Fan Xian cleared his throat and walked forward. He sat down on the round stool provided by the maidservant and stroked his beard like a legitimate doctor. As it turned out, the newly glued-on beard wasn’t very secure, so he almost pulled it off. Giving up on the stroking, he said, "My Lady, please show me your hand."
Lady Lin lay in bed; her silhouette showed faintly behind the veil. As the doctor instructed, she slowly reached out her left arm and rested her wrist on a soft arm pillow. This pillow seemed to be a common item here; the royal doctors must visit her often.
Fan Xian’s heart skipped a beat when he saw her pale arm. He thought about how if that wrist’s owner became his wife, he’d be able to caress it every day thereafter. It was a very pleasing thought… Putting his mind back on track, he put a finger on Lady Lin’s wrist. For some reason, both trembled at that first touch.
Ye Ling’er didn’t want to interrupt the doctor from taking her pulse, so she looked at Fei Jie’s student in wonder. When she saw that he was using only one finger, just like the legendary Fei Jie did, she became much more trusting. There was no way she would know that Fan Xian had studied the healing arts, but only for a year. He could not match a legitimate royal doctor. His only strong point was his usage of medicine and the knowledge he had from his past life. He decided to take her pulse in order to intimidate the others and to set his image as a miracle doctor.
The feeling of smooth skin under his finger was a more or less strange sensation for him, and for a moment he didn’t want to let go. He said gloomily, "The Lady’s pulse is a bit weak, but there is plenty of dryness, like fire intermixing into fine filaments. This is a bit complicated."
"May I see the Lady’s face, to make a better diagnosis?"
"Absolutely not!" The head maidservant refused the suggestion without a second thought. While Qing customs were relatively open-minded, the one lying in bed was still the adopted daughter of the emperor. Because of her special identity, not even the royal doctors could view her face, let alone this random doctor who had come from out of nowhere.
Fan Xian was a bit disappointed. He asked, "I hear the royal doctors diagnosed it as fatigue of the lungs?"
"Yes." It was still the head maidservant who answered him. Lady Lin appeared to be lacking in strength, as she didn’t say a word.
Fan Xian thought about it for a moment and felt fairly confident. This "fatigue of the lungs" was none other than the tuberculosis found in his previous life. Although he didn’t bring with him an emergency medicine kit, there were still many ways to treat it, so he continued questioning: "Does the Lady often feel tired? Frequent coughs?"
"Is she gradually losing weight?"
"Frequent hot flashes?"
Fan Xian was getting irritated; this head maidservant kept cutting him off. Rolling his eyes, he asked, "Does she sweat a lot?"
"Yes." The head maidservant still tried to interrupt him.
This time Fan Xian pretended not to hear. He touched Lady Lin’s soft palm and discovered it was slightly moist. Lady Lin wasn’t expecting a doctor from outside the palace to be so bold and withdrew her hand in haste—but Fan Xian was quick and the other three ladies didn’t catch him.
Fan Xian frowned. "No coughing up blood?"
"She’s starting to. She got better at the beginning of spring, but a few days ago it started again." Noting the young doctor’s accuracy, the head maidservant stopped taking him lightly and answered with a hint of desperation and hope.
"I see," Fan Xian said after some silence, "Her Ladyship really does suffer from fatigue of the lung."
Hearing him say something they already knew after all that, the head maidservant bit at her bottom lip and resisted the urge to kick him out. Ye Ling’er stared at him menacingly. Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Fan Xian lowered his head.
He didn’t dwell on it for long, however, and walked over to the desk. Picking up a brush, he started to write a prescription. The head maidservant read it over and discovered it was still the tonic made from lilies, except with two extra doses of beautyberry, gardenia ash, and one extra dose of skullcap. She frowned and asked, "The skullcap is bitter-cold. It suppresses fire and strengthens yin energy, but it also hurts the harmonious qi. Can it really be used here?"
Having been around an ill person for so long, this maidservant had picked up a lot from the different doctors over the years. She couldn’t be more familiar with the prescriptions. Fan Xian looked at her, somewhat impressed. He then explained, "If the patient has a sturdy constitution, there shouldn’t be any problems. We first hit the ailment with something strong, and then we can proceed slowly from there."
The head maidservant looked at Fan Xian crossly and said with some anger, "The Lady has fatigue of the lungs and her body is weak; how can she withstand that?"
