Red is the Color of You
The time between their meeting in the cafe and the start of the coming week was excruciatingly long for Wraith, who astoundingly found himself with the grand urge to bother Izumi. This, his followers noticed, as a vibrant burning aura cloaked him and his countenance was locked in a seemingly permanent scowl, so they all avoided him in hopes of not becoming a victim of his fury.
On the other hand, Izumi was a bit more unbothered, although the scene of their night encounter repeated in his mind on occasion. Still, he wasn’t sure how he felt about Wraith. There was a strange sense of attraction towards him, but Izumi couldn’t discern what was the cause of such and exactly what kind of attraction he felt.
He wasn’t opposed to liking him romantically, but was there really a place for Izumi in Wraith’s world? A world so filled with the supernatural and uncanny, with death and battle around every corner. In such a universe, Izumi couldn’t always rely on Wraith, in fact, it’d probably burden him.
Nonetheless, just the thought of never seeing Wraith again ached him, but, it’s too early for such thoughts. The time is yet to come, if at all, and there’s more immediate matters ahead.
Come morning of the following week, the outlandish duo made their way to Hodaira, the rumored haunted town, arriving in another small settlement located only a few miles away during the afternoon, which is where the two stayed the night following their long journey. After procuring a room at a nearby inn, Wraith and Izumi split up and asked around in order to learn more about the mystifying town of Hodaira and by nightfall, they reconvened in their shared room, both equally exhausted.
The room was fairly small, only consisting of the essentials: a singular queen sized bed, a bedside table, a wooden desk accompanied by an oak chair, and of course, the bathroom. Neither cared though, considering they spent the entire day travelling and running around the stunted community.
What at least Izumi cared about on the other hand was the aspect of a shared bed. Regardless if they had slept together once before in the literal sense, he wasn’t exactly ecstatic at the thought of doing so again. Just remembering the weight and warmth of Wraith’s body along with his soft breathing against his own was enough to fuel his imagination, for better or for worse. Still, they didn’t have a choice in regards to the number of beds. This was not only the cheapest inn, but it also coincidentally had only a single bed lodging available.
With a large sigh, Wraith sank into the mattress, only sitting up when Izumi sat on the edge of the desk across from him, clearly wanting to speak.
“Did you find anything out?” Izumi asked, some part of him wanting to wait until tomorrow considering he’s partially not in the mood to receive information.
“Kind of? Mostly stuff we already knew, but someone mentioned something about it getting unusually cold and foggy sometimes ever since the people in Hodaira went missing.” Wraith combs his hair with his fingers.
“Yep. I’m still not too sure what that’s supposed to signify though. Could be a spirit, sure. But no one has really gone missing here. Only people that actually go to Hodaira. And you?”
“Fairly the same honestly, not much new information and if it was new, it was fairly useless.”
Beaten by the day, the pair don’t even bother to wrack their brains in order to decode the meaning of the fog; hence, they gratefully accept the embrace of the simple yet comforting bed. Unbeknownst to Izumi, however, Wraith leaves in the middle of the night, only returning by the break of dawn. The morning felt weak as there was no sunshine peering through the windows, rather, it was still dark and cold.
Izumi awoke to a distracted Wraith standing by the bedside, lost in thought as he always seemed to be lately. One thing stood out to him, however. His red coat wasn’t draped over him. Instead, it was covering Izumi, which explained why he felt warm despite the chilled air. Sitting up in the bed, Izumi pulled Wraith’s coat into a tight squeeze about himself, unconsciously taking in the blissful smell of Wraith that excreted from the fabric. Earthy with a slight tinge of cigarette smoke. There was something comforting and invigorating about Wraith’s scent that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.. ..wait. Comforting?
With a jolt, Izumi fumbled to pretend he wasn’t sniffing up his robe and tried to compose himself, “Y-yea?”
Lucky Izumi, Wraith didn’t seem to notice since he was absorbed with whatever was outside. “I know we were supposed to check out Hodaira today, but I’d hold off for tomorrow. Went outside earlier and there’s a dense as hell fog, can’t even see past five feet. Well at least you can’t, I can see just fine.”
“Really?” Izumi stood up from the bed, reflexively equipping Wraith’s lengthy robe to accommodate for the drop in temperature. Looking out the window, Izumi immediately sees Wraith's point, or rather, he doesn’t see at all. A mystical opaque cloud blankets the town, blinding all its occupants and sending a chill down Izumi’s spine. “What the…The weather did a complete 180...How…-?”
