Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 456
Perfume is a liquid diluted with alcohol by combining fragrances extracted from plants and animals (petals, tallow, lanolin, beeswax, etc.) or minerals (petroleum, white beeswax, vaseline, paraffin, tar, etc.).
To humans with dull olfactory senses, it might come across as a pleasant scent, but to Samdi, it was a horrible smell.
When body odor mixed with low-quality perfume was added on top of the stench emitted by a corrupted soul, Samdi could no longer endure it and hurriedly fled from there.
He then spat out an outdated joke he overheard in Korea. “Drawing some black lines on a pumpkin doesn’t make it a watermelon, you know.”
Mu Ssang chided him. “Come on now. Pumpkins have their own uses, too.”
The pumpkins’ contribution toward the human race could not be compared to that of watermelons. Even then, they were belittled for being misshapen and ugly, as well as for their poor taste. Here was an example of humanity’s subjective emotions blinding them from the truth. And it also indicated that Samdi, capable of sensing the true nature of souls, had more or less become acclimatized to humanity’s prejudices.
Humans were social animals. Despite the differences in their souls’ contents, the paths their lives have taken along with the colors and odors they emitted, people masked themselves in similar ways to assimilate and coexist.
Cunning humans went on to create soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes so that they are able to erase the stench of corrupted sludge piling up in their external selves.
The more civilization developed, the more humanity lost its purity from the dawn of their lives, subsequently becoming more dependent on the superficial knowledge of science.
Humanity, with their souls now degraded, naturally saw their mind abilities decline accordingly. Increasingly, they become unable to pick up the scent emanating from the soul. Only people like Mu Ssang or Samdi, who had undergone special training or were born with the innate ability could pick up the soul’s scent.
The ‘soul’ that we once knew existed as pure ‘ego’ covered by the physical ‘shell’. This ‘ego’ was a part of the shared consciousness constituting the universe and is neither born anew nor erased from existence.
This ‘ego’ could be combined to become a ‘greater consciousness’ or alternatively, fragment even further to become a lower-level version of itself. That’s why, outwardly at least, it seemed like their overall numbers were changing. This is essentially the same principle that guides the birth and death of planets in the physical universe.
The essence of the physical ‘shell’ was created through humanity’s memories as it resided within the energy of the land. Since memories represent the trajectory of a person’s life, the ‘shell’ could easily be corrupted.
When a person passes on, their ‘ego’ returns to the shared consciousness of the universe. Meanwhile, the physical ‘shell’ would return to earth along with one’s physical body.
That’s why, when performing Taoist ancestral rites, one burned incense to call on the ‘ego’ within the universe, and poured alcohol on the ground to awaken the ‘shell’. This was because the ancestors’ ‘ego’ is unable to recognize their descendants without the presence of their ‘shell’. In some sense, this is similar to the relationship between a CPU and the memory modules of a computer.
The ‘phantom’ was a trace of wandering corrupted ‘shell’. It is the energy of the land keeping it whole and in one piece. Shamans that practice unorthodox and evil arts, sorcerers, and espers utilize the energy contained with the ‘phantom’ to activate their mind abilities.
Conversely, Buddhist monks and Taoist priests practising traditional and righteous arts draw energy from the universe’s original ‘shared consciousness’ that is ever-present within heaven and earth.
The ‘shared consciousness’ of the universe became more diluted and inferior as the human population increased. Inferior ‘ego’ would go on to create equally inferior ‘shell’, too. This was the reason why more and more people stopped behaving like human beings and more like savages covered in the tethers of wild beasts.
“That idiotic Paul. How wonderful it would have been if he had brought along a girl that smelled as good as Miss Edel.”
“Don’t be so hard on Paul, Samdi. The women were brought here for our entertainment, after all.” Mu Ssang said, trying to defend Paul.
The number one way to relieve a soldier’s pent-up stress was undoubtedly some downtime and women. So Paul searched in accordance with this logical solution, even going as far as displaying sincerity that was on the verge of a slapstick comedy routine. This was unlike his usual self.
