Lin Haihai turned to throw a glance at Bai Muyang, who had yet to recover from the shock. She said, “Write down how you’ve been contacting the herb farmers. I want to see it tomorrow morning. Otherwise you know what would happen to you!”
With that, she walked away with an icy look on her face. Wangchen opened the door to the prison, allowing Lin Haihai passage. Once she was out, Lin Haihai could no longer contain the disgust she had been suppressing. She squatted down and threw up.
“What happened?” Luo Kuangyuan asked Wangchen, throwing concerned looks at Lin Haihai.
An indiscernible look passed through Wangchen’s eyes. “She’s fine. She simply couldn’t stand the smell of blood from Bai Muyang!”
Luo Kuangyuan frowned. He knew it was a lie. He had seen her treat injured patients without even a frown, and their bleeding wounds were much more terrifying than Bai Muyang’s. It was unlikely that she would throw up because of the smell of blood. What had happened in the prison?
Wangchen knew she couldn’t fool the clever man who oversaw the Court of Judicial Review, and it was never her intention. The truth wasn’t important. Sometimes, it was better not to get to the bottom of everything. She had been learning to not overthink.
Wangchen helped Lin Haihai up. She was pale, and her eyes were dim. It seemed as if she was fading away from the world given how thin she was. Luo Kuangyuan sighed. He knew what had happened in the palace, and he couldn’t point fingers. Matters of the heart never had a clear answer. The princes had their concerns and worries, and there was nothing the emperor could do! As an official, the only thing he could do was to respect the decision of the emperor. He did respect and sympathized with Lin Haihai, and he felt for her deep love for the emperor. At the end of the day, however, she was a princess consort, a sister-in-law to the emperor. They would become laughing stock if they insisted on staying together.
“Are you feeling unwell, Physician Lin?” Luo Kuangyuan asked in concern.
“I’m fine. My breakfast doesn’t go down well, and I’m feeling a little sick.” Lin Haihai frowned. As a doctor, she knew what was happening to her body. The child came into her life at the wrong time. There was too much she had to do at the moment!
“Then I’ll have someone take you home to rest!”
Luo Kuangyuan was about to call out for someone when Lin Haihai interrupted him, “No need to worry about me, Official Luo. I have to see a patient. Bai Muyang has confessed. They have been hoarding medical ingredients in order to incite conflicts between the imperial court and the general public, and they burned those supplies. I told him to write down their way of contacting the herb suppliers. You should have the local officials of provinces and counties approach the farmers and do all they can to acquire medicines from them. The situation at hand must be dealt with before we can afford to spend some time looking for a solution. Remember, you must put more effort into cracking down the illegal hoarding of medicines!”
Lin Haihai spoke tiredly. There was no better option at the moment. They would have to take one step at a time.
“I will get on with it immediately,” Luo Kuangyuan said, looking at her sheet-white face. “Don’t overexert yourself. You should return home early and rest!”
“Alright.” Lin Haihai gave him a warm smile. “I don’t have much to attend to today. I’ll go home by early evening. Farewell!”
“Good bye. Take good care of her, Wangchen!” Luo Kuangyuan had met Wangchen before. However, she looked different dressed in a set of simple and functional clothes, free of the extravagance and elegance of an imperial consort. That was why he hadn’t recognized her as Consort Zhuang.
Wangchen nodded slightly, trailing after Lin Haihai with a bemused look on her face.
They returned to the North Court in no time. Xiao Ju had been waiting at the door. Lin Haihai instructed Wangchen to keep watch outside the door before entering. The lingering ghosts she had summoned in the prison gathered in Lin Yuguan’s room, while Lin Yuguan comforted a sobbing Piaoxue.
It was thanks to Lin Yuguan making acquaintance with the ghosts while wandering the underworld that Lin Haihai was able to put on the show today. Lin Yuguan knew they had been victimized by Bai Muyang. Therefore, when Lin Haihai asked her to scare Bai Muyang, she immediately remembered her spectre friends.
Lin Haihai didn’t expect that to hit Bai Muyang’s weakness and compelled him to confess so easily. She minored in psychology in medical school. She knew Bai Muyang wasn’t lying. People couldn’t help but look to the left when they were lying. It was a reflex even the greatest liar couldn’t go against.
“How did Bai Muyang kill you with poison?” Lin Haihai asked Piaoxue.
Piaoxue continued sobbing for a moment before she said, “My father and I were from Gusu. A few years back, Bai Muyang and his classmate Huang Sheng travelled to the capital to attend the imperial exam. When they went past our residence, Bai Muyang collapsed on the road due to a cold. I happened to open the door and see him. My father is a physician. He had our servants take him and Huang Sheng into our residence. They stayed for a few days, during which Bai Muyang and I fell for each other. We promised ourselves to each other before he left for the capital.”
“After a few months, a few people came from the capital, claiming to have been sent by Official Bai. They said they had come to take me there to complete our marriage. I didn’t know who they were talking about until they explained everything to me. They said that Bai Muyang was the zhuangyuan that year. He remembered our promise that day, and had come to make me the wife of the principal scholar.”
“My father didn’t approve. He said he could tell from his eyes that Bai Muyang was a man without integrity. However, I insisted, and my father couldn’t do anything but to send me off with dowry.”
