4-3: The Birth of the Monster
“Nessie! Hey, wake up! Somebody stop the blood flow; she can’t regenerate properly like this! Shit shit shit hurry!”
Red was completely losing control of his emotions. He had taken Vanessa far from the center of all the chaos, but she had yet to regain consciousness. When he was finally able to settle down and get a good look at her, it seems the pressurized water shots were not the only problem; the spot in her neck where her jugular vein lay had been squeezed tightly when the water prism held her head right after the water bullets hit.
All of this should have been aimed at him. Remembering that fact, Red’s mind was quickly becoming blurry.
“I’ll make sure you don’t have to go out of your way just to protect me.” He had said that line to her just before the battle began, and yet there he was, safe because of her sacrifice. And it was by no means a wasted effort even if Red could have gotten away with less damage had he been hit; he would have been handicapped to the point where Shirley could have finished him off, so on all angles, Vanessa did the right thing for the Crimson Army. This also meant that if she dies, it would be entirely Red’s fault.
He could hear the footsteps of a first aid unit; they would get to them in about 20 seconds. He could dash to them, but any more sudden movement ran the risk of giving Vanessa a fatal shock, so he decided to stay still, looking at the woman whom he considered a person very dear to him throughout the few months of his life as a general. She was like an older sister to him, and because he was a boy who spent most of his life without a mother or even any female companions before befriending Catherine, it was a big deal to him. Having an overprotective older sister when he had grown used to fending for himself was both a breath of fresh air and something he wished would never go away. His heart tightened as he frantically prayed to the heavens that Vanessa would survive, for she held more significance to him than just a soldier.
“R...Red...?” came a weak female voice.
It was slow and painful, but the arm of the female bio-soldier stretched out and held his cheek. Her hand shook as she struggled to keep hold of him, so Red clasped it with his own hand.
“Nessie!” he screamed. “Don’t talk too much! Help is on the way! Just hang in there!”
Vanessa’s mouth was open, and her throat moved ever so slightly, as if forcing words to come out. The regeneration brought about by her powers as a biologically-enhanced soldier was starting to take effect, but the blood loss was still a point of concern.
“A...are you...” Her voice was returning, and this brought a relieved smile to the red-eyed boy’s face.
“You’re gonna be fine,” he said. He tightened his grip on the hand that was resting on his cheek. “You’ll survive this. I’ll do anything to make sure you do.”
What came from the woman’s voice, however, was something that he did not expect.
Red could feel his chest explode. She cared for me this much? He shook his head. “I’m fine. Thanks to you, I’m still alive. That’s why I’m not gonna let you die on me!”
A smile crept on the woman’s face. “I see...good, good. I was...able to...protect you...”
Vanessa’s hand began to drop, and Red’s heart sank with it.
He pushed Vanessa’s hand forcefully against his cheek, desperately trying to prevent gravity from doing its work. The first aid unit was barely 5 seconds of running away from them.
“No! No! No!” Tears were starting to pile up on his eyes, and when he saw Vanessa’s lifeless face decorated with a smile, he had finally reached his limit.
Gently placing down her hand right when the first aid unit appeared, he wiped his tears and stood up.
“Take her away,” he told the people in front of him. “It’s already too late. Even now my people are dying. They’re all dying because I was too weak. I can’t afford to be so soft anymore.”
He began walking back to the battlefield, and as he did, one of the people who were taking out Vanessa’s corpse gulped.
“I thought his flames were bright orange?” he said as he stared at his general being surrounded by a blue flame.
“Outta the way!”
Giving out this command, the boy named Red charged straight into the heart of the battlefield. With loud grunts, he plowed through dozens of enemy soldiers in mere seconds, leaving both armies dumbfounded. The Crimson Army troops, afraid of getting killed by accident, immediately backed off. Explosions abounded the boy’s surroundings and the corpses piled up continuously as Red charged forward, leaving traces of fire behind.
His eyebrows crossed when a teenage girl wielding two swords stood to block his path.
The girl had prepared a large number of water bullets before arriving, and when they were finally facing each other she shot all 20 of them at Red and his possible escape routes.
“I’m not letting you have your way, Crimson!”
“Graaaah!” With a loud roar, a disoriented Red summoned just as many fireballs in an instant and sent them to intercept every single water bullet, effectively boiling them all.
