☆ Chapter 66
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi hugged his wife as he urged his horse towards his prince’s residence. He directly entered the main residence, Wang You Hall, and ran into the bedroom.
Placing her on top of the brocade bed, he looked towards that unconscious face, his heart besieged by fear and dread. He had never felt this emotion before, even when he had been plotted against by his elder brother during his childhood. But now……In his eyes, there was a large trace of panic that had never been there before. He had never even imagined that something would happen to her in the two days he was gone.
All of a sudden, he jumped up and rushed to the door, bellowing: “Why has the imperial physician not come yet?!”
The imperial bodyguard on duty very rarely saw his Master losing his temper like this. The head of the imperial bodyguards, Nangong Xun, walked over and cupped his hands in salute: “A trip to and from the imperial hospital is not that fast. Prince does not need to worry. Princess has become unconscious from a fever; however, placing some ice cubes on Princess’s forehead will help alleviate the temperature quite a bit.”
Worry leaked out from Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s eyes and he shouted towards two palace eunuchs who walked over from the opposite hall carrying water to wash one’s face with: “Qu Gao and He Gua, the two of you quickly go to the cellar and return with some shaved off ice. You must hurry. If you are late by one step, twenty hits with the cane; late by two steps, neither of you need to use your legs to walk in the future as having them is useless so they might as well be chopped off.”
The two palace eunuch’s faces were ashen. Placing the basins of water on the ground, they chased after each other in their hurry to bring back ice cubes.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi thought about how his wife’s clothes were dirty and if she knew, she would immediately become distressed. He instructed the bodyguard on duty: “Carry some water inside the bedroom then go buy several good looking female outfits outside. They must be on the simple and neat side.”
He was unwilling to allow other people to touch her and personally looked after his wife. Taking off that raggedy and dusty sackcloth, he used a moist towel to scrub her body. When he went to wipe her feet, he discovered that the sole of her tiny feet were covered in blisters. Finding some sewing needles, he popped each one with trembling fingers, his distress incapable of increasing even more.
Finishing with these things, he dressed her in his own white silk night clothes. At this time, Qu Gao and He Gua fetched over the ice cubes and he wrapped a few in a towel before placing them on her forehead.
There was nothing else after that. Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was unable to sit or stand still and after waiting for another spell, two imperial bodyguards finally rushed into Wang You Hall, leading an imperial physician. The person was familiar at a glance; it was precisely the one who had treated Ruan Zhu several months prior–Imperial Physician Zhang. His eyes immediately brightened as he knew this man’s medical skills were good. He pulled at Imperial Physician Zhang’s hand: “Elder, quickly come save my wife.”
Imperial Physician Zhang saw that there was a sixteen year old married lady laying in the bed, her face completely scarlet and her lips so red it seemed as if drops of blood would spill out. With one glace, it was obvious she was running a high fever and it was also extremely serious. This Madam, he had seen before. Because of her, he had even had to personally travel to Yu Zhou in the middle of the night.
“Quickly feel her pulse, ah!” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi saw that the other was leisurely taking their time, and he became indignant.
“Do not be so hurried, this little moment will not matter.” Imperial Physician Zhang had become acquainted with this Royal Highness a few months ago and knew that his character was not wicked. He placed his hand on top of Ruan Zhu’s wrist and closed his eyes while contemplating for a while before shaking his head: “How could this happen so quickly?”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi saw him shake his head and his heart dropped. So nervous that both his palms were filled with sweat, he hastily asked: “Elder, how is my wife?”
Several wrinkles appeared on Imperial Physician Zhang’s forehead: “Originally, it was not a big matter as it is merely a high fever along with a cold, and the illness could be alleviated with some strong medicine. But now, it has become rather difficult……”
Rage abruptly ignited in Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s eyes and he roared: “You are a doctor from the imperial hospital; how could a tiny, tiny cold be untreatable? What are you useful for?!”
Imperial Physician Zhang was very innocent: “It is not that this lowly one’s medical skill is not capable; it is that this humble one is worried that using medicines that are too strong would harm the fetus in her stomach. Such a large offense, this humble one cannot take it upon oneself, ah!”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi foolishly stared at him before abruptly grabbing his collar: “Say it again. What fetus in her stomach?”
“Niangniang[a] is pregnant with child. It has already been over a month; does Prince not know this?”
Ruan Zhu was pregnant with child; pregnant with his child?
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s eyes widened into perfect circles and he looked towards his lovely wife on the bed that was currently suffering under a serious illness. In a split second, his mind was full of mixed feelings of grief and joy. His hand practically trembled as he lightly brushed against his beloved person’s face and felt a scalding heat that stabbed painfully into his heart. Lifting up his head, he faced Imperial Physician Zhang, a trace of ice in his eyes: “I do not care what method you use but you must ensure the adult and child are both healthy. Otherwise I will have your entire family, old and young, buried with my wife.”
