Lin Haihai lay on her bed. Her blanket still smelled of Yang Shaolun. She held it tightly in her arms and fell asleep surrounded by his scents.
When she woke up, she felt rejuvenated and refreshed. Her power had returned. Sunlight cast a bright light into her room. She picked up her watch and saw that it was already noon! She jumped off the bed in a hurry. Hearing the ruckus, Guihua opened the door and entered to find the princess consort struggling to get herself ready in haste. Confused, she asked, “What’s the matter, Consort Lin?”
Lin Haihai put her clothes on as she said, “Why didn’t you wake me up, Guihua? This is bad. I have to go to the hospital!”
Over the years as a physician, she had taken some days off but was never late to work ever. Her job was extremely important to her. Yesterday, she’d told the imperial physicians that she would go to the rural areas to offer free treatment today, hoping the imperial physicians would be able to spare more people to help her, but she ended up being late.
“How could Guihua dare to wake Consort Lin up?” Guihua lowered her hands in resignation. “Consort Lin, someone named Li Chaomin was looking for you! He came early in the morning. I told him that you hadn’t woken up, and he’d been waiting outside!”
“Li Chaomin? Alright, I’ll go see him. Wait, I haven’t washed my face. Dang it, I’ll waste more time by hurrying!” Lin Haihai stomped in agitation.
Guihua looked at Lin Haihai with amusement. “Don’t panic, Consort Lin. Water will be carried here by a few maids soon. You should get yourself cleaned up first!”
As if summoned by her words, a few maids entered with water and some snacks. Lin Haihai hurriedly made herself presentable before grabbing a pastry from the table, eating as she rushed out of her room. Guihua and the maids gaped at her retreating form in disbelief. This was unbecoming for a princess consort; she acted more like a peasant girl from the countryside. With an awkward smile, Guihua hurriedly ran after Lin Haihai.
Lin Haihai had just finished her food when she arrived at the main hall. Li Chaomin dropped to his knees as soon as he saw her. Lin Haihai looked at him and said, “Get up!”
“This disciple deserves death!” Li Chaomin remained on his knees, his eyes brimming with tears of shame.
Lin Haihai reached out to help him up. “I know you had no other choices. Forget it now. It’s all water under the bridge. Is your family safe now?”
“Commander Zheng has rescued them all. Thank you, Master, for forgiving me.” Li Chaomin wiped away his tears with his sleeve, his tone grateful.
“Let’s not get into that. Come with me to the hospital at once! We’re going to offer free clinics in the countryside today, and I’m already late!” That reminded Lin Haihai of her tardiness, and she was in a hurry again. She was about to run outside when Guihua interjected, “Let this maid go with you, Consort Lin!”
She’d heard Lin Haihai said that she was going to the countryside and volunteered herself. Lin Haihai nodded, “Then let’s go immediately. Guihua, have a carriage prepared!”
Guihua rushed out as soon as she made the order. When they hurried to the hospital, however, the imperial physicians and other medical staff had already arrived, the medicines had been prepared, and the carriages had been chartered. Everyone was waiting for Lin Haihai.
“What’s wrong with you?” Li Junyue demanded angrily. “You know what we’re doing today. Why didn’t you leave home earlier?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ve overslept!”
Lin Haihai could only apologize in face of her leader’s anger. Hearing that she’d overslept, Li Junyue’s anger gave way to concern, and he asked worriedly, “Are you unwell? Still feeling weak and exhausted?”
Lin Haihai had begun taking inventory of the medicines. She turned to say, “I’m fine. I’ll be able to kill a tiger barehanded, just like usual!” She gave him a reassuring look, which eased his mind.
She raised her voice and announced, “Alright, we’ll leave only four physicians behind today. With Chen Luoqing here, security won’t be a concern. Everyone else, follow me!”
“Would you mind if I go with you, Physician Lin?” Luo Kuangyuan went up to her and asked.
“Hm?” Lin Haihai gave him a strange look. “Do you know medicine?”
“I don’t, but I have questions related to medicine to discuss with Physician Lin,” explained Luo Kuangyuan. “I have been meaning to talk to you about this, actually, but you’ve been particularly busy the past couple of days. That’s why I haven’t sought you out until now.”
