Ren had lost quite enough dignity today - he was not quite ready to add "beating his head against the floor and screaming" to the list. He was close, though - largely stopped by the simple fact that he couldn't lift his head high enough to properly beat it against the floor it was resting on.
Somewhere above him, Bason hovered worriedly... for one of the Tao family's strongest spirits, the boy thought sourly, Bason sometimes acted more like a a fussy grandmother than the deadly warrior he was supposed to be.
"I'm fine," he snarled through clenched teeth, more to make the spirit shut up and leave him alone than anything else. He considered trying to get up but the slightest twitch set his back on fire again - at least the stone floor beneath him was cold. Cold was good.
A door swung open somewhere and footsteps reverberated so he could feel them against his cheek. Two sets, one light and brisk, the other heavier, more deliberate.
He did not deign to look up as Jun's shadow fell over him, long and slim. "Can you get up?"
"I don't need help," he muttered.
The sound she made was almost a snort. "And what are you going to do? The wound Father gave you isn't going to kill you but if you just lie here all night, it will."
He turned enough to look at the older girl, glaring. And would that be so bad? He nearly hissed at her. But she knew. Jun frowned, very slightly, and was silent.
"So you'd rather let him kill you?" she asked quietly.
In answer, he moved, slightly, arm moving back in an attempt to lever himself off the ground even as his back screamed -
"Ren! Pailong, qui - "
When Ren woke, it was in his own bed. His back still hurt - but with the cold, stinging fire of some ointment, its stink filling his senses as he grimaced through the sudden light in his eyes.
Jun sat in a chair by the window, reading a book by the dawn not-quite-light. She turned a page and looked at him. "You're up."
A grunt was his only reply. She returned to her book. "The wound will scar - just as Father wanted it to. But other than that, it should be fine in a week."
Fine. And branded forever as Tao En's, marked as weaker. Fine. "Did Father do it to you too?" he asked abruptly.
She stopped in the middle of turning a page. "Not quite." A long pause, as she shut the book and added slowly. "It's on my back too. But the mark is smaller, because I'm only a girl."
Ren fell silent. "I hate him."
The sun shone through the window behind her, so that she was only a silhouette against the light as she looked at him.
"I hate everything," he said grimly
"I know." Standing, she walked around the bed to the door, shutting it quietly as she left. Only the faintest hint of her sadness lingered behind her.