Empire of the Ring

Chapter 36
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Chapter 36: Mafias of Sumqayit (1)

The farm, which had been quiet all winter, was animated with the appearance of Park Jongil. With his natural charisma, he had quickly developed a close camaraderie with Gerhardt’s family, exchanging jokes with them all the time. He had been kissing up to Gerhardt’s father, who was Karajan’s uncle, in such an obvious way that it made Youngho cringe whenever he saw them together. In order to earn Karajan’s affection, he was targeting her family. The Fatima siblings also favored him.

His fun and naïve character caused the farm to be filled with laughter. His key strategy to pull everyone on his side was to make them smile. Within five days, he made everyone on the farm his friends, and now he started to flirt with the female employees in Youngho’s stores. However, strangely he became stiff in front of Karajan. He seemed to be nervous in front of a person he really liked, which surprised Youngho as he witnessed his friend’s new side.

Jongil should have been an English Literature major instead of Youngho. His English, which was learned in barely over a year, was fluent enough for him to be considered a person who lived in a native country for a long time. He was even teaching English to the Fatima siblings now. Even though he stopped after Youngho’s scolding, he was still a hopeless guy who was looking around to find the second Fatima. After Jongil came to the farm, Youngho experienced not-so-boring days. Although he was like a troublesome little brother, being with him felt reassuring. After all, he was a bodyguard and a current drill instructor with a great, well-built body; he even bragged that he had not been beaten up by anyone in his entire life.

When Youngho introduced Jongil to the director, they became close like brothers in short time. Jongil was a people magnet. Youngho thought of working with some of his friends, who were currently working as drill instructors for the militia, after they quit working for the militia, and Park Jongil was the perfect fit because his irresistible charisma could be a huge plus as a businessman.

***

Sumqayit, an industrial city, was located thirty kilometers northwest of Baku. It was a distance of a thirty to forty minute drive for a roundtrip. Petroleum refineries and many different factories were crowdedly built, so much so that the environment was devastating enough to be called one of the most crowded places in the world. The local laborers were paid high, so the consumption rate was also high. In this city, Chunho Merchant’s third direct store was finally opened. On a Saturday, they held a grand opening event and started the store’s regular sales.

Most people in Sumqayit usually shopped in Baku. When Chunho Merchant’s store was opened in the region, it became the center of people’s attention. The store was decorated to look classy and high quality, just like other Baku’s luxury stores. The local people already knew that the four-leaf clover design of Chunho Merchant’s label was well-known in Baku, and it quickly became popular.

The store was the same size as Baku’s direct store, which was about 3560 sq. ft. It had a little resting area where free Korean tea was served for its customers. In a week, the store became such a hot spot for the rich ladies of the town that all of them had visited the store at least once.

The weekly sales added up to ten million won, which meant that it could rise up to forty million won of profit monthly. The net profit for each clothing was 60% of its sales price. After deducting the rent fee, trade taxes, store maintenance fee, and employee payments, it would still leave fifteen million won as a net profit. After hearing the amount of the profit, the director could not close his mouth in surprise. It was almost three times the wage of a regular government official.

In a big city like Baku, newly opened stores were not noticeable, but in a city like Sumqayit, word spread fast. Now that people knew Chunho Merchant’s store was increasing its sales, it became very popular to its customers and other uninvited guests. Youngho received an urgent call from Karajan.

“Boss, there were some visitors in the store. They wanted to see you, but the atmosphere was rather unusual.”

“Karajan, calm down and speak slowly. Why did they want to see me?”

“You know, it was just strange. They said they want to be a business partner and invest in this store.”

At her words, Youngho shut his eyes, realizing that something he was worried about had finally happened.

It could have been a mafia organization active in local small towns. There were various oil factories in Sumqayit. Because of an abundance of interest, mafias with huge funds invested in the legal oil industry. From the CIA, Youngho heard that the mafias that were arrested in Baku were only the tip of the iceberg, and the bigger mafias who were related to the political sphere were still safe and active. Forcing their way into becoming a business partner where the business was already established was their way to threaten the common businessmen. They would overtake the business after investing some of their money and finding any faults in the business system.

Although the director said he would contact the police department in Sumqayit when Youngho called him, Youngho could not just trust policemen to take care of his business. He was considering making some agreements about his business with the mafias. Not because he did not have power, but because there an order among the local businesses, which outsiders did not know of. If he did not react carefully, it might also affect the stores in Baku, which were doing great. Mafias could bring trouble because they were obsessive over their targets. Youngho had to make a decision on whether he should make a business arrangement with them or not. He decided to meet them in person.

If he did not bring some kind of conclusion to the mafias, they would keep bothering him and the customers in the stores. They might burn down Youngho’s stores in the dark or scare his employees, so that they would not work for Youngho. There were so many risk factors for Youngho’s businesses.

***

Youngho went to his store in Sumqayit, taking Park Jongil with him. Having fifteen days of the break left, Jongil, who was getting bored at the moment, followed him excitedly at the thought of crushing them, even wanting to overtake their organization. Youngho regretted bringing him along. Even though Jongil was a smart guy, he was ill-tempered, so he might act recklessly in an unexpected circumstance. He would make the situation worse since the mafias could be a big problem if they became his enemy. Youngho planned to act carefully since he did not know what the mafias were up to just yet.

The business card he received from Karajan belonged to Rodion, the manager of an oil manufacturer in Sumqayit. His name was the same as a main character’s name from a Russian writer, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. To Youngho’s knowledge, the main character was a murderer. It could not possibly be his real name. Youngho thought that he probably was a psychopath with an evil character. It was already frustrating to meet this unknown guy with an unlikeable name.

After setting up the contact location and time, Youngho ended up in a café with a shady and damp atmosphere. They seemed to have decided to use dirty tricks to intimidate Youngho by putting him in a dreary atmosphere in an unknown place. Youngho smirked at their strategy. A giant guy with tattoos all over his face worked as a bartender. The café was full of unpleasant cigarette smoke, and the mixed smell of alcohol and foods, that Youngho frowned as soon as he stepped in. Even the floor was even muddy with water.

However, Youngho was not intimidated by their strategy. Youngho thought about where to draw the line. He could just use force to drive them away from his stores, but it would be only a temporary solution. However, he could not give up his stores either. Youngho had to make them walk away on their own, but he could not think of a way. He glanced at Jongil, who was standing next to him with his face just full of a competitive spirit. Knowing that his friend would not be the solution, Youngho decided to just face them for now.

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