Author's Note: Aaaaaah, I'm so sorry for the wait everyone! D: College ate my life, then writer's block ate my mind, then college ate it again! Finally, however, I am proud to present to you chapter eleven of my little story. I'd like to say that there's a few warnings associated with this chapter - hence the upped rating. If you're reading this chapter, then you know what happened at the end of chapter ten. Without giving too much away, be warned that it gets worse in this. A lot worse. And Imouku... well, you'll see.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything that is even vaguely recognizable as Toei Animation's series, though some of the more out there stuff came straight out of my little head. Also, I do not, in ANY form, condone violence, especially against children of any age.


The Last of the Gijinka

Chapter Eleven

"Mmff, oh, this is good, mmm," the words were half-intelligible and mostly muffled by the speaker's constantly stuffing food in his face like a starving person – which, in the case, he came close enough that no-one minded. Having Hirokazu back in their midst was a relief to the Tamers, if only partially so since they'd lost anther friend in the process. It was already almost as if the boy had never left, and certain people's indulgent patience was fading, and rapidly. Not to name names, but a certain redheaded girl was beginning to develop a rather prominent facial tic as she and the rest of the Tamers – plus the Combat Master – stood around waiting for Hirokazu to talk about what had happened, and in the meantime watching him stuff his face.

Losing her patience at last, Ruki slammed her hands down on the table, leaning imposingly over the suddenly stock-still Hirokazu, who had his chopsticks halfway to his mouth. Ruki scowled at him and growled lowly.

"Look, Hirokazu, we know you're hungry, but can you stop eating for five minutes to tell us what exactly is going on? You were at that place for almost a week, surely you can tell us something!"

Hirokazu swallowed and blinked up at the Digimon Queen, suddenly remembering just how scary she could be when she wasn't happy – and right now, she clearly wasn't happy. He blinked a little and shrugged. "What's there to tell? I was locked up in some creepy horror movie dungeon for most of a week and then got dumped here." He paused for a moment and then pointed a chopstick at the twins. "They know Impmon's one of them, yet? He was all dressed up like some kind of prince or something, if that was really him, he sure acted like him." He blinked at the stares he received from everyone around him. "What? What did I say?"

The twins bit their lips, and Ai looked like she wanted to speak, but surprisingly, Renamon spoke first. "Was he well?"

Hirokazu blinked. "Um, yeah . . . come to think of it though, he kind of had a bruise on his face, and was walking like his stomach hurt or something . . ."

Renamon and the Combat Master exchanged a glance. The Digimon-form Gijinka's ears flattened and she gazed seriously at her superior, concern and a sense of resignation emanating from her bright blue eyes. "It's begun, then," she said quietly, and received a nod in response. The tamers all exchanged a glance between themselves – minus Hirokazu who was stuffing his face again. - and looked to Garundo and Renamon. The questions were varied, and voiced at different moments, but all essentially boiled down to two basic inquiries:

"What's begun? What's going on?"

Renamon glanced at the Combat Master again, silently asking for permission. At his nod, she turned to face the rest of her group, though her eyes were squarely on the twins as she spoke.

"I believe it's time we all knew exactly what it is that we're facing . . . and who we might be forced to fight." The twins gulped, knowing exactly what she meant by that – somehow, their Im-chan might wind up an enemy. Neither of the two children understood how that could ever happen – Im-chan would never betray them, after all! – but couldn't deny the meaning of Renamon's words. They could only wait, and hope, that an explanation would be forthcoming, one that would make everything make sense and tell them how they could fix everything.

Unfortunately, they weren't to get that explanation, and a Tailmon Gijinka barreled her way at top speed up to the group, wrapping her arms around the combat master and wailing a nearly-incoherent "Haseo's gone!" This stopped the explanation cold in its tracks, as Garundo took the distraught Gijinka into his arms and looked in her bright blue eyes, prompting another trembling sob from the delicate-looking, pale-skinned woman. "He – he was supposed to be with the other children, evacuated safely – but – but he's not, and no-one knows where he is – I – Garundo, what if they took him?!?" Garundo's eyes narrowed, taking on a suspicious sheen as he tightened his hug, supporting the Tailmon Gijinka and keeping her from falling over. The Combat master's expression was somewhere between rage and heartbreak, and he looked to the Tamers.

