Chapter 55:

Under The Oak Tree

Red is the Color of You

     It was a comfortably warm day, not delving into being too hot or too chilly, which was surprising for this time of the year–- the strange middle ground between the end of summer and the start of fall. Nothing had changed about the wheat field by the ocean cliffside in the best way imaginable. No matter what happened throughout these months, it still stayed the same. Wraith would say that it’s been the mildly same for millenia. A graceful, light breeze rustled the champagne stalks, creating a soft chime of tranquility. And still, on the far end of the field stood the large oak tree, undisturbed by the turmoils of time. There was one thing in particular that Izumi recognized a change in though. The once unknown man was still sitting atop a branch, but now he knew him, and very well.

“I hope you didn’t fall asleep waiting for me.”

The robe rustled in excitement before the man could. “In all honesty I almost did, the weather is amazing today.”

Hopping off the branch and on his feet, Izumi gave his boyfriend a welcoming kiss before they sat against the tree trunk, hand in hand.

“How’d it go with Vahan?”

“Weird?” Wraith took off his robe, draping it over Izumi’s exposed legs due to his skirt. “He apologized to me if you can believe it. Blamed himself for everything–well–not everything everything. Just stuff like Barron knowing you were human and telling him that Thia probably knew about my past and all that. Really after talking to him I feel like I’ve misunderstood him, you know? I always thought he had a stick up his ass and was always on mine, but he’s a pretty cool guy. I still think he sort of dislikes me a little bit though, just can tolerate me now which is leagues different from before.”

“That’s great to hear I think? Least he doesn’t one hundred percent hate you now, just like, ninety.”

“Ehh, like ninety eight.”

They both laugh together at their silly, low effort joke. Ever since then, the attacks began to die down almost to a close, save a stray here and there. This led them to believe that maybe Barron had spread the rumors about Izumi to frame Wraith some more, but there was no use dwelling on it now.

“Sucks though, I can’t sell that information now.”

“What, about how to kill me?” Wraith scoffed. “Shame, you would’ve been rich. Could’ve quit your journalism career and kicked your feet up on the beach.”

“Well this is no beach but I’m still kicking my feet up aren’t I? It’ll have to do, as long as it’s with you, I don’t really care.”

“Oh look at you, being flirtatious for once I see?” He kissed the back of Izumi’s hand before planting another on his soft smile.

Izumi tried to further work his enchantment, continuing to cutely grin as he caressed Wraith’s arm. “There is something you could tell me though.”

“Let me guess, what’s the deal with the robe?”

“Nooooo~…Yes. Please?”

“Tell me what you think it is first.”

“Aw come on!”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t, so, tell me what you think first.”

“Hmmm…judging by your pipe and the thorns being able to move and some other things, I just think it’s magical in the same sense as your pipe. That you can just turn it into things or whatever.”

“Final answer?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Izumi gleefully chuckled, a slight sway in his tender coral strands; Wraith could listen to him speak and laugh forever. “Yes, final answer.”

“Right in your own way. You remember when you asked me if I split my heart in pieces?”


“It was my soul actually. I split my soul in half. One is here.” Wraith placed Izumi’s hand over his quietly beating heart. “And the other is here.” He slid Izumi’s palm to his robe, still draped on his own legs. “And technically, the smallest fraction here too.” The last place he guided him to was his necklace: the bloodstone.

“What?! You let me carry that around?!!!”

“Oh don’t worry my love, it’s just a crumb in the pie. You know when I was in my true form at the council? If they really did try to kill me then I’d still be alive juuuust because of that small part in your necklace. So really, you’d save my life.”

“You made me a backup plan.”

“Don’t take the romance out of it!”

“What’s romantic about giving me a beacon that says, ‘Hey if you want to kill the most hated man in the world, a part of his soul is right here!’ ?!”

“You’re already dating that same man, you’re already a target baby.” Wraith snickered as he pulled Izumi into another kiss with a tug on his necklace. Izumi couldn’t even be upset, getting flustered immediately instead.

“Fine yes it is romantic it’s incredibly romantic that you’d give me a piece of yourself so you’re with me always! Happy I said it I admit it.”

“Yes I am veeeery happy, heh.”

Izumi shook his head in embarrassment, feeling the burn in his ears along with a slight nibble from Wraith to solidify his humiliation.

“Is that it? It just has a part of your soul? The robe I mean.”

“Yes and no. It actually is a specific part of me. My…unsettling side I suppose. The once monster of a man is all contained in the piece of red and black cloth before you. So, my not-so-human form really.”

“And how did you manage to do that? I remember some time ago everyone finding it insane you even managed to change your appearance so drastically.”

“Do you really wanna know? It’s kind of disgusting, you might not like the robe after that.”

