6-3: Thank You, Red
Nearly a year has passed since the start of the New Era led by Graham the Golden General, and today was a special day for several people as they remember a certain boy who had left them at the end of the tragedy known as the Global Unification War.
“What’s wrong, Jason?” Graham asked a young boy who was slouched in front of his computer, blankly staring at the screen. “You seem out of it.”
Snapping back into reality, Jason shook his head and nervously smiled. “I’m sorry, sir,” he replied. “It’s just that...today is his birthday, and I...”
The old man raised his eyebrows. “Oh, so today is that boy’s birthday, huh?” he said. “Hmm, maybe I should give him a gift.” He then snapped his fingers and smiled in delight. “Aha! I have just the thing, but I can’t do it alone. Oh, and because of the preparations needed for this gift, it will have to wait past today.”
Jason tilted his head in confusion.
“People will be gathering for him on the 10th of February, right? We can give it to him then.”
“Exactly what are you planning...?”
Thank you for everything. I hope you like this little gift I prepared for you.
It’s been a year. Oh man, it’s been so long. And it’s been two years since your “first death.” I finally understand why you originally had no intention of letting me and Catherine know that you actually survived by becoming the Crimson General, since when you died a second time at that final battle, it was extra hard on both of us. Even now I still can’t accept that someone as great as you had to be involved in so much bloodshed at such a young age, forced to kill people and giving up your life for us in the end.
The new age after the Global Unification War is far from perfect, but we’re doing our best. Lord Graham is a very capable leader, and he’s been doing everything in his power to carry on your legacy as well as those of the other generals. Frankly, I think the world is better off with him as the supreme ruler instead of you, but at the cost of your life? As your best friend, I’d still illogically wish that you actually lived through this war, even at the expense of you being less capable of being the leader of the world. Then again, knowing you, you’d probably reject the position and give it to someone else, wouldn’t you? After all, you did fight in the war solely to protect Catherine, so you don’t have any idealistic vision with which to lead the people in.
Anyway, I’m training under Lord Graham right now. Because of Uncle Adam’s desire to get the youth more involved in the workings of the world under the reasoning that the future essentially belongs to the future generations, Lord Graham took in several teenagers like me to take leading roles under the guidance of his trusted men. In fact, guess what position I hold? His right-hand man. I am directly below the supreme ruler of the world. Can you believe that? Lord Graham insisted that it had to be me because if he could just have his way, he would have chosen you. Being the person closest to you, he instead settled on me. I don’t know how well I can actually do my job, and no joke it’s hard, but I’m doing my best. For the future, and for everyone else, I will do whatever I can do live your portion as well.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention this: I actually have a girlfriend now. No, it’s not Catherine; it’s someone from another country that I met after the war. Her name’s Alyssa. I say “girlfriend,” but right now we don’t have much time to actually date, since we’re all really busy working. And for the record, I don’t think it’s overexerting myself, especially compared to your time as a general during the war. And besides, so many people have it harder than me: Lord Graham is risking his life day in and day out as the public figure of global equality, and he also has a small group composed of top-tier bio-soldiers from all over the world (by the way, this is top secret information, but come on, since when has that stopped me from telling you stuff, right?) that are helping us from the shadows with very important intel as they roam the world. In fact, I heard that this group also works to stop rebel movements before they break out into the open and cause unnecessary chaos, putting themselves in even bigger risk than Lord Graham himself. Compared to them, my life’s a cinch, don’t you think? That’s why I’ll do my best from here on out. I’ll make sure that your legacy stays alive, and I’ll do what I can to help create the future that you wanted to carve out for Catherine.
May you rest in peace, Red. Thanks for everything.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Emily asked as Adam slouched forward in his desk, head in hands. “You’ve been out of it the entire day. You’re thinking about Red, aren’t you?”
“I can’t help it,” Adam said in response. “Exactly one year ago, an entire army was wearing party hats and having fun as they all indulged in that kid’s hobbies. In fact, I already had plans for the next party even back then. After all, today was supposed to mark his final year as a teenager. As a father, I can’t help but feel frustrated that things turned out this way.”
Just then, two children entered the room: a boy and a girl.
“Let’s go, dad,” the girl said.
“What?” Adam asked, wide-eyed.
“Today is Red’s birthday, right?” the girl said, surprising Adam to the point that he twitched at those words. “Let’s go celebrate!”
Adam made a weak smile as he looked at his new family. Are you seeing this, Red? he said deep in his mind.
However, he shook his head.
“Let’s not,” he replied. “Red wouldn’t want us to dwell in the past. I’m sure that if he were here right now, he would be irritated, probably calling the idea of celebrating ‘a waste of time’ or something.”
