Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 618
Unlike the poignant contents of that remark, Mu Ssang’s tone remained calm and composed as if he were an adult scolding a little kid.
Yi Dae-deok was about to deliver a retort but was repelled by Mu Ssang’s indignant glare.
“Far too many people in this country love to crack the whip called the abuse of their authority. However, citizens are not idiots. Before long, those people will get hit in the back of their heads with a blunt club called consequences. By the way, my blunt club tends to be a bit more severe.
“Please don’t scare me too much. And also… my apologies for inconveniencing you.” Yi Dae-deok slightly lowered his head. But, as Jeong Pil-su said, Mu Ssang was not working under someone else, nor would he allow repeated excuses or threats against him.
Mu Ssang began viewing Yi Dae-deok in a new light at this sudden response. He thought of ending this man if the latter continued to put on useless airs tonight, so he felt a bit deflated by this response. “I’ll accept your apology for now.”
“Thank you. Just who are you?” Yi Dae-deok strengthened his lower half to sit up straight.
He didn’t come out on a nightly stroll to get a lecture from a youngster. A powerless loser holding a picket and shouting some anti-government slogans was as futile as trying to punch the air. However, the opponent standing before him was a superhuman who exceeded his imagination. If such an individual couldn’t be head-hunted, then Yi Dae-deok had to know who he was dealing with to think of appropriate countermeasures.
“You already know my name and nationality, don’t you? I’m just a young man who left this country to become a mercenary hoping to put food on his table. Things worked out well for me one way or the other, and I somehow became a French diplomat. That’s all there is to it.”
“I guess a young man in this day and age can order around the French embassy, easily discover all the listening devices, kidnap a senior Nat-Sec agent without leaving behind any trace whatsoever, know all there is to know about a Nat-Sec agent despite the secrecy, and even squash steel like mud, too. If that’s what a normal person is capable of, I’d like to become a normal person,” Yi Dae-deok retorted in a slightly sulky tone.
A government advisor certainly was not of a “low” rank by any imagination. Still, it was also not high enough for a foreign embassy to hurriedly crash the party at the first sign of trouble either.
“Huh. You were the cause of all this, not me. I merely wanted to live an exceedingly simple, comfy life. That’s all. However, I won’t be so forgiving the next time.” Mu Ssang chuckled before making his reply.
Still feeling a bit peeved, Yi Dae-deok decided to lightly provoke Mu Ssang. “You shouldn’t underestimate the National Security Agency. If you were just a regular advisor, I wouldn’t be standing here getting cold winds blowing on my face. Sure, we can’t make a foreign diplomat’s life difficult, but we can continue investigating in the background. Besides, an advisor can’t stay at home 365 days a year. Your family…”
A hole exploded open in the exposed bench between Yi Dae-deok’s thighs and right below his crown jewels.
Yi Dae-deok hurriedly swallowed back the rest of his sentence about how Mu Ssang’s family might experience many tiresome things in the future. His junior would’ve been a goner if that hole were only one inch higher. He wasn’t all that convinced while observing Jeong Pil-su shuddering away earlier in the day, but it was all true—Bak Mu-ssang was indeed a psychokinesis user. He was not only any ol’ user either but also a monster!
“What is the meaning of this?” Yi Dae-deok was usually a brave man, but he was still freaked out. He barely managed to rein in his pounding heart and raise his voice.
“What were you going to say about my family? And with what authority? Besides, don’t you guys at Nat-Sec have better things to do? Are you also one of those halfwits that view your fellow countrymen as a fish dick or something?”
“You wanna kill me? Go ahead. I’m fully prepared to give up my life if it means the nation’s safety will be protected.”
Yi Dae-deok remained stoic, unflinching. He could proudly boast about being second to none when it came to his boldness and guts.
“Is that right? You’re prepared to die, eh?”
More holes opened up in the bench Yi Dae-deok was sitting on. The wood that was two inches thick was tempered by the rain and wind over many years and not even a pistol round could puncture it, yet…!
Yi Dae-deok broke out in cold sweat. If his conversation partner were serious about it, he’d have to book his funeral right away.
“In that case, you do what you have to do. I’ll do what I have to do in return. Do you know that I’m a narrow-minded man that returns favor one hundredfold? I shall make you feel the consequences of cracking the whip called the abuse of authority.”
