Red is the Color of You
The glittering ruby was a beacon for all to behold and effectively conveyed the intended message: the specter of despair’s heart fell into someone’s lap for the first time in over five hundred years. This was a fact that even the most daft of spirits and shades alike could understand as the scarlet gemstone’s symbol was known by all ghosts. Timid Izumi would have no choice but to grow accustomed to the attention that it garnered; his first exposure to such being Wraith deliberately leaving through the front door of the estate hand in hand to broadcast to his gang that Izumi was to be held to the same standard as himself.
It wasn’t required in the slightest for them to leave out the main entrance, since they needed to use a portal to arrive as the peace party was held at Madeline’s palace. As the specter of merriment, she was quite faint of heart and always tried to appease the crowd, making her a perfect host in comparison to most of the other hot headed specters. Had Lavina lived in a regular home rather than her athenaeum, she would have been the chosen host instead due to her neutrality, but alas shelves of books didn’t make for a suitable dance room.
Surprisingly, Madeline’s home was very much like Wraith’s, also being Victorian in style although with much brighter lighting and lighter colors. Izumi absorbs the sights, knowing this is a once in a lifetime opportunity even for spirits, wondering if all specters were suckers for Victorian architecture or if it just so happened to be the style of the two specter’s homes he’s seen, minus Lavina who lodges in a library.
He wasn’t sure if he was more fascinated by the mansion’s interior or the ghosts which lie within. Just Neio, Dahlia, and Faelan were anomalies to him. The spirits inside though? They were even more bizarre than the new set of standards he had, equipped with all sorts of colors, shapes, sizes, tails, horns, wings. Some even having multiple eyes, or multiple fingers, or multiple tongues. Specters on the other hand stood out surprisingly more due to their more elaborate clothing and Izumi could see what Neio meant by they just felt important. As rude as it was, Izumi couldn’t help but stare in awe, forgetting that to them, Izumi was more surreal in comparison. Few spirits ever gifted a bloodstone in their lifetime, and even fewer specters. People would laugh had they heard the legendary specter of despair bestowed the gem onto someone if they had not seen it for themselves.
Deeper inside the manor was a shortened staircase which led down to the vast ballroom. Ivory and gold seemed to be the primary theme of Madeline’s home, opposing Wraith’s black and red, which translated to the dance hall as well. A row of brilliant incandescent chandeliers coated the towering ceiling that reached towards the skies. On the edge of each side of the room was a long dining table that consisted of an assortment of alcoholic drinks. Yet, no food. No appetizers. Nothing in the slightest. Only beverages. Which made sense, Izumi knew that ghosts didn’t eat normal food, but he wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not that there wasn’t any blood or flesh, not that he wanted there to be. His uncontrollable disgust at watching them consume such would be a dead giveaway, so in his eyes, he got lucky.
It was a little hard to see from where he stood, but there appeared to be a lounge area of sorts where several were gathered already. On the right end of the hall there was a large paned window which led to what looked like the garden. By the staircase stood Madeline and another face which wasn’t familiar to any of Wraith’s party, although all but Izumi could make an inference as to who it was.
The childlike specter, both in appearance and personality, nervously beamed, trying to hide her fear, overcompensating with emotion in her speech, “L-Lavina! And Wraith! Wow I am!!!!! Very surprised that you’re here Wraith I mean specter of despair I mean am I allowed to say your name? I hope I didn’t offend you I didn’t mean it I never really talked to you before and I just didn’t expect you to be here because everyone said you wouldn’t be because you don’t usually coooooome-” Madeline’s eyes drifted to Izumi and his shimmering stone in the midst of her rambling, nearly choking a gasp, her eyes flaring, “W-w-w-w-w-wwhen did you- I mean- congratulations!!!!!!!! That’s um- It’s nice to meet you!!! What’s your name misssss-”
The specter of merriment rapidly studies Izumi’s appearance trying to gauge Izumi’s gender before she treads on an imaginary mine.
