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My Home is Not a Place, it is People

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-1. Lost

She is standing outside in the sunshine. It's been two days since Wen Qing escaped the dungeons of Koi Tower, but this the first time she's had a moment to stop and think beyond getting away. Blinking, she sits on the ground next to the path enjoying the warmth. Judging from the height of rice plants must be early summer. It had been late summer when she and her brother where taken into the dungeons. Wen Qing isn't sure how long she was imprisoned, how many springs she missed. She takes a big breath of fresh air, savoring it.

She needs a plan. Her brother is gone, she stopped hearing his screaming a long time ago. The rest of her family is gone too. Even Wei Wuxian. That grief is still fresh, something she learned while wandering the streets after her escape. She had given up so much for him but it hadn't been enough to save him.

The escape had been the focus of her thoughts for so long. She had carried those two little needles with her, and watched the guards carefully, waiting. She had not thought about what she would do if she was free, beyond finding Wei Wuxian and any surviving family members. The Jins weren't supposed to kill anyone but her and her brother. But now she is the only one left.

She takes another large breath, focuses for a moment on the warmth on her skin. This line of thought won't do. She can grieve latter, right now she needs a plan.

All she has is her grimy robe, so worn and dirty now that it doesn't look red anymore. And the two little needles someone dropped by her cell. If she where character in a story she would seek revenge. But the thought of more death and killing just makes her tired. Wen Qing is healer. She has performed a great feat of medicine, transferred a golden core from one person to another. While she never wants to do that again, still she has many skills. Surely people everywhere need care.

However she can’t stay in Lanling. Even if most of the cultivation world thinks she’s dead, the Jins will be looking for her. Jin Guangyao and Yue Yang surely want her back. And she should avoid the major sects -- there’s plenty of people who would recognize her, and want her dead. But as far as she knows no clan has taken over Yiling, and she knows the city. That decided Wen Qing gets up and heads towards the river.

1. Jin Rulan

“Doctor Zhu come quickly!” The girl comes running up the narrow street, several hours after sunset, to pound at her door. “It's cultivators! They’re hurt!”

Wen Qing grabs the bag she keeps by the door with her needles, herbs and knives, opens the door. “Take me to them.” The girl grabs her hand and they run.

She halfway down the street still running before it occurs to Wen Qing to worry that the cultivators might recognize her. She’s been living in Yiling for thirteen years and never seen anyone from her old life. Well, if someone is hurt she has to help. It's been a long time and she looks different now.

Recently there’s been another spate of rumors about the cultivation world, something about another siege and the burial mounds and a strange temple in Yunmeng. But there’s always rumours about the Yiling Patriarch’s return, sometimes like now they feature her brother as well, but she’s learned not to pay attention -- it's never anything real. Her family is dead, but she has made a new life for herself here. A life where she heals people.

When they arrive at the inn Wen Qing goes immediately to the young woman laid out on the floor, clearly unconscious. She barely takes in the golden Jin robes, and the other young person also in golden robes standing to one side with a dog.

As Wen Qing kneels down to check her patient the young man, or boy really, says “Who is she? She doesn’t look like proper doctor!”

“She the best healer in Yiling, and unlike those proper doctors she comes when she’s needed even this late at night,” says the innkeeper, placing one hand on her hip.

Wen Qing is busy checking over the young woman, and doesn’t bother to even look up. There’s a large gash on her shoulder, but that shouldn’t render her unconscious, something else isn’t right. Wen Qing carefully takes the young woman’s wrist in her hand feeling the pulse. “Has she been to the burial mounds?”

The young man stops arguing, stares at her for a beat, before saying “How did you know?”

“I’ve seen this before.The resentful energy is blocking her qi. I can fix it but it will take time. First I need to sew up this cut. Will someone help me?”

The young man swallows, but nods. “I can do it. It’s my fault that she’s hurt.”

“Good, now wash your hands while I get everything ready.”

Sometime later the young woman, Jin Rujia, is resting peacefully in one of the inn rooms her shoulder neaty bandaged.

As Wen Qing is leaving the young man stops her. "I see that you are quite skilled. I'm sect leader Jin Rulan, thank you for helping my cousin."

This boy is a sect leader? He doesn't look old enough. Does that mean Jin Guangyao is dead? And “Rulan”? Wasn't that the name Wei Wuxian gave his shijie’s child?

Wen Qing doesn't say any of this out loud. Instead she says, "Thank you. I'm Doctor Zhu. I'll return in the morning to continue her treatment." He is too young to recognise her, and no one else from Lanling Jin is around. She’s treated a few cultivators over the years, and it's been surprisingly easy to go unnoticed, people see what they expect to see. So with her plan brown robes, and hair tied back in a bun, the way Popo used to do hers, even cultivators see her as a doctor, not a fearsome Wen.

“So why were you two at the Burial Mounds anyways?”

“We are putting up an array to block anyone else from entering. The new Chief Cultivator has assigned this task to the Jin Sect” He stands up a little straighter as he says this.

Wen Qing feels her eyebrows go up “The new Chief Cultivator?”

“Yes, Hanguang-Jun! He was elected after the Yiling Patriarch returned, and LianFang-Zun was killed." He continues on summing up the current situation in the cultivation world.

Wen Qing takes a breath. What has she gotten herself into? Hanguang-Jun would certainly recognize her. He may not have called for her death back then, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t make trouble for her now. And it seems that Jin Guangyao is really is dead. And her brother and Wei Wuxian are alive! It's really more than she can take in at once.

Ok she thinks, first things first. She's not in immediate danger, Jin Rulan doesn't know who she is, and he's not currently traveling with anyone who would recognize her. And the major sects know that Wei Wuxian and A-Ning are alive and haven't killed them yet. So maybe they wouldn't kill her on sight.

She desperately wants to find her family again now that she knows that they live. But it's clear that they are wandering and won't be easy to find. Apparently A-Ning has been traveling with a young Lan cultivator, she hopes he isn’t being used, A-Ning could be so trusting.

