Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 515
The Concretus’ history during the Age of Twilight was peppered with the conflicts against the “tiny ones”—viruses. The Concretus people, emboldened by their advanced science, lived in an artificially created aseptic environment.
Viruses are tiny. Even the comparatively large rabies virus is only around 0.1 micrometer. Depending on the type, many of the viruses are not even the size of 0.0001 micrometer. Realistically speaking, a complete shut out of viruses is impossible.
Fundamentally, a virus is an existence that parasitized a host cell to survive. Surprisingly, only a small number of viruses forsake and destroy their hosts. Most of them do not harm the hosts and while others help enhance the host’s immune resistance. Some even settle in as a part of the host cell’s composition.
Paradoxically, an aseptic environment would continuously worsen a person’s immune system. The Concretus’ immune system had basically crumbled to nothing, rendering them helpless even against regular non-harmful viruses.
The Concretus carried out a planet-wide project to eradicate all germs and viruses for millions of years. After being subjected to an unceasing attack, the desperate viruses simply had to mutate. They altered their characteristics, simplified themselves, and shrunk their sizes down.
The confrontation between the Concretus and viruses ended in the latter’s victory. The planetary crustal movement simply hastened the Concretus’s extinction by a little bit —that’s all.
In a battle between acellular and cellular life-forms, it was inevitable that the former would emerge victorious. The possibility of the Homo sapiens treading the same path as Homo concretus in the future was increasing even now.
According to an experiment by Professor Berg from the University of Bergen, the number of viruses found in 1cc of seawater was 250 million. Based on that number, lining up every single virus existing on Earth in a single queue would get you 200 million light years in length.
Basically, Earth was a planet where cellular life-forms had borrowed the habitat of acellular life-forms. In correct terms, viruses were not the parasites — humans were. One should view this situation as humans having invaded the viruses’ homes.
An Adras was a Concretus; Kamdoong was no different when it came to the phobia of viruses. Due to the nature of a molecular life-form, there was no way to avoid the attacks of viruses. Any error occurring during the cell’s molecular arrangement process would cause an Adras’ internal power generator to break down. An Adras unable to replenish its energy would gradually wither and die.
After drinking Mu Ssang’s blood, Kamdoong spent about a year climbing up and down the vertical tunnel in the Hollow Earth to enhance his resistance to viruses. He had pretty much adapted to the viruses found on the surface. But scared out of his wits at the moment, Kamdoong had no clue about that.
Being ignorant or unaware made you an easy mark. Under the guise of “training,” the deathly scared Kamdoong was exploited for labor and even had to deal with ridiculous beatdowns.
Soon, a rumor of a large, pretty cat that resembled a panther living somewhere in the Cheonsaeng Mountain began doing its rounds in nearby villages.
All sorts of rumors spread, such as a cat carrying a pile of firewood on its back, swinging around an ax, tilling the field, shouting loudly while holding a TV antenna, or even sorrowfully crying while staring at the moon. But they all remained just that, rumors.
Rumors no one believed would remain as nothing but rumors in the end.
Mu Ssang did not inform the auntie from Hadong that he had returned to Korea. His nightly action with Edel was raucous enough to rock the Yoa House, after all. Just like how a thief suffered from guilty conscience, he felt rather awkward about seeing Jin-soon’s face after that.
It was indeed a troubling matter to him since he knew very well how sincere and serious Jin-soon was. He would definitely have a rough time after she finds about his return later on, but for now, he clearly wanted to avoid facing that awkwardness.
Even the one and only Black Mamba reverted back to being the dumb and timid Mu Ssang the moment he set foot on Korean soil.
The legend of a black cat holding a TV antenna and mightily struggling was all true, of course. Now that Kamdoong had taken over all the sundry chores of the temple, Mu Ssang found himself with not much else to do. He prepared his master’s three daily meals, fell into a state of meditation on top of the Yeonggo-seok, rummaged through the pages of textbooks, and even spent a whole day catching crayfish by the mountain’s creek.
Just like that, a restful ten days flew by unnoticed.
