Chapter 30:

Regret and Hate

Red is the Color of You

      In the moonlit garden, Izumi anxiously awaited on the hidden bench, weaving his hands and fingers between each other until Wraith finally arrived, looking equally disquieted and sitting as far away from Izumi as he could. Neither of the two looked at each other, staring at the foliage that swayed in the light, chilled breeze instead. Surprisingly, Wraith was the first to break the uncanny silence, yet he still didn't glance his way. He craved for the relief of a cigarette at times like these, but refrained, knowing it would be out of place.

“Um, you don't have to tell me what's bothering you if you don't want to. But I-....” Swapping a mumbled curse with a sigh instead, Wraith continued to speak, “I want you to know that no matter what other people may think, you're important to me. Not as a medium or because of our deal, but as a person. As you, Izumi.”

After coming to terms with himself about his feelings for Wraith, Izumi’s heart pitter patters within. Ahhhhhh kill me….I have no idea what to say to that…

Instead of trying to conjure a proper response, Izumi merely stays silent, his insides running amok until ultimately deciding to indirectly show his appreciation towards the fond sentiment.

“Can I um...sit...closer..?” His voice was barely audible, hidden behind his uneasy nerves.

“Y-yea of course.”

Awkwardly, they shorten the distance between them, now sitting in the center of the bench before following another moment containing crickets and running water.

“....c-...c-an you….do with my hair….? you always do….”

Had Wraith been a normal person, the words would’ve been lost to the atmospheric lo-fi chirps, and despite having heard him, he was still in disbelief. Hesitantly, he reached forward and gently ruffled Izumi’s hair, although it was a tad difficult due to the tiara’s placement. Each grace of his paw made an aloof euphoria so fervent that Izumi’s expression twitched in an attempt to suppress his ecstasy. 

Yet still, Wraith saw this and melted, He looks so cute, I just want to….no, nonono what if he’s still upset? But there’s no way he is he wouldn’t ask me to pet him otherwise. No, just wait for him to take the initiative...but didn’t he already just do that..? UGHH The hold you have on me Izumi...You know what, fuck it, what are you waiting for Wraith? Just-

Wraith ceased his caressing and held Izumi’s hand in his own. Nearly in sync, they finally read each other’s eyes and gravitated into a kiss. For the man who only knew how to bed another, he began to remember the sensation of a kiss without underlying lust, and for the first time in a thousand years, he felt the spark of affection. It was still foreign to him: this indescribable emotion. Only time would determine when he would acknowledge and admit to himself that he felt this way, yet for the time being, he knew this: he didn't want to leave Izumi's side. Not now, not ever, and not when their deal came to its conclusion.

     Their seclusion under the solace of the surrounding foliage would eventually be disturbed by a plaguing familiar scent. Emerging from the twilight and descending from the stairs an elderly yet stern and fit man cleared his throat; Wraith clicking his tongue in disgust and exasperation as he approached. The refined and formal nature of the elder was reflected in his stance: a straightened back and a clasp of his hands behind him.

“Good evening.”

Due to Wraith's lack of response and cold glare, Izumi could gather that he should stay silent as well.

“I wished to separate myself from the festivities, and had I known you were here, I would've refrained from entry. You have my sincerest apologies.”

Detest flared in Wraith's scowl and scorn. Then, it began to twitch and turn until he groaned and complied. “Your nose and ears getting to you with old age, Barron?”

Barron scoffed, “High words coming from the specter of despair, you who have lived and suffered at least ten times my lifetime if not more. Yet, your suffering has seemed to come to its halt. Who is your chosen spouse that sits beside you?”

Spouse?!!!!!!! I wouldn't go that far! Silently, Izumi shouted.

Wraith opens his mouth to speak, but Barron interrupts him, “The young man can speak for himself, do you not believe so, Wraith?”

A picture perfect image of tearing off Barron's head and reducing it to a scarlet stain on the grass became very tempting for Wraith.

Izumi first looked to Wraith for approval before answering, who nodded. “Mitsue.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mitsue. I see that Wraith still has a high standard when it comes to his partners of choice. You are incredibly beautiful. Here, a gift. To congratulate you on your matrimony.”

