1-3: Determination Manifest
“Time out, time out!” came Allen’s voice as he fell on his knees, dropping a Bo Staff that he was holding. “A normal soldier fighting against a general is just overkill, even with the age gap!”
Indeed, a matchup of soldier versus general was quite pointless. Allen had been sparring with his superior, not to mention his nephew, Red, the Crimson General. They were in a small training room intended for use by the general himself. In this fight, both used Bo Staffs as weapons, but the power of the general serum was just too much; Red barely broke a sweat while Allen was struggling to even breathe.
“Well, I think I pretty much have the hang of this whole close-range combat thing,” Red commented as he deftly played around with his staff, spinning it around his body, alternating hands and throwing it like a march band baton. “But maybe it’s because I’ve been using the Bo in forever, so that’s an unfair advantage over you, a former regular soldier who’s used to guns.” The boy named Red had been a Bo Staff user from a young age – it was his form of exercise – and while this proved useful during his encounter with three drunk men a week prior to his rebirth as a general, his years of experience have become all the more important now, giving him a solid foundation from which to practice close-range combat.
“Doesn’t really matter,” Allen replied. “Even in shooting competitions, you keep creaming me with your ability to hold two guns at the same time with inhuman accuracy.”
Red laughed as he stopped playing with his staff, placing it on his shoulders and letting his arms hang on it. “Well, I’ve always been good at shooting games,” he said. “I guess the serum extended that skill to my left hand and then increased my accuracy a couple or so times. In any case, I never really expected dad to make something so amazing. It’s like I got a cheat code in real life.”
“Don’t forget that there are 4 others like you,” Allen warned as he got up. He walked forward and patted Red’s head, still panting. “Anyway, I’m beat. You pretty much have a grasp of your new powers by now, right?”
Red grinned. “Yep.” He began enumerating the things he discovered: “I have increased accuracy with handguns while being able to dual-wield them. I can sense any presence from way farther than the average person. Plus, my reflexes are inhuman, my strength is just so wrong right now, my wounds heal way too fast, my endurance is so high I feel like I could take on half an army on my own, and I can create as well as manipulate fire.”
Allen removed his hand from Red. “You’re almost on your way to becoming a full-fledged general,” he said. “All that’s left now is gaining the respect of your troops.”
Red’s grin disappeared almost instantly. His blood red eyes easily gave away the fact that he was the Crimson General, the man who would lead his country’s army against the rest of the world. Ever since his identity was inevitably discovered in the secret base, all the other soldiers had been ignoring him, perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of doubt of his ability to shoulder the weight of an entire country and eventually the future of the entire world if they win, or maybe a combination of both.
Fact of the matter was, it was obvious that no one trusted him. His eyes might say he was the general, but the soldiers didn’t see him as one. There was fear in those eyes, fear for this war, for this overwhelming responsibility. Fear was something he didn’t want his army to see.
“About that…” Red said in response “Could you rally up the soldiers in the training room tomorrow at around 9am, after breakfast? Tell them to wear sports attire.”
“What are you planning?”
Red’s grin returned. “I’ve had enough training. I’m planning on putting my resolve to the test.”
9am, on the dot.
One thousand biologically-enhanced soldiers were gathered in the training room full of weapons as per the request of the Crimson General. They were wearing, as instructed, athletic attire, standing, waiting for their general to tell them what it was he wanted.
Red was in front of all of them with a microphone to make sure he was heard by everyone. He was wearing a plain shirt, jogging pants, and rubber shoes, just like his soldiers. Unable to keep count of everyone, he simply looked for Allen and decided to begin his speech upon seeing him near the front. After clearing his throat, he held the microphone near his mouth and began speaking.
“All right, we’re doing this. So for starters, while you all probably know this, my name is Red, and I’m the Crimson General, as well as the son of Adam, that bastard scientist.”
There was a mix of shock and amusement at hearing Red talk about his father like that. Allen gave him a warning look. Red ignored him.
