As much as Khan wanted to attend Professor Parver's private lesson that night, he had to prioritize the study session to reinforce his political stability. Moving with Francis inside his flat also wasn't ideal, so Monica helped him send invitations to his classmates for the meeting.
Everyone was eager to learn more about the matter. Khan's phone threatened to explode whenever he allowed it to ring, so he found no surprise seeing his classmates accepting the invitations. Even Lucy agreed to come, clearing the last variable about that night.
Monica put more effort than before into the preparations for the meeting. Khan was basically about to ask favors, and the Solodrey family had educated her for those occasions. She rearranged the main hall, ordered food, and even forced the robotic cleaning services to work overtime to make everything perfect.
That additional effort risked giving away Khan's intentions before he had a chance to speak, but Monica knew how to balance things out. She kept the general setting casual and welcoming without going under the standards proper of wealthy descendants.
That process continued even after Khan and Monica had a long and lovely bath together. Monica personally handpicked Khan's clothes, which consisted of simple trousers and a casual turtleneck that gave him a dignified vibe. She also made sure to match his presence with her shirt dress and short heels before the inevitable wait began.
As dinnertime arrived, the flat warned the couple about the arrival of the first round of guests. Khan and Monica immediately headed for the elevator room, but reading their identity on the menus made her step back to stand on the backlines.
An athletic figure with short black curls and dark skin appeared once the elevator opened. Lucy stood tall inside the lift, but some hesitation arrived when she noticed Khan.
"Thank you for coming, Lucy," Khan announced, ignoring that faint awkwardness. "You are the first to arrive."
"I came early on purpose," Lucy revealed, stepping out of the elevator and joining her hands above her waist. "I stand by my past words, but I expressed myself poorly. I wanted to use this chance to apologize."
Khan honestly didn't care about the matter. He actually respected Lucy more because she had dared to accuse him. Yet, he needed people to acknowledge his status, so he couldn't dismiss the event completely.
"I understand my recent exploits have odd coincidences," Khan stated, "But that shouldn't undermine all my efforts for the Global Army."
"You are completely right," Lucy responded. "My tone was out of place."
"It's all good," Khan nodded before glancing at Monica behind him. "Well, almost."
"Monica," Lucy gasped, hurrying toward Monica. "Allow me to apologize to you too. I meant no disrespect to you, your family, or your partner. I'd like to blame the video, but my behavior remains unbecoming."
Monica was different from Khan. She didn't have to enforce her status on others because her family already claimed general respect, so her reply featured kinder tones.
"It's alright," Monica uttered. "I should also apologize for reacting so rudely. I can't think straight when Khan is involved."
"I guess we are both unbecoming of our status," Lucy giggled, taking Monica's hands. "Yet, your position is understandable. I can't imagine what you had to overcome to be with Khan publicly."
"You were only pointing out the obvious," Monica said. "Your concerns toward our safety shouldn't be a matter of pride and respect."
"Why don't we put this behind us?" Lucy wondered. "If it's not too much to ask."
"Gladly," Monica exclaimed, and her eyes lit up when she recalled something. "Khan actually suggested a group date. It might give us a chance to relax."
"Khan suggested a date?" Lucy teasingly asked, turning toward Khan. "That's a tempting offer. I'm not sure I'm allowed to refuse it."
"I don't want to impose," Khan chuckled, reaching Monica's side to caress her cheek. "I only thought it could be a good opportunity to make her happy and know you better."
"I won't hide it," Lucy stated, letting go of Monica's hands. "My family pressed me to establish a good relationship with you, especially after the many rumors. Still, I'd very much like to keep things friendly."
"That's ideal for me too," Khan agreed before addressing another topic. "When you say rumors, do you mean what I shared last time?"
"That," Lucy nodded, "And last night's events. All the big figures paid good money and called in favors to get their hands on this district's recordings. Mister Alstair sure is a bold one."
"It was a predictable reaction," Monica sighed. "I'm only sorry it had to involve Khan."
"I'm not," Lucy giggled, fixing her tempting black eyes on Khan. "You told me about his protective side, but I never expected it could take such shapes. It was quite the intriguing watch."
