"What a tremendous showing from our fan favorite!" Cloud Guy boomed overhead, swerving his nimbus downward. A streak of blue exploded out of the end of his tail, and he zoomed through the water until he was only about fifty yards above me. He waved his hands, "Let's watch that one again, folks!"
A long, silver screen appeared in front of me. All around the arena, screens started popping up in strategic locations, much to the delight of the fans.
Still confused about why everyone was so hyped up over Kalios essentially killing himself, I floated myself up to one of the screens. It flicked on, showing a closer-than-expected view of my fight with Kalios. It looked like the part at the end. Why would they want to show a replay of a conversation?
"Yield," Okay, I definitely remembered this part. One look around the stadium reinforced my confusion- everyone was cheering and whooping, "You can't win."
I watched closely as my powers shut off, one by one. To be quite honest, it was kind of an ego boost watching how I manhandled my opponent. I didn't even mean to, really. Again, I mean that in a nonchalant way, not in a cocky way.
Okay, well, maybe I want a little bit of cockiness in there. Just a bit. I was still a bit lost on where the excitement was, though. Was I really just that interesting to these people?
Kalios and I exchanged a few words, as I recalled, but then-
"I'd rather die than lose to you," The Kalios in the video snarled, baring his teeth and lifting his lance again. Anemones started growing rapidly, covering his arms, legs, and even his face.
Huh? This definitely didn't happen in our fight.
"Then come and die a warrior's death," Video Percy said in a tone that I could only describe as noble. Sickeningly noble, in fact. Video Kalios charged Video Percy, and Video Percy just ran through him with Riptide, eventually exploding him like a firecracker. As Kalios exploded, patriotic music started playing from the speakers.
The crowd cheered again, their voices combining into a roar that shook the very ground I was standing on.
Even though I was confused, I plastered a winning smile on my face and raised my arms, matching the energy of the crowd. As the crowd started cheering my name over and over again, I did some loops in the water and raised Riptide over my head, setting it on fire. As the crowd got particularly rowdy, I even flashed back into [Pyrokinetic], burning letters into the water around me.
As Cloud Guy dived into a detailed rundown of my fight, I extinguished myself and started thinking through the situation I was in.
For some reason, someone out there was trying to cover up the fact that Kalios killed himself. Not only that but there was a certain discrepancy in our conversation from the video, too.
None of our jeers and insults made the final cut- Kalios' last warning and the request were missing, too. For all intents and purposes, it looked kind of like someone was trying to glamourize what we did.
Why would someone out there want to make this tournament, my part especially, seem like anything but the brutal slugfest it was? And I knew I wasn't overreacting because if you locked me in a room with nothing but a pen and paper for two hours and told me to write the screenplay for a fight more perfect than that one, I'd probably still come up short.
Was it the hero propaganda I was talking about earlier? Maybe the tournament was fixed?
Chet did mention that there was a lot of money riding on me. Given all the information I had so far, there was definitely something to be said from that point of view.
Think about it.
Pavlopetri, the hidden city, suffering from the bad judgment of its previous leadership. No money, no influence- Chet's own description mirrored the flimsiness of the city. They were forced to stay in the middle, support both sides, and protect their jewels behind elaborate disguises. All while being one bad move off the brink of extinction- again.
I could change that, though. This tournament could change that.
If there was money riding on me, and Chet had a cut of Pavlopetri's cash in it, they'd get the prestige of holding the tournament, the money from my victory, and the money from concessions; selling tickets to this stuff, commercializing the food people eat when they're here gift shop stuff, etc.
But wouldn't that be enough? They'd honestly be getting so much just from hosting this thing, would they really need even more money or prestige on top of that?
Besides, I had to make sure to factor in Kalios' warning too: protect them.
Who could he possibly have been talking about? People from his town? The fans? The other princes? But why would they need protection? What could they even need protection from, in a live tournament where everyone's every move was under constant surveillance?
As I looked back at the sea of fans in front of me, I started to become less and less sure of what was happening. It felt like there was just too much going on. Too many things to consider.
I glanced back at the dome, my eye making out the veil of mana standing between me and the crowd. If I had to guess, even without knowing the reason, or who was behind it, the tool they used to alter what happened had to be the dome itself.
Nothing else made sense.
As for how they used the dome, well, I had a few running hypotheses, but again, I was drawing blanks. Magic, and by extension, mana, tended to work in really mysterious ways.
