5-4: The World’s Strongest Fighter
“You gotta be kidding me...”
In front of the Crimson Alliance stood a sight that they did not expect: They were completely outnumbered. Before them was a horde of over ten thousand armed citizens. That was excluding the Golden Army itself, which had thousands of troops and over 700 bio-soldiers.
“Man, this situation’s not looking good,” Victor said. “Well-trained soldiers who dedicated themselves to living and dying for their country would be one thing, but these are civilians we’re talking about. And they were deployed just for this one battle! What should we do?”
From inside the headquarters, Red and the commanding officers of the alliance heard David’s voice over the speakers.
“HQ, do you copy? The Golden Army has over ten thousand civilians fighting for them! Do we attempt a ceasefire?”
With that report, the shock of the Golden Army’s surprise tactic spread over to the core of the alliance. Jason, Catherine, and Adam turned their heads toward Red, while the other officials groaned in deep thought.
Soon, an Ivory official broke the silence. “They asked for it,” he said. “If they stand on the battlefield as armed men, then there is no choice for us but to pull the trigger. Otherwise, we will lose this war and fall under their control. If that happens, then forming this alliance would cease to have any meaning.”
Red’s eyebrows crossed in annoyance. But...he thought to himself. If we do that without remorse, more lives will be lost…more people will be sad and emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. Is preventing the rule of an unknown country really worth all the possible casualties...?
“I agree!” came an adult voice. Red turned his head towards the man, who was another Ivory official. “I say we take the initiative and strike now! This is clearly a tactic of theirs. We have to steel our resolve if we are to win.”
Quickly glancing his surroundings, Red could see the people around him with submissive expressions. Growling, he bowed his head.
“We’re not doing it,” he declared. “I won’t allow it.” I won’t allow civilians to be thrown into the center of bloodshed just like me...
“Are you serious, Crimson?” the official asked. “What, we just surrender? We let our men die? Clearly you’re not going to suggest that we fight while ignoring the civilians, are you?”
Catherine looked at the boy who couldn’t say a word. “Red...”
“...is there no other way?” Red asked, finally. “Does this really have to happen? Is it really necessary to create even more monsters just for this war? Wasn’t it enough that I became the worst monster in history? Do we really have to -”
Before Red could finish, however, a report came from the battlefield:
“The Golden Army has opened fire! We have to retaliate! I repeat! We have to retaliate!”
Jumping at the opportunity, several of the foreign officials grabbed their microphones.
“Go on the offensive now!”
“Kill anyone in sight!”
“We can’t afford to lose this!”
Meanwhile, Red had his head bowed, his body shaking. Jason and Catherine were unable to find any words to console him, and Adam could only say “I’m sorry” before proceeding to monitor the situation outside.
The final battle had begun. People were starting to die left and right, and the boy with crimson eyes could do nothing but sit on a chair and listen as people either became corpses or killers. Having been the one to take the burden of his enemies’ lives for most of the war, his current situation left him feeling frustrated - worthless - to the point that he tried ignoring the reports, the screams, and the explosions. He wished he could. He wished he could just drown it all out, stop listening, and not care, but with his enhanced senses, that was impossible, and he could only grit his teeth and clench his fists.
He could do nothing.
The battle between the Crimson Alliance and the Golden Army raged on. Because of the lack of experience by the normal citizens under the Golden Army, which comprised of a vast majority of their forces, victory was favoring the alliance. Furthermore, with the alliance having over a thousand bio-soldiers as opposed to the less than 700 of the Golden Army, it was clear who would win in the long run despite the number disadvantage.
However, there was a condition in this fight that did not allow the alliance to simply draw out the battle and wait for victory to fall into their hands.
It was not enough that the alliance was stronger; they had to be strong enough to win the fight as quickly as possible. Otherwise, a repeat of what had happened to the Emerald Army would occur: The enigmatic Golden General would most likely send in a large mass of buildings or something crashing down onto them, obliterating anything in its path and ensuring victory for his faction. They had to overwhelm their opponent and get to the Golden General before that happens if they were to stand a chance to win. It was for this reason that the Crimson Alliance was formed in the first place.
This was supposedly the plan. But then, in the middle of the fierce battle...
A Crimson soldier was shot from behind, and he slouched forward. Another shot followed, and he soon fell to the ground, dead.
“What the?!” the others wondered. “An ambush?”
However, looking back, what the soldiers saw was something unexpected: It was an Ivory soldier who had his gun pointed at where the man once stood.
“H-he killed my best friend!” the soldier screamed. “I...I couldn’t help it! And you!” He pointed his gun at another Crimson soldier. “I saw you kill my comrades as well! I just...I just can’t forgive you all, even if we’re all supposed to be part of an alliance! I just can’t!”
