Chapter 37:

The Specter of Despair

Red is the Color of You

     Upon Takeda’s regain of consciousness, Izumi made a random excuse as to what happened, stating that he randomly passed out so he just took the pair home, and while Takeda was suspicious, he didn’t seem to pay it any mind, brushing off the event altogether. 

The week was excruciating, with Izumi impatiently praying for its end in order to see Wraith once more. And, before he knew it, the day arrived. 

Springing out of bed, Izumi shuffled to get ready, trying on several different outfits to find one that best suited the event. He didn’t want to be too fancy, nor too casual, yet none of his clothing really matched a good middle, ultimately, coming to his trump card. Lavina. She seemed to have an eye for fashion, so there was a chance she could help.

He said the bloodstone could call any of them, so I guess I could try? Um….Lavina..?

A refined female voice echoed in his mind. “Yes? I didn’t think I would ever hear from you.”

“I don’t know if it’s rude to ask you this, since he’s your ex but-”

Instantly, Lavina appeared in person, almost seeming excited as she levitated, although scaring Izumi a bit as he jumped in his skin.

Wow-! That was fast! “Um…”

“Yes?! Do you need advice?”

“Yes and no? We were gonna go out today, nothing too big I think? I’m not sure he wasn’t very specific but at the least I wanted to wear something a bit nicer and…”

“You don’t know what to wear?”


“Oh-oh, I’ve got just the thing!”

As though preparing for this exact moment, Lavina materialized a set of clothing: a white blouse paired with a short beige skirt and casual yet nice pair of heels.



“I mean…”

“What, you don’t wanna cross-dress? You did it before I think he’ll love it! Well, I mean if you’re comfortable and all that, you liked the dress sooooo..”

“It’s not that I’m uncomfortable it just didn’t come to mind…? Like unexpected? I’ll try it I guess and see how I feel, but are you sure he’ll like it? I thought you said he liked dresses.”

“If it was a tier list, then evening gowns would be at the top and stuff like this right after. Come on come on come on come on come on put it on!!!”

“Ok ok! Turn around!”

Lavina did a 180, allowing Izumi to change.

“So he didn’t say where you guys are going?”

“No, just that he wanted to ‘show me some place’.”

“Definitely a date. Wraith’s like that, but I’d still hold off on confessing or anything. You’d probably scare him away if you do, so just wait, I’m sure he will.”

“How can you be so sure? Also you can look now.”

“I am actually a miracle worker you look amazing, here look.”

She materialized a mirror to show Izumi, who hardly recognized himself.

“..I look like such a femboy.”

“But it’s cute!”

“It is……..mannnn- fine I’ll wear it.”

“Yessss! Ok, I’ll go then I don’t want him to know I helped you so don’t tell him either he’ll choke me, he knows my work anyways but have fun!!”

“Wai- aaand she’s gone, didn’t even answer me. What’s with specters and just suddenly coming and going all the time?” 

Izumi flopped onto the bed, smiling to himself. It was a little amusing to see Lavina change so much when it came to fashion, when usually she’s more reserved. Still, Izumi wondered why she put so much effort into seeing her ex get with someone else, considering how much enmity seemed to be between them. Then again, Lavina did say that their hatred for each other is more feigned, similarly to how close friends speak to each other.

     Not long after he finished changing did Wraith arrive, who also was wearing a different set of clothing compared to usual, although not by much, as the only change was his robe which bore the appearance of a red denim jacket with a black design and dark grey hood instead. It looked like he attempted to try a different style with his hair, but ultimately gave up and fell back to the norm. Luckily, Izumi’s mother wasn’t home, as she stepped out to walk Lala, so he didn’t have to bear through the embarrassment of his mom seeing him in a skirt, but he still had to put up with Wraith seeing it. He tried to pull down the skirt to conceal his revealed thighs a bit more, to no avail.

“U-um….we can go if you want….”

Wraith tried to stop staring, though he didn’t put much effort into doing so. “Y-yea…” With no proper way to put words to emotions, he stumbled, “ look um- really nice...”


