6-4: Red vs Gold and the Truth Behind the Boy’s Fate
February 10, exactly one year before the letters were delivered to a certain boy’s grave. This is the story of the final moments of the war, when Red and Graham saw each other face-to-face.
Graham the Golden General was at the heart of the explosion that signaled the end of the Global Unification War. In a manner similar to using a decisive trump card, he had sent numerous bomb-ridden buildings via his telekinesis to block the sky and send them towards his enemies to effectively wipe them out and force victory. He had used the same tactic to win against his long-time rival, the Emerald Army. He was poised to finally put an end to the war and find answers as he opens the door to a new era. This was all meant to go smoothly: He would start a conflict, buy some time to get his trump card going, the buildings would fall, and then his enemies would be wiped out.
However, that one boy stood in the way.
Red, the Crimson General.
This boy held several epithets that he had earned throughout the war: “The Blazing Monster,” “The Strongest Fighter in the World,” “The Teenage Mass Murderer,” and the one that stuck to Graham the most, known only by those who held a high position in the world: “Adam’s Revolution.” The authorities throughout the world gathered only people at least in their late 20’s and mostly in their 30’s as prospects for the general serum, but Adam, a man known by others to be a genius born only once in every few generations and the person attributed to the creation of the biologically-enhancing serums, decided to give his country’s portion of the general serum to his then 17-year-old son, a high school student named Red, a boy who knew nothing about the adult world and was far from being prepared for something like a war. True to his age, this boy did not hold any ideological goals for the large-scale battle; he was unlike Zack who wanted to forge a new world order, and he was unlike Graham who wanted to search for existential answers to life and the world he lived in. No, this boy was fighting in order to protect a girl.
It was stupid.
He didn’t even try to sound noble.
And yet look how far this stupid goal had taken him.
His efforts have led him to become one of the last two surviving generals in the Global Unification War, and right now he was causing an explosion that would forever be recorded in the history of mankind.
In a last-ditch effort to protect those he held dear, the boy known for his blood-red eyes flew to intercept the buildings that Graham had sent to eliminate the Crimson Army, forcing an explosion while they were still in the sky and sacrificing his life in the process.
“It doesn’t matter what he does at this point...” the golden-eyed old man said to himself as the explosion slowly subsided. He was constantly placing thick layers of debris around him to protect himself from the explosions as he personally saw to the demise of his final opponent. “...in the end, it’s still your loss, kid.”
Various parts of the blown-up buildings in the sky were scattered, until eventually the blue sky could be seen again. Graham heaved a sigh as sweat could be seen pouring on his head.
“I guess that’s it, then.”
He was about to turn around, but before he could do, his head twitched. He could feel a presence from above.
Using his enhanced sense of sight, he was able to see the figure of a human lifelessly falling down.
“...I should probably at least spare his body from any further damage and give him a proper burial after this.” As he said that, his eyebrows crossed in concentration. He would catch the falling body with his powers, but he needed to do it softly enough so that the boy’s body doesn’t get damaged any further by a sudden change in the velocity during his fall.
With Graham gritting his teeth, the boy’s body went into a motion as if he was being gently scooped by air. The speed of his descent decreased little by little, until he was completely under Graham’s control. The old man then brought the body closer to him until they were facing each other.
Red was “standing” on thin air with his head dropped and his eyes closed while Graham had his head raised to take a good look at him.
And then, something happened that made Graham almost lose his telekinetic control over the boy.
Red’s eyelids twitched.
And with a slight gritting of his teeth, his eyes completely opened.
Graham could not believe what he was looking at right now: it was a pair of dark brown eyes.
Red slightly raised his head and his eyes darted off all over the place, trying to recall what had happened and piecing together the current situation. His eyes widened, he stretched out his hands slightly, and then looked at his palms as he said, “I’m...alive...?” He then turned to stare into the golden eyes of the man in front of him who seemed to be the reason why he was floating in the air.
Graham nodded. “So it seems. But it seems that the explosion has-”
Before the old man could continue, however, Red suddenly went into an outburst. He started screaming out of the blue and tears were flowing nonstop from his eyes. This took Graham by surprise, but what put him off even more was what the boy said soon after.
“Kill me! Kill me now! I can’t take it anymore! It hurts! What are you waiting for?!”