"Children, I hate to thrust this upon you so soon, but search the village for my child – if you find him, bring him back immediately!" Then he paused and turned to the Garurumon twins, frowning at them. "You two," he barked, the barest trace of an angry hiss in his voice. "Go find Kiokure. Now." If he had any suspicions of what had happened to the Dorimon Gijinka, he didn't let any sign of it show on his face. Garundo was a leader, after all, and leaders had to be able to stand strong in the face of just about anything.

Even when facing the potential loss of his only child.


'This is beginning to get ridiculous,' Imouku thought to himself as he returned to consciousness for the third time in as many days. The redhead was beginning to look the worse for wear, as his father alternated ignoring him with summoning him and trying to convince him of the evils of the humans and Digimon, and how all of them deserved to be wiped off the face of the planet. These attempts at convincing ran the gamut from trying to twist Imouku's memories to outright harming him. Unfortunately for Youkano, and perhaps Imouku as well, the Impmon Gijinka had a stronger mind and will than even the Ultimate could deal with, and such sessions inevitably wound up with Imouku passing out rather than turning on his friends. He hadn't even been given food for the last two days, and the harsh treatment he was receiving was beginning to wear him down.

Stubbornness only got one so far, after all. It was only a matter of time before he became broken down, as much or more broken than the rest of the Gijinka in this place, and he knew it. As much as he hated to admit it, Imouku knew that he was weaker than his father, especially so when locked away from his Digimon form; - locked away from his only chance at evolution. He had to put his hopes in the rest of the Tamers – but then, maybe they left as soon as they had Hirokazu? He was hardly as dear a friend to them as another human would be, after all, or even one of their digital sla – wait, he hadn't meant that thought! He hadn't! Shuddering, Imouku pushed himself to a sitting position, noticing idly that he was back in his bedchamber, tucked comfortably in bed with his injuries bound once again.

He hadn't meant that thought! He hadn't even intended to think it! Where had it come from?!? Green eyes closed as the Impmon Gijinka groaned in frustration, rubbing at his face and wincing at the bruises that were ever so evident there. It seemed that whatever his father was doing to him when he pushed past his mental shields was starting to take hold. Imouku didn't want to be thinking that kind of thing; he knew where those thoughts led, after all. He'd been down that road before, and he didn't like where it wound up taking him. But, it was true, wasn't it? They hadn't shown up; guns blazing – he'd been left here to rot at his father's cruel hands.

Or was he being cruel in order to knock sense into him?

Was his father right after all?

"NO!"

The redhead blinked and flushed in embarrassment when he realized that he had spoken out loud. Or rather, screamed, because spoken didn't cover the earsplitting volume at which the single-syllable word was pronounced. Glancing around to make sure no one had heard, the redhead's green eyes locked onto a pair of chocolate brown ones, as with a giggle, Haseo the Dorimon Gijinka jumped up on the bed and crawled over to Imouku, wrapping him in a baby hug. Imouku blinked, his eyes widening as he pushed the toddler away a bit – no matter how gentle, that hug hurt right now. "Oi – h-hey, kid, what are you doing here?!?" He hissed, panic seeping into his voice. This kid didn't belong here; he was less safe here than Imouku even was. "You're supposed to be back at the village!"

Haseo blinked and tugged at Imouku's hair, then spoke for the first time since the redhead had met him. "Wan'ed t' see you," he said simply, his voice accompanied by a toddler's lisp as he beamed a happy grin at the older Gijinka. "So's I came!" He chirped, then started to play with his fingers while he watched Imouku, who simply gaped at him for a long moment before biting his lip, and clinging to the child with more strength than he thought he had left in him. Here was his anchor to reality. His father couldn't be right; there were children and babies back in the village! Children of his own kind whom his father wanted dead! So the Ultimate had to be out of his mind – only someone who was crazy would target such little kids – he knew this, because he'd been one himself once.

