When Hossal’s team visited their room, Orima was lying in the bed, but Slumina was sitting next to his bed, stroking her son’s hand. Orim’s face was red, but no rashes had appeared, and there was still light in his eyes.
“Does your throat hurt?” Orim nodded in response to Hossal’s question. “Okay, please open your mouth for a bit.”
While Hossal checked his throat, touched the areas beneath his ears, and took his pulse, Miral did the same with Slumina.
“Lady Slumina, your condition hasn’t changed since this morning. Only the redness of your throat has intensified a bit.”
Even as she heard Miral’s diagnosis, Slumina anxiously looked at her son and Hossal.
“Is Orim going to be alright?”
Hossal nodded, “He hasn’t developed any rashes yet, and compared to the other patients, the two of you aren’t experiencing any extreme symptoms. We must still be careful, but I think there’s hope.”
Slumina sighed, the relief visible on her face.
“…What about Izam and my elder brother?”
Makokan stood behind him and listened to Hossal summarise their conditions in plain words. Usually Hossal’s tone was rather playful, but he paid surprisingly tender attention to the sick and those worrying about their sick family.
Seeing him like this, this man is truly a doctor to his core, Makokan concluded.
Slumina listened to Hossal absentmindedly, but the instant she heard that Mazai had been administered an antibody treatment, her eyes gleamed.
“He was able to have the injection!? That’s wonderful! Since Mrs. Miral told me that it wouldn’t be effective, I was certain that it wouldn’t be an option for us.”
Seeing that Miral had a troubled expression and was about to speak, Hossal cut in and informed Slumina of the possible dangers, just like he had done with Mazai. Slumina listened to him and nodded attentively, but it was obvious that her head was filled with nothing but the possibility of getting the injection.
The moment Hossal finished his explanation, Slumina leaned forward, and said, “I understand what you’re saying. You mean to say that it could be dangerous.” Then she continued with fervour, the words pouring out of her, “But, I accept the risks. Please administer the medicine to him as well, no matter what. I can’t continue like this, living everyday in fear, not knowing whether or not my son will succumb to the disease. I prayed all this time, and yet the fever has also taken Orim…I…I don’t know what I should do anymore either. I’m scared, really scared.”
Hossal cupped his hand over Slumina’s white hands, gently pinning them down.
“Please calm down. As his mother you mustn’t allow young Orim to see you like this.”
Slumina quickly closed her mouth.
“Orim hasn’t developed any rashes yet. It’s completely possible that the disease will spare him. The antibody treatment for the Black Wolf Fever hasn’t been verified to be safe for people yet. At this point, I cannot, in good conscience, support you ignoring the risk of an overreaction and having the medicine administered simply because you’re worried.”
For a while, Slumina kept her eyes fixed on Hossal as she tried to calm her breathing, but eventually she closed her eyes, and took a deep breath before opening her eyes again.
“…Then please administer it to me first. I’m this boy’s mother. I gave birth to him. He shares my blood. Wouldn’t it prove that it will be fine to administer the medicine to Orim if I do not have any negative reactions?”
Hossal furrowed his eyebrows. “That’s not a certainty. You’re right, there does seem to be a relationship between the sensitivities of mother and child, but…”
“My brother didn’t have that dangerous reaction to the medicine, right? He is my older brother, isn’t it possible that this constitution or whatever you called it, is something we share?”
Probably fueled by her desperation, Slumina assumed one thing after another. As he watched her become more and more fervent, as if she had been possessed by something, Makokan felt a faint concern as someone unrelated to medical arts.
This might become rather troublesome if only Orim and Slumina aren’t given the new medicine. For King Akafah, Slumina is his niece, and Orim has his blood flowing in him. And of course, for Lord Ouhan Orim is his grandson. If they hear that those two, who are of complicated lineage, were given a different medical treatment to the other patients, it’s unclear what kind of speculations would spread.
Given that Mana is watching, we can likely get him to explain the true reason to Rona, but the bureaucrats and soldiers, who have no medical knowledge, will make their own guesses, I’m sure. However, if everyone is given the same treatment, that wouldn’t be an issue.
I’m sure Hossal has this in mind as well, but I doubt he’ll change his medical decision just because of that. It’s Hossal’s firm belief that a medical decision should only take people and life into account, and he’s terribly stubborn about it.
