Chapter 17:

Part 16

Fragile Phantasy

The forest was alive with the rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds. KC and Edgar trudged through the dense underbrush, their eyes trained on the tracker's readings. It was referring to two positions - one was moving and darting from place to place, while the other remained still.

"We need to hurry, Edgar," KC urged, feeling the pulse of adrenaline coursing through his veins. "We must catch them before they escape. The watch's energy will run out."

Edgar groaned, his eyes cast downward. "Who would choose to live in such a remote location? If You ask me We should attack the one whose not moving."

KC nodded in agreement, and they continued their arduous trek through the woods. After what felt like an eternity, they arrived at the location of the still target. A decrepit hut stood before them, seemingly on the brink of collapse.

With cautious steps, they entered the structure and found an elderly woman lying asleep on a tattered bed. The pair were taken aback - this wasn't the person they were seeking. "What's going on? The tracker isn't working correctly," Edgar whispered, his voice barely above a murmur.

As KC scrutinized the tracker, he noticed another DNA source approaching their location. They scurried to find hiding places, with Edgar hiding beneath the old woman's bed. KC, in his panic, was unable to find a suitable spot to conceal himself and was left in plain sight behind the door.

The door suddenly creaked open, revealing a woman whose face matched the picture on the wanted poster. "Mom, dinner is ready," she announced, but her words were cut short.

The woman lunged at KC, her sharp knife glinting in the dim light. She wrapped her hands around his throat, strangling him with alarming force. "Who are you?" she hissed, her eyes filled with a primal rage.

Edgar sprang from his hiding place, brandishing his dagger. "Release my friend, or else," he barked, his voice dripping with menace.

The woman hesitated, her grip on KC slackening. "Please, don't hurt her," she pleaded, her face contorted with concern.

In that moment, the tension was palpable. Edgar slowly lowered his blade, and the woman followed suit. They stood there, staring at one another, until finally, the woman broke the silence.

The old woman lay in her bed, her breathing labored and weak. Zeline, her daughter, watched over her, anxiously awaiting any sign of life from her mother. Suddenly, the woman's eyes opened, and she struggled to speak.

"Zeline, is that you?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

"Yes, mother," Zeline replied, immediately coming to her side and holding her hand.

The old woman seemed to have difficulty seeing, but she could sense that Zeline had brought some company with her.

"I could feel that you bought some companion?" she said, coughing up blood as she spoke. "Are they your friends?"

Zeline nodded, "Yes mother there were friends so please rest". She would prepare her mother's meal and take care of her, as she always had.

But her mother had noticed something that Zeline had not intended to reveal. She glimpsed earlier Zeline holding KC with a knife, mistaking it for a hug. "Is he your boyfriend?" she asked, shocking everyone.

Before they could react, the old woman coughed up blood again. Zeline sprang into action, "Yes mother we promise to take you to the hospital and dont worry i have enough money to cover the costs".

The two could only stand there in pity, but KC knew that they were here for a mission. He approached Zeline and handcuffed her, without her resting mother noticing.

Zeline was shocked and seemed to want to fight, but she knew that she could not let her mother see the truth. Instead, she focused all of her attention on her mother, acting as though everything was normal.

"You know, my daughter Zeline," the old woman said, gasping for breath. "There is only a little time left for me. I would like to see that you are in good hands before I disappear."

Zeline wiped away her tears and nodded, determined to make her mother proud. "Yes, Mom," she said. "He is my boyfriend."that almost thrown kc and edgar out of the roof.

Kc is having none of it as he step up zeline shakes her head eyes pleading not too.

Her mother smiled and closed her eyes, looking peaceful for the first time in days.

KC, Edgar, and Celine stepped outside to talk, leaving mother alone at the hut. Zeline knelt down beside her mother's bed and begged KC for mercy.

"Please," she said. "I will do everything you want. Just let me get my mother to the hospital to treat her." Zeline's tears fell onto her beautiful face, but she did not care. All that mattered was saving her mother's life.

KC was stunned. He had not expected Zeline to be so willing to do anything for her mother.

The sunset cast a warm glow over the forest as Zeline pleaded with Edgar and KC for their help. Her voice trembled as she begged for their assistance, but Edgar knew the stakes were high. If they couldn't bring Zeline back with the things she stole, they would all face severe consequences.

"We can't risk it," Edgar said, his head bowed in defeat. "The mafia has my family's life, and there's nothing we can do."

Zeline dropped to her knees, bowing her head into the ground in desperation. "I need that money to treat my mother," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "Im ok if you surrender me to the mafia, as long as my mother gets well, it's fine. But please, help me."

Edgar's heart ached at the sight of Zeline's vulnerability, he looked down because theirs nothing he could do. "I'm sorry, zeline."

But KC, seeing himself in the woman who would do anything for her family, stepped forward felt a sudden surge of empathy. "Then we will use all of the reward for your head to treat your mother, but you need to come with us peacefully" he said, determination in his voice. offering Zeline a glimmer of hope.

