Empire of the Ring

Chapter 4
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Chapter 4: An Offer Received After a Beating (2)

Youngho was abducted in a quiet café in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. The city was not populated like South Korea, where the streets and restaurants were thoroughly watched by closely set-up CCTVs. Youngho’s disappearance could be easily called a mystery if they wanted to.

In this area, there was no Korean consulate or representative department.

Since he met only a handful of Koreans in Armenia’s capital city Yerevan, he had no friends to ask for help from. There was nobody; it was only Youngho who could save himself.

After he spent hours deep in thought, he heard the door open. The big guy came in with a thin man who looked around 40 years old. Youngho sprang up from his chair. The big guy motioned him to sit down. The thin man leaned on the desk with his hip and spoke English with a British accent,

“Mr. Lee, do you know who we are?”

Would you let me go if I knew, you jerk? he cussed in his mind as he forced himself to act calm.

“I don’t know and I don’t want to know. I don’t even want to argue why I had to be beaten and treated like this in here. I am a mere merchandiser from Korea, and if you don’t like me here, I will just leave now.”

Youngho had simply made it clear that he would not make this a problem, but the thin man’s reaction was unexpected.

“We are sorry, Mr. Lee. There has been a mistake. We are....”

Youngho stopped the thin man from speaking any further. If Youngho found out more about them, it would get him involved in more trouble.

Misunderstanding? How did they make such a big mistake? Why did you even beat me in the first place, you b*stards? Despite thinking that, he spoke calmly, because from then on, his good choice of words could get him out.

“Very well, if there has been a mistake, please let me go. I do not wish to hear about your story or your status.”

Knowing their identity would probably get him in another trouble, he thought, and in fact, there was not even a single piece of his mind that wanted to know anything about them.

Smiling weakly, the thin man spoke, “Mr. Lee, I know that you have come here to sell unmanned security systems. We already checked your stuff. I am impressed by your courage to come here knowing that this is a disputed land.”

All right, I didn’t come here to hear that, d*ck! Just let me out of here since you admire my courage. Stop saying this nonsense!

“Okay, since you are impressed by my courage, I think I already achieved enough here. So please let me go,” Youngho near pleaded to the thin man.

“That is why, I am proposing an offer.”

Youngho did not want to listen to any offer. Getting out of there was his priority and nothing else came to his mind.

“If I don’t take this offer, will I be in trouble?” asked Youngho as he checked the man’s facial expression. He had to, since his freedom was in this man’s hands.

The man seemed to be surprised by Youngho’s words. He replied, “Not exactly.”

“Then please help me get out of this country. I will completely forget whatever happened here because of your men’s misunderstanding.”

Feeling humiliated, Youngho thought that he would not mention anything about this embarrassing moment to anyone in the future.

Looking at Youngho’s eyes, the 40-year-old man spoke with a very clean and firm British accent, “Our proposal is not a big deal. As a way of apologizing, we would like to buy Korean electronics from you.”

“Do you think I can take your offer after all of this?”

“....”

I was given a merry hell for a little misunderstanding. Even if they are from a disputed territory between two countries, they can’t just treat me like this without any identification process.

“If you were our enemy, we wouldn’t have offered anything, but we are a courteous people.”

“Then, I will ask one thing. What made you misconstrue me as your enemy?”

Plucking up his courage, Youngho had to know why.

“The executive director of Main Police Department that you had contact with is under our watch. He is presumed to have had massacred countless Armenians when he was serving as a military officer. You were exposed to have been contacting him quite a bit, and since you came here, there was no choice but to suspect you.”

This was still not right. They could have already identified him the first day he was dragged here with his ID and other stuff in his bag.

Even if he was a spy, they should have interrogated him first, and then tried to torment him to get words out of him, but all they did was beat him from the first day.

“What on earth is your source doing? You trusted his information and accused me of being a foreign spy? I still don’t understand why they even had to beat me first. You just made me a scapegoat to vent out your anger?”

“....”

