Dear MJ,

I know we're in the middle of a fight right now, and I should be waiting for you in our room, flower bouquet and box of chocolates in hand, ready to tell you about my deepest, darkest secrets- which I am, by the way- but something's come up. Something huge. I know this kind of goes against the part where I told you I wouldn't keep things from you, but it's possible that someone else enters this room before you, and for that reason, I'm going to leave things kind of vague. Sorry.

I promise I'll explain everything soon. With more than a note. You know that fancy Mediterranean place you've been wanting to go to, on 54th and 12th, Alnihaya? We'll go there, and get some food. Share an ice cream cone (I'll let you pick out the flavor). Take a walk through central park, talking about regular stuff, like whether or not Liz and Flash are going to last through October. Pinky promise.

Until then, please let my father and Triton know that I'm chasing down a lead. Even though you're mad at me right now, I love you. I'll be back soon.

- Percy

I leaped off the rooftop, soundlessly landing on the ground. My old Drakonhide armor flowed in the darkness, rendering me briefly invisible as I dove through the shadows, careening through the various twists and turns of Pavlopetri's city. The water around me bubbled, jetting me through the streets of the city.

There wasn't a single sound in the dead of the night- not even from me as I turned and burned through the unlit corners of the dilapidated streets like a racecar.

As the buildings blurred by me, I tried to sift through my memories of the past two days and identify the city hall. I'd covered the East side of the city, and was now beaming up and down the center, intent on finding my destination before anyone really noticed I was even missing, or before I just happened to run into a citizen, or a security measure, or something.

With my luck, I wouldn't put anything out of the question. Do you know Murphy's Law? They should really look into renaming it Jackson's Law because even something as simple as looking for city hall could go horribly wrong in a second so long as I'm involved. Right now, all I'm trying to do is find City Hall.

In a second, I'll probably be fighting the legendary Kraken while a decrepit sea goddess' life hangs in the balance, or something stupid like that. Just Jackson luck, I guess. Maybe I need to start showing my [LUC] stat some more love.

No dice on that so far, though. I guess it hasn't been all bad, though. I haven't really seen anyone milling about so far, and even on the few rare cases I did, I was able to avoid them without too much trouble.

The armor most definitely helped in that regard. Being able to become basically invisible by just standing still is a pretty broken ability.

Surprisingly enough, I found that the armor still fit me perfectly fine. A part of me wondered if it was enchanted to grow with me or something- I'd put on four inches and thirty pounds in the last year.

I opted to wear it because, if you remember, the real city's hidden under the ruse of the first one. As such, the top part of the city is relatively unlit at night. The armor lets me blend in with basically everything.

And, well, unlike the overworld, the Sea still holds onto a lot of the old ways of life; breaking and entering a city's record-keeping area is punishable by death, even for someone of my stature. I had to cover all my bases and then some. Actually, forget just covering my bases- I'm trying my hardest to cover the whole stadium and all the food carts, too, honestly.

I found my destination a few moments later. The three-story City Hall, barely illuminated by one of four total streetlights swam into view as I turned the corner on my third street. As I stared down the decaying building, I began working out a plan to break in.

Doors were out of the equation. When's the last time you saw a spy movie where the spy waltzed in through the front door, ready to go? Maybe if it was in the daytime, I could've played the 'confused prince' angle and tried it, but there's no way that one's going to work right now.

I squinted a bit, counting somewhere in the range of twelve to twenty windows. I couldn't get the best angle from where I was standing, and I was hesitant on moving any closer without a concrete plan.

I shook my head- even on the off chance there wasn't some sort of silent alarm, the windows were stained and dirty, even cracking with age. I couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't creak if I tried to open them.

Unluckily, it kind of seemed like those were my only two options. No other entry points stood out to me, and I couldn't very well blast myself in there without attracting a ton of unwanted action.

I floated to a nearby window, carefully looking out for any traps as I examined it closely. The windows of the building seemed to both reflect and absorb the inky darkness surrounding it, creating this weird, oval-like darkness within a certain radius.

Ah. So, there were security measures on this building- not that I was too surprised just yet.

It's a little-known fact, but for ancient Greeks, security was pretty high up there on the priority list. Back then, the concept of war went beyond protection from enemy invasion, with half of it settling into the realm of what we'd call at-home security nowadays.

The geographical location of the very first Greek settlements netted them the undeniable privilege of entry to the sea. Back in those days, money wasn't as useful as physical deliverables- things you could point to and be like, 'Hey, you see that? That's mine.'

