2-3: Against the Lightning Assassin
“The Ivory General, a man known for his pure white iris that makes his eyes look like eyeballs with a small pupil in the middle. The general with the power of electricity, he can control metallic objects at will, and like the near-instantaneous lightning bolt, specializes in swift, clean assassinations. Recognized as the antithesis to the showy Crimson General, the Ivory General prefers to stay in the shadows, taking out key foes with deadly precision. He has currently been able to assassinate over 20 high-ranking politicians throughout his own country as a means of personal purging.”
Victor was in a very tight spot.
In front of him was his general, the boy named Red, who had a gun pointed at him. On top of this, he was surrounded by a narrow, circular wall of flame.
“Allen,” Red called out without moving his finger and gaze at Victor in the slightest. “My phone’s on the floor. Pick it up and play the recording I set over the microphone nearby.”
Allen, who was in front of the crowd, stepped forward and cautiously did as he was told. Red was as stiff as a rock, while Victor was sweating heavily with genuine fear engraved in his eyes, causing everyone in the room to feel scared. In any case, however, Allen held up the microphone and played the recording. The conversation held inside surprised everyone.
“Hello? Victor, was it?”
“What do you have for me?”
“Red is completely torn upon killing Shirley. He ordered us to prepare burials for everyone that died, and even got what was left of the Cerulean Army involved.”
“Well that is one sentimental kid. How does this benefit me?”
“Red said that he will visit Shirley’s grave. That should give you a chance to attack, right?”
“Hmm, well that is some valuable information. Interesting.”
“You’ll keep your end of the bargain, right?”
“Oh, that’s the least of your concerns, Victor. Now when will the kid leave his country?”
Red cut off the recording.
The bio-soldiers and human representatives were in shock at what they had just heard. On the other hand, Red was still as stiff as ever.
“No way…” Roger could barely say. “Victor, you…but why?”
However, Victor could not speak. He had tried a while back, and was threatened for it. Completely helpless, he simply stared back at the crimson-eyed general.
Red motioned his head slightly to the direction of the soldiers. “Go. Explain yourself. Tell us all what happened and why you did it.” He extinguished his flames, but kept the aim of his gun. “Allen, give him the microphone.”
Panting heavily after being released from the heat of Red’s flames, Victor accepted the microphone and began speaking in front of everyone while Red’s gun remained lurking near his side.
“Remember the time we attacked the Cerulean Army?” he began. “I was taken away at that time by Zack. Since we had so many people around, I doubt anyone noticed that moment. Zack showed how determined he was to win this war, and said that if he won over any army he would surely massacre everyone. The look in his eyes that time scared me. He was a man who had already assassinated politicians; if you pit him against a flame-spewing teenager who was fighting the whole war for a girl, then…”
Victor flinched, expecting Red to shoot at that moment, but nothing happened.
“Go on, Victor,” Red commanded. “Your story isn’t finished yet.”
“I admit, while Red did manage to order everyone to attack the Cerulean Army, I doubted whether he had it in himself to kill people. That’s why I decided to help Zack; he promised me that he would at least spare my family.”
“And you believed him?”
“What choice did I have?! He plucked me out from a large army! He’s scary; he’s the real deal, Red!” Victor heaved a sigh. “At that point I believed that he was the one that would win the war in the end, so I was getting desperate. You ended up killing Shirley, and I honestly did not expect that level of determination to win, but it took a heavy toll on you, so I began wondering if you could handle three more generals and tens of thousands more of soldier and civilian lives.”
“But you never spoke to him again after that.”
“I…I’m sorry. After your bout of depression, you just kept on training and training, pushing yourself so hard every single day, until you reached that point where getting you angry would be scarier than even Zack himself. I began seeing your potential, and from that point on I started believing that you could win this war.”
“A little too late for that, eh?” Red rolled his eyeballs upward, thinking. “Then that means the attack last week was your fault.”
Victor bowed his head in resignation. “…yes.”
“We’re still at 832 bio-soldiers,” Red said. “But how are you gonna make it up to the civilians and other normal soldiers who died that day, Cath’s parents included?” No…it’s my fault for being so sentimental…otherwise Zack would have never had a window of opportunity to attack us.
“I’m sorry, Red. I just…really want to protect Anabelle and my child so badly…” He kneeled down, with Red’s gun following his every movement, still pointing at his head. “You can kill me. But please protect my family. They mean everything to me.”
