Empire of the Ring Chapter 220: Growing Pains 1

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Little Jelyan and Leon seemed to be a perfect match.
Except for bedtime, they were always together.
The name of the refugee girl with blond hair and blue eyes was Jelyan.
Both of her parents were executed by IS and her little brother died of disease on the way of evacuation. She took care of Leon as her little brother and Leon also became livelier because of her.
She began to talk after that day when she cried with Leon in her arms.
The first one she talked to was Leon, and gradually she was able to talk with all of the family members.
Jelyan could speak French because she grew in Syria since Syria used Arabic and French as its official languages.
With Jelyan's joining, the atmosphere of the family was even more brightened. She filled the empty spot of Szechenyi. When she played and laughed with Leon, it sounded like light music. Youngho was happy whenever he heard Leon and Jelyan's laughter.

Youngho could hear why Jelyan had cried through her psychiatrist. It was a story so sad, that anyone would surely cry once they hear it.
Jelyan's parents worked as teachers in a middle school but one day, they were dragged by IS, who had suddenly invaded the school. Soon, the Kurdish armed independence force went to rescue numerous women who were dragged by IS but her parents did not return and she was led to Erbil's refugee by the Kurdish armed force.
While evacuating, her five-year-old little brother, who had not been able to eat properly, suffered from pneumonia and eventually died. Jelyan, who had lost her last reason to live, became a speechless child.
Although she was provided with food and clothes from the refugee camp, the child's emotional shock was not taken cared of.
Soon after the orphans arrived at Zeynep Farm, Youngho called a psychiatrist to take care of the kids' emotional and psychological traumas. After a while of being treated and living with Serbian families, the war orphans soon were able to talk.

As the orphans were finding peace in mind, Youngho enrolled them in the international school hurriedly. A good way to get away from a horrible memory as soon as possible was to stay occupied with other things in life.
Of course, Zeynep acted as a great guide for them at school.
Every morning, Youngho would say goodbye to the kids on a mini-bus as they went to school. Today, he sent them to school and was on his way to Baku's shipyard with Park Jong-il.

"You're so proud of what you're doing right now."

"I'm only sad that I couldn't bring more kids. I see why philanthropists do their job. It's so satisfying."

"I thought we are doing too much at first but Karajan complimented me for taking care of them. I guess we've done the right thing."

Although they had brought the kids without any preparation, it seemed that everything was going well so far. Youngho was willing to bring more kids if he would be given the chance. They got along pretty well with Serbian kids on the farm, they were slowly restoring peace of mind.

***

"Man, we're finally traveling. It's great to be on a car-ferry ship instead of cargo freighters. This could be called a cruise in the Caspian Sea or in the Black Sea."

"That's ridiculous. How can this be compared to large cruise ships that can hold about 5,000 people? But this is better than Turkish car-ferry ships."

Youngho and Jong-il were on board for the first sailing of 'The Arirang 2' which had its launching ceremony earlier than expected.
Their goal for the ship's first journey was to bring 78 families, 400 people, of Serbian immigrants from the Port of Burgas in Bulgaria. Youngho requested to the shipyard to stop the production of other bulk carrier and icebreaker and to focus on making this car-ferry ship.
The Arirang 2 could have 572 people and 84 cars on board.
This could one day be, a cruise ship in the northern Caspian, Ural River, and Volga River.

"You've hidden the weapons well, right?"

"Yup. No one can find it. Man, it'll look better with missiles on it."

Jong-il's love for missiles never ceased. All of the ships that Youngho owned carried weapons that could arm a small platoon but this car-ferry ship had weapons enough to arm a squadron. Any regular terrorist organization would not be a match for this ship but Jong-il was asking to have missiles on top of those weapons.

***

Because the Port of Burgas in Bulgaria was often crowded by Serbian immigrants the city authorities did not really care about them anymore. They stayed in different hotels in the city since the group was not too big, having only four hundred people.
The regions of Southeastern Europe were places where people could have great relationships with officials that had money. Impossible things in Western Europe where principles were strictly followed were possible here with a little bribe money.
The officials now waited for Youngho, since he often gave envelopes of appreciation money to city authorities.
The officials who received gifts from Youngho today took good care of the immigrants' business. They did not inspect any belongings of the immigrants and let them pass. The process was much quicker because of their help.
The immigrants brought old trucks as their belongings and they were reluctant to let go of them since those were their precious belongings. So, Youngho had to struggle and convince them to sell the trucks in Burgas only after he gave them an agreement with his signature to get them better trucks once they arrived at the farm. These kinds of troubles happened every time he came to transport the immigrants, and now Youngho was so used to them that he considered it as the last step.