However Jin Rujia needs her. It really is a delicate operation to unblock her qi and she doubts that any of the other doctor in town can do it as well as she could. And it will take her some time to track down Wei Wuxian and A-Ning. So she can stay in town for a few more days to finish healing Jin Rujia and come up with a better plan.

Jin Rulan pauses for a moment and she bows. “Thank you for bringing me this news. However I must get some rest so that I can return in the morning.” And with that Wen Qing heads home, her mind and heart overwhelmed.

Wen Qing comes back every morning for five days carefully placing needles to remove the qi blockage.The resentful energy of the Burial Mounds has twisted the flow through her meridians, and it takes slow and careful readjustment to repair. Jin Rulan stands by and assists her each day, handing her needles and helping Jin Rujia to drink the required medicines. On the first day she blinks her eyes a few times but remains unconscious, but after the next days treatment she is able to talk a little. By the third day she can sit up, and on the fourth day she can walk around the inn with some help from Jin Rulan, who is a surprisingly good helper. Though he has been leaving in the afternoons to continue the work at the Burial Mounds. One the fifth day Jin Rujia is fully recovered, and Wen Qing goes home with a sense of relief, finally she can focus fully on finding her brother and friend.

....

 

Two days after Jin Rujia has left her care, Wen Qing has cleared the floor of her workroom, and gathered the materials for a complex array. After some thought Wen Qing has decided to stay put but send messages to A-Ning and Wei Wuxian. Much as she longs to see those she long thought dead, haring off to look for them won't accomplish much. They are both wandering. She hopes they are ok, especially her brother. Can he really take care of himself? Is this young Lan taking advantage of him? The array is to send them a message. She carefully cuts out 8 red papermen to go in the center of the array. Next she writes a short note on each stating that she lives and her current address.

Now that she’s thought of leaving here, she realizes how much of a life she’s built for herself here. She has patients that rely on her, former apprentices, who come to her for advice, the other doctors she meetups with at tea houses to discuss difficult cases, neighbors, children whose births she attended some of whom are almost teenagers now. Her cosy house, with its two tidy rooms and loft above. This place is her home, her community now.

The array will take time to work. Once it is complete it will send the papermen out into the world to look for A-Ning and Wei Wuxian.

Slowly she builds the array, using carefully prepared inks. When she is finished all the papermen float up as if blown by a breeze. One of them seems to wave as they scatter in all directions.

As she starts to clean up, there’s a knock on the door, so Wen Qing goes to answer.

There standing outside her house is Jin Rulan his sparks amidst snow robes gleaming. He bows formally. “Please Doctor Zhu, teach me medicine.”

Well, that was certainly unexpected! While Jin Rulan had been quite helpful with Jin Rujia he hasn't seemed to trust her much. But she isn’t going to discuss this standing in the doorway. “Come in, have some tea, and tell me why you want lessons from someone who isn’t even a proper doctor.”

He ducks his head, but follows her into the house, his dog Fairy at his heels. Wen Qing makes tea quickly and then sits down at the low table with Jin Rulan. He starts to talk several times while she is working but she silences him each time. After sitting down she pours them each a cup her best tea.

“Now,” she says. “Explain. Why do you want to study medicine, and why with me of all people?” Wen Qing is sure that if he asked them to doctors would come running to Koi Tower to teach the young sect leader.

Jin Rulan takes a deep breath, then begins, “I know a lot about killing, about fighting, and night hunting. I can use a sword, but I don’t know how to heal beyond the basics. But what you can do is amazing! I want to heal people. And I want to do something that none of my uncles can do.”

“Mn. But why ask me to teach you? I’m not well known. And I don’t generally get called to the gentry, or to help cultivators. I help the poor and stay out of politics. I’m sure if you asked a “proper doctor” to come tutor you they would.”

Jin Rulan sips his tea. “Yes, but I watched you with Jin Rujia, and I asked around, you are the best! You can do things no one else can!” He looks at her with intense admiration. Besides him Fairy sits up and wags her tail.

She doesn’t want to disappoint this young man. He has the potential to be a good student. He’s clearly passionate about medicine, and he took instruction well when they where nursing Jin Rujia. He reminds her a little of her younger self, with his determination to learn. But there are problems. Like the fact that if he stays here someone who recognizes her is bound to show up. And his responsibilities as sect leader.

He’s giving her a pleading look. It reminds her a bit of Wei Wuxian.

“Medicine is not something you can learn in a day or even a month. Proper study takes years. What will your sect do while you study?”

“I’ve thought of that,” Jin Rulan says. “I’m not good at being sect leader anyways. Jin Rujia always has to help me with all the paperwork.They want to appoint one of my older cousins as regent. I can let them do that.”

“Hmm..” She inclines her head. “If you study with me it will not be easy. It will be hard and messy and unglamorous. We get up at all hours to help people. We will be covered in all kinds of bodily fluids, and have to deal with all kinds of energy.”

“Yes, I understand.” He looks at her steadily.

Well, she is a skilled doctor. And she’d hate to see this young man’s passion wasted. If she’s the teacher of a sect leader, even one with a regent, that will offer her some protection from the cultivation world when they find her. And with Wei Wuxian and A-Ning back in the world they are bound to find her sooner or later. She can make this work.

“Very well. We can start with a one month trial period. Be here bright and early in the morning with your possessions.”

 

2. Jiang Wanyin

Jin Ling has been with her for half a month when it happens. Wen Qing is making medicines in the workshop, and has sent Jin Ling to the market square to buy them some dinner.

He returns in his usual style, in a din of noise rushing through the door, the brown robes that he wears as her apprentice flying out behind him, Fairy running, tongue out behind at his heels, only this time there’s someone else with him.

“Doctor Zhu! Look who came to visit us! It’s my Jiujiu!” with that he slides open the door to the workshop with some force, and stands in the doorway grinning. And there behind him is Jiang Wanyin.

Wen Qing feels her heart beating faster, but she forces herself to stay sitting, calmly laying aside her mortar and pestle, as she looks up at this man who will surely recognize her. A man who once meant a great deal to her, in the long distant past.

