Staring up at the ceiling, eyes red from the lack of sleep, the young woman prayed to every god she'd ever heard of that the creaking and thumping coming through the thin ceiling was not what she thought it was. Apparently, she wasn't on their good side that morning, because soon she was forced to listen to the passionate screams and moans of two inconsiderate jerks humping like bunnies at the crack of dawn. Swearing heavily, she grabbed her pillow and pressed it tight against her head, desperately trying to block the sounds from her ears. It was only ten seconds later when the feathery-soft object was flung across the room, the girl finally accepting the fact that she wouldn't be getting any more sleep soon. Sitting up abruptly, ignoring the deeply sagging box-spring mattress underneath her and the thin sheets slipping off her bare shoulders, she scowled with bleary-eyes at nothing in particular, wondering which spiteful deity she had pissed off enough to warrant such a terrible start to her day.

Working the night shift had been bad enough, considering that it was midnight before she'd finally gotten home, but the assignments that had been waiting for her meant that she didn't get to sleep 'till well past three. She'd been counting on at least five hours of sleep before she had to go to her classes, but she hadn't been planning on listening to a duet from the horny bastards in the apartment above her. Still muttering curses under her breath, she pulled herself up and dragged her feet toward the bathroom. Ignoring the cold bite from the peeling linoleum floor, she hunched herself down against the sink, glaring at her reflection in the mirror.

Her cloudy-grey eyes were bloodshot with heavy bags beneath them, an irritating and unneeded reminder that she was tired as hell. Her hair looked a mess, sticking out in various directions and hanging well below her waist. She probably could've made it look decent with a good haircut, but the best she could do for now was braid it up like she normally did. Running a finger through the long strands, it occurred to her that she hadn't showered since two days ago, and with a reluctant sigh turned to the tub beside her, tentatively stepping in and sliding the curtain closed. Crossing her fingers she, slowly turned the handles for the showerhead, moderately pleased that she actually heard water flowing through the pipes – until it started to pour down on her.

"Holy-god-damned-son-of-a-!" she screamed as the icy cold water came streaming out. At least she wasn't tired any more. Knowing that things wouldn't be getting better any time soon she quickly started to scrub herself clean, doing her best to avoid getting frostbite.

Three minutes later, she was curled on the bathroom floor with a towel cocooned around her, shivering away as she tried to goad some warmth back into her appendages, wondering how her day could possibly get any worse than it already was.

"FON!" a voice bellowed from the front door. The girl tried to swear again, but nearly bit her tongue as her teeth were still chattering away. "Get yer ass out here, Fon, I heard you in there!"

"F-f-ucking h-hell," Sui-Feng stammered, "G-GIVE M-ME A M-MINUTE!"

Still not sufficiently thawed, she tried to stay steady as she stood up, then hobbled to the stack of clothes she had piled in the corner of the tiny apartment. Pulling on a heavy, black sweater and a pair of jeans as quickly as she could with shaking hands, she hurried to the door and swung it open to talk to her landlord.

"You owe me rent," the big man stated flatly, tiny flecks of spit splashing Sui-Feng's face as he talked. She resented everything about the oaf, from the massive gut that spilled out of his grease-stained shirt, to the stubby hands that were either shovelling junk food into his gaping hole of a mouth or shoved up his nose. The oil-slicked hair that made the man look like an overgrown baby, and his miniscule brain had somehow gotten the idea that he was better than she was. It was a real shame that he was still intelligent enough to warrant charges of manslaughter.

"I don't have it," Sui-Feng reluctantly admitted, and grimaced at the sneer that appeared on the brute's face.

"Well ain't dat a problem," he slurred out, leaning in close enough that she could smell his disgusting breath, "Far's I remember, you missed last months rent too."

Sui-Feng flinched. She'd been hoping he'd be stupid enough to forget that.

"Well, if you ain't got da cash, then I guess you'd betta start packing…" he started.

