Chapter 24:

My Promise To You

Red is the Color of You

      The bathhouse made up for the lack of color in the bedroom, being arranged with a colorful arrangement of blues, whites, and tans. It didn't exceed the size of an average bathhouse, but it was still much larger than the average bathroom, containing a few shower heads along with a singular large bathing pool. Near some of the showers were backless wooden benches, should the need arise for them, and usually, they were just there for decoration. 

Nothing was exchanged between the two while Wraith rinsed Izumi with the shower head, scrubbing the sweat and grime along with the sticky substance below. Purposefully Wraith tried to avoid looking directly at Izumi as it would only cause his guilt to grow. For whatever reason, he couldn't stand seeing Izumi so worn down and broken. It got under his skin in a more hurtful way, giving off the same effect as a stray puppy's starry eyes as one leaves it in the rain. It was even worse since both were completely undressed. They didn't see each other naked very often, and as much as Wraith didn't want to admit it, he was a bit bashful and tried not to stare.

When Wraith had finished washing him down, he finally spoke. “...Do you think you can stand?”

Rather than giving a verbal response, Izumi simply nodded and struggled to his feet, stumbling in the process and falling back into Wraith's embrace. Too tired to even be embarrassed, Izumi just pressed his lips together and sighed before shaking himself off of Wraith and entering the bath, Wraith only following after Izumi sat himself down. There was a few feet of distance between them—no more than two meters and a whim of silence filling the space. Izumi twirled his fingers and watched the ripples in the steaming water; while on the other hand, Wraith stared at Izumi, his head resting on his hand, leaning on the pavement to his side.

A bit more collected after letting the relaxing water soothe his mind, Izumi was the first to genuinely break the silence. When shifting his eyes from the water to Wraith, he slightly jumped but decided to disregard Wraith's staring.

“You’re...not gonna make fun of me?”

“I think I paid you back and then some, so no. Unless you want me to?” His guilt seemed to fade in place of his usual smirk.

“No! I got the idea engraved in my mind, I don't need anymore salt on the wound.” Izumi bashfully blurted.

“ aren't mad at me right?”

“We had this same exact conversation last time.”

“Oh. Right.” It’s unlike Wraith to be so irrationally concerned about someone else's well-being, and he really wasn't sure why either.

“You know Wraith…You’re not as bad as a guy as you think you are.”

Completely caught off guard, Wraith’s jaw drops open. Izumi wasn’t sure what was wrong with what he said until he realized how out of the blue it was.

“I mean-”

“I’d like to know what you mean. I think that’s the first time anyone has ever told me that in my...what...over a thousand years of being alive?”

“Really..? That’s…” Depressing. Is what he wanted to say but couldn’t bring himself to. Sometimes, he forgets that in Wraith’s world, he’s widely detested and revered by all, with exception to his own followers, although they still fear him in a more respectful manner.

Shaking off his sympathetic sorrows, Izumi continued. “Well, I mean what I said. How should I put it… When I first met you, in the fields when I was a kid, I was more intrigued really, but after that I was honestly just terrified. The thought of someone being so...strong and inhuman was terrifying to me. Weirdly enough the eating people thing didn’t bother me, I guess because I never really saw you do it or saw the aftermath or anything, compared to the shiba or that spirit in that office building. I honestly just thought that you were some sick serial killer of sorts because of that.”

Although a little hurt, Wraith couldn’t blame him for the sentiment, so he just continued to lend his ear.

“ were really nice and sincere sometimes, mainly the more I got to know you did you start acting much nicer. I could tell that your teasing and sarcasm was just your way of talking so it didn’t really bother me and it still doesn’t. Then, after the whole thing with Fuhiro I could tell you were worried about me, since well, I nearly got myself killed, even though you didn’t explicitly say you were.”

And that was a fact, which Wraith would still not care to admit even when the evidence piled and presented itself. Since Wraith hasn’t interrupted him so far, Izumi figured that his theory was correct. “You were genuine with your advice too, both with me and Faelan, as upset as you were at the time in Faelan’s case, which I think says a lot if you were still able to be hospitable and invite him to stay with you.” Which was at least partially because Izumi’s crying broke his heart, though yet again, Wraith didn’t say anything in response.

“I guess, to put it in short terms, I misjudged you, like...a lot.” The following words were incredibly mumbled, but nothing got past Wraith’s animalistic ears, “ kinda...started to...grow on me….a bit…” Sighing, he spoke up again, “You’re not a monster Wraith. At least not in my eyes, but I think- no- I know that Neio and the others agree with me, so I know that as much as you may believe so, it isn’t true.” Whether the flush and heat in his cheeks was because of the prolonged stay in the bath or because of the topic, Izumi wasn’t too sure. Either way, he was still glad to get his feelings off his chest, relief spilling out in the form of another exhale.

Not often was Wraith more gentle in approach, but this time was different.

His heartwarming, tender smile reached his soft yet appreciating eyes, melting Izumi’s heart. Though Izumi was the one often compared to a puppy, Wraith was very much so the more adorable one now. Even his voice was low and soothing.

“I wonder if you would still say that if you saw my true form.”

Insecurity; Izumi hardly believed Wraith capable of feeling such through all his confidence and ego. But now, it was his turn to provide comfort, and he did so without hesitation.

“I’d accept you as you are no matter how ugly or disgusting you look. I’m sure that plenty of people would say that whatever you looked like before, your personality and actions are much worse than whatever you could look like, and if I was able to accept those things, I can accept that too.” He ended off with a smile. There weren’t any words that Wraith could say to express himself or what he felt at that moment. A mixture of surprise, affection, disbelief, which was all reduced to a small flutter in his heart that he once believed he lacked.

Feeling obligated to do so, Wraith closed the distance between them, leaning in for a short, yet tender kiss, whispering softly, “ day I’ll show you. Until then, bear with me a little longer.”

His forehead against Wraith’s, Izumi held a cheek in his palm, solidifying the promise with his eyes and words. “With pleasure.” himself, a thought creeped and began to linger in Izumi's heart.

And...I….think I like you….