Empire of the Ring

Chapter 32
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Chapter 32: Night of Baku (3)

The siblings stayed in the living quarters due to the sudden temperature drops. Thankfully, the electric wires that Youngho installed used as well in Korea were working well and kept the inside warm that they wore short sleeves in the building. Electricity was cheap like water due to the natural gas power plants, so they used electricity as much as they wanted.

At the breakfast table, Youngho told the siblings about the upcoming Korean trip.

“So, I’m going to Korea with my employees for a job training course. I’d like you to come too. You should come and meet my family too.”

After a moment of silence, the siblings smiled as if they finally understood what Youngho was saying.

“Oppa, is it really okay if we come with you?” Fatima asked in excitement.

Zeynep was jumping and accidentally almost threw her fork in the air, she looked excited too. Szechenyi looked emotionless but Youngho already saw the tip of his mouth raising.

“Oppa, I heard Korea is very cold.”

“Well, it’s not as windy as here, so it would feel similar. No need to worry.”

“Hyung, do we get to meet your parents in Korea too?”

“My parents passed away. I only have a sister, but she’s already married. I’m like you in a sense.”

The siblings’ faces got darker, they had been forgetting about their parents’ absence for the past few months. When Zeynep looked like she was going to cry, Youngho changed the subject. He promised to go snow sledding and skiing together in Korea. Zeynep’s eyes brightened with joy and forgot about her sadness soon. Fatima also tried to make her sister feel better. Youngho felt the siblings’ sadness, no matter how he acted like their parents he could not be their parents. His heart was heavy.

For the next few days, the siblings acted like they were walking on the clouds with excitement. They had 15 days until they leave for Korea but they were so busy packing and preparing for the Korean trip. Fatima recently got her car and Youngho did not have to take the siblings to go out and shop anymore. He put a sign of police, which he received from the director of Main Police Department, on Fatima’s car window, so she could go anywhere with ease. The signs were usually used as a privilege for police families but Youngho also had received one.

“Oppa, it’s Fatima. I’m at the market but I got caught in the traffic, I think I should wait around here until the traffic is relieved but I’m hungry.”

“Okay, stay at the market. I’ll be right there.”

Fatima had enough money but she had called Youngho because she wanted to spend some time with him alone. Youngho noticed that too but did not say anything, he thought it was a good chance since he was thinking about buying some new clothes for Fatima.

Fatima had grown again in the past months and her figure changed. Now that it looked like she stopped growing, he wanted to buy her some proper clothes. She was 175 cm now and she became curvy as other women are. Fatima’s clothes became a little tight for her now.

In front of the market, Fatima waved at Youngho with a big smile. She was beaming and everybody looked at her beauty. Fatima held Youngho’s arm and led him to a kebab restaurant. As he looked at her walk away with kebab on the street, Youngho was glad that she looked so much healthier now.

Youngho brought Fatima to a mall located in Caspian beach. Since she would be going back to school soon, Youngho wanted to buy her some high quality clothes. As a foreigner in school, he wanted her to look nice to others. Fatima who had received lots of clothes from Youngho felt bad about him only buying her clothes, so she picked out a coat for Youngho too. Since the traffic was relieved, Youngho sent Fatima first to the farm. Looking at behind her car driving away, Youngho had a smile on his face.

***

As the date of their Korean trip approached, Youngho put a note on his direct stores that the stores would be closed for a week and told the people around him including the director of Main Police Department about the trip. Since it would be the first time that his direct stores would be closed for a while, he wanted to be careful by letting the policemen know about his absence. Gerhardt would stay on behalf of Youngho taking care of the trade goods and the farm, so he could not join the others for the trip. Instead, Gerhardt asked Youngho to bring lots of Korean alcohol for him because he loved to drink.

Gerhardt and Youngho were on their way to pick up the H Porcelain containers from Baku train station. Youngho would be on a plane to Korea the next day, feeling like he was going on a picnic, he worked humming a tune. Watching him hum, Gerhardt joked at him.

“Boss, I think you’re too excited. Don’t forget that you are taking Karajan and her friends. They are a disaster.”

“I’ll be alright. Don’t worry, I prepared my mind already. They worked hard for me, I think they deserve this.”

“Boss, Karajan looked like she’s going to sweep all the clothes at Dongdaemun market.”

“Haha...”

As they drove in the open-air storage yard, a Bentree passed by his car. He saw three other Bentree cars following the first one. Youngho whistled.

“Looks like some tycoon is here.”

“They must be mafias. I heard that a mafia boss from Ukraine came to Baku since all the mafias in here were sanctioned by the police. It’s probably them.”

“How can people like them just roam around here freely?”

“Well, they’re not innocent but they didn’t do anything yet in here. I also heard some of the high officials were related to them too.”

Youngho immediately called the director of Main Police Department and reported him about the mafias at the Baku train station. Youngho as a businessman in Baku, did not welcome mafias in the area. The director said he already knew about them and the police was watching their movement carefully. Youngho was worried that he might get in trouble with the mafias as he expands his business in Baku. Maybe they were already watching Youngho’s stores, it would be a war if they directly targeted his stores.

After completing the clearance process, Youngho passed around gift cards for his stores to the officials as a bribe. Even though he was supported by high officials, he needed the help of hands-on staffs. They liked Youngho since he always gave gifts, the bribing was not a special thing to them but Youngho just did it to give an impression that they were being respected. He sometimes treated them in a quality restaurant to keep the good relationship.

Sometimes they were a great source of information.

“Mr. Lee, so, this container would be the last one this year?” an official asked.

“Yes, thank you for taking care of my business for this year. By the way, I saw luxury cars driving off from here. I guess they are businessmen?”

“Oh! They are fur traders from Ukraine.”

“Is fur traded often?”

At Youngho’s question, the official lowered his voice and kept on.

“It’s a secret but they are mafias. They came to bring the fur by themselves instead of the local mafias who got arrested. It’s a rare event though.”

“Well, they are doing a legal business. I can’t judge them just because they are mafias.”

As Youngho intentionally made an innocent comment, the official replied to Youngho as if he was rebuking him.

“Mafias do legal businesses but once things go awry, they use guns to treat the problem. They’re not a normal organization, Mr. Lee. You should be careful.”

“Phew, I don’t think I’ll ever have business with them.”

“I’m just telling you to be extra careful, they’ll do anything to make money.”

“Thank you for your consideration.”

On the way back to his store, Youngho could not take the Ukrainian mafias off his mind. Their existence in Baku was dangerous.

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