2-4: Crimson vs. Ivory
“She’s completely knocked cold,” Allen said with Catherine in his arms. “Besides, I think it’s best if she doesn’t see all this mess. Let’s stay here for now. Thanks to you guys arriving in to help us for some reason, we have the number advantage now.” He was referring to the outsider bio-soldiers with him.
The area was previously heavily guarded by bio-soldiers from the Ivory Army and even Zack himself, but the news of Red not taking part in the battle attracted the general, making him think he would win more quickly should he go take part, and that if he could do so then he could leave Catherine for all he cared. This turned out to be a trap that Red foresaw, and now the entire area has been taken control of by Allen and his troops. Right when Allen felt a sense of relief at Catherine’s safety, they began hearing increasingly larger explosions from outside.
“Sir Allen!” a bio-soldier cried out from the perimeter while shooting at an unknown enemy outside the dark alley. A bullet had grazed his left cheek, but it was regenerating fairly quickly. “Zack’s army is coming over here! We need to converge our forces at the perimeter as soon as possible!”
Catherine stayed unconscious, completely oblivious to the danger and the gravity of the battle going on around her.
Allen heard a ringing directly from his ears and he pressed a switch near it that stopped the sound. “Red! Have you found Zack yet? He what?! Damn…Anyway, I’m at the place. Yes, I rescued Catherine. Now just stop him from getting here!”
Red, who was hiding while holding his two guns, found himself in a tight spot. After his original threat, Zack began running away, and had ordered his troops to block the way no matter what. The crimson-eyed boy did not hesitate to kill the enemy soldiers, but he felt troubled at the fact that they were willing to throw their lives away simply to slow him down. Zack definitely knew how strong he was, so it was unthinkable that he would leave them to die so quickly.
Why? How does he make them bend to his will to this extent?
Zack was getting farther and farther, but Red was busy fighting soldiers while dodging and deflecting bullets. Clearing them up alone, even if he was supposed to be the strongest fighter in the world, was not an easy task due to the sheer number of enemies. He was on the ground with Ivory soldiers flanking him on all sides, so he simply relied on his guns for the most part, shooting into what seemed to be thin air in order to deflect enemy bullets and sniping the limbs of his enemies before incinerating them.
“Can someone remind me why I’m all alone in this?” Red told no one in particular as he strengthened his grip on his guns and prepared for the worst. “Then again this could serve as some good practice. Not that I haven’t had enough just yet…” He muttered the last line under his breath.
Because he had his hands full with the guns, he could not snap when creating his Flame Spark attacks, and so he had to concentrate harder than he was used to. To his surprise, though, he was fairly accurate in his timing and accuracy, able to hit faces from a good distance and even burning a pillar from an unfinished building and shooting at it to make it bend, causing the levels above it to fall along with the soldiers on standby there. It was as if the flames weren’t even his because of how he made no gestures to summon it and yet they appeared whenever he ran past his enemies.
This should remove a good amount of weight off the shoulders of my boys, he thought in order to justify his actions. Still, do I seriously have to do most of the dirty work here?
After killing another assortment of over 200 people, he noticed something and stopped he stopped moving. Sensing what was going on even from afar, he made a sound that seemed like a combination of a growl and a sigh of relief. He put his guns back in their holsters and pulled out his staff.
Reinforcements have arrived.
Without saying anything, Red and his soldiers cleaned up the area almost instantly, and with the disappearance of any further hostile presence, the only people he saw were his own soldiers and some outsider faces whom he recognized as allies despite not being directly affiliated to his army.
“Took you long enough!” the red-eyed general said as he slammed the tip of his staff on the ground to show his irritation. “Zack’s going to where Catherine is. What’s the situation around the perimeter? And make your report quick!”
“Sir!” came one of his bio-soldiers. “Upon your return, we received orders from Sir Allen to tighten security around the hostage area and leave the exteriors to you. Thanks to the Ivory Army concentrating their forces around you, the area around Catherine has been mostly cleared. With so much of the enemy forces down, all that’s left is for you to eliminate their general and victory will be ours. We can handle the others on our own.”
Red grinned. “Got it. Say, can I borrow that sword for a while? I’ll trade it with you for my staff.”
