Empire of the Ring

Chapter 3
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Chapter 3: Gunshots Fired in Nagorno-Karabakh (1)

The season has just changed to winter. Baku was such windy a city that people needed windbreakers in order to survive the winter. That was why the retailers of Chunho Merchant were busy selling clothes ordered from Korea.

The retailers of Chunho Merchant clothes in Baku kept high pricing that almost matched clothes from Youngho’s direct store. They did not consider the low quality of their clothes but tried to use Youngho’s direct store’s high quality fame to make more money. Even though he had warned them that he would take away Chunho Merchant’s label from them, they did not listen. They were damaging the brand name of Chunho Merchant and the sales of the direct store.

Because Youngho kept on tackling them, they said that they would directly have business with Korean clothing factories, excluding him. So, Youngho stopped his business with the retailers. However, the retailers made the decision not considering about the expenses for shipping, storage, clearance, and other official fees. Because they used a different brand name with less appealing design, their clothes were completely rejected by consumers.

Regretting their decision, they returned to have business with Chunho Merchant again, but it was too late because Youngho had already supplied the winter clothes to other retailing stores. The three retailers eventually turned their eyes to Chinese factories.

Youngho only smiled at their shameful tactics, even though they were descendants of the merchants who dealt with people on the silk roads.

Youngho thought it could be because it had been only 20 years since the capitalistic market economy started in Azerbaijan and and the concept of business ethics or credit was not settled in yet.

Youngho got a phone call from Korea.

“Youngho, it’s me.”

“Sangchun? What’s up, man?”

“I just called, just wondered if you’re doing well.”

“Well, you became a dad and now you know how to take care of your friend.”

“So, I heard you’ve got a girl.”

“Of course, I got too many girls. There’s Karajan, Stephany, 19-year-old Fatima, and Zeynep who just turned 12. They are all girls, what?”

“Dude, stop joking around. Mom was going to introduce a girl to you, but Yunsuh said you have a girl now.”

“Wow, you two are just writing a fiction, aren’t you? I’m just taking care of some kids that I met in Istanbul.”

“Really? Then I should tell mom to set up a blind date for you.”

“No, that is a ‘no thank you’. I don’t want to go out on a blind date. Tell mother.”

“Mom is really pushing it this time.”

“No, I want to focus on working for a while. I don’t want to think about other stuff.”

“Okay, okay. I got you. But you’re not really going to raise a girl and marry her, right?”

“Keep writing the fiction, I’ve got to go.”

Confused after the phone call, Sangchun walked back to Yunsuh’s room.

***

Youngho heard about the battle after 9 PM.

Edward called him in urgent voice that there had been gunshots between the soldiers at the border of Nagorno-Karabakh. After two hours, a news channel broadcasted on national TV, that there had been multiple casualties due to a tank battle at the border.

Whether the battle was planned or not would be unsure until the next day. When the news broke out, ‘Finally’ was the word that came to Youngho’s mind.

He called his friend in Stepanakert and made sure that they would not move hastily. Hiis friends tended to be ill-tempered, so Youngho was worried that they might do reckless things if they hear their trainees got hurt during the battle.

In the morning news the next day, Youngho realized that something he and Edward were worried about had finally happened. The news reported that the soldiers on each side had fought over night taking each other’s bases leaving tens of casualties behind. He could see that tanks and heavy firearms were used in the battle. When he checked on the internet, it seemed that foreign news considered it as an accidental battle because they did not make it a big issue.

When Youngho went to Chunho Merchant office in Baku, Karajan and Gerhardt were talking, agitated over the news of the battle. Youngho chose not to participate in their conversation, since they talked against Armenia. Youngho knew this was a sensitive issue to the two nations and this might make a misunderstanding between him, a foreigner, and them.

Youngho pondered about a way to politically move and help on stopping the war. As a foreign entrepreneur, Youngho could help prevent the war from getting spread by insinuating his concerns over the war to high officials and making the public opinion against the war.

He had to act not only to stop the war, but also to save his businesses in Baku. Youngho had just started a farming business investing all of his money and CIA’s money, but he would be out of man power to cultivate grapes if all men got drafted to the war.

When Youngho visited Main the Police Department of Baku, all officials were in their combat uniforms. They considered that they were at war now. Youngho met the director who was excitedly talking about the war.

“Mr. Lee, now is not a good time to visit. What brings you here?”

“I just got too worried. Wouldn’t I lose my workers because of the war?”

“There wouldn’t be such a problem. We have a great Air Force, the situation will be cleared soon.”

The director seemed to be confident because of Azerbaijan had recently bought multiple fighter planes from Israel. Azerbaijan kept close relationship with Israel even though they had different religions. They were in favor of Israel for some reason.

“Director, I came because I felt desperate. I invested more than a million dollar and I’m going to have to pay for the land in three years. If I can’t manage the farm business, I’ll be bankrupt in no time. It’s not just me but other foreign investors are anxious too. I’d like the battle to be settled before spreading big.”

Understanding what Youngho was worried about, the director who did not welcome his visit at first replied,

“I understand that you are worried. I did not think about foreign investor’s positions and how they might not invest again in our nation. I’ll take your opinion to the executive council, they’ll take my word in consideration even though I’m just a mere official in the police department. Thank you for coming here and sharing your opinion.”

The director was an open-minded person. It made Youngho sad to think that he was the one who killed many Armenians when he served in the military in the past. He might have been pushed to an extreme decision because of old national sentiment, but he did not seem to take life lightly.

Youngho also visited Kamal, the head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and complained that if all foreign investors lose their money due to the war, the nation’s finance would helplessly fail. Kamal was a high official and could make a voice in deciding national matters. The international opinion was also leaning against the war.

Because Azerbaijan had started constructions all over the country as part of their economic development plan, there were stronger inside opinions that wanted to wrap up the battle as an accidental collision between the two nations.

Youngho met Turkish investors who had businesses in Baku and convinced them to help stopping the war. All of them agreed to Youngho’s opinion, since they were businessmen who were after money, and some even said that they would visit high officials and voice themselves.

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