5-3: The Dawn of the Final Battle
“My dad allowed an inter-army alliance to be formed?!”
It was February 8, 3:30pm. The two teenagers Jason and Catherine were doing laundry alongside the women of the Crimson Army when they heard of the news, with Jason reacting first.
“That’s right,” Sharon replied.
“Two armies: Ivory and Emerald.”
Squeezing out the water from a newly-washed shirt, Catherine decided to answer. “I actually saw how Red got the Ivory Army on his side,” she began. “Several representative soldiers approached him and asked if they could join the Crimson Army. I think the reason behind it is that Zack, the Ivory General, was a complete dictator and the soldiers didn’t see meaning in following him. Anyway, Red agreed to the proposal, but only if a battle were to break out involving them. Now that it looks like both the Golden Army and our forces are poised to start the final battle, it’ll make sense that the Ivory soldiers mobilize now.”
“How about the Emerald Army? Is it because they want revenge?”
Catherine tilted her head slightly. “Probably,” she replied. “Also, Red and Nathan - the Emerald General - were friends, remember? The Emerald Army lent their help to us and that’s how we were able to force a decisive victory over the Ivory Army. If there are any additional motives, it’d be for the soldiers to use Red’s friendship with Nathan to exact revenge on the Golden Army.”
After Catherine’s reply, Jason had finished washing one batch of clothes. Wiping his forehead with his arm, he further inquired, “...and they’re all in a meeting right now? Since when did they get here?”
“Last midnight, I heard,” Catherine replied. “My roommates were talking about it in the room even though it was supposed to be a secret from civilians like us. Then again, Anabelle and Sharon are wives of division commanders, so I wasn’t really surprised that they’d know.” The two women giggled momentarily at that remark.
“I wonder how Red is handling it...” Jason said, turning his head toward the general direction leading to the meeting room.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, being surrounded by even more adult strangers than before,” Jason replied. “I know for a fact that he hates it whenever he has to have meetings with my dad and his men, so I can’t help but wonder how he’s doing with this one right now. Plus, since he’s the general at the head of everything, I can imagine the leaders from the other countries relentlessly trying to gain his favor.”
“Oh, right. He is so gonna rant to us as soon as he gets out of there, isn’t he?”
“Of course he will.”
Just as Jason and Catherine had expected, Red was getting bored, and he did not even bother to hide it. While he did not outright fall asleep in front of everyone else, he had slid his body downwards with his head resting on where his back would have been had he been sitting straight in his chair, his arms were crossed, and while his eyes darted in accordance to who was talking, he kept an expression of boredom plastered on his face. This garnered looks of discrimination from the leaders that were unfamiliar with Red, but whenever he would glare back at them they would avoid eye contact immediately.
The meeting dragged on and the boy simply listened.
“We should start some field practice as soon as possible.”
“No, it’s more efficient to simply act as separate units. Let us simply coordinate amongst ourselves here and then fight separately. There is no reason to make soldiers unfamiliar with each other to work together.”
“But we should gather them even once at the very least.”
“What do you think, Sir Red?”
Red waved his hands. “I got nothing,” he said. “I won’t be doing anything in the battle aside from stepping in once I’m needed, so there’s no point in asking for my opinion when it comes to strategy. What’re you looking at?” He returned a glare from an Emerald leader with his own, and the adult clicked his tongue while looking away. Red heaved a sigh and the meeting resumed.
In the end, the overall strategy was as follows: Break through the entire Golden Army and get to the Golden General before he pulls out a tactic similar to the floating mass of buildings. While the alliance would have an overall advantage, if they take long enough for Gold to use his strange power, it will all be for naught; they would be forced to evacuate and have to restart the battle, or if they screw up, lose altogether with great casualties. Because they were clueless as to the nature of Gold’s power and had no real way to counter it, in the end the time limit plan was the best they could come up with. Red was to step in if things took too long, but he was not allowed to join the fight at the start.
Once things were settled and the meeting was adjourned for the time being, several leaders approached Chuck.
