The atmosphere changed, invaded by a suffocating tension. That wasn't a casual event driven by social rules anymore. With a few words, Khan had turned the entire situation political.
Lucian, Lucy, Mark, and the other guests stopped being casual acquaintances and became proper descendants capable of incredible influence. Khan had forced that transformation, and the changes didn't end there.
Murder was an unknown world to those descendants. They knew it existed, and their families had also prepared them for that eventuality. However, Khan had talked about killing someone who shared their status without showing any hesitation or regret.
Gulps resounded. Someone held their breath while others feigned calm. That wasn't the first time those descendants had to deal with political issues, but their meetings had always involved fellow young prominent figures or people interested in their families. Those interactions didn't allow much freedom, let alone consequences.
Instead, Khan was forcing the descendants to consider the issue on a personal level. They would have to take a stand against any family ready to get in the way of his relationship. Still, that decision could happen only if they accepted to deal with someone bordering psychopathy.
Cloaking techniques activated. Mark, Lucian, and Lucy tried to hide their mana and reactions, but nothing escaped Khan's senses. He saw everything and kept track of the slightest ripples in the symphony while his face remained stone-cold.
In the seconds that followed the announcement, Khan excluded a few descendants from his potential helpers. Marcia was too insecure about the matter, and something told Khan that she disagreed with his murderous stance.
The same went for Anita, even if her problems lay elsewhere. Her position was too unique due to her mother. Even if she tried to help, her family would get in the way.
Khan also excluded George from his list in advance. His father would probably help, but dumping such heavy problems on a smaller family would only sink it, and Khan didn't want that. He would refuse even if he could make things safer for them.
Only Zoe appeared ready to make a decision among the remaining candidates, and Khan understood why. She didn't like Khan's stance but still owed something to Monica due to her past flirting, so supporting their relationship felt mandatory and necessary.
Khan inspected the undecided descendants since everything else was quite clear. John had worn a surprisingly serious face, Mark was calculating something in his mind, Lucian appeared amused by the opportunity, and Lucy looked pensive.
"Khan," Lucian decided to break that silence, "Do you realize what you are asking us?"
"Partially," Khan admitted. "I can't tell you what to do because I don't know what's the best move."
Studying and knowing how to lie didn't make Khan a political powerhouse. He had grown way past his old self, but those descendants remained leagues above him. Only they could see the entire issue and learn how to handle it.
"Still," Lucian continued. "This is no mission or secret deal. Helping you would require us to involve our families or the influence we inherited from them."
"I thought you wanted valuable allies for your goals," Khan reminded. "Do you plan on getting them through simple missions financed by pocket money?"
Lucian's pocket money was an unthinkable number of Credits for Khan, but that wasn't the point. Lucian wanted allies able to push him to the upper echelon of his family, and Khan couldn't become one of them by completing his simple missions.
"Is that what you'll become if I help you?" Lucian wondered. "A valuable ally?"
Khan didn't answer. Those descendants wouldn't help him for free, and his silence could be useful as long as he received better offers.
"Realistically speaking," Mark joined the conversation with his flat tone. "Completely stopping suitors is impossible. Our interference might have produced good results with a different partner, but Monica is a unique case."
"Mark is right," Lucy added. "While few factions are willing to go against us, they still exist. Also, we don't have the power to speak for the entirety of our families. The next ploy might very well come from one of us."
"Precisely," Mark nodded. "The best and most immediate way to deter ploys is to gain the Solodrey family's approval, not only Monica's parents'. A proper engagement is also a good option."
"Mister Alstair wouldn't have approached me without my family's permission," Monica stated. "As for the engagement, it would make me happy, but-."
"It's a bit too early," Khan interrupted, breaking his cold stance to nod at Monica, "And I'd rather not use it as a political move."
"Of all the riches people would get marrying me," Monica sighed. "You are the only man who would do it out of love."
"It's the only reason I need," Khan whispered, "The only reason I want."
Happiness invaded Monica, but sadness also arrived. Those problems were her fault, and Khan was paying the price. Since part of her family was also to blame, she could only hug his arm tightly and wait.
