Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 592
Chapter 592 Chapter 54 Episode 3 Cause and Effect
“Huh-uh. This must be my first time being able to breathe with little restraint. What happened here?”
Bak In-bo breathing precariously until a few moments ago, opened his wide as if he had discovered a new world. He had to live with death always breathing down on his neck for the past few years. He used to confidently say that not finishing what needed to be done was more fearsome than death, but facing his mortality helped him to realize that his ignorant remark was just that, a statement made to hide his fear.
He feared the very thought of death. The soul-wrenching pain he felt whenever he tried to breathe was now gone. His breathing was so easy and simple now, and his chest that used to weigh like a ton, felt like a bundle of feathers. He was flailing around with desperation in absolute fear, pain, and terror, yet his nephew rescued him with just a few well-placed slaps on his body. Was Mu Ssang some kind of a physician of souls or something!?
“It’s just a simple trick that anyone with the ability to control ki can pull off, uncle.” Mu Ssang replied nonchalantly. It was as if he simply applied antiplasmin and put a band-aid over a scrape. “A simple trick, you say? In that case, it’s a straightforward trick, then! It feels like you’ll know a lot more about how much time I have left than the actual doctors. Hehehe!”
A burst of laughter burst out from Bak In-bo all on its own. He knew the state of his body better than anyone. During the past eight years of his suffering from pulmonary emphysema, modern medical science strived tirelessly to save the internal organ ruined by malignant tumors and fibrosis.
Yet his nephew managed to instantly cure the illness that not even the qigong therapy, religious prayer sessions, herbal remedies, home remedies, and various other medicines had not healed. Not stopping there, he even called it a ‘simple trick,’ too. Just how incredible was he in that case!
“Whether it’s your lungs, liver, heart, stomach, or intestines, none of your organs seem to be in good shape, uncle. So I’ve dislodged and removed the accumulated micro-particles and inflammatory substances in you and tried to dissolve some of the blood clots blocking your blood vessels. Once capillary vessels regenerate in those tissues with fibrosis, and you get your immune system back up and running again, I guess you’ll have another five years or so left.”
If nothing had been done, his uncle would’ve died even before a doctor arrived in the office. So the current phenomenon was a peculiar situation, the Angel of Death transforming into the Taoist God of Life.
“Oh-ho! That alone is already good enough, nephew. Not sure what’s going on here, but thank you.” Bak In-bo’s expression grew radiant with joy. “No need to get too excited, uncle. After all, this is merely the last gasp of brilliance from a dying candle. But, on the other hand, if you push yourself too hard, then you may end up crossing River Styx in two, maybe three years.”
Mu Ssang felt his innards twist slightly, so he threw some negativity out there. He rushed here, planning to give back everything he had received all those years ago, but somehow ended up being a classic gentleman to a villain deserving of a brutal thrashing. He hated how soft he was acting right now, but what could he do? This uncle of his was the closest remaining family member under the sun. He should save the older man first before doing anything else.
“A damn wife that fed poison to her husband. A reprobate daughter that went missing one day. A son hangs out with gangsters the whole day and wreaks havoc all over… So let me ask you, nephew. What’s the point of trying to eke out one more second of my life when both my body and home are wrecked beyond repair? The body’s hunger can be soothed with a bowl of hot beef-bone soup. But nothing can soothe the spirit’s needs. You ought to know.”
Bak In-bo mumbled out a lengthy essay. His children raised with much care and time withered away into weeds, while the nephew thrown out to a rocky field transformed magically into a rugged, unyielding pine tree.
An old saying about a curved pine tree protecting your family’s burial grounds. Bak In-bo of the past never imagined that he’d leave the family’s future affairs to his nephew. Humans were never meant to figure out how the heavens calculated aggregate debt sums, it seemed. With all the clogging dust dripping away from his heaving chest, only regret remained to fill it up to the brim.
“It’s cause and effect, uncle. When you reach the underworld and meet my father, you should apologize to him.” Mu Ssang threw out yet another cutting remark.
If you earned something, you’d also lose something in return; that’s how life operated. His uncle lived a life of lining up his own pockets by wringing out every drop of blood-tinged tears from the eyes of other people. As such, his end would not be pretty.