A vibrant red rose materialized in Barron's palms and he offered it to the couple, a clear lean towards Izumi. It didn’t look like a normal rose, as its stem was black and the thorns appeared much sharper. There was an eerie yet mystical and alluring nature to its crimson petals, almost like it drew him in and begged for his touch. Immediately, Wraith snatches the rose instead.

“Thank you, but maybe you should take your leave? I'm sure they're missing you, and I would prefer if you would leave me with my partner. He's quite shy you see.” Wraith grins sarcastically.

“And I am sure that they are missing your bridegroom as well. Do not stay out for too long.”

The moment Barron exits the garden, Wraith sets fire to the rose, flames raging from the palm of his hand, flinging the ashes to the floor.

“He is….?”

“The specter of regret. Of all the people who hate my guts and are praying that I choke in my sleep, he'd be the second.”

“First being?”

“Vahan, the specter of hate. Ironic isn't it. He’s here too, hard to miss. Looks like an owl.” Wraith dusts the ashes from his glove and tries to relax back into the bench. To quell himself, he weighs Izumi's hand in his own, tracing his fingers.

“So did you just get rid of the rose because you hate him?”

“No, because he was trying something. That rose could only grow from a specter's blood. In its own way, it functions similarly to a ghost in terms of diet, but just specters only instead, so you can imagine they’re not very common. Giving or receiving them means the same as normal flowers though, just a bit more special, and they aren't really magical in any way. But, their thorns are sharper than a normal rose, like the blade of a knife. If you grabbed it, it would've pricked you. You'd bleed and-”

“...everyone would know I'm human from the smell.” Izumi accurately completes his sentence.

“So was he testing me? I didn't give him any reason to doubt that I was spirit though.”

“Your existence is doubt enough for him. Plus, you don't have a discernible scent right now. To us at least, you smell like me and Lavina–the bloodstone will always give you a strong scent of me, and Lavina's magic is on you. Barron knows a lot about Lavina, admires her as an intelligent person and all that, so he probably took her scent on you as a possible sign that she disguised you. As much as I hate Barron, he's got a keen eye, but Vahan is even worse. I'd like to avoid him if we can, but I don't know how probable that is.”

“Do you wanna go back inside then? The longer we're away, the more suspicious they'll get.”

“Only if you want to.”

“We can just….no more dancing.”

Wraith snickers, “Alright.” He stands from the bench and kneels in front of Izumi. His feet in his gentle grasp, Wraith heals and pecks them with a smile. “I’m sure your feet hurt from wearing these, but I appreciate you putting up with it for me.”

“It’s ok….” Izumi blushes.

“Then, my lovely spouse, shall we?”

The nod to Barron's comment delightfully disturbs Izumi, but for his own well being, he refrains from adding anything further, taking Wraith's hand.

     By the time they reconvened in the ballroom, the dance was over and a mass of conversations occupied the hall instead. The estranged couple acquired refreshments in an effort to blend in, which was ineffective to say the least. A tall figure, which rivaled that of Neio, approached them. Their skin could nearly be mistaken for charcoal had it not glistened a dark purple in the light, spots of stars glittered across. Most of what encompassed them was stained ivory: their suit, their short hair, their wings that enveloped their lower back, and even their irises. However, the whites of their eyes were black, highlighting their incandescent eyes. 

As soon as Wraith's eyes laid upon the figure, he mumbled fuck and held Izumi close.

“Wraith.” Their greeting didn't reach their gaze, which was icy and piercing.


“I had not expected you to show your face. Yet, here you are. With someone I did not expect nor am I familiar with. Would you care to introduce us?”

“His name is Mitsue.”

“Is that so? Quite shy isn't he?” 

Vahan kneels over and offers a handshake. Again, Izumi looks to Wraith for confirmation before shaking his hand. When he tries to pull his hand away, Vahan secures his grasp and kisses the back of his hand, but his eyes were focused on Wraith who wore his irritation blatantly, Izumi wiping off the kiss on his dress during Vahan’s distraction.

