XXIX. Friendly Fire

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Lena and Jace hurried back to their friends, who greeted them with utmost hype and praise. As they did, Hunter looked back at them as he exited the arena along with Daniel, his scowl darkening.

"Great job, you guys!!" Aria exclaimed.
"Yeah, you killed it!!" Luke agreed.
"Tch, well, yeah," Lena shrugged, feigning confidence.
"Thank you, guys," Jace smiled.

They didn't get to sing their praises for long, for Lawson continued commentating.
"Moving right along to our final duo battle of the day!" she declared, "Kai Fray and Janice Kaiser versus Luke Rochester and Aria Draven!"

Luke and Aria looked at each other, then looked at Kai nervously.
Kai gave a nervous chuckle, "Wellll, how about that?"
Luke shook his head and forced a smile, "Good luck."
"Yeah," Kai agreed, "You, too."

The three made their way out onto the arena, the rest of them watching them go anxiously.
"So... it's either Luke and Aria... or Kai," Raina muttered from where she sat.
"I'm sure that whoever emerges defeated will take it in stride and will be happy for the other," Dai advised, "None of them would be a sore loser, surely."
"Tell that to Janice," Jace muttered.
Lena noticed his disgruntled look as he watched Janice come out onto the arena. She grabbed his shoulder comfortingly and gave him a smile. Jace looked back to her and smiled back.

Their attention was then redrawn to the arena, the two pairs now facing one another for the last duo battle of the day.
"Hey," Luke whispered to Aria.
"Hey," Aria replied back.
"...You look great today," Luke smiled, "Your outfit, I mean."
Aria looked down at her top and shorts, blushing.
"Thanks..." she smiled, "Good luck."
"You too," Luke replied, and then turned his attention to Kai.
"Don't go easy on us, now," Luke sneered playfully.
"That's the plan," Kai grinned.
Aria chuckled at the boys, then noticed Janice looking at her with a disdainful expression.
"Uh... hi!" she said, trying to seem cheerful, "Good luck!"
Janice said nothing, she just glared her down.
Aria took the hint, and avoided eye contact.
Janice then looked next to her, directly at Kai, who hadn't noticed her gaze.
"You're supposed to be a good fighter, right?" she said.
Kai looked at her, taken aback, "Uh, um, yeah?"
Janice sniffed, "Don't mess this up."
Kai blinked and looked at Luke, who shrugged.

"Begin!" Lawson announced.

Without hesitation, Janice fired an ice beam upon Aria, freezing her feet up to her knees.
Aria, unable to stay up, fell sitting up, not expecting this.
She then panicked when she saw Janice charging at her with an iced-over fist held back.
She thrusted it forward, as Luke jumped in between them and caught it with a rock covered hand.
Janice blinked, surprised, as Luke looked at her with a disapproving glint.
He then kicked her in the stomach, and knocked her back.
"You okay?" he asked Aria, turning and lowering himself in front of her, lightly hitting the ice with his rock hand.
"Fine," she smiled.
Luke blushed slightly, but the feeling didn't last long, for Kai flew over and picked him up into the air.

"Sorry, mate," Kai said, "You said to not go easy."
He then let go of him, causing Luke to fall.
Luke grunted, extending an arm forward and forming a stone pillar. Once the two collided, the pillar stopped rising and he landed on it with ease.

He looked around, finally spotting Kai flying towards him, throwing fireballs.
Luke raised a stone wall on top of the pillar in front of him, it blocking all of them.
Kai saw this and flew around to the other side of the pillar, both boys staring each other down.

Meanwhile, Aria was trying to break the ice with a small water spear while throwing water balls at Janice, who was deflecting them with ease using a slab of ice on her forearm.
She then fired another ice beam on Aria, freezing her forearm and hand over.
Aria grunted as the weight of the ice forced her arm down.
Janice then started walking over to her, and with her free hand, Aria made a large water fist and thrusted it forward.
It hit Janice head on, practically throwing her back and away from her.
Janice tumbled across the sand before landing on her stomach, letting out short annoyed screams.