“Not sure about that. I think I’d be too ashamed to look Jin-bo in the face. All those years ago, Jin-bo sent me a letter to save the sorry a** of this worthless brother of his. I mean, unless we’re talking about an episode of Hometown Legends, an object can’t travel between the world of the living and the land of the dead, no? There’s only one person who’d start a letter with, ‘From Jin-bo to big brother’…”
Bak In-bo narrowed his eyes and threw Mu Ssang a suspicious glance. However, the latter wordlessly stared at the passing clouds outside the window.
Human hearts were hard to predict, but seasons constantly changed as dictated by the heavens. Somewhere in the far-off distance, but still under the same skies, was Mu Ssang’s mother, most likely eking out a difficult life.
Feeling sheepish now, Bak In-bo decided to change the subject. “I know I have no right to ask you this, but… how have you been?”
“Livestock can’t survive outside the pen, but a wild beast can only survive after escaping from the captivity, no?” “That’s true.” Bak In-bo nodded without even realizing that he did. His nephew was indeed an unfettered, ferocious beast. Not some average lynx or a panther either, but a Siberian Great Tiger. He chose to endure and stand his ground at Jip-eun Dari because he had hidden motives. That boy was not a talented egg who’d remain confined in pen, that’s for sure.
“You must’ve resented me a lot, nephew.”
“Denying that will be a lie, sure. But after going through so many close brushes with death in dens of devils and having seen the unforgiving world out there… Even that turned out to be nothing major, uncle.” “Fuu… I’m sorry.” Bak In-bo sighed deeply in sorrow.
“I thought you’d be living it up right until your final days, so what’s the story here, uncle?”
“It’s my comeuppance.”
“Fuu-hut!” Mu Ssang snorted involuntarily.
Did he say comeuppance after all he had done? Was this older man messing around now?
“Why did you transfer the house and the land in Jungguk-ma to my name? Were you expecting me to go, aigoo“, thank you so much, uncle?”
“I’m just returning Jinbo’s house and the farmlands, plus twenty majigi-sized farmlands he was supposed to inherit to you, that’s all. The transferred rice paddies are around thirty-five majigi, while the vegetable fields are about four majigi.
“Even in the Bible, it’s written that what’s Caesar’s must be returned to Caesar. Since Jin-bo isn’t around anymore, it’s only fair or just that his son inherits them all. It’s all my fault. I wished to reduce my regret somehow by doing this. I realized way too late that nothing’s more precious than my parents, siblings, and nephew. I’m truly sorry.” “Huh. You… have changed a lot, uncle.” Mu Ssang was taken aback. Uncle had changed. This older man was not the type to say sorry, even if someone pressed a knife to his throat. Instead, he was the type to sell off his ancestors if he could earn an extra buck for doing so. “Well, it’s because I’m at the death’s doorstep, that’s why! Isn’t it supposed to be like, when a person changes so much, that’s when they are about to die, no? Hahaha!” Bak In-bo chuckled loudly.
“Is that why you put up the operating cost for In Ae Won and four other orphanages in Anjirang?” “Huh. You already know pretty much everything, don’t you? Some time ago, I ran into Monk Bumwoo. He told me that a muscular stranger suddenly showed up to save all the kids in danger and dealt with the gangsters. I’m now convinced that it was you. Makes sense since you were not exactly what people would call ordinary, even as a little kid.
“What I’ve done isn’t something to advertise, anyway. I only did it thinking that maybe I’ll derive some solace for myself by doing so. All I have left is cash reserves, after all.”
“Is the money the reason for your fallout with the Jang family? And why did you decide to disrupt your in-law’s foundation?”
“This is creepy. How do you know so much about what I’ve been doing? Then again… you wouldn’t have sent me that letter if you didn’t know anything. Rather than money… it’s more of my pride at stake. As a man, I should give back as much as they gave me.” “Uncle, do you still remember the incident when I paid up all four months of unpaid school fees?” Mu Ssang suddenly brought out a tale from the distant past.
Fifteen years ago, the immature thing he did got him falsely labeled as a thief. It was the only action in his life that he was not proud of.
“That’s already fifteen years ago, isn’t it. I already figured out that you didn’t steal that money. I mean, you’re the type to destroy a shop, not a small-minded crook stealing some pocket change, after all.”
“Fut!” Mu Ssang chuckled at that.