It took a mind really out of touch with reality to want to hurt a kid as young as Haseo. So he really had no reason to believe anything that his father had told him. His friends would come! They'd come and show his crazy psychopath of a father what happened when you tried to mess with the worlds! He released the now-wriggling toddler as he realized that he'd hugged him just a little too tightly, judging by the annoyed pouty-face that was being shot his way.

"Sorry, kiddo," he said, and would have spoken more had there not been a sound at the door. Imouku's eyes widened and he hissed, scooping Haseo up and shoving him roughly under the bed. "Stay put!" He growled lowly, unaware of how his green eyes flashed. "You can't be seen here!" Haseo nodded, and only then did the redhead notice just how much pain the rapid movement had caused him.

Struggling to his feet with a wince, Imouku adjusted the clothing he wore, and looked up at the doorway, where a guard poked his head in. The Bullmon Gijinka snorted and gestured at Imouku, not needing to say a word. The redhead already knew the drill by now. His father wanted to see him again. Maybe this time he'd come back without injury? 'Wishful thinking,' he meant to himself, and resisted looking back under the bed where Haseo lay, not wanting to draw attention to the toddler. 'Stay put, stay safe,' he thought in the general direction of the toddler, not realizing that the blue-haired Gijinka child was as stubborn as he himself, and was already edging out of the bed, ready and waiting to follow him to wherever he was going now.


"Oh, Ani," Youkano murmured as he stroked the face of his beloved, the slight pulse of her essence within it reaching out and comforting his ravaged mind. "I couldn't save you, my love. . . and I'm losing our son. What am I supposed to do?" The GranDracmon Gijinka whispered to himself, tears in his bright green eyes. His wife's expression didn't change, her painted features still staring adoringly down at the tiny form of her toddler son, who grinned up at her with an innocent, excited baby smile. But Youkano convinced himself that he saw a flash of life in those golden eyes, an expression that he hadn't seen since the days before their marriage, back when they were children – a mixture of disappointment and anger, almost with a touch of hatred.

"Your losing him is your doing, no-one else's," those eyes seemed to say, and the smile seemed to fade away into a frown that bordered on a snarl, and to Youkano's eyes the infant in her arms changed to a broken shell of a teenager, battered and bruised, whose hollow eyes stared out at him with a dead expression; the blonde Gijinka recoiled and let out a low hiss, shaking his head as he tried to deny what the voice in his head was telling him.

"No, no – you've got it wrong, Ani! I'm trying to save him! Save him from the corruption those – those abominations have put him through!"

Now the portrait did seem to snarl, and for a moment Youkano thought that Anikana was going to come straight out of the portrait and claw his eyes out. "Listen to yourself, Youkano! This isn't you - you sound like your brother! Is this what you want?!? To destroy what's left of our family and the worlds with it?!? This is how you honor my memory?!?"

"You don't know the half of it!" Youkano growled, throwing a book down on the floor with a thud. "YOU KNOW NOTHING! I FAILED YOU!" He yelled, and clutched at his head in agony, as spears of pain shot through his skull. In his mind's eye, the portrait wilted and rocked her child with a tear-filled expression.

"You never failed me, Youkano. . . but you're failing him." And the eyes of the portrait dropped to the boy in her arms, and then to a space behind Youkano. Turning, the Ultimate just caught the portrait out off the corner of his eyes before he saw the battered form of his son in front of him – a weary, resigned look in the green eyes that stared at him. Not quite the dead expression that he had last seen in the portrait, but getting there – underneath it though, was a spark of defiance, a spark that was so much like – like – and rage filled him again, and he lost reason as he sought to tear down the insolent brat's defenses, to remove that spark, to squelch it and destroy it, come what may for breaking it out of the child!

Imouku had entered the library on shaky feet, having heard his father shout at nothing as he walked through the door. Once again, the blonde Gijinka was staring at the portrait of his mother, although this time he seemed to be holding a conversation with the unmoving piece of artwork. When his father turned to look at him, Imouku thought he saw – just for a second – a flash of the man he remembered as his father, the man who he had long thought dead; but then it was gone, and all that was there was the insanity again. The insanity, and the rage, and then there was nothing around him but pain as he crumpled to the floor, holding his head while images ripped through his mind once again, over and over and over and over, until he could no longer tell the real from the false and he was left a confused, muddled heap on the flo –

"Stoppit! STOPPIT MEANIE!"

