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606 Kindness Is Often Nothing But A Facade

    True to his words, Zed resumed healing Ashlyn from the next morning. With her in the state of medically induced comatose, it was easier for him to modify her genetic information.

    The core members of The Ivies and the researchers observed him, both openly and in secret. The times of being awe-struck by his performance were long gone, and now, they were cautious, making sure he didn't do anything that could ruin their efforts.

    Ashlyn was their hope, and a slight modification in her DNA could foil everything.

    But to the relief of The Ivies, Zed only did what he told them. Then again, with his level of skills in genetic engineering, even if he made additional changes in Ashlyn, they wouldn't notice.

    ...

    ...

    After ten days, the treatment was completed, and Ashlyn opened her eyes. As she stepped out of the glass pod, Hansen and Stina looked at her like she was a walking treasure mine. Their eyes glinted with greed, but when they appeared before Ashlyn, it was replaced with warmth and love.

    "God has listened to us!" Stina said as she hugged her adopted daughter. "You will be forever with us!"

    Hansen hugged her from behind, making it a group hug. He acted emotionally just like his wife, making even Ashlyn's poker face change.

    They were her parents... adopted, but the only ones who loved her-the only ones who accepted her when she was discarded by her birth parents.

    Some distance away, Zed observed her. He could feel the changes in her emotions, sense how she was grateful to her adopted parents.

    Without saying anything, she has expressed her emotions, like she always did.

    "Sighs~."

    He sighed in his heart, wishing things weren't like this. Suppressing his thoughts, he arrived before Ashlyn and said, "I will be leaving today."

    "What?!" Hansen and Stina were shocked. Even Ashlyn was surprised, her emerald-green eyes peering at him.

    A new part of her life started today, with her no longer relying on her life-force to use her powers.

    And yet he was leaving... this made her lips slightly drop.

    He looked at Ashlyn for a few moments and said, "There's a society for underprivileged children in the outskirts of the city. Before I leave, I want to visit it. Would you accompany me?"

    Ashlyn nodded her head.

    "Thanks," Zed smiled at her. "Let's go now."

    Hansen and Stina remained silent while secretly sending a message to Leabeu, June, and others to follow Ashlyn and Zed in secret.

    ...

    Dharma Mountains.

    A holographic projection of Hansen and Stina appeared before Ksitigarbha.

    "Glory to Dharma!" Hansen and Stina praised in unison and kneeled. "All preparations are complete, and in three days, the world would have a new order!"

    Ksitigarbha nodded and replied, "I will be arriving in a few hours."

    "Thank you!" Hansen and Stina banged their heads on the floor to express their gratitude.

    With the attack of the mysterious attacker and the crazy twins, they were in a dilemma. Now with a peak Level VIII Alpha arriving, they wouldn't need to be worried.

    "Don't let personal ambitions thwart the needs of Dharma."

    Ksitigarbha warned, frightening Hansen and Stina, making them worry if he knew of their secret plans.

    "We wouldn't dare!" They said together.

    Ksitigarbha only waved his hand, making the projection disappear.

    ...

    The society for underprivileged children was vast, occupying many buildings. Zed and Ashlyn walked between them, their eyes darting to charitable people who were giving a treat to the children, allowing them to eat a meal that was luxurious for people like them.

    In a few minutes, Zed and Ashlyn arrived before a reception desk.

    "We would like to provide a two-time meal for the children."

    Zed informed the receptionist as he handed her the payment cards.

    "Thank you," The receptionist gave him a perfect smile. "It is thanks to kind people like you that these children can have a good life."

    ...

    After leaving the reception, Zed sat with Ashlyn on a bench, observing the playground. There, the children were playing with people who seemed to be wealthy businessmen.

    High in the sky, drones captured the images, and seeing them, Ashlyn knew the businessmen were here for publicity.

