Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 534
Sang-han dazedly stared at the bamboo forest and the expansive lawn with a gentle stream flowing through it. Just how much money did Mu Ssang make to be able to build such a home?
Fickleness of fate, irony of fate, no gain without pain… Sang-han couldn’t think of a suitable idiom for this case. His not-so-smart brain could only make tumbleweed noises.
Every painting hanging on the wall looked artistic and gorgeous, while even the regular daily items oozed luxurious class. Simply having money would not have been enough to touch these things, never mind buying them. Suddenly, Sang-han could not bring himself to take out his housewarming gift for Mu Ssang from the plastic shopping bag — a cheap cuckoo clock.
His friend, who regularly went to sleep starving, came back super successful. But Sang-han, who helped out such a friend, could not even afford to buy a bottle of powdered milk for his child these days without counting pennies first. He was happy for his now-successful friend, but his own broken state left him in deep sorrow.
“Sang-han, you and Mu Ssang are best of buddies, aren’t you? Leave it to me, this mother of yours will say something to him, and…”
“Mother!” Sang-han loudly yelled at her.
“Goodness me?! You dummy, why are you yelling at me?”
“Mother, do not ever do that. Someone who tries to burden his friend isn’t a real friend. Don’t you know that?”
“You dummy. You think you have the luxury of sticking to your principles in your current situation? Even half of what little chickens we have left are falling dead these days. If this keeps up, we will be eating pebbles to survive, son.” Sang-han’s mother pounded her own chest in lamentation.
She knew Mu Ssang’s nature pretty well. She had no idea how that boy became so wealthy, but regardless of how it happened, he was not the type to ignore a friend in need.
“Don’t do that, mother. Mu Ssang used to starve back then, but at least I didn’t. I’m sorry about selling off the vineyards to pay for my treatment, mother. I swear to work hard and buy it back someday.”
“Sigh. My boy, what can you do with your hurt body? You can’t even join a construction crew, son. Watching your wife having to work her butt off to put food on the table is killing me inside. That’s why we should just throw the idea out there for Ssang to hear. Trust me, son. Keeping your mouth shut and not saying anything will only make Ssang resent you for not telling him the truth later.”
“Whatever the case might be, you can’t, mother. If you dare say anything unnecessary to Ssang, consider us finished, mother. Remember that.”
“Oh gosh, would you listen to this dummy? You’re a man, so what good are you if you’re so stiff and inflexible like a bamboo stick?!” Sang-han’s mother spat out a series of heavy groans.
‘…Those despicable bastards!’
Rage welled up in Sang-han’s heart. Was this his reward for picking up a gun for his country? A flood of emotions threatened to explode in his heart, but he did not really have an outlet to release them.
The people at the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs even threatened him with jail time for disrupting their work if he showed up there one more time. No matter how much he shook his fists around in anger, no one cared or looked his way.
“Dear guests, allow me to guide you to your quarters.”
Old Man Ali showed up to interrupt the conversation between the mother and son.
“Huh, what happened to Sang-han!” Mu Ssang quietly lamented after welcoming Bonipas to his home.
Seven years were definitely a long time. And it seemed that Mu Ssang’s friend had gone through a lot of trials and tribulations in that time.
Guests continued to arrive. Emil and Paul arrived first, followed by the General Director of DGSE, Bonipas, and Section Chief Ariba. Eungsim-je began to get livelier with the arrival of various guests, all wishing to congratulate the master of the house.
Bonipas just couldn’t sit still. He caressed the ‘byeongpung’ (traditional Korean folding screen), was visibly moved by the Goryeo celadons, and even started praising the beautiful patterns and elaborate construction of the hwamunseok (traditional Korean figured mat).
“Eastern Swordsman, don’t you think it’s rather uncouth for all these valuable antiques to be handled so carelessly?” Bonipas asked while caressing the hwamunseok below him.
He could not help but sigh in appreciation at the elaborate construction and detailed patterns. He felt the care of a true expert artisan and the wisdom of time from the mat, something he could not pick up from items made by famous brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior, or Van Creed Lapel.
“What’s the point of locking up all these antiques inside a heavily-secured storage to gather dust? I want the guests coming to my home to see and feel all these items containing the souls of my ancestors.”
“Ah. You’re quite proud of these things.”