'Oh, sh-' came Imouku's half-formed thought, as the little toddler growled and dropped into an attack stance, before charging at the Ultimate Digimon, yelling "Metal Drop!" as he spat a ball of something metallic and shiny at the GranDracmon – who just batted the ball away and growled.

"Well, if it isn't the Combat Master's own son. How did you get in here, little one?" Youkano asked, almost purring as Imouku struggled to his feet, reaching out to the toddler. The Impmon Gijinka muttered a curse under his breath as he struggled to piece his mind back together, at least enough to defend the child that was staring his death straight in the face. Youkano looked far too pleased by the presence of the toddler, and it set off multiple alarm bells in the redhead's mind – now if only he could clear his head enough to figure out why. . . "As unshakable as your father, I see," Youkano continued, almost conversationally. "And far too good at escaping the people I had sent to kill you. Kiokure was one of my best, and yet you constantly escaped her," he added, ignoring the outraged intake of breath from Imouku.

Haseo only blinked and looked up at Youkano, uncomprehending. Finally he nodded and jabbed a finger at the ultimate, sticking his other hand in his mouth to suck on it. "BAD man," he said around his fist, causing the GranDracmon to burst out laughing – a laugh that made Imouku tense; a dangerous laugh, a sadistic one, and the redhead knew that Haseo would never be in more danger at any point of his young life. Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself forward, and tugged Haseo behind him.

"Don't. . . don't hurt him," he said, cursing his voice for being shaky and barely above a whisper in volume. Inwardly, he crossed his fingers and hoped he could get his father to focus on him again, and give the toddler a chance to get out of there. Oblivious to the danger, Haseo grabbed Imouku's hand and continued sucking on his fist, staring at the Lord of the Citadel with bright chocolate eyes that held no fear, only anger and curiosity.


It was official – there was no sign of Haseo anywhere within the Village. The general consensus seemed to be that the toddler was dead, something that shook and disturbed the Tamers and their partners, but not so much so as the resigned way most of the Gijinka took it, as if it was just another fact of life, like impending nightfall. It seemed as if they didn't have any sympathy for the poor Tailmon, Garundo's wife Shina, who had been in hysterics ever since the search turned up empty for either Haseo or his suspected murderer. It was only when Reisei took the children aside and gently explained to them that such killings had become almost routine for the people of this village that they began to understand.

Preparations for the upcoming war continued, albeit with a more urgent nature as the word of a strike force being formed to try and storm the citadel made the rounds of the warriors. The Tamers were even participating in combat drills, both while BioMerged and on their own – for, as Garundo had pointed out, there was always the chance of the BioMerge coming undone in the middle of battle, and the children were a liability without the ability to even dodge attacks. If they were going in, they were going to go in as prepared as possible. Unfortunately, most of the children were exactly that – children. Among them, only Ruki, Jenrya, and Ryo showed any propensity for combat on their own, and even they were well below the skill and power level of the youngest Gijinka warriors. If it weren't for their skill while BioMerged, Garundo wouldn't have let them even approach the battlefield.

However, when they were BioMerged with their partners, the Tamers were the strongest warriors the Village could muster up at this point in time. When going up against an Ultimate who had control over every inch of the miniature dimension they would be entering, the more power they had at their backs the better. Besides, not even the Combat Master could stand up to the Citadel's Lord – they would be hard pressed to hold him back, let alone with the small army that he had been organizing all of this time.

"Go fight win, go fight win!" Cheered the unflappable duo of Hirokazu and Kenta, accompanied by their partners – though Guardromon looked a bit silly trying to wave around impromptu pom-poms. The miniature ones MarineAngemon held, however, were adorable. The duo cheered their friends as Ruki ducked under a punch thrown by Reisei, the top of it just barely clipping the edge of her ponytail. Off to the side a few feet, Jenrya dodged a flying kick from an increasingly annoyed PicoDevimon Gijinka, and Takato was knocked sprawling by an overexcited Floramon Gijinka, who blushed as she went to help him to his feet.

