Hey everyone. Yeah, it's been a long time, hasn't it? I really am sorry about that... but shit happens. Anyways, don't let me delay you all any longer. Hope you enjoy the chapter :) -Star
The Eccentric Eight lounged about in their training room at the top of Chaos' Tower, certainly not looking or acting like the Lieutenant-Colonels their uniform indicated them to be.
Luke and Zek were having a small sparring session, where Luke actually fenced with the proper rules and gestures, while Zek was doing an awful imitation of fencing with his twin daggers. Bianca would occasionally join in and scare Zek off, since Zek was afraid of the icy aura that surrounded the Stygian Iron.
Calypso was sitting down on a sofa, rustling through her magical medic kit. While the circular kit could easily fit in her pockets, it magically expanded whenever she needed it, and seemed to provide her with an endless supply of common medicinal herbs, much like how Leo's tool belt supplied common tools. Unlike Leo's however, Calypso's kit did not seem to have a cool down time. Currently, she was mixing various plants, herbs and leaves together while consulting a thick book that Chaos had given her. Occasionally, Calypso would read some facts out loud, or bug Percy to learn them.
Silena and Beckendorf sat together, and literally together, with Silena sprawled on top of Beckendorf in a chair while Beckendorf occasionally tossed his huge warhammer into the air and catching it, making sure to keep his strength up. Or that's what he said. What he was actually doing was quietly making out with Silena, although every time someone turned towards them, they'd somehow stop and look absolutely innocent.
Zoë was nowhere to be found, and Percy was sitting on the sofa Calypso was sitting on, although with a bit of awkward distance between them, as their short time together on her island were always at the front of their minds when they were around each other. To pass some time, Percy decided to examine the twin Elderstars, which, even after nearly ten years of usage, still greatly intrigued him.
The swords seemed alive, like they had their own thoughts and own attitudes. It was unnerving. At first, when Elderstar had just accepted him, they had looked the same. But sometimes, usually times when he did well during a training session or just did some good things, they would glow with the slightest green-tinted, silver sheen, even through Chaos's disguise. When he had done a bad job or something, they'd remain a cold silver, as if reprimanding him for doing badly.
However, it also seemed to have something to do with how long Percy had been in control of it. For the first few years, Elderstar constantly disobeyed Percy's wishes, many times jerking in various directions or just freezing, rendering him defenseless and weaponless. It also constantly burned his hand, despite not being able to supposed to. Now however, after almost ten years of training with the two swords, it didn't cause problems so much, it didn't burn his hand, and it glowed a slight, green-tinted silver, which Percy supposed came from absorbing Riptide.
Percy was actually surprised that Elderstar, after absorbing Riptide, had "allowed" Riptide to continue with its pen form. Perhaps because of Riptide, Zoë was the only other person beside Percy who could wield Elderstar. No one else could even touch it, as Zek had once tried to lift it with a fireproof glove and it had electrocuted him so badly he was knocked unconscious.
As it was, Zoë was greatly attached to Elderstar and it had become a sort of custom for Percy to give Zoë his sword at the end of the day and let her practice with it, sometimes they would even swap weapons in the middle of battle so Zoë could feel the thrill of using it. While it was obvious Zoë missed Riptide, she had made clear that she was proud he was the wielder of it, and pleased that it was clean from the defilement Heracles had done to it.
Percy also noticed that Elderstar had greatly enhanced Riptide's trademark ability, which was returning to his pocket. Before, Riptide would take several seconds for it to come back to him, and that was only if he had a pocket. With Elderstar, if he dropped it, or tossed it aside, or he got disarmed, they would clatter to the floor before instantly disappearing, reappearing in his pocket in less than a second. It also didn't require a pocket. It could somehow reappear in his shoe, tuck itself into the waistband of his pants, into his shirt pocket, or even reappear in his own hand. It also seemed to depend on the situation. If he was in the middle of combat and was disarmed, it would reappear in his hand. But if he just dropped it, it would reappear in his pocket. And if he threw the sword, the sword would disappear from the target after a little bit and reappear in his hand. He was thinking so much about his swords that he didn't detect Zoë sneak up on him.
"Hello, Perseus. What are you thinking?" Zoë said in a low and throaty voice said right next to his ear.
Even caught off guard, Percy reacted with admirable speed, capping Elderstar and reaching behind to pull Zoë over and forward. She went with the flow, her hands grabbing the neck of his shirt as she tumbled forward, her momentum and grasp on his shirt causing Percy to roll off the couch and onto the floor, flat on his back, giving her an advantage.
Before Percy could even move, Zoë rolled him over, threw herself on his back to further delay him and tangled her legs through his, locking them in position as her arms snaked around Percy's neck and head, putting him into a headlock, trying to force him into submission.
Instead of trying to force Zoë's grip apart, Percy pushed himself up, essentially doing a push up with Zoë on his back. However, his legs were still locked, forcing him to roll over, this time with Percy on top as Zoë struggled to move under his weight.
Adapting quickly, Zoë released his legs and, with the flexibility of a Hunter, wrapped her legs around his torso, locking his arms to his sides tightly while squeezing a little harder on his neck.
"Alright... you win..." Percy choked out after a few more seconds of struggling, in which Percy unsuccessfully tried to free his arms out from her tight grip.
Zoë immediately loosened her hold and Percy rolled off, slowly getting up and helping Zoë to her feet as he did so.
"Well done, Zoë. What's the score now?" Percy gasped out, breathing hard.
"1,195 to 1,194. In my favour now." Zoë replied triumphantly, grinning as she wiped some sweat off her forehead.
Percy groaned. "Am I ever going to have and maintain a lead over you?"
"Am I ever going to maintain a lead over you." Zoë retorted playfully, reaching over and lightly pinching Percy's cheek before shoving him aside to flop down on the couch.
Calypso suddenly stood up and shrank her medical kit with a wave of her hand, nodding at Percy.
"C'mon Percy, we've got work to do." she said.
"Uh, what do you mean?" Percy asked, confused.
"Time to teach you a new cooking skill. You're a pretty darn good cook now after ten years, but there is still stuff to learn. Besides, Chaos will appreciate the treat." Calypso said, brushing past Percy on her way towards the kitchen.
"OK... what are you going to teach me, dear Calypso?" Percy asked with genuine enthusiasm. He always looked forward to cooking with her, since it was a delightful experience, where the awkwardness between the two would dissipate for a certain period of time.
Calypso smiled. "I'm going to start teaching you about the Fourteen Arts of Soefaria. Obviously I don't know all Fourteen, that's for the Chef's Guild to know, but even the basics and the first few Arts are far superior to anyone else's. Only Klasmerian's can possibly surpass Soefarian cooking. As for Clydarians, well... they don't even know the difference between black rice with sesame oil, chopped up little shrimps, crumbled dry seaweed flakes and powdered fish spicing from batshit in Scattergel..."
"Come on Calypso, it's not that bad. It's sort of like American food, y'know?" Percy said. Calypso gave a very unladylike snort as she headed to the cooler box.
"Please. I've tried American food. It's repulsive."
"Hey! I heard that! I love hamburgers!" Beckendorf called out across the room.
"I second that." Percy said, bumping Calypso's shoulder lightly.
She rolled her eyes. "You are all entitled to your own opinions. Mine is... yuck." Calypso said as she came back from rummaging through the box, holding a paper wrapped package.
"But enough of that. So Percy, the Second Art of Soefarian cooking. Seafood." Calypso said, unwrapping the package to reveal several small sharks. Percy blanched.
"Calypso... you know I don't really eat seafood..." Percy muttered, backing away from the sharks.
"You're going to prepare it, make it, and eat it, Percy. Trust me, you'll love it." Calypso said gently, lightly touching his arm.
"Only for you, Calypso..." Percy said quietly as he readied himself.
"First, pluck out the teeth." Percy flinched just slightly but obeyed without question, which made Calypso feel a bit sorry for him.
"Besides Percy, these sharks aren't endangered or anything. They kill a bit too much. Especially those rainbow fish you love to play with. So don't feel bad." Calypso said softly, trying to help him.
That statement helped Percy feel a lot less worse about the shark. He loved the rainbow fish, named so for their slippery and beautiful skin, which would flash through the colours of the rainbow as they swam. They were also some of the few fish that always came to play with him every time he went near the ocean. Other fishes viewed him as a foreign enemy and oftentimes tried to attack him.
"Thanks Calypso." Closing his eyes and taking a short breath, he asked, "What's next?"
"I've already cut them open. You can stuff them with the peppers, cheese, and sausage I've prepared." Calypso ordered.
"And do it beautifully." Calypso said sternly, seeing Percy grabbing a handful of peppers. This resulted in Percy meticulously stuffing the peppers, cheese and sausages in, carefully twisting the peppers together in intricate braids so that there were equal amounts of green, red and yellow, perfectly stuffed so that it lined up the interior of the shark. Many slices of various flavoured cheese lined the peppers, and large chunks of sausage were placed in the middle, with cheese coating each chunk of meat.
After that was done, Calypso made Percy chop up equal amounts of pepper into little pieces and sprinkle them over the mass of now-organized peppers, sausage and cheese before Calypso added in her own mixture of seasonings and spices.
Percy then had to repeat the same meticulous process of equal amounts of pepper, perfect lining, and neatly placed sausages inside eight more sharks, while Calypso stood at his side, offering guidance and help when Percy needed it, along with some criticism when the sausage chunks weren't fat enough or when the cheese wasn't sliced thinly enough.
Afterwards, when Calypso began cooking the rice and the multiple sharks, Zoë took Percy aside and taught him how to make the perfect crystal pear-peach hybrid tart for desert, which took far longer than it should have as it involved playful hand slapping since Percy would try and steal some pieces of fruit Zoë had cut up. Zoë retaliated by also stealing the fruit pieces he cut up. One thing led to another, and instead of making tarts, the two began having a cutting-stealing-eating-prevention contest, which ended when Calypso knocked their heads together and joined them in making the tarts, as they had been fooling around for so long that her sharks were already done.
"Alright, boys and girls, time to-" Calypso stopped when she turned around, noticing that everyone else had already seated themselves at the table, which was impeccably set up in the Vosskerian style of dining.
"Well, uh, thank you all for setting up the table." Calypso said instead as she, Zoë and Percy brought the plates of shark in, one for each person.
"And for setting up our places." Zoë said gracefully as she slid into her seat after setting down the plates.
"Greatly appreciated." Percy added, also sitting down.
"Well, when the food smells and looks this good, anything is worth it." Luke said, grinning.
"Oh, so if it isn't good, then you're just going to lie around and be useless?" Calypso shot back teasingly.
"Well, you're never going to find out, since your food will never be 'not good'." Luke replied smoothly.
Everyone chuckled lightly as Calypso smiled. "A good answer, Luke. A very good answer."
Luke tilted his head graciously. "Well, since we're waiting for Chaos to arrive, Beckendorf, Zek and I all have a secret to tell the rest of you."
"Erm..." Beckendorf coughed. "Silena already knows. I uh... told her." he said rather sheepishly.
Luke laughed. "I'm not surprised, Beckendorf. In fact, I'd be disappointed if you hadn't."
Beckendorf let out a small sigh of relief as Silena kissed his cheek.
"And what's this "secret" you've been keeping from us? It better not be like how Percy kept his... relationship with Artemis from us..." Zoë said warningly, her eyes flicking to Percy.
At the mention of Artemis, Percy flinched, his mind rushing back five years ago, to what was possibly his most painful day ever on Clydaria...
After a particularly rigorous training session with the Guardians, in which Perseus had punched, pummeled and slapped practically every muscle in his entire body, Percy was lying on the couch in their training room, waiting for his friends to finish whatever they were doing when Chaos suddenly appeared beside him. Percy immediately tried to sit up but failed spectacularly as his muscles screamed in protest. Chaos chuckled lightly and gently touched his shoulder,
temporarily relieving some of the pain and allowing him to sit up.
"Sorry, Lady Chaos." Percy said rather tiredly.
"No worries, Percy." Chaos said simply, sitting down next to him.
"So um... what did you want to tell me?" Percy asked carefully.
"I think it's high time you tell your friends the truth about yourself." Chaos said quietly.
"Erm... the truth about myself?" Percy asked, slightly confused.
"Oh. Um..." Percy gulped as he struggled to find words to say. "Uh... why?"
"They deserve to know the truth." Chaos replied.
"But-but... Z-Zoë's going to kill me." Percy said, beginning to panic slightly.
"Like I said, they deserve to know the truth."
"But Chaos... why? I mean, they haven't asked, and I've kept it quiet for a while... why tell them now and well... for lack of better wording, bring chaos down on me?" Percy asked.
Chaos smiled slightly. "They are not only your trusted friends, but your family, Percy. I want this group to last, and secrets will break it. Better to tell the truth now, than suffer unknown consequences later."
"Chaos... I mean no disrespect, but how do you know this won't break it? I mean, Zoë and I are getting along fine, but I wouldn't say she's particularly... fond of me. And Calypso... it's still awkward between us two, you know?" Percy said nervously.
"I know. But trust me on this, Percy. The consequences will be bad, but the lasting effects won't be. In fact, it may benefit you in the long run. However, I cannot say the same if you decide to delay it." Chaos said, staring into Percy's eyes.
Percy looked down, biting his lip as he fiddled with his fingers, unable to look into Chaos's eyes.
"You cannot hide it forever, Percy. After all... you do plan on returning to Earth, don't you?" Chaos asked quietly.
Percy jerked his head up, staring directly into Chaos's eyes.
"Yes. I do." Percy said at once without hesitation.
"Then trust me, Percy. Tell them. Tell them after dinner." Chaos said softly but firmly. Patting his shoulder, Chaos disappeared, leaving Percy to feel as if he had just been given an execution sentence.
After a delicious dinner of venison cutlets, crispy granary bread and creamy mashed potatoes, as everyone was cleaning up their dishes, Percy looked at Chaos nervously, who gave him a reassuring nod.
"When you're all done with cleaning the dishes, seat yourselves over there. Percy's got something to tell you all." Chaos said, gesturing towards the sofas and armchairs.
With the news that Percy had something to tell them, everyone immediately hurried through the dishes, and in seconds, they were seated, eagerly waiting for Percy's announcement.
Percy became extremely self-conscious as he sat down on the sofa, aware of everyone's eyes on him, especially Chaos's gaze, which was unwavering.
"So? What do you wish to tell us, Percy?" Zoë asked, with a hint of impatience as Percy remained silent.
"Um..." Percy looked at Zoë for a moment before quickly looking away, struggling to find words to express himself. Or even to begin, since he was quite honestly at a complete loss for words.
"I uh... well... er..." Percy trailed off, his mind racing.
"Get on with it please, Percy. We're dying over here." Silena said, staring at him with impatient eyes.
"Erm... uhm.. well you know um... you know what I told you about me and erm... Annabeth?" Percy said, biting his lip.
"Yeah?" Practically everyone answered simultaneously.
"Well... uh... what I said isn't true." Percy said quietly, keenly aware of their intensifying stares.
"What do you mean?" Silena asked, her head tilting to the side slightly.
"Umm... the truth is that I was with uhm... er... er-Artemis..." Percy mumbled as quickly as possible.
Stunned silence. Then...
"WHAT!?" While everyone had voiced the same opinion, Zoë's voice was loudest, and also the harshest.
Percy looked up briefly, flinching slightly from Zoë's furious expression and in the process catching sight of Calypso's face. In the brief moment he saw her face, he felt his heart crack at the hurt, sadness and pain that was so easily visible in her expression as she looked at him for just a second, before turning her face away.
Percy looked down, closing his eyes shut as he gritted his teeth, his fingers clenching together tightly as the image of Calypso's heartbroken face burned in his mind. The sound of abrupt movement made Percy open his eyes again, in time to see Zoë storm out of the room, quickly followed by Calypso, who was staring straight ahead. Percy looked down again, sighing.
"I think I can take over here now, Percy. You better go talk to Zoë and Calypso." Chaos said softly.
Percy nodded slowly, wearily getting to his feet and exiting through the trapdoor as his friends immediately burst into chatter, filled with questions they wanted to ask Chaos.
Percy descended the ladder and paused, staring at Zoë's door, and then at Calypso's door, contemplating which he should enter first. He stepped towards Calypso's door but stopped. Something told him that dealing with Zoë first was far more important than comforting Calypso.
Percy turned to face Zoë's door, taking slow, deep breaths as he raised his hand to open the door. With his legs shaking, Percy grabbed the handle and turned, pushing the door open and stepping into Zoë's room.
Percy had barely closed the door when Zoë slapped him across the face with her entire palm, backed by the full force of her fury, which was palpable. Percy crashed to the floor from her slap, blinking stars out his eyes as his cheek burned.
"Zoë, wait, I know you're angry-"
"Angry?! I AM FURIOUS AND DISGUSTED WITH YOU!" Zoë screamed, picking him up and slamming him against a wall.
Despite the fact that Percy towered over her 5'3" tall form, Zoë's rage allowed her to pin Percy against the wall as her fingers pushed against his throat, half choking him.
"I TRUSTED YOU. I GREW TO LIKE YOU, TO CARE FOR YOU!" Zoë yelled into his face, her grip tightening. "But now I see you're just like any other male. How dare you deceive Lady Artemis, how dare you hurt her and break her heart!"
The accusations became too much and Percy's temper flared, a wave of force knocking Zoë backwards as a tear began to trickle down his cheek.
"I WOULD NEVER HURT LADY ARTEMIS! I LOVE HER! I would never break her heart! She broke mine... and I died to protect her and the Hunters... because I love every single one of my sisters... and I would do anything for Artemis..." Percy trailed off, his voice becoming thick and choked as memories and feelings he had kept barely suppressed rushed through his body, tears falling from his eyes as he turned away from Zoë.
"Sisters? You don't have any sisters." Zoë said, still glaring at Percy.
"The Hunters. I was... the Guardian of the Hunt. I swore to protect Artemis and the Hunt for eternity. And they... adopted me, after some time." Percy said quietly.
"You lie..." Zoë growled, her eyes narrowing.
Percy just shook his head.
"I wished to die, to disappear... Lord Zeus offered me a new life, a life supposedly clean of pain... and for a time, it was. Oh, those times with the Hunters... when they pushed my mattress out onto the river and I woke up to a woodpecker on my chest..." Percy smiled sadly as he stared out of Zoë's window, into the night sky. "It was a beautiful life, with companionship and work to do that distracted me from the past. And gradually... I-I fell in love with Artemis..."
For several long minutes, Percy recalled and told Zoë every single memory he had about his time with the Hunters, their times fighting monsters, having fun, recruiting Tracy, and their food fights. At her request, he told her the events prior to his time with the Hunters, the reason why he had sought to defeat Ladon, and the breakup with Annabeth. And at the end, in a very quiet voice, he retold every single moment he had with Artemis in perfect detail, from the look on her faces to her exact words and movements, Percy remembered it and recalled it completely.
"... it was the best decision I ever made in my life. I do not regret a single second of it. Everything was worth it. I just... I just wish I had more time..." Percy whispered, his voice strained as he closed his eyes tightly, the pain of Artemis's rejection burning fresh in his mind.
"You don't have to trust me." Percy said, opening his eyes and looking at Zoë, who had been staring at him and listening to his every word with rapt attention. "I could be tricking you, or lying. Maybe I am like other males... but I swear, I swear on Chaos that I would never, ever hurt Artemis... I love her... so much..." Percy trailed off, desperately attempting to hold back tears but failing to do so.
Zoë slowly got up, her heart heavy as she walked to where Percy sat on the ground, tears streaking down his face as he cried silently. And to Percy's great surprise, and perhaps to Zoë's own, she knelt down, gently wrapping her arms around him and awkwardly resting his head on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry..." Zoë whispered softly and gently.
For a long time, the two sat together in silence, each thinking of various things, from the past to the present, and into the future. At last, Zoë awkwardly cleared her throat.
"Well... you have my trust again, Perseus. Just... for Artemis's sake and for yours... don't screw it up." Zoë said quietly as she slowly stood up.
"I won't." Percy said simply, also getting to his feet.
"Good." Zoë sighed. "You better talk to Calypso now."
"How... how did you know I didn't talk to her first?" Percy asked as he headed towards the door.
"Besides the fact that you came to my room almost immediately after telling us all? Because I believe that in your heart, you know that I can make or break your relationship with Artemis." Zoë said, smiling slightly.
Percy stared at her for just moment before swiftly leaving her room, mentally preparing himself to talk to Calypso.
He stared glumly at Calypso's door, his heart throbbing as he rested his hand on the door handle. Closing his eyes for just a moment as he took a calming breath, he slowly turned the handle to enter Calypso's room.
"Calypso?" Percy called out quietly, quickly scanning the main room and not finding any signs of her. He called out her name again, quickly peeking into her bedroom as he attempted to locate her.
"What do you want." a thick voice said behind him as he headed towards the bathroom.
Percy whirled around in shock to see Calypso standing right behind him, staring at him with eyes red from crying. Even in the semi-darkness, Percy could see the tear marks on her cheek and he felt as if someone had just punched him in the gut.
"I-I just...um..." Percy mumbled, trailing off as he struggled to find the correct words.
"Came to say sorry?" Calypso said bitterly.
Percy flinched as his face burned with shame. He knew that it sounded stupid, but hearing it from Calypso made it all the more humiliating, to know that she was expecting such a flimsy remark from him.
Calypso stared at him reproachfully, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall. And then, in a voice that brooked no argument, said "Tell me. Everything."
And once again, Percy found himself retelling everything that had happened since the end of the Second War, from his fall at Annabeth and Matthew's hands, to his rise as a Guardian, and once more to his fall, where he sacrificed his soul to protect those he loved.
When he finished, a deeply awkward silence fell over them.
"Why?" Calypso finally asked.
"Why? Why did you fall in love with a goddess? A virgin goddess, above all? I always loved you, I still love you. Am I not good enough, not beautiful enough? Why? Why!? TELL ME!" Calypso was screaming at the end, tears once more streaming down her cheeks as she grabbed Percy by the shoulders, shaking him.
"Why?" Calypso whispered brokenly once more as she wrapped her shaking arms around Percy, crying into his chest as Percy slowly hugged Calypso, currently at an utter and complete loss for words. "Did you never, ever love me?" she asked, her voice tight and muffled.
Percy's grip around Calypso tightened as his heart clenched upon hearing the last several words.
"I love you, Calypso. Don't ever doubt that. It's just that... I-I can't help who I truly fall in love with... erm, if you uh... yeah..." Percy responded weakly as he slowly rubbed her back, fighting back tears of his own.
"Do you actually love me?" Calypso asked quietly.
"But not the way you love Artemis, correct?" Calypso mumbled, her words almost unintelligible.
"Yes." Percy said without hesitation, and perhaps a bit more forcefully than he intended it to be. Calypso's grip on Percy tightened as she squeezed him close and tight before she drew her head back, staring into Percy's eyes.
"Well... I guess this is goodbye then."
Before Percy could even react to her words, he felt her lips on his, kissing him lightly, almost shakily, as if she were afraid. Unable to bring himself to pain her with a rejection, he gently kissed her back and she responded passionately, kissing him deeply as she pressed herself against him, moaning softly against his mouth.
For a few moments, they remained in a tight embrace, tight enough that they could feel each other's heart beating heavily as they kissed. Slowly pulling apart, Percy's eyes were thick with guilt and pain, and Calypso's were brimming with tears of sadness.
"And this is hello, Perseus Jackson." Calypso whispered hoarsely against his lips.
With those words, Calypso turned around, walking away with quick and precise steps, leaving Percy to slowly sit down on the floor as he held his head in his hands, his emotions in turmoil.
"Percy." A voice was asking him. "Percy? You still here with us?"
"...What?" Percy mumbled, forcing himself into the present as he blinked rapidly.
"I was asking whether you've noticed something that people here don't have, and yet everyone on Earth has." Luke explained with strained patience, indicating he had been talking for some time already.
"Uh..." Percy struggled to recollect his thoughts as he casually reached a finger up to rub an eye. "Smartphones? Laptops?"
"Finally. Yes, exactly." Luke said, turning away from Percy to begin explaining how it fit into his "secret".
