Empire of the Ring

Chapter 17
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Chapter 17: The Secret of the Ring and the Leather Shoes (1)

Youngho visited Poti Sea Port in Georgia.

At the Port, he received trade items such as: all-in-one helmet and night vision goggles shipped from Chunho Merchant’s headquarters in Korea, combat rations from Eti the food company in Turkey, and tableware products from H Porcelain.

Youngho received another thing from the defense industry company in Changwon, which was $270,000 in his bank. The company sent him the money on the Q.T. to lobby him. Youngho felt relieved to have extra money now. Even though he made lots of profits from his stores, there would be a plenty of events that would cost him money in the future.

For the next 15 days, Youngho busily travelled around Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh. As Mustafa wanted, he donated his money to an orphanage run by the state.

Strangely, Youngho felt not as tired as before ever since he visited the flea market in Istanbul. Even his driver and secretary Gerhardt asked him what kind skin care he used. He complimented about how Youngho looked even younger these days.

Youngho also felt the change. When he looked at his face reflected in the mirror, his skin looked cleaner and shinier. The climate in Baku was very dry with very low humidity and that usually resulted in rough skin texture. People in Baku desired for shiny skin. That was why the first thing imported in Baku was women’s skin care cosmetics since the poor economic condition improved. Korean cosmetics were one of the popular products. However, Youngho did not really care for his skin change yet.

***

On a lazy Sunday, Youngho started taking care of his apartment in a long time. After doing his piled-up laundry, he displayed the old stuff that he bought at the flea market in Istanbul. Cleaning them a few times with soap and polishing them had made them looked like great vintage antiques. He still kept the ring on his finger. The color of the rock on the ring looked changed a bit but thinking it must have faded, Youngho did not pay too much attention.

Youngho liked to have the ring on his finger. Many of the people in Baku considered a ring with engraved patterns as a prestigious family’s ring. When Youngho, an East Asian, asked to shake hand with the ring on his finger, they showed interest. That’s why Youngho had it on since he came back from Istanbul. In fact, now he did not want to take it off, he became attached to the ring.

After displaying the silvery kettle and copper plates in the showcase, he picked up four pairs of the old leather shoes to polish them. It was then when he saw a brief flash of light on a shoe. Assuming that he mistook afternoon sunlight reflected on the sheen of the shoe, he kept on polishing it with more cream. Now when he started polishing the inside of the shoe, a bright light wrapped around the whole shoe for a moment and disappeared. Youngho’s hair stood on end but he still held on to the shoe. Many things came to his mind in a flash.

Youngho regretted letting the girl go without asking her where she lived. Even though he gave her his business card, there was no reason for her to call him since he did not speak Turkish and she would never want to call him in fear that he might ask the money back for the ragged items.

After he was done cleaning the insides of the shoes, he tried them on for himself. The shoes looked bigger than his size but when he put them on, to his surprise, not only they fitted well, they disappeared in his eyes.

Youngho’s heart leapt into his mouth. He took a few moments to calm himself down and began to think.

I feel them on my feet but I don’t see them.

Thinking that, Youngho took them off. Then the shoes appeared in his eyes again.

Invisible shoes or magic shoes?

Four rings and four pairs of shoes?

Because there were four numbers of each item, they seemed to make combined sets. Curiosity about the mysterious items, rather than fear of them drove him.

Putting back the shoes on, he tried walking at different speeds and looking in the full-length mirror in the bathroom. Nothing new happened except that his body felt lighter.

Youngho was confused.

Guessing that other items from the flea market would have different functions, he tried different things on the items including touching and starting at them.

He even tried chanting different spells. If his friends saw him, they would call him insane.

Finally, he took out his ring to see if it had any connection with the shoes. When he took out the ring, he could see the shoes on his feet again. The ring and the leather shoes had linked together.

Youngho was now running in the secluded mountain behind his apartment. Not running, he was dashing at a fast speed like the cyborg man from the old American TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man. It would be more accurate to say that he was almost flying as if a rocket engine was attached behind him.

After realizing that he could wear his normal running shoes on top of the mystical leather shoes, he was stunned when he tried jumping in those. His weight felt like feather and he could jump up so high.

Now he could run at the speed of 30 miles per hour while moving at least 5 yards for each step he took. He tried his best to balance himself while moving. Youngho thought it would be impossible for a person with little muscle mass, since it was hard for him to stop from that speed. The shoes seemed to have a function of absorbing shock on impact.

Youngho tried hard to balance himself while quickly avoiding obstacles in the mountain. It was unbelievable to see this kind of mystical items existed. However, it was real. Still not fully believing in them, Youngho was glad that he attained items that can make him travel a short distance in a flash.

Youngho thought that it was his destiny to have them believing he was blessed because he was generous to the girl in flea market and they came to him. He did not know where to use those for now, but it was still worthy to keep them.

He trained himself for two hours and returned his apartment.

He investigated the rest of the rings and shoes but they did not show any special functions. Thinking that the little kettle might be mystical too, he tried taking the ring close to the kettle and rubbing it against it but nothing extraordinary happened.

Then he realized that the rock on the ring had changed its color to dark purple. This just happened with the ring he had on, not with the others. Youngho figured that they would change the color when it had been on someone’s finger for a while. He decided to have two rings on his fingers on each hand, so that they might reveal their hidden powers to him.

***

He was having busy days but he would still go to dining with government officials to maintain relationships. Last night, he had dinner with the head of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kamal, and the executive director of Main Police Department. When Youngho told them that he would open a branch in Georgia, they tried to convince him to invest some for Baku saying they would look after him.

The recent fluctuation of oil prices had caused the nation’s economy shrink. Therefore, the governors of Azerbaijan were searching for ways to increase foreign investments. Because their positions were at stake, they made great efforts to bring international investments to their country.

In fact, Youngho liked the charming city of Baku more than Georgia but he mentioned Georgia to see how they would react. At the end of the meeting, he also showed them his intention to buy or rent a farm site to open a grape farm, asking if they knew any good, available sites.

The two officials were exuberated to hear his plan because Youngho would start a primary industry rather than importing consumer goods. The emergence of large-scale farms, a primary industry, could be a catalyst for companies to invest in agriculture.

Kamal excitedly promised Youngho for a farm site as if he could lend a state property in no time.

Soon, Kamal found a great site for Youngho. A state property site was a hilly area which was 30 minutes apart from Baku. Kamal said Youngho could rent as much land he wanted. If Youngho hire local farmers, they could let Youngho rent it for free under a condition that he would buy it after three years.

The minimum size of the land that Youngho could rent was 200 acres. 1 Acre would cost Youngho $1,000. He liked the farm site and decided to run a farm size about 500 acres and submitted a business plan.

After a few days, when the Azerbaijan government permitted his business, they contracted right away. Youngho thought that he could pay it off with his earnings from the direct stores in Baku and he would be able to pay his farm employees with the profit of the farm.

He also wanted to show off his financial capability to the officials that he could invest that much amount. Kamal was surprised to see Youngho’s boldness. It was the price that they never imagined that Youngho could afford.

Youngho stepped in the international airport of Istanbul in Turkey for the second time. This time, he visited there to buy grape plants and equipment to prepare for his grape farm. He came to Istanbul where the prices are lower than Azerbaijan. Baku’s prices were as high as Seoul’s. Youngho wanted to visit Istanbul again ever since he found out about the ring and leather shoes he bought in here. Now, it was time for him to catch two birds with one stone.

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