XXXV. To Battle!

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The group situated themselves a few feet away from the arena, sitting in a half circle with The Heat standing before them.

"Alright," Ryū said, "I do appreciate all of you volunteering for this. It will be dangerous, but if we follow my plan to the letter, we could succeed in stopping Bolt and freeing his Gifted."
As he spoke, Lena just looked back inland, hearing the sounds of crackling lightning and what she presumed to be falling trees. A look of worry crossed her face.

"Before I met up with you all on the pier, I located Bolt just sitting on the edge of the volcano, at the very top. It seems like he has ordered his Gifted to wreck havoc across Elfen Island until... I show myself. What we are going to do is this; you all will do your best to hold off his Gifted and try to stop them from doing more damage, while I take care of Bolt."
"All by yourself?" Aria asked, "Wouldn't it be better if we all took him on?"
"I'm the only one who can take his hits with minimal damage to myself," Ryū explained, "If any of you get hit, you could very well... die."
Silence fell.

"So... we all just take out the henchmen while you take out the boss?" Luke asked, "Seems pretty simple to me."
"They're not his 'henchmen'," Dai corrected.
"Indeed," Ryū said, "However, don't let the fact that they're being controlled make you hold back. Trust me, if Bolt deems it, they won't hold back against you."
"Isn't there a way we could free them ourselves??" Janice asked.
Ryū simply shook his head, "As long as we Gods have walked this Earth, it has never been possible for a person to free a controlled Gifted. Only the God can free them, and I plan on making Bolt do just that."

Kai then stood up, "Well, what are we waiting for?"
Ryū smiled, "Go however you wish to deal with the Gifted. I will go on to Bolt's position and deal with him personally."

He then ignited his feet on fire, gestured farewell, and flew off towards the volcano.
"Well," Raina said, "Let's get going."
"Maybe we should split up," Dai suggested, "That way, we can cover more ground. This isn't exactly a small island."
"Yes," Melany agreed, "Perhaps groups of four, since there's eight of us."
"Whatever," Janice scoffed, "Let's just go!"

She then stalked off towards the small forest behind them.
Dai sighed, "I'll go with her."
"I'll go too," Kai said.
The two twins headed off after Janice, with Lena hesitantly bringing up the rear.
"Going with them, Lena?" Aria asked.
"Yeah," Lena replied, "To make sure she doesn't do something stupid."
"Guess that leaves the rest of us as a group," Aria smiled, "Let's make for the plains."
"Good idea," Melany agreed, "Let's go!"

🌊

The Bolt stood at the top of the volcano, overseeing Elfen Island, watching as his Gifted laid waste to it. He wasn't relishing in it, though. He waited for The Heat to show his face, and before long, Ryū appeared right in front of him, hovering in the air.

"Took your sweet time, I see," Bolt sneered.
"Stop this, Takeshi," Ryū said, disregarding the statement, "This is between you and I. Your Gifted have no part of it."
"You're right, this is between you and I," Bolt replied, "However, I'm not totally to blame for what's happening to your precious little island. I'm only doing this because of what you did to me!"
Lightning crackled across his limbs as he said this. Ryūjust looked forlorn.
"I only did what I had to," he replied calmly, "Please, Takeshi, we don't have to fight. Just free your Gifted and we can discuss this in a civilized manner."
Bolt glared at him.
"You said that a thousand years ago, too," he said darkly.
He then thrusted an arm forward, and a strong bolt of lightning shot forward towards Ryū.
Ryū flew out of the way just in time, as Bolt glared up at him.

"Besides," Bolt continued, "Irene understands my feelings better than you ever did."
"Irene?" Ryū asked, surprised, "Did... did she free you?!"
"Yes," Bolt chuckled, "I have the chance to pay you back for locking me up on that godforsaken island thanks to her. And now, everything you have fought so hard to protect over the years..."
He then raised his arms up, and large bolts of lightning came crashing down onto the forest, setting the trees alight.
Ryū looked from the trees to him, a determined look on his face.

"...will be destroyed."

🌊

Meanwhile, Lena, Janice, and the twins were hurrying through the valley. They could see smoke in the distance pouring into the sky.
"Is the forest on fire?" Kai asked.
"With that much smoke, probably," Dai answered.
"Well, we're not going there," Janice huffed.
"Why not?" Lena retorted, "Lightning Gifted are probably over there. I say we check it out."
"Seconded," Dai agreed.
"Ugh," Janice groaned, and the four hurried towards the tree line.

"I'll fly up and see if I can get a better view," Lena said, sprouting her water wings.
"Are you sure?" Dai asked, "You've never flown that high before."
"It's fine," Lena said hastily, and she soared upwards, stopping very high up above the ground. From here, she could see the burning trees near the center of the forest.

She flew over towards the blaze, and pushed a wave downward, splashing it over the fire, effectively putting it out.
She then landed in the clearing, dissipating her wings and looking around.

Forming an ice katana, she began to move forward in anticipation. Gripping the hilt with both hands, she scanned the tree line, looking for anything or anyone. She then approached the picnic table in the center, where she and her friends already had memorable moments together.

Suddenly, a barrage of lightning came soaring out, hitting Lena from behind. It electrocuted her momentarily, forcing her to the ground.
She groaned as she got back up, and turned to see Ezekiel from the tournament coming towards her. His eyes glowed and his expression blank.

She raised the sword up, uncertainty starting to take over her.
"I... If you can hear me, fight it!" she yelled, "I don't want to hurt you."
Without a reply, Ezekiel charged at her, throwing lightning bolts.
Lena raised an ice wall to provide cover for herself, the bolts striking it.
She then ran around it and charged at Ezekiel, who kept throwing lightning bolts. She ducked and dodged to avoid them, and using the side of her blade, swept Ezekiel off his feet, making him land on the ground.
She then aimed her free hand at him, and fired an ice beam. This froze him over in a solid coat of ice on the grass.

Lena stepped back, coming down from the adrenaline rush that gave her. She didn't have long to recover, however, for she heard footsteps from behind her.
Turning around, she saw three other controlled lightning Gifted walking towards her. These were total strangers to her, but their glowing eyes were telling enough.

Before she could attack, however, two were hit with ice beams, freezing them solid, while the third was hit in the back by fireballs.
Once the third hit the ground, another ice beam hit it, freezing the man over.

Dai, Kai, and Janice then ran up and joined Lena.
"Heya," Kai said, "Made friends?"
Lena didn't reply, unamused.
"At least you stopped the fire," Dai said, "It seems restraining these guys is the best course of action."
"Yeah, but why aren't they trying to free themselves, though?" Janice asked.
Dai shrugged.

Just then, more footsteps could be heard within the trees.
Dai and Lena formed their ice swords, Kai ignited his fists, and Janice formed her staff. The four stood back to back, waiting for whoever it was to show themselves.

"Wait... Jace?" Lena uttered.

Lo and behold, Jace stepped out from the trees, lightning crackling over his limbs.

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