Percy rubbed his eyes once more, taking in a deep breath to calm himself as he concentrated on what Luke was saying.
"...Practically all Clydarians have a nanochip implant near the back of their head, directly integrated into their system. This allows all information to appear in a heads-up display, but it's like displayed in your eyes, directly in front of you. And because it's integrated into your brain, you can control it with perfect accuracy, and at speeds far faster than your fingers could ever manage. And since it's integrated directly into your brain, that means that you can literally control things with your mind. if you want to check anything up, do anything, you just have to think about it, and the implant will do it." Luke said, his enthusiasm evident.
"OK... how is that exactly yours, Zek's and Beckendorf's secret if everyone has one of these?" Bianca asked, voicing the obvious question.
"Because between us three, we've been reinventing it. For our use only, of course. You see, current chips are low powered, they must be low powered, to operate safe at such an intimate range to the brain, and while we've made some advancements in low powered tech and high performance, it's not really that great in my opinion."
"What we've created is an organic chip, which actually utilizes the brain's computational power, and because it's organic, it can work in perfect harmony with the brain without interfering with it." Zek explained.
"OK..." Percy said, understanding perhaps a quarter of what was coming out of Zek's mouth. It felt eerily similar to the old days with Annabeth, where she spouted facts he had no idea about.
"Mind if I ask how does it even work?"
Zek grinned. "I'm glad you asked. You see, it's organic. We modified it so that it uses the energy the body gets from food. Your brain gets its energy from carbs and such, right? Well, my little implant also gets its energy from them."
"That sounds pretty cool. What can it do for us?"
"Well Percy, allow me to boast." Beckendorf said, grinning. "This allows us to communicate simply through our "mind", and our version of this little implant is far more efficient, far safer, and far more advanced. It can even use our own body sensors to detect the temperature of our surroundings, the windspeed, and what type of gases are present."
"If it can control our body to that extent, what happens if it takes over our mind?" Calypso asked, her eyes sharp.
"It won't. Look, to put it simply, this chip is here to complement our abilities. It won't grant us new powers or anything. For example, our eyes. It can help us identify things easier, record surveillance footage, and skull mapping, but it won't give us say, X-Ray vision or something, because our eyes can't see into that spectrum. Get what I'm trying to say now?" Beckendorf explained patiently. Percy, Calypso, Zoë and Bianca all nodded.
"Just one question. Since this is an implant and you're telling us about it, I take it we're all going to have it, correct?" Percy asked. Zek, Luke and Beckendorf nodded.
"So, how is it going to be done? I don't think we're going to have a surgeon cut open our heads and place it in for us, are we?"
"No. That would be absurd." Chaos replied, suddenly appearing at the head of the table.
Everyone was taken by surprise, although they all hastily got to their feet as Chaos inclined her head, pulling her seat out and sitting down. As soon as she sat down, they all did, as quietly as possible.
"Very nice, Calypso. The Second Art. How did you get Percy to help you prepare seafood?" Chaos asked lightly.
"Oh, Percy does things for me." Calypso said sweetly, throwing Percy a wink as he blushed.
Chaos smirked. "I don't doubt it. Let's eat, and we can continue talking."
"So Lady Chaos, how will we have it implanted, if not by some form of "surgery"? Magically?" Calypso asked after several minutes of silence.
"Of course. No point in having a cut in the head when you can just implant it instead, which is painless and quick." Chaos affirmed.
"Well, that's a relief. May I ask why we need it? Is it really going to help us that much?" Percy asked.
"It allows you to blend in better, seeing as other high ranking officials and all military personnel have them. It allows easier communication, since it leaves your hands free, and without worrying too much about... battery life. And if a magical surge strikes, nothing will happen. Merely inoperationable. And it would look stupid, if you famous Eight didn't have them, hm? You can only hide that fact for so long. And you've all been hiding it for almost ten years. That's long enough." Chaos stated bluntly.
"Perish? Really?" Percy asked, arching an eyebrow at her.
Chaos rolled her eyes.
"Just a figure of speech, Percy. But that's that. Now, I have an announcement, and as it so happens, it's a perfect time to field test this new technology."
"If you insist, Chaos, then we'll definitely listen. So what's the announcement?" Zoë asked.
"You know about the rebel faction in Crytaria. They absolutely oppose the truce I've proposed between Crytaria and Vosskeria, despite the fact that the majority of Crytarians and Vosskerians, plus their respective governments, have already accepted it. Well perhaps the Crytarian government, not so much."
"But the thing is, now the rebels are all packed within their last stronghold. The leaders of the rebellion are within, and that's practically public knowledge by now. This rebellion has weakened Crytaria, so the government has sent out a plea for aid to crush the rebels. And we are accepting it." Chaos said.
"And why are we accepting it? We aren't the intergalactic 911, are we?" Beckendorf asked. The Earthlings present, with the exception of Zoë and Calypso, all cracked a grin while Zek spoke up.
"You mean 321. That's the emergency number here." Zek corrected.
"You know what I mean, Zek." Beckendorf sighed exasperatedly, the smart-assery of his comrade ruining the small attempt at humour.
"Do not worry. We are not an intergalactic emergency number or service." Chaos's lips twitched slightly before continuing, "The reason why I am accepting the plea for help is because the Crytarians are willing to sign the truce, along with any requests or conditions, as long as this rebellion is dealt with quickly and promptly. Because of this incentive, Vosskeria has agreed to help. And since it is extremely important, I will be assigning this task to all of you."
"Sure thing, Chaos. You know we've never questioned your orders before." Percy replied, nodding his head slowly.
"Good. Then everyone, it is time for you all to get the implants, and try out the new technology." Lady Chaos stood up from her table, immediately causing the others to stand also.
"No, you all sit." Chaos ordered. They obeyed, each of them slightly confused.
Hardly had they sat down before she snapped her fingers, summoning the technology, magically bypassing their skin and skull, implanting them all directly into their heads. Everyone but Zek, Beckendorf, and Luke crumpled to the floor as blinding headaches shot their skulls before unconsciousness crept over them as Zek's invention began to integrate itself into their brain's neural network.
After a few minutes of unconsciousness, Percy and the rest woke up at that moment, not feeling any different than before they had fallen into unconsciousness.
"Okay... so... how do I turn it on?" Percy asked. Hardly had he said the words than a screen seemingly popped up right in front of him.
Incredible amounts of symbols in straight, horizontal lines began to appear rapidly, making the text stream upwards at an incredible speed. Percy became nearly overwhelmed, many lines had lots of sesquipedalian terms with the word "ACTIVATED" in big, green letters beside them, signifying that some obscure system was turning on within the system. Soon, it was organized into a few specific sections. On the bottom left was a sort of health-gauge. It gave a 3D model of Percy, highlighting and mapping specific areas of his body as vital or non-vital.
It also seemed to quickly scan and identify the people around him with perfect accuracy, automatically mapping their skulls and storing it somewhere inside his brain. At the lower right corner it seemed to keep a small data table of multiple environmental variables, such as the ambient temperature and air quality, all of them listed as "Safe".
"Interesting..." Percy muttered. "OK, so, how do we communicate? I mean, besides talking out loud?" Percy asked Zek, who was breathing a sigh of relief that they were all safe.
Percy's eyes widened as he seemingly heard Beckendorf's voice directly inside his head. He turned to give him a questioning look.
"The little chip sends precisely the right signals in our brains so that it sounds like we're hearing actually hearing it. Extreme technology. Kind of like telepathy. I can send pictures too, and related things like that." he replied.
An instant later, Percy got a small notification coming from the upper-right hand corner. He mentally thought about opening it up and it opened, showing him a handful of pictures that showed Zek striking various poses. Percy rolled his eyes and raised an eyebrow at Zek, who just grinned cheekily.
"If you want to talk to everyone, and only us, then just select our private, personal channel. It's called 'Chaos'." Zek announced.
Percy frowned slightly before mentally selecting the channel 'Chaos'. At first, it was silence. Then, it was immediately filled with the voices of his friends.
What's up, guys?
This is... interesting.
Percy cracked a grin when he heard Zoë's clear and precise voice.
Glad you like it, Zoë. Zek responded.
"Alright. A couple things before you all go." Chaos announced. She looked at Percy. "Here. This may be of some use to you." Chaos raised a hand relatively large weapon appeared right in front of her. With a flick of her hand, she sent it floating towards Percy. Percy picked it out of the air and examined it, noting the lightweight, titanium alloy construction, along the sleek and minimalistic design.
"The X79 plasma rifle/shotgun combo. Custom made, directly from PowerHouse themselves. As powerful as the X58 shotgun, and as precise as the best precision rifle there is. Flick the switch to change between wide-spread damage and narrow, concentrated energy." Chaos explained quickly.
"Thanks. It looks nice. But why did you give this to me?" asked Percy
"Like I said, it might be of use to you. Besides, your archery skill is so poor that the precision mode will benefit you greatly."
Percy flushed with embarrassment as the rest of his friends, especially Zoë, snickered. Even after nearly ten years of training, he was as inept at archery as ever. And needless to say, Zoë would almost always tease him about it whenever the chance presented itself, although over time her teasing had become far more playful than it used to be.
"I'm sure it's point-and-shoot. Idiot proof." Zoë teased Percy, who rolled his eyes and lightly punched her shoulder.
Chaos turned to Zoë next. "And here you go Zoë, I don't think this weapon will ever have any more problems." Chaos said, Zoë's trademark bow/dual blades appearing in front of her.
Zoë smiled, eagerly snatching it out of the air as she tested it out. It was a hidden feature that Zoë had discovered many years ago. It allowed her twin blades to sheathe themselves inside the handgrip. A squeeze, and the blades would extend immediately, ready for combat.
"Weapons check. Anyone else have issues? Not that I would expect any after a decade of usage, but it's always safe to check." Chaos asked, facing each of them in turn. Everyone shook their heads, and when it came to Bianca's turn, Chaos held up her hand.
"Yes Bianca, I know your weapons are fine. I should know..." Chaos grumbled as the Eight chuckled.
Bianca was notorious for her weapons to be perfect, and early on, she had pestered Chaos dozens of times to modify her daggers, as she was never satisfied with the way they felt. After three years of constant modification, Bianca was finally satisfied with an end result far different than what she started out with.
Instead of "plain" daggers the length of her forearm, the blades of modified daggers were slimmed down just slightly. Both sides of the blade were extremely sharp, and at the point of the blade, instead of curving back parallelly with the outside curve immediately, it extended into a minute curve, almost insignificant in its form, shaping a very small hook on the inside edge before curving back parallelly with the outside curve. The curvature allowed Bianca to easily stab the blade deep into a body at a angle while she was holding the blade in an icepick grip, and it would also allow her to pull it out swiftly and cleanly. A messy end, but highly effective.
"So Lady Chaos, where to now?" Percy asked.
"The shipyard of course. Stay still." Chaos ordered, clapping her hands.
In an instant, Chaos had transported them all to the shipyard, which was, as usual, busy and streaming with Clydarians, since merely launching a single ship into space alone required a large workforce, combatting magical disturbances and simultaneously managing incoming shipments from outer space and launching several spacecrafts required a massive workforce of highly trained professionals.
As they had been taught many years by Zek, the Military Academy and Chaos herself, the space ships were all placed on a electromagnetic launcher. The base of the of the ship was locked onto a sliding armature between a pair of parallel conducting rails. When a electric current flowed along one rail, it would go through the sliding armature and down the second rail, completing the circuit and making it act like an electromagnet.
After a myriad of information and physics that Percy didn't understand in the slightest, the end result was that it could launch even massive warships at up to Mach 50 to send the ships hurtling into space without using any ship fuel. Chaos managed to simplify the explanation process by merely saying that it was "an Earthling railgun on super steroids and brains".
"So, you will all be arriving on Crytaria incognito. There is no point in letting them know that the Eccentric Eight are coming, as that would make matters more difficult for us. Thus, you will all arrive in a cargo ship, disguised as normal cargo workers and maintenance crew members. Needless to say, this cargo ship is quite heavily armed and armoued, so there is not much to worry about. Especially since we are technically sailing in friendly skies." Chaos explained quickly and quietly.
"'Technically'. So there's a chance they might shoot us out of the sky?" Luke asked, his eyes scanning over the cargo ship they would be arriving in.
"There's always a chance. Now, stay still, and act like workers when these clothes are on you. The crew know who you all are, but it won't hurt." Chaos ordered.
Chaos raised her hand and casually pointed at each of them. Soon, the Eccentric Eight were dressed in the same clothing as military cargo workers and maintenance crews, complete with belts and the necessary equipment hanging off their belts.
"Ugh... grey so doesn't fit me..." Silena muttered as she examined herself, her nose wrinkling in disgust.
Bianca rolled her eyes. "It's just a temporary disguise, Silena. It's not like we're going to a formal meeting or something." Bianca paused and looked down at herself. "Although, I must admit, this is an ugly colour..."
"Well Bianca, it's like what you said: We aren't going to a formal meeting. Now come, time is... wasting." Zoë said, smiling softly as she slung an arm around Bianca's shoulders and walked up the ship's gangplank
"Zoë's right. Time is wasting. While unlikely, we do not want the Vosskerians to storm the stronghold before we do. It would make us look bad, especially since our good Colonel is already there." Chaos said.
"No problem, Chaos. We won't fai-wait, what!? Colonel? Orion!?" Percy growled as he stopped midway up the gangplank. "What's he doing there?"
Chaos smirked. "Supposedly supporting the Crytarians' in the fight against the rebels. Evidently though, he's been doing a poor job, or I wouldn't have need to call you Eight into this fray, hm?" Chaos replied silkily.
Percy stared at her for a moment before raising his eyebrows and smiling.
"Lady Chaos, you are one devious being." Percy said, bowing respectfully before pressing a button that would draw the gangplank up. Percy turned around and grinned, joining his friends as the captain finished the last of his system checks.
Standing in a semicircle with two other real, worker crews and four Power Users, the captain quickly addressed them as quickly as possible.
"Crew, we are ready to lift off. Everyone take your seats and strap yourselves in, and I will signal to Command to charge our launcher." the captain said in a crisp and formal voice.
Everyone quickly moved to their seats, buckling their legs and strapping their torsos to the chair with sharp clicks. When they were all buckled in securely, each of them pressed a single button on their armrest.
The captain acknowledged the light flashing on his dashboard and seemingly stared into space, although Percy knew that he was communicating with Control. After all, the captain himself was a Power User.
"Alright everyone! Sit tight and get ready!" the captain yelled, his hands grabbing the controller.
As Percy gripped the armrest, he heard the sound of their launcher charging up and feel the energy that was coursing beneath their feet.
"3... 2... 1."
At one, they were immediately shot into the air, their bodies prevented from flying and breaking due only to their harnesses and cuffs keeping them locked in comfortably and securely in their seats. Despite the massive speed at which they were traveling, the short ride into space was very smooth, where Clydarian aerodynamics and cushioning technology played no small part.
"And... we're in space." the captain said over the intercom. "In five minutes, we will be reaching the portal zone by Chaos, so I advise you all to stay in your seats unless you wish to throw up."
"What if we want to throw up? On you?" Zek replied cheekily.
The captain turned his head around slowly and dramatically, fixing Zek with a piercing glare, clearly unperturbed by the fact he was glaring and staring down a superior officer.
Zek smiled back innocently, and after a tense moment, the captain returned his gaze to stare through the window of their ship as they approached the portal that Chaos would open, allowing them to 'teleport' to a location very close to Crytaria instead of waiting a week reach the planet.
"We are about to enter the portal provided by Lady Chaos, so sit tight. And keep your mouths closed." the captain ordered over the intercom.
Needless to say, Zek ignored the order and leaned closer to Percy.
"Did you know that the Clydarian government already has a working prototype of a warp gate? I personally find it absolutely preposterous. The amount of energy needed to power it is impractical. I personally think we should just stick-UNH!"
Zek's voice was abruptly cut off as they were sucked into Chaos's portal, the sudden influx and amount of magical energy surrounding them temporarily choking them all before they shot out of the portal, the influx of power slowly dissipating, and allowing them all to relax. Zek breathed a sigh of relief.
"On second thought, if those prototype warp gates don't have that choking side effect, I might actually support it..." Zek mumbled, massaging his throat.
They traveled in silence for a while until the captain turned around in his seat and pointed at two of the PowerUsers.
"You two. Get to the engine room and man the Twist engines. Just in case." the captain ordered.
"Hey Percy, still remember what I taught you about the Twist engines?" Zek asked, his sore throat apparently forgotten as he grinned at Percy wickedly, knowing that he didn't remember.
Percy rolled his eyes and was strongly tempted to smack the grin right off Zek's face. All he knew was that the engines required four very important and vital things: alchemical explosive Melainus, surprisingly common metal Sternium (which seemed to be very similar to Earth's stainless steel and was hence widely used in construction, electronics, appliances, and common civilian technology), two PowerUsers, and lastly, perhaps most importantly, the turbine and engine itself.
The engine's design and origin were shrouded in secrecy, as not even Percy or even Zek, skilled as he was in technology, knew exactly how the engines functioned. What was known was that when Melainus and Sternium were mixed together perfectly in a zero-gravity environment, along with a healthy dose of magic into it, would cause a ridiculously powerful explosion that would, more or less, annihilate everything in it's radius.
To achieve the perfect mixture was done by the engines themselves, their turbines twisted in a long and gradual helix twist. When the engine was active, the turbines would spin around very quickly, the twist causing the magic and the two ingredients to mix together perfectly, thus creating that explosive force.
Needless to say, very few metals could withstand the destructive power, so the engineer's used Clyridium, a super-strong metal developed by the architects of the Twist engines themselves as a base, and two strong PowerUsers to reinforce the metal with magic, and to focus the explosion instead of letting its force spread and dissipate.
Because the magic needed to perform such feats required a deep and thorough knowledge of the engine's workings, the PowerUser's were handpicked by Chaos himself after going through a series of rigorous testing and screening to make sure that each User was honourable, powerful, capable and trustworthy. This resulted in an extremely professional and courageous attitude, to the point where they would die and destroy the engines before being captured and risk having the enemy acquire their knowledge. As such, they were highly respected and feared. Percy turned to Zek, shrugging.
"Twist, boom, magic, whoosh?" Percy said as nonchalantly as possible, knowing how Zek would react.
Zek's smile immediately dropped off his face at the blatant disrespect Percy had just shown to what he, and many others, considered an unachievable technological marvel.
"Percy..." Zek grumbled, glaring at him.
"What? Aren't I right? Twist, go boom, magic goes in, and whoosh, we shoot forward. Anything wrong with that?" Percy replied innocently.
Zek facepalmed, groaning. "That's like saying when you're fighting Luke, all you do is swish, swash, and whack at each other."
"I suppose. But at least you know what I mean." Percy replied cheerfully.
Zek rolled his eyes, grumbling. Fortunately for Percy, he was spared any more lectures from Zek as the Captain announced that they would being their descent through Crytaria's atmosphere and would land shortly.
The descent was a relatively uneventful affair as they were instantly given clearance and docked on the portable landing points immediately. After helping the crew unload their cargo, they were quickly escorted to meet the commanding officer... Orion.
"Orion. How's it going?" Percy asked stiffly as he and his friends entered Orion's command tent, which was sumptuously decorated and heavily furnished, giving off a clear sign that Orion enjoyed comfort.
"Colonel Orion to you, boy. And everything is going perfectly fine, why in Hades' name did Chaos send you and your... ragtag bunch along is beyond my understanding." Orion replied crossly, glaring at them.
"That's because your understanding is painfully limited, boy. Chaos would not have sent us here without a reason. Now tell us the... situation." Zoë said with supreme indifference, her lips curling into a slight sneer as she stared down Orion with a look of disgust.
"I don't take orders from a girl... but ah, since I'm feeling in a good mood today, I'll give you a brief overview." Orion added hastily as Beckendorf cracked his knuckles.
"We have them surrounded. Their fort may be powerfully built, with thick metal walls and advanced technology to protect them, but it will only be a matter of time before we outlast them and force their surrender." Orion informed them.
Percy rolled his eyes. "Chaos wants this over with as fast as possible. How long has this been dragging on?"
"There is a big difference between what Chaos thinks and wants, and what is realistic and doable." Orion replied in a condescending tone.
"Oh really. Why don't you let us have a look at the battlefield and the fort itself before jumping to conclusions, hm?" Luke smoothly shot back.
"I can assure you that I have already thought of every possible way to infiltrate the fort, and that this is the most effective and efficient method." Orion growled, clearly getting angry. Luke flicked his eyes to Percy and Zek, both of them grinning just slightly before they all glanced at one another, mentally agreeing to play with Orion.
"That sounds fantastic, Orion! Why don't you explain it and lay it out for us? After all... you are Colonel, and we should always learn from our ah, superiors." Luke said with some not-so-subtle sarcasm.
Orion however, was clearly oblivious, his chest practically puffing up as he immediately dove into his "strategy".
"Well, you see, I believe in the "simpler is better" ideology so..." Orion waved his hand towards a large, wooden table in the center. On it was a 3D hologram of the entire battlefield, including the fort itself, in crystal-clear view. "As you can see, we have heavy artillery surrounding their walls in a curved row, trapping them inside and protecting our camp. We have mobile vehicle units patrolling our borders at every single minute, surveillance cameras and the works are all guarding us and keeping an eye out for enemy movement."
"As for our pure offensive push when the oppurtunity comes, we have several squads of elite troops, each of them equipped with the Enhancer suit. They'll be able to climb the walls, distract, and take care of the watchtowers while we mount an attack right into their front gate." Orion finished off, clearly expecting Percy and his friends to be impressed.
At the exact moment he ended his little "presentation", the air around them seemed to ripple as the tent shivered, the lights and the hologram flickering before they blinked out of existence. For a split second, absolute darkness enveloped them before the soft glow of alchemical lights immediately brightened the tent. Luke grinned.
"And what exactly... is your plan when a magical disturbance shuts down all of our electronics?" Luke asked silkily, keeping his facial expression polite and respectful, even as his eyes glittered. Orion froze, clearly taken aback at the sudden turn of events.
"I uh... ahm... the uh... disturbance is only ah, temporary... yes, temporary, so as soon as it is ah, over, we will be able to continue as planned..." Orion managed to stutter and mumble, his air of confidence completely gone.
"And if this is not temporary? if this continues on for several hours? Days, perhaps? What then, Sir?" Luke asked in the same, silky voice, somehow managing to make the word "Sir" sound like an insult.
"I.. w-we don't plan for 'ifs' , Luke! We only plan for what's realistic." Orion snapped, desperately trying to appear superior.
"On the contrary. We should always-"
"Enough." Percy said harshly. Luke quieted down immediately as Orion glared. Motioning to an aide, who was trying to hide in the corner of the tent, pretending he was not a witness of the scene that was unfolding before his eyes.
"Please bring a physical map of the battlefield, and the basic structure of the fort." Percy asked politely.
"Yes Sir." The aide responded, bowing towards the group as he hurriedly went to fulfill Percy's request.
An uncomfortable and icy silence settled in the tent as everyone waited for the aide to return. The waiting gave Percy time to think, as he thought about many things; his past, his relations, his current place in everything... he was about to reminisce when he felt a slight pressure inside his skull.
Just a quick message for you, Percy. In the center of the fort will be a circular building. According to my sources, go in there, take the elevator directly ahead of you, and make a hole in the floor of it. Climb down, and you shall find the rebellion leaders. And remember, take them alive. Chaos's voice rang inside his head.
As you wish, Lady Chaos. But... if I may ask... what gives me the feeling that you already know everything that's going to happen, and you're sending us here as some sort of... test? Percy asked mentally.
His only answer was a soft chuckle before the pressure dissipated, leaving Percy to blink his eyes several times to clear his mind.
Glancing over to his friends, he noticed that they too were blinking and looking around. Meeting each of their eyes, he gave a short and discreet nod, to which they all responded in kind, mutually understanding each other.
Without a sound, the aide returned, carrying a rolled-up map and a few photographs in his hands.
"Here you go, Sir." the aide said, bowing his head slightly as Percy took the map and pictures from him.
"Excellent. Thank you very much." Percy said as he unfurled the map, placing it flat on the table so everyone could see it clearly.
