'Did we win?' Khan wondered as a tinge of excitement managed to seep past his mental barrier.
Khan almost couldn't believe the recent event. The three huge Kred appeared threatening and scary, but they were all lying on the ground now. A team made of inexperienced recruits had defeated them in only a few exchanges.
The third Kred struggled to stand up, but it seemed unable to restore its balance. It pointed its huge arms and knees on the terrain, but it always fell, and a puddle of blood eventually gathered under its figure.
Khan took a deep breath to force his emotions away and handle the situation coldly. He quickly grabbed Cora's shoulder and lifted her arm to inspect her injuries.
The girl blushed when she sensed Khan's gaze on her uncovered side. The Kred's claws had pierced part of her sports bra, and Khan even touched the areas around that spot to inspect her injuries. However, he quickly let her go when he noticed that they were nothing more than superficial cuts.
Ethel shook her head when she saw Khan turning toward Dorian without saying a single word to the embarrassed girl, but Cora glared at her to make her stop. Khan noticed that reaction, but he completely ignored it to inspect the wounded boy.
Dorian had been the only one in his group to endure the direct attack from one of the Kred. He had managed to sit on the ground after the clash ended, but a large bruise had appeared on his whole right side.
Moreover, four deep cuts had appeared on that injured spot. Blood flowed out of them and created red trails on his back, but the bleeding didn't seem to be a severe issue.
"Start meditating now," Khan ordered before turning toward George. "Can we do anything else for this injury?"
George shook his head before glancing at his broken branch and throwing it away. The images of the fight were running through his vision during that peaceful moment, and they put Khan above him in terms of battle prowess.
That conclusion disappointed George. He had acted humbly before, but he felt quite confident in his ability. His entire training camp on Earth knew about his talent with mana, but Khan's battle prowess had reminded him that his skills were useless if he couldn't deploy them during an actual danger.
Yet, George quickly put away his feelings and focused on his surroundings again. Having such a strong teammate was a good thing in that tragic situation. Khan could be the key to save everyone's life.
"Cora, untie the three recruits and wake them up," Khan continued with his orders. "Ethel, grab something useful to tie the aliens. George, guard these two a bit. I'll go take the other."
No one spoke after the orders. Everyone got to work while Khan crossed a few trees to return toward the first alien.
The first Kred's head was inside the ground, and the same went for part of its shoulders. Khan had slammed it hard on the terrain, so debris and plants had ended up covering part of its body.
Khan crouched toward the hole to check the alien's condition, but his movements froze when he saw that a puddle of blood hid its face. The wet surface even lacked bubbles. The whole scene depicted complete stillness.
Khan's eyes slowly moved toward his left knee and saw that a large dark-red patch and fur had tainted his skin. His hands then slowly grabbed the Kred from its shoulder and lifted it out of the hole.
The puddle released disgusting noises while Khan lifted the Kred and lay it on the intact ground. He could see its crushed head at that point, but his attention moved to its broken nose and mouth.
The mental barrier that kept his emotions away struggled to remain intact while Khan inspected the alien. Its forehead, nose, and upper side of the mouth had caved in, but that scene carried a feature that made his thoughts freeze.
The Kred wasn't breathing. No air moved the wet fur on the sides of its nose, and the same went for its mouth. The alien had died in the last exchange.
Khan timidly stretched a hand over the alien's nose and mouth, but he didn't sense anything. It didn't matter how many times he inspected and tested the scene. His seemingly frozen mind could only reach one conclusion. The Kred was dead, and he had killed it.
Lieutenant Dyester's voice inevitably resounded in his mind. Khan heard the soldier say "murderer" in that complete silence. That word echoed through his frozen thoughts and became the only noise in his ears.
'Put it away,' Khan ordered to himself. 'Hide it in the corner of your mind. Reinforce the mental barrier. You can't fall now.'
The mana in Khan's brain moved as he gave himself orders. He reinforced the mental barrier learnt in his training before creating a second layer on top of it.
That method didn't seem to be enough to keep locked away the tumultuous emotions trying to take control of his mind. Khan had to create a third layer and add a fourth before his thoughts grew calm.