Khan could sense Monica tensing up from the fingers on her cheek, but only a smile broadened on his face. Truth be told, he didn't know how to deal with that obvious interest without being disrespectful, especially when Monica was at his side.
"Lucy, stop looking at my boyfriend like that," Monica warned.
"Oh, my," Lucy laughed. "You do lose your cool when Khan is involved. I can't help but look forward to our date now."
"I have to step in here," Khan wore a fake smile and moved his hand on Monica's opposite shoulder to pull her closer. "Only I get to tease her."
"The boyfriend is no different," Lucy joked. "You make a good pair."
"We should get to drinking already," Khan suggested.
"But Khan," Lucy pressed on. "I've known Monica for years. I'm sure you'd be interested in learning about her many suitors."
Khan was about to turn, but those words made him stop, squint his eyes, and speak. "Keep talking."
"I was thinking about inviting Mark to our group date," Monica intervened. "It should be nice with just the four of us."
Lucy had to abandon her teasing stance at that suggestion, and the three exchanged meaningful glances before exploding into a laugh.
"Let's find an agreement tonight," Monica happily declared.
"I'm counting on you for those names," Khan reminded.
"Khan, I was joking," Lucy revealed. "Every man from every family is Monica's suitor."
Khan groaned, and the gesture made the two women laugh. The three entered the main hall on that happy note, and drinks flowed as the wait for the other guests returned.
More rounds of arrivals eventually unfolded. Lucian, Mark, and John were next, followed closely by Zoe and Marcia. Khan and Monica exchanged casual conversations with them before heading for the main hall, and everyone avoided the pressing topics to wait for the remaining guests.
Khan and Monica had a different approach when George and Anita arrived. As usual, the couple met their friends in the elevator room, but friendlier and more honest words resounded during their interaction.
"Anita, I'm glad you could make it," Khan welcomed before looking at George. "Are you any better?"
"Same as always," George scoffed. "Might as well cuff me and throw me in a cage."
"Anita!" Monica exclaimed, falling into a hug with her friend. "How are you feeling?"
"Monica, you know my reaction wasn't about Khan or you," Anita stated. "I just wished someone else had to face those dangers, and I still do."
"I share the feeling," Monica admitted, "But we don't always have that choice."
"We do," Anita pointed out before fixing her warm eyes on George, "But I guess it wouldn't be the same. I'm glad George acted like George."
"She likes you more than me," George added.
"Only an internal injury could stop him from drinking," Anita sighed.
"Technically," George voiced, but Anita's eyes immediately gained a scolding vibe and forced him to interrupt his line.
"How are you anyway?" Anita asked. "It must have been shocking to see Mister Alstair summon you so suddenly."
"I'm fine," Monica shook her head, separating from Anita. "George is the one who deserves your attention."
"I admit I received a lot of that," George revealed, and Anita showed a rare embarrassed face while diverting her gaze.
Monica and Khan didn't need to ask to understand what had happened. They could read that on their friends' faces, and seeing that things were still working out for them brought some happiness.
"Why don't we go inside?" Anita muttered. "Before the lost cause gets any strange idea."
"I only have strange ideas," George proudly claimed and laughs accompanied their walk into the main hall. Cheers arrived once they reunited with the other descendants, and more polite exchanges unfolded.
"We were so worried about you," Marcia exclaimed. "I hope everything is okay."
"Anita isn't the kind of woman to get discouraged so easily," Lucy commented.
"Maybe George is her weak spot," Zoe giggled. "You guys should pressure him a bit."
"We only talk business when we are all guys," Mark joked.
"Anita is on our not-to-mess-with list," John announced, leaning sideways on his couch to put his legs on its arm.
"We are simply glad everything is well," Lucian added. "Though compliments are mandatory. George, you were quite heroic last night."
"I was only having fun," George disregarded the praise while occupying an empty couch with Anita. He instinctively reached for a bottle nearby, but Anita's promptly seized his wrist and showed a scolding expression that made him give up.
