Alright. Time for some emergency retcons. I completely forgot I made one of the Hunters, Diana, a clear-sighted mortal. In my defense, it had been over a year since I wrote that chapter lmao. Thanks to the reviewer who pointed it out - I've gone back and changed it. She is not a clear-sighted mortal.

Enjoy the chapter!


The very instant the name "Daedalus" passed the man's lips, they all immediately burst into action. In a whirlwind of speed, Percy uncapped his pen which lengthened into Riptide, Zoe and Bianca instantly knocked several arrows, Thalia slammed her bracelet with her hand and it expanded into the snarling visage of Aegis, Naruto formed a Rasengan, and Artemis's twin hunting daggers materialized in her hands.

Daedalus frowned mildly. Clearly, whatever reaction he had been expecting, this wasn't it. Whereas before with Antaeus they had been relaxedly milling around, against Daedalus they went into high alert, distrust and wariness in their eyes. "My," he said slowly. "May I ask what I did to deserve such an... unfriendly reaction?"

"You created the Labyrinth," Naruto growled, his skin still prickling uncomfortably due to being underground.

"Hades has been complaining about you for more than four millennia," Artemis stated, silver eyes narrowed. "Also, the Labyrinth."

"Ah, Lady Artemis and her son, Naruto," Daedalus inclined his head respectfully in greeting. "Yes, I can certainly see why you feel that way." He turned to the rest of the demigods. "That doesn't explain your reactions though," he said, looking curious.

"Are you kidding?" Thalia asked incredulously. "A guy who lived thousands of years ago suddenly appearing in an arena of death? In what world do we not react badly?"

"Besides, you heard what Bianca said about your soul," Percy added. "A daughter of Hades called your soul wrong. Dunno about you, but that does not sound good to me at all."

"Your soul is sickening," Bianca agreed, a heavy look of distaste on her face. "How did you even manage to get to this point?"

"When you consider everything, it should be a foregone conclusion for us to treat you as hostile," Zoe finished. "It's textbook, really."

Daedalus regarded them all for several moments, his grey eyes inscrutable. Then he chuckled good-naturedly. "I see. Well, I suppose I can't argue against that logic." He raised his hands, a twinkle in his eyes. "I assure you, however, that I'm not here to do you any harm."

Instead of lowering their guards, they all tensed up even further, the edges of Naruto's eyes bleeding silver.

Daedalus frowned. "What is it now?"

"Your eyes just twinkled," Naruto said flatly. "That's like, Grade A creep behavior right there. How the hell did they even twinkle?"

"I have a better question," Thalia said tightly. "Lady Artemis mentioned that Hades has been complaining about Daedalus for the past four thousand years. Is anyone going to ask how he's still alive?"

"He doesn't smell alive," Naruto narrowed his silver eyes. "He smells like oil and bronze. As if he's a machine."

Daedalus smiled. "Ah, I knew that I couldn't get past the acute senses of the son of Artemis." He tapped his forearm, which popped open to reveal Celestial Bronze mechanisms inside. Gears whirred. Wires glowed.

"Dear Hades," Bianca breathed. "What are you?"

Daedalus hummed. "That is a rather fascinating question. I could talk on the subject for hours – but I doubt such a philosophical tangent would be appreciated. For the sake of keeping it simple: I found a way to transfer my soul, my animus, into an automaton, thus preserving my life."

"So that's how you did it," Artemis murmured. "You gave up the essence of your humanity, defying the natural order of the world itself in the process."

The legendary inventor laughed. "You of all people are going to lecture me on defying the natural order?" he asked, looking pointedly at Naruto. Artemis bristled, but before she could say anything, Daedalus held up his hand placatingly. "But I didn't come here to exchange barbs. Yes, you could call me an abomination. I personally thought the method I used to preserve my own life was rather ingenious – but everyone's entitled to their own opinion," he shrugged.

"You belong in the Underworld," Artemis said matter-of-factly. "Your very existence violates the sanctity of life and death itself – a balance that even the Elder Olympians themselves would hesitate before infringing upon."

"Ah, the arrogance and hypocrisy of the gods," Daedalus smiled thinly. "How I've missed it. Tell me, Artemis, where was this righteousness when you begged Asclepius to revive your friend Hippolytus?"

Artemis hesitated briefly before narrowing her silver eyes. "I brought Hippolytus back to life because his life had been unjustly taken away by Aphrodite – and the resurrection wasn't permanent; he still died afterward of old age. You, on the other hand, have no such excuse."

Daedalus chuckled. "So I suppose it's up to the gods to decide whether or not it's justified, huh?" He shook his head. "Such hypocrisy. Face it: the natural order isn't what truly matters here. The gods have absolutely no trouble disregarding the balance of the world on a whim. Case in point: little Naruto over there."

"Call me 'little' again and you're going to experience a Rasengan through the face."

"Fair enough," Daedalus chuckled. "In any event, my point still stands. The natural order isn't what matters here. No, the real reason why you, Hades, and the Council object against my continued existence is the fact that I had dared to venture into the realm of the gods themselves. With human creativity and ingenuity, I conquered death and attained immortality."

And here, his face darkened. "And, of course, you all could never accept that a mere mortal had managed it all on his own without any help or permission from the gods, could you?" He snorted derisively. "As I said. Arrogance."

