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|Four Hearts and Souls, Part 2|
Stop number two was all the way down at the docks. We had to drive all the way across town and nearly got hit by some maniac driver in order to get there, but we made it in one piece, so I guess that's what counts.
As we pulled up to the docks, I couldn't help but feel disgust at the sight of it. The salty sea air that engulfed the place combined with the unrelenting sound of the ocean water crashing against the shore made for a nauseating combination that, frankly, just didn't do it for me.
Along the dock area were huge, metal crates as far as the eye could see, as well as cranes and forklifts moving about the place.
Yin parked the car and the two of us got out and stood in front of it. I guess we were supposed to be waiting for something.
In a few seconds, I didn't have to guess anymore, because Yin told me. "Since you got so pissy about me not telling you the plan last time," she started. "I'll go ahead and tell you now."
"Okay," I said.
"The next guy is coming down here under the impression that he's our security for a drug shipment coming in tonight," Yin explained.
"What kind of drugs?" I asked, genuinely curious.
"Frostbite, dragon grass, cactus juice, you name it," Yin said. "At least, that's what he thinks. The shipment's not actually coming until tomorrow."
Understanding the big picture, I simply nodded. "Gotcha."
Then, after thinking about it for a second, a question came to mind. And seeing as how not asking the right questions while there was still time was what lead to the last scenario, I wasn't gonna let this one go unanswered. "So he's one of our guys?" I asked.
"You could say that," said Yin.
Then the absolute worst thing happened. Right in front of us, not fifty yards away, a shining, black cop car came cruising directly towards us.
Obviously, I was in panic mode, and I felt like I was the only one too. Yin didn't even flinch at the sight of the thing, nor did any of the dock workers. Maybe I was just imagining the damn thing! Maybe I was the only one who saw a fucking police car that was now parked literally three feet in front of us. At first, I kept silent, assuming Yin had some kind of plan, but once the cop stepped out of the car and started walking towards us, any sense of restraint left me and I let my distress be known.
"Am I the only one who sees the fucking cop in front of us right now?!" I yelled.
The cop stopped in his tracks, then shot me a look. I was ready to flee if I needed to. If he made one move, I'd be gone in a fucking instant. I didn't care what these fuckers did to me. I wasn't about to go to jail.
Then the cop unexpectedly started to bust out laughing. He must have been seriously amused, because he was guffawing as hard as he could for about twenty seconds straight. "Hey, what is she? The new girl?" he asked Yin.
"Yeah," Yin said. "But she's good muscle, so I brought her along."
"Well, geez. What, did they recruit you this morning?" the cop asked me.
All I could do was force an uncomfortable laugh and say, "No. I'm still just a little new to this."
"Well, you better learn fast, sweetheart," he said. "For every good cop in this city, there's two crooked ones. Ever since Chief Beifong retired, you can get away with whatever you want. It's just her mess of a daughter running things now."
I don't know if you can tell from the way this guy spoke, but he seemed to be a real douchebag to me. He was pretty beefy and his hair was absolutely ravaged with hair gel, among other little minor things I picked up.
"So, I wanna ask you something," he said to Yin. "And if I'm outta line, let me know." He took off his hat and rubbed the back of his head uncomfortably. "Could I maybe get some of that frostbite? There's been a fucking drought in this city recently and I haven't been able to get any off the streets, so could you maybe hook me up with some?"
The disguise of the budding companion Yin had been wearing throughout this entire conversation was discarded and she shot the man an intense look of disgust.
Then she lashed out, bending the water from beneath the docks and blasting it towards the cop, completely engulfing his entire body in it, minus his head. She levitated the cop above the ground, suspending him in the air helplessly while he screamed in confusion. Then she froze the water solid and slingshot him into the sea, forcing him beneath the waves, rather than allowing him to float.
"There's your frostbite, you piece of shit," Yin said bitterly. "Come on, Song," she said, getting back inside the car.
Dumbfounded once more, I got back in the car and stared her in the face while she fastened her seatbelt. I was beyond asking how she could do something like that at this point. Even if it was to a corrupt douchebag like that. Instead, I just did what I found myself doing too frequently. I asked for context. "What was that for?" I questioned.
