XVI. Right Around The Corner

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A couple of weeks passed, and after Thanksgiving, hype for the tournament was building up. Promotional posters could be seen on announcement boards, and it became the talk of New Haven.

Lena was looking at the poster on one of the announcement boards in between classes. The last day to sign up was December 7th.
"You gonna sign up?" a familiar voice asked from behind her.
She turned to see Jace, holding a backpack, smiling.
"Are you?" she asked.
"I wasn't going to, but Kai and Dai have been helping me refine my technique!!" Jace said excitedly, "So, I think I'm a bit more confident!"
Lena couldn't help but smile. He had seemed happier in the past two weeks.
"I think I will sign up," Lena said, glancing back at the poster, "I've been training with Dai, Raina, and Aria for a couple months now. In fact, we're going to today after school... if you'd like to join us."
Jace paused, then grinned.
"Of course! I'd love to!" he said, instinctively clasping her hands.
Lena didn't expect this, and just looked at him awkwardly.
Jace blushed, realizing what he just did.
"Hah... sorry," he apologized.
Lena gave a small smile.

The two then began to walk to class together.
"So, how has your Janice been?" Lena asked.
Jace's smile disappeared, and he hesitated with his response.
"She... wasn't happy about me talking to you guys," he said.
Lena sniffed, rolling her eyes, "I bet."
"Other than that," Jace continued, "We've... been trying to make it work."
Lena turned her head to look at him.
"Just leave her," she suggested bluntly.
"Oh, no no," Jace faltered, "I can't do that."
"Why not?" Lena asked.
"Her... her feelings will get hurt," Jace muttered.

Silence fell.
"You know," he said, "She's not the first girl who told me she liked me."
Lena looked at him, surprised, "There were others?"
"Yes," Jace looked at the floor, "Plenty of girls throughout middle school and freshman year of high school asked me out, told me they 'loved' me, and all that."
He paused, and Lena listened intently.
"I constantly get told I'm cute, or hot, or whatever," he continued, "But, the thing is... I don't want to be liked just for how I look."
He chuckled a moment later.
"I'm sure there are plenty of girls who'd say the same thing," he sighed, "I just want to find someone who likes me... for who I am, and I would them."
They stopped walking, for they reached Jace's next class.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I don't mean to get all melodramatic with you."
Lena looked sadly at him, feeling a great deal of pity for him.
"I guess I should get into class," he said, and started in.
"Wait," Lena interrupted, firmly placing her palm against his chest to stop him.
Jace looked at her, surprised.
Lena looked up at him.
"If all of that is a problem for you," she said, "Then why be with a girl who clearly likes you just because you have a cute face."
Jace couldn't reply, for a moment.
He looked down at a moment later.
"Hunter told me I should be with her," he said, "He told me she planned to confess and that I should accept..."
Lena looked sternly at him.
"I know from experience that you shouldn't listen to that guy," she huffed, "You should be with someone you actually like... and I can tell, you don't like her."
Jace's face was flushed with red.
"Now," Lena said, "Meet us by the theater after classes, and we'll go train."
She backed off, and headed to her next class.
Jace watched her go.

"Be with someone... you actually like," he said to himself, watching as her red hair bounced around as she walked away.


Later that day, Jace tumbled to the ground, grunting as he did.
"Come on, now," Dai said, "I'm not even trying here."

They, along with Lena, Aria, and Raina, were in the large cutting in Elfen Island's forest.
The girls sat on the picnic table in the center, watching as the boys were at it.

"A key to battle is being able to disgruntle your opponent," Dai explained, "Whether through disarming them, being too fast for them, confusing them. Whatever way you go about it, it really helps to be unpredictable."

"He's such a trainer," Aria commented.
"He took everything our trainers said as gospel," Raina huffed, sipping a smoothie, "He's not a perfect fighter, but he tries hard to be."
"Don't all three of you?" Lena asked.
"Well, yeah," Raina shrugged, "But Dai's always tried to seem... better. Not better than us, but just a better fighter in general."
"Oh?" Aria asked, "Why?"
"To be honest, I don't quite know," Raina admitted, "Though, I have a feeling it's due to a lot of things, one being his ice Gift."
"Yeah... I guess I can see that," Aria said, "He's the first one in your entire family's history to not have fire?"
Raina nodded, sipping her smoothie, "Crazy thing, huh?"
"Why has your family always gotten fire?" Lena asked.
"Dunno," Raina said, "Our dad told us he'd tell us someday, but since we rarely see him..."
Lena and Aria didn't say anymore, and returned their attention to the boys.

Jace grunted as he fired a barrage of lightning from his fingertips.
Dai raised an arm up, and ice wall forming in front of him, effectively blocking the lightning.
This continued for a couple of minutes, before it suddenly stopped.
Dai snapped his fingers, dissipating the ice wall.
Jace was nowhere to be seen.
Dai looked around, confused.
He could see the three girls giggling over at the picnic table.

He narrowed his gaze, then suddenly felt two arms hugging him from behind.
"Gotcha," Jace grinned, peeping over the taller boy's shoulder.
"Okay," Dai chuckled, "I'm impressed. Though, normally you wouldn't hug your opponent."
"I know," Jace replied, "But still, I can electrocute you if you want."
Dai freed himself from the brown haired boy's grasp.
"That will be unnecessary," he smiled, "I take it you teleported?"
Jace nodded, beaming with pride.

Dai smiled, patting Jace's shoulder.
"You might be able to hold your own in the tournament, then."
Jace grinned, and looked to Lena.
Lena just smiled at him and gave a friendly wave.
Aria noticed the two's eye contact, and could only grin.

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