“Mister. My name is Mitsue, it’s nice to meet you too. Thank you for inviting us.” Per an earlier suggestion made by Wraith, Izumi doesn’t give his first name and tries his best to sound professional in the hopes of not standing out anymore than he already is. Izumi tugs on Wraith’s sleeve to signal him to be nice, his suppressed annoyance being increasingly obvious.
“Wraith is fine, and thank you as well. Right, Lavina?” Wraith sarcastically smiles at Lavina, who ignores his childish behavior.
“Yes, thank you. May I ask, is this the successor to Ianthe?”
“Oh my where are my manners!!! Yes, yes it is, Thia why don’t you…?”
The shy woman steps forward, her indigo eyes shifting everywhere but Wraith. “T-thia, m-my name is Th-Thia. I’m the new specter of guilt.”
She looked like she could pass for the little sister of Ianthe, as her hair was the same indigo that she once had. Her dress was similar to the ones that her predecessor would wear, and even their names were close. Though, their similarities ended there.
With the conclusion of her sentence, her gaze drifts to Wraith and locks, and through her leer Wraith read her unspoken words-her blood clearly running cold. Murderer. You killed me. You tore me to pieces. You demolished everything that I had built.
Specters had no recollection of their predecessor’s memories, Thia included, but she didn’t need the memories. Everyone, shades, spirits, and specters alike knew Wraith’s deeds. Afterall, it was impossible to hide the death of a specter and their legacy, not that Wraith tried in the first place. Usually such a glare wouldn’t shake him, this time though, it did, snaking inside and wreaking havoc in his mind.
There were two reasons for this: Firstly, Izumi was here and he always tried to keep impressions with him. Secondly, Ianthe knew that Wraith’s current form was false, and the only ones to know this were Wraith’s generals, Lavina, and now Izumi as well. For the life of him he couldn’t discern how she could possibly have learned this and it irked him. What else did she know? Was her act against him really just some lunatic suicide or was it apart of a larger plan? He had no way of knowing now. Ianthe was dead, and by his hands. Perhaps it was her way of enacting some form of wicked justice, plaguing Wraith with these paranoid thoughts, yet only time could tell.
To cease the prolonged awkward tension, Madeline took the reins as the host and gathered the courage to speak again. “I hope that you have fun at least!!!! You can go ahead and go down the stairs, please make yourselves comfortable!! It was nice to meet you mister Mitsue I hope you and Wraith enjoy yourselves!”
With the invitation, the group made their way to the dance floor, where no one was dancing quite yet. There was an orchestra produced by spirits in the corner, but everyone in the hall was merely conversing for the time being.
These events were evidently out of Wraith’s element judging by his lost and confused expression. Lavina wasn’t going to help him though, and neither were his supposed loyal generals, who left him the moment they descended the staircase, Lavina included. Neio went to the lounge, Dahlia stood around just not with the pair for whatever reason, and Lavina socialized with other specters, leaving Izumi and Wraith to themselves, disoriented in the crowd. Izumi hugged Wraith’s arm tighter and he started to understand the fear behind swarms of people.
“Why are you asking me? I never go to these stupid parties for a reason, I never know what to do with myself. Usually I just sit with Neio but as you just saw, he left.”
“Don’t you guys dance??”
“Yea but later. Look, if someone comes, just let me handle it-”
Hasty tapping of heels against the white marble stone floor cut his sentence and ignited an instant irritation within Wraith. An extremely pale skinned woman with long forest green hair approaches head first and thoughts later.
“You-!!” The first commonality that Izumi noticed between spirits and specters were their piercing teeth which protruded when angered, this estranged maiden included.
“What?” Wraith countered her snarl with his own.
“Who is this!!!” She disrespectfully flung her hand in Izumi’s general direction, not even glancing his way, skin shifting from a pale white to a light pink in certain areas.
“Why should I tell you?”
“Because you can’t just walk in here with someone with that! Everyone is staring at you!”
“And why is it your problem? You know, it’s quite unbecoming for a specter to display the emotion they’re supposed to be gatekeeping.”
Now, her skin was painted deep green as she groaned in fury, “UGH!!!! Forget it! Talking to you is like talking to a corpse! You!” When it conveniences her, she finally recognizes Izumi’s presence, startling him. “What’s your name?!”