Red stepped forward and made the gun’s muzzle touch Victor’s bowed head. “The bullet should go through your entire body if I shoot. I hope you’re prepared for this.”
The entire army was shocked. They all stepped backward in fear.
“Wait, Red,” Allen said, a nervous smile creeping on his face. “You’re not seriously planning on…”
“I will pull this trigger,” Red said, his eyes fixed on Victor. “I don’t need a traitor in this army.” He could see Victor was shaking and tears were hitting the floor right beneath his face.
The entire army flinched, and Victor fell face-first on the floor.
As everyone recovered, they saw Victor lying flat on the floor, his eyes widened, and tears messing up his face. But what was more shocking was that he was panting heavily. And that there was no blood.
He was alive. Unharmed.
Red put his gun back in its holster. “That should be enough suspense for one meeting.” He heaved a sigh. “Killing you won’t solve anything, Victor. Besides, you told me that you already trusted me to win the war. If what you said is true, then I have something more fitting for a traitor like you.”
Victor eventually recovered from his shock. Wiping his tears, he got up slowly. “What is it?”
“You will be the key for this next battle,” Red said. “Our strategy against Zack is this: I will leave this place later, and you guys will have to face the Ivory Army on your own. If you are able to hold out until I return, then I will guarantee a win.”
“How will that work out?” a representative from the normal soldiers asked.
“I can’t tell anyone,” Red replied. “This plan is huge, so I can’t go about leaking it; the only one who knows about the plan is me. In case there’s another traitor amongst us, and even if there’s none I still can’t let anybody know. Rest assured though that we will win. As long as you all hold out until then. In the meantime, Victor here will lead the charge. You will face Zack head-on should he decide to attack.”
Victor’s eyes widened. “What? But…that guy’s a monster…”
“If necessary, I will have you die for me.” Red’s tone of voice was firm. “From here on out, the lives of your wife and the kid in her womb are both in my hands. If you chicken out on this one, I will kill them. You said I could kill you as long as I spared your family, right? Then go out there and die for me on the battlefield. In the event that you do die, though, rest assured that I will do everything I can to protect your family.”
Victor closed his eyes and heaved a large sigh. He then looked at Red in the eyes. “I understand. I’ll do it.”
Red nodded. “Good. Now, you and Allen can go back and we’ll discuss the overall strategy for this fight. Chuck, come up here!”
It has been 23 hours since then, and the Crimson Army was prepared to fight at the heavily-damaged capital. Red was already gone, and in his place they had the bio-soldier named Victor lead the charge.
While Red preferred light clothing in battle because of his powers as a general, the soldiers who were average humans did not have the leeway to use such wear. Instead, they had powered suits developed by the Crimson Army’s research team. These were full body suits that enabled them to maneuver as much as jumping while offering protection from explosives. The head parts had retractable face protection screens, and there were earphones and microphones attached for communication within the army.
The bio-soldiers, on the other hand, used clothing that were situated in the middle of what Red and the normal soldiers had. Being able to withstand a lot more damage, they generally had plates on certain parts of their bodies to provide minimal protection in exchange for mobility. There were those, however, who preferred using the powered suits to ensure survival, so one could not use clothes as an accurate measure of who was a bio-soldier and who was not. Most of them had helmets with built-in communication devices, but for those who did not, and Red was included in this group, they had the devices attached manually to their ears.
The former capital was now a mere deserted battlefield. Thanks to Zack sending out a challenge in advance, the commanders in the Crimson Army were able to issue an emergency evacuation, and with the recent attack on the city, most of them were either already gone or on their way to other cities regardless. Because of this, the soldiers were able to easily set traps and maneuver around the city with no fear of accidentally getting civilian lives involved. It was an ideal setup for them on all aspects except for one.
Their general was missing.
Red promised them victory should they hold out long enough for his return. In response to this, the entire plan of the Crimson Army centered on defense and avoiding casualties for as long as possible. They hid in abandoned buildings, laid numerous traps beforehand, and did not under any circumstances take part in long, drawn-out skirmishes.
It was a consensus throughout the army that given Zack’s trump card of having Catherine hostage, he would be staying close to her should something go wrong, and this was part of the reason why Red decided to step out of the fight for the time being: Upon learning that the Crimson Army was fighting without their leader and thus is forced to be on the defensive end, Zack would see a window of opportunity. In other words, with Red gone, if Zack could dispatch nearly everyone in the Crimson Army before he could return, then he would win. On the other hand, it was also possible that he would think Red gave up in despair and would no longer return, in which case it would be stupid for Zack to continue being on standby near Catherine. In both instances, therefore, it was like Zack’s only option would be to leave Catherine and fight.
