Noon of the ninth day since the falcon hunt.
As soon as the bell of the main gate rang, the entry hall became noisy. Hossal had barely lifted his pale face before Lord Ouhan’s messenger slammed open the door and rushed inside the building.
“It’s urgent. Please come to the castle.”
Without another word, the messenger hurried Hossal along with a bizarre expression, leaving him no choice.
I guess Utal has developed rashes.
Mumbling that under his breath, Hossal had Makokan carry his medical tools instead of Miral, who stayed behind to continue the treatments, and boarded the carriage waiting outside.
When he entered the castle, Utal was already comatose. Rona and his pupils were sitting around him as he lay on a big futon laid out in the middle of his unduly spacious bedroom. The room’s windows were covered in cloth, and transient columns of smoke billowed in the dim, dusky light. It was an aroma Hossal had smelled many times before.
…Sleeping Spirit Incense.
It was an incense that alleviated pain and induced sleep which the clerical healers used when they wanted to allow someone, whom they had deemed incurable, to pass on peacefully.
Lord Ouhan and Yotal were staring at Utal from a short distance away.
Spotting Hossal when he lifted his head, Lord Ouhan said with a hoarse voice, “…He kept the fact that he had developed rashes hidden.” Slowly, Lord Ouhan managed to recount what had happened , “His face was already pale last night, but he suddenly collapsed at breakfast. When we loosened his collar to help him breathe better, we realized…rashes had appeared…”
The corners of Lord Ouhan’s eyes were red. Seeing a gleam at the outer corner of his deeply wrinkled eyes, Hossal reflexively averted his eyes. ──Lord Ouhan was purely a father right now, and that wasn’t something Hossal wanted to see. Instead, he looked at Utal, and when he saw his chest slowly heaving up and down, a certain thought suddenly crossed his mind.
The convulsions haven’t started yet, have they? In that case…
As if reading Hossal’s thoughts, Yotal called out to him, “Do you know of a way to treat this?”
Hossal raised his head to look at Yotal.
“I have medicine, yes. However, even after administering it, the patients’ lives have merely been prolonged for a day and a night thus far.”
Yotal pursed his lips, and looked at his father. “Father.”
Lord Ouhan’s jaw muscles flexed, probably a sign that he was gritting his teeth. He looked at Rona, then at his beddridden son, and finally, got out, “…When he collapsed, Utal said that he doesn’t wish for his body to be stained with Otawialian medicine. If it was effective, I would overrule him and tell you to administer it anyway, but…” His eyes were blurred by tears. “I can’t ignore my child’s last wish and taint his body to prolong his life by just one day and night. …God will watch over him.”
Lord Ouhan closed his eyes, and his thick lips trembled for a long time, but then he suddenly threw his eyes open, and lowly rumbled at his son.
“Live on, Utal! Don’t be defeated by a mere illness.”
However, his voice never reached Utal. Following the course of coma and convulsions that Hossal was inured to by now, Utal breathed his last in the dead of night. Hossal watched how the man who had teased his younger brother with a brazen look merely few days ago ─ a courageous man, who had led an army from the frontlines, left this world all too quickly, just like a leaf that fluttered from the branch ─ with an odd sense of dejection in his heart.
The loss of Utal, the Ouhan family’s eldest son, meant that Yotal was no longer able to leave his father’s side. However, having witnessed the tragedy with his own eyes, Yotal desperately and worriedly invited Hossal to his own office and flooded him with questions as soon as the door closed.
“…No rashes have shown up on Slumina and Orim, right?”
“No, at least not before I left the mansion.” Yotal grabbed Hossal’s wrist. “What do you make of the fact that rashes haven’t appeared on them at this point in time? Would you say that the likelihood of them being spared is high?”
Hossal looked into Yotal’s eyes, “I can’t say what will happen from now on. But, the fact that no rashes have appeared on them even after Lord Utal, who was blessed with a robust body, succumbed, gives me reason to believe that the two of them are fairly well disposed against this disease..”
Hossal placed his right hand on top of the hand that was on his left wrist, then brought his face closer and whispered, “…Not a single Akafan has had any rashes yet.”
