"Puppy, puppy." Chikako sang in a child's voice, patted the now clean and rat-looking dog with a towel and carried it out of the bathroom, "All clean and fluffy."

Tobi had been watching a movie, not quite ready to go back to the glaring screen of his computer that gave him a headache, "Look, I didn't say we could keep it, that's up to Sadami. And plus, we don't have any dog food or anything. It's not even potty trained."

"We can handle all that." She said, snuggling with the pup and joining him on the couch. As soon as she did, the damp fur-baby wriggled out of her arms and pressed one paw against Tobi's shoulder, licking his cheek.

"Really? Really?" He asked it as though it could answer; he pushed its head away, "Dumb dog." Chikako still smiled, knowing soon those words would become affectionate, "Until we decide, just keep it away from me." It hopped back into Chikako's lap and started kissing her chin and lips with its tiny tongue; as gross as it sounded, it was better than teething on her.

"I can't help it if he likes you. He already loves you, Tobi." Sounded familiar, the dumb and innocent creature that loved him on sight when it really shouldn't. No wonder she felt a connection to the Spitz when she saw him.

Yet, being abandoned and alone almost hit home for Tobi… it wasn't like he'd dump it out on the street if he really didn't want it there; take it to a humane shelter or something. But then he wouldn't be loved, just watched. Just like a child at an orphanage.

As much as the scarlet-eyed man was embarrassed to know this, he had nearly felt excited when he realized what Chikako had found — like a tiny childlike desire of his that had been long delayed for him. He looked at the puppy again; it didn't belong at a shelter now that he was so happy to be here, comfortable and probably much safer.

Tobi got up and gestured her to follow, "Bring furball in here." She didn't even have to pick him up, the white fluff was already chasing after his master into the kitchen. Tobi reached up for a bowl, feeling a slight pain on his stitched abdomen, but he hadn't done harm. It tried to climb up his leg again, looking at its face with disgust; it looked like it was reaching to be picked up by him.

That wasn't happening.

Tobi was able to shake it off and went to the sink, "Hey brat, I told you keep him off of me."

The girl had become less afraid of his attitude and more confident with her responses, "Lighten up, he just wants you to pet him." He heard the smile in her voice as he filled the bowl with tap water, the dog sat on its hind and wagged its tail in anticipation, and its panting has sounded hoarse since she brought him in.

"You do the petting, I'll do the feeding." No way was he going to let that thing become attached to him; but when he sat down the water and the Spitz started to lap it up with its tiny pink tongue, he'd just help it do exactly what he didn't want it to do.

"Come on Tobi, if Sadami says yes, then we all have to take care of him."

"Does that really mean I have to touch it?" He moaned, "There are already two more of you in the house." The dog was busy sipping its water, and he was sure it would want to take a nap after it filled its belly, "Look out for it until Sadami gets back, I need to take care of something." Chikako ended up following him, just like the pup.

"Take care of what? Can I help?" Tobi woke up the computer screen and he nearly jerked at what he saw. She was leaning over on the bed to see his screen; Hanna Kappel was indeed real, she'd sent a screenshot of her student profile. She similar to Chikako but with a wider nose and a fuller jaw. She was behind some thick glasses and he could tell she took the photograph herself by how it was angled. Residence was Shinjuku, but birthplace was Bayreuth, Germany.

"Who's that?" She puzzled, just as bemused as Tobi was.

"I really don't know," she'd sent another message that stated she was just nearby, "but she's just some creep, so what do I care?" He finally signed off, having been far too long for him to want to respond anyway.

Chikako saw the dog poke his head up, she clicked her tongue and rubbed her fingers towards it, "Don't call him in here!" Tobi wined again, but the dog was already at Chikako's feet, reaching up her loose, long pants with his tail wagging and she picked it up, "I give you simple instructions and you can't seem to follow them."

"Well, in the slim chance Sadami says we can't keep him, I wanna make sure he knows that he's going to be loved… even if it's not by you." She was once again teasing him; when had she gotten so confident? It seemed the more confident Chikako grew, the more attractive she started to seem. But not to Tobi of course…

The dog suddenly vocalized — the Spitz wasn't a yappy sort of dog; it howled in a rhythmic singing. Its puppy voice made it high and crackly, despite it had just doused its throat with water.

