Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 541
In the dog days of summer, they say that even a single grain of rice on your lips is now a burden. It means that one becomes tired and can’t be bothered by the sweltering heat. Mu Ssang was lounging on the floor on a wooden pillow, gently fanning himself. The fan blades made a clicking sound every time they moved. It was the sound of nap-interfering flies being struck down. It was also the horrible realization that this bamboo fan, with Jungsun’s traditional landscape painting, had turned into a fly swatter.
The main room, however, which had been built with geomancy and divination in mind, was kept cool by the breezes from the bamboo forest. A hollowed-out spreading yew from Mt. Baekdu was also used to make the hardwood pillow, which was carved for ventilation. A sikhye (rice drink) and a chilled fruit sundae sat beside his head.
This wasn’t a bloody war zone or a jungle where you couldn’t let your guard down even for a moment. His carefree demeanor exuded a will that, while he wasn’t doing anything, he still desperately wanted to do even less. This was euphoria, heaven on earth, and peace in our time.
“Oppa, the registration papers are here from the court~”
Jin Soon’s sharp voice pierced the tranquillity. Mu Ssang jumped to his feet.
“It’s the selection decision document.”
Mu Ssang said with a bright smile after reviewing its contents. With this single piece of paper, they had finally gotten past the red tape. Mu Ssang got on the phone right away.
“Hey, it’s Ssang. The legal process is finished.”
Passengers rushed out in a crowd late Saturday night at Daegu Station. The gate had just been blocked by a station employee. Mu Ssang frowned as he looked at the time.
“Oppa, over there!”
Jin Soon pointed to the stairwell. An intimidating man with a bear-like frame and the appearance of a bandit had just walked up the stairs with a sizable bundle of luggage. Mu Ssang’s frown melted away. It was Mu Ho.
Behind him, a stocky woman and a little girl with pudgy cheeks appeared. Mu Ssang couldn’t decide whether to cry or smile. Although much older, this big-eyed little girl with a red backpack and a bounce in her step was unmistakably Mina.
It upset him to see her in bright red shoes, a frilly skirt, and a sleeveless white shirt. Even at first glance, they appeared to be made of low-quality materials. She didn’t necessarily need to be in expensive clothing, but he was still unhappy.
Was it the thrill of the journey? Or the fact that she’d finally get to meet Papa? The young girl’s face brightened, and her steps became lighter. Her stride came to a screeching halt. Her big eyes began to tremble. She also didn’t seem to know whether to smile or cry before crying out.
Mu Ssang experienced a surge of emotions as a result of that single word. Joy, sorrow, rage, and loneliness… Mu Ssang spread his arms wide open.
The little girl crawled like a squirrel under the gate. Her left shoe was the first to fall off, followed by her right. She didn’t seem to notice as she ran toward him barefoot, jumping into his arms and sobbing.
“You’ve grown, koala bear.”
Mu Ssang’s voice trembled. Jin Soon wiped her tears away with a handkerchief. She was reminded of her Mu Ssang’s words about the importance of love in people’s lives. Mu Ho and his wife stood motionless as the young man and the little girl celebrated their reunion.
“I hate you, papa!”
Mina encircled Mu Ssang’s neck with her delicate arms. Mu Ssang’s heart was aching. She was far too young to have been apart for so long. He could tell she was determined not to let go ever again.
Days in Achimgari Valley after losing his memory flashed before his eyes. Every day after sunrise, Little Mina would pay him a visit.
Back then, the cabin he lived in was about 50 meters away from Grandma Hongchun’s. Mina crawled over to his place in the dead of winter and nearly gave her a heart attack. When Mu Ssang opened the door, she clung to his back like glue. She was desperate for attention. Mu Ssang blamed himself for not bringing her sooner.
“How long has it been? It’s been 5 years since we last saw each other.”
Mu Ssang felt Park Mu Ho’s hand on his shoulder. People in the precinct assumed they were brothers because of their similar names and physiques.
“You know me, I don’t have a lot to say.”
Mu Ho observed him intently.
“You’ve become a man!”
“I’ve got a long way to go.”
Mu Ssang grinned. It wasn’t much of a conversation for sworn brothers who hadn’t seen each other in 5 years. But that’s just the way men are.
