Part 2: Raid of the Black Dogs

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T/N: A little change in medical terminology: Weak Cure -> Vaccine. 


 

There was a short scream. The wolf-like dogs pounced on the falconers who, in turn, desperately tried to protect their falcons with their own bodies. Threads of drool hung from their muzzles as their bared fangs glinted. With a panicked cry, a falcon flew up from the hand of the Ziolian falconer closest to them. Although he desperately tried to protect his throat, he ended up being pushed down.

Another dog attacked Utal, but being a veteran of many battlefields, he sent his falcon ahead, then drew the hunting knife at his waist, facing down the dog without a hint of panic. Utal caught a glimpse of Mazai protecting the boys behind his back, but his figure quickly vanished behind a wall of dogs.

The grassland that had been basking in the gentle light of autumn was suddenly filled with agonizing cries and screams as beasts and people jumbled together. The voice of King Akafah calling for his nephew melded with Yotal’s calls for his son. Slumina could be heard over them, screaming, “Orim! Orim!”

The imperial guards held them back from trying to stand and leave the tent. Soldiers of Akafah and Ziol had rushed out of the tent to save the falconers and the boys, but another batch of dogs jumped out of the bushes, making a beeline for the tent. Seeing them coming, the soldiers abruptly stopped, hesitating.

Yotal roared, waving his hand, “You guys, save Orim! This place will be fine! We will defend it ourselves!”

His face a violent crimson, King Akafah also yelled, “Help Mazai! Hurry!”

As the bellows of the two men resounded, Makokan drew his dagger, and protected Hossal behind him.

The black dogs hurled themselves into the tent, upending the chairs and dining table. The sound of plates breaking mingled with screams and angry roars. The noble ladies trying to escape the narrow tent, and the men trying to protect them stumbled into each other, making it impossible for the soldiers to swing their swords.

Slipping through the gaps in their defenses, the dogs continued their attack on the humans. One dog targeted Slumina. Makokan leaned forward to try and drive it away with his dagger, but with a chair in his way, he missed by a hair’s breadth.

The dog sank its fangs into the arm that Slumina had managed to bring up to protect her face. Hossal held up Slumina from behind, and just as he pulled her away from the dog, Makokan kicked down the chair and slashed down at the dog’s face.

The dog dodged with astonishing agility, but Makokan felt the tip of his dagger graze the dog’s nose. Just as he was to give chase and finish off the dog that had flinched and jumped back, he heard Hossal’s voice behind him.

“Behind you!”

Feeling rather than seeing another dog at his back, Makokan immediately switched to an underhand grip and savagely swiped backwards and to the side, again aiming for the face. He didn’t feel any feedback, but the dog retreated.

Suddenly, all the dogs stopped. Their ears were pricked, as if listening to something only they could hear. Then they withdrew from the tent, their movements obviously unnatural and eyes still filled with malice, as if they were on invisible leashes that were now retracting.

Broken plates, scattered food, and bawling women balled up and trembling in fear remained in the tent deserted by the dogs. The men, who sported dog bites on various appendages, could only look on listlessly as they kept pressure on the bites.

Hossal picked up a fallen wine bottle, shook it, and after ascertaining that there was still some wine left, immediately grabbed Slumina’s trembling hand and began to clean the wound with the alcohol while squeezing out the blood.

As he thoroughly washed out the wound, Hossal called out to Makokan, “…Were you bitten?”

Makokan turned around towards Hossal, his breath still rough with exertion.

“Pardon?”

“I asked you whether you were bitten.”

Makokan muttered, “Oh,” and looked down at his hands. The dagger and the hand it was in were covered in blood, but he felt no pain. “No, I wasn’t.”

“You’re certain?”

“Yes.”

Hossal sighed in relief.

“Stay there. Don’t move and don’t touch anything.” With that, Hossal turned to the dumbfounded people and raised his voice so everyone could hear, “Everyone who was bitten, please raise your hands!”

Hands went up into the air one after the other. There was even a man raising his hand for the noble Ziolian lady sitting next to him. King Akafah, Lord Ouhan, and Yotal seemed to be safe, but several men and women had fallen victim to the dogs.

Rona traded a look with Hossal. “I think we should wash out the wounds.”

Hossal nodded.

“I agree. But first, please squeeze the blood out of the wounds.”

Rona nodded back, and immediately started to calmly instruct his pupils.