"He was on Qin's payroll," Yin said. "He'd been doing jobs for us for about three years. Then we found out he reneged on us. Found out he was telling the other cops what we were up to while he was still working for us. So we took care of him."
That was such a comforting sentiment. The guy got his conscience back and tried to take these bastards down and that was what he got for it. It never ceased to amaze me with these people. "How could you be so cold about it?" I asked her. "You almost seemed like you were happy about it."
"Stop, Song," Yin said, her monotonous tone never changing. "I'm only gonna tell you once. Stop. The guy you're defending was a waste of human space. He killed a lot of people. Good people. And then he lied about it being in self-defense. He abused his position of power to get whatever he wanted, whether it was from us or someone else. Now I want you to shut up and I want you to prepare for what's about to happen, because this next one is gonna be the hardest one by far and this time, I'm gonna need you to get your hands dirty. So please," she said, putting her hand on my shoulder. "Get ready and accept this."
She started the ignition and the two of us drove off to our next destination. Rather than argue with her further, I decided instead I would take her advice. I shut up and prepared myself for what was about to happen.
There was a bit of a detour on the way to stop three. According to Yin, this next target was too big of a job for the two of us to handle alone, so we had to stop for backup.
Since the job was apparently too big and too important to fuck up, this was the one time she actually told me what was going on before the hit went down. Our next target was a witness who was being held in a safe house on the other side of town. It was all the way in Kwonghai, which was this borough that was practically on the outskirts of town. It was the perfect place to hide somebody.
Of course, she didn't tell me what exactly this person had witnessed, but at least now I knew the context of the situation. That was good enough for me.
She told me there would be guards all over the place too and that it would be my job to help take them out, but after a lot of thinking, I had finally come up with a solution to that quandary. I simply wouldn't shoot to kill. Boom. Problem solved.
The two of us pulled up to the curb of a restaurant and kept the car running while we waited for our backup.
While we waited, Yin turned her head over to look at me. "Song," she said. "I need to know you're good before we do this. Now answer me honestly. Are you good?"
I didn't even really have to lie that much. It's not like I had to see it this time and I didn't actually have to kill anybody, so when I said to her, "Yes. I'm good," it sounded like I meant it.
Yin nodded and just a moment later, the sound of the door to the restaurant opening could be heard by all.
Out from the restaurant came the man who was truly the last person I wanted to see tonight. Or any night for that matter. Of all the fucking guys in this organization that could've been our backup, it was Zolt and his goons who they decided to stick us with. And he wasted no time at all getting on my nerves.
"Well, look who it is," Zolt said, climbing into the back seat along with some scruffy looking guy who had clearly never groomed his hair before in his life.
"Little Miss Loudmouth," he said to me.
"You're one to talk," I shot back.
"Ooh, hoo, hoo," he chuckled. "Careful, girly. Or you may end up getting caught in the crossfire when we get to the place."
"Both of you shut up," Yin ordered. She pulled off of the curb and the group of us were on our merry way, with a second group of people following in a car behind us.
While we were riding down there, I guess Zolt decided he was gonna try to irritate me as much as possible. "You know what they're calling me on the streets now because of you?" he asked me. "Lightning Bolt Zolt. Ever since you dropped the name to Qin, it's spread all over the city."
"Frankly, I'm amazed they never called you that before," I said. "A guy named Zolt who can bend lightning? You mobsters must not be very quick."
"Oh, it's not that at all," Zolt said. "Until now, nobody was stupid enough to give me a nickname like that. People in this city heard the name Zolt and they knew it didn't need a nickname to make it sound more terrifying. But now that a mouthy little broad like you went and gave me one, how the fuck is anyone else gonna be afraid?"
"Glad I could help damage your reputation," I remarked with a smile.
"Yeah, don't flatter yourself, bitch," he said. "Coming up with a nickname that unoriginal shouldn't give you any pride."
It didn't, but damaging his did, and that's what made me happy. Rather than tell him that and risk getting struck by a stray bolt of lightning during our little raid, I thought it would be best to keep quiet and enjoy the grief I'd apparently caused him.
