8 A Doctor’s Responsibility and Dignity

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

The surgical scissors, which had been hanging on Zheng Ren's little finger, was magically flipped into his hand as he cut the size-seven thread.

"Doctor Zheng, your hand movement is so smooth." Xie Yiren, who had nothing to do at the moment, praised Zheng Ren as she witnessed his skill.

"I'm used to not having an assistant when I'm closing an abdominal incision. It's faster that way," Zheng Ren explained himself.

"Are you afraid? That's how it is in the emergency department."

Zheng Ren tried to comfort Xie Yiren but as soon as he finished his sentence, they heard an uproar and the sound of a heavy, blunt weapon hitting a body in the hallway.

'Well, the emergency department isn't the right place for a sound mind,' thought Zheng Ren.

Someone kicked the door open again after a few seconds and this time, a few brawny brutes appeared at the doorstep with baseball bats in their hands.

"Not bad. You escaped and even came to the hospital." A brute sneered with a hideous grin while patting his left palm repeatedly with the baseball bat in his right hand.

He was clearly threatening everyone on the scene that his bat would end up on someone's head, potentially causing bloodshed.

Ignoring the wound on his back, the patient jumped off the operating table like a scared rabbit and curled up at a corner of the room like a frightened little girl.

Well, at least his posture—covering his head with two arms and protecting every vital point on his body—was on point as if he was fully prepared to take a huge beating.

"Both of you, get out," instructed the brute coldly after seeing Zheng Ren and Xia Yiren.

Normally, these self-righteous Jianghu martial artists would not harm healthcare workers in their skirmishes.

Injuries were almost inevitable in their chaotic world.

If karma truly existed, they could not blame God for unfairness had they got injured but left with no one to treat them—because they had harmed medical staff in the past.

Zheng Ren had never encountered such a vicious manhunt where the hunters even pursued their prey to the hospital.

However, he had heard it once on the grapevine about a patient, who arm fractured by blunt force trauma, receiving treatment in the emergency orthopedic department. Unfortunately, his enemies tracked him down to the hospital's operating theater which frightened him into breaking the window and jumped down from the sixth floor in an escape attempt.

In the end, that patient suffered from extensively comminuted fractures of his bilateral lower limbs, and he was transferred from the orthopedic department directly to the intensive care unit.

Zheng Ren heard of this incident, which happened more than a decade ago, through a few senior doctors gossiping in a bar.

He had not expected to meet such an annoying and problematic issue on his first day of work in the emergency department.

What should he do?

Should he leave? What about the unfinished procedure?

Those brutes would beat him alongside the patient terribly if he stayed…

It was a difficult choice.

Zheng Ren was not a saint, but every doctor had their own moral standard.

He made up his mind instantly and nudged Xie Yiren. "You, leave."

Startled and nervous, Xie Yiren obeyed Zheng Ren subconsciously and left the procedure room by squeezing through the wall of muscles.

The brutes gave way without attempting to stop her.

"I'm a doctor with an unfinished surgery. Please leave this room immediately," said Zheng Ren.

As Zheng Ren was unable to express his determination through a surgical mask, he shifted his gaze to the patient instead and said, "Come here. Just a few sutures left and you're done."

"Yo, you're dauntlessly brave, aren't you?" mocked the lead brute with the ugly grin. The knife scar on his face added intensity to his ferocity like a budding chrysanthemum. "I've shown you respect, right?"

Zheng Ren stood firm in his faith even though his legs had turned to jelly.

How would he face others in the future if he fled in fear right now? He valued his dignity and reputation, so he had no choice but to hang in there.

Self-defense with a scalpel? Despite the fact that the scalpel was basically a toy to these brutes with their Herculean builds, his actions would be punishable by law even if he succeeded in the end.

Zheng Ren had heard of so many similar cases throughout his career, so much so that it formed callus in his ear canals.

It was absurd, but it was the truth.

There was no way Zheng Ren would abandon a patient with an unfinished surgery. Thus, he tried his best to remain calm and put all his hope in the almighty System.

"Please leave the procedure room," Zheng Ren managed to keep his voice from shaking as he tried to maintain the dignity of a doctor. "I'm in the middle of an operation."

