Empire of the Ring

Chapter 7
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Chapter 7: CIA (2)

“I’m not going to take back what I said. Please let me know what I will be doing.”

Edward smiled as he saw how determined Youngho was.

“You’ve made the right choice.”

Dude, I won’t leave you alone if this causes me any trouble.

“Your role is to collect information and to assist me if needed. You don’t have to worry about analyzing the collected information; all that will be done in the European chapter or the mainland. There is no problem with your role here since you have been recommended by the Head of the Southern Europe chapter. Also, be aware that you’ll have to get intelligence training later on.”

“Whatever the condition might be, I’ll play along since I was forced into a corner.”

So there, it was confirmed. Youngho already decided to be a CIA field agent and did not want to be passive.

“Lee, some people might say that the CIA uses field agents as disposables, but that is not true. Many of the high-rankers are field agents.”

Hearing that made Youngho feel uncomfortable since Edward said something that he did not have to say.

Edward, who had achieved his goal, started talking about their business.

“Did you hear anything from Korea about the items we ordered?”

“Yes, they are ready to be shipped. The containers will be delivered to Poti Sea Port in Georgia, and then the next step will be delivering them to Yerevan by train.”

“The containers will take about two months to get to the Black Sea.”

“No. Because Korea and Turkey have friendly relations, there are lots of export cargos that are shipped to Istanbul. Our containers can be transferred from there. We can deliver them in a month.”

“You have attained that much of the products in such a short time.”

Edward had no idea about Korea’s strength. Even if they were out of stock, they could produce that much supply quickly in five days.

“Korea lives off exporting. That much quantity is just chicken feed.”

“Ha ha, ‘chicken feed’ it is,” Edward moved on. “That’s good news. We need to provide those supplies to the militia as soon as possible. Azerbaijan’s activities have been suspicious.”

Edward worried over the war.

If the balance of power was maintained, the two countries would hold the status quo. But if one misjudged and underestimated the other side’s force, it would force its way into the other. Worried about the potential war, the US must be secretly helping the Armenian militia despite the Russian forces residing in Armenia.

“Phew, it’s frustrating. Will I get pulled into the war too?”

“No, that won’t happen. We only treat information. Lee, I have a personal favor to ask. Can you be in charge of specially training militants?”

Youngho felt like he just made him a field agent to make him a drill instructor.

“Is there a place for a training spot in Stepanakert?”

“Can you do it?”

“Ed, we are on the same boat now. I’m not going to try to spare myself. In fact, this is a good chance to get back in shape.”

If Youngho was going to carry out the deal, there was no need for him to be passive. He decided to actively pursue his goal.

“Thank you, Lee. I will join the training in my personal capacity.”

***

Stepanakert, which was the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, was 800 meters high above sea level and housed a population of 54,000. People of Azerbaijan insisted their ownership over the region, but because Armenians occupied 90% of its population, it was permitted to be somewhat like an autonomous region. Unofficially, people called it the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Thus, the region had its own military force and unofficial guerilla forces as well like the militia organization.

The airways were blocked here, so one could only come here by car. The roads were so rough around this highland region that one could almost think that the Daegwallyeong mountain pass* was flat.

The secret training spot of the militia was outstanding. The state ran the place secretly, and the US CIA was behind them, so they had amazing supplies.

All sorts of weapons, even multiple rocket launchers, were hidden in the mountain.

After finding out that they even had an assault course, Youngho asked Edward if he could bring the comrades who trained with him.

“Ed, I can help you for now, but I am a merchandiser. I know you didn’t pick me as a field agent just to make me a drill instructor. What do you think about inviting some civilian drill sergeants who were trained in the special forces?”

Youngho was thinking of his comrades who now worked in the personal guard industry.

“That is a great idea. I will discuss that with Margos. How many do you think you can bring?”

“Most of my comrades work as guards and the wage is just pathetic. If I call them, at least three of them will come at once. Just pay them regular wages. I can provide their lodging cost and such with the money I’ll make from your order.”

“Lee, you seriously impress me. Personally, this is for my people, and officially, it concerns the instructors of the militia. How can I make you pay for that?”

Dude, I’m not trying to impress you. I just need to do my job to make money. I don’t want to spend an eternity as an instructor.

“In exchange for that, how about I become your exclusive merchant?”

“No way Lee, I can’t let you use the profit you made from a proper business deal. Just tell your friends that we will pay them $80,000 to $100,000 a year. I will take this matter to the European chapter.”

Youngho waited for a room at Hotel Europe after registering as a long-term resident and he just got a call that a room was available. It was a mid-level hotel in Artsakh Street. Equipped with a five-story building and thirty-two rooms, it was a popular place for long-term residents or backpackers.

This place was one of the most dangerous places to travel in, but young travelers around the world still crowded here just to see its untouched, clean nature.

Youngho unpacked after he was escorted to his room on the fifth floor.

“Wait, did you change hotels again?”

“How did you know that? Oh, I told you the hotel phone number in my email.”

“Nope, I heard from the front desk that it’s Hotel Europe.”

“I’m going to stay here for a long time. I’m going to cook my food too.”

“Is it like a condo?”

“No, there are so many backpacking travellers that they allow making ramen in the room.”

“You want me to send you some instant rice and kimchi**?”

“I’ve got other friends who will bring them. By the way, can you go look for a number on a business card in my desk? His name is Park Jongil. My cellphone is finally dying.”

“Didn’t I say you need to get a new phone before you leave? You don’t ever listen to me! What about Jongil-oppa?”

