Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 539
“Are you worried, Chogori?” Mu Ssang asked in a disinterested voice.
“Are you not worried in the slightest, Wakil?” Bonipas countered with a question of his own.
A Predator’s combat power apparently rivaled Ocelot’s. Just what kind of a being was Ocelot? Both the DGSE and DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire; Directorate of Territorial Surveillance) were coming up with hypothetical defence situations against Ocelot even as they spoke, but the way Bonipas saw it, they were simply wasting their time.
You wouldn’t even have enough time to bring out the big guns to shoot back if an existence possessing a battalion-level combat power resorted to a hit-and-run tactic.
“What worries you so much, Chogori?”
“The Predators you have crushed came in various shapes and types, Wakil. And according to your analysis, they can practically appear from everywhere, whether it’s on land, underwater, in the air or even underground.
“The Predators that appeared in the jungles of Ituri all had something not quite finished about them. The eggheads at the DGSE’s analysis team think these monsters were just test subjects to see how good their environmental adaptability was. If we assume that our opponents are at the final phase in their experiments to successfully deploy biological weapons, then we shall see them used in actual combat situations in less than two years. And Wakil, you’re alone, sir.”
Bonipas stopped there, choosing to swallow back the rest of his words about what would Mu Ssang do if Predators attacked Korea, Novatopia and France simultaneously.
“Chogori. We don’t even know what will happen to us tomorrow, so what’s the point of worrying yourself sick with matters that might happen in two years? Being too nervous will lead you to make a mistake.
“You may have guessed it already, but let me clarify why I put on such a show back in the Yoa Lake’s shores. I did that so Novatopia’s citizens wouldn’t lose their resolve even if I’m not there. Besides, I’m not alone. You and Dapsang are here, and so are the Black Culture. And then, I also have a special friend as strong as me hiding in the shadows. Most importantly, I have hundreds of thousands of citizens I must protect.”
“There’s a special friend strong enough to rival you?!” Bonipas cried out in shock.
“You’ll find out in due course. I have my family here, plus countless many people willing to follow me. A person with something to protect is bound to be strong.”
Ripples formed on Bonipas’s usually hard-nosed face. The powerful being’s weighty declaration about being strong when there’s something to protect slammed hard into his heart just then. Wakil’s figure overlapped with his own that had been hiding in the shadows trying his best to protect France for the past several decades.
Did the riches and freedom France enjoy just fall out of the sky one day? Of course not. Countless others just like Bonipas had to throw away their valuable lives to achieve the current state. He began thinking that it was a pity that France was not included in the list of things that needed to be protected.
Despite accepting Black Mamba as his boss, France being Bonipas’s birthplace hadn’t changed.
“Wakil, you’re a billionaire with one of the greatest oil reserves in the world as your asset. Not only that, you’re also the king of a nation. Are you not worried about losing everything?”
Bonipas asked that question he always wanted to ask.
“Hahaha! Chogori, listen.” Mu Ssang laughed out loudly before staring at Bonipas with unfathomably deep eyes. “No one emerges from their mother’s womb while clutching gold bars. You’re born with nothing, and if you get lucky, you might get to achieve something big once before dying of old age. That’s life in a nutshell.
“Nothing in this world is mine nor is it truly yours. They simply stay with you temporarily as fate dictates it. Just like how some of France’s budget trickled into my bank account, and like how I managed to get my hands on the oil slumbering away underground, what’s in my possession will one day trickle into somewhere else where they are needed.
“In this scenario, I’m merely a nice manager who uses his assets in an efficient manner, that’s all. They were never mine, to begin with, so why should I worry about them?”
At the end of his sermon, Mu Ssang grinned brightly.
“…Ah! Em-mu-so-ttu Ee-sang-gi-tteem!” Bonipas gasped out in amazement that would’ve made Buddhist monks blush.
He had been idolizing Black Mamba’s boundless ambition, but the latter said that was not it. That vague aphorism about how Mu Ssang did what he wanted without holding back himself in fear? Bonipas thought he could more or less understand it.