Shuichon sat off to the side with Shina, having decided that the Tailmon needed lots of attention to feel better, and sat down facing her while hugging Lopmon. The little girl chattered on aimlessly about nothing while she tied and untied her partner's ears into a bow. Ai and Makoto sat with her, though they tried actively reassuring the parent. Ai patted the Tailmon's arm, while Makoto tried to offer her a cookie.

"It'll be okay, Shina-san," Ai said, echoed by her brother, who added,

"Yeah, Haseo-chan will be just fine! Im-chan's gonna take good care of him!" Neither of the twins understood why this caused the Gijinka woman to break down into tears again. A shadow fell over the little gathering, and Garundo knelt down beside his wife, a grave expression on his face as he looked around, dropping his head in frustration when he saw the cheering squad.

"All of you were supposed to be evacuated by now," he grumbled mildly, but didn't seem hard-pressed to enforce that decision, as instead he took his wife's hand, staring into her blue eyes for a long moment. A silent conversation seemed to pass between them, and she nodded once before he rose to his feet and went over to the combat grounds, thumping the ground once with the end of his stave. Nearly everyone came to an instant halt at the resounding 'crack' of staff meeting soil – a few of the younger combatants, including Takato and the PicoDevimon Gijinka, took a moment to notice the command before turning to look at the Combat Master, sensing that something very important was about to be decided.

Garundo took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment. "I'm sure you all have been wondering when the strike force that has been talked about will be moving out," he said, opening his eyes again and causing many of the Gijinka and Tamers to step back at the raw rage and pain in his expression. Hirokazu gulped and exchanged a look with Kenta. The bespectacled boy scrubbed at his glasses, an embarrassed blush spreading across his features as he mumbled,

"I think I wet myself," to his best friend.

If Garundo heard, he gave no sign. Instead, he merely continued. "We're moving out tonight. We can no longer afford to wait for the Citadel to strike at us en masse. They have already made the opening move by taking and murdering my son. Now, they will pay for the atrocities they have committed against their people. We move in, we don't hesitate. Leave the innocents be, but all others . . . we take no prisoners," he said simply, and only then did the Tamers fully realize just how much he had been hurt by the loss of his son. Swallowing Takato took a deep breath. They were being asked to kill – to actually kill people. No wonder the Village's leader had tried so hard to get them to leave before.

But. . . could any of them actually do that? Any of them? This wasn't just stop-the-bad-guys. This was actual war.

What had they gotten themselves into?


Imouku held his breath as his father stared at him, and at the child hiding behind his left leg. The Ultimate level seemed almost amused by the toddler's presence – but only enraged by Imouku's desire to protect him. Insane green eyes glinted ferociously in the dim lighting of the library – lighting that seemed to grow even dimmer as the GranDracmon's lips pulled back in a sadistic grin. Imouku's heart dropped to the pit of his stomach as his father echoed his statement of moments ago.

"Don't hurt him? Why, pray tell, would I harm the child of my enemy, Imouku?"

The redhead's eyes widened, somehow sensing what was coming, but unable to react fast enough to stop his father from grabbing Haseo roughly by the arm, dragging the child toward him, his other hand resting around the toddler's neck – Imouku could see just how easy it would be for the monster Ultimate to snap the Baby II's neck or slit his throat. Haseo seemed to recognize the danger too, as he immediately went very still, though his big brown eyes shone with tears that he tried to keep from spilling, and he looked imploringly at Imouku to do something, anything, to help him out of this. The tiny Gijinka's eyes shown with such absolute faith in the Impmon Gijinka that he wanted to throw up. He couldn't save Haseo, not when his father was so set on killing him.

But. . . he had to do something. . .

"Don't hurt him . . . . please," he said, hating the fact that he was begging, hating the fact that there was nothing else he could do, hating his father for doing this to him, hating himself because he now saw what it must have been like to face him down when he, too, had lost his mind. A cough from Youkano brought Imouku's gaze away from Haseo's, instead forcing him to look into the gleaming insanity of green before him.

