Novel Name : Mercenary Black Mamba

Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 521

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“Yamanashi Hanzo, Abe Nobuyuki. Thanks a lot for looking after Korea’s cultural heritage so well. This boy will take good care of them from now on, okay? Oh, and I’ll make sure to pay a visit to your descendants and give them my regards later too. A few well-placed punches might do it, don’t you agree?
“Besides, dang it. My teacher sure does know his stuff, alright. No matter how much this invincible Eastern Swordsman boasts about his greatness, he’s still nothing but Sun Wukong dancing around in an old monk’s palm, isn’t he?”
The quantity and quality of the Yamanashi collection were so stupendous that even Mu Ssang ended up humming some nonsense to himself.
Some time ago, he tried to recover a handful of Korean cultural assets back in France only to get laughed out of the room. He was blushing beet-red while bringing up the Korean government’s feeble policy towards its own cultural assets and the level of a Korean’s awareness on the subject matter.
If Governor Yamanashi had not gone to such great lengths to collect these artifacts, and if Abe had not concealed them so thoroughly, then all these important cultural assets would have vanished into the ether like someone’s sneaky fart. Just thinking about that possibility nearly made Mu Ssang faint on the spot.
If thousands of national treasure-tier cultural assets had been smuggled to Japan, then never mind lamenting over it, there would not be any chance to retrieve it.
Mu Ssang also received a bonus on top; once Sun Woo Bang Na read the antique’s history, they would get to find out the identity of the pro-Japanese traitors who dared to hand over their own cultural heritage. It was only right that their estates, acquired as the reward for being so pro-Japanese, was robbed off their hands as their just desserts.
‘Hehehe~! There’s no such thing as free lunch in this world, now is there? Since you two acquired some spiritual powers, it’s time for a bit of volunteer service.’
Mu Ssang glanced back at Sun Woo Bang Na, a strange grin hanging on his lips. Until then, she had been utterly arrested by the sight of a gorgeous formal dress fit for an empress, but his nasty grin jolted her to her senses.
Her spiritual powers befitting a powerful mudang detected an ominous foreboding just then. But not even the god residing in her, Jeon Woo-chi, could have guessed the prospect of hard labor in store for her – locked up in a basement for five months, doing nothing but identifying antiques and detailing their histories.
“Oh, great god, I found gold, sir!” Ma Go shouted from deeper inside the storage.
“Gold? Gold is just gold, isn’t it?” Mu Ssang replied disinterestedly. Why should he care about a few pieces of gold when national treasure-tier cultural assets were strewn about practically everywhere?
“There are quite a few in here, sir. Please come and confirm it for yourself.”
Of course, no one would ignore free gold on hand. Mu Ssang leisurely strolled towards the deeper section of the storage, his hands resting behind his back. A trapezoidal object in Ma Go’s hand gleamed in the golden hue under the lamp’s light.
The engraved Japanese letters ‘Showa 15-nen’ (1940 A.D.) and 3,000g were still clearly visible on the bullion’s surface. Inside the exquisite wooden chest were ten rhombic bullions, each weighing 3kg. And there were 120 chests of equal sizes carefully piled up in this location.
“Heol! Why the hell are there so many of them?! Aha, this was supposed to be the military funds for the Japanese, wasn’t it?”
Mu Ssang’s lips widened in a huge grin. There had been rumors about the Japanese Imperial Headquarters stashing military funds in Samjiyeon, Gunsan and Daegu after sensing their imminent defeat in the war. And one of those rumors proved to be true.
[Hehehe, it’ll be better for you to give up now. It’s impossible for you to kill all these people and hide their bodies. And once people start arriving from our main family, this whole place will be utterly destroyed. Kids will be the first to disappear.]
Mu Ssang recalled the face of Abe Asotaro busy spewing venom while his rat-like eyes darted about.
“Hmm, even that punk Abe did have his uses, didn’t he? Feels like I should pay a visit to the JSDF’s top brass and express my gratitude or something…”
The corners of Mu Ssang’s lips sneakily curled up. If it were not for Abe Asotaro making that threat, he would not have bought In Ae Won in the first place. That punk happened to be the grandson of Abe Nobuyuki, the 9th governor-general of Korea.