    "Kindness isn't always kindness," Zed said as he followed her line of sight. "Most times, it is just a facade to hide real intentions, even cruelty of epic proportions. Thankfully, the children are lucky as those people only want good publicity and nothing else."

    Ashlyn was startled. His tone was melancholic and seemed to be filled with personal bitterness.

    She gazed in his eyes and saw raw pain, like he has experienced what he just said.

    "Can I touch you?" Zed asked.

    "?"

    While surprised by his out of blue request, she nodded.

    Zed mouthed thanks and slipped his hand on her face.

    "People often say - sharing past makes it easy to forget..." His warm palm grazed her cheek, and his fingers brushed a strand of her hair. "I want to try that today."

    There was nothing sensual or romantic in his gesture, for as he touched her, she saw glimpses of his memories.

    ✵✵✵✵✵

    Thirteen years-old.

    On the outskirts of Delta City, where the slum began, the poor children lined up. Food in the slums was scarce, especially nutritious food, but today, a great man named Qazi has sponsored a food camp for the underprivileged.

    Zed was also in the line. He glanced at the camp and noticed hundreds of slum-dwellers eating.

    The people working under Qazi were dressed in blue clothing, and with kind smiles, they fulfilled the hungry requests of the poor.

    After waiting for an hour, Zed sat on the floor, covered by a carpet. One of the organizers served him food in a disposable plate, and he eagerly grabbed a handful of rice to stuff it in his mouth.

    Just as he brought the rice before his mouth, a tingling sensation erupted in the back of his head. The sensation spread throughout his head, and he felt numb.

    "What's this feeling?!" Zed wondered while lowering his hand.

    Unknown to him at that time, it was his sixth-sense ability. It would only become active to warn him of any crisis that could endanger his life.

    "Why aren't you eating?!" The person who served him asked.

    Zed tried to suppress the numbing feeling as he said, "I had a headache..."

    "Ok, but eat quickly."

    Zed nodded and brought the rice before his mouth. The tingling sensation erupted again. This time he didn't lower his hand as he didn't want to anger the organizers.

    "Wait!"

    Suddenly, he recalled the reaction of the person when he lowered his hand filled with food. There were traces of panic in his voice.

    "Why would he react like that?"

    Zed sneakily eyed that person. He was keeping taps on others around Zed, watching if they were eating their share of food or not.

    Why would he observe them with such intensity? Surely it couldn't be to ensure any wastage of food!

    Then why...?!

    Zed's face fell as the realization hit him.

    "How could I be so careless just because I was getting free food?! Starvation is no excuse!"

    Secretly placing the food underneath his clothes, he thought of Veronica. Before she gifted him Eternal Wisdom of Dreams, she had said greed was not restricted to slums... it existed everywhere. (Chapter 105).

    Now he knew just how true she was.

    As he was about to stuff the last handful of rice under his clothes, he noticed the eyes of the organizer arriving back on him.

    Realizing he has no choice, he put the rice in his mouth and swallowed it. The organizer turned back.

    "Have some rest underneath the tents! We have beds!" Another organizer requested as Zed and other children started leaving. "The winter is here, and Sir Qazi wants everyone to have a safe place to live."

    The slum-dwellers rejoiced, except for Zed. He pretended to rejoice, and when no one was observing, he went to the make-shift washroom to throw out everything he had eaten.

    The night arrived, and everyone fell asleep, including Zed. Maybe whatever he has eaten did its work despite his best efforts.

    ...

    Zed didn't know when his eyes opened, but when they did, he found tubes and wires glued to his body.

    It was still night, but there were lights on, and he noticed the other children were in similar condition. Though none was awake, unlike him, and at the end of the tent, he saw the organizers working with a man in white clothes, a doctor.

    They were removing organs from a teenager similar to his age.

    Even though Zed had a faint idea, this was their purpose, realizing he was indeed right turned his blood cold. He wanted to rise, but the drug in the food had dulled his nerves, making it impossible.

