6-2: In Memory of the Four Who Have Fallen
[Letter written by Red the day before the final battle]
I can’t do it. Although I’m not sure when it started, at some point I just grew tired of everything. But I just couldn’t allow it, you know? I couldn’t let other people get killed in cold blood and passed off as necessary sacrifices for a better future, no matter how many times they are labeled as “enemies.” And in the same way, I couldn’t let my soldiers, brilliant people with hopeful futures in front of them at the end of this tunnel of tragedy, to turn into murderers that are constantly haunted by the lives that they took in order to survive and get to where they are now. I couldn’t let these things happen, and so I took it upon myself to become the monster that remembers his enemies. I thought that what I did brought even the tiniest speck of honor to my fallen foes, and spared my soldiers – my friends whom I have grown very attached to – the pain of carrying the burden of a lost life.
…but now I’m not so sure. I never really thought about it, but human life is really heavy. I would occasionally wake up to the memories of people burning to their deaths, and at some point I just wanted everything to end. Tomorrow I go to the final battle, and the fourth general will fall at the end of it. The only question that remains is who that fourth general is.
I can’t take it, Crimson. I’m not strong enough. In case my guilt gets the better of me, in case I decide to respond to the human in me, please forgive me. If I decide that the best path for everyone is to declare myself as that fourth general and settle things by myself…please forgive me.
The day was February 22, roughly two weeks since the end of the Global Unification War. Graham, a man in his 60’s that was better known to the world right now as the Golden general, was currently holding a meeting with handpicked world leaders in a conference room. There was a long table with Graham at the farthest end, and they were preparing plans for his upcoming rule and how to make the world a better place when...
“You insensitive monsters!”
A certain teenage girl had barged into the room and was in an uproar. Her eyes were filled with tears and she could not control her voice in sheer rage.
“Red is gone because of you!” she screamed as she walked forward, slamming her foot on every step, until she was face-to-face with the golden-eyed man. “All because of a stupid ideal to unify the world, you bastards instigated a war and caused the death of so many! Thanks to your war, my parents and Red are...!”
Several leaders stood up in alarm at the girl. “How dare you!” they said. “Do you have any idea who it is you’re talking to?!”
However, before anything else could be said, all these men felt themselves get pushed downward back to their seats by an invisible force. At the same time, Graham held his hand up and shook his head.
“The girl speaks the truth,” he said. “It was we, the various leaders all over the world, who started this war at the expense of others, with barely any risk to us because of our positions.”
“But Lord Graham,” one of the leaders intervened. “You took on the pain of the war firsthand. Your love for mankind has pushed you to step out of being heavily protected like the rest of us in order to personally take the future into your own hands! We cannot allow an unknown girl to just speak to you in such a vulgar manner!”
Graham shook his head. “No,” he said. “What I did was nothing. If you’re talking about taking in the pain of the war, my time as a general was like a bed of roses compared to what Red had to go through.”
Catherine’s eyes widened in surprise at how Graham referred to Red by his name and not his moniker of “Crimson General,” while the various leaders in the conference room asked, “Who is Red...?”
“Red is the son of Adam,” Graham replied. “But you would probably recognize him as ‘Crimson.’“
There were gasps heard all over, and a man stood up while violently slamming his hands on the table.
“Crimson?!” he cried out. “The Blazing Monster?! He was a cold-blooded murderer who would have plummeted the world into chaos had he won the war!”
Catherine’s crying intensified and she fell on her knees. Meanwhile, among the group of leaders currently in the room was an old man named Charles, a man who had lost all hope in his life until he was approached by the very person whom his peers are currently badmouthing. He bowed his head, silent, but his chest was heavy with frustration and he could not help but clench his fists that rested on his knees, away from the sight of anyone.
No, I must not say anything! he told himself as he clenched his fists. Sir Red would have wanted this! He was the man who took in the world’s hatred in order to allow all of us to move forward. But even though I know this...even though it makes sense...how dare they...!
The old man who felt deeply for that boy was about to reach the limits of his patience as his peers continued their badmouthing.
