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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47. Chapter 46

13/1/1975:

“Now you’re leader, you have a whole bunch of new responsibilities.” Eloise began briefing Johnathon. They were in Kris’s study, along with Felicity, Andrew, and Kris himself. It was a private meeting for the leaders, everyone else was elsewhere having some form of fun in their absence. The meeting felt a lot more serious to Johnathon. The lighting was dimmer, the voice’s were firmer, the posture was straighter. This was where, he realised, all the important decisions would be made. “You need to try and flatten the hunter threat for the Dark Souls, whether that be through fighting or hiding is up to you, though I would recommend the second option... people are now almost certain Souls exist, we need to try and stay quiet.” Johnathon understood what Eloise was saying. He had noticed people looking at him oddly when he walked around Cantumville, alarmed by the colour of his skin, wondering if he was dangerous.

“Aside from that it’s just putting on a smiling face and showing people how much you care” Kris shrugged, his tone more casual than Eloise’s.

“Do you tell us what to do or…?” Andrew trailed off. Eloise sighed, shaking her head.

“It is completely up to you what you do, but I am happy to advise you if you need me to.” Eloise assured him. Andrew didn’t scream LEADER like the other people in the room did, he fiddled with his fingers, couldn’t seem to stay in one spot, and was always asking irrelevant questions.

“Then I think I’ll focus on finding more Knowlegde Souls” Andrew decided.

“Good idea” Eloise patted him on the back, though her expression seemed tired. Johnathon cleared his throat, wanting to move the discussion along.

“What about…?” He was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Come on through” Kris called out to the knocker. Tao stepped into the room. His eyes fixed on one person in particular...Johnathon. It wasn’t really a glare, more on a stare. He seemed to look at him as if he was waiting for him to respond to his intrusion. “What is it brother?” Kris asked him when he didn’t speak. Tao didn’t break his eye contact with Johnathon when he spoke his reply.

“You have a visitor” his voice was more articulate than usual, as if he were irritated by the fact.

“Who?” Kris prompted Tao, stepping forward towards him, slightly concerned that he was only looking at Johnathon. When Tao didn’t respond, Eloise let out a small gasp, as if she finally understood what Tao was saying.

“Send him in Tao” Eloise instructed. Tao nodded, and left the room. Before anyone could ask Eloise anything about the visitor, he entered the room.

He’d obviously been out in the rain. His blonde hair was drenched and mangled, it formed sharp spikes of strands that stuck out of his scalp. His black coat was glossy with the water that had fallen on to it, and his shoes were one shade darker than usual. His eyes darted around the room as soon as he stepped inside, and he smiled when he saw Johnathon leaning on the desk.

“Johnny boy,” Erebus grinned, “I’m back”. He opened up his arms wide in a sign of surrender. Johnathon stepped back, confused.

“Are you drunk?” He assumed. Two days before Erebus had stormed out in a strop, and he’d just suddenly reappeared, acting as though he’d won the lottery. Maybe he’d stolen the winner’s ticket…

“No,” Erebus rolled his electric eyes, “I’m just happy, is that a crime? Will you lock me up, leader?” Erebus wasn’t mocking Johnathon in his words, they almost seemed to congratulate him.

“What is your business here?” Felicity was tired of Erebus’s small talk.

“I came to stand by my buddy” Erebus rested his arm on Johnathon’s shoulder.

“Do you mind him being here?” Eloise addressed Johnathon, and Johnathon alone.

“He can stay” Johnathon gave in, Erebus took a seat, waiting expectantly for the discussion to re-start.

“Well, as I was going to say before...well, before Tao knocked on the door. We have much more to talk about. Such as the new species of Soul which is bound to arrive sooner or later.”Eloise stammered back into business.

“Oh yes, the C diagram” Johnathon recalled what she’d shared with him a while ago.

“Actually...the circle diagram,” Eloise corrected him, “You see, I don’t think Souls are going to continue to combine in this recurring cycle. I believe that all of us will combine to form a powerful Soul, able to change the world in the most simple of ways. It would explain why no Soul seems to have evolved from me. I think we’re looking for a Soul with the ability to nurture like a Wild Soul, been strong in their beliefs like a Dark Soul, have a hypnotic effect like the Songbirds, know about people like Knowlegde Souls, and have the innocence of a Just Soul.”

“What would that create?” Felicity inquired, nervously curious.

“Someone who knows what to say to convince you, who you’ll have to agree with. Someone who will stand up for their beliefs, but for all the right reasons. Someone with a Soul whiter than white, who can never end a life. A person who only needs to speak from the heart for you to comply to their words. Poetic Souls.” Eloise explained. Johnathon leant back, taking it all in. Eloise was rarely wrong in her conclusions, so he was willingly to believe her fully, and there were few flaws in her theory. All the Souls combining...it was a beautiful idea. Looking around the room, you could see everyone shared this opinion, their eyes baring the pleased surprise and understanding that only revelation can bring.