Yunsuh was nitpicking again. Youngho’s company was not doing well when he left. He had forced himself to go on a business trip, and now that the business was doing so well, she was telling him a different story.

“I want to introduce him to a job position here. There are some spots open for drill instructors.”

“Will Jongil-oppa do fine? He’s only into drinking and girls.”

Youngho hung up the phone after struggling with Yunsuh’s long nagging.

“Hey, is this Jongil? It’s me, your hyung.”

“Sh*t, you are the only one who calls himself ‘hyung’ just because you served in the military months before me. What’s up with this long distance-like call? My phone was showing a weird number, so I didn’t want to pick up. But since it’s just you, I’ve got to go.”

Jongil knew that Youngho was on a business trip.

“Dude, I’m calling with a hotel phone. Don’t you want to know why I called?”

“A hotel? You are so laid-back. I’m guarding some random people but you’re just relaxing in a hotel bed and calling me?”

“Dude, You can’t call your clients ‘some random people’.”

“I’m working for a high school student being threatened by his schoolmates, what?”

“Ha ha ha, you poor man. What is a person from the UDT*** doing guarding a student? Jongil, you trust me, right?”

“Nope. Not ever. Never.”

“Please, I’m not talking about girls.”

“Okay, I trust you then.”

“Just quit right now and fly to Armenia and bring some more guys with you.”

“What?! Quit and come to where? ‘Ar....’ Man, what kind of country is that? I can’t even pronounce its name.”

Park Jongil repeated Armenia’s name. He had thought that since Youngho was in Europe, he would hear some well-known names like France or Italy.

Jongil, who was murmuring to himself, suddenly blurted a question, “What? You’ve got problems?”

“It’s a job. It pays a hundred million won a year. How about a drill instructor position for the Armenian militia?”

“I won’t ask any more questions. Okay, how many people do you need?”

Youngho liked that Jongil was a simple and cool guy. Nobody would just come without setting any conditions.

“Pick some of our training comrades who are 27 years old like us. Can you bring three people including you?”

“When is the deadline?”

“I’ll call you tomorrow night. Get them ready by then.”

“Okay bary.”

From someone who doesn’t even speak English.... He was pronouncing ‘okay about it’ wrong.

Edward visited Youngho, celebrating his moving.

“Lee, can your friends come from Korea?”

“Yes. I will confirm it by tomorrow night. I’m sure at least three people will be available.”

“I confirmed this with the head office. They will pay your friends 100 million in Korean won and also provide the cost for living in here. Are they good at martial arts as well?”

Western people had a strange stereotype regarding Asian people. If they looked fit, Western people immediately pegged them as mysterious masters of the martial arts.

“Yes, they are warriors. And also good at martial arts.”

“Kung fu?”

“Nope, Taekkyeon, Taekwondo, Haidong Gumdo, and et cetera. They are Korean native martial arts.”

“Do they teach you skills like flying in the sky?”

“....”

He must be thinking that Asian martial arts could teach someone how to fly like those martial artists in Chinese martial arts movies.

“Don’t worry about your friends’ visas. I will make their identity warriors from the French foreign legion****.”

“Thank you, Ed. My friends will appreciate it.”

“Well, I’m looking forward to the arrival of these specially trained elite militants.”

***

The hotel lobby was crowded. Two of Youngho’s comrades from the UDT had arrived. They were Park Jongil and Cho Chulhwan.

“Victory, Sergeant Cho. It’s been long.”

“Hey, you sailor, you bothered me the most when we were training. What victory are you talking about? And I was a chief petty officer when I was discharged. Don’t call me a sergeant.”

During their training days, Sergeant Cho Chulhwan was picked on the most by his comrades.

“Man, we had to pick on you to avoid receiving group punishment. Welcome, my friend.”

Youngho and Chulhwan shared a hug with joy.

“Wait, what’s that on your chest?”

Chulhwan, who was recently discharged from the special forces unit, was very sharp.

“It’s a pistol for defending myself.”

“Geez, that’s scary. Did we make a right decision to come here?”

Chulhwan was saying those words, but he did not really seem scared. In fact, his face was like a boy’s, who was expecting something fun to happen.

“Jongil, did you bring ramen, kimchi, and pepper paste?”

“Who am I? I have them all, don’t worry.”

Other travellers were looking at them to see what was going on.

Youngho, who just put a cigarette in his mouth after he finished eating ramen with kimchi, was smiling as if he was finally alive.

“Youngho, are you sure we are the right people for this job?” Chulhwan asked with a face of doubt.

“Just train people with half as much as the training we received. They will still praise you as a great instructor. Chulhwan, you were the chief officer. You can be the training general. You can speak English, right?”

“Dude, I was in the American Navy SEALs for three months. Don’t worry.”

“English learned for three months, I can’t wait. When is Cha Insoo arriving?”

Jongil was reluctant at Youngho’s words.

“In a week, but there is a problem. I had been calling around and some people hadn’t picked up. We have another member coming. There is another guy who’s so eager to come, so we decided to share our pay.”

Youngho felt bad for his friends’ situations. It was just hard for them to make it in Korea. They were desperate to come here.

“Let’s see. Maybe they want more people here.”

How bad must their situations have been in Korea, to come at an instant. Too many people in highly competitive job openings....

*Daegwallyeong mountain pass – a tough mountain road in Daegwallyeong, South Korea

**kimchi – Korean traditional side dish made out of fermented Napa cabbage

***UDT – Underwater Demolition Team

****French Foreign Legion – a French military service branch which mostly consists of foreign recruits

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