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Whumptober: Stitches

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"Are you going to hold still for five minutes, or would you rather have a puckered scar down your flank?" Wen Qing asked tartly.

"I came here because I heard you were the best doctor in the world," Luo Qinyang replied through clenched teeth.

"I am," she asserted matter-of-factly. "But I fix wounds and illnesses, not stupidity. Just ask Wei Wuxian."

Luo Qinyang laughed then, until the movement made her flinch. She bit her lip hard, stiffening her spine and lacing her fingers tightly.

Wen Qing relented a bit. "You're doing fine. This is a nasty gash. I'm almost done with the stitches, and then I'll just bandage it up." She worked in silence for a moment before adding too casually, "So which cultivators might be chasing you here to the Burial Mounds?"

The other woman tried not to startle. "I told you I was ambushed by robbers on the road."

"You did." Wen Qing nodded. She pulled a stitch taut. "Every wound tells a story, Luo-guniang."

She raised an eyebrow. "What do mine say, Doctor?"

"Are you sure you'd like me to tell you?" She half-shrugged. "Your wounds are ragged around the edges, but the lacerations aren’t random. And the depth is very precise. Your attackers were trying to cause pain and scarring, not to kill you. They probably did it quickly and tried to make it look more accidental than it was. Also your left shoulder is partially dislocated. Someone was holding you while you struggled." Luo Qinyang was silent. Wen Qing raised her eyebrows without looking away from her work. “I can’t make you tell me, and I can’t blame you for wanting to keep your business to yourself. It’s just that if someone was that determined to hurt you, I’d like to know who might be coming to my family’s doorstep. We’ve got plenty of our own trouble. This is going to be the hard part,” she added as she reached the deeply-torn flesh at the bottom of the gash.

Luo Qinyang made a face. Her voice hitched on the words as Wen Qing worked. “You are something, you know? Hitting me with--all of that and then--by the way, now you’ve reached--the worst part of the stitches.” She bit her lip again, drawing blood. Her fists clenched.

“Well, it distracted you, didn’t it? Just a little more… there.” She set aside her needle and reached for a pot of salve. “That’s going to take a while to heal. I’ll give you some of this to apply whenever you change the bandages. It burns going on, but it helps.”

Luo Qinyang caught her breath slowly. She unfolded her hands and studied the angry half-moons her nails had carved into her palms. “Lesser Jin noblemen,” she admitted after a moment. “They felt insulted by the way I left the clan. Well, they should be. Hypocrites.” She lifted her chin, defiant. “They decided to teach me a lesson once I was far enough away that Jin-gongzi wouldn’t interfere.”

Wen Qing nodded. Her tone gentled. “Do you need… any other medical care?”

Luo Qinyang shrugged. “You are very good. Thank you. I’ll be fine after what you’ve already done for me.”

“Not exactly what I meant.” Wen Qing hesitated. “Are you injured anywhere more private? Or do you need a tonic to shake loose a child?”

Luo Qinyang stared at her for a startled second and then gave another short laugh, cut off by a wince. “Oh! Oh, I see. Thank you for your concern. No, I’m fine.” She smiled in satisfaction. “They surprised me and got in a few good hits, but I’m much better than them. I had to be, to make a place for myself. I don’t think they’ll be troubling anyone anytime soon.”

Wen Qing returned the smile approvingly. “I know a little about men like them.” She finished with the salve and began bandaging the other’s midsection. “Where are you going next?”

“Not sure.” Luo Qinyang tipped her head to one side. “I was thinking I could travel for a while, night hunting and helping out where I can. Figure it out from there.”

“You could,” Wen Qing acknowledged.”But you’ll need to be careful while you’re healing unless you want to wind up coming right back.” Slender fingers wrapped the last layers of bandages and fastened the ends. “I could use another capable woman around here. If you’d like to stay awhile.”

Luo Qinyang met her eyes, evaluating. Her face bloomed into a sunny grin. “You know, that might be nice.”