Mu Ssang felt like ten years of pent-up frustration wash away after thinking about the Abe family going nuts over their desire to ‘recover’ the Yamanashi Collection. If only that idiot Abe did not threaten the lives of young children – he would not have ended up as a slave in Africa.
Mu Ssang’s dislike of Japan and the Japanese people was somewhat harsher than what most Koreans thought about their neighbors. Just like how a person needed to have humanity if they wanted to live like a human being, a nation needed to have ‘national dignity’ if it wanted to stand tall as a nation. In Mu Ssang’s view, Japan lacked that national dignity.
He wasn’t being salty about Japan occupying Korea for 36 years. The law existed as the final bastion in personal and societal affairs but in the affairs of nations, a nation’s strength reigned supreme. The possibility of wars between nations breaking was ever-present, and if a nation’s strength was weak, it could end up being colonized by others. The crux of the matter here was national dignity.
It was not that only a small portion of the population acted illogically. Rather, the entire nation of Japan itself acted like a madman. Just reading about or listening to a handful of Japan’s past should be enough to make most people nod their heads.
The past century or so for Japan was a period of collective madness. From the Sino-Japanese War onwards, millions of young men were thrust into grim battlefields under the pretext of patriotism and loyalty. From the middle of the Manchurian plain to the islands in the Pacific, these young men died from starvation and diseases.
A nation that forcibly dragged young kids who had not even hit puberty to war zones just to use them as sex slaves. A nation that refused to give rights to vote to the settlers from other nations even though they were forcibly dragged to Japan. A nation that still allows the mug of Ito Hirobumi to grace the highest-denomination currency in circulation. All those Joseon citizens were forcibly imprisoned. A nation that proudly tried to register the Battleship Island (also known as Hashima, infamous for its hellish mines) as a world cultural heritage site, even though blood and resentment of forcibly-drafted Chinese labourers soaked that entire island…
Japan was that kind of a nation.
It did not stop there; Japan also acted wickedly toward its own citizens all the time. The conscripted members of the so-called ‘comfort women’ during the wartime did not just include the Joseon women, but the Japanese too. And it was also Japan that coerced its own pilots to perform suicide attacks after filling the Zero fighters with only enough fuel for a one-way trip.
The act of seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) by the Japanese novelist Mishima Yukio, which happened post-war, laid bare exactly what kind of a nation Japan was. On that day in 1970, Mishima Yukio and four of his followers took over the Japanese Self-Defense Force headquarters and declared thus:
[The ones maintaining the soul of Japan are the Self-Defense Force. The act of protecting Japan means you’re protecting its blood and its culture, its tradition. You’re all samurais. Why do you protect a constitution that denies what you are? Is there anyone else who wishes to follow me?!]
After his speech, Mishima Yukio slit open his own stomach with a dagger. His follower, a man named Morida, then beheaded him with a sword.
The media and the politicians dressed up his gruesome final act as something to admire, a role model for all to follow. His fame as a novelist shot through the heavens afterwards. Japan was the kind of country that went crazy over a lunatic like Mishima Yukio.
China also did many unspeakable acts in the Korean peninsula, but its misdeeds were practically buried and overlooked by the cruel and truly wicked deeds of the Japanese. To put it another way, you could forget about the guy punching you in the face, but you could never, ever forget the bastard that tore off your skin and poured salt on your wounds.
There was no statute of limitation on clearing up the bad history. The Japanese politicians and its media would argue that it was time to bury the hatchet, which only worsened international strife, and move on to a better future together. But that was simply sophistry.
The present was a bridge connecting the past and the future. The present could only learn from the past, so how could anyone suggest burying and forgetting the past?
Some people would say that there were quite a few pro-Korean politicians currently working in the Japanese government, but that was just wishful thinking. The majority of Japanese politicians, media personnel and academics still had not let go of the insidious dream of the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
As for the so-called pro-Korean faction, they simply had a bit of sympathy in them, willing to toss some pieces of bread at their less fortunate neighbors. But if Korea grew to the point of threatening Japan, they would immediately start throwing rocks.
Japan as a nation did not possess that national dignity. As long as something benefited themselves, they did not give a rat’s ass about causing pain and suffering to other nations. This was the reason why Mu Ssang was deeply wary about the frequent meetings between the Japanese Naicho (the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office) and CIA’s Special Activities Division.