Folks who knew the human Bak Mu-ssang the best were Jin-soon and his master. His uncle was probably the third on the list.
“Earlier in that day, I found a snake of luck traveling down the drainpipe from your house’s eaves. I quickly grabbed it and sold it to a traditional medicine shop. They gave me 1,200 Won. I used that to pay for the unpaid school fees and even bought a book with the change. So, Uncle, let me return that stolen money.”
Mu Ssang pulled out 1,200 Won from his wallet and placed the money on the coffee table. This was his way of voicing his resistance to his uncle returning the land after so long “Kekeke. I always wondered where you got hold of the money from, but I see now. You simply caught a lucky snake and sold it. But seeing how I still gathered magnificent wealth, I guess that little guy was a fake! However, I’m still the bad guy here after making you work as an enslaved person with no pay. Kekeke!”
Bak In-bo cackled self-deprecatingly. His nephew got kicked around mercilessly by the vice principal for unpaid fees, causing the boy’s ribs to break and his intestines to bleed. Bak In-bo blackmailed the vice principal and lined his pocket when that happened. Looking back now, even he couldn’t understand why he was such a monster during those years.
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Bak In-bo silently stared at the money before slowly shaking his head. “Alright. I returned what needed to be replaced and got back what needed to come back to me. And you are one evil kid for harboring that resentment to this day. It makes sense that you still call her Missus Jang with your temper, huh. Then again, you started calling my wife Missus Jang when you were ten years old, no?
“They say that even if you hate someone, you’re bound to resemble that person sooner or later. And you ended up resembling me. Hahaha!”
Bak In-bo felt pleased with that moment. A man had to be driven hateful even if he wanted to achieve something grand. He was sure now that his nephew was the perfect man to inherit the company. “I certainly can’t call a witch that tried to dig out my father’s grave and curse his soul, my aunt, now can I?”
“What?! That b*tch!” Bak In-bo was rendered speechless.
But then again… that woman even tried to poison her husband to death. So nothing was probably off-limits or considered improper for her.
“I’ve already buried her henchmen six feet under. I also went to Missus Jang’s place to kill her, but… I didn’t want to dirty my hands, so I held myself back.”
“Huh-uh!” Bak In-bo sighed at length.
That sigh was a palpable signal that his life energy was seeping out of him like cigarette smoke. He wasn’t free from his wife’s evil actions. He was too ashamed to even look at his nephew’s face right now. “I’m truly sorry. But, there’s no need for you to do anything. The Jang family is finished now. They are putting up the final struggle, but it’ll be too difficult for them to rise again.”
‘A fight between a king cobra and a black mamba, is it?’
Mu Ssang silently nodded. Habitats of king cobras and black mambas were different, so they would never run into each other in the wild. But lock them up inside a restricted space, and they would end up dying together while trying to devour each other. A black mamba’s venom was indeed potent, but a king cobra exceeded it in terms of size and physical strength. Mu Ssang was well aware of how his uncle viciously robbed the Jang family through Samshik Capital. Uncle was driven, vicious, and obsessive enough not to desire to lose advantages to anyone. Meanwhile, Missus Jang was not what you’d call an average person, either. Since two venomous people were clashing against each other, things were bound to get very bloody.
“Uncle, are you happy now?” Mu Ssang abruptly asked that question.
Bak In-bo flinched. ‘Happy’ was one word he had forgotten about for so long.
“My life has been in vain, so what happiness are you even talking about, nephew? Now that I stand at the end of my life… That question is just too cruel for me to think about.” Bak In-bo rubbed his craggy face with both hands.
He raced after a bluebird called money all his life, but that bird turned out to be nothing more than his stubbornness flapping its wings of futility. “Uncle. What I’m about to say might be tough to listen to, but you still need to hear it. Happiness and misery are reflections of oneself on a mirror called the ‘other side. You keep staring at yourself, crushed by pain and rage every single day, and that’s why you can never be happy.
“Uncle, you and Missus Jang use rage and hatred you have for each other as your fuel to wreck yourselves. You two even spew enough venom to destroy your closest family members, too ruthlessly as a result. Hwa-ja is a mess, Wu-tak has strayed down the wrong path, and even the once-normal older sister Hui-ja ended up with a psychological issue. My father lost his life, and even my mother went missing.”
