Empire Of The Ring Chapter 255
The atmosphere of Michael’s office at the CIA’s European chapter in Frankfurt was as light as a feather. It was because Youngho was talking about what he had conversed with the Kazakh president.
“Chief. How many agents who can talk to a president in private are there?”
As Youngho boasted, Michael smirked.
“You met him as a businessman, not as an agent. You think he would’ve spent a second with you if he knew you were an agent?”
“Phew, you always try to bring men working down under you instead of showering them with compliments.”
The two could exchange such jokes since Youngho did not have any desire to get promoted in the CIA, but it would be a weird scene for other agents.
“Alright. You did well. Now you can keep your quiet.”
“Got that. I did my role, so why don’t you unwrap the present package for me?”
“Phew, Youngho. You sound like I owe you a debt. You’ve done a proper thing that every agent should do. Why do you need a commission for this? I don’t have such a thing. Stop dreaming about it now.”
Quite opposite from his remark, Michael’s face was proud of Youngho’s achievement. The European chapter had been collecting information in Central Asia, but it had never actually been politically involved there. It was because the U.S. did not think of it as an important matter. The U.S. focused on Kazakhstan when it first claimed independence from Russia but soon, it found out that it could not cooperate with pro-Russian governmental officials who formed the majority group of the Kazakh government. However, now the situation was different. All around Central Asia, there were surging waves of anti-Russian and anti-Chinese ideas. Officials did not want Russia’s involvement in their countries anymore. Taking advantage of this atmosphere, the U.S. was trying to dig into the crack between Russia and Kazakhstan under the pretext of a dispatch of the military advisory group.
Michael was credited for beginning the U.S.’s diplomatic relations with Kazakhstan, but his concern was in somewhere else. The relationship with the U.S. and Kazakhstan was now politically discussed and the CIA’s involvement in it was no longer needed.
His problem was now to reward Youngho to the extent that he would be satisfied. Youngho was one of the most valued agents under Michael, but he was also very unpredictable. Since he did not desire to stay in the CIA, Michael was not sure when he would say he would resign from the CIA. He had brought many achievements to the European chapter and Michael wanted to keep him as long as he could, and even if he left, Michael wanted to stay in touch with him and keep the cooperative relationship with him since he was an influential businessman around Central Asia.
There were strategic weapons that belonged to the U.S. Department of Defense that had been sorted as idle equipment, but he had to consider the political situations. As Arirang Farm became an autonomous region, sending military equipment was not a matter but it must be done according to reasonable standards, but Youngho was not someone who would be satisfied with one or two patrol boats.
After a long consideration, he decided to see Youngho’s reaction.
“Lee. Would you be satisfied with some patrol boats?”
“How many are you giving me?”
Youngho asked the question so naturally without shame. Michael was dumbfounded.
“What do you mean, ‘how many’? You have any idea how expensive they are?”
“Whoa, I guess you’re giving me huge vessels to patrol around the palm-sized Caspian Sea.”
“The Department of Defense still wants to make profits from any used vessels. They’re not free, Youngho.”
“I know they’d be sorted as idle equipment.”
Michael leered at Youngho who was not willing to give in a single bit.
“Oh, what a greedy man”
“Chief. I’ll make it easy for you. A couple of patrol boats and three to four small missile boats would be sufficient. I’m only going to pass them to the Kazakh government in the future.”
Youngho said it naturally, as if he was asking for a few bottles of wine.
“Three to four missile boats?!”
“Chief, I know you’re a guy who had all of this in mind already. Why are you acting like you’re surprised?”
“You’re just unbelievable, Youngho.”
“What did Michael say?”
Jong-il pulled his chair toward Youngho as he mentioned about military equipment for the Department of Intelligence.
“He said he would sneak in some equipment when he sends the patrol boats.”
“He doesn’t say anything about what kinds?”
“He told me he will get everything sorted if we just sit back and wait. I couldn’t push it any further.”
“Man, you’re too soft. It’s a huge achievement that you’ve been the contacting point with Kazakhstan. Why did you step aside?”
Michael could not guarantee anything since any equipment related to intelligence was quite expensive. Also, taking out used devices that belonged to the U.S. CIA was a complex process that had to be approved by the high rankers of the organization. Moreover, one might track what the CIA had been up to through their old devices. It was a risky business for the CIA. However, Jong-il wanted to push it even further since he saw an opportunity.
“Dude, just wait around. Michael is not a guy who gives promises in vain. If he can’t do anything, I’m really going to ask Edward for help.”
“What about ships? How many ships is he giving away?”
“I told him three patrol boats and five missile ships, and he was about to faint.”
“Hahaha. I guess we’ll get at least half of the number you said.”
