Chapter 13 - Answers
“I need water. Both hot and cold, please,” Remy could hear herself say, “and if you have any more spare cloth - I would like that too.”
Rojin nodded and disappeared out of the guest room door. Hisao laid Juyong’s unconscious body on the bedding Remy had laid out. Just one sheet and a head roll.
They had made it back to the temple just as the sun sank past the treeline while twilight was creeping in from the east. Remy had spent the walk back, not thinking about the fight she had just witnessed, instead about the boy slung over Hisao’s shoulder. With the impact damage he sustained - she prepared herself for the worst: broken bones, internal bleeding, organ damage. Inside her mind she made a list of supplies and organized a plan of attack. If someone were to mention the word Qi - Remy would answer, “what about it?”
Juyong’s face was covered in a smear of dirt and blood. As concerning as it appeared it was the least of Remy’s worries. She touched the back of her hand to his face. The boy’s head felt warm to the touch - feverish almost. Remy moved her palm to his mouth. His breathing was weak and shallow. His pulse - still strong.
In that time Rojin had brought a bowl of cold water and a large sheet of linen. He disappeared again before Remy could say her thanks. She pulled her med bag nearer to her and opened it. She reached in a grabbed her thermometer and stethoscope. She threw the stethoscope around her neck and put the thermometer in Juyong’s mouth. While it took his temperature she went to work on untying his belt.
She opened his robes. The blood from his face had trickled down his chest and mingled with the sweat and dirt from the fight. Just like Hisao, Juyong was fit and lean from his training. Remy squinted in the fading light. It was difficult to see if there was discolouration of his skin. She cursed aloud. The thermometer beeped to indicate it was finished.
Remy looked at the display screen, holding it to the light from the window. It read… she squinted harder.
Light from a candle illuminated the screen. She had almost forgotten that Hisao was still in the room. She murmured a thanks. It read 47 degrees Celsius. What the? That wasn’t possible - adults were considered to have a fever if their temperature was over 38 degrees. At this temperature, Juyong should be suffering from severe heat stroke - severe enough to induced seizures. Proteins in the body can function at that high of a temperature - Juyong should be showing all the signs of a system wide failure.
Remy brought her stethoscope to her ears and put the bell on Juyong’s chest. His heartbeat was regular and strong. No arrhythmia. She move the stethoscope to his lungs. The breath came shallow - but not rapid as she would expect with heat stroke. She reached for the candle. Hisao had set it next to her on the floor. She brought it closer to Juyong’s skin. It wasn’t flushed either.
Juyong had a raging fever but showed zero signs of having any form of detrimental heat shock. Remy moved her palm to his forehead again. Still hot.
“It’s because he can wield fire,” said Hisao. His voice made Remy jump. Again she had forgotten that he was still in the room.
“His temperature, you mean?” said Remy
Hisao nodded. Not that Remy knew anything about the strange magic she had seen on the battlefield - but as least she felt that she could trust Hisao on this. A temperature that high would kill a man - Juyong should’ve been long dead. The heat, Remy concluded, was a red herring. Juyong was suffering from more serious issues - his wounds from battle.
Hisao had hit him twice - once across the chest and again across his upper back. Remy took the candle and moved it to Juyong’s chest. She could see light bruising - the strip ran diagonally from Juyong’s lower rib cage on the right side to just next to his sternum. The bruising was on the surface - the colour was discontinuous and a light purple. It was capillary bruising - something one would get if they bumped their head or got a charlie horse. Good - Juyong wasn’t suffering form internal bleeding. Remy considered this rather remarkable considering the kid was launched 50 some feet from the impact of the attack.
Remy placed a hand on either side of Juyong’s chest. His breathing, though shallow, came evenly to both sides. Remy listened with her stethoscope again - respiratory sounds were normal. She even percussed to check for dullness from hemothorax - no sign. Remy was astonished. Such a powerful attack - yet no blunt force trauma. She did a quick palpitation of Juyong’s ribs to check for irregular bone structure. All ribs were intact. If she were to be asked for diagnosis she would have to say he likely had a few fractured ribs and mild bruising.
The temptation to pondered these findings lingered for mere seconds. Remy knew that she had to move on - Hisao’s second hit had finished the fight - the damage to Juyong’s shoulder and back could be worse.
Remy worked on pulling Juyong robe off his shoulder and Hisao lit another candle. The sunlight was fading fast and darkness had settled in the guest room. Shadows from the candle light danced against the wall. Remy gently lifted Juyong’s arm to slip his sleeve free.