“I’ve assembled you all here today in order to set things straight. I know that aside from my uncle Allen over there…” He briefly raised his free hand at Allen. “…I haven’t talked to any of you guys, and I really found it hard to do so because I was simply a teenager meant to be left for dead, but for some reason I was brought back to life when my dad injected the general serum into my blood. I lost a lot of blood from a gunshot, and the general serum saved me. But anyway, for the longest time I’ve been deciding what I should do. I trained to be able to understand and control my new powers. Now I have decided to fight in this war, but I will need all of you to do that. I will fight as your general, and I intend to win this whole thing.”
One soldier, a man named Victor, raised his hand and stepped forward. His question was: “What ideal are we fighting for, General Red?”
Red expected this question. He took a deep breath, and replied, “You might not expect this, and you might not like it, but I’m fighting to create a future where Catherine, the most important person in my life, will be able to smile to her heart’s content. I want to make her safe and happy.”
There was a myriad of murmurs, jaw-drops and wide eyes. “Catherine?!” another soldier in the front row, Roger, blurted out. “You’re fighting for a girl?! This is the whole world we’re talking about! You want us to risk our lives for a teenage love story? This war is not about you!”
The training room was soon in an uproar, and in the midst of all the commotion that Red allowed to happen for a while, Allen heaved a sigh and hit his palm on his forehead, softly saying “Oh man.”
So much for gaining their trust, the general thought to himself, but he knew he had to be honest with his men. He had to explain. “Please, at least hear me out,” Red finally said over his microphone. They were still glaring and skeptical, but the soldiers eventually settled down and allowed him to continue. “I knew this wouldn’t please you, and it’s not so inspiring for an army who left their families and homes for this war. But that’s my motivation, that’s what convinced me to be your general, even if I didn’t have a choice.” His memories flashed back to when he woke up from an almost-death. “This whole general business, it’s overwhelming. It’s something I never intended to be, but now I have to take on that role, and if I want to do it right, I need something, someone to push me to do it. Most of you are doing it for this country, some of you for your family, some for honor or glory, because those are the things that matter to you. Well, it may be lame to you, but for a teenager like me, I’m doing it for her.” Some soldiers still rolled their eyes at this, but hopefully, they were beginning to understand. “You guys don’t know me or the story of my life, but suffice to say that Catherine’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and if I have to risk my life in this war, it’s going to be for her.”
“I know it’s going to be difficult to get you all to understand, and I don’t blame you, but if there’s one thing I know about this war, it’s that whoever’s right and wrong is determined not by what other people think, but by winning; this much my dad taught me. I can’t be your general without your trust and confidence, and if I can’t achieve that with my ideal, I have to do that with my skill. That’s why I asked you to come in sports attire. We’re going to play a game.”
From the skeptical comments earlier, there was now an awkward silence, and all the adults in front of him had confused looks on their faces. Red continued.
“Me against all 1000 of you,” he began. The soldiers’ eyes widened at these words. “I will personally fight all of you one-on-one in straight succession. The rules are simple: make me fall on the floor and you win. On the other hand, if I make all of you fall, then I win. Guns and blades are prohibited, but non-deadly weapons like nunchakus and Bo Staffs are allowed; I’ll personally be using the latter.” Red was gulping with fear, but he tried not to show it. “Additionally, I won’t use my flames, so don’t worry about that. Anyone who falls stays on the ground until the fights are over.” What the hell am I getting myself into, Red questioned himself.
“That’s insane!” Allen protested. “You’ll get creamed, Red!”
Well, I was supposed to be dead, anyway. “It’s the only way I thought of that could gain the army’s trust. I have to do this, or else these guys would never let a scrawny kid be their general.” he said, trying to sound stern. “Is everyone okay with this?”
No one budged. Red took this as a yes.
“Well then, let’s get started.” He looked at his uncle. “Soldier Allen, you’re first. Everyone else, fall in line.” They did as they were told, not really out of obedience. They couldn’t believe how obnoxious this kid was to challenge them like this. The soldiers played along anyway, thinking they could at least teach this kid-general a lesson. Some were chuckling in line.
“Remember, you fall on your belly, back, or butt, you’re out; if you can catch your fall with your hands, then fine.” He let go of his microphone and picked up his staff beside him.
Red faced his uncle. Allen was still staring at him in protest. Red took a deep breath, “We’re doing this, Uncle Allen.”
