“A lot of mosquitoes?” Lin Haihai asked curiously. “Is there anything unusual about the mosquitoes in the mountain?”
The man paused. “Anything unusual? I didn’t notice!”
“They are pretty unusual,” chimed in a scholarly villager. “I killed one once, and it looks different. It sucks blood, but it doesn’t look like a mosquito!”
Li Junyue took notes of their patient’s skin complexion before he said, “I believe we have to enter the village to check!”
Lin Haihai nodded in agreement. The leading soldier hurriedly interrupted, “You must not enter! Our superiors have made the order to forbid any outsiders from getting in!”
Lin Haihai smiled faintly. “Fret not, we’re physicians. We’ll shoulder the responsibilities ourselves!”
The soldier was momentarily captivated by her beauty, but he knew his duty, and he would not go against his order. With determination, he insisted, “I cannot let you through. We must protect the general public. If you enter the village and bring the disease outside, the consequences will be unthinkable!”
Lin Haihai’s brows relaxed with approval. “If that’s the case, I won’t make your job difficult! However, I have to go inside. How about this, could you tell me who your superior is? Tell him to seek out Official Luo of the Court of Judicial Review. He’ll explain the situation to you!”
The soldier widened his eyes, his freckled face showing traces of surprise. “You’re sent by Official Luo?”
Luo Kuangyuan walked up to them and said seriously to the soldier, “Nonsense. Physician Lin isn’t someone this official can order around. This official is but a part of her entourage. Do as she says. This official will take responsibility should anything happen!”
The soldier gaped. He had never met such important figures, and he naturally didn’t recognize Luo Kuangyuan. With his back bent low, he asked, “Sir, are you Official Luo?”
“This official is Luo Kuangyuan, head of the Court of Judicial Review, and this is my official seal. Take a good look at it!” Luo Kuangyuan produced his seal from his collars to show the soldiers. The handful of soldiers immediately got to their knees.
Lin Haihai and Li Junyue exchanged a smile. Then she said to their patient, “Please lead the way!”
The man could barely recover his jaw. He didn’t expect the newcomers to be such important figures. And the two physicians seemed so confident. Could it be that there was hope for him and the other villagers?
Blood boiling in excitement, his dark skin radiated a faint glow. He said to Lin Haihai with deference, “Please follow me!”
“Thank you!” Lin Haihai responded with a smile.
Surprised by the unexpected kindness, he hurriedly took the lead. Guihua was going to follow them as well, but Lin Haihai told her to stay behind.
The villagers parted to make way for Lin Haihai and Li Junyue before trailing after them. Noticing Li Junyue’s thoughtful frown, Lin Haihai asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m worried that we won’t have enough medicine!”
Lin Haihai tensed. “How much western medicine do we have in stock? If it’s Leishmaniasis, we need to prepare medicine for them immediately!”
“That’s my guess as well!” Li Junyue said. “Let’s check the sources of the disease first. Once we confirm the diagnosis, we’ll come up with the proper treatment!”
Lin Haihai frowned. “Alright. It’s a shame that you can’t bring too much medicine back every time you return to our time, and a lot of it has to be refrigerated. Fresh blood, especially, has to be stored at a low temperature. Look at their yellowed skin and wasted muscles. Many of them suffer from anemia induced by the disease. It’ll be difficult for them to recover fully without blood transfusion!”
“There’s nothing we can do about that,” Li Junyue said in resignation. “We can only have them eat more nutritious food!”
Soon they had arrived at the back of the mountain. Lin Haihai took a good look and noticed many wild dogs loitering around. Li Junyue checked the mountainside and the cracks of the rock to find swarms of sandflies. The blood-sucking insects were the vectors of Leishmaniasis!
Lin Haihai exchanged a look with Li Junyue and smiled. She turned to the villagers and said, “Everyone is forbidden from coming here from now on. I’ll give you some pesticide to deal with the sandflies. Spray it on places with sandflies - these mosquito-like insects! The disease isn’t incurable. You can be treated. Please don’t be too worried! Let us first eliminate the causes of the disease!”
The villagers broke into a chorus of cheers and jumped in relief and delight.
The sun was setting in the west as Lin Haihai and the others put away their equipment and supplies before returning to their carriages. They shook their arms and stretched their legs in exhaustion, but had satisfied smiles on their faces.
It was an eye-opening experience for Guihua. She’d seen for herself the thorough manner with which Lin Haihai treated her patients. Even when faced with festering wounds, she showed great patience in cleaning them for her patients. The physicians Guihua knew were either dead serious or pompous and arrogant. None of them were as kind and friendly as Lin Haihai. She was proud to serve her master.
When Lin Haihai returned to the hospital, the empress was waiting for her. In stark contrast to her distant attitude yesterday, Lin Haihai went up to the empress and said, “Why are you here?”
The empress smiled faintly. “Let’s find somewhere private to talk.”
Lin Haihai paused. Does she know about what happened? Li Junyue threw them a cool glance, gesturing at them to talk inside.