Hossal turned to face the crowd again, and said, “Those who haven’t been bitten, please help gather any remaining alcohol.” He also called out to the servants standing by the tent, “Divide yourselves into groups, and bring as much water as you can! Any water or alcohol, even the barrels, get them over here! If there’s soap, bring it over as well! Whatever you do, hurry!”

Once the servants started to run around, the noble ladies and men seemed to come to their senses and began to move as well. Rona and his pupils had already headed over to the patients, treating their wounds.

Yotal ran up to his wife with a pale face, “Were you bitten?”

Slumina nodded as her wound was cleaned. Her whole body kept trembling.

“…I’m fine. But, dear, what about Orim?”

Yotal anxiously looked outside the tent, and placed a hand on his wife’s shoulder so as to comfort her.

“I’m going to take a look. You stay here.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he flew outside.

“I’d like to help as well, if possible.”

Without even looking back at Makokan from the first aid he was hunched over, Hossal yelled, “Don’t move! There’s dog blood on your hands, isn’t there!? Make absolutely sure to keep it away from any mouths or wounds!”

Hossal had the servants help him with cleaning out the wounds of the bitten with alcohol. He washed them almost obsessively, and once the water arrived, he also washed them with that. No one had suffered heavy injuries, but some of the women were still sobbing and wailing in shock, so the uproar continued for quite a while longer.

As might be expected of them, King Akafah and Lord Ouhan quickly recovered from their shock, and immediately started to bark orders to their respective soldiers to assess the damage and deal with it.

“Master Hossal!” King Akafah called out to Hossal. “If it’s just cleaning wounds, someone else can handle it. I’d like to ask you to examine the people outside.”

Hossal nodded, and rushed out of the tent.

Among those bitten by the black dogs were Mazai, his eldest son Izam, and Utal as well as Orim.

 

 

The morning after the attack, Hossal visited Lord Ouhan’s castle to examine Utal’s wounds. Since he had to go around visiting all those that were bitten, he had left his clinic in a hurry, even skipping breakfast.

Lord Ouhan was apparently impatiently awaiting Hossal’s arrival nonetheless. As soon as Hossal stated his identity and reason for his presence to the gatekeepers, he was guided to an inner room of the castle. Two inner servants announced his arrival and slid open a sliding door as high as two men, causing everyone in the room to look up, staring at Hossal.

“Oohh, we’ve been waiting for you. Quickly, come over here.”

As Hossal approached the seat of honor, where Utal was sitting, Lord Ouhan beckoned him over and Rona, who had been checking Utal’s pulse, moved aside for Hossal.

“…Are you okay with this?” Hossal whispered, Rona merely nodded shortly with a calm expression.

“Well then, please excuse me.” Hossal bowed, then kneeled to pick up Utal’s arm.

Utal had been bitten in the arm, but the wound hadn’t been deep, and once Hossal untied the cloth keeping the pressure on the wound, he couldn’t see much evidence of swelling either.

“It’s not a wound that requires any particular attention.” Utal said bad-temperedly as he quickly pulled his sleeve back down. “It’s no more than a little scratch.”

A servant entered the room with hot tea on a tray and placed in down in front of Hossal.

“Be that as it may, you should take a break.” Lord Ouhan encouraged Hossal to drink his tea as he asked, “Yesterday we didn’t have the chance to talk properly, but I heard something about some kind of medicine or something that will prevent rabies, I believe.”

Hossal nodded, casting a fleeting glance at Rona.

“Yes. It’s just a precaution, but I recommended a <Vaccine>. It’s a medicine created with the weakened poison of the rabies’ germs, it will train the body to defeat the actual germs.”

“…You’re saying, if you drink that…vaccine, it will avert rabies?”

Hossal shook his head in answer to Lord Ouhan’s question, “It’s not something you drink, it’s a medicine that will be injected with a needle. It requires several injections with a day between each shot.”

Hearing about the need for a needle, Lord Ouhan frowned.

Rubbing his arm as he listened to them, Utal growled, “I won’t let you stick anything in me.” Unconcealable distrust flickered in the depths of his eyes as he glared at Hossal. “As weak as it might be, poison remains poison, right?”

Hossal was about to say something, but then shut his mouth, thinking it over before finally replying with, “If you simplify to the extreme, then you are correct to describe it this way. Given that it’s a new medicine, it is still being tested, and I won’t tell you that there is absolutely no danger. However, as you might well be aware, once the symptoms manifest there is no cure for rabies. One will definitely die. So far, twelve people have survived without any symptoms through this method.”