"You sure Sadami will wanna hear that all day?"

"He'll stop in a second." Chikako hoped; it seemed like it only wanted in on the conversation. The front door came open, they couldn't see Sadami's baffled expression from where they were.

"What the hell was that?" He asked, seeing that the television had nothing of the sort that would make such a raspy howling. The white tuft of a puppy hopped from the blonde's lap and hurried in front of the redhead, panting and wagging its tail, barking excitedly. "Um… hello?" He knelt down and scratched its head, "Where'd you come from?"

"I found him on the street a while after you left, I think he's abandoned." Chikako insisted, hurrying out to see his reaction, hoping he was smitten.

"Hm, no collar." Sadami made the obvious statement; Tobi joined them for the moment of truth.

"Blondie wants to keep it, I told her it was fine with me as long as you were fine with it… you make the final call." Sadami looked at Tobi's 'be strong' expression and Chikako's 'pretty please' expression. Last was the dog, how eager it looked to get to meet his new family. The young man shook his head.

"As a mature young adult, I'll put it like this…" the two waited anxiously, the dog continued panting and wagging its tail.

"It's so cute! How can I not want to keep it? Of course he can stay!" His voice had gone up an octave.

"Un… believe… able." Tobi's said.

Chikako jumped happily and the two cuddled with their new pup in arms. The poor Japanese Spitz's head was tousling in all directions, unsure of whose shirt he wanted to teeth on more or who he was more afraid of.

"Isn't he a sweetheart?" Chikako doted.

"Guys," Tobi said with his expression still sunken.

"I've always wanted a dog, but we just couldn't find a breeder or a shelter we were okay with." Sadami continued.

"Guys,"

"We just gotta get some dog food, a leash, flea medicine," Sadami went on.

Chikako; "What about vaccines? And how are we gonna potty train him in an apartment?"

"Guys!" Tobi brought them back from puppy heaven, even the dog was giving master his full attention, "Do you really think this is a good place for a dog to live? Dogs need space and exercise. Besides, he's gonna grow a decent size." As much as he hoped the puppy could stay a small cotton ball forever. The Spitz panted in Chikako and Sadami's arms with a 'Who, me?' expression.

There was a moment of pondering between the two, but they relented. The dog was now part of the family. It howled once again in its happiness, Tobi hid in his room from the noise.

They decided the next morning would be best to pick up dog food since they had scraps of sandwich meat that would suffice for the evening.

Despite the slices of turkey the spoiled dog had been fed, it still begged at the island counter for their shrimp fried rice that smelled delicious. Tobi was quite good at trying new recipes since he'd relied mostly on himself to feed him, "Can dogs eat shrimp?" Sadami wondered aloud.

"I don't think it'd be good for a puppy's stomach, especially one that has to be toilet trained." It looked at Tobi with sad, chestnut eyes, sitting like a good boy.

"Hey, we haven't even named him yet." Sadami noted, the dog dropped its tongue, as if shocked, "What's a good name for him?"

"Do I look like I know that?" Tobi said, annoyed at how pathetic puppy was making itself look.

"How about Hachi?"

"Hachi was an Akita." Who didn't know the story of the faithfully devoted Hachikō? He died waiting for his dead master to come home, no way would Tobi name any dog of his after that— what was he thinking?

They couldn't keep this puppy forever, "Look, if we name him, we'll get attached to him. What if we end up not being able to take care of him and we have to give him up, I don't want some sob story if we do." He heard the dog's heavy panting again; he was being stared at with those glass, goofy eyes. Tobi was in no way melted; the puppy reared his head back and howled again. It was trying to communicate in vocalizations.

Chikako perked her eyebrows, "I've got a name!" She disregarded Tobi completely, "Howl." Tobi was going to object, but she had a point — the Spitz's vocalizations, it's simple and literal (suiting for a dog).

"I guess that's… cute." Tobi still wasn't sure about naming the canine, sure that they wouldn't last a week trying to care for that thing, no matter how adorable. The young man was finished, and that mystery woman that had contacted him wouldn't leave him alone still. He needed to distract himself somehow. As soon as he left after rinsing his plate, came the whining.

