Chapter 166 - S Rank Encounter
Aldrich and Seismic instantly looked at each other when they heard that voice. Seismic gave Aldrich a wary look, one of warning as if to tell him to be careful.
In contrast, the rest of the crowd had a bit more energetic reaction The whole crowd perked their heads up in immediate recognition of that voice. Surprised exclamations broke out.
"Holy shit is that Solomon Solar!?" 'I saw the Halo before, but they went ahead and sent the rank IP" 'We get to see the rank a! Damn, I never thought I'd be lucky enough!" Aldrich observed the reactions from the crowd closely.
Solomon Solar. The current rank a mi the Superboard Top 100, the leaderboard that ranked heroes based off of AP (Achievement Points) eamed and social media popularity.
Although the leaderboard did factor in strength, and yes, the top of the Superboard were always going to be at least somewhat strong as a given rule, it was not a definite indicator of raw power.
All the Superboard Top coo meant was that Solomon Solar was the most popular hero in the country, though undeniably, Solomon Solar was still strong. Aldrich knew that from watching videos of Solomon's fights. From killing his son. And popularity was an even deadlier weapon to use against Aldrich than sheer force right now. Solomon Solar using his popularity to sway the people here against Aldrich would deal a far worse blow than any strong punch.
Was this why they had sent the most popular hero? Aldrich had expected the AA to send a purely combat focused S ranker like Valkyrie or Dark Star over had they been afraid of his powers. Heroes that did not care about getting their image dirty to put down Aldrich if things went wrong.
Had the AA perhaps caught onto what Aldrich wanted to do, then? Aldrich wanted to raise public support against the AA which would, alongside the threat of his undead, force the AA and government to cave into his wants.
If the AA wanted to counter Aldrich, then the best possible person they could have sent was Solomon Solar. Someone both popular and powerful. Yet, Aldrich doubted this. Nobody knew who he was or what he wanted, and he had not shown himself long enough to make any of his goals particularly clear. Regardless, Aldrich would find out. He looked around at the surprised crowd chatting energetically among themselves at the rank a hero's sudden appearance. Had any other S ranker been up there, Aldrich would have gotten these people to go with him, but there was 17a]? 7eall rcigignIgirinrincfiareliNgholnl ghl;TM'g up now, aver au me ngnongs over. rarer everyone s new, mune° In someone else. &34;Screw the AA, and screw Solomon. If they're going to jail the vigilante, I'm going to go up there and give them a piece of my mind... 'You're free to come with me," said Aldrich. The people that had committed to betting all in on Aldrich preferred him over even Solomon Solar.
And that made sense. There was only so much dazzling celebrity status could do. Solomon Solar had done nothing for these people. Aldrich had done everything. They Imew in their hearts who to support, and this realization gave Aldrich the confidence to bring them along.
"Tell Solomon Solar who it was that saved this city, because it most certainly wasn't him," said Aldrich.
With that, Aldrich and Seismic left to the containment room, and the rest of the crowd followed. By leading them out, Aldrich created a buffer zone of people, most of whom supported him, that would protest or be witnesses to any potential mistreatment sent his way.
The downside of being a popular S ranker was that all of Solomon Solar's movements were watched by millions. The people around Aldrich essentially turned into a 'PR shield' that limited how Solomon Solar could act.
Outside, after a platform raised everyone to street level, Aldrich and Seismic stood against Solomon Solar.
Behind Solomon Solar stood a cold, metal bodied squadron of Guardians, battle hots that formed the bulk of a Panopilcon Class 3 Drone Fleet. The Guardians were just as big as Solomon's muscular and tall frame, and each of their futuristic metallic form and green dot eyes exuded an intimidating aura that made the class 5 Bugs seem like little toys in comparison.
In contrast, behind Aldrich were the broken yet still warm and living and breathing bodies of Haven's citizens.
There were countless news drones in the sky, shining down spotlights, snapping pictures, and recording everything that happened.
"Thank you for coming up here without making a fuss," said Solomon Solar with a wide, perfectly white smile that shone under a constant golden glow that emanated from all around his body. His hands rested at his tree trunk of a waist in a heroic pose. "I'm glad to see that this city is safe after we had thought it lost.
For that, I wanted to thank you, vigilante. You too, Seismic." Solomon waved his blue gloved hand over to the crowd behind Aldrich. "And all of you as well! Everyone here that fought and stood strong—all of you are heroes!"
"There would have been even more of us if you had come sooner, when there were actually variants tearing women and children from their homes on these very streets," said Aldrich
Solomon cast his gaze down with somber expression. "I know. And believe me, my friend, I tried. But the attack in Neo-York was fierce, even worse than the one here, and I had my hands tied... He balled up a fist and made a pained expression. "Thinking about the many lives I can't save because I cant be everywhere at once is a thought that crosses my mind every single day.
All I can do is pray that you can forgive me. That the dead I couldn't save knows how much I grieve for them."
Aldrich tried to analyze Solomon's expressions, but he found that it was surprisingly difficult. He knew that Solomon Solar was not clean considering Seth Solar's background and enrollment in Blackwater.
But had Aldrich not known this fact, it would have been impossible to determine whether Solomon was putting up an act or not.
Solomon's expression and words sounded so genuine that the crowd behind Aldrich remained silent. They did not support Solomon, that was for sure, but even getting them to not actively hate him was a fairly impressive feat in of itself.
Aldrich would have to force Solomon to make a misstep. 'Tell me, rank I, what are you here for? It's not to help the people here, or otherwise you wouldn't have brought so much firepower [mowing the fighting was over.
Thoughts and prayers only count for so much. I would have thought instead of bringing guns and steel, you would have brought supplies. At least those save people."
'Vigilante, would you care to tell me your name? I would hate to by just calling you 'vigilante' when I know you've done so much good already," said Solomon.
"Thanatos," replied Aldrich.
"Then, Thanatos," said Solomon with a nod. "You don't have to worry." He floated in the air to speak to everybody, and midair, he did look dazzling in a conventionally heroic way. He had flowing golden locks of hair that shone like the sun while his powerful body and hearty smile exuded an aura of both strength and safety. "All you citizens of Haven, I have an announcement for you! I know how much you all have lost and how deeply that loss hurts! I know that the city around you, the city you once called home, is in ruins!.
Solomon shook his head sadly. "I wasn't here to help when the fighting was going on, but that doesn't mean I can't help now! I will have my Sunshine Foundation personally help fund the restoration of Haven! I'll work with the AA to make sure all of you get the help you deserve!
None of you will have to move to start a new life in a strange new place. I know this isn't much, but at the very least, I know this is the right thing to do for you!"
Solomon smiled brightly at everyone, his golden aura shining a bit brighter just enough to strategically highlight his words.
An interesting play, thought Aldrich. A fairly good one.
By promising to restore the city, Solomon took away one of the bigger reasons for Haven's citizens to support him. This did not one hundred percent confirm Aldrich's suspicions that Solomon had been intentionally sent to curb Aldrich's influence, but it made it likely enough that Aldrich had to act as if it was true.
That meant that right now, Aldrich and Solomon were engaged directly in a fight. Not a fight of powers, but a fight of words. Of wits.
Aldrich looked up at Solomon's smile staring down, and even now, he could not tell whether that smile was honestly grateful or triumphant. But that did not matter at this point.
Solomon was Aldrich's enemy, and no smile would change that, genuine or not..