“If that’s the case, You may ride in my carriage. Let’s talk on our way there!” Lin Haihai responded openly. Guihua was shocked by the impressive group around Lin Haihai. Why would the officials of all levels treat her with such respect and deference? It wasn’t because she was the princess consort. No one called her that here. They called her Physician Lin…
Physician Lin! Guihua suddenly connected the dots. Guihua looked at Lin Haihai in disbelief. She was Physician Lin?!
Lin Haihai knocked her on the shoulder and said, “Are you alright? Everyone’s waiting for you!”
Guihua broke out of her reverie to find that everyone had gotten into the carriages, leaving only her standing rooted to the spot. Hurriedly, she said, “Apologies! I’m going. Let’s go!”
Lin Haihai laughed. “She’s usually a steady presence. I didn’t expect her to be so flustered!” She grabbed her medicine kit and got into her carriage.
Patients waiting at the hospital talked among themselves when they saw the impressive line of carriages. Someone spoke up to explain, “Don’t you know? Physician Lin visits the countryside to provide free clinics every few days. I wonder which village is going to be graced by her presence this time!”
“That’s right,” another patient said with a smile. “Everyone in the capital knows about it. You must know as well.”
“Linhai Hospital is indeed a great hospital. We’re blessed to have them in the capital!”
The patients echoed the praises thrown at the hospital. Hearing their discussions, the imperial physicians couldn’t be more proud. That was the greatest form of approval for doctors!
Once they left the main street, the coachmen cracked their whips to send the horses galloping. Lin Haihai asked Luo Kuangyuan, “What do you want to talk to me about, Official Luo?”
Luo Kuangyuan cupped his fist and responded, “To tell you the truth, His Majesty has been agonizing over the difficulties we’re facing now in our healthcare system. He asked me to seek advice from Physician Lin. Perhaps you have some thoughts about how we may address the current situation.”
“He said that? I mean, did His Majesty bring that up to you?” Lin Haihai said excitedly. “That’ll be great. I have a few plans to deal with the issue!”
“Really? That’s great!” Luo Kuangyuan asked in excitement, “What are your plans, Physician Lin?”
“Let me formulate an operation plan to evaluate the budget and manpower needed before discussing the details with you!” LIn Haihai cocked her head thoughtfully. It wasn’t something that could be achieved overnight. A detailed and robust plan was needed!
“Operation plan?” Luo Kuangyuan was confused.
“An operation plan details the upcoming work and the necessary preparations, listing the missions, metrics, deadlines, steps to take, and more,” Lin Haihai explained plainly. “It’s a written plan. You’ll understand once I show it to you!”
Admiration rose in Luo Kuangyuan’s heart. He said with determination, “His Majesty has made the right choice, telling me to seek Physician Lin’s advice! Whatever needs you have of this official, please just give me the word. I’ll offer my help even if I have to cross seas of fire!”
Lin Haihai laughed heartily. “Then I’ll take you up on that and make good use of your talent! Once I’m done with the matters at hand, I must meet Bai Muyang in person and see for myself what he’s made of! I hope Official Luo will help me then!”
“Bai Muyang must be a key player who’s privy to many secrets. Unfortunately, he’s been refusing to utter a word. It’s a real pain!” He had been there when the second prince interrogated Bai Muyang, but the man responded neither to force nor persuasion. They ran out of options, and had to keep him in prison for the moment.
After a pensive moment, Lin Haihai said, “He wouldn’t have a choice then. Please gather all the criminal cases Bai Muyang has been in charge of for the past few years. Find out if there are instances of judicial misconduct. Also, find out if he has made any enemies during his time in the office!”
Luo Kuangyuan cupped his hands and promised, “I will begin the investigation tonight!”
Guihua looked at Lin Haihai in shock. Was this really the princess consort who had jumped to her death that day? The way she held herself and the confidence and unusual presence radiating from her were the polar opposites to the meek and cowardly daughter of a merchant family she’d known. What’s going on? Has there been a misunderstanding?
Even in her wildest dream, Guihua wouldn’t imagine that the princess consort was now a woman from the modern time, who had transmigrated to this era. Still, Guihua’s surprise soon gave way to admiration. When she turned back to Lin Haihai, there was a newfound adoration and enthusiasm in her eyes.
The carriages came to a halt after the time for an incense stick to burn. Lin Haihai got off to take a good look at the desolate village. It was large, and she couldn’t look beyond the village. However, the place was shrouded in a heavy gloom. A few households had white lanterns hung outside their doors. Several villagers with black silk tied to their wrists peered around curiously from before their houses.