“Power is even more transient than wealth. Do you say I’m a king? No, I’m just a meddlesome idiot who gladly took on hundreds of thousands of headaches. Wouldn’t you say that it’d be far more liberating and relaxing to build a flashy mansion in the spectacular Alpine mountainside and live my life carefreely? Or how much fun would it be by building myself a ten-thousand ton yacht, load it up with beauties from every nation on Earth and go on a leisurely cruise around the world?”
“Honestly, that sounds pretty appealing, boss. Isn’t that a romantic dream of any red-blooded man? That’s why you’re a great man, boss. Even though I still can’t figure you out.”
“That’s not it, either. I simply asked for trouble of such a scale because my wish is to do something meaningful and die with honor as a man. In other words, I’m a seriously selfish fool. Hahaha!” A grin spread on Mu Ssang’s face as the corners of his lips curled up.
“Since the invincible Eastern Swordsman says he’s a selfish fool, I’ll strive to become another selfish fool as well. I’m glad to have met you, boss.” Bonipas bowed deeply where he sat without even realizing it.
Various worries and uneasiness crushing down on his chest disappeared like melting snow. Bonipas had seen his fair share of politicians and philosophers willing to figuratively sacrifice themselves to better this world, but none of them was what you’d call a true man who managed to transcend the shackles of fame and fortune.
This wasn’t about one’s abilities, not his personality or wisdom gained through one’s age. Bonipas felt awakened and awed by Mu Ssang’s declaration of leaving behind one’s name and dying with honor and pride since he was born as a man. No matter where this man goes in the future, Bonipas would surely follow him. Just like how a new bud of life sprang to life on a withered old tree, fervor and passion began raging in Bonipas’s heart.
Javer was trying to sleep, but when someone knocked on the door, he instinctively confirmed the time with his pocket watch. It said two in the morning. Who would even think to pay a visit at this late hour?
More knocking noises came back as a reply.
“Oui, I’m coming!”
Javer threw on some clothes and pushed open the strange traditional screen door made out of paper to the side.
Javer kissed the floor with his butt and hurriedly crawled away. But that was because of a black panther with fur as black as the night standing in front of the doorway.
This massive black panther silently standing aloof under the moonlight didn’t seem like a part of reality but Javer’s imagination. He quickly pinched his cheek. This was not a dream.
The black panther quietly studied Javer without moving an inch. Those eyes didn’t emit bone-chilling killing intent as a normal wild predator would, but they looked far closer to that of a normal person’s, with distinctive irises. Javer eventually recognized the sentiment reflected on those eyes — it was disdain.
The beast before Javer’s eyes was no ordinary animal. Not only wouldn’t there be a panther tall enough for its shoulder line to reach Javer’s chest, but no panther of any kind would also possess eyes as clear as a young human child’s like this particular creature did. Could it be an ancient beast possessing intelligence, then?
Javer hurriedly swallowed back his own words. This creature could not be a Fenrir. The ‘Fenrir’ could only be revived with the presence of a Philosopher’s Stone from the Kingdom of Dahomey, but that object had vanished a long time ago. But the Americans couldn’t have sent a Chimera here either — creatures manufactured by messing with genes of other animals. Although Javer had never seen a Chimera before, he still heard that those things were vicious and extremely feral.
Javer asked the black panther a question. “Did you knock on my door?”
The creature silently nodded.
“Holy cow. You can understand me?”
The black panther nodded again, then turned around to leave while wagging its tail ever so lazily.
“…You want me to follow you?”
The black panther nodded again.
“I won’t. Definitely not!”
Javer wanted to confirm if the black panther understood human words or not. A smart dog could be trained through repeated routines to recognize certain commands, but even they couldn’t understand a more complicated set of words. Even the Chimeras manufactured by the Yanks acted according to their instincts.
‘What the hell, is this old human trying to mess with me?’
Kamdoong was getting ever so slightly ticked off. If only the invincible Eastern Swordsman didn’t ask it to bring this old human in one piece without any harm done to him… Kamdoong would’ve knocked the old man out and dragged his butt over to the meeting location.
