Guiltless

On the 11th of January 1937 Johnathon Ignes is born. He is a suitable weight, in good health...but different from all the other babies in the ward, because he is born immune to guilt. 2 years and 235 days later, worldwide war breaks out.
Sent away as an evacuee, Johnathon grows up away from his mother, and meets Erebus, a cheeky paperboy. Erebus too, has no guilt, and under his influence, Johnathon grows up into a monster.
This is the story of how that monster, became a leader.
- The prequel to 'Souls' (but will make sense if you haven't read it) -

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38. Chapter 37

“The hunters have been targeting Dark Souls in particular,” Chloe began briefing the boys, “Probably because we’re the biggest threat in their eyes. They may be normal, and slower, and weaker, but they are all expertly trained. They’ve killed Dark Souls before, so don’t get over-confident and underestimate them. There’s a bar in Dustwood called ‘Dusties’, they tend to find Souls there, get them drunk, then attack them. The plan is to set Erebus up at the bar, and hope they go for him.”

“So I’m the bait?” Erebus checked, slightly put off by the fact.

“All you have to do is act stupid, reckless, and drunk.” Chloe reworded the proposition, “Shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for you”. Erebus grumbled something under his breath, and Chloe kicked him in the shins, but Johnathon hadn’t been listening enough to hear what it was he said.

“Johnathon and I will be waiting around the back, when they lead Erebus out we’ll pounce on them from behind, and then we’ll neutralise the threat.”

Neutralise the threat,” Johnathon mimicked her, speaking up for the first time since they’d set off, “Just say we’re going to kill them, quit trying to reword it to make it seem more humane.” Chloe straightened her posture, taken aback by his words.

“He’s been a little hot-headed recently,” Erebus spoke as if Johnathon were not sat right beside him, “As well as depressed, boring, and generally deflated.”

“Deflated?” Johnathon creased his brow, not sharing Erebus’s opinion.

“Yeah, like one of those cheap balloons you buy after a couple of days. You know, all saggy and ugly…” Erebus stopped speaking when Johnathon turned to glare at him, taking the unspoken hint. Johnathon looked back out of the window. Luckily, the journey was short, and they arrived within the hour.

Dustwood was everything Cantumville wasn’t. Quite, clean, small, and neat. Everything was orderly and pristine. The trees were a vibrant green, which shone out against the clouded blue sky, and merged with the brown bark which had no silly carvings staining it. The houses were all quite similar, no one seemed too much bigger than the other, and they all seemed pretty much the same from the outside. All made out of the same brick, all with the same roof tiling, all with small driveways and battered down cars. The air smelled and tasted cleaner somehow, there was no smoky edge that rose back up your lungs after you forced it down. Even the people were different. They all smiled as you walked past them, as if there were little halos above their heads.

“Well this place is dull,” Erebus remarked, “Are you sure a town like this is full of deadly hunters?”

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” Chloe reminded him, “We know for a fact there are trained assassins living here.”

“Where? Hiding in the prams? Creeping around the park?” Erebus chucked. Chloe rolled her eyes, not impressed or amused in the slightest.

“Come on, let’s get a room somewhere so we can prepare for tonight” she decided, leading the way. Once they’d booked in to a couple of rooms, they scattered. Chloe went to her own room, and Erebus went to shower.

Johnathon sat on the bed, taking in the change of scenery among other things. Somewhere, in this tiny spec of a town, were Adele’s parents. He might end up bumping into them. Would he know who they were if he saw them? Or would he not realise who it was he was barging past? Do they have her ginger curls? Or her soft brown eyes? Did they share her kind heart and forgiving nature? Just being in her home town made Johnathon feel different from normal. He was more thoughtful, more careful...more contemplative.

He lay back, and shut his eyes, feeling exhausted from the abrupt break to his routine. The bed was hard and small, but it didn’t matter all that much, he still managed to fall asleep upon it.

The cause of his wakening was much rougher anyway.

When Erebus’s foot collided with Johnathon’s ribs, pushing him off the bed and onto the floor with a firm ‘thud’, Johnathon’s first reaction was to punch, break, or seriously damage something or someone. Instead, he stood up coolly, trying to act as if his ribs didn’t ache from the gesture. Erebus stood tall and expectantly, and met his gaze without a hint of anxiety over what Johnathon might do next as a result of his actions.

“Ouch” Johnathon grunted, with a small amount of sarcasm leaking into his tone. Erebus shrugged, not bothered.

“It’s time to go,” he told him, “Chloe’s waiting for us downstairs”. Johnathon followed him out of the room, and they began the walk to ‘Dusties’.

With the sun down, the small town was even more subtly breath-taking. Streetlamps lit up the path with a golden glow. The rustling of leaves in the wind provided a calming background melody to accompany the small echoes of voices. Though the wind was cold, it was gentle in its force, soothing your cheeks as you walked rather than freezing them. Johnathon could see how a tone like this could have shaped a woman like Adele.

Dusties wasn’t anything like the rowdy bars of Cantumville. The people inside sat having a good old natter with their half pints of beer and empty ashtrays. The workers seemed to all wear genuine smiles and speak with honest positivity. Everyone seemed to know everyone, or at least they thought they did.

“Those men over there meet the description,” Chloe signalled to a table in the corner with her index finger, trying to go unnoticed.

“Alright then,” Erebus nodded, “Let’s get this over with”.

“Just walk past, spill a drink or something, and then don’t apologise. You’re paler than normal as it is, so they should put the pieces together after that. Let them buy you a drink…let them think they’re winning. Then lead them outside, and we’ll help you finish it off”. Chloe reiterated the instructions.

“Okay, just do one thing for me.” Erebus requested, “Try not to get me killed”.

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