“It must’ve been difficult to raise the kid.”
“No, not at all, not at all.”
Mu Ho’s wife flushed with embarrassment. She wasn’t thick-skinned enough to accept Mu Ssang’s gratitude. She was just a mother who loved her children and tried her hardest to make ends meet with what little they had.
“How come it’s just you two? Where are the kids?”
“Left them at her mother’s. Didn’t want to drag them along in this hot weather.”
It was most likely the wife’s decision. He could tell by looking at Mina’s cheap clothing.
“Yeah, let’s hurry. The weather in Daegu is a b*tch.”
Mu Ho used a handkerchief to wipe his neck. It wasn’t just the cold weather that made him break out in cold sweats.
“Nice to meet you, princess.”
Butler Ali bowed to Mina, who was wrapped in Mu Ssang’s arms.
“I’m not a princess,” Mina retorted, startled.
“You are now.”
Ali, the Butler, grinned. Mina relaxed as he gave her a soothing smile. Jin Soon suppressed her laughter. She knew his statement was more than just words.
The Mu Ho couple’s eyes widened. They couldn’t hold back their surprise in front of foreign cars and butlers in suits on standby.
“Oh my, is this your car?”
After seeing the almost gleaming Citroën, Mu Ho’s wife looked at Mu Ssang. Mu Ho was equally perplexed. The old foreign gentleman and the French vehicle did not match up with Mu Ssang who he remembered was dressed in rags and dying buried in the snow.
In the 1980s, owning a foreign vehicle meant you were at the top of the social ladder in Korea. Mu Ssang ignored Mu Ho and his wife’s puzzled expressions and gave an order.
“Ali, we’re going home.”
Ali got behind the wheel. Mu Ssang sat in the passenger seat, and Jin Soon and Mina sat in the back. M ina clung to Jin Soon and ignored the Mu Ho couple, with whom she had been living for the past five years.
‘Should’ve treated her better, ‘ Mu Ssang muttered under his breath. Children are extremely sensitive to the emotions of others. They also have a natural sense of who is in charge. Looking back, he was also the same.
“Wow! It feels like it’s sliding on the floor. It doesn’t shake like buses either.”
Mina exclaimed. She was as restless as a puppy in fresh snow. She leaned over the armrest and chattered nonstop in Mu Ssang’s ear.
“Is this papa’s car?”
“Yup, you’ll be riding this from now on.”
“Wow, really? You’ll be giving me rides?”
“Uh-huh, mister Ali or Jin Soon will give you rides if papa’s busy.”
“The grandpa’s name is Ali?”
“Yup, just call him mister Ali.”
“Hi, mister Ali. I’m Mina.”
“I’m aware, princess!”
Ali turned his head slightly and smiled.
“Hey, he called me ‘princess’ again. I’m Mina!”
Mina raised her puppy eyes to Jin Soon. She put two and two together and realized the woman Mu Ssang mentioned was the one who was holding her. She was a clever little girl.
“Fufu, I’m Jin Soon! How cute.”
Jin Soon slightly pinched her plump peachy cheeks.
“Are you papa’s wife?”
‘Eek! This little…’
The surprise attack caught Jin Soon off guard.
“Why do you call him papa?”
Jin Soon tried to avoid the question.
“Papa’s just papa.”
“Oh, really! I’m sort of like family that lives with him.”
Jin Soon felt comradery here. Not oppa, or dad, but just papa. She was the same way. Not really friends or dating… Just oppa.
“So I’m going to live together with papa and big sis?”
“You sure are. We’ll all live together now. You’re going to have to go to a different school, is that okay?” Mu Ssang asked.
“Yup, I’m gonna live with papa so it’s fine. I can make new friends.”
Mina smiled softly.
“Gosh, aren’t you all grown up?”
Mu Ssang stroked her cheek with his hand. He was overcome with emotion. Mu Ho’s stomach churned. She was so different and talkative than when she was at home. He felt so insignificant in comparison to his sworn younger brother.
The front gates swung open. Mu Ho and his wife’s eyes grew larger as they passed through the gates. The five sisters were there since it was the weekend and they all came out.
“Wow, so you’re Mina.”
“She looks so pretty.”
“Gosh, she’s so cute.”