"Are you blushing, Anita?" Zoe inquired. "I hope it involves George's well-deserved reward."
"Zoe, you are so lewd!" Marcia gasped.
"You are the most curious about all of this," Zoe pouted.
"It's always the quiet ones," Khan sighed.
"Khan, not you too!" Marcia complained.
"The Captain is finally getting used to us," Mark laughed.
"I suppose his girlfriend had a hand in that," Lucy guessed.
"I can hardly stop his jokes," Monica revealed. "Bear them for me, so I'll get him all serious later."
"You know I never have enough of teasing you," Khan stated, seizing Monica's hand to lead her to the last empty couch.
Monica showed no annoyance. She was happy to see Khan make those public statements, and their fingers remained entangled even after they sat down.
"I'm guessing Khan also received his reward," Zoe giggled.
"They are always like that," George revealed. "Lucian can confirm that."
"I admit I've seen a few surprising scenes," Lucian laughed. "Still, their chemistry is so good I'm almost envious."
"I get what you mean," Marcia uttered. "They almost came out of fairy tales."
"If we don't count the political hurdles and other struggles," Lucy added.
"Which I wish they didn't face," Anita sighed. "However, things would have been impossible if Khan wasn't who he was."
Anita lightly bumped into George's shoulder after her comment, and he understood that subtle message. His arm went around her shoulders to wrap her into a hug that she timidly accepted.
"Speaking of which," John exclaimed, putting a cigarette into his mouth. "You two went crazy last night, especially you, Khan."
"Problems sure arrived at the worst possible time," Mark said, "But your response was commendable."
"It was quite despotic," Marcia admitted.
"And necessary," Lucian added. "Khan doesn't deserve such disrespect."
"I'm with Lucian here," Zoe stated. "You don't go after someone else's girlfriend."
"We all know there is more to that," Mark pointed out.
"Indeed," Lucy agreed. "We wouldn't be here craving information otherwise."
"Yeah, we want details," John announced, blowing up the cigarette's smoke above him. "Share the secrets of your coolness."
Anita remained outside those requests since George had already updated her a bit. Yet, she remained curious about other details, especially the sealed corridor in the hall's back.
"So," Khan spoke, bringing all the attention to him, "You have all seen the footage."
"Our families got to work as soon as the commotion spread," Mark explained.
"I'm sure you understand how big the event is," Lucian added.
"My parents called me in the middle of the night," Marcia revealed.
"Our entire class probably knows already," Zoe stated.
"Which is good," John declared. "Everyone knows not to mess with you now."
"Do they?" Khan asked. "I feel these attempts won't stop unless I do something radical."
"What do you have in mind?" Zoe asked. "You can't marry Monica yet, no matter how much she wants it."
"Zoe, don't expose me," Monica pretended to be embarrassed. "Khan and I plan to wait anyway."
"You could use Monica's birthday to announce your relationship properly," Lucy suggested. "It's soon, isn't it?"
"In three weeks," Khan confirmed. "Yet, I don't want to use the event to bolster my position. I'd rather make the day about her."
"So romantic," Marcia gasped.
"Don't fall for him," Monica warned before showing her needy face at Khan. "Don't stop either."
"I'm actually in trouble," Khan laughed. "I'm struggling to find an appropriate present. Can you girls help out?"
Anita, Zoe, Marcia, and Lucy instantly showed excitement, but Monica quickly poured cold water on it. "You are not going on a date with all of them, especially alone."
"What do you want then?" Khan asked.
"A mark of ownership," Monica's eyes lit up before quickly correcting her line. "I meant belonging. I want something that makes everyone know I'm yours."
"I don't know anything about jewels," Khan admitted, ignoring the gasps surrounding him, "And your mother will kill me if you get a tattoo."
"I was thinking about a ring," Monica revealed, showing her left hand and lifting her fourth finger. "Something to put here."
Everyone in the room knew what Monica meant, even Khan. He knew the problems that could arise, but Monica looked too excited to reject her.
"I hope you won't mind me dying the next day," Khan joked.
"It's just a ring," Monica feigned innocence but still took Khan's arm in her hug.
