Empire of the Ring

Chapter 1
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Chapter 1: An Offer Received After a Beating (1)

*Disclaimer: The following contains depictions of religion and ethnic disputes. We do not support the author’s views, we are only translating and editing the novel. This fictional novel is inspired by real-world people, places, and events — the author has taken these people, places, and events and embellished them as characters with conversations and backgrounds as done in fiction.

There is not a single part of my body that is not aching. The swelling in my cheeks has lessened, and I can finally open my eyes with ease. I forced myself to look around, but the scene has not changed a bit.

A light bulb dangles from the ceiling and the small, iron-barred windows are merely touching the ceiling at the top corner. They seem to function as a vent to circulate air rather than for letting sunlight into the room.

It has been three days since I got locked up in this room, but all they have been doing is giving me some thin soup and tough bread. They beat me so hard the first day I was dragged here, but from the next day onward, they haven’t even laid a finger on me.

I have no idea why I got beaten up since I am just an innocent merchandiser who came here to sell Korean unmanned security systems.

***

Youngho, who was drinking a cup of coffee at a café, was threatened at gunpoint. The men dragged him and beat him with sticks. It was no use to plead or protest with his poor English.

Youngho had a bad feeling that he was being terribly misunderstood by these people. As if they wanted to scare him, they covered his eyes, threw him into a car, and drove him to who-knew-where for several hours.

At first, they slapped his face, brutally taking down his self-esteem, and later they beat his shoulders with a large, thick rubber stick. It was terrifying to get beaten up without a single word of explanation.

Youngho figured that these people were not from the official Armenian army when they started beating him. He came to this conclusion not only because of their inconsistent beatings, but also because their beating was leading to nowhere. They seem to be tormenting him without a purpose. He thought that this organization must be a sloppy one.

Youngho was saving his words since he could get into grave danger if he exposed their identity. He needed to gain their trust and make them believe that he was not their foe, but it seemed impossible since he couldn’t communicate with them.

There were three to four people switching in guarding him around the clock, but he recognized nobody. He became desperate when he found out that he couldn’t communicate with them even with his poor Russian because as far as he knew, most Armenians spoke Russian.

After all the hassles of the first day, Youngho noticed a change in their behavior.

It was clear that someone was watching Youngho, who had been staying in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, for 15 days going in and out of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Main Police Department. It didn’t make sense to abduct Youngho, who just came to Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory, if they hadn’t been watching him.

Even with a little ambiguity in his look, Youngho considered his appearance a natural Korean’s. He wasn’t sure if there might have been some western blood in his ancestry because his family was often told that they looked a little western back in Korea, but his passport clearly showed that he was from the ‘Republic of Korea.’

They must be startled to find out that he was a 27-year-old Korean named Lee Youngho, as they went through his stuff after abducting him.

There was no doubt that they were one of the Nagorno-Karabakh organizations that were fighting against Azerbaijan. With the hope of getting released, Youngho felt uncertain about the possibility of his abductors’ making a reckless decision to avoid the Korean government’s protest.

***

Youngho managed a little trading shop in Yongsan Electronic Market with his friend.

It was a bad idea to start a business in Eastern Europe. Trusting his English skills, since he majored in English Literature back in college, he decided to come here to sell Korean unmanned security systems which were popular here.

His friend Cho Sangchun tried to stop him because Youngho was going to a disputed territory, but Youngho insisted for he thought he could make even more money from businesses in a place like this.

He confidently thought that his western look could attract more people. But here he was, all locked up and beaten up. He felt like laughing.

The situation was not funny at all since he wasn’t sure whether he would be facing death soon. It drove him crazy not understanding Armenian or Azerbaijani, not to mention that nobody spoke English in this group, which was systemized enough to abduct him.

It was natural for at least a single person to speak Russian in a large group of people from a region like this that once belonged to the Soviet Union.

It was uncertain if they just did not want to communicate at all.

Whether they wanted to terrorize him enough so that he would confess anything was unclear, but it was no use since he did not know anything.

The insides of his mouth hurt, but he forced himself to swallow the tough bread. Recovering his condition was his first priority.

He felt pain in one of his outer thighs ever since he got beaten up with the rubber stick, but he tried to get used to walking with it.