Most things in medicine didn’t bother Remy - she had volunteered time in the emergency room back at home and had seen some pretty grotesque sights: infected cuts, bodily fluids of all kinds, severe swelling. But for some reason what always got under her skin was broken bones or torn ligaments. She hated the way it looked. The body seemingly fine but for the unnatural angle of someone’s ankle as their limp foot dangle at the end of their leg would make her shudder. And so Remy shuddered when she saw Juyong’s shoulder.
The arm hung limp at his side and where the smooth curve of the shoulder should have been was a large gap. Remy could see the clavicle sticking up under the skin while the rest of the shoulder fell away. It created a deviation in the shoulder that looked like a step - the top step was the end of the clavicle and the next step the acromion. Juyong had a shoulder separation - an AC tear grade 3. Meaning it wasn’t the kind that could be fixed with a quick twist of the arm. The ligaments were torn, severely, right at the joint that connect his arm to his torso.
Surgery. That’s what would fix this. Pin and bolts and a sheet of metal. Remy could do none of those things for Juyong.
“Damnit…” said Remy. Her mind spun desperately looking for solutions. It looked like a complete tear. The only thing she could do for him would be to stabilize the shoulder. If she brought the joint back together, maybe by reducing the distance, the healing process could repair the damage on the joint. It would take months - but it was better than nothing.
Remy reached for the cloth. She tore a few strips free and set them aside to use for later. She kept one and rolled it into a firm ball. The large remaining piece from which she tore the strips was large and rectangular. She it measured it against Juyong’s body. Yes, it would worked as a sling.
“I need your help,” said Remy. She didn’t even look to check if Hisao was still in the room and thankfully he was. Hisao stepped out of a shadowy corner and crouched across from her on the other side of Juyong.
“I’m going to need you help me lift him - you support his arm and aid me in rolling him on his side. I need to get this,” Remy held up the ball of cloth, “under his shoulder blade. And then I’ll need to tie it in place with that.”
Remy was pointing at the large piece of rectangular linen. Her goal - if she could do it - would be to push the scapula forward, bringing the arm back to it’s original position before the separation.
“Ready?” said Remy. Hisao nodded.
Hisao lifted Juyong with one hand on his arm an the other tucked under his back - tilting him only a few inches off the floor. Remy went to work. She slipped her hands behind Juyong’s back and pulled his shoulder blade up and then forward. The step-like gap between the clavicle and the acromion closed - not completely but enough. Remy wedged the bundle of clothe under the shoulder then reached for her sling. She slid the square linen under Juyong’s back - making sure the small bundle didn’t move. She bent Juyong’s arm so that it was folded up toward his neck. She covered his arm with the sling and tied it off on the opposite shoulder.
It was all she could do. Juyong had been using his spear primarily with that hand. Now, without the possibility of surgery, Remy doubted that he would ever get full range back. She didn’t know much about this world’s warriors but she suspected that this kid’s warring days would be over.
Hisao gently rolled Juyong back to the floor.
“Thanks,” said Remy. She place her hand behind her to lend support as she leaned back to stretch her hunched back. She could feel her mind was slowing down and the adrenaline fading. She closed her eyes and breathed out a long sigh of relief. It had been a long day.
When Remy opened her eyes she found Hisao staring at her. He was still crouched, his arms resting on his knees, and his eyes locked on her. The dark pools of brown looked even deeper in the candle light. Remy remembered how this stare used to unnerve her, how it used to make her blush. But today she met his gaze and instead of feeling a rush in her cheeks she felt a swell of pride in her chest. For she was sure his gaze wasn’t that of investigation or curiosity - it was something different.
Juyong stirred slightly. Murmuring something under his breath. It was Remy’s reminder that her work wasn’t done. Not yet.
“I’ll just need to get him cleaned up now - before he wakes,” said Remy, “you don’t have to stay for that. All the tough stuff is done.”
Hisao took her advice. He got to his feet and moved out of the room, closing the door behind when he left.
She had finished cleaning the blood from Juyong’s face and chest. He would stir every once and a while but his eyes remained closed. The cut above his brow hadn’t been too deep. It would heal better had it had stitches but it wasn’t severe enough for Remy to use another one of her suture packs. The scar would be bigger as a result but Remy had a feeling Juyong would be the type to see it as bragging rights rather than complain about its appearance.
