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“Where else is there left for you to look for work?” Fa Si asked him, concerned for where his old friend was going to end up. Fa Si had a steady job, which he required to provide for his large family. Unlike Shaozu, who was a single man without commitments, Fa Si had four young children and a demanding wife, responsibilities which gave him the perfect excuse not to join Shaozu in his meaningless protests. “When did you last try the mill?”

“Two days ago, and they said that when they do get more work in, which isn’t expected anytime soon, there’s 100 names on the list before mine.”

“If you try again they’ll think you’re keen.”

“They’ll think I didn’t listen,” Shaozu replied. If his friend kept on at him he would try again, though he knew what the outcome would be. He was a bodyguard for hire, but somehow that trade was interpreted as making him a mercenary, which made finding temporary work to tide him over difficult. It did not help that he had left over a dozen menial jobs when a bodyguard assignment became available, foregoing regular work for short missions that stimulated him, at the cost of burning bridges with most of the town’s employers, leaving him virtually on the scrap heap at only 27 years old.

“If you saw the owner last time, try and see the foreman this time, or vice versa.”

“Give me some lines to work with,” Shaozu said, needing a script as he couldn’t think of a feasible opening salvo when they had virtually told him to never darken their doors again. Fa Si offered several suggestions, which may well have worked for him, but would never work for Shaozu. Shaozu found that he lost interest in what he was saying partly due to the fact that the lines would feel dishonest to him and therefore he would struggle at making them convincing, and also his attention was split due to the entrance of two young women. Not many women frequented this establishment and Shaozu had never seen either of them around the town before. The younger girl looked to be Chinese while her companion had a swarthy complexion, appearing Middle Eastern. Her hair was covered with a scarf and she seemed very self-conscious as she felt the eyes of the undesirables upon her as she followed the younger woman past the tables to the counter.

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