Novel Name : Mercenary Black Mamba

Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 535

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“Say what now? Ha Dong Daek is going to introduce herself? This house must belong to Ha Dong Daek’s relatives for sure, then!”
“What nonsense are you on about? I know every one of Ha Dong Daek’s relatives, all the way to her eighth cousins. The richest of the lot is Mister Jo in Jinpyeong-dong, with fifty majigi [1] under his name.”
Maechon-daek in her early sixties was rather socially well-connected and that enabled her to quickly rebuke Yeongdong-daek. Aunties nodded in agreement. Ha Dong Daek had a different surname to them, meaning she did not have a lot of relatives here to begin with.
“Wow, you must be a really close relative to the master of the house since they are asking you to come and greet the guest and all. You should hurry now.” Yeongdong-daek urged on while taking down Ha Dong Daek’s skirt hanging by the clothes rack.
“Please hurry and finish frying all the ‘jeon’ [2] as well as finishing preparing japchae [3] and sundae [4]. Guests mustn’t run out of food, you know. I’ll quickly pop in and greet the guests, then come back to finish helping you.”
Ha Dong Daek put on the hanbok skirt over her work pants and exited the kitchen with lively steps. The women stood there, dazedly exchanging glances with each other. Their half-disbelieving expressions still clearly displayed how dazed they were about this whole situation.
A short while later, Ha Dong Daek returned to the kitchen. She was followed by Butler Ali and Sun WooHyun carrying mountains of gifts.
“Madam, we shall store gifts with large volumes separately. Will that be fine?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Do you have any other instructions for us, ma’am?”
“No. You must be terribly busy, so you should quickly return, Mister Ali.”
“Well, then. Please excuse us.”
Butler Ali conversed with Ha Dong Daek in fluent Korean before turning around to leave. Sun WooHyun next to him could only smile awkwardly in silence before bowing and leaving. Since he still had not fully mastered South Korean dialect yet, he figured that it might be better to keep his mouth shut rather than speak in his native North Korean dialect here.
However, the gazes of the middle aged ladies were fixed on Ha Dong Daek and no one else. A foreigner speaking Korean fluently should be a bizarre sight for these women, but they could care less about Ali at the moment. The five aunties rushed to surround Ha Dong Daek.
They couldn’t help themselves. A crow came back as a swan, after all. Ha Dong Daek’s deeply tanned neck was now home to a big diamond necklace, while sparkling bejeweled earrings dangled tantalizingly on both of her ears. The golden bangle around her wrist looked weighty, while her fingers were decorated with bejeweled rings gleaming beautifully under the light.
“Oh, my goodness! Ha Dong Daek, what are all these?!”
“L-let me see, too!”
“Oh, my! This is what they call diamond, isn’t it?
These women had lived all of their lives in the poor Jip-eun Dari wrestling with dirt, but they were still women at the end of the day. As such, their eyes were popping out of their sockets from the sight of the gorgeous jewellery.
Ha Dong Daek did not stop there and pulled out a blindingly-gorgeous dagger from under her jacket. It was an ancient Persian dagger encrusted with various diamonds.
“Gold trinkets or jewels don’t mean much, honestly. This knife here, what did they say…? Ah, right. It’s supposed to be a treasure used by a queen from a Persian empire thousands of years ago. They said selling this knife alone will be enough buy ten apartment blocks and I’ll still have some change left over.”
“T-ten apartment blocks?”
The jaws of all the aunties hit the floor.
“A foreigner gentleman of high station gave it to me as a present so I couldn’t say no, but what can an old hag with no hubby like me will do with a nice silver knife like this? I’ll just give it to Jin Soon later,” said Ha Dong Daek, while pretending as if this whole thing was nothing to fret over.
“That gemstone in the handle looks like a Cat’s Eye, doesn’t it? Look at how its middle section is shaped like a slit, just like a real cat’s eye! How mysterious. Ha Dong Daek, looks like you struck gold in the twilight of your life.”
