The Tyrant’s Cannon Fodder Male Empress Chapter 81

Chapter 81

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A group of frail patients, most of whom were knocked out by Fourth Zhang, lay scattered on the ground in disarray.

Those who hadn’t fainted struggled to get up, their eyes wide open, crawling towards the gate.

Some people’s faces and lips showed signs of cyanosis, their conjunctivas congested and red, resembling eerie ghosts crawling out of the abyss, sending chills down one’s spine.

The Crown Prince, sword in hand, witnessed this dreadful hellish scene.

“Your Highness, you can’t stay here, quickly go back!” Xue Yao took off his blood-stained protective coat, urging the Crown Prince to leave the quarantine area.

The Crown Prince turned back, looking at Xue Yao in astonishment. “Are these all common people infected with the plague? How many people in this county are actually infected?”

Xue Yao gestured for him to step aside and walked out of the enclosure, distancing himself from the infected area. He removed his mask and gloves, reporting to the Crown Prince, “The surviving infected individuals are mostly in this valley. As for the others, I’ve explained in the letter — due to the rapid spread and high mortality of this malignant plague, most of the infected have died before they could receive treatment.

“Currently, according to the government’s rough estimate, the death toll in the entire county is approximately over four thousand. Before isolation, the daily number of infections exceeded two hundred. After implementing isolation measures, the daily infection rate has now approached zero.”

The Crown Prince asked hesitantly, “Why didn’t you let me see blood just now? Does this plague spread through blood?”

Xue Yao patiently explained, “The plague can be broadly categorized into two types. I’ve divided the patients into two zones. This zone is for relatively mild cases of glandular plague, known among the common people as the lump disease. Its transmission is similar to malaria, primarily spread through insect and rodent bites. Once the treatment proves ineffective and the illness persists, the plague may spread to the lungs through the bloodstream, transforming into pulmonary plague.

“In another section, reserved for pulmonary plague patients, there are those known as the “exchanged glances and get infected” cases. The air they exhale carries the plague, and once infected, most perish within three days. Severe cases experience bleeding from all seven orifices during the onset, with the blood carrying the plague. Those who come in contact with the blood are also at risk of infection.”

Despite the chilling nature of these words, Xue Yao calmly spoke them.

The Crown Prince turned to look at the patients inside the enclosure, their faces purplish and eyes bloodshot, then turned back to ask Xue Yao. “For the past two months, have you been with these people every day? What if you also contract the plague?”

“I wear protective clothing for my body and face every day for prevention. When I return, I soak them in plague-disinfectant water…”

“What if?” The Crown Prince stared at Xue Yao in disbelief. “It’s come to this point. ‘Exchanged glances and get infected’ isn’t just a saying! What if you also contract the plague? Perish within three days? Why don’t you let go and return to the capital?”

“This is Your Highness’ experimental county for the new reform…”

“This is my business! You don’t need to be responsible.”

Xue Yao was startled by the Crown Prince’s outburst. He turned his head blankly to glance at those ghastly patients inside the enclosure.

He turned back to the Crown Prince, his expression helpless as he spoke, “If I let go and abandon them, what will happen to them? Should I let the people in the entire county, even the neighboring counties, turn into this? I might be able to save them, at the cost of just one life. Perhaps it could save hundreds of thousands of lives. Do you think I can just let go? If I let go, and these hundreds of thousands of common people all die, will I be able to sleep peacefully in the future?”

A moment of silence followed.

The Crown Prince looked at the slender youth before him, nodded slowly, and sighed softly. “A true patriot and hero. Xue Yao, you truly stand out.”

Xue Yao hastily nodded, “Your Highness, your words are too kind.”

After speaking, he turned to glance behind the Crown Prince, not seeing the Imperial Guards but only five imperial physicians who had just arrived on horse-drawn carriages.

“You didn’t bring anyone else with you?”

The Crown Prince, with a lowered gaze, helplessly said, “Father Emperor only allowed sending physicians and prohibited military intervention. I slipped out of the capital under the pretext of handling granary matters, hoping to see if I could be of any assistance.”

Xue Yao’s heart sank instantly.

No wonder the Crown Prince, who never broke his word, took so long to arrive. It turned out the Emperor insisted on not sending troops and insisted on having physicians control the epidemic.