Jong-il approached Youngho who was sitting on a chair at the deck and looking at the list of immigrants. He whispered to Youngho.

"Ilkwon is investigating suspicious groups of people and he said they're really fishy."

"We only received groups of families. Are you saying the whole family is strange?"

"What do you say if the whole groups of families are suspicious?"

"How many people are they?"

"It's three families and there are about ten members in each. Ilkwon said that they don't communicate with other immigrants and their eyes were different."

It did not make sense if they were thieves who came to steal things from Arirang Farm since they were not many. They could not hijack the ship either because they would be outnumbered. If they were not immigrants, there must be something they wanted.
They showed up just in time since Youngho was already getting bored. If Ilkwon was mistaken, they could work in the town watch since they had great eyes.

Since it was a matter that could be finished quickly, Youngho decided to confront them alone. He called them out to have a private meeting.
He and his friends checked if they had any suspicious things in their belongings and conversed with them but they could not find anything special except for the fact that there were many young lads that posses sharp eyes.
However, with the Serbian people's help, they had found out that they were Croatians.
As their identities were revealed, Youngho had a long conversation with them to find out why they were here. It was a long and painful story.

***

The Balkan Peninsula of southern Europe had been a place where countless people have lived in a mixture, and where the occupation, domination, and independence of various cultures were repeated. The area, located between Italy and Turkey, north of Greece and south of Eastern Europe, had no choice but to experience frequent ups and downs.
This was the place where Ottoman Turks took over for the last time and later produced the seeds of ethnic conflict. After two World Wars and numerous twists and turns, the people merged into Yugoslavia and were divided into Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia when Tito died. In a civil war that began with Bosnia's claim to independence, Serbia deployed a militia, committing a crime of abusing a terrible human life.
Serbian militiamen committed all sorts of crimes, including indiscriminate killings of Bosnian Muslims and Croatians, and many women were violated and massacred. Usually, it was known that Muslims were the ones to launch terror attacks but in places like Serbia, where Muslims were a minority, there was a history where Muslims became victims of the indiscriminate violence committed by Christians. When ugly nationalism and selfish religious conflicts were mixed, the barbarism inherent in human beings was revived, creating a monster of war crimes that would never be forgiven.


There were people who belatedly sought revenge. They were Croatians living in Serbia and some had managed to sneak into the immigrant ranks. There was no way to distinguish Croatians form Serbians by their appearances and their passports were also labeled Serbia. It seemed that some of the descendants of the kingdom were among the militiamen who committed war crimes. The Croatians found out about the Serbian militiamen and they followed them to destroy their new place, Arirang farm.
The Croatians said that they were going to blow up the ship if they could not go to Arirang Farm. Youngho had been accepting Serbian people without any strings attached but now he would have to go through people's genealogy from now on.


"Back then, we were all insane. I couldn't see the violence happening everywhere, so I began to hide Bosnians but one day, I was caught. I was about to be executed if I didn't kill them with my hands, so I executed them. As I repeated that, I didn't feel anything anymore. When I returned to my hometown, I was half out of my mind. I kept drinking for a while. I still get nightmares of the past. That was why I decided to leave Serbia."

Youngho was listening to the story of the previous Serbian militiaman who had taken part in slaughtering Bosnians and Croatians.

"Do you think you can apologize to them?"

He would not be forgiven even if he apologized now.

"If I can, I'd like to be forgiven but I don't have the courage to do that. I can't dare to look at their faces. I'm ashamed that I don't even have the courage to say I'm sorry."


Youngho dropped off the Croatians at Sebastopol which was at the end of the Crimean Peninsula where the Russian Black Sea Fleet was located. He gave them enough money for their return.
In the end, they left in tears without hearing the Serbian guerrilla's apology. That was why Youngho apologized to them on behalf of the Serbian guerrilla. It was because they were Youngho's people now.
Youngho remembered that he was happy to see the farm's population increasing, but he was reminded that nothing could be gained without paying the cost.
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