    An hour passed, and in that time, the organizers had operated on more than half the children, harvesting their organs. Their speed panicked Zed.

    He knew his turn was coming soon.

    He has checked his surroundings and noticed the tubes and wires were connected to appliances. Maybe they would serve some role when they operate on him.

    He even noticed oxygen masks and cylinders, and from his observation so far, they would use it on those being operated.

    As the organizers walked in his direction, he gathered every ounce of his strength and pulled the wires and tubes off him. Then he jumped to his feet and ran in the opposite direction.

    "He's awake!?"

    "Don't stand there! Catch him!"

    Voices ringed behind him, and even before he crossed twenty meters, he was grabbed and pulled back.

    "It would have been painless had you been asleep!" The organ-harvesting doctor grinned as he took out the tools. "But then again, working like this would be more fun!"

    The organizers around him also grinned, showing no traces of kindness they had displayed in the day.

    Zed tried to struggle, but with him pinned to the bed, there was nothing he could do. The doctor brought the surgery knife to his stomach and pressed it. Blood trickled out as the knife split his skin.

    As the knife pierced into his flesh, a seething sound ringed out of his body. The doctor was startled as at the same moment, his hand turned cold while the knife began to melt.

    Shocked, he let go of the melting knife, making it drop on the floor.

    "What happened?!" The organizers were surprised, and they too backed away.

    Whoosh~!

    All of a sudden, the world turned incomparably chilly as all heat in the surrounding flew into Zed. His hair started floating, and the air around him turned volcanic red, as if ready to explode.

    "Fuck! He's Awakening!" The doctor cursed.

    "What?!" The organizers were frightened.

    All of them were ordinary humans, with no powers. And now seeing a mutant among them, their bodies shrank in fear.

    "Stop him before he fully awakens!" The doctor ordered while he fleed. "I will bring help!"

    "Coward!" The organizers cursed while shifting their vision on Zed.

    His eyes snapped open, and within them, there was fire. Bright flames appeared around his entire body, wrapping him in their protective embrace.

    Without any warning, he smashed his palm on the face of the one that served him food.

    "Ahhhhhhh!"

    The man cried as the flames started melting his face, making his flesh fall like melting wax.

    The others were terrified, and they retreated, but Zed wouldn't allow them to!

    Guided by his instincts, he spread his hands, and streams of flames shot out, smashing straight into the eyes of the fleeing organizers.

    "My eyes!"

    "Urgh!"

    "Save me!"

    By now, the doctor had arrived with the backup. But seeing the organizers collapsing on the floor with their eyes and faces burning, he shivered and once again ran away.

    "Stop!" The backup - two guards with guns - ordered as they opened fire.

    Zed grabbed the burning body of an organizer to use it as a shield while hiding behind another, effectively using two men for his protection.

    Bullets shot through their bodies, and the guards cursed while approaching closer.

    "You are going to die!" The guards said as they continued to fire.

    "A newly awakened mutant is as good as a dead mutant!"

    "Haha!"

    They mocked him, perhaps to kill his spirits.

    Zed knew he couldn't handle guns, not this soon as he was a rankless mutant. And he knew it was just a matter of seconds before the body shields lost their effectiveness.

    So he knew the guards has a reason to laugh at him.

    "Hmm?"

    His eyes locked on the oxygen tank not so far away, and the flames in his eyes brightened. The guards were close to it, and just as they approached within its range, Zed jumped forward, his hand moving towards the tank.

    "Is he an idiot?!" The guards wondered before their eyes constricted.

    "No!!"

    Sadly, they were too late as Zed shot out a stream of fire, detonating the tank.

    BOOM

    The flames in the tent exploded, powered by the heavy supply of oxygen.

    "Argh!"

    "Please save me!"

    The guards let out miserable screams as the flames engulfed them, setting their bodies on fire. The guns started melting, and the liquid metal dripped on their burning hands, making them feel as they were bathed by lava.
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