Bak In-bo’s expression crumpled like a discarded newspaper. Then, finally, the topic about Mrs. Je-soo had reared its head. He had been praying that his nephew would’ve forgotten about it, but unfortunately for him, the boy wasn’t a forgetful type. (Did you think I helped you with farmwork despite your abuse because I’m an idiot? I must wait for my mom since she’ll come back home eventually, and that’s why I endured all this time like an ox, you know!)
Those words spat out by the nephew as he packed his bags on that snowy day still rang so vividly in Bak In-bo’s hearing. Indeed, Mu Ssang’s tenacity was more formidable than the tendons of a bull.
“Uncle. What’s your reason for searching for my mother for the last eight years? Even going as far as hiring a criminal syndicate, too.”
“Huh-uhk?!” Bak In-bo jumped up in shock like a scalded cat.
How did his nephew learn about his search for Je-soo?! Could it be that the boy still remembered the incident from that day? Bak In-bo’s heart began racing erratically. He sneakily tried to gauge Mu Ssang’s moods, but the latter’s still figured like the Donghwasa Temple’s Gatbawi. Nothing could be read off from his unmoving expression.
“How did you find out, nephew?”
“Uncle, do you still see me as your little nephew that you used to smack around?” Mu Ssang coldly shot back.
His expression changed drastically, spurring a blizzard of northerly cold winds to sweep across the office.
“Urgh!” Bak In-bo spat out a lengthy groan. What a scary kid his nephew was, possessing a bizarre ability and unfathomably deep thoughts. Trying to avoid the topic haphazardly would only invite a bloodbath instead.
“I’m sorry. Truly sorry. Jin-bo’s passing, Mrs. Je-soo going missing, you going through hell and back, all of them are my fault. Ever since you were young, you often said that your wish was to live in a tile-roofed house with your mom and eat white rice and meat stew every day until your gut bursts open. My wish is the same as yours.
“You’ve grown up to be an excellent man. And the house and the land meant for your family have been returned to you, too. This means the last remaining matter that demands resolution is locating where Mrs. Je-soo is exactly. Jin-bo is no longer with us, but if only I can see you and your mom living happily together again, then I don’t mind closing my eyes for good today!”
Bak In-bo pounded his chest.
His greed and his wife’s misplaced jealousy caused the death of his only little brother and turned Mrs. Je-soo and his nephew into aimless wanderers. Yet, looking back, all Bak In-bo felt was remorse and lamentation. Two streaks of tears slowly dripped down his withered face.
“Did this old man lose his marbles? Wait, maybe he’s a doppelganger?” Mu Ssang grew suspicious of whether or not this older man sitting opposite side of him was the one called Bak In-bo. His uncle was not the type to soak in the reminiscence of the past and not the one to shed tears like this. No, it would be only regular for him to start yelling out that it’s none of other people’s business how he lived his life.
His apologizing like this was already a heart-stopping shock to the system, so to think that he was even crying! He must be at the death’s doorstep, then.
“Uncle. I saved a man named Lee Kang-chul in Africa. He got kidnapped by a cult called the Voodoo cult. They cut off both of his wrists, and he was dying of blood poisoning.” Mu Ssang gritted his teeth as he spoke out.
He didn’t want to speak about the matter related to his mother’s purity, but he just couldn’t let what happened back then as an unsolved riddle forever. Whether to kill or leave alone his uncle today, Mu Ssang needed to decide so that they could go on with their lives.
“Who’s Lee Kang-chul?” Bak In-bo asked while blinking in confusion.
Who was Lee Kang-chul, and why was he suddenly brought into their discussion? Bak In-bo felt a hint of a foreboding creeping in.
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“He was the hooligan that tried to hurt my mother.”
‘Heok?!’ Bak In-bo desperately gulped back his involuntary yelp.
That night seventeen years ago, when the bright full moon shined relentlessly in the middle of the night sky… Bak In-bo vividly recalled the events of that night as if they had just occurred yesterday. So that bastard who tried to assault Mrs. Je-soo but ran away in fright after Bak In-bo’s entrance on the scene was Lee Kang-chul?!
Bak In-bo never discovered who that hooligan was, yet his nephew somehow managed to find that punk. But then, the thick wall of dark clouds seemingly began to cloud his view.
“Uncle. What happened on that day?”