Jiang Wanyin looks stunned. His mouth opens slightly and his left hand moves towards his chest, fingertips brushing his robe. The he seems to pull himself together, pushing his hands to his sides. “It’s you,” he says.

Jin Ling looks between the two of them, his mouth open. “You… You know each other?”

Wen Qing nods. “We did once. Now if you’ll just wait a minute I’ll pack up this medicine and you can take it to Chen Liwen for her knees. Remember to tell her that she must wash her knees before she applies the ointment.”

Jin Ling nods “Yes, teacher Zhu .”

She looks at Jiang Wanyin. “If you wait there a moment I’ll make us some tea, and when Jin Ling gets back we can all have super together.”

She packs the ointment up quickly and hands it to Jin Ling. He’s already learning his way around the neighborhood and will have no trouble finding Chen Liwen’s small house, that she shares with her daughter, and granddaughters.

Once her student is out of the house, taking his dog with him, Wen Qing stands up. While she was packing the ointment Jiang Wanyin had come through the doorway and now stands a little bit inside of the workroom. Wen Qing stands up and takes a few steps forward and looks him straight in the eye. “If you are planning to kill me, or arrest me, or expose my identity, please get it out of the way now.”

He takes a step back, his hands balling into fists. “What?”

“You stood by while my family suffered. You knew how we were living at the Burial Mounds and you turned away from us. I don’t know what happened after my brother and I surrendered ourselves. But nothing I have heard suggest you did anything to stop the slaughter of my family. The stories even say that you killed Wei Wuxian! Your own brother!”

She pauses for breath, feeling how her stomach is tight with fear and anger. Jiang Wanyin looks stunned.

“Hmph. I just came to see what hare-brained scheme my nephew is up to now. I haven’t killed my brother since he returned and I won’t harm you, as long as you aren’t a threat to my nephew.”

That’s not the apology that she wants but it will have to do for now. “Very well, I’ll go make that tea then.”

She ushers Jiang Wanyin into the other room and busies herself making tea. She sets a pot of water on the brasier, and carefully portions out the tea into the pot, and lays out two blue tea cups. Before she turns to Jiang Wanyin saying, “Chen Liwen likes young people and will probably keep Jin Ling for a while chatting with her so we should have a little time to talk. Would you mind if I took your pulse?”

Jiang Wanyin extends his wrist across the table. “Checking up on Wei Wuxian’s core then?”

Wen Qing places her hand on his wrist feeling the rhythms of his blood. “So you know about that? It’s your core now.” She is in fact burning with curiosity to see what the results or her operation are all these years later.

Jiang Wanyin nods. “I do. No thanks to you, or my brother! You could have told me you know!”

Wen Qing shrugs her hand still on his wrist. “He begged me not to tell. And then there was a war.”

“You could have asked me! Instead you left me in the dark!”

“Don’t get so tense you are making it hard for me to read your pulse. I suppose I could have asked, could have insisted Wei Wuxian ask, but I wanted to perform a medical miracle. Now breathe slowly for me.”

Wen Qing supposes that she could apologize, but he didn’t apologize to her for his far worse choices.

After a moment of silence, she lets go of Jiang Wanyin’s wrist. “Your new core has integrated quite well. The way you’ve rerouted your qi flow is quite remarkable. Well done.”

He merely frowns at her. By now the water has heated so she pours some into the teapot.

Jiang Wanyin fidgets with his empty teacup and glares at her. “So tell me why does my nephew suddenly want to be a doctor, and how did he find you of all people to teach him? I should talk him out of this foolishness.”

Wen Qing keeps her hands in her lap. “He found me by pure chance when his cousin was injured at the Burial Mounds and I was called to help. Really it was lucky they found me, the Burial Mounds have unique spiritual properties and I doubt any other doctor could have dealt with it as well as I.”

She pauses to pour the tea into cups and passes one over, then looks at Jiang Wanyin, who picks up his cup with one hand. He’s glaring at her, so she just stares right back at him.

“I’m surprised that his interest in medicine is recent. He seems so passionate! I would not have taken him for even this trial period if I did not think he had potential. I understand that you have concerns about his other obligations, but he seems to be handling it quite well.”

Jiang Wanyin sips his tea. “As Sect leader he has certain responsibilities.”

“Yes, well he seems to have made arrangements for now. He’s very young for such responsibilities.”

“Not much younger than I was,” Jiang Wanyin says, slowly spinning his tea cup with one hand.

“Yes, you did a remarkable job, but it's a lot to expect of him. He tries very hard to live up to your standards. He looks up to you.” Jiang Wanyin looks rather taken aback by this, and he stops glaring for the moment. Wen Qing takes a sip of tea. “But unlike being a sect leader being a doctor is something Jin Rulan wants for himself. And once he’s finished his training he can go back to being a sect leader. He won’t get to practice as full time but it will still be knowledge that will help his sect.”

“I will think about it. But I’m still going to talk to him about this plan.”

A few days latter Wen Qing and Jin Ling are walking home at dusk, after visiting patients. Jiang Wanyin has been staying in a nearby inn, but when he tried to tag along with her she had to gently shoo him away so he’s stop glaring at her patients. Fairy walks calmly at Jin Ling’s heels.

“My Uncle wants me to give up on being a doctor and focus on my duties as sect leader.”

“I know, and what do you think?”

“I want to heal people. But I do have a duty to my sect.” He glances over at her.

“Once you are trained you could do both. You could still go back, and hire someone else to teach you.”

Jing Ling looks affronted. “But teacher Zhu you are the best! I don’t want to study with someone else! Anyways Koi Tower reminds me of my xiaoshu. I thought he loved me, but he used me! I don’t think he loved anyone.”

Wen Qing looks at him, thinking, she doesn’t often consider Jin Ling’s family situation, but he does seem to have more than his fair share of difficult uncles. She knew that Jin Guangyao had been considered charming and even kind but he’d never been so to her. “You are a good student. If you keep up as you are, I will happily keep you on after the trial period. But I don’t know anything sect politics. I can’t say if you are doing a good job there.” It’s not strictly true that she doesn’t know anything about sect politics but it's been a long time since she had to pay attention.