“That punk doesn’t have any discerning eyes or nose, though. What good is it to bring a bunch of stinky women around? I mean, at least ants have a sweet and sour taste, but I can’t even eat the women, you know.”
Samdi scrubbed off the large black ants crawling up his naked leg, which were native to the areas around Djibouti. He dumped them in his mouth before noisily chewing them. The ants’ exoskeleton had a crunchy texture when chewed on, and their stinging formic acid had this strangely addictive quality to them.
“Heheh. You shouldn’t underestimate ants like that. Should I tell you a story about an ant and a human on a seesaw, then? An ant and a human were riding a seesaw, but because of the large weight difference, they were having no fun at all. So the ant suggested that they should call on their friends to join in on the fun.
“The human brought along about five billion of his fellow men, but the procession of ants was literally endless. And when about one percent of all the ants living on Earth climbed on the seesaw, it began tilting towards the ants’ side.
“Simply put, when all the ants on the planet are brought together, they are 100 times heavier than the human population. When you count them all, the number of ants is surprisingly enormous. Biologists would often refer to this tale to argue that ants will become the true masters of this planet.”
Samdi, naive as he was, began to calculate numbers in his head once he heard that. An animal’s weight was approximately its length to the power of three.
Let’s say a person was around 180 centimeters tall, while an ant was about one centimeter long. 180 to the power of three was 5,832,000.
A person’s weight was comparable to around six million ants. If the number of humans in that fable was five billion, then the ants in that tale had to number around… thirty quadrillion (30,000,000,000,000,000).
“Wow, that sure is a lot.”
Samdi’s eyes spun around dizzily at the thought of all those zeroes.
The scorching sun and the haze of the heated sandy beach evoked déjà vu.
It seemed that his fate had led him into the wild. His life was a raging torrent the moment he picked up the Dragunov. Like being sucked into the netherworld, his life events rushed ahead with no control or plan.
“I see that a young soul cannot escape the confusion and lingering regret of life and death. What use is there to shout out loud when the leaves continue to fall and flutter in the autumn wind in spite of it? Even this body is merely a single lost falling leaf, after all.” Mu Ssang lamented softly.
The late Autumn scenery that was visible from the second floor of the enemy’s house flitted in and out of his view. The red maple leaves floating in the Hiraniwa Pond were replaced by the corpse of Dambala covered in blood.
“Black, are you mad because only we are having fun? Stop moping about with a frown like that. Why don’t you cool yourself off by the ocean?”
Bell Man, finished with his beach ball game, suddenly pressed his dripping-wet face close.
Black Mamba’s current expression resembled the time when he was burying his comrade killed in action, Sahel. He was pounding on the gun while singing a funeral march.
“I was thinking about my comrades who passed on before me. Burimer would’ve brought his fishing gear here. Chatres would’ve been busy running his mouth, lecturing us about the international relations tangled up in oil money and the hegemony of the world too. I’m even missing the troublemaker, Mike.”
“They have all lived a full life, so they are probably also having a good time in the netherworld. Don’t be so hung up on dead idiots when there are still-alive idiots like Emil and Jang Shin who couldn’t join us.”
“Well, I wonder. However, I am worried about those two. I hope things have gone well for them.”
“Jang Shin is doing his best, sure, but that punk Emil, he’s still too hopeless. Even after you threw that scamming b*stard in jail, he hasn’t changed at all. I wonder how long he’ll last with that girl from the cafe?” Bell Man smirked.
Even Emil’s friends seemed to have given up on his love life at this point.
“What can we do, when that’s his whole point of living in the first place? Let him be, since Ombuti is preparing his retirement funds separately anyway.”
Black Mamba had also given up by now. A man whose soul had become lonely would try to fill the void with whatever he could find. A habit like that would not be fixed just because others ran their mouths off.