“You look quite ravishing this evening.”

A cold chill quivered Izumi’s spine, unconsciously taking hold of Wraith's arm.

“Where is your wife?” Wraith redirected.

“Elsewhere. Last I saw she was speaking with Lavina. But, do enjoy the rest of your evening. I must continue making my rounds. It was a delight to meet you, Mitsue.”

Neither gave a response as the specter of hate leaves, Wraith only groaning after the fact.

“Well, I think you did the opposite of avoid him.”

“Yepppp!!!!” Wraith pours himself a shot and howls again. “Not like I can just walk away if he approaches me though. Getting into the upteenth fight with him especially right now is the last thing I want.”

“You handled it well though!” Izumi attempted to cheer up Wraith, which didn’t take much effort at all as his irritation faded nearly immediately.


“Really! I mean, you’re getting better at not starting fights I noticed.”

“More because of you than because of me, since you yelled at me for it before. I’m sure even Vahan himself is surprised that I didn’t start a fight with him. We’ve had physical fights who knows how many times.”

“Specters are allowed to do that?”

“We don’t really have rules it’s more like a consensus to keep the peace, and everyone knows that we just do that, or did do that, because we hate each other. They know I won’t kill him because I’m trying to avoid the hassle of drama and he can’t kill me, and even if he did, it’d be more of a good riddance kind of thing. Ianthe was a different story though, since she actually broke a rule.”

As they spoke, Izumi looked over Wraith’s shoulder, watching the tall owl-like man reconvene with Lavina and a woman he assumed to be his wife. Despite the distance, the ruby on his wife’s ring could still be seen plain as day. “He gave his wife a bloodstone?”

“Who, Vahan? Yea. They’ve been together for I don’t even know how long, one of the few specters to be married let alone actually give a bloodstone. “

As intimidating as he was, it was a little sweet to think that he loves his wife so much.

“Do they have any children?”

Wraith shakes his head. “Only spirits can have children, specters can’t have children period, and shades are actually dead so it’s a given they can’t. At least according to Lavina, some weird research she did, it’s because of specters’ shapeshifting properties? Something about their reproductive organs lacking certain things and just being for show or something. I forgot.”

“That’s kind of sad… Did any specter ever have children through adoption or anything like that?”

“Not as far as I remember. They could adopt a spirit, yea, but for whatever reason most specters don’t really have that same desire to be a parent like humans and some spirits do. Maybe because of having to take care of our followers already. Personally, I don’t want children either. I couldn’t handle that kind of responsibility, I can barely handle myself sometimes, and as Lavina would say, You act like a child anyways.”

The accurate impression gets a slight laugh out of Izumi before a follow-up question comes to mind. “I remember you said once that not all spirits follow a specter, so the ones with families and stuff, where do they go if they’re not with a specter?”

“Anywhere really. There’s towns for spirits, which humans can’t see in some cases, excluding you of course. They either live in towns they built or in abandoned cities. Pretty much like normal cities actually, but there are some pretty bad ones out there. By that I mean they’re chaotic, the best comparison would be like a high crime rate city, but that’s an understatement for certain spirit abodes. It’s really eat or be eaten there.”

A tap of a champagne glass gathers their attention and the crowd's to the front of the hall where Madeline and Thia stood. The two thanked the guests for their attendance, stating that by coming they've shown their dedication to easing tensions and withholding peace. Although these were the words that were spoken, Thia's leer said otherwise. Her indigo gaze was fixated on Wraith, only occasionally looking elsewhere. Yet, the message was clear. She knew something. Something more than the fact that he murdered her predecessor, as everyone was aware of that. Why else would she be so focused on him? The list of problems for Wraith continued to stack. Barron, Vahan, and now Thia. And it was his responsibility to shield Izumi from them, no matter the cost.

     The end of their speech marked the end of the ball and the dispersal of the attendees. While some stayed awhile longer, including Lavina, Izumi and the others went their separate ways, with Neio and Dahlia leaving the couple to their devices in Wraith's bedroom. Wraith removed his vest and blazer then undid his dress shirt and tie, relaxing on the bed with a sigh before he even finished changing.