The soldier took his sheathed blade and handed it over. “Um…okay. Oh wow, this is heavy.” The soldier struggled when he got Red’s staff. It was, unlike the usual Bo Staff, made of metal. This was in order to hold its own against blades and bullets, but because of how heavy it was, only Red could utilize its full potential. Compared to this, a normal sword felt like a toy.
“And this is light. Thanks.” With a nod of gratitude, Red bended his knees and opened his palms pointing downward. With a slight growl, flames began spurting out from under his hands.
Zack was running at a tremendous speed on top of buildings. He had sent several soldiers to stall Red for him while he went to Catherine. He knew they would die, but if he could get to her first, even if Crimson Army soldiers were around, his victory would more or less still be guaranteed.
He clicked his tongue, annoyed. His plan was completely ruined. The Crimson Army taking custody of Catherine was a risk he had been willing to take, but Red appeared too soon, and he was able to dispatch too many soldiers in so short a time. According to reports of his men, the Blazing Monster had killed over 400 soldiers on his own, and the body count was still continuing to pile up.
“Damn kid,” he muttered under his breath. For one person to make such a huge difference in their fight, it was unthinkable. Then again, he considered the fact that his army was too tilted on the offensive side due to Red’s absence, and hence most of them would have been taken off-guard. “When he said he ‘had to take out quite a few guys on the way,’ who would’ve thought he meant over 200 soldiers? Was that what he meant when he said we were outnumbered? Because of what he alone was worth in the battlefield?”
“Hold it right there, bastard!”
Zack’s train of thought was interrupted by a familiar voice. He nervously gulped.
H-how did that kid catch up so quickly…?
Upon turning his back, he finally realized the secret behind Red’s speed. While Zack had been running with the enhanced speed given to him by being the general of lightning, Red was flying in a straight line, with flames spurting out from his feet and hands to propel him.
“Tsk, and I was so close too.” Zack stopped in his tracks and immediately fired his gun at the charging general.
“Woah!” Reacting just in time, Red pointed his hands downward, propelling him upward a slight amount, narrowly avoiding the bullet. He then turned off the flames in limbs, softly landing on top of a building adjacent to the one Zack was in.
“Word just came in,” the teenager said. “Your army’s getting wiped out. It’s only a matter of time before even you fall. If you want to even stand a chance at winning, you know what you have to do.”
A grin crept through Zack’s face. “Are you sure about this, Crimson General? You specialize in fighting several weaklings at once. In a one-on-one match, I clearly have the advantage. You’re also pretty injured. And on top of all of this, you do realize that your staff would be more of a hindrance should you face me, right?”
Red held the hilt of the sword he borrowed with his left hand and laughed.
A duel between generals. As if a war with almost 2000 biologically-enhanced soldiers wasn’t enough, the large-scale battle these men were having actually paled in comparison to the clash between two of the four strongest humans in the world as Red and Zack exchanged blows while moving at a blinding speed all over the city, spreading electric shocks and fire blasts along the way.
Zack, using his electromagnetic powers, could stick to metallic surfaces with ease, and coupled with the speed and jumping power of a general, was able to maneuver wherever he wanted to a certain extent while shooting bullets at Red and evading with lightning-fast acrobatic grace.
Red, on the other hand, had exhibited the power of flight. He could shoot himself up into the air by propelling his hands and feet with his flames. However, while this granted him speed, agility was an issue; he could not make sharp turns, nor could he effectively fight mid-air. Instead, he used the propeller flames on his feet to boost his jumps and make quick sprints in order to match the speed of the Lightning General, who was known to be the most agile among them.
The Crimson General, the master of flame dubbed “The Blazing Monster,” was known to favor the Bo Staff because of how it lets him chain attacks and transition from offense to defense in rapid succession fluidly, a must for one who specialized in taking down hordes of enemy soldiers on his own. On the other hand, the Ivory General Zack, known for his epithet “The Lightning Assassin,” was somewhat the complete opposite: he favored a dagger for clean, decisive strikes aimed at just one person. The clash of these stark differences in fighting styles was something all the soldiers simultaneously dreaded yet ironically looked forward to, but Red knew better than to clash staff with dagger. Sure, Zack had just one target to focus on and eliminate, but Red was not plowing a unit of weaklings. This was a one-on-one clash between two of the four most powerful beings in the world.
