It was like Imperial Physician Zhou had put on a turtle shell, making others not know where to start with him. Not only did the crown prince’s side have a huge headache, the Jing Prince was the same.
If he wanted to understand Emperor Xi’s condition, Imperial Physician Zhou was the only link in the chain. But he was impenetrable.
Since he couldn’t do anything in the open, the Jing Prince could only use underhanded methods. Someone hid inside Imperial Physician Zhou’s residence and interrogated him at knifepoint. However, the answer obtained was: “The emperor’s body is healthy, and no matter how you ask it’ll be the same answer. Kill me if you don’t believe it.”
There weren’t any openings, so the person could only leave.
As for who would get blamed for this incident, it wasn’t the Jing Prince’s problem. He was just a small vassal prince far away. No one would suspect him.
But the next day Imperial Physician Zhou acted completely normal, and didn’t seem to have reported it to the emperor. Or perhaps it was reported but the emperor didn’t take any actions. Outsiders wouldn’t be able to tell, but based on various small details from his past life, the Jing Prince became even more suspicious.
Sometimes, acting overly normal was a sort of cover-up.
The Jing Prince looked over the information on Imperial Physician Zhou he received from his subordinates. After looking and pondering over and over, he still couldn’t find anything to act upon.
“This person doesn’t seem to be simple.” Huang Qin said on the side.
It wasn’t just the Jing Prince who didn’t know where to start, he himself had a toothache from looking.
“Is there anyone who understands him slightly better?”
The Jing Prince heard this and shook his head.
“It’s impossible for there not to be. We just haven’t discovered it. Even if there isn’t anyone who’s close to him, is there anyone who doesn’t get along with him? Any enemies?”
They had to find breakthrough point, and couldn’t just sit here at a loss. Only after understanding his majesty’s condition can they decide how to proceed.
Huang Qin muttered to himself as he flipped through the information in his hands. The Jing Prince also lowered his head.
The two of them looked at each other. Huang Qin was the first one to blurt it out.
When Doctor Hu was an imperial physician, he was a very sly person and was well versed in the secret art of survival.
What was the art of survival?
It was to be smart and cautious enough, as well as having a good deal of luck and also not offending anyone. To survive within the palace, especially in a place like the imperial hospital, this was absolutely necessary.
Those who understood this would say it was the mark of a wise person. But those who actually possessed this art knew that it meant they had no bottom line as a person.
Someone upright and direct would naturally not look kindly upon this kind of person without a bottom line. But one couldn’t say the other was wrong. They could only say their characters were different.
The current Doctor Hu would look back and say a lot of his actions in the past were laughable. But ten years ago, as he was proud of his accomplishments and reaping his rewards, someone had spoken unpleasant words about it and they ended up forming an enmity.
Since they were both young with some ambition, quarrels were inevitable, and the two would inevitably not get along.
But no one knew that long, long ago, these two could be described as fellow apprentices.
Doctor Hu came from a family of doctors. His ancestor was a famous doctor, and his elders worked in the imperial hospital for many years. Imperial Physician Zhou was an apprentice of Doctor Hu’s father long, long ago. Although he was an apprentice, he was taught the knowledge but not given the official status. That Imperial Physician Zhou was initially a servant bought by Doctor Hu’s household to be used as a medicine boy. Doctor Hu’s father saw that he was quite talented in medicine and secretly accepted him under his tutelage. Once he had finished learning everything, he was released from the estate in order to hide his lowly birth.
Once Doctor Hu finished his apprenticeship, he followed his father’s footsteps and entered the imperial hospital as a physician. As for Imperial Physician Zhou, he had wandered outside helping others for ten years before being brought into the imperial hospital due to his reputation.
These two fellow apprentices’ relationship had been buried in the river of time. Within the palace, some relationships were better kept hidden. Both of them were well aware of this.
Therefore, when the Jing Prince summoned Doctor Hu and mentioned Imperial Physician Zhou, Doctor Hu’s heart suddenly trembled.
