Novel Name : Mercenary Black Mamba

Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 594

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Mu Ssang looked up. He wanted to look up at the blue sky, but the ceiling’s white plaster panels blocked his view off. So instead, his father’s always smiling face appeared as the patterns on those panels.
‘Dad, I should put this to rest right about here, yes?’
Father’s bright, sharp eyes narrowed affectionately, and the corners of his large lips reminiscent of a catfish began curling up.
[Do what you want, son.]
Like the nurun guksu (yellow noodles), the voice that rang in Mu Ssang’s ears was just a bit unrefined, just a bit chewy and rich. His heart tingled with emotion. Nurun guksu was a Gyeongsang Province-style kalguksu. The dough was a mixture of coarse Cheongguk flour and fine imported flour, plus some soy powder. A wooden roller would be used to flatten and spread out the dough. After folding the dough, it got cut into thin strips before being boiled in the broth of anchovy dashi. It was simple, hearty, honest food.
For specific reasons, Mu Ssang’s father’s image always overlapped the wooden roller flattening the nurun guksu. During the ruthless Spring drought season, where the only thing to survive was the bare stalks of barley ears, his father would plant wheat seeds in the parched and cracked fields. Dry-field rice couldn’t even sprout under such conditions, but Cheongguk wheat could grow no problem. The tall, resilient wheat was turned into flour in the village mill.
The wheat flour entering the noodle press came out as thick, coarse strands resembling knitting threads. The yellowish noodle dough resembling cotton cloth was transformed into bundles of noodles about two handspans long before being carefully placed inside jars even taller than the young Mu Ssang. This would be his family’s provisions until new barley ears ripen next year.
Noodles from cheap wheat flour like that tasted far worse than flour from the U.S. Aid. Not only was it too unrefined and coarse, but your throat would also feel scratchy after eating it, too. And eating such unappetizing flour noodles for not just one or two days, but for several months in a row for all three meals caused the smell of wheat to reek out of your mouth.
When Mu Ssang refused to pick up his chopsticks and stared intensely at the noodle bowl with puffed cheeks, his father burst out into a burst of raucous laughter.
[Darling, we have anchovies, so get us nurun guksu for today!]
[Goodness. At this rate, our child will start misbehaving, even more, you know!]
Even as she pouted, Mu Ssang’s mother still rose to stand. She then poured out the yellowish budget flour and the imported one into a brass bowl and kneaded the dough while mixing little bits of soy powder. After the rolling dough absorbed all the moisture, the sticky mixture clinging onto the brass bowl was pulled loose before being kneaded and rolled over and over again.
That’s when Mu Ssang realized the truth. He realized that one needed patience and time to enjoy delicious noodles.
[Darling, you’ll have a hard time when you get older if you injure your wrist doing that.]
A pair of giant hands snatched the brass bowl away. The dough being caressed by mother’s slender arms finally met its match.
Bang, bang-!
The flour dough was subjected to intense battering. Watching the strong father batter the dough was a refreshing sight to behold. Once the battering was done, the wooden roller as tall as the young Mu Ssang came to play.
Father placed the sticky dough on the pounding board, then, while scattering soy powder on top, began flattening the dough with the roller. A full moon at least ten times larger was created in the proverbial blink of an eye. This substantial full moon was quickly folded in several layers like a blanket, then cut into many strands.
[You little troublemaker, do you have any idea how expensive anchovies are?]
Mother made a stern face while tossing the noodles into the anchovy broth. Yet, even as she narrowed her eyes disapprovingly, her lips were still smiling. Even her angry face remained captivating.
Other than some thinly-sliced squash and squash leaves as garnish, nurun guksu didn’t come with eggs or something as familiar as cucumber slices. Even so, this noodle dish was so tasty. Pour some spiced sauces on the noodles and mix them well with chopsticks, and you wouldn’t even believe how fast all the noodles have disappeared into your tummy.
Soggy and bloated plain wheat noodles became father’s problem in the meantime. Mother loved her husband slightly more than her son, so her eyes would narrow sharply once more at this arrangement. Even so, nurun guksu remained as delicious as ever.
[Father, why is nurun guksu still yellow even though you mixed a lot more white flour?]
[It’s delicious, right?]