No one expected Red to ever hold a sword, but the sight before them was real. The young general had judged the situation and felt it necessary to use a blade in this fight. While his staff was made of metal and thus could hold off against a dagger, in a straight-up fight against the most agile general, Red knew he would need as much speed as he could possibly get.
Red had studied swordplay during the first two months of his rebirth as a general. This was because he had to be able to counter multiple people coming at him all at once, and most soldiers preferred the sword in melee combat due to its balance between speed and power, so it stood to reason that in order to be able to fight against it, he needed to master it. The sword granted him a similar range advantage as with the staff, only he could focus on less angles because he only had one enemy this time around, and his swings would be faster.
Case in point, while Red did not necessarily favor the sword, it was not as if he became a less effective fighter now that he was wielding it, and his first melee exchange with Zack proved this to a terrifying extent.
In order to gauge each other’s combat prowess, Red and Zack exchanged a few hits with their blades. However, this exchange was far from the normal swordfight; they were moving at high speeds and each strike resounded far and wide, distracting every single soldier in the area with a sonic boom per hit.
It was as if the Crimson General, who was known exclusively as a wielder of the Bo Staff years before the war even began, was using his main weapon.
The two of them would stick onto opposite buildings and jump towards each other to unleash melee attacks, each strike sending out the powerful shockwaves that were able to scare even the biologically-enhanced soldiers when they first heard it, and gave them the hint to not get in the way of such a major fight. At long range, they would exchange gunfire, but would always miss, not because of bad aim but because they would intercept each other’s bullets midair with terrifying accuracy, be it with their blades or fired bullets.
“Reinforcements have arrived!”
After receiving identical messages, the two generals broke off from their melee fight, jumping backwards several meters away from each other. They were standing on opposite ends on top of a building, and behind them flew two fighter jet planes each.
One from both sides fired a missile at their respective enemy general. They had been able to acquire the heat signatures of both Red and Zack, and so in order to help in the big fight between generals, they launched heat-seeking missiles. The two weapons of mass destruction slowly made its way out of the plane and straight to the building where the two monsters stood. Red could see the one aimed at him, and likewise, Zack could see the one that was going for him.
The two generals glared at each other and smiled.
Dashing forward at blinding speed, they completely passed by each other and jumped off the building at the same time, straight at the missiles aimed for them.
They would take care of the nuisances first. There was no place for things like machines in a duel between generals.
Stretching out his right hand, Red created a mass of flame with the same outline as his body and threw it forward. The human-shaped flame dashed past the missile, and, completely fooling the infrared sensors built into it, guided the huge weapon of mass destruction straight to the fighter plane that launched it.
The aircraft exploded, the impact pushing away the allied fighter plane just behind it. However, even this was not safe, because in that moment, Red was already flying straight to the aircraft. Using the momentum he gained in his aerial charge, he somersaulted forward and, gripping his sword with both hands in the middle of his spin, swung it right on top of the fighter plane. The metal plating melted instantly and the blade sliced through it. Finally, to finish the job, Red snapped his fingers and sent a large explosion inside the crack he created. The fighter plane exploded and plummeted to the ground, leaving the red-eyed boy floating in the air with flames in his hands and feet.
At the same time, Zack sent a large electric current to the missile aimed at him, causing its systems to short-circuit and explode. With the large debris scattered in the air, Zack used his powers to bring a part of it under his feet, catching his fall. He then used it as a flying mechanism to get to the two fighter planes, sending electric shockwaves strong enough to shut down both aircrafts and kill the pilots inside. They eventually fell to the ground at the same time as the ones that Red got rid of.
The gigantic crafts crashed to the ground, but there was no one around. This was because ever since the duel began, all of the foot soldiers made sure that they kept their distance from the two monsters; one shockwave caused by Red and Zack clashing blades was enough. However, the aerial forces thought otherwise, being significantly larger and more mobile than the next most powerful thing they have: the tanks. Both sides thought they could offer help to their generals, and they all paid the price with their lives.
Nothing could stand in the way of this fight.