In response to this outburst, Emerald soldiers pointed their guns at Ivory soldiers, and the ones from the Crimson Army also started to retaliate, until there was a huge internal battle going on in the main force of the alliance.
Trying to get away from the center of the chaos as much as possible, Victor and the other division commanders started to panic.
“Shit!” the large man cried out. “We have to report this to HQ pronto! But...”
“No buts, Victor!” Felix said. “Before you even think about worrying how this would affect the higher-ups, we must let them know now before our main force collapses all on its own!”
“But if this news gets to Red, then he’ll probably-”
“It’s better than us self-destructing and him being left with no army to even fight with!”
Clicking his tongue, Victor pressed a button on his communication device. “Dammit!” he screamed once more. With a bleeping sound to signify that he had gotten through, he then began to report: “HQ, we have an emergency situation! The soldiers of the alliance have brought up arms against each other! Memories of past battles seem to have resurfaced and now they are all in a frenzy! The internal casualties are increasing by the second, and we have no idea how to stop them!”
“Do it, Victor,” Roger said, his face desperately trying to hide a bitter expression.
Gritting his teeth, the large man continued, “Listen for yourselves. These are the screams of our people.” He then pointed his microphone out towards the riot.
There was utter chaos out in the battlefield. Screams of pain and despair were heard as the soldiers in the alliance fought amongst each other. Jason and Catherine covered their ears in a desperate attempt to ignore what was going on, while the officials started scolding their own respective troops. In the midst of this, some people were also trying to apologize to Red with nervous smiles on their faces.
“I’m very, very sorry on behalf of my men, Sir Red,” one of them said. “This was beyond our control. Please find it in yourself to forgive us. We will strictly punish anyone who-”
Red slammed his hands on his table.
“Everyone, shut up,” the boy said, his face bowed.
Flames started lighting up around him, and he glared at the officials apologizing to him with a clear expression of anger.
“You bastards!” he blurted out. But what followed was something none of the people expected. “You could have just told me from the start that all you wanted was to be part of the winning side of the war! Instead, you were all just harping on and on and on about unity and other crap that you don’t even mean. Why are you all being such hypocrites? You came to me saying you wanted to work together, but if you just wanna fight for your own sake, then why didn’t you just say so? Is it that hard to be honest with yourselves? It’s because of people like you who cover up their inner selfishness with idealistic lies that this war is happening in the first place! Can’t you even figure out that much? We have this war because all of us are different, and none of us are willing to concede to anyone else because we can’t admit that we may have our own flaws or that someone else may be right and we may be wrong! So if you have nothing of value to say, then you all better just shut up!”
No one could find the words to respond to the boy, and everyone in the room fell silent.
Red clenched his fists and turned towards Adam while saying, “Turn off all incoming responses. I’m taking charge from here on out.”
The lead scientist stared into his son’s eyes for a while, and soon he yielded, nodding his head and flipping the appropriate switches. This would allow everyone to hear what Red had to say while preventing them from answering.
The boy cleared his throat and proceeded to speak into his mic, issuing an order that nobody expected:
“This is an emergency situation. Everyone, fall back immediately. I repeat: Fall back immediately. This is an order.”
Due to the settings, the people in the encampment could hear no replies. However, the explosions that they had been hearing from the headquarters slowly began to fade. The alliance had heard Red’s orders and were retreating.
“Why did you issue such an order, Red?” Adam asked. “With those words, it’s as if the Golden General’s buildings have been activated, but clearly it hasn’t happened yet. Are you planning on regrouping?”
“No,” the boy replied as he grabbed his staff and a certain dagger with a woman’s name carved on the handle. “I’m going in.”
“We can’t have our troops fight like this,” Red explained. “But we can’t afford to completely retreat, either. So I’m going in and taking things from here.”
The shock of everyone present in the room was evident.
“You can’t be serious!” a leader from the Emerald Army exclaimed. “We cannot afford to put you in such unnecessary danger!”
However, Red’s voice was firm, and he simply repeated what he had already said: “I’m going in.”
“With the evacuation order you issued, our side in the battlefield will soon be deserted,” the Ivory leader tried to reason out. “Going in now would mean that it’ll be just you alone out there! Against an entire army!”
“I’m going in.”
“You little...!” At that point, he had had enough. “Men!” he called out. “Restrain this boy! Now!”
On that cue, Emerald soldiers walked towards Red, their arms outstretched in preparation for grabbing the boy.
However, after three steps, they all stopped in response to several clanking sounds.
Allen and the Crimson Army soldiers inside the headquarters had their guns out and were pointing them at the Emerald troops. Everyone in the encampment froze still, and the tension was heavy.