There was no way he could possibly lose with Red gone, and it was only a matter of time before this information gets leaked to him and he would be forced to make the choice that would open a window of opportunity towards saving Catherine.
After receiving a call from a soldier telling him about the situation, Zack smiled, his train of thought flowing just as Red and his army had predicted. “Things can’t get any better now, can it? Even if the kid comes in to save the girl, his army would just get slaughtered by me, and I could just kill both of them last.”
Taking out his dagger with one hand and a gun on the other, he ordered his troops to keep watch of Catherine as he decided to take part in the battle as well.
“That damn general!”
This was the line almost every soldier wearing powered suits said. The battle was not going well for them ever since it was reported that Zack had decided to go out into the frontlines. Multiple lines of communication were broken off as the soldiers on the other end screamed “It’s the Ivory General! Requesting reinforcements! I repeat, requesting-!” Without their trump card in Red, they were completely helpless.
“Calm down,” came the voice of one of the five division commanders, a man named Felix. He was on one of the higher floors of a destroyed building with a squad of regular and bio-soldiers. “I’m sure Red will come in the nick of time with a good plan.”
“What makes you so sure?!” one of the soldiers in a powered suit asked. An explosion could be heard nearby as mines were activated below them. “The traps won’t last long. Our comrades are dying out there! While we run from the enemy like stupid cowards, the Ivory General is out there somewhere destroying tanks and killing our men! The only one who can defeat a general is another general, right? So where the hell is Crimson?!”
“Like I said,” Felix tried repeating, but even he was losing hope with how he struggled to bring the words out. “He told us to trust him. He will return and ensure victory as long as we can buy enough time.”
“Why do we even have to buy time?!” came the voice of another soldier. “Besides-”
However, before the soldier could continue, Felix sensed a hostile presence a distance away and pulled out his machine gun to intercept a jet fighter missile aimed at them. While they were able to avoid a direct hit, the impact sent the small group flying several meters. Felix’s communicator rang.
“Bro, you okay?!” It was Roger. “I’m on my way over there. Jump out of that building now!”
Groaning painfully, the soldiers ran to the opposite end of the building and saw a helicopter on standby.
“What are you waiting for?” Roger’s voice exclaimed over the line. “Hop in!”
The bio-soldiers immediately gave the regular soldiers a boost so that they could get into the helicopter first, and they followed suit. Once everyone was aboard, the helicopter increased its altitude, just in time for the building they were just in to explode with a combination of bombs and missiles.
The pilot of the helicopter heaved a huge sigh. “Damn, that was close. Good call foreseeing that, Sir Roger.”
Roger, who was sitting amongst Felix and the others, held his chest. “Way too close. You guys okay?”
The soldier that was interrupted by the missile a few seconds ago gritted his teeth. “It’s not fair...” he muttered.
The people around him fell silent. They knew what he was talking about.
“It’s not fair!” he repeated, having lost control over his emotions. “We have to sacrifice soldiers out there! And why? Because our selfish general is trying out this weirdass plan that none of us know about in order to - and I stress this - in order to save a single girl! Entire families will grieve because they lost their loved ones over the safety of a teenage girl that doesn’t even have parents anymore! What part of that is fair?!”
Suddenly, the soldier felt an impact on his cheek. He then flew straight into the wall of the helicopter, causing the aircraft to tilt momentarily in midair. Roger had sent a one-handed punch straight to his face, and he stared at the division commander with a dumbfounded look.
Roger drew back his fist. “You’re right, it’s not fair,” he said. “But you know what’s fair? If our general was a robot that acted on ideals and numbers, where sacrificing one to save two is always the correct choice. But you know what? He’s not. He’s a teenager dragged into this war. He’s not fighting this war for you, or for any noble ideal; he’s fighting for that one girl, and that’s exactly why he can be stronger than anyone else. The scientists and bio-soldiers agreed to fight for this guy, and you know, at this point even I don’t know why I’m agreeing to it. All I know is that the Red right now is the one that is most suited to lead this army, and he can only be that way because he focuses everything into protecting that one girl that means the world to him.” He heaved a sigh. “Tell you what, I won’t force you to go back out there. We’ll pick up the slack for every single one of you.”