Yotal’s eyes gleamed. Both remained silent for a long time, just staring at each other.
Eventually Hossal whispered while gently removing his hand, “Please be prepared for the worst. ──But, there’s hope.”
Yotal stepped back from Hossal, and covered his face with both hands.
The voice that slipped through his fingers was filled with grief, irritation and sadness as he thought of his son – whose blood was only half Akafan. However, the next one who presented with rashes wasn’t Orim.
Returning to the cabin in the Forest of Dicar, Hossal didn’t even have a chance to take a break before Mana called him over.
“…Lady Miral says that she’d like you to come to her at once.”
Hossal knitted his eyebrows, “Orim?”
Mana shook his head, “No, it’s Lord Izam.”
Hossal’s face twisted. His lips pursed, Hossal hurried to the room where they had accommodated Izam.
The rays of the morning sun poured into the room through the big window, gently illuminating Izam from the chest down from where he was lying in bed. When Hossal entered the room, Miral turned around, looking terrible with bags heavy under her eyes.
Quickly approaching the bed, Hossal came to a stop next to Miral. Izam was still conscious, but he seemed confused. His eyes were blank and his pupils shook, unable to focus. Rashes had appeared sporadically on the boy’s slender, sweaty neck.
“…His temperature went up a while ago,” Miral said quietly.
Hossal nodded, gently touching Miral’s elbow.
“I’ll take over. You take a break.”
Miral opened her mouth, then closed it again without a word and nodded. She limped a little as she left the room, her shoulders slumping. It looked as if her whole body had shrunk a size.
“Mana, I’m sorry, but…”
When Hossal started to speak, Mana nodded quickly, “I have the medical tea I prepared in advance for Lady Miral. I will warm it up for her. I added a few medicinal herbs to soothe her nerves, so she should be able to fall asleep quickly.”
Hossal bowed deeply towards Mana. Mana was visibly surprised but immediately returned a deep bow and left the room, chasing after Miral. As soon as they left, Hossal faced the boy on the bed.
“Izam, can you hear me?”
Even though Hossal was speaking right next to his ear, Izam didn’t react at all. Now that it had come to this, it was obvious how things would progress from here.
Makokan stood stock still behind his young master, averting his eyes from the still childish face of Izam as he seemed to stare at something not of this world.
That afternoon, Izam began to shiver. His temperature had suddenly soared. Hossal frantically called out to the boy who was arching in pain.
“Pull yourself together! You mustn’t give in! Don’t sleep! Stay awake!”
While chanting it like a mantra, Hossal slapped his own cheeks. His knees were trembling. By now he had gone almost sleepless for three days.
…He’s at his limit.
Makokan approached Hossal, but as soon as placed a hand on Hossal’s shoulder it was slapped away.
“Don’t touch me!”
Makokan looked at Mana, who was also standing near Hossal.
“What about that herbal tea?”
Mana shook his head bitterly. “He has already drunk it. Any more…”
Hossal lifted his face, thundering with a subdued voice, “I told you to shut it, didn’t I!? Right now my personal condition doesn’t matter at all!”
The sound of the door opening masked his voice. When he looked back, Hossal’s eyes widened. He stared at the person who had entered with a dumbfounded expression.
An elderly man wrapped in a light brown robe quietly entered the room, stopping next to Hossal. Miral, who had come in after him, nodded lightly at Hossal, and waited a short distance away. Probably because she had had Mana’s medical tea and managed to sleep, some color had returned to her face.
Grandfather? Then this must be Master Rimiel?
Rimiel Yugroul, Hossal’s grandfather and foster parent, as well as a famous doctor who had saved Ziol’s empress. Makokan felt very strange when he realised that he had laid eyes on a living legend.
Rimiel was tall. His long face, framed by loosely swaying, grizzled hair, was gentle but there was a firm determination in his eyes. Rimiel had a very curious expression on his face when he caught sight of Mana, but immediately focused on Hossal and Izam again.
