The Highlands was intended to be a respectable neighbourhood, an extension of the nearby Callingwood, which was a beautiful area in the center of the city that many wealthy and prestigious families called home. It was the late 1990s when its construction was approved, when the economy was booming, and many citizens were looking to invest in expensive properties. They had the whole world in their hands, and their future prospects looked grand. However, the economy was not stable. The Highlands had not even finished construction when it began to collapse, and those who had pre-purchased homes could suddenly no longer afford them. Families that already lived in the area found themselves soon unable to continue the upkeep of the homes; some were not able to scrounge up enough money to move into another. Construction was halted, and it did not take long after that for the neighbourhood to spiral into poverty. It had become an area infested with crime, a picturesque slum home to the city's most contemptible degenerates. Addicts huddled in corners, some hardly showing any signs of life at all; their dealers were never far away, being masters of manipulation and expert businessmen. Prostitutes stood at the corners, dolled up in makeup meant to mask their misery, and dressed in lewd clothing designed to distract from their dead eyes. Petty thugs raged wars over territory, and police tape marked the scenes of murders that had yet to be solved, and yet to be rectified. The inhabitants of the Highlands were not all criminals, however. It was also home to homeless youth, cast out of their family homes for a great host of reasons, all abominable. The mentally ill lurked there, having been turned out by hospitals who could no longer afford their care. There were also young men and women like Adrien Lachance, who had simply lost their way and had no where else to turn. He was only 19, not even old enough to purchase alcohol legally. Though he was old beyond his years, he had little formal education under his belt, and was still naive to much of what the world had to offer. He had always been a troubled boy, having fallen in with a questionable group of people in high school, but after his mother's death, his life had become the header of a crime drama. It was a daily battle to survive, and he had learned very quickly how to defend his body with his fists, and his mind with a crown of thorns. ----- All of this for a package of fucking cigarettes. Adrien didn't even smoke. It agitated his eyes and throat, and the stench clung to his clothes for weeks. No, he had different vices, as everyone lurking on the streets did; he just happened to know quite a few people who did smoke, and who would gladly trade him what he wanted in exchange for the little death sticks. Though he had originally convinced himself that a hit of speed would be worth any potential bruises, he hadn't expected the man he stole them from to be so quick on his feet and so heavy with his hands. It wasn't a fair fight, either, though Adrien certainly couldn't blame the guy for calling over his friends to have a go at him. Cigarettes were valuable, and he clearly was not someone who should be partaking in fights to begin with. There were very few people he could handle on his own; only the frailest drug addicts, of which he could even be considered a fine example. He was as thin as a rail, and often just as stiff. He had been in plenty of fights where he had emerged the victor, but that was well before he had become so ravaged by drugs and his own mutinous mind that he could barely lift a dead weight without risking serious injury. It had only started as one man, and it wasn't as though the brute was in any danger of being mauled. Adrien managed to get in a few hits, and even drew blood from the man's nose, but by that time he had already been virtually incapacitated. It would have been easy enough to pin him down without the help of two other freakishly burly men, but he supposed it wasn't nearly as fun when you didn't have someone holding up your target like a punching bag. There was nothing he could do except stand there and pray for mercy, but he knew mercy would not come. It never did. Adrien was quite sure they were going to beat him to death at this point, and if he had even a shred of hope left in his body, he might have started to cry. However, the cruel voice in the back of his mind reminded him that no one would mourn his life, and if these men didn't kill him, something else would - and soon. It wasn't the first time he'd prayed for death. It wasn't even the first time he had prayed for death this week. Even if he did somehow survive this, he was out both the cigarettes and his speed, and he had been caught in front of the outlandish mansion that everyone in the immediate area avoided. He had thought running here would be a smart idea - surely no one would follow him here - but clearly he lacked any reasonable foresight, because now there would be no one able - or willing - to assist him. Respectable members of society did not help addicts, and scorned the destitute. There was no one among his community that he would consider a friend, and surely none so fond of him that they would risk their hide to help him. Hell, if he stumbled upon a similar situation, there's no way he would have helped, even if the person was on their own, much the less being actively assaulted. Eventually his assailants slowed down, only after he was bleeding from places he didn't even know he could bleed from. For a split second, Adrien even thought perhaps they'd leave him, considering this beating just a warning to stay away from them. Perhaps lady luck was finally smiling on him. Besides the chorus of heaving breaths, the only sound he could hear for a while was that of rain pounding on the side walk. He opened one of his eyes carefully, looking at the brutish face of the man who was currently taking his turn pummelling him. Instead of the mercy he was hoping for, however, all he saw was the faint glimmer of rage in the man's eyes, and lips curling up into a smirk. "Good night," the man snarled, before punching Adrien square in the nose with full force. Fuck.