“Speak about your relationship with Zhou Jin.”
Zhou Jin was Imperial Physician Zhou’s name. This name was given to him by Doctor Hu’s father.
The Jing Prince’s words were just his way of expressing himself. He merely wanted to ask whether the two of them had ever had any contact or if he had any useful information.
Doctor Hu however misunderstood and thought about many things. He was immediately dripping with sweat.
The Jing Prince could be said to be an observant person. Those who spoke little often saw much. Of course, this was only with regards to matters he was already focused on. Things he was oblivious to naturally wouldn’t enter his eyes. Things he was focused on wouldn’t be able to slip by him.
At least he could tell that there was something fishy going on between Doctor Hu and Imperial Physician Zhou. Otherwise this old man’s expression wouldn’t be so weird.
“This subordinate doesn’t have much of a relationship with Zhou Jin. Back at the imperial hospital, everyone knew that the two of us didn’t get along well.”
This was another slip-up. The Jing Prince had only mentioned Zhou Jin by name. If there wasn’t anything on his mind, how would Doctor Hu have instantly connected Zhou Jin to Imperial Physician Zhou?!
To say it was just due to their past enmity was complete nonsense. That had been formed over twenty years ago and they hadn’t interacted ever since. Even during their time at the imperial hospital, the two of them avoided each other.
What the Jing Prince didn’t know was that after seeing the dangers of the palace, these fellow apprentices became afraid of dragging each other down, and decided to become “enemies” and stay away from each other.
Doctor Hu seemed to instantly realize his words had been inappropriate. His head lowered even more.
Doctor Hu was naturally counted as one of the Jing Prince’s people. Although he hadn’t been when he initially came to the Jing Province, the Jing Prince had roped him in once he started establishing himself.
To put it plainly, this meant that his entire family had been fully investigated, and currently all of Doctor Hu’s family, from young to old, were all within the Jing Prince Estate.
Since he already revealed some hints, how could he continue to hide things? Especially since he thought that the Jing Prince had come asking about it so he naturally already knew their relationship. Therefore, he honestly told him the entire truth.
The Jing Prince’s expression was normal but his heart was continuously shocked.
Many people have said his expression wasn’t good before. When he was younger, many people called him a dumb block of wood. After he grew up and was bestowed a prince’s status, his subordinates didn’t say anything on the surface but he was still clear about how they viewed him. Regardless, there had never been any good things said about his expression.
At this moment, the Jing Prince felt that this sort of expression wasn’t without benefits. Being of few words also wasn’t without any uses. Weren’t they able to extract a confession all by themselves?
In the future, the Jing Prince would often put his “innate gift” to good use. But of course, that was something for the future.
“Zhou Jin is responsible for the emperor’s health. This humble prince wishes to know the actual situation.”
At these words, Doctor Hu started dripping with even more sweat.
He was an intelligent person, and knew what it implied for a vassal prince to be concerned with the emperor’s health. No matter what, it wasn’t anything good.
“Highness, although this subordinate has some relationship with Zhou Jin, he has never listened to my words. His personality can be described by a single phrase: like a stone in the latrine, both hard and foul smelling. Otherwise our initial relationship wouldn’t have been so rigid.
The Jing Prince looked at Doctor Hu’s expression, which was as though his father had just passed away, and said, “He has family, right?”
The meaning behind these words was profound. Doctor Hu’s expression froze and his face turned even paler.
The Jing Prince understood and stopped speaking.
“When he left the Hu household back then, he had a family in the southwest. After entering the imperial hospital, he secretly brought them into the capital. But since there were too many disturbances in the palace, he kept them hidden. Only a few know about them.”
“They’re in the Jing Prince Estate?”
Over half a year ago, Doctor Hu’s family suddenly received a family of three as well as an elderly woman. Doctor Hu had said they were a cousin’s widow and her children. The Jing Prince Estate had investigated and found that he did indeed have a cousin who passed away from illness. But now the Jing Prince put two and two together and had some realization.