“It’s nice that you don’t care.” Jin Ling shrugs “My uncles all want me to be like them, but I’m not sure I can. You want me to learn what you know but you don’t care what everyone thinks of me.”

“It is a doctor's duty to heal people. If you stay as my student you will have to take that duty seriously.”

“Yes.” he says “That’s what I want.”

They walk the rest of the way home in silence.

 

3. A-Ning and A-Yuan

Jin Ling had been sulking for days, because Wen Qing wouldn’t let him sew up that boy's arm on his own. Wen Qing is ready to strangle him. Since he passed his trial period he’s been much more a handful, over confident and bursting with half baked ideas. In some ways he’s very good student, passionate about the work, and possessing a higher cultivation base than anyone she’s ever taught before, but he can be such a spoiled brat.

To get Jin Ling out of her hair for the day she’s sent him to gather some herbs, hoping that some time outside of the city will calm him down a bit. So Wen Qing is in the workroom by herself when she hears a knock on the door.

And there on her doorstep, after all these years is her brother, “A-Ning!” she says and flings herself at him. It’s been so long, and she thought he was dead, but here he is. They hold each other for a long time.

Finally she takes a step back, and wipes her eyes with her sleeve. “Come in, come in!” A-Ning hesitates for a moment, glancing behind him, and Wen Qing finally notices the young Lan cultivator in the street. “You too,” she says beckoning him with her hand. She may not trust the major sects but she's not going to leave her brother’s traveling companion standing outside.

As soon as they get inside A-Ning grins and gestures at the young man “Jiejie, this is A-Yuan!”

“A-Yuan! Our A-Yuan?”

“Yes! Hanguang-Jun found him in the burial mounds and adopted him!”

Wen Qing turns to the young man who is smiling shyly “A-Yuan! I don’t believe it! Let me look at you!”

She reaches up, up!, and puts one hand on each of his shoulders. She sees traces of the sweet child she knew in his face, and of her long dead family.

It's all too much.”I will go make us some tea.” The familiar ritual of heating the water, measuring the leaves, laying out the cups, pouring the water help her regain her balance. She puts the tea to steep, and ushers her relatives to sit down at the table.

“A-Ning, A-Yuan! I’m just so glad you are alive.” She grips her knees under the table to steady herself. Then she looks at her brother. “I would never have left Koi Tower if I knew you lived. I’m so sorry I abandoned you.”

“A-jie, I don’t remember anything after you were taken away from me. I didn’t suffer.” he looks down at his hand which are fiddling with the edge of the table. “I’m glad you lived. It looks like you’ve done well for yourself. This place smells like Popo’s workshop.”

A-Yuan takes a deep breath as though he’s trying to remember the smell. “Auntie we were so happy when we got your papperman! We are both so glad you are alive!”

They are on the third pot of tea and A-Ning and A-Yuan are interrupting each other to tell her about their adventure when Jin Ling walks in, his arms full of fragrant herbs. He stops and stares open mouthed, “Ghost General, Sizhui? What are you doing here?”

Wen Qing hasn’t thought this through. ”I see you’ve met my old friends before; Jin Ling is my apprentice.”

“Old friends?... wait you are Wen Qing aren’t you?”

“I don’t go by that name anymore, but I did once.”

Jin Ling’s voice is getting louder and louder. “Are you just using me? Do you really think I’m a good student or do you just keep me around because you want to have sect leader in your pocket?” He drops all the herbs he’s holding and rushes into the workshop.

Wen Qing stands up. “Well, it seems that I must go talk to my apprentice. Please make yourselves at home.”

In the workshop she finds Jin Ling huddled in a corner, his arms around Fairy. She crouches down next to him. “Jin Ling, I may have hidden my past from you, but I have never lied to you about your abilities. Taking you as my student was risk. I knew people from your sect, or other cultivators who might recognise me would show up. I hoped that you might be willing to use your position to shelter me, if they wanted to harm me, but it was a risk I took because I thought you could be a great doctor.”

“You’re lying.” Jin Ling pulls his arms more tightly around himself. “Nobody thinks I’m good at anything. They just see my sect and my position. Everyone is like Xiaoshu.”

Wen Qing sighs. “You know that’s not true. I’ve gotten so many compliments from our patients about you, and most of them have no idea that you are sect leader.”

“They are just saying that.”

“What about your Jiujiu? He recognised me, you don’t think he’d let you stay here if he thought I was a danger to you?”

“I suppose not. But he doesn’t care about me either, he just wants me to look good so he’ll look good!”

“I see you are in no mood to listen to me. Fine, you are not legally bound to me as an apprentice, and you can leave at any time. I would prefer that you stayed, but it's up to you.”

“Hmpf.” Jin Ling doesn’t look at her.

“I will leave you to think about it. Now I have guests to see to.”

 

 

Jin Ling stays in the workroom the rest of the day. Wen Qing should worry about him, but she’s just so pleased to have A-Ning back.

He and A-Yuan finish telling her about their recent travels. She takes both of their pulses. Wen Qing tells stories of her practice and A-Yuan tells of growing up in the Cloud Recesses. They reminisce about growing up on Dafun Mountain and embarrass A-Yuan by telling stories of his early childhood. When it's time for dinner, she and A-Yuan go out and buy noodles from a street vendor — they invite Jin Ling along, but he refuses. They bring him back some noodles anyways.

Wen Qing spends the evening chatting with A-Ning and A-Yuan. Jin Ling stays in the work room presumably still sulking. He comes out just in time to get ready for bed. The two juniors sleep in the loft, after some disagreement Wen Qing gets A-Ning to take her bed and sleeps on a padded mat on the floor.

The next morning Jin Ling is still unhappy and subdued, but he does help her lay out the herbs he gathered. A-Yuan joins them and Wen Qing has to explain quite a bit of the process to him. She hopes Jin Ling notices.

When they are about two thirds of the way done with the herbs there’s a knock on the door. Wen Qing opens the door to find a panting young woman on her doorstep. “Please Doctor Zhu, meimei has a fever can you come?”