“What the?!” Shirley was stunned. He wasn’t supposed to be able to match me in terms of elements! How did he-
A Bo Staff started swinging sideways in front of her, and she parried it. As she did, Red twisted the staff to make the other end strike her, this time from above. It was so fast that all Shirley could do was defend against it. When she received the blow, she was completely overpowered, and she felt as if her legs were going to break.
She was gritting her teeth in resistance, but soon she noticed something more unsettling, and her heart skipped a beat.
Red’s staff was glowing blue, and it was starting to melt her sword.
No, no, no!
She did not expect Red’s swing to hold that much power, but soon her swords were split in half and she was hit square on the head, sending her screaming to the ground with a loud thud.
“Not yet!” the red-eyed general screamed.
He then readjusted his handle on his staff and began stabbing the helpless girl on the ground. Each hit was answered by a shriek of pain by Shirley, but Red paid no heed; he was too mad. He broke and burned through her skin, and then though her bones. Soon, the girl lost the strength to even scream.
Pulling her hair, he threw her high into the air and shot her from there with his gun. Each attack made every soldier from both sides flinch.
“Red, she’s...probably dead already,” they wanted to say, but none would dare get close to him right now.
After firing five shots, all of which were accurately aimed at vital spots, just when Shirley was about to fall, Red placed his gun back in its holster, jumped up to where she was, and hit her once more on the head with his staff, sending her crashing to the ground. He landed right next to her, breathing heavily. The blue flames soon disappeared and he stared at the soldiers around him.
He seemed to have regained his senses.
“W-what...? Why is everyone so far away?”
He soon noticed that whoever he looked at, whether it was a soldier from his army or an enemy, they would avert their gaze from him. He tried this several times and the pattern seemed to hold. As he did, he eventually noticed a presence lying down beside him.
Upon looking at it, his eyes widened in shock and he instantly threw up on the ground.
There was a teenage girl lying lifeless in front of him. Her limbs were twisted in abnormal positions, her body was burned and pierced to the point that internal organs were showing, and her head was squashed so badly that the body parts that should have been enclosed in her skull were all over the place.
The corpse was burning, and only the two of them were in the area, so...
I...I did this...?
He had been in such a fit of rage that he could barely remember anything that had happened within the past few minutes, but he could vaguely remember fighting Shirley. Torturing her even after death was something he could not recall, but the evidence in front of him was more or less all he needed to piece things together.
I did this, he repeated. I’m the monster who did this...
His body began shaking, and once more, he lost control of his emotions. With a desperate cry, the area around him became covered in flames, and while this time they were back to the usual orange, it was by no means something to be taken lightly.
“Crap!” Allen exclaimed over the microphone hanging on his helmet. “Everyone, get out! He’s gonna explode!”
However, the soldiers already had an inkling as to the possibility of an explosion, because when they saw the flames they were already running away.
The Cerulean Army troops, however, were still standing from where they were, wondering what was going on. When they finally did notice Red’s soldiers in a panic to get as far from their general as possible, however, it was already too late.
The small area around Red and Shirley suddenly detonated, and flames erupted on all sides. The Cerulean soldiers, all in a panicked frenzy, evacuated the area at once.
Red opened his eyes.
His face was full of tears and he was kneeling on the ground in an isolated part of a blown-up city. The area 500 meters around him was barren, but beyond that lay the debris of buildings, vehicles, and various other structures.
He was alone. Even his soldiers were nowhere to be found.
Looking around, he found a patch of ash, and the moment he saw it his face grew pale.
“No...no!” he cried out, putting his hands over the small patch. His hand refused to directly touch it, as if it was something so delicate that a simple touch would utterly destroy it. “No! Shirley...!”
In a complete daze, he started digging a hole in the ground, placing what was left of the ashes that may or may not have been the Cerulean General’s corpse into it. He was making sounds that were between panicked gasping and crying, as though he was in a hurry to bury the memory of everything he had done to the girl while simultaneously lamenting on how brutally he had murdered her.
The soldiers from both sides of the fight slowly walked towards him but dared not to get too close, and soon after the Cerulean Army surrendered.
They were not going to be involved with Red any further.
The battle was over, and the victory goes to the Crimson Army.
However, while war is always expected to be an ugly thing, what Red had done to Shirley was beyond human.
