Cal sat in the stands at the arena late at night. He hadn't been able to sleep after the celebrations over his victory today. He was still a little shaken about Vera and what had happened with her and also had a bad feeling about the tournament. He had almost had to go all out and reveal his powers already and he had only been in two matches.
And what would he do if he won? He knew that he would get corporations out of the UE, but then he would still be the leader. What would he do when someone came to him about a kid that could control death? Was he able to make decisions like whether or not they should kill the kid or let him live knowing that he could kill others. He was only a teenager.
Not to mention the fact that he could bend the world around him. What would he do if he found out he could create life and other worlds? Cal didn't feel ready to be given that kind of power.
He stared out at the stadium, lit by the large stadium lights. he buried his face in his hands and just took a deep breath. When he looked back up there was someone walking up to the stage who hadn't noticed Cal.
They started stretching and going through some kind of routine of movements. Cal didn't want to surprise them too bad later, so he approached them.
"Hey, sorry to interrupt. I was up in the stands and figured that you hadn't seen me. I am guessing that you came here to get away from people, so I can go somewhere else if you'd like." Cal told the person. Cal didn't recognize them, but he could see that the person was a thin guy with brown hair.
"No, that's fine. You can stay as long as you don't tell anyone about what you saw. Can't be losing all my strategies can I?" He responded. Cal nodded in agreement. "So what are you out here for?"
"Couldn't sleep." Cal told him. "You?"
"I have a match tomorrow. I want to train as much as I can." He said.
"Would you like to spar?" Cal offered.
The guy smiled. "You are either very confident, or very trusting. I am trained enough not to hurt you enough that we need a healer, so as long as you can control your affinity enough, that does sound like fun. I'm Kent." He offered a hand to Cal.
"Cal, and a bit of both." He chuckled. He took Kent's hand and climbed up onto the stage.
They stood apart from each other. They both nodded and then Cal made a shield of clear ice in front of him, still unaware what Kent's abilities are. Kent kicked off from the ground with a blast of air and landed besides Cal, slapping Cal's hand to the side before he could send a ball of water to blast Kent back and sending the ball out to the side.
If Cal hadn't automated it, he could still just make the ball without needing to aim with his hands, but then it would take time and concentration that he didn't have right now. Kent put a hand to Cal's chest and as Cal reached for his wrist, a blast of air sent Cal flying back towards the edge. He made a spike of thick ice that stuck into the ground and grabbed it to stop himself and then tried to surround Kent with water to block his air.
The space where Kent had been was empty, and Cal heard Kent's footsteps to his right. He blasted water to his right, but just sprayed it at empty footsteps in the dirt as he was grabbed from behind. Kent must have made the sound of footsteps by moving air to make sound waves, and silenced his own in a similar way. Or maybe he just made the sound of his footsteps move strangely through the air.
Cal tried to freeze Kent, but there was a small gap of air between his hands and Cal to avoid that. Kent grabbed his wrists and pinned them behind Cal's back. Cal filled the gap of air with water and tried to freeze Kent's hands, but Kent stepped in front of him and Cal realized that the hands where now just air pressure holding his arms behind his back.
Cal made a ball of water behind Kent, but Kent dodged it without looking. He must have felt the air being displaced. Kent was completely out of Cal's league. Cal tried a few last things in an act of desperation, and then surrendered the match.
"You put up a very good fight. I am glad we sparred. If I had made the mistake of assuming that binding the hands would end the element attacks in a match, I would have lost. Luckily here I was able to recover. Thanks." Kent said to Cal.
"You are incredible. How long have you been training? There is no way you did all of this in a year or two." Cal responded while Kent released him.
Kent nodded. "My parents are corporate leaders. They wanted a nice strong child, so they sent me to private training academies. Ever since I was two I have trained in martial arts and the application of affinities. Once I got mine, it was just a process of translating that training into my element."
"Wow. What are you going to do if you win." Cal asked. Kent frowned and shrugged.
"You don't know?" Cal asked him.