While saying that, bone-chilling bluish light flooded out from Mu Ssang’s eyes.
Yi Dae-deok’s back was now thoroughly soaked in sweat. He heard the old saying about how one’s eyes could pierce through papers, but never in his wildest dreams did he expect to see human eyes shoot ghostly blue embers!
“Looks like I misspoke. You’re a potential danger that threatens the safety of this nation. I have to manage and regulate all national safety risks. Would you pretend none the wiser when a dangerous monster jumped into your backyard?” Yi Dae-deok dearly wished to run away from here but still held his ground. If he was going to retreat from here, then he might as well have stayed in the Vietnam jungle as a skeleton.
Mu Ssang sighed under his breath. Yi Dae-deok was driven by his conviction when nicely put, but he was being stupidly stubborn when not so nicely put. Someone like him was the type to continue his duty even after a knife was thrust under his throat. If Bonipas were a cunning fox, Yi Dae-deok would be a straightforward bear.
“One should hide a needle in a haystack, right?” Mu Ssang decided to throw just a tiny bit of bait at the stubborn bear. His current title and rank were created to hide the Black Mamba in the first place, anyway. “If you wish to know that badly, then here it is. My name is Sbard Gulbeig, the French Army’s Special Military Advisor, and I also serve as a standing member of France’s National Security Council.”
“Heok?!” Yi Dae-deok sucked in a cold breath. He was so shocked that a cigarette he tried to smoke to calm his frayed nerves fell out of his grip.
France’s National Security Council was the top permanent state organization directly under France’s president that deliberated and established policies regarding national defense, public order, and the management of the overseas territories. Its members include the Minister of the Interior, Overseas Territories and Territorial collectivities, Minister of Defense, the General Director of the DGSE, the Army’s Chief of Staff, and the General Director of the Military Police.
“A-are you being serious?!”
“Do I have a reason to lie? If you don’t want any friction with the French government, pretend that you haven’t heard anything about me today.” Mu Ssang shot him a sharp glare.
“I, I shall do so.” Yi Dae-deok’s attitude did a complete 180.
Bak Mu-ssang had no reason to lie. Although the Special Military Advisor position sounded unfamiliar, Yi Dae-deok knew a lot about what the National Security Council of France did. A standing member of that council was comparable to a ministerial position. Yi Dae-deok figured out why the French embassy raised such a fuss earlier.
“The only reason I told you about my top-secret identity is to avoid friction between our camps due to some misunderstanding. And you will take the truth of my identity to your grave. If you don’t…”
Mu Ssang grabbed the thick pillar of the pavilion.
His five fingers dug into the pillar made out of a pine tree from the Geumgang mountain that withstood centuries of harsh winds and frost as if it was mere tofu.
Mu Ssang ripped off the pillar, like it was a piece of styrofoam, and tossed it in front of Yi Dae-deok’s feet.
“Heol?!” Yi Dae-deok’s eyes widened, his jaw dropping to the floor.
Mu Ssang growled. “Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
An imaginary cold blade seemed to stab Yi Dae-deok in the heart. That demonstration was meant to imply that a sea of blood would flow if Yi Dae-deok opened his mouth. But instead, he couldn’t meet Mu Ssang’s glare and had to turn his head away.
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However, despite his shock, his suppressed greed made him raise his head once more. “I swear on my parents’ names, and I will not tell anyone. However, it is said that when the heavens bestow a gift, there will come a time when you must use it. So please, help our mother nation in crisis.”
“I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear anything. What can an immature punk like me even do for this country? You’ll also regret asking me for such a favor after leaving this place. I’ll act as if I didn’t hear anything, so Mister Branch Manager, you shouldn’t say something you’ll regret later.” Mu Ssang curtly cut Yi Dae-deok off. This branch manager turned out to be more tenacious than the tree sponges found in the jungles of Ituri. So much so that he was getting fed up here.
“We’re still from one mother nation, are we not? You may have found success in France as an advisor, but your roots are still firmly Korean. So don’t look away from your nation and fellow countrymen facing a crisis.”
“Hah, hahaha!” Mu Ssang inadvertently chuckled at that. He tasted this stinging bitterness akin to drinking boiled motherwort water in his mouth.
