Well, hello from the beautiful state of Florida everyone. I know; it's been a while. I'm on vacation right now after graduating from high school, so I have had a lot of writing time. I just couldn't find much motivation to write for this story for a while. On a different note, I have just as many chapters written for my unpublished One Piece story called Coby's Choice as for DHO. I actually have much further to go on that before I even consider publishing. Anyways...
Omega Alpha Hydra: Thank you so much. It's been a fun time. I'm glad you've enjoyed my story for so long. Hopefully this meets my usual standards.
Monica Honda: Here you go. I hope it's interesting enough for you.
DataDragon 2.0: I'm honored that you feel that way. Here's the next installment.
Chapter 32: Knossos
A gleaming city stretched before the assembled players, its beauty belighing the danger the demigods knew it hid. They trudged down the road to the city, wary of monster attacks that never came. The entrance to the city was a great arch embroidered with designs of many Greek myths. As they approached, two guards standing on either side slid their spears together, blocking their path.
"Halt," the guard on the right demanded. "Who are you? State your purpose."
Heathcliff stepped forward. "We are simply a band of travelers searching for adventure."
"Your answer is acceptable," the guard on the left said, "but if you cause trouble, we, the soldiers of his majesty, will hunt you down and slay you. Please enjoy your stay."
"We will hunt you down and slay you; please enjoy your stay," Percy mocked, alluding to the ridiculousness of the statement and getting some of his siblings to laugh. They entered the plaza behind the arch, an area surrounded by shops and with a large fountain in the center.
"Remember the warning!" Heathcliff called to the crowd. He turned to find it smaller as players and small Guilds broke away to explore. One such small Guild were the Heroes of Olympus.
Through speaking with the local NPCs, the Heroes of Olympus learned that the city was known as Knossos and was ruled by King Minos. He had commissioned Greece's most brilliant inventor, Daedalus, to build the Labyrinth to capture the Minotaur, but that many more monsters had supposedly been stuffed inside it and that the inventor had gone missing with his nephew, Icarus.
They continued to wander until they came across an inn known as the Bull's Head. The group stepped into the, as usual, larger-on-the-inside building and rented their usual three rooms. It was then decided that they would need to make a Guild Base sooner or later, but they'd get there when they got there. The rest of the day was spent exploring the new town were the Raiders would be for an unknown amount of time.
The next morning found the Heroes of Olympus meandering through the fields of Floor 10. The open space was covered in golden waves of grain with large boulders interspersed every hundred feet or so. The group was attempting to find an entrance to the Labyrinth, but they weren't having much luck. They'd been out of the city for well over an hour, but no sign of the mythical maze had presented itself.
"Dammit!" Thalia yelled. "Where is it?!"
"This is getting us nowhere," Katie grumbled.
"We'd be able to cover more ground if we split up," Pollux suggested.
"Dibs on Pollux-kun!" Silica called. Without waiting for an answer, she dragged him to the closest rock, Pina following her.
"I guess I'll take Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-dumber," Katie sighed.
"Hey!" The twins protested in sync. "If anything, we're more like Abbot and Castello," Connor added.
"It's no use arguing with her," Travis sighed. "Come on, Tweedle-dumber."
"Oi!" Connor yelled. The trio wandered off, the Stolls arguing over who was who. Katie could already feel the headache coming on.
"So that leaves us four?" Percy started. He turned just in time to see Nico Shadow Travel both himself and Thalia away, leaving Percy alone in the field with Annabeth. "Oh come on!"
"Looks like it's you and me," Annabeth commented. "Let's get moving." They took off in a random direction, hoping to find what they were looking for. Others stopped them to say hello every now and then, Asuna, Kirito, they even saw Klein. He gave Percy a thumbs up with a perverted grin when Annabeth wasn't looking, an act that Percy punched him for, also when Annabeth wasn't looking. Two hours passed and still nothing.
"Maybe we should just head back to town," Percy muttered. Before the daughter of Athena could respond, the two heard the a rustle. Percy and Annabeth spun around, on guard instantly. "What was that?"
"I don't know," Annabeth answered. There was a hiss from somewhere on the male's right, but there was nothing there but grain when he looked. The girl twitched to her right, but saw nothing.
A black singer shot out in front of Percy, aiming for Annabeth's back. He reacted on instinct, lashing up with Riptide in an attempt to sever the appendage. Instead, the sword only shifted the stinger upwards. It retracted back into the grain. Another shot from the other direction, but Annabeth blocked it with her knife. Soon, three stingers at once were attacking.
"What the Hades are these things?" Percy yelled, deflecting another attack. "Can we not damage them?"
