C111 – Believe It or Not
The distant sounds of firecrackers and drums reverberated from the entrance of the medicinal store, and within the small office, it appeared as if time had forgotten this space, undisturbed by any visitors.
Employing a pair of tweezers, Tang Yue delicately cleaned the young boy’s wound, the cotton ball bearing traces of medicine.
Nevertheless, he found himself stitching up five sutures in the end. Given the awkward position, the child might find it difficult to consume much in the coming days, facing potential hardships.
“Take good care of him. His physical injuries will likely heal within a month. However, he has endured prolonged abuse and malnutrition. His constitution is fragile. In the future…” Tang Yue cast a glance at the tearful old grandfather and sighed inwardly.
Tang Yue understood that rescuing the destitute often came with its own complexities.
The elderly grandfather bowed in gratitude nine times before Tang Yue. “As long as my grandson’s life is saved, I will never forsake him, even if I must beg on the streets.”
Tang Yue washed his hands and exited the clinic, only to discover that the pharmacy’s entrance was now swarming with people. Some were hastily applying frostbite cream to their swollen hands and feet due to the biting cold.
“Young sir, it seems that we may be able to deliver those five hundred boxes of frostbite ointment by midday. It’s rather urgent now,” Sparrow informed him.
Tang Yue surveyed the scene and gave his instructions, “Have them prepare several large pots of herbal soup. Include Su Ye, Huang Qin, and burdock. Offer a generous bowl of soup to every passerby—it’ll help ward off the cold.”
“Of course,” Sparrow acknowledged before hurrying off. Imperial Doctor Wu inquired from behind, “For added cold protection, wouldn’t it be wise to include a bit of Crown Prince Ginseng?”
Tang Yue turned to face him with a smile, “I’m aware of that, but Crown Prince Ginseng is exceedingly rare and valuable. I’m afraid I can’t afford it.”
Imperial Doctor Wu grumbled, adjusting his beard, and walked away with his hands clasped behind his back.
Tang Yue had plans for a three-day volunteer medical consultation, and word quickly spread, drawing people from the nearby area. Yet, some harbored doubts, pacing nervously at the doorstep.
Patients arrived one after another. Tang Yue assigned Elder Chen and the other two doctors to attend to consultations while he observed from the side, evaluating their expertise.
Elder Chen excelled in gynecology, and Tang Yue contemplated placing the word “gynecology” on his signboard. However, in this era, gynecology was a rather vague concept, and even if discomfort arose, few were willing to consult a male doctor.
A sharp reprimand echoed through the crowd as they turned their attention toward the source of the voice. Two lines of guards were seen pushing aside the onlookers who had crowded around the entrance, creating a clear path.
“Why, it’s Wang Zixian. Figures…” Zhao Sanlang sneered, his disdain evident.
Tang Yue sighed and shook his head. Wang Zixian seemed to attract misfortune like a magnet. Where would his troubles end?
Someday, Tang Yue mused, he should secretly sprinkle some “dog blood” on Wang Zixian, perhaps to help him break free from his streak of bad luck.
“Sanlang, why aren’t you joining the gathering in the backyard?” Crown Prince Zhao departed after the plaque was unveiled, leaving a group of young aristocrats to amuse themselves in the rear garden.
Tang Yue didn’t have the time or inclination to supervise them, so he allowed them to enjoy their leisure. He had heard that Zhao Sanlang had brought out a few decks of cards and was teaching them how to play “Fight the Landlord,” which seemed to amuse him greatly.
“It’s dull. They’re all a bunch of dunces. None of them can best me!”
Tang Yue harbored doubts about this claim but couldn’t be bothered to seek confirmation.
A wry smile played on his lips as he approached the Third Prince. “Is the Third Prince not feeling well? The establishment has just opened, and we have doctors and herbs on standby. You can rest assured!”
“Tang, Xiao Lang, are you mocking me?” Wang Zixian’s speech was laced with the scent of alcohol.
Tang Yue hadn’t crossed paths with him for quite some time, and he had assumed that Wang Zixian was nursing his wounds in solitude. After all, the position of Crown Prince had been firmly decided, and there was little immediate hope for him.
It now appeared that his assumption had been correct. Wang Zixian had resorted to drinking away his troubles. Whether he was crying or not remained uncertain.
However, sympathy was in short supply for those who became intoxicated and created disturbances.
