Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 623
Yeong-a grinned brightly. Didn’t matter whether you were a kid or an adult, bribes had a way of softening people up.
The girl asked innocently. “Including the full moon bread, too?”
“Of course. I’ll buy one thiiiis big,” said Mu Ssang while spreading his arms wide.
Yeong-a’s eyes widened. “Even the banana milk, too?”
“Yup. I’ll buy lots and lots of them!”
“Oppa~!” Yeong-a unhesitantly called Mu Ssang Oppa.
“Haigoo~, you cute little thing!” He lightly picked her up and began spinning around with the girl in the air.
“Kyah-hahaha!” Yeong-a giggled in happiness.
However, Mu Ssang didn’t hear her bell-like laughter as innocent laughter at all. She was at an age where fancy clothes and shoes would’ve started taking priority in life, but her focus was on acquiring snacks and food instead. It could only mean that her life so far had been a tale of poverty and hardship.
‘That damn bi*ch!’
Mu Ssang recalled the greasy face of the diner lady. He began wondering if that ugly diner lady even paid his mother her wages properly on time knowing that she suffered from mental health issues. Yeong-a should’ve still retained some of her baby fat, but she was far too thin for her age. And her scaly, reddish patches on her face told everything there was to know.
Kim Mal Soon wiped her tears and silently looked up at the heavens above. When was the last time Yeong-a was this happy? Because the mother was found lacking, even the daughter was treated as a nuisance. That’s why she was so grateful to her son for treating his younger sister from an unknown father with such kindness and warmth.
“Oh, my beloved. The heavens have looked after our son all this time. And they must’ve pitied this terrible woman for they saw fit to send her son to save her.”
Kim Mal Soon’s beloved, who apparently asked his young son to protect his wife before his passing, must be somewhere up there. The zelkova tree on the outskirt of a village was unmovable and sturdy because its roots supported it. She couldn’t remember preparing a single warm meal for her son, yet the boy still grew up as a warm, kind man. That had to be thanks to Kim Mal Soon’s beloved looking after their child.
Yeong-a asked innocently, “Oppa, where are we going?”
“Somewhere that makes delicious food, of course!”
“Wow, that’s so rad!” She excitedly raised her hands up high.
She really hated the smell of seolleongtang, but that was the only dish she could eat back in the diner. Mu Ssang opened the rear door and gently put Yeong-a down on the back seat of his car. Kim Mal Soon reverentially took off her shoes before entering the car as she didn’t want to dirty the expensive-looking floor carpets. Mu Ssang’s heart ached at that scene, but he did his best to pretend that he hadn’t seen anything.
Mu Ssang’s Citroën stopped in front of an expensive-looking restaurant specializing in baeksuk (boiled chicken soup with rice and herbs). He deliberately chose an establishment that served this dish to keep jogging his mother’s old memories. He hoped that his mother might stumble into a trigger of some sort to unlock her memories by doing so.
“But… This place looks so expensive!” Kim Mal Soon hesitated in front of the restaurant.
“Mother, there’s no need to worry. Just look at your son driving a foreign car. I assure you, I’m a thousand times richer than you think, mother.” Mu Ssang grinned brightly. His smile was as bright and warm as the late Summer sun peeking out from beyond the clouds after a long rainy season.
Kim Mal Soon thought she might go blind from his radiance. At first glance, he was handsome. At second glance, he was exceedingly cool. And by the third glance, Mu Ssang was the most wonderful man under the heavens. He made all the hardship Kim Mal Soon had gone through until now seem like just a figment of her imagination.
“Mother. We used to have chicken coops made out of steel wires by the left corner of our front yard. Whenever you cooked sumac chicken, the appetizing aroma would permeate throughout our home. I’d be drooling like a slob, peeking my head inside the kitchen. Even without many of the ingredients, you used to cook some amazing dishes, mother.”
“Yes. Father and I really loved your sumac chicken, you see. Whenever I recovered from stomach aches, father would go to Wolsong Mountain to get some sumac plants. Then, you’d dump a ton of sticky rice and garlic along with sumac and chicken in the pot, and boil them for a long, long time. And when I picked up my spoon and tried to dig right in, you’d quickly pilfer the drumsticks and give them to father. Yes, you were a bad mom who prioritized her husband over her son! Ahahaha!” Mu Ssang regaled his mother with the stories of the past as if he was singing a song.
“…Ah!” Kim Mal Soon could only gasp like that whenever her son told her about the past she couldn’t remember.