What the hell? The world’s strongest fighter, the teenage mass murderer...is now reduced to this? “Don’t give me that!” Graham exclaimed, using his telekinesis to throw Red sideways into the ground in frustration at the behavior of what he had known all this time as a cold, ruthless monster. The teenage boy bounced multiple times and then slid painfully until inertia did its work and he settled down several meters away from Graham. He let out a painful scream.
“Gaaaaah! It hurts! It huuurts!” Slowly and painfully getting up on his knees, Red looked around, eventually stopping the movement of his eyes upon seeing something to his right. Confirming that it was what he wanted, he then proceeded to desperately crawl in that direction with a delirious, longing expression on his face until Graham figured out what the boy was after.
He was trying to grab a large, shattered piece of glass.
When he finally got hold of the sharp object in his right hand, Red put his left arm forward and was ready to stab it, when...
With an invisible force, Red’s hand that held the shattered piece of glass was hit with enough force to make him lose his grip on it. His body was then forcibly carried back until he was back in front of Graham once more, at which point he was dropped to the ground, crying on his knees with his fists clenched.
“Why...” He raised his head and stared straight into the pair of golden eyes. “Why won’t you just let me die?!”
Graham knelt down and held the boy’s head. Red bowed his head again and simply continued silently crying, unsure of what was going on. Either way, he was too drained to do anything.
In truth, Graham was taking a peek into Red’s mind.
It was a separate application of his telekinetic power, akin to Red using his flames - whose original purpose was to burn and kill - to fly. Graham was moving through Red’s mind in a similar fashion.
Th-this kid... “I’ve changed my mind,” he finally said to the boy as he removed his hand from his head. “You have to live.”
“But...we can’t have two generals. If you spare me, then this war will...”
Graham shook his head. “The Crimson General is no more,” he declared. “He is dead. The person standing before me right now is none other than a normal teenage boy named Red.” You’re free now, boy.
Unable to comprehend what the old man meant, Red decided to give another justification. “I’ve killed so many people...I don’t deserve to live.” He put his hands on his head. “The weight of their lives is just too heavy...what use can a person who only knows of death possibly be to the world?”
“It’s precisely because you’ve killed so many that you have to live,” Graham replied. “You’ve come to know the meaning of life, haven’t you?”
Red removed his hands and nodded slowly.
“What is it? Tell me!”
There was a brief silence that felt like an eternity to Graham.
“...I figured that was the case,” the old man finally said. “Now do you see why you must not die? You’re a valuable asset to this world, Red. We need someone like you who values life more than anyone else. We need the wisdom that you’ve gained from your experiences that were so painful you can’t help but wish for the sweet release of death. And it may be exceedingly hard and painful, but as the one that put an end to all of those lives, your duty is to shoulder that burden for as long as you live. I tell you, your limit does not lie here; not today, not for a long time to come. But more importantly...” He smiled and offered his hand out to the boy. “You know the pain that the people left behind have to live with, right? Wouldn’t you want to prevent having those who treasure and love you go to a future without you just because you chickened out?”
“...Cath, Jason, Dad…Uncle Allen, Victor, Roger, David, Felix…Anabelle, Wilma, Sharon, Emily, Cynthia…” he began silently muttering names until he was interrupted by Graham.
“Live on, Red,” the golden-eyed man said with conviction. “Stay alive, and when the time comes, I hope you will be able to assist me in carving out a golden age for everyone.”
The boy named Red made a weak smile. “Heh. What the hell...geezer…” he said before finally collapsing to the floor. Graham caught his fall and placed him slowly on the ground as he could hear footsteps from behind.
It was the Golden Army.
Facing them with Red’s unconscious body in his arms, he ordered, “Take the boy. He’s no longer a threat.”
The soldiers, who all saw Red’s rampage and have survived solely because they were lucky enough to not have directly crossed paths with him, all winced at the strange command.
“But, sir...” one of them managed to say, though he was unable to continue his sentence due to sheer fright.
“Even if he wakes up, he’ll barely be able to harm a biologically-enhanced soldier,” Graham assured. “Let’s leave it at that. Now, go! I still need to declare my victory and tell the world that the Crimson General is dead.”
“Y-Yes, sir! Right away!” they said with quick salutes before taking Red and running off.
