Red is the Color of You
For the first encounter, a translucent Wraith accompanies Izumi when confronting Fuhiro Nakamura in the arcade. He conducted research regarding the game he plays in order to gain his trust much more quickly, which would prove to be incredibly effective, also in part because of Izumi’s listening skills. Everyday Fuhiro was located at the arcade, playing the same game, wearing the same hooded sweater, his black shaggy hair covering his forehead always, making him easy to find. Between him starting up another run, Izumi interjected.
“Wowww! You seem super good at this game!”
Startled, Fuhiro jumps and turns around before somewhat mumbling a response. “Y-yea…”
“I’m pretty terrible myself actually haha.” Izumi smiles. “I tried to learn from watching tourneys, but nothing beats practice I suppose.”
Fuhiro has difficulty maintaining eye contact as he stumbles on his words. “H-have you tried, um, watching guides?”
“Yeaaaa but I don’t know, they just kind of didn’t click, you know? I was having a hard time implementing what they showed.”
Hood over his eyes, Fuhiro seemed to be debating something. “I-I can try to help you.”
Izumi’s face lights up. “Really! I’d super super appreciate it! But fair warning I really am a handful haha.”
“I-it’s fine, I don’t mind.”
The two switch places, Fuhiro guiding Izumi while he plays the game. Fuhiro is surprisingly patient, and his clear passion for the game comes out as he speaks with more confidence. Thus far, Izumi has a hard time believing that he could be capable of murder, but all fingers pointed to him, regardless of his shy mannerisms; then again, it could be the result of his guilt. To show his engagement, Izumi makes sure to ask questions frequently and discuss the game in depth. The more they talk, the more Fuhiro opens up. After a few hours, Izumi invites Fuhiro out to eat, to which he accepts, and after eating they continue their conversation.
“I’m kind of embarrassed to say this, but I never got your name I don’t think.” Izumi asks.
“It’s alright, since it’s mostly my fault for rambling. It’s Fuhiro Nakamura, I use VIX in tournaments.”
“Like the pro?!” Izumi shouts before realizing that he was too loud and lowering his voice.
“Sorry, like the pro? No way! That explains why you were so good then...That’s crazy!”
Fuhiro becomes a bit bashful at the praise. “I’m not that great…”
“But you are! You’re one of the best, I feel bad for making you put up with my antics then.”
“It’s alright, really…”
Wraith, who’s still invisible, finally interjects, “Maybe try and sympathize with him? It’s better if he feels like you understand him.”
“And how do I do that? ” Izumi thinks, Wraith reading his thoughts.
“You can’t get a job in the field you want, basically neither can he.”
“Oh, and be sure to keep your journalism thing a secret, you’ll probably scare him off if you say that.”
“I know, I know! ”
“If you don’t mind me asking, do you miss the competitive scene?”
Fuhiro doesn’t seem too eager to respond, as though it hits a sore spot, making Izumi momentarily regret asking. Lucky him, Fuhiro decides to answer regardless. “...yea, honestly...now that I think about it...Being able to do what I love for a living was great, and now, I’m just struggling to get by, honestly.”
“Life always does its best to beat you down.” Izumi half heartedly laughs. “I know how you feel, five years after college and I’m still paying off debts, and I still haven’t made use of my degree. If I wasn’t so busy trying to help with all the house’s finances, then I probably would’ve paid it off at this point, but things never go your way, right? Honestly, I’m a little jealous, but then again I think it’s worse to have something like that taken away from you than to never have it in the first place.” He optimistically beams.
Fuhiro’s eyes light up, feeling a sense of comradery.
“Really, I do wish I never even started now. If it weren’t for…” He stops mid sentence, retracting, he shakes his head. “I-I should go. But...thank you, um…”
“Izumi.” He smiles.
“Izumi.” Fuhiro shyly repeats. “I haven’t really talked with people lately, and...you really helped me too.”
“I take it not with your elite skills?” Izumi jokes, successfully getting a light laugh out of Fuhiro.
“Do you mind if I get, um.. your number? I’d really love to hang out again.”
“Of course!” Izumi fumbles for his phone ecstatically since his biggest fear was messing up their interaction. The two exchange their numbers, say their farewells, and part ways.
At this point, the day is done and Izumi decides to make his way home, Wraith rematerializing and walking with him. Sitting on the bike rack outside Izumi’s home, Wraith smokes a cigarette while Izumi kicks his feet beside him.
“You didn’t do too bad kid.”
“You think? I was trying really hard to not be nervous. I nearly thought about just asking you to do a spell to help, but I already owe you enough.”
Wraith taps the embers off before inhaling once more. “You come up with anything yet?”
“No! I was too focused on the whole thing for today.”
“Well, you’ve got another day left, and by that I mean tomorrow night if you don’t have anything…” Wraith pinches Izumi’s cheek with one hand and pulls. “The original demand still stands.” Letting go of his cheek, Izumi rubs his face and scowls.
