1-4: Boy Meets Girl Once Again
“The Crimson General, a fearsome monster with crimson-red eyes who possesses the power to manipulate flame. Like the fire that spreads and wreaks havoc on a large scale, the man called the Crimson General has been known to take down hordes on his own, often going to the front lines of battle simply because he is that strong. Rumor has it that prior to the war, he exhibited his immense power by singlehandedly defeating his own army.”
It has been more than 4 months since the beginning of the Global Unification War – coined by clueless civilians as the World War – and the destruction has been evident as well as rampant. The biologically-enhanced soldiers came to the forefront to showcase their vastly superior powers, but countless regular soldiers and volunteers were also taking part in the war effort in small ways to help their countries.
However, what was more surprising to the world as a whole was the debut of the generals, the 5 strongest people in the world. Known for their unique eye colors that determined the names of their respective armies, they possessed inhuman strength and intellect, as well as elemental powers that set them leagues apart even from the biologically-enhanced soldiers.
The Ivory General. The 38-year-old white-eyed lightning user named Zack possesses unrivaled agility and stealth. In the two months that have passed, he was able to single-handedly assassinate several key political figures in his own country for unknown reasons, bringing great unrest to the general public. The Ivory Army is currently complete with 1000 soldiers.
The Emerald General. The green-eyed man in his late 20’s named Nathan possesses the power of manipulating wind. Additionally, he is known to have regeneration powers superior even to that of the generals, able to stand up over and over again despite all odds. The Emerald Army currently has 938 soldiers.
The Cerulean General. A surprise to the public, the blue-eyed leader of the Cerulean Army turned out to be a 15-year-old girl named Shirley. As soon as the war began, her army was attacked by the Ivory Army. Although they were able to fight back, Shirley was finished off for good later on after this skirmish when the Crimson Army staged an attack before they could recover, where she is said to have met her fate at the hands of the Crimson General. She possessed the power of water and could increase the capabilities of as well as protect her allies from a distance. The Cerulean Army, after losing, was left with 416 soldiers who are all currently inactive.
The Golden General. A large enigma that has yet to show himself, the only reason his eye color is known is because his army had proclaimed itself to be the Golden Army. During the past 2 months, he has been in deadlock with Nathan and the Emerald Army, holding skirmishes here and there with neither one willing to stage an all-out attack. His element and additional powers are unknown. The Golden Army currently has 901 soldiers.
And finally, the Crimson General. Hailed as “The Blazing Monster,” little is known about this red-eyed general not because he never showed himself, but because he showed up too much. The destruction he caused just didn’t add up, with eyewitnesses claiming that the said monster was a mere teenage boy. He possesses the power of fire as well as a heightened combat sense superior to that of all the other generals. He is rumored to be the strongest fighter in the world, and was the first one to defeat a country with his victory over the Cerulean Army within the first month of the war. The army currently has 832 soldiers.
Right now, the Crimson Army was facing a crisis. Their general, a boy named Red, was out of the country on some personal business with his uncle and right-hand man Allen. They were on their way back when the Ivory Army attacked. Because of the clash between the biologically-enhanced soldiers, buildings were destroyed and civilians were injured and killed with ease. The Crimson Army, determined to protect as many people as possible, were forced to assume a defensive stance and was at a great disadvantage without their reckless leader.
“Dammit, Red!” Victor cried out as he secured the safety of a family of five. “Get back here quickly, you sentimental twerp!”
“Mom! Dad!” came the voice of a teenage girl with shoulder-length brown hair as she cried on her knees. In front of her were the fallen, blood-stained corpses of a man and a woman. It was Catherine, the girl whom the famous Crimson General had sworn to protect by fighting in the war. She had arrived home too late; her parents were dead.
And the threat was not yet over.
Catherine could not help but run from her dead parents as she heard explosions around her. A fight was ensuing, but there were only regular soldiers in that area. Still, it was nothing to be at ease about; they still held firearms that could kill her in an instant if she wasn’t careful.
She ran frantically in the open. There was nowhere to hide, for even the nearby houses were destroyed. She caught sight of a rifle that was aimed at her.
She froze. She could not even make a sound. No sound could have captured that fear.