“It’s alright.” Seeing the Crown Prince looking ashamed, Xue Yao could only smile reassuringly. “Now that the epidemic is mostly under control, only these patients need care. I recently sent out more than ten bailiffs to fill out the shortage of staff in the medical ward. It’s almost time for medication, I must go and start preparing the medicine.”

“Leave the task of brewing medicine to me.” The senior imperial physician smiled and walked over. He rolled up his sleeves and said to Xue Yao, “Master Xue, may I take a look at the prescription?”

“No need to trouble Physician Xu,” Xue Yao hastily intervened. “You’re not prepared for this…”

“I am prepared.” Physician Xu took a mask from his sleeve and put it on, smiling at Xue Yao. “I have everything you sent with me.”

Another younger physician, with a cold expression, followed Physician Xu.

He had often opposed Xue Yao’s masquerade as a Daoist deceiving the common people. Now, his face slightly red and tinged with embarrassment, he still gruffly complained to Xue Yao, “You keep talking about this valley being a vibrant feng shui spot with abundant positive energy. You said you’d perform rituals to drive away the plague ghosts. How was I supposed to know you were brewing medicine here to treat people? You didn’t mention a shortage of manpower, as if you’re the only physician in the entire county! Aren’t the rest of us human beings?”

The other three physicians finally found an excuse to step in, briskly walking into the valley, pushing carts for transporting bodies. They asked Xue Yao, “Where should these bodies infected with the disease be taken for cremation?”

Xue Yao felt a bit at a loss. Most likely, these physicians had never liked him since arriving in Pingrong County.

Especially after he disguised himself as a Daoist, only Senior Physician Xu silently supported him, providing explanations for many theories in traditional Chinese medicine.

Physician Xu, nearly seventy years old, taking care of patients in the isolation zone was somewhat risky. Xue Yao tried to dissuade him, “Master, the number of patients is now minimal. You should return to the courtyard and wait for me…”

“You just mentioned a shortage of manpower. Is it reasonable for those of us involved in treating patients to stand idly by?” Physician Xu said sternly, “If we didn’t want to contribute in any small way, we would have left with those other physicians who claimed illness and departed long ago. For soldiers, the mission is to fight for the country. For us healers, our duty is to practice medicine and heal the sick. If it truly comes down to one life for another, then it should be an old man like me taking the front lines.

“As long as this old man stands, there’s no need for a noble patriot like you to risk your life. You’ve already saved the people of the entire county. Leave these trivial matters to us for follow-up. It’s also to prevent us old folks from making a useless trip and going back to the capital with our tails between our legs.”

After a moment of hesitation, Xue Yao accepted the request from several physicians and began assigning tasks for brewing medicine and cremating bodies.

The Crown Prince also rolled up his sleeves, ready to help, but Xue Yao resolutely stopped him.

“Your Highness, do you remember the last few paragraphs of my letter?” Xue Yao pulled the Crown Prince into a secluded corner to remind him seriously, “Your safety is always the top priority. Whether it’s benefiting the people or plague control, it requires the heartfelt concern of the ruler. Only then can it be implemented effectively.”

The Crown Prince, surprised that Xue Yao dared to say this in person, immediately looked around vigilantly. He frowned, warning Xue Yao, “I understand your meaning. Keep such words to yourself.”

“Forgive my impudence.” Xue Yao looked anxiously at the Crown Prince. “Merely understanding is not enough. You must be able to act on it. Matters of great benevolence and righteousness, loyalty, and filial piety—let us handle them. You must always prioritize your safety. When you are safe, the people of the world can thrive, and your brothers won’t suffer mistreatment. The implementation of the new reform is filled with difficulties, fundamentally due to insufficient authority and constant interference. I can only assist you up to this point. After resolving Pingrong County’s difficulties, if you encounter more challenges in the future, it might be wise to temporarily suspend the implementation and patiently await a more opportune time.”

Xue Yao couldn’t hold back any longer. He needed to make his words clear.

Surviving the ordeal in Pingrong County was partly due to luck.

The Crown Prince’s position had been hard-fought. A year and a half later, there would be a major crisis. If the Crown Prince continued risking his life to save the Emperor at that time, all of Xue Yao’s efforts would be in vain.

