one couldn’t go further than 10 – 15km a day. Trying to force oneself only decreased strength and speed. Even the ten days he mentioned was a time period he calculated with their special abilities in mind.
“If the guide isn’t able to follow the client’s needs, he should retire. We’re going to abandon you if you hold us back.”
“Oh no, I’m going. Definitely. Of course we can break through in three days,” Ulumbo shook his hands at the threat. He’d rather jump into a glacier crevice of Rwenzori’s Mahagarita than be left alone in Ituri Jungle. While his remains would be preserved in the glaciers, not even his bones would remain in Ituri Jungle.
“He says he doesn’t have a problem!” Black Mamba said, looking and smiling at Samedi.
Samedi shoved the machete into his backpack and took out Squeaker instead. Once he connected the entire stick to his shovel, it became a 120cm long indestructible weapon.
Whoosh! Squeaker rolled like a windmill. The 50 cm-long blade cracked apart trees, bushes, and twigs without a single pause.
Whoosh! The broken leaves and pieces of trees covered their sight. The snakes, lizards, and other creatures which hadn’t been able to flee met their ends. Samedi grew distant suddenly.
“There’s no better human bulldozer.”
A smile rose on Black Mamba’s mouth. It had been a good choice to bring Samedi along.
“Uuuh!” Surprised, Ulumbo could only stare at the empty road which had been trampled as though a herd of elephants went by.
“What are you doing? Run!” A monster growled behind him.
Ulumbo, who felt his life being threatened, ran instinctively without a second thought. He became the first man on earth to run in the Ituri Jungle.
Two hours had passed since they entered. The forest was dark, as though night had fallen. Now, it was truly Ituri, where the canopies were thick. Ituri is a tropical rainforest that has developed secondary and tertiary vegetation. Since a middle-level canopy forms 20m above the ground, sunlight is blocked. As a result, it gained the notoriety of its name, Black Forest.
The canopy is the roof of the jungle that appears in a rainforest. Rainforest trees grow from 40m to 50m high. Their dense branches and leaves along the treetop tangle to form a 10m thick layer. Ituri’s canopy is continuous as an unfolding carpet. It can travel hundreds of kilometers without reaching the ground.
Canopies protect the rainforest’s soil by guarding against storms and heavy rain. When heavy rain pours onto a rainforest’s surface without a canopy, layers of organic matter are lost without a chance to accumulate. The canopy blocks sunlight and inhibits plant growth, while at the same time, providing plenty of fertilizer to its feet. This is why destroyed rainforests are difficult to recover.
The dark forest suddenly grew bright. A rather large lake blocked their path.
“It’s Ituri River.”
“Ituri River? How many rivers are there in Ituri Jungle?”
“No one knows. Rivers appear out of nowhere after heavy rain. There are five main rivers and countless small ones. The rivers I know number around 30.”
“Whoa, it seems like Holland had a reason to prepare two rubber boats,” Black Mamba nodded.
There are rivers and swamps at the base of exceptionally thick forests and various animals. Plants flourish only when water is abundant, and animals are abundant when plants flourish. Of the 100 million species of animals estimated to be in existence, 60% live in rainforests, and less than 0.01% are desert species.
“Wakil, should we swim over since we’ve sweated a lot?” That sounded like something only Samedi could say.
“You can’t. There’s a lot of Candirus in the lakes and swamps. It digs into your private parts and anus, so you die twitching around. Even the Pygmy tribe doesn’t enter the waters in fear of Candiru,” Ulumbo freaked out.
Candiru is a catfish native to South America and Eastern Africa. Its translucent torso is only 20 – 30mm, but it is fatal. It mainly penetrates the gills of fish and feeds on blood, and also traces the smell of ammonia to penetrate the urine and anus of animals. Some invade blood vessels and suck on human blood, while others eat soft organs.
“What a dirty creature. Guide, inflate the boats.” Samedi lowered the small rubber boat from their backpack without a second protest. Samedi wouldn’t like Candirus which digs into one’s anus either.