Artemis trembled with barely suppressed fury. "You overstep your bounds, mortal," she hissed, taking a step forward and entering a stance, her hunting daggers glinting dangerously. "Your death has been overdue for a long time, son of Athena."

"And now, you resort to violence because you can't prove me wrong," Daedalus sighed. "Typical."

"Hold on a moment here," Percy interjected before Artemis could respond. "Before you two get into it, can we, uhh, clear something up first?" He gestured vaguely between them. "I'm getting some majorly mixed vibes from this whole interaction. Are you here to help us? Or have you joined the Titans and are here to kill us?"

Daedalus blinked. "I didn't mention? Must've slipped my mind. I'm with the Titans, of course."

They all tensed up.

"You've fallen this far?" Artemis whispered.

"Well, yeah," Daedalus shrugged. "What did you expect? If I ever get captured by the gods, then it's an eternity in the Fields of Punishment for me. I admit, I had originally held some compunctions for joining the Titans, but after talking to Lady Artemis, I find all my qualms vanishing without a trace."

"Why are you here, then?" Bianca demanded. "To kill us?"

Daedalus looked appalled. "Heavens no!" he exclaimed. "I wouldn't be nearly so crass – or suicidal – to attempt an attack on the single most stacked quest group since the Argonauts." He shook his head. "No, I'm here to make an offer."

"An offer?" Naruto said warily.

Daedalus smiled. "Perseus Jackson. Thalia Grace. Bianca di Angelo." He spread his arms magnanimously. "Join the Titans."

Their responses were instantaneous.

"Oh Hades no."

"Hard pass"

"I would rather not."

Daedalus sighed. "Such stubbornness. Then tell me, why do you insist on fighting for the gods? You realize that they don't care about you, yes?"

He looked at Bianca. "Daughter of Hades, your father left you and your little brother inside the Lotus Casino for seventy years, and even when you got out, he didn't help you at all. He didn't care at all. If it weren't for the efforts of the Hunters and Camp Half-Blood, you would likely be dead right now."

Bianca raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? Being in the Labyrinth for so long must've addled your mind, because Hades quite literally kidnapped Nico in order to keep him safe. Last I checked, you don't do that to someone unless you care about them."

Daedalus hesitated before turning to Percy. "And you, son of Poseidon – "

"Gonna stop you right there," Percy interrupted. "I've heard it all before. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt."

"You haven't even listened to what I have to say – "

"Also, my fatal flaw is excessive loyalty. Identified by the scary owl lady herself."

"Ah," Daedalus made a noise of understanding. "Understandable, have a great day."

"Scary owl lady?" Artemis muttered disbelievingly.

Finally, Daedalus's gaze landed on Thalia. "And you, daughter of Zeus. When you were being hunted, your father didn't help you at all. Only when you were on the precipice of death did he raise a hand – and even then, it was to turn you into a tree. He could've saved you, he could've blasted apart all the monsters about to devour you, he could've ordered Apollo to treat your wounds, but he did none of that."

He shook his head. "It's disgusting. Join us, Thalia, and I assure you such a thing will never happen again."

Thalia regarded him for a while. "You know, if you had made this offer just a year ago, I might have accepted," she mused, a hint of melancholy in her eyes. Then her expression hardened. "Sadly, that window of opportunity is long gone. Sure, my dad might have a metric crapton of issues, but at least he's trying. It may be few and far between, but he undoubtedly has his moments where he shows that he does in fact care."

Daedalus released another heavy sigh. "As one demigod to another, let me share some of the wisdom I've accumulated over the past four thousand years. The gods don't care. They're showing you but the merest scraps of attention, yet you're acting like they're somehow being the best parents in the world. It's pitiable, in a way. They never change, and they never will."

Thalia raised an eyebrow. "You say that gods don't change, but see, I went the first sixteen years of my life without meeting with Zeus a single time. Then, in the past six months, he's visited me four times. Four times. Granted, that's mostly because of Naruto giving him a pep talk, but hey, I say it still counts." She tilted his head. "Seems like a change to me, no?"

"You say that he visited you only four times – "

" – and that's four times more than I had ever expected. Sure, it's a pitiful number, and you may think me pathetic for being overjoyed at the paltry amount of attention he's showing me, but you know what?" Thalia smiled. "For him, it's still an improvement. And to me? It shows that he can change."

Daedalus hesitated.

"Although not gonna lie, I'm a bit offended," Thalia crossed her arms. "Why are you focusing so much on me, and not Percy or Bianca?" She narrowed her blue eyes. "Do you asshats somehow think that I would betray my friends and family so easily? That I'm the most easily manipulated?"

"No, I'm focusing on you because your father is Zeus," Daedalus replied offhandedly. "It's nothing personal – I just figured that he would be the worst father out of the Big Three."

Thalia blinked. "Oh. Fair enough."

Naruto winced. Zeus, man...

"Please, just listen to me. The gods are evil," Daedalus tried to appeal to them once more. "You may think that the gods are in the right, but I assure you, they are undoubtedly – "

"Okay, you're actually starting to piss me off," Percy suddenly snapped. "Will you give it up already? We're not going to join the Titans. It's not about who's right or who's wrong, who's good or who's evil," he declared passionately, slashing his hands across the air. "It's about who's family."

Daedalus shut his mouth, stunned.

"You think we're stupid?" Percy continued, green eyes narrowed. "You think we're not aware that the gods are shitty parents? Because trust me, we're more than aware. The gods may act like they're perfect and can do no wrong, but I think we all know how fucked up they are." He paused. "Err, no offense," he said to Artemis. She inclined her head silently. He took the fact that she didn't blast him instantly as a good sign and continued.