“How much did you drink?” Even Izumi didn't get undressed, as he only took off the veiled tiara and his heels.

“I’m not drunk if that's what you're asking, I have a high tolerance.”

“Lucky! I'm terrible with alcohol.”

Wraith gestured for Izumi to come closer, cuddling him from behind. His head on Izumi's shoulder, Wraith intertwined his hands with Izumi's.

“Did you have fun at least?”

“I learned a lot, so yes! I'm not really a party person but it was super cool to see all the specters gather like that, even though I only met a few of them.”

“And nearly the worst of them too. Madeline is fine, Thia I'm not sure, but the rest ugh. You wanna see something else that's cool though? Here.” Wraith guides his hand to the scarlet gem. “Ask it to change into something, like a knife.”

“Alright…? Umm...turn into a knife…?

The stone and chain brightly glows, the light shifting and transforming into a crimson blade with an extravagantly detailed silver hilt.

“Woahhhh!!!!” Eyes wide, Izumi rotates the knife and ogles.

“Cool right?”

“How does it do that???!!”

“I told you, my bloodstone is special. Usually they can't do stuff like this, but obviously I have to be better than everyone else so.”

“Can it do anything else?” Izumi exclaimed with a bright beam.

“Sure can, almost anything you want. Most things that are bigger than me it can't do though.”

Ok….then...turn into a bracelet!

Per his whim, the blade glows once more and transforms into a bracelet.

A dog..?

The bracelet glows and turns into a red Pomeranian, which looked like a dog carved from stone, yet it was alive and wagged its tail.

“No way!!!” He ran his hand across the pup. It lacked fur and resembled a live statue. “Do a flip!”

The Pomeranian leaps and flips. Instantly Izumi looked back, amazement written across his face.

“How did you-?!”

“Magic is cool right?” Wraith enjoys Izumi's enthusiasm more than the sorcery itself, being used to magic. The longer the act lasts, the more Wraith can absorb Izumi's joy….and his dress.

“Mannn you guys are so lucky to just always have this.”

“Well, now you do too. It's yours to keep.”

All the possibilities of what he can do with the stone run through his mind. It was mainly for protection purposes, but entertainment was still a welcomed outcome. Izumi wanted to try one last thing before he reverted it to its original shape.

He said no bigger than him right? Then….turn into Wraith.

With another glow, the once Pomeranian transforms into a spitting image of Wraith, only made out of a red gemstone instead. It was nearly face to face with Izumi, as it hovered over him, hands on the bed. Although it was implied it would work, he was still surprised and he jolted back, burrowing himself deeper into Wraith's arms and getting a laugh out of Wraith. Now, he was sandwiched by Wraiths.

“Crap-! That scared me, I didn't expect it to be so close!”


Izumi elbows Wraith's side and cries, “Shut up!”

“Ok ok! Heh.”

The statue of Wraith was almost creepy, mainly from how expressionless it was. Unconsciously, Izumi placed his hand on the statue's cheek and it unexpectedly smiled and caressed him in turn.

“Hey! I'm right here you know.” Wraith jested, but it still made Izumi startled.

“S-sorry I just wanted to touch it I wasn't really thinking.”

“Just touch it, hmm? You wanna check if it has something else?”


In an effort to face the real Wraith in embarrassment, Izumi bumps into the statue then panics, falling back into Wraith and accidentally pushing him onto the bed, laying on top of him.

The statue brushed against him and along with a heated shiver, his disquieted heart forcing a shout, “T-turn back!”

Following his directive, it returns to its original necklace form.

“What, you don't like two of me?”

“You’re already more than enough and can handle!” Izumi exhaled his stress and relaxed, forgetting that he was straddling Wraith.

“Are you going to get off so I can continue to change or…?”

“Oh-” The positioning fully marinated in his mind and he rushed to get off, fixing his dress in the process.

A little disappointed, Wraith sat up and watched Izumi’s back, his shoulders red. “It can call the others as well if you need to talk to them for whatever reason.”

“Just-shut up and change!”

“Alright, alright.” Sighing almost affectionately, Wraith finally let him be.