“I kind of-umm- need to carry you, so uh...if you want I could give you my jacket…?”

“The roof hopping thing?”


“It’s fine…? I one should be able to see anything.”

“You sure..?”


The unsettling tension between the two swayed both their hearts and minds, already wishing to just hurry to wherever they were going, which is exactly what Wraith did. Trying to cut time and strain, he didn’t waste another moment, speedily lifting Izumi and hurrying over to their location.

     It was only a few miles off, somewhere in the mountains yet off the trail and covered by trees and vines. Upon arrival, Wraith set him down and peeled the vines back, revealing a secluded botanical garden encased in all sorts of towering trees. Immediately, Izumi pulled out his camera, snapping away at the colorful scenery in awe. 

All sorts of foliage, flowers, and greenery, some of which shouldn’t even be in season or even native to Japan, adorned the garden, which was mostly a straight linear path so everything was clearly seen, similarly to an orchard. It didn’t stretch very far, only about the length of a football field, yet still, it was beautiful, and most of all, quiet. The only sounds were of the rustling leaves in the light breeze and the chirping of birds. While Izumi was absorbed with the scene, Wraith was caught up in Izumi’s blissful joy as he guided him further into the garden. 

Finally stopping near the middle which was by a maple tree, he materialized a large sheet and set it down, covering a patch of grass. Izumi had only sat down when he realized Wraith was resting against the maple. He put down his camera, still glancing wildly at the vegetation.

“Where did you even find this?! Half of these trees and flowers shouldn’t even be here!” Izumi exclaimed, still amazed.

“I made it.”


“Specter, remember? Actually, I didn’t know how to. Anything related to growing stuff isn’t my thing, I actually had to suck up my pride and ask someone– Madeline– you met her before.”

“The specter of merriment, right? Looks like a kid?”

“Yep, her. She could hardly believe it honestly, asked if I was alright and I almost threw a hissy fit in embarrassment but I just did it for the better good. So I guess, to put it bluntly...I did it for you.”

This wasn’t a conversation that Izumi expected to hear when he agreed to come, and he wasn’t opposed to it either, yet his heart was still racing in anxiety. Wraith wasn’t exactly ecstatic either, but he knew he had to do so eventually.

“...for me..?”

Sitting up, Wraith sighed and faced Izumi, trying to come to terms with the words himself, while Izumi said nothing, only giving his full attention. 

“I…When I first met you, I was interested in you because you were different, I guess. You could point it to my curiosity towards why you can see ghosts or whatever, but I don’t know, it just felt like more than that? You like talking to me because you have this never ending wonder for new things, and I just brought all of that for you, but for me, I just found it so fascinating that you were so engrossed in it all. I’m usually the type of person that doesn’t care what other people think, which is pretty obvious I think, but for you...ugh, it just killed me, when you were scared of me when we first met. I didn’t know why, but I just didn’t want you to hate me for whatever reason, so I tried to change and be a bit nicer although I didn’t really know exactly how to do that at first so I messed with you instead since that was the only way I knew how to be more friendly, and I’m glad you at least seemed to be receptive of it because I don’t know what else I would’ve done. Then the whole thing with Fuhiro happened and I felt my heart drop at the thought of something happening to you, I was worried sick. The entire reason I stayed with you for days after the fact was because I nearly had a heart attack and I just wanted to make sure you were safe. There was the whole thing with having to be with you to figure out the whole medium issue and I actually almost threw in the towel then. I usually don't have an issue sleeping with whoever, but it just didn't feel right with you, in terms of doing it so...I don't know, nonchalantly? It just got worse from there, that I didn't know how to feel about you generally speaking. I felt so...lost. Especially around the time of the ball, I just acted on a whim without just whatever I felt like doing and I didn’t give my actions much thought.”

Stopping to breathe, Wraith tried to quell his own rapidly beating chest, feeling the heat rise and flow throughout his body. Even he couldn’t believe that he was nervous, the palms of his hands beginning to perspire slightly. And through all of this, he still continued, his resolve already firm. 

