Shackles of Guilt

Fanfiction based on Guilty Crown,
written by Vuken

I own none of the characters nor any element of the original work, this story is the result
of my passion for the animated series and is meant as a tribute to Guilty Crown's creators.
- Vuken

Chapter 1

Seeker of Redemption

The night breeze coolly blows throughout the rooftop, brushing my hair as I fix my eyes on the phone screen in my hands. The atmosphere's pensive mood is getting into me, making me reminisce about my past as I delve into myself. These past few hours have made me wonder how long it has been since I realized that deep inside, I am dead.

Proof of it is the fact that I have stood idly atop this desolate building, using an electronic device to search for a music that depicts the experience of living. I do not know if it is the songs or if it is me that is broken, but no matter the voice, no matter the tune… it is impossible for me to take joy in any melody.

Someone once said to me that music is the language of the soul; it is a means to reach out for others to share our feelings, our pains and our longings. Happiness, sadness, courage, fear, hope, despair – everything that makes us human is sung out and played, seeking to reach another's heart with what we wish to express.

If one were to judge a person´s nature through the music he enjoys, I would be deemed as a hollow shell who only agrees on what the majority says; a hypocrite lacking a sense of self or personality – a fake.

I may be so. I do not stand out among my peers, nor do I see any meaning in my life… it is as if an air of worthlessness were constantly blowing upon me, making everything worth fighting for drift away in its restless current.

Should anyone grow close enough to me to know my true self, piercing through the mask I wear for the rest to see, that person would rightfully brand me as unworthy of living. Searching a soul inside my body, he would find me to be but a cold and empty shell. My heart died ten years ago, on the day when I caused my sister's death.

Haruka says it was an accident – she insists I had no way of avoiding it and that I keep blaming myself because I saw her die. Back then, in the middle of the chaos that engulfed the entirety of Tokyo, a scene was burned into the greatest depths of my mind.

Even though Haruka has repeatedly told me everything I remember is an illusion I created during the two months I was catatonic after the incident, I am keenly aware that what I saw was real: before my eyes, as my older sister passed away, her body was burst into a thousand pieces… she broke down into crystal shards and scattered on the floor, leaving no trace of her former humanity behind.

I can only recall what happened afterwards very vaguely. The doctors said it is a miracle my mind did not erase everything I saw to protect itself, and see it as entirely normal for me to hold on to only bits and pieces of the events that unfolded.

Lost Christmas – that is the name given to the incident that occurred ten years ago just moments after my sister's demise in December 24, 2029. There was a massive explosion that killed a large part of Tokyo's population, and most of the survivors were infected with a new type of virus devastating enough to be dubbed as the Apocalypse Virus.

Japan was submerged under a state of turmoil in a matter of days as the disease swiftly spread throughout the country, making millions meet the same fate my sister did: a vicious form of cancer quickly developed in the bodies of the infected, which progressively caused their living tissue to crystalize.

Naturally, there was no known treatment for such a disease, and the death toll was higher than any natural catastrophe had ever caused before. Quick to respond to the threat, a number of nations across the world hastily created a multinational military organization named GHQ, and tasked it to send assistance to our dying country in hopes of both keeping its people alive and to prevent the virus from leaving the islands.

The government dedicated nearly the entirety of its resources to fund the formation of Sephirah Genomics, a pharmaceutical group within GHQ that quickly undertook measures to develop a treatment to fight the disease, and it was two months after the pandemic began that the first vaccine to slow down the illness was developed.

With time, the medicine was refined and strengthened, until its effects were enough to save the lives of those who were only suffering from the cancer's early stages. After nearly half a year of suffering from the horrid affliction, order was restored… at a harsh price.

The GHQ took control over Japan's administrative duties and became the official interim government, relieving the Japanese from controlling the fate of their own nation. The country has been under martial law ever since, in fear of a second outbreak happening if proper preventive measures are not kept. New laws and regulations are enforced with an iron fist, and anyone who disobeys them is either incarcerated or executed on spot.

Japan lost its independence during Lost Christmas, and its citizens lost almost everything as well. I did not go unscathed either; I lost my sister, my father, my friend…it was not only Mana that vanished from my life that day.