"I said they are a married couple," George commented.
"I gave up on them," Anita sighed.
"As happy as I am for you," Mark stated, "I think we have more pressing matters to discuss."
"Mark, don't interrupt them," John complained. "Every move he makes is a priceless lesson."
"The night is still young," Lucian said. "We can allow ourselves to take it easy."
"No, Mark is right," Khan responded. "I do have pressing matters to attend to and would really appreciate your suggestions."
"To do that," Lucy exclaimed, "We first need to know the whole situation."
"Especially regarding our common friend," Lucian added, looking past his couch to eye the sealed corridor. "Is Mister Alstair still here?"
"He is," Khan directly revealed. "I'll keep him here until I get a meeting with the factions involved with last night's crisis."
"Fuck around and find out," John snickered. "The guy deserves to be in that position."
"John, it's not so simple," Mark scolded. "Khan, with all due respect, I'm not sure a meeting is enough to discourage similar ploys."
"It might actually open the way for more of them," Lucy declared.
"It's so sad," Marcia sighed.
"It's the weight of the Solodrey name," Zoe commented. "I'm sure they both expected something like that to happen."
"Still, there are proper ways to do it," Anita responded, showing some anger. "Starting a fight in the Harbor is too much."
"Khan, what do you plan to do with him?" Lucian forced the conversation to stay on topic. "His actions have been out of line, but he remains an influential descendant."
"Honestly," Khan exclaimed, wearing a cold face when his gaze fell on the sealed corridor, "I'm pretty sure I'll have to kill him. The interested factions won't take me seriously otherwise."
A tense silence suddenly filled the hall. Happiness had reigned until now, but a single comment from Khan destroyed all of that. Besides, his face matched his words, and his history corroborated them too. Everyone instantly believed that he would stay true to his statement.
"Quite hardcore," John broke the tension. "I like it."
"John, don't joke about it," Mark scolded. "Mister Alstair is our friend, and a murder like this is bound to cause more problems. Khan, I know you must feel angry, but violence can't get you out of this."
"That's why I'm asking for your opinions," Khan explained. "Realistically, I only know how to kill compared to all of you. Might as well put that into use."
"Khan, problems wouldn't just disappear," Lucian warned. "Murdering Mister Alstair would label you as a criminal. You'd get apprehended in no time."
"So?" Khan questioned. "Should I just kill everyone involved in the ploy? I'm sure using Mister Alstair will eventually grant me a meeting with them."
The group didn't know how to take those statements. Khan was talking about killing as if it were no different than drinking. That terrifying mindset was his normality, and his classmates finally accepted it.
Eyes darted left and right. The descendants tried to look for George, but he shared Khan's cold stance. He had also prepared Anita accordingly, so she kept her head lowered to avoid those stares.
"Monica, can't you say something?" Marcia couldn't contain herself. "Killing is-."
"I know how bad it looks," Monica admitted. "However, we weren't the offenders. They came after me without minding my parents' announcement. I'd rather pursue less extreme paths, but I'm not sure we have many options."
"Would you condone Khan's actions?" Lucy questioned.
"He is a hero of multiple battlefields," Monica declared. "He learnt to kill because the Global Army asked him to, and now the families are playing with him. To speak the truth, I'm quite livid myself."
"But, Khan," Mark muttered, "You'll lose everything if you pursue this approach. The only way out is political."
"I considered that," Khan revealed, "But these factions are massive and powerful. I'm sure part of Monica's family is also involved. I'd need equally influential figures behind me to talk on an even ground."
Mark and the others saw the meaning behind those words. That was the very purpose of the meeting. Khan wasn't looking for opinions. He wanted those descendants to support him publicly to scare away the other factions.
"Let's be honest for a bit," Khan continued. "I know most of you aren't here because you like me. I don't care about that. I actually accept it."
Khan altered his presence to make the synthetic mana convey his seriousness. The air thickened as the tension intensified. Khan was speaking as calmly as possible, but his words still sounded like a threat.
"Yet, if you want me as a friend," Khan added. "You know what I need."