Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 500
Whether you were a Haenjaseung or a Samanera, you still had to know the Buddhist scriptures. But those bloody scriptures proved to be incredibly tough to comprehend. Forget the scriptures translated from Sanskrit — you first need knowledge of Hanja that rivalled that of a Chinese Classics scholar and a boundless understanding of the Buddhist teachings.
Trying to understand their meaning is like a blind fumbling around for a doorknob — it gets you nowhere. So much so that even Zen Buddhist monks would choose to throw the scriptures aside and lock themselves up in closed-door cultivation for the sake of breaking through gong’an!
Breaking though gong’an was an outrageous training method where you’d gain insight on Buddhist teachings through one moment of enlightenment instead of diligently poring through the scriptures night and day.
The Zen sect became popular after the appearance of its Sixth Patriarch Huineng, but even so, attaining an awakening was not as easy as it sounds. Monk Seongcheol divided the stages of enlightenment into three following stages: ‘Dong-Jeong-Yil-Yeoh’ (in the waking state, one mind), ‘Mong-Jung-Yil-Yeoh’ (in the dreaming state, one mind), and ‘Oh-Meh-Yil-Yeoh’. (in waking and dreaming states, one mind)
In the ‘Dong-Jeong-Yil-Yeoh’, the practitioner would constantly meditate on gong’an whether they were seeking enlightenment, taking a stroll, working to make ends meet, or even having a meal. Unless they were asleep, their mind would be focused solely on one thing.
Truth be told, reaching this state alone was already an incredible attainment. Even a muscle brain would be able to pass the civil servant exam if they had the mental strength of ‘Dong-Jeong-Yil-Yeoh’. Even a playboy would hit the realm of vigor unheard of before.
As for the ‘Mong-Jung-Yil-Yeoh’, this was a realm where you would dream of gong’an instead of dreaming about mundane life. And finally, the realm of ‘Oh-Meh-Yil-Yeoh’ indicated that you would vividly hear gong’an during your dreams as if you were fully awake. Reaching such a realm was next to impossible, but more than that, you would no longer be a normal person but a complete loon by then.
That was how much of a mirage this thing called ‘enlightenment’ was – unattainable unless you were a total madman. Hell, finding a needle that accidentally fell into the Han River would be easier than this. (Author’s note: If someone sneaks up and asks you, “Do you know the Dao?”, then please sock him on the nose with your fist, then say “This is the Dao.” If they get angry, then they are fake practitioners who are not sufficiently crazy yet.)
‘Huh-uh~. My teacher was someone who had truly gained enlightenment on his Dao, then!’
A lengthy sigh escaped from Mu Ssang’s lips. Despite having acquired the sorcery to summon forth wind and rain, his teacher went around asking for donations while wearing shabby-looking monk’s attire and grey rubber shoes. He was even robbed by a bunch of local hoodlums too. But enlightenment was something like that.
The Buddhist name Mu Ssang received from his teacher, ‘Mu-ah’, was none other than his gong’an. The word ‘mu-ah’ was the embodiment of Four Dharmic Seals, namely ‘atman samjna’, ‘pudgala samjna’, ‘sattva samjna’, and ‘jiva samjna’. Simply put, the teacher wanted his disciple to overcome the illusion of oneself created through the perception of other people.
It was similar to Socrates’ legendary ‘Know thyself’ in a way.
All humans fear death. A person bitten by a turtle would get frightened by a pot lid because of their prior experience. Yet why do we fear death despite never experiencing it? We fear it simply because others have told us how scary it is. It’s basically the same as the common phrase, “if you friend jumps off a cliff, will you too?”
Hell? Heaven? No living person has ever experienced those. In other words, there was no need to fear death.
The name ‘Mu-ah’, therefore, was ‘gong’an’ urging him to surpass the ‘error of experience’ created when the knowledge of other people was added on top of his own experiences acquired directly or indirectly.
It went against one’s comprehension. Something being here did not mean something else was over there. Because of one’s knowledge, one could not properly ‘see’ oneself – that’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
A ceiling existed for both knowledge and physical strength, but wisdom and enlightenment were limitless.