“When you look at it, the old adage of a lucky bastard being on the top of the food chain was correct all along. Looking at that idiot makes you realize that the old saying of ‘heaven helps those who help themselves’ is full of sh*t. I mean, just because of a personal connection with his partner, his retirement has been fully taken care of. Even though he’s living a life of debauchery!”
“Hahaha. A box of herring will smell like herring, after all.” Mu Ssang brought up an old French proverb while chuckling softly.
Emil was truly a good guy. He was the type to take a shot for his friends. Indeed, it was good to have at least one good man like Emil in a world brimming with cunning and sly human beings.
“It was really fun.”
“We didn’t notice the passage of time, either.”
Two women, speaking in French, entered the palm tree’s shade after receiving 50 franc bills.
Bell Man was walking along the beach surrounded by three women.
Dinofelis raised its head and glanced at the women before turning its gaze away.
“Huh. It sure is smart, isn’t it!” Black Mamba burst into a peal of laughter.
The creature seemed to be dividing the objects it sees into three categories — the strong, the weak, and those related to its master. It didn’t even bother to pay attention to the weak.
“Hey, pretty girl. You couldn’t wait that long and chased after us, huh?”
“Hng, who cares about stones when there’s a diamond right here?”
A woman with skin as dark as coal yapped on while intensely scanning Mu Ssang’s body.
“You dumb bloke. A diamond you can’t even touch is worse than rocks. Hehehe.” Paul chuckled loudly while fondling the woman’s breasts like he was manhandling a piece of dough.
“H-nng!” The woman let out a snort.
That prompted Samdi to put some distance between him and her. Whenever a human behaved or spoke mendaciously, their rotten stench would get stronger.
Mu Ssang promptly lost his interest too, and shifted his gaze over to the newspaper he was reading.
“Friend, you aren’t even a monk so why do you not act your age and have some fun? You’re still young, you’re capable and loaded, too. So what’s up with that? Hey, you’re still a virgin, aren’t you?”
“Of course not!” Mu Ssang shot back.
“Friend, you’re exhausted. How about spending a few months of vacation here while enjoying the sun’s rays? Then I get to laze around, too. And you can ride any woman you want in this place, whether they are black or white. Know what I mean?”
Paul could not help but pity his friend. A friend who never had a chance to take a break from all the bloodshed, fresh blood still staining his hands.
The officially-confirmed corpses in Ituri was 698. The actual death toll for the guerillas would be much higher than that. But his friend was no psychopath. He was more compassionate than other people. His physical body might be able to endure it, but his mind would still cave under the violence. Didn’t he unleash the baptism of the battlefield back in Sahel, for instance?
“Africa is filled with the stench of blood. I hate the deserts, and I hate the jungles too. I hate the humans even more. My stress won’t go away just because I embraced some women. Might as well accept it as my fate.” Mu Ssang shook his head.
The supernatural senses that Paul was so envious of came with a serious side effect. His sharp eyesight could clearly see the Demodex mites stuck inside the woman’s pores. His olfactory senses could pick up the bloody smell of the woman’s menstrual cycle from three days ago. And his hearing could pick up the vulgar gossip of the women that belittled the men.
Any desire to embrace women in this place would have already fled to another continent by now. Only after your mind and body responded positively to the stimulus would you be tempted into embracing the women, wouldn’t you?
Would Paul even understand the unmentionable pain Mu Ssang was feeling right now? Of course not.
“But the earnings are pretty damn good, right? Bonipas must be having a migraine by now, pounding on his calculator and all.”
“Hahah. Right. The calculations will be a bit complicated this time.” Mu Ssang chuckled loudly. Indeed, there was no better way to earn money than this.
The 1.5 million francs they got from DGSE as operational funds, and two million francs from the Ministry of Defense as allowance were nothing more than some pocket change. The real jackpot was the bounty on Arevasa’s head.
They got paid the operation deposit of eight million francs. The combined sum for the additional balances and remuneration for the successful operation alone was 36 million francs. In total, they had 47.5 million francs to play with.
