Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 598
Gim Geukdo set up the grill and lit the charcoal with a blowtorch. Yeon Soon got some pork belly on the grill, and the cooking smell attracted some wasps. Flashes of light streaked in the air, and the buzzing wasps dropped to the ground. Gim Geukdo had slashed the air as indifferently as the spectating women. Such a feat happened routinely at Eungsim-je.
“Geukdo, have a drink.”
Yeon Soon held out a glass.
“Thank you. I am on my shift.”
Gim Geukdo refused politely and vanished.
“He is pathologically shy!”
Yeon Soon clucked her tongue. Mu Ssang smiled. It wasn’t just his sense of responsibility. Gim Geukdo, after being applied soul-changing disciplinary beating, got his combat strength to upgrade a level further and stopped meeting Mu Ssang’s eyes. Come to think of it, Seon Uhyeon was admirable for not being downtrodden after three sessions of such a treatment. He suddenly missed Novatopia. This land was ripe with cumbersome connections.
“I met my uncle yesterday.”
Mu Ssang, stirring the sliced pork belly with bamboo chopsticks, blurted out.
“Tell me nothing happened.”
Yeon Soon rolled her eyes. Uncle Bak In Bo and Mu Ssang were arch-nemesis. If they ran into each other, it was going to be messy.
“I respect traditional ethics! I wouldn’t hurt my uncle. Haha.”
Mu Ssang laughed.
“It’s like pouring boiling oil into ice-cold water. Are you saying nothing happened?”
“Long story short, I inherited his company.”
“What do you mean?”
Yeon Soon blinked.
“I don’t know if he’s losing his mind or has come to his senses, but he had given me all of his shares.”
“He is trying. Although I don’t think all the years of exploiting the young female employees should go unpunished. That company is corrupt. Refuse the offer. It will only be a burden.”
Yeon Soon blabbered like a bird. She was not trusting of Bak In Bo. She was worried that that man might have tricked Mu Ssang into a trick.
“I inherited the textile company. Utak will get the bus company.”
“Textile? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
“Are you sure? Did he give you the company 20 times bigger than the bus company? Is he on his deathbed?”
Jinsun was surprised too.
“You’re right. His days are numbered. I did what I could, but he got five more years at best.”
“Oh my! He may be being punished for all the abuse.”
“It won’t give peace to Mu Ssang, though.”
Yeon Soon made an incredulous face. Jinsun muttered.
“He is regretting it all too much. I’ve forgiven him. You will treat him as an elder too.”
Jinsun’s eyes got teary. The distinction between abusers and the abused fade with a prolonged family conflict. If Mu Ssang could forgive him, it means he was relieved of a tremendous emotional burden.
“I cannot let the Jang’s acquire the company. Even if I didn’t like it, I had to take it. I am not going to get it for free, though. I will pay for it. The price amounted to roughly 3,500,000,000 won.”
“Isn’t that too much?”
Yeonsun’s eyes widened.
“Mu Ssang is richer than you think. Uncle In Bo must think the company is a great gift, but in fact, it doesn’t compare to what Mu Ssang has.”
“Let me pour you some soju. Congratulations, even though I don’t completely understand it. I should secure a job before I graduate. Haha.”
Mu Ssang drank everything Jinsun and Yeon Soon poured for him. His uncle’s change of heart and Hyeyeong’s letter made him want to drink. They already had ten empty bottles. Mu Ssang, feeling drunk, rested his head on Jinsun’s thigh.
“This is great. I like this pavilion among the bamboos, but I shall make an ‘island’ in it and name it Malsun Island when the pond is made. That will also be a good place to drink.”
“Will you name it that?”
Yeon Soon asked incredulously.
“What’s the matter? My father is the pond that embraces me, and my mother will be the island that lets me rest. With fragrant liquors and delicious dishes, wouldn’t that place be paradise? Jinsun, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of me?”
“The noodles we cooked and ate in your studio!”