Emily chuckled. “I can actually imagine him being that way,” she said. “You’re right; Red wouldn’t want us to dwell on the past. But I still think we should do something for him, if only as a final gift before we move on for real.”
“What would you suggest?”
“The idea’s not mine,” Emily replied, “but I got a message from Lord Graham just a while ago. He wants us to give Red a little something for his birthday.”
How’s it going? Lord Graham came up with this great idea to make us write letters to you on your first death anniversary. I know it’s pointless since you’ve already passed away, but for us whom you left behind, it holds great meaning to be able to tell you the things we didn’t get to say, even if it’s only on a piece of paper in front of your grave. You left us so soon, and so abruptly, that I’m left having so many things that I was unable to tell you, so please let me do this.
Well, first off, I’m doing fine. I was able to get married to Emily after the war, and I’m getting along well with her two kids. I found out later that you asked her to help me become a great dad shortly before you sacrificed yourself for us. Oh, and you never got to meet the kids, so let me give you a rundown: The older one is Matthew, 15 years old, and the younger one is, well...Amy, 11 years old. Painful coincidence, huh? I already knew it long before I even decided that I wanted to marry Emily, but during the first few weeks that I lived with them the name kept stinging. Eventually, though, I just kind of woke up not being bothered by it anymore, and I’m sure you and Amy would have wanted me to move on just like that, wouldn’t you?
The world is on a steady road to becoming better than ever before. Your compassion for your enemies and the list that it gave birth to is still being used up until today to show everyone that it is possible to get along as long as we accept and understand how different we are from each other. Lord Graham is working hard to understand the pain you went through, reaching out to as many people as he can, given his busy schedule. In fact, here’s an interesting story: There’s this sixth “general serum,” the prototype I created that was meant to be used only during the New Era, and Lord Graham gave it to a bio-soldier to turn him into the next most powerful person in the world. That person, whose identity remains classified information to pretty much everyone except Lord Graham, currently leads a top secret unit (woops) that travels all around the world from the shadows in order to help the oppressed and allow us to understand the various cultures of other countries better. The world is moving forward, in large part because of your actions and final sacrifice. I don’t think the families of those you killed are anywhere near forgiving you, but I sincerely wish that the day would come when they would also be able to accept what had happened and just continue living on the share of those who have fallen, like how I and all of the people who care about you are so desperately trying to do right now.
Today’s your 19th birthday, Red. You didn’t even get past being a teenager, and you had so much going for you. You have no idea how frustrated I am that you couldn’t become part of the new family I have right now, that you had to die with no mother up until the very end. I’m really sorry. I’m sorry for leaving you, and I’m sorry for putting you through so much pain all these years. I wanted to make it up to you after the war, but...
I guess there’s not much point in moping about it, though. Before I fold up this piece of paper and close the chapter to a very important part of my life, I want to tell you one last thing: You did it, Red. You’ve surpassed me. It’s every father’s dream to one day see their son become bigger, greater than they are, and you did it. So thank you, Red. Thank you for protecting us, for allowing me to have another chance at life with a new family, and most of all, thank you for granting me my lifelong goal.
I’m proud of you beyond words.
“Victor, what on earth are you doing?”
“Can’t you see? I’m trying to write a letter here.”
“Let me take a look at that. This is a complete mess! Why would you even bother writing with your left hand, anyway?”
“Mind your own business!”
Anabelle was looking with curious eyes as Victor, who had lost his right arm near the end of the war, desperately tried writing on a piece of paper with his non-dominant hand. The letters were squiggly and messy, and Anabelle shook her head in disappointment.
“That kid would have wanted all of us to forget about him and move on with our lives,” she said. “You writing a letter so desperately on his birthday kind of goes against that.”
Victor heaved a sigh. “This is the last time,” he replied. “I promise. It’s just that Lord Graham sent a request to have those who treasured the kid write him letters for his birthday. I clearly haven’t gotten over him being gone, especially after everything he’s done for us, so at least just this one last time...”
“Fine, fine,” Anabelle said, giving Victor a hug from behind. “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll make the letter together, and I’ll do the writing. But we’re going to talk about how we’ve been doing without him, and assure him that we’re all fine.”
“I guess...that’s what he would want to see.”
That night, Victor, Anabelle, and several other people close to Red wrote letters for the boy.