"So yeah, my dad may suck sometimes, and maybe I get the urge to punch him in the face every now and then, but he's still my dad, and at the end of the day, that's what truly matters."

A heavy silence descended upon the arena at his words. It persisted to the point where Percy glanced around awkwardly. "Umm... Did I say something wrong?"

"Dude," Naruto whispered, his voice choked. "I'm touched."

Holy shit – are you crying right now? What the hell?

He just used his first application of Talk no Jutsu, Naruto sniffed. I'm so proud of him.

That's not a real jutsu, Kurama said flatly.

How dare you! You take that back.

Because Naruto had once been in the same situation. Back when he had realized for the first time that Kakashi-sensei, his father, Tsunade-baachan, Ero-Sennin, and so many other people close to him in his life were... Well, they weren't exactly good people.

His own father had slaughtered two thousand shinobi in a single battle. Kakashi had done unspeakable things during his time in ANBU. Tsunade and Jiraiya were war legends for a reason.

When the implications had fully hit him, Naruto had practically withdrawn into himself for a few days in the mansion, struggling immensely to reconcile the two facts. They were people precious to him. But they weren't good people. They had killed others. They had torn apart families and destroyed countless lives. Sure, it may have been done for the good of the village, it may have been done with good intentions, it may have been done because they had no choice and were simply shinobi following orders, but...

Naruto made it a point to consider things from all points of view, not just the one that made it easiest for him to swallow. It was perhaps the most valuable lesson he had learned in his life, after all. And while they were praised as heroes in Konoha, what about in the other villages? What about the mother who lost her son in Iwa? The father in Kiri who cried because his daughter never came home? The brother in Kumo who would never play with his siblings again?

It would be so much easier for him to just ignore all of those troubling thoughts. To just return to the simple days, when he could just ignore their viewpoints. But he couldn't do that. He owed it to Nagato, Obito, and Jiraiya.

But then, how could he accept what they had done?

In the end, after a great deal of introspection and thinking, he had finally arrived at a conclusion. He didn't need to accept the bad things they'd done. He didn't need to ignore or excuse their actions. He just needed to accept that they were flawed people, the product of the world around them, but that they were trying their best and he loved them regardless.

Because they were his family.

Daedalus sighed disappointedly. "Do you not even see how pitiful that is? Is four visits really enough to make up for everything that had happened?" He paused. "Though, in the end, you really are just children. Neglected children desperate enough for love and attention that they're willing to ignore just how terrible their parents are."

Bianca rolled her eyes. "All things aside... I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure if there's a title for 'Worst Grandfather in the World', Kronos would win it by a mile. The gods may be bad, but he's definitely worse."

As usual, the air chilled from the mention of the Titan Lord's name.

"I see. That's... unfortunate," and Daedalus looked genuinely saddened. "I had hoped that you would see reason, but it appears it would be in vain. For what it's worth, I tried – I truly tried."

Percy pointed his sword at him. "Anyway, the philosophical pre-fight talk has gone on long enough. Can we kick your ass now?"

Daedalus chuckled. "Sadly not. Well, if I can't convince you, I suppose I'll take my leave now."

"You think we'll let you leave?" Naruto asked, preparing to act at the slightest hint of movement.

Daedalus smiled. "I already have."

There was a moment of silence as they tried to figure out what he meant.

"His soul!" Bianca suddenly cried, her eyes fixed on something invisible in the air. She released her arrow, but Daedalus – or rather, his machine body – leaped up and intercepted it.

Stygian Iron arrows, the inventor's disembodied voice said. More than a little terrifying. And then it was gone.

Artemis's eyes glowed silver as she began entering a deeper layer of reality, but it must've been too late, because she let out a frustrated growl a moment later. "He detached his soul from his body and escaped."

"I'm sorry," Bianca looked ashamed. "I reacted way too slowly. I should've been able to stop him."

"Don't apologize," Naruto said, looking upset with himself as well. "I should've expected something like that. At the very least, I could've stopped his body from blocking the arrow." He just hadn't been prepared, since Daedalus hadn't actually attacked them.

And it seems like I'm unable to sense his soul even in Sage Mode. Probably need Six Paths powers for that.

Indeed. I sensed negative emotions, but it felt off, so I didn't mention it. Probably my bad.

"It's alright," Artemis decided. "He's not that significant in the grand scheme of things. Let us continue."

「」

They resumed navigating the Labyrinth once more. Incredibly enough, it was only a few minutes before Percy and Thalia were bantering again, the interaction with Daedalus seemingly forgotten. ADHD and short demigod attention spans indeed.

Zoe was bringing up the rear of the group. Naruto dropped back to walk beside her. "You've been pretty quiet this entire time," he said. "Everything alright?"

Zoe blinked before giving him a small smile. "I'm fine, thank you. I was just thinking about what Percy said to Daedalus."

"Oh yeah," Naruto grinned. "His speech was beautiful."

"Yeah..."

Naruto frowned. "Is something wrong?"

She looked away awkwardly. "You know. My father."

"Oh." Naruto's eyes widened. "Oh. Zoe, I'm so sorry – "

"It's fine," Zoe hurriedly said. "Don't worry about it. I'm not sad or anything. I just... I'm just thinking."

