Empire of the Ring

Chapter 34
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Chapter 34: Missing Seoul, and a Misunderstanding (2)

After hectic schedules in Seoul, Youngho was on the plane returning to Baku. The gang who spent the five days in Korea in a tightly arranged schedule was already asleep on the plane. It was only Fatima and Youngho who were awake, they were reading some documents together. It was a model application form of a well-known Korean model agency. When walking in the streets of Myeongdong, Fatima was caught in the company’s staff’s eyes and was held by him for a long time, he tried to scout her as a model for his company and left her an application form in her hands. She was not as tall as other models but the staff must have liked her eye-catching appearance. Youngho was feeling relieved that she did not have any choice anyway.

Before coming back, Youngho met a CIA sergeant in the American army base in Yongsan. They discussed about the training that Youngho was supposed to receive as a proper agent. Usually agents receive training before becoming an agent but his case was different because he was specially assigned as a field agent by Edward the chief of the European chapter in urgency. The unusual circumstances between Azerbaijan and Armenia made Edward to make an unprecedented decision.

Because Youngho was already trained in Special Forces in the Navy, the sergeant notified him that he was exempted from the physical trainings but he must receive a-month-long refresher training from the European chapter. Since he was a solo agent who worked alone as a foreign investor in Azerbaijan, the possibility of him getting exposed was very low. He had a good cover as a Korean merchandiser.

Even though Youngho worked as an agent and a businessman with lots of freedom to himself, he felt insecure about his position in the CIA. He had not received any proper training yet and he was still not sure if he was a proper agent. As much as a special agent he was without a team to work with, the CIA would not leave him like that for a long time. They could order him to eliminate a government figure and use him as a disposable agent for political reasons.

All he was worried about was the siblings. The position suddenly felt heavy, ‘What if they become targets because of me?’ Youngho decided to be strong and be ready for any possible circumstances. Since he chose his own path as an agent, it was his responsibility. He also had the magical relics that he could use in dangerous missions.

***

It was 2012 already, it was Youngho’s second New Year’s Day in Baku, and he was about to turn 29 this year. After visiting Korea, the employees became even hardworking in the stores, they felt more compassionate towards the company. They were kind to the customers that people had great reviews of Chunho Merchant, and not to mention, there higher sales rate was achieved.

In Azerbaijan, usual salaries averaged around $500 to $700 a month. However, Chunho Merchant paid $1,000 for a beginner’s salary. Youngho wanted to make Chunho Merchant seen as a decent company from Korea. Including commissions, the beginner’s salary would add up to $1,200 in sum, so Chunho Merchant had become a job applicants’ top-pick. Youngho also had a policy of not hiring part-time employees, he only hired them as full-time regular employees. Because of his policies, the employees also worked hard and liked working in there.

Fatima and the siblings’ insecurity seemed to have been lifted up after their Korea trip, they became even livelier and brighter. Youngho’s family’s warm welcome was a great comfort to the siblings. Even after returning to Baku, they still talked to Yunsuh on the phone frequently. Sangchun’s parents and Yunsuh cared them like their family, that they even sent the siblings’ gifts from Korea.

***

Youngho had dinner with the director the next day, it was his first time to meet the director after the trip, so he wanted to say his New Year’s greeting.

“Mr. Lee, you look great. Is it because you got to meet your family in Korea?”

“Yeah, I had a great time all because of you. I heard that you’ve patrolled around the stores and farm while I was gone. I wanted to say thank you.”

“No problem. It’s just my duty. I should keep foreign investors’ businesses safe.”

“I appreciate you work. If it weren’t you, who would care about my business like you?”

“It’s nothing as your friend. I consider you my friend, don’t you feel the same?”

“Of course. I feel like you’re my only friend in Baku.”

Flattered by Youngho’s remark, the director smiled and continued, saying he had good news for Youngho.

“Oh, and you know the mafias you saw at the train station? We deported them out of the country. They might walk around in pride in Ukraine, but not in here.”

Youngho was glad to hear him, but he still thought that mafias were not the kind of organization to just give up just because they were deported. If they could not have it their way in here legally, they would choose a more subtle and violent, illegal ways to get in. The director was proud having chased them away in his country, but Youngho knew that there were more battles waiting to happen.

During dinner, Youngho suggested to the director to become his business partner for a new store that he was planning to open. Karajan had found a spot in Sumqayit, the third-largest city in Azerbaijan. She was confident about the store’s success because of the city was full of highly paid workers. The city had 230,000 people residing in and it was 30 minutes away from Baku.

Rather than to make more money, Youngho wanted to draw more government officials in his business to win them to his side.

The director was positive toward Youngho’s idea. He had no reason to reject his offer since Chunho Merchant had become a popular and stable business in Baku as a trader company. It was a great opportunity to make money once the business opens. The director called Kamal, the head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the spot and actively convinced Youngho to only involve him and Kamal in the new business.

The new business plan was carried forward speedily. The three business partners decided to divide the costs for the rent, decorating the interiors, and the clothes to be displayed, which added up to 90 million won. The store would be managed in the self-supporting accounting system by the three sides.

They already hired two girls in Sumqayit and started training them as sales staffs of the store. Kamal and the director were thankful for Youngho, since they thought that he could open his business without even involving them as partners. Because of Kamal and the director’s involvement, all of the official processes were shortened and progressed in a speedy manner.

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