3-1: The Crimson Army, Part 1
Two months have passed since the kidnapping of a certain teenage girl and the subsequent battle to take her back.
Upon losing a vast majority of their forces as well as their reason to fight, the remnants of the fallen Ivory Army had requested that they fight alongside the boy known as Crimson General Red. They had all approached him mere days after the battle with pieces of paper in their hands that contained their bio-data and essays on what they left behind when they joined the war, things that Red required his own troops to procure. After having worked for a dictator like Zack, the Ivory soldiers felt as if they never really served their country and loved ones wholeheartedly, and they believed that fighting under Red would give newfound meaning to their roles in the entire Global Unification War.
“You guys are just scared now that your country’s completely defenseless,” was the crimson-eyed boy’s response. While it was true that both the Ivory and Cerulean Armies no longer had their respective leaders, the latter had 416 bio-soldiers, a far cry from the Ivory Army’s 188. The estimation of a bio-soldier being equivalent to 20 normal soldiers was not at all accurate; it was more than that in real combat because of their enhanced mental capacity that complemented their increased physical prowess, making arguably more useful than a tank in certain scenarios. With barely 200 bio-soldiers on the Ivory side, their country would easily fall should any one of the three remaining active armies attack them. It would then make sense why they would want to fight under the Crimson Army: for personal protection.
The boy named Red eventually accepted the papers and read them all carefully, memorizing the names and faces of his former enemies. However, as a consensus between him and the division commanders, the Ivory soldiers were not allowed to actively be part of the Crimson Army. Instead, Red struck a certain deal:
“If you guys promise to mobilize in order to help us out should we find ourselves in battle, I will promise to immediately come to your aid should either Emerald or Gold attack you.” This was Red’s proposal, and the Ivory soldiers accepted this deal.
After having the number of generals reduced to three, the Emerald and Gold Armies stopped their seemingly-endless series of skirmishes. Had they continued, the Crimson Army would have had an opening to take advantage of. Likewise, anyone who made a move at this point first would most likely lose. It was a stalemate situation, and the Ivory forces switching to the Crimson Army would have destroyed that balance due to a country losing all of its soldiers. Thus, Red was relieved that they accepted his proposal even if it meant that they would be rendered quite vulnerable.
This was the situation at hand, and the past two months have served as a brief time of peace for Red and everyone else in the Crimson Army.
“This is really delicious!”
Roger, the youngest division commander in Red’s army, had just finished a harsh training regimen. After using the training room on his own, he was met by Cynthia, one of the cafeteria cooks. She held a boxed lunch and offered it to him for a job well done, and he deeply appreciated her support.
Normally, all members in the base would eat at roughly the same time, but Roger used this chance to train on his own. This would happen fairly frequently. Whenever he did, though, Cynthia would prepare a special lunch for him after the others have had their fill. At first, rumors were spreading around, especially from friends of Roger and Cynthia, but when Red told them “It won’t be funny if Roger dies, now will it?” they eventually allowed the two to meet up without saying anything. It was a statement that, under normal circumstances, was taboo, since it talked of the death of a comrade. However, the reality of death in war was real, and more so to Red who held dear in his memory all of the lives lost in tragic battles. This was why they respected what he said and stopped teasing the two.
“I’m really glad you like it,” Cynthia said in response to Roger’s compliment, smiling as she looked at the division commander stuff his mouth. After a few seconds, her smile disappeared and she bashfully lowered her head. “I really hope being with someone like me doesn’t ruin the taste, though.”
“Oh no, not at all!” Roger said this so hurriedly that he ended up spitting some of the food in his mouth. Cynthia laughed at this while his face reddened in embarrassment. “Oh right, there’s something I think you should know.” He pretended that it was something he remembered at that moment – some extra information that was not at all important – but the truth was that he had been preparing for the chance to bring the topic up.
There was a box-shaped bulge on his pocket.
For a while, Roger held onto that small bulge.
Cynthia tilted her head, puzzled. “Hm? What is it?”
Come on, say it! He told himself. Biting his lip, he realized that he was not yet done with his food. Is this…really okay?
There had been a discussion between him, the other division commanders, and Red the Crimson General a couple of weeks ago about soldiers risking their lives in battle. Red, who held in his head the memory of every single military casualty that he had been involved with, asked, “Say, which is more tragic: dying when you have a significant other like a wife or fiancé or even just a girlfriend, or dying before you two could even get to that point in your relationship? Assuming mutual feelings, of course.” The other division commanders, who were happy about having Red consult them with such topics, gave various opinions, but at that time Roger could not find an answer for himself.
However, right now, with Cynthia in front of her and his hand just about to reach into his pocket, he finally decided on an answer of his own.