[Then it’s all good, right!]
He was right. Noodles had to taste good, whether the noodles were yellow or white, and nothing else really mattered. Delicious yet straightforward nurun guksu, father and the wooden roller, mother making the nurun guksu… That was family, the conditions for being human. Within the boundaries of a home, planting soybeans could get you adzuki beans instead. Or, planting adzuki beans might get you regular soybeans instead.
“When the father is absent, the uncle must take on the role. And when the son is less than satisfactory, a nephew will have to fulfill the son’s duties. Nephew, you’re driven and tenacious to great lengths, but at the same time, you’re broad-minded and quite affectionate, too. I know it all too well.”
‘Aigoo, this old man thinks he’s seized the initiative.’
Mu Ssang inwardly clicked his tongue. Just as the uncle knew him, he too knew how the uncle operated. Was it because the older man was at the death’s doorstep? Or was it due to all the internal force accumulated while running his business? The wisdom of age was now added to Bak In-bo’s quick wits for tricks, allowing him to forge ahead with seizing the opening.
“What are the favors, then? Let me hear them out first, at least.”
“Huh! Still being so hostile and all, aren’t you. This is my first favor.” Bak In-bo took out a sizeable yellow manila envelope from the office safe. “Here! This is for you.”
He then dropped that envelope as thick as a phonebook on the coffee table with a loud thud.
“What is this, uncle?”
“The management data for the Good Heart Textiles, the list of real estate the company owns, copies of shares and their rights transfer papers.”
“What did you say, uncle??” Mu Ssang ended up asking back inadvertently. What on Earth was this kick-in-the-bull’s-nuts all about?!
“If only the in-laws were satisfied with the Good Heart Travel and didn’t lust after the textile business, I wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to uproot their foundation. However, the Jang family happens to have profound roots.
“They might have gotten smacked around without realizing who their enemy is, but the Jang family won’t go down that easily. The shares they possess and what I own are about equal. I know them. They aren’t the type to take the beating lying down.
“If I suddenly croak, the company will end up in the hands of the Jang’s family. I will not watch that happen even if dirt enters my eyes. The Good Heart Textiles and Travel are companies that I, Bak In-bo, poured all my soul into building up from nothing. It’s the company of the Bak family now, and it shall remain that way in the future, too.
“Adding the line of ‘Buddha bless you’ to a Christian hymn doesn’t suddenly transform the song into a Buddhist hymn. Likewise, a Buddhist hymn won’t become a Christian one with the addition of hallelujah. Soybeans must grow where you plant soybeans, while adzuki beans must grow where you plant adzuki beans. I’ve been getting things ready to hand this company over to you for the past five years. In other words, you’re now the owner of the Good Heart Textiles.”
Bak In-bo solemnly declared as if he was reading the Declaration of Independence. Then, after it tripped on an icy surface, Mu Ssang blinked his eyes in stupefaction like a bull.
Unpacking what his uncle said… Well, the older man implied that he mobilized the Samshik Capital to uproot the Jang family, all for the sake of leaving the company in his nephew’s hands. And since all the procedure was finished, said nephew should take over the company now.
“I’m the biggest shareholder of the Good Heart Textiles with shares of thirty percent. The nominee trust is still in my name due to taxes and the eyes of the Jang family bastards, but the actual owner is you, nephew.
“Once I die, the remaining shares will automatically become yours. That will push the overall shares past the fifty percent mark under your name. The original shares documents and other related documents are stored safely in the vault of the Daegu Bank’s main branch.”
Bak In-bo placed the key to a safety deposit box on top of the manila envelope and grinned sheepishly. So this was the finishing line of his battle of Sekigahara prepared for the past five years. It felt like the indigestion of the past ten years was getting washed away.
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Mu Ssang dazedly stared at his uncle. This was a lightning bolt out of the blue. The house and the farmlands were either the property of his father or inheritance meant for him in the first place, so getting those back was evident. But he had no reason to inherit the company.
“I haven’t even put a brick in this company’s foundation, so what right do I have to inherit this company, uncle?”
The travel side of the company wasn’t much to worry about, but the textile business was a serious concern with the annual revenue in the tens of billions of Won. One shouldn’t treat such a company carelessly.
