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Chapter 57 - In the Face of Death

Plague Doctor
     Chapter 57: In the Face of Death

    [HIDDEN Mission: Within 3 days, accumulate a minimum of 150% personal contributions for successful 2 star operations. Mission Rewards: 1 blurred and dilapidated photograph

    Current Cumulative Personal Contributions: 0%, Time Remaining: 71:59:59]

    Looking at the new mission description, Gu Jun's heart skipped a beat.

    1 blurred and dilapidated photograph? A photograph of what?

    This system had an iron rule which it operated on. For NORMAL missions, the rewards will be drugs or medicines. These were all unrelated to any form of visions. The DIFFICULT missions would reward items that once had an owner and were related to the visions. From the current looks of it, the HIDDEN missions had a similar difficulty to DIFFICULT missions. Owing to the rarity, the possibility of the rewards being scarcer was high.

    From the previous rewards, anatomical reference or journal, there was no means to decipher its previous owner. Is it a human? Is the owner even from Earth?

    As Gu Jun thought to himself, his eyes glimmered brighter with adrenaline.

    If it is a picture, the subjects of the image will definitely appear. This would be a critical piece of information. What's more is that if it triggers an illusion, I can possibly decrypt more details.

    

    Gu Jun had another 19 operations to accumulate 150% contribution. Per the estimated 76% success rate, 15 successful operations were approximated.

    Should he wish to complete the mission, he had to at least achieve a 10% contribution on average. However, his previous contribution was only 7%.

    While this mission was tough, it was not impossible. Weighing the chances, Gu Jun steeled his resolve. As the operations continued, it was inevitable that the primary surgeon and the 1st assistant would be fatigued. He had to perform better and earn the chance to take on more responsibilities to increase his contributions. As long as he kept with the standards, he could gain more work. As his plan materialised in his head, his mouth twisted into a half-smile.

    Time to get into my frenzied and manic working style again.

    At the same time, another worry tormented him. Was he really the cause of deterioration in the conditions of the Banyan Malformation Disease patients? If he really was, the investigation department would be knocking on his doors at any moment now.

    As he grappled with the puzzlement and anxiety, Gu Jun headed to the resting room with the surgical team for a short break. Immediately after, they washed up and disinfected themselves. After which, they donned on their battle armour once again. Before long, they were in a different operating theatre, fully prepped to save another life.

    When they entered, they saw the anaesthetist already present. He had already applied the local anaesthesia for patient No. 56.

    Patient No. 56 was a teenage girl. She had to undergo an amputation for her right shoulder joint. As her condition was less severe than patient No. 25, the shoulder blades did not need to be removed. Despite that, a similar bawling still echoed throughout the room.

    "Get into positions everyone. This time, the target is to complete the operation within 2 and a half hours. Once again, Zhu Ruiwen took the lead and gestured to everyone. With a firm nod, the core team got themselves ready.

    Gu Jun silently followed behind. His breathing was shallow and hurried. When he arrived at the operating table, he saw that the patient's eyes had not been covered by the blindfold. He intentionally looked at her, matching his gaze onto her confused and grimacing eyes.

    One second, two seconds, three seconds… nothing happened.

    The patient did not fall into delirium. Her voice was still trembling with fear, begging them to put her into full general anaesthesia.

    Within his heart, Gu Jun sighed in relief.

    Maybe after triggering the vision of the sacrifice to the banyan tree, I've lost that ability? Or maybe… Is it just a coincidence?

    Somehow, his heart knew that it was not a coincidence. A severe matter like this could not be left to chance. What was the real reason?

    The "thing in the banyan tree". What was it?

    ***

    The dead of night descended and jet-black darkness engulfed Phecda Department. A torrential downpour was pelting mercilessly onto the towering Clinical Block. As medical workers raced against the ticking clock, the roaring thunder struck deeply at their hearts. Every few seconds, the crackling lightning streaked like snaking cracks over the monolith canvas.

    Most were sleeping at this time, but one building was still brightly lit. Across the 20 odd floors, every level was still embroiled in a frenzied hurry.

    In a minimalistic and elegant office on its 19th floor, Team Leader Qiu was giving a report to his visiting superior, Professor Qin.

    "Elder Qin, as of now, 90 Banyan Malformation Disease patients had finished their surgeries. Of them, 71 were successful and 19 did not make it… The success rate is at 78%, which was slightly higher than before."