“Oh, great god. How much do you think this item will fetch?” Ma Go asked with a trembling voice.
She had the issue of trying to slander the remains of the great god’s father after measly little two million Won managed to blind her. Even though she had let go of her greed, the attraction of the gleaming gold bar still proved to be quite strong.
Mu Ssang was abruptly brought back to Earth by her question and quickly began calculating in his head. 120 chests, each weighing 30kg, would mean 3,600kg in total. The London gold exchange put the price of gold at $360 per ounce in 1985. One kilogram was around 12 million Won in the international market price or 18 million in the Korean market price.
He had not even done much, yet an amount of 64.8 billion Won just fell from the heavens and landed on his laps. Actually, it was more like Abe Nobuyuki had politely yielded everything over to him on a silver plate.
“It’s around 65 billion Won,” Mu Ssang replied in a disinterested voice.
The rule of marginal utility also applied to gold; 64.8 billion Won was definitely no pocket change, but Mu Ssang had been handling big numbers recently and this amount failed to shock him at all. Besides, wealth within one’s sensible range would be seen as good but wealth that was exorbitant was nothing but trouble.
“Man… What’s up with my luck here? I’ve been trying my hardest to spend money, but more and more keeps piling up in front of me!” Mu Ssang unhesitantly spat out some drivel that would have incurred the wrath of even the kindest of folks.
The thread of fate certainly was mysterious, was it not? He met Hyung Dong in the Daedeok restaurant, which led to beating up Abe and his gang while they trying to burn down In Ae Won, then after taking pity on the children there, Mu Ssang bought the place. He gave Monk Beom Woo twenty million Won, twice the market rate, so that the monk could buy an even better place for the kids. That twenty million returned as a profit thousand of times larger.
“Oh, lord great god… W-what should we do about all these gold, sir?” Ma Go, clearly overwhelmed by the number, began worrying about needless things.
Mu Ssang replied, “Someone once said that making money is a technique, but spending money is an art. Plenty of people out there can’t escape from the shadow of the world through their own efforts alone.
“There are orphans. Some old people can’t rest yet and need to carry on. And there are too many children wasting away as factory workers. For all those struggling for their lives in dirt, and all those falling behind and discarded by society itself… I’m thinking of creating a shelter where they can prepare for a second lease of life.”
“With all this treasure, sir? But it’s been said that not even the nation can save a person from poverty, sir.”
Mu Ssang wordlessly stared at Ma Go. This woman could have become a huge deal as long as she discarded her worldly desires. But she could not let go of that one desire, and it was blocking her progress. The process of awakening, having an epiphany, was not as simple as being logical and understanding what was right or wrong.
“Ma Go, that saying is nothing but a contemptible excuse made by politicians deeply stained by their greed. Nothing in this world truly belongs to you. Wealth stays with you or flows to someone else depending on fate. Do you just sit on all the accumulated spiritual power and do nothing with it? Of course not, you use your accumulated power to help undo the troubles of the mundane people, don’t you?
“A teacher spreads his knowledge to his students. Wealth is like that. Whether you have a lot of it or pitifully little, wealth is something given away by someone who has it to someone who doesn’t.”
Ma Go gasped in dizziness as if a lightning bolt had struck her.
The words of the great god shook her sixty years of life right down to its roots. Ma Go plopped down on the spot and fell into a state of contemplation.
Sun Woo Bang Na’s face brightened into a deep red hue.
Mu Ssang felt troubled. Now that the separated space had been undone, humidity and the temperate changes would soon start affecting these antiques. Not only did he not have anywhere suitable to move these things to, trying to move thousands of boxes would also be quite an undertaking. The only method he could think of was to close this place up again, then build a new storage area in Bullo-dong, his new home.
“Sun Woo Bang Na, can you install a formation or a barrier that can maintain the temperature and humidity?”
“My apologies, oh great god. I do not know such a technique. But if it’s a barrier that can hide the building or defend against intruders, then yes, I can do it, sir.”
“Good. Install the barrier right away to hide this basement, then temporarily move your residence to In Ae Won. Before leaving for Novatopia, you two will stay here and record the histories of these antiques. Compile the list of the pro-Japanese collaborators while you’re at it too.”
“Euk?! Y-you mean, every one of these, sir?” Sun Woo Bang Na’s expression crumpled instantly.