“I’m not the lucky one, though. My daughters received an even greater gift than me, you see. It’s the case of Chul-Ho-Yi-Ban-Ho-Yi [5], in a way.” Ha Dong Daek even resorted to mouthing off a smart-sounding idiom to ram her advantage home.
When Mu Ssang introduced her as someone ‘no different from his mother’ to all those important guests, Ha Dong Daek nearly broke down and cried right there and then. Just that single introduction was enough to melt away all those moments of sorrow and hardship she had to suffer.
Mu Ssang’s introduction opened the floodgates; guests all enthusiastically cheered on and began showering Ha Dong Daek with gifts. She naturally panicked and tried to decline, only for Mu Ssang to tell her ‘Chul-Ho-Yi-Ban-Ho-Yi’.
She sneakily asked her eldest daughter what that phrase meant, and she was told that it roughly meant ‘what’s given away will come back in the future’.
“What was that? Your daughters also received jewellery as presents? How wonderful it would be if I also had a relative like the master of this household!” Deoksan-daek slapped the floor while clearly sounding envious.
“By the way, you’ve been saying Ssang this and Ssang that. Who is this Ssang?” Maechon-daek asked that question, sounding genuinely curious.
“You still haven’t figured it out yet? Don’t you know that this house is Mu Ssang’s?”
A grin bloomed on Ha Dong Daek’s face. Finally, here was the reason why she chose to hire the aunties from Jip-eun Dari. Mu Ssang probably would not be happy about this, but still. The hard feelings from the past were just too big to simply bury away, at least to Ha Dong Daek.
No woman could freely choose a boy or a girl to be her child. Even so, Ha Dong Daek gave birth to only daughters, leading to others labeling her a useless woman throughout her entire life. It was already terrible that her husband passed on from a car accident, but all these people viewed her as a lowly woman who had basically devoured her partner. Even though she had not done anything!
When she stayed close to Mal Soon, who happened to be a shamaness, people started calling Ha Dong Daek possessed. And when Mu Ssang helped out with the tuition fee for her daughters, a baseless rumor of her selling her body to get the money started doing the rounds too.
Her only crime was working herself to the bone until weariness was the only companion left, all for the sake of putting food on the table for her daughters. Young, immature girls that waited impatiently with their beaks wide open like a nest of swallow hatchlings. Indeed, all she did was sending her kids off to school so that one day, they could live like human beings.
If the fellow villagers couldn’t help her, fine. But why did they do something as terrible as making her life so miserable, too? Big sister Mal Soon also got harassed like this right up until she disappeared without a trace.
Obviously, Ha Dong Daek had been gritting her teeth and sharpening her knife.
“Who is Mu Ssang now?”
“Mu Ssang? Isn’t that the name of Indong-daek’s nephew…?”
‘Mu Ssang’ certainly was not a common name.
As the aunties began combing through their memories, Deoksan-daek finally recalled Indong-daek’s despised nephew named Mu Ssang.
“Wait, are you talking about Jin Bo’s son?”
“Oh, so you do remember. Yes, it’s that Mu Ssang. The boy who was treated as a low farmhand before he was falsely accused of being a thief and chased out of our village… He is the master of this household.”
Ha Dong Daek finally dropped the bombshell. The corners of her lips curled up, while the bustling interior of the kitchen suddenly fell into eerie silence.
All five aunties sucked in their breaths as their jaws hit the floor.
Mu Ssang that worked as a farmhand in Bak In-bo’s house! Even if a mulberry field turned into an ocean before their eyes, it would not even hold a candle to this revelation. Mount Baekdu blowing up wouldn’t be as shocking as this!
“Ssang couldn’t hold back anymore, and he ran away from his Baekbu’s [6] home just to attend middle school, didn’t he? That boy was always so smart and outgoing. Is it any surprise that he went overseas to find work and came back super-successful? And then, he called all of us here, saying we’re all family and we shouldn’t live separately and stuff. You see all those huuuge rooms over yonder? They all belong to my daughters, you see?”