Piaoxue broke into tears again. With Lin Yuguan comforting her, she took some time to collect herself and stopped crying. “However, it ended up being a one-way trip. I was taken to the Zhuangyuan Residence in a daze and saw Bai Muyang. He said we were to complete our marriage that night. I had thought it was too much of a hurry, but I didn’t protest. However, when I arrived at the wedding room, the groom I met wasn’t him, but Huang Sheng, the classmate he had travelled to the capital with. Huang Sheng told me that the one who had gotten the top score wasn’t Bai Muyang, but him. It turned out that Huang Sheng had fallen for me at first sight back in Gusu. However, I ended up choosing Bai Muyang.”
“Knowing what had been troubling Huang Sheng, Bai Muyang told him that he could give me to him. In exchange, Huang Sheng would ask Grand Councilor Yan for an official station for Bai Muyang. I became a bargaining chip. That night, Huang Sheng forced himself on me. He kept me in his residence afterwards and forbade me from seeing anyone. It had been a living hell.”
“Finally, I managed to sneak out one day. Through many difficulties, I managed to find Bai Muyang. He was shocked to see me. I asked him why he would do that to me. He told me to stay with Huang Sheng obediently and leave him alone. Huang Sheng found us then. Seeing us tangled together, he thought we had lingering feelings for each other, and he gave me a good beating.”
“In order to prove that he no longer had anything to do with me, Bai Muyang slapped me a few times before Huang Sheng. He claimed that I had snuck out to seduce him. That further stoked Huang Sheng’s fury, and he beat me even harder. I couldn’t escape them. Afterwards, I began running a serious fever, and it didn’t take long for me to pass away! Due to my lingering grudges, I became a wandering ghost. Heavens have pity on my old father. How heartbroken must he be?”
Lin Haihai balled her hands up into fists, her heart aching for her. In a determined tone, she promised Piaoxue and the other ghosts, “I will make him pay for everything wrong he has done to you!”
The ghosts wailed pitifully.
“Physician Lin,” Piaoxue said in a pleading tone, “Would you please send someone to the Ren Residence of Gusu and inform Physician Ren that his daughter has passed away due to illness? Please don’t let him find out what has actually happened to me!”
Lin Haihai nodded. “Don’t worry, I know what must be done! You should rest here for now. I’ll have someone send you to your next life in the next few days. Everything will get better!”
The ghosts expressed their gratitude, while Lin Yuguan looked at Lin Haihai gratefully. Xiao Ju had said Lin Haihai was a living Bodhisattva, and she was right!
Since she had other matters to attend to, Lin Haihai bade them farewell and left.
Uncle Qiu was waiting outside the door. They had to go pick up Li Junyue first. Today was the last day of treatment for the patients in Blackhill Village. The villagers were waiting for Li Junyue to tell them the results. They were no longer in danger of dying, but they would still be feeling unwell for some time. It was important for the patients to get enough nutrients and strengthen their health at the later stage of their treatment. They must not grow complacent. Originally, Lin Haihai was going to visit the village on her own, but she didn’t feel good today. She was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to tend to everyone without Li Junyue.
When Lin Haihai told the village chief that she was going to open a clinic - essentially a smaller hospital, Lin Haihai explained - with a stationed physician in the Blackhill Village, the village chief couldn’t help but burst into tears. He almost dropped to his knees then and there to bow down to Lin Haihai. The villagers eagerly spread the good news through word-of-mouth.
Looking at the pure-hearted and honest villagers filled Lin Haihai’s heart with joy. What they wanted out of life was so simple. They didn’t care who was on the throne. As long as their basic needs in life were satisfied, none of them would even think about starting an uprising. People yearned for peace. No one wanted a war to break out and take away their homes.
A bright smile tugged at her lips. Lin Haihai said to the village chief, “Please allocate us a place for the clinic. Any house will do, no matter the condition it is in. We’ll send a physician here soon!”
“That won’t do, that won’t do! Please give us a fortnight, and we’ll build a house for the clinic!”
The village chief would provide nothing but the best for the physicians the princess consort sent here. Lin Haihai disagreed. Those should be the least of their concerns at the moment.
“That won’t be necessary. It’s a waste of money. A physician’s duty is to treat patients. Nothing else should matter!”
“No, please leave it to us this time.” A strongly-built villager knocked himself on the chest and said, “We villagers may not be an expert in anything, but we know how to build houses!”
Lin Haihai felt the weight that had been plaguing her since her visit to the prison lifted. The cool autumn breeze further filled her heart with hope for the future.
“Then I’ll leave the matter to you!”
Li Junyue emerged with a large group of villagers trailing after him. Xiao Chong went up to him and asked, “How are they, Physician Li?”
Li Junyue deliberately furrowed his brows, which concerned the villagers. Didn’t he say everything is going well? Xiao Chong nervously asked, “Is there something wrong?”
Li Junyue broke into a smile and patted him on the shoulder, “The lockdown ends today!”
The villagers erupted into cheers and held each other in celebration, jumping and singing and laughing. Their laughter turned into sobs and then they began laughing again. Xiao Chong watched them with tears in his eyes. During the past year of standing guard at the village, he had established a deep friendship with the villagers. It was cathartic to see them break free of the shadow of death.
Lin Haihai put her hands on her belly, feeling the growing life within her. Magical isn’t it? she asked herself. Life is a miracle. That’s why one mustn't give up on any possibility and opportunity. She was suddenly filled with the will to fight. She was ready for the upcoming battle!
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"The lockdown ends today!" A sentence that reads very differently nowadays :P