Fan Xian chuckled; he did not get angry. He said, "Since she has already begun to cough up blood, it’s a sign that the disease is moving on to advanced stages. Therefore, we must first strengthen her body before giving her medicine."
"Give her medicine or strengthen her body; which one is it exactly?" Ye Ling’er was already getting confused.
Fan Xian cleared his throat, "From now on, have her Ladyship drink a bowl of goat’s milk every day. Make sure it’s fresh." He had heard of this remedy in his past live. It happened to actually be effective. He then asked, "How is the Lady’s diet?"
The head maidservant was still thinking about goat’s milk. Hearing Fan Xian’s question, she answered proudly, "Light congee and small-portioned vegetables daily. She doesn’t consume any meat."
Now Fan Xian really got angry. She was already so sick. How could they do this? Preventing a frail girl from eating well absolutely would not pass! Only after noticing his younger sister and Ye Ling’er eyeing him strangely did he realize his anger was unreasonable. Given Lady Lin’s status, no one would suspect her diet as the problem. Laughing at himself, he asked, "Why is that?"
The three ladies stared at him like he was an idiot. Those with fatigue of the lungs should avoid all forms of meat; everyone should know that.
Regardless, it wasn’t part of Fan Xian’s education, so he insisted. "The Lady must eat well. Don’t leave out the oils and meats anymore. The goat’s milk is a must. Overall, her food must be diverse. If she can’t handle too much at the moment, give her a steamed mixture of barley and mountain yam. Then break apart some dried persimmons and mix that in as well. After a month, we can move on to my prescription."
As he said that, everyone else in the room frowned; they didn’t dare to listen to him.
At that moment, the old nanny who had stopped the three of them earlier came in. For some reason, she looked as if she had just done something physically demanding. Supporting her waist, she said in a weak voice, "Why have you come in?" The head maidservant welcomed her with a smile and explained, "This is the doctor brought in by Miss Ye. The Lady agreed to let him take a look." The old nanny was a bit unhappy, "The royal doctors come once every two days. What’s so special about this doctor?"
The head maidservant laughed, "Special, as you say. He ordered us to have the Lady dine on delicacies every day."
Hearing this, the old nanny shook her head and said they must not do that. What were they going to do if the Lady’s condition worsened? After a few more things to say, she excused herself from the room. An idea flashed in Fan Xian’s mind. He told the maidservant, "That prescription must be used along with the diet I suggested, or else it won’t work."
The maidservant still wouldn’t listen to him, which made Fan Xian quite angry. He thought, "If I really end up bedding your Lady in the future, I’ll have you prepare the bed!" He said casually, "I have with me some premade pills. Have her take them for now; if she shows improvement, then will you believe me?"
"Your pills might be effective, but she must not eat any meat." This maidservant refused to give in.
At this point, Fan Xian was clenching his jaws in anger; he didn’t know what to do.
When he coughed up blood, so did she; when he clenched his jaws in anger, she did the same. That frail, bedridden girl, hearing the doctor’s voice behind the veil, had already begun panicking. His voice sounded so familiar. It was, without a doubt, the voice of that young man she had met in the temple. Although she didn’t know why he had come to her home or how he became master Fei’s student, but still…
Lady Lin’s hands gripped the corners of her blanket tightly and her cute teeth gently bit at her bottom lip. She was very excited. A shade of unhealthy but pretty red dyed her cheeks. What should she do? Even though that person was just behind the veil, she had no idea how to get a look at him.
The conversation behind the veil seemed to have concluded, and the owner of the voice was getting ready to leave. The girl finally couldn’t take it anymore. She propped herself up and, with all her strength, uttered in a voice which was as loud as a mosquito’s buzz:
Hearing the voice, the people outside had different reactions. The maidservant walked over first, quietly asking what was wrong; Ye Ling’er showed her concern; and Ruoruo was thinking that her brother had disguised himself to see Lady Lin, but wasn’t able to see her, so she wanted to see his expression. She didn’t expect it would be a stupefied one.
Fan Xian stopped in his tracks upon hearing the voice. He stared dumbfounded at the bed, as if wanting to stare right through the veil. At the temple, he had heard the voice of that girl in white, especially that sentence, only that one sentence: "Who… are you?"
Those three words at the temple imprinted themselves deeply in Fan Xian’s mind. He would never forget them.
Fan Xian immediately knew who was behind the veil, and a sudden urge of happiness flooded his brain, making him temporarily numb. After this initial shock, he remembered that one song by Huan Lixing: "The sound waves are too strong, if you don’t sway, you’ll hit the ground…" He started to sway a bit. However, he immediately came back to his senses and forcefully checked his impulse to rip open that veil.