At that moment, he was given the name “Blazing Monster.”
And as if to cement this title onto him, his out-of-control explosion killed hundreds more from the enemy. The Crimson Army troops were just barely able to escape with no one dying, but a large number still got caught in the explosion and were heavily injured.
August 24, Crimson Base.
“Red! Are you there?” came Cynthia’s voice. She was holding a tray of food while knocking on the door to Red’s room. After several tries that ended in vain, she heaved a sigh and placed the tray on the floor. “I’m leaving your food here, okay? I included some snacks in case you get hungry later on.”
Seeing that Red had no intention of responding, Cynthia shook her head and turned around, where Roger and Allen stood waiting. They then walked away together.
“This is not what I signed up for,” Roger said, looking dejected. “I know we’re at war and that being a soldier in these times means killing fellow human beings, but we just witnessed a teenage boy slaughter a teenage girl. Why did children have to be involved in this battle?! This isn’t a proper war!”
Allen placed his hand on Roger’s shoulder. “Calm down, pal,” he said. “Mankind has never had any experience in a war where every side is evenly matched like a game; there is no way for us to predict anything here. You may have expected a more ‘proper’ way of fighting, where the generals stay as safe as possible, but you’ve seen firsthand how vastly useful the presence of a single general is. They may have been idealistic teenagers who wanted to do what they could to prevent any more of their soldiers from dying, and that may be stupid or reckless in a normal scenario, but the general serum made their actions actually valid. In the end, our goal was still to kill that Shirley kid, and our army succeeded.”
“But at what cost? Red is a mess right now!”
“That he is,” Allen replied. “But can you do anything about it? No. None of us adults can reach out to him, and there is no one his age or anyone who remotely understands him around. There is nothing we can do.”
“So we just sit here while our general self-destructs, is that it?”
Allen shook his head. “Red won’t self-destruct,” he assured. “There may be no human capable of bouncing back instantly after an experience like that, but he won’t break down completely. He won’t give up fighting. Not as long as that girl is still alive for him to protect.”
“Do you trust him so much because he’s your nephew?” Roger asked.
“Partly,” Allen replied. “Because I’m his uncle, I’ve been able to visit him every now and then, so I know. Even back then, he was a kid whose thought process was one of a kind. You should know just from being with him these past few months. His roundabout way of showing his love for that Catherine girl, and more importantly the way he has pushed himself so far in order to be able to protect us as a fellow fighter on the front lines…He’s the type that fights his own battles and wins without letting anyone else know about it. Such a person is stronger than anyone else, because they don’t depend on anyone and thus they can keep on standing back up as long as they’re alive.”
“You’re putting too much hype on the kid, I think,” Roger said. “But I’ve seen how much effort he’s putting into this war, so I’ll take your word for it.”
Meanwhile, the boy named Red was in his bed, his face glued to the TV that was showing a movie via a DVD player. However, he was not really watching; his crimson-dyed eyes were empty and seemed to look beyond the screen as he repeatedly said the same line to himself:
“I’m a monster...”
A reconnaissance unit of the Ivory Army consisting of about 400 regular soldiers had set up camp in the border between them and Emerald’s territory. There was a building overseeing the enemy country while the soldiers were resting.
“Oh man, why do I have to do guard duty at a time like this?” a soldier in his 40’s, who sat atop the building, said. Finally growing tired of keeping watch, he leaned back on his chair and took out his phone. It contained a picture of a girl that was about 10 years old. “I just wanna go home...”
Just then, he received a call from the large communication device in front of him.
“Enemy attack! Enemy attack!”
The soldier got up from his seat and leaned his body forward to the mic in front of him. “How many are there?!” he asked. “How did they get in?!”
“It’s just one!” came the voice on the other end. “We don’t know the details, but it seems a teenager using a staff for a weapon had snuck in while we weren’t looking!”
“Just one? Then get rid of him!”
“No excuses! Even we can defeat a biologically-enhanced soldier just by outnumbering him!” The man immediately terminated the call and leaned back, crossing his arms. “But seriously, a staff? Why such a lame weapon? What, does the attacker plan on singlehandedly knocking everyone out? What a joke.”
He was just about to laugh by himself when he felt something cold touch his nape.
It was a gun.
