Red is the Color of You
The magical library exceeded Izumi’s already high expectations. He already inferred that it wouldn’t be an average library and still almost everything surprised him. The floating books, quills, and parchments which appeared sentient, the towering shelves which reached higher than even Faelan and Neio combined, and especially the large gaping hole in the center of the library which contained a plethora of racks and tomes that led to a stained glass ceiling at the top floor. When looking down from the top floor, one couldn’t see the lowest story, not just because of how low lit the library was, but also due to the multiple layers in height of the building.
It didn’t take long for Izumi to become exhausted from walking around with too much to explore, so in the end he rested at a table with everyone else. Neio was far from the reading type, being bored out of his mind, while Dahlia and Faelan were indulging themselves in some of the material. On the other hand, the athenaeum was Lavina’s home, and as such she knew it well and was more than comfortable, simply relaxing at the table with Neio until Izumi joined them, Faelan and Dahlia still nearby as they didn’t stray very far.
“You returned quite fast.” Lavina notes.
“I barely looked around haha. I walked around this floor a bit and it felt like it stretched on for miles so I just came back. I still like it a lot though! It’s really peaceful here, like I can sleep without a care in the world.”
“Which is what Wraith used to-” Suddenly, Lavina appeared incredibly cautious and concerned. She rose from the wooden stand and glanced up the center gap. “Stay here. All of you.” A stern glare across the four of them before she left, maneuvering a few stories higher with ease.
“What’s wrong?” Izumi turned to the others and asked.
“Specter, not sure which though.” Neio didn’t look too worried, if anything, he looked nosy. “Faelan, your wolf ears just for show?”
Faelan snarled. “If you’re asking me to eavesdrop on a conversation between two specters of all people, the answer is no.”
“Would you do it if I asked?” Izumi whimpered, “Please? Wraith told you guys to take care of me…”
The puppy-like innocent expression of Izumi’s plea and the manipulation of Wraith’s request was too much for Faelan to resist. With a groan and a sigh, Faelan inched closer to the edge of the rail and put his hearing to the test. Dahlia disapproved of the whole ordeal as well, but kept their thoughts to themselves, as they too were at least a little curious. In silence the others sat and waited, letting Faelan work his magic, until finally...he returned.
“So…? What were they talking about?” Izumi couldn’t stand the anticipation any longer.
“The specter sounded like an elderly man.”
“Barron.” Neio and Dahlia instantly commented, while Neio was the one who continued. “It’s even worse that he showed up. He HAAATES Wraith, so I bet it had something to do with him.”
“It did actually. He was asking if Wraith was going to attend the ball tomorrow night, but it sounded more like a threat, stating that if he didn’t, it would look incredibly bad for him.”
“That it would.”
The clearly annoyed female voice sent shivers down their spines and they all jolted in fear. Lavina leapt down from the above floor, her heels rapidly tapping the dark wooden ground. A heavy frustrated sigh left her mouth along with her anger, deciding it's pointless to hold it.
“Since you so rudely eavesdropped, I might as well relay what he said. Yes, it was Barron, and yes, he was relaying a threat to me which I was supposed to tell Wraith. There's a ball tomorrow night to welcome the new specter of guilt, and because Wraith killed the previous one, it would look extremely terrible for him to not show up.”
It felt like so long ago since Fuhiro was apprehended, which marked the end of Ianthe, the previous specter of guilt, to the point that Izumi almost forgot that there was a specter behind that whole ordeal.
“Isn't that like if a murderer shows up to the funeral of the person they killed? Wouldn't it be more disrespectful for him to go?”
“The opposite actually. It's more as if a convicted criminal didn't show up to their own trial, causing them to be deemed guilty by default. In Wraith's case, not only did he kill the previous specter of guilt, but he also has a long history of purposefully not attending the ball, which already is impertinent in itself. The balls were made as a form of peace treaty between specters after The Great War, and him not attending them is equivalent to spitting on a peace treaty.”
The weight of what seemed to be a simple celebration starts to sink in for Izumi. Still, he couldn't wrap his head around why Wraith doesn't attend if they're so important.
How this all related back to the war Neio and Dahlia once mentioned was beyond him as well, so he voiced his concern. “What does this have to do with that war though? Neio mentioned it before, that there weren't any specters for a bit excluding you and Wraith.”
“The entire reason the war started was because for a time, specters were ruthless and constantly bickered over territory. At some point it grew to a full scale war between every specter, save Wraith and myself who had no territory at the time. After the fact, I had come up with the idea to hold the ball as a way of extinguishing any tensions that may rise from the death of a specter.”