Naruto felt like an idiot. How had he forgotten that Zoe's father was Atlas?

"The Hunt is my family, I know," Zoe murmured. "But at the same time..." she shook her head. "I don't know. I'm probably just being silly. Don't mind me."

"I see," Naruto waited to see if she would continue, knowing better than to interrupt. Sure enough, after a few seconds, she did.

"I had a sister, you know," she said. "Her name was Calypso. She was kind, far kinder than I ever was. Even though she hated what the Titans were doing, she still remained loyal to our father." She smiled bitterly. "And now she's trapped in a prison for the rest of time, doomed to have her heart played with by the gods on a whim. Quite a cruel fate, isn't it?"

Naruto grimaced. "That's not fair."

"It isn't," Zoe agreed. "Meanwhile, I betrayed my father and my duties, yet I'm allowed to roam free, enjoying life with the Hunt." She sighed. "It feels... wrong, in a way. I'm sorry, I don't know where I'm going with this. I just needed to get this off my chest."

"No no, I totally understand," Naruto hurriedly assured. "Don't worry about it. For what it's worth, I think you made the right choice. Atlas and the Titans weren't going to change."

"True..." Zoe shook her head. "But that's enough angst for now. Any more, and I fear I'll start applying black eyeshadow and become an incarnation of edge."

"In other words, you'll become just like Thalia?"

Zoe smirked. "Precisely."

They chuckled, drawing attention from the others.

"What is it?" Thalia asked curiously.

"Nothing," Naruto smiled. "Don't worry about it."

"Hmm," Thalia gave them an odd look but dropped it. "Anyway, Percy and I are betting on what's going to happen next. I've got a hundred dollars on the floor suddenly turning into lava, while Percy is stupidly convinced that a Titan is going to pop out of the walls at any second and attack us. We accept both cash and drachmas. You guys in?"

Zoe and Naruto exchanged glances.

"Ten drachmas on a god or goddess attacking us in the next three hours," Naruto said confidently.

"Done. How about you?" Percy asked Zoe.

Zoe shook her head. "I'll pass. Gambling is one of the many vices that I cannot tolerate."

Thalia rolled her eyes. "Geez, you need to loosen up. Live life a little."

"I can do that plenty fine without resorting to such barbaric methods."

"Please," Thalia snorted. "Your idea of a 'fun time' is probably sitting under a tree and reading a book."

"What's wrong with that?"

Thalia stared at her incredulously. "Seriously? Okay, that's it. After this is all over, you and I are going out to see a concert."

"I would accept, but I'm afraid my ears would never forgive me if I exposed them again to the abomination you like to call 'music.'"

Thalia gaped at her, offended. "You – You filthy classical music lover!"

Zoe tilted her head. "Yes."

Thalia shook her head in mock disgust as Zoe chuckled lightly. "I was right. There's no salvaging you." She turned to Bianca. "What about you? Wanna bet on something?"

Bianca looked a bit scandalized. "Camp Half-Blood is literally in mortal peril right now, and you guys are placing bets? How are you able to act so... carefree?"

Percy shrugged. "I mean, there's no point in acting all serious and stuff. You'll only burn yourself out emotionally and mentally."

"Yeah," Thalia nodded. "Besides, it helps keep up morale," she added. "Maintaining positivity is the best thing we can do in a crisis like this. It's kinda like how banter is a vital ingredient to any quest."

Bianca hesitated, then shrugged. "I see your point. In which case..." she smiled. "Count me in. I bet five drachmas that – that we're going to get attacked by some rogue demigods."

"AYYY," Thalia cheered, clapping Bianca on the shoulders. "I'm glad you saw the light – and that I'm about to become five drachmas richer."

"You wish," Bianca responded before pausing. A smug grin slowly spread across her face. "Oh, and also? You do realize that I can have us take a path that avoids all the lava traps, right?"

Thalia's eyes widened. "Wait, that's not fair. That's cheating! That can't be allowed!"

"I'll allow it," Percy instantly said.

"So will I," Naruto grinned.

"And that's the majority," Bianca declared. "Looks like you're outvoted." She smiled. "I love democracy."

"I feel like I should be discouraging this sort of behavior," Artemis muttered as Thalia bemoaned her choices. "Just a slight feeling."

"Hey, we're using camp funds anyway," Percy said. "No harm done."

"You're using camp funds?" Naruto raised an eyebrow. "Won't Chiron be pissed if he finds out?"

"Only if he finds out." A worried look suddenly appeared on Percy's face. "You won't snitch on us, right?" he asked Artemis.

Artemis tilted her head. "I don't know... It seems rather wrong for you to use the camp's hard-earned money from selling strawberries for betting."

Percy frowned. "Selling strawberries?"

Artemis paused. "Yes. Isn't the strawberry business the camp's main source of income?"

"What? No. Well actually, maybe," Percy amended. "I'm not too sure on the specifics. However, I do know for a fact that the Hermes kids have a nice little racket going on in the mortal world, and they're cutting Chiron in on a percentage in return for him not bringing the hammer down on them."

Naruto laughed. "Seriously? Chiron did that?"

"He's pretty cool when he's not lecturing us," Percy grinned. "Did I ever tell you that one time he infiltrated my school as a faculty member? Easily the best Latin teacher I've ever had."