His words were too explicit, clearly implying that the Crown Prince should patiently wait for the Emperor’s demise before taking further action.

If someone with ill intentions overheard, it could lead to execution.

The Crown Prince’s filial piety was genuine, so his expression soured not out of pretense but because he understood Xue Yao’s thoughtful intentions. Considering Xue Yao’s talents in saving the country and helping the people, the Crown Prince managed to suppress his anger and simply said, “I understand.”

Half a month later, the last five patients in the quarantine zone recovered. After drawing water from the well and washing themselves with soap, they changed into new clothes. Gratefully, they bid farewell to Xue Yao, each returning to their respective homes.

In the quarantine zone, only Xue Yao and the five physicians remained. The guards stationed at the entrance of the deserted valley chatted casually.

It had been a long time since they enjoyed such leisurely days.

On the first evening, no new patients were brought to the quarantine zone.

The same on the second day.

And the third day.

The five physicians were excited, cheering and celebrating. Xue Yao, however, seemed hesitant to believe it.

He couldn’t believe he had triumphed over the deadliest scourge that had ravaged humanity for centuries.

Xue Yao ordered the guards to burn all the daily necessities in the quarantine zone. Then, calmly, he followed the physicians back to their residence to pack their belongings, preparing to return to the capital.

The physicians admired the young man for his composure.

Despite achieving such great deeds, there was surprisingly no hint of pride.

Xue Yao himself didn’t know what was on his mind. It seemed like he still had some lingering concerns.

On the day of departure, Xue Yao was invited onto the Crown Prince’s carriage. As the carriage reached the main street, it suddenly came to a halt.

The Crown Prince asked the coachman why they had stopped.

The coachman replied that there were commoners blocking the road ahead.

Xue Yao, who was sitting in the carriage in a daze, suddenly raised his head. He lifted the curtain, jumped down from the carriage, and briskly walked to the front. Instantly, he was stunned by the scene before him—

The main street was packed with the common people of Pingrong County, holding eggs, rice, and cured meat in their hands. Tears welled up in their red eyes as they gazed at the procession heading back to the capital.

Seeing Xue Yao get off the carriage, the silent crowd suddenly began to kneel, tearfully shouting, “Grateful for the life-saving grace!” 

“May the Bodhisattva live a hundred years”…

In an instant, Xue Yao seemed to understand what he had been waiting for.

He looked at the countless common people with delight, filling the streets as far as the eye could see.

Looking at each face, the colors of health were evident on the faces of the young and old alike.

With each glance, Xue Yao felt a bit more at ease, as if each face had filled a missing piece in his heart.

The Crown Prince and the physicians also disembarked one after another, observing the vast “peasant army” filling the main street.

A sturdy youth carrying a bamboo basket forcefully squeezed through the crowd and rushed to Xue Yao. He pleaded for Xue Yao to accept his humble token of gratitude.

Recognizing the youth as a recovered patient from the quarantine zone, Xue Yao joyfully pinched the youth’s cheek, “Haven’t seen you in half a month. Your chubby cheeks have filled out nicely. Appetite seems good, huh?”

The youth knelt before him with a thud, lifted the basket, and roared, “My mother said there’s no way to repay great kindness, please accept this bit of cured meat.”

Xue Yao grinned and teased him, “So, is it your mother thanking me, or are you thanking me?”

The youth was taken aback by the question. After careful consideration, recalling how his mother had cried tears of joy the night he returned home recovered, he decided to let his mother express gratitude first, “Should we express gratitude one by one? In that case, let my mother be the first to thank you!”

“Ha…” Xue Yao burst into laughter. As he laughed, his eyes began to warm up.

Crying in front of the common people while being hailed as a “Living Deity” wasn’t ideal.

Xue Yao quickly accepted the youth’s token of gratitude and addressed the crowd, “This gesture of gratitude is more than enough to represent everyone’s sentiments towards me. Overcoming the plague was not solely my achievement. It was due to everyone’s flexibility and trust in me. After returning to the capital, I will publicly disclose the recipe for the holy stone. I hope that everyone can continue the tradition of eradicating plagues to ensure the peace of Pingrong for generations to come.”

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