10: Tortured by a Coward
"'M dying," Ash mumbled.
"No, you're not, Ash, you're going to be fine," Bolin said furiously, putting pressure on the gaping wound that tore its way through Satoshi's gut. "Satoshi!" Bolin yelled when he saw his friend closing his eyes. "You're not dying, don't you go to sleep on me! You're going to be fine!"
"This death…it's saving me," Ash muttered through his own tears. "Didn't want to…go like this, but it's okay, Bo."
Bolin's tears came harder than ever. "No, please…"
"Bolin." With new resolve, Satoshi gripped his arm as tight as he could through his wheezes. "It's alright."
Bolin shook his head tearfully. "Ash, stay with me, please, please stay with me…"
"No…d-do me one la—last f-favor, please, B-Bo…" Ash slurred. "When you g-get out t-tell—" he took a deep breath. "Tell Mai that I—I love her."
"You're going to be okay," Bolin stated firmly. Wanryoku and Nao tried to grab him away from his dying friend, but he fought like hell. He wasn't going to leave Ash. Never. He elbowed Nao in the face, returning to Satoshi, whose breaths were slowly decreasing. Bolin fell to the floor, grasping Ash's hand tight enough that he would've worried about cutting off circulation if Ash hadn't been—
"Prom—promise me," Satoshi whispered, his eyes starting to close.
Bolin tried to move closer to his dying friend, but then his form started to flicker and disappear and was replaced by Asami, whose hair was askew and a tiny line of blood trickled out of the side of her mouth. Bolin screamed, "ASAMI!", clutching his best friend's body, shaking her hard. Her head flopped back lifelessly to the ground.
Suddenly, he was watching Midori hanging by chains in a small room while the Goon Squad paced around her: Wanryoku held a knife and Nao held a whip while Yuma held her in place. Her screams echoed in the small room. "Bolin!" she screamed.
Bolin tried to move closer to Midori, whose sobs echoed for what seemed like years, but found that he couldn't move: it was like trying to run through molasses. "Midori—" he yelled and Wanryoku punched him to the ground, straddling him, and then suddenly the crony became Gainika, who leaned close to him and put her hands around his throat.
"What's the matter, darling?" she crooned while he choked and spluttered. "Not having fun?"
"No!" Bolin roared at the top of his lungs, waking up to find himself back on the cot inside his prison cell. Relief, sweet glorious relief, washed over him, making him feel absolutely horrible: since when had the harshness of this reality become more desirable than his continuous nightmares? This was the fourth time this week that he'd had to relieve Ash's death (although it wasn't quite as bad as when he'd been frozen in place holding surgical tools while Ash died, choking on his own blood), and witnessing Midori and Asami dying was never, ever pleasant.
The door creaked open suddenly and Bolin immediately shut his eyes, pretending to be asleep. He evened his breathing and tried to shift around, trying to be asleep. He really was tired, so it wasn't very hard to nod off. A sharp kick to the ribs made him open his eyes with a gasp.
He looked up to see his least two favorite people in the world staring down at him: Lightning Bolt Zolt and Gainika, both wearing identical expressions of disgust. "Were you the one who just screamed?" Gainika asked, crossing her arms.
Bolin couldn't help himself. "No," he retorted. "It was the other guy that you've been torturing on and off for the last month."
Lightning Bolt Zolt backhanded the back of his head, making it feel like someone had dropped a block of cement on top of it. Bolin had become quite adept at masking his pain within the last month, so he only raised an eyebrow. "That all?" Bolin asked calmly.
"Did the wittle baby have a nightmare?" Gainika said in a mocking, whiny tone that was somehow supposed to mirror his. "Aw…that's so sweet, little Bo baby…"
Bolin leered at his captors. "Shut up," he growled.
Apparently Gainika did not know when to shut up, because she continued to taunt him. "So who were you pining away for, pretty boy? Your pretty broad? The street rat?" she asked, suddenly smiling wide. "Oh, I know. How'd your guilt-riddled conscious perceive Satoshi dying this time?"
Bolin snapped and launched himself at Gainika, pinning her to the floor. "You shut the hell up!" he screamed, cocking his arm back so he could punch her in the face. Gainika's eyes widened in contemplation, but also a bit of fear. She let out a small gasp and flinched.