Remy sat back on her heels. Technically, she had done all she could for Juyong. For having been in such an extreme fight, he was holding up pretty well. The worst injury being the AC tear - if it didn’t heal correctly the long term effects weren’t great.
It had to have been the Qi, Remy figured, that saved him. The Qi must’ve protected him from the force of Hisao blows. The same Qi that allowed Juyong to control fire with the flick of his hand. The same Qi that let both men move swiftly across the battlefield - moving a speeds beyond any human’s limits.
It was the same Qi that Rojin had talked about being able to harness - to use to one’s gain whether it be in battle, or in harvest. Though, he’d never really given her a more detailed explanation than that. Remy wasn’t an expert with physics - she didn’t know how this ‘energy’ could be a part of the tangible world. Or how fire could spontaneously erupt from one’s hand or how it increased the speed of one’s actions. She didn’t know what it did to matter on a molecular basis - or how it could physically manipulate the world around her.
But it did. And she had felt it - earlier that day. She had felt something change when she had caught the hairpin and the eggs. She had felt something she had never been able to feel before. Her senses were heighten, she could react faster - it was like something had sparked within her. That something had to be the source of those abilities. She recalled the feelings from her morning mediations - she could feel the air stir when she was meditating. She had thought she was just in ‘the zone’ but perhaps it was something like the Qi energy. She remembered the way she would imagine it moving around her hands and through her body.
If it could be manipulated and formed… then maybe… Remy listened for sounds from outside. The guest room she was in was the one next to hers but at the back of the house. The window faced the yard, overlooking the back porch into the small area where Rojin did his cooking. She could hear someone shifting around the yard, like they were stoking a fire - likely Rojin. Some light flickered in from the window indicating that the lanterns on the porch had been lit as well. No one was close enough to see what she was about to do next.
Remy brought her hands over Juyong’s shoulder and began to concentrate. She attempted to clear her mind in the same manner she did during her morning practice. She tried to feel the energy around her hands. Was it stirring? Remy couldn’t tell. She focused harder - thinking Juyong’s wound. She imagined bringing the joint together - hoping to bridge the gap. Remy could feel her palms tingle. Or were they? Maybe they were?
“That’s not how it works” said a voice from the window.
“Son of a ---. Christ, Hisao,” Remy was snapped back to reality in a flash, her heart leaping to well past 100 bpm. The burn of embarrassment in her cheeks followed thereafter. Where the hell did he come from? And why did he always do that?
“You shouldn’t think so hard,” said Hisao, “it’s not good for you. Plus it makes your face all wrinkly - it doesn’t help your appearance. And trust me -”
“I need all the help I can get,” finished Remy. She got to her feet and cursed under her breath some more. Her legs protested fiercely - her knees ached. She had been sitting way too long.
“Ahhh - well, I’m glad you know it,” said Hisao, “come out. Rojin made some food.”
Remy stretched her back by reaching her arms forward and bending at the waist. She hadn’t realized it but she was starving. She didn’t even notice the smell of the cooking food while she was working - but now, it was all she could think about. Her mouth watered in anticipation.
She was outside seconds later. It was late into the evening and the warm light from the lanterns and Rojin’s cooking fire was a welcoming sight. Rojin, himself, was no where to be seen but Hisao sat on the edge of the porch. Beside him a plate of cooked fish. Remy bee-lined it toward the plate, quickly settling next to him. It took thirty seconds for her to finish her first fish. She reached for a second but then paused. The hunger had subsided and she felt her priorities shift. Hisao was sitting quietly next to her. This was her chance to finally ask some questions.
“So, how does it work?” said Remy. She dusted bits of food from her finger tips onto the ground.
Hisao sat silent. Long enough for Remy to begin to wonder if he was just choosing to ignore her - which wouldn’t be the first time.
“It works based on you’re God’s will,” said Hisao, “your Qi and its form depends greatly upon which God you to choose to practice under.”
Remy unconsciously leaned toward Hisao. He had never really given her lessons on anything, minus their one disaster. She had always looked to Rojin to inform her on the ways of the world. There were something things, however, that Rojin would wave off. Most of those times it would be the question in regards to Qi - saying that she needed to know more of their language before he could explain or that she would find better answers in the memoirs. The memoirs, however, just brought Remy more confusion without any worldly context. Hisao could be the real world link that she needed.