Felix grinned. “Well said, buddy. By the way, how’s Victor?”
“He’s out looking for Ivory,” Roger replied. “He said it was his job to make sure casualties are left to a minimum, even if it meant dying at the hands of that monster of a general. We can’t lose to him now, can we?”
“Hell no. Let’s go, bro.”
Exchanging fist bumps, the two division commanders jumped out of the helicopter without warning, straight back into the battlefield. They were immediately followed by the other bio-soldiers, leaving the regular humans frozen inside the aircraft.
“What should we do?” one of them dared to ask.
No one could answer. They could only bow their heads in silence as the helicopter evacuated from the area.
The fight had been surprisingly dull for the Ivory Army. Despite having terrain advantage, the Crimson Army soldiers kept maneuvering away from them, desperately avoiding as many fights as possible. More than a battle, it was instead mostly like a wild goose chase. Thus, Zack suddenly taking part after a while became all the more important for them. With stealth and speed that were unmatched by anyone, he was able to keep up with his cowardly enemies, killing off bio-soldiers one-by-one or taking out small groups of normal soldiers.
As he searched for his next target, he found a man hiding behind a building while seemingly talking to someone using the communication device.
“Took you long enough, kid!” Victor shouted as he held his right ear. “Zack finally made his move, and now we’re severely outnumbered. I don’t know what your plan is, but we did just as you said; you better come up here and execute that weirdass surefire plan of yours now! Yes, I know where he is! He’s super nearby. I sent my troops away so that I could bait him into fighting me 1-on-1, just like you asked. Don’t worry, I’ll definitely protect everyone. Just make sure you get here as soon as you can, okay? I’m – no, we’re counting on you.”
Before the person he was talking to could answer, however, Victor turned off the device and immediately leaped forward, narrowly evading a dash strike by Zack. While he was able to get away from a direct hit, the general left traces of electricity pulsing throughout his body during the attack, and Victor could feel a slight shock in his left foot. Turning around and getting up with his shotgun in hand, Victor grinned and spat on the floor.
“Oh man, this is not my lucky day.”
Zack raised his head and looked at Victor, a gesture of genuine mocking. “Why is the Crimson General not here? What is he planning?”
“The answer to both questions is ‘I don’t know,’“ Victor replied. “But one thing’s for sure: He’s planning something and it’s gonna be big.”
“Big enough to stage an upset in this battle?”
“Big enough to bring you down, bastard.”
Those were big words, and Zack could not help but smile. He stretched his arm and had his dagger pointed directly at Victor’s neck.
“Interesting,” he said. “You believe in him enough to send your troops away and challenge me all on your own. You either have a plan or you’re just really stupid.”
At this, Victor smiled. “To be honest, even I don’t know which one it is.”
“You’re not very bright, are you?”
“No,” Victor replied. This was followed by a smirk. “But at the very least I know how to count. I’ve already delayed you by 36 seconds, you bastard.”
In the middle of all the confusion, a certain teenage boy was running around the outskirts of the city, quickly dispatching soldiers from the Ivory Army. All that could be heard were screams of pain, blunt strikes, and burning, as a trail of fire and corpses was left behind. The enemy soldiers did not even have the time to know what hit them.
Even military tanks were not safe. These gigantic weapons of mass destruction were like toys in the face of the rampaging monster clad in fire. Try as they might to blast him away, they would explode before the cannonballs even landed.
Just like this, the outer area of the city was cleared of enemy forces.
“Damn, I sure hope I’m not too late…”
While he had been able to enter the city a lot earlier, his red-and-white clothes and the traces of fire that circled him ended up attracting much of the Ivory forces towards himself. Forced to fight his way through, they had held him back from entering the city up until the point where he was able to clear the area on his own. It took him a little over half an hour, and the casualties were over 200.
Finally able to move a little more freely, he circled the area to get an idea of the situation. He was in communication with one of his division commanders when the latter cut him off. After a few seconds of swiftly looking around, he found this very soldier cornered by a certain man enveloped in electricity.
The boy chuckled. “Heh, so that’s why he suddenly hung up on me.”
Sheathing his Bo Staff and drawing out his guns, he immediately fired two differently-timed shots and ran towards the scene.
The fight between Victor and Zack dragged on in a one-sided manner.
