As Hossal and Makokan walked down the hallway from Lord Ouhan’s room, they heard the door sliding open behind them, followed by Yotal running after them.
Once he was fairly close, Yotal whispered, “About the <Vaccine> against rabies.”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Out of curiosity, will it become a poison if you end up contracting the Black Wolf Fever?”
Hossal shook his head, “I don’t think that will happen. A <Vaccine> is a medicine that will essentially make the soldiers inside your body remember the face of their enemies, and give them the power to attack only those enemies.”
Yotal knitted his eyebrows, “You’re saying there are soldiers inside the body?”
Hossal smiled, “Of course, it’s just a metaphor. It doesn’t mean that there are tiny people inside you. However, something that protects our bodies like soldiers protecting a castle does exist. To make it easy to understand…let’s see. For example, if you have a gash and get dirt in it, it will sometimes fester, correct?”
“That pus consists of the remains of those tiny, invisible soldiers who captured the germs that entered your body through the wound. The soldiers die alongside the germs and turn into pus. Luckily, there’s a large quantity of those soldiers in our bodies, and if we’re resistant, the pus will harden into a crust that will eventually fall off to reveal new, smooth skin beneath.”
Yotal widened his eyes, “Oh…I see, being healed means the things inside our bodies, the things you called soldiers, won against the germs carrying illness, right?”
“Correct! You got it.” Hossal nodded deeply, and then continued, “There’s multiple types of soldiers as well. Just like there’s guards, archers, and combat engineers among the soldiers protecting a castle, there’s also various soldiers in charge of different duties in our bodies. Moreover, it’s also not like it’s always immediately apparent from their appearance whether the germs are harmful or not. It’s difficult to assess whether someone you haveve just met for the first time is an enemy for you or not, right? That’s why, whenever a disease germ enters a body for the first time, your soldiers need to learn that they are an enemy, be provided weapons capable of fending off the enemy, and be told to fight against the enemy.”
Yotal groaned, “I see, in other words, injecting the body with the weakened poison is to teach the soldiers that these guys are enemies by allowing it to finish off an enemy that has already been given a good beating?”
“Indeed.” Hossal nodded with sparkling eyes. “Since ancient times, we have observed that sometimes people who have suffered a disease once are no longer at risk of a second flare, and this clarifies the reason. The one who came up with the method of injecting a <Vaccine> into a body in advance was my grandfather, Rimiel.”
Yotal lifted an eyebrow, “That, Master Rimiel has…”
“Yes.” Hossal grinned broadly, “The one who developed the medicine to the stage where it could actually enter someone’s body was me.”
His grin suddenly became more bashful and strained.
“Well, either way, the treatment was based on this principle, so the soldiers only fight the disease germs they have learned to identify. However, since you are forcing your body to prepare for battle by adding something foreign to it, it does put a burden on the body.”
Yotal blinked, “Still, it will raise the odds of your survival should you encounter rabies, if you inject that, right? Thus I’d like you to do so for Slumina and Orim.”
Without answering right away, Hossal stared into Yotal’s eyes.
“It’s difficult to predict how much of a burden it will put on the body, and in some cases, the reaction might be much stronger than expected, depending on the individual. I cannot exclude the possibility that it might cause some permanent brain damage if the reaction is too strong.” Seeing Yotal hesitate, Hossal continued, “But then again, the probability of that happening is rather low. It didn’t happen to the twelve people who got the injection so far. But, since the sample size is far too low, I can’t promise you that there’s no danger at all.”
Yotal frowned as he fixed his eyes on Hossal.
“But, without that injection, should the rabies break out, the odds of being saved…?”
“I dislike saying anything absolute on principle, but unfortunately, it is as you say, they are slim to none. There is no cure that I know of.”
Exhaling, Yotal shook his head, his eyes blazing with his resolve.
“Then please do it. Even if they suffer because of it, it’s still more important to save their lives.”
Hossal looked long and hard at Yotal.
“Is that alright with you? I’m going to inject a medicine that’s primarily composed of the germs from a dog into the body of your honorable son.”
Yotal grimaced. Watching as his eyes wavered, Hossal’s expression became gloomy.
Even such an intelligent man fears that a body will be tainted if the germs taken from beasts enter it, huh…? If even Yotal hesitates, it’ll likely be nearly impossible to vaccinate other Ziolians.
Eventually, Yotal exhaled the breath that he had been holding, and smiled bitterly.
“I’m sure that God will know that it was something that I asked for, rather than the wishes of my wife and our son. I will bear the sin of tainting their bodies. Please administer it.”
“Understood. I will visit your mansion this afternoon after making the appropriate preparations.” Hossal said, then softened his expression a bit, “If I were in your shoes, I would have made the same decision.”
As he apparently sensed the sincerity behind Hossal’s remark, Yotal also relaxed his expression a bit, then asked Hossal, as if he had been struck with a sudden thought, “You mentioned it earlier, but it’s possible that this method can be used against the Black Wolf Fever, right?”
Hossal nodded, a gleam deep in his eyes.
“Without a doubt. If the same method does end up being viable, the odds of survival would improve by leaps and bounds. It’s not just about administering it to those who are bitten. If we can create a medicine that can be given to people who are likely to have contact with dogs, for example, it would be the strongest weapon to prevent the spread of the Black Wolf Fever.”
Yotal lifted an eyebrow, “Even for those who haven’t been bitten, you say?”
“Exactly. In other words, if it’s possible to make the Ziolians resistant to the illness, just like the Akafan.”
“Oh…” Yotal’s eyes lit up brightly. “I see. That would certainly be the best method. If that becomes possible, we wouldn’t need to fear the Black Wolf Fever anymore.”
