XXI. Day Two

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The following day, the arena seemed to be crowded with even more people than the day before. Two of the ferries were just arriving at the pier after returning from a second trip when the Frays, Lena, Aria, and Luke rolled in on a cart.

Once they parked, they headed back to the arena and re-entered the same dugout they were in yesterday. Jace was already there, sitting on the bench, waiting.
"Mornin'," the lightning Gifted greeted warmly.
"Heya," Kai smiled, "You're here early."
"Yeah," Jace shrugged, "Had nothing better to do, prior."

He looked at Lena, who looked back at him with a solemn expression.
The other competitors then strode to the center of the arena.
"Seems like it's time," Raina pointed out, "We better get out there."
"Yep," Luke agreed, "C'mon guys, let's go!"

The group left their dugout and joined the others in the center. Lena caught sight of Melany, who looked like she was trying to glance at her without making it obvious.
She bowed her head down and avoided eye contact.
Hunter was there too, and he looked from her, to Melany, to Jace. His brow furrowed, but his attention was redirected, as Danford began to speak from her tower.

"Welcome to day two of the 2016 New Haven Gifted Tournament!" Danford announced, and the crowd cheered excitedly, "For today, one of our very own Gifted Council with oversee today's events. I ask you to please welcome our lightning Symbol; Ondine Conners!"

A woman in a pastel yellow blouse with chestnut colored hair stood up in the opposite tower, and approached the microphone in front of her. She had a small lightning pin over her heart.

"Thank you, Ms. Danford," she smiled, "It is an absolute privilege to not only represent all lightning Gifted in our esteemed government, but it's also an honor to announce for the tournament of the number one Gifted institution in all the world!"
The crowd cheered in agreement.
"Now," Conners continued, "Today's event will be a fun one. First, though, I would like to ask all the competitors to stand over here, underneath our tower."

Perplexed murmurs occurred among the competitors as they followed their instructions.
"What do you think this event will be?" Luke whispered to Dai.
"No idea," Dai replied, "No doubt, though, they're having us move out of the way for a reason."

Sure enough, once they were all out of the way, two stone Gifted volunteers formed three long rock walls, stemming from one end of the arena all the way to the other.

"Today's event is more simple than yesterday's, but will still be fun," Conners continued, "It is called the Super Race. Two at a time, each competitor will use their Gifts to reach the finish line! Those with the fastest times will stay in the tournament, while the five competitors with the five lowest times will be out of the game! The winner and loser of each round remain unaffected, it's all about the times. Use your Gifts, of course, but don't teleport or use them on each other! Doing so will result in disqualification. Now, our first pair will be Lena Prasylova and Hunter McAlister!"

Lena felt a pit in her stomach, and her friends noticed this.
"Hey, forget about him," Aria comforted, "He has no power over you. Just do your best and ignore whatever he says, if he says anything."
Lena looked at her, still unsure.
"I don't have much of a choice, either way," she uttered, and went to the starting line.

Once she got into position, Hunter joined her.
Neither one said anything to the other, until Conners began to count down from three.
"Don't mess up," Hunter said snidely.
Lena heard him, her anxiety acting up again.
"Go!" Conners shouted.

Hunter sprouted leafy wings and he flew ahead. Lena began running, and tried to emulate Aria and sprout water wings. She did, and began to flap them.
However, she wasn't flapping them on a consistent beat, and stumbled on the ground, still running. She kept trying to fly, but because she wasn't entirely focused and she had never flown before, she kept finding it difficult.

Hunter beat her to other side, setting the record at five seconds. Lena came up behind, stumbling to the ground as her water wings dissipated, at seven and a half seconds.

Hunter walked past her as he headed to the nearest dugout, "Should have stuck with what you knew."
Lena looked up at him, an irritated expression on her face. She slowly stood up, holding her arm pensively, as Conners announced Aria and Hunter's friend Anna as the next pair.

She watched Aria complete the race before Anna, using flight.
Aria met her at the finish line, and as she dissipated her water wings, she looked sympathetically at her friend.
"I can show you how to properly fly later today, if you'd like," she smiled, "It's not as easy as it looks, so don't bear yourself up about it."
Lena sighed, but managed to give a small smile, "Thanks."

The two headed to their dugout, as the next pair was announced.
"Dai Fray and Maxwell Charmaine."

The two boys went over to the starting line.
"Oh, uh, hey," Max said, shyly.
"Hey," Dai greeted, "You're Max from the party a few months back, yeah?"
"Yeah! We, uh, danced... together," Max blushed.
"That we did," Dai smiled, as the countdown began.

Once they were given the go, Dai immediately began skating down the makeshift racetrack, an ice path forming underneath his feet.
Max, who was using leaf wings to fly like Hunter, was surprised.
Dai reached the end a split second before Max, and the times were set.

Lena and Aria had seen this, and Lena's expression soured.
"I could have done something as simple as that," she griped, annoyed.
"I told you, don't beat yourself up," she said, "I'm sure doing what Dai did takes just as much training as using water wings to fly."
Lena sighed, and didn't pay much attention to the subsequent races, feeling self-pitiful.

🌊

Quite a few minutes passed, and the times were all set. The five competitors with the slowest times were out of the game, and everyone had returned to their dugouts.

Conners had announced a twenty minute break, and Lena left the dugout again to go to the pier.
Like yesterday, there were only a few people out and about along the pier, and she approached the same vendor she did yesterday.

"Lena?"
Lena froze at the familiar voice, and turned around.
Melany stood behind her, a solemn expression on her face.
"Lena, please don't run away," she said with pleading eyes.
Lena's uncertain expression was replaced by a skeptical one, and she crossed her arms.
"What?" she asked.
Melany paused, considering her words.
"I realize this might be a little late..." she said, "But... I'm sorry."
Lena's eyebrows rose at this.
"It's just..." Melany continued, "I got so into Hunter that I hadn't realized I pretty much... abandoned you. And then... what you said yesterday..."
She trailed off, and Lena's expression softened. She had rarely seen Melany this unconfident before.

"That's... all I wanted to say," Melany uttered a moment later, and she began to walk back up the stairs to the arena.
Lena watched her go, not sure what to think.
Neither noticed Hunter watching them a few feet away. He was leaning against one of the stands, and he scowled as he watched Melany leave Lena.

However, none of the three could have noticed the boy with the conical hat Melany saw in the hallway, standing on top of the canopied tower closest to the pier, looking down at them suspiciously.

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