Chapter 340: The disappointing final conclusion
Poor Zhu Zhengyang!
The empress dowager's 'bucket of blood' made his legs go soft. Now he bitterly regretted agreeing to Imperial Physician Lin's request to wait on this revered ancestor. Actually, he was about 90 percent certain that the empress dowager wasn't poisoned, but the last ten percent was something he didn't dare to believe in himself. His years of detoxification experience taught him that the empress dowager's symptoms were very akin to poison, but he couldn't find any sign of it in her blood. There were two possibilities, then: either she wasn't poisoned, or he couldn't find the poison himself.
Although Zhu Zhengyang knew nothing of palace politics, he understood enough to protect himself. With the empress dowager acting like this, there was no way he'd express his views on that last ten percent even if she beat him to death.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, both your pulse and your blood shows that you haven't been poisoned!" Zhu Zhengyang was so frightened that his 'may not be' turned into a definite denial. The empress dowager was so angry that her head felt like it was burning up. All of her attention was focused on the words 'haven't been poisoned.' How could she pay attention to anything else? If she wasn't poisoned, how was she supposed to deal with Han Yunxi? It would mean she'd did all this for nothing!
"Impossible, it has to be poison! If not, then what else could it be? Explain yourself!" the empress dowager raged.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, this commoner will state it plainly. Your ailment could very possibly be related to that Medicine Fan." Zhu Zhengyang was extremely tactful with his words. He still possessed enough professional ethics to speak the truth. The current situation showed that it was more like the Medicine Fan itself was poisoned.
At this, the empress dowager was overjoyed. "Zhu Zhengyang, do you mean to say that there's poison on the Medicine Fan?" If that was the cause, Han Yunxi would be even more at fault!
Her joy terrified Zhu Zhengyang to no end. He replied truthfully, "Esteemed Empress Dowager, the possibility exists, but this commoner will need to examine that fan."
The empress dowager generously had Xu mama hand over the fan. Zhu Zhengyang silently marveled over the item because carefully examining its handle, tassel, surface, and various embroidered silks.
"How is it?" the empress dowager was expectant.
Zhu Zhengyang raised his head. He wanted to cry, but he had no tears. "There's...there's no, no poison."
Immediately, the empress dowager's expression darkened. "Someone come, drag this quack out of the palace and give him 50 canings! Then chase him out!"
Zhu Zhengyang had spoken nothing but the truth. Now he fell to his knees in terror and cried, "Esteemed Empress Dowager, have mercy! Have mercy, ah!"
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, this commoner has already tried his best! Esteemed Empress Dowager, please have mercy on me on behalf of Imperial Physician Lin!"
After 50 canings, he'd be paralyzed, if not outright dead!
The empress dowager felt unwell all over. She took the Medicine Fan and furiously fanned herself without giving a second glance to Zhu Zhengyang.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager! Have mercy! Have mercy, ah..." Zhu Zhengyang kept shooting Imperial Physician Lin looks, but the latter was hard pressed to preserve his own life now, much less speak up in his defense. The empress dowager kept fanning herself, irritable to the max.
Before Zhu Zhengyang could be dragged out the door, he suddenly shouted, "Esteemed Empress Dowager, this commoner knows what's going on. Esteemed Empress Dowager, I beg you to give this commoner one more chance! The problem is with the Medicine Fan!"
The empress dowager finally spared him a glance. After a pause, she indicated the eunuchs should let him go. Zhu Zhengyang scrambled to his feet and said, "Esteemed Empress Dowager, this commoner didn't make a mistake. You haven't been poisoned, and neither is the Medicine Fan poisoned..." The empress dowager's eyes narrowed at that before Zhu Zhengyang quickly added, "Esteemed Empress Dowager, did the person who give you the Medicine Fan tell you that it shouldn't be used carelessly?"
What was this about?
The empress dowager had always known that the Medicine Fan was a type of medicine that couldn't be used casually. Even Han Yunxi had mentioned this when she came to take Gu Beiyue away. She even asked about her medication history and played her for a fool!
"What do you mean by using it carelessly? Speak clearly!" the empress dowager grew serious. She had seen another strand of hope. If the problem came from the medicine, then Han Yunxi would still be at fault. But Zhu Zhengyang's answer was beyond her expectations.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, the Medicine Fan is a type of medicine as well, so it'd naturally have adverse effects. Everyone's constitution is different, so they'll get different negative reactions from taking medicine. As this commoner sees it, it's very possible that your body is unsuited for the Medicine Fan. The itchy scalp may be a side effect from using it." Zhu Zhengyang had just thought of this possibility. If none of the imperial physicians could tell what was wrong, and he himself hadn't found any traces of poison, then the possibility for illness or poisoning was low. In contrast, the Medicine Fan grew more suspect.
The empress dowager was about to speak when her neck suddenly started itching. Soon enough, her scalp followed as well. She scratched herself while recalling all the abnormal itching her body had felt over the past few days. Truthfully speaking, it had all began on the day she got the Medicine Fan.
Is that it?
"Aside from scalp itching, are there other negative side effects?" the empress dowager asked urgently. She hated Han Yunxi utterly, but now she was more worried about herself.
"This...this commoner doesn't understand pharmacology. I ask that Esteemed Empress Dowager forgive me." Zhu Zhengyang had come to treat poisons, not illnesses.
"Imperial Physician Lin, you tell me!" the empress dowager exclaimed urgently. She couldn't even be bothered to frame Han Yunxi now. If there really were negative side effects, how was she supposed to use the Medicine Fan in the future? Nothing was more important than this item!
