Dabuchi had a headache — his eyes were bloodshot and he was practically blind from how long he'd been in front of his computer screen. He was supposed to be monitoring the subject's rooms but he was hardly paying attention. He had his laptop up and was furiously zooming and pulling around on a map of Osaka, trying to find the right place.
Mitsuru walked in to tell him he was checking out, only to see he was neglecting his duties, "Dabuchi, really?" He scolded, albeit he'd done crap like this plenty of times, "No wonder we never know if something goes wrong in the lab until the last second!" The second-in-command folded his arms, but the man was engulfed by the information he'd found.
"Are you seriously ignoring your co-boss?"
"Not ignoring — if anything, I'm helping this facility. I've been doing research!" He pulled his screen into Mitsuru's view, "About the murder; they said it's happened before, right?"
"So what?" He wasn't in the mood for this, "Someone got shot yesterday somewhere, someone got shot today somewhere, it's not that uncommon."
"No, no, no!" He hurried, "Not like this! Look, that children's orphanage in Osaka, 2018. Ten years ago it closed down. Ten children were killed!"
Now the man was interested, he picked up the laptop and looked closely. Unsure of what he was reading was true (too gruesome to be true), he continued on anyway. They were found dismembered, disemboweled, some were too deteriorated from recognizable features — police also discovered scattered remains of eyeballs, teeth, hair, and a tongue. Some bodies were hanging from the tree limbs… Or body parts.
"Mother fucking—" 'Christ' he couldn't finish; the sleep-deprived man had interrupted him.
"But listen, Number Two was born in 2016, right? He was only two, so who else could've pulled that goddamn crime without leaving a single trace of DNA?"
Mitsuru didn't believe how easily their answer had come to them, but he knew it was the only logical explanation, "Number One…?" He was only thinking aloud, but it had to be correct, "Dabuchi, may I show this to Chief Kurosawa? I think we're on the track of something here…" He pushed his glasses up on his nose, squinting to look at the date, "But still, we have to remember this story is ten years old."
Dabuchi shook his head, a twisted smile, "He's out there somewhere baby. Believe me, and I bet he's the same guy that killed that man in Tokyo. But we're gonna catch him and we're gonna eliminate this disease."
Mitsuru was more baffled by his speech than uplifted, he had one eyebrow raised, "How long has it been since you slept?"
"About three days."
It had been almost a week out of the hospital and Tobi still wasn't feeling quite back in his own body yet. He still felt disconnected in a way he couldn't describe, but it certainly made him exhausted. The pain pills didn't help either; his last dosage was the night before and he was passed out, nothing could wake him. He'd been waking up uncomfortably due to having to be on his back for another week so those pills were his only way of sleeping.
He absolutely couldn't stress how much he loathed the lump in his throat and weird way one of his eyes would tear up as he woke up during the night.
He wouldn't complain, he told himself, this wasn't misery… He didn't know why he was thinking about misery so late at night as he tried to fall back asleep.
He'd been in much worse condition than this… emotionally at least. While he wanted to tell himself he'd felt worse so he wouldn't complain, he was too scared to let himself bring back that pain. Why did he always think about pain? Think about other things, he demanded to himself.
Or just go back to sleep and let his subconscious decide what he'd think about. God, if he could just sleep on his stomach or his side again he'd conk right back out. Just one try, if it hurt, he'd groan a little and flip himself back over. That simple. But getting stabbed in the stomach made the simplest things a work out. And Tobi knew work out — while he unwillingly had to take Gym like the rest of his classmates, he gained muscle quite easily since he actually cared to stay in shape.
He wanted to take care of Motoka — as she'd done for him — he'd know he was strong enough to keep her safe from harm. Tobi wasn't frighteningly, bulky but his physique wasn't hard to see once his shirt came off. He wished he had the energy to throw his shirt off currently, because the plain task of scooting onto his bottom was making him sweat and grate his teeth. There, he let his shoulder prop him up so he could lie on his side.
Fantastic improvement! He didn't think about what was happening in three days — he would be nineteen… The most demeaning age in his perspective. What was so special about aging anyway? Especially for him?