"My parents will be furious if I lose, so I need to win, but if I do..." He looked at the ground for a moment. "You have been trusting, so I will be too. You promise that you won't tell a word of this to anyone?" He said, looking scared. So far he had seemed so in control of his emotions and expressions, it startled Cal slightly.
"Of course. I promise." Cal nodded with finality.
Kent sighed. "My parents were good parents. They were distant because of work, but they sent me to expensive schools. When I was at home sometimes I would do things that earned me punishments, but that was my fault. I know that if I win, they will want me to help them and further their corporations, but I feel like I am going to let them down."
Red flags were going off all over Cal's mind. "What do you mean by punishments?"
Kent looked uncomfortable. "You know, you do something wrong and they punish you."
Cal continued. "What is the most common punishment, and your most common thing you do wrong?"
"I don't know." Kent said, almost sounding offended. "Sometimes I say something or do something that makes my parents look bad. Like one time I was stupid and said in front of a house guest that my parents aren't always home for me. The punishments just take some getting used to. The most common one is the reset room. You go in and then you don't see, hear, or feel anything. All of your senses are gone. It was made by some friends of my parents. It is like time out."
The red flags weren't going away. "How long did they make you stay in the reset room after you said that to the house guests?"
Kent shook his head. "That one wasn't so bad. They let me out after two weeks. They knew that it was an accident, so they were lenient on me. They are really nice."
Cal frowned. "Kent... It sounds like you are from an abusive family."
Kent's eyes shot wide. "No! It's not like that! I swear. Oh please don't think that! This is why they punish me. They are good parents, they love me a lot, they just show love a little differently."
Cal shook his head. "Kent." He took a breath. "Just relax and think about this."
Kent was still near panicking. "Please promise you won't tell anyone that you think they are abusive! They really aren't I swear."
Cal nodded. "I won't tell anyone as long as you really sit down and think about it with me."
Kent looked at him. "Uh... Okay."
They walked over to the seats in the stadium. "Do they ever hurt you physically?" Cal asked him.
Kent looked nervous. "They don't hurt me or enjoy hurting me, they just need to teach me the lesson so I don't make the mistake again."
Cal just waited.
Kent looked down at his hands. "They aren't..."
"Why don't you tell me about your childhood. Tell me about all your happy memories and your not happy memories. Tell me about what you are allowed to do and what you aren't allowed to do. Tell me what you want to do, if you could do anything." Cal told him.
They spent the next two hours in that stadium, Kent talking about his life, Cal occasionally commenting or questioning him.
"You mean that isn't normal?" Kent finally said.
Cal shook his head. "You are trapped there. Your parents get mad at you if you use a phone or a computer, you aren't allowed to go to schools where there are other students until now, you don't even have a doctor."
"They don't want you to be able to talk to other people like you are right now. They don't want you to hear the truth or ask for help." Cal told him.
Kent started to cry.
"It's okay. It isn't the end of the world. Lots of people have parents like this. You can move past it." Cal said.
"Move past it? What do you mean? Why would I move past it?" Kent said.
"You don't have to stay with them. You can get them out of your life and live your life the way you want to." Cal said to him.
Kent shook his head. "I don't want to hurt anybody. My parents really do love me, and I love them. They just show it differently."
"Kent. It doesn't matter. You are in an unhealthy situation. Nobody will really be hurt if you leave. You are being hurt by staying." Cal told him.
"I can't leave. They will find me. They are the leaders of two large corporations." Kent said.
"I can help you. All that matters though, is that if one of us wins this tournament you can be free of them. If not, I can still help." Cal told him.
"How can you help me?" Kent said.
"You have been trusting of me, so I will be trusting of you. Promise you won't tell anyone?" Cal asked.
"As long as you don't tell anyone about my parents." Kent responded.
Cal nodded. "My real affinity isn't water. I can control atoms."
Kent seemed confused, trying to puzzle out what that would mean practically, so Cal decided to give him a presentation.
He pulled materials from the atmosphere, ground, and stadium to build a huge gold statue of Kent that took up the entire stage.
Kent's eyes went wide. Cal turned the statue back into what it was. "I can help you, if you need it. You aren't alone."