Haruka is my only remaining family. Father was killed amidst the havoc that broke throughout the city, and Triton – the boy Father took into our family after Mana saved him from drowning – went missing as well.

I have been wondering for years whether he is still alive or not. The shock of killing Mana was too strong for me to maintain my senses alert to my surroundings. When I came to in the hospital the day after, he was nowhere to be seen. Haruka said the soldiers only found me and my sister's remains when they arrived.

Countless people went disappearing during the late 2029 and early 2030. The police force was in no shape of keeping order, let alone searching for a lost child. Haruka did her best to track him down, but to no avail… it has been only she and I ever since.

"I have something important to tell you about Mana."

Those were the last words Triton spoke to me. The fact he never got to tell me all about it has been itching at my conscience to no end. He told me she would not want me to find out, and asked me to meet him at the church when she wasn't around. I headed there, as he asked, but when I arrived –

What the hell was that? I think I just heard an explosion…

Fucking shit, the GHQ is doing a gunfight by the bridge! I've got to run!

Agh, said and done, I'm now running my ass off. The blast happened quite near their headquarters… it's likely there are terrorists around. Perhaps someone is still mad at them for imposing their laws and government over the Japanese.

That through the window… I can only barely see it since it's too far away, but it seems to be an Endlave – one of the large walker vehicles used by the GHQ for mobile combat. Good God, why would they even deploy those? They are war vehicles; shit must have gotten very out of hand to have them mobilized.

What the… another one? Fuck! Two Endlaves are fighting! Do the terrorists even have of those? Shit, shit, shit – I have to keep going, NOW!

Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhh!

Hurry, Shu, make way for the train station! You need to get home!

Ahhh… how much have I run already? I'm exhausted… that's what I get for keeping my ass in a chair most of the day… the elevator back in the building saved much of my breath, but I can't believe I can't stand running for dear life for more than a kilometer or two.

I'm already a bit far from the guns – I can only barely hear their sound in the distance, but I shouldn't stay anywhere nearby… I don't trust the GHQ will care much about my safety if the terrorists happen to head this way.

Lucky bastards those that live nearby, they only need to stay inside their houses and hide. Anyway, the station is near… less thinking and more running.

Good! The lines are still up and working, and the one about to depart can drop me off in the station closest to my home. Thank you, fortune – you are the best.

I buy a ticket and get into the train, finally heading to my house. Terrorists with Endlaves? Man, that's insane. I won't get much sleep tonight… how would I be able to rest after seeing those machines fighting?

Ah, I haven't told Haruka about the gunfight. She works with Sephirah Genomics, so she should already know about it… but I'll still text her to make sure she's safe.

"There was a gunfight near the Headquarters, are you alright?"

Now I must wait for her to reply.

I take a seat and glance outside the window, staring at the mega-structure in Area 24. Its purple spiraling tower has always drawn my attention… it feels strange to see such a majestic place suddenly becoming a battlefield.

My phone rings – I draw it out and unfold it to reveal its screen, where I had been watching a music video a few minutes earlier. Haruka texted me back… I'm glad.

"I am safe and good, Shu, thanks for asking. Are you okay? Where are you?"

Haruka has always been kind and caring towards me, like a true mother. I'm very grateful to her – it has been she who has kept me in one piece over the past decade...

"I'm on a train heading home; I saw the Endlaves fighting and fled. Things look pretty calm over here… I think the problem stayed behind. Was it a terrorist attack?"

Well, I hope she does not get too worried about me – she's bad at dealing with pressure concerning me ever since the rest of our family died. It's hardly surprising, though… I myself am very sensible whenever she gets into trouble; she's all I have left.

"I believe it was. Lock yourself in and stay indoors until morning; the Anti-Bodies are involved in the matter, and you know how they are – it's better to play safe with them."

The Anti-Bodies, officially known as the Special Virus Countermeasure Force, is the GHQ pandemic control unit. They are an independent military unit, and work as an elite force with access to special equipment and resources to fight the spread of the Apocalypse Virus. They have the authority to detain and quarantine suspected Apocalypse carriers and, if necessary, use deadly force to contain any outbreaks.