"As you can see, the fortifications are formidable. The walls are reinforced with some of the finest metals out there, and the surface is completely smooth. It is impossible to climb. I am sure of it, because we have run countless simulations, and none of them are possible, or even remotely plausible." Orion said immediately, not even giving them time to study the map.
"No fortification is impenetrable. Shut up." Zoë said harshly, her eyes flashing.
"The walls may be impenetrable to modern weaponry, but our weapons are made of Chaotic Silver. We could easily penetrate it." Beckendorf commented, studying the map with great interest.
Orion snorted. "So? What are you going to do? Hack at the wall until it comes down? Please..."
"I said, shut up!" Zoë snapped, her fingers curling into a fist before punching Orion right on the temple, pulling her blow just enough so that it wasn't lethal. Orion shrieked as he sprawled onto the floor, clutching his head while Zoë looked down on him with derision.
"Zoë... while I have no qualms about what you just did, I must ask... was that really necessary?" Percy asked quietly.
"Yes." Zoë replied simply, looking at Percy with an expression so serious that Percy burst into laughter. Zoë raised an eyebrow.
"Ah, nothing." Percy said, clearing his throat. "Anyways Beckendorf, you had an excellent point. We are not, as Orion so cleverly thought we were going to do, try to bring the wall down. We'll be climbing it." Percy grinned as his friends looked at him skeptically.
"Percy... you cannot be thinking of even attempting to climb that wall. If you're going to do what I think you're going to do." Luke said, concern in his voice.
"Oh? And why not?" Percy replied.
"That wall is at least 60 feet high." Luke stated, pointing at the map. "Even for someone like you, Hades, even for Beckendorf, that is a very difficult task. Why do you not just fly up there? And besides, even if you get up there, how do you expect the rest of us to? I, for one, am definitely not going to climb that wall."
"Well Luke, there are watchtowers in case you haven't noticed. And I'm sure they'd just let me fly up to their battlements without noticing." Percy said sarcastically. "As for how you and the rest will get up, I'm positive there will be rope up there. Such an advanced operation won't be unprepared for magical disturbances like this."
Luke rolled his eyes. "Of course I noticed. I was just concerned about you. But if you insist... and if you're sure about the rope..."
"Very nice of you to get all sentimental on me, Luke. I appreciate that. But it's the quickest way to infiltrate. Once we're in..." Percy paused and ran his finger over the map, rapidly thinking of a rough plan to begin with. "We assault and capture the eastern gate while the entire army feigns an attack on their southern entrance. Once our infiltration and capture is successful, we'll notify of them and have them swarm in. After that... we do what we came here to do."
"And what... did you guys come here to do?"
Percy turned to see Orion, while having a nasty bruise already covering the right side of his face, glaring at them harshly, his right eyelid still fluttering from Zoë's blow.
"It is none of your concern, boy." Zoë responded coolly, stepping forward.
"Oh, I believe it is. After all, I am in charge, and if you don't tell me what I wish to know, I will have you confined into a tent with armed guards." Orion said, his eyes flashing.
The temperature in the room plunged as Zoë's eyes darkened, her normally cold eyes growing colder while her knuckles whitened as her fingers once again clenched into a fist.
"Zoë..." Percy said warningly. She ignored him, slowly closing in on Orion as she discreetly placed her hand on her weapon.
"Zoë!" Percy said sharply, reaching forward and grabbing her hand. "We don't have time for this." He muttered quietly, trying hard not to flinch as she turned her gaze on him. He did so anyway.
Without a word, Zoë tightened her grip on his hand and swung, pulling Percy forward slightly as she used Percy's hand to crush against Orion's cheek, lifting her leg and kicking out with enough force to lift him off his feet and slam against the wall, his face creating a nasty crunch as he fell flat against the floor.
"Thanks Percy." Zoë said cheerfully, gently pinching his cheek as he wrung his hand. Zoë could really punch with force. Percy cracked a grin as his friends all laughed, exiting the tent to set their plan in motion.
After some debriefing with the troops that obeyed the Eccentric Eight, and some persuading on the others who didn't, Percy sat in his tent, waiting for Zoë to give the signal on when to strike. He had changed into an outfit that was very similar to what he wore on Earth, complete with chains. The only difference was that he now wore a dark blue shirt with a silver collar. He decided to pass his time by staring at the disguised Elderstar that lay across his lap. He was intrigued, mostly, by the sword he wielded. Even though it had combined with Riptide, and he had practiced with the sword for almost ten years, he felt like he knew next to nothing about Elderstar.
All he could figure out was that it was much more than a sword. And much, much more than just a magical sword made of Chaotic Silver. Besides the rather obvious fact that it seemed to have more than a touch of attitude, whenever Percy attempted to probe deeper into the sword, he felt himself being blocked. What intrigued him even more was that it never felt like it was a magical shield that was blocking him. It felt as if that sword had a conscious, almost human-like mind that actively chose to stop him from probing too deep, and needless to say, it frightened Percy to a certain degree, to have the feeling that he was wielding something... alive.
Percy slowly stroked his fingers over the cold metal, relaxing as it temporarily glowed a soothing, silvery-green before letting Chaos's disguise to take over once again. Percy sighed slightly, staring at the blade. Sometimes, if he stared long and hard enough, he would have visions of Artemis, and yet they were visions that he had never experienced, in surroundings he had never set foot in.
Unsettling though they may be, Percy was secretly glad and sometimes stared at the blade whenever he could just so he could catch a glimpse of Artemis or any of his fellow "sisters", as he was doing now.
At the instant Percy thought he saw something shift in the blade, Zoë stepped right into his tent, as usual without any announcement. Reluctantly, he capped his sword and looked up at Zoë, who nodded.
Percy stood up, following Zoë with easy strides.
"I find it funny that you never announce your presence, despite the fact that during my time with the Hunters, they always announced their presence." Percy stated calmly.
Zoë smiled softly. "Even after so long, I still find it so hard to believe that a boy like you would have been part of the Hunters." Zoë said, lightly bumping his shoulder as they walked. "As for why I don't, well, simply because I like catching you off guard."
Percy smiled as they met up with the rest of their group, who were all ready for battle, with their weapons in plain sight.
"Ready, Percy?" Beckendorf asked as he approached. Percy took a deep breath as he stared at the massive wall that stood in front of them.
"As ready as I'll ever be, Beckendorf." said Percy, taking a few steps backwards while Beckendorf crouched down a bit, leaning forward with his knees bent as he held his arms down, hands cupped slightly.
Percy sprinted, Beckendorf tossing him into the air as he leapt off his cupped hands. Pulling out his pen, he uncapped Elderstar, and just as he was about to faceplant into the wall, he slammed Elderstar deep into the wall, bending his knees and using his feet to absorb the rest of the force. Pulling out the second blade, he reversed his grip on the hilt and slammed it a bit higher into the wall, sliding the first blade out and forcing it back into the wall a bit higher than the other blade, making small progress towards reaching the top.
Despite the fact that Percy had done such things quite a few times during training sessions with Achilles, he had never done it on such a thickly armoured wall or on a such a enormous one. He began sweating after only making it halfway to the top, although his progress was much faster than he had anticipated. Stopping for just a moment to shift his fingers around, he began to climb again, this time at a slightly slower pace in order to conserve as much energy as he could.
Piercing the wall with his sword for the last time, he put his second blade back into the first and reached upwards, grabbing the edge of the battlements to haul himself up. At that exact moment, a guard's head peeked over the edge, to look right into Percy's face.
For a split second, they stared at each other in pure shock before Percy's hand slid from the wall to his dagger by his side while the guard reached down to his belt to fumble for his horn. Percy desperately attempted to unsheathe his dagger while clinging tightly to his sword as the guard raised the horn to his lips.
A silver arrow sprouted from the guards' eye, punching a hole clean through his horn and piercing his head. With a quiet clatter, the horn pieces fell to the ground as the guard slumped backwards. Grabbing the edge once again, Percy hauled himself upwards and extracted his sword out from the wall before collapsing onto the battlements with a groan.
Looking around, he spotted a large coil of rope neatly put on the floor a couple feet besides him and cracked a small grin. Getting to his feet and stepping over the corpse, he picked up the rope, tied one end around the corpse's ankle, and tossed the other end down the wall for his friends before proceeding to sit on the dead body, calmly producing an apple with a click of his fingers and munching on it as he waited for his friends to climb their way up the wall.
By the time Percy was finishing off the apple, his friends had reached the top, each of them crouching down low to avoid being seen.
"So Percy, what has your Athena-mind planned next?" Luke asked.
"Well... let's see..." Percy threw the core over the wall as he peeked up just a bit, sweeping the area as he took in the enemies' location as quickly as possible. "Alright. We're going to have to split up into groups. One of us distracts and takes on the main fighting, the other opens the gate. The eastern gate I'd guess is usually operated electronically, but there should be a way to open it manually. It'll probably require strength, so Beckendorf, you're definitely part of the group that's going to open the door." Beckendorf nodded, sliding his hammer off his back as he held it in a casual manner.
"And of course, knowing you, Silena will be with you." Percy grinned as Silena flashed Percy a smile bright enough to temporarily blind him.
"Zek, you'll be going with Beckendorf and Silena also. You know this technology better than practically anyone amongst these worlds, so if something happens and we can't get that gate open, I'm sure you can figure a way around it." Percy turned towards Luke, a small smirk curling his lips. "And of course, the Son of Hermes. Who better than to open locks?" Luke's mischievous grin made itself much more prominent than Percy's.
"It'll be my pleasure." He replied, pulling out his dagger and giving it a twirl.
"Excellent. The rest with me. We're going to have to engage the garrison that is stationed here, and any additional reinforcements they may send. Any questions?" Percy asked.
"If the disturbance were to pass... wouldn't that change everything?" asked Luke.
"Well, if it were to pass, then we'd just... improvise. But I highly doubt that'll happen, sinc-"
Percy froze as the air rippled and the ground shook slightly. Suddenly, the air around them was filled with electronic beeps and pings as the lights of the rebel stronghold lit up the night sky. Something flickered in front of his vision and his heads-up display burst to life as his implanted chip activated. Information streamed across his eyes as voice comms activated, filling his head with radio chatter as questions and confusion spread throughout the army.
All forces, continue assault and bombardment as planned. Throw some stuff over my way so they won't get suspicious, but otherwise, continue as planned. Does everyone copy? Percy quickly threw out over all military channels so that he could quiet them down. Getting satisfactory replies, he shunted the channels into the back of his head and looked at his companions.
Percy opened his mouth, and froze again as a spotlight from a watchtower shone over their heads. Everyone instinctively went flat against the floor as the spotlight slowly scanned the visible portions of the battlements.
Fortunately for them, they were hiding in the tower's blind spot. Unfortunately, the dead body -which they had left alone due to the assumption that it would be too dark to spot- was not.
The lights concentrated around the corpse as klaxons began ringing loudly. In less than a second, the sound of many boots thundering against the cobblestones rang in their ears. Percy peeked his head over again, his eyes widening as he saw a group of soldiers pulling out their rocket launchers.
"Er... guys, you know what I said about improvising?" Percy muttered. They responded mentally. "Now would be a good time for that."
"JUMP!" Percy roared. They jumped over the parapet as the rockets hit, the explosion hurtling them upwards.
After crashing onto and rolling off of several rooftops and platforms, they hit the ground hard, struggling to regain their senses as they were surrounded by a company of soldiers.
"On your feet! NOW!"
"Don't move or we will shoot!"
"Hands where we can see them! Up! GET UP!"
"Freeze and DO NOT MOVE!"
There were so many conflicting messages that they all decided to lay prone on the ground and allowed themselves to be roughly picked up in order to recover as much as possible.
Powerful beams of light focused on them all, Percy squinting as he cracked his eyes open just slightly to take in his surroundings. He did not need his full vision to know that they were surrounded in all directions, or that if he could see, he'd simply be staring right up the barrel of a gun. Quickly glancing around, he noticed that there were far more soldiers in front of them than behind. He immediately relayed his observations to his friends, hoping that one of them would have a solution, since what he had in mind required a distraction.
Oh, I've got this. Get ready. Silena replied confidently.
Oh dear... Calypso groaned mentally.
Everyone tensed and stood stock still, waiting for what Silena would do as the Crytarian soldiers advanced slowly and cautiously.
The sound of leather falling against the stones. The gasp of shock and amazement, followed by a flurry of movement as the soldiers all shuffled around, distracted. Percy drew his sword, and for just a split second, Elderstar flashed silver as it once again tasted the blood of a Crytarian before returning to it's former disguise, as plain as any other sword.
A flurry of arrows from Zoë shut down the soldiers towards the back as the sound of a blunt metal object crushing flesh and bone told Percy that Beckendorf was taking care of business.
Suddenly, a wall of red-coloured smoke blew past Percy, wrapping themselves around four soldiers who were attempting to flank him. Their skin burned bright red as they screamed, falling to the ground moments later, the intense heat having knocked them out.
Percy turned around and grinned at Calypso, who smiled back beautifully and winked.
Screams were heard as Bianca raised her hand, the ground cracking apart the soldiers' feet as a dozen skeletons exploded out of the ground, their cold, bony hands squeezing tight around living flesh.
Shots were exchanged, many flying wild while a few found their targets with fatal accuracy. A brief moment of chaos ensued as Luke threw down holographic projections of himself to deceive the enemies while Zek unclipped and threw a grenade that bounced miniature lightning bolts from soldier to soldier.
In a matter of minutes, they had cleared out the enemies and stood together in a loose circle with Silena in the center.
"You gotta love taboos... it's just a jacket, not like I was going to take my shirt off." Silena said smugly. "I only take my shirt off for one man."
Beckendorf blushed slightly but Percy held up his hand, listening intently as he tried to visualize what the Crytarians would be doing now, drawing on his lessons about their strategy.
"Beautifully done Silena, but don't count on it to work again. We caught them by surprise, but they'll be ready for us now. Stick with the plan, try and open the gates. We're going to need the support. Go." Percy ordered quietly.
Silena nodded, and she, Beckendorf, Luke and Zek slipped away, communicating with each other mentally on how best to breach the control room for the gate.
Percy turned and addressed Zoë, Bianca and Calypso.
"If they follow form, they're going to send out a shock troop of their elite to deal with us, since we're considered 'distractions,' Let's go meet them first." Percy said, grinning slyly.
They tilted their heads and each went their separate ways. Bianca stepped into a shadow and disappeared, Calypso merely dissolved into golden dust and Zoë, with a Hunter's grace and speed, climbed up a wall and vanished.
Percy lengthened his stride and quickened his pace, wanting to get as much distance from the gate as possible as he cast his senses out to detect roughly when the shock troop would arrive. If they went by the book, the shock troops would number no more than fifty, a number Percy was confident he, Bianca, Calypso and Zoë could handle, provided they had a tactical advantage.
Which was what Percy was aiming for, a corner ahead of him that had shadows, a tight space that would serve as a minor choke point, and a building that provided Zoë with a healthy height advantage. By the time Percy reached his destination, he could feel the small platoon of shock troops approaching just as his friends got into position.
An important aspect of battles was the psychology. Thus, intimidation was vital, so he extended his wings and flapped them a few times to warm them up before extending them to their maximum length, holding Elderstar in his right hand and his X79 rifle in the other. Tightening his grip on his sword, he waited calmly for them to arrive.
The troops turned the corner to see a lone, darkly clothed figure standing in the middle of the road, holding a nasty-looking rifle in one hand and a black sword in the other. Their commander raised his hand and they slowed down, cautiously bringing their weapons to bear.
"State your name, rank, and intention!" The leader said in a loud, clear voice as he took a step forward from his troops. The figure remained silent and motionless. Shrugging off a shiver of unease that crept up his spine, he raised his voice to a forceful shout. "Sir, PLEASE state your business here!"
Without a word, the figure dissolved into liquid, pooling onto the ground and disappearing. Everyone took a step back in shock as they all began to mutter amongst themselves, anxiously scanning the ground and their feet for any signs of the mysterious figure and completely missing what was above them.
A shower of arrows from Zoë and Bianca rained down on the troops, killing several outright while severely disabling many others. Crying out in consternation, they immediately focused upward, firing random shots at the rooftops. They began to advance, breaking into smaller squads, some to enter and search the buildings while others provide backup and cover.
A yellow mist engulfed the platoon and almost immediately, everyone's eyes began to sting and water. Many instinctively rubbed their eyes, dropping their weapons in the process, while a few of the more resilient and quick thinking ones pulled out slim masks that filtered the air they breathed in while shielding their entire face. However, all of this was very distracting, and during all of that Percy managed to slip into their lines, unnoticed.
Silently, Percy reformed in the center of the mess, getting their full attention by releasing a nova blast of fire. A dozen soldiers were sent flying by the force of the nova, their bodies slamming against buildings while those who were in close proximity to Percy perished immediately. This signaled the start of the full-on attack, and Zoë dropped down from a building, driving an arrow into a man's neck before knocking that arrow loose and thrusting it into a soldier's head. As they closed in on her, her bow straightened, the ends sharpening. Stabbing an unaware soldier through the gut, Zoë whirled around, parried an easy swing and promptly decapitated the offending soldier while Bianca stepped out from a shadow, slicing the throats of unaware soldiers and sapping their energy with only small cuts to their hands and legs, her Stygian Iron blades growing colder and colder with every passing moment.
Percy swept the feet out from underneath a soldier with his sword, reversing his grip and thrusting it through the soldier's belly in mid-air, literally pinning him to the ground as he casually blew another soldier's head apart with a point-blank shotgun blast. He toppled, and Percy ducked, a shot whizzing over his head. Smooth as butter, he flipped the switch on his gun and fired one single, precise shot. The soldier crumpled, a hole in his forehead the only sign of injury.
As the various Crytarian troops began to adapt to the melee by pulling out their own swords, daggers, and spears, Percy sheathed his gun and pulled out his second sword, decapitating another Crytarian in the process.
Standing back-to-back with Zoë, the pair worked in fluid synchronization, covering each others blind spots and coordinating feints and lunges with superb timing, easily cutting down the soldiers who were all foolishly throwing themselves at the pair, or rapidly backing away from the chilling aura that Bianca began to radiate.
As Percy fought, he immediately noticed that the soldiers did not consist of only Crytarians. Many were humanoid creatures that Percy did not even recognize. He was about to broadcast his thoughts to his friends when Beckendorf's voice sounded in his head.
Ha! The gates are secured! Beckendorf boasted over their network as they began to close in on what remained of the platoon. They were no match for our strategy.
Which strategy? The "Fist-in-your-face-until-you-die" strategy, or the cheesier "Open-your-eyes-and-be-shamed-forever" strategy? Percy responded jokingly as he calmly severed the right leg, right forearm and head of a Crytarian "goblin" with his own "Crescent Moon" technique.
You wound me with your words. Breasts are actually VERY powerful weapons, Percy. Would you like to find out? Silena replied, her voice as light and sweet as always. Zoë gagged in the middle of stabbing an arrow into a Crytarian's face as Percy chuckled.
Yeah, right. But no thanks, Silena. I know how powerful seduction is. Percy's tone turning a bit more serious.
Oh no. That's not what I meant, Percy. What I mean is PHYSICALLY dangerous. One day, you will feel the power of BMDs. Silena said dramatically.
BMDs? Percy asked, kicking a Crytarian in the balls before finishing him with a smooth stab to the head.
Boobs of Mass Destruction. Silena responded as flatly as she could. The effect was instantaneous.
Percy roared with laughter, Zoë's expression went from concentration to one of absolute mortification, and Bianca fought to contain her mirth as she flipped a soldier over her shoulder and stomped on his skull.
Right, right. Like that's going to happen. Thanks for the laugh Silena, but any more and we'll get killed here. Percy said, recovering enough to deflect a throwing knife with his blade.
Killed? Please. None of us are going to be killed by this rubbish. Luke said in confidently.
Percy mentally rolled his eyes.
Alright everyone, let's focus. We've still got our main objective to finish. Zek, care to do the honours?
It'd be my pleasure, Percy. Zek replied enthusiastically.
THE NORTHERN GATE IS OPEN, DOES ANYONE COPY?! Zek broadcasted over the military channel as loudly and annoyingly as he could, no doubt hoping for some cursing. Instead, they all received a cool and smooth response.
We copy. All troops, redeploy to the northern gate. Mortars, provide support by clearing the place out before our soldiers enter. Intensify bombardment on all other sectors. And hurry it up, the Vosskerians are arriving right now and I don't want them to take any credit if possible. Orion sighed and took a breath, Good job, you... Eight. Now do your job and get out of there. And stay frosty. My men have reported that some unauthorized people might be tailing you all.
We understand. Thank you, Orion. Not to be outdone, Percy responded just as smoothly.
Good. See you soon then. Colonel Orion out. The line went silent and Percy turned his attention to the people supposedly tailing them.
Alright. Check your backs, everyone. Beckendorf, we'll meet up with you guys at the building Chaos described. Clear?
You got it, Perce. Beckendorf replied, closing the line.
"Now… before we attempt to deal with our stalkers, where the hell is Calypso?" Percy asked, turning to Zoë and Bianca.
"Right behind you." Calypso's voice sounded behind him.
Percy whirled around, his mouth opening slightly in surprise.
"What… are you doing with four body bags?" Percy asked, slightly confused. "Erm.. four body bags with bodies inside it?"
"Dealing with our stalkers." Calypso replied simply, tossing them at Percy's feet.
Percy bent down and quickly pressed a hand to the chest of one bag, immediately noting the lack of a heartbeat.
"I thought you never killed."
"I try not to kill. But sometimes, some situations are unavoidable." Calypso replied cheerfully.
"Ah. Um… how did you even know they were following us?"
"I am a daughter of a Titan, Percy. You should ask Zoë why she didn't notice anything, being a Hunter and everything." Calypso said teasingly, brushing past Percy and lightly bumping Zoë on the shoulder. Zoë just rolled her eyes in response.
"That's… actually a good question. Hey Zoë, why didn't you notice that people were follo-" Percy was abruptly cut off as Zoë lightly slapped him across the cheek, turning him around.
"Never mind…" Percy muttered, heading off towards the building in the center of the city, knowing that they would be following him.
That reminds me... Calypso, did you discover who exactly was tailing us? Percy asked as they ducked into the shadows to avoid an entire army of troops marching past them as explosions began to rock the ground.
Yes. Vosskerians. Elites, from the looks of their clothing, weaponry and technology. Calypso replied.
So. Chaos isn't the only being interested in the rebel leaders then...
That's what I thought also. And Percy, we better hurry. Orion's troops are pressing in hard, which will give us little time. We don't want to fight in the open unless we have to. Calypso commented as they hid from yet another platoon of soldiers marching past them. And at this rate, we are going to have to fight in the open.
Percy grumbled slightly, knowing that Calypso was right. Alright. Bianca, you're the fastest in shadows. Get there first, meet up with the others if they're there, and scout out the area. Calypso... you do whatever you do. Zoë and I will take to the rooftops.
Bianca nodded silently and promptly vanished as Calypso gave him a cheery smile before pulling some black powder from her belt and disappearing from view. Percy turned to fly Zoë up to the rooftops with him, only to hear a whistle from above and see her staring down at him from atop a building, her foot tapping impatiently.
He groaned, flapping his wings a few times to land lightly beside her. The moment he landed, she ran off, springing across two buildings with ease, not bothering to look behind her or wait for him to catch up.
"Didn't even ask whether I wanted to run across the rooftops, hm?" Zoë said as he caught up.
"Well, I assumed that this was the best choice. Harder than creeping about on ground level, but better, I believe." Percy replied, sliding down a ramp and nimbly jumping to the next roof.
Zoë sighed softly and looked at the sky for a moment, a rather admirable feat considering they were running across rooftops and hopping from building to building, where a single misstep would send her plummeting downwards, quite possibly to her death.
"It reminds me of the times with Lady Artemis, who always made the right decisions, even if they were more difficult than the alternative. As much as I love being amongst the stars, I still long for the Hunt." Zoë explained. "I miss Artemis and my Hunters as much as you do, Percy." Zoë said quietly.
"Well... one day, we'll be back, Zoë. I'm sure of it." Percy said, equally as quiet as he almost tripped over a chimney in his haste to keep up with Zoë, who had not slipped in the slightest.