Only then did Mu Ssang finally realize why his teacher was deeply wary of Left Martial Theories. The state attained by his teacher seemed even loftier than ever before.
[You fool, use your brain. Just one percent of your body will do. At this rate, you’ll end up as an idiot who uses his head to hammer nails!]
His teacher often chided Mu Ssang with those words while drumming the latter’s head with a goosefoot walking stick. He suddenly wished to run back to the small Buddhist temple and ask his teacher for praise right now.
‘How… How is that even possible?!’
Yijihana’s eyes grew wide. The coffee cup was levitating in the air. Dubaiburupa was currently deep in a meditation, his hands resting on his knees.
The chef had heard that grand shamans and magicians could make objects move without touching them, but this was first time witnessing such a feat.
Yijihana, inwardly freaking out, held his breath desperately lest he inadvertently broke Dubaiburupa’s state of pure enlightenment.
The coffee cup levitating in the air was due to the power of mind brought on by ‘Dong-Jeong-Yil-Yeoh’. For a brief moment in time’s passage, Mu Ssang had escaped from the error of experience and became aware of his true self. The pure power of the mind perceiving the cup was not acting like a mirror reflecting reality, but was influencing reality itself. You could say that his mind, not his hand, was holding up the coffee cup.
Yijihana could not even lift a finger, fearing that doing so might create the slightest of noise. However, an unexpected source ended up breaking the peace, instead.
The walkie-talkie suddenly began buzzing noisily.
‘T-that damn thing!’
Yijihana glared murderously at the poor walkie-talkie.
‘…Isn’t that the sound of the walkie-talkie?’
The moment Mu Ssang perceived reality as it is, like a mirror’s reflection, his perfect state of meditation was broken. The coffee cup floating in the air fell back to earth. His mind power was not strong enough to maintain reality through the mirror of falsehood just yet.
“Oh, no!” Yijihana cried out in alarm. His mind was already painting the vivid image of the ceramic cup smashing into pieces after hitting the floor.
But just then, Mu Ssang extended his hand before lightly flipping around. The falling cup suddenly rose back up and landed safely on the tray.
“Dubaiburupa, your glory be eternal!”
Even before he realized it, Yijihana was already on his knees to offer a prayer.
Mu Ssang smiled wryly while picking up the walkie-talkie. He did not attain complete enlightenment, but walked away with an unexpected gift of psychokinesis instead.
“The enlightenment vaporized into mist, yet I’ve gained another ability belonging to the Left Martial Theory, huh. This is why I keep getting reprimanded for not walking the path of Buddhism,” Mu Ssang lamented with a sigh.
Despite acquiring psychokinesis, he was far more rueful about failing to gain a complete understanding of his gong’an. Sure, there was no guarantee that he would attain complete enlightenment, but even so, this was one of those cases of ‘the one that got away’.
He acquired the ‘Finger Wind’ back in Djibouti’s hotel. Then in Jipoon Dari, he acquired psychokinesis. His moment of enlightenment seemed so far away, yet his number of Left Martial Theory skills was increasing regardless.
“Wakil, sir. Did you have a blissful night?”
When Mu Ssang opened the radio channel, Mohammad’s voice came from the receiver.
“Well, yes. What happened?”
“Walter passed during the night, sir.”
“What a pity. He was still young, too!” Mu Ssang replied in a disinterested tone of a hundred-year-old man.
That punk emitted murderous intent oh-so amateurishly only to perish in a rather flabbergasting manner. Although, even if he did not die in that manner, he would still get beaten to death by Samdi, anyway.
When he was being carried out on a stretcher, Walter’s heart had not stopped yet, but it seemed that the MSF failed to resuscitate him afterwards.
“What was the cause of Walter’s death?”
Life and death was up to one’s fate, but even so, a healthy doctor suddenly kicking the bucket was not a common occurrence.
“Sir. It was drug poisoning. Thirty seconds into the first signs of poisoning manifesting, he developed tachycardia and sixty seconds later, his heart stopped beating, sir. The doctors present at the guest seats didn’t even have time to do anything to save him. After he was taken to the hospital, they attached a respirator and heart-lung machine (ECMO), but his heart completely stopped functioning 15 minutes later.”
