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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45. Chapter 44

“Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please.” Eloise rose her voice above the clamour of chatter, “I trust you are all enjoying your evenings, and I will let you return to them shortly, I promise. But first, we must run a few updates and settle some unsettled matters. First, I shall hand over to Kris Maines, the Wild Soul leader, to tell you all what he’s been up to in the last year.” There was a small round of applause from the crowd, and Kris stood up from his seat.

“Nothing much has changed for me and the Wild Souls. More and more people arrive here everyday, it is obvious Souls are becoming increasingly common. We welcome around two or three newcomers each month, and that is just here. There are other camps around the country admitting Wild Souls too. However, with increased numbers, comes an increased risk. Hunters are everywhere, and we are not as safe as we used to be. We lead weekly parties to try and find Wild Souls before they do, but we are not always quick enough...” Kris paused, needing a moment, “That said, everything seems to be running smoothly in general.”

“Thank you Kris.” Eloise patted him on the back, “You’re doing an excellent job. Felicity, you’re next.” Felicity stood up, walking over to Eloise.

“Just under five years ago my band was due to play at Gael’s birthday party, it is fair to say that it didn’t go all too well. It is, however, also fair to say that it was one of the most important moments of my life. I got discovered by Eloise, and two years later, she made me the leader of the Songbird Souls. A lot can change in a short space of time, and this year is no exception. I’ve been touring around the country, and meeting other Songbird Souls. We’ve learnt as a community to control our gift. Though we cannot stop people losing their senses when we sing, we can learn to control the power with which we do this, and at weak levels, most Souls are almost resistant, most normals can put up some form of a fight against it, and Dark Souls are barely affected anyway. I am currently aiding training programs for Songbirds, and will continue to do so over the course of the next year.” Felicity gave her update. Johnathon personally found she spoke too much, Kris had gotten to the point quickly, but Felicity had gone on and on about her backstory before finally telling everyone what they needed to hear.

“Thank you Felicity…”

“Oh! And one more thing…” Felicity interrupted Eloise, remembering something else she wanted to say, “It has come to my knowledge that there is a nickname going around for my kind. I would like to request you all stop using it. We are Songbird Souls, not shrieking pigeons.” There were a few giggles around the room at the mention of the second name given to the songbirds. Even Adele smiled a little.

“Yes, thank you” Eloise regained control of the room, “Now onto another matter. Knowledge Souls. They need a leader, do they not? I have chosen Andrew Smith to fulfill this role for the time being. He is a logical and clever man who will do great things for the Knowledge Souls as they integrate into our community. Andrew, would you like to say a few words?”

“Alright then,” a short man with short, tidy brown hair came out from the crowd. He didn’t look like anything special. They way he walked, the way he spoke, he seemed…forgettable. “Hello everyone, I’m Andrew. Uh, I’ve, um, well I’ve only known about being a Soul for a month or so, and I’m still getting, uh, used to it really. I don’t have anything to report, I’m-well, you see, I haven’t had a chance to, well, do anything” he chuckled nervously, even from a distance you could see the sweat gleaming on his forehead, “That will be all”.

“Well done Andrew, and good luck” Eloise bit her lip, knowing that his speech had not exactly been inspiring, “And now, onto the final matter of business for tonight. In order for ASNM to continue over the next two days, each Soul group will need a leader. As of yet, no-one has replaced Chloe Franks in the position of leading the Dark Souls. Tonight, that will change. Before I announce who is to be her successor, I would like to share something with you all. To be a good Soul is easy, all you have to do is listen and trust in your instincts. To be a good Soul leader, is another thing entirely. It takes a resilient ability to stand up for what you believe in, and for who you trust. You need to be able to try and see a better future, no matter what situation the present in forcing upon you, and you need to be able to use this vision as motivation for success. You cannot be afraid to fail, or to take a few hits, and you must always rise to challenges. Most of all, and specific to Soul leadership, you need to act as yourself. Notice that you are not the same as normals, or as other types of Soul, and use that to benefit everyone. What they cannot you, but you can, do. What you cannot do, but they can, suggest. There is someone standing in this room right now who proved to me tonight that he can do that. When I first met him, I would have never believed he could one day be the person he is now. He is, in my eyes, a leader, and I hope that one day he will be in your’s too. Johnathon Ignes, will you come up here please?” Johnathon didn’t react at first when Eloise said his name, as if he couldn’t quite believe that he was the Johnathon Ignes she was referring to. It wasn’t until Adele gave him a shove forward that he came to his senses.

The crowd cleared as he walked forward, he now understood why Andrew had been so anxious addressing everyone. The lighting shone brighter, the noises sounded sharper, and the room felt hotter. Everything was intensified.

“Johnathon, I understand this will come as a bit of a shock to you, but I would very much like you to lead the Dark Souls.” Johnathon didn’t speak, he just looked at her blankly. “Well...do you have anything to say?”

“I do,” a voice that wasn’t Johnathon’s spoke out from the crowd, “No. He doesn’t want to do it. Pick someone else.” Erebus approached them both, his face firm and irritated.

“I think Johnathon can speak for himself Erebus” Eloise sighed as if she had been expecting this sort of reaction.

“Well he hadn’t spoken so far” Erebus pointed out.

“You haven’t given him a chance to” Johnathon hadn’t realised that Adele had come up behind him.

“You can stay out of this. This is Soul business, you’re a normal” Erebus sneered at her.

“This is Johnathon’s business, and I’m his girlfriend” she argued.

“Will you both be quiet?” Johnathon requested, speaking for the first time. He turned to Eloise, “Why me?” Eloise smiled.

“Because you don’t always do the right thing.” She shrugged, “Because you stand up for yourself and the people you care about. Because you have no fear in the face of trouble. Because you understand who you are, and you know who you want to be. Because you are the rightful leader.” Johnathon looked away from her, and his eyes met with Adele’s. Though she didn’t speak, he expression told him everything he needed to know. It was encouraging, and seemed to be saying go on.

“Are you actually considering this?” Erebus snapped at him, “You couldn’t herd sheep, let alone lead an entire race of people!”

“Oh be quiet!” Adele lost her temper, shouting at Erebus as if he couldn’t kill her at any second, “You’re not helping”.

“Neither are you. With your romance, and your goodness, you’ve turned him soft. He’d be much better of without you.” Erebus growled at her.

“That’s a matter of opinion.” Eloise cut into their argument. Erebus looked around the room, shocked by the lack of reaction.

“Am I the only one who has a problem with this?” He screamed out into the crowd, “Is everyone here seriously fine with him leading the Dark Souls. A man who had the nerve to bring a normal to ASNM. A man who does what he likes regardless of our rules or expectations. Am I the only one who sees this for how it is? This is an atrocity!”

“Calm down” Kris stepped forward, concerned by Erebus’s behaviour.

Erebus turned slowly towards him, his face sweaty and enraged. He lifted up his left arm, and collided his fist with Kris’s stomach, throwing him across the room.

“No” Erebus spat, “I shall not calm down. I’m done with all of this, with all of you. You pretend to know everything, but you don’t! I won’t be a part of this anymore.” In a flash, he was gone, storming out of the party like a toddler having a tantrum. People rushed to Kris’s aid, but Johnathon lagged behind.

Adele watched him turn and go up the stairs, and didn’t follow after him. She knew many things about Johnathon, such as when it was best to leave him alone.

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