Chapter 44:

Search and Rescue

Red is the Color of You

     After Wraith had calmed down, he let Izumi go and showered first to help ease his heart. They showered separately in case they couldn’t suppress themselves–mainly Wraith in this case. As he waited for Izumi to finish, he dried his hair on the bed, scrolling through his phone and the pictures they took at the zoo. Wraith didn’t lack knowledge in technology, but he still needed help with certain things, like finding specific settings. It was nice to customize his device and he smiled upon the change in lockscreen and wallpaper. The former consisted of a photo of the couple, smiling in front of the tiger exhibit, while the latter was only of Izumi, beaming towards the camera. Tapping the embers off his cigarette, the fond memories replayed like a reel in his mind. Eyebrows relaxing, Wraith affectionately smiled. Beside him a vibration shook the covers–Izumi’s phone. Glancing at the contact, it was a name he wasn’t familiar with: Mrs. Gotou. Wraith mulled over whether to answer the phone or not, and by the time he came to a conclusion, the ring had stopped just as Izumi stepped out of the bathroom.

“Someone called you, Mrs. Gotou? Or something.”

“Eiji’s mom? That’s surprising, she never calls unless-...” Looking a little strained, Izumi picked up his phone and called back. The conversation was somewhat brief, but Wraith got the idea of what it contained. His mom couldn’t get ahold of Eiji and had been asking if Izumi had seen him. The phone rang again, this time with Izumi trying to reach his best friend to no avail. Scowl growing, he turned to Wraith.

“That’s weird, Eiji always tells him mom if he’s gonna be out. It’s not like he’s dating anyone.”

Extinguishing the cigarette in the ashtray, Wraith held Izumi’s paws. “Worried?”

“A bit…”

“I can look into it for you if you want? With my sense of smell, I’m sure I can find him.”

“It could just be nothing, so I don’t know. What worries me is that his mom said that even last night he wasn’t answering, but she decided to wait till morning just in case she was just being paranoid.” A little lost in thought, he weighed his options: have Wraith go, him and Wraith could go, or he could let time tell. With the first two, he’d have to call out of work. But would he really prioritize his work over his best friend?

Almost reading his mind, Wraith pecked his temple to ease his worries. “Like I said I can check it out, it’s not like I have anything to do.”

“No, no. I’ll go with you.” Sighing, Izumi dialed his boss after coming to his conclusion. “He’s my best friend so I should be looking after him, not sending you to do my dirty work….Before we leave do you mind getting some pants for me? My hoodie covers my neck but my um legs…”

Looking down, Wraith saw the teeth marks and red spots that marked his legs and laughed. It honestly looked like Izumi had slept with a bear the previous night. “Pfft sure yea.” With a snap of his fingers, a pair of black pants appeared and Izumi snatched them immediately in somewhat embarrassment, swapping his skirt with them.

     He had given a not very convincing story about a ‘family emergency’ in order to get out of work that day, but his boss didn’t seem to mind although he dreaded Takeda’s inevitable whining later. They left the hotel, heading to Eiji’s work first: a gym trainer. He had been trying to get a job in athletics, starting with a coach for a school though he hadn’t been successful yet, settling with a volunteer coach for a club. Izumi did most of the talking while Wraith listened for possible lies. It would’ve been much easier had that been the case, yet to their dismay, the employees had no reason to lie. The preceding day was fairly normal. Eiji had come in for work, seemed normal in every way, then left. With no leads, their next stop was the club he volunteered for, which had more or less the same result. The only useful information they learned was that he had a job interview that day so he left early, and according to one of the other volunteers, he mentioned it being for a school. After catching the name, they headed over there as well. Luckily, Wraith seemed to be calm. That was a good sign. In times like these, Wraith always seemed to grow more agitated with time, catching onto something that Izumi couldn’t see, but so far everything matched up. Maybe he and Mrs. Gotou were just being paranoid. Though, his gut told him otherwise. And soon, his hunch would be right. The school led to a dead end as well, so all they had left to rely on was Wraith’s sense of smell to track Eiji.

While trailing his scent, they walked side by side but didn't hold hands. At this point it was already late in the afternoon and the backstreets were fairly empty. “You guys are always talking about having a good sense of smell.”

“Just a spirit and specter thing. I'm not sure how to explain it, like we have a strong presence and it kinda lingers. Your friend smells like crap though.”


“Like crap. Like the sweat off a camel's balls.”

“Huh?! How do I smell then?!”

“Not bad haha, how do I put it...sweet but soft. Similar to vanilla but with a tinge of flowers. I guess vanilla flowers then.”

“You sure that's not just because you like me and hate him?”

“If it worked like that most people would smell bad to me-” Stopping in his tracks, Wraith glanced around.

“What is it?”

“His scent ends here.”

They were in the middle of a residential alley, with no possible explanation as to where he could've gone.

