Rhapsody

A Rhapsody is a short, ever-changing piece of music, often conveying many moods within a preciously short time.

Deep within the lively streets of post-dusk Tokyo, a small, but well known to a select crowd and a pleasant surprise for those who happened to stumble across it, a café was only half-filled with those who wanted to just be out in civilization tonight, and outside a neon sign of a green coffee cup with red steam coming out was the only type of advertising for the place aside from a caption in a green box below it, reading in red letters: Live Music Tonight.

The barista was busy cleaning his equipment, a striped hat riding low on his head, obscuring his eyes, wearing a seemingly non-uniform brown polo shirt, the buttons undone to reveal a faded green shirt below, the sleeves going just past his elbows, further out than the polo, his pants many shades darker than the undershirt. He had a large, knowing grin on his face…the few people in the café were in for a real treat, knowing they weren't really expecting too much from the slightly run down place, the Soul Bean. From his place near the back corner of the shop, he had a pretty good view of what was going on. Off to the side of the shop, past multiple tables and booths was a small stage just a foot off the ground and large enough to house a baby grand and a stool, but hardly any more than that, right between the outside window and the rack of tea bags that ran along the side, along with all the coffee goodies. For now, the piano wasn't really ignored, but just provided more of a backdrop for the dark-skinned woman on the stool, making a few final adjustments to her acoustic guitar, made of a darker wood than normal, a small paw print adorning the bottom right corner, an unusual outline of a butterfly adorning the stock of the guitar. After a few plucks of the strings, she seemed satisfied with the results, grinning slightly.

At the moment, she tapped the microphone in front of her, checking to see if it worked. From the back, the blonde mop head gave her a thumbs up, indicating the sound check was go. Despite not having done this sort of thing in quite some time, the woman seemed perfectly at ease in the lone circle of light in the dark café. She grinned before speaking in to the mic, her tone easy on the ears for a change, knowing this was important. "Hey everyone, and welcome to the Soul Bean. I'm Yoruichi." She intentionally kept out her surname…if she spoke it, they would all immediately react, seeing as her family was well-known in Tokyo as they owned quite a large line of hotels and casinos…many a man had either made or broken his fortune in their establishments. "I hope you enjoy this, and I'm warning you," she added a last part in good humor. "This is my first time doing this in a while, so don't expect too much." With that, Yoruichi's fingers began to dance across the strings, causing lively tunes to float through the air.

By the time the night was done, everyone in the café seemed to be quite uplifted, smiling as they temporarily forgot the troubles of the world, lost in their current world as they, much to the barista's pleasure, ordered more drinks and began to fill the tip jar. A part of him was glad that it was coffee and not alcohol…it saved him from breaking up fights or cleaning up after drunks who didn't make it to the john. As closing time approached, he finished polishing a few of the glasses before placing them back on their shelves, locking up the register before coming out from behind his counter, approaching Yoruichi as she finished packing up her guitar, shutting the last latch with an audible click. He clapped his hands a few times. "Good show Yoruichi."

Her golden, feline eyes looked up at the barista, not looking too impressed as she slung her guitar case over her shoulder, the leather strap more than able to do its job. "It wasn't much Kisuke…I only did it because you asked me to." Kisuke shrugged this off as he continued on. "Don't talk like that! You were great, and you used to do this sort of thing all the time on a larger scale back when you-" He stopped dead in his tracks at the warning glare that Yoruichi was giving him, a sweat drop forming on the side of his head. "Hai, hai, I know…I forget that you don't like talking about that." Yoruichi looked away, peeved. "Damn straight. Consider yourself lucky that you're on my good side." Kisuke had often saved any leftover drinks or bakery goods that would have been thrown out for Yoruichi any time that she wanted to just get away from it all. Kisuke chuckled. "I do consider myself lucky." Yoruichi grinned before turning to the door. "Watch out for yourself Kisuke." With that, she walked out the door, the bell attached letting out a small ring as she did so. Kisuke pushed his hat down on his head. "You too." He had to close shop, which meant that he had no time to see if Yoruichi was going to spend another night alone.