"To reply Esteemed Empress Dowager, there are negative effects to taking any medicine, but..." Imperial Physician Lin could only stammer. He wasn't familiar with the Medicine Fan at all, so how was he supposed to answer?
"Still not talking?" the empress dowager asked impatiently.
"But it's just that this official is useless. This official isn't clear on the negative effects of the Medicine Fan either," Imperial Physician Lin could only tell the truth.
"A bunch of useless fools! Useless!" Furious, the empress dowager realized she hadn't gotten any answers out of this pair at all. "Someone come, take them out and give them 50 canings each!"
Both Imperial Physician Lin and Zhu Zhengyang broke into piteous wails for mercy, but the empress dowager didn't give them another chance. "Who understands pharmacology the best in the Imperial Physician Courtyard?" the empress dowager demanded.
Naturally, the one with the best understanding and skills would be Gu Beiyue, but all of the eunuchs and mama knew that Qin Wangfei had taken him away. Who would dare bring him up now?
Finally, Xu mama stepped forward and said, "Esteemed Empress Dowager, Imperial Physician Huang has consummate medical skills and knowledge of pharmacology. He's almost on par with the Head Imperial Physician."
"Then hurry up and call him here!" the empress dowager said unhappily. She knew about Gu Beiyue's current situation as well.
Imperial Physician Huang arrived quickly in his imperial physician court robes. He was reserved and sober, but neither haughty nor humble. Moreover, he was approaching 50 years old, so he possessed a hefty doctor's air. After asking a few questions, Imperial Physician Huang revealed his diagnosis.
"The Medicine Fan is indeed something that can't be used carelessly. Forgive this official for his words, but your body isn't suited for such a fan."
The empress dowager suffered a heavy blow at these words! What did it mean when people say suffering followed happiness? After getting a single night's good sleep, she'd suffered severe insomnia in the following days. After getting the Medicine Fan, she realized she couldn't even use it. If that was the case, she might as well have never gotten it at all!
"No..." the empress dowager kept shaking her head as she asked urgently, "Imperial Physician Huang, why did I sleep so well the first time, then?"
"It's the same principle as taking any medicine. The negative side effects won't show up immediately, but increase in intensity over time. Esteemed Empress Dowager, your second outbreak of itchy scalp wasn't as severe as the third time, correct?" Imperial Physician Huang asked seriously.
The empress dowager nodded thoughtfully.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, do you feel itchy on your body occasionally when holding this fan in the daytime? Although the itch can't be compared to your scalp itching?"
This time, the empress dowager instantly nodded her head. "Yes. My hand's itching this instant!"
Imperial Physician Huang had a solemn expression on his face. "Then that's it. Esteemed Empress Dowager, the Medicine Fan was used to put you to sleep, so its negative effects were more pronounced at night. During the day, you only felt occasionally itchy because the symptoms were more mild."
Imperial Physician Huang's description exactly matched the empress dowager's plight. She was hard-pressed to do anything but believe his words. Her face grew worried. "These...these negative side effects, will they get worse?"
Imperial Physician Huang stroked his beard, his face imposing and dignified. "Yes."
The empress dowager turned agitated. "Then what should I do, Imperial Physician Huang?"
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, your symptoms are rather severe for a negative side effect. You know that there's only one solution for these types of situations..." He didn't finish, but the empress dowager already knew what he was going to say. She had to stop using the medicine.
She leaned back heavily, her entire body listless. She had given tremendous effort to obtain this Medicine Fan, but now she couldn't even use it!
How was she supposed to accept that?!
After blanking out for a while, she slowly shook her head. "No, it's impossible. Imperial Physician Huang, are you sure I haven't been poisoned? Perhaps the Medicine Fan was poisoned by someone else?"
Faced with the agitated empress dowager, Imperial Physician Huang was nothing but serious. "To reply Esteemed Empress Dowager, this official isn't familiar with poisons. However, the possibility of poisoning is low. Esteemed Empress Dowager may ask the poison doctors of the Imperial Physician Courtyard to have a look.
The poisons doctors of the Imperial Physician Courtyard paled in comparison to the likes of Zhu Zhengyang, so it'd be a waste of time for the empress dowager to consult them. "Imperial Physician Huang, is there no other way to relieve the negative effects beyond stopping the medicine?"
Imperial Physician Huang shook his head. "None."
The empress dowager despaired. She sat dejected for awhile until her eyes grew dark, and didn't speak for a long time. How could she accept the truth? The thing she'd waited for years and thought over endlessly, the same object she'd accepted with so much joy, was now nothing but wasted efforts! What was she supposed to do now? Hide the Medicine Fan away and stay awake throughout the nights? She could try to find ways to fix the problem if it was something different, but this was her own body's fault! Her high and mighty self finally understood what it meant to feel helpless.
A long time later, the empress dowager finally spoke. "Imperial Physician Huang, you mustn't tell any..."
The intelligent Imperial Physician Huang was quick to catch on. "This official understands. This official knows nothing of what happened today. I ask that empress dowager quickly keep your distance from the Medicine Fan before the negative side effects worsen."
Finally, the empress dowager weakly waved a hand to indicate he could withdraw. Even if she couldn't cause trouble for Han Yunxi, there was no way she'd let that girl find out the truth. Otherwise, she'd laugh her to death! In the silence of the room, none of the servants dared to speak. The empress dowager simply stared blankly at the Medicine Fan in her hands...