"Oh man, that must've been so much fun – "

Naruto cut off abruptly as a man suddenly materialized in front of them, stepping out of the shadows in the corridor. He made no sound and indeed had no presence whatsoever; his stealth skills were easily on par with Itachi Uchiha himself. Naruto hadn't sensed him at all, which honestly should've been impossible. He narrowed his eyes as he drew a silver kunai.

"Hey!" the man greeted. He smiled as if to show he meant no harm. He was tall and muscular, with the lithe build of a dancer. His long dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and he had grey eyes that shone with amusement, as if he was privy to some inside joke they didn't know. "Sorry for the abrupt entrance. I hope I didn't startle you. I'm – "

"Are you a Titan?" Percy interrupted hopefully. "Please tell me you're a Titan about to attack us. I have a hundred dollars riding on this."

"Alternatively, please tell me that you're a god instead," Naruto spoke up even as he began gathering his chakra. "Ten golden drachmas are at stake here."

The man laughed. "I'm neither, I'm afraid."

"Oh for Hades's sake!"

"You're useless!"

The man cocked his head. "I am a giant though, if that helps?"

Naruto paused. "A giant?"

The man grinned. "Yup. Your mother should know me. Zoe too."

He nodded at Artemis. Slowly, Naruto realized that something was wrong. Artemis was frozen in place, her silver eyes wide as she stared at the man. Zoe was alternating between looking at Artemis in concern and regarding the giant cautiously.

"Mom?" Naruto asked hesitantly. "Who is this?"

Artemis's mouth opened, but no sound came out. Her eyes were flickering agitatedly with emotions, and sections of her body began glowing silver as she struggled to maintain control over her divine form.

Naruto wavered, unsure of what to do. "Mom?" he said in concern. "What's wrong?" He whirled back to the man. "What did you do?" he demanded fiercely.

"Me?" The man held up his hands innocently. "I did absolutely nothing. Whatever she's feeling right now is the result of her own actions. Isn't that right, Arty?"

Artemis flinched as she had been struck.

Chakra and killing intent exploded out from Naruto as the silver pigmentation around his eyes vanished and the power of the Sage of Six Paths rushed through him. The walls shuddered and cracked from the incredible pressure and the air suddenly became suffocating, laden with the absolute force of his will and infused with the most powerful chakra in the world.

"Who are you?" Naruto demanded as he mentally prepared the Truth-Seeking Orbs.

"Me?" the man raised an eyebrow, looking seemingly unaffected by Naruto's aura. "Artemis never told you about me? Wow. That hurts – but then again, I'm not too surprised." He was silent for a moment, expression inscrutable, before shrugging. "But enough of that. My name is – "

"Orion," Artemis's voice cut through the air. It was quiet, barely a whisper, but they all heard it. It would be impossible to miss the pain in her tone, nor the sudden shaky quality to her voice.

Naruto's eyes widened. Orion? The legendary hunter himself?

"So you remember me after all," Orion smiled. "And here I thought you had forgotten."

"How?" Artemis whispered. She took a step forward but then faltered. Her expression was like glass, unbelievably fragile, as if it could shatter at any moment. Naruto had never seen her look like this before. Unbidden, he stepped next to her and slipped his hand into hers as a silent show of support. She didn't react outwardly, but she gripped his hand so tightly it instantly turned white.

Orion didn't miss their small interaction. "Aww, that's cute," he grinned. "Mother and son, huh? Let me tell you, now that was a real shock when I found out."

"How are you here?" Naruto questioned warily.

"I reformed a few months ago during the Great Stirring," Orion answered. Naruto's brow furrowed as he took in that bit of information. Reformed. Not resurrected. Implying that the myths which stated Orion was the son of Poseidon were false. Then that meant the other versions were true; the myths which told of him being one of the giants created to destroy the gods in the Giant War.

The son of Gaea and Tartarus. The bane of the twin gods Artemis and Apollo.

"Reformed?" It appeared that Thalia had come to the same conclusion as him. "I thought you were a son of Poseidon."

Orion cast her an annoyed glance. "Do you mind?"

He clapped his hands, and the space around them warped, the Labyrinth shifting and morphing as reality interposed with each other.

In a second, it was over. Naruto found himself, Artemis, and Orion in a large room, nearly an arena in size. Percy, Thalia, Bianca, and Zoe had disappeared as if they were never there in the first place. Torches lined the wall, illuminating the room with its flickering flames and casting eerie shadows on the walls.

"Don't worry," Orion said, forestalling Naruto's question. "They're safe. I just moved us to a more private location so we can talk without being interrupted by the peanut gallery." He paused. "By the way, has anyone ever told you how scarily similar you look to your mother?" he peered at Naruto, undisguised fascination in his grey eyes. "I bet you hate being underground too, right-?"

"Are you on the side of the Titans?"

Orion chuckled. "Incredibly blunt as well." He looked at Artemis and smiled lopsidedly. "He really does take after you." He turned back to Naruto. "To answer your question: Yes. Yes I am."

Naruto narrowed his eyes as a black shakujo materialized in his hand –

"Why?" Artemis croaked out, and the sheer amount of pain in her voice gave Naruto pause. She was looking at Orion with an expression filled with anguish and distress. "You — you joined the Titans? Why would you betray me...?"

Orion's visage darkened. "You're talking about betrayal? You?" He laughed bitterly. "I can't tell if I should cry or laugh. It appears that after all these years, you've already forgotten. Allow me to refresh your memory a bit."