An hour later and we'd made it into Kwonghai. Our surroundings were much different from the vast, unending jungle of a city we'd found ourselves in all night. This place was, if I had to describe it in one word, flat. Just average-sized, unassuming houses stretched out row after row for who knows how long.
We just kept driving down the street at a steady pace, knowing that the second we stopped our cars in front of the place, the cops guarding it would be on us like bumbleflies on shit.
As we made our way down the road, I counted the streetlights on my side of the car. Each one signified that we were getting closer to carrying out this horrible task, yet it tranquilized me. As we passed by streetlight after streetlight, I found myself more at more at peace. Just staring at them transfixed me, but I guess that was because, in the end, it was something simple to do. I didn't seek an explanation; I didn't look for an answer. I was just content with counting the streetlights.
"Get ready," Yin said, apparently determined to eviscerate any trace of inner peace within me.
Then I spotted the safe house, just past the last streetlight on our way here. We pulled up to the front of the house and stopped the car. I could already see four cops standing out front and I'm sure there were more inside. I couldn't look for too long though or they'd know why we were here.
I just looked in the mirror on my side of the car and I caught something out of the corner of my eye for a split second. There it was again. The figure I had seen back at my apartment. This time I could clearly make out that it was a woman. I only saw her for a brief moment, but this time I could see her more clearly now. She was standing in the road a good distance from the safe house, next to a parked car. The shape of her was familiar, but I knew it couldn't be who I thought it was. It was just some woman out in the neighborhood. Either that, or I was just seeing things. I had to put those thoughts out of mind once we parked the car.
From the front porch, I heard one of the cops shout, "Step out of the car with your hands on your head!"
Then there was a pause. A second of calm before the battle. I wished I could capture that moment and make it last an eternity. In that moment, I wasn't afraid. In that moment, I was peaceful. In that moment, every person there was still alive.
The moment passed away once the scruffy guy in the backseat thrust his arm forward and launched his car door at the cop standing closest to the door of the house, splitting the upper part of his body in half.
Then the shooting started, with people bending on all sides. Yin, Zolt, and the metalbender hopped out of the car, as did everyone else in the car behind us.
Before I had time to jump out myself, I saw a slab of earth about the size of a refrigerator belting down towards me. Without time to think, I shot an earth spike up from the ground and whipped my arms around madly, sending it rocketing towards the slab and breaking it in two.
I finally zipped out of the car and flung my arms forward twice, unleashing two burning blasts of fire on the closest guy I saw, but he retaliated by thrashing his arms forward with a stream of water.
Before I could counter, someone else did it for me, hurling their fists forward with two devastating fire arcs, ending the life of the firebender and sending him crashing through the nearest window.
The sound of shattered glass rung out through the neighborhood as absolute chaos had broken out in front of this house.
The remaining two cops had taken cover and were in a desperate battle just to stay alive. Our guys were bearing down on them with the force of an army and the truth was, these guys just weren't prepared.
That didn't stop them from giving it their all though. One of them ducked out from the pillar he was hiding behind and shot surge of fire down on one of our guys, faster than anything I'd ever seen. It hit him straight in the pecker, causing him to fall to the floor and howl in bloody agony as he clutched the spot where his dick used to be.
Zolt took a shot at the assailant with a lightning bolt, narrowly missing him.
Meanwhile, the other cop sent a rockslide directly into one of our waterbenders, then flipped her into the air like a pancake.
Those of us still left in action kept bending towards the cops, covering our heads as we did so as the waterbender came crashing down on the hood of our car, denting the living fuck out of it.
The wailing of the dickless man got even louder as Yin finally impaled the earthbender cop with an ice spike, causing him to practically vomit a mouthful of blood and collapse to the ground.
Then I heard the scruffy guy shouting, "Move!" and I ducked out of the way of the car just in time for the firebending cop to move out and take a shot at me.
As he exposed himself, the scruffy guy took the door of the passenger's side and whizzed it at the firebender, this time slicing him in half completely.
"Song, Zolt, with me!" Yin ordered. "Pong, Gao, Chi Fu, stay here in case they have backup!"
Me, Yin, and Zolt dashed up to the house. Zolt kicked down the door and we found ourselves face to face with two more cops, both on either side of the witness, who was seated in a chair in the center of the room.