Suddenly, Bolin wasn't in control. He couldn't do it. He wouldn't stoop to her level. Yes, Gainika was a monster that should be put down, but he didn't want to be the one to kill her. Because somewhere deep down, Bolin did care for her. He hated himself for even owning up for it, but he cared about Gainika.
Before he could do anything else, Lightning Bolt Zolt yanked him off of Gainika and kicked him in the nuts, making him groan in agony. Gainika got up from the ground, brushing herself off as if nothing had happened. "You little shit!" Zolt hollered at Bolin, who was then shoved against the wall, his head cracking against it with a painful thwack.
"Hang on, Zolt," Gainika said nonchalantly. "Come on, you know that you don't want to beat him up. You're always tired after you do, and you're no fun when you're tired."
Despite the uncomfortable position that Bolin was in, he nearly let out a chuckle and fought to keep his face straight. The leader of the Agni Kais and the leader of the Triple Threat Triads, both opposing gangs, were sleeping together?! Spirits. Under different circumstances, this would've been priceless.
"You're just going to let him get away with this," Zolt exclaimed, still holding Bolin against the wall, "and without any punishment at all, Gainika?"
Bolin bit back a scathing retort. What the hell do you think I am, your fucking kid?
"Who said anything about not punishing him?" Gainika replied cattily. "I have a much better idea. Liao!" she yelled in the direction of the door. A young Agni Kai initiate entered his cell with a smart salute. He must have been about Mako's age, Bolin surmised, maybe a bit older. The man—Liao—wore the standard Agni Kai uniform which hung a bit loosely on him. His short light brown hair was an offset to his amber colored eyes. "Section Leader," he gave her a quick bow.
"At ease, Recruit." Gainika nodded at Zolt, who quickly released Bolin. Bolin relished in the freedom for a few moments before he found himself being clumsily handcuffed to the wall, facing away from everyone.
"How may I help you, Section Leader?" Liao replied respectfully.
Gainika laughed, as though Liao had said the funniest thing in the world. Although Bolin couldn't see her, he knew that his captor's head was probably tilted back in her mirth. "Recruit, it is to my understanding that you have not yet undertaken your initiation, correct?" Gainika asked.
"No, ma'am, not yet," Liao responded promptly. "My partner Xin said that I had to take it after my first kill or whenever expected by you, Section Leader."
Gainika laughed again. "See the thing over there?" Bolin wanted to look at what Gainika meant but as his ex-girlfriend kicked him in the back, he realized that she meant him. When did I become an 'it' instead of a 'he'?
"I see…it, ma'am," Liao said with a tone that conveyed his misunderstanding. "And what does…it…have to do with anything?"
"Well, Recruit," Gainika said, "I'm extremely tired, but I think that staying up another half an hour won't be beyond my reasoning."
Where're you going with this, Gainika?
"For the next half an hour, Recruit Liao," Gainika stated happily with the joy reserved for people on their birthdays and Christmas, "Bolin belongs to you."
Bolin's jaw dropped and he tried with all of his might to look around at Gainika. "What?" he shouted in disbelief. He could see the blurry form of Liao raise both of his eyebrows.
"I beg your pardon, Section Leader?" Liao asked calmly.
"Do whatever you'd like with him—nothing too strenuous , of course, that's up to me and Zolt—but inflict some damage onto the man for half an hour. That'll be your initiation."
"A-and…" Liao gulped. "W-what if I won't?"
Bolin barely refrained from gasping, knowing it would only hurt his ribs more. This guy just signed his own fucking death warrant, Bolin thought in surprise.
Gainika's sunny demeanor vanished instantly as she took a threatening step towards Liao, who looked seconds away from pissing himself. "If you don't," she growled, "then I will go to town with you, but I won't stop myself at half an hour." The unspoken threat hung in the air. "Are we quite clear, Recruit Liao?"
"Crystal, ma'am," Liao said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something that Bolin was unable to concentrate on. He squinted at it and his heart came to a thudding stop. Liao held a small revolver tightly in his right hand.
"You can kill people with heaters, Zolt!" he found himself shouting, trying desperately to get Zolt's attention off of his friend.
Zolt leered hideously, showing stained teeth from many cigarettes that he'd looted off of the streets of Republic City. "Oh, I'm quite aware of that, punk," he said evenly. He clicked the safety off and pointed it straight at Bolin.