He even felt like punching the branch manager, who even dared to bring up “mother nation” in every one of his sentences. The patriotism-can-solve-anything type of people happened to be the ones Mu Ssang detested most. These cunning older men staying in the rear where it was safe and secure while demanding the blood of the young ones were the real Oecophylla smaragdina.
Mu Ssang suddenly observed a trend. The mesophyll smaragdina-like humans could be found practically everywhere, but South Korea’s case seemed to stand out more. Throughout history, the victims of sacrifice were always the ordinary people that were exploited, living tough lives. He was rather pathetic for wasting his time talking about this go-nowhere topic with someone he didn’t care much about.
If the branch manager hadn’t been an honest-to-a-fault type of man, Mu Ssang would’ve scolded him royally and gone home already.
“If you want to employ someone, offer an appropriate compensation first. France does not force people to prioritize the mother nation and patriotism. Instead, give rewards matching one’s abilities, and patriotism is sure to follow. So stop trying to coerce me with all this patriotism talk, and make it so that I can be patriotic of my own volition.”
Yi Dae-deok could only sit there, blinking in silence. He felt tight-chested as if he was wearing ill-fitting clothes. This young man was only young on the surface, but in reality, he was as astute and crafty as a seventy-year-old man. Yi Dae-deok tried to appeal to the young man’s innocent sensibility, but his efforts were entirely in vain.
Yi Dae-deok already had seen Bak Mu-ssang’s prior records. However, Bak Mu-sang couldn’t have been the only victim of the corrupted governmental authority, now could he?
If Yi Dae-deok were subjected to such crap repeatedly over the years, even he’d have lost all love for this country. Instead, he wanted to drag all those sh*tty bastards to Namsan’s Anti-Communist Branch and throw them inside the torture pan.
“I’m truly sorry. I’ll erase all of your criminal records off the books. However… if you cooperate with the government, wouldn’t you also be in the light in South Korea, too?”
“My house faces south and gets plenty of sunlight, so you don’t have to worry about that. You operate in the shadows so that you may need the light a lot more than me.” Mu Ssang grinned slyly.
Yi Dae-deok tutted to himself. Nothing was working here.
“Money isn’t everything, now is it?” Yi Dae-deok resorted to a lame excuse next.
Mu Ssang stared compassionately at Yi Dae-deok. “What’s the salary of an enlisted soldier in South Korea, again? It’s about five thousand Won for a 30-month sergeant ready to be discharged. Let’s agree that the whole conscription thing can’t be helped due to the current North-South situation. Shouldn’t you provide the soldiers serving the country with a minimum acceptable compensation? Thirty months out of one’s golden time is too much of a sacrifice, don’t you think?
“Five thousand Won is barely enough to buy one book and some biscuit crumbs from the PX. No, hang on. Biscuits are too much of a luxury, aren’t they? I heard that the soldiers have to buy red chili paste and perilla leaves for themselves these days due to the poor quality of side dishes.
“I also heard that kids with powerful backers can suddenly come up with illnesses, go overseas to study, and whatever else to dodge the draft altogether. Let me ask you, do you think the draftees would be overflowing with patriotism when they have to suffer through extreme abuse and hard labor with only 5,000 Won as their compensation?”
“…Urgh!” Yi Dae-deok could only let out a tormented grunt. He persisted with the patriotism angle only to get a verbal smackdown instead. And after hearing about these problems, he realized that he hadn’t even thought about such things before.
“France doesn’t have a conscription system like Korea, so it’s impossible to compare. However, according to the official exchange rate, the annual salary of a Légion étrangère Major is around ten million Won. In other words, it’s four times the salary of the Korean army’s warrant officer. I’m a Major, but my annual salary easily exceeded over a hundred million Won.”
“Heol?!” Yi Dae-deok couldn’t help but feel alarmed.
Of course, the amount of salary would be different due to various factors such as the scale of each country’s economy and their living standards. However, such a stark difference in pay for a similar military rank still left Yi Dae-deok utterly stunned and speechless. No matter how much of a heaven-sent talent Bak Mu-ssang was, it’d still be impossible for him to get that much salary in South Korea.