Pure emptiness filled Khan's mind now. He could think and create plans, but he felt devoid of everything. He was nothing more than a puppet ruled by survival instincts and simple thoughts, but that was fine by him.
That emptiness was better right now. Khan couldn't sort his emotions in that situation. Surviving had to come before the cracks in his personality.
Khan searched the Kred's robe. The alien was wearing a simple layer of fabric that covered its belly and thin trousers with no pockets. There wasn't anything useful there, so he quickly stood up and left the area.
"Where is the other?" George asked when he noticed that Khan was back.
Cora was tying the two Kred to a tree under George's strict supervision. Meanwhile, Ethel was talking with the three recruits in a different spot. Luke and his group were awake, and pure happiness filled their faces.
"She isn't a problem," Khan announced while moving his gaze toward the two prisoners.
"She?" Cora asked when she noticed that Khan had stopped addressing the Kred as a simple alien.
Khan had discovered the Kred's sex during the inspection, and his mind didn't allow him to consider her as a simple opponent anymore. Even his mental barriers couldn't help him with that.
"Did you let her go?" Cora continued when Khan failed to answer her.
"Enough questions, Cora," George suddenly exclaimed. "Finish tying them up and help Ethel. I bet she desperately needs you."
Cora felt confused at that sudden burst. She glanced at Khan's aloof gaze before nodding and hurrying with her task. Then, she straightened her position and walked toward Ethel to help her handle the three recruits.
Khan and George exchanged an understanding gaze before nearing the two aliens tied to the tree. A quick inspection revealed that they weren't carrying anything either, but that process allowed the boys to understand their sex.
The male among the two growled when he opened his eyes and noticed the two boys glancing at him. The cut on his face had stopped bleeding by then, but a deep mark remained and gave his expression a threatening appearance.
"Dorian, you can leave if you want," George explained. "You might not want to see what's about to happen."
"Don't worry about me," Dorian replied while interrupting his meditation and moving his eyes toward Khan. "We are at war, right?"
"What do you know about the attack?" Khan asked the male Kred. "Is this another rebellion?"
The Kred roared, and Khan didn't manage to understand anything from those animal cries. Still, the alien often glanced at his fainted companion with an expression that seemed to express worry and anger.
Khan crouched toward the female Kred. George's branch had broken after the mana inside it dispersed, and the blood flowing out of her broken jaw had eventually forced her to faint. The bleeding had yet to completely stop even, so the other alien had reasons to be worried.
The male Kred's roars became louder when Khan approached his companion, but he barely looked at him. Khan limited himself to grab the fur on her forehead and lift her face to inspect her injuries.
The female Kred woke up during the process, and growls immediately came out of her mouth. Yet, her broken jaw released a wave of pain when those vibrations ran through it.
Khan let her go and stood up again. He had to make the aliens talk, but they appeared pretty resolute.
"How do we know that they can speak our language?" Khan asked while turning toward George.
"Istrone isn't like Onia," A familiar voice resounded from behind the three boys, and Khan couldn't help but nod when he saw Luke walking toward them.
The boy and girl in his group followed closely behind, and Ethel and Cora made sure that the new group didn't fall due to their exhaustion. Everyone had gathered around the tied Kred now.
"Humans and Ef'i have a peaceful and respectful relationship," Luke explained while nearing Khan and patting his shoulder, "But the Kred are different. Istrone is under the strict control of the Global Army after the last rebellion. All of them must learn how to communicate with humans."
"You understand what we want then," Khan continued while turning toward the two prisoners. "Tell us what you know, and we'll spare your lives."
The male Kred snorted and spat toward Khan, but he sidestepped the grume of saliva. Instead, the female alien growled again before trying to gaze past the recruits.
"Are you looking for something?" George asked, and the male Kred promptly glared at his companion.
That gesture wasn't enough to stop the female Kred. Her worry increased, and faint understandable sounds eventually came out of her broken mouth.
"Whele ish she?" The female Kred asked in a young voice. "Wheke ish ay dauthel?"
The broken jaw made it hard for her to speak, but the group understood what she meant. The third Kred was her daughter, and Khan felt his mental barrier tremble when he heard that.
George glanced at Khan from the corner of his eyes while Cora directly stared at him. Everyone soon understood that only he had the answer to that question, but his cold face didn't show any hint.