This is a gift for Matsukaze Tenma. The second chapter should be coming up soon. Disclaimer: Do I really have to say it? Fine: I, Aka-Baka Hoshi do not own Gaim in any way, shape or form. Efari is all mine, however. Anything that you don't recognize, I've probably added that in as well.

He followed his instincts through the empty streets, avoiding any Inves he came across as he wasn't really in the best position to fight them right now. From the outside, the warehouse at the edge of Zawame looked old and run-down, and he felt unsettled by the shroud of sadness and silence that hung over the place. The rainstorm that plagued Zawame didn't help matters at all.

What had happened here? Surely, he couldn't have lost? Not him, the bright, cheerful, happy dancer who'd changed so much, so many. Surely, he had to have won. Right?

Swallowing nervously, he moved towards the warehouse, hoping against all the odds that Kazuraba had managed to win.

That wish, however, was not to be fulfilled.

Takatora's eyes widened as he saw Kouta's body lying in a pile of feathers. He raced to his side and dropped to his knees, horror filling his body as he saw the bloodstain on the younger boy's abdomen. Hesitantly, he pressed his fingers to the pulse point in Kazuraba's neck and felt a faint, thready heartbeat beneath the cold skin. Sighing, Takatora turned to the stab wound, gently peeling the shirt back to try and get a glimpse of the wound.

"Such a grievous wound…" he muttered. "How could anyone survive that?"

"Maybe I can help."

Takatora looked up as a figure in white appeared to coalesce out of the rain falling through a hole in the ceiling. "Please try, Efari-san. He's too important, to all of us."

Efari smiled and knelt on his other side. Her hands began to glow with a soft white-gold light. The moment she touched Kazuraba however, her face twisted into a snarl. "That parasitic, manipulative, egotistical, power-hungry snake! How dare he do this to a child!" The light became pure gold, and sickly greenish-black tendrils of something started to worm their way out of Kouta's body, dissolving into the air as they came loose. Efari only stopped when Kazuraba's body shone gold.

"What was that?" Takatora asked, concerned. Efari sneered.

"Sagara," she snarled, "was turning this child into a Femshinmu."

"What?" Takatora gasped, horrified. "He was doing what?"

Efari rummaged through Kouta's pockets, then pulled out the Kiwami Lockseed. "So this is how he did it? But something is missing…" She trailed off, then went through his pockets again, this time unearthing the Kachidoki Lockseed. "Ah, I see. He prepared the boy with this and then sparked the change with the key. No longer," she said, smirking, and her hands glowed gold again. The same sickly-looking tendrils rose out of the Kiwami Lockseed, while sickly yellowish-green tendrils rose up out of the Kachidoki Lockseed. Eventually, they shone white as Kouta had, and Efari replaced them in his pockets. She then turned her attention to the stab wound and began healing it. "Ah, I wondered. He deliberately took this wound, to save the life of his opponent." She looked up at Takatora. It took him only seconds to figure out whom exactly Efari meant.

"Mitsuzane…" he whispered. "He was fighting Mitsuzane."

"He was. What happened to Mitsuzane can be laid at Sagara's feet as well." She rose. "He's no longer in danger of dying, but we can't stay out in the open. We need to take him to somewhere safe, a place where he can recuperate both now and later."

"My house ought to work," Takatora said. He picked up Kouta's limp form, feeling worried for his almost-brother. Efari opened a crack, and they walked through. Takatora headed up to his old bedroom immediately. The staff had kept it clean over the years, changing the sheets when necessary, so he knew that it was usable. He laid Kouta on top the sheets rather than under them and set about pulling off the shirt. Efari had faded away again, having used up her power for now, but Takatora didn't mind being alone. He used sheets for bandages and quickly took care of what had once been a life-threatening wound. Unfortunately, a fever had set in sometime before they'd found him, and it began to rise. Takatora sighed.

"You don't ever do things halfway, do you?" he murmured, laying a cool, damp washcloth on Kouta's forehead. "It was that dedication that led Mitsuzane to admire you so. How did everything get so twisted?"

"Micchi," Kouta moaned. "No,'ll die. Stop..."

Takatora closed his eyes. What had happened during that fight? What had Sagara given Mitsuzane? He sat on the edge of the bed and brushed Kouta's bangs off his face, ignoring the heat that emanated from his body. Standing, he worked the covers down and laid them on top of Kazuraba. The sick young man tried to push them off, and Takatora gently pressed his arms to his sides.

"I don't know where the medicine is, so we're trying this the old-fashioned way. You need to leave them alone," he spoke softly. "Can you do that?" he asked, then slowly let go. The sheets stayed put, so Takatora sat again. Kouta continued to moan, shifting and tossing his head from side to side as he dreamed.

The content of his dreams did not remain the same, however.

"Mom,, please," Kouta whimpered. "Come back, please...Mom, dad, please..." He grew more restless, twisting and squeezing his eyelids tight. "No, please...come back...Mom, no..."

Tears pricked the backs of Takatora's eyes as he listened to the fevered ramblings. Eventually, as Kouta started to cry, he slid under the covers and pulled him into a hug. Instantly, Kouta turned and pressed his face into the older man's chest, whimpering both from the remembered sadness and the pain caused by movement. Eventually, he fell silent again, and the tears ceased. Even then, Takatora refused to move. He didn't have anything to do yet, and he didn't want to risk upsetting the sick young man anymore. He drowsed, never truly falling asleep as the rain slowed, then stopped.

10/18/17: edited to hopefully remove inconsistencies with spelling, and also used Grammarly to help with editing. Chapter ten should be up soon.