X. New Places, New Experiences

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Dai, Kai, and Raina had reached the outside of the theater, where Luke, Lena, and Aria were waiting.
"There you guys are," Luke smiled.
"Yep, we're here," Kai said, "So, what's all this?"
Luke was holding a large paper bag.
"I decided that we should have a picnic!" Luke announced, "...A bit last minute."
"He literally went and got a whole ton of food before you guys got here," Aria rolled her eyes.
"Hey!" Luke retorted, "If you have a great idea, act on it immediately!"
Dai and Aria just shook their heads with a slight smile.
"That's Luke for you," Dai commented.
"If we're going to have a picnic," Raina put in, "Shouldn't we have a picnic blanket?"
"Oh, we don't need one," Luke grinned.

The other five teens looked at him, some perplexed, others suspicious.
"Trust me, once we get one of the carts, I will take you to where I had in mind!" Luke proclaimed, and hurried off in the direction of the go-cart center, "Come on!!"
Lena just shrugged at the others, and hurried off behind him.
Raina watched her go, remembering the sour note she and Lena had ended on the night before.

She watched as Dai, Kai, and Aria also hurried off after them, before following suit.

🌊

The six young Gifted arrived at the go-cart center, and checked out a cart for them to take to another part of Elfen Island. There were approximately thirty go-carts for New Haven residents to check out, and the time allotted for each one lasted until curfew at nine p.m. Plenty of time, Luke thought, for the group to get where they were going, eat, and then return.

The carts themselves had a total of six seats; a driver and passenger seat, two backseats, and then a bench seat on the back, facing backward. They also had white canopies held up by four poles.

Luke climbed into the driver's seat, and Dai sat in the passenger. Luke placed the bag onto his lap, and the twin just looked at him with a sardonic expression.
Kai and Aria took to the backseat, and Lena and Raina took the rear seat.

"Alright, just you guys wait!" Luke said excitedly as he started the cart. After a brief moment, the cart turned onto the dirt road heading further inland, Luke pressing on the gas pedal practically at full speed.

Dai gripped onto the arm of the seat out of fear.
"Luke, maybe you sh-" he started, for they hit a bump in the road, causing Dai to yelp and clutch onto the bag for dear life.
The others felt similarly, for they, too, were holding onto a part of the cart.

"Isn't this a little fast??" Aria asked.
"What're you talking about?" Luke asked, as they hit another bump.
The road travelled beside the dense forest, at the base of the island's volcano.
After going a little further, Luke then hit the brakes. The cart came to a very abrupt stop, much to the dismay of its passengers.

"Come on!!" Luke said excitedly, turning off the cart and practically jumping out.
The other five took their time getting out.
"That would have been fun if I was expecting it," Kai commented.
"I say someone else drives us back," Raina huffed.
"I'll do it," Dai said, still hugging the bag.

"Follow me! This way!" Luke called from a few feet away, and headed into the forest.
The five followed him, at varying paces. Lena brought up the rear, taking in the sight of the trees around her.
While the forest blocked most of the sunlight coming in, she found it nice and peaceful. She could hear birds chirping nearby, and caught sight of a squirrel scurrying up a tree.

She then saw Raina slowing her pace to match hers.
"Listen," the blonde started, "About last night-"
"Forget about it," Lena interrupted, "You're not the first person to be angry with me, and I'm sure you won't be the last."
Raina's expression hardened.
"That's a rather grim thing to say," she commented, "But, still, I'm sorry I yelled at you."
Lena smiled a little, appreciating the apology.
"Well," she said, "You had a point. We are roommates now."

"Here!" Luke shouted, and ran ahead. The others hurriedly followed him, and were a bit surprised by what they found.

There was a rather large cutting in the forest, the trees bordering an open, sunlit-filled area. In the center of the area, was a lone picnic table, weathered from the natural elements.
"Tada!!" Luke exclaimed, throwing his arms the air dramatically.
"Luke... this is beautiful," Aria smiled, looking around.
"Right? I found this spot two summers ago! I always bring new friends here!" he explained.