Every day was the same in the small Buddhist temple nestled in the Cheongsaeng Mountain—yesterday was today, and today would be tomorrow. The day would begin with the Buddhist service ritual performed at 03:30 am, and a day would conclude at eight in the evening with the last of 108 bows.
The ritual of sharing Jogong (breakfast), Sasi (lunch), and Yakseok (supper) belonged to only Monk Dae-woo and Mu Ssang. During mealtime, Kamdoong would either climb up on the Yeonggo-seok to recite the Buddhist scriptures or operate its internal power generator to replenish its energy reserve.
During the power generator’s operation, the temperature around the small temple would plummet to the point of being frosty. The trees near the temple lost their solar radiation heat to Kamdoong and withered away. Once, all the insects within the radius of dozens of meters from the temple froze to death.
It did not take a genius to imagine that whenever such things happened, Kamdoong would get a royal beatdown for harming innocent lives.
“Uh-huh. The black sesame soup tastes especially unrefined today,” said Monk Dae-woo.
He used a piece of radish kimchi to thoroughly wipe the inside of his small balwu (a wooden food bowl used by Buddhist monks), tossed the vegetable in his mouth, and then pushed the dining table away. He had scooped up some black sesame soup from the large balwu to his smaller one meant to carry side dishes, ate a few drops, and then ended his gongyang (Buddhist-style meal) there.
Mu Ssang pleaded with him, feeling alarmed and worried, “But, Master, please have a little more.”
“Mu-ah, my dear disciple. It seems that my end is getting nearer. It’s getting harder to eat food these days.”
“Heok?! You can’t!” Mu Ssang cried out involuntarily at that.
“You fool, you might give someone a heart attack like that! Did you know that I’ve been battling the envoys of the afterlife every single night, just for a single hope of seeing your offspring one day?”
“Really?! That means I shouldn’t have kids any time soon, then! I mean, you were thinking of attaining Buddhahood  the moment you see my kids, weren’t you?” Mu Ssang opened his eyes wide and pretended to be shocked out of his wits.
“You fool! Attaining Buddhahood, my ass! I’m simply scattering my soul to heaven and earth while returning my body to the soil. Last night, I negotiated with Gamjae-saja  and got myself two years of extension.
“The terms of the negotiation is that if you get yourself a kid in two years, I’ll tag along with Jikbu-saja  and leave on the day your kid reaches adulthood. But if there are no offspring in two years, then I’ll go with Jikbu-saja at the end of the second year without any complaints whatsoever.”
‘Hul, what kind of abuse of power is this?!’
Mu Ssang was dismayed. When deciphering what his master just said, the old monk was insisting that Mu Ssang gets married and have children in the next two years. In other words, this was a threat. Monk Dae-woo would “attain Buddhahood” in twenty years if Mu Ssang got married in the next year or so. But if not, then the old monk would only live on for only two more years before kicking the bucket.
“Master, what kind of unreasonableness is this? If you’ve been negotiating with King Yama or Emperor Fengdu Dadi, then sure, why not? But with Gamjae-saja or Jikbu-whatever, just a huff from you and those two might get blown out the windows, so what negotiation are you even talking about, Master? Stop making things up, please.”
“Uh-huh, such ignorance! The positions of Gamjae-saja, Jikbu-saja, and Gangrim-chasa  might be low, but they are still close aides of King Yama. So much so that people even call them King Yama’s Three Doorknob Musketeers! I’ll let you know that an old monk like me can communicate to King Yama through the Three Doorknob Musketeers.”
“Is that so? These days, those who deserve to die are living a good life while the undeserving are dragged to hell by grim reapers, but I understand now. So that’s what’s been going on. The afterlife and the living world are two sides of a coin, but this is a serious matter, Master, with the boundary getting blurry like this.”
“Hm, hm. That’s something King Yama needs to be dealt with personally. Why don’t we focus on dealing with your situation, instead? Now that you have the hang of it, surely you can do it many more times, can’t you? A widow might find that first step hard to take, but after that, it’ll be an open season. Stop wasting time and get on top of Jin-soon right away.”
Monk Dae-woo said up and began grinning slyly, his eyes narrowed to slits.
