Whew! This is my new pet project for the summer, one that I hope I can actually finish… but who knows with my laziness orz. Anyway, I won't make high-handed claims my version of Guilty Crown is better than the original – the Redux is just a fan interpretation of the story and should be taken as such. Some elements are the same while some elements have undergone… a drastic change, to put it mildly. There is going to be a lot of 'Easter Eggs' thrown in here and there so see if you can spot them all, too!
And now, without further ado – Guilty Crown: Refrain.
Copyright Disclaimer: I own none of what even sounds remotely familiar in this work
The sky was dark but clear: a perfect night for stargazing.
The July air was surprisingly breezy and gentle for summer, and it provided some much needed reprieve to the sweltering heat of the day. Waves crashing against the shore were the only thing that disturbed the otherwise quiet atmosphere. At least it was until the excited chatter of children began filling the air.
"I can't believe we're actually gonna see a meteor!" It was the smaller of the three that spoke, voice laced with that exuberance only children could exhibit. Eyes wide in excitement, he was racing ahead of the older children, clearly the most enthusiastic of them all.
"Are you really that excited about it?" The older boy asked amusedly.
"Yeah! I really wanted to see it! Dad said it was gonna be awesome!"
The older boy just shook his head, knowing there was no way he could match his younger companion's level of enthusiasm. "They're just stars. You seem them every day in the sky," he told the bouncing child dryly. He could not help the smile on his face however, at the prospect of watching shooting stars with the rest of his family. "But I guess it's pretty cool to see meteors once in a while."
"Right?" the brown-haired boy looked behind the taller blonde to see the girl trailing behind them, having been distracted by a lovely seashell on the ground. "Hey! Hurry up - we have to get to our lookout spot before the meteor shower starts!"
She rose at the exasperated tone in the boy's voice, dusting off her pink sun dress and wearing a slight frown. "There's no need to rush... Papa said it won't start for another half hour, you know."
"Still! Let's go, let's go!"
The girl sighed, hands on her hips. "You don't rush a lady!"
"But you're not a lady! Haruka's a lady, but you're just a slowpoke!" the little boy declared. "Hey... maybe you can use that seashell to evolve!"
The effect was immediate - crimson eyes filled with tears and the offended child turned to the other boy for support. "He made fun of me! Tell him that was mean!"
"Ah... well what can I do? He's just a little brat -"the blonde affectionately trapped the younger brunette in a headlock. "- he'll go away if you ignore him, haha!"
"Quit it! I'm not a little kid! I'm eight, you know... Dad said I'm a 'little man' now!"
"Yeah. Little. Big boys don't wet their beds after watching scary movies," her tone was smug, all too happy to take revenge upon her troublesome twin. "So I guess you're just a brat."
It was the little boy's turn to scowl and sulk. "Shut up! I'm gonna tell Haruka and Dad you picked on me... she said she'll take my side since it's my birthday today!"
"Well I'll tell her you were picking on girls! It's my birthday too and she said she likes me the most, anyway."
"Actually, Haruka said I was her favorite because I don't cause trouble like you two do," the blonde interjected, grinning. "So I guess I win!"
"How does that make sense?"
"I'm the oldest, so whatever I say goes, that's all."
The comment threw both of the younger children into a fit; but the blonde was all too used to the situation, merely laughing and ushering them on to their 'secret' lookout spot that overlooked the ocean.
It was quite a bit breezier, the wind mixing with the salty smell of the ocean. The sky seemed vast and never-ending to the three children and the stars reflected off the water's surface looked more like dancing fireflies.
"It's so pretty!" the girl exclaimed, eyes wide and doing a full turn to see all of the night sky. "Isn't it? Isn't it?"
"Where's Dad with the telescope?" the youngest one complained, dashing to the edge of the woods and back anxiously. "We can't see them without it!"
"It's a meteor shower... you won't need it."
Thankfully, to save the high-strung boy's poor nerves, two adults emerged from the woods with amused smiles on their faces.
"I could hear you all the way from the middle of the trail, little man. Looking for this?" the man inquired with a languid grin, holding up the hefty case he was holding.
His son immediately raced over with a large grin that showcased his missing teeth. "Alright! Now we can watch!"
