Edited and Proofread by KitKat
After he left the last clinic, An Chang Qing almost thought that after his rebirth, he had become overly paranoid and that there was no conspiracy regarding his mother’s death; she really had died of natural causes.
He had been to every renowned clinic in the whole of Yejing but to no avail. An Chang Qing sat in the carriage and pondered. He finally decided to make one last-ditch attempt, “Go to Yong Le Lane.”
Yong Le Lane was a remote area in Yejing and the clinic An Chang Qing sought was situated in the innermost part of an alleyway. This clinic was much smaller than those in the main street and did not even have a name. It was mostly frequented by peasants. From the rumor An Chang Qing had heard, the doctor here had a strange temperament but was highly skillful. Those he had treated had all recovered to the pink of health.
The carriage stopped right at the entrance of Yong Le Lane. The path was narrow with dilapidated houses on both sides. The evening sun was not enough to brighten the place and a moldy smell filled the air.
“Wangfei, the carriage can’t go any further,” Anfu alighted and said with a frown, “Is there really a clinic here?”
Apart from them, everything in this place seemed run-down and impoverished. How could someone earn a living from running a clinic here?
An Chang Qing hesitated but now that they were already here, there were only a few more steps to go, “Let’s just go in and have a look.”
An Chang Qing and Anfu left the carriage and walked deeper into the alleyway. At the end of the road, they saw a house with a red broken door. A piece of cloth was pasted on it with the word ‘clinic’ written in messy handwriting.
It really did not even have a proper name.
Anfu knocked on the door. In the quiet neighborhood, the sound echoed loudly but no one answered. Instead, it was the rusty old door that creaked and opened by itself. Anfu was startled as he turned to look at An Chang Qing.
“Let’s go in and have a look.” An Chang Qing walked past him and entered the clinic.
Inside was a small yard without much gardening. Instead, there were many pots with winter herbs being planted. Beyond the yard was a hall for consulting patients.
An Chang Qing raised his voice and asked, “Is anyone here?”
There was a long silence before a lazy voice from somewhere replied, “Who is it? I’m off today, no consultation.”
An Chang Qing bowed his head and said politely, “It won’t take long. I just need you to take a look at this prescription.”
A middle-aged man with a scruffy beard popped his head out of a small window of the house and said lethargically, “I can take a look but pay up ten silver taels first.”
Anfu was furious, “Even the doctors from De Ren Hall dare not ask for this price!”
“Too expensive for you?” The man grinned, “Then why don’t you just go to De Ren Hall? This is the price I charge all the rich people who come here. Accept it or not is up to you.”
Anfu choked up and stared at him in rage.
An Chang Qing, on the other hand, remained unchanged. He took out ten taels of silver and placed them on the counter together with the prescription, “Sir, please have a look.”
The man turned his head and once he saw An Chang Qing’s face clearly, his eyes lit up. He immediately turned his wheelchair and came out of the house, all the while scanning An Chang Qing rudely.
An Chang Qing frowned and asked patiently, “Sir?”
The man withdrew his sight and took a quick glance at the prescription. He grinned and said, “I don’t want the money but you have to let me draw a portrait of you.”
“Please sir, do not make fun of me,” An Chang Qing was getting uncomfortable. He knew the man was rumored to be eccentric but his request was highly inappropriate.
He was about to refuse but the man continued, “No one has been able to tell you what is wrong with this prescription, am I right?”
An Chang Qing hesitated, “…Yes.”
“Let me draw you and I’ll tell you how to detoxify it,” The man tapped on the table while his eyes were fixed on An Chang Qing’s face.
“Detoxify? There’s really poison in this prescription?” An Chang Qing turned pale with shock.
But the man did not say much, he kept knocking on the table and said, “Portrait.”
An Chang Qing inhaled heavily. Thinking of his mother’s health, he bit his lip and cast aside his pride, “What is your purpose for drawing me?”
“It’s for my collection of course,” he smiled, “I’ve been collecting portraits of beautiful people, and someone as good-looking as yourself is a rarity.”
An Chang Qing looked down and considered. After thinking of how all the other clinics could not find fault with this prescription, he could only bite the bullet and accept: “Tell me what is wrong with this prescription first.”
The man moved his wheelchair closer to An Chang Qing. He sniffed and said, “There’s nothing wrong with this prescription…”
An Chang Qing was about to flip when the man continued, “But if combined with the fragrance of the qian chong jin that’s on your body, it will become poisonous. Where have you been the last three days?”
“Qian chong jin?” An Chang Qing recalled the unknown flowers in Rainbow Garden that were always in bloom even in the winter, “Is the flower lavender in color and has six petals? Its stalk can grow up to two feet tall and blooms all year round?”