Things like land, or resources. Building settlements close to the sea meant having access to a variety of territories to profit from, a ton of ports to go fishing, and places to make your fleet- the whole nine yards. It was like the ancient version of going shopping on Rodeo Drive.

The downside, of course, was that choosing an accessible location like that also tended to put those budding territories in a state of permanent vulnerability against these other cities, forcing them to live under a perpetual sense of threat of sudden invasions.

The mythological part of the Greek world tended to work in parallel with the mortal part of the Greek world, and this situation was no different, really. Just as overworld cities began experimenting with layouts and resource allocation, the earliest underwater cities did the exact same thing. An older city like Pavlopetri would no doubt still carry that level of emphasis on keeping themselves safe, even with the fact that a gigantic metal drakon somehow worked itself in.

My best guess? Trying to step through the windowsill would blind me, either momentarily or permanently. From there, I'd either step into a trap meant to incapacitate me, or I'd just stumble around blindly until the proper authorities found me and arrested me, or outright killed me.

With all the cities visiting them, my money's on the latter. Not that they'd succeed, of course, but it would be a major headache either way.

I had to use an even more discreet approach, then. Something that even the oldest of Greek magic wouldn't be able to detect.

I took a deep breath and raised my hand, "W'peh."


A bright white hieroglyph appeared in front of me, and I felt a brief tug in my gut. Purple energy flickered on my fingertips for a moment as I threw my power into the world, commanding the Duat to open in front of me.

A purple portal silently appeared out of thin air, humming with pure energy. I stepped into the eerie darkness of the Duat, looking around for any immediate threats. Once I was satisfied, I closed the entrance to the Duat, and looked in front of me, confirming my thoughts from earlier.

Through the haze of the veil, I could now see a gigantic black oval rotating around the window. I waded through the Duat, passing through the security measures with ease. The barrier didn't even give off as much as a small ripple.

Truth be told, I'm probably better off here. As long as I'm stumbling around this place from behind the safety of the Duat, I don't think there's a single trap that can get me. As far as the traps are concerned, there isn't even a living being walking inside right now.

And, well, that's mainly because Greek and Egyptian magic rarely interact with each other. They're so drastically different from each other, they might as well be two completely different things, even if they share the basic premise of using mana to do stuff.

I guess it's kind of like comparing two forces of nature- you can't exactly try to call gravity and electromagnetic force the same thing, after all. The best you can do is try to contextualize them in reference to one another.

Greek magic is, well, exponential, in a word.

Have you ever been to the carnival, or an amusement park, where you see those guys with cotton candy machines? You know, they take their paper sticks, move them around in circular motions, and bam!

You get a fluffy treat.

That's kind of what Greek magic is like. Even if you have very little mana to leverage, if you find a way to use it correctly, you can still do all kinds of things.

I prefer the elemental side of things, like fire, water, and lightning. There's something that just makes me feel right at home about dousing a monster in water and then electrocuting them. Piper prefers using mana to fortify her body or make more esoteric constructs- things like her patented pink shell of protection.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the possibilities really are endless. If you have something to give, you'll have something to get.

Egyptian magic is entirely different. For one, it's incredibly subtle. Compared to Greek magic, which is equivalent to rolling down all the windows in your car and blasting music as loud as you can, Egyptian magic is like whispering softly.

It's partly because the basis of Egyptian magic is using the power around you instead of the power inside of you- it's less flashy almost by definition. It's also a lot harder to use, and way stricter in its use cases.

With Greek magic, you don't have to say a word. You just kind of will things to happen, and they do. Fireball? Sure. Lightning bolt? Okay. As long as I want it enough, it'll happen.

With Egyptian magic, you need to use commands- words of power. Everything matters; where you are, what time it is, what day it is, what you're wearing. You even need more focus. With an unclear mind, you could say try using words of power for hours and still not get as much as a fizzle.

That's not to say it's inherently weaker by any means. No, both forms of magic are tools. It's just that sometimes it's better to use a screwdriver than a power saw. It's perfect for situations like this, for example, where I don't want anyone to know what I'm up to.

I walked through the building, absentmindedly checking through the rooms. Most of the stuff was boilerplate. There were all kinds of offices, meeting rooms, and even a rather pleasant-looking lunch room.

Eventually, I found the financial department- it was kind of hard to ignore, actually. It looked like a pretty stereotypical financial department, with desktops and whiteboards, and those calculators that came equipped with paper rolls up top so you could write receipts and the like.

In a building that was otherwise primitive, a somewhat technologically advanced room like this might as well have been illuminated in bright, flashing lights. I reached out with my senses- trying to hear any traps or smell anything amiss about the room. When nothing piqued my interest, I took a final glance around the room, looking specifically for any errant sources of mana.