“Not exactly though, it ends here but continues in the air, a little muddled mixed with something I don't recognize.” Mumbling a curse and heavily exhaling, he continued. “Don’t panic but-”


“Proooobably but that's not the worst part. If I'm right then it's in the direction of Adelard’s territory. At the least if I do have to use magic I think it'll be fine. Adelard usually doesn't care about that kind of thing because he thinks fighting is a hassle. The issue is more you being there and he'll wonder why you care about a human AND why he can see you, since they think you're a spirit remember? I'm not gonna send you home but it's more a problem for later. For now, just hold on tight.”


Sweeping Izumi off his feet, Wraith hitched him over his back and leapt over the rooftops in a flash. Within no time the buildings began to fade and they grew close to a forest, at which point he set Izumi onto the leaf-covered ground. Despite it being summer, the leaves on the ground were shades of orange and red, while the trees were some mix of green, though some already started to fade.

He had traveled with Wraith by that method several times and still never got used to it, patting the cold air off his face and stretching his legs.

“Is his scent still here?”

“Yea, just ahead-”

Abruptly, a giant figure thundered before them as it dropped from the sky, shaking the ground enough for Izumi to nearly topple over if Wraith hadn't caught him. If he thought Faelan was tall and Neio wide, the enormous spirit completely toppled his former expectations. It was at least two stories in height, its muscles and veins bulging as a meaty tail struck the floor, kicking up leaves in the process.

With a thunderous bellow it bent like an ape and roared, spit flying and their hair gushing back. “YOU!!!”

Wiping the drops off his face with the sleeve of his jacket, Wraith seemed more annoyed than anything else. “Me.”

“For the sake of YOUR SPOUSE I will be GENEROUS. TURN. BACK.”

“Listen. Of all people you shouldn't give me demands. I'm looking for someone and if you don't back down big guy, I'll make you.”


Before the brute can finish, the thorned pattern of Wraith’s jacket detaches itself and flings the spirit by its ankle with ease, colliding with numerous trees and shattering them with a loud burst. Shaking his head, Wraith continues to walk forward, Izumi bewildered following behind.

“He isn’t gonna follow us…?”

“Won’t and can’t.” Wraith gestures left with a nod. In the distance, through the broken stumps and rustled leaves, Izumi could faintly see the spirit laying on the floor, its violent vociferations could still be heard. It seemed like it was struggling to get up-like something kept pulling it down. “The thorned vines are holding him in place. Ugh I hate that guy, one of Adelard’s generals. I think he only keeps him around because he’s all brute and no brains. Glass cannon.”

“More like just glass with how easily you tossed him aside, geez. You didn’t even move.”

“Infamous for a reason my looooooooovely day outside right? Yea.” Wraith rubbed the nape of his neck and glanced away, Izumi a little puzzled but ultimately ignoring it.

     It didn’t take long for them to reach an abandoned worn down structure, charred black from either age or a fire, likely the latter or both; strangely it was located in the middle of the forest, which lacked any other buildings. Judging by the interior, it seemed to have once been a home, although who would live here or once lived here was a question that would never be answered. The scent brought them here and continued to a cellar beneath the home, and there unconscious in the dark was Izumi’s best friend. Bolting over, he shook him awake, noting his lack of wounds though he was restrained by several ropes and tied to a beam.

“Eiji! Wake up!!”

Wraith thought about how the scene gave him a bit of deja vu and searched for why. Then he remembered. Oh right, when I kicked his ass.



“I don’t know do some–”

Just as the words left, Eiji slowly came to with Izumi’s repeated shaking. “Mmm….Izu..mi?”

He almost asked Wraith for a blade, but remembered that he gave Izumi the bloodstone for a reason. Holding it in his palm and with only a thought, it turned into a knife and he cut Eiji’s bindings. As he rubbed the area, he blinked hard, trying to analyze the situation. Then, his eyes landed on Wraith and he scooted back.

“It’s just Wraith he’s not gonna hurt you.” Izumi glared for confirmation and Wraith just scoffed and looked away. “He helped me find you, your mom had called and said you didn’t come home last night. How did you even get here?”

“I don’t know honestly. I was walking home after my interview then the next thing I knew I woke up here. Some teen? Started talking to me. Something about making a deal with him or being lonely I honestly couldn’t tell you I just remember cutting him off because I figured he just wanted to eat me or something like you ghost people do. Then he just said I’ll give you some time to change your mind and well, here I am.”

Struggling to stand, Eiji wobbled before gaining his footing with Izumi’s help.

“Did he have black hair? Bags under his eyes? Looked kinda emo?” Wraith asked, lighting a cigarette.


“Adelard.” He sighed a cloud of tobacco. “Better we don’t loiter around then. If I can avoid a confrontation I’d like to.”
Wraith opens a portal to what looks like Izumi’s room and gestures for them to go in first. Eiji hesitates, standing in front of the portal and shifting his gaze between Wraith and the wall behind him.

“Ugh fuck it. I don’t know if Izumi told you the things I said but I’m sorry anyways, to both of you. I guess…you’re not all that bad…”

He didn’t really know what the argument was between him and Izumi, but he could take a guess from the statement. Then he twitched slightly. For a moment Izumi thought Wraith sensed something.

“Well, everyone hates me so who can blame you. Take care of Izumi for me, with yesterday and all the walking today I’m sure his legs hurt like crazy.”

