Chapter 18: The Shadows of Guilt

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Log #512: Biology

While Shade are undoubtedly the primary threat of humans in this hostile world, that is not to say that they are the only threat we face. There is a greater, rarer, and far less merciful enemy of humanity that scarcely reveals itself: Vain. Strange, twisted beings that each appear to take many shapes and forms, but unlike Shade, can only be grouped into one species from observations. Never has an encounter with these horrendous beings resulted in a human victory, and casualties are expected whenever a squad experiences an encounter with Vain. Nobody knows what these shape-shifting monsters are, or where they came from, but the only other thing that has been established other than the promised casualties is the name. Its origin is quite simple; everything we do to try to kill one is in vain, and whenever they fight it seems like the very world is revolving around them.

-General Shura Averin

250 BPE

When those soft, black eyes stared into mine, my thoughts ceased to be. This boy who had been so kind and unprejudiced to me had gone into a slumber in which few dreamed would end. His sister, his father, and even his class had prayed and pleaded for his return, day and night, month after month. And here he was, awake. His innocent expression looked so pale, so frail. He was awake; he was awake. The tears that spilled onto the hospital sheets below me felt so cold but so warm. His eyes never left mine, and his expression never changed, but I knew he was there. I could feel his presence tenderly expanding through the room, exploring a world almost half a year into the future. Even still, his distant gaze scared me somehow.

A gasp and the sound of something hitting the floor behind me freed me from my trance, and my head slowly lifted. Sunlight filtered through the curtains over the open window, shedding light into the room. The source of that commotion ran over to her brother's bed, taking his hand and falling to her knees. Through the red hair cascading down her face, I could see tears brimming in her eyes. As she held his hand in hers, Kazu's gaze strayed from my face to hers. Slowly, his eyes began to widen, and his mouth opened ever so slightly.


With that, Rosa leaped onto the bed and embraced her brother, wailing. Her tears spilled down her cheeks, but her grip refused to loosen. Every sob seemed to bring life back into his eyes, bit by bit, until he was embracing Rosa back, mimicking his sister's tears. Meanwhile, I stood watching from a distance, unable to allow myself the luxury of changing position. The reunion was beyond words; hope had been victorious against all odds. The despair that had clung cruelly to our hearts melted away in an instant, vanishing into the shadows. Just like that, doctors rushed into the room, separating the siblings and requesting our leave for a short time.

Outside the room, Rosa and I leaned back on parallel chairs. We looked to the ceiling lights simultaneously, sighing in joy.

"He's... awake." I tried to sound calm and casual, but even I noticed the heavy strain tainting my words.

"Yeah... I-I still... It's hard to believe. He was gone for so long, I began to—no, I won't say it. And I've only woken up myself a few months ago. You've been waiting all his time, though. You've gotta be happy."

"You're right. It really has been a long wait, hasn't it—" A sniffle escaped. "Hasn't... Hasn't it been so long? I... I've been waiting so—"

And I broke down.

The rest of that day blurred into tears, relief, and any other emotion that was left over. I remembered coming home, filled with news of Kazu's extended rehabilitation until he was well enough to be self-sufficient again. They approximated two weeks or so, in which they would ensure that there was no sufficient amount of mental damage or memory loss, as well as physical rehabilitation. Once those issues were addressed, he would at last be discharged from the hospital and return to class. I also remember collapsing on my bed and passing out immediately from exhaustion.

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