I gently stepped out of the Duat and closed the portal to make sure nothing followed me out of the portal. Right as I went to look for the ledgers containing information about the tournament, someone cleared their throat behind me.

I spun on a dime, grabbing a pair of scissors off a nearby desk. I spun them around my fingers, igniting the blades with a sizzling current of lightning. The water began whirling behind me, chaining around my arm to bolster what was already a pretty strong strike.

"Whoa, now!" The voice said again as it stepped out of the shadows. "There's no need for that, Perseus. If anything, I daresay you're here looking for me. I figured I would reward your diligence and simply intercept you. I've been looking for you too, after all."

"Individualism. Narcissism. Value-free choices. These are all key elements in the decline of the practice of mutual accountability in Western churches, among clergy and laity alike."





[LVL]: 64 (15,000/84,000)

[HP]: 90,000/90,000 (BOOSTED)

[SP]: 38,000/38,000



[STR]: 38

[VIT]: 24

[DEX]: 90

[INT]: 145

[CHA]: 91 (+35)

[WIS]: 0

[LUC]: 55

[…] Eri! Eri's one of the funniest dudes around. If I remember correctly, during the first major war with Oceanus, he was one of the top field medics around. He once single-handedly saved an entire platoon of men stuck under an underwater volcano. […]

[…] Eri is our current lead scientist for the Proteus Foundation, a sub-branch of our military that focuses on new science and ways to improve our day-to-day in Atlantis. A rather pleasant man, he certainly seems to care for the work he does, and he consistently holds fundraisers for Atlantis' youth. […]

[…] … […] (this excerpt is unavailable due to lack of familiarity).

I rushed forward, knocking Eri off-balance by hooking my leg behind his and pushing downward. As he began stumbling, I reached forward and grabbed his collar with my hand, slamming him into the closest wall.

"How did I not sense you in here?" I demanded, holding the pair of scissors up to Eri's neck and holding my fist over his throat. "And what do you mean you've been looking for me?"

"It's kind of hard to explain things with a desk appliance held up to your jugular vein," Eri commented congenially. He didn't seem threatened. If anything, he looked pleased with himself, "Besides, my movement from that corner tripped one of the silent alarms. We have thirty seconds, maybe a minute before this place is swarmed by guards. How would you feel about continuing this conversation elsewhere?"

"How would you feel about me knocking you out, hog-tying you with a wad of masking tape, and leaving you here for the guards to find with an origami crane on your nose?" I snarked back, applying more pressure to his throat. "Why would I go anywhere with you?"

"Well, because I know you, Perseus. You're curious. You've noticed the things around you. And, well, if I'm tooting my horn a little, here, I'm the only one who can tell you what's going on," Eri grinned as he wheezed out his words. A small trickle of blood escape his jaw, "But, no, of course. By all means. Knock me out and leave me here to be executed. You know who I am, of that I have little doubt. I'm guilty in some way, yes, absolutely. So, prince, do the right thing and turn me in, but just know- you'll never know what really happened. Can you live with that, Perseus?"

I paused for a moment, glaring at the man, "And who's to say you won't kill me the second we get out of here? Who's to say I won't turn you in after?"

"You've decided, then. Excellent. I have my chariot waiting outside," Eri gently pushed away from my grasp, his shoes clacking loudly on the polished floor of the hall. I stood there for a second, taken aback by his gall. I still needed answers, though. I figured it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to hear him out, as long as I was careful. "Let's be quick about this. Pavlopetri takes their security very seriously."

Eri and I escaped the building with almost no resistance. He seemed to know where he was going- each turn we made, each time he paused- it was all deliberate. We had a close call on the second floor, but even that didn't end up amounting to anything.

A few minutes later, we were both seated in his chariot, which began moving by itself. I noted the lack of animals pulling it, as well as the absence of a driver. Music started playing from a speaker behind me.

"There's something about the way you look tonight, oh baby," Eri hummed softly to himself, uncorking a bottle of champagne, and pouring himself a glass, "Ah. That's a bit better. Would you like some, Perseus?"

"No," I said plainly, fiddling around with Riptide in its pen form, "Don't hop around this. I want answers."

"My, my. Patience is a virtue, young prince," Eri chastised, taking a small sip. He let out a small exhale, "To answer your original question, you couldn't detect me in that room because I didn't want you to detect me. I've heard a few tales about your superhuman senses, so I slowed my heartbeat and lowered my body temperature."

"And your mana?" I pointed out, leaning forward on the bench. I gestured at him with my pen. "The senses thing, I can give you that. But there's no way you could hide your own life force from me. I couldn't detect any of that in the room, either."