It’s me, the guy who should’ve died long ago if not for you. It feels really weird, you know? Here I am, alive and happy with my family at your expense, when you’ve done nothing to deserve any of the suffering you had to go through and I’ve screwed up enough that my survival up until this point just plain old doesn’t make sense. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t be of any more help than I was during the war. I guess you could say that the burden you carried was so overwhelmingly heavy that I was honestly scared to be a part of it, and for that, again, I’m really sorry. I was always so scared for myself, for knowing the value of human life and realizing how deep a sin it was to kill people, even if it was for survival. I ran away from that pain while you shouldered it all on your own, and in the end it took you over. I feel really pathetic, but at the same, I’m also deeply grateful. I’m grateful that you spared me and everyone else the burden of human life. Because of you, we are all able to wake up to a new tomorrow with chests lighter than if you hadn’t been our general. You’ve done more than enough, Red. I may feel bad right now, but I know that this is all for the best. After all the blood you spilled and the tears you shed, may you now finally be able to rest in peace. You can leave the rest to us.
Hey there, Red! Annie here. I’m gonna miss hearing you call me that, even though I made it look like I was irritated whenever you did. I grew really fond of you throughout the time I spend working with the Crimson Army, and you will forever be missed. I’ll make sure to tell Rose someday how great of a guy you were and how she owes you her life. Oh, and speaking of Rose, she’s started talking recently. Right now she can say “Mama,” “Dada,” “Cat” in reference to Catherine who visits us often, and “Red,” due to Victor being so fixated on embedding your memory onto her. He’s well aware that you wouldn’t want him doing that, but cut the man some slack, okay? It just shows how highly he thought of you. Oh, and I’m also actually pregnant. It’s only been a month, though, so I still have a while before things get really hectic for me.
Anyway, that’s all. Thanks again for everything, Red!
Victor and Anabelle
I honestly don’t have much to say. Even before you became the Crimson General, I already knew how kind and compassionate you were. In fact, it’s because I knew this that I actually tried stopping Adam on more than one occasion from giving you the general serum. He was confident that you were the only one he could trust the insane powers of a general with, but I didn’t want you, so pure and innocent, to get tainted by the bloodshed and sadness of war. When I realized that there was no stopping him, I volunteered to become a bio-soldier to protect you, but in the end, it was I who ended up being constantly protected by you. I feel so pathetic, yet at the same time exceedingly grateful that the one who led the Crimson Army was you.
You never really showed it directly, but because of your roundabout method of protecting everyone, going through the traumatizing experience of killing that should have gone to your soldiers and then suffering internally out of sight from everyone else, we can finally see the extent of your kindness after all was said and done. I was surprised you were even able to stay even remotely sane by the time of the final battle, and I guess it makes sense if you really did just want to kill yourself to put the war to a close. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for you, so instead I’ll just say something that countless people have probably already said: Thank you.
How’s it going, Red?
Roger here. I really just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me and everyone else. Because of your sacrifices, so many of us are alive right now. Today, on your birthday, I couldn’t help but be bothered by how unfair this whole war had been to you. I’m sure everyone else feels the same way. You were such a great and fun kid, so why? Why did this have to happen to you? We can’t get that sense of grief out of our heads up until now, but I also know that we have no choice but to accept everything. This is the last time I’ll rant about this, so please let me do so. I can’t stand this whole “New Era” crap! If not for you, I would have definitely died long ago, and at some point in the war I stopped thinking about my own survival and instead started wishing that at least you could make it. But then what happened? Up until the very end, you were the one charging on ahead while everyone else ran away in fear. I’m sorry. I’ll let Cynthia take over now.
Cynthia here. Hello, Red. I have a confession to make: I really, really liked you. I just really loved seeing your satisfied face whenever you ate the dishes I made, and your constant praises and carefree smile made every day of wartime a little bit more bearable for me. Thank you so much for everything, especially for protecting Roger throughout the entire war. Oh, and just so you know, we’re engaged right now. We’re actually considering naming our first child in a way that references you, like how Victor and Anabelle did with Rose. Of course, the two of us have to get married first, and once I’m pregnant we’ll think about it more seriously. In any case, no matter what happens, we will definitely not waste the life that you gave everything you had to protect. We definitely wouldn’t be this happy right now if it weren’t for you, so thank you so much for everything!
Roger and Cynthia
Hey there Red,
As the guy who went with you on raids, I can safely say that I know the pain you’ve endured throughout the war the most. When Lord Graham told us that part of you actually wanted to die when you made the final sacrifice to end the war, I could see his point very clearly. Every time we finished a raid and I see your tear-stained face, it breaks me inside, and part of me is a little relieved that you’re finally free from the pain that you constantly cried over for so many nights.
