The mansion of King Akafah was situated in the outskirts of Kazan, the former capital of Akafah. After handing his former castle over to Lord Ouhan, King Akafah had moved to these spacious grounds, which were surrounded by a beautiful forest, and dotted with the mansions of several other members of the royal family.
King Akafah ushered Hossal into a living room that was flooded with autumn light and, in contrast to Lord Ouhan, he looked rather calm as he politely welcomed Hossal.
“If you have already visited Lord Ouhan’s place at this hour, I suspect that you haven’t had any breakfast yet. As such, I had a little something prepared, so please have a bite first.”
A nice aroma had filled the room, and a luxurious breakfast was laid out on the dining table, white steam rising languidly in the sunlight. Several egg dishes and lightly baked fermented wheat dough, that had plenty of savory rak (butter) smeared on it and sprinkled with sugar and honey, were lined up. Even a dish with cut fruit mixed with white lachu (yoghurt) lay in a quartz bowl on the table.
“I’m deeply grateful for your consideration, but I don’t have much time so I’d like to examine Lord Mazai and Lord Izam’s wounds first, if you don’t mind.”
King Akafah waved him off.
“When I was notified of your arrival, I sent for them. They are on the way. Please enjoy the food while we’re waiting.”
The relationship between Hossal, an Otawalian aristocrat, and King Akafah was complicated, and thus both used a vaguely formal way of speech. As he listened to their conversation from a corner of the room, Makokan thought that this complicated and ambiguous language represented the relationship between Otawal and Akafah rather splendidly.
…At any rate, it really smells great.
His stomach rumbled the instant he thought so. Hossal looked back at him, raising an eyebrow, shocked.
“Don’t act all carefree, letting your stomach growl at such a time.”
King Akafah laughed at that.
“It will be difficult for him to complete his duties if he’s hungry. I will have a light meal that can be eaten while standing brought for your attendant as well.”
While watching the king call a servant with a small bell and order them to prepare an additional breakfast, Hossal narrowed his eyes slightly, as if something was on his mind, but when the king turned around again he quickly corrected his expression.
The king said, “Now then,” as he invited Hossal to sit down at the dining table, “How is Lord Utal’s condition?”
Hossal lowered his eyelids, and replied, “As a doctor, I can’t speak of a patient’s condition to others, but Lord Ouhan’s decision about the matter in question was mostly as I had expected it to be.”
Then he started to recount what he had explained to Lord Ouhan about the medical treatment.
While listening to Hossal, Makokan thought to himself, I see, so he examined them first so that he could inform the king about the situation over there. I’m sure Lord Ouhan has guessed as much, too. What a bothersome method.
Recalling that three powers were mingling and sounding out each other in this one region, he felt an urge to sigh. Well, I guess this sort of thing is right up those two old hunting dogs’ alley, though.
Once King Akafah heard the rough outline and made his own assessment of the situation, he readily agreed with administering the <Vaccine> to Mazai and the others who were bitten to prevent the rabies.
“It’s something I had planned to ask you anyway. Please administer it to all the Akafans.” With those words, King Akfah sighed, “After all, it’s a truly terrifying illness. I happened to witness a case once in my childhood. It is seared into my memory and even if we must all perish in the end, that is most definitely not the way I want to go.”
Hossal watched the king while eating lachu.
“That’s true. Rabies is truly terrible. But, we have started to see results in preventing the outbreak, and since it isn’t spread by mites and similar bugs, it isn’t too difficult to contain in the first place. I think the Black Wolf Fever is currently a lot more terrifying for us.”
King Akafah’s expression changed.
“Indeed, I have no doubt. …So that old, fateful illness has reared its head once more, huh?” Sighing, King Akafah looked out the window. “I believe Akafah’s gods are telling us something with this. We must listen to their voices to not err.”
Hossal put down his spoon and fixed his eyes on the king, calmly saying, “Illnesses are caused by invisible disease germs. There exists a shockingly huge variety of germs, and the human body also reacts to them in a shockingly large number of ways… As of now, it’s a trove of things we don’t understand, but I’m positive that someday, everything down to the tiniest detail will be known.”
Refocusing on Hossal, the king smiled, “The Otawalian aristocrats have often said that illnesses are unrelated to the gods and evil spirits.”
“Yes. At the very least we believe that it’s something that can be attained with human hands.”
The king shook his head slowly, “I don’t think so. There are places you won’t reach no matter how much you try. Those places are the domain of the gods and evil spirits. Every day I feel that there are forces beyond our ken at work.”
Hossal smiled faintly.
“It might sound strange to you, but I also believe that there are forces beyond our knowledge at work.”
The king lifted a white eyebrow, “Hoh?”
Hossal continued, “However, I have no intention of merely standing by as those forces work. I agree with calling it the <Domain of the Gods>, but it is not something to bow my head and treat with reverence. I will continue to walk onward, finding the way with my own hands. …Until the last flicker of life leaves this body.” Then he suddenly wiped the smile off his face, “I think I’m probably a coward. That something big must be tremendous. The domain beyond our reach is absurdly vast and ever changing. On the shore of the grand ocean that is the world, we petty life-forms must constantly and seriously face the endless waves to continue living on.”