The mystical arts of the Greek world were directly correlated with power and creativity. And the more powerful you were, the less the laws of physics or even Olympian magic applied to you. Anything was possible.
My dad constantly maintained an entire celestial body above Atlantis. My uncle Hades could make an entire area within a two-mile radius a slice of the underworld. Big dogs like that could basically do anything they want, whenever they wanted to.
And, at first glance, you'd think a big dog like that would have to be behind altering the dome, too. After all, they altered the perception of thousands of people, including multiple deities, and an Olympian himself.
Still, I don't think I'm dealing with a god here. It could be, but I think it's much more likely that I'm dealing with a witch or something. A medium-sized dog.
The dome itself is the only thing that needs to be altered to change what things look like on the outside, and even my dad would initially chalk up any distortions to the fight going on inside, not a problem with the construct itself.
"- Jackson! Would you like to say anything to the crowd?" Cloud Guy asked, pulling me out of my thoughts as he jammed the microphone into my face.
"I'd like to thank Kalios, his family, and the wonderful town of Archampoli for such an engaging fight," I smiled into the microphone. "And, of course, Pavlopetri for having us. But most of all, I'd like to thank the fans for coming out here and making this so competitive!"
The fans loved that one- I could practically see them swell up and glow, like a bunch of ticking time bombs of happiness.
"What was your mental going into this?"
"Well, I'll tell you, Cloud Guy," There was a ripple of laughter that ran through the crowd. "I was pretty nervous, if you can believe it."
"Oh yeah, big time. Sword-shakingly nervous, we'll call it. My girlfriend told me she was worried that I was going to vibrate through the seat if I didn't calm down," I said charmingly, easily melding together the image my dad wanted me to present to the rest of the ocean as the fans laughed again. The image of a humble, relatable teen. The kind of guy who, in his words, could convince you to go to war for him, "I don't think I slept a wink last night, either. If it wasn't for the constant support of my family, and the good nature of my fans, phew."
"Well, I think I speak for all of the crowd when I say that I'm glad you overcame your nervousness," Cloud Guy said as the crowd screamed to reinforce his point. "Looking onward to the rest of the tournament, what's your game plan? How do you plan on securing the crown?"
"React and adapt, CG, react and adapt. These kinds of things tend to run in all kinds of directions, right? There's no use in going in with some predetermined plan. I'll roll with the punches and see where I land."
"There you have it, folks!" Cloud Guy floated back up to the top of the dome. Cameras flashed, "Your prince, Percy Jackson!"
After the initial round, I was ushered back to the hallway from before, where a bunch of other kids were standing around.
The age range was wacky. A few of the kids looked like they were Malcolm's age, others looked around my age, and an odd number of them looked even older- one prince, Zakrias, in particular, looked like he was fifty, with a salt and pepper beard and all.
Levels were all over the place, too. The highest level belonged to some dude named Epidaurus, who, if I remembered correctly, was the other prince Cloud Guy shouted out for being a bit bloodthirsty.
On the other hand, one of those Malcolm-sized kids was barely level ten. I felt bad for the little sucker.
There were also all kinds of people in the group. I'd say a good amount of them looked somewhat human, though a few of the other humanoid princes still had some weird characteristics about them, like gills or blowholes, stuff like that.
The other half of the princes definitely fell more on the fishy side of things. Especially the prince from Camrea, who looked like a goldfish that a four-year-old wished to life, with legs and flippers and all.
There had barely been any conversation in the first place, but when I stepped out into the hallway, it all ceased at once.
Wordlessly, I joined them against the wall. A few moments later, Chet stepped through the hole, his hands clapped together. "Well, that was certainly an interesting first round. To those of you that passed, well done! And to those of you who were eliminated already, fret not. You brought pride to your homes."
"Yeah, right," Epidaurus scoffed from the other end of the hallway, leaning against the wall. He was flipping a coin up and down, not even looking at Chet, "All you losers brought your towns so much pride by being fucking losers. Give me a break."
Chet glared at him for a moment, before turning back to the rest of us, "As such, you will still be permitted to observe the tournament and given a stipend of fifty drachmae to spend per day during the festivities."
One of the younger princes raised his hand, "What about the winners? Do we get something, too?"