However, before he could do anything rash, Graham raised his hand as a gesture asking for silence in the room, and at the same time everyone who had been in an outburst felt an invisible force strike their chests, sending them falling back into their seats.
“You ignorant fools,” he said. Then, taking quick glances at both Charles and Catherine, he continued, “While you all sat comfortably in your heavily-guarded residences throughout the past seven months, Red willingly plunged himself into the depths of pain and despair, and you dare judge him? That boy revolutionized the world! Meanwhile, what have you done? How could any of you possibly fathom the weight of what that teenager was carrying? You say he would have plummeted the world into chaos? Quite frankly, I would rather have him as the leader of the world over any one of you here right now.”
The room became silent in an instant, including Catherine who had been softly sobbing up until then. Seeing this, Graham stood up, knelt down in front of the crying girl, and placed his hand on her head.
“I wish to understand more of your pain, little girl,” he said with a gentle voice. “Tell you what, I’ll be having my inaugural speech in a couple of days. Would you do me the honor of being there? I will reserve a seat for you, and after that, I would like to talk with you about Red. I wish to learn more about him from the girl who meant everything to him. What do you say, Catherine?”
Catherine’s eyes widened. H-how does he know my name? And my connection to Red?
“I’ll let you think about it,” Graham continued. “But for now, could you please excuse us? I promise I will do my best to make it up to you in due time.”
Not knowing what to say in front of such a gentle old man, Catherine simply nodded and excused herself out.
Meanwhile, just outside the conference room was a group of security guards collapsed on the ground, unconscious. Nearby were two men, one of whom had a prosthetic right arm. His companion heaved a sigh after the two overheard Graham inviting Catherine to his speech.
“Was it really a good idea to let her know about the truth of the war, Victor?” he asked. “Look at her; she’s a complete mess right now.”
“It’s fine,” the man with the prosthetic arm replied. “Look Roger, Red is usually right about everything, but there is always that one exception where he always screws up.”
“He’s too overprotective towards Catherine, which clouds his judgment whenever it comes to her,” Victor replied. “And I get that: He wants to be a pawn to be used by her in order to survive the war and live a happy life. He didn’t want her to get involved in the sadness and pain that he was carrying throughout the 7 months that he was the Crimson General. But the problem is that Catherine wanted to know. She wanted to know everything and be a part of what Red was doing, but the kid didn’t allow her that freedom. Yes, he was protecting her, but he was also confining her, and in that sense, he was hurting her. A lot of the things she found out about Red was through other people, and with the war over, she at least deserved to know the truth behind the war itself.”
“Yeah, I guess...”
As Roger said those words, the door to the conference room opened and Catherine stepped out, still sobbing and rubbing her eyes.
“I’m sorry, you guys,” she said. “I’m sorry for causing you two so much trouble just for my selfishness...”
Smiling, Roger shook his head. “Nah,” he replied. “A part of us also wanted you to say those words to them. Our attachment to Red may not be as strong as yours, but Victor and I - as well as all the other soldiers who have worked with him - really valued him, and even now we still can’t accept that he’s gone. Watching you out there felt pretty cathartic for me, so thank you, Catherine.”
“I agree,” Victor followed. “I owe everything I have right now to that kid. If only the world was so convenient that I could exchange my life to get him back, I would do it in an instant.” He snapped his fingers and heaved a sigh shortly after. “He was a man who was well-acquainted with the inner depths of human suffering, and because of that I’d say that he would have been a valuable asset to the world in order to make it a better place. It still frustrates me, but in the end he chose to give up his life and allow us to live out the future in his stead. He deemed us to be more important than him, and we have no choice but to accept it, no matter how painful it is.”
“I just...” Catherine muttered. “I just can’t right now...”
“We understand,” Victor said. “And it’s okay. But right now, I suggest that you accept Lord Graham’s invitation. I’m sure he means well, and who knows? He’s a very wise man, so he might be able to say something worth your time.”