“Magic, and pretty strong too. I doubt it’s a specter. It doesn’t seem likely they’d gain anything from doing so, especially due to the proximity to my territory, I can guarantee you they’d be scared shitless about getting into a fight with me if I came across them. Spirits though, they’re a lot more ballsy, since it’s more likely I’d ignore them because I wouldn’t think they’re worth my time.”
“So what are you implying?”
“My guess is there’s a spirit living in Hodaira and using it as a feeding ground. He spreads a rumor, attracts tourists and journalists, feeds on the visitors, as weird of a method as it is to procure a meal. Which means-”
Looking away from the window, Wraith finally faces Izumi, who’s unexpectedly wearing his robe, and for a moment, Wraith feels his heart skip a beat, but he quickly snuffs out the emotion with a strong ahem and faces away once more to avoid the sensation springing up again. Izumi, noticing the strange reaction, decides to file it away for later.
“It’s probably gonna be dangerous, not that that should stop you, since I’m here and all. You should keep my robe on though, you know, because it’s um...cold outside. And it’ll protect you too,” Wraith continues, semi-distracted at the thought of Izumi wearing his mantle, “It’s kind of sentient in its own way so.”
Just for protection huh? Izumi jests to himself. Your face just now didn’t say that. He decides to spare Wraith the mockery, despite the fact that Wraith rarely does so for him.
“I always thought something was off about your robe, but sentient?”
“I said kind of. I mean...nevermind. Maybe I’ll tell you the full story some day. On a different note, you wanna come to the cemetery with me? I was going to check it out, ask the shades if they know anything. Could probably give us more than the locals since they can see spirits.” And with a nod in agreement from Izumi, the two set out for the cemetery.
By Wraith’s directive, Izumi held onto his arm so he wouldn't lose Wraith in the fog. It wasn’t really surprising to Izumi that Wraith could still see decently well, even through the fog although a bit hindered, considering his eyesight is impeccable on a normal day. In comparison, Izumi still couldn’t see anything aside from Wraith and the occasional lamp post.
Not many of the residents were outside, at least that’s what Wraith noted. Even the small cemetery was empty, aside from the residing shades, who were stunned in fear when their eyes laid upon Wraith, murmuring to each other in confusion and fright. At least in this weather, they didn’t have to worry about looking suspicious when talking to what others thought was nothing. A few of the shades gathered around but still kept their distance from Wraith.
With a sigh, Wraith clearly disliked his position sometimes, but it was the life he chose to live, at least in part.
“Can you all calm down? I’m trying to do you a favor.”
One of the braver, or more idiotic, shades spoke up in retaliation, “A favor?! By what, eating us! We don’t even taste good!”
Izumi sensing Wraith’s patience being tested, took over instead, hoping that they’d be more willing to listen to a human. “Please? We really need your help. We’re trying to learn about Hodaira and we think a spirit is at root, so anything you could tell us would be extremely helpful.”
The shades exchanged contemplating stares to each other before finally coming to an agreement. One of the shades stepped forward and acted as a spokesperson for the rest. An old woman, who seemed to be the kindest of them.
“Honestly, we aren’t sure ourselves. Most of us here died in this town of natural causes, but there are a few who are unsure how they died.”
A more calmed Wraith adds onto the elderly woman’s comment, “Definitely a spirit then. Humans that die to spirits never know how, since they can’t see them and all. Only issue is how many, if more than one.”
Izumi stops and thinks to himself for a moment, at the least Wraith’s theory on tourist attraction seems right...lead people here and they’ll naturally go to Hodaira the more curious they become. I’m guessing they don’t just kill everyone here just to keep a constant flow of food, but still...something seems off, even Wraith admitted that. It’s a lot of work for nothing really, since they’d have to stay in Hodaira and just eat all the time, which doesn’t sound very fulfilling, let alone a reasonable motivation for their actions. Maybe they’re injured and trying to recover?
“Izumi?” Wraith’s voice breaks Izumi out of his self induced trance.
“Hmm? Oh- right. Is there anything else you could tell us? Maybe about Hodaira in specific?”
Wracking her memory, the elderly woman pauses before answering. “Ah. This town has been like this for about five years. Us shades have taken to staying around the area out of fear of what potentially lies in Hodaira. During foggy days like these though, someone always turns up dead, with no recollection of how.”
Sensing the end of any valuable information they could give, Izumi decides to wrap it up. “Thank you, we really appreciate you helping with this.” He looks at Wraith, signaling his desire to leave.
“Before you go mister,” Izumi looks back upon hearing the old woman’s voice, “Good luck, and take care. If there truly is a spirit behind all this, then it would set all our hearts at ease if you were to get rid of it.” The elder’s heartwarming words bring a smile to Izumi’s face and he thanks her again, elbowing Wraith in order for him to do the same before they finally take off.
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