He prompted Hossal to report on Izam’s condition, and once he listened to everything he gently extended a hand and opened Izam’s eyelid. Receiving a candle from Hossal, he examined Izam’s pupils, moving the light as he needed.
Once he had completed his basic examination, he asked in a low voice, “The convulsions haven’t begun yet, right?”
Hossal nodded, “Correct.”
“Let’s try injecting kokal then.”
Caught off-guard, Hossal looked up at him with a questioning look, “Kokal, you say?”
“Ah…,” Miral made a noise of realisation, causing Hossal to look back at her.
“What is it?”
Miral approached the two, and timidly looked up at Rimiel.
“Do you possibly mean the cure from the time of <Seulat’s Mad Dog>…?”
Immediately after hearing that, Hossal’s eyes lit up. Then he pinched his brows in thought.
“However, back then bossa and not kokal was used, wasn’t it?”
“Indeed. But, kokal acts more quickly and is more potent than bossa.”
Rimiel placed a firm hand on Hossal’s shoulder when he noticed his grandson’s hesitation.
“It will be pointless if you don’t administer it before the convulsions start.”
Hossal breathed in deeply, and nodded at Miral. He followed Miral as she turned on her heels, probably with the intent to prepare the kokal. Makokan chased them out of the room as well.
“I will help out.”
“…T-Thanks, please do.”
Seizing the door that was about to close, Mana also stepped out on the corridor.
“Is it alright for me to go with you as well?”
The sun had quietly set while they were preoccupied and the shadows stretched long down the corridor. As they quickly made their way through the intermittently shadowed corridor towards the medical depository, Mana asked Miral, “Is kokal a dangerous medicine?”
Miral glanced at Mana, “It’s not used much on people. It’s a drug that’s often used to tranquilize wild animals.”
Mana lifted an eyebrow.
“Yes. It’s an effective drug since it puts you to sleep without affecting your breathing, but there’s also a possibility that you may never wake again.”
“Eh!? Why use it then?”
Touching the pillar as she rounded it, Miral answered, “Several years ago, Master Rimiel saved a little girl who showed symptoms of rabies. As of now, it remains the sole case of such a miraculous success. Back then he used bossa, a drug that puts one into a coma like kokal. If you want to know the details, I will tell you later, but in short, by putting the patient in a coma, the commands from the brain were cut off, suppressing any convulsions.” After taking a short breath, Miral continued, “So far, the cause of death for all patients has been an inability to breathe due to the convulsions. By inducing a coma to suppress the convulsions, he plans to give the patient’s body enough time to fight the virus, I think.”
Miral pursed her lips, her face visibly pale even in profile, but there was a strong gleam in her eyes. Her visage overflowed with a fierce spirit, like a mother trying to protect her child.
As soon as the kokal was administered, Izam fell into a coma. His breathing became shallow, but didn’t stop. After making sure of that, Rimiel looked back at Hossal.
“Did you administer all of the new medicines?”
“Yes. However, it was only possible to delay the progression for one day and night, and in the end it didn’t help enough to save their lives.”
Rimiel narrowed his eyes, “What about your stock? Do you still have some?”
“Yes. There’s plenty left since Miral and the others worked tirelessly to produce the Anti-Disease Germ Medicine.”
Rimiel glanced at Miral, smiling. Then he shifted his gaze back to Hossal, saying, “Then keep giving it to this boy from now on.”
Hossal’s eyes trembled for a fleeting moment, but he nodded vigorously.
Mana, who was standing behind the three, listened to their exchange with an excited look.
Thanks to Miral teaching him, Makokan also somewhat grasped what they were trying to do.
It looks like they’re trying to give the body the strength to fend off the illness’ poison by administering medicine while suppressing the convulsions by making him sleep.
It was a gamble whether the slender-looking body of the boy would be able to survive this cruel battle, but just the fact that they could let Izam try a different path to what had become the norm revived Hossal and Miral’s spirits. They were almost like completely different people.
Even as the night dragged on, no convulsions plagued Izam. That night, Hossal and Miral were able to entrust the medical care to Rimiel and were finally able to get a good night’s sleep in their own bed.