Cold glares sharply flickered in Kamdoong’s eyes.
Without even realizing it, Javer hurriedly stumbled back in alarm. Kamdoong lazily raised its front paw before lightly swiping at the empty air. A drainpipe made out of stainless steel was cleanly sliced apart. It was obviously threatening him.
‘I don’t know what this creature is, but there’s no doubt that it’s a real monster.’
Javer was coated in cold sweat now. No matter how sharp the claws of an animal was, there was simply no way that it could slice apart metal without making any noise whatsoever. Not only did this animal before his eyes perfectly understand human speech, it even knew how to threaten like a mafiosi too.
It didn’t matter whether this creature was a Fenrir or not, it being a dangerous existence did not change at all. Javer followed after Kamdoong as if he was in a trance.
Kamdoong trundled lazily into the pitch-black bamboo forest. Javer following behind couldn’t help but tense up a little. Although it didn’t seem likely, if that black panther stopped being so merciful, then he’d end up as a meal in a blink of an eye.
Suddenly, his view got brighter. A small pavilion appeared under the moonlight like some kind of a mirage. The full moon emitting cold but calm light from the heavens, bamboo trees creaking against the winds, and a small pavilion with a tiled roof in an octagonal arrangement… It certainly was an elegant scenery he had stumbled into.
“Why did you lead me here? …Huh?!”
The black panther before his eyes had vanished without a single trace. Even though the moon and the outdoor lamps around the pavilion were so bright! Javer hurriedly scanned his surroundings but he could only see creaking bamboos. As he thought, he must’ve been entranced by a ghostly monster or something.
“What is your reason for trying to see me, Chairman Javer?”
A stiff, harsh voice suddenly rang loudly in Javer’s ears. Stunned, he hurriedly scanned the surroundings once more. His gaze eventually went up just in case, only for him to gasp out in surprise again. “Huh!”
A dark shadow was standing tall on top of a bamboo tree piercing the heavens above. As if he was a part of the bamboo tree swaying in the winds, the dark shadow also swayed without falling off. What a bizarre scene this was. After the monstrous animal, it was now the turn of a monstrous human to make an entrance.
“W-who are you?”
“I’m Black Mamba.”
A bone-chilling wind brushed past Javer’s chest just then. He never imagined that their encounter would happen in this manner. He couldn’t even be sure if that dark shadow was a human, to begin with.
Javer sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm his mind. He certainly didn’t earn the position of the world’s best atomic energy group chairman through a game of chess, after all.
“My neck is aching from trying to look up. Is it possible for you to come down here so we can at least chat face to face?”
Javer’s heart was racing. Finally, the man that everyone was dying to learn whether he even existed or not had made his appearance. Javer had finally met the man who didn’t even seem like a human being.
“Your neck might hurt, but I had to rush to this far-flung corner of the east at a great cost to myself. I repeat, what is your reason?”
“It’s because of the jungles of Ituri. It concerns a matter far more important than the uranium mine from our last transaction.”
The individual standing tall on top of the bamboo tree flew up into the night sky, then scythed through the air like a swallow to land gently in front of Javer. The old chairman was visibly amazed. As expected of Black Mamba capable of roaming the Ituri jungle as if it was his living room!
Javer hurriedly swallowed back his shocked cry. The face he saw was at the peak of sheer ugliness. Eyes so small and narrow, they might as well be buttonholes, instead; ungainly protruding cheekbones; mottled skin, reminiscent of a crocodile’s leather…
‘How can a person be this ugly?!’
Javer swallowed back his saliva pooling in his mouth. Black Mamba seemed like a desert-dwelling Arab with 25% African blood coursing in his veins. But his ugliness was making it near impossible to figure out what his race actually was.
Mu Ssang was chuckling inwardly, however. Javer’s torment was understandable, since Mu Ssang combined the faces of three men widely acknowledged as quite ugly into one — Ombuti, Sun WooHyun and Samdi. A simple double eyelid procedure alone was enough to transform the impression a person’s face gave off, after all.