    In his tone, Team Leader Qiu was not coveting the efforts. Instead, he was full of pride for the valiant warriors at the frontlines of the operations.

    "Hm, that's good." Hearing the report, Professor Qin was pleased. "This batch of patients came early. Ideally, we should be able to save most of them. However, things aren't going too well at the laboratories. There's still quite a distance to an actual result. You need to make the necessary preparations here."

    "We will do so like always."

    Suddenly, Professor Qin's brows twitched on his wrinkled forehead. Calmly, he asked, "How is the performance of the trainees today?"

    "Pretty good! The standards of all of them are very high." Immediately, Team Leader Qiu burst into a peal of praises, "Sun Yuheng and Wang Ruoxiang were especially of great help. However, they pale in comparison to Gu Jun. This boy, he's on a different level." Team Leader Qiu was full of praises to this arrangement. "Zhu Ruiwen had reported to me. Of the 3 operations they had today, Gu Jun's performance only got better. He was willing to do everything, and he did everything that he could. Simply perfect! You can't even tell that today was his first day in an actual operation!"

    "Good…" Again, Professor Qin nodded. "This is the best. Hopefully, he will grow faster. Then, we can send him to the Mobile Task Force as soon as possible."

    "Elder Qin, isn't it still early to talk about his appointment to the Mobile Task Force?" Quickly, Team Leader Qiu tried to grab onto his new-found talent. "This rascal has yet to finish the training. I think that Zhu Ruiwen may have exaggerated the performance just like always."

    Professor Qin left Team Leader Qiu hanging and asked, "What do you think of the sudden deterioration of the 3 patients?"

    "It should be a new symptom of the Banyan Malformation Disease. A sudden downturn in the 2nd stage is wholly possible." Team Leader Qiu had also given this some thought. After all, the biggest defeat of the day was the failure to save patients no 128 and no 143. Of the 3, only patient no 25, who was in the hands of Zhu Ruiwen's team survived.

    "Hmm, the psychology team has a differing viewpoint." The ridges deepened on Professor Qin's forehead as his voice became heavier. "The psychology team thinks that the patients suffered some external triggers. From there, they displayed a very intense stress response. This, in turn, affected them biologically and accelerated the development of the Banyan Malformation Disease."

    "That… that is possible as well…" Thinking in that direction, Team Leader Qiu's eyes narrowed. "What does the psychology team think is the trigger?"

    Standing up from his seat, Professor Qin walked to the window and looked wistfully at the sprawling white cracks on the night sky. In a sullen tone, he sighed. "Watching the CCTV footage of the incidents, a similarity was found. Gu Jun was always present. Also, the 3 patients were screaming at Gu Jun."

    As the storm wrecked carnage over the skies, pellets of rain splattered over the windows. The view was shrouded and limited. In the distance, only darkness was left.

    "Very possibly, Gu Jun is the trigger. He might be the "thing in the banyan tree"." Slowly, the words formed from Professor Qin's mouth.

    "WHAT?" Shock crashed onto Team Leader Qiu. "Gu Jun is the trigger? Do they even know him? Why is there hatred and feud involved now?"

    Team Leader Qiu simply laughed it off. The psychology team always engaged with unfathomable and far-fetched theories. Furthermore, nine times out of ten were unreasonable and impossible nonsense.

    "Gu Jun has been in contact with so many patients today. Why is it that only the 3 were stressed? Elder Qin, you also know that the psychology team spent their entire day doubting things. They basically don't trust the whole world!."

    "This time is different. We are not clear about the involvement of this matter." Professor Qin sighed. Some information was hidden from Team Leader Qiu, due to him lacking in authority level. Professor Qin shook his head. "I have not notified the investigation department about this situation. For now, we will keep observing and observing. Buy some time for the psychology team to do some more analysis. This matter will be kept secret. Don't tell Gu Jun. Let him carry on for the next few days."

    "Understood." Team Leader Qiu nodded. Even with more thought about it, he was still unwilling to believe such an inconceivable theory.

    ***

    2nd operation, shoulder joint amputation. Gu Jun contributed another 7%. He had only done some stitches.

    3rd Operation, hip joint amputation. Gu Jun's contribution rose to 9%. He was in charge of holding the tissues in place during parts of the process.

    4th operation, hemipelvic amputation. During this radical surgery, where the patient was amputated from the waist down, Gu Jun broke through 10% contribution. For the first time, he was involved in the actual amputation process.