“Also, I was introduced to Main Police Department by the Korean Embassy and KOTRA trade center in Baku, so I contacted him as my potential business client. Do you not realize a businessman will go anywhere for his business?”

All the hardship was for some ridiculous nonsense.

“Our men were blinded by a misjudgment. This wouldn’t have happened if I was here, but unfortunately, I was out of town. We sincerely apologize for what we have done.”

Youngho was just a fooled victim. He had nothing to say to their sincere apology.

“Normally, when you are recognized as a spy in Azerbaijan, you are immediately executed without any interrogating process, but you were lucky that we were reluctant to proceed since you are East Asian. Because we were waiting for an American CIA agent to identify you, it took us three days.”

At the mention of CIA, Youngho was relieved. An organization that shared information with the US CIA would not kill a person recklessly.

It must not be their concern to respect any human rights or international law since they were in a dangerous, disputed region between two countries, where people fought for the land risking their own lives.

It was stupid enough of Youngho to go between these two countries and try getting some business partners.

“Phew, I don’t know what to say. I should be relieved to be alive when I could be facing death.”

He was being sarcastic. There was nothing to fear anymore after he was identified by CIA. He was so upset that he even wanted to call on each person who had beaten him so harshly.

“And like I said, that is why, we are willing to buy some Korean electronics from you as a way of apologizing.”

The man was looking at Youngho’s face.

The heck, it already happened.

Youngho wanted to get compensated for all the beatings he got.

“All right, then. I will do business with you because you want to compensate me for all the things I’ve gone through. I will not hold any grudges if our business is successful.”

Suddenly, the thin man smiled big. It was such a nice and big smile that nobody could expect it from his rigid face. He asked for a handshake.

“Very well, I like your boldness. I am Margos. I am a commander of the unofficial militia of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

“I am Lee Youngho from Chunho Merchant. I am a vice president.”

***

He breathed in the clean air deeply, then breathed it out.

He felt alive. Apparently, he was in the middle of the woods. He was locked up in a safehouse of the militia within the woods.

Youngho spoke to a huge dude standing next to him,

“How old are you?”

Korean guys always nitpicked about how old people were if they looked like their peers. Especially if they had already served in the military, they asked for their unit and enrollment year. They would become obsessed with their positions and ages.

“I will be twenty-five next month. Is there a problem, Lee?”

“You are even younger than me, but you mercilessly slapped me? If you were in Korea, you would be in so much trouble, jerk.”

As soon as Youngho found out the huge guy’s age, his rage exploded.

“Lee, it was just a misunderstanding. I had no personal grudge against you. But is the age so important?”

The huge guy spoke insensitively regardless of Youngho’s emotions.

“Yes, you jerk. I am your ‘hyung*,’ son. You are called an elder in Korea even if you are just one year older. Got it?”

Youngho still couldn’t let go of his grudge for the beating. He was barely suppressing the urge to punch him.

“You will feel better if I call you an elder then?”

“Not completely, but I will feel better a little.”

“Then you are ‘hyung.’ All right?”

“Can you believe this guy?!”

Youngho couldn’t help smiling at the big guy’s words.

Youngho had forgotten that their culture was totally different from Korea. They were the kind of people who would even call their father by his name, so what else could he say? Their words of respect when calling people were just sir, mister, miss, and ma’am. What more could he say?

“What is your name? What’s your job here?”

“I am Dejavar Helskey. My friends call me Helk. I am commander’s bodyguard.”

“Not Hulk?”

“Nope. It’s pronounced differently, Helk.”

“Hulk suits you better. I will call you Hulk from now on. Don’t forget!”

“Do as you wish.”

He was as bulky as the Hulk, but it looked like these guys never watched American shows.

Hulk drove Youngho to his hotel.

They had driven for hours after abducting him from the café, but it only took thirty minutes to get to downtown. They must have done that to conceal the location of their hideout.

Luckily, his room was not checked out and all of his belongings were still there.

He immediately made a phone call to Korea. The ringtone started to sound after waiting for a while at the front desk.

*hyung – a Korean word for ‘older brother,’ used by a younger male to an elder male

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