At that moment, she felt a forceful push, saving her from the gun shot. She rolled on the ground with the person who saved her. There was something familiar about the way she was being held.
“Are you all right, Cath?” came an all-too-familiar voice. “That was a close call.”
“R…Red…?” It was the boy who gave her a love letter, wearing a pair of sunglasses; the boy whom she was told died in a car accident more than 2 months ago. And yet there he was, his arms around her. As he tried to get up, the sunglasses came off, and she saw it.
“Th-those eyes…Red, why are your eyes…?”
Instead of replying, Red took out a handgun from a holster in his belt and, with lightning-fast speed, shot at what seemed like an empty space. This, however, intercepted a bullet that was coming after them. After this brief exchange, he carried Catherine and ran.
“I’ll explain later!” he said as he ran in fast zigzags that caused Catherine to feel dizzy. “For now, I’m leaving you with my uncle. He’ll protect you while I take these guys out.”
Arriving at his destination, the two were met by Allen and several soldiers hiding behind a building. Red put Catherine down.
“Let me guess,” Red said. “Bio-soldiers appeared to destroy the place and then regular soldiers took over?” Red meant the biologically-enhanced soldiers when he said bio-soldiers; it was a nickname that eventually caught on within the Crimson Army. “And yet we have no bio-soldier of our own in here, huh? That is some negligence.”
“It was a surprise attack, Sir Red,” one of the soldiers tried to reason out. “By the time the damage was done, most of the enemy bio-soldiers were on their way to the capital, so we had no choice but to dispatch everyone over there. Speaking of which, why are you here?”
“No time to explain,” Red said, his body fidgety to show that he was in a hurry. “This is my little sister, Catherine. Two of you guys take her to the base while I clean up over here; Uncle Allen, go with them and keep Cath safe. The rest, look for more survivors. After this, I’m going to the capital, so prepare a ride for me. Go, quick; I can handle this on my own.”
Before anyone could say anything else, Red turned his back and ran to the battlefield, unable to hear the comment of one of the soldiers.
“But I thought you were an only child…?”
The boy named Red had a big smile plastered on his face. He felt confident, more than he was two months ago. Any other person his age would have panicked beyond their minds, but he was the famous Crimson General, the man dubbed the Blazing Monster. He knew he could handle bio-soldiers in an instant; regular humans were barely a warm-up.
Four enemy snipers. Three cannons installed within 50 meters. An enemy’s behind me. Red snapped his fingers, and as if on cue, a spark appeared in front of a soldier who was running toward him from behind, causing the man to catch on fire. Immediately after the snap, Red grabbed his Bo Staff and swung it while his body made a circular motion, deflecting 3 separately-fired bullets that were aimed at him. He then ran forward, narrowly evading a fourth bullet that ended up hitting the ground.
“If Catherine wasn’t around,” he muttered under his breath, “I would have been done by now.” He ran at an undetectable speed, passing by a cannon which he caused to explode internally with another snap of his fingers. His Bo Staff was glowing a bright red, and he used it to hit two enemy soldiers square in the head with great force, one edge of the staff hitting one soldier as Red swung it in order to hit his other enemy with the other end. Upon impact, the soldiers got burn marks and their heads were on fire, causing them to fall and roll on the ground while cringing in pain.
The first fire ability he used was Red’s most basic and favorite one, the Fire Spark: he snaps his fingers and a small spark of flame appears in any compact place he wishes, igniting anything it comes into contact with. He can create sparks up to a 5-meter radius, but the snap is merely an unnecessary habit; he does this in order to time his attack and make sure it connects based on his estimation. The weakness of this ability is that he cannot create accurate sparks in straight succession or multiple sparks at once, so anyone mobile enough to dodge his first attack can have a slight advantage. Meanwhile, Red also possesses the ability to imbue fire on any part of his body as well as any weapon he holds, which is what he did in order to burn the enemies near the cannon. Aside from this, he has a large plethora of fire attacks at his disposal to complement his superior hand-to-hand combat prowess.
By the time he was done taking down his enemies, the place was burning in small areas, and those who weren’t dead were severely injured. Not sensing any hostile presence, Red ran to the capital, completely unaware of a soldier that was able to gather enough strength to move. This soldier was talking via a cell phone.
