Chapter 173: A threat he'll understand
Emperor Tianhui was filled with anger, but he couldn't lash out at the empress dowager so he directed it towards Gu Beiyue instead.
"Gu Beiyue, it's already been days. The Imperial Physician Courtyard still don't know what this disease is? Can't Zhen even rely on you all? Do you want to quit your position as Head Imperial Physician?"
"Zhen will give you three more days, max. If you still can't contain the plague within that time, don't blame Zhen for being merciless!"
There weren't many ways to cure a pestilence, but at least they could contain its spread. However, no one was even clear on what kind of plague had struck, so they had no way to determine the proper precautions to control it. In this situation, only inhumane methods such as burning the patients to death could be used to contain the pestilence. The imperial court could adopt such measures for its citizens, but that was a different case in the capital, where many noble families lived. For example, the third young master of the Imperial Uncle's family was on his last breath, but a few imperial physicians were still striving to save his life.
The nobility, ministers of state, and generals all held lives on equal standing.
Cruel as it was, this was reality. The gentle, placid Gu Beiyue had spent this time with his eyebrows constantly furrowed. A doctor practiced benevolence and mercy, but he had to make a countless number of ruthless choices. He'd admonished long ago that quarantining the disease was the only option if there was no way to treat it. That level of quarantine didn't just apply to the common citizens, but the imperial family as well! Without exception, all of the sick should be burned!
But Emperor Tianhui had rejected the idea without a second thought. Which member of the imperial family would be willing to follow such arrangements? How many would rise in rebellion if he issued such orders? This time, Gu Beiyue didn't admonish him. He glanced at the empress dowager before speaking earnestly.
"Your Majesty, perhaps this official and the Imperial Physician Courtyard really have no way to control the matter. This official makes bold to recommend you someone instead."
"Is it possible that someone else could cure the plague? Who is it?" Emperor Tianhui was startled.
Gu Beiyue didn't dawdle but spoke directly. "Esteemed wangfei from the Duke of Qin's estate."
At first, Emperor Tianhui gave a start before he laughed coldly. "Han Yunxi? What does she know? She's just a doctor of poisons. Since when did she turn into a miracle doctor as well?"
But Gu Beiyue's face was all earnesty. "Your Majesty, this official just discovered something strange from checking the body. Those who died from the disease revealed poison in their bodies during hypostasis. If I haven't guessed wrongly, this pestilence isn't some ordinary plague, but a poisonous one!"
After the court lady in the empress dowager's palace died, nobody dared to take care of the body. Because the Imperial Physician Courtyard was lacking in manpower, Gu Beiyue was delayed by two hours before arriving on the scene. It was then that he discovered the poisonous state of the corpse. Otherwise, he would've burned it immediately like all the others without ever seeing the peculiarity.
This was the matter Gu Beiyue had just finished telling the empress dowager. His words sent Emperor Tianhui into silence as well. Of course Gu Beiyue knew that Emperor Tianhui dreaded Han Yunxi's existence. But he feigned ignorance as he spoke.
"Judging from this official's experience, there's a 80 to 90 percent possibility that this is a poison pestilence. Esteemed wangfei has superb poison skills, so she'd definitely find a way to analyze and explain it! That court lady's corpse is still waiting in the Imperial Physician Courtyard, perhaps we should invite esteemed wangfei over for a look?"
Emperor Tianhui still remained silent.
This time, the empress dowager spoke up. "Emperor, so many people are waiting to be saved. It's a crucial matter that we shouldn't delay. We should hurry up and call over Qin Wangfei!"
After Princess Changping died and the empress went crazy, the empress dowager thoroughly detested Han Yunxi. But Gu Beiyue had just told her that the third young master of the Imperial Uncle's house could last one more day at most. For the sake of the Imperial Uncle's only son, the empress dowager could temporarily set aside her disagreements with Han Yunxi. As long as even the slightest chance existed, she had to seize it!