"I get my pay check today," she said quickly, lying on the spot. He seemed startled, looking vaguely suspicious as he eyed her. Finally he nodded gruffly and grunted.

"You'd betta," he said with finality, and stomped off down the hall.

"And fix the goddamn water heater, Omaeda!" she yelled back with false bravado, slamming the door shut. Leaning back against it she breathed a sigh of relief, but soon returned to panic. Her last few pay checks had all gone into food and tuition fees, and all that was left was pocket change. It would be a week before she got paid again, and even that bumbling idiot wouldn't be stalled for that long. She could always ask for an advance, but doubted that she'd have much success.

Slumping down to the floor, her eyes wandered over the hellhole of an apartment she lived in. The pathetic floral wallpaper was either peeling or faded, and the walls behind them littered with patchy repair jobs. The rough rug under her feet felt like sandpaper to her skin and probably hadn't been cleaned properly in decades. The only furniture in the room was the rickety old bed that felt like it would break under the slightest weight and a rotting coffee table that she'd found thrown in a ditch. The bathroom wasn't much better, with a tiny cracked mirror, a shower that only worked half of the time, and a toilet with pipes that were starting to rust over. Even the lights hadn't worked in over three months, the wiring having shorted out soon after she'd come to the place.

It was a pathetic dump, and unfortunately the only place she had a hope of affording – though apparently not for long. Nineteen years old, and her life already felt like it was barely holding together. Many girls her age would have broken down crying in her situation - Sui-Feng just wished there was something in the place that was worth breaking.

The small Chinese girl whipped through the streets, her twin braids trailing behind her as she weaved through crowds. Her classes had ended a little later than expected but she still had time to get to the restaurant, especially if she ran all the way there. There wasn't much Sui-Feng liked about her body – she was short, skinny, plain-looking, and her chest was several sizes too small – but she could at least take pride in the fact that she was meticulously fit. Her muscles were well toned, without a bit of excess weight, and running a few miles every day had become commonplace and effortless. It was just a shame that her athleticism was out of necessity and not choice. A car wasn't even a remote possibility for her, and public transportation was more a luxury than anything else, so the only thing left was her own legs to carry her everywhere.

Breathing a little heavier as she jogged down the last block, she finally came to a stop in front of a small diner. It wasn't much to speak of, in terms of food and customers, but the pay was decent with tips, the hours were flexible enough for her to work six days a week and still go to college, and most importantly no one cared if she grabbed some food during her breaks. She'd worked there for about six months; her current record for holding down a job. Entering the building she glanced at the wall-clock, seeing that it was ten-to-five. The dinner rush hadn't begun yet, and she still had ten minutes until her shift started, so with any luck she could still get a sandwich and appease her aching stomach for the next few hours. As she hurried to the backroom to change into her uniform, she heard a voice yell out to her from the kitchen.

"Nice to see you on time, Fon!" the restaurant manager said, and the girl cringed a little. The last few days she'd had to detour a few streets because of construction, and ended up arriving a few minutes late. The boss wasn't that bad, really, and he was a lot better than some of the assholes she'd had to take orders from, but if there was one thing he cracked down on it was showing up on time. She quickly turned to him, bowing stiffly.

"Yes sir, I try to follow your advice, sir," she said crisply. She'd learned within days that the manager had a bit of an ego as well, and the easiest way to get him off her back was to stroke it a little. Sure to form, he only glared at her for another few moments before nodding his head in approval.

"Just make sure you keep it up," he advised before walking back into the kitchen area. Sui-Feng rolled her eyes behind his back then rushed off to get changed.

The first few hours were uneventful, with customers trickling in and out steadily. Even still, Sui-Feng was starting to feel the fatigue kicking in again, culminating from a lack of sleep and a generally overworked body. By the time she got her first coffee break, she was nearly dead on her feet, and slumped down into a chair as soon as she made it to the backroom. One of her coworkers was already there, a tall, silver-haired girl named Isane Kotetsu, and she looked on with genuine concern.

