Chapter 4:

Every Coin Has Two Sides

Red is the Color of You

      Izumi tried his hardest to forget what he saw that day to no avail, so instead, he decided to find out why the red robed man did what he did. Over the weekend, Izumi went alone to the cemetery to ask the ghosts about him, but they all had more or less the same response. They would disappear immediately, become frightened, reluctant to answer, tell him off, that he’s better off not sticking his nose in, or a mix of all of the above reactions. 

No books would tell him what he didn’t already know either, after all, he knew the legend like the back of his hand. Kanae came to notice her son’s restless behavior and hence bought him a female border collie puppy which he came to name Lala, who meant the world to Izumi. Since he was younger, Izumi always liked the prospect of a comrade in arms, which Eiji did itch that scratch he had; however, with Lala, Izumi no longer had to be so reliant on Eiji or his mother’s company.

     Come his high school career, Izumi decided to relax on his ghost hunt and focus on his schooling in order to prepare for college. It was his dream to graduate from a university as his mother was unable to because she was too busy supporting Izumi all on her own. If he could graduate, he could fulfill her dream for her and show her that the effort she put into raising him bore fruit. 

He became a little off track, however, as one day he brought home a boy from his class, later disclosing to his mother their romantic relationship, to which she fully supported. With some a bit of struggle here and there, he managed to tackle his romantic relationship, his studies, and Lala. During junior year, Izumi and his partner drifted apart before they finally broke off as he began to push for intercourse more and more. Izumi didn’t believe in abstinence, but he didn’t want to do so during his high school career, and it became clear to Izumi that it’s all his boyfriend wanted at some point. 

Lost in thought, Izumi lay on his bed, with Lala beside him whimpering. “I’m alright girl.” He pet her softly. “He sucked anyways. I mean, is it really that hard to wait? I don’t know what happened. When we were first together he was fine and nice and all that then suddenly oh Izumi why don’t we try something like no! What the heck?! We’re like sixteen! I’m not ready for that! He shouldn’t be ready for that! I’m sure he thinks he is but there’s no way he is I bet all guys think they are until some stuff happens like an STD or like pregnancy or SOMETHING because it never goes right since they’re never ready!” 

Lala nuzzles her nose against his face as he sighs heavily, holding her head. 

“I swear I’m alright, don’t worry about me. Eiji punched that guy square in the nose for me so it’s fine.” Izumi laughs, Lala licking his face as she can tell he’s finally being more genuine. 

He sits up and holds his knees to his face, analyzing his room in order to occupy his thoughts with something other than his ex. The walls are covered in photographs, mostly done by him as he continued to pick up his mother’s hobby. They were mostly of scenery, but some were of people, like Eiji, his mother, or his other friends. Across from the door was his desk, which was small and could only hold his laptop and a few books in the back, while on the left of the desk was his dresser, also fairly small since he didn’t have too many clothes, and on the right was his bed, a full size. 

On top of the dresser was his photography equipment, which was not nearly as top-notch as his mother’s were, only the basics. His camera went with him everywhere, and it’s strange to think that it all started with him. Izumi got up from the bed, Lala moving aside and watching him as he moved across the room. He kept the photos from that day above his equipment so he’d always remember where it began: the two pictures of the empty wheat field where that man most definitely stood. 

Izumi carefully removed one of the pictures from the wall, the one which contained the tree he was sitting in. “Lala do you think he still goes there?” 

Lala cocked her head, unsure what he was talking about. 

“There was a guy here. Dressed kinda funny, but now that I think about it, he was good looking just-” Izumi thinks about what he saw in the abandoned office building and shakes his head. “I wonder if that’s what he really is like. I guess it fits with the legend, but still. Why not me then? Maybe I just wasn’t worth his time? Or maybe there’s a method to the madness.” 

Lala is still staring at him completely clueless, but he seems to have come to some form of conclusion in his mind. 