“I will come up with something! There’s no way I’m doing that!”
“You do it at work I assume so I don’t see what the issue is.”
“Work is different, and the owner is nice so I don’t have to do any of that embarrassing stuff most of the time, unless a customer is being difficult. It’s basically a normal cafe minus the outfits. And in front of a camera is much worse!”
The sound of fast footsteps interrupts their conversation as a familiar face appears from the shadows of the driveway, causing Izumi to become unsettled.
Eiji, out of breath, halts in front of the bike rack. “Please, Izumi, just hear me out.” He looks like he was in the midst of a late night run based on his athletic clothing.
“You want me to leave? Or shoo him away? ” Wraith telepathically communicates to Izumi.
“It’s fine, you told me to talk to him, right? I might as well .”
Izumi folds his arms, not bothering to hide his upset expression. “What is it?”
Glancing disapprovingly at Wraith, Eiji tries to find a way to approach. “...Maybe in private..?”
Immediately, Wraith barks back, “If you can’t say it in front of me, you might as well keep your mouth shut and turn tail.”
Returning his aggression, Eiji storms in front of Wraith. “This is about me and Izumi, I don’t know who you are or who you think you are but would it really hurt you to buzz off for five seconds? Or are you so glued to his side like a duckling codling his mom?”
Wraith shoots up from the bike rack and flings his cigarette to the ground, rising to a boil, his fangs become more visible. “Are you picking a fight with me kid?” Izumi tugs on Wraith’s blazer to try and tell him to back down, but Wraith shakes him off, lifting the shorter Eiji by his shirt, his feet hovering off the ground. “Would you prefer that you take your little statement to the grave?”
Despite the odds against him, Eiji stands his ground. “I didn’t think Izumi would keep a baby like you arou-” Before he can finish his sentence, Wraith launches him across the street, his back crashing on the brick wall, nearly going straight through. The wall cracks as pebbles and stones from the bricks fall on Eiji’s head, which is already spinning to begin with. Izumi rushes to Eiji, kneeling down, he shakes him with frantic visible concern.
“Eiji, are you alright?!” He whips his head to Wraith in anger. “What the hell is wrong with you!”
“He should be glad that you’re here or else he’d have more than a dazed head to worry about.” Although infuriated, Wraith tries to suppress making Eiji match the stones around him in size. Wraith’s nails dig into his skin and he grinds his teeth, “And I tried to defend your shit head of a friend.”
Blood starts to drip down from Eiji’s forehead, Izumi’s voice rises to a shout in retaliation.
“What happened to not hurting anyone?! He didn’t even touch you! Are you so sensitive that you have to show everyone that you’re the cock of the walk?!”
Something about Izumi taking Eiji’s side enrages Wraith even more. Neither of them were right, and Wraith knows that he should’ve calmed down, but Eiji got under his skin, yet Wraith wasn’t sure why.
“Heal him or something!”
Reluctantly, Wraith obliges, his blazer turning into a spectral cloud of mist. Floating over, it repairs the wall and heals Eiji’s injuries before returning to Wraith, turning into his red robe rather than his blazer.
Eiji steadily comes to his senses, recovering due to Wraith’s magic, so Izumi redirects his attention to him. “Eiji?”
“I...think I’m ok.” He tries to shake off his surprise at Wraith’s inhumane strength.
“Wraith, can you please leave? It’s better I talk to Eiji alone.” Clicking his tongue, Wraith scoffs and begrudgingly vanishes into the night without a word, holding back his frustration.
Izumi helps Eiji off the ground and immediately apologizes, “I should’ve stopped him before he got riled up, I just didn’t think he’d get mad so quickly, let alone throw you against a wall, I’m so sorry... Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yea, I’m fine, but who- or what- the hell is he?”
“Where do I even start…”
Izumi explains how he met Wraith and what he is from start to finish, Eiji remaining silent for the most part, only listening intently. He had no issue believing Izumi, since he saw Wraith for himself and what he was capable of, both with and without magic. Once Izumi finally finishes explaining everything, Eiji finally says his piece.
“You know, I came by because I wanted to apologize for calling you childish and all that, but especially now do I wanna say sorry, because you WAYYY proved me wrong, at least somewhat unintentionally.”
“Well, that’s not how I would’ve wanted you to find out.” Izumi laughs. “Still…” He thinks to himself how unexpected it was for Wraith to get so upset, then again, when it came to that specter… Izumi shudders at the possibility of Eiji meeting the same fate as the deformed shiba.
“I’m sorry too, I’ll admit I was being kind of- no- really petty. Just had a lot going on and it felt like the world was against me, kind of thing…”
“You had every right to be.” Eiji playfully punches Izumi’s shoulder. “It was bad on my part to say something like that when you were already in a bad spot in life. So what do you say, truce?” He holds out his hand, Izumi happily shaking it.
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