“Well, in this case Wraith DID kill a specter, and I mean...I know that Wraith isn't the best person and all, and that he already has so many enemies, so I can see why he would think that he shouldn't go, but I still don't really get it. It wouldn't really kill him right? More in this case it would kill him to NOT go since what you said, it's like he's stepping all over the treaty.”
“Boss thinks it's a waste of time and would rather be doing anything else.” Neio answers for Izumi.
“He needs a plus one as well.” Dahlia adds. “Lavina used to be until they separated. After, he only went three times out of ten I believe. Those times, he chose a random spirit from his followers to go with him, who all got under his skin. In his words, they were clingy and trying too hard to impress him, which only added to his annoyance from having to attend in the first place. Thus, he stopped going.”
A little lost still, Izumi opens his mouth to ask another question until Lavina reads his mind.
“Since I don't have followers, I'm the only exemption from bringing another person, and Wraith is too stubborn to swallow his pride and ask me regardless of our relationship status. In my opinion, it's a half-assed excuse to not go in the first place.” Rolling her eyes, Lavina takes a break to light her pipe and smoke. “Neio and Dahlia don't count either because by default each specter has to bring two generals and a spirit which they have some form of romantic or lustful interest in.”
The last few words of Lavina's statement whirl and repeat in the minds of the four ghosts until they all turn and stare at Izumi.
A plan starts to brew in Lavina's mind. “Do you have something to do tomorrow night?”
“No…” What she was thinking starts to register and he becomes more panicked. “...no..nonono! Wraith tells me all the time that the last thing he wants is for a bunch of spirits to know about me and specters are even worse!!”
“That's not really a problem. Illusion magic is my specialty, so I could make you look and smell like a spirit. Not even a specter would be able to see through it.”
“If you go, then Wraith will go. I can guarantee that.”
Even though Neio thought the same, he still takes Izumi's side, “Miss I see where you're going with this and yea I want Boss to go too because I'd rather not start an avoidable fight with nearly every specter, but Izumi has a point. Not just that, but how the hell would you even convince him? You said it yourself, Boss is wayyy too overprotective with him. I don't think something like a disguise, no matter how passable it is, will change his mind.”
“True. That's why we have these.” With a snap of her fingers, a multitude of beautiful evening gowns, accessories, and high heels appear. “I was in a relationship with Wraith for centuries, I know what he likes.”
“Not just any dresses, specifically the kind that you don't see incredibly often, like wedding gowns or...what was the other one humans have..? Quinceañera. Events like that.” Being Japanese, Izumi has no idea what that is but declines to ask considering the lack of importance.
“But I'm a guy though…” The thought of wearing a skirt or dress shudders him, having trauma from doing so at his maid cafe job, and doing it essentially for free is worse to him.
“That only makes it better.” A smirk nearly resembling that of Wraith's taints Lavina's visage.
Swiftly, Lavina snatches Izumi's wrist and leads him down an aisle of books, the dresses floating after them while Neio and the other spirits waited at the table, somewhat speechless. If there was anything Lavina loved other than anything knowledge related, it was dressing up and glorifying appearances. This reflected in her presentation, being that she wore beautiful blouses herself and always made sure to look as alluring as possible. Through Izumi’s complaints and resistance, Lavina forced Izumi into a regalia and the spirits debated saving him, based on Wraith's take care of Izumi request.
Before they could come to a consensus, Lavina emerged from the aisle with a glamored Izumi, draped in a glittery teal dress. Even his make-up was done, although light, containing eyeshadow to match the dress, a bit of foundation to shine the cheeks, and gloss for the lips. Bashfully, Izumi looked everywhere but at the agape spirits. Somehow he always found himself under a constant stream of embarrassment and shame whenever he spent time with ghosts and he started to regret his never ending interest in them.
“Ta-da! I told you I can work magic. Tell me that Wraith won't like it. You can't.” Lavina boastfully puffed, which is the most expression she's shown thus far.
Too stunned to even speak, the three spirits merely stared, Neio being the first to garner words.
“....You look amazing kid!!!! What did she do to you, you look so….changed. Like if you practiced abstinence for a year or something.”
Izumi's face twists unsure how to even begin unraveling that statement, but at the least he can tell that Neio meant it as a compliment.
“Well...do you think Wraith will like it..?”