Her mind could already picture the scene of a loving husband and herself pulling the meat off the chicken bones to feed her mischievous but still kind son. She must’ve been so happy back then! She suddenly recalled that she’d always add sumac chicken to the menu every time she started working in a new diner. Her brain might have forgotten it, but it seemed that her body had not!
“Oppa, I like jjajangmyeon, though.” Yeong-a suddenly tackled Mu Ssang just as he placed an order for sumac chicken.
“Oh, no! Yeong-a!” Kim Mal-soon was taken aback.
Her daughter never ever whined about her food. Yeong-a silently drank the soup of seolleongtang she hated so much without any complaints, so why was she being picky with her food now?
“Ahahah. Sorry, looks like I was only thinking about myself.” Mu Ssang chuckled. He placed another order for jjajamyeon after getting the restaurant manager’s understanding.
“Wow! Oppa, you’re the best!” Yeong-a was very generous with the honorific of ‘Oppa’ today.
“This is so strange… Yeong-a is a kind girl, but she’s also a shy child, too…” Kim Mal Soon tilted her head.
“She can instinctively tell, mother. That I’m her older brother.” Mu Ssang replied as if he was stating the obvious, but his words only made his mother’s chest well up with warm emotions.
“Son… You must’ve worked hard, haven’t you…? I was a bad mother that couldn’t even cook you a decent meal, but you still grew up to be a fine young man,” Kim Mal Soon muttered as tears welled up. She reached out and carefully caressed her son’s face. This skin smoother than a ceramic, his chiseled facial features – what a wondrous miracle that he grew up to be such a handsome young man!
Mu Ssang’s heart ached painfully. His breathing clogged from emotions and it felt like the chicken meat got stuck in his throat, not wanting to go down. “Mother, they say heavens will bestow trials and tribulations to forge a hero of their era. Unripened persimmons can only become delicious after getting bombarded by frost, while apples taste their best after a drought. What I’m trying to say is… Mother, just think of your past as a nightmare. From this moment on, it’s time for you to live your life. Every second is precious.”
“Alright. We have plenty of time left, so there’s no rush, son. Let’s take our time and listen to the tales of our past. Did you say I’m forty-eight this year? I can hardly believe it. I thought I wasn’t even forty yet…” Kim Mal Soon sighed ruefully. She spent the last seventeen years not knowing her own age. Since her son said he was twenty-six, it was the same as him being abandoned at the age of nine.
Just what kind of a circumstance was surrounding her at that time? Kim Mal Soon wanted to ask, but something told her that Mu Ssang wouldn’t be so forthcoming with an answer.
“Mother, your baby face earned you the jealousy of all the village womenfolk back then. This is when you were around twenty-three.” Mu Ssang took out a black-and-white photo from his wallet. It was a typical ‘first birthday’ photo of a young couple and their little baby in between.
Jinsun found this photo while going through the photo album of Missus Hadong. Even the auntie herself said she had forgotten all about it.
“Ah!” Kim Mal Soon gasped, unable to say anything else.
The girl in hanbok with coiled hair looked so young. But that girl in her late teens definitely had her face. Maybe, because of her cherubic face, her in-laws could’ve bullied her…?
Kim Mal Soon’s eyes quickly shifted from the face of the baby in the photo to her son sitting across her. Those warm, round eyes and slender lips were identical. As for the handsome man sitting across from the young girl in the photo… That must’ve been her husband! Kim Mal Soon stared emotionally at the photo, utterly lost in her thoughts.
“They say a mother can unconditionally recognize her son… That baby is me, mother.”
“My… my son!” Kim Mal Soon tightly held Mu Ssang’s hand as if she’d never let it go again.
“Mother, your hometown is Chungmu. And up until now, over a thousand people have been searching for you throughout the country.”
“Goodness me, a thousand?” Kim Mal Soon was stunned by that revelation.
“Yes, mother. Your son is quite wealthy, you see. My master said that I’d meet you when the time was right, but I just couldn’t sit on my hands doing nothing, you see. I raised a whole lot of fuss but in the end, things worked out exactly as my master said they would. Hahaha!”
“Yes, mother. He’s an amazing person that molded your son into a proper human being. Speaking of which, let’s hurry and get going. My master is the only person in this world who can heal you, mother. We must speak to him as soon as possible.”
“But, son? What about the food? Leaving like this is against manners. What should we do now?” Kim Mal Soon was taken aback again and asked her son in a fluster.
“Don’t worry, mother. I’ll deal with it. Let’s just pack up what we need and quickly go. …Aikoo, this little one has dozed off.”