"Haha." The brute stretched his neck, radiating a bloodthirsty aura especially with his bulging muscles, and produced some audible cracks from his cervical spine. The scar on his face resembled a serpent with its mouth wide open in the form of a silent taunt.

"I've shown you respect but you've ignored my kind gesture. It's too late for you to leave now."

The brute's words sent a chill down Zheng Ren's spine. Where was the System when he needed it desperately? Perhaps a prime experience of a martial artist was beyond the System's programming after all.

Well, Zheng Ren would not choose that experience anyway even if it existed.

Future indemnification would cost him a fortune and the hospital management would definitely fire him if these brutes were harmed in any way.

Self-defense? Not an option.

F*ck.

Hopefully his heroism would not be rewarded with death… Zheng Ren glanced at the patient huddling up in the corner and quickly learned how to protect his vital points with whatever time he had left.

Was it worth the pain at all… Well, he would do it again if he was given a second chance, anyway.

"Little Six, why the intense barbarity?" An elderly man in a button-down sweater appeared at the doorstep as the brute closed in on Zheng Ren.

Even without turning around, that voice alone was enough to change the brute's expression instantly.

The ferocious brute tried to force a smile onto his face, but his rigid facial muscles contracting made him uglier than if he had been crying—in Zheng Ren's opinion.

After turning around quickly to get a visual confirmation, the brute bowed immediately and greeted the elderly man with the utmost respect. "Elder San, what brings you here today?"

"I came here to visit a friend and saw your harassment along the way," said the elderly man as he walked into the procedure room.

The man appeared to be in his sixties, spirited and energetic despite his thin build. His twinkling eyes were framed by long eyebrows, and a long goatee hung on his chin. 

"Not really, I don't have the courage to cause trouble. I encountered a small issue and here I am to sort things out…" Even though Elder San's tone sounded gentle and kind, cold sweat glistened on the brute's temples and his upper back drooped lower as if there was a huge mountain on his shoulders.

"Your microcreditmicro-credit company has nothing to do with me, but let me tell you, Little Six, it's best to obey the rules of the older generations. You don't fight or murder anyone in a sacred place designated for resurrections and remedies unless you want to attract bad luck," said the kind, elderly man in his polite tone, which seemed like it could easily bring joy to others.

"Yes, of course. Thank you for the lesson." The brute nodded vigorously in response.

The leading brute's followers stood as close to the wall as possible with their heads lowered in order to minimize their presence, as though Elder San was a ferocious monstrosity who would devour anyone when provoked.

Elder San chatted with the brute for a short while before walking toward Zheng Ren with a smile on his face and greeted with a fist-and-palm salute. "Hello, Chief Zheng."

"You flatter me. My name is Zheng Ren, and you are?" Zheng Ren felt relieved instantly as the situation came under control. However, he was  wearing a pair of bloodied sterile gloves, which made a handshake seem inappropriate at the moment.

He felt slightly awkward to stand still and do nothing, though.

The elderly man was taken by surprise, as he had not expected Zheng Ren to fail to recognize him.

Decades of social experience made him regain his composure almost instantly.

"I'm Mr. Bu's butler. Mr. Bu regained consciousness after your successful surgery on him yesterday, and he instructed Ms. Bu and I to express our heartfelt gratitude to you. I was waiting for Ms. Bu's arrival, but I was worried about your safety when I saw these brats causing trouble nearby, so here I am. Please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused," explained Elder San.

"That's very kind of you," replied Zheng Ren, who was drenched in sweat. Ms. Bu? He merely thought the patient in the operating theater yesterday was either a fat cat or a nouveau riche, not someone with such a powerful background.

A nouveau riche being a nouveau riche, they would not have manners.

They were on a different level from Mr. Bu, whose butler could transform a savage brute into a tame sheep instantly with a single sentence. 

Zheng Ren made a simple judgment on the current situation.

Moreover, he finally recalled that this old man had given him a name card yesterday alongside a promise to settle any future issue he encountered in Sea City.

It was obvious that this elderly man was truly powerful rather than simply ostentatious.

"Please continue your surgery. We'll have a chat afterward," said Elder San courteously with a fist-and-palm salute and a slight bow.