“You are Sir Charles, right? The one who commands the Crimson Army? Would you consider this proposition of ours once we emerge victorious in this war?”
The adults had all worded it differently, but in the red-eyed boy’s ears it was all the same: they were sucking up to Chuck. At this moment, they were showing their real intention of joining the Crimson Army: to gain the victor’s favor for their own gain. They did not approach him, the real leader, because they were afraid of him and also because in the meeting, he had established himself to be nothing more than a fighter.
While Chuck was juggling talking with multiple people, Red stood up from his seat and walked out of the meeting room.
4pm. Jason and Catherine had just finished with their chores and were on their way to Red’s room in hopes of chatting with him if ever he was there. As Jason put his hand on the doorknob and turned it slightly, he noticed that it was locked, so he took out from his pocket what looked like a spare key and silently inserted it into the keyhole.
“Are you sure about this, Jason?” Catherine whispered. “Isn’t this an invasion of privacy?”
“What’s the worst that could happen?” the teenage boy whispered back as he slowly twisted the key. “Besides, this is technically my room as well now, considering how he gave me this spare key and all.”
Then, in order to make sure that Red did not sense their presence quickly enough, Jason instantly twisted the doorknob and forced it open.
“Hey buddy, you wanna watch some-”
He instantly cut off his words as two blood-red eyes five meters away focused on him.
Neither Jason nor Catherine was prepared for the sight in front of them: There was Red, the leader of an entire army, the boy hailed as the strongest fighter of the world, someone who could easily take on hundreds of trained soldiers in the battlefield. There he was, on top of his bed, curled in a fetal position with a face that showed an immense fear, as if he was cornered in the plot of a horror movie and left simply waiting for the inevitable tragedy to happen. They were being stared at by two widened eyes that implicitly said something that they would have never expected from one with such a strong image:
“I’m scared. Get me out of here. Help me.”
At around the same time, they heard footsteps from the corridor. It was President William with a couple of personal guards, and he was calling out for Red.
“Sir Red! Are you in your room? A few of the leaders would like to discuss some matters with you.”
Lightly tapping Catherine’s shoulders to get her attention, Jason looked at her and then shifted his eyes to Red as a signal. Catherine nodded in response, and the two split up, with her going towards Red and Jason walking outside to meet his father while closing the door.
Faint voices could be heard just outside.
“Oh, Jason. Is Red not in his room? We figured he would go here to take a break after that meeting.”
“Nope. Maybe he went outside for some fresh air? Or maybe he’s talking with Uncle Adam at his lab.”
“I see. Okay. Anyway, make sure you don’t cause too much trouble for him, okay? He is a very busy man.”
Meanwhile, inside the room, Red was still curled up on his bed and Catherine was sitting beside him, gently holding him in her arms. From that position, she could feel Red shaking uncontrollably.
“What’s wrong, Red?”
“C-can we...stay like this for a while? Please? I’m really sorry you had to see me like this. If you guys hadn’t barged in so suddenly, I could have-”
“Shhh,” Catherine cut him off while she used one hand to gently stroke Red’s head. “Remember what I said before? You can tell me anything. I’m right here, Red, and I have no intention of leaving your side. So tell me: What’s wrong?”
“It’s getting to me...” Red weakly replied. “I reviewed the profiles of the remaining Ivory soldiers last night, and the memories of how I killed their comrades came gushing straight into my head. After that, all the others followed: the victims of the raids, the ones from the battle against the Cerulean Army, and to think that in a few days more people will die. I know, I know...it’s stupid to dwell on this because I’m the Crimson General and it’s the final battle...I’m supposed to be that heartless monster who will put an end to this war. But it’s just...” Red bowed his head and shook even more violently. “...it’s just so scary.”
From behind him, Red could feel Catherine crying and making sudden jerks with each sob, and this caused him to calm down a bit as the teenage girl grabbed one of his hands.
“I’m sorry, Red...” she muttered with a voice that held back an outburst of emotion, her forehead pressed against his back. “I can’t understand your pain...the most I can do is hold you like this and say stupid things such as ‘It’s gonna be okay’...I’m really, really sorry.”
