Red is the Color of You
Note: Gore Warning
There was great anticipation in Izumi's heart when he woke up the following morning as he could hardly believe that he finally met the ghost from the legends. Not only that, but he saved him. He was interested in him. Izumi didn't want to let this long awaited opportunity slip through his hands. Despite his anxiety spiking through the roof, Izumi gathered himself so he could go to work. After yesterday, he wasn't looking forward to working in the cosplay cafe. Some part of him wanted to quit just because of it, but he needed the money.
If only he could have a job in the field he graduated in... Wait, he said he'd do anything right? There was that closed case, what if I ask him for help? If I could solve it and write an article, it could kick start my journalism career.
In the employee room, Izumi put on his uniform. He never gets used to wearing it, but hopefully with Wraith he'll be able to quit for good. A few hours into his shift, one of his co-workers came up to him while he was on break.
“There’s a customer who specifically requested you. Said you know him? He looks pretty eccentric.”
Izumi prayed it wasn't who he thought he was. Collecting himself, he went out of the break room, his eyes immediately landing on him. Wraith. He was sitting by himself next to the window of the cafe. Upon noticing Izumi's arrival, he turned, smiled, and waved. Izumi came over, completely embarrassed.
“I’m begging you to go home.” Izumi mumbled, trying to make sure his co-workers don’t hear him shooing off a customer. He was standing over Wraith, trying to hide his flustered expression from the others in the cafe with his soft coral pink hair. Wraith studied Izumi, causing Izumi's ears and cheeks to burn hot. “S-stop staring!” He wasn't very assertive.
“It looks good on you.” Wraith slyly smirked. “I don't see why you're embarrassed, you've got a nice body.”
Izumi's soul jumps out of his body momentarily, immediately shrieking, “Just please tell me why you're here!!”
He barely noticed that Wraith wasn't wearing his red robe. Instead, he was wearing a black blazer, the sleeves also rolled to his elbows. There was the same design on the back of his blazer as there was on his red robe, but instead of a black design, it was red.
“I did say I would stop by and I was curious what job you have. It's quite fitting.”
“Pleaaaassse if you don't actually need anything can you go?”
“Then I'll order a drink, one for you too. You're on break right? Sit down.” Wraith gestures for him to sit, reluctantly listening. A simple coffee is brought for both of them. “I’m more of an alcohol person myself.” He takes a sip from his coffee. Izumi is sitting across from him, holding the skirt to his maid outfit tightly and looking down in shame. “You have a fan outside by the way. He smells similarly to you.”
“It's probably my best friend, Eiji. We got into a fight a few weeks ago because he called me childish for believing in ghosts and I got upset because he used to support me in that regard but I guess he was faking it.”
“Well, you could introduce him to me and prove him wrong.”
“I could, but… I don't even know if I want to do that just yet because I still need time to get over it… Did you really just come here out of curiosity?”
“Yes and no. I've got a feeling that you want to ask me something. So?”
Izumi doesn’t know how he guessed that but he doesn’t feel like asking, the sooner he leaves the better. “There was a murder about a week ago, some lady died. They were investigating it but then stopped for some reason, closed the case and said it was a lost cause only about a day or two later. I thought it was super weird, so I wanted to look into it myself.”
“And find the culprit I’m guessing, but why?”
“Well, I wanted to be a journalist, I even went to college for it, but I haven't been successful in landing a job. I was hoping that writing an article on this would help me with that, but I also think her family deserves closure.”
“And you want my help?”
“...yea. I’m hoping it won’t cost too much on my end, but considering it could be dangerous…”
“Course I’ll help you, as for the cost I’ll play it by ear. Obviously, anything that directly involves saving your life is free of charge, so no need to worry about that. Where and when do we start?”
“I get off of work around eight, we can go to the crime scene around then.”
“Don’t you humans block that stuff? And wouldn’t it be cleaned up by now?”
“Well maybe we’ll catch something they didn’t since it seems like a cover up, they could’ve been sloppy with it.”
Wraith seems lost in thought, like he has his own speculations about what happened. “Sounds good to me, just call me when you’re ready.” Surprisingly, Wraith pays for the drinks before he leaves; Izumi wasn’t sure if he had normal money, but then again it’s possible that he could just make it with magic.
Come 8:30 p.m., Izumi was out of his work clothes and at the train station. He wasn’t the type of person to dress incredibly fancy, only wearing a sky blue short sleeved jacket and shorts with a graphic white tee, paling in comparison to Wraith, who already stood out from his eyes alone. Just as he came to mind, Wraith appeared right beside Izumi, scaring the daylights out of him.
“I told you, all you have to do is think or say my name and I’ll be there.” He was still in the blazer from before.
“What happened to your robe?”
“A little too flashy don’t you think?”
Ironic considering that every part of him is flashy, but sure, Izumi thought.
“I guess? Moving on, the murder took place up a kinda big hill a little ways from here. There’s a path we can take since people walk through it often.”
“Funny how first it was those kidnappers with you and now some girl gets murdered in the hills of a suburb. Maybe you should move to the city.” Wraith joked.
If I could afford it, Izumi thought to himself.
The two walked out of the train station, considering it was late at night in the suburbs, there weren’t many people, maybe one or two in passing minding their own business. As they got closer to the hill, Wraith became noticeably more and more on edge before Izumi finally decided to ask him about it.