He had been staying in shape, so his body was robust, but that didn’t help with all the pain from the beatings. The situation was so absurd that he kept on cussing.

If he was not suddenly threatened at gunpoint, he could have defended himself because Youngho once belonged to a naval special forces unit. But now what? He was already tied up unless he possessed some special fleeing skills....

His beard looked bushy since he could not shave for the past three days.

He spoke English to a huge guy who came to give him his meal as if it was a normal meal time.

“Hey, got any cigarettes?”

The big guy stared at him and took out a cigarette and lighter.

Surprisingly, this big, dumb-looking guy understood English.

The fact that the guy started to communicate with him after three days was telling Youngho that their attitude toward him had changed. Youngho was excited to think that he might be able get freed. After thinking about how to act, he chose to try showing boldness rather than nervousness.

The cigarette was American and the lighter was ‘Bultina,’ a Korean brand. Youngho felt frustrated after noticing that it was his.

How dare they touch my lighter? Don’t they know that smokers are attached to their lighters?

“Aaaaahhh....”

He felt a little dizzy as he inhaled the cigarette smoke for the first time in three days. After he sucked up his entire cigarette, the guy was generous enough to give him one more stick.

Even though they covered his eyes when they beat him, Youngho knew that this guy was the one who had beaten him harshly. His humongous hand that was like a big cauldron lid was proof.

“Is there anybody here who speaks English or Russian?”

The big guy jerked, which meant he understood.

“Do you know why I am here? I am a citizen of Korea!”

Saying that made him choked up for no reason. It was nothing to cry about. Embarrassed by his tears, Youngho breathed heavily.

“You d*ck! Are you mute?”

“....”

As Youngho got up from his chair and started to approach him, the guy stepped back and stopped Youngho with his hands. Youngho’s height was 185 cm*, but this guy was at least a head taller than him.

“I’d like to meet the person in charge.”

Youngho pulled out his thumb and repeatedly said ‘captain.’

After looking down on Youngho for a moment, the guy stepped out of the room, saying, “Wait.”

What was wrong with this guy? He spoke English but was playing dumb all along.

“Hey, you jerk! You understood me but ignored me all along?”

The huge guy did not answer and shut the iron door.

Youngho was startled.

Even though his English bore a hard accent, Youngho felt hopeful in knowing that he could speak to him. At second thought, he felt leery. They already knew who he was, but they were not letting him go. A sudden thought popped into his head:

They can’t be assassins who leave no witnesses.

Youngho began to think about how troublesome he could be as an eyewitness for them. They might be discussing Youngho becoming cause for another trouble after abducting him.

I’ve got to escape. They’ll kill me like a dog.

He swiftly looked around his surroundings, searching for tools to escape with. There lay only a chair, desk, and a light bulb. No; a wooden meal tray and spoon were there as well.

Since they had taken his shoes to prevent him from running away, Youngho was already barefoot. He felt helpless for not knowing where to go after leaving the room, but his mind was telling him to flee.

Youngho began to think hard. He could take down one big guy, but what would he do after that? He had no idea where he was.

This was Nagorno-Karabakh with a plateau of over 1,000 meters** above sea level. He would starve to death if this place was located in the midst of a mountain.

On top of that, an organization this big would locate him wherever he went in this country. However, sitting and waiting for them to turn friendly felt stupid enough. He stretched his body to prepare for the next move.

He did not have enough strength to escape. He had not fully recovered since all he had been eating for the past few days was thin soup and tough bread. He tried to do some push-ups, but he felt pain along his sides and back as soon as he began. He had to stop after forcing a few repetitions.

He finally realized that he could not take those guys down by himself even with his well-built body. After all, they belonged to a big organization with guns and knives.

Youngho’s new strategy was to convince them that he would not report them if they freed him, but he was not sure if he could do that with the current state of his brain, which didn’t seem to be working properly at the moment.

*185cm- about 6’1″

**1000 meters- about 3281 ft

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Hello readers,

I’m excited to introduce a new novel. As shown in the synopsis, this is a Korean ongoing novel with more than 750 chapters on Munpia.

I’ll be uploading 14 chapters a week and hopefully 2 chapters a day. Because it is a long novel, the pace might feel a little slow, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy this grand epic story. Please give it a try and hope you enjoy travelling with Youngho !

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