XVIII. Water War

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The thirty two contestants found themselves on the large, stone platform in the middle of a water-filled arena, surrounded by multiple ones of varying size, all smaller than the large one.

Suddenly, the large stone platform began to crumble at the edges, shrinking.
"They're making the platform smaller!" shouted Luke.
"They want to even the playing field," Dai noticed.

Many of the competitors got off the platform using their Gifts, and sprinkled themselves around the smaller ones.
Fighting shortly broke out a moment later.
Jace teleported himself off the shrinking platform onto a nearby one.
He looked around as his fellow competitors fought each other on their own platforms.

Just then, a fireball hit the platform he stood on, and he stumbled back.
He looked up to see Kai, using fire underneath his feet to fly, hovering above him.
"C'mon, Verrater," Kai teased, making a 'come at me' motion with his hands, "Show me what you're made of."
Jace smirked, and launched a barrage of lightning up at Kai, who began flying away. Jace kept the barrage going, the lightning tailing Kai as he flew around the arena.

The lightning managed to hit a few other competitors, electrocuting them. Two of them lost their balance and fell into the water.

Meanwhile, Lena, Dai, and Aria managed to find themselves on a platform together, back to back.
"You guys up for this?" Dai asked, his hands radiating icy vapor.
"Why do you think we signed up?" Lena retorted.
Aria stepped forward and sprouted water wings.

She leaped off the platform, and her wings began flapping to a steady beat as she soared through the air.
Lena was indignant.
"You didn't show me that!" she shouted.
"Forgot!" Aria chuckled, "Stay in the game, you guys!"

"Don't worry," Dai said, "Just focus, I think we're about to have company."
A stone bridge formed from another platform to theirs, and Lena saw a boy with dyed blond hair running up to them.

Dai stepped forward and fired an ice beam at the bridge, freezing a good chunk of it over.
The boy slipped and fell back, and Dai ran forward and made an ice hammer, slamming it down on the frozen part of the bridge, shattering it.

The boy fell along with the shattered pieces of the bridge. He quickly raised up his own stone platform up from the water.
He landed on it on his back, groaning as he sat up and dissipated the remains of his bridge.
Dai, still standing on part of the bridge when it dissipated, found himself falling to the water.
Being close to the pillar he and Lena stood on, he made ice gauntlets and boots, grabbing hold of the pillar to stop him from falling.

He skidded down before finally stopping, a few feet above the water.
He then turned to see a boulder hurdling towards him, and jumped to another part of the pillar just as the boulder smashed into the area he once clung to.
The dyed-blond boy was holding another boulder, chuckling, but stopped when an ice beam hit him and he was frozen over solid.

Dai looked up the pillar, and saw Lena looking down at him, with her hand outstretched, smiling.
Dai smiled back, and began climbing.

Lena lowered her arm, just as a brown-haired air Gifted flew up and landed on the same platform.
"Lemme see hands in the air," she said, outstretching her arms, "Before I blow you off this thing."
Lena feebly raised her arms up, and turned around.
She then flicked her wrist, a small water bubble hurdling towards the girl.
It knocked her in the forehead, disorienting her.
Lena then made a huge wave, larger than she intended, and shoved it forward, effectively sweeping the girl off the platform, and causing her to fall into the water below.

As the water dissipated, Lena stared, she hadn't expected the wave to be that big.
She forgot to fret about it, for she saw Jace firing his yellow lightning on a platform nearby.
Smiling, she then raised an arm and made an ice bridge connecting her platform to his.

She finished creating it just as Dai climbed up and joined her, dissipating his gauntlets and boots.
"Saw a girl fall into the water rather close to me," Dai commented, "Your handiwork?"
"More or less," Lena shrugged as she and Dai started walking across the bridge.

They suddenly fell back, as Kai crashed through the bridge with fiery fists, cutting it in half.
"You didn't think I'd let you all get off easy," he smiled, and he flew off to re-engage Jace.

Dai and Lena slowly stood back up, grumbling.
"Ass," Dai groaned.
Just then, they heard flapping and a thud. Someone had landed on the platform they were originally on.
They both turned to see Hunter, leafy wings shriveling up, and leaf swords forming in his hands.
"Lena..." he uttered.
Lena stared, an anxiety welling up inside her.
Dai then stepped in front of her, an ice sword forming in his hand, "Leave her alone."
Hunter scoffed.
"Hiding behind your new friends again?" he asked, "You've really become dependent on them."
Lena thought for a moment, then her expression slowly went from anxiousness, to determination.

She swept past Dai, and stood in front of him.
Two ice katanas formed in her hands, and she took a similar offensive position Dai had initially took.
"I'm not afraid of you," she glared.
Hunter's brow furrowed, angry.

Just then, a loud sound echoed across the arena.
"Time is up!" Danford announced.
Just then, the rock pillars they all stood on began to lower, and the water dissipated into mist.

The competitors that fell in the water were lowered onto the sand.
Once they got low enough, Lena dissipated the ice bridge she and Dai stood on, and hopped onto the sand. She then released the stone Gifted boy she froze, and once doing so, he toppled onto his own pillar, bewildered.

"Rayne Adams, Felicia Genno, and Mike Preston have fallen and are out of the tournament," Danford announced, "A commendable effort. Now, we will get on to the one on one battles for today! First, those still in the tournament must make their way to one of the dugouts, and we will have a fifteen minute break!"

The competitors then headed to one of the dugouts. Dai and Lena noticed their friends had already gathered in one of them, talking excitedly.
"Not bad for a first round," Dai smiled.
"Yeah," Lena agreed, and she looked back pensively.

Hunter was watching them go, scowling.
She looked back ahead of her, and Dai noticed her forlorn expression.
"Don't be worried about Hunter," he smiled, "Chances are, you won't have to deal with him."
Lena didn't reply, still unsure.
She then perked up when she saw Jace hurrying over to them, waving.
He was about to say something, when Janice swept in front of him, grabbed his hand, and made a beeline for one of the other dugouts.

Lena sighed, and just headed into the dugout where her friends were all situated.
"-was so crazy how you fended off that air guy!" Kai was saying to Aria.
"I know what I can do," Aria said, feigning a haughty demeanor.
"I saw Dai had to climb up a platform," Luke chuckled, noticing the ice Gifted had joined them.
"Some stone Gifted made a bridge, then unmade it when I was on it," Dai explained, "No big deal."
"I saw Lena push a massive water wave into some girl," Raina said, playfully punching Lena's arm, "Way to go, man."
"Yeah..." Lena said, now remembering that event more clearly. It didn't sit right with her.

"I'm gonna go to the pier," she said a moment later, and headed out of the dugout through its back entrance, leading out of the side of the arena. The other five just looking at each other in response to this.

As she left, she didn't notice Jace and Janice leaving their dugout as well.

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