“You are my nephew. But, of course, you have the right.”
“You think I’m a moron who’d gladly take on a bundle of headache? Not interested, uncle.” Mu Ssang curtly said no.
Sure, the Good Heart Textiles was a pretty large company, but compared to Doba’s oilfields? It wasn’t even on the scale of a mom-and-pop corner shop. Inheriting a small company would only saddle Mu Ssang with an extra headache.
An enormous amount of funds was invested in Novatopia, but the nation should reach self-sufficiency in around three years and balanced finances in five. Novatopia’s potential was limitless. The revenue from tourism was growing exponentially, while all the jatropha trees planted as windbreak turned into an unexpected source of income, too. Moreover, the fruits of these trees produced high-quality biodiesel. A lucky son of a gun would still swim in money even after falling in the middle of a desert, it seemed.
If Mu Ssang utilized his savings sitting pretty in his bank, then well, he could probably buy a company with the size of the Good Heart Textiles dozens of times over. But, then, annual salary and bonuses alone would be enough to live out the rest of his life quite well.
Mu Ssang’s shoulders were already bearing a heavy load, yet he needed to ensure the livelihood of nearly one thousand employees, too? No thanks.
“Ku-hahaha!” Bak In-bo exploded in a peal of laughter.
When was the last time he got to laugh out this loud! He felt refreshed right now. Yes, this was the mental fortitude of the Bak family. This nephew of his was indeed his blood relative! Bak In-bo suddenly wanted to rush to the in-laws at Indong and loudly yell this at them: “Can you see this, you bastards! My nephew still doesn’t want it even though it’s all free! You Jang family bastards are just a bunch of thugs and dogs compared to him.”
The in-laws’ trauma has been crushing down on his chest for the past four decades instantly dissolved away. He made the correct call to hand over the company to Mu Ssang. Indeed, it was the best business decision he had made in his entire life. It seemed that Bak In-bo’s younger brother came up with a remarkably prescient name for the boy. Befitting the name of Mu-ssang, the boy was true ‘guk-sa-mu-ssang.’ (An excellent scholar without equal in his country)
“This matter has been settled already, nephew. If you don’t take on the company, then those Jang family vultures will descend and start a feeding frenzy until the bones are the only thing left behind. Tell me, is it alright for only a shell of a company to remain while a thousand employees lose their jobs? All the legal procedures have been taken care of. I’ve already washed my hands clean of this, so whether you decide to throw away the company or not is none of my business now.”
Bak In-bo crossed his arms. Once his nephew takes up the reins, the likes of the Jang family would be nothing more than a mud wall getting swept away in flood. All that’s remaining for him was to put the finishing touches to this whole saga, then find out where Mrs. Je-soo was. But, with his physical condition improving, his desire to live again began rearing up.
He wanted to dust all the worries away and travel around the world till his dying day.
“Uncle, do you even know what my day job is? I butcher people, uncle. I’m a mercenary. My specialty is killing. Shoot to kill, stab to kill, and even strangle to kill. If you want someone dead, just say it. A favor to wreck some fools, I can certainly do it. But a favor to take over your company? You’re asking for something impossible here. Better give up, uncle.”
Mu Ssang deliberately emitted a hostile atmosphere. Running a business wasn’t as simple as it sounded. If he tried to supervise the Korean workers in the same way he handled the African Voodoo cult, then well, the whole world would descend on his back, that’s for sure.
“Kekekeke!” Bak In-bo began chuckling away.
Strangle someone to death, is it! What a satisfying thing to say that was. All the accumulated stress from the Jang family bastards trying to interfere with his business got washed away instantly. But, if he wanted to see the company thrive into the future, he must hand it over to his nephew, no questions asked.
Bak In-bo clenched his fist. “I know you better than anyone in this world, nephew. You’re a good kid, the type that everyone calls a genius. In my sixty years on this Earth, I’ve never seen anyone smarter or tougher than you, boy. Besides, running a business isn’t that hard as long as you know how to spot useful people and utilize them. The Good Heart might be a bit cramped to contain your ambition, but what can I do when there’s no one else?”
“Are you seriously saying that a dude drunk on stinking fumes of chemicals and human blood should sit on a swivel chair, inspect documents, and balance deposits and withdrawals all day long? That’s one heck of harsh torture, uncle.”