“Uh, no wait.” He waved his hands all over the place and laughed nervously. “On second thought, it’s not at all that important. Maybe…” He bowed his head, hiding his red face. “I think…it’d be better if I let you in on it once the war is over…” That’s right. This way, even if I die, she can…
Perhaps it was because she saw the bulge in his pocket, or because she already had an idea what it was that Roger wanted to say, but Cynthia blushed and smiled.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “Until then, I’ll stay by your side as much as I can.”
Meanwhile, inside Catherine’s room, a certain crisis was going on. Aside from her roommates Anabelle, Wilma, and Sharon, Red and Victor were also present.
“Waaaah! Waaaah!” It was the cry of an infant.
“Oh, no! Red, what do I do?!”
“Damn, let me handle this! You go prepare the milk!”
“O-Okay! I’m counting on you!”
In the midst of the panicking teenagers, Victor gave out a laugh. “Oh man! This is too funny!” His outburst was interrupted, however, when the noise disappeared and Red was able to successfully change the diapers of the baby in front of him.
It all began when Catherine wanted to try taking care of Victor’s and Anabelle’s 1-month-old daughter, Rose. Victor decided to call on Red for some fun, and right when the Crimson General arrived, Rose took a huge dump and began crying.
However, Red was somehow able to quell Rose’s outburst on top of successfully changing her diapers. By the time Victor recovered from his shock, the 17-year-old boy was already cradling the baby in his arms. Looking around, it was not just Victor; everyone in the room stared at him with extremely widened eyes and open mouths.
“What, you thought I didn’t know how to take care of a baby?”
They all nodded.
Red laughed. “Come on now, have you guys forgotten already? I’m a general. All I had to do was watch a couple of tutorial videos for changing diapers, and I was pretty much good to go.”
“Wait, you prepared for this?” Anabelle asked. “But Victor invited you on a whim.”
“Oh, that was like a month ago, just when Rose had been born,” Red replied. “You see, to be honest, I really wanted to have a chance to babysit her. After all, I did play a part in naming her.”
Catherine, who had just finished mixing the powdered milk and preparing the bottle, joined in on the conversation. “Wait, you did? How? I never knew about this.”
In response, Anabelle put her hand on Catherine’s head and took the liberty of explaining. “Well, you see,” she began, “It’s something that Victor and I decided on together. You know that it’s because of Red protecting us the way he does that I was able to stay alive long enough to give birth, right? Also, on top of ensuring the safety of all of us here, it was thanks to Red specifically saving Victor from the Ivory General that this husband of mine is able to see his first child. Victor came up with the idea of naming our baby ‘Rose’ because when you think of that flower, it usually reminds you of the color red. Likewise, whenever we look at her, the two of us are reminded of how indebted we are to this teenage general of ours.”
Catherine smiled, clearly moved by the backstory. To ruin the moment, however, Red, who was still cradling the baby that was now quietly staring at her surroundings with wide eyes, shook his head in disappointment.
“The idiot couple pushed through with their idea even though I kept telling them that roses had colors other than red.” He heaved a sigh. “Well, whatever. Here, Cath, you try holding her this time. I already calmed her down, so it should be fine. Oh, and you do the bottle-feeding as well.”
With Catherine reaching her arms out, Red carefully handed the baby over to her. Furthermore, to ensure that she didn’t mess up, Red took hold of her arms and made sure that she could comfortably carry Rose. After this, he handed her the bottle while saying, “Careful. Okay, now hold this…there we go. Now just stay like that and I’ll handle the burping later.” As he did this, the women in the room did their best to hide their squeals.
They look like a young couple!
“Say, Red,” Anabelle said once Catherine was finally able to hold Rose on her own. “I understand how you would be able to master and apply to perfection what you learned about changing diapers in a baby, but how about the part where you calmed her down? It’s not something you can just learn from a video.”
Red grinned. “Yeah, you’re right. Well, two things: One, I moved my arms around to cradle her. Obvious. Two, and this is the twist, I actually heated up my arms a bit to make her feel like she was in an incubator. Once she felt at home, I slowly removed the heat in case she got too comfy and fell asleep.”
Victor slapped Red’s back. “Clever, clever. Clearly making good use of your powers there.”
“Thanks.” Red’s grin then disappeared as he looked at Anabelle. “Say Jingle Bells, I have a question.”
“I know you know my name, Red. Heck, you even know the names of everyone from the Ivory Army.”
“Right, right. Sorry, Annie. Anyway, if I may ask, is it fine to bottle-feed her at such an early stage in her life? Shouldn’t you be breastfeeding her for now?”