"You get to call any one person before the next round," Chet said, gesturing toward a pile of clothes that appeared in front of us. "Your official uniforms come with rings for communication purposes in this next exercise- these rings will also come with a call feature that recharges after successful completion of a task. These rings must stay on you at all times, do you understand?"
Another prince raised his hand, "Do we have to use the calls right now, or do they carry over? Like, if I wanted to save this one and call two people after the next round, could I?"
"Most certainly. I will give those of you who wish to use your calls a few minutes to finish your conversations while I lead the eliminated princes back to the observation area," Chet said, bowing as about half the princes started walking back with him.
I gathered the clothes in my arms and looked for a quiet spot to change and make a quick call. Even though I wasn't entirely sure about what was going on, I was sure that there was something going on.
And, well, I had to go about it the right way. I wasn't in Atlantis anymore, so virtually no aspect of my life was private anymore. Not private in the way I could be sure of, anyway. I had to assume the worst at every turn if I wanted to avoid espionage and fly under Chet's radar- two tasks I already felt like I was kind of failing at.
I eyed the ring that was poking out of the bundle of clothes. Chances were, it was being monitored. It made sense, almost, seeing as the marshalls were supposed to monitor our vitals using these things, but still- that meant that anyone could be listening in on the conversation I was about to have.
That left my dad out of the question. Sure, he was ultimately the person that I wanted to get the information to, but the man had the same level of sneakiness as an elephant wearing windchimes. Even if I could get through to him, it would just result in him taking the brute force approach, and giving the culprit time to escape.
We'd be curing the symptom in that case, not the problem. And the problem could just as easily rear its head again, in a more dangerous way if it felt threatened enough.
I shook my head as I pulled my head through the uniform- it basically looked like a white onesie.
No, if my dad got involved like that, we'd never catch the person behind everything. For me to uncover everything going on in here, I'd have to advance through the tournament, piecing together clues along the way.
That eliminated MJ, too. She'd certainly support my idea, and maybe even have good ideas of her own, but there was no way I'd be able to get the message to her without raising some flags. Even then, she seemed like she was under a lot of stress dealing with Amphitrite, so there wasn't a guarantee she'd be able to be covert about anything.
Mind made up, I flicked the ring next to my other one and pressed the red button up top.
A robotic voice crackled to life in my ear, "Who would you like to call?"
"Triton," I replied, checking my surroundings again to make sure I was somewhat alone. The ring made a, well, ringing noise, and I sat down against the wall, keeping my senses sharp in case someone walked by me.
"Perce!" Triton's voice echoed from the ring. "Hell of a show, little brother. I think the entire crowd collectively exploded when you ran that man through like a shishkebab. How are you feeling, hotshot?"
"Pretty good," I thought about my next words carefully, "Kind of wish I was home, though. You, me, and Jace could be playing some video games right about now."
"Only you could beat some dude down in front of thousands of onlookers and instantly switch to talking about video games," Triton laughed good-naturedly. "I hear you, though. When we get back, we'll have a big game night, just the three of us. Pizza's on me. Just…try to keep it under three boxes, okay? My mortal job, while fun, does not support that much food."
Heh. Triton, apart from living with us year-round, was enrolled in a part-time Economics program at NYU. He was a barista between classes, and- his words, not mine- it was way better than being a commander.
"Thanks, man. Hey, we should play some, um, MW3. I feel like it's been a while since we've run some oldies."
"MW3?" Triton's voice sounded surprised- good. I needed him to understand what I was going for. There were a few other ways I could've gone about this, but funnily enough, video games were the most ironclad. I mean, think about it- if you were some Atlantean horror, you probably wouldn't be too familiar with mortal video games, either. "Why would we play that one? Wouldn't you rather play BO3? You love zombies."
"Nah, MW3 has that Special Ops thing. You know, the one where it's kind of like zombies, but with people, and there are waves and stuff?" I tried to subtly work in the bait, "And what's that one map? There's, like, a bunch of cars and stuff. A big structure, maybe?"
"For survival?" Triton was quiet for a minute. "Oh, right! Dome! It's the one with the, well, dome. I think that's the one from that one time Jason accidentally spilled soda all over the controller, remember?"
"Right! Speaking of Jason, when I get out of this, we should bake him some brownies! I was thinking that way, he'll be occupied while we play. Besides, he's the loudest one, and I don't want to end up making too much noise for my mom. You know, cause she's doing that teaching program, and stuff."