“Your complexion is blotchy, with redness in the center and a purple hue around it. You have a dark mark on your face, and your eyes lack vitality. Have you been suffering from insomnia for a while now?” Tang Yue continued, “And do you also experience constipation, bad breath, and morning nausea and vomiting?”
Before Wang Zixian could respond, a man dressed as a eunuch, feigning bravado, chimed in, “How did you know?”
Tang Yue only realized at that moment that there were no eunuchs serving in the Crown Prince’s Palace. He wasn’t sure if this was by Lee Zhao’s choice or due to other reasons.
With a self-assured smile, he remarked, “I’m a doctor, and I have considerable medical expertise. Diagnosing such a straightforward ailment is well within my capabilities.”
Wang Zixian, of course, had no reason to doubt Tang Yue’s medical proficiency. He scoffed and commented, “It’s just a minor issue. Is it really worth all this fuss?”
He deliberately emphasized the term “Godly Doctor,” a sly grin playing on his lips.
Tang Yue shook his head and said, “But this isn’t a minor problem. Try massaging your temples. Do you feel any swelling or intermittent throbbing in your head? Does it ease when you press a few times?”
Wang Zixian rolled his eyes and retorted, “It’s just a hangover.” He fixed Tang Yue with a skeptical gaze. “Don’t try to deceive me.”
Tang Yue suggested, “Why not consult Imperial Doctor Wu? He’s here as well. Ask him what a typical hangover feels like.” Tang Yue promptly arranged for someone to invite Imperial Doctor Wu over, keeping the elderly doctor occupied by sending him to the volunteer clinic.
Upon hearing Tang Yue’s call, Imperial Doctor Wu hurried over, still donning Tang Yue’s white coat. It trailed behind him, nearly touching the floor. With his gait, he could almost pass for the Earth Traveler’s grandson if he had a cane.
Upon spotting the individual standing beside Tang Yue, Imperial Doctor Wu halted abruptly, his countenance adopting an air of calm and inscrutability. He approached slowly.
“Greetings, Third Prince, Prince Wan Fu,” Imperial Doctor Wu bowed, his white beard swaying as he straightened his posture.
The Third Prince inquired, “Imperial Doctor Wu, aren’t you typically on duty at the Imperial Medical Office? How did you find your way to this herbal shop? Or perhaps, you’ve decided to resign from your post?”
Imperial Doctor Wu responded, “You are correct, Your Highness. I’ve taken a day off.”
Concerned that this eccentric exchange might lead to Imperial Doctor Wu’s disfavor, Tang Yue quickly interjected, rephrasing the question.
Even though Imperial Doctor Wu didn’t grasp the full extent of Tang Yue’s mysterious intentions, he saw no reason to collude in falsehood when Tang Yue hadn’t given him prior notice, so he recounted the truth.
His account aligned broadly with Tang Yue’s description but lacked the same enigmatic quality.
With a forceful push, Tang Yue shoved Imperial Doctor Wu aside and focused his attention on Wang Zixian. “You’ve seen a considerable increase in wealth lately, haven’t you? Do you experience occasional lower abdominal pain?”
“If you have something to say, say it! Don’t keep me in suspense!”
“Heh, please follow me. It’s not the best place for a private discussion with more ears around.” Tang Yue gestured towards the secluded clinic and contemplated calling others in for the conversation.
But who could predict Wang Zixian’s response? “Why should we care about the number of witnesses? Could there be an ambush waiting inside?”
Tang Yue pondered, thinking that Li Xian must have committed enough misdeeds to have no fear of such possibilities.
“It’s not that I’m averse to outsiders,” Li Xian responded. “It’s just that… the fewer people who know about your condition, the better. Of course, if you don’t mind, I don’t either.”
Suspicion clouded Wang Zixian’s gaze as his inner turmoil escalated. On one hand, he suspected that Tang Yue might be deceiving him, while on the other, he feared that something genuinely concerning might be happening.
Fear of death was universal, and Wang Zixian was no exception.
Just as he was about to take a step forward, one of his attendants cautioned him, “Your Highness, we should exercise caution. Crown Prince Li has recently departed. What if…”
What if this place was rigged with a trap? It would be foolish to fall for such a ploy.
Wang Zixian sneered, “I’m not that foolish!” He then pushed Tang Yue aside. “If you have something to say, say it straight and quit with these games!”
Tang Yue was frail and nearly tumbled to the ground after the shove. Fortunately, Zhao Sanlang swiftly came to his aid.