Returning to the building where they jumped off from, the two monsters tightened their grip on their weapons and charged forward at each other. Another shockwave resounded in the area.
After a few exchanges, while standing on neighboring buildings, Red fired several shots from his gun and simultaneously sent out a large spurt of flame from his other hand, an attack similar to a fire breath. In response, Zack gathered surrounding metals with his electromagnetism and used them to form a shield. After absorbing the attack, the large now-heated pile of metal was thrown back at Red. Zack intended to do this in order to block Red’s vision while he sneakily closed the gap between them through what he anticipated would be the Crimson General’s blind spot using a swift jump with a speed that only he could perform and keep up with.
Zack predicted that Red would either shoot or slash the pile of metal away, and that would be his chance. True enough, as he was midair a good distance below Red, he saw the makeshift shield get knocked away, but he noticed something was off and made a shocked expression.
Wait, what? How?!
In an instant, Zack saw. Red, who was right above him as he was midair, was looking at the now empty space where Zack originally was, but it seemed as if he knew about the planned ambush, because he knocked the pile of metal straight at the blind spot where Zack currently was. This disturbed Zack’s fighting capability greatly. Aiming for a nearby pipe on the building Red was in, he let electricity fly out of his outstretched hand and forced himself to “fly” there with his electromagnetism. He was a little late, however, because his left leg was grazed by the burnt metal that Red had knocked off. Nevertheless, he was able to grab the pipe and avoid a direct fall. Sensing his temporary safety, he heaved a sigh. Red was still looking at the empty space as if he had no idea that Zack was directly below him.
Then, in an instant, the Ivory General felt a hand grab his head, and at that moment he could feel his hair burning.
“Like I said,” came the voice of the boy named Red. “It’s checkmate.”
Red’s feet were pointing upwards as he pushed Zack’s head downward with his left hand. Sending out flames, he forcefully sent himself and Zack plummeting toward the ground at an incredible speed. Because the older general did not see it coming, he did not have enough time to let go of the pipe, and it ended up scraping his entire right hand.
A general had incredible combat capabilities and reflexes, so a counterattack like the one Red executed should not have gone that well. But one small instance of overconfidence, where Zack felt convinced that Red would not be able respond to his sneak attack, was all it took to turn the entire fight around.
For a moment, Zack had thought that he could win.
This was a mistake that a general could not afford to make, especially against the one known as the world’s strongest fighter, the boy who swore to fight the whole world for a certain high school girl.
Zack tried to shoot his gun upwards hoping to get Red at point-blank range, but the latter simply shot the gun out of his hand before it could happen. Left in a seemingly hopeless situation, the Ivory General bit his lower lip and tightly clenched his fists, one of which was slowly being covered in blood.
To Red’s surprise, he felt a strong force pulling on his gun. He let go of it, thinking nothing of the whole matter because he could already smell his victory, but quickly changed his mind when even his sword was unsheathed from him. He immediately let go of Zack and flew sideways, narrowly avoiding his own sword that was mysteriously thrown at him, sending it thrusting through a nearby wall.
What the?! Red caught the same pipeline that Zack had held onto. He could even take my weapons from me? Then again that’d make sense if he could electromagnet his way through metals…but why didn’t he just do that from the get-go?
It was most likely due to pride, Red realized. However, being cornered the way he was, he had no choice but to pull out the boy’s weapons.
Hmph. There’s no way an overconfident idiot like him could possibly win this war.
Right before he could reach the ground, Zack moved a nearby trash pile and used it to cushion his fall. As he mixed in with the numerous rubbish, Red fired his other gun, only for Zack to use his powers to close the lid and shield himself. He then rolled the pile sideways and dashed out from there.
“You’re not getting away, bastard!” Red said as he used the wall to propel himself and flew downwards. Given Zack’s injury, even if he could take control of Red’s weapons, the younger general could still win by sheer speed and flames alone. Zack was most likely trying to escape, or so Red thought for a few seconds until he realized where he was.
Without him noticing, he and Zack had ended up in the place where Catherine was being held. Zack was dashing towards Catherine and the other soldiers who were guarding her, with Red too far away to react in time.