“Of course.” She grabs the bag she keeps by the door. “Jin Ling are are you coming?”

Her apprentice looks startled, but quickly gets to his feet. “Yes!” Her young guest also gets up and heads to the door.

“A-Yuan, stay here, I only want trained help.”

She’s out the door before she can hear his response.

After a few hours Wen Qing and Jin Ling are able to break the fever. They head home, a couple of heads of cabbage under Jin Ling’s arms for payment. “Teacher Zhu,” he says, juggling the cabbage a bit awkwardly. "I’m sorry for the way I behaved yesterday, I want to stay.”

“Good.”

4. Wei Wuxian

A-Yuan and A-Ning stay for ten days before the pair heads back to The Cloud Recesses, with promises to write and visit again soon. It’s about a month after A-Ning leaves when Wei Wuxian appears. Wen Qing and Jin Ling have just gotten back from attending a birth, and they are both bone tired from being up all night, but neither of them can stop grinning. Wen Qing thinks the moment when someone placed the new child in Jin Ling’s arms, and he looked down on the little life he helped bring into the world might even be better than the moment she herself held the babe.

Wen Qing is trying to decide if it's worth cleaning up before she takes a nap when there is a knock at the door. She drags herself over hoping it not another case, and is startled to open the door to a sunny smile she thought she’s never see again. She grabs Wei Wuxian and hugs him, not really caring if she makes a mess of his robes. He hugs back but pulls away after a moment.

She ushers him inside. Jin Ling blinks at him yawning. “Shishu! What are you doing here?”

Wei Wuxian smiles and rubs his nose. “Just visiting an old friend…” He glances at Wen Qing as is uncertain how much he can say.

“Don’t worry,” she tells him. “He knows how we know each other.” Since Wei Wuxian still looks puzzled she goes on: “Jin Ling is my apprentice now.”

“Oh.” He looks at Jin Ling. “You must be good if Wen Qing took you on.”

Jin Ling ducks his head. “I’ll go put Fairy out.”

Wen Qing turns to her guest. “I’m so glad to see you! But we’ve been up all night, please excuse us. Make yourself at home and we’ll talk after a nap.”

 

 

When she wakes the air in her house is warm and steamy. Wei Wuxian sits in one corner eating a shaobing wrapped in paper. He’s pulled down some jars of herbs and is arranging and rearranging them in a complex pattern. As she sits up, he says, “I got the bath ready. You looked like you need it.”

“I do, I really do, but let me make you a cup of tea first.”

Bathing in her own home is lovely. Wen Qing usually doesn’t bother, and goes to the bathhouse instead. Wei Wuxian must have hauled all the water from the pump my himself. The tub has been set up behind a screen, and Wen Qing takes her time with the hot water. When she is clean and dressed again, she goes out into the main room. “There that’s better, now come here and let me look at you,” she says to Wei Wuxian.

He puts down the shaobing, making sure the wrapper is between it and the floor, and stands up.

“Wen Qing, I’m sorry. It’s my fault what you went through.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You saved us. If you are sorry for anything, be sorry that you died after my brother and I gave up ourselves to save you.” Wei Wuxian actually looks like he might cry so she adds, “That’s not your fault either, they wouldn’t have rested with you still alive. Now come and let me take your pulse and tell me all about your recent adventures.”

They spend the next hour drinking tea and chatting. Wen Qing asks a lot medical questions about Wei Wuxian’s new body which he does his best to answer. Wei Wuxian shares stories of his recent travels, grinning and gesturing wildly. The topic of A-Yuan comes up and they both gush about how well he grew up. Eventually Jin Ling wakes up and they go out to visit their patients leaving Wei Wuxian behind.

“Dr. Qing, Dr. Qing!” Wei Wuxian shouts excitedly a few days later as she and Jin Ling get home from the tea house where they have been discussing their cases with other doctors.

“I do have surname you know,” Wen Qing grumbles, but she doesn’t really mind the familiarity.

“Yes, but it's changed, you know my memory is bad, I wouldn’t want to slip up and get you in trouble,” Wei Wuxian says, grinning. “Now come and see what I’ve been making, both of you.”

Wei Wuxian had asked for permission to use part of her workroom, saying that he needs proper tools that he couldn’t get on the road. Wen Qing had agreed a bit reluctantly, knowing that when it comes to work spaces, Wei Wuxian knows no boundaries, and is terrible slob. She had been endlessly losing things when they worked together to heal A-Ning. Still to help Wei Wuxian she would give up the orderliness of her workroom.

As she steps into the workroom to look at Wei Wuxian’s creation, she’s surprised that it's not more of a mess. “Come look at this,” Wei Wuxian is saying ushering them over to the table to where there’s a wooden box about two handspands square. He hands Jin Ling a piece of paper. “Now write something on this.”

Jin Ling grabs one of the brushes scattered on the table, scoots the half full inkstone closer, and writes, “My shishu is a monkey” in his rather pretty handwriting. Wei Wuxian frowns at the message but hands it to Wen Qing anyways. “Now you burn it.” Jin Ling yells, “Hey!” as Wen Qing snaps her fingers and ignites the paper, which quickly burns to ash.

“Now lets see if it worked,” Wei Wuxian says as he pulls the lid off the box. Inside is the paper more or less complete -- there’s a burned hole where the character for monkey should be. Jin Ling seems somewhat modified seeing the paper reappear. “Mn … needs work. See, Dr. Qing, once I get this to work correctly, I can teach you how to make the papers, and you can send me letters wherever I am!”

Wen Qing takes out Jin Ling’s message, and peers at the bottom of the box, where Wei Wuxian has laid out an extremely small yet complex array. “Hmmm… that’s quite clever. Maybe this line here needs adjusting? If you get it to work I want one for A-Yuan too. Jin Ling, take a look.” She hands the box to her apprentice, who takes it and shakes in gently. The three of them are still conferring over the box, Wei Wuxian and Wen Qing tossing ideas around, with Jin Ling throwing out the occasional suggestion, when there’s a loud knock on the door.

