Red is the Color of You
Kanae, Izumi's mother, who right about had a heart attack with her son's prolonged absence, heavily reprimanded him upon his return the following morning and their canine Lala synchronized barked in anger. But, his mother wasn't truly upset. She was more worried and then relieved. Kanae knew her son well, so she understood what the aloof smile across his face meant. Still, she decided not to bother him about his clear crush and left him on his way.
Per Wraith's suggestion, Izumi began to steadily type up the article on Hodaira, and due to the unbelievable supernatural cause, he focused the article more on a growing mystery to promote theories. Through this, Izumi made sure to take plenty of breaks between work and writing by spending time with Eiji for the first time in what seemed to be forever, usually going out to eat. On the initial instance of the reunion, Izumi caught Eiji up to speed with his adventures, from Hodaira, to the ball, and more importantly, to Wraith.
Eiji nearly spit out his drink, choking instead. “Hck- you what?!!!!?”
“I said I like him.” Izumi tried to say with a straight face.
“No you don't. Look at me.”
The best friends stared at each other intently, Eiji peering into his soul until finally, he broke.
“Ugh fine! I love him, ok?! I love him like a jittery high school girl and I wanna marry him and have his kids! Is that better for you?!!” His face a vibrant red, Izumi tries to hide in his seat through slouching.
“Yes, it is.” Eiji says with contentment. “You thought you could get away with just I kinda like him. I've known you since what, grade school? Yea sure, you slept with him a few times, basically did everything he said and things he didn't even say to do. Wearing a dress and dancing? Yea sure you just like him. Just a bit,” he continues to mock.
“Ok I get it!”
“No you don't! Next time just say you love him!”
“I didn't because you hate him!”
“Hate is a strong word, more like, I would fist fight him to regain my pride from last time if he wouldn't just flatten me like a pancake again. At the end of the day though, you know him better so it’s your choice. Clearly he treats you better than he’d ever treat me..-”
From the corner of his eye, Eiji spots a strange looking dog in the distance, which is clearly staring right at them. Its fur is primarily black with some strange dark red streaks, and its eyes are bright and...mismatched?
“Eiji?” Izumi waves his hand in front of him. “What? Are you seeing things?” The dog leaves once Izumi tries to see what's there.
“I guess so.”
This, however, wouldn't be a one time occurrence. Nearly consecutively, when Eiji and Izumi were together, Eiji spotted the same dog, while Izumi never noticed. He had a feeling about the true identity of the dog, but decided to keep its emergence a secret, though Eiji’s conjecture would soon be answered. After about two weeks of the dog’s lingering presence, one night Eiji is walking home from Izumi’s house when he sees the dog again. Strangely enough, it doesn’t run away. No matter how long Eiji stared, it wouldn’t leave. A little angrily, he approached the dog.
“Why the hell are you stalking us? You jealous or something?”
The canine doesn’t answer, but its annoyed visage was enough of a response. It turned and started to walk away.
“Hey!! I’m talking to you! You better not run off again!”
It looks back, then continues forward.
“What, you want me to follow you or something?”
It keeps going, rudely giving Eiji his response. Several times did he try to ask where they were going, but it merely kept treading, growling on occasion to silence him. Eventually, they stopped at a bridge, where the dog curls by the edge, Eiji about two meters over.
“So? What do you want? And why are you a dog?”
Finally, it speaks, “It makes it easier to talk.”
“.....Is Izumi doing alright? How is his article coming along?”
“Why are you asking me? Can’t you ask him yourself?”
Wraith snarls, but surprisingly doesn’t bite back. “I...can’t bring myself to face him right now.”
The sincere honesty shocks Eiji to the point of unconsciously looking around for cameras. It starts to situate into his mind that Wraith isn’t here to insult him, mock him, or start a fight. He wants help. Doing a complete 180, Eiji adopts a more serious attitude, understanding the weight of Wraith approaching him of all people.
“Did you guys get into a fight….?” Eiji knew the answer to this question but he asked anyway to seem more natural.
“No. I haven’t seen him in awhile. I...need some time to figure things out. Which is why I’m here.”
“...So, how is he doing?”
“Good. He’s probably going to publish the article on Hodaira soon, since he’s nearly done with it. You know, he talks about you a lot.”
“Really?” Wraith’s furred ears rear up in excitement. “I mean-” He tucks his head back on top of his paws and tries his best to snuff out the emotion, though his curiosity ultimately takes over. “...About what?”
“Stuff like he enjoys hanging out with you and learning things.” To himself, Eiji notes, aaand that he thinks about you often and wishes you’d stop by but yea sure!
“Is that so?”
“How does...Izumi feel about me..?”
“If I have to repeat I’ll carve your head off with my teeth and throw it in the river.”
“Ok!” Well fuck!
An untimely demise wasn’t really a preferred option, but answering the question truthfully wasn’t either. The relationship between Wraith and Izumi was for them to figure out, and thus, for Eiji to keep his hands clear. Confessing for Izumi would only bring about resentment from Izumi’s end, and getting into another argument with Izumi was far from desired.
“I think….it’d be better for you to ask him that yourself.”