While this was going on, the boy named Red silently walked out.
Sweat started running down the temple of the Emerald leader. “He’s getting away...” he said, unable to move at the moment.
“But what can we do?” a representative from the Ivory Army asked rhetorically. “Moving right now could potentially crumble the very core of this alliance should the Crimson Army open fire. We have no choice but to let him go. It’s too risky.”
As the foreign officials all gritted their teeth, Red exited the room and flew away. As soon as he was gone, all pointed guns were lowered and everyone was finally allowed the freedom to move once more.
The Emerald leader jumped at this opportunity and slammed his hands at a nearby table while angrily glaring at Adam.
“Are you insane?!” he blurted out. “You’re seriously sending the most important person in this alliance out to die? And he’s your son, for crying out loud!”
“Yes, he’s my son,” the scientist said calmly. “That’s precisely why I let him go out there. At least he’s doing something.” He looked at the people around him. “But what about us? We’re just sitting here while people are dying left and right. Red is about to do what I or anyone else can’t. As his father, I have to let him go out there. After all, he’s...”
“Remember what I said before this war began?” Adam asked, but before anyone could respond, he immediately continued, “‘I’m gonna start a revolution, and it will be something that will be recorded in history for years, decades, no, even centuries to come.’ This is it.”
“You mean your revolution is...” the man gulped. “...turning that boy into a general and having him get this far? But I thought-”
“You thought I only gave him the serum because he was in a near-death situation,” Adam completed the sentence. “No. I would have chosen Red either way. He’s the only person I can trust with my life’s work, and that’s probably because he’s my son and all. I couldn’t help it, and I don’t regret giving him those crimson eyes.”
“Either way, we can’t do anything right now,” Allen said. “Red’s a master of combat now, so he knows what he’s getting himself into. For now, we have no choice but to just wait and see what happens.”
Grumbling, the Emerald leader went back to his seat, with the others proceeding to follow him and go back into waiting, though their anxiety was still evident. Adam heaved a sigh as he also sat down, and Allen patted his shoulder.
“Hey Adam,” the division commander whispered. “At least be honest with me: You’re just using Red, aren’t you?”
“You saw your wife die in front of your eyes with your son right beside you,” Allen continued. “Very few experiences, if any, can match that sense of helplessness. And I saw it from the day Red told us that he would be fighting for a girl: That look in your eyes that approved of what he wanted. Red would protect Catherine in contrast to how you were unable to protect Amy.”
“The truck accident, the war that determines the fate of the world...” Adam muttered. “These are things that a normal person would be helpless against. I was powerless, but Red won’t be. No matter what happens, he will be able to protect that girl, even if the whole world were to become his enemy for it.” The scientist clenched his fists. “Or else...”
“Or else your entire life’s work will have been useless. Is that it?”
Meanwhile, in the battlefield, the soldiers were all evacuating save for a certain group of people: The Crimson Army. This group of men stood firm as the others from the alliance ran away in sheer panic. As they did, a figure came flying above them, and with that came the voice of a boy through their earpieces.
“You bastards,” came the voice of a teenage boy. “I thought I told you all to run away.”
“We’ve fought with you for so long, Red,” David responded. “How could we call ourselves soldiers of the Crimson Army if we couldn’t figure out at this point how you think? You think we’re that stupid? You’re not making us evacuate because Gold has made a move, are you? You plan on putting a stop to the internal fighting, stepping in and fighting everyone on your own in our place, just like you always have.”
“...it’s because I couldn’t afford to have any more people dying unnecessarily. But I didn’t expect you guys to actually figure it out and stay here.”
“Yo, Red,” Victor followed up. “This is no time for chitchat. Here’s the plan: We’ll stick around and give you some long-ranged support, so go out there and do your thing.”
“Wait,” Red said, and at the same time he stopped in his tracks midair. “You guys are not gonna stop me?”
“We all know what you’re capable of,” Victor replied. “We’d just get in your way, and we know that. We understand and accept the fact that the Crimson General we work for is, at his very core, a fighter. And a fighter’s gotta fight or else that’s just wasted potential. Besides, you wouldn’t let us stop you anyway, right?”
No reply came, but soon after they saw Red crash into the battlefield right in front of the Golden Army.
From his initial crouching position upon landing, the boy stood up and glared at his enemies while flames started enveloping the area around him. As it did, everyone, friend and foe alike, were surprised at what they saw:
To the Golden Army, Red having blue flames was unheard of, but the color in his eyes confirmed that he was indeed the Crimson General, known for his inhuman battle prowess and yellow-orange flames. On the other hand, the Crimson Army had seen these flames before, back during their battle against the Cerulean Army over half a year ago. Red had gone into an angry trance after losing Vanessa, one of his bio-soldiers, and he used those blue flames in order to completely overpower Shirley, the Cerulean General, and kill her in a mad frenzy.