Emperor Tianhui's pride naturally couldn't accept this course of events. He'd just given a show of impressive strength against the Duke of Qin's estate, but now he had to beg for their help? His heart was unhappy, but the empress dowager's words were right. This wasn't some minor matter!
Of course, Emperor Tianhui was intelligent enough to coldly reply, "Gu Beiyue, these are your Imperial Physician Courtyard matters. Zhen doesn't care who you ask for help, Zhen just wants information on controlling the epidemic immediately!" If he had Gu Beiyue step out under the imperial physicians' name to invite Han Yunxi, she couldn't be too smug about it!
Gu Beiyue was thrilled. "This official understands and will do so right away!"
Han Yunxi had been in low spirits for days because of Long Feiye's situation. Moreover, due to the pestilence running amok, she didn't leave the house, but spent her days sitting in front of Long Feiye's rooms, deep in thought. She knew that the plague still hadn't been contained up to this day, but she never thought it'd be a poisonous pestilence!
Strictly speaking, a plague was spread by highly infectious viruses, while poisonous pestilence was spread by poisons.
A virus and a poison were fundamentally different things. Viruses caused disease, while poisons poisoned people. To put it more accurately, the people who'd been infected hadn't died from illness, but from poison! Naturally infectious poisons were a rare thing. Neither were manmade versions easy to manufacture. In other words, the probability of a poisonous pestilence breaking out was very low! Han Yunxi thought the entire thing fishy, but Gu Beiyue had already sent people to her door to ask for help. She didn't think much before packing her things and leaving the house. Still, she managed to bump into Steward Xia by the door.
"Esteemed wangfei, where are you going?"
"I'm just going for a bit, I'll be back afterwards," Han Yunxi said simply. She didn't tell anyone that she was heading for the Imperial Physician Courtyard.
"Esteemed wangfei, you mustn't go. It's chaos out there, what if..."
Steward Xia didn't manage to finish before Grand Cocubine Yi strolled over with a cold voice. "Steward Xia, if she wants to die, just let her. It'll be best if she doesn't come back."
After that, she walked off without even sparing Han Yunxi a glance. Grand Concubine Yi had overtaxed her nerves with grief for the Duke of Qin. These days, she looked like a walking corpse. Even Steward Xia thought her words were hurtful, much less Han Yunxi. She didn't say anything, but silently watched Grand Concubine Yi's figure disappear into the gardens before turning around with a smile.
"Steward Xia, leave the gate open for me tonight. I'll definitely come back." She hadn't smiled at all these past days, but right now even her eyes were sparkling with new life.
What's happened to Han Yunxi? Steward Xia gaped at her as she turned and left the estate.
As soon as Gu Beiyue heard Han Yunxi had arrived at the Imperial Physician Courtyard, he hastened over to greet her. "Esteemed wangfei, this official knew you would come."
"You were that certain," Han Yunxi smiled. She immediately got the details of the situation before they both did some preventative safeguards and entered the mortuary. Han Yunxi silently admired the doctors of the past. They didn't have advanced safeguards to prevent disease and knew it was infectious, but were still the first ones on the scene to see patients and dead bodies. Her detox system started giving alarms as soon as she approached the body. Naturally, Han Yunxi stopped walking to focus on the corpse. After seeing Han Yunxi check and treat poisons so many times, Gu Beiyue was long used to her unique style of investigation. He quietly waited on one side.
Still, he was caught unawares when Han Yunxi quickly came up with an answer in her bright, clear voice. "It's poison pestis."
"Poison pestis?" Gu Beiyue was alarmed. The pestis, which caused plague, was the most horrific form of pestilence. Naturally, he was acquainted with its effects. However, the infected victims here had all displayed completely different symptoms from victims of plague, so what exactly was poison pestis?
Something even more horrific?