It’s Jiang Wanyin. He has come to visit his nephew several times over the last few months, but Wen Qing hadn’t brought up the past and neither had he.

He glares at Wen Qing as she opens the door, then glares even harder when he spots Wei Wuxian. “What are you doing here?”

Wei Wuxian smiles. “Just visiting a very old friend. Why? What are you doing here?”

“I just came to take my nephew out to dinner.” Jiang Wanyin crosses his arms.

Jin Ling looks between the two of them and sighs. “Jiujiu! Let’s go!”

Wei Wuxian grabs Wen Qing’s arm. “Well then, Dr Qing and I will just go get some noodles, by ourselves.”

“Absolutely not!” Jiang Wanyin says. “You are coming with us, both of you!”

So they all head out to a nice tavern, where they sit in awkward silence. Jiang Wanyin spends most of dinner glaring at Wei Wuxian, who spends most of dinner attempting to be well behaved and fidgeting under the table, with occasional interludes of elaborately praising the food. Jin Ling tries to ease the tension by talking about a recent case, but both of his uncles yell at him to stop once he gets to the bloody bits. So he just sits there sulking. Wen Qing sits there politely as she can, spine straight, but she really wishes that it would be over with. She had sat through endless Wen sect banquets, but even those hadn't been this tense. Still she’s endured far worse for Wei Wuxian’s sake.

Finally the meal is over. The walk home in uncomfortable silence and Jiang Wanyin leaves as soon as they reach the house.

 

 

It's several days later and Wen Qing and Jin Ling are returning from the site of a building accident. No one was seriously injured, but Jin Ling had performed his first sutures, and is very pleased with himself. Wen Qing can see that he is really coming along well.

As they get into the house Wei Wuxian rushes out of the workroom. He’s been spending most of his time in there and it's starting to look more and more like the Demon Slaughtering Cave did when they lived at The Burial Mounds. He’s even added a collection of candles. Wen Qing finds she doesn’t mind as much as she thought she would. He always makes space for her to make her medicines, and it's so good to have him around and alive again.

Now he brandishes a piece of paper with full of messy diagrams. “Jin Ling! Can you let me through the array at the Burial Mounts? I’ve just had an amazing idea!”

Jin Ling shakes his head. “I’d have to ask Hanguang-Jun. Why would you want to go there? It's a terrible place!”

Wei Wuxian is not dismayed. “It is a terrible place -- but I’ve thought of a way to make it better! With plants! Look!” He hands the messy sheet of paper to Jin Ling. Wen Qing goes and peers over his shoulder to look. Drawn over a map of the burial mounds is a messy array -- with points marked with little icons of plants. “See, if we put the plants into an array we can use them to dissipate the resentful energy. Then in a hundred years we could grow proper crops there.”

Wen Qing points to a line on the diagram. “What’s this?”

“Oh see that line of spirit collecting grass will draw the energy along to this cluster of lilies and ginseng which will absorb the energy and purify it. This won’t be self sustaining but I can come back every year and replant. So nephew how about it? Will you let me in?”

Jin Ling pulls back. “I told you I have to ask Hanguang-Jun. If I send up a messenger request flare someone will come, and the letter will get to him in a few days. You could even write one yourself.”

Wei Wuxian looks down and rubs his nose. “Oh, I don’t really think he wants to hear from me.”

Jin Ling glares at him. “You really are a monkey! Of course he wants to hear from you!”

“Alright, alright, I will write him a letter.”

 

5. Hanguang-Jun

Three days later, Wen Qing has taken a rare afternoon off to take Jin Ling and Wei Wuxian to see a play. One of her patients is an actress and has been offering Wen Qing free tickets a while and Wen Qing had finally taken her up on it. The play was lovely, some comedic nonsense full of misunderstandings, but with everyone happily paired off in the end. Jin Ling was captivated by the story and he and Wei Wuxian bicker all the way back about who should have ended up together.

They return home to find Hanguang-Jun waiting. Wen Qing really isn’t sure how she feels about the man. Her most vivid memory of him is standing in the way blocking their escape. But in the end he backed down, and A-Yuan loves him. With the way Wei Wuxian’s face lights up when he sees the figure in white, it's hard to hold on to her resentment.

They greet him politely anyways and invite him inside. Jin Ling and Wei Wuxian tell him about the play while Wen Qing bustles about making tea. When she sits down, Lan Wangji looks at her steadily for a moment. “Lady Wen,” he says. “I must apologize. In the past I failed to protect you and your family.’

Wen Qing is a bit stunned, she never expected anyone from the cultivation world to acknowledge their wrongs. Yet here is the chief cultivator apologizing to her personally. After a moment she manages to say, “Apology accepted.”

Lan Wangji nods. “I have been working on guidelines for the treatment of prisoners. I would be grateful if you would look at them.”

Wen Qing swallows, he not only apologized, but he’s also trying to make sure no one else is treated as poorly as her family was? Maybe he really can change things. “Yes, of course.”

Lan Wangji pulls a bundle of papers out of his sleeve and hands them to her, then turns to Wei Wuxian. “Explain your array.”

And Wei Wuxian does at great length, at one point getting up to run to the workroom for his diagrams. He waves his arms around a lot, and gets out the little jars of herbs to demonstrate the positions of the plants. After he’s done Lan Wangji examines the diagrams again, then nods decisively. “Yes, this will work. Meet me at the Burial Mounds in five days and we will begin the work.” Lan Wangji stands up.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan! Don’t just get up and go!” Wei Wuxian says, looking at the other man intently.

Lan Wangji inclines his head. “I have much to do to prepare, but you may walk with me.”

The two of them leave together and Wen Qing and Jin Ling are left staring bemusedly after them.

 

...

 

When Wei Wuxian, Wen Qing and Jin Ling arrive at The Burial Mounds five days later they are surprised to see a crowd of people waiting with Hanguang-Jun in front of the array the Jins set up to prevent access to the area. Wen Qing recognises robes from all four major sects. As they draw closer, Wen Qing can make out Jiang Wanyin, A-Yuan and A-Ning. She starts walking towards them faster. Suddenly a woman in Jin robes rushes out of the crowd towards Wen Qing, sword drawn. “It's Wen Qing!”