Their definition of necessary, however, is very lax… so it is better not to get involved with them at all if given the chance to avoid them. Damn Haruka, why do you mix yourself with dangerous folks like those? She just had to join Sephirah shortly after it was formed…

"I will, don't worry. I hope there aren't any objections with me going to school tomorrow."

I sigh as I think about her. I have never talked with her of my thoughts about her working with Sephirah; I feel it is not my place to stick my nose into… but I can't shake off the worries she makes me feel whenever shit goes bad like tonight.

"Things should be back to normal by then, so don't worry about it. Do your homework and sleep well, Shu. Remember to take a bath too – you won't get any girls if you stink."

Haruka… I bathe every day, you know that. Man, she's been very insisting in having me getting a girlfriend lately. I guess she's just concerned about me… making small talk like this to distract me from the firefight. Despite the fact she comes home only once a week, we are still in very good terms. I really suck, making her worry like that.

But then again, I'm only 17 – I can't have my life solved out just yet.

"I will. Take care over there, and get in touch with me if you need anything – I'll help all I can."

That's what I say, at least. In the more than ten years I've known her, I don't really remember having been useful for her even once. She has always been the independent type, so she hardly ever asks me to do anything for her. It makes me feel kind of useless, though… it is pleasant to have someone rely on you from time to time.

"Thank you, Shu. I love you."

Sigh. I guess I should do something to change my way of being… there is no way Haruka will ever count on me if I stay as miserable as I am, and even Mana would get mad at me if I stay clinging to a past that is impossible to rewrite.

"I love you too, Mom. Good night."

For once, I feel something stirring inside of me. This gunfight somehow managed to punch some sense into me, making me realize that by laying low for as long as I have, I am nothing but dead weight to those around me.

Shit, this pensive mood really is getting very deep into me.

Even now, Haruka is somewhere in GHQ's headquarters when terrorists are on the loose, and I am able to do naught but text her wishes about her well-being. This sinking sense of impotence is not right… I wish to be someone who can protect those dear to him.

I failed to do so once before. I killed Mana, and Triton slipped from my grasp right before my very eyes. I have sinned, and I have let my weakness keep me from holding on to those that were close to me.

No matter how much I apologize nor how terrible I feel, redemption is not something I can achieve through words alone. My weakness is becoming unbearable, as the world around me makes me realize I am nothing but a puny boy who is at the world's mercy. Had Haruka been hurt or, even worse, killed because of the gunfight, the most I could do in response would be to get mad and rage at the world.

As I am now, I am just a kid who hasn't yet grown a pair of balls befitting for a man. I have had enough of my powerlessness… I wish to grow. I will grow. Starting tomorrow, I will strive to overcome my own limits until I make a name for myself to be proud of.

I will stand, vowing not to lose anyone anymore. Through any means available to me, I will live to be one who protects the ones he loves. Perhaps by doing so, I'll be able to relieve the pain of having been the survivor… and maybe someday I will liberate myself from these shackles of guilt that keep me imprisoned in my own past.

Just wait and see, Mana. Look at me from wherever you are, and witness how your brother atones for the crime of killing you. Ouma Shu hereby swears that he will not allow anyone close to him to become a victim ever again. Mark my words, sister… I will stay true to them with all I have.

The same goes to you, Father. You went right behind Mana shortly after she died… after I made her die. I guess I can't blame you, old man… it would be painful for her to be all alone. Having known you, it's safe for me to say that you aren't all too bitter about having been killed during the riots. Even though you were immersed in your job every day, I know you loved both of us… I could feel it, deep inside.

Forgive me, Pops. I fucked everything up, but I'll try to keep things from getting any worse. While you are looking after Mana, I'll do the same for Haruka, you can count on me for that. I'm going to make sure you'll have something to praise me for if we ever meet again, so I'd start looking for the appropriate words already if I were you.

And Triton… I know it is rather late, but have to say I haven't forgotten about you. Somehow, I'll track you down. Hell, I swear I will – I don't know how, but someday I will find you and I WILL make you tell me all you were unable to say back then. This is a baseless assumption from my part, but I feel you are still alive… You can't possibly be dead too, man, so please be safe, my friend… please be safe.