"I hope you're right, Percy..." Zoë muttered as they simultaneously leapt off a building and hit the ground rolling, both of them smoothly getting to their feet, assuming a battle-ready stance as they scanned the area, approaching the building which housed their targets.
It was, to Percy's surprise, extraordinarily plain. A perfectly circular building with absolutely no decoration, it looked rather out of place due to it's pure white colour scheme. Another standout factor was that it had no windows, no vents, and had only one very small door that was barely visible.
A moment later, Bianca walked out of the shadows as Calypso materialized in a small puff of black smoke.
"Anything, Bianca?" Percy asked quietly.
Bianca nodded. "Beckendorf and the others are already inside. They're currently trying to cut through the elevator's floor, as per Chaos's instructions, but... it's proving to be harder than expected. At least, if we wish to make a silent entry."
"What seems to be the problem?"
Percy edged his way past the door and saw, as Chaos had described, a typical elevator. Inside it, Beckendorf, Zek and Luke were attempting various ways of cutting through the floor, even using a diamond laser cutter in their attempts, but from what Percy would see, the floor wasn't even scratched.
"Percy." Luke said, looking up as he approached. "Anything you can do about this? There's power in that floor, and it's resisting everything we're throwing at it. At least, so far. Beckendorf wants to smash it open, but only if you can't do anything about it."
"Hmm..." Percy knelt down and touched the floor with his fingers. Almost immediately, he drew his hand back, fast as lightning. The floor was so cold that his fingertips were already numb from that brief moment of contact.
"There's some sort of ice spell on the floor... and what's more, it's ridiculous powerful..." Percy muttered to his friends, mulling over what he could do to over come it.
"Can you overcome it?" asked Silena.
"Only one way to find out." Percy said.
He extended his right hand and wreathed it in green flames, increasing the intensity of it until everyone in the elevator began to sweat from the heat.
Reaching down, he pressed his palm against the floor. There was a loud hiss and the fire surrounding his hand shrank until it was barely visible. Percy gave a gasp and clenched his teeth, fighting against the cold that was beginning to spread through his hands. Conjuring a fireball in his left hand, he slammed it onto his right, reviving his hand and effectively doubling the force of his fire.
The floor immediately began to glow an icy blue and the temperature in the elevator dropped to the point that ice crystals began to form on their clothing and their sweat started to freeze into miniature icicles. Percy growled and pushed, a small ring of fire spreading from his hands. A powerful heatwave swept through the enclosed space, melting the ice crystals and once again causing them to sweat.
It soon turned into a tug-of-war fight, both sides resisting each other, both attempting to gain dominance over the other. Meanwhile, his companions stayed absolutely still, despite the fact that they were all experiencing rather extreme shifts in temperature, which is extraordinarily uncomfortable, considering the fact that for a second, they'd be sweating profusely and the next second, they'd be frozen stiff with mini-icicles hanging off their noses.
Percy growled angrily as he struggled to keep his energies up. The power in the floor seemed to be as strong as ever, while Percy could feel his energies waning. He felt something shift in his pocket and ultimate decided to take a risky move.
"Everyone... brace yourself." Percy said through clenched teeth.
His eyes bursting into flames as he utilized all of his power, he stood up from the floor, wrenching his hand away. The floor pulsed a deep blue, and solid ice burst from the floor, wrapping itself around his friends. Ignoring their cries of alarm, he uncapped Elderstar, it's blade dripping with flames as he slammed the tip against the floor.
The ice spell shattered with a loud crack the instant Elderstar made contact and a wave of fire washed over everyone, melting the ice from their bodies and banishing the cold from the elevator. Percy gave a loud sigh of relief and exhaustion, capping Elderstar and wearily putting it back into his pocket.
"Well, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Percy stated as cheerfully as he could.
His friends glared at him and he laughed, reaching over to gently brush water droplets off Calypso's shoulders.
With the ice spell destroyed, it was almost comically easy to open the floor of the elevator. A quick burst of light with the laser cutter and they were through, the hole revealing a sloping tunnel that they could slide down.
"I'll go first. In case there are more things to deal with. I'll tell you if it's safe." Percy said, hopping down the hole and sliding straight downwards.
The journey took longer than expected, as Percy felt himself sliding around in a myriad of ways, and in total darkness.
Abruptly, the darkness turned into blazing whiteness and Percy instinctively looked away, his eyes narrowing to slits. He felt the tunnel flatten out and an instant later, he landed on something very fluffy, bouncing once before rolling to a stop. As his eyes adjusted to the brightness, he slowly opened them...
...to stare right into the muzzle of a huge plasma rifle.
Percy took a quick step back, his eyes rapidly scanning his surroundings, taking in the details. The wielder of the weapon was a huge goblin, his entire body bulging with muscle mass. Behind him were five more goblins like him, each with a weapon to match their size. Sitting further behind them all were six old, wizened goblins, each of them staring at him with unnervingly bright eyes for such old beings.
"Hello, Nex. Welcome to our humble abode." One of the old goblins spoke clearly to him.
Percy slowly turned his head, noticing the sparsely furnished surroundings and the pure whiteness of the place. Everything around him was white. The table that the goblins were seated around of, the cups and platters on it, the rugs, everything was white. Even the chandelier that hung from the ceiling shone with a powerfully bright, white light.
Percy slowly turned his head, noticing the sparsely furnished surroundings and the pure whiteness of the place. Everything around him was white. The table that the goblins were seated around of, the cups and platters on it, the rugs, everything was white. Even the chandelier that hung from the ceiling shone with a powerfully bright, white light.
"Very... clean. A bit lacking in colour, but overall, I quite like it." Percy said carefully, aware that the goblin that was holding him at gunpoint was staring at him with a look of utmost loathing.
"Thank you. We worked very hard to keep things simple. Not easy, to give up old creature comforts. But we did so because we wanted a better future for Crytaria." The old one responded.
"Really. Opposing peace and a truce is 'a better future'? If so, you're painfully misinformed." Percy sneered.
A low grunt, and Percy was slammed against the wall, the gun's muzzle pushing against his forehead as the giant goblin roared into his face.
"Very impressive." Percy said sarcastically, at the same time opening his audio and video channels to his friends so they would know what he was facing.
"Relax, Gorshnik. He is merely trying to anger us. Amateur tactics." The old goblin said, standing up. "And of course opposing this truce would lead to a better future. Because truces never last. It would merely lead to a larger, bloodier war eventually, especially when the truce relies on two governments. No, better to conquer all, lay down the rules and control everything with a single, unified government." The old goblin was breathing hard at the end of his short speech, reaching behind him for a cup of water.
"Are you out of your freakin' mind? You want to overthrow and control the Ten Planets? How would you take on Chaos? Hell, how would you overpower the Klasmerians?!" Percy stated, quite honestly shocked at what the old goblin was saying.
"We have much more support and backing than you believe, boy." the goblin replied sneeringly.
"Well, you're going to tell us everything you and your comrades know." Percy calmly said, tensing his muscles.
"One of you, and twelve of us. What are you going to do, suicide on all of us? That's not much of a threat." he replied condescendingly.
Percy's right arm moved upwards, knocking the weapon that was pointed at his face against the goblins own face. His left hand shot out, punching the goblin square in the gut, knocking the wind out of Gorshnik as he grabbed the stock of the gun, his right hand smoothly sliding down to grasp the handle, his finger immediately finding the trigger button.
Careful to not accidentally hit any of the elder goblins, he jammed the muzzle of the gun under Gorshnik's chin, blowing a hole through the top of his head. All of this before his buddies even had a chance to react.
By the time they began to bring their weapons up, Percy kicked the now dead goblin straight forward with as much force as possible. Roughly 300 pounds of dead Crytarian corpse with the smell to go along with it crashed against the five remaining bodyguards, causing them to topple like dominoes.
Extending his wings, he leapt forward with a timed flap, closing the distance between him and the bodyguards in a second. Flipping the gun so that the muzzle pointed downwards, he jammed the barrel against one of the guards' chest, emptying a full clip into the goblin.
Casually tossing the weapon aside, he whipped out Elderstar, extracted the second blade with his left hand and reversed his grip on both swords, slamming his swords through two more guards and against the ground, releasing a small wave of force as he did so.
The force wave knocked the remaining two guards aside, giving him some breathing room as they struggled to stand up. Combining his swords together, he noticed one of the guards reaching for a gun on the floor and swiftly unhooked a chain from his jacket, throwing it and knocking the weapon out of his reach.
Quickly walking forward, he speared the goblin through the back with Elderstar, setting his sword on fire so that it quickly burned the surrounding flesh to crisps. Turning to face the final guard, he unsheathed a dagger and knelt, slitting the goblins throat with a quick slash. The guards dead, Percy stood up, slowly advancing on the rebellion leaders.
"Not bad. Consider me impressed, Nex. But you'll never take us all." the old goblin who had spoken to him said now.
"What do you mean?" Percy asked carefully, his eyes narrowing.
The goblin clicked his long fingers and suddenly, with unnerving synchronization, the five seated goblins stood up, each with a gun in their hand, each of them pointed directly at Percy, who froze. He had never seen anything like this before, and it must have shown on his face, for the old goblin laughed loudly.
"Don't know what this is? This is just the beginning, Nex! There is so much you do not kn-"
A slight pop, and the old goblin fell to the ground, a tranquilizer dart sticking out of his neck. In the next instant, the five guns that were pointed at Percy were knocked out of their respective hands by arrows and laser bursts as several more popping sounds were heard, a goblin crumpling after each pop.
Percy turned and smiled broadly when he saw his friends standing at the tunnel exit, their weapons drawn.
"Thanks for the save." Percy said, letting out a sigh as he relaxed himself.
Zek grinned. "Did you know that the tunnel actually expanded to accommodate the amount of people in it? It's pretty amazing. We all just jumped in, camped out near the entrance and waited for you to finish your killing."
"...you guys were there all along? Just watching?" Percy asked incredulously as he helped Beckendorf lug the unconscious goblins into body bags.
"Well, you were doing really well. At least with the guards. Then you got into a sticky situation with those oldies and we saved the day. No harm done, so what's with the grouchiness, Perce?" Luke asked cheerily.
"You know... Chaos never really told us what to do with these rebel leaders. I mean, she told us to bring them back, but she didn't explain how, did she?" Bianca asked before Percy could give a retort.
"Simple. Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus will transfer us back." Percy replied.
"Well, no duh. We obviously won't be chartering a ship back to Clydaria. But we can't be underground, Achilles won't be able to teleport us through the Gate if we're underground." Bianca said, slightly exasperated.
"These leaders of theirs all must have had a escape route ready to go through. They probably just didn't expect us, so all we have to do is find the escape route." Zoë commented, staring at the walls, her brow furrowed slightly.
"Yeah, that'll be easy. You know, 'cause secret passages were made to be found." Beckendorf said sarcastically, slinging a couple bags over his shoulder and turning around to stare at various objects, accidentally knocking over the cups of water that were placed on the table in the process.
A crackling sound caught everyone's attention as the water spread rather unaturally across the table, covering the entire table and stopping perfectly at the edges. As they watched, a mold for what looked like a goblin's hand began to appear in the center, pulsing a soft red.
"Hmm... look's like a palm-and-print reader. Which goblin do you think it belongs to?" Zek said after quickly examining it.
"Probably the one that was talking to me. He seemed to be the leader." Percy responded.
After a minute or so of zipping and unzipping, they found the correct goblin and carefully pressed his palm into the mold. The water sizzled and slowly flowed over the goblin's hand, coating it in liquid before it suddenly retreated, the mold now blinking a bright green. Moments later, the table split in two to reveal yet another tunnel entrance.
"Well, look at that. I found the secret passage!" Beckendorf boasted proudly.
"As you well should have, Son of Hephaestus." Silena said fondly, kissing his cheek.
"Euargh. Enough with the kissing, you two." Zoë grumbled, discomfort evident in her voice. Silena and Beckendorf grinned, kissing each other loudly, smirking at Zoë's obvious discomfort.
"Enough is enough, Beckendorf." Percy said as sternly as possible, although he couldn't help but chuckle lightly.
It was a simple and easy process, with Bianca leading the way and Zoë taking the rear, the rest of them each carrying a body bag as they dropped through the secret entrance.
Unlike the previous tunnel, where they had to slide down a lengthy stretch of circular tubing, this tunnel was merely a simple drop down that revealed a train-car like vehicle sitting on tracks. The vehicle was sumptuously outfitted with butter-soft leather seating, fluffy wool rugs, and polished wood with gold trimmings.
Zek whistled when he saw the vehicle, carelessly throwing the body bag he was carrying into the vehicle.
"Well, will you look at this! An electromagnetic suspension and drive, alchemical lamps of the highest quality, and magically reinforced crystalline glass. It's even got a decked out fridge and seats that give... unhh... awesome massages..." Zek mumbled, sitting down in a seat and letting out a groan of pleasure.
"And look at the craftsmanship of this thing! This is some finely made chromanium steel, man..." Beckendorf commented, his eyes wide as he ran a hand over the sides of the vehicle. "Ooh, and this. Some sort of custom-built hydraulic braking system... this is amazing..."
"Charlie, as much as I know you love these sort of things, this really isn't the right time for it. We're supposed to be getting out of here as fast as possible. Not dawdling and drooling over technology." Silena said, gently laying a hand on Beckendorf's shoulder.
Beckendorf coughed and immediately straightened up. "Right you are, sweetheart." Beckendorf said, promptly dumping his body bag on top of Zek, who yelped at the extra weight added onto him.
"Oh, c'mon, don't be a wimp. You've got such a comfy chair, you can handle the extra weight." Luke said cheerfully, also tossing his body bag on top of the one Beckendorf had dumped.
Zek squeaked and immediately hit the recline button as Percy laughed softly.
There was ample room in the vehicle, so even with six body bags, everyone was able to easily settle down as Beckendorf strapped into the driver's seat. The moment he strapped into it, the vehicle began moving of it's own accord, speeding along the tracks at a very swift pace.
"Automated driving system with radar, pulse and laser guiding systems. Ooh, it even has a GPS system with a very strong signal reading, even though we're underground. Not bad, not bad at all. This is some fancy stuff they got." Beckendorf said appreciatively. "You know, if it weren't for the fact that we were in a tunnel with only one way to go, I'd be worried it was driving itself with an evil intent in its' artificial mind. But alas, this is pretty relaxing, I must admit." Beckendorf stretched his arms above his hands, his back digging into the plush cushioning.
"Glad you're enjoying yourself, Beckendorf. Any idea where this might lead to?" Percy asked as his friends relaxed slightly.
"No idea, Percy. But if my suspicions are correct, and due to the length of this tunnel... I think it's going to take us very far away. Behind our lines, even." Beckendorf replied as he looked at the navigation system.
"That will be very interesting... is there any way to check and see if there are other tunnels like this? If there are, our army could very well be ambushed from behind, which would be disastrous." Percy said.
Beckendorf looked through the system for a few moments before shaking his head. "No information here, Percy. All that's in here are some movies, and the pre-programmed route this vehicle is supposed to take us on." Beckendorf said, frowning slightly.
"Then the instant this vehicle leads us to our destination and we get a bearing on our surroundings, we alert Orion to wherever we are and have him keep a close eye out for any ambushes from behind." Percy said, staring ahead, also frowning slightly.
"Understood. Now relax Perce, I don't think this ride is going to end anytime soon, so take the time to stretch and whatnot." Beckendorf said, thumping his back before leaning his head back against the headrest.
Surprisingly, the ride ended very soon, since after a mere five minutes of Beckendorf making his statement, the vehicle had slowed, before coming to a standstill. Percy looked up and saw a circular door split in two. Immediately, the vehicle began rising upwards on a platform, towards the surface.
As they neared the surface, the dim sounds of explosions and yelling began to emerge and Percy shared a glance with Beckendorf, each of them gripping the edges of their seats tightly as they neared the surface.
After what seemed like eternity, the platform slowed to a stop and another circular door above them slowly opened to reveal a night sky, the smell of dirt, and the sounds of distant fighting and explosions.
As suspected, the tunnel they had taken lead them behind Orion's lines, so Percy quickly climbed out, taking a look around before determining it was safe and motioning for his friends to follow.
They complied, bringing the body bags with them as they scrambled out of the vehicle, surrounding the entrance and keeping it open as Percy contacted Orion via a private channel.
Orion, we've completed and secured our objective. We left through a secret passage, which lead us behind your lines. I'm marking the place right now. Give us ten minutes to transport, then send in some squads to secure the location and keep an eye out for potential ambushes from behind. Percy said as quickly as possible.
Understood... Orion replied, sounding disgruntled.
"So we wait now?" Zoë asked when Percy finished.
"Yes. They're watching us... they are always watching us. And what's around us." Percy said as he stood still. "Nothing to do but wait now."
In less than two minutes, the air around them began to electrify. Everyone immediately stood up straight, standing in a rough circle as they each other with the body bags, tensing their muscles in preparation for the teleportation. The ground at their feet began to glow with a golden light before a crackling sound was heard. With a small flash of light, the Eccentric Eight were in the Gate, hurtling towards Clydaria at extreme speeds as they were swathed in rainbow-coloured lights.
Within mere seconds of entering the Gate, they slowed down, landing lightly on their feet within the Gate Room to see Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus standing at attention.
"Well done. Chaos will be pleased to hear that your mission was a success." Achilles said, smiling as the three Guardians withdrew their weapons to deactivate the Gate.
"Thanks. It wasn't the hardest of missions." Percy said. "So what do we do with these goblins?" he asked, indicating the body bags that they had put on the floor.
"Just leave them. Chaos will deal with them presently. For now though... you all have some free time. At least until she summons you all." Andromeda replied, also smiling.
"Well, sweet! I'm off guys, you all know where to find me." Luke said, promptly walking off as his comrades all smiled with knowing looks.
"I'm beginning to wonder whether he goes to the Golden Ladies for pleasure, or he goes there simply because he wishes to pamper them with his money..." Perseus muttered, setting off a round of laughter.
"Probably both." Silena commented. She turned to Beckendorf and arched a finger at him. "Come on, Charlie. You know what to do." she said, winking as she also set off.
Beckendorf grinned and immediately chased after her.
Zek mumbled something about seeing his relatives and Calypso merely nodded at Percy, both of them heading towards their own destination as Percy, Zoë and Bianca stayed behind.
"Are you sure you wish to watch, Percy?" Perseus asked him, looking at him keenly.
Percy stared into his namesake's eyes for a moment before looking away, slowly walking towards the door.
"No. Perhaps... when I have the courage."
It was the same answer he had been giving for the past ten years.
After an hour of restless wandering about in the streets of the Silver Mariana, Percy returned to Chaos's Tower and immediately headed up to their training room, where he found Calypso bustling about kitchen.
"Percy! Right on time." She said, smiling brightly as he entered the room.
"Right on time? Erm, for what?" Percy was confused.
"Prepare our dinner, of course." Calypso said matter-of-factly.
"Oh gods... Calypso, must you torture me this way? I'm already hungry, and knowing myself, it's going to be hard not to just eat everything outright." Percy said.
"I can torture you in other ways, sweetie." Calypso said, smirking slightly as Percy blushed.
"But seriously Percy? I enjoy having you beside me." Even though it was said quietly and lightly, the words carried a heavy weight and Percy found himself standing next to Calypso, lightly touching her shoulder.
"I enjoy your company too, Calypso..." Percy said, just as quietly. For a moment, there was a weighted silence between the two before cleared he his throat. "So um, what are we going to be preparing?"
The end result was something more suited for a small feast than a simple dinner. Percy assisted Calypso in preparing a mouth-watering stewed mutton with onions, pepper and ginger, stuffed eels soaked in a unique sauce that was mixed with wine, a perfectly made, seasoned omelette with minced sheep's kidneys, and, for dessert, apple tarts, to which Calypso had covered with a healthy dosage of Fausterauzhin brandy.
"This looks amazing." Percy said after several hours of hard work.
Calypso nodded, agreeing. "And fun, don't forget that."
Percy chuckled. It was true. While he always enjoyed cooking with Calypso, usually she would give him small history lessons about Earth during the ancient times along with cooking tips. This time however, she was all mischief and playfulness, slyly hiding a very small, explosive red jelly ball inside an eel, so that it exploded in Percy's face when he grabbed it, causing him to shriek like a little girl as she screamed with laughter.
After a failed retaliation attempt, Percy once again fell for the same trick when she hid another of the balls inside an apple he was going to cut open. The resulting explosion had covered Percy's face and spattered his clothing with apple mush and juice. Percy spluttered while Calypso was bent over, tears of laughter streaming down her face as she lost all composure at Percy's shocked and ridiculous expression.
That caused a full-on fruit fight in the kitchen when Percy wiped some of the apple bits off his face and flung it at Calypso. One thing led to another, and soon the entire kitchen was a wet, sticky mess. Thankfully, the food they had prepared earlier was under metal covers, protecting them from the rain of fruit and juice.
"Well, I'm off for a quick shower. You can clean up the mess." Calypso said cheerfully.
"What? Why am I the one who has to clean up the mess? I mean, you started it." Percy responded.
"True. But, I don't have an enchanted jacket and pants that automatically clean themselves. Thus, you have two items of clothing you don't have to clean, but I do." Without even waiting for Percy to respond, she lightly kissed his cheek and walked over to the trapdoor, hopping down swiftly.
Percy shook his head before groaning as he looked at the enormously messy kitchen.
Time to put my powers to use... Percy thought wearily as he summoned some water in his hand.
As soon as Percy finished cleaning up the kitchen (which didn't take long at all), he quickly hopped down the ladder and into his room to quickly wash his face and hair, along with his shirt, which was not enchanted and therefore was very sticky. In the middle of cleaning his hair, Chaos had sent out a summons for them all, so Percy quickly dried his hair and cleaned his shirt as best he could, completely forgetting that he could've just tossed it aside and picked up a new one from his wardrobe.
He climbed up the ladder to see that Calypso was already seated on a couch, so Percy walked over and sat next to her, noticing that she still smelled faintly of apples.
"That was a fast shower. And you still smell like apples." Percy said after a few moments of silence.
Calypso laughed softly. "I'm flattered you noticed, Percy. Also, why did you wash your shirt? You could've just grabbed a new one, you know."
"I... did not think about that, in all honesty." Percy muttered, flushing slightly.
Calypso laughed again, although she kept quiet. The two sat in companionable silence for only a couple minutes before the rest of the Eight began streaming in, with Silena and Beckendorf being the first.
"Oh my, something smells delicious." Beckendorf said, his eyes widening slightly. When he caught sight of what was on the table, he immediately stepped toward it, before remembering his manners and reluctantly sitting down in an armchair.
Silent chuckles lightly, plopping herself on top of Beckendorf as Zoë, Bianca and Zek climbed up into the room. All three immediately locked their gazes on the table, their expressions changing to hunger, before changing to impatience as they waited for Luke and Chaos.
"Hello everyone, I hope there's something to eat, because I'm famished- Ooh." Luke stopped short as he immediately breathed in the scent of the food and caught sight of it.
"Where's Chaos?" Luke asked casually.
"Right here." Everyone turned in surprise to find Chaos already seated at the head of the table.
Everyone immediately rushed to the table, seating themselves before waiting impatiently for her to make whatever announcements she had to make.
Noticing their looks, Chaos laughed.
"Don't look at me like that. I'm not stupid enough to make any announcements right now, not when you all are so tired and hungry with this fantastic food in front of you." Chaos said, smiling.
Everyone cheered and immediately dug into the feast that Calypso and Percy had worked so hard to prepare with vigor. For nearly an hour, there was nothing but the sounds of knives and forks scraping lightly over ceramic plates, along with the occasional rush to get the best bits of each course.
Afterwards, when Chaos deemed enough time had passed for all eight of them to eat their fair share of the feast, she casually cleared her throat. Everyone turned to face her, their expressions clearly content and Chaos allowed herself a small smile.
"So Lady Chaos, what do you wish to tell us?" Percy asked.
"Well, I would first like to congratulate you all on a mission well done. It was a success, although perhaps not in the way I expected it to be." Chaos said.
"What do you mean, not what you expected?" Percy asked, frowning slightly as he leaned forward.