Global corporations sure had deep pockets. Trying to calculate the price of some scrap metal, a computer chip and the corpse of the Mechanic Haunter would’ve been a headache, that’s for sure. However, money was quite literally flooding in for Mu Ssang, so it was fine.
“Since Serfund became the master of the ‘swimming pool’ (a nickname of the general director’s office on the 8th floor of the DGSE main building) solely thanks to your efforts, he better be generous with his rewards.”
“It looks like things aren’t going so well for him after occupying the pool, though.”
Mu Ssang handed the newspaper over to Pual.
“What the hell? Hey, pretty girl. Go play somewhere else for a while.”
Paul slapped the butt of the dark-skin woman.
These women were utterly clueless about the subject matter, but it was still not good for them to overhear it. Thankfully, the women were quick on the uptake, so after giving Paul a sideways glance, they distanced themselves.
“Damn. That evil b*tch with a pole stuck up her ass really did it, huh. Should’ve eliminated her back in Ituri.” Paul began grinding his teeth.
“If you start killing reporters because they got a bit annoying, then the world will soon run out of reporters, Paul. Besides, this woman will not get to live out the rest of her days after running her mouth. And the real fault lies with Minister Germaine, who is blinded by ambition, and Director Kabaye, who’s blinded by jealousy.”
“Well, yeah. That’s true. Who’d have thought that folks so high up in the ladder would make such a stupid decision like this? If only they behaved and stayed still, they could have enjoyed their retirement while receiving a generous pension, you know!”
Paul sighed in lamentation.
The DGSE operations department was notorious for their heavy-handedness. And they were not the type of people to dumbly stare and do nothing to a woman who carelessly unveiled the true identity of the Black Mamba.
Perhaps, even Kabaye would meet with an unexplained accident pretty soon. No, it was likely that Black Mamba would not let this go.
“The thing is, once you get drunk with power, you fall into an illusion that everything will go your way.”
Paul’s lamentation came from hindsight. Quite a few people seemed to be too willing to mess up the rest of their lives doing unnecessary things. Things that not even Korea’s politicians could understand.
“Uh-whew. Canal Plus and France-Soir have put up ten million francs for an interview, I see. Hey, just how much is ten million, anyway?! If it were me, I’d have taken off the damn Kepi Noir and rushed to where they are by now. But too bad, they will never call for me. A person needs to be talented, after all. Tsk.”
“Hahaha, sorry about that.” Mu Ssang chuckled at that.
He was not in a position to reveal his identity, even if it wasn’t ten million but 100 million francs. Besides, holding an interview was a violation of the confidentiality agreement, too. The generous allowance included the ‘fee’ for maintaining secrecy, after all.
He already had enough money. The payout of 300 million francs for the Ruman operation was being used for the construction of Novatopia, but even then, he had more than enough for himself. And if he was really short on cash, he could just clean out a few houses belonging to South Korean members of parliament to quickly generate around ten billion Won.
“Huh?! Isn’t this Liberation? How did you get your hands on this?” Paul asked while picking up the six-page newspaper-cum-tabloid.
“The hotel had it.”
“Really?” Paul tilted his head.
The ‘Liberation’ was a left-wing newspaper. No, wait — it was more accurate to call it a far-left tabloid with anti-state anarchist tendencies.
Its first page was filled with brazen demands, calling for the revelation of the true identity of the individual with the psychopathic name, while the second page was all about making a case for the resignation of the current president who had concealed the truth.
The third page was full of scathing criticism aimed at the government’s tough stance and response, while ‘opinion’ pieces labeling all the soldiers participating in the operation as history’s worst murderers were plastered all over another page.
“It’s amazing that this paper hasn’t been shut down while publishing these sorts of articles.”
“Doesn’t really matter, does it? Citizens and readers will come to their own conclusions. Besides, you won’t find all that many citizens willing to support crap like this, anyway.”