The dumbfounded Zheng Ren merely stood still like a statue, only sighing in relief after Elder San and the brutes left the procedure room.

"You, come here and lie down," instructed Zheng Ren, pointing at the patient with his gloves almost completely caked in dried blood, which, at the very least, was intimidating.

The patient, who had been stunned for some time, snapped out of his confusion and asked softly, "Are you… Are you the Japanese professor? You're fluent in Mandarin."

"I'm not a professor. I'm just a doctor in Sea City General Hospital. Lie facedown, please, there are just a few more sutures left. By the way, your wound is contaminated again, so I'll need to disinfect it later," said Zheng Ren bluntly.

When the iodophor-soaked cotton was applied to the wound this time, the patient merely hissed in pain without shrieking as if he was about to die in agony.

"Doctor Zheng, right? I thought you were a Japanese professor."

"Why is that?"

"I heard through the grapevine that the professor that Mr. Bu invited was one of the best in the world, but I didn't expect you to be so young."

Zheng Ren continued his task without responding. The reverse cutting needle poked out of the patient's skin with a gentle flick of his wrist, and the suture thread was then tied into a surgical knot. 

The knot looked awful due to his trembling hands as he filled with consternation. Sighing heavily, he cut the thread and resutured the last layer.

"Even if I misidentified you, Elder San wouldn't make the same mistake," said the patient, who was either a talkative man or merely trying to alleviate his anxiety through conversation. "Although I'm just a nobody, I actually do recognize the big names of Sea City, but I honestly didn't expect Elder San to be acquainted with you. It seems I've made the right choice by coming to Sea City General Hospital after all."

Zheng Ren had no intention of continuing the conversation. In any case, he had no idea what to say in the first place as he was inexperienced in such small talk.

The needle reached the end of the wound at last. Once he confirmed the wound edges were aligned and everted, he said, "I'm done. You can leave now."

Meanwhile, Zheng Ren brought the surgical tray to the basin, turned the tap on with his elbow and started rinsing the surgical instruments.

Once the blood had dried, it would be extremely difficult to clean it off completely.

Thus, the central sterile services department declared that every surgical instrument had to be rinsed thoroughly before it was autoclaved. 

"Doctor… Doctor Zheng, can I leave together with you?" asked the patient who stood behind Zheng Ren with an ashen-grey face.

Zheng Ren had no clue what sort of danger the patient might face upon leaving the hospital, so after giving it some thought, he asked, "Do you want to call the police?"

"Of course not. It doesn't really matter, anyway, since I've to endure this sooner or later," replied the patient with a grin.

"Alright, then." Zheng Ren, who had no desire to understand the rules of this society, made the promise directly without interrogating the patient further.

Something changed in the mysterious world within Zheng Ren's mind while he was in the middle of cleaning. The frame started editing itself, changing the images constantly in a flash and creating numerous after-images along the way. 

Subsequently, the mirage transformed into a computer monitor, which connected to the internet automatically and entered a website called Xinglin Garden without hesitation.

There were no tedious steps to go through—account registration or member login—which made the System far more powerful than the site administrator.

This website was specifically created for doctors to communicate with each other, with its members composed mainly of specialists or experienced senior doctors.

Rumors claimed that many of the finest specialists from each department within the country were frequent viewers of Xinglin Garden. However, they had a habit of browsing this website without commenting or posting anything, just like alligators lurking in deep water.

The video of Zheng Ren's wound closure procedure was uploaded to this website.

The new video received dozens of views instantly, as there were many doctors browsing the website during lunch hour.

"Who uploaded a normal wound closure procedure?"

"Simple condition and ordinary technique. I suggest using a running subcuticular suture technique with an absorbable catgut suture. You can get more viewers that way."

"The video quality is superb but the surgery itself doesn't have any highlights. Bad review."

The video, which received only a few comments, was dropped from the homepage after a few minutes like a stone falling into the abyss.

The comments on it transformed into a few dimly glowing specks and flew into the fox statue in front of the thatched cottage.

There was a sudden quantum fluctuation in the mysterious world within Zheng Ren's mind. All the energies within that space twisted and whirled violently like a raging, furious storm, as if some majestic presence in that world had been enraged.