"You're really excited, aren't you?" the woman - considerably younger than the man beside her - asked the little boy, ruffling his hair affectionately.
"Duh! It's gonna look so cool! Right, Big Bro?" the boy tackled his older brother and latched onto his waist.
"Haha! I sure hope so!"
The older woman walked over to the little girl, holding up the picnic basket. "Want to help me set this up while the boys help your father put together the telescope?" she suggested. Leaning down, she lowered her voice a little so the three males could not hear what she said next. "We can eat the cupcakes while they're distracted!"
"Oh! Can we, Mama, can we?"
It was a word that should not have been surprising, but was. The little girl's exclamation plunged the little family into complete silence; the father looked up in shock, the tripod falling from his hand. The boys understandably looked a little less surprised - after all, at seven and ten, it was hard to grasp the concept of 'remarriage' and 'stepmother' properly.
The little girl seemed to have realized what she said, eyes widening and hands flying to her mouth. Panicked by the sudden silence and afraid she had made a mistake, she looked between her father and the woman in front of her with teary eyes. "Was I not supposed to call her Mama, Papa?"
"N-No!" It was an instinctual response, and one he meant with all his heart. "O-Of course you can, Princess! T-That is, i-if she doesn't mind..."
She looked to the brown-haired woman next. "C-Can I call you Mama?"
"O-Of course!" the older woman blurted out, face lighting up in delight. She knelt down and took the little girl's hands in hers in gratitude. "Thank you!"
"What for?" The pink-haired girl was trifle confused now, wondering why her father's new wife looked so happy all of a sudden. Did being called 'Mama' mean that much to her? "I don't understand..."
She laughed and pulled back. "Maybe you'll understand when you're older," she said with a wink. "Now, how about those cupcakes, hmm?"
"Hey! You weren't gonna eat them all by yourselves now, were you?" the father demanded in mock indignation. "That's not fair, girls!"
"Yeah! No fair! Give us some, too!" the youngest child cried, abandoning his father and older brother to rush over to the picnic blanket the women were setting up. "Don't be a pig!"
"Mama! He made fun of me!"
"It's my birthday! I can do whatever I want!"
"It's my birthday too, you bed-wetter!"
"Aren't they lively?" the bespectacled man chuckled as he put together the telescope. "I sure hope they're not that loud when they grow up, though."
"We're all gonna be deaf before they even turn ten," the oldest child agreed, dutifully helping his father like a responsible son.
"I'm nearly blind already... I don't need hearing aids on top of that!"
"You're just old... Dad."
The father's laughter was hearty, and he ruffled the ten-year-old's hair with a grin. "I'm still better-looking than you, big man!"
"Haruka says it's immature to compare yourself to little kids," the son returned with the same grin.
"That woman... what has she been telling my kids while I haven't been around?" it was spoken in jest, complete with an accompanying smile. "Now... since we've got this thing set up, why don't we go and eat some cupcakes before the twin pigs eat them all up?"
"I'm not a pig!" the brown-haired boy declared indignantly, chocolate crumbs painting a messy picture on his face.
"Idiot, the cake on your face says different!" the blonde plopped down beside his siblings, reaching for a misshapen cupcake with bright pink icing. "What's this?"
"I made it just for you, Big Brother!" the pink-haired girl declared proudly. "See? There's even extra sprinkles!"
"Aw, you don't have anything for your father?"
"Oh, well... you can ask Mama! I can't make cupcakes for everybody, Papa!"
"I'm hurt, Princess! I thought I was your favorite!"
"You are! But - oh!" she stopped mid-sentence and rushed over to where the telescope was, near the edge of the cliff. "Look!"
The rest of the family gazed up just as a slew of shooting stars streaked across the sky, leaving behind glittering trails. Gasps erupted from the awed children and the parents simply exchanged quaint smiles.
"It's so cool!" the youngest boy cried, joining his sister.
"When we see shooting stars, we're supposed to make a wish," the oldest boy told his two younger siblings with a grin. "Let's make one!"
The little girl tilted her head to the side as she gazed up at the sky, now alight with the many stars that journeyed across it. After a moment, she said with a smile, "I wish we can stay like this forever!" She looked back towards her two brothers. "As a family!"