“You have no choice in the matter,” Victor replied. “Whether you like it or not, he’s our supreme leader now. Do it for Red, Catherine; at the very least, see for your own eyes who the final general is, a position that we all would’ve wanted that kid to have.”
Catherine was thankful to Victor for avoiding any words pertaining to the truth that Red was dead, but she could still not help but bite her lip in sadness upon remembering that fact.
After all, she had let him go without being able to do anything for him.
In fact, she had realized at the moment when the metallic Bo Staff was presented in front of her and the search for the boy was halted, that she had done nothing for him during the entire war. She was unable to understand and share in his pain, she could not offer him any help in the battlefield, and most importantly, when she was presented with even the smallest chance of stopping him from sacrificing his life, she simply stood in place.
How hard is it to tell him how I feel? He’s already shown me how much I meant to him through both words and actions, so why do I always screw up on my end? And now...I’ll never be able to tell him...
Holding back the tears of frustration at the resurfacing memories in her head, the girl nodded.
February 23, one day after Catherine stormed a conference room consisting of the world’s highest-ranking leaders. She was currently sitting at the front row of a room that had over 1000 seats reserved for a chosen number of people throughout the world. Today, Graham would give his inauguration address as the last remaining general and supreme ruler of the world. Catherine had misgivings about the whole thing, and she harbored ill will towards Graham due to what had happened in the final moments of the Global Unification War, but out of courtesy to the highest-ranking person right now and sheer curiosity, she decided to attend.
As she waited for the Golden General to arrive on her reserved seat, Catherine felt a hand tap her shoulder, and with that, a familiar female voice.
“Hey Catherine! I didn’t expect you to be here!”
“...Louise? What’re you doing here?”
“Lord Graham invited me,” Louise replied as she sat beside Catherine. “But I didn’t think that he would actually make the two of us sit together at the front row.”
“Say, what do you know about Graham? Everyone seems to hold him in high regard.”
“Let’s see...” Thinking, Louise looked up and put one finger on her chin. “First off, he was his country’s president before turning into a general. He was well-loved by his people, he was hailed as the genius of his generation, and I heard his compassion for others is really something. So when you compare that with the public’s image of Red, well...”
“Anyway, let’s just see what he has to say. He must have a good reason for bringing us here.”
Catherine nodded, and soon, the ceremonies for the inauguration began.
Several minutes of preliminary ceremonies and addresses later, the Golden General himself stepped up on the stage followed by an applause. Upon reaching his stand, the old man cleared his throat, sorted out some papers in front of him, and adjusted his microphone.
“Good day, everyone,” he began. “I am Graham, the Golden General, and today I stand in front of you all as the privileged leader of the world. By no means will I be able to fulfill this role on my own, and hence I stand here today, to tell you all...” He made a slight chuckle and proceeded to do something that shocked everyone: He took the pieces of paper in front of him, crumpled them, and threw them all behind him. “I’m sorry for the wonderful folks who helped me formulate my inaugural address, but right now, as I look into the faces of these people who have greatly suffered in the recently-concluded war, I could just not bring myself to talk about the future like this.” Slamming on his stand, Graham said with firmness: “The truth is, I want to talk about the generals today. If we are going to become a unified world, I feel like this is a more pressing matter to discuss. Today, I’d like everyone to know the truth behind the other four monsters who have fallen on our way to the New Era.”
This was obviously shocking news, and several people tried to stand up in protest. However, with a smile on Graham’s face, these people were instantly pushed back into their seats by his power, and they could do nothing but listen to him talk about the four monsters that had once ravaged the land.