“If you learn about the annual salary of the Special Military Advisor, then Branch Manager, you will immediately experience a bout of serious self-crisis. If the Korean government wants to match France and show me the appropriate treatment, it will have to arrange the position of an agent with full authority and an annual salary of billions of Won. You think they can do it?”
“Urgh!” Yi Dae-deok had nothing to say.
Such a reward system was impossible in South Korea, where rank and seniority determined one’s annual salary. Even after adding the danger pay and other benefits, the resulting wages would still be a drop in the bucket. The only arsenal left now was appealing to Mu Ssang’s patriotic streak, so no wonder Yi Dae-deok was feeling frustrated as hell.
“I’m sure you’re already aware of this, Branch Manager, but Korea’s Nat-Sec is seen as the rural backwaters in the international intelligence community. In other words, a frog in a well.”
“That’s because the lack of funds and equipment hinders us.”
Yi Dae-deok didn’t want to admit it out of his pride, but the French government advisor’s criticism about them being a frog in a well was correct. But unfortunately, the National Security Agency’s overseas department was still stuck in the HUMINT phase. Not only that but also they were too focused on America and Japan. Europe and the other third-world countries were at a pathetic level of cutting out and collecting newspaper articles.
Mu Ssang shook his head in empathy. “Nonsense! It’s not the lack of funds, but there are too many thieves in your midst. The annual budget meant to be invested in fostering talents and building networks is being siphoned off like some hidden stash under the pretense of so-called governing funds. Don’t try to cover up this despicable reality, Branch Manager.”
“Dammit!” Yi Dae-deok yelled out a curse without even realizing it. It seemed that he ran into his match today.
“The world is changing quickly. Information will go beyond affecting national security and start influencing the finance sector soon. The more SIGINT (signals intelligence, intelligence-gathering by interception of signals) improves, the greater the importance of HUMINT will grow as it rearranges the vast information gathered into valuable data. But, of course, the quality of the field agents will remain just as crucial.
“Get stuck in the old convention, then today will remain the same as yesterday, and tomorrow will be no different from today. If you don’t want to be left behind, then throw away the patriotism marketing ploy and instead introduce a system that favors one’s abilities and unhesitantly appoint anyone with talent, whether they are Koreans or not. You can have ten thousand Min Ju-seok’s working for you, but they will still only be a waste of food and not much else.”
“… We’ll seriously consider your suggestions.” Yi Dae-deok nodded away. Even though it didn’t feel good to hear all these, none of what was said was wrong.
Mu Ssang was as narrow-minded as ever. Min Ju-seok’s fate had been sealed owing to the crime of swearing at Jin-soon.
“King Gojong of Joseon ignored the vast Gyeongbokgung Palace and even the Changdeokgung Palace, instead choosing to use the shabbier Deoksugung Palace’s Jungmyeongjeon as his office. That’s because Deoksugung was located right next to the American legation. During King Gojong’s time, Horace Newton Allen, the American ambassador, requested President Roosevelt support Joseon’s liberation from Japanese rule. Do you know what Roosevelt said back then? ‘Why do you ask me to keep a nation that lacks the will to defend itself? America won’t intervene on behalf of a government that doesn’t have the choice to try and fight back for its survival.’
“Do you not find that truly humiliating, Branch Manager?” Mu Ssang stopped talking there and then glared at one of the stone monuments erected to praise and extol former governors.
A blameless stone monument shattered into bits.
Yi Dae-deok flinched. “…Do you have any intentions of meeting His Excellency?”
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“If I wanted to meet him, I’d have done so already. But after witnessing the pathetic sight of him giving up on Korea’s defense industry and handing the data over to America, I lost all trust in that man. The greed for power has intoxicated him and made him deaf and a loudmouth. In my view, he’s no different from the cowardly Gojong. You don’t protect your country with loud words. And you don’t show your patriotism with your mouth, either. Korea that still isn’t developing the necessary strength to fight back has not changed much from how it was a century ago.”
“Looks like we’ve strayed from the topic, haven’t we? Anyways. Stop with the nonsense about mother nation, patriotism, and the rest. When you find the will and strength to fight, then you can come and seek me out again.”
Mu Ssang got up and then began dusting his butt.
 Post exchange, a shop in a military base