Before the one on the right even knew what hit him, Zolt had struck a lightning bolt through his heart, immediately sending him tumbling to the floor.
Yin wrapped a tentacle of water around the other, lifting her into the air and repeatedly slamming her into the floor, denting her head in more and more with each blow until she was knocked unconscious. Then she turned the tentacle into solid ice and slit her throat with it.
All that was left was the witness, who was now in the corner, her shaking more violent than anything else during the previous attack.
Yin had the first word. "Zolt, go wait outside now," she instructed.
"You can't tell me what to do," Zolt argued.
"Outside! Now!" Yin barked.
Zolt narrowed his eyes in frustration, but left regardless.
Now it was just me, Yin, and the witness.
"Please don't kill me!" she begged. "I promise I won't talk!"
Yin walked over to her and wrapped her hand around the witness' throat, lifting her up into the air.
"I promise! I promise!" the witness shrieked. "You have my word!"
Yin prepared to end her life when I intervened. "Stop!" I called out.
Yin looked over at me and the witness attempted to dart her eyes my way as well.
"I want to know what she did," I said.
"Too bad," Yin said.
I wasn't gonna back down from this. "Yin, you owe me that much after everything that's happened tonight," I said. I was unwavering in my desire to know what this woman did and why she deserved to die for it.
"I don't owe you shit," Yin replied.
"They murdered my brother!" the witness managed to get out. "I was standing ri-"
Wham! Yin sunk an ice dagger right into the witness' chest, obliterating her life and extinguishing her soul all in one fell swoop. As I watched the life fade out of her body with every passing second, I shed a single tear and walked out of the house.
I wasn't in the mood to argue. I wasn't in the mood to ask questions. I wasn't even in the mood to think. I just had the image of that poor woman losing her life right in front of my eyes burned into my brain. It was going to haunt me for the rest of my life. I was an accomplice to the most cold-blooded murder I had ever seen or heard of and that was really, truly the most awful thing I had ever felt.
Oh yeah. And there was still one more person to take care of.
Me and Yin had driven back into the city together, while everyone else went in the second car. The scruffy guy put the car doors back with metalbending and fixed the dent in the roof, and presto. We were off.
It had been some time since we left Kwonghai, and Yin and I hadn't spoken a word to each other since.
Truthfully, all I wanted at this point was to get this last one over with and go home so I could sleep this horrible night off. Or maybe I would wake up and realize this had all just been a bad dream. That I was still lying in Ito's bed and he was making an omelet for breakfast and the two of us could have a nice, pleasant conversation like we were supposed to this morning. I was starting to learn not to get my hopes up when it came to things I wanted, though. It pretty much never paid off.
We pulled up to a curb and she parked the car once again before exiting the vehicle. I wasn't even inclined to get up. I just sat in the passenger's seat with my head slumped over on the window.
As Yin moved over to my side and went inside whatever store she was going in, I turned my head over to look at the place she'd gone into. I saw it and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest and flung itself into the street.
I bolted out of the car and sprinted into the restaurant, hoping it wasn't too late. I burst through the door and ran faster than an eel hound to the back of the restaurant to see Yin kneeling Fong, the old man I talked to earlier, down on his knees.
"Yin, don't do this!" I screamed. "Don't do this!"
Fong's elderly eyes looked up and gazed at me. I could tell the second he laid them on me, his heart was shattered like a glass vase. "Song?" he said. "What are you doing here?" "Shut up, Song," Yin said.
"Yin, please!" I yelled. "I don't know what he owes you, but he can't help it! Just take all the money in the register and let him live!"
"It's not enough," Yin insisted.
"I'll pay you however much it is!" I said. I was desperate. If this man died, it would absolutely ravage me. People like Fong were the ones who were supposed to live in the end. They were the people whose kindness transcended all other feelings in this world and made everyone whole. It couldn't end like this for him. It couldn't.
"I'll pay for it out of my own pocket!" I continued. "Just please, Yin." My eyes began to sting as tears materialized in them, then soared down my face. "Please," I begged one last time. "Don't do this."