And then, as if going through a sudden change in personalities, Red broke off from his curled-up position and turned around to see Catherine crying.
He forced a smile and placed his hand on her head while she continuously rubbed her tear-filled eyes.
“Sorry, Cath,” he said, giving her hair one long stroke before he got up from his bed. “Just hold on for a little longer, okay?”
Realizing how she had failed to be of help to him again, Catherine’s crying intensified, but Red paid no heed to it and exited the room.
What’re you doing?! Catherine’s mind screamed. He can’t go out like that! Stop him, Catherine! Get up and tell him not to get out of this room! You have to do something!
But she couldn’t. Her entire body froze, and she could only stare at the back of that boy.
Why am I always like this? How come it’s so easy to make him carry me during a normal day, but when I see him suffering, I just freeze up. You’re the worst…!
Meanwhile, Red had his own thoughts to worry about.
“Just one more battle...” the boy softly muttered to himself. “I just have to wipe them all out...and then...” His thought process stopped. “...and then what?” He shook his head. “No, don’t think of unnecessary things. One battle, one final slaughter fest and she will no longer have to cry like that...”
Red left his room desperately trying to convince himself that, while Catherine continued to cry while mentally scolding herself.
Meanwhile, in the country at the other end of the war, preparations were also being made.
A crowd of millions was gathered in front of a large, empty stage, and there was an uproar. Walking out from the gigantic platform and into the backstage was a man in his 60’s holding a cane. He heaved a large, long sigh, after which he opened his eyes to reveal irises that shone a bright golden color.
“Is there really no other way...?” he muttered slightly to himself.
In response, a woman in her mid-40’s holding a clipboard gave the old man a stern look. “Now is not the time to be thinking of such frivolous matters, Lord Graham,” she said. “Especially after such a moving speech. Remember, the Crimson General is a ruthless killer; if you don’t do this much, we will all die.”
“But he’s just a teenage boy...”
“A teenage boy whose hands are bathed in thousands of human lives,” added in the woman. “His army may be insufficient to match ours, but I would not put it beyond him to threaten other countries into joining forces with him. After all, he has already done that with the Emerald Army back in November.”
“And to counter that possibility, we are getting civilians to fight with us?”
The woman nodded. “If that is the collective wish of the people, then so be it. They all love you, Lord Graham. They are willing to throw their lives away for you because they believe in you. You just have to do one thing.”
Graham’s eyebrows crossed. “Send a decisive blow at the heart of the Crimson Army, just like what I did with Emerald.”
“That’s right,” the woman responded. “There is no turning back. Either you lead humanity towards a unified golden age, or that monster sends the entire world plummeting in a sea of flames as sinister as those eyes of his.”
Realizing that there was no point in discussing the matter any further, Graham’s grip on his cane tightened.
“Mobilize everyone,” he ordered. “We’re going to war.”
Two days later, on February 10, the battle between Crimson and Gold was underway. The true identity of the Golden General as the president himself was still unknown to the alliance as the two armies marched toward the final battlefield
“This is it,” the two generals said from opposite ends. “Every single moment in this war has finally come to this. Winner takes all.”
Each general was sheltered in an encampment. Graham was surrounded by his elite guard consisting of his most powerful bio-soldiers, as well as his advisors which included a middle-aged woman holding a clipboard. On the other end, Red’s side had his two teenage friends Jason and Catherine, his father Adam, President William accompanied by his personal guard, and a few bio-soldiers that included Allen, with the other four division commanders in the frontlines as per Red’s instructions. On both structures were several machinery to track down reports of soldiers from as many sides of the battle as possible. It was quiet at the moment, but soon explosions and screaming was expected to abound once the first gunshot fires.
Despite being enemies with each other and that they were also complete opposites, with Red being a teenager that thrived as a fighter and Graham being a well-respected old man that never directly fought, on this day, on this moment, the two monsters were thinking of the same thing.
Just one last push...
With these and various thoughts in the hearts of everyone involved, the final battle began.