Bolin took a deep breath and let it out slowly, meeting Zolt's eyes with resolute. This was it.
Satoshi stared at Zolt with wide eyes. "NO!" he yelled, somehow leaping in front of Bolin right as the trigger was pulled with a bang.
Gainika shook her head. "No, Recruit, I told you nothing too strenuous. It'll take him weeks to recover from a gunshot wound, and I really don't want to bring in Doctor Zhen in from Republic City to treat him."
Bolin furrowed his brows. What doctor? He tried to remember any doctor that had visited him in his captivity and his mind only came up with a fuzzy memory of a tall man with brown hair stitching up the wound in his arm a few days after Ash had died.
Liao put the gun away, and Bolin could breathe normally again.
"Here." Zolt spoke up, tossing Liao a bundled up package. "You can use this, kid. Break it in for me."
The Agni Kai recruit turned to his leader. "Ma'am, I haven't learned how to use this yet."
"Perfect time to learn then, isn't it, Recruit Liao?" Gainika asked sarcastically. "I'm giving you thirty seconds to come up with an idea or else you're both getting something unpleasant from me, got it?"
After a few seconds of contemplating, Liao nodded and ripped open the package. Bolin turned around, unwilling to look at what was going on anymore. Suddenly, a brief and familiar whoosh echoed through the air, and Bolin tried to remember what it was before flaring pain shot through his back.
He screamed in agony, trying to curl into the fetal position as best as he could with his hands handcuffed to the wall. Bolin's arms, legs, and back received horrible, aching blows from the belt that Zolt had given Liao. Screeching in anguish, Bolin tried desperately to not move, or else the beating would continue even more harshly. This Liao kid really knew how to be ruthless, Bolin couldn't help but think.
"Oh, Spirits!" he sobbed, thrashing in his handcuffs while Zolt and Gainika howled in laughter. "Please, please no!" he begged as the belt came down with a particularly painful thwack. "Please, stop! Please!" He broke out into tears, sobbing from the utter humiliation.
Just as Bolin shut his eyes tightly, preparing for the end, the beating stopped. "That's enough, Recruit," Gainika said firmly. "Thank you very much for your time."
Liao couldn't believe what he'd just done. Why? What had even possessed him to listen to his Section Leader? Yes, she was unbelievably powerful and could end his life by blinking…besides, he'd signed on to the Agni Kais, hadn't he? They did this kind of thing probably twice a day, according to Xin.
But Xin had never ever mentioned the horrible, terrible feeling that came over him, hearing the prisoner's—Bolin, that was his name, right?—cries, begging him to stop. He almost had, several times, but hadn't for fear of what would happen to him if he stopped.
I'm a coward, Liao thought sadly.
Suddenly, he found himself approaching Bolin, kneeling next to him.
"What're you doing?" squawked Gainika and Zolt took a threatening step forward. Liao didn't flinch and leaned close to Bolin's trembling form. "Hang in there, kid," he whispered to Bolin, who stopped shaking and shot him an angry look. Liao almost recoiled at the hatred in Bolin's eyes until he realized that Bolin was faking it, at least a little bit.
"Fuck you," Bolin responded out loud. His eyes narrowed as he breathed back to Liao, "your sentiments are worthless."
Liao stood up as quickly as he could and tried to look smug while Bolin looked angry. Gainika looked impressed. "Well done, Recruit," she commended him and even rewarded him with a pat on the back.
"Ma'am," he nodded.
"Return to your post. You and Recruit Xin are on duty for a couple more hours," Gainika ordered. Liao snapped her a salute and left the room.
"Good night, darling," Gainika crooned to Bolin.
If looks could kill, Bolin would've sliced Gainika in half. Zolt would've already been annihilated.
Gainika exited the room, followed by Zolt, who was careful to kick Bolin in the back on his way out. The door slammed shut, and Bolin was alone. Again.
He broke out crying even harder, the pain on the back of his arms and legs flaring up so painfully it was unbearable. He pulled his knees up to his chest, backside burning like fire, and Bolin whimpered through his heavy sobbing. Not only had he gotten ruthlessly beaten again, but he'd basically flipped off the one person that even seemed to care about him remotely in this hellhole.
Spirits, please… he thought, sniffling. Please, I can't take it anymore…please, please let me die.