“You had asked me what happened while you were drunk, and I said you asked me if I hated you, but you also asked why I was avoiding you at the time. And...I told you what I’m saying now, that I didn’t know how to feel about you. I couldn’t think straight whenever I was with you and I always felt this strange need to keep a positive image in your mind of me, and it got to the point where I couldn’t be around you anymore because I wanted-needed time to figure it all out. By that point, when you were drunk and flailing in my arms, I already knew how I felt though, and I said I’d tell you when you were sober but didn’t really get a chance to because of what’s going on with the territory and stuff. But...I’m here now.” 

Again, he exhaled deeply, reaffirming his eye contact which before shifted from time to time, while now, Wraith made sure to keep his gaze locked.

“Izumi, I like you. I know I’m not the best person and everyone makes it a point to constantly tell me that, but I’d give the world for you to give me a chance. If you wanted to be the prime minister or get the best job in your field, CEO or owner of your own company, even if you asked me to be your own personal assassin, whatever and anything, I’d do it in a heartbeat, no questions asked. I just...want to be with you. I don’t care how, even if you don’t feel the same, just being able to stay friends or something would be enough for me. I guess to put it in shorter terms, I...would like to be in a relationship with you.”

With every instant that ticked by, Wraith’s unease only seemed to spike, patiently yet impatiently awaiting Izumi’s response. After what felt like an eternity, he finally spoke.



It was hard to read Izumi’s expression, as it looked more at a loss for words than anything else. From what cause, Wraith couldn’t tell, and all he could do was hope. Wraith truthfully had no clue how Izumi felt about him. As far as he knew, Izumi tolerated his antics at the least, but he was kind and would let almost anyone do anything, even if it bothered him. This whole time Izumi could’ve been sustaining his teases and characteristics just for the purpose of resolving their deal; though, Wraith didn’t feel this was the case. 

The promise Izumi had made with Wraith spoke volumes, as he knew it was a genuine, heartfelt sentiment: that Izumi didn’t care about how monstrous people believed Wraith to be, and at the end of the day, Izumi would accept him regardless of his actions or appearance. It’s completely possible that this was an act of kindness, rather than of affection, yet Wraith could only yearn for the latter.

Resorting to his usual timid antics, Izumi fiddled with the necklace, now trying to formulate a proper sentence himself. The only thing that prohibited him from bursting a response for all to hear was his own self-doubt, that he was human, and Wraith was not. A torrent of the advice passed to him by everyone he knew played in his mind, with one primary phrase in common. Don’t worry. Naturally Izumi was always timid and paranoid, and this always hindered him from making such monumental decisions, but now, of all times, did he need to cast aside this and gather himself.

A slow, deep sigh, preceding his response, Izumi smiled, his heart in his hands, “I’d love to. I...actually have liked you for a while now, and I don’t know how obvious it was since I didn’t really try to hide it. You know how bad I am at stuff like that haha….but....I...I…” His voice began to quiver and break apart, no longer able to suppress his joy which started to stream down his cheeks in the form of tears. 

Wraith frantically leaned forward, wanting to help but unsure how, paralyzed as he watched Izumi rub his glossed eyes.

“I’m sorry if this is a lot you don’t have to give me a response right now-”

Struggling to speak through his sobs, Izumi tried his best to give a reassuring beam. “N-no, it’s...kkh-alri-ght--I’m...j-just-kkh-...hap-py..” With no other way to know how to truly express this, seeing that his smile didn’t quite do the trick, Izumi tugged Wraith by his jacket and pulled him into a kiss. He longed to fully pour his heart out and profess his love to its fullest extent, but just this was enough for him, and only time would tell if they would ever reach this.

The warmth of Izumi’s lips provided Wraith his answer in its truest form, welcoming Izumi in his arms, nearly smiling through the kiss himself. Relaxing into Wraith’s essence, Izumi’s tears slowly dried, euphoria translating into their loving trade. There was no salacity or temptation, just a sincere, heartfelt affection for the other. Wraith hugged Izumi close, leaning against the maple as he caressed his soft coral hair, both gazing with a tender smile.