Ha Dong Daek ruthlessly drove the nail in even deeper. The aunties were knocked around silly by Ha Dong Daek’s quadruple rhetorical questions.
“H-Ha Dong Daek, you also live in this house?”
“No, not yet. I’ll have to stay in Jip-eun Dari for a bit longer until my youngest graduates from the village’s school. The oldest three girls have already unpacked their stuff here, though! Oh, and let me tell you, Mu Ssang has been responsible for the school fees and allowance money for my girls all this time. Let me also tell you, I knew Mu Ssang would become someone great despite what everyone was saying back then.”
Aunties were now left stupefied by a round of ‘Let me tell you’ assaults.
“Oh my word! B-but, Ha Dong Daek, you aren’t even Mu Ssang’s real relative!” Yeongdong-daek’s eyes darted around. She was clearly feeling aggrieved about this situation, judging from the look on her face.
“Ha Dong Daek, did you save the Bak family in your previous life or something? And you haven’t even done much for Ssang, either.” Deoksan-daek said that out loud in jealousy.
Other aunties were seething in anger at all the luck landing on Ha Dong Daek’s lap. If they were to argue about closeness in the family tree, then they would no doubt be far closer to Mu Ssang by blood than Ha Dong Daek, yet this…!
“Y-you’re right. She only gave him some leftover rice dumped in cold water, handed out a couple of old clothes and gave him school fees a couple of times, didn’t she? T-this isn’t that old folktale about Heungbu, so how…”
Deoksan-daek and Maechon-daek were openly trying to take the shine off Ha Dong Daek’s actions that led up to this moment. But Ha Dong Daek almost broke out in laughter just then.
They actually had the gall to call him Ssang just now! These women called him an offspring of a whore or a concubine. They insulted him with labels like a son of a no-good shamaness, a bastard, a filthy scumbag and so many others. Since when did they start using his real name to call him?
“You’re right. I’m not even his hundredth aunt or something, so we’re definitely not relatives. It’s all thanks to how virtuous and kind Mister Jin Bo and Big Sister Mal Soon were, and how caring Ssang really is. All I did was take pity on Ssang going through so much hardship and gave him some leftover rice, you know? But he told me that just a single lump of rice and just one cup of water were more precious than all the treasure in the world to a thirsty, starving boy.”
“C-could it be… Did Ssang pay for your daughters’ monthly school fees, too?” Deoksan-daek suddenly butted in and asked a question.
After graduating elementary or middle schools, the girls of the village would either start working as conductors, domestic helpers or as factory workers. But, as if to mock that ‘tradition’, Ha Dong Daek sent all of her daughters to high schools and even universities. As this was the single greatest mystery in Jip-eun Dari, people began suspecting that Ha Dong Daek sold her body to afford such a thing.
“Of course. Where would I find enough money to send my kids to high schools and universities? I’d probably have sent them away to work as conductors or domestic helpers like other folks. Indeed, it’s Ssang that took care of their upbringing until now. Last time, he gave me twenty million Won to pay for the girls’ tuition, too!”
Ha Dong Daek raised her chin just a bit higher, her head arrogantly tilting about 15 degrees to the side.
“Huh?! T-t-twenty million!”
That was the sound of jaws permanently gluing themselves to the floor. Aunties, stupefied beyond description, momentarily forgot what was on their minds just then.
“T-that’s why those girls are attending universities and even bought all those farmlands, too…” Yeongdong-daek muttered powerlessly.
Trying to send just one child to a university was incredibly tough for a rural family leading a difficult life. One would have to sell their livestock and even their farmlands if they wanted to care for a university student’s needs. There was even a slang ‘Wugoltop’ (a building/structure built through tuition fees earned from selling one’s cows) that was invented to insult universities.
“A lump of leftover rice returned as ten apartment blocks, and some worn-out hand-me-downs returned as gold trinkets? And Mu Ssang also paid for the tuition fees and living expenses for all of your five daughters, too? And, and! You even moved into this exquisite palatial mansion? But I’m his real relative…” Buksam-daek muttered to herself.
