XXIII. Confrontation

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Lena and Jace had left the arena and walked along the beach, Jace admiring the view of the horizon as they did.

"Sure is pretty today, huh?" he asked.
"Mm," Lena replied.
"You know, this is really such a beautiful island," Jace continued in awe, "It's such a nice place to just... use our Gifts freely."
Lena looked up at him with an arched eyebrow.
Jace blushed, "Uh... so why do you want to get stronger?"
"What?" Lena asked.
"Well... from what I keep hearing, people usually want to come to New Haven specifically for the freedom," Jace replied, "So they can use their Gifts and learn how to use them better. Why do you want to become better? Skill-wise, I mean."

Lena paused, considering the question.
"So I won't have to rely on other people," she answered, "That I don't need people to intervene for me."
Jace looked at her curiously.
"You can't seriously think you can go through life dealing with everything by yourself?" he asked.
"I've basically done it so far," she replied darkly.
Jace stopped, and grabbed Lena by the shoulders.

"Hey," Lena said, disgruntled, "What are-"
She stopped as she felt her face get smushed against Jace's chest, for he pulled her into a hug.

She blushed, and awkwardly raised her arms up to hug him back.
"I don't know what happened to make you think that," he said after a short pause, "But you don't have to deal with everything alone anymore, whether it's a fight or... something else."

Lena didn't answer, and she remembered the confrontation she had with Aria and Raina in their dorm that day, a few days before the party.
"You have your friends," Jace continued, then stuttered, "A-And me, I'm here too."
Lena pulled away from the hug and looked up at Jace, looking into his blue eyes.
She looked away stubbornly, feeling a certain feeling in her chest.
"I guess you're right," she said.
Jace just grinned, "Now, how about we practice some?"
Lena couldn't help but smile a little, but the moment was interrupted, for she noticed a third presence among them.

She turned to see Hunter standing a few feet behind them. Jace noticed him to, and instinctively grabbed Lena's hand, slightly quivering.
Lena noticed this, and returned the handhold in earnest.

"You can't be serious," Hunter said in disbelief, "You left Janice... for her?"
"I-It's not like that," Jace stammered.
"Sure looks like that to me," Hunter frowned.
"In any case," Lena said, plucking up courage, "It's none of your business."
"He's my friend," Hunter retorted, "I set him up with Janice, so if anything, it is my business."
"You set the two of them up?" Lena asked, "No wonder Jace was so unhappy since he got here. You're a terrible matchmaker."
Hunter snarled angrily.

"I'm not your friend," came a quiet mumble.
Hunter and Lena looked to Jace, whose eyes were glued to the sand.
"I'm sorry," Hunter said in a sarcastic tone, "What was that?"
Jace looked up, a mixture of fear and defiance in his eyes, "I said; I'm not your friend!"

He then looked to Lena, "I'm her friend."
Lena returned his gaze, and just smiled.

Hunter just looked at the two of them, frustration growing within him.
"How could both of you betray me like this?" he asked.
"I'm doing what's best for me," Jace said, "What we had wasn't healthy for me, Hunter. I realized recently that I deserve... better."
Hunter then made leaf sword in his hands, "Why don't you come over here and say that to my face?!"

Jace and Lena tensed up, anticipating an attack.
"I was your best friend," Hunter growled, "We drift for a few months and suddenly I'm 'not healthy' for you?!"
"You and Janice both controlled what I did," Jace said, his confidence rising, "That's not healthy!"
"And getting with Melany when I said no isn't the greatest thing either," Lena added, with more courage than she had before, "You don't have power over us, Hunter."
Hunter gritted his teeth, "We'll see about that."

Lena and Jace were surprised by this, and were even more surprised when Hunter charged at them with his leaf sword.
Lena jumped in front of Jace and made an ice katana, effectively blocking the swing.

The green and light blue blades clanged on impact, and the two pushed against one another in a lock.
Lena then dropped to the sand and swiftly kicked Hunter off of his feet, making him fall on his back.
He quickly jumped back up, Lena standing in front of Jace defensively.

Hunter grunted and charged again. He swung his blade sideways. Right before it hit, Lena ducked, the green blade gliding over her, and she gave Hunter a swift kick in the ribs, knocking him back yet again.

As Hunter fell on the ground for a second time, he raised an arm up, and vines came up from the sand and clasped over Lena and Jace's feet.

Lena cut herself free with her sword, and Jace zapped the vines with his lightning.
Lena and Hunter ran at each other with their blades, when suddenly, a massive leaf shield came up between them, forcing them to stop.
Both looked at it, confused.

"I didn't-" Hunter started, before looking behind him and seeing Melany with her arm outstretched.

"That. Is. Enough," she said, and she made the leaf wall shrivel away.
The three just looked at her, bewildered.
"Save the fighting for the tournament," she said, "I know we're not all friends here, but you really got to have more self control than this."
She looked pointedly at Hunter.

Hunter grunted and looked from her, to Lena, and to Jace.
Irritated, Hunter dropped his sword and let it wilt away, and stomped off, shoulder brushing Melany as he walked past her.
Melany watched him go, for a brief moment, before returning her attention to Lena and Jace.

Lena had dissipated her katana, but didn't make eye contact with her.
"Thanks, Mel," Jace said, managing a small smile.
"Of course," Melany replied, and she walked closer to them, "I'm sorry about him."
"It's not really your fault," Jace reassured, and he sighed, returning his attention to Lena, "You okay?"
Lena looked briefly at him, "Yeah."
"Wanna train, still?" Jace asked.
Lena looked at him, "With you, sure."

Melany blinked, and immediately got the hint.
"I'll... just get going then," she said, "Stay safe."
"We will," Jace replied.
With that, Melany made her way over back towards the arena, leaving the other two alone.

Jace looked closely at Lena, "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine," Lena said bluntly, "Let's just train."
Jace wasn't too certain all was fine, but agreed.

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