“She sounds boring” Erebus yawned, ruining the mood for everyone. Kris glared at him, not amused in the slightest. “What?” Erebus got defensive, “What sort of pathetic person can’t kill?”

“What sort of monster does nothing but?” Felicity stood up to him. It amazed people how much her confidence had grown, being put in a position of power had turned her headstrong. Erebus found this development unfortunate however, and responded to her question my mumbling under his breath. With that matter dealt with, the group turned to Eloise, ready to move on to the next issue.

“Unless any of you have anything else you wish to share, we’re done here” she announced. The leaders all exchanged looks, but nobody had anything to say. A few seconds later they became to collect their belongings and leave, when Erebus spoke.

“I have something to share,” he drummed his fingers on the desk, “I know I’m not a leader or anything, but you’ll probably want to hear it.” Everyone moved gradually backwards to where they were before, and Erebus smiled. Johnathon winced, Erebus smiling was never a good sign. If Erebus was cheerful he was either drunk, annoyed, or up to something. “As you all know, I left ASNM early this year after my friend Johnathon here got offered the job as leader of the Dark Souls. Now, it’s nothing personal Johnny boy, but I really think I’d be better suited to the role.” A small sigh escaped Eloise’s lips from the corner of the room, “I couldn’t just come out and say this of course, you all believe fully in Eloise’s judgement. I had to go out there and get some proof of my abilities. So I did.” Erebus paused, enjoying the spotlight, “I chose one of our most key and current issues, secrecy. We have to stay hidden because of those stupid little hunters trying to wipe us out. I don’t want to hide though. I have super speed, super strength, and no guilt for my actions whatsoever. I am the perfect warrior, along with all the Dark Souls. Why are we hiding when we can so easily win? Why hide at all for that matter? We’re not villains, we’re human, just as human as they are.” Erebus’s pace fastened as he got more emotional, but he abruptly paused, letting himself calm down. “I’m tired of hiding, and I am not the only one. All I had to do was find other Souls who, like me, don’t want to hide anymore.”

“What did you do?” Eloise interrupted him, concern creeping into her voice. Erebus didn’t look at her when he spoke.

“What was necessary.” Erebus was deliberately vague, “We, myself and the others, attacked the nearest council building. Nobody died, but some did get hurt, and everyone got scared. We put a big banner up outside saying ‘Integration for Souls’, and left the police to do their job.”

“What have you done?” Felicity was appalled, “Do you really think attacking people is the way to earn our rights? They’ll see us as the enemy, there’ll be a war…”

“If there is ever a war, we will be the victors.” Erebus cut her off, “And all we’re doing is confirming our existence.”

“This attack will make people side with the hunters,” Eloise placed her hand to her mouth, “Erebus, you have ruined everything”.

“You’re missing the point!” Erebus snapped, standing up, “I led a group of Souls into an attack. I led them. I was a leader to them! I went out there and actually did something, which is more than can be said for all of you, sitting here planning out how you can hide. I was a leader...a good one too. I proved I can make tough decisions, and that I can persuade other people to follow me. I am a leader. Why can’t you all see that?”

“We can see you’re a leader Erebus, the thing is you’re not a good one!” Eloise shouted, losing her temper. Everyone spun to look at her, shocked by her outburst. “Your decisions are rash, your mind is twisted, your selfish and silly...you can lead, yes, but you lead clumsily.” The room fell silent after that, Johnathon half expected Erebus to run over and snap Eloise’s neck. Erebus was scarily quiet, his rage shutting his lips and balling his fists…

“She’s right.” Johnathon agreed with Eloise, standing up, “When Souls to reveal themselves we need to do it so we make the right impression. We need people to see us as allies and equals, not enemies and scum. You’ve ruined everything Erebus, we should have hid for longer.”

“What?” Erebus hadn’t been expecting Johnathon to speak.

“If it were my call, which it should have been, we would have hid for longer, and we would have came out in a less dramatic way.”Johnathon summarised.

“Well it’s too late now, isn’t it?” Erebus snarled. “Despite my efforts, you all fail to see the favour I have done for you.” For a second, it looked as though he might leave, but then he turned around to address Johnathon. “Do you really think I see you differently now you’re the leader? I’ve known you since you were two years old! I’ve seen your darkest days, and your brightest ones. I know who you really are Johnathon, and believe me, you’re no leader.” Johnathon took a small step forward, so that him and Erebus were only inches apart.

“I trust Eloise’s judgement over yours,” he murmured, “It’s nothing personal Erebus.”

Johnathon left after that, his heart racing. He searched for Adele, needing her next to him.

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