“Don’t cry like that, it makes me want to eat my heart out.”

“It’s not like I did it on purpose! I really was happy, I swear!”

“Mhm?” Wraith whispered, “Then tell me again.”

“I like you Wraith, a lot.”

“A lot now?”

“I’ll take it back if you’re gonna be like that.”

“Nono, I’m just kidding, please don’t do that.” Wraith guided Izumi’s palm to his rapid beating heart. “Then, I like you a lot too, Izumi. See? I’m not lying.”

Bashfully, he pulled his hand away. “I didn’t think you were…”

With a smitten leer, Wraith kept his eyes on his newfound partner, already enamored with his shy antics.

“S-stop staring at me!”

“I can’t stare at my boyfriend now?”

If Izumi wanted to be at ease, Wraith always seemed to make it his sole duty to make sure it didn’t happen. Wiggling out of his arms, Izumi properly seated himself on top of Wraith so that his back was straight, pouting until Wraith eventually caved.

“That was the last time I promise. At least for today.”

Izumi sighed, some exhaustion behind it.

“Izumi? Can I tell you something?”

“Yea of course, it better not be another tease though.”

“No, don’t worry it isn’t, I...I think it’s only right that you know a bit more about me, at least before we met. I feel like I know so much about you but you really never learned anything about who I was way back in the day. And by that I mean before I actually looked like what you see now.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…”

“No, I want to, it’s fine.”

     The full story of Wraith’s past would take time and a comfort that he didn’t quite entirely have just yet. Still, he wished to relay at least some information, as much as he could for the time being.

“You once asked some time ago, before Hodaira I think, if we can get hurt or get scars, things like that, and I left. Not even Lavina knows this by the way, so you better keep your mouth shut.” Wraith pinched Izumi’s nose.

“-Ow-! I wasn’t gonna even if you didn’t tell me-!”

“I know you wouldn’t, I just wanna be sure,” Wraith sighed and carried on, “People don’t think I can die, Vahan being the prime example of that. Did everything in the book to try and kill me at some point, and I just let him because I knew he couldn’t. I’d just regenerate almost instantly every time. But, I can die, and I have, several times in fact. Now is a different story, no one knows how to kill me, but of course I do, I won’t tell you that for now though. A really long time ago, at least two thousand years I think but years feel like seconds to me honestly so I’m not exactly sure, I was born in the middle of a large-scale war, not in our world, in yours. Before The Great War you hear spirits talk about all the time, centuries before actually. Specters are born from certain emotions, Lavina knowledge, Vahan hatred, Barron regret, the list goes on. And me, despair. As you’d imagine, during a war that’s all there is. I don’t know what happened to the previous specter of despair, maybe he got wiped out or something, I don’t know, nor care. In my case though, when I was born, I’d die almost immediately. Eaten alive and torn to pieces by surrounding spirits. Then, because of the war, I’d be born again immediately. As far as I know I was the first and only case of this happening. Normally, when specters die, it takes time for them to come back. The time varies depending on the state of the world and the emotions it bears, but it's always been a different specter, never an essential reincarnation of the same one. I always pointed it to how grim the world was at the time, so everyone was hopeless and in pain, but who knows if that’s the actual reason. For me though, that was my scar. Being born and immediately shredded apart like repeatedly...just…” He started over again, trying to overcome the vivid recollection of the pain and horror he felt at the time. “I lost count of how many times it happened. I didn’t even have time to think, barely had time to take in a single breath before I would die. I couldn’t come to terms with who I even was. Eventually, I lost sight of who I used to be, what I looked like, and I still don’t know what my original appearance was.”

Izumi didn’t mean to interrupt, but the question unconsciously left him. “ did you…?”

