“You’ve punished her severely, General,” Lin Haihai continued her attempt to convince him. “Would you let this matter go?”
“It is no punishment compared to what she did!” Old General Xie levelled an icy gaze at his daughter even though she had her back to him.
“What if this Empress pleads for you to show her mercy, General?” the empress said calmly.
Old General Xie startled and hurried out, “This old official remembers what the imperial court has done for my family, Your Majesty! However, what my daughter has done is beyond unforgivable. If she doesn’t get the punishment she deserves, it’ll reflect badly on the entire family! How is this old official going to face our ancestors when I pass away to the underworld?”
“Please don’t plead for my life, Your Majesty, Consort Lin,” Consort Zhuang said tearfully. “I’m too ashamed to continue living this life. I’ve returned to admit my guilt to Father and allow him to punish me as he sees fit.”
Lin Haihai sighed. “Do you regret what you’ve done, Consort Zhuang?”
Consort Zhuang closed her eyes and shedded tears of mournfulness. “I do regret it, but it is too late! I’ve foolishly dreamed of monopolizing His Majesty’s affection. I got Imperial Consort Li’s child killed for my selfish desires. Then I knocked Consort Lin into the lotus pond out of jealousy. It is my lack of filial piety, ethics, and morality that doomed my family to this dilemma. I know my father and brothers will be implicated by my action should the investigation come to its logical end. Then I won’t be able to pay for what I’ve done even if I die ten thousand times over!”
“Since you understand your mistake...” Lin Haihai turned to the old general and asked in a respectful tone, “Would you allow me to punish her in your stead, General?”
“You needn’t go easy on her, Consort Lin,” the old general choked out. “You may beat her or kill her. It’s all in your hands!” He forced his eyes open, wanting to get a closer look at his daughter. He didn’t know what Lin Haihai would do to her. His hardened words were in conflict with what his heart was saying.
Lin Haihai chuckled. “Alright. If that’s what you want, Old General Xie, I won’t go easy on her. The imperial court is fraught with trouble at the moment. Someone skilled in martial arts like Consort Zhuang should have been serving the court. Unfortunately, the Daxing Dynasty doesn’t recruit women into its army. The only option left is for her to serve the people to make amends for her guilt!” Lin Haihai turned to Consort Zhuang. “I want you to accompany me on medical visits as my personal guard and deal with all the trouble I may encounter. What do you say?”
Consort Zhuang was caught off guard. That’s no punishment!
Lin Haihai had made the decision for a reason. She’d seen Consort Zhuang use martial arts. Although she wasn’t a top-tier expert, she was more than powerful enough to deal with thugs and lowly villains in the martial arts world. Lin Haihai was going to set up medical centers in different regions and villages from now on. She could foresee the many obstacles she would encounter. It was best for her to be accompanied by a martial artist, which would save her a lot of unnecessary trouble. Lin Haihai didn’t know hand-to-hand combat, and all her moves looked way too dramatic. She didn’t seem human when she used her skills. Therefore, she should refrain from getting into fights unless it was absolutely necessary.
“You’re condoning her crime, Consort Lin,” said Old General Xie. “How is that punishment for her?”
“Punishment has no meaning at this moment, General. What has happened has happened. We can’t undo the past, but we can let it go.” Lin Haihai faced Consort Zhuang and asked, “Are you willing to serve me, Consort Zhuang?”
Consort Zhuang was reminded of what Zheng Feng had said - If you had killed her, all the citizens of the capital would tear down the Xie Residence. She wanted to know what kind of a person Lin Haihai was. She nodded and replied, “I’m willing. I’ll serve you as your guard!”
Lin Haihai responded with a smile that lit up the room, “Then you should forget about who you were. Since this princess consort has decided to let you off the hook, I’ll have to come up with an appropriate explanation for where Consort Zhuang has gone. Consider the Consort Zhuang of the past dead. You’re rebirthed today. You will be Wangchen from now on. I hope you forget about your past and start anew!”
With indiscernible emotions flashing through her eyes, the former consort said calmly, “Wangchen thanks Consort Lin!”
“Call me Physician Lin!” Lin Haihai developed a sudden hatred for her title. “I’m Consort Lin in the Prince Residence, but when I’m outside, I’m only myself, a physician!”
Only the empress understood what Lin Haihai meant. Consort Zhuang - Wangchen - looked at her new master with confusion. She wasn’t sure how she should feel about Lin Haihai yet.
Old General Xie tried his best to get a clear look at Lin Haihai. What kind of a person was Consort Lin? How was she so merciful and uncaring of fame and fortune? Unfortunately, all he could see was a faint figure no matter how hard he tried.
A thought came to Lin Haihai. “What happened to your eyes, General?”