Zhao Sanlang discreetly pinched Tang Yue and whispered, “I’ve sent word to inform His Highness. Hold on a bit longer.” With that, he slipped away, clearly avoiding any involvement with Wang Zixian.
Tang Yue had gathered information about Wang Zixian before this encounter. While the man was intelligent, he also had a petty and narrow-minded nature that didn’t endear him to many.
Nonetheless, like-minded individuals often gravitated towards one another. In the court, there were always those willing to join forces with Wang Zixian to thwart Li Zhao’s ascent to the throne.
“Ahem… If you insist, I’ll explain,” Tang Yue motioned for him to sit down and began in earnest, “The reason behind your symptoms is the presence of parasites in your stomach.”
“Ah…” Those who heard this statement involuntarily took a step back, their gazes fixed on Wang Zixian with a mixture of fear and dread.
In this era, the idea of intestinal parasites was virtually unheard of, and the mere mention of stomach bugs sent shivers down people’s spines.
Wang Zixian abruptly rose to his feet and attempted to kick Tang Yue, who had anticipated the move and swiftly dodged.
“You can choose not to believe me…”
“Men, seize this man! His words are deceiving the public! I must personally bring him before the King to confront his audacious claims!”
“What I’m saying is entirely factual. Have you been experiencing frequent bouts of diarrhea? An insatiable appetite? Morning nausea accompanied by strange noises from your stomach?”
“…” Others listened as he described the symptoms in detail, leading them to believe he was convinced of his own words. While Wang Zixian might not have bought into it logically, he found himself somewhat swayed by Tang Yue’s explanation.
“Nonsense… Your words lack any scientific basis!”
“There’s nothing I can do if you choose not to believe me,” Tang Yue shrugged.
Wang Zixian glanced at the maid by his side, who remained in a daze until a nudge from him snapped her out of it.
“Young Master Yue, what approach would you recommend for His Highness’s ailment?”
Tang Yue appeared to hesitate, heightening everyone’s curiosity.
“Is it possible to cure the intestinal worms in his stomach?” Someone instinctively placed a hand on their abdomen.
“Could it be that as long as we find a way to remove them, the problem will be resolved?”
“It’s quite straightforward. If that’s the case, why would it still be inside him?”
The conversation buzzed around, and Wang Zixian’s complexion grew ashen. “Men, escort these commoners out and spare me their presence!”
The assembly dispersed. Except for a handful of patients who remained within the clinic, the others hastily departed. However, they didn’t venture too far, opting instead to lurk in the vicinity, eager to witness the unfolding drama.
Observing a spectacle was an inherent human inclination, particularly when it concerned individuals of wealth and influence; it only heightened people’s curiosity.
Wang Zixian appropriated the hefty sword from his guard and positioned it menacingly against Tang Yue’s shoulder. “You had better speak the truth, or else…”
“Or else what?” Tang Yue arched an eyebrow, wearing a contemptuous expression. Is this the extent of the Third Prince’s resolve? Is this how every physician who diagnoses him is treated? “Then, will any physician dare to provide an honest assessment in the future?”
“Concealing the truth is forbidden. Have you pondered the consequences? Without timely treatment, the parasites in your abdomen will reproduce repeatedly—twice, four times, indefinitely. They’ll breed within you repeatedly, and when that happens…”
“Urgh… cease!” Wang Zixian was so horrified that his visage drained of color. Not a trace of blood remained on his face, and he came perilously close to regurgitating his evening meal.
Tang Yue, however, didn’t find himself in high spirits either. After all, it was a grim situation. Nonetheless, he couldn’t allow himself to be perpetually threatened. Some suffering on the other side was necessary.
“Tell me the treatment!” Wang Zixian exerted more pressure. The sharp blade nearly grazed Tang Yue’s skin.
Tang Yue regarded him with a frigid gaze and articulated his response with deliberate cadence. “The most efficacious approach entails an abdominal incision, the extraction of the parasites and their eggs, followed by suturing to avert future complications!”
“…” Not only Wang Zixian but also everyone within earshot was utterly stupefied. Their countenances could no longer be described as merely shocked.
Incising a person’s abdomen? Perhaps only Tang Yue would dare to utter such words.
Imperial Doctor Wu had surreptitiously drawn near and observed with a disapproving look, but he refrained from vocalizing his criticism in the presence of outsiders.
“You’re tempting fate!” Wang Zixian clenched his fists and swung his sword down with unbridled fury.