It was now late, the only sources of light for the nighttime Tokyo streets were the street lights, some of which flickered, and the neon lights lighting the downtown area. Yoruichi had often been warned about walking alone at night, but she shrugged it off each time. Nothing too serious had happened yet, and if it did, she would simply handle it, so there was no problem in her mind. With the way gas and parking were, Yoruichi had taken a cab on the way over, but for some reason she felt like walking home, despite the fact that it was quite a long way. Perhaps it was because of what Kisuke had said about her past. More likely it's the fact that I've been sitting down on a damn stool for too long and my legs need to stretch out. Yoruichi used that as an excuse to keep her mind from wandering back in time, even though she wanted it to. Then, she could remember the good times, back when she had been with her and a few others, traveling, laughing, loving…

Yoruichi's eyes darted to the side. She had passed the lively nightlife of Tokyo and had begun to venture down more lonely streets that weren't exactly in the best of shape since it was a shorter distance to walk than if she stuck to the main streets. It seemed that she had company. As she caught a glint of metal out of her peripheral vision, Yoruichi's adrenaline levels suddenly spiked as she recognized it at a gun. It seemed that the figure knew that he had been noticed as he stepped forward, an ever-present grin plastered across his face as he pocketed the gun. "Yo, Yoruichi-san." Yoruichi turned to face him, stance rigid. "Gin." It came out terse, showing just how much disdain she had for him. Gin raised his hands in front of him. "Now, there's no need to get so testy. No need to go makin' things more trouble than they are, hmm?" Yoruichi's eyebrows furrowed. "Get to the point Gin. What are you here for?" Gin's hands fell down, his grin still plastered on. "My my, straightforward as ever. Anyway, Aizen's got a message for ya. Says ya don't have forever to make a decision. You're fast Yoruichi, but not fast enough to outrun yer problems. Things are fallin' into place for him, and he can't wait forever until he comes after ya. The only reason he hasn't yet is-" Yoruichi cut him off. "I already know why, but don't think for a moment that I'm helping any of you scum. I have nothing to do with my family if I can help it, so if they're pulling strings for some mafia trash, I have nothing to do with it." Gin shrugged. "Aizen said that you'd say somethin' like that…guess I have no choice then." As Gin began to draw the gun out of his trench coat once more, he suddenly found that he was no longer earth bound, but flying backward, only to crash into some trash cans. As he lay on the ground, Yoruichi spun the .22 millimeter around her forefinger before holding it. She muttered under her breath. "You're lucky I'm not like you…" With that, she emptied the clip and pocketed the magazine, opening the gun to retrieve the one bullet that was still in before taking that as well as Gin began to sit up again, chucking the now useless gun at his forehead, where it met with a loud crack, knocking him down. With that, Yoruichi continued on her way as if nothing had happened. "Later."

Yoruichi fumbled with the keys to her apartment, muttering under her breath as she finally found the right one, pushing the door open. She had forgotten just how long it took to walk home from down town, and now it was quite late. Her apartment wasn't that big in itself, but thanks to some old friends, it was furnished quite nicely. The living room had dark, wooden floors, and the sitting area comprised of a long, chocolate brown suede sofa with a matching shorter one along with a loveseat of similar design, a wooden coffee table with a black border in the middle on top of a black square rug. On top of the table was a forgotten mug from that morning, along with a few dog-eared magazines. On the opposite wall was a flat panel TV, not a huge one, but big enough for Yoruichi, especially since she didn't use it too often. The kitchen was right off to the left, separated only by a black countertop that had several stool on the living room side and a stainless steel sink on the other. The floor in there was black and white checkered tile, though of a more marbled look than retro. The fridge was stainless steel, the front oddly void of any pictures, but the side had a bunch of magnetic clips with various takeout menus and coupons being held in their confines. It was this that Yoruichi walked over to, setting her guitar case down by the bar, which is what she liked to call the place with the stools seeing as a shelf above it visibly held multiple bottles of alcohol of various strengths, broken into only for special occasions, celebrations, or on unusually depressing nights. Before she dug into the fridge, she turned on the small boom box next to it, keeping it low as to not get yet another complaint from a neighbor.

Seeing as there wasn't much in the fridge right now, Yoruichi shut it before digging around in the cupboards, making a mental note to stop by the grocery store sometime soon. As she withdrew an instant cup ramen from the cupboard, several words from the radio station hit her. (('Unbroken' lyrics belong to Missy Higgins and various copyright owners))

So how can I explain the isolated rain that follows you?