She was the wife of Mu Ssang’s paternal first cousin, once removed. In other words, she was the real relative of Mu Ssang among them. Ha Dong Daek was neither a relative or anything like that. Her husband, Mister Jo, was a distant relative of Buksam-daek’s cousin-in-law. That made him, what, a hundred times removed?
A woman’s fate depended on her partner; if Mu Ssang married Ha Dong Daek’s daughter, then the widow that everyone looked down on would ascend straight up into the heavens. Look at how Ha Dong Daek’s nose was piercing the clouds already!
“H-Ha Dong Daek, why don’t we let bygones be bygones? Aren’t we all one big family? Anyways, I must go speak to Ssang right away.” Buksam-daek steeled her resolve and stood up. There had been some bad blood in the past, but she didn’t think anyone would spit on a smiling face.
“But, Ssang told me that… Even though he’s willing to forget some things, he will never forgive those who dared to belittle his mother and put her through hell,” Ha Dong Daek unhesitantly spat on the smiling face.
“D-did he now?” Buksam-daek stopped midway and plopped down on her butt.
If only she had tossed him some leftover food back then! No, wait, if only she hadn’t insulted and scorned that boy’s mother back then! She could’ve had pretext to cling onto Mu Ssang but now, she had nothing. Who could’ve predicted this turn of events! The unfairness of this whole situation brought tears to her eyes.
Ha Dong Daek’s cold eyes observed these aunties lamenting their life choices. It was said that as women got older, more and more of their energies would gather at their mouths. Woon, the story of Mu Ssang’s success would spread to all corners of the village, and their ultimate destination would be Indong-daek’s ears.
[You see? After discarding your humanity, your eyes became as blind as a bat’s. You all did your best to make Ssang’s life a living hell, but in the end? He’s come home as a real success story!]
Ha Dong Daek desperately wanted to shout those words out aloud. She desperately wanted to rip to shreds the hearts of that old woman who tormented her nephew till the end and these aunties that discarded their humanity.
‘Big sister… I’m not doing this because I’m a mean person at heart. Soon, the whole of Jip-eun Dari will be turned on its head. Oh, how I wish you were here right now to take a good look at the faces of these women! Even though I got my revenge, you still haven’t…!’
Ha Dong Daek sneakily wiped away a hint of tears in her eyes with the hem of her skirt. Kim Mal Soon’s pretty face ever so faintly lingered in Ha Dong Daek’s vision. Big sister, who looked so frail that even a gentle breeze could have taken her away…
She was subjected to a nonsensical level of slander and treated with contempt for no reason by these cheap women. That’s why she should’ve been here to take in the wonderful sight of them lamenting away like this.
Inside the vast study…
Mu Ssang and Sang-han settled down with a traditional Korean desk between them. Aromatic steam rose from the coffee brewed by Edel. But both men had not touched the cups yet.
“How did this all happen?” Sang-han suddenly threw a question out, hoping to break this weighty atmosphere.
Mu Ssang softly chuckled. “Well, it just happened.”
“…Ha, haha. I guess that’s like you.” Sang-han also began chuckling away.
It didn’t matter ‘how’, as long as the end result was good. No need to pry any deeper, in that case. In all honesty, Sang-han would’ve flown into rage if his friend still couldn’t succeed after going through so much crap in his life.
“What about you? How did ‘that’ happen?”
“Well, it just happened.”
Like how it was back in high school, Sang-han imitated Mu Ssang.
However, Mu Ssang didn’t chuckle at that. “Something like ‘that’ don’t just happen, bro. Let me see.”
He then reached out to roll up Sang-han’s trousers.
Mu Ssang’s expression hardened. This was not a living person’s calf but that of a mummy. As if a butcher had removed all meat from the bones, no muscles or tendons could be seen on Sang-han’s leg, only the wrinkled skin wrapped around the bone.
Mu Ssang could almost understand his friend’s decision to not amputate and continue to hold on.
“…Did you step on a mine?”
Mu Ssang was well-versed in the horrors of battlefields, and that helped him to instantly identify this wound as the one caused by exploding shrapnel.