“Did you seriously expect to win against me, you indecisive double-agent?” Zack said with a grin. His blood-stained dagger began dripping. “I’m a general, you know. Now tell me: Where’s your little crimson boy?”
“Like I said, I don’t know,” Victor replied as he held up his shotgun. “But what I do know is that I have to keep you at bay until he arrives, even if it means I have to die in the process.”
“That’s very heroic of you. Trying to make amends, eh?” Zack bent his knees.
In that instant, Victor pulled the trigger. However, Zack was able to evade the shot. He immediately ran straight to the bio-soldier, lightning pulsing through his entire body.
While Zack closed the gap between them, Victor dropped his shotgun and drew his sword, narrowly parrying the white-eyed general’s dagger strike. However, the difference in strength was painfully evident as Victor was thrown back several meters just by the sheer power of Zack’s strike. Before Victor could even make a proper landing after the one-sided exchange, while his body was still defenselessly tilted backwards midair, Zack quickly dashed forward as a follow up and threw a downward punch, sending Victor back to the ground in a forceful manner that caused the bio-soldier to spit out blood upon impact. The punch had electricity added into it, and so Victor was paralyzed upon his fall.
Damn, the generals are real monsters! I can’t even do a thing. His face crumpled as he braced himself for the next attack. I guess this is it for me…
Zack could not hide his grin. “I don’t always make such dramatic killings, but I’ll make an exception for this one. Prepare to die!”
With Zack seemingly ready to deal the final blow, he suddenly jumped back, narrowly evading a bullet aimed at him from the side. However, as he was mid-air in evading, another bullet was actually waiting for him. It struck his left arm and he fell, falling with a thud and rolling on the floor.
“What the hell?!” This is too much of a coincidence, Zack thought to himself as he held his wound. For there to be another bullet waiting for me, as if knowing that I would sense the first, as well as the precise timing of my jump…maybe an exceptionally well-trained biologically-enhanced soldier could do it, but this is a battle. No one would have the leeway to carefully aim at me, and the fact that I couldn’t sense it beforehand means that it was done in a hurry. Only one person could pull off such a stunt on the fly…
The sight of the fallen general aside, Victor could not believe his eyes. Right in front of him was the back of a teenage boy. This boy’s left arm was extended as a way of shielding the older man, and he was holding a gun on each hand. Victor could not see it, but this boy had numerous bruises and wounds on his body as proof of having come from a fierce fight. Nevertheless, his also unseen carefree smile did not indicate any pain in him.
“Sorry I’m late,” came the voice of the crimson-eyed general. “I had to take out quite a few guys on the way; not really sure which ones were bio-soldiers, but whatever. From here on out, leave everything to me. We’re winning this fight no matter what. Good job leading him to a one-on-one; now get outta here and call for reinforcements on this side.”
As Victor immediately dashed away, Zack used his electricity to pluck out the bullet in his arm, and his wound slowly regenerated. He then stood up with a grin on his face.
“You plan on ending this fight with a one-on-one between generals, Red?” he asked. “I can just run away right now and your army would be outnumbered, you know. Then again, with you injured like that, I can actually take you on.”
Red chuckled. “You’re the ones that’re outnumbered. And no, you would lose on a 1v1 match.” The boy named Red fiercely glared at the enemy in front of him. “It’s checkmate, Zack. You will lose, and you will give Catherine back.”
Meanwhile, at a certain alley darkened by the tall buildings closely situated around it, a girl was lying down, her mouth covered with a scarf and her entire body tied by a rope. Around her, a fierce battle had just occurred, and she was slowly approached by a middle-aged man who held her up with his arms and removed the scarf on her mouth. He then gently shook her in order to wake her up, but she would not budge.
The man clicked his tongue. “Zack roughed her up good. He must have shocked her or something.”
“What do we do then, Sir Allen?” a soldier, one who was not from the Crimson Army, asked.
“This is the safest place I can think of right now, given how cramped it is here,” Allen replied. “We’ll protect Catherine until either Red, Zack, or your boss arrives.” He then swallowed a lump. “Let’s just hope not all three of them come here at once.”
The soldier laughed. “That would be quite the situation, sir.”
Allen smiled lightly for a short while in response before shaking his head and reverting to a serious expression. You said you had a plan, he told no one in particular, but I never thought you’d come up with an idea as ridiculous as this.
He chuckled. But with this, we really can win.