What did he have to look forward to in life? Tobi didn't see himself achieving greatness or glory, he would just be a red-eyed freak to the outside world. His idea of accomplished was a quaint home in Moscow, where he could be alone with his books. Although he hated the idea of 'alone,' it was the realistic idea. He was used to having no company aside from books, his music box, and his relic of Motoka, eternally smiling at him.
He was grateful to have Sadami in his life, especially for so long, but Tobi knew he was holding him back — this was an educated teenager in a prestigious college with a bright future as a node developer ahead of him… He'd rather not be the one simply living in his house because no one would sell one to him alone. Tobi didn't know when or where he'd go but he wanted what was better for Sadami. No matter how much he reminded 'he wanted him there' or 'he couldn't have a better roommate,' Tobi felt undeserving.
He still sometimes thought he wasn't cut out to have 'friends…' God that word friend had sounded so magical to him as a child, because he thought they didn't exist in his world. It was so cold out… Tokyo got snow maybe for a few hours but it was so cold.
It was so cold when he thought about the orphanage. Osaka got deep snow because of how down south it was in comparison to Tokyo. It was always enchanting to see the first snowfall of the year. The kids at the orphanage would run outside and pelt one another with snowballs and kick down snow forts… Not one. An eight-year-old child peered out his window and watched with both indifference and envy. He knew they would only abandon him if he tried to join in, but he was certainly warmer inside than they all were. None of them acknowledged the red-eyed child sadly observing all the action.
He'd pressed his palm against the glass and left a print there, taking forever to fade. Hands were confusing for the child too — he had more than two and he knew it. But why didn't the others? Locked up in his room, he always looked at his two hands — something inside of him told him he could reach farther but he never tried. He was scared to.
Tobi was scared because he never recognized that voice.
The boy sat at the bottom bunk of his bed; not that anyone would ever occupy the top one anyway, but all the rooms had them. All the books he was bored with were piled around the television; he grabbed his favorites that he kept under the bed. He didn't need to waste his energy with them anyway; Tobi had his short stories and other books he loved to re-read. He loved reading his favorite parts over and over, sometimes wishing the characters had made different choices.
Though the times he was forced to interact with the other kids, normally an all boys orphanage would sound like heaven to… well, a little boy, he didn't bother to try anymore. They all sat at the cafeteria-like tables for their meals and they'd all scoot to one end, giving Tobi his own corner. He could hear them whispering about them, but at this point, why bother even getting angry anymore? Or feeling hurt?
He'd stop letting his feelings get hurt so easily a while ago, because he knew that's what they wanted. They enjoyed his tears, so he never gave them what they wanted anymore. Tobi, even at eight, was wise enough to know that things were never going to change. So naturally, the young boy adapted — he learned to enjoy being alone and the quiet. His own company was all he was going to have, so he may as well make it productive and useful to himself.
What was still hard to hide was how much it pained him to see a child leaving happily with new parents. As much as he knew the other kids felt pain, he got the worst of it, "You really thought it'd be you?" Tobi didn't even leave his room or leave his door open when a family came, but they just liked to torment him, "No one's ever gonna bring home a creep like you!"
The child didn't even glance at them; his nose was stuck in the history book he'd just stolen as he walked down the hall. His peripheral vision told him to make a turn in a few steps, "Only tree frogs have red eyes!"
"You're some kind of animal!"
'They've got nothing else to do.' He'd tell himself. Though he'd admit, they got more creative with the nicknames overtime. Tobi enjoyed the peace and quiet that was in his room — mostly at night when the others were quiet and he concentration his book some more. As long as the foster parents didn't know the lights were on, he could be up all night reading. As a child, he hated sleeping.
Most children hated 'bed time' anyway, but Tobi especially hated it. He hated dreaming, it was because in his sleep was mostly when he felt something slithering around in his stomach and up his spine out of his body. It felt like they were bursting from his back and ripping him open. He could tell they were the extra hands he suspected before — the voice would come back and tell him one word: Slaughter.
An intelligent child, he easily could tell what that word meant — it was in his books countless times. It always meant death. Tobi would wake up gasping and sweating, sometimes still feeling bugs crawling up his spine — he couldn't shake the feeling away ever, he just had to let it pass. He'd never forget though, the crack in the ceiling he'd once woken up to — or the hole in the wall that he'd hidden behind a chair in a panic.