“Wraith what are you–...?” Izumi didn’t finish his thought before Wraith pushed the pair into the portal and closed it. The last thing he saw was Izumi’s torn and confused face, and although it mangled his heart, he couldn’t risk being seen by-

“Adelard! Funny seeing you here.” Ashes of his cigarette fused with the burnt wood as he forced a smile. Behind the teenage boy was the boar of a spirit crouching since he couldn’t really fit in the cellar.

“I’d prefer you skip the humor and hellos, why’d you run off with my meal? I don’t need to tell you of all people the consequences of that. Or maybe Barron’s right and you picked a fight with Ianthe rather than the other way around?”

“Short story, I need that kid. Alive. I’ve got a deal with a human where I can basically be their errand boy with obvious caveats and pay-ups but that kid was a friend of theirs. Shorter shorter story, forget about it.”

A deep harsh clamor burst from the visibly enraged general. “My Lord he is a SERPENT that committed an act of WAR!!!”

Both the words of the specter and his own general rang back and forth within Adelard. Let it go or start a war.

“Listen, you of all people I know wouldn’t want to start a fight and do you really care if people think you less of it? Honestly I’m sure most of the spirits under you would actually prefer it if you don’t fight me. The outcome is obvious and really avoidable. If I really wanted to kill you I wouldn’t be going through such lengths to convince you not to.”

“WHERE is your SPOUSE.”

It took everything Wraith had to not paint the general onto the wall a second time and he merely sighed his aggravations and continued. “You don’t attack me, I won’t attack you.”

“And how do you plan to explain this when a meeting is called?”

“Same thing I told you just now. I don’t care if they believe me or not, but that’s the truth.”


“Shut up.” Pausing to think, Adelard didn't take long to come to a conclusion. “We’re leaving it. He’ll take more backlash for entering the territory than we’ll get for letting him go. Or do you value your pride more than your life? Dying in honor? It’s more stupidity. Look where that put Ianthe and her entire ‘legacy’, followers included. If you want to pick a fight with him and die be my guest, but I won’t bring the rest into this because he beat you and you want payback. And if you had any sense of mind, you’d let it go too. Neither Ianthe or Vahan could beat him, so what do you think a spirit like you can do?”

For once, the beastly general backed down, lowering his head in both respect and shame.


With one last exchanged glare, the brute left with his master, leaving Wraith alone in the cellar as he sighed in relief.

     Izumi didn’t hear from Wraith until the end of the day. Desperately he tried to call him once the portal had closed, both through the gem and his phone, to no avail. Eiji apologized several times after the fact, only getting yelled at in return for a multitude of reasons.

“Do you know how much he put on the line just to save your sorry ass and then you want to tell me he’s a bad guy?!”

“I said I’m sorry ok!! I said sorry to him, I said I’m sorry to you, why can’t you just let it go!!”

“Because now there’s a half and half chance that he just dug himself into a hole for you and the fact I can’t reach him is killing me.”

“Can you at least explain??”

“You got caught by a specter like Wraith of all people and they have rules about messing with each other. I’m not worried about Wraith getting hurt or anything but it’s the fact that he already got in trouble for the same thing not even that long ago. Just-ugh…” Izumi collapsed into the office chair, lost at what to do.

Eiji leaned on the desk beside him, folding his arms. “I still don’t really get what’s going on but I think it’ll be fine. He’s a….” Denying to himself that he was even saying the words, he paused for a moment before trying again. “He’s a reliable guy. Seems to like you a lot so I’m sure he wouldn’t do anything that’d put him in a bad spot for your sake. Maybe he’s just talking to that Adelard guy or whatever and can’t get back right now. Try later, yea?”

Starting to realize he was getting a bit hasty, Izumi calms down and nods his head.

Just as Eiji said, Wraith called him much later, when it was nearly midnight and Izumi was half asleep. It’d be the first phone call they’d had and it felt strange, but it wasn’t the time to think about that.

“Wraith are you-?”

“I’m fine, don’t worry. Talked it out with him. Told you, Adelard’s a bit more reasonable but it’s more because he has this sort of ‘don’t care’ attitude to him.”
Through the phone line he could hear Izumi’s subtle and soft breathing and he knew him all too well. He was worried anyways.

“You promise? If I see you next time and you’re missing an arm because you gave it as compensation I’ll kill you.”

“I promise.”

Even though they couldn’t see each other, they could feel the other’s smile.

“Do you like the phone?” In an attempt to get his mind off things, Izumi changed the topic.

“It’s nice, but I’d prefer to just come over next time.”

“And scare me like you always do since you never use the front door?”

“Then I’ll come through the front door next time.” A slight itch to pinch Izumi’s nose irked him and he exhaled. “Go to bed, Izumi. You have work in the morning. If you keep making excuses to talk to me I really might just come over, and then you won’t sleep.”

“Shut up.” Izumi chuckled, knowing that nothing ever got past Wraith. “Goodnight.”


Hanging up the phone, Wraith held the device against his chest. Hearing Izumi’s voice so close to his ear set a cage of butterflies loose within. And likely, Izumi felt the same.