"Yes, it's poison pestis. The plague and poison pestis are spread the same way in the beginning, via fleas from rats." Han Yunxi was all professionalism as she secretly rejoiced. This was poison pestis, not the plague.
The plague was spread through fleas to begin with, but after that the virus could be shared in a variety of ways. Even a sneeze was enough to infect another person. Under the treatment conditions of the past, such things were quite horrific. If it wasn't contained at once, it'd be extremely difficult to control the spread. Historically speaking, humankind had started uprisings precisely because of the plague, causing the fall of entire countries. Similar cases had occurred in the late Ming and Yuan Dynasties with large-scale plagues. However, if it was poison pestis, the disease could only be spread with a single method: the fleas themselves.
The fleas that carried the disease drank poisoned blood and were poisoned themselves. In other words, as long as one controlled the fleas and killed them off, the disease could be contained.
Infection through fleas?
Gu Beiyue understood the principle, but he wasn't an idiot and hastened to clarify. "So all we need to do is kill off the fleas carrying the disease? Or so to say, without the fleas, one person wouldn't be able to spread it to another?"
"Smart!" Han Yunxi grinned.
"Then the people can be saved!" Gu Beiyue rejoiced as he rushed out of the mortuary to issue commands. "Someone, send down an order and stop the plan to burn everything! Call together all the imperial physicians and officials in charge of managing the epidemic for a meeting!"
Han Yunxi's heart warmed at the sight of Gu Beiyue so happy and excited.
"Esteemed wangfei, you can definitely detoxify the poison from poison pestis, right? Leaving aside those in the countryside, we have hundreds of people awaiting treatment in the capital," Gu Beiyue said. Han Yunxi was about to reply when Gu Beiyue spoke again. "Esteemed wangfei, the most critical case is the Imperial Uncle's third young master. The day before yesterday, the empress dowager went to have a look. I estimate that he won't be able to last past tomorrow."
Han Yunxi felt a touch of doubt in her heart at Gu Beiyue's words. Why did she feel like he was trying to emphasize this fact?
"Imperial Physician Gu, are...are you trying to give me a hint?" Han Yunxi sounded him out.
A crafty gleam flitted past Gu Beiyue's eyes, but he adopted an expression of confusion. "What...does esteemed wangfei mean by your words?"
Seeing this, Han Yunxi assumed she'd thought too much of things. "Nothing in particular," she grinned. "Of course I can detoxify the poison pestis, but I'll need to discuss the prescription with His Highness Duke of Qin before I'm sure. That's right, eliminating the fleas won't bring the epidemic under permanent control. Only by circulating the antidote can we prevent every possibility!"
You could call Han Yunxi out for looting a burning house, or just being plain selfish, but as soon as Gu Beiyue sent men to find her at the estate, she knew the hope to save Long Feiye had come! If they couldn't control the plague in the capital, it'd definitely cause unrest. Even the politics of the country would be affected. With so many ill, the emperor and empress dowager were probably anxious to save them as well. Leaving all that aside, the third young master of the Imperial Uncle's house was a precious treasure in the palm of the empress dowager's hand! Gu Beiyue's eyes glimmered in even more amusement. Unfortunately, Han Yunxi didn't notice.
"Esteemed wangfei, could it be that only His Highness knows the formula for the poison pestis prescription?" Gu Beiyue asked.
"It's a secret!" Han Yunxi said cheerfully. "Imperial Physician Gu, bring my words to the emperor. He'll understand."
Long Feiye, you saved me with the command seal. Today I, Han Yunxi, shall threaten the emperor himself for your sake!
When she finished speaking, Han Yunxi took a seat. She'd wait right here!
 hypostasis () - shiban, or livor mortis, the discoloration of the skin due to the pooling of blood in the dependent parts of the body following death. Blood pools because the heart can no longer circulate the blood.
 pestis () - also known as Yersinia pestis, an organism that infects humans via the oriental rat flea to cause mainly pneumonic, septicemic, or bubonic plagues.