Makokan blinked at the sudden mention of his name.
“Go and ask Saccol about Mr. Mazai’s condition. Make sure you ask about any adverse reactions, not just if there was an overreaction.”
“As you wish.”
Makokan left the room, heading to Mazai and Izam’s sickroom. Right now Hossal’s best pupil, Saccol, was observing them in Hossal’s stead. Makokan knocked on the door and entered, finding Rimiel next to Mazai’s bed, talking to Saccol.
“I’m terribly sorry for interrupting you while you are busy.”
Rimiel lifted his head to look at Makokan when he heard those quiet words.
Rimiel silently listened and thought as Makokan explained the situation and passed on Hossal’s message, but as soon as he finished talking, Rimiel suddenly stood up.
“I will go with you. Please guide me to their room.”
Seeing Rimiel enter the hospital room with Makokan, Hossal got up from his chair. Nodding at his grandson, Rimiel beamed a smile at Slumina.
“How is your condition?”
Being questioned by the famous Rimiel, Slumina began to recount her own condition while trembling nervously. Rimiel nodded as he listened to her and when she finished he turned to Hossal.
“It sounds like Mrs. Slumina wishes to try out the new medicine, doesn’t it?”
“I see. ──If she is fully aware of the risks and wishes to continue regardless, I believe that we should administer it to her. What do you think?”
Hossal stared at Rimiel with a frown. For a while, they simply locked eyes in silence.
“Of course, there are various issues we must consider. …Mrs. Slumina.” Rimiel turned to Slumina. “You’re the wife of Lord Ouhan’s second son, and Orim is his grandson. In order to avoid unnecessary trouble in the future, I will write a letter to Lord Yotal to obtain his consent first. Is that alright with you?”
Slumina nodded at once, “Yes, I’m in your hands.”
Hossal left the room, chasing Rimiel down the corridor.
“Grandfather.” Hossal whispered quietly. “Do you intend to experiment on those two?”
Rimiel looked back, fixing his grandson with a look.
“The virus continues to multiply in their bodies. The medicine is more effective the earlier we administer it. Those two seem to possess some kind of immunity, but their fevers keep rising. At this rate, it’s also possible that they’ll go the way of the other patients. …Well, I can’t deny that it’ll be a gamble, but if it comes to the question of what to gamble on, I think it’s better to bet on suppressing an allergic reaction. At least we know how to deal with them to some extent.”
Hossal’s frowned, “You’re changing the subject again.” With a gleam in his eye, Hossal added, “Grandfather, you actually want to see what kind of reactions will occur, don’t you?”
Rimiel looked back at his grandson, answering with a quiet voice, “If you understand that much, you don’t need to ask, right?”
Hossal pursed his lips, watching Rimiel intensely for a bit before letting out a long breath.
“…Damn you.” Hossal clicked his tongue and said, “You’re as terrible as ever. ──But then again, I’m just like you in this regard.”
With a faint smile, Rimiel turned his back on his grandson.
As soon as he received Yotal’s consent, which actually went as far as to request that the medicine be administered, Rimiel prepared everything in case an overreaction occurred, and went back to Slumina and Orim’s room. Though it was her idea to have the injection, Slumina’s face cramped up when she caught sight of the syringe. Orim looked as if he would start bawling at any moment.
“Now, now, there’s no need for such expressions.” Rimiel admonished Orim, looking down at the two of them with a bright expression. “It looks scary, but you know it’s nowhere near as painful as you think it is, don’t you? The pain will be gone by the time you count to three. It definitely won’t be a problem for a descendant of a brave Ziolian general and the great King of Akafah like you, don’t you think?”
After hearing that, his pride as the son of a warrior wouldn’t allow Orim to look frightened anymore. He nodded and put on a brave face, highlighting his childish features even more.
“Yep. I expect nothing less of a warrior. Even though you’re a child, the excellence of your character is obvious.” After cheerfully praising Orim, Rimiel shifted his gaze to Slumina, “I will first administer the new medicine to Orim. It’s Orim who has the higher fever. If we’re going to administer it, we should do so as soon as possible. Once he is settled, I will administer it to you. Is that fine with you?”