Wouldn't you agree running always slows you down?

So welcome the pain, stop yourself from delaying it…

Cause in real life…they never go away.

Yoruichi frowned at the boom box. "Great, now even the radio is preaching at me." Fortunately, the rest of the song didn't hit too close to home for Yoruichi's comfort as she added water and waited for the cup to heat up. As she waited, the only picture on the fridge came into her line of sight, on the opposite side from the mess of coupons. It was a picture of herself with a shorter figure that, despite the ever-present solemn look on her face, seemed to be a bit happy. Feeling a bit too nostalgic, Yoruichi quickly pulled the ramen out of the beeping microwave, slurping it down in anything but a dignified manner. Feeling too tired to go all the way to her bed, Yoruichi simply went over to the couch and collapsed.

As a small patch of sun decided to land directly on Yoruichi's eyes, she growled, turning over to pull her sheets over when all too late she realized that she had fallen asleep on the couch, not her large bed, and rolled off, landing on her stomach on the floor with a thud. Staying there for a moment, Yoruichi moaned. Great…this is going to be a good day. It already is. With that, she groggily pushed herself up just in time to hear the phone on the counter ring. Looking at the digital clock above the couch, Yoruichi saw that it was only 6:30 in the morning, which meant that she had had about five hours of sleep, and it was Saturday on top of that, her day to sleep until noon. Who would be calling at this god-forsaken hour? As it was, Yoruichi stumbled over to the phone and looked at the caller ID. Kuukaku? Why would she…? The other woman had a habit of getting drunk on Friday nights and sleeping them off the next day, so Yoruichi knew something was off, suddenly becoming more alert. She picked up the phone. "Kuukaku? What is it?" She heard an unnerving pause on the other end of the line. "Well?" "Yoruichi…something's happened…" Yoruichi's tone became interrogative. "What is it?" There was another pause. "It's Soi."

Yoruichi was pushing the speed limit, going past it when her radar didn't detect any police nearby, her black sports car with a few orange accents roaring in all its glory. In her rush, Yoruichi had only bothered to throw on a black turtleneck against the cold, kept the old jeans on, and the only reason that her hair was good was because of the couple red lights she had been unable to run due to a safe driver being in front of her. Please let her be okay… as Kuukaku had quickly explained, Soi Fong had been helping her set up for the next fireworks show, the Shiba family had a near monopoly on the business with only a few small companies in the competition, a task which had taken quite a bit of hard work along with a few other elements, sheer genius being one of them. As they had been setting up, Ganju had been handling some of the heavier equipment in quite the precarious position high up. When he dropped the fireworks, it started a chain reaction…apparently Soi Fong and Kuukaku had been below, and the smaller Chinese woman had noticed the coming avalanche sooner and had pushed Kuukaku out of the way. Unfortunately, her small frame didn't have to momentum to get them both out of the way, and Soi had been caught below the multiple storage crates and fireworks. When the paramedics had arrived, they had been unable to retrieve her, but had been unable to determine the extent of her injuries. The last Kuukaku heard Soi Fong had been in ICU.

Finally reaching the hospital, Yoruichi miraculously saw an empty space near the entrance, shamelessly zooming into it with a screeching of tires before an old lady could pull in, exiting and almost forgetting to lock her car as she ran in, aforementioned old lady shaking her fist, unheeded by Yoruichi. The automatic doors almost didn't open fast enough as Yoruichi ran in, slowing down only right before she reached the front desk. The blonde man pushed his glasses up before looking at Yoruichi. "Can I help you?" "Can you tell me where a woman named Soi Fong is being held? She should have come in recently." He arrogantly pushed up his glasses again. "Of course I can tell you." He opened his small book, flipping the pages, much to Yoruichi's distress. Can't he just use the computer like normal people? He then stopped flipping the pages. "Miss Fong is in recovery on the fourth floor, planned to be moved to room 413." With that, Yoruichi ran off. The man seemed indignant. "Hmmph! You think she could at least say thank you…"