“Wait, he died through drug poisoning?” Mu Ssang was puzzled by this. A drug poisoning out of nowhere…?
“Yessir. The cause of death is determined to be saffron.”
“According to Doctor Giz, the victim’s heart muscles extended due to the excessive consumption of crocin contained in saffron, sir. And the resulting cytokine storm apparently obliterated his immune system, sir.”
“To think that a seasoning can act as a deadly poison. Now that’s surprising.” Mu Ssang felt a chill run down his spine.
Indeed, he did think that last night’s bouillabaisse tasted a bit too bitter, with a strong metallic aftertaste that resembled honey coming from it.
The reason why Mu Ssang was fine was because crocin happened to be an aphrodisiac. If the pig stimulant Jang Pil-nyuh used on her husband was a trash aphrodisiac, then saffron would be the top-tier version. But whether the aphrodisiac was trash or top-tier, consuming too much of it could greatly increase the possibility of your death during the deed.
The Epidium’s super-tough physique that could break down the botulinus toxins in less than five minutes would obviously be unscathed by the likes of some aphrodisiac. However, Mu Ssang still ingested a quantity that did send a healthy man to afterlife. No wonder he felt unsatisfied despite the night-long session.
Also, Samdi acting more abrasive than usual had to be because he ate some of the saffron-laced bouillabaisse last night.
Yijihana, who was listening to the radio communication, became as pale as a sheet. One of the invited guests was poisoned to death. Even if it was him, he would suspect the chefs first.
He finally gained a life worthy of being a human and was even acknowledged as Dubaiburupa’s family, yet this lightning bolt came out of nowhere and mercilessly struck him down.
“Chef, did you have a reason to use saffron in the bouillabaisse last night?”
Yijihana fell to his knees. His teacher once told him that saffron was utilized as poison in the Middle Ages, but to think that an incident would really occur in the modern times!
“Wakil, saffron as a spice is more expensive than gold, sir. Someone like me can’t carelessly use it. Using it too much on a dish would make it too bitter, ruining the dish altogether. I only used a minute amount on the rice, maeuntang and paella, sir. It was so little that even after eating the rice, maeuntang and paella from the feast, I’m still fine, sir.”
Yijihana replied honestly without making excuses. This was how he lived his life until now.
Mu Ssang nodded, then spoke in a gentle voice to assuage Yijihana’s fears. “I wasn’t asking that to lay the blame on you, chef. I only wanted to confirm something.”
And so, the culprit was clear now.
‘Uh-whew! She used to make dishes rivaling pure poison, but now, she has finally created a real poison, hasn’t she!’
In other words, the bouillabaisse cooked by Edel was the culprit here. Since Mu Ssang knew she had no taste buds whatsoever, he decided to just eat the bouillabaisse and be done with it. But if he was a regular person, then he would’ve been dead, too. Hell, as an added bonus, his loyal retainers could have died alongside him, too!
If Edel learns about Walter eating her food and dying straight away, she would get a shock of her life. But if he were to keep this as a secret, then… Then he’d have to keep eating Edel’s food from now on.
A loving angel that cooked poisonous dishes… A groan leaked out of his mouth.
It was then he suddenly recalled the scent of Cohiba Siglo wafting around his seat as well as the foreign substance coating Edel’s wineglass.
“Mohammad, did Walter frequently smoke Cohiba Siglo?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
‘That means the punk that did stuff to the glass was him.’
It was unknown why Walter decided to eat the bouillabaisse meant for him, but Mu Ssang more or less understood the situation now. That bastard was trying to kill him and Edel. In that case, there was a good possibility that he did something to the bouillabaisse too.
“Got it. Call every member of Black Culture here, please.”
“Yessir. We’ll see you in thirty minutes.”
Mu Ssang put the walkie-talkie down, then began retracing Walter’s movements last evening. He also figured out why the bouillabaisse and maeuntang’s taste had been mixed up. Walter must have eaten too much of the former and decided to use the latter’s broth to cover it up.
Wazalan’s situation led to the banquet venue emptying out, and Walter must have used that opening to do something to the wineglass and the bouillabaisse.
