XXXIX. Aftermath

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An hour had gone past, and by now Ms. Danford and the bulk of the faculty and security returned to assess the damage and check for injuries. No one was killed, thankfully, and all those students and faculty who fought in the courtyard and across the island were sat all along the pathway, with any wounds being tended to by the nurses.

Dai, Kai, Raina, Luke, and Aria were sitting at one of the tables in New Haven's outdoor cafeteria. Despite murmurs of conversation drifting through the air, they remained silent. Ms. Danford approached them, after checking on another pair of kids.

"Well," she said, "How are all of you doing?"
No one spoke, they just exchanged glances.
"We're doing just... fine, ma'am," Aria finally answered.
Danford nodded, "Where is The Heat?"
"He took The Bolt back to his prison through teleportation," Raina explained, "'Using what little time his unconsciousness will allow', he said."
"I see..." Danford sighed, "It would be even better to know who freed him, so we can prevent them from doing so again."
The five Gifted exchanged a look.
"He didn't just... escape?" Kai asked.
Danford paused, then joined their table, taking the sixth seat.

"The Heat had a prison made out of a deserted island not terribly far from Elfen," Danford explained, "Specifically for The Bolt. The island is covered by a magic energy field that spans out about twenty-five miles offshore. It disrupts the power in each of the Gods, save for The Heat. He is the only one who can enter unaffected."
"So... someone must have gone in on a boat or something and let him out," Kai suggested.
"Exactly," Danford said, "It should not be possible, though. Only myself and The Heat have access to the only map to the island. No sea lanes lead to it, and it's completely uncharted."
No one replied, unsure of what to say.

"I think I might have an answer for that," Melany said as she walked up hesitantly.
The six looked at her, perplexed.
"What do you mean, Miss..." Danford trailed off, forgetting her name.
"Topal. Melany Topal," Melany said, "Ma'am, I think... I think it'd be better if I told you in private."
Danford arched an eyebrow, "Very well."
She left the table and was led away by Melany, leaving the other five alone.

"Melany knows something?" Raina asked.
"I guess? I don't know," Aria sighed.
"Well... on the bright side, we survived this! We went up against a God, and won!" Luke said, trying to be upbeat in an obvious effort to lighten the mood.
"We didn't 'win'," Dai said coldly.
"But we-" Luke started.
"We DID NOT win!" Dai shouted, slamming his hands on the table.
The other four looked at him with a stunned silence, and Dai took a deep breath before continuing.

"Winning would have been if we beat Bolt and saved all of those innocent lightning Gifted," Dai explained, "But now, all of them have been teleported to who-knows-where, and we don't have a clue where to start."
No one replied.
"Jace is out there probably scared to death," Dai continued, "Our... our friend... is somewhere lost, probably scared, with no idea of how to come back."
Kai wiped his eyes, feeling similarly as Dai did.
Luke didn't say anything, he just stood up and came around to where Dai was sitting, and hugged him from behind. Dai just shut his eyes and let him. As he embraced Dai, Luke looked over at Aria with a forlorn expression. Aria met his gaze and took a deep breath. Raina, on the other hand, just crossed her arms and pouted, frustration welling within her.

"Well..." Luke said finally, "I'm sure none of us are taking Jace's... being gone... as badly as Lena."
"Oh... yeah..." Aria agreed.
"Where is she, anyway?" Raina asked.
"She said she wanted to be alone for a bit... I don't know where she went, really, but... I have a feeling we shouldn't look for her," Aria answered.
No one said anymore, they became too mixed up in each of their own thoughts.

🌊

Lena was walking along the beach, looking down as her feet kicked the sand with each step. She was lost in thought as well, thinking about The Bolt, about Melany, about her friends, about Hunter... and about Jace.

What The Bolt said to her kept plaguing her mind. She clearly reminded him of someone, but who? Why was he so intrigued by her? She kept dwelling on these questions until her thoughts returned to Jace. She thought about their training session during the tournament, their moment in the hall the week before, the moment they shared on the pier. Finally, she thought about when they first met. A pink blush filled her cheeks as she reminisced, these memories making her face contort into expressions of simultaneous happiness and sadnessShe looked out to the horizon as the sun was finally setting. Tears began welling in her eyes as the feeling of worry overtook her gut.

"I'll find you, Jace," she uttered to herself, "I promise, I will..."

🌊

"Well..." Danford said, "This has been... illuminating."
Melany had just told Danford what she had done, behind the auditorium, in private.

"Ma'am, I'm so... SO sorry," Melany said, tears in her eyes, "The employer just promised to help my dad out of this rut and... it led to this. I felt like... if I didn't do it, I'd be betraying my dad..."
"Oh sweetheart, I understand," Danford said, comfortingly placing a hand on her shoulder, "This is still disturbing to hear, though... Are you sure you don't know who this 'employer' is?"
Melany nodded, "Dad never told me..."
"I see," Danford said, "I'll have to discuss this with The Heat. You know that, right?"
Melany just nodded again.
"Your father will be in big trouble if this gets out," Danford added, "Releasing an imprisoned, dangerous God is worthy of facing judgment from the Gifted Council themselves, I'm sure."
Melany just nodded again.
Danford sighed, "This was not your fault. You did not know this would happen. Just go and do not worry yourself. Heat and I will handle it, okay?"
"Thank you, ma'am," Melany said, her voice choked up.

As Melany left her, Danford pondered over the situation. She couldn't do so for long, though, as the sounds of the ferry horns could be heard from far offshore.

"The evacuated have returned," she said to herself, and she straightened her composure before rounding the building.

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