"Ugh, come on! That's so lame!" the younger brother rolled his eyes. "And you're not supposed to say your wish aloud... now it's never gonna come true!"
"That's not true! Right, Big Brother?"
Never been the one to refuse his younger siblings anything, the soft-hearted older brother smiled. "I'm sure it'll come true! And I wish we can stay forever like this, too."
"Now you're the odd one out!" the girl declaimed smugly.
"No fair! Fine then... I'll wish for the same thing! I wish we can always be like this!"
" – Shuu! Shuu!"
Burgundy eyes snap open, and instead of the endless sky in his dreams, he finds the inquisitive eyes of his childhood friend instead. Considering the dream he has just had, Ouma Shuu finds himself cloaked in cold sweat with his heart beating dangerously fast. He shakes his head and forces an apologetic smile on his face.
"S-Sorry, Hare! I must have dozed off..."
Menjou Hare adopts a cross look and puts her hands on her hips for good measure. "You have got to stop sleeping so late, Shuu... you nearly missed the whole lesson!" she says worriedly. "I thought the teacher was going to catch you for sure!"
"And you can thank me for that, by the way."
"Yahiro!" Hare greets the taller boy with a cheerful smile. "There were some close calls, huh?"
Samukawa Yahiro nods and there is a teasing smirk on his face as he leans against the window sill. "The new teacher is a real piece of work too, so consider yourself lucky, Shuu. Souta wasn't as lucky unfortunately," he informs his friends with a shake of his head.
"Haha... thanks," Shuu says sincerely, feeling a little embarrassed. "I guess I was pretty tired from working on the video all night."
"Oh – congratulations on that! You guys made top in the daily rankings again!" Hare is smiling brightly, holding up her tablet for Shuu and Yahiro to see. And there it is, the fruits of their labor sitting proudly in the top spot: Euterpe – E·GO·I·S·T feat. supercell & Usagi. "In record time, too! This is the fifth one to hit number one, isn't it?"
"Guess we did it again, huh?" There is a proud grin on Yahiro's face as well, and he nudges his partner-in-crime. "Too bad Souta isn't here to see this."
"I'm sure he knows... he's the one that checks out the ranking the most," Shuu reminds his group mate. He turns to Hare with a smile. "You deserve much of the praise, Hare. We always hit number one faster with you as the lyricist."
A brilliant blush colors Hare's cheeks a rosy red, and she shakes her head rapidly. "B-But you guys came up with everything else and I'm just really happy I can be part of this somehow!" she exclaims, voice a pitch higher than normal. A moment later she looks up with a bright smile. "You know... It's really amazing how you can convey so much with a program!"
"Don't tell me you believe in that 'music is a universal language' stuff?" Yahiro says, teasing smile on his face. "Most people who watch our videos probably only watch for E·GO·I·S·T 's costumes."
Shuu sighs at the mention of 'costumes', a discontented frown on his face. "Why does Souta make them all so revealing?" he asks in a lamenting tone. "I feel like such a pervert whenever I make the videos!"
Yahiro nods in agreement, wearing an embarrassed smile and looking like he doesn't quite understand their friend's penchant for designing revealing outfits for a virtual program. "But then again... it isn't like her default clothing was any more modest," he points out. "Maybe Souta wanted to continue the trend."
Finding her friends' predicaments rather amusing however, Hare simply laughs. "Revealing outfits or not, it's amazing what you guys have done with E·GO·I·S·T !" she repeats the praise with a sincere smile as accompaniment. "Have you guys planned out the next single yet?"
"It depends on what Souta wants to do, but who knows? The reason we were able to produce Euterpe and My Dearest so quickly after one another was because we were on break. But now that school's started..." Yahiro trails off thoughtfully, and glances at Shuu. "What do you think?"
Shuu shrugs. "You're probably right. And with this new teacher, I feel like I'll be staying up all night every day to do homework..." he answers in a deflated voice as he glances at the teacher's desk in the front of the room. "What kind of teachers give off such a threatening aura?"