“I’m hoping it’s not what I think it is. The last thing I need is…” Wraith sighs heavily, baring his fangs. “It’s faint since we’re far away, but I can feel a trace of magic.”
“Really? So you think a spirit or specter did it?”
“If someone did it it’s a specter. You said that the case was closed right? And no one questioned it? Had no basis or anything?” Izumi nods in response, Wraith clicks his tongue.
“How are you so sure it’s a specter?”
“Specters grant wishes, remember? Usually the wish has something to do with changing human perception, like I did with that politician. I’m guessing in this case, whatever specter it was had everyone believe the case was impossible to solve, and the last thing I want is for that to be true.”
“Why’s that?” Momentarily, Wraith thinks about how Izumi always has a never ending stream of questions. Usually he’d find such behavior annoying, but for some reason he started to not mind with Izumi.
“I told you the other day that specters have their own territories. There’s a pretty strict rule where other specters and their followers can’t operate in other territories without running it by the other specter first. To put it simply, by entering another specter’s territory you’re essentially declaring war. The issue for me isn’t the fact that I’d have to duke it out with another specter, it’s the fact that afterwards I’ll have to hear it from the others and it’s just a hassle overall.”
Although Wraith says that, Izumi can tell that Wraith is slowly rising to a boil judging by his furrowed brows and tense demeanor.
Careful with their steps, they travel off the path and weave between the trees in order to find the location of the girl’s death, Wraith making a small magical light to illuminate their way. With each step forward, Wraith became more and more noticeably tense and furious. As expected, the crime scene was cleaned up, but nonetheless Izumi wanted to look around. Wraith stood by Izumi as he studied the area, clearly his mind was elsewhere, yet at some point his eyes were fixated onto something in the distance. Once he separated from him, Izumi shot up and directed his attention to Wraith.
“Why what is it? Did you find something?” Wraith didn’t respond, only continuing on ahead, with Izumi following in pursuit. He bent over, fishing around in a bush before pulling out a knife that was soaked in dried blood.
“You were right about the sloppy work at least.”
Izumi’s eyes lit up as an idea came to his mind. “You said you have a strong sense of smell right? Do you think you can track the culprit?”
“Think? I know I can. I’ll probably find him after we part ways, can tell you tomorrow what I find.” Wraith lays the knife open on his palm, which disappears upon him doing so. “That’s all you needed right? We can head back then.”
Before Izumi can rebuttal, Wraith is already on his way to leave the hill. Chasing after Wraith, he becomes increasingly worried about the thoughts running through his mind. The walk back is in deafening silence, with Izumi watching Wraith intently. They follow the street back to the train station, and on their way, they come across a stray dog, a shiba inu. In certain areas, its bones are visible. Unexpectedly, Wraith squats down and pets the dog with his left hand, finally speaking.
“You said you saw me in that office some years ago right kid?”
A little uneasy, Izumi is trying not to make his growing fear apparent in his voice. “Y-yea.”
“Funny enough, that guy didn’t actually piss me off. He just picked a fight with the wrong person. But, if there’s one thing I am, it’s possessive. You should remember that, because when someone touches something that belongs to me…”
The sleeves of Wraith’s blazer burn off and merge with his skin, forming the familiar staticy black talons on his arms and hands. Izumi, recognizing this from the kidnappers the other day, reaches forward hoping to stop Wraith, but is unsuccessful. The talons pierce the dog's flesh, starting with its back, making a jarring squelch as the dog yelps in pain. Izumi stops in his tracks, too appalled to do anything but watch.
The care that Wraith takes with his actions is unnerving. With both his hands, Wraith pulls back the dog’s skin and muscles, as though removing a button-up shirt. At this point, the dog has long since passed away, as Wraith completely and delicately removes the dog’s outer layer, making a flat husk that could almost pass for a taxidermy if it was stuffed. The process is slow and excruciating to watch as he turns the husk inside out, with the dog’s bones, vasculars, and internal organs still lying in front of him, making a rancid abhorrent smell, leaving Izumi agasp at the fact that he hasn’t vomited yet, but he slowly feels the acid rising from his stomach and to his throat.
Wraith cracks the dog’s ribs with ease, surgically removing the heart and the major arteries. With the muscles now exposed rather than the skin, Wraith places the internals of the dog inside the sac, leaving the heart and arteries outside. In order to add the finalizing touches, Wraith places the dog in a sitting position, like a dog waiting for its master to come home, and ties the heart around its neck using the arteries, creating a makeshift collar. The deceased shiba is hardly recognizable, as its golden fur is no longer present, rather its been replaced with muscles soaked in blood, making a pool of such on the ground.
The staticy black of Wraith’s talons can no longer be seen, covered by a crimson red coating which drips into the puddle below. The same can be said about his clothes, and skin, particularly his once teal dress shirt and face. When he turns, Izumi finally understands how the glow of someone’s eyes can be unsettling. He immediately jerks away and throws up upon making eye contact, but nothing but a clear acidic liquid emerges.
Wraith flings off the blood from his hands, wiping the remains on his clothes before retracting his talons, which reform the sleeves of his blazer. “Go home by yourself, I have things to take care of.”
Those were his final words prior to his departure from Izumi, who was brought to his knees by the pain in his stomach. He covered his mouth and tried to quell his urge to vomit once more, avoiding eye contact with the disheveled shiba. Struggling to his feet, he gulped and panted heavily. To him, it was confirmed. He couldn’t let his guard down with him, the specter of despair.
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