“H-how did you find out?!” Mu Ssang asked back in shock.
“Hmm, so you really have done some of that action, haven’t you? It must be with that English noble lady named Rudrey Edel, right?”
“Sigh!” Mu Ssang facepalmed himself after getting suckered into his master’s guessing game.
“You fool, are you planning to tie the knot only after this old monk has sung the hymn of nirvana first? Let’s be honest here—your foundation is ‘heat’ hot enough to steam Bodhidharma to death. I have sleepless nights thinking about how the weird twist of fate has made you go astray, boy.
“Since ancient times, dragons give birth to dragons, while tigers rear tigers. Understand? This teacher of yours has been delaying his reincarnation just to leave behind his teachings to your offspring. Don’t you find someone like that too pitiful?” Monk Dae-woo discarded all pretense of playfulness and began whining seriously.
Mu Ssang wordlessly stared at the wrinkled face of his teacher. That face looked like an aged tree.
Just like how every groove in a record hid the lyrics to a currently hot pop song, each one of those wrinkles contained the benevolence of an old monk that deeply cared for and loved his disciple.
Mu Ssang’s emotions welled up in an instant. He shot up to his feet before prostrating on the floor to begin his apology. “Master, please forgive this disciple who has been acting immaturely in front of you. I shall sire your grandchild as soon as possible and entrust its future to your wisdom.”
Monk Dae-woo’s expression brightened instantly. “Excellent. You’re a smart kid, I tell you. Namu Amida Butsu!”
‘You fool, the amount of rice grain I spilt is ten times more than what you have eaten in your whole life.’
Monk Dae-woo sneakily turned his head away, his face filled with a triumphant expression. But then, he shot up to his feet and threw open the room’s door. “Come, there’s something I want to show you.”
An old man on the “verge of death” seemed to possess physical strength that exceeded a healthy young man.
Kamdoong appeared before them as if he was rising from the ground. He then placed a pair of white rubber walking shoes with stars drawn on the toe cover and then politely stood back, ready to serve.
Buddhist monks wore white rubber shoes during the summer and fur shoes during the winter. To differentiate the shoes more easily, images like stars, the moon, or the sun were drawn on their toes. Numbering the shoes or giving them names bred the habit of classifying and separating things, so such actions were avoided altogether.
The goosefoot staff thudded into Kamdoong’s head.
“Gonggong, you fool. You want me to drive around with the rubber shoes during such stiflingly hot weather? All the sweat will make my foot slip off the clutch every time I try to press the pedal. Are you planning to age those sandals Mu-ah bought for me until you can make stews out of them?”
Monk Dae-woo shouted way louder than necessary. What an unfair thing this was for Kamdoong, though how could it have known whether the old monk was going for a drive or walk around begging for alms?
Kamdoong stood on his hind legs and quickly raised both of his front legs. Despite the dental structure making it hard to form human words, the creature still spat out a desperate-sounding exaltation. “Oh, master. No, Lord Master! Your glory be eternal! My master, whose virtue has touched the heavens and whose powers have blanketed the mundane world! Opening the eyes of your ignorant disciple like this every day, your grace is as boundless as rivers and seas, Master!”
Kamdoong spat out an exaltation cringe enough to make the listener blush and then immediately presented the sandals. This conduct already surpassed common sense as well as what’s considered moral. Just how did the one and only Kamdoong end up like this?
The thing was, there was no hero before a whip. Monk Dae-woo used a merciless, unforgiving whip to rule over Kamdoong who had acted thoughtlessly and arrogant until now.
The “whip” was a figure of speech here, of course—the mediums to project physical pain were boulders as large as houses, oak trees wide enough to wrap one’s arms around, and a bronze flagpole support as thick as a grown man’s torso. Furthermore, Monk Dae-woo even projected his ki to render Kamdoong’s defence systems useless too.
Kamdoong simply had no avenue to fight back.
When an intelligent life-form was subjected to assault that it could not cope with, its response would come in distinctly different phases.
The first phase would be resistance and avoidance. One would demand a more humane treatment, not listen to orders, fight back and/or run away. The second phase would be acceptance—one would give up and silently do as they were told. The third phase was the “grateful” phase. One would thank their assailant for their grace despite all the beatings and mistreatments.