“Hello…? I have a message…for General Zack. The Crimson General, he…he went straight into the line of fire in order to protect a teenage girl, leaving himself vulnerable. I’m sorry, but was still just too strong and fast for us. Yes, the girl may be his weakness. Her name is…”
“What do you mean they’re gone?!” Red was surprised at Roger’s report the moment he reached the battlefield in the capital. “So you mean to say Zack just kind of smiled and left?”
“Actually, yes,” Roger replied as he scratched his head in front of the much younger general. “He got this weird phone call while supervising the battle from the backline. Then he smiled and ordered everyone to retreat. We were losing, so we had no right to chase after them.”
“Right after he left,” Roger continued, “you showed up. In any case, damn that fight. Talk about bad timing; it’s like Zack knew that you would be out.”
Red made a thinking gesture. “Looks like he does, as if someone told him,” he said. He was confused. “There’s no way he could have found out. If he knew, it had to come from...” He couldn’t finish his sentence. The thought of a traitor among his ranks was infuriating, but he couldn’t suspect anyone from their army would do that. Red shook his head. “I seriously hope it’s just a coincidence. We’re lucky no bio-soldier died in this fight.” He shook his head violently. “Anyway, let’s go back to the base. There’s someone I’d like you guys to meet.”
Upon arrival at the secret underground base, the bio-soldiers, who invoked fear in normal people that dared face them, were frozen in their tracks. In front of them they witnessed their general, the Blazing Monster who singlehandedly defeated 1000 of them, fall down to his knees after a slap from a teenage girl.
Catherine’s eyes were filled with tears, her face a wet, red mess, while Red stayed on the floor looking down to avoid having his face being seen.
“I…I’m sorry,” Red tried saying with a shaky voice. “I ordered the guys to give proper burials to every single victim. I’ll have Uncle Ethan and Aunt May sent over to-”
“Stop talking about my parents like they’re some sort of collateral damage!” Catherine blurted out. “They died because you weren’t around!? You’re the Crimson General for crying out loud! And you left your army – your country – when it needed you most! Where were you?!”
“…” Red simply continued to look down. “I’m…really sorry for what happened. I don’t know how to make it up to you.” Catherine’s slap, in truth, was nothing for Red, but he timed it to seem like it hurt and purposefully fell to his knees simply to avoid eye contact. The fact that Catherine’s parents were dead, that he wasn’t around to save them, was already there. He knew that he couldn’t make any excuse for it. “I’ll have you under protection here. At the very least I won’t let anyone harm you.”
“What about Jason?!” the teenage girl began remembering. “He saved my life a few months ago. Is he safe? Do you know where he is?”
Red smiled. So the bastard kept his promise, he told himself. Good job, Jason. “…I don’t know. He’s probably safe. I wanted to bring him here, but he and his family were already in hiding even before the war began. I can’t get in touch with him. In the meantime, you can stay here so that I can–”
“So you can what, leave me?”
Leave you? Red thought. I’m fighting this war for you.
The soldiers in the vicinity flinched, feeling Red’s pain. So she’s the girl. This girl was the one their general had sworn to protect, the sole reason he decided to become a murderer in this worldwide war. But she had no idea, and the bio-soldiers felt the tragedy of the situation.
Victor, unable to stand seeing his general on the ground in such a helpless state, stepped forward.
“Look, Catherine,” he said. “We’ll explain everything in due time. For now, could you cut Red some slack? You also need to rest, and I’m sure you need some time alone. We have some space in a room for you; you’ll be with my wife and some other females. It’s a room for 4, but if you want some privacy, we can send them out for a while until you’ve settled down.”
Allen, who heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing Victor take action, approached Red and patted his head. “Let’s go, kid. You need some rest.”
Red nodded his head and stood up, turning his back to Catherine in order to hide his face. “R-right…I can go by myself.”
Some female staff came in to escort a crying Catherine to her quarters. Red, on the other hand, walked slowly on his own. When both were out of sight, Victor and the other soldiers approached Allen.
“Was he crying?” Roger asked.