Aria then dissipated the hand and formed another water spear, and started stabbing the pointless end at the ice on her feet, it starting to crack.
"Come on...!" she said to herself worriedly.

Meanwhile, Luke had been blocking Kai's fire, to the point where Kai started to feel slightly annoyed. He engulfed both of his hands in flame, and charged forward at such a speed.
He crashed through one of the walls Luke put up, and pushed Luke off of his pillar, both boys falling onto the arena sand rather roughly.
They both tumbled and rolled across the sand before coming to a halt, both worn out.

"Luke!" Aria shouted, seeing what had happened.
With one final effort, the ice on her feet finally shattered, and she stumbled up, hurrying over to Luke's aid with one arm still frozen.

She skidded onto her knees and stopped beside him as he sat up, groaning.
"You okay??" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied, then noticing her arm, "Here, let me help you."
He then formed a boulder and smashed it on the ice, shattering it after two strikes.
Aria stretched her fingers, hugging Luke after out of worry.
"What are we gonna do?" she whispered.
Before Luke could answer, he noticed Kai getting back up, and Janice coming over to them.

"We're struggling, for sure," he replied.
Kai then stepped forward, his hand ignited in flame.
"You guys done?" he asked.
"Never," Luke replied, and Aria looked at him with the same determination.

She then made water spears behind her, and thrusted her arm forward, launching them forward.
Kai raised a massive wall of fire, evaporating the water spears upon impact. Once it dissipated, he saw Aria charging at him, water fist in hand. She was about to hit him with it, when he panicked, moving to the side, and kicking her with a flaming foot right in the ribs.
Aria yelped and fell to the ground, gasping.

Before he could do any more, however, he noticed Luke blocking icicles being shot by Janice, using a rock wall in front of him as cover.
"That's it," Janice huffed angrily, freezing herself over, and the icy shell shattering a moment later.
The shell reconstructed behind Luke, and once it shattered, Janice grabbed Luke by the back of his shirt, swung him around, and slammed him into his own wall.

He dropped to the ground, grunting, as Janice pinned him down. Thus, the countdown began.

Aria scrambled to get up and hurry to Luke's aid, only to be stopped by a fireball flying past her. She looked to Kai with his arm outstretched, partially in disbelief.
Kai had an uncertain look on his face, and before long, he fired another fireball, this one hitting Aria square in the face.

She fell onto the sand, her face very warm from the heat flash.
The countdown started for her as well, and before long...

"Kai Fray and Janice Kaiser win!!" Lawson announced.
While the crowd applauded, Lena and the others in the dugout were in discomfort.
They watched as Kai immediately went to help Aria and Luke, as Janice simply stalked off towards her dugout.

Meanwhile, Kai and Aria went over to where Luke lied on the sand, now on his back.
"Luke!! Are you okay?" Aria asked worriedly.
"I'm fine, now that it's over," Luke groaned.
"I'm so sorry, you guys," Kai said, distraught, "I... I went too far."
"We said not to hold back," Luke said, "You didn't. We didn't. S'all good."
Kai still looked guiltily at the two of them, as Aria knelt down next to Luke.

"You did great today," she smiled, "You're strong, Luke."
"You, too," Luke smiled back, blushing, "Though, I think I'm gonna have to raincheck on our morning run tomorrow."
Aria chuckled, "Same here... and we're out of the tournament..."
Luke shrugged, "It's whatever to me. What mattered was doing it with you guys."
Aria smiled, and Kai did as well behind her.
"Though... it was especially great being your partner for today," Luke admitted.
Aria blushed now, touched.
Kai just grinned, seeing what was going on.
"Come on," Kai said, "Let's get out of here."
Aria then helped Luke up and the three rejoined their friends in the dugout, who celebrated them most joyously.

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