Although Wraith knows he’s right, it still irritates him, while Eiji was arguably more irritated that Wraith gave an attitude.
“Tell Izumi that I’ll come by soon for him to repay me for Hodaira.”
“What? You’re just gonna-”
Before Eiji can finish, the dog leaps into the shadow of the night, vanishing completely.
“-leave…..ugh. Bastard. Of all people that the nice guy has to fall for it has to be the dick head.”
The next day, Eiji didn’t hesitate to relay their encounter. Now Izumi was the one who nearly choked on his drink.
“Ck--You saw him?!!!! What- when- what did he say??”
Obviously, he couldn’t tell him about the primary reason Wraith approached him, so he lied on the spot, at least partially, “Well, he came by the other day and wanted to tell you something but saw you were asleep, so he told me instead.”
“That’s...unlike him?” Even with this sentiment, Izumi doesn’t think too much of it, his joy to hear from Wraith clouding his judgment. “What did he say though?”
“I’m not sure exactly what it meant but, he said he would come by sometime soon to collect his debt for Hodaira?”
“We never talked about how I’d pay him back for that...”
“Uh, yea….” Izumi lies, but Eiji decides not to pry, seeing that they have a strange personal agreement between them. Still, Izumi was anxious. The last time he paid a debt was for Fuhiro, and that was already a steep price, which acted as a catalyst that led to their first sexual encounter. If that was anything like the price he had to pay now, then he wasn’t sure if he was excited or terrified.
Most specters kept to themselves, usually only being allies with one or two others. Between the thirteen of them, the longest friendship was between Lavina and Wraith, while the longest rivalry was between Vahan and Wraith. Vahan loathed Wraith for more or less the same reasons as everyone else, but Wraith’s arrogance irked him to no end. He could hardly believe a man with so much power could be so carefree and reckless with his actions, ignoring any possible consequences and brushing them off as though they were specks of dust in a light breeze.
To an extent he could see Ianthe’s sentiment: that Wraith could easily gain a monopoly over them all if he really wanted to. The fact that he didn’t was likely what made it so hard for Vahan to understand him and his motives– if he had any. Why have so much power and do nothing with it? No, not nothing exactly. He causes problems constantly just by merely being present in an area. Then, there was the boy that Wraith brought to the ball which only served to muddle his thoughts all the more.
By comparison, Vahan’s palace resembled an old English castle and was composed of few colors. Similarly to Ianthe, he took a liking to medieval architecture, even extending to mannerisms and lifestyle as he was a firm believer in a daily tea. Today was no different, but instead of having tea with his wife, he sat with the enemy of his enemy: Barron. He didn’t prefer talking to Barron either, but of all the specter’s he could possibly utilize Barron’s hate to his advantage. Though this, he had to gauge.
“That boy is human.” The specter of hate swirled his spoon, dissolving the cube of sugar in his tea.
“How can you be so sure?” Barron enjoyed coffee more, but he drank the tea to appease his possible ally as truthfully, Barron would get more out of their companionship than Vahan would.
“I had a shade observe. He spoke and interacted with humans. Only specters can, and it's more unlikely that after millennia we somehow have a fourteenth specter than for him to be human.”
“It’s possible for a human to see us? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Vahan had hoped that Barron was as knowledgeable as he appeared, but he began to see that his assumption was incorrect. All the time he spent in Lavina’s library was probably for show then. “Lavina likely knows, but asking her is akin to asking Wraith himself. She will answer, yes, however she will run to him immediately after.” He held in a groan. The conversation was already pointless and wouldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already guess, but he humored Barron anyway. At least this way, he could see what Barron wanted to do about the situation, though he already had inferred the obvious.
“Then the bloodstone? There’s still the issue of why would Wraith give it to a human.”
“It’s clear why. Wraith isn't daft, as much as you would care to believe. Regardless if he gave the boy a bloodstone or not, his mere presence at the ball would garner attention. Anyone could see that Wraith was favoring him. That makes Mitsue a target in and of itself. The bloodstone is a warning: a territorial claim in a sense. It's almost definite that Wraith infused his magic with the stone, knowing full well spirits and specters alike will try to attack him, and thus, it'll defend with or without Wraith's presence.”
“Then that already makes it nearly impossible to learn more about him, and Mitsue is the best way to learn how to put an end to Wraith.”
Vahan slammed his cup against the table, nearly shattering it. Although, he didn’t raise his voice. On the contrary, his voice was its usual neutral yet chilling tone. “I never said I would kill Wraith. I have fought that man tens of hundreds of times. I severed his head. I tore his limbs. I destroyed his heart. Yet he still walks this earth. Never once did he attempt to kill me. Merely toying with me in each battle. Like a dog catching a bug and setting it free, only to catch it once more. He's aware of his immortality, and I have given up on the fantasy of watching the light fade from his eyes and I would suggest you do the same.”
Barron refrains from his vexation getting the best of him. They were on uneven ground and he had once believed their motivations to be aligned. Now, he isn’t even sure what Vahan wants or why he called him in the first place. Most of the other specters were too afraid to try and kill Wraith, even with the supposed new vulnerability. If Barron wanted Wraith dead, it seemed as though he had to find his own means on his own terms.
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