“Get out of it? After being killed so many times I steadily learned how to piece myself together, heal at a faster rate, doing it bit by bit until I was finally able to use it to save myself. I wasn't even thinking really when I did, just threw together some form, something I could fight back in and then it kind of stuck. I guess you could root my knack for twisted methods of killing people to that. I’m not gonna describe it to you though; just after, I felt...relieved. That it finally stopped. I never wanted to have a faction because of that, and obviously my opinion changed, but for a while, I was alone. And by a while I mean for the longest time. I didn’t know what to do with myself, honestly. That’s why I saw myself in Faelan. The feeling of being lost, with no purpose, just wondering and repeating the same pattern of fighting, killing, eating, waiting for some form of calling. I gave up on looking for a purpose pretty fast though, and if I fought so hard to live, I didn’t want to die either. Ghosts were different back then compared to now. If you thought that they’re always thinking about their next meal now, your stomach would churn at how they were in the past. Then...I met Lavina. We didn’t meet until the start of The Great War. Although I wasn’t involved, I was still often attacked by territory hungry spirits, and I had just finished taking care of a batch. It was at that field actually. The same one I met you.”

“The wheat field? With the oak tree?”

“Yep, fate really does work in strange ways. She was almost exactly like she was now, didn’t care who I was, just insulted me for sleeping on a pile of dead bodies. Lavina demanded that I get rid of them because they were ruining her painting, which was supposed to be of the ocean beside it, and she couldn’t work with the smell. I, in short, told her to fuck off and she just continued to yell at me. Normally, at least back then, I would’ve either just left or eaten her, but I couldn’t bring myself to do either. I saw her painting and for the first time realized that the world wasn’t all so bad, so, I asked her if I cleaned the corpses, if she would let me watch her paint. She agreed, so I listened and did as she asked, and I fell asleep watching her paint. Not because I was bored, but because I just felt so...blissful, I guess. I never felt that way before. Everyday after that, I came to that field hoping I’d find her painting again, and she usually was, and she always let me watch. Eventually, she said that if I cleaned myself up from all the blood and everything, she’d invite me to her library, and obviously, I didn’t hesitate to do so. I had never felt so enamored by someone before, let alone someone peaking my interest period. I would go years, sometimes decades or longer without speaking to someone, so I didn’t know how to properly speak to her either. I didn’t exactly fit very well in her library, size wise, and that’s part of what pushed me to my decision to change my appearance. I asked her to draw one for me, and she could’ve made the ugliest person imaginable, but she didn’t. Lavina actually asked for my input a lot, but I didn’t really have any. I didn’t have any particular likes or dislikes, so she drew whatever she felt like. Maybe I’ll tell you some other time how I was able to do it, which is another personal secret of mine, but what you see now is what she drew for me back then. She taught me basically everything I know and just for the sake of doing so, and well, you know the story from there. Fell in love, met Neio and Dahlia, started a faction, dated for awhile, fell apart, stayed friends or whatever you call our dynamic. Then basically nothing eventful happened until I met you.”


“Nothing. Told you, I would just sleep for years sometimes because I was bored, see what the next generation entails. Could you imagine if I slept through your lifespan? I don’t know where I’d be honestly.”

It was a bit inspiring, his unwavering desire to try and live no matter how many times he died, albeit saddening in its own way. Izumi couldn’t begin to wrap his head around how he must’ve felt before meeting Lavina. Spending so many years alone, no one to call a friend or even an acquaintance…

“It never bothered you? Being alone I mean, before you met Lavina.”

“No, I used to think it was just how life was, but then with how I lived, I really started to believe it was what I deserved. I thought because I fought so hard against fate, that I was just cursed to be a walking carcass that should’ve stayed down.”

“But you didn’t really do anything wrong yourself, you just adapted to the circumstances you were in.”

Izumi’s naivety was a bit cute to Wraith, who knew the full story of his life and what he left out. “You say that for now, but maybe I’ll tell you the rest some day, and maybe you’ll change your mind.”

“Well I won’t! I told you I wouldn’t and my opinion of you hasn’t changed yet and never will!”

“So certain. I suppose we’ll see one day, but not today.”