Allen heaved a sigh. “You idiot.” He turned around to face the other soldiers and said with a loud voice, “Let’s do what he wants. Give him what he wants and don’t let him win.” He then turned to his nephew. “I will personally do whatever I can to take you down, because even I don’t like the fact that you’re making an entire army fight for a teenage girl. Now you’re doing this. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
You’re right. I have no idea what I’m doing, but what the hell. Red’s heart was pumping in fear, but part of him was somewhat excited. “That’s the spirit, Uncle.”
Red was smiling, and standing. Barely 10 minutes have passed and he had yet to break a sweat, but he was amazed at how strong the serum really was. He knew he was strong, but…wow.
“That’s 20 down,” he announced, waiting for the next challenger. “Oh, it’s you, the first protester.”
Victor got his wooden mace ready. He swung it around while Red dodged out of its way. His perception was much too spot on to be taken off guard so easily, something even he was amazed at.
“Those wooden spikes, even if they’re for practice, are definitely gonna hurt if they connect,” the young general commented.
Victor’s eyes showed that he was still mad at Red. You flaunt that strength of yours by challenging your men, men who have much more experience than you’ll ever have, he was thinking. You have no idea what you’re getting into, or what’s at stake in this war. You’ve never seen the real world and all its cruelties. And you have the gall to carry this army for a girl! I’m not letting a mere kid lead an entire country! I don’t care if you have the general serum. I will wear you down, and you will eventually fall!
And with his resolve, Victor charged straight at Red.
Instead of dodging a head-on attack, Red responded by charging straight, much to the surprise of the remaining soldiers. Victor clearly didn’t expect this either. In the split-second that he wondered why Red would do such a reckless thing, the boy had already closed the gap between them; they were so close that it felt like Red simply disappeared.
He felt a sudden, stinging pain in his right foot.
Before Victor could swing his mace, Red used the edge of his staff to stab the soldier’s foot. Victor, still not willing to give up, immediately let go of his mace and grabbed Red’s staff while flinching in pain. He then forcibly pulled it.
Red’s hands were no longer holding his own staff at that point.
Because of the sheer force Victor used to pull the staff, he ended up propelling himself backwards, and his stabbed foot was unable to give him enough balance to counter this, causing him to fall while holding Red’s Bo Staff.
Red stretched out his hand. “Twenty-one,” he said with a stern voice. I did it.
The fact that he was standing up and looking down on Victor made the older soldier feel a sense of fear he had never had before. He…did it.
Gritting his teeth, Victor handed Red’s staff over while saying, “You’re strong. Being alive with the general serum in you has shown that, but you don’t understand the gravity of the situation at hand. It won’t be easy to win on just strength and power.” Victor no longer spoke with annoyance, but with concern. Red was indeed the Crimson General, but he was still a kid going into a war he was not prepared for.
Red, getting his staff, nodded his head. “That’s right, I don’t understand. I’m just a kid,” he replied. As much as he acknowledged it, he actually didn’t like being called a kid. It only reminded him that he wasn’t supposed to be in this war, anyway. “That’s why I don’t have any noble ideals like saving the world or leading humanity to a golden age. That’s why I’m starting out small: Right now, I believe that protecting Catherine is all I can manage to do wholeheartedly.” He looked straight at Victor, trying to connect with him. “I’d rather do a small thing wholeheartedly than be half-assed about something grand,” he said firmly, as if addressing the entire army. His innocent look returned and he scratched his head. “I actually don’t know, and that’s why I’m fighting you guys right now. I need you to prove that you need a general with nobler goals than protecting a girl, that the general serum isn’t enough. I need you to prove me wrong.”
Victor said no more. Red turned his back and raised his voice.
The Crimson General vs. a thousand biologically-enhanced soldiers. As was expected, Red plowed through the first 100 1v1’s with ease, something he saw coming but was damn thankful for nonetheless. Three thugs in an alley might have been alright, but he never imagined fighting an entire army single-handedly. As the soldiers kept coming in, though, even a person injected with the general serum would give in to straight fights with no breaks.
And time mercilessly dragged on.