Mu Ssang got lost in the spicy broth of maeuntang in the bouillabaisse and failed to spot the presence of any foreign substance. Poisonous substances would only be on the level of unique seasoning to him, but still, he needed to confirm it regardless.
His mind automatically activated the Dimensional Sight. His internals were vividly projected into his brain. The process of concentrating his mind and bringing out his inner voice was no longer necessary. This was all thanks to acquiring just the tip of enlightenment.
He sensed a strange substance attached to the lining of his stomach. A viscous gel-like substance was attached there like some kind of a coating. Using the resonance wave, he detached this suspicious substance off his stomach and made it travel backwards through his oesophagus.
A blob of Langsam Tshüss, along with some phlegm, came out of his mouth.
This poison, created by Walter himself, was designed to mix in with the digestive juices after entering the stomach. The poison then would develop coal tar-like viscosity to stick to the stomach lining. After curare melted down from the passage of time, the strychnine would bare its fangs.
“That son of a b*tch!”
Mu Ssang’s glare become sharper.
Even at a casual glance, that greyish blob was poison. A doctor meant to save people’s lives was plotting to murder with poison? What a trash human he was.
Mu Ssang was reminded once more that there were too many bastards in this world who had thrown off the façade of humanity and acted like pure animals. Thankfully, Samdi was the only other person to eat the bouillabaisse last night.
“Well, a zombie wouldn’t die from poison, so that’s fine,” he thought decisively, knowing that there was no need to worry about Samdi. Drinking a whole cannister of undiluted hydrochloric acid might hurt Samdi in some way, but poisons like neurotoxin, hemotoxin or hemolysin would not work on a zombie.
“Akra. Summon all the family members to the first floor living room.”
“Yes, Lord Dubaiburupa!”
The girl standing by the doorway hurriedly ran down the stairs. She was none other than Akra who troubled Sun Woo-hyun back in the Samaria farm. As promised, she was training as a nurse under Edel’s guidance.
Mu Ssang had no idea that saffron would act like poison. It could be a big problem if any of the servants of the Yoa House had tasted the bouillabaisse. As for Edel, there was no need to worry about her. Even if she did ingest the poison, last night’s action should have cleanly cleared it out of her.
“Chef, are the wineglass and the bouillabaisse bowl still being preserved as I ordered?”
“Yes sir. As you commanded last night, they are being kept in a freezer.”
“Confirm if any of the servants had tasted the bouillabaisse, then bring them to me.”
Yijihana, frozen stiff from the tense atmosphere, hurriedly left the room.
“Dino, go and bring me several living rats.”
Dino rummaged through the drawing room, pulled out a basket with a lid, then soundlessly left. Meanwhile, Mu Ssang was getting somewhat irritated by this. Something minor had managed to ruin his good mood.
Less than five minutes later, Dino returned with the basket held in its maw. Mu Ssang opened the lid and peered inside only to scowl deeply from this intense stench.
Calling three pink and fur-less animals ‘rats’ was a bit strange, though.
Mu Ssang did not know about the naked mole-rats, the indigenous rodents of Sahara. These mole-like critters usually burrowed deep underground to evade the scorching heat on the surface. They could evade human eyes but evading Dino’s senses was impossible even for them.
In the meantime, the chef climbed up the stairs along with Bassel.
“Wakil, Bassel said she has tasted the bouillabaisse, sir.”
“Lord Dubaiburupa, a-am I gonna die?” Bassel, her complexion pale, trembled like a leaf.
“Bassel, I’m Dubaiburupa.”
His dignified reply was all that’s needed for Bassel to regain her composure. He pressed his palm against the acupoint present on her lower spine and used Dimensional Sight to scan her internals. He could not spot any abnormalities.
Then again, saffron was not poisonous but aphrodisiac. Just tasting the bouillabaisse a little would not have affected her.
“Bassel, you’re perfectly fine, so no need to worry. You can go back to what you were doing.”
“Praise be to Lord Dubaiburupa!”
With a much brighter expression, Bassel bowed deeply to him before climbing down the stairs. Mu Ssang sighed in relief. Now that he confirmed the safety of the employees, it was time to come up with preventative measures..