"They seem to be some type of scorpion," Annabeth yelled back. "We've got to get out of here." The ran as fast as their stats allowed, the mobs trailing behind. They skirted around a boulder, one of the scorpion's tails narrowly missing Percy's head and hitting the large rock instead. Percy could have sworn he heard a soft click, but the mobs were a more pressing matter.
That was, until a trap door opened in front of the duo. The demigods were running as fast as they could, so they were unable to stop. The two tumbled down a steep incline as their Health fell from the constant abuse. The scorpions hissed at them from the opening but came no further. Finally, the two reached the end of the tunnel as a jumbled pile of limbs.
"Is the floor supposed to be squishy?" Percy's muffled voice got out. He had no idea what he landed on, but it felt like a pile of pillows and was very comfy. His eyes opened, but there was no light save for a small, flickering sliver at the top of his vision. Annabeth screeched, flinging Percy off. The son of Poseidon hit the wall with a thud, his HP falling by a good ten points. With his vision disoriented and the lighting dim, he could barely make out Annabeth's form. She was hugging herself, a scarlet blush covering her face.
Percy's brain put the clues together rather quickly.
"Oh gods!" He shouted, his own face coloring. "I-I'm so sorry, Annabeth! I-I-I didn't mean to." Something in the distance roared, the sound echoing through the tunnel the two found themselves in.
"We have to get out of here," Annabeth said, her blush mostly receding. "Come on!" She grabbed Percy's wrist and started running. Behind them, monstrous shadows danced over the walls in the firelight from the torches burning on the walls.
"Wait," Percy argued. "Shouldn't we see what sort of mobs are in here?" He glanced backward, answering his own question. Cyclopes from Floor 6 chased them down the walkway. "Annabeth, they're only Cyclopes. We can take them."
"About ten, I think."
"Fine. But if we lose any Health, we're running. Got that?" In response, Percy twisted out of Annabeth's grip and doubled back. There were nine Cyclopes, all around level 20 and armed with clubs. Percy wasted no time; he charged the mobs, slicing through the first's right arm before bringing his sword down in a Vertical. The monster staggered backward, disoriented from the headshot and missing both a hand and its weapon. The son of Poseidon jumped back as two clubs cracked the ground he had been standing on.
Annabeth rushed in, swinging low to sever a foot from the Cyclops that attacked from their right. The mob, without proper footing, tumbled to the ground. It did not fall quietly, though. Its club swung with its flailing. The demigoddess was forced to duck under a wide swing that clipped the face of the mob behind her.
Percy rolled in from the other side and under another mob to finish off the grounded one. One sword through the eye later and the monster was nothing but blue polygons floating away.
They had no time to celebrate, however, as the other mobs tried to close in. Annabeth was able to kill the wounded Cyclops and Percy managed to catch one by surprise, but there were still six mobs ready to fight.
"Damn it," Percy panted. "What now?"
"I've got an idea," Annabeth whispered. "Try to get on one's back, but be ready to jump off."
"If I die, I'm blaming you." Percy ran in, weaving through the clubs that came for him. His target was the Cyclops furthest from Annabeth. Reaching his goal, Percy spun around its vertical strike and jumped on, hooking his arms under the mob's and grounding his feet in the monster's hips. The mob seemed to panic, not knowing what to do. The others had no such qualms; they began advancing toward the mounted monster with their clubs raised.
"Now!" Annabeth's voice yelled. Percy pushed off. Not a second later, four clubs and one fist met the Cyclops he'd been on. The combined attacks were enough to kill the monster, said beast bursting into code with a pained cry.
Percy rolled to his feet and faced the remaining five monsters before glancing at his stats. His Stamina sat around 70% and his HP was at 65%. Annabeth was faring a little better with 68% HP. The demigod dashed forward, twisting around a club to kick the monster wielding it in the stomach and kick off to slash through the shoulder of another. To finish, he rolled under the last few attacks before standing next to Annabeth.
"Why did you make me do that?"
"Now we know that the mobs can hurt each other."
"Really? That's why?"
"Fine. Any ideas, Wisegirl?"
"We could fight them here," she responded, "but our luck could turn. That or we could try leading them deeper into the maze and hope that it gives us something you can work with."
"That could lead to more mobs, though," Percy pointed out.
"There's a chance they would fight each other," Annabeth argued.
"And a chance they'll work together."
"Take the chance?"
"Too late. They're coming back." The two split up just before a club slammed into the ground were they had been. Percy ran in from the right, blocking a club that came for his head. The force behind the attack dropped his Health a dozen points, but the teen didn't mind. He pushed the blunt weapon out of the way and slashed across the Cyclops' chest.
The mob roared, red code seeping from the cut and into the surrounding air. Percy leapt up, his sword plunging into the monster's neck and cutting upward until it came out in a realistic spurt of crimson. He then kicked the corpse before it could shatter, sending the body into one of the turned around Cyclopes behind.