“Like it? He'll love it! Right guys?”
Dahlia and Faelan reassuringly nod. “He does like dresses.” Dahlia affirms. “Are you at least comfortable in it? It doesn't matter what he thinks if you dislike wearing it, because it'll only upset the both of you for you to put up with it.”
For a moment, Izumi seemed a little reluctant, and to diminish this Lavina materialized a full length mirror so that Izumi could see himself. Insanity, his opinion changed entirely. Rotating several times, he studied himself in the mirror, or what he believed to be himself. Even he couldn't comprehend how stunning the whole attire was.
“It's...actually not that bad...I kind of like it..? The heels and stuff are fine too, since I'm used to wearing them for work sometimes.”
“Maybe a different color though?” Faelan suggests. “I wouldn't be surprised if Lord Wraith wore teal, and it would look strange for you two to match.”
“I thought the teal would get the message across, but I see your point. Come, come, we'll try another color.”
Again Izumi was dragged away by Lavina and thrown into another set of clothing. This process was repeated several times: changing and getting the opinions of the others. Although it took several hours and Izumi nearly believing it to not be worth the effort, within time the regalia which they all approved of was found and chosen as the suited gown for the occasion. Lavina had promised to hold onto it until tomorrow as well as helping him get ready for the event. Tired from all the changes in clothing, he flopped into a chair beside Dahlia, who rubbed his shoulders for him.
Paranoia and uncertainty started to creep into Izumi's heart and the obvious became apparent to him. “You know….I just realized that we did all this preparation and we haven't even gotten the O.K. from Wraith yet…”
“Don’t worry, I'll talk to him.” Lavina assured, although equally exhausted. “Tomorrow that is. I can guarantee you that he won't say no, trust me. We might not be together anymore, but I still know him better than anyone else. You should go back though, it's late and if you aren't home when he gets back, he’ll have a panic attack.”
“Oh shoot- right! Thank you so much by the way!” Izumi stands in an attempt to bow but she stops him.
“If you're important to Wraith, you're important to me. As much as we fight and bicker, he still would flip over a city if I asked, and I know he would do the same for you. So, don't bow. Especially not tomorrow.”
At a time, Izumi once felt jealous of Lavina and some part of him began to dislike her based on that alone. Now though, he saw her as a friendly rival. Although he knew there was no chance of the two of them reuniting, he still wanted to be a key figure in Wraith's life as much as Lavina is, if not even more so. Thanking her one last time, Izumi returned home with Faelan and the two generals, who left Izumi to Wraith's bedroom when he was ready to sleep.
The double edged sword of Wraith's bed then became evident to him. As comforting and homely as it was, if it lacked another it became incredibly lonely. This was due to its enormous size which caused it to feel empty and cold when one slept alone, only adding to the list of reasons why Izumi believed that Wraith still appreciates Lavina so much.
The thought of the two together uneases his heart. Did he even have a chance? Lavina was irresistible in every way. Not just in physical appearances, but in personality and mannerisms as well. She was smart, artistic, thoughtful, strong, assertive, and best of all, she was a specter. He didn't have to worry about protecting her as much as Izumi.
All of the problems they've had came back to Izumi being a human. Wraith had to protect Izumi from Fuhiro, spirits at the inn, spirits at Hodaira, other spirits and specters in general, and even the spirits in Wraith's own home. Now, the major problem before them is also rooted at Izumi being a human. They have to make a well thought out plan just for Izumi to attend the upcoming ball, which wouldn't be an issue if Izumi wasn't human in the first place.
Self-confidence faded in place for self-hatred. The more the sentiment brewed, the more he felt as though he was a burden to Wraith. This only worsened with Izumi theorizing that the reason that Wraith left that day was to eat, since he had spent the last few days with Izumi without consuming anything, not even a drop of blood. Through his anxieties, it made it difficult for him to fall asleep that night, and still, by the time he did, Wraith hadn’t returned.
In the dead of the night, Izumi rested under the crimson covers, seemingly undisturbed. There did the specter of despair appear, sitting beside his peaceful medium and gazing with melancholy and guilt in his eyes. The specter’s fingers tenderly caressed the boy’s soft coral hair.
A peck adorned Izumi’s temple and a tickle graced his ear. “I’m sorry I came so late. I promise I’ll make it up to you.” Shifting other the covers, Wraith pulled Izumi into a warm embrace. Unbeknownst to Izumi, Wraith knew he was still awake, the pink of his ears being a dead giveaway.
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