The old general sighed, his weathered face full of regret. “If not for my vision, I wouldn’t have retired from the frontline. As a soldier, it should be my destiny to die on battlefields. However, this old official is doomed to stay safely at home until I pass away from old age. What a pathetic way to go!”
Lin Haihai felt a sympathetic pang in her heart. Upon closer inspection of his eyes, she found them to be undamaged. “Is it poison?”
“It happened during the last battle we had with Rong.” Old General Xie recalled the past. “Rong suffered several defeats against our army and retreated to the border of Chen. Perhaps it was our relentless pursuit that compelled the enemies to launch their final counterattack. A great battle broke out by the Yang River running along Chen’s border. It lasted days and nights, the resulting smoke obscuring both sunlight and moonlight. Our army was more spirited, and we had sufficient supplies supporting us. Soon, we gained the upper hand, and the enemies escaped into the woods.”
“It is unwise to chase after cornered enemies, but I wanted to end the battle swiftly and return to the capital in victory. In my haste, I led a group of soldiers into the woods and ended up running into an ambush. We fought hard and shed blood until we finally broke free. However, I fell for the enemy general’s trick when I took his life. He’d scattered an unknown poison on my eyes. The imperial physicians treated me then, but despite the poison being cleansed, my vision remained impaired!”
Lin Haihai was fully engaged, her admiration for General Xie deepening further. Although the old general said he had made a mistake, he must have been incredibly courageous and competent to have overcome the ambush and defeated the enemies then.
“Would General Xie trust and allow me to treat you?” Lin Haihai asked humbly.
“I’m afraid there’s no hope for me if even the imperial physicians couldn’t cure me!” Old General Xie was still deep in his memory, his expression bright. His disappointment was visible when he talked about his condition.
“Don’t worry, we’ll do what we can do,” Lin Haihai said with a smile. “We can’t make things worse anyway, can we?”
The empress chimed in, “You should let her try, General. She’s more skilled than the imperial physicians. In fact, the imperial physicians from the palace have all become her disciples and take turns seeing patients in her hospital!”
Old General Xie turned to Lin Haihai in shock, his tone respectul as he said, “This old man has failed to recognize your greatness. Please forgive my ignorance! If Consort Lin would like to treat my vision, this old man is more than willing!”
He didn’t dare dream about regaining his vision. If even the imperial physicians had failed to cure him, how could he possibly hold onto the hope of encountering a miracle? Now that he knew the imperial physicians considered Consort Lin their master, the general couldn’t help but become hopeful, and he addressed himself humbly before the princess consort.
Heroic men like him respected those with true expertise. Even when faced with someone with great power, such as the empress, he merely treated her like an official would a lord. What he respected was her position as the empress rather than the person she was. Now, however, he fully respected Lin Haihai for who she was instead of as the sixth princess consort.
Lin Haihai rolled her eyes at the empress and laughed. “Her Majesty was exaggerating. I will give it a try, but I hope the general will remain realistic! Please take a seat and allow me to check on you!”
Wangchen looked at Lin Haihai with blooming hope. If she can cure my father, I’ll happily serve her like a farm horse without complaints!
Lin Haihai gingerly lifted the general’s eyelids to check on his eyeballs. They were a little muddled, but his corneas hadn’t been damaged. His irises were intact as well, and his pupils could contract and dilate properly. Everything seemed perfectly functional. Could the problem lay in parts other than the eyes?
Lin Haihai dared not use her spiritual energy carelessly, not because she feared losing her power for a few hours, but because of her inexplicable apprehension for treating illnesses with spiritual energy. She couldn’t explain why, but as a physician, she wanted to treat her patients with the knowledge she had accumulated in her study.
“Do you have headaches?” Lin Haihai asked.
“Sometimes, but not often!” responded the old general.
“Have you hit your head before?”
The old general gave it some thought. “Before I got poisoned, an officer hit me in the head with his palm. Then I was hit by the poisonous powder.”
Lin Haihai had figured out the answer. “From tomorrow on, I’ll treat you with acupuncture to unblock the blood vessels in your brain!” His blindness must have been caused by the pressure his blood vessels were putting on his optic nerves. His poison had been cleansed at the time and had no lasting effects on his eyes. What truly had been affecting his vision was the palm-strike from the officer!
“I’ll entrust myself to Consort Lin!” The general could sense her confidence. His heart fluttered in joy.
“Then we’ll take our leave now!” said Lin Haihai.
Old General Xie hurriedly bowed to them. “This old general will walk you out, Your Majesty, Consort Lin!”
“That won’t be necessary, Old General.” Before she left, Lin Haihai said to Wangchen, “You’ll accompany me on medical visits tomorrow on, Wangchen. Get ready!”
“Understood!” Wangchen bowed to her. Lin Haihai had officially won her over!
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