“Yep,” Allen replied. “He did a good job hiding those tears and retaining his tone of voice. But don’t tell him I told you; he’d slaughter me.” He gulped. “Or us.”
“I feel sorry for the kid,” Victor said. “He was never supposed to show himself to that girl, but he was forced to do so, and he just had to appear right after he failed to save her parents. She doesn’t know that he saved her that night, and now she hates him after all he’s been through. To think he’s trying to carve out a future just for her…that’s gotta be pretty tough even for a monster like him.”
“He is still just a kid, after all,” Allen commented. “Given enough shock, he’ll have his adolescent weaknesses, even if he is the Crimson General” He looked at the direction of Red’s room. “The problem right now is if he’ll be able to bounce back in time for Zack’s next attack. If he loses his only reason to fight, then…”
The bio-soldiers began feeling uneasy, but knew that they could do nothing at the moment.
Red had completely shut himself up in his room. He could sense anyone who dared pass by his door, and promptly gave them a Flame Spark as a warning. The entire army was unable to do anything.
Meanwhile, Catherine was in her room. She was feeling better. She was quiet at first, but was eventually able to open up to her three new roommates, all of whom were wives of bio-soldiers: Sharon, Wilma, and Anabelle, Victor’s wife.
“Catherine, dear,” Anabelle said as she had her arm wrapped around the young girl. “I don’t really mean to defend Red, because even he seems frustrated at himself, but if I may, my husband used to hate him a lot, but now he’s fiercely loyal to the kid. I think you have to try understanding things from his side. Sure, he’s one of the five – or rather, four – strongest humans in the world, but that doesn’t mean he has things easy. In fact, he shoulders a heavy burden, and all of us here are willing to help him out.”
“I’ve been wondering, though,” Catherine responded. “Why is it that everybody seems to know me? You’ve been calling me ‘Catherine’ but I’ve never introduced myself, nor did Red have the time to do so. And second question: Why are you all so loyal to him? He’s the youngest member in this army. He doesn’t even look like a general, but he has all your trust and respect.”
Wilma laughed. “Oh my, you clueless little darling,” she said. The other women began chuckling as well, confusing Catherine while Wilma continued. “The answers to those two questions are actually connected. You see, the bio-soldiers used to hate Red; they didn’t want to have a kid lead them in a global-scale war, you know. We, on the other hand, were worried because our husbands were fighting for us, under the command of a teenager. And do you know why Red even agreed to do this? Why he decided to rise up to the occasion as the Crimson General?”
Anabelle, who still had Catherine wrapped around her arm, leaned her head on the young girl’s. “He wanted to fight to ensure your safety,” she finally said. “Everyone hated and doubted him because of this. I mean, a teenage boy fighting the world for a girl? Unthinkable. Selfish, even. And he wanted us to fight for him? Absurd, right? But that’s why we know who you are; you were the reason everyone doubted Red. It caused a lot of tension when he first came to the army.”
Me? He’s doing this for me? Catherine was still unable to coherently process what Anabelle just said. She had no idea what to say next, so she decided to focus on her second question: “So, what made you so loyal to him?”
“Because he was serious about fighting for you.” Sharon finally spoke up. “He told his 1000 bio-soldiers, ‘this is all I know, and if you’re not satisfied, then you have to beat me.’ He knew his men could not accept his purpose, so he decided to prove himself through other means. He challenged his entire army and won. It was a close-combat fight where the objective was to make the opponent fall; Red had to do it 1000 times without falling himself, and he did it. Somehow. Or so my husband said, but it was the talk of the headquarters for a long, long time. No one could question him because he faced everyone head-on, undefeated. After seeing that amount of determination and strength, we all gained respect for the kid. Heck, he even led us to a win against the Cerulean Army.”
“So please don’t be so hard on him,” Wilma said. “Everyone was wondering why Red came to the capital so late. He definitely rushed to where you were right after finding out about the attack, and it’s because he did so that you’re still alive today. Yes, he wasn’t able to save a lot of other people, including your parents, but he tried his best. You’re the reason he’s fighting right now; there’s no way he would have willingly let your parents die.”
“But where was he?”