"You are, of course, correct in your assessment of my abilities," Eri swished his glass around, staring at the bubbles idly, "Ah. That one's quite simple, actually- I don't have any."

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes- Eri was one of those political types- the type who could listen to himself talk all day and still not get tired of hearing his own voice, "Alright, then. Question two. How'd you know—"

"That you wouldn't kill me? It's as I said, Perseus, I'm quite aware of who I'm dealing with. As much as you might try to convince yourself you are, you aren't a mindless soldier. You're leagues above those simple-minded buffoons- I had full confidence you'd be willing to speak with me," Eri scoffed. He placed his glass down. "And beyond that, you're most definitely not a cold-blooded killer. I knew that at the very least, my life wasn't in any actual danger. If you'll indulge me further, young prince- have you ever entered a state of ultra-focus?"

"No," I said, not willing to give up any more information beyond that. "I have not."

"Let me rephrase my original question, then, have you ever felt your consciousness become engulfed by absolute focus? The detachment from your surroundings, the exponential increase in your ability to comprehend, to infer?" Eri didn't seem to mind my coldness. He continued, "It's fascinating. Scientists theorize that the brain perceives time slower when absorbing information. With enough practice and external stimuli, any living being could increase their coordination to the level of being able to catch a bullet between their teeth."

"That's how you knew I wouldn't attack you?"

"Given all the information at hand, I suppose. It was more of a guess, a fifty-fifty guess, but one I was willing to stake my life on. This meeting's been a long time in the making, after all," Eri mused, once again sipping his drink. "What do you know of the Sea before Lord Poseidon took over?"

"Very little," I said truthfully. Something uncomfortable squirmed in my gut, "Why do you ask?"

"I may look young, but I'm well over 500 years old. I've…seen quite a bit of things," Eri chuckled lightly. As the chariot's lanterns swayed, Eri's eyes darkened, "I grew up in one of the small towns that would eventually become a part of Atlantis' neighbors after the fifth merger. A small mining town called R54, on the ridge of where the Arabian Peninsula. Back before we were invited into the coalition of Atlantis, Oceanus used to rule over us with an iron fist."

Whether it was genuine or not, I noticed some discreet signs of stress start to pop up. Eri's eyes got this faraway look in them. His fingers started gripping his bench a little harder.

"He used to station soldiers around the perimeter of R54 and flooded our town with drugs, alcohol, and other vices. The soldiers would march in during the night and find the 'criminals' lurking about and toss them in the mines for their transgressions. It was especially dangerous around the time I was a teenager. The people I grew up with were dying daily. I'd found it difficult to visualize myself as anything but a criminal, to be honest," Eri said. "You see, Percy, you may not understand this quite yet, but life goes in cycles. No one's born a bad person. No one wakes up in the morning and decides to become an alcoholic or settles on substance abuse. It just happens. And once it happens once, it'll happen again."

"I know what you mean," I replied quietly, shifting a little as Eri's gaze turned to me. "Not me. Some of the people in the area I grew up in. It's sad to see it happen."

"Yes. It's very sad," Eri agreed, heaving a heavy sigh. "Three times, Perseus. I was sent to the mines three times before the reality of the crooked system in front of me set in. Oceanus took advantage of a town down on its luck and enslaved us all in the most dangerous way possible- by having us enslave ourselves. It's hard to fight a regime if you're too busy fighting each other, jumping the gun at the mention of drugs, and letting off steam at the next man who dares to look at you in a perceivably aggressive manner. Fear and addiction kept R54 in a state of ruin, Perseus. This was only solved when your father liberated us. Even then, to most people today, R54 is but a blot in history; a name amongst the dozens and dozens of other names; small, watering tributaries that joined the stream of Atlantis."

"I'm…sorry for your loss," I offered, still wary of the man. While his words seemed genuine, I wasn't willing to become emotionally compromised because of a sob story. "That must've been really hard."

"Inconsequential," Eri waved off my concern with a sad smile. "Mere prelude. No, Perseus, the reason I told you that tale was so you could understand me a bit better. I wanted you to understand how R54's destruction and subsequent wipe from history taught me the biggest lesson of them all; legacy is everything."

I'd never been too good with that idea, or symbolism as a concept, really. Even when I was a kid, no matter how hard I tried, I could never look past the words on a page. I could never see past their surface value. "Legacy? Like, the people who follow you, or the message you leave behind?"