“The Cerulean General, Shirley,” he began. “The general who fell first. Who would have thought that a young girl would become a general? Frankly, no one did. Their lead scientist, Gilbert, was Shirley’s grandfather whom the young girl was very much attached to. Unable to find a suitable host for their portion of the general serum, Gilbert was at his wit’s end, stressed out of his mind because the longer they take, the bigger the advantage that other countries got. Seeing his troubled grandpa and ignoring the heavy burden that being a general would be, Shirley snuck into Gilbert’s study one night and took in the serum for herself, turning into what we now know as Cerulean. The Cerulean Army, due to having been taken down by the Crimson Army so early, would go on to be a minority force for the rest of the war. However, I would like to ask: How many of you would have gone as far as Shirley did? She was neglected as a child due to how busy her parents were, and found a family after being taken in by Gilbert. However, becoming one of the five generals was something that such a young girl should never have to go through, and yet she took the pain of it, doing a terrific job at it if I may say so, had her army not been taken by surprise so early. She could have complained, but she never did; she just honed her skills, making use of what she had at the moment in order to protect her army and the grandpa she loves so much. Her death was a great loss for every single one of us.
“The Ivory General, Zack,” Graham continued. “To other countries, and to his very own army to some extent, he was the image of the classic ‘bad guy.’ His white eyes were menacing, and his assassination of public leaders on his own country scared everyone. However, while I won’t attempt to sugarcoat his deeds, I would like to bring to light the reasons behind such a harsh personality. Zack was a man of excellence at the peak of his potential. He was stronger, faster, smarter...he excelled over everyone in everything he did, and this is the root of the image we have of him today: He believed that he had to take the reins when it came to the world’s future, and to him everyone else were merely pawns that had to be used. He completely forgot that what he saw as pawns were really the kings that he was supposed to work for if he were to emerge as the supreme ruler of the world. Furthermore, this very history of excellence was also the main reason of his downfall: Faced with a certain red-eyed teenage boy who was heavily injured, he thought that the duel would be an easy win for him, and Crimson took advantage of that to take him down. Zack serves as an example to remind us to never lose sight of what is important to us. He had good intentions, but he was trapped in the world of ideals, failing to see those who were suffering right in front of him. As we move on into a new age, may we all learn from this. Nevertheless, he was a great asset to this world, and his death was a great loss for every single one of us.”
“Is he going in order of who died?” Catherine asked, but as she looked at Louise, the woman was clenching her fists, her eyes fixed at Graham as she braced for what the old man had to say next.
Graham saw the stare, and responded with a smile as he went on: “The Emerald General, Nathan. Oh, if only you all knew just how much it pained me when I found out the promise that that man had made to a certain woman who is here today. Nathan was a great man, but at the age of 28, he was still far in terms of experience from Zack and myself; I’d categorize him as potential waiting to be realized, and it pains me to this day how we will no longer be able to see it happen. Nathan was an excellent soldier from the beginning, and he qualified to become a general solely through his talents and hard work. He gladly accepted because he had big plans for the world, and he also wanted to be able to be in a position where he could actively protect those he cared about. In the midst of his achievements and bright future was a woman - a childhood sweetheart - who had his back through thick and thin, and he was engaged to this woman right before he became a general, promising to marry her after the war. As you all know, he and his army fell by my hand, but what you may not know is this: Nathan had the chance to fly away and escape the carnage, and he was told to do so by his soldiers. But no, he insisted that he become a shield for them, and that he needed to save as many people as possible, because he had already seen and experienced true love, while so many others have yet to find it for themselves. He gave up so much potential for this world out of his love for others, and it is my hope that we learn from him, the man who was showered with love and happiness so much that he had to give it away to as many people as possible in the form of hope for a brand new tomorrow for them. He was such a wonderful man, and his death was a great loss for every single one of us.”
Catherine could hear sobs, and when she turned to its source, Louise was gently wiping her tear-filled eyes.
“Are you okay, Louise?” she asked.
“Yes,” Louise replied, calming down almost in an instant. “I’m just...relieved.”
“That’s right,” Louise said. “I’m relieved that the man who took what should have been my fiancée’s position knows and appreciates him to such an extent. If it’s Lord Graham, I think the world as a whole will be fine. Although it still hurts…”
Louise smiled as she took Catherine’s head in her hands. “You can think about these things later,” she said as she turned Catherine’s head towards Graham. “You don’t wanna miss out on this part.”