Utal snorted and started to say something, but seemed to get some phlegm stuck in his throat resulting in a small coughing fit. He drank some hot tea from the cup in front of him before continuing hoarsely, “Not showing any symptoms might also be because they weren’t infected in the first place, right?”

“No. The dog that bit those people died of rabies.”

Utal smirked, shaking his head, “You might not understand since you’re a simple pagan, but those who faithfully adhere to the heavenly teachings won’t suffer from rabies even if they are bitten by dogs. That’s because rabies is an illness that only afflicts those who are tainted with the souls of beasts. There’s probably many sick amongst those who drink the milk of animals but everyone in Ziol knows that it is a disease that only affects the lower classes and inhabitants of remote regions who live closely with animals. Am I right, Master Rona?”

Rona lifted his gaze, “That is what I have heard. However, since it is considerably difficult to faithfully observe the heavenly teachings, I hear that it is not impossible for nobles to be afflicted with rabies, Your Lordship.”

Utal furrowed his eyebrows, obviously sullen, “What do you mean by that? We keep our bodies pure by not drinking milk and milk products. It’s impossible for our bodies to be tainted.”

Rona indifferently answered without the slightest change to his expression, “Impurity is something that can be unintentionally transferred. In other words, one may only notice that one has been tainted after one begins to suffer from the illness.”

Irritation crept into Utal’s eyes.

“What is it that you want to say? Are you implying that I should allow this heretic to inject poison into my body?”

Rona shook his head, “No,” and then a powerful gleam suddenly surfaced in his eyes, “Holding one’s own life dear despite allowing one’s own body and the bodies of those around them to be tainted with animal milk is an act that goes against the righteous, heavenly path.”

Hossal turned to stare at Rona with a start. It was the first time that he had heard him speak so harshly. Not sparing even a glance for Hossal, Rona fixed his eyes on Utal.

“Because rabies is an illness without an effective healing method, I believe suffering from the illness to be a method through which we are shown the divine will.”

Utal looked daunted, pursing his lips.

Hossal had merely listened silently to their conversation, but now he looked at Utal, and spoke up, “I only informed you of a possibility. It depends on what your Lordship thinks and what kind of action you choose.”

Lord Ouhan looked back and forth between his eldest son and Hossal, unable to decide with whom he should side, but when Utal suddenly touched the Talisman of Pure Spirit hanging from his neck, Lord Ouhan nodded lightly.

Seeing their silent exchange, Hossal faintly furrowed his eyebrows, but eventually bowed his head lightly, and said, “I shall abide by your judgment.”

Then he raised his head, and looked straight at Lord Ouhan.

“There is another matter on my mind, may I speak?”

Lord Ouhan quickly fixed his expression. ──He replied with a low voice, probably anticipating the problem, “Is it about the Black Wolf Fever?”

“Yes. There is also the case with the salt mine. Though it might be an unfounded worry, we must prepare for the possibility, since people have been bitten by wild dogs.”

Utal’s expression remained the same, however, his jaw visibly clenched. Lord Ouhan stared at Hossal with a determined light in his narrow eyes.

“Even if you tell us to prepare, what exactly do you have in mind?”

Hossal replied calmly, “There are two things we ought to do now. First, deal with the wild dogs that may be carrying the disease. Second, handle those who might have contracted the disease. I mentioned it previously, but finding and killing the dogs isn’t going to be enough. Because the Black Wolf Fever can also be passed by fleas and mites on the dogs, we must tread cautiously on top planning thoroughly.”

Lord Ouhan nodded, “I do understand that. We followed the advice of Otawal’s Sacred Land during the salt mine case, shall we do so once again?”

“Yes, please do so by all means.”

“Very well. In addition, and Master Rona has said this as well, the Black Wolf Fever is a disease specific to this region, we don’t know any details. At any rate, we will need to rely on you, as someone who specialises in disease. Are you going to be able to create a cure for the Black Wolf Fever, if, in the worst case, those dogs did carry the disease?”

Lord Ouhan’s forehead was as white as a sheet, and his eyes betrayed the anxiety that he felt.

“Unfortunately, I cannot promise that I will be able to synthesise a cure at this moment.” Hossal replied as he met Lord Ouhan’s eyes, “However, since we were able to obtain samples of the Black Wolf Fever thanks to the case in the salt mine, we are cooperating with experienced pharmacists from the medicine department to find a cure. We have split the pharmacists in three groups. One group has been attempting to synthesise something to help the body resist the disease using the weakened germs of the Black Wolf Fever, or in other words, a <Vaccine> just like the medicine against rabies. One group has been researching a <Cure> using substances like various lichens that have been shown to inhibit the germs’ activity. And the last group is attempting the production of an <Antibody Treatment> by refining the elements fighting the disease which are naturally produced by the bodies of the infected.

