Chapter 522 Scared
Luke and Bruce were the first to appear publicly after Rick's interview. They had to slightly delay their plan due to the commotion the announcement caused, but things still worked in Khan's favor.
Claiming a part in Khan and Monica's relationship played into Madam Solodrey's announcement, turning Luke and Bruce into insightful figures with a great understanding of the political environment. Madam Solodrey's partial lie worked against her, elevating Khan's most influential allies and solidifying his position.
John and Zoe came after, and their interviews covered different topics. Zoe focused on praising Monica to add value to her decision to be with Khan. Meanwhile, John stuck to the original plan, complimenting Khan's prowess, growth, and resolve while highlighting his rash decisions.
That development forced Lucian, Lucy, and Mark to take a stand. Khan almost didn't need them anymore for his goals, so they appeared in the open to reap part of the benefits.
The three descendants played into John's interview, emphasizing how Khan's true potential could come to light only with expert supervision. They avoided being as harsh as they had initially planned, but their statements still tried to build a firm connection to Khan.
The network went on fire in those days. That huge mobilization of young descendants was unusual, especially when involving such high-profile figures. It almost seemed that a new alliance had formed, and Khan stood at the very center of it.
Monica ghosted her mother in those days. The latter could confirm with the appointed doctor that the birth control was going perfectly, but the public pressure and Monica's lingering threat weren't something she could ignore. Khan was gaining too much relevance, so Madam Solodrey had to comply with the blackmail to prevent the worst possible outcome.
The internal pressure from the Solodrey family fused with everything else and granted Khan his wish. In the middle of the week, a message reached Francis, confirming that the meeting would happen on the weekend.
Khan and Monica holed themselves in their room once the news became official. Preparations were in order due to the event's political relevance, and failure wasn't an option. Summoning representatives with such short notice was bound to be expensive, so it was safe to a.s.sume that Khan wouldn't get any redo.
When the weekend started, on the morning of the appointed day, Monica adjusted Khan's military uniform and combed his new haircut three times before sending him off. A cab was already waiting for him downstairs, so his trip to the emba.s.sy began immediately.
Khan would be lying if he said that he wasn't tense. Much depended on the meeting's outcome, with his relationship only being the most immediate aspect. That encounter would shape his career and political future, risking delaying or destroying his goal to find the Nak.
The pa.s.sengers' area went cold as Khan's mental state deteriorated. The clicking growl showed its presence while silence reigned around him. Utter calm and ferocity joined their forces to fill Khan's mind with something stronger than both. He was ready, but the representatives would be readier than him.
The cab reached the emba.s.sy's district and used a secret entrance to park directly inside the pyramidal structure. A team of stern soldiers was already in the area, but the opening of the vehicle's doors made their stance falter. The air itself warned them that something dangerous had arrived.
When Khan appeared, the soldiers held their breath to fight the desire to step back. He had left his crutches in the flat, but the braces were still there, forcing him to limp. However, his odd pace didn't affect his proud and firm posture in the slightest.
The welcoming team forgot to say anything, and Khan didn't care enough to admonish them. The soldiers had created a path for him, so he trod it to dive deeper into the emba.s.sy.
A metal wall opened, leading to a vast corridor that Khan didn't hesitate to enter. He wasn't waiting for anyone, and the welcoming team snapped out of their stupor when the door was about to close. They hurried at Khan's sides to lead the way, but none felt in charge.
The team split when they arrived in front of an elevator. Two soldiers followed Khan inside and led him to the appointed floor. A relatively big hall unfolded once the lift opened, and Khan noticed the Headmistress waiting for him on the other side.
The soldiers remained inside the elevator while Khan headed for the Headmistress. The latter wore a grim face, and some helplessness joined it when Khan reached her. Khan didn't look at her even once, and his eyes remained fixed on the door before him after he stopped.
"You played your cards well," Headmistress Holwen praised. "A n.o.ble from the Ra.s.sec family.... Truly resourceful."
Things were still tense between Khan and the Headmistress. The two had only exchanged official communications during the week, so they had yet to talk properly. Headmistress Holwen's praise wanted to be a step in the right direction, but Khan was in no mood for hollow pleasantries.
"Is everybody here?" Khan asked.
"Yes," Headmistress Holwen confirmed, "All forty of them. If you wish, I can announce you."
"I must do this on my own," Khan stated.
"I hope you have a good plan," Headmistress Holwen sighed. "You won't find allies in that hall."
Khan didn't show any emotion. Truth be told, his plan was lackl.u.s.ter. He had nothing substantial to offer, and his leverage was almost non-existent. Francis was still in his flat, but killing him wasn't really an option.
Moreover, the representatives in the hall had to rely on multiple teleports and fast ships to get to the Harbor on time. Those expenses put Khan at a disadvantage even before the meeting had started.
Khan eventually nodded, and the Headmistress understood that silent order. She pressed on the door, which opened to reveal a big hall similar to those used for the lessons. Seats and interactive desks created an elevated half-circle around a central square that Khan didn't hesitate to approach.