"So, you've developed a soft spot for this brat," he scoffed, drawing Haseo forcefully closer to him and eliciting a gasp of pain from the toddler. "Who knows why, but. . . perhaps this could wind up working to our advantage." Imouku gasped and reached out to the Dorimon Gijinka as the Lord of the Citadel dragged a claw lightly across the little Gijinka's throat, not drawing but, but dangerously close to doing so. "Imouku," the bark of command in the blond's voice didn't escape the Child's notice, and Imouku's gaze found his father's again, trying not to get sick at the look of insane delight in his parent's eyes.

"Yeah?" He forced himself to ask. "Whattaya want?"

The low growl from the tall Gijinka before him made him swallow and curse his tendency to mouth off without thinking.

"You really want this child to live?" Youkano asked, and Imouku nodded, wary of where his father was going, but knowing he had no choice but to go along with this at the moment – he barely had the strength to stand, let alone fight. The gleam in the Ultimate's eyes increased, and somehow Imouku guessed that he had done exactly the wrong thing. "Very well then. If you truly desire the survival of this rat of a Gijinka child, then you must stop fighting me! Join my cause against the being that seek to bring destruction upon our race, and I will spare this… Haseo Garundo-Shina's pathetic little life. As a favor to my only heir, of course."

Imouku's gut reaction was to tell his father where to stuff it, but one look at Haseo's panicked brown eyes – so like those of Ai and Makoto that he could almost picture one of his Tamers in the Gijinka's place - and he swallowed his initial response. A tiny part of him that still saw the being before him as his long-lost father – a part that was all but dead, along with what remained of his innocence – screamed at him that he could believe him, trust him, after all, hadn't he always saved him from monsters when he was tiny? Another, more jaded part of his psyche, warned him that he couldn't take this psycho's word on anything – there was no honor in this twisted shell of a Gijinka, and agreeing would only get him in more trouble.

There was a third piece, however, a piece that said his father was right, anyway, and didn't all of these pathetic beings deserve to die anyway? Anything that would make his father happy, make him love him again – it had to be the right thing! Terrified, and torn in so many different directions that he couldn't see straight, Imouku closed his eyes and sighed before nodding, raising his hands in surrender.

"Anything. . . just let him live!"

"Excellent," Imouku heard Youkano say, and then he heard a sound that would haunt his dreams forever after:

Haseo screamed.

It was a gut-wrenching sound born of pure terror and pain, and cut short far too soon, as Youkano casually sunk his claws into the Baby II's throat and wrenched them out, flinging the toddler to the floor in front of Imouku like he was flicking away a fly. Paralyzed by sheer horror, Imouku stared at his father, then at the bleeding toddler who was, miraculously, still alive. The GranDracmon Gijinka burst out into sickening laughter for the briefest of moments, then smiled at his son as blood dripped from his claws. "The child lives – as long as you get him to a healer in time. Get moving though, I doubt he's going to be breathing for much longer."

At that moment, Imouku could almost hear something within his mind shatter; shatter and wither and die all at once. With one last, short glance at his father – one that was dead, lifeless, and at last devoid of that spark of defiance the GranDracmon had fought so hard to destroy, he wordlessly scooped Haseo up and took off for the healer, leaving a trail of blood and lost innocence in his wake.


"He's going to live." The words were loud, and broke through the haze that had surrounded the redhead's thoughts ever since he had brought Haseo into the healers, not even capable of stumbling out an explanation – not that they'd needed one; the healers at the Citadel were far too used to dealing with their master's rage. Imouku blinked slowly, and turned his gaze to the healer, who watched him with sad eyes, a timid smile on her lopsided face. "Did you hear me, Imouku-sama?" She said, biting her lip a bit. "The little Dorimon is going to live; he's going to make it. You saved his life."

Imouku laughed, a bitter laugh filled with self-loathing. "Saved him? It's my fault he was hurt in the first place. . . my fault any of this happened!" Suddenly he paused, and turned his deadened gaze to the healer. "Wait. You said live. Will he be okay?" He asked, and resisted the urge to growl when the healer's smile dropped and she shook her head.