The daughter of Athena approached from the right, careful to maintain her distance. The monsters' weapons had a much longer range than her knife, but she could not let that intimate her.
Unfortunately, three large opponents at once was intimidating no matter what. Kirito would just laugh at them, but she was far from the mysterious Beater in terms of raw strength. The Cyclops closest to her surged forward, its club over head. She rushed in with a much higher Speed stat, stabbing her blade into the one-eyed mob's gut.
The attack didn't do near as much as she thought it would. The beast's Health fell by a good 20%, but that wasn't enough. The monster was not fazed; it reached down and grabbed the blonde, only one of its hands enough to lock her arms in next to her body.
It was times like this when she wished she hadn't chosen to fight with a knife.
"Percy!" she cried out, the gravity causing the mob's hand to creep up toward her neck despite her efforts to prevent it. The Cyclops grinned, crooked teeth poking out through its grotesque maw. Its mouth opened, ready to bite her head off and end her life.
And then the monster's head came off with a sickening shlink. It rolled away from her with the same expression it had had. The body and arm holding her burst, letting gravity take hold, but she didn't hit the ground. Percy ran in, caught her around the waist, and bolted. The remaining two mobs tried to follow, but the demigod was far faster.
Percy didn't know how long he continued to run, but he was running out of Stamina when a light presented itself ahead of him. He dashed out of the deadly maze and into the sunlight, panting.
"Uh," Annabeth muttered. "You can put me down now."
"Oh, right." Percy knelt, releasing the blonde from the fireman's carry he had had her in. "Do you know where we are?"
The demigoddess took in their slightly similar surroundings. Gone were the wide fields of Floor 10, replaced with various trees. Behind them sat a large rock formation that vaguely looked like a fist if seen from the right angle, the rest of the time it took the image of a pile of dung. Both of the players came to the same conclusion around the same time.
"We're back on Floor 1," Annabeth said the same time Percy muttered
"This is where Byron died."
A new silence hung over them like a wet blanket. Percy was right. This was the area known as Zeus' Fist were the original seven members of the Heroes of Olympus had watched the death of a Beta Tester who was swarmed by Hellhounds. The sad moment ended when the jingle of a message arriving sounded twice, the two overlapping. Both Percy and Annabeth opened their inboxes to show multiple frantic messages from the other members of their Guild, the foremost of which was an angry rant from Thalia.
'Where the Hades are you two?! Your Health Bars disappeared from our HUDs over 45 minutes ago! We thought you were dead! Get your asses over here and explain yourselves before I track you down and beat the answers out of you!"
Percy send back a quick reply telling her that they had found the Labyrinth and had ended up on the first floor. He turned to find his crush inspecting the stones they'd, apparently, ran through to get there.
"Come look at this," the female ordered, waving the raven-haired teen over. She pointed to a small triangle carved into the rock as Percy approached. "Do you know what this is?"
Annabeth huffed. "It's a Greek Delta," she told him.
"So? What's the big deal about a letter?"
"It's said to be the mark of Daedalus." Something seemed to click in Percy's mind.
"Wasn't that the guy that build the Labyrinth?"
"Wow!" Annabeth exclaimed sarcastically. "You remembered something! But in all seriousness, yes. And I think this is our way of finding other entrances into the Labyrinth in the future."
"That's nice and all, but shouldn't we get going? It's a bit of a walk to Camp Half-Blood and I would like to get back to the others before we get attacked."
"You do realize we are Level 34 and 32, respectively, and the mob's down here are at Level 7 maximum. They couldn't kill us unless we went to sleep right here and didn't wake up as a pack of them attacked us. We'll be fine."
"Yeah, but-" Percy tried to argue. There was a soft click as the girl pushed the Greek letter. She pulled away as a door opened, the triangular symbol glowing a dull aqua beside it.
"I knew it."
"Alright," Percy sighed, scooping her up and over his shoulder. "We're leaving."
"P-Percy!" Annabeth stuttered, blushing and struggling. "Wait a second! But there's so much more to learn!"
"Not really," the boy denied, leaving the clearing. "You found a button and you pushed it. Then a door opened. What more do you want?"
Annabeth huffed, resigned to her fate of being carried. She couldn't wiggle free; Percy's Strength was much higher than her's. Nothing she say could cause Percy to put her down until they got out of the forest.
"Fine," she sighed. "You're buying me lunch, then."
"What?" Percy questioned. "Why?"
"You made me leave before I was done. You have to make it up to me somehow."
"Sure. Whatever." Percy sped up his trek out of the forest with his no-longer-struggling cargo. The others were waiting for them, after all.
End of Chapter 32
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