    The percentage increased to 12% during the 5th operation, forequarter amputation. During the 6th operation, amputation of both hips, it was 15%.

    This was the calm before the storm. Just when things were seemingly perfect, a "Failure" occurred during the 7th operation.

    It was another forequarter amputation, which was much lower in difficulty than the amputation of both hips. However, the patient was an elderly lady of more than 70 years of age. With a frail and weakened body, she was unable to withstand the prolonged torture of the bone sawing under mere local anaesthesia. During the bone sawing, she suffered a cardiac arrest. Despite the best efforts of the team, she was lost.

    This operation did not aid in the accumulation of Gu Jun's contribution points. Facing the demise of their patient, everyone could only swallow this bitter fruit of defeat. In the corner of the room, tears of regret had escaped the eyes of the younger nurses.

    It was not their first encounter with death. However, the heart-wrenching cries and the pleads to let her die reverberated unceasingly in their hearts. The old lady's screams of pain and her submission into the hands of death would plague them for months, if not years, to come.

    At that point, Gu Jun gritted his jaws and clenched his fists tightly, playing a game of tug of war with his tear glands. Alas, they were honest with his emotions. Soon, warm beads rolled down his cheeks uncontrollably.

    Oddly, he missed the times where he did dissection. Regardless of the specimen he received, they were already lifeless. Sometimes, the pungent and stinging formalin even concealed their tears for them.

    "Such is life." With a firm pat on their shoulders, Zhu Ruiwen comforted Gu Jun and Li Hualong. The two rookies had just faced life slipping away right through their fingertips for the first time. "We can't save everyone. As doctors, we have to be prepared for this kind of thing."

    Gu Jun wiped away his tears immediately. There was no time for him to be sentimental. The eighth operation was about to start.

    The second failure occurred during the thirteenth operation. This time it was a young boy less than 5 years old. It was an amputation of both forequarters. The atmosphere in the operating room was even denser this time. If it was the passing of an old man, they could attribute it to old age. Alas, life had barely begun for this young child.

    However, tears no longer fell on Gu Jun's cheeks this time. It became his motivation to save another life.

    By the 3rd morning, the team had completed 20 operations; right on schedule. Their final operation was another amputation of both hips. It was also the longest of the 20, which took close to 6 hours.

    All of the 20 patients assigned to Zhu Ruiwen's team by the Orthopaedics Department were completed with a success rate of 90%. It was much higher than the previous 76&.

    For a new primary surgeon, rookie 2nd and 3rd assistants, 2 failures in 20 operations were already beyond excellent.

    When the operations finally came to a close, the doctors: Zhu Ruiwen, Zeng Jianguo, Yan Haizhe, Gu Jun, and Li Hualong, and the nurses like Sister Chen and Brother Wang, heave a long deep sigh as the pressure was lifted off their shoulders. Everyone's faces were pale and drained of blood. Throughout the exhausting 3 days, they barely had even 10 hours of sleep and rest combined.

    "Ah…" the moment Zhu Ruiwen walked out of the operating theater, his knees gave way and fell directly onto the floor. He barely sustained his balance as he held onto the walls.

    "Surgeon Zhu!" Gu Jun called out and rushed beside him along with the others.

    "I'm fine. I'm fine…" Zhu Ruiwen muttered softly as he ripped off the mask. Weakly, he panted, "I just need to take a seat. I will be fine…"

    Seeing the primary surgeon's fatigue, Zeng Jianguo's mental state also buckled. Immediately, he dropped onto his chair. "I need a break too. I think I'm getting old, really old…"

    Following them, Li Hualong and Gu Jun also sat down and rested against the walls of the corridors. These doctors were overwhelmed by fatigue, yet were too tired to sleep. The anesthesiologists and nurses, who comparatively still had some strength, left them alone to rest.

    72 hours, 20 amputations.

    Gu Jun closed his eyes slightly and rested. At this time, he did not want to think about anything. Like Surgeon Zhu Zhudao said, "Take a seat, and we'll be fine."

    As his eyes closed, several prompts popped up on the system. For now, he did not have the energy to bother about it.

    ["You participated in a successful two-star surgery, personal contribution: 15%. Rank 3rd"

    The proficiency of the Hands of Dexterity has risen! The current level is second-tier (20000/30000 proficiency)

    Current Cumulative Personal Contributions: 156%.

    HIDDEN Mission completed!"

    Mission rewards are waiting to be collected: 1 blurred and dilapidated photograph.

    Click to receive your reward!]