As Yoruichi went to the elevator, she punched the 'Up' button, only to groan in dismay when she saw that it was all the way up on the seventh floor, likely to stop several times on the way down. Not wanting to wait that long, Yoruichi went over to the stairs and ran up several at a time, panting slightly as she exited on the fourth floor. She would have gone further, but she skidded to a stop when she came to the sight of Kuukaku, looking quite disheveled, keeping warm in the freezing waiting area via an oversized hoodie, nursing a cup of coffee that probably wasn't strong enough for her taste. She looked up with bloodshot eyes at Yoruichi. "Sorry I couldn't get to a phone sooner…mine broke when she pushed me out of the way." Yoruichi just shook her head. "Don't worry about it. I'm just glad you called." With that, Yoruichi sat down next to Kuukaku. "So, how long until she's out of there?" Kuukaku grinned. "It looks like you have just as perfect timing as normal." As Kuukaku finished saying this, the doors to the recovery room opened, a kindly looking woman with a large braid coming out. "Are you two friends of Soi Fong?" The two came to their feet, nodding. The doctor smiled slightly. "It seems that the damage wasn't as bad as we feared it might be. By all rights that weight should have crushed her due to her small frame…" Yoruichi winced. "…but it seems that's she is in quite the exceptional physical condition, which helped to keep the injuries to a non-life threatening level. The recovery will take a while, but Miss Fong will be fine." Kuukaku smiled. "Thanks Unohana-san." The doctor just smiled knowingly. "She's already been moved to her room, and I'm sure she'll be glad to have company when she wakes up." With that, she disappeared behind the doors.

Kuukaku turned to Yoruichi. "It's been a while since you've seen her, hasn't it?" Yoruichi looked a bit solemn as she replied. "Yeah…it has. Too long." Kuukaku sighed. "You know it's your fault, right?" Yoruichi looked indignant. "It was for her own good! I was running into quite a bit of trouble back then, and I didn't want her to get caught in the crossfire." Kuukaku frowned. "Say that all you want, but that's not how Soi Fong saw it. Face it Yoruichi—you left her in the dust. Are you sure she'll want to see you?" Yoruichi paused for a moment. "I don't know. I can only hope so…" Yoruichi grinned. "At least she won't be able to slap me."

Before long, the two reached the door to room 413. Yoruichi wasn't superstitious, but her eyes narrowed at the room number. 13, an unlucky number…just great, and I already felt so good and mushy about this. Hesitating ever so slightly with her hand on the doorknob, Yoruichi knew that whatever happened in there would be the beginning of a new bend on their relationship…either picking up where they left off, having to get over their differences, or perhaps ending it for good. The mere possibility of the last one was almost enough for Yoruichi to turn back, but in the end she decided that she needed to stick it out. She had been the one to run off, and as such she needed to repair the damage, the first step of which was taken in opening the door.

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What the feline woman saw upon entrance to the room shocked her. Then again, it really shouln't have...after all, ever hospital room was stereotypically a stark, barren white, and this one was no different. What was shocking was how well Soi Fon's unusually pale skin blended in, almost like camouflage, into the walls and sheets. Yoruichi mused that if it wasn't for her dark Asian hair, she wouldn't have spotted her. Her left arm was encased in a full-blown plaster and gauze prison, and judging by the bulk of her left leg under the sheets, there was likely a cast there as well, though thankfully only below the knees. In her right arm there was an IV tube filled with blood that was flowing into her...type B judging by the label. A white square of guaze was taped down over her lef eye as well, but probably more for precaution than anything else judging by what Unohana had said. Fortunately the medics hadn't undone her hair wrappings--that would have definitely pissed Soi off, which was never a pleasant thing to deal with.

Yoruichi smiled though. Despite the bandages, Soi Fong looked uncharacteristically at rest, eyes shut, chest rising at a steady pace. Only the occasional twitch of an eyebrow betrayed the fact that Soi was likely under a lot of stress. Kuukaku caught wind of just how much detail her darker friend was taking in, grinning wolfishly. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you still feel the same about her." Yoruichi crossed her arms and looked away haughtily. "I don't know what you're talking about. There wasn't anything like that to begin with." Kuukaku smiled knowingly, letting the case rest. When Yoruichi set her mind to denying something, only she could convince herself otherwise.

