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329 Choosing Sides

    Seven people gathered in a room with a dark expression on their faces. Two of them were seated near a small table at the center of the room, while the rest stood around them. Every one of them was skinny and appeared to have experienced a lot of things in life.

    "Brother Rodel, we can't survive if this continues! Our savings are starting to run dry and if we don't get any work, there's a chance that we will be forced to our old ways." said a scrawny man to the person on the other side of the table.

    Karl fumed upon hearing his best buddy's choice of words. "We're not going back to those days! We know full well what happens to people in that job. They either get imprisoned when caught or killed when they resisted arrest. It could rake us some quick bucks but too troublesome to operate."

    There are only limited things that could bring quick cash, and most of them are illegal in nature. Sale of unregistered firearms, drugs, and underground services.

    The seven people inside the room have known each other for a long time. After years of planning, they were able to overtake the syndicate they were in, and after experiencing the ups and downs of life, decided to turn over a new leaf.

    Well, if they were going, to be honest, they got caught by the government and forced to help catch other big criminal groups in exchange for a lighter sentence. In the end, they agreed and only had to pay the fines for getting involved with illegal drugs.

    'Besides, we don't have any connections in the local powers.'

    Even if they want to delve back to illegal trade, they at least need a connection with some local power. However, the prime executioner of people doing illegal drugs, the president, has finally returned. It would be far riskier to do drug trades with that person in charge, especially now that communications have been destroyed and that man could focus solely within this area.

    "If we just apologize to Mr. Leo, there's a chance that he would lift the ban for assigning jobs to us." said his best buddy Joris.

    "We won't lower our heads to him!" Rodel responded. "Everyone here knows that it was his men who started the fight!"

    "That's right! And we all know that he knows that too. What he wants is not the truth, but something that could give him a better reputation. Just think about how much money we're losing out every day!"

    Leo was their district's job commissioner. Anything regarding earning money mostly comes from him. From collecting resources, escort missions, and local expeditions. Everything involves around him since he had family connections with some people in the local government.

    Since the start of the apocalypse, the power to determine whether people get jobs caused the man's ego to inflate. He views reputation and face as one of the determining factors whether some group could get a job or not. He calls it, only 'good' people should be prioritized for a job.

    Their group was experienced with the way of the world. They know how to fight, they can get their hands dirty, and most of all, they're good at talking. In the small community, their group's name and prestige resounded loudly everywhere. Their past left behind, everyone thought that they could finally enjoy life in the coming future.

    Until they encountered a group of familiar people while reporting the success of the town expedition given to them.

    The familiar faces were members of the criminal organization that they betrayed. Upon facing each other, a heated tension between groups immediately erupted. Still, as the leader of the group and having turned into a new person, Rodel tried to fix the situation as civilized as possible.

    Unfortunately, the other side was intent on getting back at them and a fight immediately ensued. The other group was no match to them and got easily overpowered. What they didn't expect was they were loyal dogs of Mr. Leo, the job commissioner.

    Infuriated by the sight of his underlings badly beaten on the ground, Leo identified them as misfits who would cause trouble anywhere and banned them from the job center. They were given no chance to explain and despite having witnesses in the area, no one stepped forward to help them.

    Bathing in injustice, they took the reward money and skimped on the items they submitted. Though it wouldn't matter much, getting back a little made them feel good a little.

    Expedition jobs were always dangerous and offer high payouts. Jobs like these often have a large survivor count recruited by the government for scavenging resources. Groups who accept expedition jobs have to defend everyone while escorting them back and forth until everyone's inventory runs out of space to fill.

    Rodel pondered over the options available before coming up with an answer. "No, we will not apologize."

    Joris frowned and was very close to shouting profanities, so he could instill some logic with his best friend's brain. However, after knowing each other for so long, he knew there's another part he wasn't aware of, so he asked, "What's your plan then?"

    "Have you heard of the rumors about Black Haven?" said Rodel inquiringly.

    "Yeah, what of it? You're not thinking of going into a shabby town, right?"

    Hearing his friend's answer, Rodel discerned that Joris only heard of the old rumors about the place. In his mind, he was even asking whether this friend of his was dead asleep last night or was busy playing with some streetwalker he found on the street.

    "Seems like you only heard of the bad rumors about them. There's another set of rumors spreading around the city, and if they were true, it might be the opportunity that we have been looking for."

    Joris asked in confusion. "What opportunity?"

    "A place where only strength matters and has only basic laws to comply."

    Joris pondered about the matter. "I don't know brother. I want the best for the group and you know that. If we move to another community, we have to adjust to new people, new power struggles. I... I..."

    "That's fine." Rodel smiled at him, then glanced towards their friends surrounding them. "The two of us have differing views on the matter. We are now entering to open voting."

    "Those who want to kneel and apologize to scumbags, please raise your hand."

    No one raised their hands.

    "Those in favor of moving to Black Haven territory, please stand up."

    Rodel groaned before slowly standing from his seat. The people who were already standing up grinned and shook their heads at the shamelessness of their leader.

    Joris scoffed before a smirk naturally formed on his face. He looked up at Rodel, and said, "You're a duck, you know that, right?"

    Rodel laughed heartily before expressing a naughty grin. "Shall we play with scumbags before we leave this hellhole?"

    Joris smiled evilly and responded. "Yeah, let's do that. I'm itching to bash someone's face specifically."

    The next day, a job commissioner was found beaten up together with his lackeys. Despite getting pummeled on a high-traffic road, no witnesses testified about the event. No one could even identify the group who attacked the official despite the close-knit community of the stronghold.

    In the next few days, the stronghold city experienced a slight decline in its population. It should have been great news, but the people leaving were strong individuals and small parties with a good reputation. These groups could be seen rushing towards the south as if escaping from a plague. In all honesty, they were just scared of getting stopped by patrols and held back for investigation.

    Only when a large number has left did the district's governor learned of the rumor that spread which attracted powerful individuals to abandon ship and jump into a new one.

    The governor in charge felt his neck itching for some reason as he started to think of the answers he needed to give to his higher ups.
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