Ulumbo, who’d spread out the rubber boat and was looking for its air tube, stopped working and whispered, “Great master!”
Ulumbo’s eyes were fixed on a grey snake 5 meters away, which had its head raised. Its black eyes were pointed at Ulumbo for certain.
“Is it a king cobra?”
The sound of hisses rang out from its split tongue, its head raised a meter off the ground as though it was offended. The evil air which only radiates off horrible reptiles was sent out. It was fiercely searching for the scent and heat of its target, spread through the air. Once it finishes analyzing, it begins to attack. He thought it was a king cobra, considering its long 5m body.
“No, sir. It’s a black mamba.”
“Hm! That’s a black mamba?”
Mu Ssang, whose call name was Black Mamba, was looking at a real black mamba for the first time in his life. It didn’t seem to have a great aura compared to its infamy. It just looked like a large-bodied snake. Well, if there was an animal Black Mamba had to guard against on Earth, that would be a notable incident.
“The inside of its jaw is black, just as I heard. This damn thing’s glaring and hissing at me. It doesn’t know its place.”
Black Mamba clicked his tongue at the black mamba’s provocation. No one could’ve walked away happy from an immovable snake’s glare and hissing tongue. Predators recognize the other’s strength instinctively. Reptiles and amphibians react according to their IRM (Innate Behavior). The black mamba was nothing but a mere creature that didn’t know its place.
“Wakil, it looks good to eat.”
“Brat, there’re plenty of better things to eat. You can’t eat snakes raw since it has parasites.”
Their conversation was full of leisure. Ulumbo thought his insides would burn at the nonchalance. Black mambas were snakes he never wanted to face. King cobras wouldn’t attack as long as the human didn’t. Black mambas were the only snakes that would attack humans first. The black mamba had raised half of its body. The snake’s head which was shaking above their eye level was fear in and of itself.
“Ah, I think it’s going to attack!” Ulumbo cried.
Raising half of its body meant it was very offended. Black mambas were fast and unrelenting creatures. While tribe members who were done in by cobras or salmosas managed to survive, those attacked by black mambas or boomslangs died without a chance to visit the hospital. 5 meters were enough for the black mamba to reach out once. Ulumbo’s eyes went hazy at the slit eyes which glared at him. His mind grew hazy too.
“Dude, snap out of it. Does it attack when humans stay still?”
“Yes, yes, sir.”
There wasn’t a way Black Mamba would miss the snake’s movements with his dimensional sight in place. His hand moved to his Glock handle. Whoosh! The black mamba soared out, kicking off the ground. Its long body which had been curled up in an S-shape stretched out, and its tail kicked off the ground. Black Mamba was surprised. Snakes were things that crawled, not jumped. He realized there were jumping snakes too, for the first time.
“Aaagh!” Ulumbo cried.
Black Mamba shoved the Glock back in his belt. The show hadn’t even begun. He didn’t want to waste a single bullet on the creature. Samedi was there, so he didn’t need to step forward either.
“You rude thing!”
Whoosh! Samedi stepped in before Black Mamba and swung his Squeaker diagonally. Flash! The blade glinted from a stray of sunlight which made it through the thick canopy. The black mamba’s head was sliced off a cheek’s length away from Black Mamba. It was only after its long body slapped down onto the ground that its head followed.
“Uwuh!” Ulumbo let out an unrecognizable scream.
A human who didn’t even blink when a black mamba rushed at him, and another human who swung around that large weapon. Both weren’t humans for sure.
The headless black mamba shook violently. Even its large head which was some ways away opened and closed its mouth. Reptiles are stronger than amphibians in terms of life. Since its nerves don’t only operate from the brain’s commands, it won’t die immediately from having its head cut off.
“Huh, what’s that?”
