For those who do not care to read about such things, for what ever reason, there is reference to child exploitation by adults for adult purposes.
“You cheated.” The low, level accusation came from a scrawny boy, small for his age but obviously too old for the pre-adolescent bouts. “You said that if I turned up and fought, then I would be paid a bout fee. More if I won. I turned up and fought,” he clarified, “but now you won’t pay me.”
“Yeah, you turned up and fought, kid,” Chan Mu took the clay pipe out of his mouth while he spoke, “but you didn’t win. Now the old man is dead, there’s no-one to make me pay you if the punters don’t hand over enough to cover everything. All, in all you’re the last into the purse if things go badly. That’s just the way it is.”
“Why should I come back if you don’t pay me? You still need fighters for next week’s card.” That the boy sounded quite confident about.
“That I can get from any stack of wannabees, kid. This isn’t like the fights at that other place where what the punters really pay for is to see little boys with their shirts off and grappling with each other. This is about real fighting, and none of the older fighters will go hard enough on you to make a good show.” He took another draw on his pipe. “Find yourself a new teacher. Find yourself someone who’ll feed you regular. Find someone who cares, and don’t expect it to be me or my people.”
“Where?” That came out of the thin chest on an oddly defiant note.
“Good question, kid. I don’t know.” Chan Mu shrugged. “Try the tea house near Mulberry Court, perhaps? They say the sorcerers in hiding used to hang out down there, a generation back. Maybe there’s still someone….”
“If you paid me I wouldn’t need to-,”
“Not happening, kid. Now, get out of here before I get my lads to chuck you out.” Chan Mu puffed on his pipe as the boy went to go, then pulled it out long enough to say, “Oh, and take that lunch box with you, Que Tzu. Shen Tien and her girls said I’d be using my guts for a truss if I sent you away with no money and no food.” He waited to see the boy pick up the box and added, “There should be plenty in there for a full day, but there’s no more where that came from.”
The boy Que Tzu said without turning, “I’ll come back one day and make you pay me.”
“Just make sure you’re big enough to play with the big boys before you do, kid.” Chan Mu puffed on his pipe and added to the door that had closed behind the would-be pit fighter, “Heaven give you time to grow up, so help us.”