"Any teacher would look threatening if you slept through their class, Shuu," Yahiro tells his friend amusedly. "But I heard from Kanon –"
"The arabesque of fate illuminated the darkness –"
All eyes are on Yahiro and the hideous ringtone, including the threatening teacher's. The usually collected Samukawa Yahiro looks absolutely frozen; personal tablets are strictly forbidden on school grounds, after all. The teacher starts to rise, hard face set into an even harder frown and the panic is clear on Yahiro's face. Students start to whisper, some of them looking all too cruelly smug.
"Ah, s-sorry! I forgot personal tablets weren't allowed!"
Yahiro snaps his head to Shuu fast enough to give himself whiplash and the surprise on his expression is all too clear.
"Was that really yours, Ouma-kun?" the teacher's question is exacting, daring Shuu to continue the charade.
Shuu's resolve nearly crumbles under the steely gaze, but he has to save his friend – he knows the consequences will be much better for him than Yahiro, a scholarship student. "Y-Yes. I-I'm sorry," he manages to sputter out. "I-It won't happen again, sir."
The teacher looks oddly amused by Shuu's response and merely turns around and walks back to his desk. "I'll let it slide this time."
Time starts moving again and Shuu sinks in his seat in relief. The smug students turn back to whatever they were doing with a scowl replacing their smirk. Their entertainment would not be coming today, it seems.
"Are you alright Shuu?" Hare asks. "I guess Mr. Hakanatsu is a pretty nice person after all..."
"... Thanks," Yahiro says quietly, clenched fists unseen by both his friends. "You didn't need to do that."
"It's fine... you can't be caught breaking any rules, right?" Shuu counters with an unassuming smile, missing the tension in his friend's eyes because in Shuu's mind, there is nothing to complicate the simple matter of a friend helping another friend. "You covered for me too, and besides, I didn't get punished so it's all good."
A strangely mangled chuckle escapes Yahiro's throat. "Haha, I guess you're right Shuu. It's a lot worse for me than it is for you, after all," he agrees, pushing off the window sill. "Sorry, but I just forgot there 's something very important I forgot to do. See you two later."
"Uh... s-see you, Yahiro..." Shuu trails off uncertainly. "Did I say something?"
"I think he might have taken your words the wrong way," Hare tells her childhood friend. "Just talk to him about it later; he might think you covered for him out of pity."
"What? No!" Shuu denies loudly, attracting the attention of several students. With an embarrassed blush, he promptly lowers his voice. "... I never really watch what comes out of my mouth, do I...?"
Hare shakes her head and gives him an encouraging smile. "There's nothing wrong with being honest, Shuu. I'm sure Yahiro knows you'd never pity him, but make sure you smooth it out, okay?" She stands up, wallet in hand. "Let's get a snack before class starts!"
Shuu absent-mindedly follows Hare down the hall towards the vending machine. Why can't I ever say the right thing to anybody...? If he gets caught breaking the rules, the school will expel him, so that's why I covered for him... not because I pity him...
"Shuu, don't think too much about it, really!" Hare's cross tone breaks into his train of thoughts. "If there's a misunderstanding, all you need to do is go and clear it up, right?"
"Eh? Oh, r-right! Sorry, Hare..." Shuu says sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck as he is wont to do whenever he is nervous or embarrassed. "It's just... I know how much Yahiro hates that label and... he hates the pity even more."
Hare slips in the necessary amount of coins and scans the available items with a thoughtful frown. "Do you remember when we first met him?" she asks suddenly.
Confused at the abrupt switch of topics, Shuu frowns, but nevertheless nods. "I guess... why?"
"He wouldn't talk to anybody but Kanon! But when he did, the first person Yahiro ever spoke to was you. Even though it was Souta who went out of his way to befriend him, he still talked to you first, Shuu!" Hare stands with a bright smile and holds out a can of soda. "Here! I'm sure Yahiro understands. You're a good person, Shuu; he never would have become friends with you otherwise."
"R-Right! I... thanks, Hare," Shuu says finally with a small grin. "What would I do without you?"
The brown-haired girl shrugs and offers Shuu one of her cookies. "Want one?"
"No, it's – whoa!" Unfortunately for Shuu, he chooses that precise moment to look away and not pay any attention to where he is going.