“I’ve seen and heard all sorts of things at this point, it couldn’t get any worse.”

“You remember that rose that Barron gave you at the ball?”

“The one that feeds off of specter’s blood or something? With really sharp thorns?”

“Yea that one. So wellllll, I tore off my skin and parts of my body and sewed it back together with my soul and using that same rose, more of the stems but you know. So in actuality, that robe is just as much of me as the me you’re seeing now.”

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, Izumi was pretty unphased by the methodology behind it all. “Could it turn into you then? Or like speak or anything?”

“It can actually, but it won’t be any different from me. Like I said, it essentially is just me like if I cloned myself but shared the same consciousness if that makes sense. As in it would just respond to whatever I’m feeling or thinking or however I’m acting.”

“I think I get it? If it turned into you then, would it look exactly like you do now or a bit different?”

“It’d be like that one form you’ve seen like twice.”

“With the long red hair?”

“Yea that one.”

“I can’t say I expected that or didn’t. The only thing I don’t get though is why you were so on edge about me not wearing it semi naked.”

Wraith looks away for a moment, his cheeks flushing in the slightest. “Ugh it’s embarrassing…”

“Just tell me! You said it wasn’t just because you thought it was hot, just tell me what else is it! Pleaaaase~!”

“Alright alright, fine. I can feel whatever it feels, alright? As in if it’s brushing against your skin like it is now, I can feel that. If someone set it on fire, although it wouldn’t burn I’d still feel the heat. And if you really want me to say it, then yes, I don’t want you to wear it whether you’re semi or fully naked because I can’t control myself if I’m feeling your body like that. Happy?”

This time Izumi’s face tinted a light pink instead yet at the same time he laughed boisterously. “Oh you can’t contain yourself? PFFT– Oh Izumi~ Your skin is so soft~ I just have to have sex with you~~!

“Shut the actual hell up.” Wraith grew even more flustered and it truly burned. All of months of tormenting Izumi finally came back to him, and he was reveling in it.

Trying his best to quell his laughter, Izumi attempted to change the subject. “Here, maybe this’ll help calm you down.”

Handing him a sapphire gift box with an amber ribbon, Wraith was visibly dumbstruck.

“Well, open it won’t you?” Izumi probed.

“You got me something?”

“No, give it back it slipped out of my hands. Of course I did! You gave me a gift before and so much more, it’s the least I could do for everything you’ve done.”

“Izumi, you didn’t have to–”

“Ah-ah-ah, just open it open it.”

Pulling what strands of himself together that he could find, Wraith took a deep breath and delicately unfolded the ribbon. Lifting the cover he found a slick, steel black lighter. On the front was an intricate carving of roses, thorns, and vines, while the back contained some slight carvings of the same as well as a message in the center:

“I love you and always will, so please
love yourself just as much.”
                       ~Izumi ♡

The fluttering lighter moistened and gleamed by the grace of a tear. For a moment Izumi was frightened that he had done something painfully wrong, but he soon realized that wasn’t the case because…Wraith was smiling the kindest smile he has ever seen befall him.

With his wrist, he wiped the streams off and spoke in the softest voice Izumi ever heard from his partner. “You realized it faster than I did then….what I was lacking.”

“Self worth. You’ve always hated yourself and thought you were never good enough, that people were right about you. But that’s not true Wraith. You’ve grown past your actions and you’ve shown not just me but the world that you’re more than what they see. You’re more than what you once were. One or a thousand or a million things that someone has done before doesn’t necessarily determine who they are right now at this present moment because everyone can redeem themselves, and that applies to you too. To you of all people even. You’ve been alive for centuries, Wraith. You’ve changed and made changes to better your own world and ours, and you became the better person that you never believed yourself to be, but you are. Do you remember when I had asked you if I did the right thing when we finally apprehended Fuhiro? You told me that the world is worth living in. If that’s true, then act like it Wraith. You have a place in this world and you have worth, and don’t let the words of anyone take that from you.”

Just as the streaks left, they had swiftly returned and almost in full force. Wraith clenched the lighter in his palm, his voice shaking as he spoke, “I.....I love you so much Izumi. I want you to know that and that will never change either. Whether I revert to who I once was or not, I will always love you. I am hopelessly in love with you, Izumi Mitsue. You and only you.”

Sunlight peered through the leaves and illuminated their jointed smiles. A light flush of pink tinted Izumi’s cheeks, almost matching the coral of his hair. And with his mint eyes he locked gazes with Wraith.

“I love you too, Wraith. Specter of despair and all. Or as they say, the remanant , hehe.”

“Who says that? What?”

“No one, don’t worry about it.”

And thus another playful fight broke out once more. All that could be heard in the wheat field was no longer the howls of a forsaken creature, but the joyous banter of a couple and all…

Under the oak tree.