369 Tree by the Roadside

    On the night of Chinese Valentine's, Gu Jun and Wu Siyu left behind many beautiful memories.

    But the next morning, the call came. Inside the suite, they were briefed about the latest bad news. An abnormal Tourette Syndrome was affecting young girls across the country. It had an unknown transmission method but all recorded patients so far were located around Eastern State. Thus far, there were 75 registered patients and they all called out the name, Gu Jun. On the other hand, Kedou did not show further symptoms. It was hard to tell if there was any connection. Could this be the 'small new year present' meant by Gu Jun's big sister? Gu Jun boiled from anger as headache threatened to split his head. 'Who is this big sister...?'

    "Eastern State, Eastern State..." He made the connection, "Clearly someone wants me to go back..." Speaking of, it had been some time since he returned to Eastern State. Before 7 am, the duo checked out of the hotel and returned to Shen Hai Phecda Division.

    "The patients were all read bedtime stories before they acted up." Inside the car, Wu Siyu was reminded of something, "Could they all be stories about man-eating monsters?"

    "You mean like the ones told by the smiling buddha?" Gu Jun groaned, resisting the headache.

    "After all, it's quite a common setting in fairy tales." Wu Siyu gave a few examples on the spot, there were the man-eating wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, the man-eating witch in Hansel and Gretel..."I wonder if the parents read such stories to their children." Wu Siyu's hunch was proven correct. The investigation team discovered that most patients had listened to or read such stories one week before the surfacing of their symptoms. The pathology between that and the illness was unknown but it had to be related. The stories were probably the pathological origin.

    Phecda immediately made a statement, requesting parents to cease reading such dark stories to their children for it would affect the child's psychological growth. Furthermore, they warned any family to visit the hospital should their child showcase symptoms of Tourette Syndrome; The television studios were also banned from broadcasting cartoons with violent themes for the foreseeable future. Even though Phecda did not go into details, the public knew to pay attention to their announcements.

    When Gu Jun and Wu Siyu arrived at the base, they dropped in to check on Kedou. The girl was rascally as ever, there was nothing wrong with her. But by then, the number of sick children had climbed up to over 100 and they were all girls between ages of 5 and 8.


    At Nan Xiang City's Third People Hospital, the hospital staff bustled in and out. Over the morning, they had already accepted 15 sick children. Some of the results also came back from examination. There was no sign of pathogen in any of the samples, the illness did not appear to be contagious by normal standard. The MRI scan eliminated deformation in the patients' brain; and TSH evaluation eliminated the possibility of hypothryeosis; examination of ceruplasmin and serum copper eliminated the possibility of Wilson-broncqdisease... It was not caused by bacterial infection, drug use, head trauma, cerebral inflammation or monoxide poisoning either. Biologically speaking, this was an incurable Tourette Syndrome.

    There is an academic hypothesis regarding the cause of Tourette Syndrome as having a relation to the dysfunction in neural circuits between the basal ganglia and related structures in the brain. This was something beyond current human medical comprehension. Even brain experts like Prof Ma Jun from Phecda could only prescribe antipsychotic medication as trials. Human technology was very advanced but the understanding of human anatomy was limited. When it came to issues regarding the brain, even the best doctors were stumped. If a doctor could treat Tourette Syndrome, he'd be capable enough to treat multiple neurological illnesses. That contribution would earn him more than 2 Nobel Prizes, he'd be a name forever remembered in human medical history.

    Despite the challenge, the hospital staff worked non-stop. They tried their best to come up with ideas. Liu Guolin resuscitated from his slump. After the lecture from Superior Zhang, he threw himself back into work. He knew it was time to act more like a doctor. Perhaps inspired by Liu Guolin or perhaps feeling sorry for the girls, Yu Chunhui and Zhang Wenyu worked extra hard as well. Led by Superior Zhang, they worked so tirelessly that they missed lunch. What they replaced it with was a few hurry bites of bread. More patients appeared at the hospital as the day went on. Their work continued to pile on. Seeing how tired the staff was, the hospital director ordered them to take a break. Other doctors would take over their shift. Therefore, the four doctors and a few of their colleagues found themselves on the way to the hospital canteen.

    "The gap between each tic is too long." Superior Zhang observed. His flabby face frowned with consternation. "It has been almost 12 hours since their last paroxysm... Even though there is no rhyme and reason to the tics of a Tourette Syndrome patient, the gaps between each tic shouldn't be this long."

    There was a sizable garden that connected the paediatrician clinic and the canteen. As they passed through the trees, they found the change of scenery quite refreshing.

    "Superior Zhang, we know too little about what we're dealing with." Yu Chunhui said to change the subject, "It's a waste of time to dwell deeper on it."

    "We have nothing better to do anyway!" Superior Zhang groused, "Think of your own daughter or your relative. What would you do if this illness claims them..."

    "Sigh, why would the illness only target girls? Those poor things." Zhang Wenjun sighed. "I wish we could know more."

    Liu Guolin was about to share his thoughts when he noticed a looming shadow beside him. He lifted his head from instinct and saw a giant shadow toppling towards him. His heart squeezed... The people around him screamed, and tried to run for cover...

    Accidents always came without warning.

    Another group of hospital staff, who was walking from the canteen to the pediatrician clinic, yelled in fear as they saw the giant tree creak and tumble. There was no wind or rain. The tree trunk appeared to have rotted from inside. It leaned over and crushed the passing crowd.

    One of the nurses collapsed to the ground. Even though her colleagues immediately attended to her, she still looked quite numb. She saw the group of doctors being crushed by the big tree. The rotund middle-aged man who led the group was skewered through many parts of his body by tree branches. Blood flowed like rivers. The chance of him being alive was zero. A female doctor had her waist crushed by a thick log. A young doctor had his head whacked off his shoulders by a thick branch...

    The severed head rolled for several metres. The nurse recognized the bloodless face. It was Liu Guolin, the paediatrician doctor.
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