“Well, Mitsue,” She mocks, “I hope your relationship burns and crashes!” The specter storms off, the crowd side eyeing her as she passes by.
“Rosalind, she’s the specter of envy. Can you tell?”
“Pfft,” Izumi smirks, getting Wraith to do the same. “What’s her problem though? Did you…?”
“Noooooo, not in a thousand years. She tried on multiple occasions but it wasn’t really ‘cuz she liked me, more that she wanted a guard dog. And now, I suppose she’s upset because I’m your little guard dog now.” Wraith playfully bites at the air.
If it weren’t for the breathable dress, Izumi’s face would’ve scorched more. “...are you really...flirting with me in public..?” The words were barely discernible from his drifting eyes and shamefully low vibrato.
“Two for you, and..how many for me?” Pecking the back of Izumi’s hand, he tenderly smiles, a tight twist rounding about Izumi’s chest and entrapping his insides, leaving him utterly speechless.
“....” Izumi presses his lips together, the emotions whirling within struggling to settle down.
The crowd which surrounded them began to break apart and shift, circling around the room in pairs. They moved around the still couple, some even a little annoyed from their hindrance of their dance.
“Well, since they’re starting to waltz around,” With the same heartful beam and an extended hand, Wraith knelt forward slightly which could almost be taken for a bow. “Will you grace me with a dance, Izumi?”
Internally, Izumi’s entire being screamed AHHHH YES YES YES, but with sensory overload, it reduced to a nod and a meek, “...ok…”, as he accepted his invitation.
Hand in hand, the disquieted Izumi was pulled into an embrace and his panic reached a verbal level, “W-wait-! I-I don’t know how to dance–”
“It’s alright, just follow my lead. Put your hand on my shoulder for starters.”
Once done, the specter of despair leisurely led the pair across the ballroom. Dancing wouldn’t look like it’d be in Wraith’s skillset, but Izumi was proven wrong. In fact, he was quite comfortable and confident in his strides.
“H-how do you even know how to dance?”
“Lavina taught me, one of the first things she did actually. I haven’t danced in awhile though, but I do enjoy it with the right person.”
Glistening radiance shone down from the pearly chandeliers and clearly revealed the affection in Wraith’s sapphire and amber eyes. Now, Izumi’s mind spun as well, ...me…?...I’m the right person…?....Why am I....does he…? If there was one thing he knew, it was the fact that a person’s eyes can’t lie, and Wraith’s eyes, smile, and words told the same story. Regardless of this, disbelief still burned his hope. I couldn’t….he couldn’t...I...I can’t be...
Prying eyes were still fixated on the mysterious yet alluring love interest and his horrid hound, and although this was hard to notice with the rotating room, Izumi still knew they were there. A numbing chill rose his hairs, the attention soon flooding in his previous irrational thoughts as their eyes bore into his skull. He didn’t belong. Everyone knew. Wraith knew. Wraith couldn’t care about him. He’s a human. Wraith only cares about figuring out what he’s unsatisfied with. Wraith doesn’t care about him.
Shaking himself free from Wraith’s grasp, Izumi digs his nails into his arms, backing away.
Immediately Wraith grew worried and anxious, “What’s wrong? Do you want to sit? I can get you a drink-”
“No...I just…” Looking everywhere but Wraith, Izumi’s short breaths quickened. “I- can I go outside? Anywhere just outside….”
“Yea of course, I’ll take you-”
“It’s alright, I just need to be alone for a second.”
Shit, Wraith mumbled to himself, sighing and painfully saying, “I can’t let you go alone, if-”
“Fuck fine then I’ll take Dahlia with me!! Just not you!” The hostile snap pierced deep and shed Wraith’s faded gratification, each ferocious step away that Izumi took only grinding it further into dust.
Although Izumi didn’t notice, Wraith had reached out to stop him, ultimately deciding to let him go. The once dazzling eyes grew dim and dark, a melancholic sorrow and grief taking its toll. Maybe this is what I deserve…
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