Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Frostbite (2)



Ren graduated near the top of his class, earning himself a position in the Imperial house as a physician. Emperor Yoshihito had been stricken with a mysterious disease, and every doctor thus far had been unable to stem the illness. Rumors pointed to the tainted milk of a nurse maid, while a theory proposed by the previous doctor suggested bacterial meningitis. Ren knew that whatever the cause, the disease was resisted to treatment and advancing quickly through the body. Ren admitted defeat early, giving way to other doctors with far more radical measures. The pursuit for a cure was for naught, as the Yoshihito, the Taisho emperor, succumbed on Christmas Day 1925.

Ren received a telegram from Satoshi just after the New Year, as the sting of failure began to fester. Unable to fathom what else could have been done, Ren turned within and saw the failure as a personal one. He had not tried everything, and his Lord paid for the mistake. Satoshi banished these thoughts at once.

Do not worry any more about the passing of Taisho. The time for such old thinking is no more, and a new era is upon us. The Showa Emperor, our new Lord, is a student of biology and a lover of experiment. This common bond, on the intricacies of life and death, drives us forward, together, into a new world of possibilities. We have seen the future of combat, decried as outlawed by decree of Geneva. Biological warfare must possess distinct possibilities in war. Why else would the League of Nations have sought to outlaw it? We had the foresight to reject such a mandate, which has been signed in the past during times of peace, only to be torn to pieces at the outbreak of war. This research is ours, my friend. This is the way to realize the glorious potential of our Empire. Will you join with me?

Ren did not know how to respond. He wished to continue serving the Empire, but he had suffered greatly from his first perceived failure. He did not know if he could withstand another. He took his time to reply, and when he finally did, his lukewarm response was received with great astonishment.

I am not going to twist your arm, Ren. You know that you are free to continue tending livestock, being a country doctor in Hakodate. If you decide this is your place, then know that you are doing yourself a disservice, by not living up to your potential. You can turn your back upon the science we both have declared such great affection for, and dedicate yourself to a simple existence, devoid of care or consequence. That is a failure, in and of itself. I do not care that you were once the Chief Physician, and that a great patient died in your care. That was a necessity. In order for our new Lord to take the throne, the previous must give way.
If the kind of research I suggest is against your moral sensibilities, then I will desist in pressing you for this position. I do not believe, however, that any sort of moral code can apply to the kind of life we shall be studying. The subset we have selected is definitively lower…

Ren agreed to the position, on a trial basis. The wording had not been his, but inserted by Satoshi at a moment of weakness. Ren made the trek to Osaka, settled into a modest home purchased by his benefactor, and began to study disease. He had studied epidemiology a great deal in his university days, but the greatest source of knowledge came from his work with animals. The various strains of animal pox, flu, and encephalitis gave Ren a broader perspective on the nature of disease than his compatriots who relied solely upon human specimens.

Ren provided Satoshi with a framework for cultured growth, harvesting infected bodies for the organisms, and using agar plates for housing and growth material. The system began small, enough for study but not of sufficient quantity for dispersal. Satoshi was overjoyed, however, with the validation of the concept. He had witnessed the harbinger of Doom harnessed for Man’s potential. All that was needed to continue was a captive population.