Howl whimpered like a yipping baby monkey, going after Tobi and biting on his jeans; either from teething or to keep him from going in his room. Chikako was too taken aback to say how cute it was while Sadami was appalled, "Aw… he likes you."

He knew… and he hated it.

"Just pet him a little bit." Chikako begged more than the dog. Tobi sighed, rolled his eyes and knelt down. Howl put his paws on Tobi's knees and started biting at the fabric. As soon as the hesitant Tobi barely went to touch him, Howl's head reared back and swung a paw at his hand. As soon as Tobi swiped it elsewhere, Howl's other paw went for it again. He was playing with him.

Tobi couldn't help himself as he snorted and wagged his finger around while Howl desperately took a swing at it. Chikako was giggling, "Aw, you two already love—"

"I tolerate this dog. Nothing else." Tobi was suddenly done and he shut his door. Howl, oblivious, turned back with his tongue dangling and looked at his two fellow puppies; Tobi was the master, Sadami and Chikako were littermates.

...

The waves of the ocean were beating against the facility shores; early in the night meant high tides in Osaka. Not that they could hear the scattered showers or crashing waters from inside anyway. Mitsuru had been skittering around everywhere trying to find the quickest way to the camera room, where Kurosawa had told him to be. He said that night would be the start of something big for them, but he'd only told Mitsuru this and no one else — he had to act like it was any other testing observation.

Number Two was being dragged to a white testing chamber with no windows; no scientist was to give him instructions tonight. Only Mitsuru could tell that he was restraining in using his powers by his own mental strength and not the implant; that didn't mean he wouldn't try to squirm free when they shoved the restraint helmet over his head, feeling like he was going to be smothered, already in a tight, light blue jumpsuit.

"He's ready in position." Was heard over the speaker. The guards locked him in the marble room, following procedures like they had been doing for years.

"Subject Number Two's ready, sir." Haruki said to Dabuchi, who was the one controlling the firearms.

He put himself on his lab partner's speaker, "Akiko, we're about to start tonight's testing, aren't you coming?" He didn't expect a response right away, but after a decent two minutes of readying the first round of bullets, he pressed the call button again, "Akiko, you're needed to observe, you on your way?"

He certainly wasn't, not on his own accord anyway. Akiko was being escorted by four guards on all sides of him to a private room, a room he hadn't seen before. It was pitch black when the guards slammed the door shut behind him, "What am I supposed to do in here?"

"Sit and watch." A voice made his heart skip a beat, it sent a chill down his spine as it hissed next to him — Tomotsu Kurosawa had prowled out of his office to show Akiko this room. He was going to do him in tonight, he knew it. Akiko knew that he'd been planning to eliminate the only problem he had in the lab; somewhere none of the others could find him, "Don't look so afraid, it's demeaning." He instructed, "I mean it though, sit down." When Akiko's eyes adjusted, he saw an extra office chair in front of a black wall.

"Why did you bring me here?" He could see his boss making movements with his hands, along with the beeping of some buttons, "Why'd you only ask me?"

"I thought someone with your special relationship should get to see this test subject train up close." There was a hissing, in panels, the wall in front of them folded up to reveal a large, one-way mirror made from bullet-resistant glass.

He saw the thin test subject turn its head, the helmet veiling his identity for the moment, "I use this special chamber to observe the subjects privately and up close. That's why the scientists watch from the monitor room; Noboru looked at his reflection for a moment, unaware of who was behind it or why it suddenly revealed itself. He didn't care all that much either, "Don't you find this to be a privilege, Midorama?"

"What do you want?" Akiko demanded.

"I know what you've done, Midorama." Akiko heard a hammer cock, it was Tomotsu's pistol — still with a face that was masked by the darkness of the room, he caressed the nozzle, "But, I'm willing to make your situation a bit easier if you listen to what I'm about to tell you."