The one leading the group was the doctor who Lin Haihai had hired to fill prescriptions when her hospital was first opened. The man was a wandering doctor who frequented the streets and alleyways. He was thus more familiar with the situation in the capital and its suburbs. That was why he was put in charge of picking the location for all their free clinics.
The doctor went up to Lin Haihai and said, “This is the Blackhill Village. It was once a prosperous place, but people have been falling ill one after another since last year, and they passed away soon after. As a result, the village began to decline. The village chief had sought the help of great doctors to treat his people in the beginning, but none of them could find the cause of the illnesses.”
“Even today?” Lin Haihai asked.
“No solution has been found!”
“If it’s contagious, why hasn't the local government done anything?”
“The government forbade anyone from leaving the village, and doctors have been sent in to diagnose and treat the residents, but to no avail,” the doctor explained. “The village has been isolated from the outside world for the past year, which resulted in the deterioration of their quality of life. The younger residents have thus snuck out of the village, leaving only the old, the weak, and the children!”
“An epidemic?” Lin Haihai frowned, silently going through everything she knew about epidemics. She would have to find out more about this illness.
Picking a clearing, she laid down her tools and supplies and had someone notify the infected villagers to receive treatment.
Many villagers had been standing on the wall at the entrance of the village, watching the strangers approach, but none of them dared walk out of the village. The doctor raised his voice and announced, “People of Blackhill, we’re physicians from the Linhai Hospital in the capital! We’re here today to offer free clinics. No silvers are required for diagnoses or prescriptions. Please come to us if you’re ill!”
A few soldiers ran up to them. The leading man considered the group and asked, “Have you come to offer treatment?”
“That’s right,” Lin Haihai said politely. “We’ve come to treat the villagers. Nothing less, nothing more!”
Noting Lin Haihai’s unusual temperament, the soldier’s tone turned respectful as well. “You should go. The illness can’t be treated. Even the greatest doctors from the capital have come to treat them before. There’s no use!”
Lin Haihai smiled faintly. “It’s quite alright. Allow us to take a look at them first. If we can treat them, that’s great. If we can’t, we can at least study the disease!”
“Then you may go ahead,” said the soldier. “However, you must not enter the village, or we won’t be able to explain to the higher ups should something happen!”
“We understand. Would you please tell the villagers to come to us?” Lin Haihai said gently. The leading soldier blushed. Is she a doctor? She’s so young and beautiful! A little shyly, he said, “I’ll do that!”
The soldier went up to the wall and exclaimed, “Please come out! Doctors have come to offer free treatment. It’s better than nothing!”
The villagers hesitated for quite a while. Finally, some of them walked out of the village.
Li Junyue finished arranging the medicines before joining Lin Haihai. A man in his fifties went up to her. Lin Haihai looked up and noted his dark, yellowish face, sharp cheekbones, thin body, and the worried look on his face. With a slight smile, she said to the man, “Please have a seat!”
The man nervously sat down after a brief pause. Lin Haihai indicated for him to give her his hand. After a hesitant pause, the man reached out a hand cautiously. The skin of his bony hand had darkened. Lin Haihai exchanged a knowing glance with Li Junyue, a possibility forming in their minds. She thoroughly checked the man’s pulse before asking, “What have you been feeling?”
The man glanced at Lin Haihai with his greyed eyes and said in a hoarse voice, “I feel unwell. Sometimes I bleed from my nose. Sometimes from my teeth as well. It makes me not want to eat anything!”
“Do you sometimes alternate between running a fever and feeling chilled?” Lin Haihai asked.
“I do!” the man hurriedly responded, his eyes gaining a hopeful glint. “I do!”
“How many people in the village have been infected with this disease?” asked Lin Haihai.
“Including me, more than fifty,” the man answered Lin Haihai earnestly. “Those who haven’t been infected have escaped, leaving only a few hundred in this great village! Our village chief was infected a few days ago as well. He got a fever this morning, and is still resting in bed!”
“I understand now.” Lin Haihai then asked in a casual voice, “By the way, did any of you have dogs as pets?”
The man’s tone turned troubled as he responded, “Not really, but there are many wild dogs and mosquitoes in the back of the mountain. It’s been tormenting for those of us who live there!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter