Rising Suns

From the Story Arc: Scholar, Soldier, Superhero

Previous Story in the Arc: Shooting the Messenger by Crimson Tao (Monday, August 15, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Rain by Crimson Tao (Friday, December 23, 2005)

(posted Friday, October 07, 2005)

“First Brother! First Brother!”

Kai put down his book and turned to the breathless fifteen year old boy standing barefoot at the door. Over the din of the other six residents of the apartment, Sun Wei shouted, “I am coming with you to fight the invaders! I enlisted in the Red Army today! Maybe I’ll even be an officer like you!”

Wei stood at attention, beaming with pride as his older brother slowly rose and walked towards him. Surely, he would be impressed. Kai, the prodigy, the tactical genius who had already become an officer in the Army at the age of seventeen. He would be proud of his younger brother’s decision.

Kai’s hand shot out and struck Wei across the face. “Do you think this is a game to play?” he spat. “You take such a thing so lightly as to tarnish our family’s patriotism with these rash decisions?”

“I don’t understand,” Wei started.

“We left the fields to help reshape the destiny of our people,” his brother shouted. “But you are not ready to be a soldier. You do not understand what you have to sacrifice, and what is expected of you.”

“I’m sorry, First Brother. Maybe I can –”

Kai raised his hand for silence. “No, you will be a soldier. You made that decision. And I will see to it myself that you earn the right to that uniform – with sweat and blood.”

“Wei!” Tao screamed. This wasn’t a nightmare, but the pain of the memories had jarred Tao from his slumber. He reached for the jade amulet he’d left on the nightstand, but as his fingers brushed the cool stone, stronger, more vivid pieces of the past forced their way to the forefront of his mind.

Two Red soldiers wearing New Fourth Army insignia on their sleeves serenely walked through a small village in southern Anhui. Ignoring the hushed whispers from the villagers, the captain and the lieutenant surveyed the potential battleground lying in the surrounding hills.

Rumors about the pair’s identities had circulated for days, since the last time they had passed through. Only Zhang, a craftsman who had been discharged because of his injuries, could settle the issue.

“They are the Brothers Sun -- Sun Kai, the Artist of Strategy, and Sun Wei, the Poet of Revolution. The older is a master strategist who can see through any enemy deception and cause him to fall into his own trap. The younger is a brilliant leader who can stir the heart of even a traitor to join the struggle. And if they are here, then carnage will soon follow in their footsteps.”

On a nearby hilltop, Wei gazed towards the sunset thoughtfully, without the brooding scrutiny of his sibling. “What do you think, Kai?”

“This is good ground to hold while sweeping the flank,” the older replied.

“You’re already planning how to maneuver to their rear and cut off any escape routes except through that valley… which is where you’ll set the ambush… am I right?”

Kai smiled. “I think a lieutenant should not dictate to his captain how to deploy troops, even if the tactics are sound.”

“I know how you think by now, First Brother,” Wei laughed. “And one day, maybe I’ll even be the commander you are today.”

With a roar mixed of pain and rage, Tao pulled the necklace over his head. The sharp visuals faded, and the voices died in echo as the enchantment’s magic dulled Tao’s emotions like a narcotic. But the last ebbing words were the ones he never wanted to hear again.

“I’m not ready. Don’t let us die, Captain… don’t leave me.”