Slumina looked up to Rimiel with a pale face, “…Umm, what if that something-reaction occurs…?”
Hossal gently lifted his hand.
“We’ve made the necessary preparations to help you should that happen. Don’t worry too much. You’ve come this far, please just relax and let us do the work.”
Rimiel drew the medicine into the syringe after carefully measuring the dose, pressed the remaining air out of it, and then grabbed Orim’s slender, trembling arm. After wiping his skin with a medicine-soaked pad, he injected the medicine with practiced movements.
Orim grimaced in pain, but Rimiel already pulled out the needle, “See, it’s done. It wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be, right?”
Orim breathed deeply, and nodded while quivering.
Orim did not have a particularly strong reaction to the new medicine. The spot where Rimiel had injected the medicine swelled a little more than Mazai’s, but even after some time had passed, there was no further reaction.
However, the same could not be said for Slumina.
Moments after the medicine was administered, Slumina’s face changed color.
After croaking those words out, Slumina turned pale, holding her own throat. Sweat dripped down her cheeks, drenching her person. She flapped her mouth like a fish on dry land, rasping for air, obviously unable to breathe.
Makokan watched this severe reaction unfold from the side in terror, but Hossal and Miral moved smoothly in tandem to deal with it, showing no particular panic. As soon as Hossal had pinned down Slumina’s forehead with a hand and lifted her head to ensure that the airway was clear, Miral inserted a sprayer with some kind of liquid into Slumina’s mouth, and blew the liquid medicine into her throat.
Meanwhile, Rimiel disinfected Slumina’s arm while holding a syringe, and injected another medicine.
Hossal comforted Orim, who had been scared by the sudden change in his mother, “You see, this is a medicine made out of something secreted by a certain organ. It’s very effective, so don’t worry. …Look, she’s already calmed down. Isn’t it wonderful? It worked properly on your mother.”
Mana froze at the mention of how the medicine was procured. Hossal and Rimiel noticed, but only exchanged a glance without saying anything to him.
Hossal’s words rang true, and Slumina’s breathing returned shortly thereafter. Mana stared at the quick and dramatic manifestation of the medicine’s effect with mixed feelings. Hossal indifferently continued to treat Slumina, who was ghastly pale and on the verge of fainting.
“It’s okay. All is fine now. You aren’t facing death, so please calm yourself and breathe with ease.” Miral repeated, stroking Slumina’s hand soothingly. “It was painful, I’m sure. You must have been scared, but it’s okay now. Your chest felt too tight and you started losing your vision as your blood pressure fell, right? It will start getting better any moment now.”
Slumina’s condition eventually improved, and she closed her eyes in complete exhaustion.
Just as Miral took Slumina’s slender white wrist into her hands to take her pulse, there was a knock on the door, and one of Hossal’s pupils entered.
“…Excuse me, but Saccol said that he’d like you to come.”
Hossal looked back, nodding. “Got it. I’ll be right there.”
Leaving Slumina and Orim to Rimiel and Miral, Hossal stood up and left the room, following his pupil. As he stepped out into the corridor, Hossal called out to the pupil.
“Did someone’s condition change? Which one?”
“Lord Mazai. Rashes have appeared from his throat to his abdomen.”
Hossal knitted his eyebrows. When he entered the room, Saccol stepped aside.
“The rashes suddenly appeared moments ago. It looks like his mind is no longer clear either.”
Hossal checked the rashes, touched the back of his ears, and opened his eyelids to look at his eyes.
“Those rashes seem different to the others.”
Hossal nodded at Saccol’s observation, “You’re right. I think this is a drug rash. It’s probably caused by an oversensitivity to the medicine.”
With his hand on Mazai’s neck to monitor his pulse, Hossal squinted lightly, “The actual problem here is his confused state.”
That night, Mazai suffered from convulsions. But, those convulsions weren’t as severe as those of the other patients. They calmed down very quickly, and never reached a life-threatening stage.
The next morning, Orim and Slumina followed Mazai, becoming confused and experiencing convulsions, but in the end, neither developed a serious condition. Once the confusion and convulsions passed, they fell into a deep sleep.
After sleeping for about half a day, they opened their eyes and blankly stared into empty space like their souls hadn’t yet returned to them.