After polishing off the bowl of jjajangmyeon, Yeong-a couldn’t win against the post-meal drowsiness and dozed off on Mu Ssang’s lap. He carefully hugged her, then wiped the remnants of jjajangmyeon off her mouth and nose with his handkerchief. He seemed so natural while doing that.
‘Does my son already have children?’ Kim Mal Soon tilted her head in confusion before expressing her lamentation over the now-cold chicken dish. “Oh, no. We haven’t even enjoyed the meal properly, but they’ve all gone cold now!”
They had forgotten all about the food while lost in the reminiscent of their past.
Mu Ssang grinned deeply. “It’s fine, mother. You can cook one for us later.”
“Of course, of course!” Kim Mal Soon nodded like a bobblehead toy.
She no longer needed to cook meals for those shameless men that tried to flirt with her all the time. In comparison, she’d be glad to prepare hundreds of meals a day for her beloved child. A rush of happiness flooded in to fill up her heart.
A minivan rushed in and stopped in front of Seonchang Seolleongtang. Three men with large physique quickly climbed out of the vehicle. One of them was Nupchi, who rushed here after getting the call from Samsik. He glanced at the diner’s signboard, then unhesitantly stepped inside.
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“Welcome, sirs!” Auntie Seoho greeted them excitedly.
Nupchi ignored her while scanning the diner’s interior, then asked a question. “Auntie, is Missus Kim Mal Soon here?”
“Kim Mal Soon? Who’s that? We don’t have anyone with a name like that.”
She thought they were customers, but no. What a waste of time this was! Auntie Seoho didn’t even bother to think twice and simply shook her head.
Nupchi had made a fatal mistake just now. Kim Mal Soon had lost her memories and she was also an ultimate example of a baby face. She didn’t even know what her name or age was, so how could anyone else know? Nupchi and Co. tried to find her with nothing but age, a sketch of her facial features and name, so no wonder they were always left chasing shadows even after finding someone that knew her. Monk Dae Woo’s assertion that this was all a grand ol’ waste of time was right on the money.
“This lady here.” Nupchi showed the woman the composite sketch.
“Hmm, she kind of resembles Yeong-a’s mother, but the age is a bit…” Auntie Seoho tilted her head in confusion.
“Auntie, did a tall and handsome young man stop by here earlier?”
“Yeah. He went out sometime ago with Yeong-a’s mother to get some lunch. By the way, who are you?”
“No need to know, auntie. Give us three bowls of seollongtang.” Nupchi replied while pulling out a chair and settling down on it. His two underlings cautiously sat down on his opposite side.
As for Auntie Seoho, she went inside the kitchen, her wide hips swaying in excitement.
“Huh. How could this happen!” Nupchi groaned deeply.
Nearly thousand ‘workers’ had been mobilized to turn the southern coast upside down, but they had nothing to show for their troubles so far. Nupchi was this close to jumping in a lake out of shame, so to hear that his big brother had personally found the madam! He couldn’t tell what kind of supernatural power was involved here, but regardless of what, he was left speechless.
“Are they detectives? But, detectives wear jackets, don’t they?” Auntie Seoho in the kitchen tilted her head in confusion.
Port Seoho always had a ton of yangahchis. Minor incidents occurred often, and detectives walking around with photos or composite sketches searching for people became a common sight around here. But this trio… They were acting like cops, but Auntie Seoho could swear that she had never met a detective chasing after criminals while wearing fancy business suits.
“Yup, that young punk must be a gigolo or something.” Auntie Seoho came to a weird conclusion on her own.
The diner’s entrance was roughly yanked open, then a flat, coarse face of a man peeked inside, the rest of his body staying outside the doorway. Nupchi dumping rice into a bowl of seolleongtang glanced up to see who it was. Judging from that guy’s intoxicated face induced by daytime drinking and the cheap cigarette stuck between his lips, he seemed to be one of the local yangahchis.
“Hey, you might break my door down! Are you going to pay for that if you do, Mister Nam?!” Auntie Seoho angrily shot a glare at the yangahchi.
“Auntie! Where did that bastard go?!”
“What are you on about? Don’t ask me when you can’t even make heads nor tails of yourself!” Auntie Seoho could talk with the best of them after dealing with coarse sailors all her life. Some young punk twenty years her junior was rudely addressing her, but she knew that it’d be a waste of her energy to argue with a dumbass in the first place.
“Argh, f*ck me! I’m talking about some pretty f*ckboy that called himself the son of Yeong-a’s mother!”