The teenage girl’s eyes widened upon realizing what Louise meant: Graham was going to talk about Red next. As Louise took her hands off of her head, Catherine bit her lip and waited intently for the old man to mention that boy’s name.
Soon enough, that moment came.
“And finally, the Crimson General...Red.” There was a pause, and Graham could see Catherine twitch at the mention of the boy’s name. “He was, like Shirley, nothing more than a young teenager who was thrown into a war that he did not want to be a part of. He was given the general serum by his father, the great scientist Adam, while he was in a near-death situation after getting shot and losing a lot of blood. ‘Why was he shot?’ you’re probably all asking right now. Well, he was shot while protecting this girl who held a deep, significant place in his heart. And Adam, with his desire to save his son and other ulterior motives that I’ll touch on later, turned this boy into what we all have come to know as the Crimson General. The entire battle of this boy and the circumstances surrounding it may very well be summed up in one word: Selfishness. Being a civilian that was turned into one of the most powerful human beings in the world with a duty to take an entire army on his shoulders, Red was very honest about not having any noble ideals for fighting. No, from the start he already knew what he wanted: He wanted to continue protecting that one girl. While the rest of us were fighting for a world that we could not fully see, that boy fought and suffered for a girl right in front of him that meant the world to him. It was selfish, yes, but it was more real than any ‘noble’ ideals.”
Catherine started shaking, and Louise held her hands tightly.
“Love does great things,” Graham continued. “Red’s father, Adam, the pioneer of the general serum and a genius without peer, succeeded in his research mainly because of love. He had lost his dear wife Amy to a truck accident wherein Amy had tried saving a child that she did not even know, and from that day on Adam’s goal was clear: He would create something that would let others protect anyone, no matter how dire the situation became. And that is how the general serum came to be. Many people don’t know this, but Adam had been talking about staging a revolution well before the war began, and little did we know that he was talking about his son, Red; Adam had already decided that the general of his country would be his own son, and Red being in a near-death situation was only a mere coincidence that led everyone to believe something that even Red himself was fooled into: that Adam was merely driven into a corner with the last member of his family in such a critical state. But no, unlike Shirley, Red was definitely chosen to become a general, and he did his job splendidly, shaking the world and changing the course of history in unimaginable proportions. He became the strongest fighter alive, and kept doing things that were normally thought to be impossible: Defeating two generals in straight-up duels, being strong enough to essentially become a one-man army, and even protecting everyone from my final attack all on his own, something that not even Nathan the Emerald General could do. All for what? That one girl. And to those here right now who would like to question his reason for fighting and doing what he did, I ask: If you had been in his position - completely clueless and thrown into a situation where you have to kill in order to survive and protect - what would you have done? Would you have been able to go as far as he did? Would you have been able to take the burden of human life like he did?”
There was a brief period of silence as the old man allowed the people in front of him to ponder on his words.
“However,” he proceeded after a few seconds, “that boy hated war. He may have been the world’s strongest fighter, holding the record for most people personally killed, but calling him a ‘cold-blooded murderer’ could be no farther from the truth.” He stopped momentarily and took out a pile of papers in his hand. “What I have here right now is a list that Red himself had compiled throughout the war, and it contains the profiles of every single person that had died fighting against him and his army. It has basic information, as well as the people’s reasons for joining the war if he had access to that. According to his soldiers, the boy had the entire list memorized, and he had already planned to include people from my army had he won. Furthermore, he would always cry and grieve for those who had died by his hand, always right after every battle or city raid. He constantly cried not only for the ones he killed, not only for those who were left behind grieving and emotionally scarred such as friends and family, but most of all he cried at the tragedy of the entire situation. While he fulfills his duty as a general, carrying the burden of an entire country on his shoulders, he has also chosen to carry the burden of those who could not make it to the end of the war, friend or foe alike, and he carried it in a very real way that I don’t think anyone else could possibly do. He was no monster; in fact, I dare say he was more human than anyone else, and he may have very well been the closest person to understand the true meaning of life and know real empathy.”