“The chicken porridge you brought when I was lying down in the room with my ribs broken. What else?”
“The pheasant you roasted on the island in the middle of the river. What about you?”
“The spicy bean sprout stew you made for my hangover. The smell of seaweed soup fills the room when I wake up in the morning.”
“I like your smell more.”
“You too are such a cringy couple!”
Yeon Soon shuddered and left the room.
It was so. The most vivid memories tend to be those of meals. The dish you shared with your love long ago tends to be engraved in your memory. Even if the person’s face fades, the flavor of the word stays.
Eating is not a simple instinctual act for self-preservation. It allows one to affirm one’s connections with others. It is a ritual in which one shares happiness with others. Noodles, chicken porridge, bean sprout stew, and seaweed soup are ordinary, possibly dull dishes. The memories engraved with pleasure tend to embellish the typical dishes to be divine.
“If you love me, I love you too. A sword gets broken when it strikes the rock, but ceaseless drops of water make a hole in it. Some perverted professor once lectured that libido is the foundation of love, but in my experience, shared emotions are.”
Mu ssang couldn’t finish his sentence. He could still hear her mother’s singsongy lament in the cotton fields.
[So many cotton flowers, and I’ve got two hands
The soft cotton will keep my child warm.
The rough cotton will keep my man warm.
The sun is setting. My son must be hungry.
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My man must be exhausted.
Mu Ssang fell asleep, unable to tell Jinsun’s lap from his mother’s.
Jinsun’s face, looking down at Mu Ssang’s sleeping face, showed all kinds of emotions. She was still musing on what Mu Ssang said: “If you love me, I love you too.” Her heart was beating at those words. She could still hear Clementine he used to sing when she was on his back.
He was the person she would live together until the end of the world. It changed nothing if he were a businessman, a murderer, a rich man, or a poor man. He always gave her his back on the riverbank. Happiness was simple. Living with someone you love and eating with someone you love was happiness.
Mu Ssang named the mid-pond island Malsun Island and placed a sign that said “Myo Yeon Pavilion” on the pavilion built on the island. The construction of the garden that began at the end of August ended in mid-October, amid autumn. The “pond,” which was planned to be 660 square meters, ended up being 990 square meters. The artificial island in the middle of it grew proportionately. He planted peach trees along the pond’s perimeter and planted lotuses and hostas.
Eungsim House, Pond Jinbo, Malsun Island, and Myoyeon Pavilion were all built. But his mother was still missing. Nupchi advertised a significant amount of reward money, but it only brought more false reports.
Nupchi, feeling anxious, had used all the thug workforce in North Gyeongsang. He stayed day and night along the southern shoreline of Korea from Pohang to Haenam and searched the cities, towns, inhabited islands, Jeju, and Ulleung to no avail.
Other than Nupchi, everyone else enjoyed peaceful, uneventful days. Emil, who entered Korea right after Mu Ssang’s call, made many empty bottles of Geumbokju with Jung Ah Young. They spent many nights together. Jung Ah Young was impatient to get married, but Emil was adamant that he could not marry before Mu Ssang did and returned to France. He intended to pressure Mu Ssang, but it was not going to work. Mu Ssang was resolute that he would not marry before he found his mother.
Gim Gitaek was diligent. His food truck was always bustling with customers. At dawn, he sold toast, gimbap, and cinnamon-sugar-filled hotcakes. In the evening, he sold noodles and udon. His truck was trendy late at night.
With the lifting of the curfew, all kinds of customers frequented his truck until daybreak. Workers freed from their late-night overtime, suited business people, police officers, workers from the red-light districts, thugs, and young people aimlessly wandering the streets, all found comfort in a bowl of hot noodle soup that filled their empty stomachs. Mu Ssang didn’t meddle. He only sent Gim Geukdo to eliminate the neighborhood thugs who might interfere with Gim Gitaek’s business.
“Why are you packing?”
A displeased voice resounded in their home. Utak turned his head. His mother was leaning against the doorway, one foot over the threshold, and was giving him the evil eye.