"Both. Take your father, for example. He's undoubtedly the kindest man I've met in my life. A proper leader- not one of those fake leaders who tout themselves on their generosity, who claim to have risen from their shackles and ascended into leadership. No, your father is true and unwavering in both his ideals and actions. But, even then, people doubt him. I'll give you the most obvious example. You've heard of the myth of Medusa, I trust? The version where your father commits unspeakable acts in the temple of Athena?"

My eyebrows raised at his blunt description, "Yes. I'm aware of that version of the myths."

"Yes, that version. Have you asked your father or any other deity about this? Probably not, I assume, you don't want to risk the ire of an Olympian, I'm sure, but let me shed some light on the matter. Medusa was never a rape victim, Perseus. That recollection of events was made 800 years after the myth of Medusa was made- almost a whole millennia after the event even happened. It was written by a Roman," He spat out the word Roman like it was a slur, "That bastard Ovid- his jealousy and ire toward the gods was reflected in his work- it wasn't just your father that was portrayed in such a horrible way- he painted all the gods as cruel, soulless beings."

"And I'm just supposed to take your word for it?" I scoffed. "If you've dragged me all the way out here to tell me that, I think you've wasted both our time. Even if what you're saying is true, why would people believe that myth over the hundreds of other ones about my dad?"

"No, young prince, I don't expect you to take me at my word. I do expect, however, that you'll verify this for yourself at some point," Eri smiled at me placatingly, "You see, that's what I'm referring to when I talk about legacy. Your father, for all his good deeds, is still seen as evil by some, for a crime he did not commit. People flock to tragedy- they crave it. They can't look away from it."

His last sentence tickled something in my brain. My eyes widened a moment later.

"So, the metal drakon was from Proteus," I breathed, flexing my hand around Riptide. My fingers fiddled with the cap, "Why?"

"To remove the usurpers from the tournament," Eri snarled, losing his composure for the first time. The glass of champagne shattered in his strong grip. As he wiped the shards of glass off on his suit, he continued, "No one deserves the title of prince except for you. And yes, I do believe that you would've won this tournament without my involvement, but it wasn't just the victory I wanted. I needed to ensure that no one would doubt Atlantis or your father, again."

"You wanted to make sure our legacy was untouchable," I pieced together as Eri nodded. "That's still…you still killed innocent people! Caring for your country doesn't condone murder!"

"Doesn't it?" Eri calmly poured himself another glass. Green blood bubbled out of his cuts, "How is what I did any different from what you do, Perseus? I killed- yes, I'll admit it- three princes for the betterment and protection of my home. A small price. You kill for your home- for your camp, the ones you care about. Tell me, why is it okay for you to kill, but not for me, hm?"

"That's different," I argued, my throat constricting, "I kill monsters, who can and will reform. They're scum, the lowest of the low, and they exist only to hunt demigods down."

"In other words, you think they deserve it. That's the problem! We're in the business of war, Percy. It's impossible for us to try to apply virtue ethics to that kind of business," Eri said calmly. "It's impossible to define good actions as ones that display embody virtuous character traits because virtuous character traits don't win anything. Being a good person doesn't make you a good warrior. Besides, who's to say we could even find common ground on that, anyway. You and I could have different definitions of what makes a person good, after all."

"Maybe, but the killing of innocent people is wrong, period," I fired back. "By all frameworks of moral thinking, the loss of life is associated with the bad side of things. Even if you and I can't agree on what constitutes a person as good, are you really going to sit across from me and tell me killing people who haven't done anything is permissible?"

"It isn't ideal, no," Eri admitted, exhaling through his nose. "But sometimes, it's necessary. Such is war. The needs of many always, always outweigh the needs of the few, and the safety and prosperity of Atlantis is what's paramount to me. It always has been, and always will be."

"Why would Chet let you do that?" I wondered aloud, tapping the armrest. "It reflects poorly on his city, after all."

"Money, of course. I'm sure you were wondering how I knew you'd be in the financial department. Well, Proteus decided to make a longshot bet on you; one that was entirely funded by Chet himself," Eri wiped the fog off the chariot window and peered outside. "We're here."


The chariot slowed to a halt. Eri stood, waving the tray of drinks away as the door opened with a slight creak. He offered me his hand, "You've indulged me quite a bit so far, Perseus, and for that I thank you. I ask that you entertain me for a few more minutes if you'll please. Everything will become clear soon, and you'll understand the need for secrecy."

I went to speak again, but the world stopped. The Game's interface pinged loudly, and a new screen appeared out of thin air in front of me, buzzing.


Pivotal decision? Why did that feel so familiar?

Wait, that's right! Last summer, when my dad and I were talking about what division of the Atlantean army I'd train under, the Game had taken it upon itself to give me this weird, reality-altering choice to make, where my decision drastically altered the course of whatever came next.

It was kind of freaky, honestly, to hold that much power. If I remember correctly, I basically got to choose what tragedy would befall Atlantis, and what I could get out of the experience as a whole.

And now, the Game was deciding to give me another one.

The inky words swirled, jumbling back together, and stretching into two crisscrossing lines, forming four spaces.

As the spaces began filling themselves with words, a second screen appeared in front of me, with a message that was already completely written:

Hello, Pupil.

I'd meant to give you this speech before you made your last decision, but Aphrodite's influence had kept me from doing so at the time. While that particular course of action on her part has unfortunately already heavily altered the course of history, we cannot reverse time. All we can do now is look to the future.

Allow me to explain.

When it comes to [Pivotal Decisions], your choices have very deep and oftentimes invisible consequences. You're familiar with this concept, of course; your memories tell me that much. For your convenience, I've compiled a proper analogy for this course of action.

Think of your favorite game, Skyrim. Being kind to someone early in the game might result in them helping you later, while if you ignored them, you might need to find a solution without them. Killing a character might end up with a loved one swearing revenge when he might have become your ally otherwise. These decisions and their consequences can range from world-changing to insignificant.

When you arrived in Riverwood, you decided to save the Valerius family by returning them the Golden Claw. This opened an avenue for marriage down the road with Camilla, which you took.

On the other hand, if after completing "The Golden Claw," you had chosen to steal back the golden claw, Camilla would have hired thugs to teach you a lesson.

In a similar manner, your decisions in this Game result in multiple avenues being both opened and closed. Unlike the example I used, your pivotal decisions change the entire course of history, as they're generally split up into four different play-tracks.

Choosing a decision has the secondary effect of choosing a play-track, which drastically changes the outcome of both your quest, all subsequent quests, and the world around you.

For example, if you'd chosen the red option last summer, 'Titan's Bane,' then you wouldn't be in this situation with Eri right now. You wouldn't have met the people you went on to meet, learned the things you pride yourself on knowing now. People would perceive you differently.

Choosing a play-track generally associates yourself with the traits of its symbolic color. The red option from last summer was red since red is the color of blood; a color that has historically been associated with sacrifice, danger, and courage.

If you'd joined the First Quadrant and gone off into the world of the sea to fight horrendous monsters, you would've uncovered a plan threatening to overtake Atlantis and the whole world itself. Your journey would have been full of loss, suffering, and pain, but you would have come out of it with the power of a minor god. You would've had a different companion, [Zoe Nightshade], a different weapon called [Backbiter], different armor- I don't believe I need to keep going. Your current secondary [Pivotal Decision] would've been with respect to EDEN- you would've had to decide whether to destroy it or not.

Or, if you'd taken the green path, your journey would have been full of growth and maturity- by connecting with the people of Atlantis, you would have eventually uncovered the true creator of mana, fallen deeply in love with [Demeter], and wielded [Demeter's Sickle]. Your secondary [Pivotal Decision] would've been in line with Pan, and whether or not you wanted to take on his mantle as the Lord of the Wild.

But you didn't, and you don't. That's not the course of action you decided upon last summer, and that's not the set of obstacles you face currently. Everything in this branch, this play-track of the Game is entirely different, and as such, knowing things about the red and green play-track should not influence your decisions in this current play-track.

Since I'm aware of how curious you tend to be, your decision last summer was the white play-track, 'A Rotting Core,' which had been white because white tends to symbolize the color of certainty, of illumination, and of insight; we associate it with knowledge and learning. The downside to this decision, of course, was that white can tend to feel distant, impersonal, and cold. Though we associate it with morality, it can make us uncomfortable, as if a space or project is too perfect, or too artificial.

In your decision to gain knowledge, you went back to school. You met your current group of friends, your lover, you learned how to fight- but, in your pursuit of power, you alienated some of your friends. In your quest to grow your godliness, you lost a bit of your humanity. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you've begun to crave godhood, chock-full of its perks- the fame, the power, the recognition.

Now, another one of these decisions lies before you. Your current play-track, white, has resulted in these four subsequent play-tracks, and now that you know the true severity of your decision, you must pick very carefully. You will not be able to see the significance of the color you've chosen until your next [Pivotal Decision] and in the meantime, you'll be forced to live with the consequences of your decision- both the good and the bad.

Choose wisely. And be strong,

- Heket

I gaped at the description.

I knew whatever I chose kind of altered the world around me, but I had no idea, absolutely no idea how in-depth it truly was. It felt weird, almost surreal in fact, to think about the fact that choosing white last year was the reason I had Jason and Thalia in my life now, that MJ was only here because of a decision I'd made.

Did it go even deeper than that? Were Triton and I only close because of it? Was my mom safe because I'd vanquished Oceanus? If I hadn't chosen the white path, would I still be with Aphrodite? Or would I be with someone entirely different, like whoever Zoe Nightshade is?

So many things happened because of this one thing- something I'd considered a one-off decision at the time, too.

As I kept wondering how deeply my decisions would affect the world, the screen containing Heket's message disappeared, showing the four play-tracks as they each began to take on a different color.

I figured that I'd at least see the choices given to me before continuing my train of thought. Maybe I'd be able to get a better grasp of the situation without Aphrodite's influence bogging down my connection with Heket.

I eyed the colors carefully, now knowing I'd need to factor those in as well. Unlike the rather basic colors from last time, the colors this time were all complex. They all started off white, but then slowly transition to a different color.

The top left, for example, was greenish, but not the same bright red I'd seen last time. It was mostly white with a softer red, almost like a washcloth that had been stained by kiwi juice, or something.

The top right was half white and half purple. The square seemed cut almost perfectly in half down the middle, with no mixing between the different colors.

The bottom left was three-fourths white, but the one-fourth of the square that wasn't white was black- not just any black, either. It was the most profoundly dark color I'd ever seen, a powerful rectangle that seemed to suck in all the light around it.

The last space seemed white at first. Just pure, unaltered white- until you looked longer. At a closer glance, the white had small, almost unnoticeable polka dots of every color on the rainbow. The dots seemed to move and change, the colors shifting through each other like the lens of a kaleidoscope.

I looked at the purple play-track first.

[White-Periwinkle][Play-Track]: Fortune Favors the Bold!

|| What Eri did was wrong, but you can't bring yourself to condemn it. In a lot of ways, actually, you kind of understand it. If someone threatened your family or the camp, you can't honestly say you wouldn't do the same thing- but you aren't willing to continue with Eri. You promise not to turn him in but say that you still can't keep going with him and ask to be returned to your hotel room.||

[Things to note]:

This path is the most neutral path one can take, but as you're probably aware, neutrality comes at a hefty price. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, after all.

Without the trial of Eri, you're free to return to your daily life as soon as possible. With Eri still around, Atlantis remains well-protected against any threat, and with your victory in the final round of the tournament, Pavlopetri gains enough funds to completely rebuild.

Your power begins to stagnate. Without the pressure of training with your father, your gains will eventually slow and outright diminish, while your opponents' strength continues to climb.

[Starting Evolution Perk]: The Sea's Legacy- the sea recognizes you as its greatest asset. All of your water-related perks become instantly maxed out, and using said abilities no longer requires mana.

Next, I turned my attention to the green one.

[White-Olive][Play-Track]: The Sea's Savior!

|| What Eri did was wrong, and you know it. While you can empathize with his desire to keep his home safe, you can't bring yourself to look past the atrocities he's committed in the process. You decide the best course of action is to knock him out and bring him back to your father, turning him in for his crimes. ||

[Things to note]:

This path is the most good you can do, but it comes at a price. Exposing Eri's crimes to your father and allowing his execution will result in the disbandment of Proteus. Without Eri watching diligently for threats in the Sea before they arrive, who will be able to ensure the prolonged safety of Atlantis?

The trial and subsequent execution of Eri will last two months or so, given his involvement with Atlantis. As the one to uncover his misdeeds and as the principal witness of the case, you will be required to stay in the Sea for this entire duration, causing you to miss the first month-and-a-half or so of school.

Your legacy will take a hit. Despite being the one to expose the true danger of the tournament, portions of the Sea won't truly believe you. You, and by extension, Atlantis, will be the subject of many conspiracy theories to come, as Eri was a high-ranking Atlantean official who interfered with an international tournament.

[Starting Evolution Perk]: The Good Samaritan- This perk will allow you to gain monumental boosts in [CHA] and [WIS], and exponential increases in power while doing the morally right thing.

This is going to give me the biggest headache, I just know it. I looked at the black one next.

[White-Black][Play-Track]: The Horrors of the Sea!

|| What Eri did was wrong, and you know it. While you can empathize with his desire to keep his home safe, you can't bring yourself to look past the atrocities he's committed in the process. You decide the best course of action is to continue following him into Proteus, if only so you can document the true nature of what's happening under everyone's noses. As you turn to leave with the evidence, you may come to realize, though, that nothing could've prepared you for what comes next. ||

[Things to note]:

This path is the most thoughtful path you can take, but it comes at a price. Assuming you can escape from Proteus with tangible evidence without being caught, the state of affairs inside of Proteus may be overwhelming enough to plunge the Sea into disarray.

The trial and subsequent execution of Eri will last two months or so, given his involvement with Atlantis. As the one to uncover his misdeeds and as the principal witness of the case, you will be required to stay in the Sea for this entire duration, causing you to miss the first month-and-a-half or so of school.

Your legacy will stay the same. You will return to the tournament just in time to finish the last challenge, and Pavlopetri gains enough funds to completely rebuild.

[Starting Evolution Perk]: Black and White- your façade will continue to crack.

And last but not least….

[White-Polka][Play-Track]: The Power Within!

|| What Eri did was wrong, but you can't bring yourself to condemn it. In a lot of ways, actually, you kind of understand it. If someone threatened your family or the camp, you can't honestly say you wouldn't do the same thing. You follow Eri into Proteus, intent on learning more about the shadowy organization that protects Atlantis. ||

[Things to note]:

This path is the most objectively evil path you can take, as it involves aiding and abetting someone who has revealed themselves to be a criminal to you. With Eri still around, Atlantis remains well-protected against any threat, and with your victory in the final round of the tournament, Pavlopetri gains enough funds to completely rebuild.

Going with Eri improves your relationship with him, and you both find common ground on the fact that you'd do anything it takes to protect those you care about.

Your legacy will stay the same. You will return to the tournament just in time to finish the last challenge, and Pavlopetri gains enough funds to completely rebuild.

[Starting Evolution Perk]: Spark of Divinity- Eri leverages the power of Proteus to unlock some of your hidden abilities.

AN: And, that's a wrap for this chapter. Sorry, it took so long to get out, but I had school and exams and stuff, and I'm sure you guys know how that goes so I won't bother talking your ear off about it. I got the phrase Spark of Divinity from a DBZ fic I read a while back (I can't remember the name) but it sounded pretty cool and I wanted to give it credit.

A few things to note:

- I've begun cross-posting this story to A03 so if you see it there under the username Maroon_Smoke, don't freak out, it's me! As a result of my cross-posting, I've also begun my final round of tightening up the earlier parts of the story. As of when this chapter airs, I should be done through the first 8 chapters, so yeah! I want to make sure everything is nice and tidy as this Atlantis arc winds to a close.

- The final pairing is now up. It's decided. But, I do want to reiterate: you guys know me. You know how I approach characters, plot points, all of that. Just because Calypso is the final pairing of this story does not mean she's the next one, or even the one after that. Even then, who knows if she's the Calypso you all know. Knowing her name won't prepare you for what comes next, I promise, lol.

- Ranking update: in terms of following, this story has somehow broken into the Top 12. Absolutely bonkers. I'd thank you guys, but I'm sure I sound like a broken record in that regard, so all I'll say is that we're not done here yet. Not by a long shot. By my estimate, the completion of this arc will bring the story to its 25% completion mark. Lots of stuff to go, let's see if we can break into the Top 10 by the end of the year :)

- Also, fun fact, all of those other paths were true. Like, I'd actually planned for the story to go one of those ways in my earlier drafts, though I eventually settled on what we're doing right now. Do you guys think you would've liked to see those other ones? Which track do you think he'll choose this time?

And, of course, some of the more prominent reviews:

MOOOOOP: Thank you very much! You're correct in your assessment of Aphrodite's abilities, and who knows, maybe we'll see them soon! Wink, wink. Thank you for your comments on my characterization of Percy, though. I know a lot of people don't love that I've changed some of his traits around, but I agree with your take- I'd like to think it's the same base Percy, with just some stuff worked around because of the Game!

Meryfcuckery: You always make my day, man. Artemis does deserve to get lewded, but eh, no comment on her for the time being. I'm glad everyone's beginning to grow a bit tired of MJ, though, since she's always been meant to be temporary. I just wanted to add a casual relationship for our boy Percy, and now I can say my story has a Percy/MJ Watson pairing, which is super-rare! Also, just for you, I'll stop being such a tease about it. Like I said before, though, knowing it may not help…

SamTheSlytherin42: I very much agree with you. She's definitely very manipulative and controlling, and I never really intended for her to be the final love interest. I was surprised when so many people wanted her to be it, but I do have very nice plans for her, as I've grown to like her (just not as a love interest for Percy).

Tyufvfv: I agree. I think Percy and Thalia have a lot of shared trauma with their parents and stuff, so I've always enjoyed the idea of them dating, but I don't think it would work out long-term.

surya25addanki: Best compliment ever. Hope I can keep delivering.