"You don't look so well. Maybe you should take a day off…" she said quietly. Isane was a college freshman like her, going into medical school, and as a result she frequently gave Sui-Feng health advice. The Chinese girl didn't mind it that much, given that it was offered in honest concern without any hidden intent. That pretty much summed up Isane's personality: she was timid, unassertive and generally made no effort to impose herself on anyone, and was, for all intents and purposes, nice. As a result, she was one of the few people that Sui-Feng could be around for long periods of time without getting an urge to kill someone.

"I can't afford to skip a day," the worn-out girl answered, closing her eyes as she leaned her head against the rim of her chair, "I'm probably getting evicted soon."

"Sounds tough," the taller girl said in sympathy.

"Take my advice, Isane, suck up to your parents as long as you can. The last thing you ever want to do is deal with this kind of crap."

Not having an answer for that, Isane remained silent, letting Sui-Feng rest herself. However, like always, the more she wanted time to slow down, the faster it seemed to go, and she soon heard someone calling for her.

"Yo, Fon! Two at table four!"

"Yeah, yeah," the raven-haired girl muttered under her breath, pulling herself back to her feet.

"OK, spill already. Those scratches maybe, but I know that cut on your leg didn't come from one of your little romps."

"As a matter of fact, it did."

"What? Okay, no way I'm letting this go now. Tell me already."

"Well, remember that salesgirl from yesterday?

"The tiny blond that couldn't even speak straight around you? Didn't think she was the type to play rough."

"She wasn't. I'm in her room, and she's naked, sweaty and desperate. I just get her to start panting my name out, when guess who comes barging in."

"Her dad?"

"No. Boyfriend."

The taller of the two women threw her head back, cackling like a maniac. A number of passers-by turned to stare, but they weren't paid much heed. When she finally managed to slow her laughter after several minutes, the woman rubbed at her eyes and pressed for the rest of the story.

"So he comes running in swearing at me, swinging a baseball bat around, and the first thing I think of doing is to jump out the window. He follows me out, so then I try jumping a fence and end up cutting my leg, land in a rose bush, and still have to sprint three blocks shirtless before I finally lose him."

This brought on another bought of laughter, and this time the boisterous woman actually had to hold her splitting sides, crouching down low as she almost lost her balance. Her companion was grinning widely as well, always amused by her friend's wild nature.

"I swear Yoruichi, you're the only one that could get into these kinds of messes."

"I aim to please."

Righting herself again, the taller woman reached up to adjust the white bandana on her head, and ran her hand through her wild mess of black hair, still chuckling.

"So what happened to the girl after?"

"Please, Kuukaku, you know I never go back, especially with a pissed off brute wanting to bash my brains in."

The dark-skinned woman smiled broadly, a cheeky expression on her face. Young, beautiful, and filthy rich were the best words to describe Yoruichi Shihoin. Her father had been the head-honcho of a major corporation, and had amassed a fortune in liquid assets along with a large portion of company shares. Her parents had died when she was barely old enough to start remembering them, and she had been their sole heir. Never wanting for anything when she was growing up, always having an easy life and with no one around be strict with her she'd ended up with a completely care-free personality. Twenty-two years old, she was a college student in name only, preferring the social environment far more than the education. She rarely attended lectures, only showing up to chat up a girl that'd caught her eye.

Her friend, Kuukaku Shiba, was very much the same, only differing in her personal vice. While Yoruichi had a penchant for cute girls and one-night-stands, Kuukaku preferred the party life, and was rarely seen at night without a stack of empty bottles around her. Physically speaking, she was just as attractive as her friend, depending on who you asked. With well-defined curves and a very ample bust, there was definitely an appealing side to her, once you could get past the unruly attitude. She'd first met Yoruichi way back in middle school, back when they were far more immature. They'd hit it off immediately, their equally reckless outlooks on life fitting each other well, and had been friends ever since.

They were wandering around the downtown streets aimlessly, Yoruichi's eyes occasionally drifting a short skirt or pretty face. Occasionally some passing men would pause to check the two of them out, a few leering outright, but they were all ignored by both women, one uninterested in males and the other just uninterested.