Triton was quiet for a moment, and I could tell he'd understood the overall message of what I was trying to say. We both knew Jason couldn't have whole milk brownies, so I was hoping to use that allergy to signal to Triton that something was wrong.
Dome, wrong, quiet. Hopefully, he could understand the message behind those words.
"You're right," He said a moment later. "I'm proud of Sally, though. Teaching's a safe bet."
Safe. I nodded, mostly to myself, "Yeah, that's what she keeps telling me. She's been passionate about it for a while, though. I think she's going to be in the field for a while."
"I don't blame her. With Lady Hestia around all the time, too, she's got all the support she needs," Triton returned. "Plus, with you in and out of camp and Olympus, she's basically free to do whatever she wants."
Support, free to do what I want. Hm. "I hear you, man. You know she's actually thinking about getting back into the dating game?"
"Yep. She said she's taking it nice and slow, though. Something about making sure everyone she cares about is comfortable and stuff."
"Hey, listen Triton, I got to go," I said as I saw Chet walk back from the entrance of the hall. "Give MJ and Dad my love."
"You got it, Perce!" Triton replied brightly. "Knock them dead."
After Chet rounded up the rest of the princes, he stood in the center of the hallway again. I couldn't help but notice a little bit of added tiredness in his posture- a slight sag of his shoulders, a few blinks that lasted a moment or two longer than they should've.
"As a part of our testing process, you aren't allowed back to your families until the end of the tournament. This is an added security to ensure there's no cheating involved," Chet said, his eyes resting on me for a second. They quickly flitted away, "As such, every night, the remaining competitors will be transported to a location that's picked at random. Furthermore, you will be monitored 24/7, and a live feed of each and every one of you will be transmitted to the screens in this city. If you'll follow me, I'll lead you to your lodging for the night."
Another doorway opened, and one by one, all the princes funneled through, with me walking in last.
Chet and I shared another look, but he was forced to curb whatever was plaguing him- I was being surveilled the whole time, now. Anything he said or did to me would be broadcasted to hundreds of thousands of people, and something told me he wasn't willing to lose goodwill with the sea over some false accusations.
The moment I stepped through the portal, the world quickly flipped upside down and around, bending around me and folding inward all at the same time, like I was stuck in the middle of an ever-rotating kaleidoscope.
My feet lifted off the ground, or at least what had felt like the ground at first, and my body instantly started spinning up and down.
As the glass-like images of the world coalesced into one, and my body finally stopped doing its best impression of a soccer ball being fired out of a missile launcher, I felt cold dirt on my back.
I sat up, trying to rub the last vestiges of disorientation out of my eyes as the vertigo I felt from earlier began subsiding. My eyes began focusing, and I took stock of the weird place I found myself in.
At first glance, the area I was in looked like a forest. There were big, dark trees that stretched so far into the night sky I almost couldn't even make out the little bits of moonlight peeking through.
Then, though, their branches broke off into dozens of offshoots, stretching across the dirt path like hallowed fingers reaching down, waiting for some poor, unsuspecting soul to walk underneath and get picked off.
Clumpy combs of wet moss dangled from their rotten boughs. Underneath the moss, lethal larkspur peppered the mulchy floor.
My throat felt dry, which was impressive, seeing as this whole debacle was taking place underwater.
The other weird part, besides the creepiness of the place, was that the forest seemed alive. And no, not alive in the sense that there were animals hanging around (which I didn't doubt), but alive in the sense that the trees, the dirt, and even the air in front of me were saturated with so much mana that it felt like I was wading through jello.
I tried using my Game sight to slice through, but it was the equivalent of staring straight into a strobe light.
"Impressive," I said aloud, getting up and brushing off my knees. I couldn't tell if the mana lingering in front of me was some sort of residual from the effort it must've taken to create this sort of illusion, or something else entirely.
I was leaning toward the illusion part- creating this sort of environment couldn't have been an easy task. It was probably super intensive in all aspects- just maintaining the facade alone probably took weeks of careful planning.
But, it also meant that this definitely wasn't going to just be a night off. No one would go through this much work just to let people sleep.
My fingers burned as I activated [Food Generation] and spawned a grilled cheese in my hand. I figured I'd eat up a little bit and get a bit of an idea of what was going on around me, so I could then begin to work on whatever it was Chet wanted from us in this exercise.