He took a step forward and as he did, hatred and contempt entered his gaze. "Do you not remember that day, Artemis? Because I remember it perfectly." His eyes glazed over slightly as he recalled the memory. "It was the day after I had slayed the giant scorpion Scorpio. I had decided to take a relaxing swim to soothe my muscles – and when my guard was down, an arrow pierced through my heart. A silver arrow."

Artemis shook her head weakly. "I – I didn't – "

"Don't you dare deny it," Orion snarled. "I can recognize your divine signature in my sleep, and the arrow that pierced my heart was filled to the brim with your divine power. And you know the worst part?" He sneered. "As I took my last breath, I looked around to find you – but you were nowhere to be seen. You didn't even have the courage to look me in the eyes as you betrayed me."

"I didn't betray you," she objected weakly. "You know I would never – "

Orion held up his hand, silencing her. "Stop. Please do not insult me by lying to my face. I've already accepted your choice." And for a second his expression was sad, full of melancholy and longing for a time long passed, but it disappeared a moment later. "For what it's worth, I wish it didn't have to turn out this way."

"Orion, please – "

He snapped his fingers and a bow materialized in his hand. In one smooth motion, he nocked three arrows and pointed it at Artemis. "I defied my nature for you," he snarled. "I was birthed by Gaea for the sole purpose of killing you, but I overcame my ingrained instincts because I wanted to continue seeing you smile. For you, I was willing to do anything. I would've moved heaven and earth itself if it was your desire."

"Orion – "

"And yet, despite all that, you betrayed me anyway," Orion continued harshly. "You shot me in the heart. You murdered me in cold blood. You didn't even respect me enough to do it within my sight. For that, Artemis..."

Artemis shook her head soundlessly, desperately, as if trying to hold off his words.

"I hate you."

And a pained sob escaped Artemis as she finally broke, and Naruto drew in a sharp breath when he saw glistening golden tears form in her eyes.

Did… Did Orion just make her cry?

For a moment, Naruto just stood there.

Gently, ever so gently, he extracted his hand from Artemis's grasp, slipping it from between her limp fingers. He evenly adjusted his cloak, making sure that it was centered correctly, before breathing in deeply. A second later, he released the breath, letting out a small sigh as he did.

Absently, he realized that Kurama had gone deathly silent, not daring to make even a single comment at the scene.

"Hey, Orion?" Naruto said amiably, a bright smile on his face. Orion turned to regard him. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to kill you now."

And his chakra surged.

「」

The very instant Naruto delivered his threat, Orion smiled triumphantly, probably having planned to bait Naruto into losing his temper. It was a good strategy, but ineffectual nevertheless. Enraged as he was, Naruto was still able to analyze the facts at hand with the tempered experience of a shinobi.

Orion was a giant. A being literally designed to be the perfect counter to Artemis and Apollo – and, by extension, their children. His powers and entire skill set were created so as to kill the twin gods with maximum efficiency, and it showed. Even in Six Paths Sage Mode, Naruto was unable to sense Orion at all. It was as if he was a ghost.

On top of that, Orion was at core a hunter. Judging by how all of Naruto's instincts were screaming at him, the room they were in was probably loaded with highly lethal traps prepared ahead of time. Daedalus might've even helped set them up, his genius mind collaborating with Orion's intrinsic expertise.

As if that wasn't bad enough, even the surroundings countered Naruto. He couldn't use any of his more destructive techniques for fear of bringing the Labyrinth down on their heads. Most of the ninjutsu in his arsenal was out of the question.

It was clear that this was not a spontaneous attack. Orion had calculated everything, meticulously ensuring that every factor, no matter how minute, would work to his advantage. A small part of Naruto's mind admired the colossal amount of preparation and thought that must've been put into this assault.

However, despite all his forethought and planning, Orion had made one crucial mistake.

He made his mother cry.

Unforgivable.

The spacetime around Naruto literally distorted from how fast he moved, his speed increased to cosmic levels by the Six Paths chakra coursing through his body. In a split second – no, not even that. In an infinitesimally small fraction of a fraction of a second, Naruto was in front of Orion, his shakujo streaking forward.

To his credit, Orion tried to dodge. He had begun evading before Naruto even attacked, his godlike intuition having warned him beforehand. However, it was futile. In a contest of speed, Naruto was unparalleled.

The shakujo slammed into Orion's stomach, instantly disintegrating his flesh into nothingness.

Behind him, Naruto heard the sound of explosions and metallic ringing, the traps he had triggered going off too late.

"What?!" Orion gasped in shock even as he leaped back, trying to disengage. A small pellet fell to the ground from inside his sleeve and made a small pop, sending out a cloud black smoke that obscured him from vision.

Naruto snarled. No doubt Orion planned to escape back into the shadows of the Labyrinth and engage in a battle of guerilla warfare where he had the upper hand of traps and ambushes, utilizing his superior stealth to take Naruto down.

I won't let you.

Shadow clones popped into existence and instantly began molding their chakra, finishing the technique a split second later. A crimson barrier formed in the room, a cube of chakra so durable it could contain the Ten Tails itself.

The Six Red Yang Formation. A technique that Naruto instinctively knew how to perform due to his complete mastery over chakra gained from Six Paths Sage Mode.

Simultaneously, Naruto waved his hand, sending out a forceful gust of wind that blew away all the smoke, revealing Orion desperately trying to break down the barrier to no avail. Golden ichor gushed out from his wound, but even as Naruto watched, it was healing rapidly.