Before the woman can get to Wen Qing, Wei Wuxian and Jin Ling have stepped in front of her. Jiang Wanyin and Lan Wangji both draw their swords. A-Yuan is rushing through the crowd, A-Ning close behind him Jiang Wanyin yells, “Don’t you dare!” while Lan Wangji vaults in front of the woman. ‘She is under my protection.”

Surrounded the woman stops, around looks that the collective fury of Wei Wuxian, Jin Ling, Jiang Wanyin, and Hanguang-Jun, and puts away her sword. Wen Qing still doesn’t recognise this woman who clearly recognises her. As she get her bearings A-Yuan and A-Ning come running up and join the circle of angry faces surrounding the Jin cultivator. Wen Qing could have defended herself. Probably anyways, it has been a while. However it's a relief that she doesn’t have to.

Jin Ling glares at his sect-mate. “Jin Zishi, you wouldn’t harm my teacher, would you?”

Hanguang-Jun says, “She is Wen Qing. You will not harm her.” Wei Wuxain flashes him a brief smile before returning to his defensive glare. Jiang Wanyin doesn’t glace at Hanguang, but his grip on Sandu lossens a little bit. A-Ning and A-Yuan both stare at Jin Zishi impassively.

Jin Zishi looks around at the six people surrounding her, then glaces at Wen Qing. “No, of course not.”

Wei Wuxian gives her one more glare, then looks around at all the crowd of people. “Right, let's get started! Lan Zhan, what’s all this?” He gestures at all the people still milling about, and the piles of things at their feet.

Lan Wangji looks at Wei Wuxian and says, “We needed materials for the array, and people to help plant. So I asked the sects for assistance.”

Lan Wangji got all this together in five days? There’s piles of seedlings, tools for planting and so many people!

Wei Wuxian grins. “Wow! This is really great, I was just going to plant everything myself!”

Lan Wangji keeps looking at Wei Wuxian, Wen Qing thinks his face looks fond. “I know. This is faster.”

“Right, let's get started!” Wei Wuxian, walks over to the center of the group and pulls out one of his diagrams. Wen Qing follows him. Now that she’s a little bit closer she recognises a few more faces in the crowd. There’s Jin Rujia, the young cultivator she healed when she first met Jin Ling, and few older Jins who look familiar. They all look down when they notice her looking their way. Behind the most of the crowd busying himself with pots of seedlings is Nie Huaisang. He waves cheekily at Wen Qing when he notices her looking his way.

Wei Wuxian is studying his diagrams, but motions her and A-Ning to come over. “We three know the Burial Mounds best, so I think we should each guide a group. Will that work?” They both nod. Wei Wuxian thinks for a bit then calls everyone over to assign them to groups. He puts Lan Wangji, Jiang Wanyin, and Nie Huaisang each in charge of a group. Wen Qing is assigned to Jiang Wanyin’s group along with Jin Ling, Jin Rujia, and some young Jiang and Lan cultivators that she doesn’t know. All the older Jin cultivators are in different groups, she suspects that Wei Wuxian is trying to protect her from them. Wei Wuxian guides Lan Wangji’s group, leaving A-Ning to guide Nie Huaisang’s group. The groups gather their tools, Jin Ling and the other Jin’s quickly allow everyone through the array and the groups set out in different directions.

...

Wen Qing easily follows the map to the place that Wei Wuxian indicated, and lays out the pattern of the larger array. Meanwhile Jiang Wanyin directs everyone else to start planting with ruthless efficiency. By lunch time they’ve made considerable progress. Wen Qing thinks that Wei Wuxian will be pleased. Though Jin Ling has been muttering angrily under his breath to Jin Rujia all morning about, “how dare they treat Dr Zhu that way,” and, “it's not right!” Wen Qing is touched, but hopes that it will blow over.

The group finds a rocky outcropping to eat lunch on. Wen Qing and Jin Ling sit next to each other and pull out the shaobing they have brought. Jin Rujia has some too though hers are elaborately wrapped and topped with sesame seeds, she sits a little ways away from her cousin with the young Lans who have brought some stuffed steamed buns. They all seem to have plenty to talk about. Jiang Wanyin brings out a giant lunch basket from his sleeve, its charmed to keep hot and steam rises from it. He and the Jiang disciples busy themselves setting things up.

Wen Qing is sitting next to Jin Ling happily eating her shaobing, enjoying the flavor of the ground meat inside when Jiang Wanyin comes over. He’s holding two bowls of soup, one in each hand. He pushes the soup towards the two of them. “Here, eat, it's lotus root and rib soup.” He glares at them as if he expects them to object. Wen Qing thinks about demurring, but the soup looks good and there’s no real reason not to eat it. So she takes the offered bowl, and smiles at Jiang Wanyin. “Thank you.”

Wen Qing is just finishing up her soup when she notices that wisps of dark resentful energy are starting to appear. She turns to Jin Ling. “Can you go get all the young disciples over here? I think it's not going to be safe here much longer.” She watches him go for a moment then goes to the other side of the outcropping where Jiang Wanyin is sitting, and tells him, “We have to get everyone out of here!” Already the resentful energy clouds are growing. “There’s a good sheltered spot at the top of the hill, I can lead the way.”

Jiang Wanyin nods. “I’ll keep up the rear.” Zidian is already sparking purple on his hand.

Wen Qing goes a little bit up the hill, the disciples are starting to look scared now. However Jin Ling remains calm as he brings the group to her. She nods to him, “Well done.”

The clouds are getting larger and darker. Wen Qing pulls out her small flute. She has to focus now but she can drive the energy away enough to make a path. She waves to everyone behind her “Follow me!” Then she puts to the flute to her lips, plays, and walks as fast as she can toward where she once lived. Behind her she can hear shouting, and pounding feet. She catches a glimpse of Zidian striking out. The music is working making a path for them up to the top, so she just keeps playing and walking, ignoring everything else. Finally she see the old houses, or rather what’s left of them -- she heads for them. The resentful energy should be less there making for a good defensive place.