I took another bite of my grilled cheese and began humming, floating into the air and skipping across the tree line. The forest seemed to stretch out for miles in each direction, and given how many of us were left, I figured it was unlikely that I'd run into any of the other princes.
I kind of wanted to, though. Some of them seemed interesting and going out of my way to help my direct competitors would win me some serious brownie points with the crowd.
Not even a whole minute later, I stopped humming abruptly as I heard a shrill scream from somewhere underneath me. Ditching the grilled cheese, the water churned on the balls of my feet, propelling me back under the tree line.
"Hello?" I called out, covering my left hand in a ball of fire. The green light illuminated the area around me, casting the trees' shadows off into the distance as I went blurring by them, trying to locate the source of the scream. "Is everything alright?"
"Help me!" A girlish voice screamed from somewhere in front of me. I stopped for a moment- the logical part of me reminded the part of me that wanted to go check the noise out that it couldn't be a little girl- this tournament was guys only. "Please, help!"
My body started inching forward. What if it was just one of the other, younger princes? What if this was some sort of test? I knew I was being watched, so what if this was just another situation they were putting me in to see how I'd react?
Steeling myself, I quickened my pace and walked forward.
Sure enough, there was a girl. She was standing on the dirt path, almost directly in front of me, wailing loudly.
"Are you alright?" I asked in the warmest tone I could muster. Though, full disclosure, it was definitely a bit difficult to sound reassuring in a desolate forest in the middle of the night. "Are you hurt?"
The girl turned, and I had to stop myself from outwardly reacting.
The entire left side of her face had been melted off, with the skin ballooning in some places. Pieces of bone and her skull stuck out in odd angles, and the part of her face that wasn't horribly mangled was covered in fresh blood.
She had short, black hair that had been seared off on one side. Her eyes were two different colors, the one on the right was brown and the one on the left was green. Her little dress had been absolutely charred, some of it melting into her body.
"Are you alright?" I tried again, as neutrally as possible, stepping closer to the girl. I mean, clearly, she wasn't alright, but I almost had no idea what else to say. "How did you get here? If you hang on, I can get some medicine–"
My right hand went to pull down my [Inventory]- I was always prepared for medical situations, both normal and demigod grade. I had bandages, gauze, antibacterial stuff- I could at least patch her up a bit before getting her the hell out of here.
"You brought me here," She said calmly, with a broad smile on her face. It hung on the disfigured part of her face, and her exposed eyeball stared at me unblinkingly. I stopped moving, my heart hammering, "Percy Jackson."
I looked above her head for a telltale black diamond, but couldn't find one. Keeping a cool head, I lowered my hand, "I did?"
"You don't remember me?" The girl said quietly, moving closer to me with her hands clasped together, that unnerving smile still on her face. A new trail of blood began leaking out of her clasped hands, "April 24th."
"April 24th," I repeated, trying to place the date in my memory. My eyes widened, "The dance. The hit on the Oscorp facility."
"My mommy and daddy were fighting that night," She whispered, casting her gaze downward, "She told me to wait outside. I wanted to wait for her by our favorite spot in the whole wide world- the park on the north bank. We were going to get ice cream after."
My heart skipped a few beats as I started putting two and two together. At the end of my fight with Jason had excavated nearly the entire northern bank of the Hudson- we'd unknowingly combined our powers into an attack that had the strength of a military-grade bomb. In the moment, I could've sworn there was no one around, but clearly, there had been, "No…"
"Why did you do this to me?" The girl asked, her voice devoid of emotion. She raised a hand to touch her disfigured cheek. "Why did you hurt me? Did I do something bad?"
"I didn't mean to," I said, my throat closing up. The park- that was where Jason and I had landed after our final attacks sent us hurling out of the river itself, "God, no, I'd never…I'd never knowingly hurt a little kid. I'd never knowingly hurt you. You didn't do anything bad."
"But you did," The girl reminded me, now close enough to hold my hands. I felt a chill run up my spine, "You killed me."
"You, uh, need to understand. The blast, the fallout- it wasn't my fault," I choked out, "If I'd let Jason get away with the staff, he would've hand-delivered it to the Titans. They would've had an army of super-powered soldiers, and Olympus would've fallen. The whole world would've been in danger."