Manipulating his own skin wasn’t that hard when relying on the resonance wave and the inhalation wave. Focusing pigments to temporarily create dark spots on the facial skin was also not that difficult. The actual hard part was maintaining the transformed face. The root of all the unorthodox schools of martial arts, such as Dimensional Sight, resonance wave and telekinesis was willpower. Meaning, Mu Ssang had to focus quite a lot of his mental energy on maintaining his new look.
“Javer, I’m not handsome enough for you to stare in stupefaction like that. Is there a reason for you to thoroughly memorize how I look?”
A chilly voice seemingly rumbling out of the depths of hell shook Javer’s eardrums. After he was called out, Javer quickly regained his wits. He reminded himself that the individual before him was not human. He shouldn’t expect manners or the patience of a human, in other words.
“Before we start, I’d like to express my respect and awe at your abilities and courage. Allow me to get to the point. I’d like to buy your services for the down payment of one hundred million dollars. Of course, the payment after the successful operation will be much higher.”
“Sounds like it will be a difficult assignment. Unfortunately, you found the wrong guy for such a job. I’m tied to the French government, after all.”
Javer flinched ever so slightly at Black Mamba’s disinterested attitude. A hundred million dollars equaled three hundred million Francs. And this was only the down payment; it’d still be his money even if he failed the assignment. The money on offer certainly matched the scale of the seat of chairman of Areva S.A.
“I already know that you’re not an agent but a freelancer. This assignment shouldn’t be difficult for you, since you are capable of roaming around the Ituri jungle like it’s your living room.”
“Hmm. Sounds like you’ll only reveal the contents of the assignment after getting a yes from me. One hundred million dollars is by no means a pocket change, but I’ve already made enough money.”
With that, Black Mamba stopped talking. As if he had already forgotten about Javer’s presence, he turned his head and fixed his gaze on the Milky Way crossing the night sky. His attitude seemed to say, ‘I don’t care whether you request me for a job or not’.
Javer hesitated for a little while before opening his lips in some difficulty. “Whew… It’s my loss, then. The assignment is to recover a small rock about twice the size of a quail egg. Its notable characteristics include a greenish-blue hue even murkier than a sapphire, and you feel a lot of warmth when holding it in your hand.”
‘What’s this? How does he know about Ange Sikager?’
Mu Ssang peered deeply into Chairman Javer’s eyes. To think that someone would actually be searching for ‘Ange Sikager’ hidden within his inner pocket! Mu Ssang tried all sorts of methods to figure out what this small rock even was, but so far, he had nothing to show for it. He suddenly felt tempted to temporarily forget about his own creed of not using his powers on a regular, powerless civilian.
“Do you think the jungles of Ituri is a drawer in your study you can open and shut whenever you want? You want me to stumble around blindly inside a terrifying jungle well over 50,000㎢ wide for a rock?”
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Javer hurriedly raised his hands. “Of course not, Black Mamba. That stone is actually in the possession of a Pygmy band living in that jungle. Unfortunately, I don’t know which one has it, and worse still, there are twenty-five Pygmy bands in Ituri.”
Mu Ssang flinched slightly. That confirmed it, Ange Sikager was definitely the rock Javer was searching for. The rock he got as a gift after saving the old couple in the Olonge village.
“If you’ve already narrowed down your search range, is there a reason for you to hire me at such a great cost? A bigshot like you would surely have a private force of your own. And you could even hire a mercenary company to acquire extra combat strength, too.”
“You’re correct. I’m sure that no one out there knows more about the Ituri jungle than me. Ever since my teenage years, I’ve been chasing after that rock. So far, I’ve led five expeditions into that damn jungle and every single time, came back home empty-handed. And starting around three years ago, the whole of Ituri seems to have gone mad. That jungle was already horrifying, to begin with, but at least it didn’t have actual monsters back then.”
Javer slowly shook his head. The jungle itself was monstrous, and being attacked by actual monsters that firearms couldn’t even suppress was a nightmare in itself..