"It. . . well, it depends on what you mean by 'okay', Imouku-sama. His windpipe was only slightly damaged and we were able to repair it, but his voice box was shredded. He's. . . well, he's mute now, Imouku-sama. There's nothing that can bring his voice back." The Child's eyes widened throughout this explanation, and at the end of it he muttered a particularly strong curse and dropped his head into his hands.

"Saved his life, huh? More like ruined it," he murmured, going very still for a long moment and swallowing roughly. The healer reached out to put a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him, but leaped back as a fireball shot her way, followed by Imouku leaping to his feet, paying no attention to his aggravated injuries or to his surroundings. "It's my fault! All of it! My fault, mine, just me, I kill everything, everybody!" He cried out, a manic look showing up in his eyes as he spun around in a circle, spotting a surgical knife lying on a table. The look in his eyes contrasted sharply with the tears pouring down his face as he seized the blade, taking it first to the chair he'd been sitting in, stabbing it, tearing and pulling at the material, and seeing his father's claws shredding Haseo's tiny throat with every motion he made.

The chair was little more than a ruin of stuffing after just a few moments, and Imouku turned to other targets – namely, his clothing – clothing that was irrevocably stained with Haseo's blood, and seemed to his mind's eye to be covered in the blood of his mother, and the hypothetical blood of every being that he'd killed during his own stint of megalomania, and he slashed at it, occasionally cutting himself in the process but not even noticing; desperate, mad laughter escaped his throat, a sound that Haseo would never make again, just like his words, just like his cries, just like that scream, the scream that even now echoed in his ears.

Imouku slashed again, and again, and kept slashing until the blade was snatched out of his grasp and his arms were pinned behind his back.

"Imouku-Sama! Imouku-Sama!" The panicked voice of the healer brought him back to reality, somewhat, and he hung in the grip of the guards that had been called, panting with exhaustion and watching with an odd fascination as his blood mingled with that of Haseo's, dripping to the floor in slow droplets. "Imouku-Sama, look at me!" The voice called again, and his chin was brought around, forcing his vision into the healer's line of sight. "Imouku-sama, you did nothing wrong," the healer said, and Imouku snorted. Couldn't this girl see that he had? That he was as bad as his father – worse, even; he had allowed all of this to happen!

Maybe he was insane, jut like his father. Maybe he'd lost it when he'd entered this place; maybe it had been back with he encountered Chats Ramón for the first time. Maybe it was back when his mother died, or even further back, when the capital fell! Heck, maybe that was his fault too! It probably was, somehow, everything else was, after all!

"Imouku-sama, please," the healer said, and he brought his gaze to look into hers again, the mania dying down into the dead look he'd worn before.

"What?" He asked flatly, flinching back when the healer touched his hand, her eyes patient and kind, though perhaps a little frightened.

"You hurt yourself," she said simply, and guided his now unresisting body over to a bed, getting the guards to help him up onto it, whereupon they stepped back, but didn't leave the room. Imouku had a feeling that they wouldn't be leaving him alone any time soon; his chances of privacy were now shot. The healer – Imouku only now realized that it was the Youkomon Gijinka who had stitched him up before – helped him out of his rent and damaged clothing, treating his injuries, both old and new, without so much as flinching. Her hands were gentle, and despite the fright she must have suffered, didn't even shake. "I know you don't believe me, Imouku-sama," she said quietly, almost conversationally. "But that child would be dead if it weren't for you. I'm not certain you realize it, but you've won the loyalty of all of us here at the Citadel. Were you only to have the power to oppose . . . well, I shouldn't talk about such things."

Imouku only listened with half an ear. His mind was on Haseo, and how badly he had failed – how easily that could have been Ai or Makoto. . . how powerless he was to stop this entire thing. He barely looked up as the medic finished treating him for his self-inflicted cuts and helped him to re-dress. Thoughts of what else he should have done, could have done, wound through his mind restlessly, even as he was escorted out of the ward and back to his bedchambers, where he was tucked in to sleep with a guard on either side of his bed.

His last thought before sleeping was that it could only get worse from here.

-TBC-