It wasn't like his 'hands' were a recent mystery to him anyway — his toddler memories might be foggy, but he was sure he'd been at that place since he was three; a week before his fourth birthday was the first time he thought something emerged from the back of his head and touched something. Not even someone who was just out of diapers could forget that first feeling.
Tobi also remembered an old, unmarried, miserable bitch that was always screaming. In his toddler mind, Tobi thought of her as some sort of monster because all of the younger kids were constantly hiding or running away from her. The older children who were adopted by the time Tobi was out of his toddler stage would tell stories about her to kids his age — she was The Water Witch.
"She drinks out of these weirdly-shaped bottles and when she does, her body changes shape; her hair slithers like tentacles on all sides, her fingers become claws, and she'll tear anyone's eyes out who comes near her!" The three-year-old wasn't part of the story time group, as he was hidden behind a corner — he was just as afraid of the children as he was of The Water Witch.
"I saw it; it looks red, what she drinks. Maybe it's blood!"
"That would make her a vampire, not a witch!"
"It's red like that one kid's eyes! Maybe he's evil too!"
Years later Tobi would finally get the hint they were talking about him, but he was well aware of his oddly colored eyes. Why was burgundy such a pretty color on anything else except someone's natural eyes? He gazed into the mirror and tried to cover them in his reflection, not even wanting to look.
On a particular night, the toddler had waddled to the bathroom all by himself, and the closest one to his room at the time was downstairs by the kitchen. He went, pulled over a stool so he could reach the sink, and left the light on so he could see his way back. But when he went to close the bathroom door, Tobi noticed the kitchen light was on — it wasn't on when he walked down there.
He heard something, someone grunting and choking down some sort of liquid. The Water Witch, he thought. His first instinct was to stay hidden and lurk back to his room… But for some reason he felt enticed to the noises. The closer he tip-toed, the more it sounded like weeping and sobbing.
Tobi hadn't had much personal experience with her, none that he could remember anyway, but he could remember seeing that she wasn't a witch at all! She was an old woman slouched on the floor in tears. A large, glass-looking bottle with hardly any red liquid inside remained. Tobi's eyes were red like wine as well, but that didn't mean she enjoyed his company.
She was crying — the three-year-old didn't know why, but he knew that when someone was crying, one of the foster mothers would hug them. Hugs healed them.
If he just hugged her, then she'd feel better, he thought. The maroon-eyed child approached, his hands hesitantly reaching for her arm. The old lady was aghast; she shoved the toddler away, disgusted. She cried, "Go away! Monster!"
The three-year-old let out a whining yelp and ended up on his bottom but got to his knees — his tears started coldly down his cheeks, but then he felt his memory darken — a lapse of blackness and a voice, the voice; 'You push me down… and I'm the monster?' It was angry,
'You dare call me the monster?'
The tot blinked and saw the empty bottle roll out of her open palm and hit his leg. He looked up at her, her eyes were glazed and half-open, her head slouched. At her mouth, something red was trickling all the way to her chin. The toddler thought she was throwing up the red stuff she drank. Tobi now couldn't remember this clearly. All he was sure about was he never saw her again.
"Probably drank herself to death."
"Finally, that old bitch fucked up her brain a long time ago!"
"And her liver!" All the women would say, Tobi's mind was still too fragile to understand that it might've been his doing. He didn't physically do anything, so he didn't hurt her, right?
Well that memory had become far too distant to the young man to be remembering. Currently, he was dreaming.
It was snowing in his dream; he could see his breath before him and cloven footprints steering deeper into the forest. Cloven footprints were a sign of evil or the Devil in some cultures. Tobi was only curious to see what animal had left them — so he followed, feeling the cold dry out his skin and numb him.
He had no purpose in following the footprints but he did, getting farther and farther into the middle of nowhere, not that he knew where his destination was anyway. He expected to find a moose or a deer. Instead, he found a carcass — the carcass of a buck being gnawed at by a fox.