In what seemed like an eternity to Red, he was able to take down the 900th soldier by thrusting his staff at his opponent’s abdomen after a swift dodge and a lightning-speed gap-closing step, finishing the job with spin move in order to land a clean, decisive hit to his opponent’s nape. Aside from his superb strength, Red was in awe at how cunning the serum has made him, with all the deceptive plays and sneak attacks executed in minutes, sometimes not even thinking about it. Dad really managed something powerful, he acknowledged.
As the 900th soldier fell without even being allowed to scream, Red, who was sweating a significant amount, hit the edge of his staff on the floor and used it to support his body while he gasped for air.
“This…” he tried saying in-between pants, “…this is taking too long. I have 100 left, right? I’ll take you on all at once. Let’s end this.” He had no idea why he suggested this. Maybe he really was too tired for one hundred more. Maybe the serum made him cocky.
“You can’t be serious, kid!” the soldier who was supposed to be next in line protested. “You’re a mess right now! You don’t even know if you can take on consecutive one-on-one fights until 1000, and you want us to take you on all at once?! You’re just asking to lose!”
“What’s the matter? Too tired, kid? Maybe he really wants to be creamed, so he can pack his bags and go home! You’re bound to lose!”
“If I lose,” Red began in response to the soldier, “then that’s just how far my determination goes. You won’t be satisfied unless I beat you all up, anyway, so I will. I have to.” Why am I always asking for trouble? “I made a deal with you all. I intend to pull through. What about you guys?” Red challenged.
The soldiers who remained standing looked at each other, nodded, and began charging at Red who was still not in his fighting position.
“Don’t say we didn’t warn you, kid! We’re not letting a brat like you decide our future!”
It was a sight to behold.
In the gigantic training room, 1000 biologically-enhanced soldiers were on the floor, the more recent ones to fall lying flat and gasping for air, while the first ones to go down were sitting in honor of the rule that anyone who fell was not allowed to stand up again until the fight was over. It had been a long, drawn-out battle to see who the last man standing would be.
It was already 10pm. From the time the battle began, 13 grueling hours of nonstop combat had passed.
And there he was. He was using his Bo Staff to prevent himself from falling, and his knees were bent dangerously low, but he was standing nonetheless. The small frame of the 17-year-old boy stood out in the midst of the fallen 1000 grown men. Red’s body was a bruised, sweaty mess as he gasped for air, his deep crimson eyes beginning to lose focus.
The boy who wanted to fight the world in order to protect a certain high school girl he was in love with.
The boy who challenged 1000 soldiers in a crazy battle in order to earn their loyalty.
And he won.
Goddamit. I won.
Crimson General Red.
“I…” Red tried saying under his breath. He didn’t know what to say, really. He wasn’t in the mood for speeches and he was too tired to do so anyway.
“I’m too tired.” He began walking away, using his staff as a walking stick. And then he said in the loudest voice he could muster at the moment, “I’m gonna grab some bread, eat it at the bathtub, and go to sleep. You guys better go get some food as well!” He then groped his way out the door.
No one could dare speak. They had underestimated this boy, they finally realized. They had ignored him, talked behind his back, and vehemently protested at the idea of being led by him, unaware of his determination until he showed it in its purest form: a fight between him and all of them. The general was theoretically as strong as 50 biologically-enhanced soldiers, yet this boy took on 20 times that number, and while there were certain restrictions, that was no easy feat even for him.
Sure, they did not agree with his ideal, and they still thought it was a shallow goal for a world war, but if it made him willing to fight as their general, who were they to argue? They could not help but acknowledge that the boy named Red was firm in his resolve, and for the first time since they were enlisted in the upcoming war, they started believing that they could win.
As they watched him exit the training room, they could only say one thing about their general.
That kid is a monster.
The next day, after everybody – especially Red – had time to rest and recover, the entire army held a large feast in commemoration of Red being accepted by everyone as a general. There was music, dancing, chatting between Red, the soldiers, and staff. It finally gave them a chance to be acquainted, as if all the doubt had never existed and the fighting had never happened. Red was also able to talk about his past, his near-death experience, and the things he did in order to practice for the fight they just had. There was, of course, lots of food.
The members of the Crimson Army have finally started forming a bond of trust with each other, just in time for the Global Unification War, set to shake the world in two weeks’ time.