Was this the so called “delivering themselves to the door?”
Doctor Hu’s expression turned uglier, but the Jing Prince said: “This humble prince won’t mistreat them.”
No matter how impenetrable someone was, once their own wife, son and grandchildren were in the other person’s hands, they would no longer be stubborn.
Especially since Imperial Physician Zhou had known his number was up ever since he examined the emperor that time.
The Jing Province was far from the capital, the Jing Prince was a calm person and his fellow apprentice brother was there to take care of them. He had initially thought it was safe.
Who knew that they ended up being lambs in a tigers den? The calm person turned out to be not so calm after all.
The emperor’s health was, sure enough, not too good. Actually, it wasn’t just not too good, it was too not good. In his earlier years, the emperor liked to dabble with alchemy in pursuit of immortality pills. Recently, for some reason, he had thrown away everything he was once fond of.
At that time it seemed like Emperor Xi had realized that these pills weren’t anything good.
Although he had realized it, eating so many pills over the years had left serious medicinal poison within his body. Furthermore, his body had become extremely hollowed out, leaving just an outer husk. Even if he no longer touched the stuff and got treated by imperial physicians for a long time, they could only treat the symptoms but not the cause.
That time he fainted was merely the beginning. From what Imperial Physician Zhou saw based on his pulse, the emperor had at most a couple years left to live.
With this, everything became clear. This was why the emperor executed several imperial physicians in his rage, and also why he had left his health to Imperial Physician Zhou alone.
As for why the emperor decided to cover it up, it wasn’t something that others could guess at. How Senior Concubine Xu found out was also not important. The Jing Prince just knew that he didn’t have much time left.
All along, the Jing Prince had merely thought to do his best to defy fate. Although he worked continuously, he actually didn’t have much confidence in his heart. He knew how big the distance between himself and the Jin Prince was.
Two favored vassal princes and a senior concubine who was favored for several decades. Without even mentioning the emperor’s thoughts, just their foundations were already immeasurable.
But after experiencing the mysterious movements of his unborn child, he suddenly no longer had such thoughts. He wildly wanted to live on. He had to live on, and she had to live on, and then he could hear that baby call him daddy.
It wasn’t his first time being a father, but in his past life the situation with his offspring was extremely dire. Senior Concubine Qiao’s son had been his first son, and he had died when he was very young. He was only a little over three months and the Jing Prince had only held him once. Following which Xiao-Shi’s son also died at a few months of age.
At that time he thought he had been cursed by the heavens. Otherwise why would he be mute and have so much difficulty with his offspring? The women who had lost their sons both cried crazily. He only had this impression because he soon ran from the situation.
When he reappeared once more, the two had already recovered, as though their sadness was merely a flash in the pan. They had recovered, but he was not able to. Although his expression was still apathetic as though made of clay, he had never been able to forget what he had felt.
Heng’er and his two daughters were born but he didn’t pay them any attention. As expected, the children he didn’t pay attention to managed to survive.
He thought that he was truly cursed. Only after dying once did he realize that was complete nonsense. There was no curse, only “demons” causing mischief.
He suddenly missed her a lot. What was she doing at this moment? Was she holding her stomach and smiling?!
Thinking of this, the Jing Prince lay aside the pile of work in front of him and went towards the western pavilion.
Without being madly focused he cannot survive. The Jing Prince is serious enough, intelligent enough, but is still missing a little something.
Need to update regarding the relationship between the two old women. Turns out it was their husbands who were “brothers” under that same family and master. The reason they refer to each other as “sister-in-law” is because in Chinese they follow their spouse’s way of address. So their husband’s sister-in-law is also their sister-in-law. In English, the term in-law can also be used the same way and refer to your spouse’s in-law (according to Wikipedia), but there’s also a term called co-sister-in-law, though that seems less used. In English we usually just refer to each other by name once the relationship gets that far removed…..