It’s not my fault that my name isn’t as conveniently short as “Red,” you know. Anabelle rolled her eyes in annoyance before responding. “Well, yeah, but just in case, we have powdered milk prepared. For now I just find it convenient because this way Catherine can get a feel for taking care of a baby.” I can’t tell him that we just wanted to see him and Catherine look like a couple.
“I guess that makes sense,” Red said, completely clueless.
The 65-year-old man named Charles was locked up in his room. He was completely immersed in his desktop computer, typing something with very fast hands.
It was beginning to get dark.
Charles, whom Red casually calls “Chuck” despite being many decades older than the him, ended up becoming a social recluse after losing his wife, Susan, to cancer. This was at the age of 61, right after he had retired from the military and was prepared to live out the rest of his life with Susan in peace and quiet. Charles had worked hard in the military solely for her, so that one day he could offer the rest of his life to her, and Susan patiently waited. None of them expected that she would die right when that promised time had come, and it crushed him severely.
He had two sons who offered to take him in, but he instead decided to simply live on his own, cooking his own food, washing his own clothes, and doing the dishes alone. In his free time, he read books and wrote many essays about various aspects of life, including reflections about losing his wife and his love for her.
This broken old man was approached one day by a red-eyed teenager. Calling him “Chuck” on their first meeting, this boy reached out his hand with a big smile as he said, “You wanna help me protect some people?” The boy named Red had heard about Charles from his uncle Allen, who used to work under him. After hearing the old man’s backstory, the boy had deemed him to be the best possible pick for a strategist.
“He provides the perfect balance for my army,” the young general had said. “In the midst of all the people fighting to avoid losing those dear to them, here is a man who has lost everything. He knows the pain of loss, so I’d like him to be the one to guide me and the rest of us.”
This was when the old man named Charles regained a new reason to live. He took all of his books and papers of printed works, and immediately followed Red.
Now he was here, typing like a madman.
Red, the general and the leader of the Crimson Army, was almost always focused on increasing his combat abilities, given the way he was always fighting on the front lines. Thus, paperwork was handled by others.
And most of the responsibility for this was shouldered by Charles.
Billing statements, diplomatic letters, status reports, letters issuing orders of any sort under the command of the Crimson General…the old military veteran handled almost all of this. In his free time, because he refused to spend much time outside his room, he continued with his essays, which Red was a big follower of. He would also try writing out plans on how to make the world a better place after the war, sending these proposals for discussion between him and the red-eyed boy alone, the one person whom he completely opened his heart to after losing his wife and reason to live.
But right now he was busy with formal paperwork.
While he was immersed in his work, however, he suddenly heard a knock on the door.
“Is that the general?” he asked, refusing to decrease his typing speed.
“Nope,” came the voice from outside. It was Allen. “Today’s a special day. You’re gonna want to get out of your room and celebrate with us, Sir Charles.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“Rose turned 1 month old today,” Allen replied. “You know, Victor’s kid. Red already went and took a look at her. The kid says he won’t do anything military-related today, so why don’t you also try taking a break for once? I’m sure the kid wishes the same for you.”
Charles stopped typing and heaved a sigh. “Fine, fine. Where do we go?”
Allen opened the door and greeted his former superior with a large, carefree grin.
Charles was led to Allen’s room. It was a 4-man room and his roommates included Adam, who was out at the moment, and Greg, one of the 5 division commanders. When the two men entered the room, however, they were welcomed by several other bio-soldiers, all of whom were in the middle of drinking various types of alcohol.
“But…it’s not even sunset yet,” the old man wondered.
“Happy birthday, Chuck!” the drunken men said in unison.
“But…it’s not my birthday today.” Charles was having trouble dealing with these people whom he did not spend much time with.
“Whatever!!!” The men were too drunk and merry to even care.
Soon enough, however, even the old strategist got drunk. Next thing he knew, he was showing the soldiers a picture of his late wife and telling stories about their time together.
“She was such a beautiful woman,” he said. “You know, during her 50th birthday, when she was about to go home from work, I barged into her office wearing a tuxedo with a couple of friends of mine, and I serenaded her right then and there, complete with a bouquet of flowers and a love letter. Man, the smile and tears on her face that day…those were so priceless. Hic!” The old man was getting dizzy.
“Woah, really?! Love letter so late in your marriage…it’s like you guys’re teenagers! You sure you weren’t talking about her 15th birthday?”
“Idiot, she wouldn’t have had work and they wouldn’t’ve been married back then!”
“But you don’t see geezers do that sort of thing, do you?”
“That just shows how much he treasured her! That is true love!”
As the drunken soldiers quarreled amongst themselves, the old man named Charles fell asleep, his head leaning on the table with a smile on his reddened face.
Allen felt relieved upon seeing this.
Going out of your room and spending some time with us every now and then isn’t so bad, now is it? You have a lot more friends around you than just Red, you know.