Lin Haihai led the empress to her room and asked, “What’s going on?”
The empress produced a letter. “His Majesty told me to deliver this to you!”
Lin Haihai was momentarily stunned into inaction. A letter? He’s too bold! Isn’t he worried that the letter will end up in the wrong hands?
She took the letter and asked, “Did he say anything?”
“He didn’t,” the empress said calmly, “but I can guess what has happened between you.”
“I know what you want to say, but there are things that can’t be controlled. Matters of heart especially so. We tried to keep our distance. We were rational when we were in the cavern!”
The empress sighed. “I know. Since it has come to this point, what are you going to do from now on?”
Lin Haihai sat down and said with a frown, “I don’t know. I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it. I don’t want to give him up. No matter what awaits us in the future, I want to face it with him!”
“I’ll stand by you no matter what!” the empress said, putting her arms around her.
Lin Haihai teared up, touched. She had become so prone to tears ever since she came to the ancient times. “Thank you,” she murmured. “I really need someone to support me. I need someone to tell me if I’ve made the wrong decision!”
“Silly girl, there’s no right and wrong in love,” the empress said gently. “Follow your heart. You’ve done more than enough for the people. You don't have to sacrifice your happiness!”
Lin Haihai fell silent. She had always believed that love wasn’t the be-all and end-all in life. There were other things that could occupy her time even if she had lost her love. However, her heart felt like it was being torn in half whenever she remembered his tormented gaze. She couldn’t bear to hurt him, couldn’t bear to see him in pain.
She unfolded the letter and found vigorous handwriting filling all three sheets of paper. Her heart swelled with happiness, and the exhaustion evaporated completely. She put away the letter for reading tonight. The empress asked with a smile, “Don’t you want to read it?”
“I do,” she answered so quickly that it embarrassed her somewhat. “I mean, I’ll read it once I’m done with work!‘
“Go ahead then. I’m going back to the palace. Oh, it’s your birthday in a few days. What are you going to do to celebrate it?”
Lin Haihai looked up in confusion. “My birthday?”
“You haven’t forgotten about your own birthday, have you?” The empress chuckled. “I’ve seen the exact day and time you were born. It’s going to be your birthday in three days!”
Lin Haihai knocked herself on the forehead. “That’s right. I’ve gotten so muddle-headed because of work. It is my birthday in three days! There’s nothing to celebrate about for someone as young as I am. No need to do anything special!”
“That won’t do.” The empress laughed. “I figure the empress dowager will most likely arrange a celebration for you. You won’t have to worry about that.”
Lin Haihai jumped. No way, I don’t want her to do anything dramatic! Hurriedly, she said, “Please tell her not to arrange too many activities. I just want to share a meal with the family!”
The empress frowned. “Wouldn’t that be too simple? You’re a princess consort!”
“It’s fine.” Lin Haihai waved a dismissive hand. “Just tell her that for me. I want to keep things personal!”
“Then I’ll tell the empress dowager,” the empress said with a smile. Then she nodded and took her leave.
Without wasting a second, Lin Haihai took out the letter and started reading by the window. Her expression evolved from that of happiness to worry to bashfulness, and her eyes brightened and dimmed. She was so focused that she didn’t notice Li Junyue sneaking up on her. Noting her staring deeply into the letter in her hands, he reached out and seized the letter from her.
Startled, Lin Haihai hurriedly took the letter back. Li Junyue huffed and complained, “You let me read all your love letters in the past, but you’ve cast your brother aside now that you’ve gotten yourself a boyfriend! I showed every one of my love letters to you as well. It seems that I was blind to have confided in you!”
Lin Haihai blushed and tucked the letter under her collars. “Things are different now. If you show me a love letter written to you now, I’ll show you mine!”
“Hmph, as if there’s anything special about getting love letters!” Li Junyue threw his medical mask on the table and marched out fuming.
Lin Haihai stuck her tongue out at his retreating back. This was a secret between her and Yang Shaolun, and it would stay that way! Lin Haihai savored the bloom of warmth in her chest. It felt good to have a secret!
Evening came gradually. Lin Haihai summoned Guihua and said in a good mood, “Let’s walk back home!”
Buihua worriedly looked at the sky. “If we walk, we’ll have missed dinner time when we get back to the residence. Why don’t we take the horse carriage?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll treat you to dinner if we miss - Aha! Why don’t we go to a restaurant instead of going back home for dinner?”
Guihua could barely contain her excitement. The princess consort didn’t seem to consider her a servant, and had even asked what she wanted! She smiled meekly and said, “This maid will accompany you if you want to go to the restaurant, Consort Lin!”
Li Junyue emerged from the hospital ward with Chen Luoqing in tow. He voiced his agreement immediately when he heard that Lin Haihai was going to eat out.
“Come on, we’re lucky that General Chen is buying us dinner!” Lin Haihai said with a smile.
Chen Luoqing paused before protesting, “Wait, when did I say I’m buying you dinner? Aren’t you the one who suggested going to the restaurant?”
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