"My Lady, what’s the matter?" The maidservant asked quietly. Ye Ling’er also came over, "Chenchen, lay back down. Why did you get up?"
"This… This doctor, what he said… I think there’s some sense to it." The girl behind the veil seemed to be trying to find excuses, "… If he could see my face, perhaps… Perhaps the doctor could be more certain."
Despite hearing the Lady’s own words, the maidservant still remembered the rules, so she looked at Ye Ling’er for help. Ye Ling’er had begun to suspect Fan Xian’s abilities by now, and offered a few words. But she couldn’t refuse in the end. Lady Lin insisted. She knew her days were numbered, and therefore wouldn’t give up on the slightest ray of hope—Ye Ling’er sighed and parted the veil.
At that very moment, the despicable old nanny came up for the third time. Seeing what was about to happen, she went to drag Fan Xian away. Enraged, Fan Xian thought, "How troublesome can you be?" He threw her a gaze like an angry god of thunder. The old nanny suddenly put her hands to her stomach and ran out.
Fan Ruoruo knew her brother couldn’t harm people with his gaze; the laxative seemed to still be working. Ruoruo covered her laughter with her hand while a smile showed on Fan Xian’s lips. Ruoruo looked at the slowly parting veil, waiting for the moment.
After the veil had been lifted, in the blankets was a beautiful girl with pale skin and clear eyes. Despite being seen by several people, she acted like she was alone and directed her gaze at one spot.
Fan Xian’s gaze was filled with joy, but Lady Lin’s was… filled with disappointment! Fan Xian immediately realized he was still in disguise. His fiancée had only seen him once before, of course she wouldn’t recognize him.
The maidservant supported Lady Lin to a seating position. Seeing this strange young doctor, Lady Lin found it difficult to hide her dismay. But she frowned as if remembering something, as if discovering something from this young doctor’s joyous gaze.
Ye Ling’er suddenly became annoyed by the gaze from Fei Jie’s student. "What are you doing just standing there?"
Fan Xian walked forward with a smile. He carefully looked over that beautiful face which he had retained in his memory for several days. Seeing her unhealthy color, he was filled with extreme pity. He said in a soft voice, "You must eat according to what I just said, understand?"
Hearing that voice again, and pairing it with a completely different face, Lady Lin became a bit dizzy. Putting her arm on the bed for support, she said weakly, "Sorry to trouble you."
As they left Lady Lin’s room, Lady Lin respectfully thanked the young doctor and Lady Fan. She knew this Lady Fan would likely become her "sister-in-law" in the future, so there was some unavoidable awkwardness. She then looked at the young doctor and her heart became agitated. It was his voice, but why wasn’t it him?
Seeing the young doctor about to exit, Lady Lin started to panic. But there was nothing she could do. Given her status as one of the ruling class, insisting on seeing the doctor was already a bold move. She couldn’t possibly afford to chase after him and ask "Didn’t you go to the temple a few days ago? Didn’t you see a girl dressed in white? Do you still remember the chicken drumstick?"
——Oh well. It’s not him, it just sounded like him. Seems I’ve been sleeping too much these past few days and hanging onto his voice too much. I almost lost control of my senses.
At this crucial moment, Fan Xian stopped abruptly at the door. He turned around with a weird smile and said, "You must drink goat’s milk and eat meat. If you’re really hungry, eat some chicken legs."
Lady Lin’s eyes lit up. "But my stomach hasn’t been feeling great recently. I often feel nauseous."
"That’s nothing. You’ll get used to it." Upon discovering his future wife was smart, Fan Xian was overjoyed. "You could get some fresh air during the day, but at night you must remember to… close your windows."
Both Ye Ling’er and the maidservant thought something must be wrong with the doctor’s head for saying such things.
On the carriage ride back to Fan Manor, there were no outsiders, only a grinning Fan Xian and a laughing Fan Ruoruo beside him. Seeing her brother holding back the urge to burst out laughing, she said, "Go ahead and laugh. Why hold it in?" As soon as she said that, the sound of laughter came flooding out of the carriage. It was so loud it startled the people passing by, as well as Teng Zijing who was leading in front.
"Such a coincidence." Seeing her brother happy, Fan Ruoruo couldn’t help but be happy for him. "Who would have thought Lady Lin really was the girl you met at the temple."