Hisao continued, “Of the ten Gods, each has its own practice, its own memoirs, its own following. The Qi granted by following a particular God will take the form of their philosophies found in the memoirs. Just before, when you tried to heal Juyong - there are practices of that nature under the God called Aione. Healers are trained at Aione’s Temple and use her Qi to mend wounds and treat illnesses.”
Remy couldn’t stop herself. She interrupted bluntly, “so, what about Gennu and Orodoki?”
“I’m not familiar with Gennu’s practices but it looks like his Qi grants control of fire,” Hisao voice dropped off, “it’s not just that… though….”
“It’s what exactly?” probed Remy.
“I’ve seen flame wielders before - from the Temple of Fuchou. But this Gennu….” Hisao shook his head in defeat, “I’ll need to ask Juyong when he is able….”
She could see the concern on Hisao face - a rarity to actually witness a definable expression that wasn’t one of his top three. Unfortunately with this new found concern he was slipping into his withdrawn mood - she could tell. But Remy wasn’t done with her questions - not yet anyway.
“What about Orodoki? Have I been practicing under him? Is that why I can move differently now? Is that why you can move so fast?” The questions spilled from her mouth in a panic.
It had worked, thought. Hisao flicked a look over to her. Her eagerness must’ve been painted on her face because Hisao let out an annoyed sigh paired with a hint of an eye roll.
“It’s not as simple as just attending a temple and going through the motions. One must adopt their God’s beliefs as their own and live to practice them daily. The further the understanding the deeper rooted the Qi becomes. Most never surpass a basic connection - the farmers, the shop owner, the regular folk. Warriors could always harness more in comparison due to years of dedication.
You’re abilities have grown just past a basic level understanding. I’m guessing it was the memoirs that allowed you to learn so quickly - but you don’t seem to be a person who follows in Orodoki’s ways. Not normally anyway. You’re too bossy. And you can’t just relax.”
“What?!” said Remy. She felt suddenly hot. She was so annoyed - why did he have to insult her in the middle of explaining things? He did not have to do that. Her voice cracked as a bit of her patience flitted away, “What to you mean too bossy? And what is Orodoki’s beliefs? Is he the God of ‘being cool’ or something?”
Hisao looked at her confused, “No? What? Orodoki’s Qi is not an ice wielding Qi.”
Remy groaned. Granted it was nice that she was become so fluent in the language - but she sometimes lost herself in her own excitement. Maybe she would teach him about it later - Hisao, for some reason, enjoyed picking up on her slang.
Remy breathed out to calm herself. Okay new topic. One that involved her this time.
“Earlier Juyong had mentioned two words I didn’t recognized. He called you a Child of K’aos and said something about an Obwatu. Could you tell me what those mean?”
Remy had her guard up - preparing for more insults, but dropped it quickly as she watched Hisao’s face. It wasn’t concern that she saw and it was far from being annoyed with her. It just looked like shear exhaustion. Hisao had been leaning casually on one arm but now he move forward. He slouched his back and brought an arm to his knee so that he could rest his chin upon his palm.
He answered, though his eyes were lost to the dwindling flames of the cooking fire, “our world is a complicated place, Remy. Our people have been through a horrendous trial. The Qi that you see us using today - the power that can be wielded has increased greatly in the last 15 years. And it began with Obwatu.”
Hisao paused. When he continued his voice was quieter and his words came slowly, “Rojin wanted to wait to tell you. You were so strange - it was obvious you were not from our land. Then to discover later that you claim to not be from our whole world brought more concerns. I don’t know much about your home, Remy. But our land has been a frightening place. 15 years ago, Obwatu arrived and with him came terrifying monsters. Thankfully, our gods did not turn away and granted us gifts and abilities to fight back. Obwatu was stopped 5 years after he had arrived - but our powers remained and so did the memory of the his terror. We are in the wake of his path of destruction - this land is trying to rebuild. But after so much devastation I fear it is struggling to find its way. Juyong, his Gennu, the Children of K’aos….”
Hisao brought his gaze back to Remy. It was then that Remy saw it again - Hisao had dropped his guard. And her heart sunk in her chest - it was like she was staring straight into the face the statue of Orodoki himself. Even though Hisao sat right next to her he was looking at her as though she was miles away. She gripped the side of the porch, curling her fingers around the wood to stop her from reaching to touch his face to show him that she wasn’t - that she was, in fact, right beside him.
Hisao spoke, “there is so much you don’t know but, it is late… and the story is long,”
“You will tell me - won’t you?” said Remy.
“Yes. I will. Soon. But not tonight.”