Imperial Physician Zhang lifted a hand to test the sweat on his forehead: “Prince should first use some local methods to lower niangniang‘s temperature, such as soaking in a hot bath and using strong alcohol to wipe down her body. This lowly one will then prescribe a milder prescription. If Prince could please have someone simmer the medicine and feed it to niangniang for a try, I will hurry and go to the imperial hospital to discuss what other effective methods exist with some of my peers.”
“Bodyguard Nangong, take him to make the prescription.”
“Imperial Physician Zhang, this way please.” Nangong Xun pointed towards the anteroom.
But Elder Imperial Physician Zhang stood there without moving, his eyes filled with embarrassment and awkwardness, though the others did not know that he was currently hard-pressed.
“Still not hurrying? What are you foolishly standing there for?” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi berated.
“Your Highness, this lowly one……this small one……will first say matters clearly. Niangniang‘s fever is too severe that even if it is cured, it may not be possible to avoid some residual effects, such as headaches, ah, and changes in intellect, and things like that……” Just saying that your broad may become a fool, but that has nothing to do with me. Who told you to come find me in the dead of night?
How could Xuanyuan Zong Zhi not understand what he was inferring? Ice seemed to shoot from his eyes as if they were frozen in their frigidity: “If this prince’s beloved princess meets with disaster, the lives of your entire family will be required to account for your misdeed. Nangong, take him to write the prescription, if there is any sort of delay, do it for him to see.”
Imperial Physician Zhang was scared witless and secretly rained curses. These young masters of the imperial family simple did not take others lives seriously. When doing something, they were unafraid of the consequences and killing a few people seemed to be tantamount to pinching a few ants to death. He had originally believed this Fifth Prince was different from the others, but he hadn’t thought he would also be rather vicious and merciless.
But he did not dare to be neglectful on the outside and dutifully followed Nangong Xun outside to write the prescription.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi directed towards the two palace eunuchs standing by attendance next to the door: “Qu Gao and He Gua, quickly prepare bath water, then have Steward Chen bring over two pitchers of strong alcohol from the storehouse. Hurry, there must be no delay.” He was enraged as this Steward Chen had run off to who knows where again. The Master had returned yet he does not even come to attend. Previously, he had thought of him as the Empress Dowager’s former person and did not bother too much about him. But it seems that a few lessons were necessary.
The two eunuchs responded in agreement and ran outside, one of them calling for someone to prepare bath water, the other to find strong alcohol.
Not long after, a palace eunuch brought over the alcohol. Xuanyuan Zong Zhi removed his wife’s clothes and dipped a cloth kerchief in it before wiping her body down. Seeing her the same as an unconscious puppet, his thoughts became increasingly dismal.
Today, after the army drills had finished, he had just thought to bring the Fei Sheng army back to the barracks when he unexpectedly ran across Elder Jia on the road and discovered his wife had been taken to prison by the bailiffs. Burning with anxiety, he had immediately led a group of his men to the rescue but hadn’t thought he would be too late.
When he finished wiping her with the strong wine, he wrapped her up in brocade.
There was nothing else to do after that. It was only then that he realized he had yet to remove his suit of armor. Calling for the other palace eunuch in attendance, the servant naturally waited upon him in changing clothes.
“Prince, bath water has already been arranged.” Qu Gao came over to report.
The bathroom was adjacent to the bedroom, separated only by a door. Xuanyun Zong Zhi carried his wife inside. This room was entirely built with white marble and the pool of water was very spacious. Lifting her into the water, he sat down and placed her in his lap so that she was leaning against his shoulder.
It’s unknown whether it was due to the impact of lowering her temperature or the stimulation of the warm water……Ruan Zhu moved and her eyes faintly opened up a small slit. She saw that she was in a man’s embrace, but her mind was still muddled and her lips slightly moved: “Eldest Cousin, you’ve returned.”
Her voice was hoarse, as if she was sleep talking. But Xuanyuan Zong Zhi still heard her, though his heart was somewhat grieved as despite being held by him, she was still thinking of another man. He softly comforted her: “Wife, yes, I have returned……you are fine, right!”
Yet Ruan Zhu started bawling into his broad chest.
“It’s all right, it’s all right; be good; it’ll be better very quickly. I won’t let anything happen to you……” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi pulled her closer and repeatedly consoled her only to see her head tilt to the side as she fell unconscious again.
“Wife, Wife……” He hastily shouted out.
“Prince, the medicine for niangniang has been boiled.” Qu Gao carried a tray inside that had a bowl of medicine on top.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi took the offered bowl, and placing his lips on hers, transferred each sip into her mouth……In the middle of her stupor, it was as if the half asleep Ruan Zhu had returned to the small garrison town in the southern border where Yun Shi Yi had fed her medicine. She unconsciously accepted all of the bitter medicine she was fed and gulped it all down until not even a drop remained.
He fed her until the very last mouthful. Not willing to let go, one of his hands supported her head while he kissed her for a while.
None of the several palace eunuchs standing in attendance outside the pool of water dared to look and they all lowered their heads.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi felt that the temperature of the water had slightly cooled and carried his wife back into the bedroom, anxiously keeping watch next to the bed.
After the night had passed, she remained unconscious while her temperature continuously rose and fell.