"Coincidence indeed." Fan Xian scratched his itching eyebrows. "Stop calling her ‘Lady Lin’. From now on, she’s your sister-in-law; call her ‘sister’."
Fan Ruoruo mocked him, "Your marriage is still ten months away. Isn’t it too early to call her that? Besides, you know the prime minister and the eldest princess don’t like you very much. And didn’t you consider avoiding this marriage?"
Fan Xian smiled in embarrassment, "That was back then. Now I have to marry that girl. Forget about the prime minister and eldest princess. I wouldn’t care even if that Commander of Defense returns to the capital."
Suddenly, Fan Ruoruo became curious, "I too saw Lady… sister Lin for the first time today." She couldn’t hold back her laughter. "She does look pretty, but she’s not as beautiful as you described last time."
Fan Xian was surprised and asked in a serious tone, "You don’t think she’s divinely beautiful?"
Fan Ruoruo answered frankly, "Nope."
Fan Xian thought about it for a bit, still shocked. After a while he said, "Could this be what they call… Xi Shi is only beautiful to those who love her?"
"I can more or less understand what that means, but who is this Xi Shi?" Fan Ruoruo was always eager to learn.
Presently, Fan Xian’s mind was filled with Lady Lin; he had already forgotten his usual conduct as his sister’s mentor. He replied stupidly, "Xi Shi is a girl who sells tofu in Danzhou. She’s very beautiful. She’s very fair-skinned."
"Liar." Fan Ruoruo was a bit unhappy. She found that ever since her brother discovered his future wife was the one he set his eyes on, he wasn’t quite himself.
Fan Xian reassured her, "I didn’t lie to you. When you were still little I snuck out with you to go to the market. Back then she sold tofu there. You were too young to remember."
Fan Ruoruo half-believed him.
Thinking back on the day’s events, Fan Xian felt incredibly grateful. "This isn’t just traveling between worlds; this is a romance novel."
Lady Lin’s first name was Wan’er, and her nickname was Yi Chen. She grew up in the palace and didn’t have many friends. Her background was a bit absurd. Although she knew her father was the current prime minister, she didn’t have many chances to see him. On the contrary, she was closer to her uncle, especially since four years ago, when her uncle arranged this marriage and her mother was revoked of the authority to control her. In doing so, she had some relaxing days. However, such days did prove lonely, and Ye Ling’er often played with her older friends over at Dingzhou. Even though they were all in the capital, it wasn’t convenient for them to enter the palace. Lady Lin never had a person with whom she could converse personally.
Earlier this year, her uncle exposed his relation with her father for no apparent reason. At the time, she thought her uncle wanted to give her father a tough time and force him to resign. But she couldn’t have been more wrong. On the contrary, the marriage from four years ago resurfaced.
His name was Fan Xian. He was Minister Fan’s illegitimate son from Danzhou? A smile crept across Lin Wan’er’s mouth. He too had lived an uneasy life, separated from his parents at a young age. But why must she marry him? Was her background that disgraceful she could only be randomly arranged to Fan… Xian?
She didn’t know what Fan Xian looked like.
Lin Wan’er couldn’t help but think about that doctor during the day. Hiding her laughter with her hand, she thought he sure was fun. Using such a method to sneak onto royal property, where security was tighter than tight. She couldn’t figure out how he managed that—pretending to be master Fei’s student? His boldness knew no bounds—but she then thought about how he came with Lady Fan. "Does he have some connection with the Fan family? Then he must know about my marriage with that Young Master Fan… My goodness! If he knew, why did he come to see me? Why did he say all that?"
She blushed, as beautiful as the clouds during sunset. The maidservant who was fixing the bed was transfixed by her. Snickering, she asked, "My Lady, did you think of something happy again? You keep smiling for no reason these days."
Lin Wan’er felt a bit pressured, so she retorted, "What, can I not smile now?" The maidservant stuck out her tongue and slowly walked over to the window to close it. It was late, already past bedtime. Lin Wan’er thought about the last thing the youth said before he left. She said quietly, "Go get some incense." The maidservant wondered for a moment, since there was still some incense left, but ultimately did not question it and went downstairs.
Lin Wan’er made her way towards the window, resting her slender fingers on the small wooden lattice work, thinking, "Should I close it or not?" Remembering her illness and also the fact that she had already been given to the stranger named Fan Xian made her heart ache. She gathered some strength into her fingers and tightly shut the windows.