Hossal revealed a wry smile, “We’re putting all our efforts towards the <Vaccine> creation, but it is very difficult to reach a point where the medicine can be injected into a human body. It’s not something you can complete in a day or two. And, even if we complete it, there may be violent side effects, depending on the person. Thus we must carefully repeat this trial and error over a long period of time.”
Yotal exhaled deeply, “I see. It sure doesn’t sound easy. …That said, we can’t just sit around twiddling our thumbs either.”
“No, we can’t.”
“Anyway, for now you must take care of treating the people who were bitten. I thank you for your efforts in advance.”
“Yes, I shall do my very best.”
Hossal nodded and Yotal quietly bowed his head.
As he turned on his heels and started to walk back towards the inner room, the door was slid open, and Rona came out. Yotal seemed to feel quite awkward, but Rona’s expression was completely unchanged, as usual.
Hossal reflexively called Rona, who tried to pass through after a nod, to a halt. “Master Rona.”
Rona stopped. Seeing Rona silently wait for him to say what he had to say, Hossal briefly regretted calling out to him. If he were to say something uncalled-for, it might break the balance that had been struck between them. But, he also felt like now would be the best time to ask.
“I might have misunderstood in some way, but I was of the belief that the Pure Spirit faith’s healing arts would only entrust a sick person to its God without treatment when no known treatment exists.”
Rona narrowed his eyes slightly, but simply listened without agreeing or disagreeing.
“In the case of rabies, a way to prevent an outbreak exists. And yet, you would deny someone that lifesaving treatment?”
Rona kept his silence. Just when Hossal began to think that he had no intention to answer, Rona’s lips moved.
“Yes, we will deny it.”
Hossal frowned, waiting for the explanation. After another fairly long pause, Rona spoke up.
“God created this world in its current shape. Humans are humans, dogs are dogs, and insects are insects. We believe they were given different shapes and ways of life for a good reason. If you cross that boundary, that is messing with the world order and going against the will of God. That is something you shouldn’t do as a human being.”
Hossal stared at Rona with his mouth slightly open.
I…see…so that’s his train of thought. But, I think a person’s life is more important than something like that.
Hossal asked more stubbornly, “So you’re saying, a life that can be saved should be abandoned for that reason? You, a doctor, are refusing to save someone who could be saved?”
Rona calmly replied without a single change in his expression, “What we wish to save isn’t life.”
“What we wish to save is the soul.” He said lightly and dispassionately. “Every living being will die sooner or later. What matters how you live the life given to you, not whether it’s short or long. Us clerical healers offer our meager abilities to help the willing live in spiritual purity rather than enable a long life in a tainted body.”
Hossal stared at Rona, flabbergasted. He felt dizzy.
──…You can’t have a conversation with them doctor to doctor.
For the first time in his life, he fully understood the meaning behind the words his grandfather had said so often.
It’s like trying to punch air. If there is no common ground for the two sides, there is nothing that will allow them to come to an understanding.
In his time as a doctor, Hossal had had various troublesome experiences with other doctors. But, all of those experiences were what you’d call office politics – they were with doctors that were trying to exert their own authority. Since he had never had the opportunity to talk to Rona about medical treatments, he didn’t know that the Pure Spirit faith’s healing arts were based on such thoughts.
This is terrible. Before me is something completely different to a political struggle. The Otawalian medical arts and the Pure Spirit faith’s healing arts are fundamentally different.
Suddenly, he felt a shiver. A chilly anxiety settled in the bottom of his stomach, and his chest tightened painfully.
──They will never allow a precautionary vaccination. What will happen if the option of preventing an epidemic entirely is closed off just when the Black Wolf Fever has resurfaced? The Ziolians have no immunization against this illness. A vast number for people might lose their lives again.
While struggling to suppress his anxiety and irritation, Hossal said, “…What about the treatment for the people who were injured in the incident this time? You’re saying you will do nothing, leaving them to divine judgment?”
Rona’s expression changed somewhat, as if he had been asked something unexpected.
“I haven’t said anything like that, though.”
“What I called a violation of providence is the act of allowing the blood of animals into the bodies of humans. If you know of a good treatment besides that method, please administer it by all means. We’re inexperienced with the Black Wolf Fever so we don’t have any means to treat it, but if there’s anything we can help you with, we will gladly provide you assistance should you require it.”
With that, Rona silently bowed his head, turned on his heels, and left.
Makokan quietly spoke up as Hossal stared, his lips pursed, at the Rona’s retreating figure, “Next up is King Akafah’s place, right?”
“Hmm? …Yeah.” Hossal shook his head. “No, first we will examine the injuries of the Ziolian falconer.”
“Eh? Is it okay not to examine Lord Mazai first?”
Hossal began to walk towards the entry hall.
“When someone is bitten by a dog, we must first consider the possibility of rabies, blood poisoning, and tetanus. All of these are difficult to prevent, but there are preliminary steps that we should take. I also mentioned it earlier, but in many cases the symptoms of rabies will not appear immediately. There are cases where it has broken out after a month, and even some cases where the symptoms only appeared after several years. We can’t predict when it will take hold, but generally it seems to be faster the closer the wound is to the head.”
“Oh, I see. So that’s why you’re going to visit the Ziolian falconer first. He was grazed by a fang just beneath his jaw, wasn’t he?”
Hossal nodded, but he was clearly distracted as he muttered, “I guess King Akafah’s mansion will follow afterwards.”
Makokan frowned, “Is there something worrying you?”
Hossal cast a sidelong glance at Makokan, but didn’t answer. Walking next to his young master, who continued to trudge on with a sullen look, uncharacteristically silent when he would usually be frivolously teasing him, Makokan felt as if there was a weight on his chest.