“That’s right. Qian chong jin looks like a flower but it’s actually a medicinal herb. There’s an ingredient in this prescription that conflicts with the properties of qian chong jin. The poison only manifests itself when the person who takes this medicine comes in contact with the pollen or inhales the fragrance when the flower is in bloom. This property of qian chong jin is rarely known, ordinary people would not even notice this.”
An Chang Qing thought of the qian chong jin field behind Rainbow Garden that was growing in excellent condition. This herb had been planted all over the An Manor. An Chang Qing had assumed that it was due to An Zhi Ke or Madame Li’s special fondness for the flowers but it turned out that it had been to hide an intent to murder.
But who could it be? Does An Zhi Ke know about this?
An Chang Qing clenched his fingers and tried to calm himself, “Do you have a cure?”
“That goes without saying,” The man said, “But you have to let me draw you first.”
This time, An Chang Qing did not continue to haggle with him. Since the man could spot the problem with the prescription, he would most likely be able to remedy it. Between saving his mother and allowing someone to draw a portrait of him, the choice was obvious.
“Alright.” An Chang Qing agreed, “Where would you like to draw? After drawing, can you come with me for a few days to treat my mother? I’ll be eternally grateful.”
The man waved his hand, “Keep quiet and sit still in the yard.”
“…” An Chang Qing sat on a stool in the courtyard. The man rang a small bell and a boy came to deliver a few painting tools to him. He then sat and drew An Chang Qing with utmost seriousness.
The session lasted almost half an hour. In the open yard, the chilling winter breeze had been blowing and An Chang Qing did not have on his warm clothes. By the time the portrait was done, An Chang Qing had turned white from cold.
As soon as the man put away his brush, Anfu hurriedly gave him a hand warmer. An Chang Qing’s lips trembled as he spoke, “Can you come with me now?”
The man was about to answer when his expression suddenly changed. He turned his wheelchair backward and said, “What’re you doing here?”
This sentence was obviously not addressed to An Chang Qing but he still turned back to find a familiar figure standing at the door.
Xiao Zhige was also surprised to see him. Seeing that his hands had turned purplish due to the cold, he took off the cloak on his back and draped it over An Chang Qing, “Wear more layers when you go out.”
The warmth from Xiao Zhige’s body still lingered on the cloak. An Chang Qing shrunk himself into it, raising the collar over his cheeks, he responded with a soft ‘en’.
The middle-aged man had his mouth wide open. He looked at Xiao Zhige then back at An Chang Qing with eyeballs that were almost dropping off, “You two know each other?”
“An Chang Qing, my Wangfei.”
“Hu Shifei, a military doctor.”
Xiao Zhige briefly introduced them before his eyes landed on the portrait that had yet to be hidden. His eyes squinted and he questioned, “What is this?”
Hu Shifei instantly tried to pull back the painting but he was one step behind. In a flash, Xiao Zhige had gotten his hand on the painting.
Xiao Zhige unfolded the scroll and looked at it carefully. He then turned to Hu Shifei and said coldly, “Oh? You even know how to paint.” His voice was low and anyone familiar with his temperament like Hu Shifei could tell that he was in a bad mood.
But Hu Shifei did not give up, “This is the consultancy fee Wangfei paid me.” He turned to wink at An Chang Qing and with a drastic change in attitude, he spoke politely, “Wangfei, isn’t that right?”
An Chang Qing remained silent while smiling back at him devilishly. He then turned to Xiao Zhige and looked at him with innocent eyes.
Hu Shifei pulled a black face and said, “Then I will not be examining the patient.”
Xiao Zhige carefully put away the painting and glanced at him with a blank expression. He called out, “Tie Hu.”
Through the door came a muscular man like an iron tower. He bowed to Xiao Zhige, ready to receive his orders, “General.”
“Take him away,” Xiao Zhige instructed.
Tie Hu immediately took big strides towards Hu Shifei. He carried his wheelchair with him still sitting in place and walked out, “Doctor Hu, the General has ordered, please bear with it.”
Hu Shifei, “…” Pei!
An Chang Qing was stunned by Xiao Zhige’s dictatorial moves. He asked softly, “Is it alright for you to do that?”
Xiao Zhige reached out to button up his cloak and said, “He owes me a favor.”
After which, he thought briefly and added, “Tell me next time.”
An Chang Qing did not respond right away. After following him a few steps, An Chang Qing finally grasped what he meant: tell him if he needed anything. Thinking back, the man had come here instead of the Wang Manor right after returning from the barracks, it must’ve been to find Hu Shifei in regards to his mother’s illness.
An Chang Qing felt touched and reached out to hold his hand. He looked at him sweetly and said, “Next time, you’ll be the first to know.”