"Out of the six body bags you all brought back, only one contained a real goblin. The others were simulacrums." Chaos replied.
"Simulacrums?" Percy asked, his comrades mirroring his confused thoughts.
"A copy. You could say clone, but made of magic. Most simulacrums merely look like their counterparts, unable to move and are non-sentient. However, the ones you brought were wrought with powerful magic, they were capable of operating by themselves to a certain degree, and was made well enough to fool even your senses, Percy." Chaos explained.
"Why have we never heard of these things before?" Zoë asked, her eyes serious.
"Because none of you were ready, nor powerful enough to even attempt to learn that type of magic. Neither do any of you truly know what you are all fighting for, and fighting against." Chaos said, her tone turning serious.
"It is time for the truth, for all of you to know what happened, why we're still fighting wars, and why we are all in danger. Even me." The room went dead quiet, and Chaos waited a moment before continuing.
"You all know that Helix created me, to aid him in the creation of the Universe and also for some companionship. What you all don't know is that Helix created another being, born from the same chaos I was born from. It was a necessity to create him. Helix and I, we created so much that things began going out of control. We both knew that all of Creation would eventually meet an end, but none of us could bring ourselves to destroy our own work. So, Helix created a being who could, to do the work for us." Chaos took a breath before continuing.
"We named him End."
The room seemed to darken, and even though the word was quite commonly used, when Chaos said it, it seemed to resonate with a power that sent shivers down everyone's spines.
"Known as the Destroyer in his later days, End was, in a way, my brother. He wielded raw power, which was needed to destroy our creations that had gone out of control. For a long time, everything was well. Helix and I created to our hearts content, and End would destroy those that had gone wrong, or had turned sour. And then..." Chaos sighed, pausing slightly as the Eight sat stock still, listening to her every word with rapt attention.
"End loved the power too much. What Helix didn't seem to understand was that End was created for only one purpose, and that purpose was to destroy, which required immense power. And power... is like an additive. No one is invulnerable to it, least of all End, who... craved it. I could see, in his eyes, the delight, the pure joy he experienced when he utilized his strength to destroy a planet. And I knew, that one day eventually, he would be the end of us."
"Helix wouldn't listen. He believed that End would forever be with us, since he created him, and quite literally gave him life. No matter what I told my father, nothing would make him even slightly careful about End. And, I am ashamed to say... his confidence about End rubbed off on me, and after a while, I too let my guard down... it is my fault that Helix is not here today." Chaos said quietly.
Everyone looked uncomfortable, not knowing what to say.
"End tricked Helix into showing him around in the Eternal Realms. And when Helix was at his most vulnerable, which was opening a portal to leave the Realms, End... I cannot even comprehend how he overpowered or even restrained Helix." Chaos sounded lost, and frustrated, indicating that this had been greatly troubling her for a long, long time. "All I know is that he is trapped, and I do not have the power to open a portal into the Eternal Realms, let alone open one to leave the place."
"I confronted him, of course. And it was when I confronted him that I realized just how long he had been planning for this. He had an entire army, consisting of dark, powerful creatures. When I faced End, his army swarmed around us, so dense that not a single star could be seen." Chaos waved her hand and a sort of screen appeared in mid-air to show everyone in the room just how massive End's army was, with Chaos standing right in the center of it all, dressed in full battle armour, but completely alone.
"Did... did you and End fight?" Percy asked quietly.
"Oh yes. We fought, long and hard, neither of us gaining the upper hand." The screen in the air moved, showing Chaos and End trading heavy blows. Each time their weapons clashed, the space around them crackled and flashed with energy as they fought each other on all levels, magically and physically. "There is no doubt in my mind that End is more powerful than I am, but perhaps the rage, or the pain that I felt after learning that End had trapped our father, possibly killed him even, kept me going. It gave me the strength to stand up to End."
"Unfortunately... End had an army. I did not. However, I did have an ally on my side, an extraordinarily powerful ally on my side. Elderstar. When End signaled his army to close in, I decided to relax myself, as I knew I stood no chance against End and his army. I was ready to accept my end, but I decided that at the very least, I would take my brother with me. I gathered all my power, and then I summoned Elderstar's power."
Chaos paused, shaking her head. "I should not have. I severely underestimated the power Elderstar contained. I..." Chaos stopped, shaking her head again as she flicked her fingers, the screen zooming in on Chaos and End.
Everyone watched as Elderstar began to burn with a harsh, silver light. Grasping the sword in both hands, she slashed downwards with all of her strength as End raised his sword to counter it. The instant Elderstar clashed against End's sword, a ball of pure golden light formed around the pair before expanding outwards in a colossal explosion.
The explosion was so bright that everyone immediately turned away, squeezing their eyes shut as the light continued to penetrate their eyelids, lighting up the entire room like a miniature sun before slowly fading away. Cautiously, the Eight opened their eyes, blinking away the afterimage of the explosion. When their sight returned, they discovered that Chaos had not moved an inch, her eyes staring right at the screen.
The screen showed Chaos, standing alone in utter blackness, illuminated only by the light of Elderstar.
"W-what happened?" Percy whispered quietly.
"The End of the Universe, or what it was composed of, at that time. Destroyed. Almost all of Creation destroyed, and all because I did not take action against End earlier." Chaos whispered hoarsely.
While his friends gasped with shock, Percy flicked his gaze up, noticing the pain and hurt in Chaos's voice. For the first time ever, Chaos looked old, and her eyes older still.
"It's not your fault, Lady Chaos. At least... you freed the Universe from the enslavement End would have wrought upon the living." Percy said.
"Perhaps." Chaos sighed heavily, resting her chin against her hand. "Even so, the knowledge that I destroyed everything my father and I built..."
Chaos trailed off, no words needed for anyone to understand the depth of pain that knowledge had caused her.
"You said almost all of Creation. What do you mean by that?" Luke asked, curious.
"I do not know why, but ten planets survived the explosion. That was all. Ten planets, out of the billions we created and much, much more that were going to be created..."
"Ten planets? You don't mean... the Ten Planets?" Luke asked, his eyes widening slightly.
Chaos nodded. "Those Ten Planets. Each of them were heavily damaged... even Klasmeria, but all of the inhabitants survived, although they were understandably shaken and shocked at the state of all things."
"Where were the Fates? Did they not help you? And what about End? Did he die?" Zoë asked.
Chaos's face twisted just slightly. "They told me they were busy with something "important"." Chaos growled, her eyes flashing slightly, clearly angry about something.
"As for End, well, I thought he had, for there was not a trace of him after the explosion. Unfortunately, Elderstar told me otherwise. He is still alive, although he was heavily wounded, which is a minor victory. I was lucky to have temporarily defeated him." Chaos replied solemnly.
"Elderstar told you? Forgive me, but how does a sword tell you things?" Beckendorf asked.
Chaos waved her hand and the screen showed lines of words running along the length of Elderstar, far too fast for the Eight to read.
"Never underestimate Elderstar's capabilities. I do not know the true extent of them, and I believe I never will. What you just saw were answers to my questions, and also instructions. Instructions that lead me to the Pendant of Helix, and knowledge of how it contained a part of Helix himself. Evidently, my father was not as confident as I had thought. You know the rest, Percy." Chaos said quietly, her gaze shifting to him. "I have been trying to unlock it ever since, with no success. Elderstar told me that it would know when the time was right. Which is why you are so important, Percy."
Percy gulped, feeling as if he were once again carrying the weight of the sky on his shoulders again.
"Do not despair, Percy. Just know that you will always be able to count on me, and on your friends, both here and on Earth." Everyone looked at each other the as they suddenly realized that they were not only helping Chaos rebuild the Universe, they were also protecting it from a being powerful enough to have subdued Helix himself.
"Thanks Chaos." Percy mumbled quietly, looking at each of his friends in turn.
Chaos nodded silently. "So now you know the truth. Of why I've been training you all, and will continue to for a very long time. We must protect Creation, and eventually I hope... we will be able to find a way to stop End."
"Stop End? So he's building up an army again, isn't he." Percy said.
"That is what I believe. He has laid low for a very long time, but I have seen some signs of him, particularly in Numoria and Crytaria. Or, more specifically, the Cold Numorians, and the rebel Crytarians."
"Ah. So you think End influenced or caused the rebellion?" Percy asked.
"Yes. If he did not orchestrate it, at the very least he played a major part in it." Chaos said seriously, frowning slightly. "I do not intend to be taken by surprise like the first time. I wish to at least be ready, so while we have some time, we don't have too much time."
"So, with that in mind, any questions you'd all like to ask before I go on?" Chaos asked.
"Well... why? Why all of this? Why did you wait so long to tell us? Why is it that... even though you personally dislike Orion, you still place him in command of so much? Why?" Zoë asked before anyone could say anything.
"I'm glad you asked, Zoë. Firstly, why did I not tell you all the truth earlier? Because I choose my people carefully. This is not the first time I've gone looking. How do you think I picked up Achilles, Perseus and Andromeda? But they were all failures. However, when Elderstar accepted Percy... that was when I knew I had to be very, very careful. Secondly, why did I place Orion in command of so much? Because he's an Earthling human."
"Earthling human? What does that have to do with anything?" Percy interrupted before stopping himself. "Sorry Lady Chaos. Um, go on please."
"One thing that you Earthlings will always have over any other species is creativity and innovation. A certain... unpredictability. It comes from the fact that I left Earth alone to develop by itself, unlike other planets here, where I mostly control of what goes on and what happens. In short, Earthlings are a sort of creators themselves, while Clydarians and such are extraordinarily good at doing what they're told to do, but falter when improvisation is needed. There are some exceptions, such as you, Zek." Chaos nodded at Zek before continuing, "but generally, that is how it is. Again, which is why I chose all of you, instead of some Klasmerians or Clydarians. As much as I dislike Orion, he has been doing an exceptional job, far surpassing any Clydarian official at organizing and maintaining control over the military."
"Any more questions?" Chaos asked, looking around the table.
"I do. What was that spell that protected the elevator floor? It was extraordinarily strong. I had to take out Elderstar to break it." Percy asked.
"Spell? There was a spell?" Chaos frowned. "Hold out your hand."
Percy obediently held out his hand and Chaos hovered her hand over it, a gentle silver light falling from her fingers. The instant the light touched his hand, Percy's hand burned with cold, but only for an instant. Chaos drew her hand back, her eyes troubled.
"So... the Cold Numorians are involved..." Chaos muttered under her breath.
"It was ice magic. The Cold Numorians' speciality. Designed to instantly freeze any flesh it touches, impossible to break by any physical means, only by pure magical force. You were lucky to have survived, Percy. If I had known, I would not have sent you..." Chaos's eyes were so serious that it was unnerving.
"Well, Elderstar helped me break it. It wasn't too bad." Percy said quietly, sharing looks with his friends.
"Of course Elderstar would help you..." Chaos seemed slightly distracted, her eyes not quite concentrating on them, as if they were looking beyond in an attempt to discern the future.
"Time is shorter than I expected then, with this revelation." Chaos said suddenly, her sharp voice jolting everyone in their seats.
"There will be time enough for questions later. But now, I believe it's time to turn you all into Helixean Deities." Chaos said, abruptly standing up.
For a moment, everyone sat there, shocked. Then slowly, they rose to their feet.
"But Lady Chaos... I thought you said it would take a lot to earn that." Bianca said, hesitantly.
"I was already considering it when I sent you all out on that mission. But now that I know for certain the Cold Numorians are involved, I must transform all of you now, ready or not." Chaos said very seriously as her eyes burned brightly.
"OK... what's going to happen? What do we do?" Percy asked.
"Sit down. You remember how I transformed Artemis and her Hunters with the rings? Well... same way." Chaos replied. With a swipe of her hands, the dishes on the table disappeared, to be replaced with eight black boxes that throbbed with power. "I spent a long time making them. You will each know which ring to take." Chaos said quietly.
Everyone stared at the black boxes, none of them making a move.
"Percy... you first?" Zoë whispered at last.
Percy was so nervous that he didn't even bother trying to crack a joke as he picked up a box that connected with him. Slowly flipping it open, his eyes widened, stunned at the perfection and beauty of the ring, but also at how shockingly familiar it was to him.
The ring looked almost the same as Artemis' ring, with a large, twenty-carat dragonite jewel that was coloured a beautiful sea-green with a splash of silver. Like Artemis' ring, it seemed to burn with an internal flame, although in Percy's case, it burned with green flames instead of silver. Also like Artemis', the center jewel was surrounded with a circle of beautiful, silver-tinted pearls with a sparkling silver band adorned with simple leaf patterns.
"Thanks, Lady Chaos." Percy mumbled, slightly embarrassed.
"Don't put it on yet, Percy." Chaos said quietly as they all stared at the ring.
Percy nodded slowly, even though he ached to put it on.
"Zoë, you next."
Zoë nodded slowly and hesitantly reached out, picking up one of the boxes, seemingly at random. But the instant she touched it, she knew it was the right one.
Opening it, she gasped also, for it was breathtakingly beautiful.
A solid black dragonite jewel sat in the center, similar to Thalia's. However, Zoë's jewel was specked with silver chips that glowed softly, as if they were stars amongst the night sky. Surrounding the dragonite were smaller jewels in the shape of a six-pointed star, flashing a brilliant white.
"Thank you, Lady Chaos." Zoë said slowly, genuine delight and pleasure sparkling in her eyes.
And so it continued, with each of them opening their own rings, each of them stunned at how perfect and beautiful they were. The biggest difference came from Calypso, who's ring was radically different from the rest. While everyone's rings had a ring of smaller jewels surrounding the center one, Calypso's ring had a pair of silver wings flanking the center jewel, each wing studded with sparkling white dragonite jewels. It was simple, and at the same time, extravagant.
"Well everyone... it's time to put on your rings." Chaos said when everyone had finished unboxing their rings.
"Wait, don't put it on yet-!" Chaos said hurriedly as she desperately attempted to throw up a shield, but it was too late.
The power from the Eight putting on their rings at the same time obliterated the table, shook the walls and created a shockwave that knocked all the furniture back, severely damaging many of them.
Waves of black fire enveloped them, and eight people cried out simultaneously as they underwent transformation. Each of them crumpled from their chairs, faces scrunched up in pain. Slowly though, the pain ebbed away and was soon replaced with a feeling of pure power as they slowly got to their feet, before promptly collapsing again as sudden surge of power knocked them out.
Chaos smiled slightly as she walked amongst them, sending each of them to their room to complete their transformation with a light touch.
"Good luck, Perseus Jackson." Chaos whispered when she sent him to his room.
Percy slowly opened his eyes, feeling very disoriented. Blinking a couple times to clear his vision, he stared up at the ceiling, taking a few moments to recognize that it was his own ceiling.
OK... so I'm in my own room. Gods, why do I feel so weak? Percy thought as he tried to move, but found he couldn't. Taking in a deep breath, he summoned his strength and rolled, right off his bed.
The instant he hit the floor, he was assaulted with a wave of pain from all over his body as his head pounded, his ears rang and his stomach lurched. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to remain still. After several long minutes, the pain retreated and he tentatively got to his hands and knees, which induced another stomach lurch, but nothing unbearable. He felt extraordinarily heavy, as if his every step and movement were dragged down by sandbags. Very carefully, he got himself into a crouch, and then accidentally stood up too quickly.
Immediately, Percy felt as if all the blood had rushed from his head down to his feet as his vision began to blacken and his breathing became ragged. He bent over, holding on to the edge of his bed as he tried to stabilize himself. Partially successful, for his face felt hot, he rose as slowly as he could and took slow steps towards the door. After several more mishaps and a detour to the bathroom, Percy groaned and rested his hand on the doorknob, taking in deep breaths to steady himself.
He opened the door, slowly and carefully. As he stepped out of his room and gently shut the door behind him, his vision suddenly went bonkers as he suddenly saw everything in many different colours. For a split second, he was not looking at the doors of his friend's doors, he was looking past them, catching a brief glimpse of Silena's extraordinarily pink room before his vision darkened completely. Almost immediately, his vision became painfully bright as whatever he saw, a powerful aura surrounded everything, a pounding headache building up as he squeezed his eyes shut, groaning through clenched teeth.
Suddenly, he felt a cool touch on his arm and immediately, his headache disappeared and when he opened his eyes, his vision was normal. He looked up in surprise and saw Chaos.
"Apologies, Percy. I should've known you'd wake earlier than expected." Chaos said.
"How long have I been unconscious?" Percy asked, still feeling rather ill. "And what did you just do that made everything better?"
"Slow down, Percy." Chaos said, smiling softly. "You've been asleep for almost six months. As for what I just did, well, I temporarily stabilized your powers, which are understandably very unbalanced."
"Six months!? I've been unconscious for that long!? Why? And what do you mean by 'unbalanced'? " Percy asked rather quickly.
"Well, your body was undergoing some serious transformation. Internal transformation that is. Your body was reinforcing itself for the power you possess. Without the reinforcement... well, you'd be burned to crisp long ago. I'm sure you've noticed that you feel very heavy?" Percy nodded, the action causing his head to hurt. "Your bones. They're quite a bit denser than normal bones, as strong as coltan but substantially lighter. However, they're still heavier than what you're body is used to, which is why you're so weak right now."
"I sure as hell feel weak..." Percy muttered under his breath.
"As for what I mean by "unbalanced", I mean just that. Unbalanced. Your body is currently experiencing much more power than it's accustomed to, and it can't keep it under control. You're going to have to slowly build up your physical strength just to cope with it, and eventually, master it and utilize it." Chaos explained. Something about her tone made Percy feel as if she had said this many times.
"The others are already up, aren't they." Percy stated.
"Indeed they are."
"Up. They miss you. Miss Calypso and Zoë checked in on you daily, ever since they woke up. Sometimes more than once." Chaos replied, smiling slyly.
Percy blushed slightly as he headed towards the ladder.
"Slow down, Percy. Yes, you need to build up strength, but take things slowly." Chaos said, emphasizing the last word.
Percy nodded and slowly grasped the handles, his grip feeling extremely flimsy as he hesitantly put his foot on the bottom of the ladder. As he attempted to climb the ladder, he realized just how weak he was. His muscles were straining, and yet he could barely pull himself up.
"Are you sure... this is normal?" Percy gasped as he reached for the next rung.
"I'm certain." Chaos said, amusement evident in her voice.
By the time Percy reached the top, he was sweating a river, his muscles were screaming, and his vision was starting to get hazy. Blinking hard, Percy pulled himself out and cautiously stood up straight.
"Percy!" a voice called out loudly.
Too loudly, for his ears began to ring when he felt someone slam into him, squeezing him tightly. Immediately, he felt a cool hand on the back of his neck as he heard Chaos speak quietly.
"No Calypso. He just got up. You know what that means." Immediately, the pressure dissipated as his ears stopped ring, allowing him to concentrate on who was in front of him.
Percy's jaw dropped.
"C-C-Calypso?" Percy said, staring at her.
"Of course it's me, dummy. Who else would it be?" She replied cheerily.
Percy's mouth opened again, before closing and opening several times.
While Calypso was easily recognizable, she was so stunning that Percy was literally speechless. Immediately recognizing the dress she was currently wearing as the same as the one she wore when they first met on Ogygia, her every feature seemed to have been enhanced to absolute perfection. Her caramel-coloured hair was lustrous and glowing, her skin shone with her curves artfully concealed by the dress, and her eyes glowed as she looked at him.
"Something wrong, Percy?" Calypso asked as Percy continued to stare.
"Uh... uhm... nothing, um, you're er, you're really... beautiful." Percy mumbled, his face heating up.
Calypso merely smiled, but it was evident she was pleased by the way her eyes sparkled after the statement.
"Beautiful? Did I just here someone say "beautiful"?" Silena asked as she walked over with a sway to her hips.
"Hmmm... still the same old Percy." Silena announced as she stuck her face directly in front of Percy's own face.
"Please don't stick your nose in my face." Percy said calmly, instantly noting that Silena was now easily more beautiful than her mother.
"Getting excited?" Silena whispered sultrily as she gently rubbed noses with Percy.
"No. You've got a mustache starting there." Percy replied as seriously as possible.
The entire room burst into laughter as Silena drew back and immediately raised a finger to feel her lips before glaring at Percy, who was unable to hold back a smile.
"Very funny. Speaking of mustaches Percy, you need to shave. You look good, but once you shave... you're smoking." Silena said as she waltzed back into Beckendorf's embrace.
It was Percy's turn to rub a hand over his lips and chin, frowning as he did so.
"You look exhausted, Percy." Zoë teased lightly as she stepped forward and gently pushed his hand away.
"And you look... amazing." Percy replied, which was true, seeing as like Calypso and Silena, her features had been enhanced to perfection. Now more than ever, she looked like a princess, and exuded an aura of royalty, which made Percy feel rather uncomfortable and awkward.
"Awww, don't feel like that Percy. It's still me." Zoë said softly, giving him a gentle hug.
"H-how did you know?" Percy asked, confused as he lightly hugged her back.
"It only took us a week to recover, so we've already been training for a while." Zoë said, winking at him.
"Oh gods... please don't read my mind..." Percy groaned.
Zoë stepped back, smiling softly as Bianca, Zek, Luke and Beckendorf stepped forward. Percy's eyes widened when he saw them.
Bianca's solid black eyes glittered with a combination of power and madness, her hair was silkier than ever, and most notably, her aura was astonishingly cold, with an alien touch to it. Zek was striking, with a confident look in his eyes and very lean, although Percy noticed that his aura was substantially weaker than the rest. Luke was as handsome as ever, his body reminding Percy of Aphrodite's sons when they received her blessing. And Beckendorf... well, Beckendorf was huge, as he towered over Percy and was extremely intimidating with his size.
"Well, you are all looking extremely... healthy." Percy said, failing to find a word that could describe how amazed he was a their transformations.
For a moment, they stood still. Then, as one, they embraced Percy in a group hug, although very gently so as not to rattle his raw and vulnerable senses.
"Welcome back, Percy." Bianca said warmly.
"Thanks. Tell me, how long am I going to be like this?" Percy asked.
"Beckendorf got back to normal the fastest." Zek explained. "Only took him about a week after he woke up to be able to do anything. It took me the longest, about three weeks. So it varies. However, since you were the strongest of us before, it shouldn't take you too long."
"But, judging by the sheer amount of power you are attempting to carry... it might take you a long time." Luke added.
As it turned out, it was the latter. After meeting his friends, Chaos had ordered him back to bed, as he was pushing the limits of how long he could remain conscious with his load.
The next day, Percy was back into "training" with Achilles, Perseus and Andromeda, although at his stage it was all about trying to regain his former strength back, which took roughly three months to do so with simple exercises that gradually increased in difficulty.
Even though Percy knew he had to do the exercises to properly build up his strength, he hated them, and frequently got frustrated at the pace of his recovery and how nothing seemed to have changed. While he kept quiet about it from Chaos, he did confide his feelings to Perseus after a particularly grueling session of combat.
"Don't worry, Percy. This is completely normal. Hell, I remember when I was transformed. I felt like a newborn kitten, I was so weak. But now... well, not to sound pompous, but I am one of the most powerful people in the world. It just takes time. Patience and dedication is key. After all, you're not a machine. You can't expect to be ten times better simply because you have the capabilities to do so. You have potential to be as powerful as Chaos one day, but you definitely aren't going to be if you continue on like this." Perseus had explained.
"So you agree. I need to recover faster." Percy said.
"No. I'm saying that you should trust what Chaos tells you to do, and obey them, because it's for the best, for both you and our futures." said Perseus.
"But Sir... End is out there, and he's building an army. I've already wasted so many months just transforming, and now I find that I'm not even anywhere close to what I once was. How is that going to help it End suddenly decides to attack, or if Chaos has a very important mission?" Percy has retorted, rather childishly.
"Listen to me, Percy." Perseus voice had gone hard and serious, his eyes burning intensely. "If you try and rush out there to fight End, or any of his minions before you are ready, you will pay a heavy price. A price that cannot be reversed, and will cause you a tremendous amount of pain. And I do not want that to happen. Do you understand?"
For a moment, Percy stared back defiantly before sighing, nodding his head in acceptance.
"I understand." Percy had said.
Percy took his namesake's advice, obeying Chaos's orders and carrying then out as patiently as possible, even if they really frustrated him.