I knew she wasn't going to listen to me. I knew my pleas fell on deaf ears. But I had to beg with her. I had to try. Then, after a few more seconds went by, Fong looked up at me. The most innocent stare had taken hold of his face. "Song," he said. "Don't-"
And for the final time that night, Yin slit his throat right in front of me without even letting him finish his sentence. As the old man bled out, inking the floor with a dark, crimson red, Yin turned to me and said, "Get in the fucking car."
While she walked to the car, I knelt down and put two fingers to my lips. Then I slowly placed them on the man's forehead and whispered a single phrase. "Thank you."
I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and carried myself out the door, intent on putting Yin in the center of the argument of a lifetime.
I marched all the way through the restaurant, becoming more furious with each step, until I exploded out the door and grabbed Yin as she was moving towards the car. I spun her around and hollered into her face with all the rage from this terrible night that was built up inside me.
"Fuck you, Yin!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, in the loudest possible decibel. "Fuck you! You lousy, cold-hearted bitch! Fuck you! I fucking hate you!" I began to furiously pound on her, letting my rage out with each harmless blow. "You made me watch them die! You might have thought they were all just a job, but they were people, Yin! Every single one of them! Four hearts and souls! They weren't just a job, you cunt! They were fucking people! Don't you understand that?! Fucking people!"
Yin grabbed both of my wrists as tightly as she could, squeezing them until it almost hurt. Then she looked me dead in the eye and said, through gritted teeth - and in the only moment for that entire night that she had shown any real emotion, "I know." She let go of my wrists, walked over to her side of the car, and got in.
Amazing. With two words, she was able to completely shake my reality. Everything I had previously thought about this woman up until this point was out the window. All the moments I had either thought she was a heartless monster, or said it to her face, meant nothing. Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn't. But one thing was for sure. With those two words, she convinced me that she did know they were people. And that meant she had to have some humanity left in her.
I got in the passenger's seat of the car and the two of us drove away from the restaurant.
Finally, after the longest night of my life, I had arrived back home. I had no idea what time it was, but it couldn't have been any later than two o'candle in the morning and boy, could I feel it. Yin stopped in front of my apartment, and I proceeded to get out of the car and stare up at my building. I just couldn't believe I was finally back home.
From inside the car, I heard, "Song."
I turned around to see Yin's head looking in my direction. "Thanks for all your help tonight."
I have no idea what possessed me to say this, but I immediately replied with, "I barely did anything."
"You did enough," Yin said. She reached over and closed my door shut, then drove off for the rest of the night.
I walked over to the sidewalk and trudged my way into my apartment building. I felt drearier and drearier with each step. I honestly felt like I was about to fall asleep right there in the lobby, but I managed to carry myself all the way to the elevator. I pressed the button, then waited for a second for it to open. Thankfully for me, it only took about three seconds for the doors to open. Then I hopped inside and I was on my way up.
The whole way up, I was starting to put together the pieces of the puzzle whose name was none other than Yin.
As I replayed all the night's events in my head, it became clearer and clearer who she was.
Every time she had killed someone, it was right as they were about to reveal more about who they were. Something that would've gotten me attached to them. Of course, the pro-bender gave us her entire life story before she died, but I think Yin just genuinely wanted to know why she didn't take the money. She wasn't expecting her to say all the things that she said. Then, the instant she started to talk about her parents, Yin killed her.
And the only time she showed genuine disgust was for the cop, who was a corrupt, lowlife piece of shit.
So, what, was she protecting me? Why would she even care enough to protect me? There were so many questions I didn't have the answers to, but they would have to wait for another day.
Maybe I was right. Or maybe I had figured her all wrong. If there was anything I had learned about Yin at this point, it was that she always defied your expectations.
The elevator doors opened and I walked slowly down the hallway until I finally reached my apartment.
I swung the door open and my weary eyes snapped wide open to see someone standing in the middle of my apartment. My suspicions from earlier were correct. The person I had seen in the alleyway outside my building and standing in the street outside the safe house, was exactly who I thought she was.
This meant. Of course that she had seen everything and that this night was about to get a lot longer.
"Hi, Ishi," I said.
- The names of Ishi and O-Ren, the waitress from Part 1, are a nod to O-Ren Ishii, a character from the film, Kill Bill.
For the collective works of the author, go here.