"It was your fault," The girl asserted, her grip surprisingly strong for a little girl, "You held back against Jason Grace. Rather than kill him and retrieve the staff, you held back to save him. If you'd killed him before, the two of you would've never made it to the river. You could've grabbed the staff and completed your mission."
My eyes burned with tears. I knew she was right, and Zeus did it hurt. "I'm so…so sorry. If I'd known–"
"Why did Jason get to live?" She asked me quietly, slowly looking up. "He hurt people. He was bad. I didn't do anything."
"I don't know," I said lamely. What else could I say? Even if I tried to justify things in my head by trying to reason that Jason being on our side could potentially save more lives, I still couldn't justify this little girl's death- especially not to her face. "I don't have a better answer."
"Why do you get to choose?" Another voice said, and a little boy stepped out from the bushes behind me, a large slash carving the top half of his body and disconnecting it from the bottom half. "What makes you that important?"
"Carcinus' party," I recognized the scar tissue, and the slash pattern matched the kind of broadswords his guards had used. "You must've been on the dance floor."
"You weren't fast enough to save me then," The boy nodded. He walked toward us, his top half slinking up and down, "But you could've been if you'd let Amphitrite find her own way out instead of stopping to argue with her. Maybe if you didn't spend the first two hours dancing with everyone, you would've figured out his plan. I didn't have to die, and neither did they."
Dozens of mangled corpses rose out of the ground. Some were old, some were even younger than the kid before me. All of them had horrible cuts on their bodies, slices that matched the young boy's wound down to a t.
"You chose wrong then, too," The boy said, stepping forward and touching my stomach. Now, from the girl who was holding my hand and his point of contact, I could begin to feel it.
It was horrible. There was this deep, all-encompassing feeling of dread that was accompanied by feelings of hate, self-doubt, and sadness. Was this how they felt? Everyone that was killed, directly or indirectly by me?
"Why did it have to be us?" The boy continued, wrapping around me in a hug as the others stalked closer.
The Jason thing already made me feel like crap, but the reminder of my complacence at Carcinus' party was a gut punch.
The fight with Jason- that was indirectly my fault. I'd had no way of knowing the destruction we'd cause- but, the party with Carcinus? That was completely my fault. All of it.
I'd let my guard down.
Part of it stemmed from naiveness- I'd been told Atlantis was this great, paradise of a place, so when I didn't find anything immediately wrong, I thought nothing of it. I was so willing to buy into the idea of a perfect utopia, so willing to let myself believe there was nothing going on.
The other part came from how isolated I felt from everyone else. It was the first summer of my life away from my abusive stepfather. I'd been so excited to spend it with my new friends…and then Olympus intervened.
When other kids stayed at camp, climbed walls, and went swimming, I was the one being forced to train and grow. I had to carry the burden of being the chosen one, and Zeus, I just wanted to forget about it.
A few more corpses rose from the forest around us, stumbling toward me. Ghostly birds flew overhead.
Even for a second… I just wanted to feel normal. Like one of the other kids at the party. Like Triton. I wanted to be anything but what I was- a boy marching to his own death.
But I couldn't. I shouldn't have. Because this is what came out of it.
This is what always came out of it- what will always come out of it. Every time I let my guard down, this is what will always happen. Every. Time.
"I'm sorry," I said solemnly as the corpses of everyone I'd ever failed slowly wrapped around me, like some depressing version of a team huddle, "You're right. I chose wrong. I chose selfishly, and all of you suffered because of it."
But…still…none of this was real. I knew it wasn't. I could see, quite literally, right through every corpse if I focused hard enough.
That didn't make it hurt any less. It certainly didn't make it easier to look at any of them- even if they were all fake, somehow projected out of my head by the magic in the forest or something, what they said was accurate.
What they felt was real- if these bodies were figments of my imagination, manifestations of the guilt I felt for being the way I was, then their emotions had to be real because they were my emotions.
My brain was fuzzy. Back then, last summer, I'd encountered Carcinus' ward, the one that had been powerful enough to knock both Amprhtite and me out of it. There had to be a similar one around the forest.
"What do you think you're doing?" A newer voice said from the end of the trail. "What're you doing, Percy?"
"I don't know," I said miserably. "I can't stop myself from making these mistakes. I know, even in the future, I'm going to have to make these calls. What if I make the wrong ones?"