Zeline's relief was palpable as she hugged him, and KC could feel the weight of her struggles. Yet, despite his desire to help her, he still couldn't shake the doubts that lingered in his mind if its ok to trust this girl. "One thing, I don't want to act as your lover," he stammered and tried to push zeline away for personal space.

Zeline's response was immediate and sincere. her eyes softening "Please make my mother happy, that's all I can ask for. I will surrender with you without a fight, promise?"

KC felt his nerves flare up, his heart pounding in his chest as he struggled to make a decision. Edgar looked on, a mischievous glint in his eye "Agree to it dude, I'm starting to think that your gay" he added.

As the tension reached its peak, KC finally relented. "Yes, I promise!" he declared, his cheeks flushed with the weight of his decision.

Zeline beamed with gratitude, a genuine smile spreading across her face. As they left, Zeline was handcuffed while KC struggled to carry her sick mother.

The sunset was beating down on the trio as they trudged along the dusty path, their footsteps kicking up a cloud of dirt behind them. Edgar, feeling restless from the monotony of their journey, broke the silence. "I'm just wondering, Zeline, why is your house so far away?" he asked, confusion etched into his features.

Zeline, who had been walking quietly beside him, turned to face him. Her dark eyes shone with a fierce pride as she spoke. "Because my parents used to be slaves who ran away. They started living here so they wouldn't be caught again."

Edgar nodded in understanding, his mind racing with questions about the courageous people who had raised Zeline. As they continued on their way, Zeline's mother stirred, her eyes fluttering open. She looked around while on kc's back, disoriented, before her gaze settled on her daughter and the man whose carrying her. The weight was heavy, but KC soldiered on, beads of sweat gathering on his forehead.

"Zeline, where are we going?" she asked, her voice weak.

Zeline rushed over to her mother, embracing her tightly as if to shield her from the truth. she clung to KC, hiding the handcuffs attached to her from her mother's view. KC struggled to free himself, but Zeline hugged him tighter, determined to keep her secret safe."We're going to take you to the hospital," she said, her tone bright and cheerful. "Don't worry, we'll get you treated."

Edgar smiled, heartened by Zeline's unwavering optimism.

"Your boyfriend looks responsible, even though he doesn't speak much," the old woman remarked, studying KC closely. "I feel deep inside that he's a good person." zeline mother said sweetly.

KC, embarrassed by the sudden attention, tried to hide his face. Zeline, sensing his discomfort, playfully pinched his cheeks. "He's the type of guy that actions speak louder than words, haha," she quipped, flashing him a flirtatious smile.

KC, red-faced and sweating, couldn't bear the attention any longer. his embarrassment on full display "Please stop," he mumbled, his voice barely above a whisper.

Zeline's mother chuckled. "That's the first time i've almost seen you smile and heard your voice. It's okay even if you're a little shy. I accept you for who you are," she said kindly, kc tries to loom away and hide his embarrassment. Zeline's mother soon fell back asleep, resting her head on KC's back.

As the sun began to set, the group decided to set up camp for the night. They erected a small tent for Zeline's mother to rest in, while the rest of them laid out under the stars. Despite the harsh conditions, they found comfort in each other's company, the darkness of the night bringing them closer together.

As the moon cast a soft glow over the campsite, Edgar, Zeline, and KC found themselves unable to sleep. The quiet of the night was too oppressive, too thick with the unknown. It was Edgar who finally broke the silence.

"Zeline, excuse me for asking, but I'm really curious. What did you do before? It's fine with me if you don't answer."

Zeline smiled a small, melancholic smile. "Just struggling to make ends meet. Juggling a few jobs and being an adventurer on the side so I could buy my mother's medicine," she said.

Edgar nodded sympathetically. "Since you told me yours, Zeline, I'll also share mine. Let's just say like you, I also want to make my family happy. So even though they are not related to me, I dreamed of being the capital emperor so that we can live luxuriously."then they turn their attention to kc.

The two fell silent expecting kc to share, KC broke the quiet by faking a loud snore.

"We know you're just faking it, KC. Come share yours," Edgar said with a laugh.

"Come on, don't be shy," Zeline added.

KC remained still and unresponsive, but then in a weak voice, he said, "Were similar in way i wanted my family to be happy."

It shocked the two, as this was the first time KC had shared anything personal with them. But their moment of connection was quickly interrupted by a rustling in the nearby bushes.

"Wait, I feel something," whispered Edgar as he unsheathed his two daggers. "You two, go into the tent. KC, protect Zeline and her mother. I'll take care of it."

Suddenly, a barrage of kunai and shuriken rained down from the tall grass, and Edgar's body was covered in electric armor as he blocked and deflected each sharp object with lightning speed and agility.

"Now it's my turn," he said, plunging into the tall grass.

The sounds of slicing and screaming could be heard coming from the melee, until finally, Edgar emerged, gasping for breath and injured. He retreated back to the front of the tent, as the attackers closed in on them.

Edgar eyes scanning the surrounding fields for the attackers. "It looks like they're already surrounding us," he muttered to KC, who was holed up inside the tent behind him.