In the mean time, Yoruichi contented herself by sitting on a chair close to the bed, legs crossed, one hand propping her chin up from the arm rest, a bit surprised at how her junior had changed, yet was still the same. She was a centimeter taller tops and had a deceivingly petite form whose litheness was hidden by the sheets. Her face had obviously changed as well, though she could still see traces of the old Soi. Her jaw line seemed much more severe than it ever had been in her memory, but it wasn't necessarily a bad change. In fact, it might be the one thing to keep someone from mistaking her for a child due to her height. Even now it was difficult to remember that she was nineteen just by looking at her. At twenty-one, Yoruichi looked more well versed in the ways of the world than she should be on the few occasions she let her guard down.

It was then that Soi Fong decided to open her lone visible eye, the steely grey in stark contrast to the current environment. Yoruichi wasn't so much surprised at the fact that Soi Fong was instantly alert despite the pain killer she was probably on, as she was at how much older and stern they looked from the last time she had seen them. They were remote, hardened, not showing a hint of the girl that had wanted nothing more than to please her sempai. "What are you doing here?"

Yoruichi's eyes widened at the accusatory tone. It sounded way too old, too venomous to be coming from her. Was she upset that she had come? Sure, Yoruichi had expected a little bit of anger, but not the deep-rooted bitterness that had shown through her tone and eyes. "Kuukaku told me what happened, so I came right away to see if you were alright." Soi shot a death glare over to Kuukaku. "Traitor." However, the fireworks entrepreneur had very thick skin and paid it no heed, currently leaning back against the wall and picking at her nails. This wasn't about her.

Soi slid her steely gaze back at Yoruichi. "You have quite the nerve to be showing your face around here Yoruichi." She looked nonplused as she replied. "It's not what you think it was Soi Fon. You were the daughter of the Police Chief, and I couldn't afford to get you caught up in that mess. I didn't abandon you, I-" "You think you can just rationalize away?" Yoruichi was once more shocked at the moment of grief that managed to flash through Soi's eyes before they shifted to anger, now almost yelling. "What you say now doesn't change what happened Yoruichi! I thought you were different from the rest of your proud high society family, but you just had to go and prove me wrong by abandoning me like a tool that had used up all its worth, didn't you?"

Yoruichi looked slightly crestfallen at the last part. Was that really what Soi though of her? Like her junior apparently was now, Yoruichi was a master of hiding how she really felt, and just looked back sternly, tone dead serious. "That's funny Soi...I didn't take you as the type to jump to conclusions." Soi removed her gaze from Yoruichi and stared at the blank ceiling above. "Just go away Yoruichi. You're not wanted here." That stabbed her right through the heart, and as much as Yoruichi wanted to stay, it was clear to her that talking to her like this would do no good, so she stood stiffly as Kuukaku had already opened the door and exited. In a few short moments, Yoruichi was in the doorway with her back to Soi Fong. She took one more glance back. "Ja, Soi Fong." Then the door slid shut, and the two were separated once more.
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Though she had had a bit of a head start at first, Kuukaku was now scurrying to catch up to Yoruichi before she drove off. God, doesn't she know when to slow down? By the time she had caught up, Yoruichi already had her key in the hole and would have opened it had the now-panting woman not slammed her hand on the door. "Hold it Yoruichi." Her golden eyes narrowed at Kuukaku. "What's gotten into you?" Kuukaku rolled her eyes. "That's my line. I know I ain't the sharpest around when it comes to mind-reading, but you're usually perceptive enough to notice when one of your friends is about to die from lack of air by trying to keep up with you. Come on Yoruichi. Spill." No, she didn't ask nicely. Kuukaku never asked, she demanded.

Yoruichi leaned back against her car with her arms crossed, obviously not wanting to say anything, but knowing that if she didn't, Kuukaku would probably just stand behind her car so she couldn't back out. "You saw what happened in there. She hates me." Yoruichi received no sympathy. "I don't think she does, but she had every right to. Though you needed to leave her, you did it in the worst way possible." Not wanting to put up with any more of this, Yoruichi opened her door and got in the car, the engine roaring to life as Kuukaku rapped on the window. Yoruichi rolled it down as she took off the parking break. "You should have at least said good bye." Kuukaku was shocked by the angry glare she received in return. "What the hell would you know about it, eh, Kuukaku?!" Yoruichi rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath and she clipped on her seat belt. "High and might Shibas…" Stunned, Kuukaku just stood there as Yoruichi sped off, tires squealing. She just looked off for a moment before becoming aware of a concentration of pain in her foot. When she looked down to see tire treads on them, Kuukaku let loose a string of curses as she walked away.