Given that we only have a small amount of <Antibody Treatments>, we will be overwhelmed should too many be infected, but either way, I’m hoping that some combination of the three will be effective. We’re in the process of finishing several medicines that look promising, but medicine development is something that requires an enormous amount of time. Even the most promising medicines have only been shown to be effective on mice, and have never been tested on actual patients as of yet.”

The spacious room had become deathly silent. No one spoke up. Utal was pretending to be calm, but Yotal, who was standing next to Lord Ouhan, had clearly turned pale. He slowly wiped at the sweat on his face with a hand.

“Then…you’re saying, we have no treatment right now…?”

Hossal turned towards Yotal, and quietly said, “Illnesses are strange beasts. Even though the same germs enter the body, there are some who die from them, and others who don’t. In the case of the Black Wolf Fever, I’m told that many of the Otawalians who were bitten presented with symptoms and died, but for some reason, the people living in borderlands like Akafah, Oki, and the Toga Mountainous District survived without showing any symptoms. Since the period of time between the bite and the onset of symptoms was extremely short, I believe we should administer a <Vaccine> to the infected immediately after they are bitten, just as with the rabies. With that, it might be possible to prevent a break out of the illness even if some people are bitten by dogs carrying Black Wolf Fever, like Akafah of the past.”

Yotal’s eyes gleamed.

“Come to think of it, even during the salt mine case, <Van of the Splintered Horn> survived, didn’t he? He’s a person of the Toga Mountainous District…”

Utal snorted, laughing disgustingly, “The poison of beasts is no poison to those who were close to beasts to begin with, eh? Isn’t that great news? You probably don’t need to worry about your wife then.”

Yotal’s face stiffened, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t even look in his elder brother’s direction. Lord Ouhan shot a glare at his eldest son. In response, Utal raised an eyebrow, and after taking a deep breath and coughing three times, he shut his mouth.

“…Pardon my rudeness.” Hossal called out to Utal. “You have been coughing for a while now. Would it be alright for me to take a look at your throat?”

Utal was clearly reluctant, waving a hand as if to drive Hossal away.

“I’ve just caught a cold. It’s nothing to fuss over.”

Hossal stared intently at Utal’s face, countering with, “Both rabies and the Black Wolf Fever happen to have symptoms resembling a common cold at first. Rabies doesn’t produce symptoms so quickly unless you were bitten near the head or throat, but just as I mentioned previously, the incubation time of Black Wolf Fever appears to be far shorter than that of rabies. I earnestly entreat you not to dismiss it as a mere cold. Please inform me at once if rashes or something else out of the ordinary appears.”

Utal snorted, “What’s the point in informing you? You just said that you have no treatment either, didn’t you?”

A sharp bang sounded, startling everyone.

Lord Ouhan, who had slapped his thigh with the palm of his hand, focused on his eldest son, shouting angrily, “Utal, fix your attitude! I won’t repeat myself.”

Utal’s expression changed. A hint of fear flashed through his eyes where there had previously only been arrogance.

“…Yes, father.”

After bowing towards his father, Utal shot a nasty look at Hossal, and said, “Pardon my thoughtless remark.”

Hossal shook his head. “Please forgive me as well for my poor choice of words.” After this, Hossal shifted his focus to Lord Ouhan, “I pray from the bottom of my heart that Lord Utal has not been infected. However, the Black Wolf Fever remains a highly contagious disease. In the unlikely event that he should show symptoms, we must act quickly so as to avoid the disease spreading. Depending on the situation, my words may not be what you wish to hear. I beg for your leniency in advance.”

Lord Ouhan nodded, “It’s imperative that the Black Wolf Fever doesn’t spread. We will most certainly listen to whatever you have to tell us, so feel free to speak openly.”

Hossal was clearly relieved as he bowed his head, “Thank you, Your Lordship.”

“…However,” Lord Ouhan paused briefly to look at Hossal with an indecipherable gleam in his eyes, and continued, “There are times where we must act prudently. No matter what happens, everything must pass through me first.”

Hossal met Lord Ouhan’s gaze, and nodded, “It shall be as you say.”

 

 


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