"So where to?" the taller of the two asked, "Cause I'm starving."

"I feel like trying something new," the chocolate-skinned woman replied, her tone clearly conveying her dual meaning.

"Whatever. Just keep it out of the staff room; I don't want some manager breathing down my neck again."

When no reply came, the black-haired woman turned around, spotting her friend half a block back, her head turned to look across the street. Following her gaze, she saw a small diner, along with a small Chinese waitress who was probably the one to catch her friend's attention.

"What is it with you and the tiny ones?" Kuukaku asked as she walked back.

"I just like 'em cute and adorable," Yoruichi answered with a predatory smirk on her face.

"Well this one looks borderline jailbait."

"Hey, don't worry. I've got an eye for these things."

"That's what they all say, right 'till the handcuffs are on."

"Aw, you worried?"

"Whatever. Just make sure I get to eat this time."

"No problem, I'm not in a rush."

Sauntering across the street, Kuukaku following close behind, the playgirl pushed open the door to the restaurant, a soft chime ringing as she stepped inside. The waitress turned to look, her long braids swaying as she swung around, and Yoruichi's golden eyes met pale-grey. The girl glanced to the side briefly, and then nodded.

"Two?" she asked, speaking clearly and crisply. Yoruichi was a little disappointed, having hoped that the girl was a blusher, but nodded smoothly. Nothing wrong with needing a little effort, it just made the payoff that much more worthwhile. The two women were guided to a booth, and Kuukaku briskly slid into her seat. The dark-skinned woman was slightly more detailed with her movements, making sure to brush by the waitress as she slid into her seat, her bare arms making brief contact with the girl's light skin.

"Not even a shiver," she thought, eyeing the young waitress carefully. When the girl handed them the menus Yoruichi made sure to take hers personally, softly caressing the girl's hand with her fingers before accepting the sheet.

"Can I get you something to drink?" the Chinese girl asked levelly, not even hesitating. Figuring that she had to be a little more direct, the playgirl leaned forward a little, letting her low-cut top fall slightly.

"How 'bout something to cool me down," she purred out, smouldering eyes keeping constant contact.

The girl finally caught on, eyeing the beautiful woman in front of her before nodding and walking off.

"Sorry girl, your chances are looking slim right now," Kuukaku murmured, smirking across the table.

"I wouldn't be so sure, I think I've already got this one in the bag," Yoruichi replied, smirking right back.

"Oh, really? Looked to me like you just struck out."

"Care to bet the bill on that?"

The black-haired woman hesitated for a moment, but nodded confidently. Smiling and leaning back in her chair, the playgirl calmly waited. A few minutes later, the waitress came back to their table, sliding two glasses of water in front of them, walking off just as quickly. Kuukaku grinned, thinking that she'd won, but Yoruichi grinned back, slyly lifting up the slip of paper that had been discreetly dropped in her lap. Written across it in neat handwriting was, unmistakeably, a phone number.

Sui-Feng watched the two women walk out of the restaurant, the flirtatious one giving her a parting wink before she left. Sighing in frustration, she went to clear the table, but was soon smiling when she counted the cash that was left there.

"Might get enough tips tonight to get the gorilla off my back for a few days," she thought, pocketing the bills.

It was definitely the worst part of the job, having the damn players trying to pick her up. She'd lost a lot of work because of them – well, more like the broken noses that she'd given them – but eventually she'd found an easy solution to deal with the problem: turns out that the second they got a number they stopped hitting on her. Best of all, they always tipped better when they thought they were getting laid, and that alone made it worth showing a little restraint.

She had to admit, though, there was a certain novelty in having a woman flirt with her, but it hadn't been any less irritating. In fact, it had been more so, since she couldn't stand the damn party-girls with cash to throw around. Chuckling to herself, she briefly imagined the woman calling the number she'd given her. With any luck, that over obsessive narcissist hadn't moved yet.