Hossal stared at the king with eyes gleaming. “There are times when something that had previously been harmless for some time suddenly turned into an enemy. ──Illness is just like that. I believe that it’s an opponent you mustn’t look down on, no matter what.”
King Akafah narrowed his eyes all of a sudden. Just when he opened his mouth to answer, a bell just outside the door rang. The king blinked for a moment, but then turned to the door, and gave permission to enter.
The door opened, and Mazai came inside with his son. Izam, who was two years older than Orim, had already grown as tall as his father, but he was still lanky, and with the bandage wrapped around his ankle he looked rather pitiful.
“Oh, I see that we have intruded on a meal.”
With a smile, Hossal stopped Mazai, who had already started trying to back out, and invited him to come by the window.
“It’s a shame that I couldn’t witness your prowess yesterday. Even though I endured the boredom just to have a look for myself.” While making small talk, Hossal had Mazai sit down on a chair, and removed the bandage on his arm.
Makokan opened Hossal’s medical bag and held it out for him, as Hossal deftly disinfected first his hands, then Mazai’s wound, before carefully examining the wound.
“Considering that you were bitten by a dog, you’ve healed quite nicely.”
After applying a medicine on the wound and wrapping a new bandage around it, Hossal picked up a metallic tongue depressor.
“Please open your mouth wide for a moment.”
Hossal checked his throat by the light of the window, then touched the area beneath both of Mazai’s ears with his fingers. Then he had Mazai take off his coat, pressed a sort of wooden funnel against his chest, and carefully listened.
Nodding once, Hossal smiled, “At present it doesn’t look like any worrisome symptoms have appeared.”
Mazai’s face visibly relaxed. King Akafah was calmly smiling at his seat at the dining table.
“Next it’s your turn then. Sit down over here.” Hossal instructed Izam.
The boy sat down on the chair his father had vacated with a somewhat tense expression. While Makokan knelt down and carefully untied the bandage at Izam’s ankle, Hossal casually started a conversation, asking if the wound hurt.
“…A bit, it was slightly painful.” He answered with a hoarse voice that was difficult to understand.
Hossal squinted to get a better look at the wound on his ankle, slowly pressing the area around the wound, and then touched his groin.
“Do you feel pain here as well?”
Izam nodded, “…A bit.”
Hossal turned the boy’s face into the light of the sun. He looked into his eyes, and had the boy open his mouth to check his throat, but no smile could be seen on Hossal’s face now.
Once he had listened to Izam’s chest, Hossal said, “You can put your clothes back on.”
Hossal still had something on his mind, staring absentmindedly at the boy as he pulled on his tunic, but quickly collected himself, standing and turning to face Mazai and the king.
“I haven’t seen any serious symptoms, but there’s something that worries me a little. Ultimately it’s just a precautionary measure, but I’d like to take him to the clinic to keep watching his condition for a while.”
The other two men immediately frowned.
“Something that worries you as in…?”
“Quite a bit of swelling can be seen around the wound, and I also felt some swelling near his groin and beneath his ears. His throat is swollen, too. All of these are signs that harmful germs have entered his body.” Seeing how both turned pale, Hossal smiled so as to calm them down, “It’s only natural, since he was bitten by a dog. Germs have also entered your body, Lord Mazai. If your throat turns red or the swelling spreads from now on, I’d like you to come to the clinic as well. However, in Izam’s case, you see, he’s already had a strong response to it, so I’d like to keep an eye on his condition for caution’s sake. We ought to take the utmost care in the current situation.”
After his explanation, Hossal placed a hand on the shoulder of the boy who was sitting on the chair in a daze.
“I want you to get your servants to prepare for your outing, tell them that you will spend the night elsewhere for several days. But be careful of what you say. If you blow it out of proportion, they will pale just like your father, okay?”
The boy seemed to relax a bit, and nodded. After he bowed to everyone and left the room, Hossal turned to King Akafah.
“There’s something I’d like to request from you, if I may.”
The king had been vacantly staring at the door that the boy had walked through, his mind clearly occupied, but after hearing his name he blinked a few times and focused his attention on Hossal.
“You have a hunting cabin in the Forest of Dicar, don’t you?”
The king knitted his eyebrows, “I do.”
“I was wondering if you could lend it to me for a while. I’d like to set up a temporary hospital.”
There was a flash of understanding through the king’s eyes.
“A hospital to isolate those infected with the Black Wolf Fever, it is?”
Hossal nodded, “If it’s the Forest of Dicar, it’s both far enough and close enough to this mansion, Kazan, and Lord Ouhan’s castle, so I’ve been considering it for a while now. Since it will be too late once there are patients, I’d rather prepare now.”
The king sighed deeply, “Understood, I will lend it to you. I will dispatch craftsmen right away to make the necessary changes for it to act as a hospital.” After agreeing to fulfill Hossal’s request, he lowered his voice and made a point of looking into Hossal’s eyes, “Has Izam caught the rabies?”
Hossal met the king’s gaze, “At this point, it is too difficult to tell. He was bitten in the ankle so I would not expect symptoms to present so quickly. The symptoms I identified in Izam just now aren’t unique to a dog bite. They are symptoms you often see in someone who has been deeply wounded. …However,” Hossal continued quietly, “I’d like to take every precaution I can. Better safe than sorry after all.”