A giant could only be killed by a demigod and god working together, Naruto recalled.

He smiled viciously. Good. That just meant that Naruto couldn't accidentally kill Orion before he was finished delivering his punishment.

"It's useless," Naruto called as he ambled forward relaxedly. Orion whirled around and instantly let loose ten hypersonic arrows that broke the sound barrier with ease, bursting into flames from the sudden compression of air. If Naruto wasn't mistaken, they were traveling at least thirty times the speed of sound, if not more.

Rookie numbers.

Naruto effortlessly batted them aside with his staff, the arrows crashing into the chakra barrier and collapsing to dust.

"What the Tartarus?" Orion's eyes were wide with panic. "Kronos never mentioned you could do any of this! That bastard!"

Naruto smiled without a trace of humor. "You know me. Unpredictability is my finest trait."

With that, he blurred forward and unleashed a barrage of blows. No Rasengan's. Just good old taijutsu.

Orion tried to counterattack, but there were few things in the world that could stand up to the combined might of Kurama's chakra, Artemis's divine energy, the chakra of the Sage of Six Paths, and Naruto's incandescent wrath.

Naruto almost felt a little bad as he pummeled him into oblivion. Orion's plan had been excellent – it was obvious that every variable had been carefully considered and accounted for. But it was all for naught. A pity, really. No matter how skilled Orion was, no matter how well he planned everything out, Naruto would win simply because of his inconceivably superior speed and strength.

As he drew his fist back for another punch, Orion exploded into action, and in an incredible display of agility and flexibility, deflected Naruto's strike and sent him skidding back with a devastating kick.

Immediately, Orion snapped his fingers. Half out of curiosity, half out of wariness, Naruto hung back a bit, waiting to see what would happen.

Nothing did.

Orion frowned, snapping his fingers again. Still nothing. "Why isn't the Labyrinth responding to me?" he muttered before his eyes widened. "Kronos! You traitor! Don't you dare – "

Naruto understood immediately. Kronos had sent Orion to kill him, and when it was apparent that Orion couldn't accomplish his task, the Titan Lord cut him off without a second thought, revoking his control over the Labyrinth. Damn. How ruthless.

Well, he wasn't going to look the gift horse in the mouth. Naruto held out his hand and began gathering chakra, shaping and compressing the energy until a Rasenshuriken formed around the black orb. It screeched angrily, emitting purple and silver light.

Sage Art: Rasenshuriken – Artemis Style.

Orion stared at it uneasily. "Hey... You don't want to collapse the Labyrinth and bury us all alive, do you?"

Naruto angled his head at the crimson barrier still surrounding them. "Don't worry, the barrier will hold."

"Oh."

And then Naruto threw the Rasenshuriken at Orion. It streaked through the air at deceptively fast speeds. Orion gritted his teeth and braced for the incoming agony –

When reality shifted once more, spacetime warping and contorting, a rainbow spectrum of twisting kaleidoscopes, a corridor appearing from nothingness and stretching out so far it approached the vastness of infinity itself –

Naruto shuddered as reality reasserted itself, stabilizing once more. Nothing had changed except for the disappearance of the Rasenshuriken – it had seemingly flown into a passage of the Labyrinth that had appeared out of nowhere and vanished immediately after. Naruto tilted his head thoughtfully. The Rasenshuriken had been redirected into some other area of the Labyrinth, then?

Well, no matter.

Orion was still standing where he was, looking stunned at what just happened. The shock turned to anger quickly.

"Hecate!" Orion roared. "Get me out of here too-!"

He choked as his liver disintegrated, courtesy of Naruto's shakujo piercing him in the midsection. Not even dust remained; it was simply gone, having been written out of existence by the concentrated releases of Yin and Yang.

"So," Naruto said conversationally. "Wanna give up?"

"Never."

The son of Artemis smiled. "I hoped you would say that."

And he rained down blow after blow, an unrelenting assault that had Kurama cheering in his mind as he made sure to make Orion suffer for daring to hurt the one he cared for the most –

"Stop."

Naruto froze. Slowly, he turned to see Artemis walking toward them. Her face was a mask of inscrutable calm, and her tears were gone – though the edges of her eyes were still slightly tinged golden. Her form had changed – she was older now, her height taller and her hair longer. She seemed perhaps a year or so younger than what Orion appeared to be.

"That's enough, Naruto," she said softly.

"But – "

"Please."

And Naruto relented.

She stepped past him to regard Orion. He had collapsed to his knees, unmoving due to all of the damage he had sustained. Artemis knelt down in front of him, taking out a piece of cloth and gently wiping away the golden ichor on his face.

Orion slapped her hand away. "I don't need your pity," he snarled. Naruto twitched but didn't move, trusting that Artemis knew what she was doing.

Artemis stared at her hand for a moment. Then, without a word, she returned to wiping away the golden ichor on his face.

Orion growled. "Didn't you hear me? Or do you truly hate me that much, Artemis?"

Artemis stilled. "Hate... you?"

"I always knew you were cold, as distant as the winter moon, but to think that you're this cold-blooded... What changed, Artemis?" Orion spat caustically. "Or were you like this the entire time, and I was simply too blind to see?"

"I don't hate you," Artemis said quietly.