The buck's ribcage was showing and swollen red flesh that had been torn from under the fur, blood and maybe pus was coming out of its glassy eyes — the fox then eyed him, keeping its shoulders hunched and head low. It didn't move its jaw, but its eyes spoke to him. 'You're not a monster yet, but I will teach you.'
The fox's voice sounded like the voice. He hadn't heard that voice in such a long time yet he recognized it immediately upon hearing it, saying the same words that it always had. The fox began to prowl towards him, stepping on the buck's limp body and taking slow, deep steps into the snow. He couldn't move.
The animal wanted to take his body — not the fox itself but the voice controlling it. It wanted to use him, but for what, he didn't know.
Its eyes were fixated onto his — they too were bloody red but the look in its eyes was more menacing than he could've imagined.
Tobi's head began to throb; something was crawling up his spine and wanting to come out of the back of his head. The 'hands!' He'd learned to control them by now, so why were they suddenly beyond his command! It wasn't he; it was the far away voice taking him away from his own body. The fox stood in place, still in a pouncing position — it did not need to strike, only the demon possessing it needed to find its new host.
Surprised by a touch to his arm, Tobi's involuntary reaction was to jerk and gasp. He was lying on his side in pain; his head and his abdomen. He'd been sweating; it was morning now. He angrily glared at the hand that had taken his arm; it belonged to the blonde, "What?" He moaned grumpily, hiding his relief.
"Are you okay? You're not in any pain, right?"
Tobi replied hatefully, "I'm fine. Why?" He hoped if he was mean enough, she'd leave. He hated discussing these things.
"You looked distressed, that's why I woke you up. Sadami said to check on you since he was late and had to go."
"Well do what Tobi says and get out of my room." His head was hurting worse than his stomach, it made him dizzy. His eyes were shut and his face was sunken into the pillow — he didn't want to hear anyone's voices… Not his, not Chikako's, not the voice.
She simply shook her head and left the room, "If-if you need me, let me know." She mumbled softly, but Tobi gestured her to go away. He didn't even have the pain threshold to look her in the eyes and tell her get out. His head ached — like being far too deep in the sea and being crushed by all the pressure that he'd implode. It felt like something was trying to get out… Or get in. He needed to stay awake for as long as he could.
Tomotsu Kurosawa still had Dabuchi's laptop, all the way into the morning hours of the next day he had the computer screen blaring on his face. It was dark, but the computer light source was all he needed. He was waiting for his lapdog to return, he'd made a discovery much bigger than Dabuchi. Noboru's files were scattered across his desk — he kept pointing his finger back and forth between his recent specimen photo and the one on the screen.
Mitsuru was suddenly rushing out of the elevator, "You needed me right now sir?"
"Yes." He waited for him to fly across the room and to his desk, needing permission to come around behind it like any professional would, "Look here." He picked up a record of Noboru's first sign in as an infant. "Number Two was an orphan when I discovered him, parents both deceased under 'unknown circumstances.' Though, one was found with a gun in their hand, both a hole in their head." Noboru of course, never knew this — what kid wanted to know their parents shot themselves?
"Sir! You never told me this!" Mitsuru was appalled, how could this primitive information be kept from him for so long? Kurosawa sneered at him, he was chief, so he could give out whatever information he wanted and didn't want, "I'm sorry…" He bowed his head, "Go on."
"I looked at his mother's records… She's truly an anonymous woman," he held up the papers he'd been given by his research scouts, "Noboru was her second pregnancy… In 2009, she carried out her first pregnancy full term."
"Full term…?" A light bulb went off in his head, "Is that why you suspect Number Two isn't Number One?"
"I don't suspect, I know." He turned the laptop screen in his direction — he didn't want to gasp, but he did. He didn't expect to be looking at the king of New Humans on something as demeaning as a laptop screen. But there on the orphanage records was a young, saturnine boy with crimson eyes. Not from the camera, but purely scarlet irises.
"You got a name? A location?"
Kurosawa calmly shook his head, "No. All I have is this photo; says it was taken in 2018. He's a grown man now."
He was sure he was looking at an old file photo for a second, "…He and Number Two look exactly alike."
Kurosawa closed the laptop, stood up, and smiled.
"Most brothers do." He said.