Black Mamba’s face creased. An impossible scene unfolded before them. The sliced-off head bounced on itself and dug its fangs into its twitching body. The black mamba rolled around with its body in its own mouth. The body, which still had active senses, worked hard to push its head away, and the head continued to grapple with its body.
“Hic!” Ulumbo hiccupped at the disgusting scene.
No creature on earth could continue to live with its head off. The black mamba, however, continued to show its offensive side even while it died. The three humans looked blankly at the disgusting madness the snake continued to hold.
It was said that black mambas were the most poisonous snakes of all, and it seemed like they truly were. While it didn’t appear to be much, it definitely had a temper. Even humans who had temper issues hurt themselves. It truly wasn’t a good scene to look at.
“That zombie bastard!” Samedi growled. Anger rose on his expressionless face.
Crack, crack, crack. The Squeaker divided the black mamba into dozens of pieces. Black Mamba thought he could understand Samedi. He was denying the snake’s existence.
“Back to work.”
“Yes, sir!” There was a lot of strength in his answer. Ulumbo stepped fervently on the pedal air pump and filled the rubber boat up. Even Samedi crawled onto the two-seater boat. The river water lapped around the boat’s edges as though it’d crawl into the boat any moment. Ulumbo rowed very carefully.
“Yes, great master.”
“Why did you volunteer for this dangerous task?”
“I’m of the French intelligence department, sir. I need to carry out orders once they’re given.”
“Stop rambling. What’s the real reason?”
“I want to marry. I need to give five cows and ten goats to the woman’s family to marry. But I don’t have enough money,” Ulumbo said slightly guiltily.
“I see. Of course, men should marry and have children. You shouldn’t die until this mission ends if you want to marry, hm?”
“Your role is to guide us. You don’t need to go into battle. No matter what you have to do, protect your life first.”
“I understand, sir.”
“What do you think of Samedi?”
“I, I think he’s the Bodun.”
“Right. Samedi’s a Bodun. You signed the secrecy clause when you were trained by the intelligence department, right?”
“Yes, it was written that those who tell secrets will be erased by the DGSE’s eraser team without a single soul knowing.”
“Right. If you tell anyone about me and Samedi, Samedi will get to you first before the eraser team. You understand what I mean?”
“Yes, sir. I don’t want to lose my soul on top of dying.”
“Survive until the end. Once the mission ends, I’ll give you a thousand francs myself,” Black Mamba said, patting Ulumbo’s shoulder.
“Thank you, great master. I may be a weak person, but I’m not foolish. I’ll have my soul eaten by the Bodun if I say a single word,” Ulumbo said, lowering his head deeply.
One thousand francs was enough to get a wife and buy livestock. Furthermore, the great master and the Bodun were scary people.
“I’ll trust you. Can you talk to the Pygmy tribe?”
“Yes, sir. They don’t have a language of their own. They use the Bantu language.”
“Good. This mission’s success depends on the Pygmy tribe. I know nothing about them. You need to buy their trust.”
Even if it hadn’t been for Ariba and Paul’s advice, he had planned on looking for the Pygmy tribe first. A mission’s success depended on the wealth of information first, and the manpower second. The entire jungle was a concealing factor and concealment. Information was important, not the number of guerrillas. A lot of guerrillas were just annoying and bothersome. The only place to gain information in Ituri Jungle was the Pygmy tribe. He couldn’t ask the chimpanzees or gorillas for the way, now, could he?
“I don’t even have to go, sir. The Pygmy tribe folds to the strong completely. As long as you show them a bit of your power, they’ll fold, great master.”
“Really? Tribes with fundamentally barbaric instincts fear and grow wary against outsiders. If that’s true, why did they kill white men?”
According to the report, most of the losses in their third team came from the Pygmy tribe’s poisonous arrows. The poison they extracted from the dead bodies was a mix of the Pygmy tribe’s blue poisonous frog and black beaked toads’ poison. Pygmies were known to be the only hunters in the Ituri Jungle. All evidence pointed to the obvious attacker.