During the long process Percy learned the basic abilities of a Chaotic Deity, which, as Chaos had told him, had granted him silver bones as strong as coltan. It had given him silver blood, which offered a powerful resistance to poison, much faster cell regeneration than he had before which allowed cuts to heal almost instantly, a heavily boosted immune system, much faster mental processing speed along with a strongly enhanced reaction time. Other basic abilities included extreme strength and agility, immortality, teleportation, flight and enhanced vision, enabling them to see during the night and through objects.
However, Achilles had told him that what set Chaotic Deities apart from one another were their special abilities. When Percy asked what type of special abilities they were, he used demigods as an example.
"You're a perfect example of this. You, as a son of Poseidon, your special ability is to control the water. Any demigod, really. A child of Apollo? Archery, and anything related to archery would be their special ability. No one would be able to best them at it." Achilles explained to him.
"So you're saying that my special ability is my control over water and anything related to the seas?" Percy asked.
"Well... I can't say for certain, in your case. You were made to be a master of all. However, I believe that you will still find the most strength in your roots. Perhaps even more than that, as I sense that fire has become deeply ingrained in your body." Achilles answered, rather uncertainly.
"What about Calypso? She's not... a demigod. What would her specialty be?"
"Again, I can't say for certain. It's for the own person to develop. But from what I've seen... don't ever underestimate her, Percy." Achilles said, suddenly changing the subject. "She may be the most beautiful woman in the Universe, but beneath that face lies some serious power. She wasn't one of the most powerful women on Earth for no reason. Excluding goddesses, of course." Achilles warned him.
"What do you mean? She wouldn't hurt me." Percy replied, frowning slightly.
"I'm not saying she'll hurt you, she loves you too much to do that. But I'm warning you to never underestimate anything, least of all a pretty face." Achilles said seriously.
"I know, Achilles." Percy said, slightly exasperated.
Something about the way Achilles looked at him that time sent shivers down Percy's spine, as if Achilles had seen something but couldn't tell Percy.
"So um, what are Calypso's abilities?" Percy said, changing the subject back.
"She can easily be a powerful seductress, if she chose to. But her heart is kind, and she prefers to help you all instead. Her healing powers have greatly increased, which will aid in that. Being a minor goddess before transformation grants her a certain level of power your lesser demigod friends don't possess." Achilles said after some thought.
Finally, after another three months of grueling work to stabilize his powers and stop them from overflowing, Chaos brought him to a room at the very bottom of the tower, hidden and locked away with magic so powerful that Percy felt his bones vibrating.
"Lady Chaos... I really must ask, what are we doing here?" Percy asked quietly. Something about the darkness of the corridor they were walking in combined with the amount of power present was greatly unnerving him.
"Several months ago, you asked where your friends were, as you only saw them during mealtimes. Well, it's time to show you." Chaos said as they approached a massive black door with only a small indent in the center.
Chaos covered the indent with her hand and with a soft crackle, black fire seeped into the door. Moments later, it swung open, silently and smoothly. The sight that followed stopped Percy in his tracks.
He was looking at a garden. Not just any garden, but a garden of transparent crystalline glass walls. The room shone bright, powerfully lit by an alchemical light in the center and magnified a hundred fold by the glass. Percy squinted, for it seemed as though liquid diamond pulsed through millions of delicate veins and scintillated on thousands of facets and edges.
Dazed, Percy stumbled forward and instinctively reached a hand out to steady himself.
Chaos immediately caught Percy be the arm, gently but tightly.
"It's overwhelming at first, but for the love of Helix, don't touch anything."
As Percy's eyes recovered from the dazzling light, he concentrated and saw past the brilliant light display, to suddenly notice that there were roses set in the glass. Millions of roses shone in the glass, every petal, stem and thorn flashed and glittered with perfection. Taking a closer look, Percy realized that they were incredibly sharp. He stepped back instinctively, bumping into Chaos.
"Yes... the Garden of Roses. A place my father created to test people. The Roses... so sharp, that even the lightest touch will slice your skin open, even a Chaotic Deities'. And once it senses blood, it will slowly drink, while causing severe pain. It is entirely capable of draining a man dry in minutes." Chaos explained slowly, her eyes glittering with the light.
"W-what does this have to do with Zoë and the others?" Percy asked, deeply shaken.
"This is their training place. And now, at last, yours. You will train here everyday, eat amongst the roses, sleep here even. It will take immense concentration to ignore the call of the roses, and concentration is what you need to achieve maximum efficiency of your powers." Chaos said.
"Now come. Follow me, and remember: Don't touch the glass." Chaos said, walking ahead.
Percy swallowed deeply as he hesitantly took his first step into the Garden. The Roses and the glass were incredibly distracting, it seemed as if they had embedded themselves into Percy's mind, for wherever he looked, he saw the Roses. Several times, Percy faltered but he forced himself to continue, desperately attempting to concentrate on following Chaos's black figure through the Garden and towards the center.
The instant the corridor opened up into a room, Percy let out a gasp, the pull of the Roses seemingly reduced the more distance there was between them. Percy looked around, gulping loudly when he noticed many more entrances to the center of the Garden, many with corridors that were eerily dark. Suddenly, Percy saw his friends waving at him and he rushed forward, only to be yanked backwards by Chaos.
"First lesson I'm going to teach you today: Always look and think before you act. If I had not stopped you... the Roses would be drinking in your blood." Chaos said sternly.
Percy's eyes widened when he realized that what he saw was merely an illusion of the glass, and that he was an inch away from making contact with the glass wall. Slowly, he took a step back.
"Your friends are there." Chaos said, pointing in the opposite direction.
Percy carefully looked where she was pointing, reaching out with his senses and determining that his friends were real, not mere illusions. Carefully, he walked forward to stand in front of them all.
They immediately pulled him into a tight embrace and for a moment, Percy forgot all about the roses as he hugged all of his friends, glad to be in their company.
"Congratulations, Percy! You can finally be with us! It'll just be like normal, except that we're now at the bottom of Chaos's Tower, instead of the top." Calypso said cheerfully, lightly kissing his cheek.
Percy blushed. "And the roses..." Percy muttered, still shaken by his close encounters.
"Oh, don't worry about it. You'll get used to it, and you'll learn to block out their influence. But until you do, be careful." Zoë said, smiling teasingly.
"Trust me Zoë, I know..."
After their brief reunion, Chaos dismissed them and they slowly withdrew, with Silena blowing Percy a kiss.
"Where are they going?" Percy asked, feeling slightly lonely now that they had left.
"To train. With Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus."
"But.. I thought they guarded the Gate? Whenever we trained with them, it was always in the Gate Room." Percy asked, confused.
Chaos chuckled softly. "Oh Percy. Second lesson: Beings like us can be in many, many different places at once. There's a part of me talking to some Clydarian politicians right now, another part of me helping Zoë improve her mind powers, and another part helping Calypso with her spells... you get the point. So, Achilles is currently teaching each of your friends, guards the Gate and also dissuades anyone who wishes to bathe in the River Styx."
"Oh. Right. Are you going to be teaching me how to do that today?" Percy asked, flushing slightly.
Chaos laughed. "No. First, I must teach you how to utilize your basic abilities, such as teleportation, and to learn how to control the amount of power you use, so that don't burn down a forest while trying to set a twig on fire."
"I can do that. I mean, not the teleportation, but the fire thing." Percy said confidently.
"Oh? Can you try it, here and now, with your power still raw? Amongst these roses?" Chaos said quietly, waving her hand.
The glass walls flexed, suddenly boxing them in as a table appeared at the center. A single twig lay on it.
"Set it on fire with your finger." Chaos challenged.
Percy walked forward, confident he could carry it out with no problem. However, the instant he drew forth his power, he suddenly felt all of his power rush to his fingers and he gritted his teeth, sweat immediately rolling down his cheeks as he struggled to contain the flow. To make matters worse, the Roses seemed to taunt him by flashing brightly in his mind every time he got close to controlling his power.
Percy's hand shuddered over the twig, squeezing his eyes shut in a fruitless attempt to block out the Roses influence. Groaning audibly, he let out the tinniest drop of fire fall from his finger, directly onto the twig. The instant it caught on fire, Percy crumpled to his knees, gasping for breath as he wiped his forehead with his sleeve.
"See?" Percy panted. "I... I could do it..."
"Good. Now, how about teleportation?" Chaos asked cheerfully.
"W-what? I... I don't even know... how?" Percy asked, still breathing heavily.
"Allow me to explain. My type of teleportation is true teleportation. Not like the Olympians, who break down their body particle by particle, travel through the air, and then reform themselves. My type is much simpler. Just think of a destination, and mentally transport yourself there, as if you're using your mind to actually move yourself there." Chaos vanished and promptly reappeared several feet to Percy's right. "However, you must visualize your location clearly, with full concentration, or else you may end up somewhere you don't want to end up. Worst case scenario would be an alternate timeline, but that's for later."
"Alternate timeline?" Percy repeated weakly, colour draining from his face.
"Like I said, worst-case scenario, Percy. And don't worry, if something should go awry, I'm here to stabilize you and prevent you from crossing into unknown territories." Chaos assured Percy.
"Umm... isn't teleportation a bit too advanced? I mean, uh, I could barely light a twig on fire... I don't accidentally want to get stuck in these glass walls." Percy said, looking around him and shuddering.
Chaos smirked before smiling with pride. "Good. You're beginning to understand how difficult this will be."
And difficult it was. It took Percy several months to build up enough control over his powers that he could use them as easily as he once did before. It was well worth it though, for Percy's concentration had greatly improved, due in large part to the Roses, which he was beginning to get used to, although he was still very, very careful around them.
After Percy had mastered his basic water and fire powers, Chaos slowly introduced him to the other elements, teaching him to control lightning, wind, and rocks. While Percy would never achieve mastery over geokinesis like Bianca had, he was entirely capable of cracking rocks and shapeshifting the land to his advantage with relative ease.
Chaos then taught him new ways of utilizing his power, introducing to him two ways of forming his power. The first was called a "Detonation" and the second was called a "Spasm". The former was a powerful bolt of magic (or, as Chaos called it when asked by Percy to explain it, a 'plasma bolt thingy') that exploded on contact, capable of tearing down stone walls and blowing apart chromanium doors with ease.
The latter took on the form of a solid disk of black magic that traveled at extraordinarily fast speeds, easily capable of punching a clean hole through solid metal without any collateral damage. It also had the side-effect that if it made contact with flesh, it would cause muscles and nerves to jerk and jitter out of control, hence the "Spasm" nickname.
Besides training Percy's magical abilities, she also made sure to challenge Percy's physical abilities too, with a vast array of obstacles and nasty tricks. Once, when she had transformed the room so Percy could practice his parkour, Chaos suddenly turned off the lights and magically blindfolded Percy so that he couldn't see in the dark. Almost immediately, Percy fell over an edge and would've been sucked half-dry by the roses if Chaos hadn't teleported him right next to her.
Needless to say, Percy hadn't been pleased in the slightest. Chaos then explained that she was training his memory, to force him to memorize whatever he saw immediately, so that even if his vision was somehow blocked, he could still picture where he was and escape if he had to.
Chaos also worked on Percy's mental abilities, expanding his ability to sense things around him and sharpening it to the point where he could scan his surroundings and immediately locate where Calypso or any of his friends were. At the same time, Chaos instructed Percy on how to read minds, communicate with his friends and others by thought alone, shield his own thoughts from external probing and worked on his mental powers, which included levitation and even attacking with his mind, while also teaching him to detect a mind bolt with his senses and how to deflect it.
While Percy progressed at a steady pace in his magical studies, for the first time in his life, he was having trouble with physical combat.
Despite the fact that he had regained his former strength, was slowly building up more, and was fighting better than he ever did, Achilles kept on pushing him, pushing him to his very limits every day, which frustrated Percy greatly, since he was almost always drained mentally from his lessons with Chaos and was often unable to cope with Achilles demanding routine, oftentimes leaving whenever he got tired.
It annoyed Achilles to the point where he pinned Percy to the wall at the end of one lesson and stared him straight in the eye.
"Listen, boy. You told me that you wanted to fight End. How the Hades do you expect to even fight his army at this rate?! You're no longer a Guardian on Earth! You are a Chaotic Deity, and you. Are. WEAK! You need to get stronger if you want any chance of facing End's minions!" Achilles had angrily yelled at him.
"I'm tired and exhausted, can't you see that? How am I supposed to get better if you keep on pushing me when I'm worn out?!" Percy had retorted angrily, pushing him back.
"You're tired mentally. And maybe a bit physically, but you're not going to build any stamina if you don't push yourself past the limits! Your magical abilities are growing because Chaos is forcing you to overextend, while your physical combat prowess have barely improved because you keep on quitting when you near your limit! Stop being a weakling and practice!" Achilles growled, clearly pissed.
Percy had stormed out the Garden of the Roses, anger roaring through his entire body while he focused on keeping his powers under control so that he wouldn't unleash an accidental blast of energy.
For two weeks, Percy avoided meeting Achilles at all, and only returned after strong persuasion from both Zoë and Calypso, and also at Chaos's behest, who emphasized the importance that he continue training with Achilles. However, while he did continue to train with Achilles, he never took it seriously and constantly slacked on his drills.
A mistake which would be one of the costliest he'd ever make.
Another five years passed in a similar manner, with the Eccentric Eight growing in power, and also growing closer than ever, the bonds between each and every one of them as strong as they themselves were, and continuing to grow each day. Percy had managed to bond with Zoë so well that she was entirely comfortable falling asleep with her head on his shoulders, which had shocked him the hell out when it first happened.
During the later years, Chaos started sending them out on missions again, sometimes as a group and sometimes individually, depending on whether Chaos wanted the person they were after dead or alive. Typically, she would send a group if she wanted the target alive, and individually if she wanted them dead.
In the current case though, Chaos merely wanted a recon, as an unusually concentrated amount of power was radiating from the warm side of Numoria and it was powerful enough that Achilles was unable to see anything.
Chaos chose Percy and Zek, since Percy could use the extra training and Zek still knew far more about other planet customs than he did, so Zek would be a good complement to him. Chaos however, was very keen on emphasizing the importance that this was a recon mission, repeatedly telling the two not to engage in any sort of combat.
"If it's powerful enough to cloud Achilles' gaze, then it is not something to be underestimated. Are we clear on that?" Chaos asked once more as Percy and Zek readied up.
"Perfectly clear, Lady Chaos." Percy and Zek said in unison.
"So where are we going, and what type of surroundings are we going to be in?" Percy asked smoothly.
"The capital of Numoria, Hamurlin. Coincidentally, today is also their leaders birthday, and thus, the palace grounds are open to anyone who can dress properly. It'll be fairly crowded, but that should aid in blending in."
"If it's their leader's birthday... what happens if someone wants to kill him?" Percy asked, analyzing the situation.
"It's highly possible, which is why I'm sending you there. If, and only if, an attack is made or attempted, then you can engage in physical combat. If not, recon only."
"We understand, Lady Chaos. Pardon me please, I need to get some clothing fit for Numorian parties." Zek said, preparing to teleport to his room.
"Already taken care of." Chaos waved her hand and Percy was suddenly wearing a black frock coat, reasonably loose and open with flaring cuffs and heavily polished silver buttons, along with a simple black shirt. He was also wearing silver-coloured cravats and black pants that fitted his legs perfectly. While there was very little surface ostentation, Percy could feel that the clothes were extremely fine, showing off it's quality in a subtle way that did not offend the senses.
Zek was also wearing a frock coat, but his were sky-blue in colour, paired with a light blue dress shirt, a bow tie and slightly darker coloured pants. Like Percy's, they were not ostentatious at all, but also exuded quality in a very subtle way.
"Well then, we're ready to go." Percy said after one last check.
"And yes, we know. Find the source, get as much information as possible, and report back. No physical combat whatsoever, unless absolutely necessary." Percy listed off, smiling at Chaos.
"You got it." Chaos said, nodding graciously. "Now, we won't be able to teleport you two in through the Gate. The power signature would be far too large, and you two can't quite do that sort of long-distance teleportation yet. However, what I can do is open a portal for you two to step through. I can't risk having the portal open at ground level, so you two will have to fly and find a way to get in. Clear?"
Percy and Zek nodded, standing up together as they faced Chaos, who opened up a swirling portal of energy. Through it, Percy could already see Numoria and walked up to it.
"Good luck, both of you." Chaos whispered as they stepped through.
It was like stepping through a doorway, these portals. One instant, Percy was in the Garden of Roses, and the next instant, he was free falling through the air with Zek by his side. He turned slightly and saw Zek with the craziest grin on his face ever.
Better slow ourselves down. Or else we'll land with our shirts and coats above our head. Percy told Zek mentally.
Slow down later. Let's DIVE. Zek replied enthusiastically as he angled his body downward, shooting straight down like a bullet.
Percy rolled his eyes, muttering "Young people these days..." beneath his breath before following suit, quickly catching up as he streamlined his body as best as possible.
Percy had to admit that Hamurlin and the leader's palace looked beautiful and artistic, even from above. Everything had a circular touch to it, the palace itself was an enormous circle, but even it's surrounding walls had smooth edges, the roads seemed to be made long, overlapping and flowing lines instead of straight lines that created ugly square blocks.
As he was diving, Percy took the opportunity to scan the entire palace with his senses. Almost immediately, he detected and caught sight of an aura that dwarfed any other aura on the warm side of the planet.
That is one huge ass aura... Zek said to him. Even Zek could detect it, and his senses were nowhere near as sharp as Percy's.
I know. Time to slow down, Zek. Percy called out. Let's take this carefully.
Since his clothing had no slits for his wings, Percy slowed his descent down with his mind, hovering close to Zek.
People can see us now. Should we change form into a bird?
No. Too late for that. I'll put up a perception filter.
A perception filter was a new trick Chaos had recently taught Percy. At its most basic level, it would fool the brain into thinking it saw what the caster wanted the people to see. At more advanced levels however, it could hide an entire building and the locals would be none the wiser.
Alright. We're birds, at the moment. Long as we don't suddenly dive bomb, we shouldn't arouse suspicion.
Land on the rooftops then? Zek asked.
After some careful maneuvering, they landed lightly on one of the palace's many circular domes.
"We've got a height advantage right now, so we should try to find the location of the power first, before we get off." Percy muttered quietly.
Zek nodded and immediately began scanning his half of the palace as Percy narrowed his eyes, morphing his vision and his senses into one so he could literally "see" with his senses, his eyes capable of viewing the auras that surrounded everyone.
While the aura was powerfully bright and easily detectable, it was so strong that it enveloped practically everyone in and around the palace, forcing Percy to scan each person individually, which was time-consuming, tiring, and nigh impossible from such a height.
Zek... the aura is too strong. I'm going to have to scan from the ground to get a proper look. Percy explained.
Alright. Where to?
Percy looked around, noticing a very large bush beneath them.
Levitate to that bush down there. My perception filter should hold.
On Percy's signal, they levitated off the roof and toward the ground, making sure to take a roundabout path so that it would add a bit more credibility to their perception filter, just in case since Percy didn't want people to see two birds flying in the air before promptly falling into a bush.
After Zek caused a distant distraction with some loud noises, Percy swiftly removed the perception filter, blending in with the crowd easily.
Alright Zek. Keep your eyes open. I'm going to start scanning, so stay close. Percy said, immediately combing his vision so he could start scanning. While the large amount of people was perfect for blending in, it was a right pain in the ass to single out exactly where the aura was originating from, as it was blanketed smoothly, almost as if it had been done on purpose...
Percy was interrupted from his thoughts when Zek tapped his shoulder urgently.
"Percy, we gotta get a bite to eat."
"What do you mean?" Percy asked, perplexed.
"Just.. come over here and look." Zek said impatiently, pulling on his arm.
Percy cautiously followed Zek a little ways before dead at the sight of the enormous banquet table. Covering the table were two of the most difficult Arts of Soefarian cooking: The Thirteenth and the Fourteenth. It was a testament to their complexity and superiority that the Numorians would feature Soefarian dishes on their own leader's birthday.
At one end of the table lay the Thirteenth Art, the desserts. There were hollowed-out pears, their cores replaced with a variety of other fruits that would blend perfect with the original taste, and in some cases, contained a tiny, edible container that held a few drops of Fausterauzhin Triple Eight, the fruit and the liquor mixing together to create a miniature heaven within one's mouth.
There were also shaved, hollowed-out melons with straws placed in hand-sized bowls, the insides of the melons containing various mixes of fine wine, allowing the person to drink the fruit flavoured wine and savour the taste before finishing off the fruit itself. Each of the melons also contained a small alchemical globe within, causing every melon to glow softly.
Besides the fruit, there were various fruit and cream cakes wrapped in extraordinarily thin gold sheafs that were made to be devoured, multi-flavoured tarts with the faces of famous people painstakingly etched onto their surface, and much more that Percy did not even recognize, but had no doubt would taste delicious.
At the other end of the table sat the Fourteenth Art, which were all meats, and were also named the "Extravagant Dishes", for each dish was the combination of two or more animals during preparation. Percy saw the head of a boar connected to the body of a salmon, with caviar sprinkled generously around the entire affair. Further along the table, Percy caught sight of a roasted capon with the head and wings of a duck, which was lathered in a thick, dark and creamy sauce that caused Percy's stomach to growl.
Percy gave in to his desires and had an attendant serve him a healthy slice of the capon/duck, pleased to notice that he had not gotten a single part of the duck on his plate. He took a bite, and his taste buds melted. All the flavours seemed to mold into one heavenly mix, and his mind swirled from tasting something so good.
Percy could only imagine how jealous Calypso would be when he told her he had tasted the Fourteenth Art.
Percy had just finished his plate and was heading towards the desserts for a taste of the Thirteenth when his bones vibrated and he froze when his senses were assaulted by a sudden surge of power. Slowly putting his plate down, he turned as nonchalantly as possible. And immediately knew who was radiating the aura.
Unsurprisingly, it was a female. Even more unsurprisingly, the female was deathly beautiful, with hair of the purest black, perfectly shaped pink lips, sea-green eyes that flashed and an aura so powerful it was like staring directly at an exploding star. What was surprising was the fact that she had wings, and pointed ears, classifying her as a Klasmerian. That was something Percy did not expect.
Zek... I found her. Percy told Zek as he calmly picked up a cherry cake.
I felt it too. What is a Klasmerian doing here? Zek wondered as he pretended to be engaged in social contact.
That's what I want to find out. Percy answered, watching the Klasmerian out of the corner of his eye. We'll slowly tail her. I can single out her aura now, so we don't have to follow her immediately if she moves. But, stay frosty, in case she's here to kill.
For the next couple minutes, Percy slowly savoured his cake while observing the Klasmerian very cautiously. Much to his amusement, he quickly noticed that she was the only female who did not have a string of males desperately vying for her attention. Instead, all of them kept a respectful distance from her and if any male dared to speak to her, it was with heavy courtesy and graciousness.
After a minute or so of lingering, the Klasmerian moved on, moving to a separate courtyard, towards the interior of the palace. Waiting precisely five minutes, Percy sent Zek a mental note and began to trace the Klasmerian's steps, concentrating hard to block out all of her residual aura and focus on what path she had taken.
Unfortunately, she seemed to have moved very swiftly, for Percy walked through three more circular gardens and two different courtyards before sensing he was close to the Klasmerian. Zek caught up with him moments later, standing casually by his side while Percy looked all around, desperately trying to locate the Klasmerian again.
"There." Zek said quietly, pointing towards a plain door on the side of the building.
"How do you know?" Percy asked.
Zek tapped his temple. "Infrared right here, works just like a infrared camera. Only one person has touched that door, and I"ll bet you a bottle of Triple Eight that that Klasmerian took that entrance."
Percy shrugged. "Worth a try. Let's go."
Percy walked forward, resting his hand on the doorknob for a brief instant before he turned it, pushing the door open. Stepping inside, he closed the door after Zek got in and immediately scanned their surroundings with both his eyes and his magical abilities.
They were in a simple, medium sized room, a single alchemical globe in the center providing all the light that was needed. It was barely furnished, with a bare wooden floor and a single chair that was unoccupied.
"Well, well, well, it seems Chaos is quite gullible." A hard voice spoke clearly.