As she gets closer she hears Chenqing -- Wei Wuxian must have gotten caught up in this energy storm too. The path ahead gets wider and wider. Finally she reaches the foundation of the house and turns to make a stand. Jin Ling is right behind her with the other juniors in her group and Jiang Wanyin is behind them beating back the clouds of dark energy with Zidian.

She can still hear Chenqing, so she harmonizes with that. Soon Wei Wuxian appears, along with Lan Wangji and the rest of his group. They all have weapons out. He stops in front of the old lotus ponds and turns to face the storm. Wen Qing walks out to join him, still playing her flute As they plays the energy slowly dissipates, until finally none of it is visible any more and first Wei Wuxian then Wen Qing lower their instruments.

For a moment everything is still then Jiang Wanyin yells, ‘What the hell was that?” and all the young cultivators on the porch behind him come crowding forward. As everyone mills about Nie Huaisang’s group comes up to the top of the hill, and Wen Qing is relieved to see that A-Ning and A-Yuan are safe. The new group joins everyone else in milling about asking questions.

Wei Wuxian rubs his nose. “I’m not sure what happened. I need to go investigate.”

Heading down the stairs towards his brother, Jiang Wanyin says, “Fine, then I’m coming with you.”

Lan Wangji who is standing next to Wei Wuxian inclines his head. “I too.”

Wei Wuxian looks from one to the other, then shrugs. “Fine, fine. Dr. Qing can you make sure nobody is hurt. A-Yuan and A-Ling, keep an eye on everyone and don’t let them wander off.”

After Wei Wuxian goes off to investigate, Wen Qing sets sits down on the steps and asks Jin Ling to bring everyone by so she can look them over. Jin Rujia and A-Yuan quickly come to help him. Wen Qing is almost done tending the group, having found nothing worse than a sprained knee, when Wei Wuxian and the other two return.

Wei Wuxian gathers everyone together to explain what they learned. “I should have suspected something after I found out what happened to Jin Rujia. It seems that when we fought the puppets last time I was here we moved stuff around in the demon slaughtering cave enough that the blood blood is starting to drain. And that’s changed the Feng Shui -- so when you started planting the array it cause a resentful energy surge. But now that that’s dealt with everything should be safe. However, we are going to have to make a couple of adjustments to the plantings. Everyone go rest for a bit while I figure this out.”

Everyone begins to dispense, now that things are calm Wen Qing takes a moment to look around.The houses that she once helped to build and the fields she once worked so hard to grow food in are tumbled down and desolate. There are dead lotus standing in the former pond. Living here was hard but it was the last place she lived with her family. Now they are all gone. Well maybe not a gone as she thought a few months ago. She looks through the crowd, finding Wei Wuxian, A-Ning, and A-Yuan. At least those three survived. Tears are forming in her eyes, and A-Ning is looking at her. So she goes over and hugs him. “I’m so glad you didn’t die.” A-Ning pats her back soothingly. “You too jiejie, you too.”

After a short while Wei Wuxian comes up with a plan. He takes a group of cultivators to move some boulders, then sets everyone back to planting having adjusted the pattern of the array. Despite the interruption they finish everything by the end of the day.

Quite tired from a day of physical labor, Wen Qing, walks back to the city with Wei Wuxian and Jin Ling. Most of the crowd goes off in other directions, but Lan Wangji, Jiang Wanyin, A-Ning, A-Yuan and Jin Rujia all walk back with them. The mood is one of quiet satisfaction. Jiang Wanyin even stops glaring. At one point Jin Ling pulls Jin Rujia and Lan Wangji aside, saying he needs to discuss sect leader business. But after a few minutes they rejoin the group and Jin Ling looks rather pleased.

In town everyone agrees to have a meal together at an inn. Before they go in Jin Ling pulls Wen Qing aside. “Teacher Zhu, I would like to request a leave of absence,” he says, bowing.

“Why?”

“I’m not unhappy with your teaching! But seeing everyone today made me realise that I need to go back to Koi Tower and take care of some of my sect leader duties. I need to be there to finalize choosing a regent. And there’s something else I need to do too. Shishu has been telling me stories, and I asked Jin Rujia to look at the records of how our clan treated the Wen survivors. What my clan did was not right. So I also need to issue a formal apology to the Wen survivors. Jin Rujia is going to help me go through the records and track down anyone still alive who mistreated prisoners and make sure they are punished. I talked to Hanguang-Jun and...”

Jin Ling stops talking because Wen Qing has pulled him into a tight hug. “Teacher! You are embarrassing me!”

She lets him pull away. “I’m sorry, it's that it really means a lot to me that you want to do that.” She says wiping one eye.

“So you’ll let me go?” he says, brushing off the front of his robe.

Wen Qing nods, “Yes, but I hope you come back after you get everything worked out.”

“Don’t worry, I plan too! Now let's go eat!” He grabs her hand and leads her into the inn. Inside everyone is already sitting at a table but they all look up when Wen Qing and Jin Ling come in. A-Yuan motions them over. Pretty soon dishes start arriving at the table, there’s soup, and steamed fish and duck, some plain boiled chicken and greens fried with garlic and chilli peppers. Wei Wuxian must not have ordered because some of the food is not eye-wateringly spicy.

Wen Qing looks around the table. Lan Wangji is looking intensely at Wei Wuxian. “Come visit me in Gusu,” he says, and Wei Wuxian grins. “I will, I will!” Jiang Wanyin and A-Yuan are talking about swords, Jin Rujia has drawn Jin Ling and A-Ning into a discussion of plant cultivation. It's good to be with what’s left of her family, and to see them with Jiang Wanyin and Lan Wangji who she once thought hated them. She’s still wary of the two of them. But Hunguang apologized to her! And they both protected her from Jin Zishi. And the group dinner seems to be going well, with everyone getting along. Wen Qing smiles; the cultivation world finding her again hasn’t been too bad after all.