Mu Ssang dismissively waved his hands, but Bak In-bo didn’t back down an inch. “That’s exactly it. But there’s no need for you to step up personally and deal with the headaches. As I have done so far, it’s already past the point of using trickery to grow this company. All you must do is just be the unyielding center of this company, its shining beacon. Just leave the running of the operation to a qualified professional with a good head on their shoulders. What could be a problem for you, then?”
‘Seriously! What should I do now?’
Mu Ssang didn’t know what to do. The attitude of the uncle, with his arms crossed, was saying, ‘Do whatever you want with this. Age spots on several parts of Bak In-bo’s face, his eyes dominated by the signs of jaundice, his drooping eyelids… The tyrant cracking his whip was nowhere to be found now. No, he was just an aged, tired man with one foot in the grave.
Uncle was not someone who’d listen to words of persuasion. And it didn’t seem right to keep saying no to an ardent plea. At that moment, Mu Ssang abruptly recalled what his master told him.
[Mu-ah. A man with a long road ahead must forget about the road he has already walked past. Only then will you be able to see the long road beyond the horizon.]
“…Fuu-woo! How are Wu-tak these days, uncle?” Mu Ssang sighed before changing the subject.
Bak In-bo’s expression brightened instantly. The nephew tried to change the subject, which meant he had half-accepted it. Just a bit of push, and he might be wholly won over.
“That kid, he’s changed just a wee bit in recent times. He must’ve cleaned up his act or something because he’s been working in the company for a while now.”
“That’s good to hear, uncle. Wu-tak might have strayed a bit, but he’s always been a smart kid. So, stop trying to dump the company on a nephew who doesn’t want it and simply let Wu-tak handle it.”
Bak In-bo grinned softly. He didn’t have much of a chance to smile for months and years on end, yet talking to his nephew made him grin automatically. The Good Heart Travel was meant to be Wu-tak’s, to begin with. Once Mu Ssang takes over the textile side of the operation, Wu-tak would automatically gain a robust shelter from the storm. This was the final scheme of a top trickster.
“He may be my son, but I can’t let a kid not suited for the job take over the company. The Good Heart Travel is a perfect match for him since all he has to worry about is maintaining the vehicles and managing the ticket sales. However, I’d still like you to become his protective wall.”
Mu Ssang quickly saw through his uncle’s thoughts. So was every father in the world of the same mind! The fundamental goal of Baek-bu, with his time running out, was to ensure the future of his son, Wu-tak. The older man must’ve racked his brain for so long, trying to salvage both his son and the company. That was commendable no matter how one sliced it.
Mu Ssang wasn’t heartless enough to stomp cruelly on the wishes of a father fretting about his child. Besides, didn’t he already know of a perfect person to run the company? So if it was Mr. Kim Gi-taek, it was acceptable to leave the company to him.
“Don’t come whining to me even if the company goes under, uncle.”
In the end, Mu Ssang raised his hands in defeat.
“Thank you, nephew!”
Was he that desperate? Bak In-bo reached out and grabbed Mu Ssang’s hands. The latter silently gazed at the older man’s aged hands resembling the wrinkled chicken feet. So this… was the heart of a father worried about his child, the frailty of an older man who has no choice but to rely on his blood relatives.
“Don’t worry about Wu-tak, uncle.”
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“I’m sorry for dumping this burden on you. I truly am. I finally realized how important my family is just as death approaches me, so you can say my sixty years of life were all in vain. And now… Let me ask you the second favor, too.”
“No assurance that I’ll humor it, uncle.” Mu Ssang made sure to have an out before hearing anything.
“I know what I’m about to ask is challenging, but find it in your heart to forgive my wife and Hwa-ja. I’ve heard about all the vile things those crazy women have inflicted upon you. You’re smart and driven, so there’s no way you wouldn’t know the truth of the situation. I know that you’ve been holding yourself back until now, also. I also know that you were responsible for destroying Dongsungro’s Sashimi gang, Chauffeur Lee, and Kkalchi. You’ve tolerated the grievances until now, so is it possible for you to just… let it go?”
Mu Ssang clamped his mouth shut firmly in defiant silence.
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