“Korea’s history extends over five thousand years. If only our cultural heritage hadn’t been burned down or stolen from these lands during the frequent wartime chaos, not even Greeks or Romans can rival this country’s heritage. I plan to recover the cultural artifacts stolen by the thieves in the future. France is no exception.”
Bonipas’s expression crumpled slightly. He had been probing Mu Ssang with antiques as pretext, but he walked away with even less than before. France was second only to Britain when it came to stealing cultural heritages of other countries throughout history.
France did not even bother to respond to foreign governments requesting the return of their cultural artifacts. Hell, the French government snorted derisively at the Korean government’s demand for the return of all the stolen artifacts. But the matter would become a bit more complicated if Black Mamba got more hands-on with this issue.
“No need to fret, director. Other than a few ‘les manuscrits coréens’ , France doesn’t hold anything of note.”
“The hwamunseok you’re sitting on, the teacup in your hands, and the Korean desk before you are not antiques. If you visit the workshops, you can directly purchase them for dozens of Francs, or a couple of thousand Francs if you really push it. I can tell you that the level of the stolen craftwork aren’t all that great, director.”
“What? These weren’t antiques?!” Bonipas’s jaw dropped to the floor.
At a casual glance, all these items looked like expensive antiques, but to think that they were not… He was rendered speechless.
Mu Ssang chuckled while continuing on. “Still, these items are on another realm compared to the stuff from Hermès, Louis Vuitton or any other daylight robbers that fool their customers through elaborate high pricing policy. Hehe!”
Bonipas’s thoughts became complicated. Any patriot would feel proud of their own country’s tradition and culture. Despite being treated like France’s national treasure, it seemed that Black Mamba’s heart still belonged to Korea.
Bonipas sneakily caressed the dagger, Fang de l’abîme, stashed under his jacket. The unparalleled, unmatched blade fashioned by Black Mamba using his supernatural powers! The moment Bonipas received this weapon, he instinctively realized that he was now a member of the invincible Eastern Swordsman’s family.
Black Mamba was a collaborator that could be hired through money, but the invincible Eastern Swordsman was an existence engraved in one’s mind as their ‘boss’. Wanting to see his boss live a free and happy life, and the patriotic desire to see a valuable collaborator working for France… Bonipas felt at a loss as those two sentiments continuously tugged at him from two different sides.
“Wakil, Chairman Margerie has arrived.”
Old Man Ali’s announcement cut short Bonipas’s wandering thoughts.
“A real big fish has shown up, I see! To think that even Chairman Margerie would come to the housewarming. I guess Korea’s national status can’t even match up to the Eastern Swordsman’s personal status,” Bonipas, who was feeling a bit wounded in his pride until then, began muttering cynically.
“No eggs are bigger than their nests.” Mu Ssang replied nonchalantly.
Bonipas could not retort back. That was because he had spotted a group of people crossing the lawn. “…Wow, Chairman Javer!”
Bonipas shot up to his feet. The elderly gentleman chatting and walking alongside Chairman Margerie was none other Chairman Javer of Arevasa. Bonipas coldly rejected that man’s request for a face-to-face chat with Black Mamba, but to think that he would actually show up here.
Chairman Margerie’s steps gained pace after discovering Mu Ssang. He stopped on the terrace stones and bowed deeply. “Dapsang offers his greetings, Lord Dubaiburupa. Congratulations, sir.”
“Thank you for coming all this way. I’m happy to see you doing well.” Mu Ssang greeted back with a half-bow.
“It’s all thanks to your grace, Lord Dubaiburupa. It feels like my life has been given a restart and now, I’m living a new life.”
“That’s good. A healthy mind will reinforce your mind, too.”
“Yes, sir. You’re indeed correct. As for the result of the business venture, I’d like to submit a separate report later, sir.”
‘Did this friend of mine finally lose his mind?’
Chairman Javer stared in stupefaction at his friend currently acting like a devoted underling. Margerie fervently praised this young man as a one-of-a-kind prophet that the world had not witnessed before and now, he was acting like a slave catering to every need of his master. With things like this, Javer could not help but view this young Asian man as a leader of a shady cult or the likes.
Mu Ssang asked. “And who is this gentleman accompanying you?”