"I'm not sure we can interfere with the Solodrey family's internal conflicts," Mark brought the conversation back on topic. "It might actually be disrespectful for us to speak on the matter."
"I figured as much," Khan revealed. "That's why I considered murder. A few corpses are bound to work as a deterrent."
"The families won't get threatened by a Captain," Lucian announced. "Maybe it's time you take things a step further."
"Are you planning on taking Khan into your family?" Lucy scoffed. "They'll make him break up with Monica in no time."
"Depends on which faction he joins," Lucian stated, showing a knowing smirk, "And his contract."
"Lucian, I wouldn't speak such words if I were you," Monica warned.
"I was only suggesting," Lucian feigned innocence. "After all, Khan has yet to decide what he is willing to sacrifice."
"If it's possible," Khan chose to take the bait, "You only need to name a price."
"It's sort of possible," Lucian declared. "Still, Mark is right. You'd need a noble to make the families behave, and I'm sure Princess Edna didn't give you her contact."
'A noble?' Khan thought. 'That might not be impossible.'
"Fine!" John finally spoke, slamming his head on the couch and lifting his arms at the ceiling. "I'll help you."
"What?" Mark exclaimed, and many echoed his question. Even Khan couldn't help but feel surprised at that sudden statement.
"Khan will be a Major in a few years," John explained, "Lieutenant Colonel in ten. It would be stupid not to do a single interview for a similar ally."
"Think about your family," Mark scolded.
"They complain about anything I do anyway," John groaned, curling on the couch. "Besides, the Global Army is the families' first shield, and Khan earned many merits already. I say he deserves some help."
Lucian, Mark, and Lucy were ready to interrupt John. Letting him speak would endanger their position in the deal, but Khan knew that and acted to stop them.
"What do you mean by a single interview?" Khan promptly asked. "How can that even stop ploys against Monica and me?"
"That's easy," John announced. "You just have to appeal to the factions against Monica. I can praise your relationship while reassuring them at the same time."
"Should I turn them into allies?" Khan didn't understand.
"No, no," John snorted. "You must tell them how poor and politically unreliable you are. Those factions don't want Monica to gain any power inside her family, so her union with someone like that will work in their favor."
'Is he a genius?' Khan wondered, almost overwhelmed by his own incredulity.
John had mentioned something precious. Like Lucian, Monica was only one of the Solodrey family's descendants. There had to be factions that didn't support her, so discrediting her value would turn those enemies into allies.
"I'd still need to play both sides," Khan exclaimed as understanding invaded every corner of his mind. "I can't just bring Monica down."
"Isn't that normal?" John questioned. "That's the foundation of politics."
Lucian feigned calm, but his mana didn't lie. Mark and Lucy's reactions also added value to those explanations. John had spoken the truth. His maneuver could work. Khan only had to think about ways to implement it.
"John, you shouldn't agree to these requests so soon," Mark scolded again.
"Why not?" John asked. "I made up my mind, so I spoke."
"But you have to mind your surroundings," Lucian added. "This should be a joint decision if we really hope to help Khan."
"We represent different families," John casually replied. "Belonging to the same generation doesn't make us a joint force. Also, I'm sure you all want different levels of exposure."
"How much are you willing to expose yourself for Khan?" Lucy asked.
"I can't involve my family," John admitted, straightening his back to sit. "Among us, only Lucian and Mark can do that, but with heavy limitations. So, I'll just tell the truth and use the right keywords."
"I don't know what to say," Khan gasped. "Will you do this without asking anything in return?"
"You asked for a friend, right?" John wondered. "Right now, you are politically useless, so requesting anything is pointless. However, once you get a high rank and marry Monica, you'll gain a lot of value."
John didn't say a single lie during his statements, and Khan also noticed the absence of ill intentions. John's speech had been purely practical. His investment would be only a fraction of what he could gain.
Khan wanted to add something, but his phone rang, and an interesting name appeared on the screen. The timing was also odd. It didn't make sense for Luke to call him now without sending a single warning message.