Instead of aiming his gun at Akiko's head, like any good mob boss, he put it back away. They watched Noboru ready for his training session, bullets fired at the child who responded like a true soldier, they all scattered in midair and changed course at the walls. Little did he know was that the walls behind him had turrets assembling. Noboru could sense it through the vibrations his 'hands' could feel and he used them to give him a boost, jumping away.

He threw one turret into the other, wasting all their ammo at the very mirror Akiko and Tomotsu sat behind. Forgetting they were safe, Akiko raised his arms for defense before seeing that the glass was barely cracked. Tomotsu was leaning back, as relaxed as he could be, "Just tell me what it is." Said Akiko.

"I want you to know what I've really been training Number Two for. And a few other subjects of course." He slid a file from under his chair and gave it to the scientist; he could just barely make out the words from the light of the testing area.

"Project Akatsuki."

Tomotsu grunted, as though confirming, watching the gladiator vanquish his prey as though he were in a Roman coliseum. He licked his lips, "New Humans are the next step in our evolution. All these years we were trying to cure it, but now perhaps it's time to embrace it." Akiko didn't like this at all, he didn't even open the folder to see what he could possibly have planned, "Him right there, Number Two, he's our key to finding Number One as soon as we have a stable location… if my cohort fails to bring him here herself of course. Think about it — once we have the first pure-bred New Human, we'll have the perfect source of blood; the first carrier of the virus that made them this way."

"Kurosawa—"

"Plus, as soon as I tell Number Two that the first subject is his biological brother, there'll be no way his fragile little heart will refuse." So Noboru was just his fishing reel to grab the bait… but what was Akiko then? "Once we know what makes their blood so unique, we'll finally reach the results we've been looking for. We'll have a better chance of safely distributing this disease."

"How can you dare say this is moral? It's not!" Akiko's eyes lit up on fire, and Tomotsu smelled the smoke.

When he stood up, there was a gun pointed to his forehead, "Midorama, don't lose your temper now. I don't think your little pet can heal you if you're already dead."

There was no vocal emotion in his tone, the lion that knew the mouse had no chance but enjoyed keeping it alive for torture anyway.

"Besides, I'm doing this for your sake; don't be fooled by his touching act of his. Noboru follows his own agenda; he just wants to use you to escape. And he's got you in the palm of his hand… don't let him make you feel like he's your responsibility."

"You're wrong!" Akiko cried, feeling stung to the core.

He looked back at Noboru, there were soldiers undoing the latch on his helmet, ready to escort him to the next testing chamber. Dabuchi asked Haruki to bring some food from the kitchen while they transitioned tests. Almost like the commercial break from a television show. Before she left, he gave her bottom a nice, playful grasp — earning a startled and delighted response.

Tomotsu smirked, turning on the mic in his ear, "Alright, let him out. Show's over. Send some troops to the door." Noboru saw the weapons in front of him being disarmed and he sat alone the room while he waited, "Watch how he acts when he doesn't know you're looking." He said low and guttural in Akiko's ear.

He trusted the boy; and even if he did act out just because he was free of restraint, it wasn't his fault! It wasn't his fault, Akiko kept saying.

He had no idea what Noboru was thinking when the doors out to the hall opened and two men were standing there, "Alright kid, come back to—" A hole punched through his stomach and he collapsed immediately. Akiko's stomach dropped and his face went white. Tomotsu leapt up, "What…? WHO REMOVED HIS RESTRAINT?" He hadn't anticipated that.

Akiko looked away. The men had guns on them, Noboru was just reacting to the weapons… That's what they'd trained him for, after all. Not only that, but he needed to prove somehow that he was threatening. They either leave him alone or try to retrain him again.

Tomotsu snarled at him, "Midorama! It was you! You let the monster go free!"

"Noboru's not a monster. You are!"

"Very bold," Tomotsu said, still flustered by the unexpected gore, "but let's be honest; anyone who steps foot in this facility is a monster. They're all involved now."

Akiko watched as the other man went to shoot Noboru, but his gun was torn to bits and he cowered in fear. Instead of killing him, Noboru marched past him. Dabuchi had sounded the alarms; that meant Akiko was locked up with Tomotsu until someone caught him.

"Why him? Why anyone?" Akiko finally asked, "Do you get pleasure in torturing new species? This isn't science, this is murder."