“Come girl. I wanna go to that field again, it’s about a two hour drive, we can take the bus, it’s still early in the day so we should get back for dinner.” Before he left the house, Izumi locked up since his mother wasn’t home, and he headed off with Lala for the wheat field.

     It was close to noon by the time he arrived, and the field was just as he remembered: breezy and quiet, with not a single person in sight. He made his way to the oak tree and veered up, only to be met with disappointment in the leaves as the man was not there. Disappointment or relief? Izumi wasn’t really sure. He decided to wait under the tree in hopes that he would show up. Lala sat by his side and the two took in the scenery. 

“I can see why he read here, it really is nice.” 

Is what he uttered, but his mind was somewhere else. How could a man who did such a gruesome, unfathomable act enjoy reading in a tree while taking in the ocean breeze? Sure, Izumi was afraid of him, but he somehow couldn’t bring himself to move on. There was something captivating about the strange man, although he never knew him. Perhaps that’s why, or at least part of the reason. He believed that there were too many questions unanswered. No ghost would talk about him nor even dare utter his name. He saw the side of him which seemed normal by all means, and the other side which was...Suddenly he felt himself drifting off, with the calm scenery wavering his resolve to fight it. 

Izumi finally awoke when he felt Lala licking his face. Shaking her off as he fumbled for his phone to check the time, he rapidly gathered himself and arose. He was out only for an hour or two, but what if he came during that time? The sun peered through the tree leaves and shone heavily upon him. If he hadn’t been under the tree he could’ve gotten sunburnt, since it’s mid fall. 

It’s better that I head home, the breeze helps with the heat but it’s starting to get humid

Lifting his eyes over the stalks, he once more saw a familiar sight, yet hardly believable. There he was, the man in red, standing over in the distance, kiseru pipe in hand, completely ignoring the fact that he’s in a dry wheat field. 

Izumi’s mint eyes widened as he stood and watched in disbelief. There’s no way, was it really that easy to find him? 

Although he dropped embers onto the field, the dry stalks did not ignite. His crimson robe danced in the wind making the ebony design on the back come alive. The black thorns looked as though they reached out towards the sun as the clawed black wings took flight and rode along the smoke which he emitted from his pipe and lungs. Izumi was mesmerized, momentarily forgetting that this was the same man who made that horrific scene from the abandoned structure. The tall man soon enough gently let go of his pipe, as though letting the wind carry it off. It too erupt into a cloud of smoke and feathered away. 

Once he began to walk away, Izumi came to his senses and chased after him, calling out in desperation, “Wait-!” It was too late, the man had escaped him once more. “Dammit! Crap...” Izumi sighed heavily. “I’ll try coming a few more times I guess. Man he was right there-! I don’t know what got into me just-” He replayed the image in his head. There was something beautiful about the way he carried himself which caused him to feel so out of reach. 

As per his promise to himself, Izumi returned to the field a few times a week, which turned to a few times a month, which turned to once every other month. The man never appeared again, at least in Izumi’s presence. With his spark reignited, Izumi began to strive to find him once more. Practicing his artistic skills, he steadily learned to draw in order to have a clear image of how he looked. The first few times he tried drawing him weren’t the best, but they progressively got better over the years until he nearly replicated the man. 

Conflict came with his resolve as his mother began to believe he was ill upon discovering the picture of the man, which he tried to explain was the man and ghost from when he was a child. Kanae believed that even with Lala and Eiji, loneliness still overcame her son. Nearly immediately, she had him see a therapist once a week, who prescribed medication for what they believed to be loneliness induced hallucinations. 

Frustrated, Izumi would flush them down the toilet and rarely tell his therapist anything. He vented to Eiji instead, stating that he dislikes how his mother won’t believe him, and Eiji returned his frustrations with sympathy, yet understanding of both sides, telling him that his mother is just worried about him, but it’s understandable to be angry since he’s so passionate about the subject of the paranormal.