The fourth phase would be the “exaltation” phase. One would stop being passive and start exalting their abuser passionately. One would start doing flabbergasting things like offering a prayer of gratitude after receiving a lump of hard, cold rice as rations.
And finally, the last phase was the “indifference” phase. Whether one got beaten up or got abused, they would keep their mouth shut and do what they were supposed to do. In this phase, both the abuser and the victim would have inadvertently reached the state of “freedom from all ideas and thoughts.”
Reaching such a state would basically make you a Zen priest or a Daoist practitioner at its peak.
The path of being human was treacherous, indeed. Through the psychological and physical abuse, Kamdoong had trodden on the path of “human” to enter the fourth phase in the introductory stages of Dao.
All Mu Ssang could do was to chuckle hollowly at the sight of “broken” Kamdoong. He fully understood his master’s intentions, but even so, his friend became far too much of a broken wreck.
Monk Dae-woo started his FIAT Panda without any warning. He simply smiled back when Mu Ssang asked where they were going. The old monk, accompanied by a dumbfounded Mu Ssang and a well-behaved Kamdoong, drove hard on the Gyeongbu Expressway.
The Panda entered the Bukdae-gu interchange and entered the city limits. The vehicle crossed the Geumho River, drove on Route 909, before coming to a stop at the entrance to the Bullo-dong Tumular.
Monk Dae-woo speedily climbed up a hilly gorge and stepped inside a typical rural farmstead with a wide front yard.
The main house was a traditional tile-roofed building, shaped like the Korean letter “giyeok” about twenty sections large. The dilapidated roof was overgrown with weeds, and the front yard was also overrun with tall grasses. The house seemed to have not seen a human visitor in a very long time.
“Mu-ah. This is the house you shall live in from now on.”
Mu Ssang’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry?”
“Master, did you purchase this house?”
“Of course. Which other close acquaintance besides your master will buy a house for a man with no one to rely on? Also, even my nostrils are getting stuffy from trying to share the cramped temple with a demon-like disciple. Now that a trustworthy cook has settled in the temple, I’m thinking of kicking you out.”
“But, Master, where did you get the money?”
Mu Ssang was puzzled by this. His master did not even bother to save up a bag of rice in the temple. He was the type to let spiders weave their webs in the small iron pot meant for food without his disciples around, so there simply was no way that he had money saved up.
“Hahaha! Haven’t you been sending me money to buy meat or something quite diligently until now? Here, I don’t need it anymore.” Monk Dae-woo rummaged through his rucksack, pulled out a bank book, and tossed it over to his disciple.
Mu Ssang’s eyes widened again. This bank notebook detailed all the living expenses he’d been sending every month to his master. Only two instances of withdrawal were recorded on it—420,000 Won for Mu Ssang’s university admission fee and two million Won for the purchase of this farmstead.
The rest, around 2.8 million Won, remained untouched in the account.
“Master?! What’s the meaning of this! This disciple can always provide you with all the money you need, so why… You didn’t even buy food for gongyang, too…”
Mu Ssang’s emotions welled up, preventing him from continuing on. His master did not spend a dime of money he had been sending every month in the last four years. The only times the old monk did were for the sake of his disciple.
“So noisy! Where would an old fart of a monk like me spend the money on, anyway? Besides, not all money is the same. How can I uncaringly waste all the money you earned by shedding sweat, blood, and tears? I don’t want to hear your nagging anymore, and that’s why I bought this place. The rest is up to you now. Hahaha!”
“Don’t get too emotional, boy. Haven’t you grown tired of an old monk’s body odor by now? This land is Geum-Hwan-Nak-Ji . I’ve been keeping an eye out for a place for you while going around asking for alms, you see.”
“Are you saying that a Taoist fairy dropped her gold ring here? Master, you also believe in feng shui?”
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 One of the envoys of the afterlife in Korean folklore
 Another envoy of the afterlife
 Another envoy of the afterlife
 A Korean feng shui term, roughly meaning a location where the gold a deity had spat out has landed..