Even if she worked together with her daughter, they would have to stay cooped up in here for the next six months, pouring out every dollop of their spiritual powers until they bled from their nostrils.
She had been looking forward to an opportunity to show off her enhanced spiritual power, but now, she faced the unenviable prospect of overworking herself to death in some basement. The joy of discovering her country’s lost cultural heritage cooled off in no time.
“What’s wrong? Don’t want to?”
“N-no, sir. Of course not. What a worthy task this is, don’t you agree! This girl is happy, sir. Yes, she’s… Really happy,” Sun Woo Bang Na replied while shedding cold sweat. The great god treated her without worrying about one’s status and that made her temporarily forget about her position.
But Ma Go was grinning from ear to ear. Even if the great god told her, “Make me a needle by shaving down that metal club!” she would have believed that she fully enjoyed the process.
Gamulchi (Mu Ssang’s bike) entered a narrow alleyway flanked by houses with tiles, slabs and slates as their roofs.
“Huh? These punks are still digging up the road whenever they want!”
Only last year, the alleyway had been paved with stones, yet it was now in a state of total disrepair. The act of ‘refurbishing’ a perfectly-fine road just to receive extra budget had not changed, it seemed. Left with no choice, Mu Ssang parked his bike by the road.
Mu Ssang pushed open the pitch-black twig door by the stone wall. It was covered in the dirt of passing time. He did not sense any presence inside the house. He could not even sense that old lady either, the one who would usually blink her swollen eyes and ask, “Oh, Jin-soon’s man is home?”
“But she should be home from work by now… Mm?”
He finally sensed a person’s presence in the backyard. But when he got there, Mu Ssang had to hold his breath. The presence belonged to Jin-soon wearing a white jeoksam (a traditional Korean unlined summer jacket for ladies) and a skirt weaved out of ramie fabric. Thanks to her slim figure, the hanbok suited her so well.
Below the stone wall with ivy and muscadine vines clinging on was a small dining table with cabrioles. On this table were a bundle of mistletoe and a bowl of purified water. Jin-soon sounded like a mudang performing a rite to welcome a home-keeping god as she began talking to herself.
[Oh, my beloved. You leave, you leave, you leave again and depart again. How can our meeting be this brief yet the goodbyes be this achingly long? You’re on the other side of Earth, yet I’m here.
I’m not afraid of the distant and rough road, but I fear my dear will be troubled. Should I entrust my heart to the winds or the waves and send it to him?
The mistletoe’s fruits ripen, yet my heart remains empty. Even though butterflies flock when flowers bloom, and mountain birds fly in when the mistletoe’s fruits ripen… Even though my heart has ripened so much, my cruel beloved doesn’t spare me a glance.
Even if the ass has widened, my beloved still doesn’t know how to pound it. Fine. Do what you want. Do you know about the mistletoe and a tree? You better prepare yourself. Just like how a mistletoe buries its roots, I’ll stick my straw in you and fill the remaining years with unprecedented nagging…]
‘…What?! I’m f*cked!’
Mu Ssang sucked in a cold breath. Her lengthy monologue started fine, but it only became more twisted as it carried on. He felt his back go cold by Jin-soon’s firm resolve made with the mistletoe and a bowl of purified water.
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Buddha said that there were four ‘good’ wife types in this world. One, a mother-like wife; two, a sister-like wife; three, a friend-like wife; four, a servant-like wife. None of those types included a wife who swore to dig her roots and nag you to death though!
That thing about the ‘mistletoe and a tree’ was something he told Jin-soon last winter. Mistletoe was an evergreen shrub, meaning it remained green all year round. Its leaves fell in the winter and that made it look withered, and that was why this plant signified chastity and fidelity.
A mistletoe’s ‘pair’ was already decided; Taxillus yadoriki only grew on oak trees, while Korthalsella japonica only grew on camellia trees. It was the same story for mistletoes growing on chestnut trees, alder trees and birches. That is why mistletoes are usually compared to a compatible couple.
However, a young tree could wither and die from having too much of its nutrients sucked out by the mistletoe. The mistletoe responsible would die, too. That was why the plant signified a couple growing old together. It was also the reason why one asked for their partner’s hand in marriage under the mistletoe in Western European countries like France and Germany.
Of course, this was nothing more than humans’ arbitrary interpretation..
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