Percy reacted out of pure instinct, throwing up a magical shield as the room was suddenly swamped with power, his senses overloading from the shock. The mental bolt slammed against his shield, very nearly shattering it as Percy was forced several steps back from the power behind it. Unfortunately, Zek had not reacted fast enough and he lay on the ground, unconscious as a thin trickle of blood leaked from the corner of his mouth.
Before Percy could even react, he felt fingers wrapping around his throat as he was lifted off his feet to slam against the wall with enough force to knock the air out of him.
"You Clydarians... so cocky, so full of yourselves, believing you had the power to stand a chance against me... I knew this would've drawn some of you out." The Klasmerian said, contempt evident in her voice.
Her grip around his throat tightened and Percy struggled to take in the slightest of breaths, desperately attempting to fight back against her, but none of his attacks had any effect on her.
"I've waited so long to get my revenge... I could start with you, you know. But my master wants you alive to peek around in your little, tiny head." The Klasmerian sighed, completely at ease while she kept Percy pinned against the wall with one hand. "Although, it doesn't mean I can't play with you first..."
Her grip tightened even further, completely cutting off Percy's air supply as she transformed her fingertip into claws, slicing through the neck's soft skin and into the main artery, immediately drawing forth a thick stream of silver blood .
However, the instant Percy's blood touched her skin, she gasped, immediately releasing Percy from her grip as she stared at her bloodstained hand. Slowly, she raised a finger to her lips and licked a bit of blood off of her fingers, gasping once more as her green eyes widened.
"You're... human." The Klasmerian, whose eyes and voice were filled with malice moments ago were now filled with pure shock.
"Of... of c-course I a-am... what-what else would I-I be?" Percy coughed, still gasping for hair as his neck wounds began to heal.
"Your sword. Show me your sword. Now." She commanded. However, her eyes were not angry, instead, she seemed almost anxious.
Hesitantly, Percy pulled out Elderstar from his pocket and uncapped it. Now that it was free from Chaos's disguise, it shone powerful, the helix twist design on the blade pulsing softly.
"No..." The woman whispered, her hands reaching out to touch the blade.
"Wait, you can't-!" Percy stopped when she lifted the blade out of his hands without suffering any ill effects, his eyes widening with shock. The woman then grasped the handle, and it was here where Elderstar retaliated, the blade suddenly turning pitch black as it suck in all the light, it's handle burning. Immediately, the Klasmerian released the handle, holding the blade between her hands before gently giving it back to Percy.
"W-who are you?" Percy asked, stunned. Zoë was the only other person who could wield Elderstar, and that was only because it had absorbed Riptide. No one else could even touch Elderstar without getting painfully hurt. And yet, this mysterious woman had just picked the sword up without any problem at all.
She ignored him, walking over to Zek's prone body and quickly made a small cut on his arm, just enough to take a drop of blood. Licking it quickly, she stared at Percy, her green eyes conflicted.
"I am under strict orders to bring you in... but I cannot, I made a vow... I'm sorry, boy. This is for the best... for your world." her green eyes suddenly burned with power and she caught Percy's gaze, holding it.
"You will forget everything that has happened here, in this room. You will remember nothing of what I said, nothing of what I did or any of my words. You will only remember a long and exhausting fight between us after I caught you two off guard." Slowly, her eyes dimmed and she stepped back, bending down to pick up Zek's body with ease.
"We will meet again."
And with those last words, she knocked him unconscious.
When Percy finally woke with a throbbing jaw, he struggled to remember what had happened, before it all rushed back to him.
"Ugh... I think I'm beginning to see what Achilles is talking about..." Percy groaned. "C'mon Zek, let's go." Silence. "Zek?" Still silence. "Zek!" Percy turned and suddenly realized that Zek was nowhere to be found. Desperately, he attempted to contact him mentally, both through magic and through his chip implant, but to no avail.
Panic began to set in as he cast out his senses as far as he could, searching for any signs of Zek's aura. Instead, all he discovered was that there was a massive amount of residual magic in the room he was in.
Chaos? Achilles? Perseus? Zoë? Andromeda? Is anyone there!? Percy broadcasted anxiously.
I'm here. What's the matter? Chaos asked.
Zek is gone. Kidnapped, or taken hostage.
What!? What happened!?
I think it's better I tell you face to face, because I can't quite understand it either.
Alright. I'm opening a portal. There's a strong magical disturbance there, so this portal's going to be extra strong. Be careful!
A moment later, a portal appeared in front of Percy, who stepped through without hesitation. Surprisingly, he stepped into their former training room atop Chaos's Tower, instead of the nerve-racking Garden of Roses at the bottom. Looking around, he realized that everyone was present, including Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus.
"Tell us. Everything." Chaos said teresly.
With all eyes on him, Percy described exactly what had happened as best he could from his memory.
"A Klasmerian?!" was Chaos's first reaction to the news. Judging from the looks Achilles was sharing with his Andromeda, Percy knew that they felt the same way.
"Well, she had wings, she was taller than I was, had pointed ears and was crazily powerful. If not a Klasmerian, who else could be that strong?" Percy said defensively.
"We're not doubting you Percy, it's just that Achilles and I have been giving these things a lot of thought, and we never even considered to think of the Klasmerians..." Chaos explained, her eyes narrowing as she continued to think.
"I trust Percy's word, but I must say, I am deeply surprised that the Klasmerians are involved. I thought they operated by themselves, and chose no sides in a war." Achilles mused, his eyes serious.
"That is what I also thought. But if one Klasmerian has sided with End, then this could spell serious danger for us all. How are we supposed to know that other Klasmerians haven't joined End?" Chaos wondered out loud.
"I just really want to know what in Helix's name was a Klasmerian doing on Numoria the first place!" Perseus said, frowning as he and Andromeda had both furrowed their brows.
"Oi! I know this is important and everything, but Zek is out there, missing, kidnapped and who knows what else is happening to him! Shouldn't we try to find him first?" Percy asked impatiently.
"If only it were that easy, Percy. The problem is that we can't track him. Or at least, we can't get a fix on his location, because they're shielding him with their own power." Chaos explained.
"Can't you get their rough locations simply by detecting where their magic is coming from? You don't even need to lock onto Zek's signal, just find any place that has a high amount magic." Luke spoke up, evidently worried about about Zek.
"We'll keep on searching. In the meantime, there is nothing you all can do besides wait." Chaos said sternly as she and Achilles promptly teleported away, quickly followed by Perseus and Andromeda, leaving the Eccentric Eight to feel the loss of their eighth member.
"Grrrah! I should've protected Zek better..." Percy growled angrily as he desperately tried to think of ways to locate Zek that Chaos and the others hadn't already thought of.
"Don't beat yourself over it, Percy. From what I've heard, you're lucky to have escaped there alive, that Klasmerian was so powerful." Calypso said gently, as always trying to look on the bright side.
While Percy usually loved how Calypso would always find something good to say, he was in no mood for it at the moment.
"C'mon, we just need to think. If we were End, and we planned a kidnapping on Numoria, where would his minions be able to escape to and evade detection without arousing suspicion?"
"Well, that's an easy question. The dark side of Numoria. The Cold Numorians. Hasn't Chaos always been saying the Cold Numorians were in league with End? Well, if they planned a kidnapping on the warm side, it'd be super easy for them to slip to the cold side and hide. After all, Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus never were able to penetrate the Cold Numorians power." Luke explained quickly.
"Excellent, Luke." Percy said, feeling revitalized as he stood up straight. "Let's go pay the Cold Numorians a visit."
His friends gaped at him as if he had just lost his mind.
"Percy... it's forbidden. One of the first things Chaos told us to never do was to travel to the dark side of Numoria." Zoë said slowly.
"Oh, come on, Zoë. It's not like I'm going alone." Percy replied.
"Excuse me, but who said I was going with you to Numoria?" Zoë said archly.
"Would you honestly let me go there by myself?" Percy asked her, staring into her eyes.
Zoë smiled ruefully as she returned the stare. "No, I wouldn't."
"And it's not like we're going there just to break the rules. We're going there because we need to rescue a dear and close friend, maybe find some answers also." Percy said emotionally.
"Well Percy, whatever your reasons, we will always follow you, wherever you go. Even if it's to our death, we'll still follow you." Silena said, wrapping an arm around Beckendorf, who nodded his agreement.
"I'd do anything to save any one of us. You can count on me too, Percy." Luke said quietly.
"My answer's the same as Calypso's." Bianca winked at Percy as Calypso blushed faintly since everyone knew how Calypso truly felt about Percy.
"Well then... let's armour up, and we'll go talk to Achilles. Even though I'm pretty sure they've already what we've been saying."
With a quick twist of their rings, each of them were immediately transformed into battle-ready warriors, wearing Chaos's Helixean Silver armour, complete with customized colour and designs that fit their own personalities. Percy's own armour was solid black with silver trim, but what Percy loved the most were the oval-like spirals of which their lines thickened before splitting into two to form other spirals, all in silver trim. It felt as if they represented the many waves of an ocean.
"Everyone ready?" Percy called out after a quick check.
As one, everyone nodded and as one, they teleported from the room, reappearing on the rainbow-coloured glass bridge that connected the Gate Room to the Silver Mariana.
Standing in front of them, in a row, was Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus, their stares as hard as diamond and about as flexible.
"I cannot allow you to pass, Percy." Achilles said harshly, taking a step froward.
"I must go." Percy replied simply, also taking a step forward.
"No. This is for your own good. For everything you've worked so hard on." Achilles said firmly.
"So. Zek is on Numoria then?" Percy asked.
"When we heard Luke's explanation... it is extremely plausible." Achilles replied.
"All the more reason why I must go, Achilles."
"You're not ready. The Cold Numorians are powerful beings, Percy, and you have not trained long enough to be able to fight their best. If you go there now... there is a high possibility you could die on Numoria if you go there right now." Achilles warned.
"Achilles... tell me, if Andromeda or Perseus were kidnapped from right under your nose, and could very possibly be tortured at this very moment... would you stay back, or would you go in and save your friend?"
His words struck a chord as Achilles froze.
"I... would throw down my lives to save them." Achilles replied quietly.
"Then you know why you must let us through." Percy responded, just as quietly.
Achilles sighed. "I don't want to seem like I'm talking down on you, Percy. I care for you all, and... if something were to happen, I nor my colleagues would be able to deal with the aftermath."
"Rest easy, Achilles. I know what I'm getting myself into." Percy said softly.
"You don't. But I understand why you must go and, against my better judgement... I will allow you all to pass. But promise me one thing, Percy." Achilles hand reached out to grip his shoulder tightly.
"Promise me to run if things go awry. There is no shame in running when you fight the Cold Numorians." Achilles's tone was at once both serious and worried.
"I'll remember that, Achilles. I promise." Percy said quietly.
Achilles stepped back, Andromeda and Perseus following suit.
As one, the Three Guardians withdrew their weapons, sliding them into the appropriate slots to activate the Gate. In moments, Percy and his friends were sucked into the Gate, flying towards Numoria. Within seconds, all seven of them landed on the hard, icy surface of the dark side of Numoria in a flash of golden light. Even though they were on the dark side, there was a substantial amount of light courtesy of a large moon. Luckily for them, the moon was nearly full, allowing them to navigate the icy terrain with relative ease.
Percy had cast out his senses the instant they touched the ground, immediately detecting Zek's aura beneath a swarm of other auras. One of them was particularly strong, and he knew from the looks of his friends that they had noticed it too.
Is it supposed to be this quiet? Zoë asked mentally, her eyes narrowing.
I don't know... barely anyone knows anything about the Cold Numorians, or their culture. If they have any, that is... Percy replied. Percy had to agree with Zoë though. The silence and stillness was unnerving.
There's an open-topped building up front. Made out of stone. Very simple design, nothing fancy. Zek's aura is radiating is from there. So is that really... big one. Bianca said.
Then let's head there as quickly as we can.
The building appeared deserted when they approached, with no windows of any kind, just circular stone walls with several entrances. And sitting in the center, chained to a chair, was Zek.
"Zek!" Percy called out. He rushed forward, uncapping Elderstar and slicing his chains off with two quick swipes, capping Elderstar before giving him a quick hug. "Are you alright? Did they do any-"
"Impressive. Not three hours past, and the Eccentric Eight are here to rescue their little friend." A deep, rich voice boomed.
Percy whirled around as his friends instinctively closed their ranks, backs facing each other as they seemingly empty building was now filled with Cold Numorians. The person who had spoken walked forward. Percy immediately took note that he was heavily armed, with twin blades sheathed across his back in an "X" shape, a belt full of throwing knives and a pistol hanging from his hip. He was also heavily armoured, with a chestplate and backplate, along with pauldrons, greaves and vambraces.
Any idea what metal he's using? Percy asked Beckendorf silently.
It's... a coltan-titanium alloy. Pretty good. But... it has some of the most powerful protection spells I've ever encountered. Beckendorf answered swiftly.
"It is extraordinarily rude that I know your names, but you all do not know mine. I am Invictus, and these are my Numorian ice warriors. What business do you have here?" Invictus asked in the same deep, rich voice.
"We only wanted our friend back, Invictus. We don't want things to end... messily." Percy said calmly, opting for the diplomatic approach.
"And yet, you come here, armed and heavily armoured. Do you expect things to end messily?" Invictus asked, slowly walking a circle around the group.
"It's always good to be prepared." Percy responded carefully. "What do you want with Zek?"
"Oh, we only wanted information. Once we had what we wanted, we were going to send him back to you, whole and well, exactly like he is now." Invictus replied airily. "However, that was the backup plan. The sole purpose was to lure at least one member of the Eccentric Eight here so we could have twice the information."
"Instead, all of you came! We now have seven times the amount of information we could've gotten, and, as a nice treat, weakened Chaos greatly by eliminating her main attack force." The tension in the air increased a hundredfold as everyone immediately rested their hands on their weapons.
"So unfortunately... I think this will get very messy." Invictus's voice lost all of its richness as it became much harsher, his ice warriors advancing on the Eight.
Everyone immediately activated their weapons, but Zoë was by far the quickest. Percy had barely uncapped Elderstar when a flurry of arrows stopped the first wave of ice warriors cold, buying enough time for them to form a defensive position as Percy went straight for Invictus.
Knocking aside a Numorian ice warrior that stood in his way with a powerful mind bolt, Percy closed the distance to Invictus, who stood completely still. Right when Percy was about to stab him right in the chest, Invictus reacted with extreme speed, whipping his swords over his shoulder in a downward smash.
Percy adapted immediately, deflecting the attack with his momentum, pulling out his second Elderstar and stabbing Invictus in the chest with enough force to cause him to stumble backwards.
"Not too bad. For a beginner..." Invictus said quietly, his curved swords glowing with red fire.
Elderstar responded in kind as green flames licked its blade, Percy's eyes bursting into flames as he went into full attack mode. Whirling around to build momentum, he slammed both of his swords against Invictus's, quickly drawing back and rushing forward with a series of quick thrusts that forced Invictus to play on the defensive as he expertly deflected each thrust.
Throwing in a quick jab to the face that forced Invictus's head backwards, Percy whipped his swords outwards and in, following the Crescent Move strike he utilized when an enemy's sides were unprotected. However, Invictus managed to parry the attack, his sword pulling back before he flicked it towards Percy's head.
He ducked, avoiding the sword and slashing at Invictus's legs in the hopes of knocking him over, but Invictus leapt over the swipe, countering with a two fast downward stabs that forced Percy to role to the side. Realizing that Invictus would have the upper hand so long as he stayed on the ground, Percy pointed his sword at Invictus and fired a Detonation through Elderstar.
The bolt struck Invictus square on the chest, blowing him off his feet and flattening a Numorian warrior as he hit one of the walls with enough force to crack the stone.
Invictus chuckled as they both got to their feet.
"You want to play with magic? I shall oblige." Invictus said.
A stream of magical attacks burst forth from Invictus's hands and it took all of Percy's concentration to deflect the attacks with Elderstar. Invictus suddenly stopped, sending a mind bolt that caught Percy by complete surprise, bowling him over with the force of a train. Invictus sent another mind bolt but Percy was ready, deflecting it with his mind while counter-attacking a bolt of his own, which Invictus easily sidestepped.
Invictus suddenly fired several magical blasts while also sending a few more mind bolts at Percy, who immediately knew that he could not deal with both at the same time. Extending his wings, he took cover behind it as the magical blasts slammed into his wing with a considerable amount of force as he quickly deflected the mind bolts. While still under the cover of his wing, he fired a Spasm at Invictus.
The Spasm took Invictus by surprise, the jet-black disk of power clipping his shoulder, sending him whirling through the air for several seconds before crashing to the ground. Percy steadied himself, taking in deep breaths as Invictus got to his feet, his eyes blazing from beneath the hood.
Moving so fast that he left afterimages of himself, Invictus was suddenly standing in front of Percy, picking him by the throat in one hand and tossed him aside like a rag doll. Slightly dazed at what had just happened, Invictus took advantage of Percy's temporary incapacitation and leapt high into the air, aiming both of his swords downward as he dive bombed to where Percy lay sprawled on the ground.
Percy rolled to the side just in time to avoid the deadly downward force of Invictus's twin swords, but the explosive power of the attack lifted Percy into the air, throwing him against the walls before sliding down and hitting the ground with a thud.
Once again moving at the speed that left afterimages, Invictus picked Percy up by the throat with both hands, crushing him against the wall as Percy struggled to breathe. For a few moments, Percy continued to struggle against Invictus's immovable grip when he suddenly changed into liquid form, easily slipping through Invictus's fingers.
This actually surprised Invictus, for he stared at where Percy had been moments ago, which was more than enough time for Percy to reform behind Invictus and gather his strength for an attack. Both Elderstars arced downward viciously, crushing Invictus's shoulders with roughly ten thousand newtons of force against each shoulder.
Invictus was forced to his knees from the sudden blow, the cracked ice around his knees signifying the amount of strength Percy had put into the attack. However, Invictus wasn't even phased in the slightest. Instead, he roared with anger, standing up abruptly as a wall of force knocked Percy backwards.
"No more games, Nex. This ends, here and now." Invictus growled, rushing at Percy.
Taken aback by the ferocity of the attack, Percy desperately backed up, it took everything in his power to just block the majority of Invictus's attack, he was attacking so fast that his blades seemed to be everywhere at once, stabbing, slashing, thrusting and hacking in every which way.
Percy suddenly began to realize what Achilles had meant when he said he was too weak and was not yet ready. Invictus was much, much more powerful than he was, his swordplay was superior in every which way and his stamina seemed endless. While Percy was sweating heavily, breathing hard and his muscles were screaming to the point he let his armour absorb the majority of the blows, Invictus seemed to be completely at ease, his movements smooth and precise, his aim fatally accurate. If Percy hadn't been wearing the best armour ever made, he was sure he'd have died a million times over.
Slowly, Invictus began to overpower him, many of his attacks met armour plate instead of blade, and Percy's movement began to slow down, his movements sluggish. On the contrary, Invictus's movements became even faster, his movements so fast that once again they left afterimages, his sword slashing through the air so quickly that Percy couldn't even track the blade as it hammered against his armour loudly, each blow shaking Percy's vision.
Suddenly, with the quickest disarm Percy had ever seen, both Elderstars flew out of his hands. Percy backed up against a wall but Invictus didn't wait; he grabbed Percy's right wrist, pinned it against the wall with his fingers and plucked a dagger from his belt. Almost casually, he stabbed it right through his hand, deep into the stone wall as Percy instinctively cried out in pain.
"Percy!" Zoë's panicked yell cut through the air, but she was unable to do anything, for she was fighting four ice warriors at once, dodging and parrying their attacks with a Hunters grace.
Invictus smiled cruelly at Percy.
"Well Nex, I'm afraid this is where we say goodbye. See this?" Invictus said, pointing at the dagger's rusty red blade. "End's concoction. The instant I let go, it'll start dissolving you, until nothing is left. Capable of killing even Deities like you." Invictus sneered.
"Farewell. I am off to deal with your little friends." Invictus said, his eyes glittering with malice as he let go of the dagger and walked away.
The instant his hand left the dagger, a horrible burning sensation began to spread from the center of his hand. Percy clenched his teeth together tightly, letting out grunts of pain when he could stand it as he reach up with his left hand and yanked the dagger out, tossing it aside.
To Percy's horror, his hand continued to dissolve, a large hole already spreading from the center of his palm, his fingers falling off and dissolving on the ground.
"N-no..." Percy whispered, horrified as he wracked his brains, struggling to think of anything to stop the spread of End's nasty work.
Suddenly, there was a flash of silver and, for the briefest moment, an intensely painful sensation around the wrist area of his right hand. He screamed just once, before noticing that his hand no longer burned. In fact, he couldn't feel his right hand at all.
That was when he looked down and saw that his hand had been chopped clean off by Elderstar, the remainder of his hand dissolving into nothing on the ground. For several moments, Percy stared in utter shock at his wrist and his sword, struggling to comprehend that Elderstar had just cut his hand off. Elderstar blazed white, catching his attention. Percy squinted at the sword, wiping silver blood -his blood-, off the sword to read the ancient greek letters that shone on the blade.
Get up. Hold me in your hand at all times, or you'll never make it. Blood loss will settle in. You still have to get out with your friends.
Percy was too stunned by the fact that Elderstar was actually "talking" to him to think twice about what it said. He picked up Elderstar in his left hand, feeling a rush of temporary strength and energy course through his body as he cradled his stump against his chest, ignoring the pain as best he could. His sword flashed again and he looked down, reading what Elderstar had to say to him.
Tell your friends to flee. Teleporting is impossible. Tell them to run to where they Gated in. Use my power for an earthquake. It should buy you enough time to escape.
Percy obeyed, taking in a deep breath to gather his thoughts.
Everyone... flee. Run. Run to where we Gated in. NOW! Percy said the last word as forcefully as possible so his friends would understand.
Percy rested the tip of Elderstar against the ground, leaning on it as he watched his friends flee, with Bianca summoning an army of freshly dead Numorians to help them escape while Calypso threw a sort of powder into the air that obscured them from physical and magical sight. The instant Percy deemed they had run far enough, he drew on Elderstar's power, gathering its power before releasing it deep into the ground.
The ground shook, and when deep crevices opened up around, Percy then realized that the ground was actually just a very thick layer of ice, with no solid surface beneath the ice layer.
Uh oh... Ice all around Percy cracked loudly as the ground shook even harder. With a crash, the stone buildings around him fell through deep crevices in the ice, and he suddenly rushed forward, extending his wings and leaping into the air as the entire place where he'd been standing collapsed in on itself.
His earthquake seemed to be working, for Invictus and his Numorian Ice Warriors were now intent on dodging walls of ice that would come crash down at any moment and avoiding the large cracks in the ice as they tried to pursue Percy's friends.
Percy flew forward quickly, with Elderstar leading him and providing him the energy he needed to continue flying as he flew over Invictus, towards his friends who were standing in a circle, the soft golden light around them indicating the Gate was ready. Percy flapped his wings a little harder as he started to dive, eager to get off the planet.
One moment, Percy was flying through the air. The next moment, he heard a scream he was slammed against the ground with bone-shaking force. Thanks to his armour and Chaos's training, Percy didn't realize he had been struck by a lightning bolt until he saw the electricity crackling over his body. Unfortunately, Elderstar had been knocked out of his hand and Percy was hit by all the pain and exhaustion Elderstar had kept at bay.
His vision swimming from the loss of blood, he tried to summon Elderstar to his hand again when a black boot crushed his hand to the ground.
"You really are something, cutting off your own hand to save yourself." Invictus said, staring down at him. "I'm almost impressed. But you should've taken your first death. Because you're not going to enjoy what my master will do with you at all."
Invictus bent down, his fingers beginning to wrap around Percy's throat when he was suddenly knocked backwards. Percy looked up to see Luke standing above him, holding his sword in the "En garde" position of fencing.
"No... Luke... what-what are you doing?" Percy gasped out. "Just... go. Leave me."
"You're not taking Nex." Luke said calmly, completely ignoring what Percy was saying.
"Oh? And what makes you think you can stop me when your leader can't?" Invictus sneered.
"Try me." Luke's eyes glittered a harsh blue.