Suddenly, a horde of bandits appeared out of the twisting corn mazes. Edgar recognized them at once - it was Cyril's group.

"Give the girl up, or all of you will all die," the bandits growled, their weapons at the ready. They wanted them to surrender Zeline.

"That's not going to happen!" Edgar spat, lunging forward to attack. But to his horror, he found himself rooted to the spot - the ground had turned to quicksand beneath his feet. swallowing him up to his waist.

"Earth quicksand!" one of the bandits cackled, his magic manipulating the soil. Edgar struggled to free himself, but it was no use - he was slowly sinking into the mire.

"Hey, a little help here!" he cried desperately.

"One last chance, before your friend here is gone - give her up!" the bandits snarled.

KC knew he couldn't fight without a weapon, but he had to do something. Zeline's mother safety was at stake. As he started to go outside, Zeline grabbed him by the arm. "Protect my mother," she whispered fiercely. "I promise you i won't run away." Ready to come out to fight, even while her hands cuffed together.

KC is hesitating to trust zeline, but the bandits were closing in.

"Well, we gave you a chance, Now comrades. Fire all of your attacks at them!" the bandit leader barked, tossing a flurry of knives and elemental magic.

But Edgar was not defeated yet. Summoning all his strength, he cast a powerful spell.

"Lightning static stream!" he roared, his body sinking ever deeper into the quicksand. A bolt of lightning shot forth from his outstretched hand, crackling with energy. It spread out in a shimmering wave, blocking all of the bandits' attacks.

"KC, a little help here! Just for only 20 seconds my attack would last!" Edgar shouted, his voice strained with effort KC knew that he had to act fast.

He couldn't afford to hesitate, The only way to survive was to trust Zeline, With trembling hands, KC used the key to unlock the handcuffs on Zeline's wrists.

As Edgar succumbed to exhaustion, his body sinking deeper into the ground, Zeline emerged from the tent. She was a sight to behold, with her flowing hair and glowing eyes. With a flick of her wrist, the weapons scattered around them lifted into the air, controlled by her powerful wind magic.

"Air manipulation!" Zeline declared, and the weapons flew towards the bandits, striking them with deadly accuracy.

After that zeline quickly pulled Edgar from the mud and revive him. Zeline embraced him tightly, relieved that he had survived. Edgar, ever the charmer, flirted with her shamelessly.

"Not bad being saved by a beautiful lady sometimes," he quipped and left a heavy breath "Hey Zeline, would you mind joining our party?"

But Zeline was hesitant. "What about the bounty and your family's safety?" she asked. "If you didn't deliver me, you would be putting them at risk."

Edgar dismissed her concerns with a wave of his hand. "Don't sweat it. There's nothing the three of us couldn't handle. I'm sure we can bring down the whole hyena. What do you say, KC?" He turned to KC, extending his hand as a sign of agreement, inviting the three to tag hands as a sign of teaming up.

KC's hand hovered uncertainly in the air, but at that time, all the bitter memories from the time when he opened up from others and let someone in, flashed right through him and he didn't want that to happen again, because the truth he just teamed up with edgar to make everything easier, he did not want to feel attached to other's so its easier for him to accept it when they abandoned him.

In the end, KC's hand retreated, and backed away from his companions. He couldn't bring himself to trust them completely, not when the wounds of the past still haunted him.

The air was thick with tension as Cyril emerged from the shadows, clutching Zeline's mother in his arms. His sly smirk was enough to make the blood boil in Edgar's veins. "Hey losers, did I mess up your moment?" he taunted, relishing the fear he saw in their eyes.

"Bring her back!" Edgar roared, his weakened body trembling with rage.

But Zeline's voice cut through the anger, pleading for mercy. "Please, just let her go. You don't have to hurt anyone else."

Cyril's eyes glinted with malice as he raised the knife to the old woman's throat. "Give me the girl, or this sleeping old lady won't wake up again."

Zeline knew she had to act quickly. She turned to KC and Edgar, her voice barely above a whisper. "Please, take my mother to the hospital. That's the last thing I ask of you."

Edgar's fists clenched, his heart aching at the thought of leaving Zeline to the bastard. "We can't just give up on you," he protested, his voice strained.

But Zeline shook her head, her eyes full of resolve. "You have to. Please, just go."

With a heavy heart zeline walked near Cyril, then he quikly put her handcuffs, clinking as they snapped onto his wrists. Then he struck him with all the force, knocking her to the ground and rendering him unconscious so it's easy to carry the lady.

As cyril released her mother from his grasp, he quickly retreats "Adios, idiots," he sneered, dragging Zeline away with him.

Edgar's heart pounded with fury as he watched Cyril make his escape. But he refused to let him get away with it. With a flick of his wrist, he hurled his dagger at Cyril, the blade slicing through the air with deadly precision.

Cyril managed to jump, avoiding the worst of the blow. But the dagger grazed his leg, leaving a deep, bleeding gash.

"I don't have time for you idiots," he spat, before disappearing into the night.