The moment he realized this, his face grew pale and he froze, instinctively dropping the cellphone in his hand.
“A lame weapon, huh?” came the voice of a boy. “You wanna give it a try? See if a staff is only able to knock someone out? Just don’t blame me if you die, okay?”
S-shit! There are people stationed below! How did he get here so quickly?!
However, before the soldier could do anything, the boy instantly appeared in front of him. He squeezed the man’s left hand, causing sounds of multiple bones breaking at once, and grabbed his right arm just as quickly, pulling him out of the chair and placing it on his back. The man fell on his knees, completely unable to move while a gun’s nozzle rested on his temple.
Rolling his eyes to the right, he could finally see his attacker’s face.
“Th-those eyes...” he managed to say. “You’re a...general? Wh-what happened to the others? How did you get up here so fast?”
“They’re dead, you idiot,” the boy replied, causing the soldier’s eyes to instinctively gulp.
“...all of them?”
“All 80 stationed inside here. The others are probably looking for me right now, so I can’t waste too much time on someone as worthless you.”
He rolled his eyes upward for a few moments as if trying to recall something, before continuing when he finally remembered. “Oh, and the transmission was from me. You’re a really bad superior if you were fooled by me changing my voice a little. No love for the ones below, eh?” Heaving a sigh, the boy redirected the soldier’s functioning arm to hold the handle of the gun he was using, but his fingers were tightly clasped so that the boy still had control over the trigger. He then forcefully pushed the nozzle into the man’s mouth. The man tried resisting, but the boy pushed it so hard that his teeth would have been forced out of his gums had he resisted any further.
This sent a genuine sense of fear in the older man. His left hand could no longer move, and his right hand was holding the weapon that could very well end his life in a moment’s notice. Tears started welling up in his eyes as he desperately said something that one could barely make out.
“Who’s the most important person to you?” the boy suddenly asked.
The soldier, using the gun to pronounce the consonants, was barely able to answer: “My daughter...”
“I see...” the boy said. He then used the gun to push the man to the floor, removing it from his mouth without shooting and letting go of his hand.
The older man, sprawled on the floor, started laughing maniacally after having been spared. He saw his cellphone that contained the picture of his daughter right in front of him.
He reached out towards it, but then his arm twitched for a moment before falling to the floor, lifeless. A metallic Bo Staff had crushed the man’s skull, spreading blood and head organs on the floor.
“That’s for talking trash about my weapon of choice,” the boy said before pulling out his staff and swinging away the blood that was stuck at the tip.
With his arms hanging on the metallic Bo Staff resting on his shoulders, the boy named Red walked away from a sea of flames. There were multiple cuts and holes in his clothes where he had been hit by his swarm of enemies, but the affected parts were rapidly regenerating and only the clothes remained damaged.
He soon saw a helicopter fly down to pick him up. It was from his army.
While descending, the soldiers inside were talking amongst themselves.
“Didn’t that settlement have hundreds of soldiers?” one of them said. “Even if they were just regular humans, the weapons there should have compensated for the lack of a bio-soldier.”
“You saw it, didn’t you?” a familiar man replied. It was Allen, one of the Crimson Army’s division commanders and Red’s uncle. “Or more like you could barely see it.”
“He was so fast, my eyes couldn’t follow at all,” the soldier replied. “You’re a bio-soldier, so you were able to keep track of his movements, right?”
Allen shook his head, surprising the people inside the helicopter.
“Just barely,” he replied. “And given enough time, he’ll probably be at the point where even bio-soldiers would be unable to see him move. Sometimes I feel as if more than giving a person a set increase in strength, the general serum allows a person to improve without any limits. His body would have given in long ago with his intense training, but instead he only grows more and more inhuman by the day with seemingly no end to his potential. It’s pretty scary when you think about it.”
Soon, the helicopter had descended enough to allow Red to jump in. Without speaking a word, the boy walked towards a corner and sat down, silent.
As the aircraft gained altitude, the soldiers inside who saw the entire massacre happen right before their eyes – how a single teenage boy turned a place guarded by 400 adult soldiers into a sea of flames – could only think of one thing:
“That kid is a monster.”
Meanwhile, Red tightened his grip on something. Hidden in his hand, out of sight from everyone else, was a cellphone that contained a photo of a girl that was about 10 years old.