Everyone’s attention was on Mina, and no one was paying attention to Mu Ho and his wife, whose jaws were on the floor. Mina’s eyes twinkled with excitement. She had never been the center of attention before.
“Hello, my name is Mina.”
Her bow nearly knocked the girls over with excitement. Mina was quickly swept away and vanished with the five sisters. Jin Soon and Yeon Soon prepared a late supper.
“Holy, I’ve never seen a table this large in my life.”
Mu Ho couldn’t hide how thrilled he was as he sat down. He’d never even heard of a table that could seat twenty people with room to spare.
“Oh my, the table is bigger than our living room.”
“Hey, what are you talking about. Mu Ho’s house is plenty big. It’s even got a yard that the kids could play in.”
“No, the house may be big, but it’s old and useless. A small apartment would’ve been better.”
Mu Ho’s wife waved her hand in disagreement. Mu Ho’s face stiffened, but she didn’t notice and kept going.
“A hanok  is better than any apartment.”
“And a thousand times better if it’s a hanok like yours. Mu Ssang, how did you make so much money?”
Mu Ssang felt uncomfortable with her thrusting herself like this without giving him and Mu Ho a chance to talk. He couldn’t tell them that he made that money by killing countless lives, selling oil, or taking advantage of the rich.
“I work as an international broker agent. I get a nice cut sometimes when I solve a particularly difficult problem.”
“Wow, really! How big of a cut?”
“Well, it depends.”
Mu Ssang avoided answering the question. She would start foaming at the mouth if he told her a digit from ten to a hundred million dollars. One mistake, and he would have to answer questions till dawn.
“So, how about my husband? What can we do? It’s difficult to make ends meet on a cop’s salary.”
She spoke too quickly and let too much slip out of her mouth.
“Stop exaggerating. You’re married to a stand-up police officer. I’m jealous of you.”
Jin Soon said this with a horrified expression as she looked at Mu Ssang. Mu Ho’s wife turned out to be the type of woman who is ungrateful for what she has and believes that the grass is greener on the other side. The type of woman Mu Ssang hated the most.
He had a reason for wanting to speed up the adoption process. There was no way this woman, who badmouthed her own husband in public, could take good care of Mina.
Mu Ssang internally clicked his tongue in disapproval. What a rude woman. They may be sworn brothers, but he didn’t really get to know Mu Ho’s wife. They had only ever met twice. It was when Mu Ho went on a business trip and he came down to give them herbs and roots from the mountain.
It’s an hour and a half walk along the mountain trail to get to Bangdong from Achimgari Valley. She didn’t even offer him a glass of water back then.
There was no way her marriage with the good-natured Mu Ho was going to go well. He took a peek at Mu Ho, who seemed to be maintaining his composure. Mu Ssang sighed. This woman was distancing him from his sworn brother.
Mina, unlike the Mu Ho couple, immediately adjusted to the environment. She kept chirping away next to Mu Ssang, paying no mind to Mu Ho and his wife.
“Papa, I really like the sisters.”
“Woah, look at you already sucking up. Hahaha!”
Mu Ssang roared in laughter as he fed Mina ribs he had sliced into tiny pieces. Mina gulped them down like a baby bird. Then tears started to roll down her eyes.
“Hey, hey, why are you crying?”
Ou soon wiped her tears.
“I’m just so happy. I’m so happy to be with papa. Because he promised. He promised to bring me home when I’m all grown up. I would dream about him coming back for me, and sometimes I wouldn’t. I was just always sad.”
Mina started bawling into Mu Ssang’s shirt. A sudden silence fell over the room. Mu Ssang gently stroked Mina’s head.
“Papa keeps his promises. You’re my daughter. Don’t worry about anything other than eating all you like, playing all you want, and learning whatever you want to. No scary animals or scary people will hurt you anymore. Because they’ll have to get through me first.”
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As Mina cried harder, the five sisters also joined in. The beginning of this relationship was with Lee Gi Su, who was once his mortal enemy. And Mina is the result of Lee Gi Su’s repentance. O How mysterious are the fates!
“We will teach you everything and buy you pretty clothes. Tell us whatever you need or want. We have a lot saved up, you know. We’re all family now.”
Ou soon exclaimed with confidence.
 Traditional Korean-style house