“This is the chairman of Arevasa, Voton Javer, sir. My apologies for not alerting you ahead of time.”
While making his introduction, Chairman Margerie elbowed the dazed Javer at the waist. Jolted awake now, Javer hurriedly offered his hand for a shake. “Ah, hello. I’m Voton Javer. Forgive me for my daring intrusion. I wanted to meet the master of Novatopia, Dubaiburupa.”
“Welcome to my home. It’s called Eungsim-je. In French, it’d roughly be the combination of ‘la vache qui vit dans la vallée ne connaît pas la douleur de la vache qui vit dans la colline’  and ‘le soleil brille sur tout le monde’  . It’s ‘Come as you like, and leave as you like’, in a way.”
“Thank you for welcoming this uninvited guest. After listening to all of Chairman Margerie’s tales about you, I simply had to meet you in person.”
“You meet only to learn that the other party is someone worth knowing. And after knowing, you become friends. As such, I wish for you to enjoy your stay here.”
Javer received Mu Ssang’s unfathomably deep gaze and flinched slightly.
‘He doesn’t seem like a fraud or a leader of a cult, at least…’
Javer was puzzled by this. Sure, this young Asian man in his mid-twenties was quite refined and composed like a real prophet, but that was about it. What did Margerie see in this man to recommend Javer to have a meeting?
“How have you been, Chairman Javer?”
“Oh? What brings you here, Director of the swimming pool?” Javer smiled brightly when Bonipas greeted him. The chairman had been pretending to not notice the General Director of DGSE even after spotting him some time ago.
‘What a sly fox…’
Bonipas’s expression crumpled unsightly. Director of swimming pool, was it? Javer was obviously mocking Bonipas’s nickname and the DGSE as a whole.
“Novatopia is a self-governing territory actively supported by the French government, chairman. As such, it’s only normal for me to come seeking an audience with its king. Why are you here?”
“Me? I’m just tagging along with my old friend. I’m a tourist, you see.” Javer shamelessly replied.
“The one and only Chairman Javer comes to a small country in the Far East that ostensibly holds nothing of value for him? And he’s claiming to be a tourist, too? If true, this story will show up in the front pages of Le Monde. But if you’re joking, sir, you must have an ulterior motive. Am I correct?”
“Haha. Director Bonipas. The world you live in might be overflowing with conspiracies and deception, but my world only has people and uranium. Besides all that, are you still unwilling to introduce me to Black Mamba?”
“Black Mamba is not someone you can meet just because you want to. After donating his reward of 100 million Francs as compensation for all the sacrificed soldiers, he has vanished without a trace.”
“Amazing!” Javer jumped up in shock.
“He’s more than just another superhuman, chairman. No, he’s far too eccentric for us regular people to judge.”
“Woah! To think that he’d readily throw away 100 million Francs, just like that. What an amazing man, indeed. Back then, I wanted to hire him for a commission, but now… I’d dearly like to meet him as a fellow human being.”
Javer’s eyes began sparkling.
“You will meet him sooner or later if fate wills it, chairman. However, you should consider decreasing the size of your entourage first if you’re serious about meeting him in person,” Bonipas muttered quietly. He was pleased by the sight of Chairman Javer failing to realize that Black Mamba was right in front of him.
“The size of my entourage, you say?” Javer shifted his gaze over to Margerie and noticed the latter’s silent nodding.
Chairman Margerie showed up with one interpreter, and that was about it. Meanwhile, Chairman Javer was being accompanied by over a dozen people. Obviously, the master of Nova would not look favorably at a person trying to display their status like that.
“My friend, you have plenty of time.”
That was the extent of what Margerie told his friend, Javer. The opportunity was laid out before him, and whether he made the connection or not would now depend on his own luck and discernment.
“Ogilvy, with the exception of one interpreter, all of you shall return to France.”
The middle-aged man named Ogilvy did not say anything else and turned around to leave, directing the entourage to do the same.
‘Oh? Not bad. As expected of a man who put 100 million Francs to rescue his employees.’
Mu Ssang was somewhat impressed. For people below you to not question and follow your orders that defied common sense, there must be a firm bond of trust between you and them. Either that, or you were an unspeakable tyrant.