That’s why I won’t say anything about wishing that you were still with us. The circumstances were sad and exceedingly unfair to you, but there’s nothing we can do about it; you definitely would have said the same thing. So in this letter, all I will say is this: Thank you. You’re officially a hero now, a hero who changed the world. Thanks to you, we can all move forward.
And so as we all forge a new path, may you rest in peace, free from the pain that the world had forcefully pushed onto you.
As I write this letter, the trip I promised to do with Sharon is finally over. I made it barely in time to get Lord Graham’s request, so I guess I’ll give this a shot.
Thanks for everything, kiddo. I know I didn’t really talk much during our time together - at least not as much as Victor - but I really did grow fond of you and respected you as a general. Your sacrifice means a lot to us, and if writing this letter helps in making people realize how great of a guy you are, I would gladly do so. Thanks for everything, buddy!
PS: Your secret’s safe with us.
PPS: Sharon’s pregnant and we’re really excited about it.
“This is the fifth guy, Catherine!” came the voice of a girl. There were three of them walking just outside of a school; one had long, flowing hair, another had short hair in a bob-cut and thick-rimmed glasses, and the last one who had just spoken was sporting a ponytail on her shoulder-length hair that rested on her right shoulder. “Seriously, you keep rejecting guys like that and you’ll never find a boyfriend!”
“I just...” the long-haired girl said in response. “Look, you must not tell anyone about this. But I...”
“No way!” the ponytailed girl screamed out. “There’s a guy you like?! This is news to me! Who is it? Hmm, I don’t think anyone in our class particularly stands out...Come on, Catherine, spill the beans!”
Catherine shook her head. “No, never mind,” she said. “I’m kind of out of it today. I’m really sorry, you two.”
Raising her head as if remembering something, the girl with the bob-cut asked, “Say, speaking of today, isn’t it Red’s birthday?”
Catherine twitched at the mention of the name. “U-uh, yeah...” she weakly replied. “It’s his 19th. What about it?”
“I just remembered,” the girl said. “He was the Crimson General, right? So at the start of the war, he was 17. And to think that he was the hero who protected us all in the war...I mean, he seemed so normal, so harmless, you’d think he would run away from that kind of responsibility out of fear. I kinda regret thinking badly of him back when we were classmates now.”
“Say, Catherine,” the other girl intervened, “you and Jason were the only people he ever talked to. It must be really painful for you, huh? You did say he was your best friend, after all.”
Catherine’s heart sank. That’s right, she told herself. They don’t know that I was there with him, and they have no idea that I... “Of course it’s painful,” she managed to say. “But there’s no helping it. Besides, he would hate it if his friends were constantly held back by memories of him. That’s how nice and selfless he is.”
“I see,” the ponytailed girl said in response. “But I still think we should visit him. Maybe on his death anniversary, since I’m pretty sure many others will be there.”
Catherine made a weak smile and tried to avoid eye contact with any of the girls. “I...I’ll think about it...” she said.
That night, as the heartbroken teenage girl sat inside her room with a piece of paper in front of her, memories of the boy started flowing through her mind, and with it came tears. Unable to hold her feelings, her body started shaking, and she covered her mouth with her left hand while she started writing wobbly letters on the piece of paper that was now slightly wet.
Is it so wrong to wish that I could see you again? I know it’s been a year, and everyone else has seemingly moved on with their lives, but…I can’t do it, Red. I know it’s stupid of me, but I can’t smile and thank you like everybody else. I’m burdened right now with so many regrets, both for the things I did and for the ones that I didn’t do.
I’m sorry I never got these words out all this time, and I know it’s too late right now, but at least let me get this out of my chest:
I love you, Red.
If I could just get another chance to make things right, I would do anything.
There were countless more people who responded to Graham’s call to offer messages to Red’s grave, soldiers and civilians alike, including Louise who finally gave birth, Shirley’s grandfather Gilbert as well as his entire family, and even children whose parents were saved by those crimson eyes.
Thank you for being our general! I’m not sure you remember this, but you once shielded my dad from a bullet, and because of that my family and I are now able to be with him. It’s really amazing how you’re just 4 years older than me. As thanks for everything you’ve done, we will do our best to live our lives to the fullest. You’re the best, Red!
Susan, 14 years old
I can’t believe the Crimson General who protected us all was just as old as me! My mom worked under you in the base, and I’ve heard so many things about you. May you rest in peace.
Ryan, 18 years old
Dear Mr. Red,
Mary, 6 years old
And many, many more. On the day of February 10, countless people sent their messages to the graveyard where a metallic Bo Staff rested, expressing gratitude to a certain boy and giving promises to make the world a better place in his stead.
The world may have gone on without him, but the boy named Red definitely remains as an important part of the New Era.