As they did, Graham started walking towards the direction of the Crimson Army. At the back of his mind, however, the memories that he had seen from reading Red’s mind came flashing.
“Not yet!” Red had repeatedly screamed as he slaughtered Shirley in an uncontrolled fit of rage.
”Bye,” was the last word the boy said to Zack before killing him.
“If my hypothesis is correct, then...” Graham briefly winced at the thought. “...then that means that Red, who defeated Cerulean and Ivory in straight-up duels, could have saved both of them had he known the secret of the general serum. Cerulean died at some point during Red’s rampage, and Ivory died when he was burned, not when he was shot. Meanwhile, Red...if I hadn’t caught him, that fall would have surely killed him.” He paused and looked up at the sky. “Who would’ve thought that this could be possible? That the general serum grants its host a second chance at life, sacrificing itself when the person suffers fatal damage...I guess that means I’ll be able to stick around for a little longer, huh?”
Graham lightly chuckled. That was a lucky break for me, he told himself as an after-thought. If that kid had actually been able to charge straight in and force a one-on-one with me, I most definitely would have been mercilessly slaughtered.
Over a year has passed since then. To be specific, it had been 16 months, and the day was June 28. Graham had firmly established his global rule, people from all over the world have started countless talks and activities to get to know more about each other, and a certain boy was visiting a graveyard.
“This is the place, right...?”
After searching around, the boy found a tombstone of someone named “Red, The Crimson General.” Smiling at the sight, he stopped in front of it, dropping his backpack beside him.
“Hey there, Crimson,” he said to the piece of rock. “I’m sorry it took me until now to visit. I was all over the world, you see. Ever since you died at the end of the war, old man Graham’s been forcing work onto me nonstop. I couldn’t return home even if I wanted to, but now that I’ve finally been given my well-earned rest, I figured I’d stop by here before doing anything else.”
Looking down, he could see a box, but more importantly he found something beside it that caused memories to surge through his mind: A metallic Bo Staff.
“It was tough,” he proceeded to say with a weak smile. “I saw the families of those you killed, and the memories continued to weigh down on me. But you know what? Most of them were surprisingly more than willing to move on with their lives. It baffled me how they could possibly conquer their grief over losing someone important to them, but maybe that’s just human nature. Maybe we were all meant to keep moving forward no matter what happens. Throughout my travels, I was prepared to die at the hands of anyone seeking for revenge at any moment, but it never happened, and I just...it overwhelms me and makes me realize that there is so much more that mankind has going for them.”
He reached out his hand to the staff, but it was too heavy for him to completely lift up, and he was only able to drag one tip onto his lap.
“Even though I’m talking in front of you all chill like this,” he continued, “the weight is still very real. Back when the war was still going on, I had to deal with an incredible amount of human lives with you, but from here on out it's gonna be just me. I may have finished my journey around the world in a quest for redemption, but in the end, there is no way I could possibly redeem myself through any actions. I know it sounds pretty obvious now, but the realization never felt more real to me until I actually tried looking for redemption and failed: that the only thing I can do right now is to live on. You may be gone now, Crimson, but I will stay. I will stay and continue carrying the burden we once shared.”
Finally content with his inner monologue, the boy placed the staff back in its original position and took out the box, opening it to reveal a large amount of letters. He took out the one on top, sent by Graham.
“‘Thank you for everything. I hope you like this gift I prepared for you,’ huh?” he read. “He better be thankful, after working me to the bone this past year. Let’s see, what’s next…? Oh, this one’s from Jason.”
He read the contents and smiled.
“That idiot,” he said, laughing to himself. “He thinks he’s being all rebellious, telling me a top government secret. Just you wait, Jason, because I have an even bigger secret in store for you. Hmm, Alyssa, huh? I’d like to meet her, and maybe ask her to prevent Jason from overexerting himself so much. All right, what do we have next?”
With a seemingly-permanent smile on his face, the boy went through all the letters. As he did, he remembered the date.
It was June 28.
Two years ago, he had died, and today was supposed to be his “death anniversary.” Crimson was no more, but the average teenage boy named Red, who had supposedly died due to a gunshot in a back alley before the Global Unification War even began, would finally show up today after two years of absence.
Little did he know, however, that as he joyfully read the countless letters in the box, someone else wanted to visit his grave on that particular day.
It was a 19-year-old girl.