However, this time it felt different.
“Fire!!!” came a voice from the enemy, and this was soon followed by a single gunshot.
With a loud clanking sound, the boy named Red went from a relaxed stand to deflecting the bullet fired at him with a dagger.
The red eyes stared deep into the Golden Army, and most of the civilians froze in fear.
They could not even see him bend his knees; it seemed as if Red simply disappeared, and before they could even figure out what had happened, they were dead. The boy was dashing from place to place at blinding speeds while he caused pinpoint explosions and gigantic pillars of blue flames around him, incinerating anyone who dared to even get close to him. Bullets were fired at him, but they were too slow for the boy, and more than being killed by someone, the whole scene felt like a bunch of people just dying from an invisible entity with a large series of explosions in the background.
I may not be strong enough to save everyone...he told himself. I may not be strong enough to just weed out the soldiers while sparing the civilians, and I sure as hell am not strong enough to just kill the enemy general in order to minimize the casualties. But... An explosion sounded from behind him as tanks and soldiers met their doom. But I am strong enough to take out whatever gets in the way of what I have to do!
The Crimson Army soldiers were not even needed.
“This just in!” came an Emerald soldier communicating with HQ. “The Crimson General has appeared on the battlefield, and he is singlehandedly decimating the entire Golden Army! At this rate, he can break through them in no time!”
“No way!” one of the officials cried out, while the others were rendered speechless. “Not even a general should be able to directly take on an army! Especially one as big as this! How is he doing it when he’s right in front of them?!”
“He’s not in front!” the soldier replied. “He’s...no one can tell where he is at any given moment! It feels like he’s cleanly assassinating bio-soldiers while letting his blue flames take out the others, all the while dodging and deflecting bullets aimed at him!”
An official turned his face towards Adam. “Did you know about this?” he asked. “Did you know just how immensely powerful that kid has become between now and his battle against Ivory?! Is that why you allowed him to go fight the enemy head-on all on his own? Answer me!”
“I had an idea,” Adam replied. “Up until now, all the data I had on him was through incomplete and imperfect simulations. But what I did know for sure was that Red took his training seriously, and that he knew what he had to do in order to become as strong as he is now. I trusted him to know what his limits were, so when he declared that he could take on the Golden Army, I just had to let him go.”
“This is supposed to be beyond the established powers of a general! How can he be so strong?!” The man gasped as a thought crossed his mind. “You didn’t actually cheat, did you? After all, you were the pioneer for the serums...”
Adam shook his head at this accusation. “I couldn’t, even if I wanted to,” he replied. “The general serums all came from one single mass of fluid divided into five equal parts. Sure, there’s that one prototype that was the basis for the general serum, but that one is meant to be used for the right-hand man of whoever wins the war, so it’s kept sealed for now.”
“I think it’s because of what he’s gone through,” Adam answered. “Red has the unique experience of having fought against two generals face-to-face: Cerulean who had the greatest mastery over her powers, and Ivory who had unmatched agility. He had seen firsthand how far the powers of a general can take a person, and so he trained nonstop until he had reached - and eventually surpassed - that level. And you can see it right now: He is assassinating people like Ivory, putting out hordes using his mastery of his element just like Cerulean, and he’s doing this with the reflexes and combat prowess that he has had all this time as Crimson.”
More reports came flooding in telling HQ that a large part of the civilian forces have withdrawn and that only half of the Golden Army remained. The foreign officials in the room stepped out in disbelief, as if they had to see the battle with their own eyes now, while Adam, who stood there with a mixture of pride and disbelief, declared in front of Jason and Catherine:
“Red has definitely become the undisputed strongest fighter in history.”
Red had taken out half of the main Golden Army, while what remained of the civilians promptly evacuated in fear of getting involved with him. He was nowhere near slowing down his pace, and his allies still could not find any room to join in and help him out.
I have to do this...he kept telling himself as he moved at incredible speeds from one area of the battlefield to another, as if killing enemy soldiers required nothing more than a single touch. I have to take them all out and finish this war...This sadness has to end now...!
At that moment, in a split-second of carelessness, Red felt a stinging pain.
And then another one.
Wide-eyed and wondering what had happened, the boy was sent flying backwards as two bullets hit his body.
Wh-wha...? Did I...did I screw up? Shit, I can’t move...
Looking around to assess the situation while still being thrown back midair, he saw a barrage of bullets and cannonballs headed straight towards him, and from behind he could hear the voices of his men.