"Shuu!" Hare immediately helps him and Shuu staggers a little, shaking his head in an attempt to get rid of his disorientation.
"Oh sorry!" It is the most insincere apology Shuu has ever heard, spoken in an upbeat tone. Mischievous storm-blue eyes and a pair of protruding canines are all he sees as the middle school student gives him a smirk that dares Shuu to complain. "Aya-nee can be so clumsy sometimes!"
Shuu opens his mouth to say something, but his gaze falls to the girl he bumped into. Not that he would have said anything anyway, but one look at the new transfer student struggling to pull herself up into her wheelchair makes his throat constrict and his words asphyxiate. "U-Um... l-let me help!" he offers. "I-I'm really sorry – S-Shinomiya-san, was it? – I wasn't watching where I was going –"
Shinomiya, in all her crippled glory, levels him with such a fierce glare that the air ceases flowing to Shuu's lungs. "Don't pity –"but she stops herself mid-sentence, wine-colored gaze focused on something behind Shuu. When she speaks next, her attitude does a hundred-eighty degree turn, but Shuu never questions it because girls are just girls and they are capricious, mysterious beings. Shinomiya adopts a more affable smile and holds out her hand. "It's alright. Um... do you mind...?"
"Huh? Oh, uh, sure!" the flustered teenager takes Shinomiya's hand, but immediately recoils. "Ow!"
Hare, Shinomiya, and the middle school girl all look at him curiously and Shuu just lets out a sheepish laughter. "Sorry... must've been static or something. Let me help you up, Shinomiya-san."
The middle school girl gives her 'older sister' a triumphant look and when Shuu finishes his chivalrous duties, she takes the reins of Shinomiya's wheelchair and continues down the hallway. "Thanks... Ouma Shuu-san!"
"I didn't know Shinomiya-san had a younger sister," Hare comments.
"They don't look alike at all," is the only commentary Shuu can offer.
"Well?" It is an exacting voice, full of charisma and authority.
A satisfied grin spreads across the girl's face as she looks down at the complex mess of vitals, temperatures and measurements. "Just as planned, Leader!"
She can practically hear the smirk on the other line. "Good. The rest of the plan proceeds accordingly. Prepare to move out in 4 hours."
When Shuu feels a little ill that afternoon, he thinks little of it; the lunch he had that afternoon was concocted by Haruka and whatever Haruka cooks is closer to a science experiment than actual food. He looks in the medicine cabinet and when he finds it devoid of anything helpful, he does what any other person would do: Shuu heads over to the local pharmacy.
Living in an exclusive neighborhood only the richest of the rich can afford, the people Shuu sees on the streets are all one-and-the same – essentially faceless. So when he spots the seemingly doll-like girl clad in an eerily familiar, shockingly revealing outfit, he has to stop and stare like a stupid fish.
Is that –
And when the mysterious girl turns to face him with the most vacant ruby eyes, another image superimposes itself on top of the girl's face and Shuu's heart stops.
He clutches at his chest in a futile attempt to slow his heart, to force his lungs to work properly. His skull feels like it is pounding and he can no longer hear, or see clearly.
"S-Stop –"the filmstrip will not stop, replaying on its own over and over as if it is tired of being shoved into a locked drawer.
The girl is directly in front of him now, head tilted and still regarding him with such hollow eyes. She holds up her hands, the blood red strings crisscrossing across like a mouse trap holding him hostage. His heart literally stops at the sight of it and reality starts to blur with memories.
"Do you want power?"
Before his consciousness can leave of its own accord, someone forces its departure with a precise hit to the back of his neck.
"I wish we can always be like this!"
"... It's just you and me now, Shuu..."
"Be a good kid, little man."
"Haha, can't do anything by yourself now, can you?"
"Shuu... do you love me?"
"Augh!" He gasps for breath, body trembling and eyes wide. Ouma Shuu is the very picture of a frightened animal, paralyzed by fear of something that should no longer frighten him.
"Good. You're finally awake."
