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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66. Chapter 65

Erebus too, wasn’t without bruises. His cheekbones were outlined with a purple smudge that got darker the closer it inched to his black blue eyes. His ice white skin bore a ghoulish yellow tint that covered all of his face, creating a squeamish contrast between his neck and his face. His left cheek rose up in a lump above his face, swollen like a plum. As Johnathon neared closer he noticed he had a scar in his right eyebrow, and a badly swollen lower lip. In a sign of mutual hurt, Johnathon lowered the collar of his shirt, revealing his own bruises.

“Where were you this morning?” Erebus spoke first, taking a seat on the nearby sofa.

“With Eloise.” Johnathon knew that there was no point lying to Erebus, it would only make him madder. Erebus nodded, as if it had been what he was expecting to hear.

“Still got your job?” Erebus inquired, hope sneaking into his tone.

“Unfortunately for you, yes.” Johnathon confirmed. Erebus sighed at this, but there was something in his expression that made it seem like he was not surprised. Silence fell over the room, neither one of them knew what to do next. Johnathon was without understand of Erebus’s motive for coming, and Erebus was deprived of a motive for staying, leaving them in a powerful frozen scene.

“I saved your life last night…” Erebus finally ended the silence, trailing off to his thoughts.

“You nearly killed me last night.” Johnathon corrected him.

“But I decided not to, thus saving your life.” Erebus twisted his words, applying unjust logic to the events of the evening before.

“What do you want? A ‘thank you’?” Johnathon asked rhetorically, the volume of his voice rising as he got gradually more angry.

“Actually, yes. Yes I would.” Erebus nodded, “Do you think that if what happened last night had happened back in the 20th century that I would have spared your life? You would be dead for sure. I have changed Johnathon. I’ve gone soft, just like you did. Surely that proves that I, like you, can be trusted to be put in a position of leadership?” Johnathon sat down, already exhausted from the conversation. Erebus made a good argument, after all, he had done exactly as Johnathon had years ago, he had changed. Perhaps now, after saving his life, Erebus’s image was different? If Eloise could come around and check, then maybe they could get down to business at last?

“If you’ve really changed, then your image will be different. Eloise is in town, I’ll invite her over and we can solve all this.” Johnathon decided, coming up with a plan.

“We don’t need Eloise...we can do this together, just as two.” Erebus argued, “Come on Johnathon, look at me. Do you think I’ve changed?” As he spoke, Erebus shoved Johnathon lightly, so that he’d turn to face him directly. “Who needs Eloise? You look into my soul.”

“Erebus, I can’t actually-”

“Who cares about any of that? It’s your job, you should decide. Not her, you.” Erebus interrupted him, looking him in the eye. Johnathon, seeing no end to the disagreement, gave up.

“Erebus, I do not trust you as far as I can throw. We do this with Eloise, or we don’t do it at all.” Johnathon was firm, tired of playing around. Erebus frowned, shifting so he was no longer facing Johnathon. He buried his head in his hands, and when he next looked up, his eyes were bloodshot and damp.

“Every other word seems to be Eloise,” Erebus sighed, “What is it with her? Why is everyone so obsessed? Why does she have all the power?  Why can’t you do a single thing without her prior permission?”

“Erebus, she’s-”

“Don’t.” Erebus cut him off, “Don’t answer the question.” Johnathon shut his lips, and backed away slightly, giving Erebus his space. Erebus chuckled half-heartedly, sadness turning his laughs into gentle sobs. “Do you even want this job?” He stretched his arms out wide, “I don’t think you do, not like how I want it. I got you to kill a girl, I led a small army, I’ve stood by your side this last year, and last night I even spared your puny little life...would you do all that for the job? Would you go through years and years of longing and tactics just to inch closer and closer?” Erebus shook his head, deflating like a balloon, “This has been my single goal for decades. Do you understand what this feels like for me?”

Johnathon sat up, walking to rest against the windowsill. It was as if his eyes were finally open, open to the truth behind Erebus McKoy, open to the motive behind every action he had ever done. There had always been a part of him, even when Erebus seemed most beyond redemption, that had believed in a caring side to the devil. Call it stupidity, hope, or maybe even sentimentality...something had always driven him to believe Erebus had a heart. Now he knew once and for all how wrong he’d been. Every single time Erebus had come back to him, he’d had his own personal reason for doing so. He didn’t care about Johnathon. He only cared about Johnathon’s job.

“You haven’t changed at all,” Johnathon realised, “You are, and have always been, a self-centered selfish demon. You only care for yourself.”

“Well duh! I can’t believe you ever thought otherwise.” Erebus rolled his eyes, “But you’ve changed though. The navie child I once knew is gone, you’re smart, you can no longer be manipulated and twisted. You’ve gone over to the dull side.”

“What about this past year?” Johnathon suddenly thought, “You’ve stood by me, you’ve helped me raise my son.”

“And what did that get me? An invite to ASNM, and invite that was supposed to give me more power.” Erebus walked over, revealing his true motives.

“All of this...just for a job?” Johnathon couldn’t see how such a petty thing could fulfill a man so much.

“That small-minded attitude is exactly why you don’t deserve to lead,” Erebus grinned, “It’s not the job Johnathon, it’s the power. It’s the responsibility over hundreds of people and the importance of the title. I want people to know me, I want people to look up to me...I want people to be below me. All you want is to please Eloise…”

“So everything you’ve done over the past few decades has been driven by a desire to lead the Dark Souls? Absolutely everything?” Johnathon began to finally understand.

“Of course.” Erebus shrugged, “However, now I see what it does to people I’m beginning to reconsider. If the job comes with all these rules and regulations, if it comes with this dependency on the all mighty Eloise, then maybe I shouldn’t be so keen. Maybe my way to the top isn’t through politics. After all, she’ll never let me have the job, and you’ll never let me have it without her consent.”

“What are you saying Erebus?” Johnathon’s voice got infected with concern, he moved a little closer to Erebus, worried about what might happen next.

“I’m saying that because of you and her, I’m beginning to realise that that past 29 years of my life have been a complete waste.” Erebus clarified, shouting at an anxious Johnathon, “I’ve been chasing a worthless dream…” Johnathon almost pitied him, he seemed so broken. “No.” Erebus snapped, causing Johnathon to jolt back away from his thoughts, “I can still do this. I can still be strong...I just have to find a new source of strength.” In a flash, Erebus was next to the fireplace, examining the photos of Adele, Dmitri, Johnathon etcetera, feeling the top of the dusty frames with his pale fingers. “Why do you get to be happy Johnathon? No, scratch that. Why does Dmitri get to be happy? What has he done to deserve all this kindness and warmth. He killed Adele, he caused rebel forces to rise up...and yet people treat him like a little angel. What had he done to earn that?” Before Johnathon could stop him, Erebus had taken one of the photos of Adele, and smashed it down on the floor. Johnathon ran over, kneeling before the shards. “No. I won’t have it.” Erebus decided, walking away towards the door, “That boy does not deserve to be happy. He deserves to live a cold and empty life.” Erebus took another photo, of Johnathon and Adele on their wedding day, that was resting on the windowsill, and threw it across the room so it landed with the other at Johnathon’s feet. “I shall destroy any link that boy has to his mother. I shall remove Adele from this home, and this town, and this entire earth. He shall grow up without his mother, and forever have to live with that fact that it is entirely his own fault for ending her life. I shall build up my own strength by taking all of his.” Erebus walked up to the door, opening it up wide, before he left he turned around to state one last promise, “And believe me, I am being merciful.”

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