“You can tell?” Sang-han replied disinterestedly as if it was none of his business.
Mu Ssang activated his Dimensional Sight. He could see that even the bones were badly affected, too. Capillary vessels failed to regenerate properly, causing inflammation to eat away at the osseous tissues.
“Did you call for me, sir?”
“Go and bring Doctor Giz and Director Bonipas here. And also tell Edel to come.”
“Yes, sir!”
Ali disappeared like the wind. Soon, Edel staying in the main house rushed in like a lightning bolt.
“Yes, oppa [7]!”
“Wait, what? Oppa?” Mu Ssang stared at Edel.
“Big sister told me to call you that. She said that ‘oppa’ is a wonderful nickname that can morph into ‘appa’ [8] any time.”
“Give me a break, will ya. You two are having so much fun, aren’t you? Fine, whatever. In any case, can you take a look at Sang-han’s leg for a sec?”
Edel took a closer look at Sang-han’s leg before shaking her head. “We’ll have to perform X-ray and MRI first to make sure, but his current state is definitely not great. Looks like inflammation has spread to his bone marrows, and his nerves seem to have died, too. He needs to amputate.”
“…Urgh!” Sang-han’s expression cramped up. He was frightened by Edel who could nonchalantly spit out such evil-sounding words when she looked like an angel.
“Rudrey, in your opinion, which will be a better option? Reviving his bones or inserting stents?”
“Even if we treat his inflammation and rebuild his bone structure, there’s nothing we can do about muscles and tendons that have withered away. Doctors can’t create something out of nothing, you know.”
“We can take care of that.”
Someone in the front room replied to Edel. Bonipas and Doctor Giz stepped into the study.
Mu Ssang asked Bonipas. “Are the prototypes available yet?”
“Yes, they are. The nickel-titanium shape-memory alloy prototypes were finished recently. They can be moved at will just like real muscle fibers by integrating electronic signal system.”
“That’s odd. How did the experiment progress so much, so quickly?”
“Hehe. We reverse-engineered the sample you sent to us. If the eggheads couldn’t even do that, they all deserve to get fired. We did finish the testing phase for leg muscles, but we will still need another two, maybe three decades before we can replicate the complicated movements of a human hand.”
Mu Ssang was left in awe at the Concretus’ technological prowess once more. Compared to the Billion Water Armor, these artificial muscles were positively primitive.
“How long do we need for the operation and rehabilitation?”
“Two months should be enough, provided that you can cleanly regenerate this fella’s damaged bones while Doctor Giz takes care of his neurotransmitters.”
“And the cost?”
“Twenty million Francs. But for free if you accept me as a Nova member!” Bonipas sheepishly grinned.
“Oh?! A sitting director of the swimming pool wants to become a member of Nova?” Mu Ssang’s dumbfounded eyes stared at Bonipas.
“I’ll be retiring in one year and six months, anyway. Since that’s the case, I need to think about how to put food on my table in my twilight years. I made up my mind back when you gave me the Fang de l’abîme. Don’t worry, I’ll pull my weight, at the very least,” Bonipas declared confidently.
“I’m guessing it’s because of that Rainbow Warrior terror incident?” Mu Ssang brought that up out of nowhere. That incident was actually a DGSE operation. Fitting for the organization’s reputation, the whole thing was a badly-handled mess.
“Someone has to take the fall, after all. And it wasn’t a job we could ask the Angel of Death to take care of anyway.” Bonipas replied with a wry grin.
From France’s perspective, Greenpeace became a part of the axis of evil when it began interfering with France’s nuclear tests that cost billions of Francs.
[1] Korean measurement for farmland
[2] Korean-style fried pancakes
[3] Stir-fried vegetables and noodles
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[4] Korean-style traditional sausage
[5] What comes from me will return to me one day
[6] Eldest uncle
[7] Affectionate term in Korean for close male friends or partner
[8] ‘Appa’ originally means dad but, as a slang, it can also mean ‘hubby’ or ‘father of my children’
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