That only seemed to enrage Orion more. He gripped his shirt over his chest and pulled, the fabric tearing with ease to reveal a scar over his heart. "You don't hate me, Artemis?" he snarled, ignoring how she had flinched at the sight. "Because you have a funny way of showing it. Or was murdering me just a pastime for you – "

"I didn't murder you!" Artemis cried, her mask cracking to show despair underneath. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to kill you. You know I never could have. I was tricked. You know that I... I..." she trailed off.

Orion scoffed. "Right. A likely story – "

"I swear it on the River Styx."

Orion snapped his mouth shut as thunder rumbled overhead. He looked at Artemis with an expectant expression. Slowly, the seconds ticked by. When nothing happened, his grey eyes widened.

"W-What?" he whispered. "Y-You're telling the truth?"

Artemis nodded. "Yes."

Orion crumpled into himself, as if he was a puppet whose strings had been cut. His entire body sagged and his face seemed to age a decade. "No," he muttered. "No, no, no, no. That's impossible. It – it can't be. This can't be right." He continued rambling to himself, the words of a man whose entire worldview had just been shattered. "He said that you killed me – that you betrayed me and murdered me."

Artemis and Naruto both tensed up. They exchanged a glance, reaching the same conclusion.

Who else could Orion be referring to other than the master manipulator himself? Suddenly, everything became a whole lot clearer. Kronos had probably been whispering into his ear the entire time he was reforming, poisoning his mind and turning him against Artemis.

Then, Orion looked up in horror. "Artemis... Oh gods. I-I hurt you. I made you cry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry – "

Artemis didn't hesitate. She reached out and pulled him into an embrace, Orion remaining utterly still. "It's okay, Orion," she whispered. "It's okay."

Naruto finally relaxed and exited Six Paths Sage Mode, letting the barrier collapse.

The fight was over.

What in the world just happened?

To tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure myself.

There were many conflicting versions of Orion's myth. Some claimed that Orion was the playboy son of Poseidon who was killed by a giant scorpion sent by Gaea after he vowed to hunt all the animals in the world. Others claimed that Orion was the son of Gaea who the council of gods elected to kill due to his hubris.

For some reason, Apollo had always refused to tell him the truth, and whenever Naruto even mentioned Orion, the sun god's eyes would cloud over as if experiencing traumatic flashbacks – wait.

"The Dark Ages," Naruto whispered, revelation dawning on his mind.

Orion glanced at him while Artemis stiffened. "The what?" he asked.

"It's what Apollo called the single absolute worst period of his entire divine life," Naruto explained, mind racing. "Mom wouldn't look at him, talk to him, even be in the same room as him. And this lasted for 529 years, 8 months, 25 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 23 seconds. Whenever I asked what he did to her, he would always answer that he made a mistake."

Orion frowned. "What did he do?"

"I asked myself the very same question countless times. And now I think I know," Naruto looked at Artemis. "The mistake was him tricking you into killing Orion, wasn't it?"

Orion's eyes widened as he whipped his head around to stare at Artemis. "What?" he choked out. "I-Is this true?"

Artemis refused to meet his eyes. "Yes," she admitted quietly.

A strange assortment of emotions flickered over Orion's face. Surprise, incredulity, and something else Naruto couldn't quite decipher. "You refused to interact with him for such a long time... for me?" he asked in a small voice.

"... yes."

They looked at each other for several seconds, grey eyes meeting silver, and Naruto got the feeling that the two were having a silent conversation. They must've reached an understanding of some kind because Orion finally relaxed, his mental pain and anguish seemingly disappearing completely, his face becoming calm again.

"I see. Hey, Artemis?"

Artemis tilted her head. "What is it?"

"Forgive me."

Artemis furrowed her brow, but before she could ask him what he meant, Orion leaned in and kissed her. It was short, and he pulled back a mere moment later.

...

...

...

Naruto blinked.

Wait. What just happened?

Artemis touched her lips. "Did you just..."

"I believe I did."

Artemis let out an exasperated sigh, but a flicker of amusement appeared in her eyes. "You scoundrel," she murmured fondly.

Orion smiled. "You know it. Don't worry, I'll subject myself to whatever punishment you deem fit later." Then his expression grew solemn. "As much as I want to stay here and catch up, however... The Titans are planning something terrible."

Artemis and Naruto instantly grew serious, their silver eyes narrowing in unison.

"What are they planning?" Naruto asked.

Orion's face darkened. "War."

Naruto tensed up. War. Of course. It always led back to this, didn't it.

"That's not all," Orion continued. "You're on a mission to save Camp Half-Blood, aren't you? You must know it's a trap."

"Obviously," Artemis nodded. "It's fine, however. We're prepared."

Orion shook his head. "No, you don't understand. It's a suicide mission. Hecate transported the camp to the land beyond the gods."

"The land beyond the gods?" Artemis scrunched up her eyebrows before her eyes widened. "Wait, you don't mean – " she trailed off, genuine alarm in her eyes.

"What?" Naruto frowned. "I don't get it. What's the land beyond the gods?"

Orion looked grim as he answered. "Alaska."


This chapter was definitely one of my favorite ones to write. I've been looking forward to writing Orion for so long. For my interpretation, I decided to use a mixture of myths. More will be expanded on his backstory in the next chapter. I know that some parts in this chapter may seem a bit odd, especially the kiss, but please give me some faith here. Oh! Not sure if anyone still remembers, but he's also the same mysterious figure from the end of chapter 12 haha

Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think!

euphoric