Zack was moving at a speed that even the bio-soldiers could not keep up with. They fired gunshots that were easily avoided with sharp zigzags, causing them to panic. True, a general was faster than the bio-soldiers, but this enhanced speed that Zack was showcasing could also be attributed to his desperation. His last resort was to take down Catherine and break Red internally from there. That was why he could push himself so hard.
“Damn, I should’ve just done this from the start!” Zack muttered under his breath before shaking his head and grinning, gestures that no one could see because of the speed at which he was dashing. “But no matter. I’ll just kill this girl and-”
He felt a body hit him from the side. His dash completely interrupted, he was pushed sideways, and upon hitting a wall, the person behind this surprise attack forcefully pulled him away from it and restrained his arms from behind.
“Gah…!” The body was too big to be Red’s, and he knew that the young general could not possibly have come from that angle. But the injured and confused general knew that it could not be a bio-soldier judging from how firm the hold was.
Zack’s eyes widened and his pupils shrank.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out who was restricting his movements, but Zack could not bring himself to believe it until Red slowly walked over to them.
The young general grinned and scratched his head. “Sorry for dragging you into this, Nathan.”
The mysterious figure laughed and Zack’s heart began beating uncontrollably.
The Emerald General.
“Remember when I said that you guys were outnumbered?” Red asked Zack. “That was such a big hint and you chose to ignore it?”
Zack swallowed a lump. “You…I can’t believe you’d go this far…”
“I’d do anything for that girl lying unconscious over there.” Red motioned his head to where Catherine was. He then approached Zack and slowly placed a fireball into the man’s injured hand.
“Aaaaaagh!” Zack tried to retaliate by flinging his limbs around and unleashing his electricity, but Nathan took in all of his shocks and remained unfazed.
For the first time in his life, Zack finally had a taste of true fear. Knowing how futile any further actions were, he stopped his outrage and stayed motionless.
He was surrounded by two generals, and the entire place was composed only of soldiers from the Crimson and Emerald Armies, his own troops having fallen due to the number disadvantage. His last resort had been to pluck out and assassinate Catherine, but even that he could no longer do. He was well-known for having cleanly assassinated key figures in seemingly-impossible scenarios, and now he could not even lay a finger on an unconscious teenage girl merely a few meters away from him.
There was no way out, and he could only brace himself as Red slowly incinerated his bleeding hand.
Sweat and tears combined all over Zack’s face, and Red switched to burning his left hand. With another loud scream, the Ivory General was rendered unable to move his arms. With his left leg also partially burned from the pile of metal that Red had knocked over to him, as well as the damage from his fall, he was in great pain. He fell on his knees as Nathan removed his grip on him, and he could not even catch his own fall with his hands, which was Red’s primary reason for burning them.
The green-eyed general brushed off his clothes and shook his head. “Ho man, his shocks are legit, Red,” he commented. “I’m not grabbing him again.”
“Thanks, Nathan,” Red simply said. He then took his gun and pointed it at Zack’s head. “Game over.”
“Allying yourself with another general…” Zack said, the pain evident in his voice as he stopped periodically to breathe deeply, desperately trying to endure the pain in his burnt hands. “You’re even…more underhanded…than me.”
“Does it matter?” Red stepped forward to have the muzzle of his gun touch Zack’s forehead, forcibly making the older general look up at him with a push. “You took Catherine away. For that alone, you deserve to die.”
“You’ve defeated two generals now,” Zack commented. “But for both, you…you needed the aid of others. For Shirley, it was me, and now…you had the nerve to get Emerald involved…”
“Sure, whatever. I mean, you’re still gonna die, right?” Knowing he had complete control of the situation, Red began forming a circular wall of flame around Zack. “I’m still one step closer to ending this war no matter what you say or whatever complaint anyone makes.”
“To go so far as to seek help from an enemy whom you would one day fight to the death with… you’re one crazy kid.” Zack’s hands had begun their regeneration, so for the time being he was able to get rid of his awkward mid-sentence pauses, but he was still immobilized. “But you’re completely aware, right? Even with just 3 of you left, this war is far from over. Do you really think you can continue protecting that girl up until the very end?”
Red chuckled, causing him to pull his gun away from Zack’s forehead. “Are you seriously asking me that? Of course I can.”
“What makes you so sure?”