"Our subjects aren't dying, Midorama." He said with cold apathy, "Not the important ones, anyway."

"Okay," Akiko looked at him coldly, hardly able to make out any expression in the darkness, "but you took away this boy's childhood, his innocence — that's murder!"

"Alright, it's murder. But is it a crime if these things were already monsters?"

"You completely warped him! He doesn't know what's right or wrong. Any person he dislikes, he kills!"

"Not a problem for you then, huh?" He eyed him from the darkness, "Either you have a rare gift of speaking the beast's language, or you just let him butter you up so he can use you."

Before Akiko could speak out again, the alarms stopped and all of the doors opened. Tomotsu's speaker systems were back up and he heard frantic screams from Dabuchi in his ear, "Ishizu, calm the fuck down. What is it?" Tomotsu went silent for a moment, but then he grinned, "I'll handle it." He hid his sadism underneath a feigned sympathy, "The troops just found Haruki… and they found her head down the hall."

Akiko went pale and his throat went raw. All Haruki had done was feed him all this time, what vendetta did Noboru have against her? No, he was just mad at everyone that was involved in his testing, that treated him poorly.

"It's not kill or be killed with New Humans." Tomotsu stood up, fixing his suit, "I'm doing this for humanity's sake. I'm the one who's willing to make sacrifices." He opened the door and allowed Akiko out in front of him, "People have to die for the world to become a better place."

...

Tobi's eyes fluttered open, revealing his dark room when he heard that same yippy whining by his bed. He turned to see two white paws reaching on the sides of his bed; his door was slightly agape, explaining how Howl must've snuck in. That thing thought it was getting into bed with him? No way; he was lucky he didn't pee anywhere it shouldn't yet.

Groggy and irritable, Tobi glared at it over the side of his bed and turned back around, "Beat it, furball." He grumbled in a hoarse voice, too tired to even properly kick it out. It kept it up, as if something had spooked it, "Go sleep with Chikako." He actually had occupied Chikako's futon during his after-dinner nap, but after exploring his new home for a while, Howl didn't want to be cold and alone again. Tobi wouldn't even suggest bothering Sadami on a school night.

"Come on Howl, give me a break, it's your first night." Now Tobi was whining. He heard a slump onto the carpet floor and when the curious young man peered over, he saw what truly looked like an overgrown cotton ball lying there in defeat.

Maybe he didn't want a bed to sleep on; maybe he just wanted Tobi to like him…

…That had to be the dumbest thing Tobi had ever wondered. But that didn't mean he felt some sympathy for that poor thing. How long had he been wandering on his own, scared and wanting to be wanted? And even worse, scared of being thrown away after… his scarlet eyes saw Motoka's warm smile, a smile he'd long craved when the child had finally found her. That's what Howl wanted.

Howl felt fingers walk on his back and his ears poked up, "Alright drooly, come here." Howl started panting with a smile and he was lifted from under his armpits and onto Tobi's lap, rubbing his head, "I don't mean to be so mean." He whispered to him, the dog's ears were steady and listening, "I just get worried when people like me so suddenly…" The dog rolled his tongue back into his jaw, tilting his head in response, "I just don't think I'm meant to love anybody, because every time I do… they— I'm spilling my guts out to something that licks its own ass."

Howl stared at him for a moment, then started panting and wagging again, 'Guilty is charged!' His dog mind must be saying.

Tobi shook his head, he must be tired. But he still smirked, giving him gentle, soothing strokes as Howl curled up to his side, "Alright furball, just for tonight." He felt a slobbery tongue make its way from his chin to his nose a few times before Howl affectionately sniffed him some more. Smelled human to him.

Another lick went to the scar underneath Tobi's bangs, but these licks weren't of gratefulness, they were gentle and healing. Tobi already had his eyes closed however, exhausted, already forgetting about his fluffy new roommate.

A blonde foreign studies student stood outside of the apartment and had at last tracked back the email address to the zip code and location area of Tobi's student ID. She stood outside, wondering how she would be able to catch him ever coming out if he was the creature her father had told her she was.

No matter, he would end up in her hands eventually. He was the perfect victim.