"No, honey, why are you letting them get to you?" The voice got louder, and I struggled to see past the wall of limbs in front of me. The voice didn't sound like MJ. Maybe it was my brain trying to make me feel better? "You and I both know you can't blame yourself. You were young; you were scared. Still, you tried your absolute hardest. What if this forest was filled with the lives of the people you've saved, instead? Tell me, sweetie, how many people would there be?"
"A lot," I said as the gut-wrenching feeling in my chest started to lift a little. "I've saved a lot of people. I'm going to save more."
"When Carcinus killed those people on the floor, I lost it. Even then I knew it was my fault," The horde of corpses looked at me, and I looked back at them. I made eye contact with the boy, and felt something within me ignite, "And that's just something I have to live with. They didn't die for nothing, though. Without them, I could've never defeated Oceanus. Their sacrifices propelled me to do something I don't know if I could've done otherwise."
With that simple sentence, almost all of the corpses disappeared instantly.
I looked back at the little girl in front of me, who, instead of beginning to disappear, was actually beginning to heal. Her eyelids slowly melded back to life over her exposed eyeball. Skin began appearing over her raw, red, face. The blood on the other side of her face began cleaning itself.
Now, she was beginning to disappear into the air. My eyes closed as I felt her hands leave mine.
I was certain there hadn't been a girl there that day. When Jason and I fought, I mean. We both had been on opposing sides, yeah, but neither of us were killers. There was no way, absolutely none, that there had been any casualties from us.
The others- they were ghosts, but not in the Casper, spooky kind that haunted the forests of Zeus-knows-where. They were my ghosts- mistakes I found it difficult to let go of. People I regretted not saving.
That wasn't what she'd been here for, though. She was a reminder, though. A cautionary tale. A warning to remind me to never be complacent again, or risk getting innocent people hurt in the process.
"See, now was that so hard?"
I blinked a few times as the woman stepped into my field of vision. She had almond eyes and caramel-color hair braided over one shoulder. She was eighteen? Twenty-one? It was hard to tell. She had one of those faces that just seemed timeless.
She began singing, and the pain in my heart began dissolving. She was working magic. I could feel her music sinking into my skin, healing and repairing my spirit, piece by piece.
Her hair smelled like cinnamon, and honestly, she was a lot more beautiful than anyone I'd ever seen before, because she just seemed so natural, like she wasn't trying to be beautiful and didn't even care about that. She just was.
There were red markings on her hands. As I looked closer at her eyes, I noticed that they were lined in red kohl. As she sung, the kohl ignited, and her fingertips danced with pink fire.
"Who–" The girl disappeared into thin air as an arrow took her place, and I was forced to duck.
AN: Here you guys go! I wonder who that was…anyway, hopefully, you enjoyed the chapter, and please leave any questions you may have in the review section or my PMs. I think most people should be able to guess who it is, even with her modifications in this universe. The real question I'm sure you'll have is why and how but meh. You'll see.
Also, we very recently hit 800k views, and I'm going to refrain from making big posts until the next big milestone (4k+ follows) so until then, I'll settle for: thanks, everyone!
I also have some reviews to answer! I don't know why I stopped replying to them, like, a while back, but I want to be better about it now, so here we go!
Sebastiean: Sorry, I tried to indicate at the beginning of the story that this isn't like other Gamer stories, as it isn't a 1:1 copy-over of the manwha. I'll make it clearer in the story description for any future readers.
Bballandy00: I did mark it as a crossover! There are a few too many to group it into one category, so I just mentioned it in the description.
pontus first god of the sea: It's so good to see that name again! You and Posaitain used to make my whole week back in those early days, and I'm glad you found your way back.
KaliYugaFan: I'm too much of a coward, man. It's way too difficult to write a good harem story, and I don't think I have the skills for that one. I have been working on some other story ideas, though, and those would be harems. It's all up in the air right now, though, since this story is definitely my top priority.
Dragon Bone Z: Heh. I recognize that Percy is getting up there power-wise, so this arc is going to be a bit more focused on his emotional problems, and his self-image. I'm sure this chapter exacerbates that.
Firescout: Spoilers! I'll just say that my version of Titan's Curse is going to look super different.
ENDDRAGON369: I do too, tbh. Don't worry- still a decent bit of that.
Ramondloto: No, not it did not…
Anyway! I'm trying to get back to updating more consistently, so...
See you soon,