“I bet there are tons of idle ships. They’ll get rid of some of them this time, for the sake of their storage room. Since the U.S. is giving them to Arirang Farm, not Kazakhstan directly, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Just remember. I’m going to use at least one ship dedicated to the Intelligence Department. Okay?”
“What? An intelligence ship?”
“Yeah. They’re going to give us ships that are less than ten years old. Those new ships would have all sorts of devices installed inside. I bet that could be used as an intelligence ship.”
What Jong-il had in mind was a new ship that was in the 500-ton class. If the ship was disguised as an ocean surveyor ship, no one would notice that it was used to collect information for the Intelligence Department.
It was Jong-il-like idea.
Since a surveyor ship could go anywhere in the Caspian Sea and even to the Black Sea, it was perfect for small-scale operations.
Jong-il had countless ideas about how he would run the department, but what he lacked was the number of people whom he could mobilize. After all, the problem was that the population of Arirang Farm was too small.
Since drawing other minority groups in Kazakhstan was specifically forbidden by the president, the only thing the farm could do to increase the population was to draw in more Serbian immigrants. Youngho needed to search for more Serbian diasporas who were the descendants of the Serbian Kingdom.
Christmas was a week away.
In many countries of Western Europe, Christmas carol songs were played in the streets and holiday decorations were displayed starting from the early December, but Baku or Arirang Farm was not the same case.
The Christmas of Eastern Orthodox Church was not on December 25th but on January 7th. Serbian church also followed the Eastern Orthodox Church. The descendants of the Serbian Kingdom who lived in Baku were not very religious, so Christmas to them was only another holiday. So Zeynep Farm’s Christmas was on December 25th and after that was a winter holiday break.
In the other hand, Arirang Autonomous State’s Serbian immigrants were zealous brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and naturally, their Christmas was on January 7th.
Youngho and his friends, who were not religious and who had been enjoying Christmas as a regular holiday, had to experience two Christmases in a row at each farm.
Since Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan were Islamic countries, the season was not celebrated by the majority of the public. There was a tree decoration in Baku downtown, but it did not look special.
“Man, this doesn’t feel like at all in the streets.”
“But yet, we have two Christmases at our farms. Isn’t that crazy?”
“Come to think of it, Korean Christmas was so fancy. Man, even my heart swelled when it came to the season.”
“I miss those days.”
The three friends who gathered in Youngho’s study in a long time complained about the season.
“But at least we have a tree at the farm’s entrance. It looks great.”
“You consider that a Christmas tree? Zeynep and Park Seo-young made it. I think I can come up with a better-looking one.”
Jong-il’s frustrated response to Insoo would have been a risky one if Zeynep was around and heard it.
“Well, we get to have a longer break if there are two Christmases but we can’t just relax here.”
“Why don’t we take our kids and go somewhere nice?”
The three each shared their opinions, but nothing seemed intriguing. The three had been working without ceasing, and the idea of relaxing was quite odd to them. Although they got to spend time with their families, their minds were at work.
The guests at Kazakhstan had already returned to Korea and workers were on the holiday break. Even if they wanted to work now, they needed to wait until the workers came back.
“Well, guess we go separate ways and find something to do for our own family. We can’t always have drink parties.”
Leon, who was walking toward the gate of an airplane with Zeynep and Jelyan’s hand on each side, looked back and waved at Youngho to hurry him.
The family was about to get on an airplane at Baku’s international airport to go to Frankfurt. Everyone was excited since it was a family trip in a long time.
Fatima’s looked happy as she walked alongside Youngho. Seeing her bright face, he felt sorry that he had been working too much lately.
“Are you that excited?”
She nodded quickly.
“Yes. Going on a trip itself is just so exciting. Look how the kids like it too.”
“I’m sorry. I’ve been into work so much lately.”
“No, it’s not your fault. I’m proud of your work because you work for many people’s happiness.”
A compliment like this from Fatima did not come frequently.
“I’ll try to go on a family trip more often. I was busy because Arirang Farm just became an autonomous state, but I should’ve taken care of my family first.”
“Awww, I’m glad you think that way.”
“Thank you for your patience, Fatima.”
“You’re flattering me.”
Fatima smiled brightly.
Looking at the couple walking slowly behind them, the kids called them even louder.
Their voices were loud and full of confidence. Looking back, Jelyan had changed so much. When she was first adopted, she could not even speak because of the trauma of losing their parents and brother from war. Now, she was a different person. Having trustworthy adults and family that could protect her around gave her confidence.
Looking at his happy family, Youngho was even proud of himself. He had worked hard to support his family and this moment was enough as a reward for his hard work. He only wished that the family would stay like this and the peace would last forever.