Yijihana directed the chefs and bodyguards to quickly prepare the banquet venue. The required equipment, kitchen utensils and ingredients were provided by the French embassy, which also provided the vehicles for transportation.
On one side, Jang Shin set up a brazier and connected a gas canister to it. Inside the main house’s kitchen, Jin Soon and Ha Dong Daek directed five aunties from Jip-eun Dari to start frying and grilling. Soon, Eungsim-je was filled with aromas of various cuisines.
Yijihana cooked French and Arabian dishes, Jang Shin cooked Chinese dishes, and Jin Soon cooked Korean dishes. For the main course, the traditional Korean dishes like bulgogi (marinated slices of beef), broiled eels and galbi (grilled short ribs) competed for the honor with haute cuisine. For desserts, Korean cold noodles and shaved ice with red beans competed for attention against Jang Shin’s har gow (shrimp dumplings), stormy petrel’s nest soup and cold jellyfish salad.
The vast back garden became the stage for a recreation of a legendary banquet fit for the emperor of Qing dynasty, but with an international flavor.
As for alcohol, champagne was the overwhelming choice of booze. Bonipas provided an infinite supply of the high-class champagne, Dom Pérignon.
Champagne is originally pronounced as ‘chang-pa-new’; sparkling wine produced in France’s Champagne region is what’s came to be known as champagne. All the other sparking wines produced elsewhere could not legally be called champagne.
Korean guests enjoyed the unique foreign dishes, while the guests from overseas raved about the traditional Korean dishes. Doctor Giz grew resentful at how evolution restricted humans to having only one mouth, while Sun WooHyun became envious of cows for having four stomachs.
The aunties from Jip-eun Dari, hired by Ha Dong Daek for today’s work, could only watch on in pure stupefaction. They cowered in the face of the incredible residence. Theor brains simply could not come to terms with it. Then, their wits went on an impromptu holiday while they spectated on all these colorful foreigners.
“Seriously now! Never in my whole life have I seen such a rich household draped in money like this.”
“Wow, look at all these guests, they are all foreigners! Some are black, some are white, some are even red! I can’t no longer tell what’s going on here.”
“That man over there, what do you call it? An Arab? I think that’s what he is? His eyes are so deeply sunk in his skull, but his nose is so huge. Hohoho!”
“You’re right! That must be why we got that delivery of weird-looking lamb meat earlier.”
The old idiom said that three women coming together would leave no plates unscathed. Their hands continued to move nonstop — and so did their mouths.
“Listen, Ha Dong Daek. That young gent over there, is he the master of this place?” Yeongdong-daek, unable to keep a lid on her curiosity anymore, ended up asking that question.
It had already been thirteen years since Mu Ssang left Jip-eun Dari. All these aunties treated him like air back then, like how cows saw chickens. There simply was not enough common denominators to link that young, healthy and successful young man to the scrawny little boy covered in dirt from their memories.
“He’s really good looking, isn’t he?” Hadong-daek played dumb and asked back instead.
“Let me be honest here, I’ve never met a young man with such a good physique and a handsome face before in my whole life. I wonder, is he married? My daughter, Yeong-sun, is already at that age, so what should I do!”
“Stop making me laugh, will ya? Why would a master of a household this wealthy even bother with your Yeong-sun?”
“What was that? What are you trying to say about my daughter?”
Without any warning, Yeongdong-daek and Buksam-daek started bickering.
“You are being noisy, you two! Ha Dong Daek, just how did you stumble into working for a wealthy family like this one?” Maechon-daek asked while pushing her face real close.
Ha Dong Daek did not bother to reply, simply grinning meaningfully at the noisy aunties.
“Mom? Mu Ssang’s calling for you.” Yeon Soon stepped inside the kitchen to search for her mother, Ha Dong Daek.
“He said he wants to introduce you to the guests, so you should hurry, mom.”
“Alright. I can’t let those important guest wait for me, now can I?” Ha Dong Daek, with a satisfied grin on her face, threw off the apron and lightly dusted off her skirt.
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She hired the womenfolk from Jip-eun Dari precisely for this very moment. The thing was, Ha Dong Daek also had to suffer a lot of persecution from her fellow village women. By siding with Kim Mal Soon and looking after Mu Ssang, she naturally ended up as an outsider in her own hometown.
Ha Dong Daek knew how to hold her grudges.
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