Nupchi’s hands came to a sudden halt.
“Ahaaa. You ran into Skipper Jo, then? That pretty boy you’re talking about went out to lunch with Yeong-a’s mom sometime ago.”
“Where did they go?”
“They have legs, so how should I know? They must be somewhere.”
“Is he really her son, though?”
“Don’t ask me. Still, he’s got a nice face and all, so she might have caught herself a big fish.”
“You don’t think Yeong-a’s mother has ran off?”
“Haigoo~, you worry like a little girl, fella. Her belongings are still over there, so she’s running off to where now?”
“F*ck. Which dumb motherf*cker dares to disturb me, Nam Pal-bong’s business! I don’t know who he is, but he’s dead meat!”
The yangahchi named Nam Pal-bong stepped inside the diner, finally revealing his huge barrel-like physique.
“You start fighting again in my diner, then I’m warning you, Imma call the cops!” Auntie Seoho murderously glared at the yangahchi.
“Eiii. Stop showing off because this tiny-ass diner is yours, auntie. Besides… That punk couldn’t have gone far since Seoho’s small and all.” Nam Pal-bong glanced at Nupchi and his underlings before stepping outside the diner. His yangahchi senses warned him that the unknown trio was dangerous, so he quickly got out of dodge. Unfortunately for him, though…
The broad-shouldered underling duo shot up to their feet. Nupchi and quick wits only needed to hear little snippets of the conversation to figure out who this local yangahchi was talking about. Even though his big brother told him not to create a scene no matter what, letting that as*hole go left a sour aftertaste in Nupchi’s mouth.
Sounds of fisticuffs ensued right outside the diner. Shortly thereafter, Nam Pal-bong was dragged back inside.
“Why are you doing this?! Assaulting someone in the broad daylight?! What is the meaning of this!” Nam Pal-bong, now black-eyed, desperately struggled in anger.
“Shut the hell up, b*tch!”
A chopstick faintly nicked the skin off Nam Pal-bong’s ear on its way to stab deeply into a wall. Nupchi’s specialty, his throwing technique, had been unleashed once more.
“Euk?!” Nam Pal-bong saw the chopstick jutting out of the wall and clamped his mouth shut.
The two underlings dragged him and threw him in a corner of the diner. Auntie Seoho also hurriedly shut her mouth after sensing the mood had become ugly in an instant. But then…
“…Oh my goodness?! What is happening now?” Her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets next.
Two minibuses came to a screeching halt in front of her diner, then hulking men in business suits began flooding out of the vehicles. They unhesitantly stepped into the diner next. Cowered by the ominous aura these men emitted, Auntie Seoho quickly took refuge behind the counter. Twenty big men stepping into the diner meant its already-small interior was now filled to the brim.
“Brother!” The suited gangsters (?) bowed their heads simultaneously to Nupchi.
“Man, you’re making me dizzy. Our big brother will be here soon. Wait outside and welcome him.”
“Yessir!” The suited gangsters flooded back outside and stood at attention.
“F*ck! I’m screwed!” Nam Pal-bong’s expression crumpled unsightly. He wasn’t sure how it happened, but somehow, he got tangled up in some criminal organization’s business. A small fry like him would simply end up as living fish food dropped into the Chungmu harbor if he got on the wrong side of an organization of this caliber.
Mu Ssang’s Citroën came to a stop in an empty spot in front of the diner. He opened the back door and carefully hugged the still-sleeping Yeong-a. He then held his mother’s hand with his free hand and headed back to the diner.
“…Huh? And who are you all supposed to be?” Mu Ssang dazedly scanned all the muscles lining up in front of the diner. That was when Nupchi rushed outside to greet his boss.
“Big brother, congratulations.”
The muscles also bowed smartly before Mu Ssang, too. “Congratulations, Chairman!”
“Haigoo, you dumbasses. People might think I’m a mafia boss or something.” Mu Ssang dismissively waved his hand away.
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“Mother! You must’ve gone through so much!” The outgoing Nupchi quickly bowed his head at Kim Mal Soon next.
Flustered by this unexpected scene, she hurriedly looked at Mu Ssang, silently asking for a clarification.
He explained the situation to her. “These guys are a part of the crew that has been searching for you, mother.”
“I-I see. All of you, you must’ve worked hard because of me.” Kim Mal Soon bowed her head at them.
“Aikoo~! Mother, that isn’t necessary!” Nupchi looked flustered and lost by how polite Kim Mal Soon was.