"Huh?" Zheng Ren suddenly experienced a glacial feeling erupting from within his soul as he rinsed the surgical instruments.

He threw his work aside and dived into the mysterious world immediately out of worry that there could be something wrong with the System.

Before he could take a good look at his surroundings, a translucent screen emerged before him with words popping up rapidly. His anxiety was justified. Something was definitely wrong with the System.

[Mission: Complete at least ten surgeries in three days. The degree of completion for each surgery must reach perfection.]

Below the mission lay a whole list of surgery choices.

The last sentence was highlighted in red.

[Mission Reward: Unknown. Failure to complete this mission will cause inadequate power supply. Consequence…]

"..." Zheng Ren was completely taken by surprise. Why did the peaceful System end up this enraged? Performing surgery perfectly was not something a junior attending surgeon could do easily at his level.

Could the experts in Imperial Capital and Sorcery Capital perform any surgery to perfection? Zheng Ren doubted it.

The mission reward was unspecified. Punishment for failure was an unknown threat.

Was it possible that the System figured out his talent was limited and decided to induce sudden cardiac death so that it could locate a new host?

If that was the case… What the f*ck!

Cold sweat started trickling down his forehead, temples, and back. Zheng Ren then took a few deep breaths quickly and forced himself to calm down.

He had absolutely zero doubt in the System's amazing ability. Its diagnosis on every patient was extremely accurate, like a universal cheat code in a game.

That was exactly why he believed that the System could wipe him from existence silently with the illusion that he passed away due to sudden cardiac death.

He tried his best to stay calm and scanned through the mission again. After making sure he understood what the System actually wanted, he started scrolling through the surgical choices.

He had to perform at least ten perfect surgeries within three days, so without the slightest hesitation, he chose appendectomy among hundreds of surgical choices in the list.

He was most experienced in the general surgery department and the most he could perform personally, at his level, was an appendectomy.

Perfection… Zheng Ren dared not think about it and could only try his best to achieve it.

What was the point of this System? What was the point of an ideal life? Both the majestic presence in the System and life would obliterate him at some point anyway.

The mirage shattered immediately after Zheng Ren's finger selected his choice—an appendectomy—on the list, sending innumerable fragments in all directions before they were finally rebuilt.

The world which Zheng Ren was currently standing on was reconstructed completely. The snow-white clouds scattering across the clear blue sky disappeared entirely and the scenery was replaced with an operating theater with him standing in front of an operating table. What surprised Zheng Ren most was the lifelike mannequin—which was far better than any mannequin used in ordinary medical institutes—on top of the operating table.

[Mission Reward: Practice a surgical procedure in the System. This reward was gifted in advance. Please appreciate this opportunity.]

The cold, robotic female voice seemed to have become slightly high-pitched as if it was constantly reminding Zheng Ren about the imminent danger he faced.

"How long can I practice here?" Zheng Ren tried to initiate communication with the System as the female voice had finally appeared.

"The host is currently in static spacetime. The velocity of spacetime in the realistic world equals zero. The System can maintain this state for… Calculating…" The robotic female voice sounded chaotic as if the power supply was insufficient.

The robotic, female voice cut off. Instead, a row of numbers appeared in front of Zheng Ren: [15:6:23:15.]

Did this mean that he had to practice an appendectomy surgery continuously in the System for fifteen days? However, Zheng Ren realized that his death sentence was basically reprieved as he had been given slightly more than fifteen days to save himself.

There was no surgical assistant or scrub nurse in this world. Zheng Ren was alone.

He finally accepted his reality after a few minutes of pondering, and decided to give it his all.

His scalpel was thin and shiny. The practice appendectomy officially began.

The surgical case given by the System was rather simple. After the peritoneum was incised, the inflamed appendix popped out on its own. The appendiceal artery was then ligated and the inflamed appendix removed… Everything was done according to standard.

One appendectomy finished fairly quickly.

Zheng Ren glanced at the System's evaluation on the upper right corner of his vision. "Surgery time used: 15 minutes. Rating: Good."

Er… It was just an appendectomy. Was the System expecting a flower from it? 

Well, the System was his master anyway. He had no choice but to complete every mission the System threw at him by any means necessary.

 

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