“I am leaving this place.”
Utak answered indifferently and shoved clothes into his supersized suitcase. He was sick of arguing with his mother.
“You are an ingrate!”
A vein bulged on Ms. Jang’s forehead. Ever since they acquired the CB, peace left their household. Her family was shaken up, and relatives often came to meddle. Her children were trouble incarnated as humans, but Gim Malsun’s son came home after being successful overseas, and everyone was talking about him in Jip-eun Dari. Her gray hair increased as her account balanced dwindled.
“Are you going to live with your father?”
Utak answered bluntly, looking back. His mother ruined everything. Even though she gave him birth, he no longer wanted to get stressed out arguing with her in the same home.
Ms. Jang gritted her teeth. Her son’s gaze was similar to her husband’s when he left their home.
“Dad is sick. The least I could do is get him three square meals.”
Utak added, infuriating her further.
‘I fed and clothed him!’
At Utak’s roundabout blame, Ms. Jang almost threw up. Her gaze became sharp, and her frown made deep wrinkles between her eyebrows. Hwa Ja, who had been her friend, had been missing for more than a year. Hui Ja hasn’t been herself ever since she lost her daughter. Utak, her last remaining sane child, sided with her husband now.
She trembled at her son’s betrayal. Then, a few days ago, a fresh memory when she went to see her husband at his company and was shamed instead resurfaced.
“Why are you here?”
Her husband had muttered. He was treating her the same as some paddler. She was not welcome at all but was too important to kick out. Hot rage surged in her.
“How are you faring as a de facto widower?”
“Pretty well. Why are you here?”
Bak In Bo answered indifferently. His monotonous voice enraged her further.
“Does a wife need a reason to see her husband?”
Bak In Bo gave Ms. Jang a deep gaze. She was no longer a paddler but a malicious reporter from a local newspaper.
“A proper wife doesn’t. A wife who hasn’t called her dying husband for two months does.”
‘Look at him talk!’
Ms. Jang, unable to retort, trembled. Her husband changed last year. The dynamics between them were shaken up because of her family, but still, he hadn’t treated her like this. She didn’t know that her husband knew she was behind the scheme to poison him.
“What are we going to do with Hwa Ja? Just keep on waiting?”
Bak In Bo’s face clouded over. He hadn’t paid any attention to her after submitting a missing person’s report to the police. She had always lived as she wanted. Usually, she would ask for money then go missing for a month or two. He assumed she would come back when she ran out of money this time. But it had already been more than a year.
“Nothing from the police?”
“No. Something must have happened.”
“Like mother, like daughter….”
Bak In Bo heaved a deep sigh.
“What? Am I her only parent? You also played a part!”
Ms. Jang’s anger erupted. She could speak in Standard Korean, but her true colors showed with a dialect when overcome with emotion.
“I tended to business. Family matters were yours to deal with. Is that not right? My business thrived. Did our family? Tell me what I did wrong.”
He no longer spoke informal speech. Ms. Jang nibbled her lip. She had no retort. What was that going to achieve anyway?
“A woman needs to put her family before everything! Instead, you prioritized our business and let your family meddle. Look how our children turned out. It’s high time you come to your senses.”
Bak In Bo enraged her further and pressed on the intercom.
“Ah Young, I need you here.”
Jung Ah Young bowed curtly at Ms. Jang and waited for the order. Ms. Jang’s eyes became upturned in a deep frown.
“Don’t you know how to greet?”
“Ma’am, we are working. I am Mr. Bak’s employee.”
When she was about to rash out at her curt response, Bak In Bo waved away.
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“Inquire the Central Police Station about Hwa Ja and call Samsik. I need to get him to search Busan.”
“Samsik is busy with the affair.”
Jung Ah Young answered surreptitiously, eyeing Ms. Jang.
“I am going to hire another syndicate through him.”
Bak In Bo didn’t know that Nupchi had employed all possible thug workforce to look for Gim Malsun.