Scoffs, faint murmurs, and a few laughs resounded while Khan limped toward the central square. He didn't look at the seats even once, but his senses updated him on the general arrangement. His guests had split into two groups, occupying different areas of the hall to state their allegiances.
The central square had a small platform with a long desk and chair, and Khan jumped on it. Still, he didn't sit. He walked before the table, leaning on its edge before turning toward the audience.
Khan crossed his arms and kept his head lowered. His eyes were closed, but the audience couldn't see that. He pretended to sort out his thoughts while his senses did their job, and faint mockeries resounded once a few seconds pa.s.sed.
The meeting truly had forty people, and their power was quite shocking. Khan couldn't find a single second-level warrior among them. Everyone was either in the third or fourth level. That was a show of force, but Khan could immediately realize that only a few were actual representatives.
The audience was using cloaking techniques, but Khan could see past the third-level warriors, and those in the fourth level affected the symphony anyway. He could easily differentiate between experienced soldiers and mere politicians, and that detail joined his vague plan.
"Thank you for coming with such short notice," Khan eventually stated, lifting his gaze to look at the audience. "Though I believe none of you had any choice."
The faint insult stunned the audience, and Khan used that time to inspect them a bit longer. The group on his right had darker skin tones, with some sharing facial features with Monica and her parents. Instead, Khan spotted multiple golden heads on his left, marking their belonging to the Alstair family.
Of course, exceptions in appearances existed, but they were few, which couldn't be a coincidence. Even those Khan had marked as soldiers carried easily recognizable features, which told him how the representatives had probably handpicked their guards.
'Anything to look oppressing,' Khan mocked in his mind as a man among the Solodrey group stood up to slam his hands on the desk. Others imitated him, and a series of shouts flew in his direction.
"How dare you talk to us like this?!" The first man to stand up cried.
"Insolence!" A woman in the Alstair group shouted.
"Who does he think he is?" Another woman complained.
"I should leave immediately!" A man declared.
"That would teach him!" Another man agreed.
The storm of cries didn't end any soon, but Khan didn't falter even once. He kept his cold face on the audience, moving his eyes whenever someone spoke. He didn't show any trace of emotion. Those empty threats couldn't impress him.
"Are you done?" Khan asked once the hall began to quiet down and everyone resumed their seats.
"I wouldn't talk like this, young man," A middle-aged man from the Solodrey group warned, pointing at Khan. "Coming here was a favor, so show some grat.i.tude."
"It's Captain Khan," Khan corrected, "Not young man. I thought you lofty figures would know how the Global Army's ranks work."
The audience grew angry again, but Khan continued to speak before anyone could interrupt him. "Besides, this is no favor. I forced you to come here."
Grim faces filled Khan's view. Some went completely cold too. He had spoken the silent truth, and those representatives couldn't argue against him.
"Youn-," A man in the Solodrey group began to say, but Khan's instantaneous glare made him correct his approach. "Captain Khan, why don't we get to the point? What do you even want to achieve with this meeting?"
"Mister?" Khan questioned.
"Solodrey," The man proudly announced. "Tobias Solodrey."
"Mister Solodrey," Khan exclaimed. "My goal is quite simple. I want your factions to stop plotting against my relationship. Actually, I want you to protect it."
Khan then turned to his left to address the other group. "As for you, I want you to drop your schemes against my girlfriend. You lost your opportunity long ago. Accept defeat with dignity."
Stupor filled the symphony but laughs soon disrupted it. The entire audience exploded into snickers and mocking comments. They almost couldn't believe that Khan had made them come so far just to give unreasonable orders.
"Captain, on what ground are you asking this?" Tobias Solodrey laughed.
"Fame must have gotten to his head," A woman from the Alstair side mocked.
"Maybe his last injuries affected his brain," A man in the Alstair group claimed. "How does he expect us to take him seriously?"
"Captain Khan, we gathered forty representatives as a show of respect," A woman in the Solodrey group exclaimed. "We expect you to do the same."
"Twelve," Khan responded.
"What?" The woman asked, but Khan suddenly stomped his right foot on the floor, releasing a purple-red cloud that shattered his braces and sent them flying.
The abrupt gesture and the appearance of the chaos element made the guards in the audience drop their act and stand up to protect the real representatives. Some even jumped on the interactive desks to shield their employers from eventual attacks, completely giving out their ident.i.ty.
"There are only twelve representatives here," Khan calmly explained, unfazed by the guards' prompt reaction, "And I'm not injured anymore."
Khan lifted his right leg to show his bare foot. He twisted his ankle and stretched it forward, proving how he had regained full mobility in his limb.
The representatives were shocked beyond their minds. Initially, they thought that information about their strategy had leaked, but that wasn't possible. They had been careful during their preparations, and Khan didn't have the connections or time to uncover them.
The possibility of a spy appeared but was quickly discarded. Khan had never met the people in the hall. He didn't even come close to getting their contact, let alone learning their ident.i.ty. His inhumane senses were the only explanation, which remained stunning since the meeting had barely gone on for a few minutes.