Red heaved a sigh as he put his gun back in its original target. “Because I’ve done it before,” he replied. “Before I became a general, at this very place…I once lost my life here in order to protect the very person I’m so hung up on saving right now. She has no idea about it, though. As a powerless teenager, I was willing to die for her. Now that I’m a general, I’d say I’m pretty much unstoppable.” The flames surrounding Zack began burning the edges of his pants. “I’m quite the selfish general, huh?”
Zack closed his eyes and smiled. “You and me both,” he said. He could not help but start crying at this point. “But I guess…you were the more selfish one. You win, Red. Goodbye; it was a blast.” He forced a smile, but the tears in his eyes were just too much to hide.
However, the boy named Red remained expressionless in front of his helpless enemy.
After the clean headshot, Red instantly burned Zack. For one with the regeneration powers of a general, a shot to the head would not mean instantaneous death, and hence the victim would be able to feel an extraordinary amount of pain that was beyond the comprehension of any normal human. So in order to kill Zack as quickly as possible, Red added in his flames.
Aside from the fatal mistake he made during the battle, Zack went easy on Red by not stealing his weapons until the very last moment when he was cornered. However, from the other side of the spectrum, Red was not exactly at peak condition himself, having fought more than 400 of the Ivory Army’s soldiers on his own before facing the Lightning Assassin. Many questions in this fight will forever remain unanswered.
What if Zack had gone full force? What if Red had not been tired and injured to begin with? Would Red be able to make his own opening if Zack respected his combat ability? What would have happened if Red simply waited for the rest of the Ivory soldiers to be wiped out, and then cornered Zack in an unfair fight? What if Red and Nathan had worked together from the start?
Most of these were scenarios that Red himself had rejected, and he had a reason for doing everything that he did.
He entered the city on his own, well ahead of the Emerald Army, in order to clear a path for them to rescue his troops. This led to a 1 vs 200 fight. The next battle, where countless soldiers prevented him from chasing Zack, was out of his calculations, but thanks to that, Catherine’s safety – as well as that of his troops – was further ensured. Red was the one and only general who would shoulder an incredible amount of weight on his shoulders for his army, and the path he chose minimized the casualties on his side at the cost of taxing his body to the limit. It was a risk that, if he had been careless in the slightest, would have had him killed.
However, the results at the final showdown between the two generals made it clear what this risk was worth.
As the Ivory General fell to the ground, Red dropped his gun and held his mouth. His body began to shake.
Falling to his knees, the boy named Red covered his face as he began crying in front of Zack’s corpse. Nathan responded by placing his fist in his heart and bowing his head. The other soldiers gave out sign language orders and quietly dispersed in order to rally up the troops and help the injured while Red immersed himself in depression for the major battle that had transpired.
Red does not want to kill anyone. This was the truth. Red wants to survive and protect Catherine throughout the war. This, too, was the truth. Hence, it was all a matter of which truth held more weight to him, and his answer was clear.
To survive and protect Catherine meant to win the war, and this entailed killing countless people. However, due to the fact that the only time a battle stops is if a general dies, Red had no choice but to turn into a murderer. If he could just settle everything with one-on-one fights between generals, then he would have done that from start to end. But that was not the case, and the tears he was shedding right now were offered to all the lives that got involved, Zack included.
The Crimson Army suffered the loss of 284 bio-soldiers, putting them at 548, and about 1,500 normal soldiers. Meanwhile, the Ivory Army lost over 800 bio-soldiers and more than 2,500 normal ones, most of whom were killed upon the arrival of the Emerald Army while Red and Zack were locked in a death match, and nearly 500 of these forces were killed by Red alone. The Emerald Army, knowing its role as backup, only lost a little over 30 bio-soldiers and a few hundred normal ones.
It turned out that Red and Nathan, the Emerald General, had met in the past and subsequently made a bizarre deal: If Zack was to attack any one of them, the other would send in a fourth of their forces as backup. This deal already sealed Zack’s fate.
In any case, the battle was over, and it was a crushing victory for the Crimson Army.
Meanwhile, Catherine was pretending to still be unconscious, unsure of how she should act if she got up now. But deep inside her thoughts, she was confused and her heart was beating wildly.
The one who saved me from the drunkards back then…was Red?