Catherine’s eyes widened. “...how does he know so much...?”
Hearing Catherine’s comment, Louise smiled. “He gives off that vibe, doesn’t he?” she said. “I don’t think you know this, but during the two weeks between the end of the war and today, Lord Graham visited all the armies and tried to learn as much as he could, all for this talk about the generals. He’s serious about bringing the world together, though I guess you can already see that by now.”
Showing a painful smile, Graham continued, “Red was trapped. As one of the five generals, he had the responsibility of carrying the burden of death that his army would bring upon others. He knew that in order for him and those he knew to survive, he had to kill those whom he didn’t know; the ‘enemies.’ However, while thinking about this was a given in a global-scale war, that boy went further: He wanted to prevent his soldiers from experiencing the crushing guilt of having killed fellow humans. This is the main reason behind the creation of what the world had come to know as the ‘Blazing Monster.’ He would become the monster, and he would allow as many people as he could to move forward with no emotional baggage from the war. So faced with this trap, he killed in order to survive, but there was also something else, something more: He didn’t want these people to die as strangers, and this brings me back to the list I have right now. If he had been passive as a general – maybe something to my extent – then yes, he wouldn’t have to worry about his conscience, but people will still die, and there was no guarantee that those who have fallen would receive the honor and grieving that they deserved as fellow humans who fought to protect those that were important to them. Trapped in such a suffocating situation, he called himself a monster and took in an insurmountable amount of pain. Under the guise of protecting just one girl, he ended up protecting the futures of a lot of people in his army and the memories of many, many more from all over the world. I won’t sugarcoat his actions – he still killed many people – but I simply wanted you all to know the context of it, and how he handled a situation that he had no power to prevent.”
Graham had paused, and then he cleared his throat. “And this brings me to the final moments of the Crimson General,” he began anew. “Everyone knows the ‘Supernova’ that ended the war, that historic explosion wherein that one boy used himself as a shield to prevent me from decimating those whom he held dear. I’m talking about this because I would like every single one of you right now to realize that, at the core, Red was human. More than a monster, a fighting machine, a general...that boy was human. He didn’t just give his life away because he wanted to save his friends. Although that was one reason, there were two more: One, he couldn’t take the burden of what he had done any longer, and at some point, just like any human, he wanted to escape that pain; and two, he wanted the war to end. The war ends when only one general remains standing, and so, wanting nothing more than to stop the bloodshed, he decided that it was the perfect time to offer himself up. In a way, he didn’t just give himself up for his army and his country; he gave himself up for everyone in the world. With all these three things together, what we have is a truly tragic story.”
Stopping to look at his audience, Graham could see several people from the Crimson Army starting to cry, and he smiled. Don’t worry, he said deep in his mind. I understand the boy.
He then continued, “Crimson General Red. He was the boy who understood the meaning of life and was continuously burdened by it. As the ones whom he had left behind, it is our duty to reach the same level of understanding that he did, and perhaps this will be our first step to becoming a unified world. Finally, to put everything to a close, I give you all the final request that that boy gave to his best friend right before his heroic sacrifice: ‘If you have time to feel sorry for me, then use that time to make others happy. I’ve been doing nothing but spread sadness throughout this war, so can I count on you to make up for what I’ve done? Can I count on you to help out as many people as I’ve made suffer?’ Can we all stop pointing fingers at each other, and reach out our hands instead? It is, I’m sure, what that boy would have wanted from us.”
At that point, Jason, who was also present in the room as President William’s son and Red’s best friend, had sunk his face in his hands, crying silently but intensely, and everyone felt equally heavy at Graham’s words. Catherine, unable to hold back her feelings any longer, held her mouth and began crying as well.
Louise put her arm around Catherine and let the girl cry on her shoulder as she slowly whispered, “The world moves on, Catherine. No matter what happens, it moves forward. With or without that boy.”
Whether Catherine or anyone in the Crimson Army could accept it or not, the New Era had begun. The war was over, and the world would be led by Graham towards a Golden Age.
With or without that boy.