Anabelle shook her head. “We…actually don’t know. It’s something between him and the bio-soldiers, but they all agreed to let him go, telling him that they would do their best while he was away with Sir Allen. I’m sure he’ll tell you in due time.”
Just then, Sharon received a text message. “My husband messaged me, asking if Catherine was fine. It seems Red’s not doing so well.”
“What do you mean?” Catherine asked. Her newfound knowledge about Red gave her a sudden feeling of concern.
“Let me read the message: ‘The kid has broken down. He’s locked himself up in his room, and anyone who dares come near the door gets threatened by his Flame Spark attack, so I’m guessing he’s sitting on the floor with his back on the door to make sure nobody gets close enough. He’s already burned Eric’s arm, but since he’s a bio-soldier he should be fine. Tell the others not to go near him right now.’“ Sharon made a look of concern as she put her hand over her mouth. “I’ve never seen Red like this. He’s always so happy-go-lucky, with a light-hearted charisma that gets just about anyone.”
Catherine broke from Anabelle’s hold on her and wiped off what remained of the tears on her face. “Let me talk to him,” she said. “I think he deserves an apology.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m sure he’ll calm down, eventually.” Wilma commented. “You can’t just go in there. He burned a bio-soldier; it’s too dangerous!”
Catherine shook her head. “It’s fine. He saved my life, so I wouldn’t mind taking a little risk.” The girls tried to reason with her, but she just wouldn’t give in. With a smile as a goodbye gesture, she got up and walked out of the room.
After asking around and ignoring protests by the soldiers, Catherine was able to reach Red’s room. Perhaps as a joke on the part of the adults, the front of the door was filled with yellow danger signs, the kind you prop up on the floor to warn others that the floor was wet. This one, however, had ‘DANGER’ printed across. They probably threw this toward the room from a safe distance. Catherine gulped, suddenly unsure of this idea. Before she could change her mind, she called out.
“Red! It’s me. You can hear me, right?”
“I’m coming closer.”
A spark of flame appeared on Catherine’s left side, making her squeal for a while, but she continued to walk forward.
“I don’t deserve to be called a general,” finally came Red’s voice. “I can’t even save Uncle Ethan and Aunt Mary. You must be pretty devastated right now. No, you are devastated; that much you showed back during your outburst a while ago. I don’t blame you, and I don’t know how I can make it up to you. Do you want me to fight all my 832 soldiers? Then when I’m at my weakest I give you leave to stab me like crazy. That could be revenge enough. Besides, I damn well deserve it.”
Catherine could feel her chest tighten. Red, stop torturing yourself so much… She arrived in front of the door, leaned back on it, and sat down, assuming the exact position as Red, with only the door between them.
“I...” she began. “...I celebrated my birthday not knowing you were actually alive. It felt weird not having you around. Did you remember me that day?”
“I know when your birthday is,” Red responded. “I remember having one of my soldiers nag me to no end that day. I wanted to greet you, but you know...stuff.” He let out a slight chuckle. “I’m really sorry. I just couldn’t take refuge of you and your family, so I decided to not let you know that I was alive. I thought it was for the best, but look at us now: I failed, and you hate me for it. I can’t forgive myself for that.”
There was silence. Catherine had no idea what to say. She and Red simply leaned on the door, looking at completely opposite directions.
She heaved a sigh after a few seconds. “You dispatched troops to get the bodies of the victims, right?”
“…yes,” the red-eyed boy replied.
“Tell them to preserve my parents’ bodies for now,” Catherine said. “With this whole war going on, we can’t exactly hold a funeral service, at least not one that would satisfy me. I want them buried after all this is over, so I can properly say goodbye. And…” She stammered for a while, until she said, “I want you to be at the wake and funeral.” Catherine took a deep breath. “So until then, you can’t die, Red. You have to win this war, and I need you to mourn with me. Please? For me?”
There was a long silence, until Catherine could finally hear Red standing up, followed by his reply.
“I’ll have some of your favorite spaghetti prepared for you. We’ll have a feast tonight welcoming you to the headquarters. And from here on out, you will officially be part of the Crimson Army.”
Catherine grinned. “I better get ready to do the dishes and laundry for the rest of my stay here, then.”