"I'll overlook your attempt to scare me," Khan continued once the representatives were ready to hear his words, "But the guards have to go. They can't attend this meeting."
Hesitation spread, but Khan added words bound to corner his guests. "Unless you don't feel confident in being alone with me. In that case, I would let them stay."
The representatives had an impossible choice to make. Forcing the guards to stay would state that Khan was strong enough to worry them. Yet, that would add value to his figure, ultimately giving him the relevance he needed for his requests.
The representatives nodded, whispered, and exchanged silent orders with their guards to send them away. The soldiers descended the staircases among the desks to reach the square and glared at Khan before heading toward the exit.
Khan didn't let anything affect his expression. Fourth-level warriors sent silent threats, but he kept looking at the representatives. The guards didn't claim his attention even once.
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The hall felt empty after twenty-eight people left all at once, and Khan remained silent even after privacy returned. He almost looked bored in the eyes of the representatives. Also, shockingly enough, he seemed to have gotten in charge of the event.
"You don't have any authority on the matter," A man from the Alstair group stated. "Instead, it's within our right to see you as the reason behind our wasted investments. Personally, I expect bonuses too."
"On that topic," Khan exclaimed, almost hating himself for what he was about to say, "I have a proposition."
"Did we finally scare you?" The previous woman sneered.
"Political enemies are inevitable," Khan rejected that question. "However, I might know how to fix the problem in your case."
"What problem?" An Alstair representative snorted.
"You wasted many resources on a descendant," Khan said. "If I give him back to you like this, that investment will remain a failure."
Khan was once again correct. Francis had never been too exceptional, and the recent events had greatly affected his mental state. The Alstair family would probably fail to find any use for him in his current state.
"What are you suggesting?" A representative questioned.
"Let me train him," Khan offered. "I'll turn him into a proper warrior who might make you proud one day. Your Masters have already failed, so I'm your only real option."
"You held your position as a teacher for less than a year," A woman in the Alstair group pointed out. "What makes you think that you could accomplish something like this?"
"Rick Ra.s.sec can vouch for my training methods," Khan responded. "You can ask him if you have doubts."
Mentioning a n.o.ble always caused surprise, and Khan's statement was no exception. However, rumors started to run after Rick's announcement. Many finally connected Princess Edna's words during Khan's promotion to that man from the Ra.s.sec family, ultimately confirming the validity of the training methods.
"We won't let you use our descendant as a source of Credits," A representative exclaimed.
"Don't give him money then," Khan suggested. "I can cover the expenses of his training. You can just leave him to me."
The Alstair representatives began to converse among themselves. The offer was quite good since it allowed them to exploit Khan's fame. Besides, they didn't want to lose a descendant at the center of multiple investments. It would hurt their position against enemy factions otherwise.
"Very well," One of the Alstair representatives stated, "But we expect great results. We won't accept someone barely able to match a guard."
"Understood," Khan showed some compliance.
"It seems we have all reached a conclusion," A Solodrey representative announced, standing up. "Should we end this meeting, Captain Khan?"
"Let's call it a day," Khan nodded. "Thank you for your time."
"May this be the beginning of a long cooperation," The standing representative laughed, and the others joined him, leaving their seats. The Alstair group did the same, and Khan remained on the platform to watch everyone depart.
"Captain, could I have a second of your time?" Tobias called when the other representatives were about to leave the hall. "Alone."
Khan nodded again, glancing at the departing representatives and waiting for the entrance to close to jump out of the platform. He approached Tobias fearlessly, even if the middle-aged was a fourth-level warrior with a huge, muscular figure.
"I wanted to take this chance to warn you, Captain," Tobias said, lowering his head to face Khan and highlighting his tall figure. "We agreed to your requests, but your behavior was unacceptable. Remember that the Global Army itself would justify our decision to punish you."
Khan remained emotionless. Tobias' square face filled his vision, but he looked at it as if it were nothing more than a wall.
"Also," Tobias continued, "Many factions among the Solodrey family would be happy to see you disappear. Don't give us an excuse."
"Kill me now, then," Khan stated.
"What?" Tobias frowned, slightly retracting his head.
"We are alone," Khan said, "In front of each other. You could kill me with one attack if you wanted to."
"Do you realize what you are saying?" Tobias questioned.
"But you don't want to kill me," Khan continued. "This is a last attempt to teach me my place. Well, it's not working."
Tobias arched his eyebrows in surprise before completely straightening his back. A satisfied smirk appeared on his face, and he kept wearing it even after he turned toward the exit.
"Some representatives aren't as nice as us," Tobias declared when he was about to reach the exit. "What will you do when someone calls your bluff?"
"I'll block the first attack," Khan calmly explained, "And make the entire emba.s.sy crash on them."
Tobias wanted to keep his eyes on the exit, but Khan's statement made him look at him. Surprisingly, Tobias didn't find any lie in Khan's expression. He truly believed he could stop the attack of a fourth-level warrior.
That surprise was short-lived. Tobias was a busy man, so he put the conversation in the back of his mind and crossed the exit, leaving Khan alone in the hall.
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