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Secluded behind a complex of pristine glass walls and perfectly polished surfaces, resting upon silken sheets tucked carefully into a hospital bed, lay the famous shrine maiden of Gensokyo, Reimu Hakurei, deep asleep in a medically-induced coma. Her skin was pasty and pale; that is, in the few sections where peppery red-brown rashes did not already cover her body. A full respirator was over her face, and no fewer than four IV tubes pierced her skin in various places. The faint hum of the respirator and the grating beep….beep…beep…beep of the EKG monitor were the only two sounds in the entire room, even though Eirin Yagokoro leaned over her body at that very moment, silently administering some new concoction into the young woman’s veins, a haggard and frustrated look on her face.
A sudden soft tap at the glass viewing wall caused the doctor to look up, and she saw her princess at the window, waiting impatiently for her audience. Double and triple-checking the patient’s vitals, she sighed and walked out of the room into the airlock. Disposing of her filter mask and rubber gloves, she joined Miss Houraisan in the dark annex looking into the room of life and death.
“And? How is she?” Kaguya inquired solemnly.
“Stable, but in rapid decline. I would estimate approximately twenty-four hours before one or more of her vital systems fails beyond recovery. Perhaps less.”
The princess shook her head and sighed. Though a slight smirk could be seen on her face, inwardly she was still very grim.
“You’re still a poor liar I’m afraid, Eirin. Did you think you would fool me long enough to buy you some more peace and quiet?”
The silver-haired woman looked sternly at the “young” maiden next to her as they observed Reimu in tranquility. “What I told you was the truth, my Princess.”
“Mmm, obviously not the whole truth then. Over a millennia with you and your medicines has taught me enough. There is no such thing as a disease you don’t have the cure for…unless, that is, it’s a disease you created. Am I wrong?”
Eirin made no visible response, though inwardly she felt like her heart had been torn out of her. Such a curt little response…and yet she knew that Kaguya was correct, no matter how her inner self-justifications tried to convince her otherwise. She sighed languidly.
“You are not wrong, Princess Houraisan. The disease is no longer killing her. The treatment is.”
The royal girl clad in red and pink silks closed her eyes. “And the treatment is?”
“I am not allowed to discuss it with civilians under any circumstances.”
“I am not a ‘civilian’, Eirin. I am an exile, the same as you. I am also your princess, even if I have no throne. Tell me what she is dying of.”
“You would not understand—“
“Tell me. Will it really matter in twenty-four hours, anyways?”
Massaging her temples with her left hand, Eirin leaned against the glass wall, one eye on her patient and the other on her mistress. Such a waste…such a waste of effort…
“The number of people left alive who even know of its scientific name I could count on one hand, and even in my darkest hour I will not reveal its true chemical composition, no matter how you beg or threaten me. It was in spirit a substance that was the predecessor to the Hourai Elixer, given the project name ‘Eclipse’ to please the prying royals and politicians who wished to put a label on it. This was long before you were born, Mistress Houraisan, so our methods were more—“
“Spare me your technological babble, please, and just tell me why you used it and why it’s killing her,” Kaguya interrupted abruptly.
Eirin shruged her shoulders and placeed a hand inside her lab coat pocket, using the other to motion slightly. “Reimu Hakurei contracted Lunarian lupus, a disease that fools the body into attacking its own cells. Because her human body was not used to a Lunarian disease, she declined in health rapidly. I expected her dead within days, even hours, and had little hope that any remedies I had would outpace the furiously destructive nature of the disease. I had no other option but to use the Eclipse Serum.
“In very mundane terms, the Eclipse Serum super-charges the immune system to astronomical levels, granting the recipient theoretical immunity from all disease, even when they are on the brink of death. A ‘cure-all’, if you will. However, in three percent of test subjects, the compound heightened the immune system to such a degree that the body essentially destroyed itself in search of malignant cells when there were none to be found. Judging by Miss Hakurei’s quickened reaction to the Lunarian strain of lupus, I estimated the chance of catastrophic auto-immunity to be at a level closer to eighteen percent. Unfortunately, she appears to have fallen within that eighteen percent.”
Kaguya stroked her long raven hair pensively, trying to deduce the simple meaning of Eirin’s words. “So, wait, the miko had a disease that made her body kill itself, and your solution was a drug that made her body…kill itself? I find such a concept far beneath you, Eirin.”
Eirin emotionlessly corrected her. “A drug that had a chance of making her body kill itself. The lupus might have killed her within one day at an eighty percent chance of death. The Eclipse Serum might have killed her within several days at an eighteen percent chance of death. The risk was…acceptable.”
“You’re the smartest doctor in the solar system, Eirin…and you couldn’t think of a better cure than an experimental treatment with a one-fifth chance of death itself?”
She placed a hand on the princess’s shoulder, trying to comfort the confused rage at seeing her mentor fail. “Please believe me, my Princess, when I say that I conceived of no other viable option. I had no time, and neither did she.”
“…What happens now?” Kaguya asked concernedly, looking intently at the dying shrine maiden behind the glass.
“I am in the process of attempting to reverse-engineer the Eclipse Serum in several stages, injecting her with the most powerful immunosuppressants I have to prolong her life while I work. I suspect either her circulatory or respiratory system to fail first, at which point I will have to treat the symptoms rather than the Eclipse itself.”
“No, I mean what happens if she dies? What happens if you don’t save her?”
The doctor sighed and rubbed her aching eyes. “Then we will all witness first-hand whether or not Gensokyo can exist without its shrine maiden. My hypothesis is that it cannot, and may heaven help us afterwards.”
Kaguya bit her lip in surprise, though she was half-expecting an answer of that magnitude to begin with once she heard that Reimu was deathly ill. Folding her hands inside her long-sleeved robes, she turned to leave the room.
“Continue your work, Eirin; I will not have you fail now, when your skill is needed the most.”
Eirin looked back at her bleakly, then replied. “Yes, my Princess. However…please consider returning to the Moon now, while you still have a moon to return to. The Border may not allow you to leave for much longer, and I will not see you perish with this land. You do not need to die with it.”
Princess Houraisan made no response as she opened the door and glided away, leaving Dr. Eirin once again alone with a mind full of medical equations and a soul full of sorrow.