Shuu moves to sit up from his crumpled position on the cold metal floor, only to find his arms have been tied behind his back. His shoulders make rough contact with the ground and he grunts in surprise and pain. W-What the... A pair of booted feet appear in his line of vision and Shuu struggles to look up. A masked face attached to a lithe figure stares back at him and the hapless brown-haired boy is struck by the unyielding blue of the stranger's eyes. That imperturbable calm is a stark contrast from the reflection Shuu sees of himself: cornered and pathetic. He does not like it one bit, but resigns himself to it; pragmatically speaking, with his arms and legs rendered immobile, there is nothing he can do. He is just Ouma Shuu, helpless without the protection of a mundane life.
Are they... terrorists? Shuu reverts his gaze to the floor – the contempt in the stranger's eyes is almost too much to take. Shuu has no idea what he ever did to warrant that much hatred, but he does not want the burden of receiving it.
"It's customary to look at people when they're talking to you, kid," someone's boots make loud, clanging noises against the metal and Shuu feels a painful tug at his hair moments later. These eyes are boiling with contempt too, and he can hear the sneer in this stranger's voice. "Or do you pompous jackasses think we're not worthy of your attention?"
I never said that... Shuu looks around for anything else to stare at, but he finds no solace anywhere. The cramped place they are keeping him in – a container, an RV, whatever – is full of things Shuu does not want to look at and he really does not want to face his angry captors.
Shuu gives himself a moment to gather his surroundings, the rough shake sending his brain bouncing in his cranium. "W-What do you want?"
The blue-eyed stranger steps forward and without word, the grip on Shuu's shirt loosens and the angry man backs off with one last contemptuous glare. It's innate authority, and the brunette cannot help but feel envious.
"Ouma Shuu... son of Ouma Haruka and the late Ouma Kurosu," it's a statement, not a question, so Shuu stays silent accordingly. The stranger lowers himself down to Shuu's level and the blue eyes dissect Shuu down to his very last cell.
When the silence continues however, Shuu feels compelled to eke out something, anything to fill the void. "I-I don't have anything you could want."
His voice sounds shamefully small and Shuu lets himself have an embittered moment soaked in self-pity. No-good Ouma Shuu, born without nary a talent. It is doubly sad, considering the genius of his mother and father, and the capability of his – his –
No. There is just him, him and his utter incapability to stand out.
"Don't sell yourself so short, Ouma Shuu," there is amusement dancing in the stranger's voice and when he leans closer, Shuu can see a menacing glint in his glacier eyes. "You have everything we want."
Somehow, it does not make Shuu feel better at all.
"We move out now," the stranger declares breezily, whirling around and walking towards the door not too far away.
It is then Shuu finally finds the courage to ask a question: "W-Wait! W-Who are you?"
A smirk. "Funeral Parlor."
- Phase 0: COMPLETE -
So here it is - the prologue to Guilty Crown: Refrain. I'm sure some of the changes are apparent already, and hopefully no one finds it too jarring. Feedback is always appreciated, particularly about the length; it is a bit long and if splitting it in two parts will help, please let me know!
E·GO·I·S·T 縁 ('fate')語('word')意('heart'/'feelings')守('to protect')人('person'): EGOIST is commonly written in English, so not many know the meaning behind it. I admit I went a little pretentious here, and I'm not entirely sure the kanji readings and their meanings work out the way I want them to. What I intended was for it to have two possible meanings, which will be revealed eventually.
The arabesque of fate illuminated the darkness: Lame pun and a bit of meta fun on my end. Can anyone guess the relevance?
supercell: Again, a bit of meta. supercell and vocalist Koeda are the original performers of My Dearest and Kokuhaku; Inori's singing voice Chelly is also a part of supercell. I thought it'd be fun to make the 'Internet idol' aspect a bit more prevalent, since supercell has some great music. Expect to see them mentioned a lot in the context of Shuu, Yahiro, and Souta.
Usagi: Hare's online 'handle'. Kind of a really lame pun since 'Hare' as an English word means rabbit and usagi = rabbit. orz.
Aya-nee, Ouma-kun: Ah, honorifics. Bane of writing fanfiction, really, along with the 50+ different ways to say you/I. I was a little iffy about using them since I did use 'Big Brother' instead of 'onii-chan', but I was really stuck with converting 'Aya-nee' into something resembling English that would convey the same meaning - hence the use of honorifics. It's inconsistent so I would like to change it sometime in the future.