The palace eunuchs all stood outside the door the entire night; their Master had not rested and none of them dared to return to their rooms.
“Where the goddamned place has the man gone? Send someone to the imperial hospital to see what the hell Imperial Physician Zhang is doing?!” From inside the door came the Master’s bellow.
Nangong Xun walked inside and bowed before the beaded curtain: “Yesterday, this subordinate dispatched two capable imperial bodyguards to accompany him to the imperial hospital and they have just sent back news: Imperial Physician Zhang has been researching with several of his colleagues on niangniang‘s illness the entire night.”
“You can withdraw!” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi waves his hand, disheartened.
“Prince has not eaten ever since returning yesterday. How about letting Qu Gao and He Gua send for some dishes?”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi did not make a sound. He thought in his heart–She was already like this; what sort of meals could he eat? If, by chance, she left him, what would be the point in him continuing to live, all alone?
“You can withdraw. I am fine.”
“It is still Prince’s noble body that is the most important.” Nangong Xun shook his head a little before retreating from the room. The Prince of Qi, whose brows had never creased before at any situation, was nevertheless, still merely a common person in front of personal matters and his children.
“Prince, Imperial Physician Zhang has arrived.” Qu Gao called from in front of the door.
“Quickly invite him inside.” A single flame of hope ignited in Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s heart and his thoughts were revived.
Weariness was all over Imperial Physician Zhang’s face and it was evident he had not slept the entire night. Led by Qu Gao into the bedroom, he hadn’t firmly stood when he pulled out a very delicate porcelain bottle from his sleeves. He rubbed the porcelain bottle in his palm a few times before cautiously offering it forward with both hands.
Qu Gao took the offered bottle and presented it to his Master, who was on the bed.
“This is the drug to reduce fever that you spent a night toiling over?” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi looked at the porcelain bottle, baffled; his expression rather unconvinced: “You surely know that if a disaster befalls niangniang, your entire family–old and young–will accompany her in her grave?”
“There is no harm in Your Highness having niangniang drink it as there may be a result that is hard to imagine. However, this medicine is very potent. Only two tablespoons can be taken at one time, and it would be best to blend it with water first.”
“You are confident and are absolutely certain?”
Imperial Physician Zhang was calm but his tone unconsciously rose: “This medicine is called Chen Jie Cai Lu and is manufactured from mustard by a Buddhist monk in a temple in Jiang Nan’s Tian Ning district. Every year, Buddhist monks would harvest enormous quantities of mustard and ferment them before placing them in several large pottery jars. These jars are placed outside day and night though care is taken so that they are not affected by the rain. Exposed to nature, the mustard breaks out with mildew and when they have grown about three to four inches, the monks will then seal and bury the jars and then wait over ten years before opening them up again. By that time, the green mildew inside the jars would have completely transformed into liquid and the long green mold seen before burial would no longer be visible. This sort of mustard that had undergone years of burial and transformed into liquid is called Chen Jie Cai Lu and has great fame in this generation’s Tian Ning Buddhist temple. Reportedly, it can treat any sort of cold, fever, cough, or spitting of blood. This humble one has heard of this medicine’s God-like efficacy before and spent a fortune begging a peer for it this morning.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi handed the porcelain bottle to Qu Gao: “Follow what Imperial Physician Zhang said; pour out two tablespoons and mix it with water.”
It was a pity that he did not know that Chen Jie Cai Lu was precisely China’s earliest form of antibiotics and its manufacturing method was similar to penicillin though the ingredients were different.
A pity that such a great invention was only used in the Tian Ning Buddhist temple and did not arouse the interest of the ones in power.
When Ruan Zhu woke, her head felt extremely heavy as if it was stone. Her body felt light and she didn’t even have the strength to lift up a finger. She saw Lu Piao Xiang sleeping while holding her in his arms……She wanted to call out to him, but her throat felt as painful as if it was on fire. Opening her mouth, not even a sliver of a sound could be made.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had not slept for two days in succession until last night, when his wife’s condition had eased. He had only then dared to close his eyes at daybreak but still did not dare to actually fall asleep. Feeling something had changed by his side, his eyes immediately flew open only to see that the woman by his side had woken at who knows when. At once, his heart moved and even his nose felt a little sour.
“Wife, you’ve finally woken. You scared me to death, I thought you……” The corners of his eyes moistened.
“Lord……Lord Husband……” Ruan Zhu called out yet her voice was as thin as a mosquito’s hum and she couldn’t help but to frown.
“Your throat hurts terribly, correct? It’s fine, it will be better very soon. I can promise you this.”
Ruan Zhu dazedly looked at him. She has returned home; she just knew that her Lord Husband was omnipotent and would definitely save her. Thinking of the pain she had suffered while in prison and had buried within her, tears flowed out.
[a] 娘娘 is a respectful title to call the Empress and/or imperial consorts (of which RZ is currently neither). I’m just going to keep it pinyin because the closest English alternative that’s been suggested online is ma’am and that’s just.. lol
I already feel awful enough for using prince/princess instead of wang/wang fei