Dai set the bag on the picnic table, the sunlight beating down on them.
"Luke, I've been meaning to ask," he said, "What happened to your other friends?"
Luke's smile faltered a little.
"They... left," he said, "Had bigger and better things to do than stay here."
"I see," Dai said, noticing his slight change in demeanor.
He went over and awkwardly placed his hand on the buffer boy's shoulder.

"Well, wherever they are, they're missing out," he said with a smile.
Luke then felt another hand on his other shoulder.
"Yeah!" grinned Kai, "This is sweet, dude! The things we could do here!"
Luke's smile widened, and he wrapped his arms around both twins, giggling.
"Okay, okay, let's eat already," he said, "I'm starved."
"Way ahead of you," Aria said, as she, Lena, and Raina had already started taking out contents of the bag and onto the table.

The boys then joined the girls at the table, and began talking and laughing as they ate.
As they did, Lena couldn't help but feel a little more at ease than she had been since she arrived.

🌊

The food had been eaten, and the late afternoon sun radiated a light orange; the sign of early evening.

The six had talked and hung out all afternoon, and were now lying on the grass by the picnic table, looking up at the sky.
Dai was the first to check his phone, which read four-thirteen.

He sat up and stretched, grunting as he did.
"Come on," he said, "We should head back."
"But I don't wanna head back," Luke complained.
"Me neither," Kai agreed.
"We live next to each other, and this spot isn't terribly far," Dai pointed out, "As much as I enjoyed this, I also have homework to do, as do you."
Luke and Kai grumbled incoherently, while Aria and Lena sat up together.

As Dai started cleaning up their trash and placing it in the bag they brought, Aria turned to Lena.
"Did you like this?" she asked.
Lena looked at her, and just nodded.
"It was fun," she said quietly.
Aria grinned, "I'm glad!"
She then side-hugged the Russian girl, much to her surprise.
Lena allowed it, though. It felt... nice.

"Okay, come on!" Dai said, and he went over and pulled Luke up.
"Buzzkill," Luke huffed.
"I'm no buzzkill," Dai retorted, "I'm being sensible."
Luke smirked, reaching up and ruffling the tall boy's hair.
"Nerd," he teased, "Wanting to get your homework done like a good little boy."
"I'm a 'good little boy', and yet, you're the one having to look up at me," Dai huffed.
Luke paused, and then laughed.
Kai laughed with him, while Aria just giggled from where she stood.
"You're all obnoxious," Raina jokingly complained, "Let's go already."

Having cleaned up their mess, the six left the cutting and headed back to the cart.
As they did, Aria matched her pace with Luke's.
"Thank you for showing us this," Aria smiled, "It was really nice."
"Yeah!" Luke replied, "I hoped you guys would like it. You're my new friends, after all."
Aria smiled at him, "Yeah."

Raina and Lena walked together as well, in silence.
Before long, Raina spoke.
"If I may ask," she said, "I know you told Aria what was bothering you. What was it?"
Lena paused.
"It... it was just some guy," she replied.
"Hunter?" Raina immediately guessed.
Lena was taken aback.
"How... did you know?" she asked.
"I saw the guy in my physical ed. class today, with Dai and Kai," Raina explained, "They told me you had issue with him, and from the way he was, it wasn't hard to see why."
"Ah..." Lena said, unsure how to feel about this.
"Look," Raina added, "If he gives you any more issue, I'll be happy to roast him."
Lena let out a small chuckle, "You can't be serious."
"No, I mean, literally," Raina said, and she snapped her fingers, a small pink flame igniting on her index finger.
"Oh," Lena realized, smiling, "Thank you."

They eventually returned to the cart, and Dai got behind the wheel.
Once they were all aboard, he turned it around, and headed back towards New Haven, at a slower pace than Luke did earlier.

Luke and Kai dozed off together in the backseat, while Lena and Raina kept conversation going in the rear seat. Aria, who was in the passenger seat, looked back at the four, smiling. Maybe this year would actually be more fun than she hoped.

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