“Wonderful, you’re okay now. You did really well.” Miral cheerfully exclaimed, patting the boy on the shoulder, unable to hide her joy.
The boy glanced up at Miral with an embarrassed expression. His eyes darted around as if he had something he wanted to say, but was also hesitant to voice it.
“Did you see a strange dream?”
Orim responded to Miral’s prompting, nodding and answering with a hoarse voice, “…A very…I had a very weird dream.”
“What kind of dream?”
Orim blinked, about to answer, but stopped. Then he muttered quietly, “…I forgot.”
When the patients had stabilised enough for them to take a break, Mana returned to Rona once more. Although Hossal had promised to show him, he never expressed any real enthusiasm for seeing the small, invisible creatures causing illnesses with his own eyes.
Hossal was surprised, and declared, “Why? Once you see them, your view of illnesses will definitely change.”
But Mana slowly shook his head, “I don’t think it will. As such, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to see them,” said Mana, and after taking a moment to find the right words he continued, “Discovering the source of an illness isn’t something particularly important for the Pure Spirit faith’s healing arts. Everything that needs to be examined will manifest in the bodies of the sick. Once you examine the body, you will learn what the problem is. You said that small creatures enter the body and trigger an illness, but that is simply another way of saying that impurities have entered the body. Even if the same impurity enters their bodies, people will still react differently to it. What matters isn’t the nature of the impurity, but the alleviation of the harm that the impurity caused.”
Mana smiled, “As such, the body remains what needs to be examined. Interacting with the sick and helping them live their lives well. I believe that’s the path I wish to follow.”
With those words he bowed deeply, returning to his own master.
Rimiel, who had silently watched the whole exchange as he drank his tea, sighed deeply once Mana had left the room.
Hossal pulled a chair out for himself, and sat opposite of his grandfather.
“It’s a little like they’re in a huge bubble, the clerical healers of the Pure Spirit faith. No matter what you try to bring up with them, it all revolves around their unquestionable theory of god’s teaching in the end.”
“That is because they believe that they already have the final answer to everything from the outset.”
Miral interjected with some hesitance, “But…to be honest, I was charmed by their spirit.”
Rimiel smiled at Miral.
“I see. It’s not that I don’t understand your feelings. ──But,” Suddenly there was a hardness in Rimiel’s gaze, “Don’t forget, even if everything was perfect outside of this world, we live in chaos. You can only make advances if you constantly strive to decipher that chaos one step at a time. Clerical healers give up on people dying from illness from the very start. The doctrine of the God worshiped by the Pure Spirit faith is merely an extreme excuse to justify their own incompetence and to make both their patients and their families accept it as their fate.”
Rimiel suddenly threw his arms out, sweeping the air.
“We don’t give up. Never. ──And we don’t allow the patients to give up either. Never. An illness isn’t a patient’s personal problem. Particularly if it involves an infectious disease, the existence of people who refuse medical treatment because they have accepted their fate increases the chances of the illness being spread to others.”
Hossal was a bit taken aback, and stared at his grandfather in a daze. He had heard those words many times over, and it was an argument that fit his grandfather’s character perfectly, but it was the first time he had seen his grandfather speak so fluently and use such exaggerated gestures.
Probably noticing Hossal’s bewilderment, Rimiel lowered his arms, but the determined gleam remained in his eyes.
“It was a truly good idea to invite Mana here to help with the medical treatment, Hossal. Keep an eye out for other opportunities like this in future as well.” The corners of Rimiel’s mouth twitched upward, “Needless to say, the Pure Spirit faith’s healing is a shackle around our hands and feet. If we manage to win over the clerical healers, we’ll be able to break that shackle. Once we’re free, Otawal’s medical arts can grow freely. Plenty of funds and personnel. If we successfully spread our knowledge to everyone regardless of social rank, everything will probably change drastically.”
Hossal stared at his grandfather with a light frown. At the thought of his grandfather, who had always remained calm and composed in any situation, hiding such gloomy desires within, he felt a pang of sadness for some reason. His face, which he had known since childhood, now looked like that of a stranger to Hossal. The transparent light of the autumn sun shining into the room through the window made Rimiel’s face glow white.