Invictus whipped his sword from its sheathe and thrust it straight through Luke's chest at mind-blowing speeds. However, Luke merely laughed, a laugh that was mirrored three more times as three Luke's appeared around Invictus, the one with a sword through his chest dissolving away. Percy stared in shock as a flicker of doubt crossed Invictus's face. He swung at one of the Luke's, but Luke parried the attack with a simple swipe of his sword. Another Luke appeared, surrounding Invictus on all four sides.
Invictus growled angrily as he attacked the four Luke's and they easily sidestepped his attacks, moving in perfect unison.
"Get them. I'll deal with this pest." Invictus ordered his warriors.
"I said, you're not taking Nex." All four of the Luke's said coldly.
The air shimmered and dozens of Luke's appeared, forming an impenetrable wall between Invictus and Percy.
"KILL HIM!" Invictus screamed as he lashed out at the four Luke's, his ice warriors cautiously approaching the other Luke's.
Percy was still shocked from what he had just witnessed when he felt his left arm being slung over a shoulder and saw yet another Luke helping him to his feet. He stood up shakily, his stomach heaving and his vision darkening from exhaustion and loss of blood.
"Your hand..." Luke whispered, his eyes wide as Percy slowly limped to where the rest were waiting within the protective circle of the Gate.
"Luke... what are you doing?" Percy asked weakly.
"I'm saving you. It's paramount that you escape here alive." Luke said as they neared the Gate.
"No... Luke, you have to come with us. You... you can't..." Percy trailed off, his vision momentarily blacking out as he gasped for breath.
"Just go, Percy. I owe you this. The Titan War... I never redeemed myself for it. I never did anything that warranted your trust and love. I just wish to... reciprocate." Luke said quietly as they reached the Gate.
"You're wrong, Luke..." Percy's vision swam again and he knew that his strength was rapidly waning, but he forced himself to find the strength to say the words. "You were the hero. You... ended... it." Percy rasped out.
"No Percy. I started it, due to my stupid pride. Now GO!" Luke said urgently, pushing him into the Gate's circle and into Zoë's arms.
"I can't hold this forever, so JUST. GO!" Luke bellowed as he stepped well back from the Gate.
Invictus screamed his fury as the Gate activated, but all of the Luke's except for the one facing the Gate threw themselves on Invictus, forcing him down.
The last thing Percy saw of Luke right before the transport began was his calm and relaxed expression.
"Luke..." Percy whispered his name one last time before unconsciousness finally took over, a single tear falling down his cheek.
Percy woke up to the sound of hushed conversations. Deciding to not announce his presence yet, he slowly opened his eyes, immediately recognizing his room from the ceiling and the walls. He was lying on his bed, his every joint, bone and muscle was sore beyond belief, but he was safe, and so were his friends. He cast out his senses, detecting his friends, Chaos and the Three Guardians immediately. And then he realized who was missing.
Suddenly, everything came rushing back to him. Rescuing Zek, his defeat at Invictus's hands, the loss of his own hand, and Luke, forming an entire army out of himself to save him, gone forever...
"No!" Percy shouted instinctively, sitting bolt upright.
Immediately, all conversation stopped and Percy everyone he had detected appeared in his room, sitting in chairs and sofas while all of his friends sat on his bed, providing him some comfort.
"It's alright, Percy. You're safe here." Chaos said quietly.
"No... I mean... Luke. He can't be dead. He can't be. Where... where is he?" Percy asked, staring into Chaos's eyes.
Chaos looked away. "I'm sorry, Percy. Luke... he's gone now. Shortly after Achilles and Andromeda transported you all back, he... disappeared."
Percy looked down, his eyes hot and his heart heavy with guilt. It was only when he looked down did he notice that his right hand was covered with a black glove and his mental chip said that he still had a right hand.
"What's this?" Percy asked, peeling the glove off his hand.
"Wait, Percy, something I need-" Chaos started but it was too late as Percy pulled it completely off, staring in utter shock.
Instead of a flesh-and-bone hand as he had been expecting, his hand was of pure silver. It flashed brightly under his room's lights as he examined it closely, experimentally flexing his fingers and his wrist before making a fist. It was extraordinarily smooth, his finger movements were unimpaired and he could still feel with it. However, something about seeing his skin morph into the silver around his wrist unnerved him.
"What is this?" Percy asked.
"I guess you can call it liquid Helixean Silver. A variation of the metal I use for your armour. They are both unbreakable, but the difference is that liquid Silver is flexible, and can morph into different shapes. Once you learn how to control it, you can shape-shift it to whatever you choose. Your hand is essentially another weapon now." Chaos explained softly.
Percy stared at his hand again, twitching his fingers. Another loss. Unexpectedly, Calypso wrapped her fingers around his Chaotic Silver hand and he smiled just slightly when he felt the warmth of her hand against his, which would forever be cold.
Percy looked up, carefully examining each of his friends' faces, checking for any sign of injury. He was relieved when he found none and turned to Zek.
"Did they do anything to you, Zek?" Percy asked quietly.
"No. Like they said... I was just bait..." Zek replied, his voice laden with guilt.
"Don't feel bad, Zek. It's not your fault. I..." Percy glanced at Chaos and Achilles before continuing. "I should've heeded superior advice."
"I'm glad you're finally acknowledging that you made a poor choice, Percy." Chaos said.
"I'm sorry, Lady Chaos. I... should've been much more careful, much more cautious. And... I should have trusted you." Percy said quietly.
"Remember Percy... this is about you, your friends, me or this planet. This is about every realm, every civilization, every living being spread across the entire Universe. This is about Creation itself. We are lucky that End has not gathered enough forces to attack. Otherwise, you would have brought war upon every world in all realms. And war does not decide who is right or wrong. War only decides who is left." Chaos said ominously.
Percy shuddered, looking down again, flustered as he nodded humbly.
"But, none of that has happened, so I shall cease to talk about it." Chaos said patiently. "Let's talk about Invictus. What do you know about him?"
"Um... way above my skill level?" Percy squeaked out.
Chaos chuckled slightly.
"Rest easy, Percy. I'm not mad at you. I just really want you to remember this, to learn from this mistake. Because we can't afford another one. But yes, Invictus is far above your skill level."
"He is famed for his physical attributes, for his speed, his strength, and his way with a sword. His magical abilities are not quite near his physical combat prowess, but are, nevertheless, very potent. You are lucky in that regard, for had Invictus attacked you and overwhelmed you with magic, you may not currently be seated in your bed." Chaos said very seriously.
"His speed was insane..." Percy muttered. "He... he moved so fast that he kept leaving afterimages of himself. It was... unbelievable, at how fast he moved."
"That is actually an ability all Chaotic Deities are capable of. However, it requires immense physical strength and stamina. We'll call it... "hyper speed" for simplicity's sake. Entering "hyper speed" is very difficult, and extremely tiring, which is why we don't always do it all the time. However, it can certainly give the person with the ability a clear advantage over the other." Chaos explained.
"Can you teach me, Achilles?" Percy asked immediately.
Chaos laughed. "Can Achilles teach you? Oh yes. He's a master of it, capable of maintaining several hours on end."
Percy and his friend's eyes all bugged out, causing Chaos, Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus to laugh.
"That is why I decided to remove the blessing I got from the Styx. It just tires you too quickly. And besides, Chaotic Silver cuts through the Styx's blessing, so there was absolutely no reason for me to keep it on." Achilles said, finally providing a full explanation to the question Percy had asked him more than fifteen years ago.
"Before you go, Percy. Your punishment." Chaos said, her voice serious once more.
Percy straightened his back, nodding formally, prepared to accept the consequences, and the responsibility of Luke's death.
"Then I, Chaos, as Ruler of the Universe, strip you of all powers and abilities until I deem you are worthy of wielding your powers once more." Chaos said in a voice laden with power, raising a hand so her palm faced Percy.
His friends gasped in shock as green and black fire flowed out from Percy's hands, mouth and eyes, flowing into Chaos's palm. Abruptly, the stream stopped and Percy crumpled over, breathing heavily as he felt how raw and vulnerable he was without his powers. Slowly, he straightened up, his green eyes glittering with purpose.
"Well Lady Chaos, Achilles, Andromeda, Perseus... whatever you can teach me, I'll take it. I'll take anything you throw at me." Percy said calmly.
Achilles, Perseus and Andromeda nodded graciously while Chaos smiled proudly.
"Good. Rest tonight. You need to recover your strength and heal some internal injuries. Tomorrow, training begins." With those words, Chaos disappeared, along with the Three Guardians.
Percy turned to face his friends and, wordlessly, they all embraced each other tightly, reaffirming their bonds to each other.
Later that night, when Percy was staring into the night sky in his room, he felt something in his pocket. Reaching in, he pulled out a blank business card. He flipped it over, and his eyes widened as he recognized Luke's handwriting.
Hey. Hope you've gotten a suitable replacement for your hand when you read this note.
Percy looked down at his right hand. This meant that Luke must have somehow written the note while he had been helping him reach the gate.
Listen (although you can't listen, so watch), if you ever manage to get back to Earth... could you say "Hi" to Annabeth for me? And if you're at it... could you say "I'm sorry" also? And to my dad... and Thalia too...
A tear slid down Percy's cheek, his heart clenching as he read the note.
"Luke... I'm so sorry... you could've told them this yourself if I hadn't been such a cocky fool..." Percy muttered hoarsely, a tear sliding down his cheek as his heart tightened.
He clenched his metallic hand as he tucked the note back into his pocket. That hand would forever be a reminder of what he had lost, and a permanent lesson in humility. While his hand had been replaceable, the hole that Luke's absence had created would never, ever be filled.
While Chaos's punishment had seemed like it had a negative impact on Percy, for it weakened him at first, it actually had a positive impact later on, since Percy found that he could concentrate solely on improving his physical strength and combat.
After five years of only honing his physical abilities, Chaos started training Percy to use his magical abilities again, revealing that she had not absorbed his magic, she had merely locked it away inside him. Every training session, she would teach him some more advanced skills, teaching him how to cloak himself from his enemies, teaching him absolute control over shape-shifting, introducing to him how portals worked, and even introduced time manipulation to him, to the point Percy could create a rudimentary time lock around small objects.
After another five years of constant training, in which Percy managed to get the hang of entering and maintaining hyper-speed, could make himself fully invisible in all aspects and had improved his control over his power to new extents, Chaos sent Percy on his most difficult mission yet.
"Alright Percy. I have a mission for you, Zoë and Bianca and it is extremely important." Chaos said when Percy arrived at the Garden of Roses for training.
"What type of mission?" Percy asked.
"An assassination mission."
That immediately caught Percy's attention.
"Several of my very best spies died in the process of getting this information. One of End's minions is going to assassinate Lord Oskris, the current leader of the Warm Numorians. And we cannot allow that to happen, as the Warm Numorians are our allies, and they keep the Cold Numorians somewhat controlled."
"Her name is Invicta-" At this, Percy's eyes flared, but he said nothing. "She appears to be unarmed and unarmoured at all times. However, my spies say that she is very powerful, which I do not doubt, as she is Invictus's sister." Chaos finished.
"Invicta..." Percy said the word slowly, "Have you told Zoë or Bianca about the mission yet?"
"I will, in approximately... thirty seconds." Chaos answered. "Why?"
"I have a request... I wish to go alone. If Invicta is as powerful as you say, I... I can't bear if anything were to happen to my friends." Percy said quietly.
"Are you sure? It would be easier if you had the two with you." Chaos asked.
"Yes. Chaos... you know I love Zoë and Bianca dearly." Percy responded quietly.
Chaos stared into Percy's eyes and knew that he still hadn't gotten over Luke's death. Slowly, she nodded her agreement, even though she couldn't suppress a surge of worry for him. Over the last decade, he had improved massively, his strength and endurance surpassing her expectations, and while it was clear that he had worked hard on his powers and his swordplay, he was still very young, with much to learn.
"I shall send Zoë and Bianca to Numoria then, to keep an eye out for their leader." Chaos answered simply.
"Thank you, Lady Chaos." Percy said, relief evident in his voice. "So when am I going? Where am I going? How am I getting there?" Percy asked rapidly.
After years of Percy asking questions in a rapid-fire mode, Chaos had gotten used to it and ignored what she had said about shutting him up if he kept on doing it.
"I was thinking of now, actually. The report came in only hours ago, and time is very important in matters such as these. And because speed is of such importance, you will be taking the Gate."
"Yes, portals may be faster, but Zoë and Bianca will be taking the portal to Numoria because they need discretion, while you don't, so you'll be taking the Gate." Chaos answered Percy's unspoken question.
Percy cracked a smile, nodding in agreement, since Chaos's reasoning made perfect sense.
"As for where you are going, you're going to be visiting a rather far-flung planet named Candor. They specialize in making weapons-grade materials for arms manufacturers, so perhaps while you're there, you can find out what Invicta was doing on that planet in the first place. But remember, your primary objective is to eliminate her." Chaos explained.
"Understood, Chaos. Shall I get going then?" Percy suggested, standing up as he fingered his ring.
"Not until we've wished you good luck, Percy. This is your hardest mission yet, so you're going to need all the luck in the world." Bianca's voice sounded behind him as all of his friends suddenly appeared around him.
Percy smiled, the hard and withdrawn exterior that had formed over the years falling away in his friends' company.
Zek squeezed him extra hard, Silena rubbed noses with him, Beckendorf slapped his back hard enough that he took several steps forward and Bianca kissed his cheek. Zoë playfully glared at Bianca before kissing Percy's other cheek, hugging him tightly for luck. Calypso walked up to Percy, as stunning and beautiful as ever, staring at him for several moments before tapping her chin with a finger.
"Well, since both cheeks are taken..." Calypso said, giving Zoë a sly look before reaching upwards and surprising Percy with a soft kiss to the lips, though she pulled back quickly.
"Umm..." Percy blushed, not quite knowing what to say. "I uh, I'll get going. See you all soon and thanks!" Percy said hastily, teleporting to the Gate room as he caught sight of Zoë glaring at Calypso with substantially less humour.
Percy appeared in the Gate Room to find the Three Guardians already in position.
"You and your ladies, Perseus Jackson." Perseus said, his eyes sparkling as they activated the Gate.
"Oh, shut up." Percy muttered, allowing himself to be sucked into the Gate.
In moments, Percy materialized on Candor in a flash of golden light, smack in the middle of a traffic jam. Immediately, vehicles crashed into one another in a panic and Percy took the opportunity to slip away amidst the commotion, unseen.
Quickly changing form into a common bird, Percy flew to the highest building near him and cast out his senses, merging them with his vision as he scanned as far as he could from his vantage point. Picking up nothing, Percy flew to another rooftop a mile away and scanned, once again picking up nothing out of the ordinary.
On the third try, Percy detected a huge sunburst of an aura, located midway up a huge skyscraper. Setting his sights on the building, he streaked across the sky, traveling far faster than any common bird possibly could.
As he neared the building, he slowed down and narrowed the source of the aura down to the 101st floor. Using his ability to see through objects, he saw a woman wearing a large, white overcoat talking to several fat men in black. Swiftly morphing his senses together with his vision, he noticed that the aura was brightest around her so Percy changed his form back to normal, his black wings flapping hard as he blew the glass apart with his mind, uncapping Elderstar as he did so, pointing his sword straight at the center of the woman's back.
Before the fat men in black could even react to Percy, the woman whirled around, raising her hand and throwing up a powerful shield. Percy slammed against the shield with all his weight as Elderstar punched through her shield, stopping less than an inch from her chest.
For a moment, Percy hung in mid-air before he quickly withdrew, holding his sword to the side as he and the woman stared at each other.
Invicta turned around to address the shocked fat men. "Go. I have some private matters to take care of. We'll negotiate after I've finished here."
The fat men didn't need telling twice as they lumbered towards the elevator, cramming themselves in as they sought to get away as fast as possible.
"Who knew such powerful beings needed such unreliable and puny weapons." Percy said calmly.
Invicta ignored his comment.
"Well, Chaos must hold me in very high regards. I'm honoured that she sent the most powerful of the Eight to kill me. Oh wait... I'm sorry, the most powerful of the Seven." Invicta said silkily.
Percy's eyes burned, setting his visor aglow with green light.
"You will all pay for Luke's death." Percy said harshly, raising his sword.
"Come now. We both know you have the superior weaponry. Let us settle this based on our skill. Hand-to-hand combat, no weapons, no tricks, and no powers. If you wish of course, you could use the surrounding environment." Invicta said, sneering as she waved at the thickly cushioned sofas, silk-covered chairs and rugs made from the skins of hundreds of different animals that surrounded them.
Percy stared hard at her for several moments, before slowly capping Elderstar, putting his sword back in his pocket as he pulled out the throwing knives from behind his shoulders and tossed them out the window he had shattered. With a wave of his hand, the glass on the ground flew back and reformed, the window as good as new.
Invicta smiled, taking off her overcoat as slowly and sensually as possible to reveal a skin-tight outfit that hugged her body. Percy's eyes narrowed behind his visor, remembering what Chaos had said about Invicta's lack of weaponry and armour.
On an unspoken signal, they rushed each other at hyper-speed, both attempting to clothesline the other. Both ducked, turned and punched each other in the chest. Percy's fist bounced off her chest as if he had hit a mountain, while Invicta's punch knocked him backwards onto a sofa.
Percy immediately scanned the inside of her body, suddenly realizing why her aura was so bright and why his punch had done absolutely nothing.
"That's inhumane..." Percy whispered as he got to his feet.
Beneath Invicta's skin were transparentium plates, heavily reinforced by protection spells he had last seen on Invictus's armour, and cleverly placed so that she had complete freedom of movement, but also benefited from near-invulnerability.
"It was painful. The most painful seven days of my life. But oh, is it so worth it..." Invicta said, knowing that Percy had discovered her secret.
"It's not going to save you." Percy growled, springing forward and tackling Invicta to the ground.
Invicta went with the flow, falling to the ground and using Percy's momentum against him, throwing him against the wall with enough force to shake the entire floor. As Percy flopped to the ground, Invicta got to her feet, bending down as she grabbed Percy by the throat, throwing him upwards and causing Percy's head to go right through the ceiling. Without waiting a beat, she grabbed both of his legs and yanked him downwards, stomping on his chest and sending Percy to the floor below, which turned out to be the restrooms.
This was an advantage for Percy, as he had crushed a faucet with his fall and the water revitalized him. He rolled away as Invicta hopped down, knocking her feet out from underneath her, causing her to crash against the floor.
As they both got to their feet, Percy ripped a faucet from the wall, throwing it into Invicta's face as he rushed forward, punching downwards on the back of her head as he knee up against her face with a crack. Invicta responded quickly, grabbing his leg and swinging him hard into the marble wall.
Invicta leapt to her feet, kicking Percy in the face as she walked into a stall, ripping an entire toilet off the ground and throwing it down on Percy's body.
Percy grunted as the heavy porcelain shattered against his armour, briefly winded from the amount of force behind the blow. However, it was offset by the fact that his clothes were getting soaked, courtesy of the small fountain of water that was spurting into the air due to the loss of a toilet.
Doing a quick kip up to get to his feet, he ducked a high kick by Invicta and rammed his shoulder into her stomach, intending to pin her against one of the stalls. Unfortunately, the stall crumpled and he ended up tripping over her, which she took advantage of by kicking him over her body and into another stall.
Smoothly getting to her feet, she turned around, only to have Percy's hand tighten around her throat, lifting her into the air as he performed a single-hand chokeslam on Invicta, throwing her on to the ground with enough force to crack the stone floor. Mercilessly, Percy raised his foot and stomped on her face, her head crushed deep into the floor.
Invicta retaliated quickly, yanking his legs out from beneath him and sitting up casually, quickly getting to her feet as if nothing had happened.
Kicking Percy into a wall, she bent down and with both hands, tossed him into the air as she jumped up, using her downward momentum along with her strength to smash Percy through the floor again. Percy groaned as he landed hard, spitting blood out of his mouth as he got to his knees, breathing hard.
Beckendorf would love this woman... Percy thought wearily as he got to his feet at the same time Invicta hopped down the large hole in the ceiling. Percy quickly looked around, noticing they were in a bathroom again, but this time filled with row upon row of men urinals instead. Was this floor the only level that had restrooms in the entire building? Percy didn't have time to think about it as he and Invicta engaged in a fist fight.
Neither seemed to be able to get an advantage over the other, as they both switched up their attack styles and patterns constantly, hoping to catch each other off guard. Their punches and blows became faster and faster, their legs fighting a whole separate battle as they both tried to make each other stumble.
After five minutes of fruitless punches, hand blocks, elbow blocks and dodging, they both abruptly stepped back from each other, both breathing heavily as they analyzed each other.
Even though Invicta had been pummeled and crushed a fair amount of times, her body was as perfect as ever, with hardly a sign of injury. The only sign that she had fought at all was her somewhat shredded clothing, slightly bloody nose and her heavy breathing, while the only visible injury she seemed to have sustained were two small metallic streaks on her face, courtesy of Percy's boot.
Invicta made the first move, throwing in an experimental jab, to which Percy easily dodge. Suddenly, without warning, Invicta moved forward at hyper-speed, grabbing his shoulders as she tried to throw him into another wall. Instead, Percy responded by moving at the same speed, bring both his hands down hard on her shoulders, forcing her to her knees as he brought his knee up against her jaw, her teeth slamming together with loud cracks.
Temporarily stunned as her head snapped backwards, Percy ripped a urinal from the wall, bringing it down in an overhand swing directly on Invicta's hand. The urinal shattered as Invicta slowly got to her feet. Percy ripped off another urinal, swinging it against Invicta at a sideways angle. Instead of knocking her off her feet as he had hoped, the urinal once again shattered against her side as she stood up.
"Oh my gods, just die!" Percy growled, frustrated beyond his limit as he brought both of his fists down in an overhand blow against the top of Invicta's head as hard as he could.
That had an effect.
Invicta's face met the stone floor faster than lightning and with so much force that her face had punched a hole clean through the floor. Percy brought his foot down on Invicta's back and the floor shook as the stones cracked. Raising his foot again, Percy brought it down-
-and thrust his foot straight through the floor, for Invicta had withdrawn too fast for Percy to react. With his leg stuck through the floor, Percy could only watch as Invicta clamped her hands around his upper arms, lifting him up and kicking his stomach hard as her grip prevented him from moving. She kicking him five more times -which left Percy thoroughly winded-, she let go of his arms and slammed her palms against Percy's chest with all the strength in her arms.
Percy flew backwards and painfully crashed through four thicks walls of back-to-back urinals, colliding against the fifth wall with just enough force to crash through and get stuck in the wall. Percy keeled forward, silver blood flowing freely from his mouth, his body already suffering from so much brutality.
Soon though, the pain resided and Percy realized he was sitting in a pool of water, his pants soaked from all the smashed urinals. Looking up wearily, he saw Invicta slowly making her way through the broken walls, looking supremely confident.
Percy stayed where he was and made a show of struggling to get to his feet, while in reality, he was adjusting his position so he could spring forward with maximum speed.
The instant Invicta was within grabbing reach, Percy sprang forward, slamming his Chaotic Silver hand against Invicta's abdomen as hard as he could. With a loud crack, Invicta flew backwards, through each of the holes he had made and smashed against an unbroken wall before sliding down with a thud. Moving forward at hyper-speed, Percy was atop of her, picking her up by her shoulders and tossing her upwards, smashing her head through the ceiling before delivering a powerful downward punch with his Silver hand, crushing her against the ground with all the strength he possessed.
A wall of power blew Percy backwards as Invicta cried out. When Percy got his feet, Invicta was already on her feet, examining the place where Percy had punched her with his Chaotic Silver hand.
They both saw the two-inch long crack on her stomach, her energies leaking through the hole in her armour. Invicta was gasping as she shakily took a step back from Percy.
"Well Invicta... it was a good fight, I'll admit. But it's time I get some partial revenge on Invictus." Percy growled, stalking forward.
Invicta smirked. "Oh, I don't think so."
"Yeah? Why's that?" Percy asked, closing the distance between them as Invicta winced, holding her hand to her wound.
"Because my master is going to destroy this planet. That's how much of a threat you are to him. In fact... I think it's starting already." Invicta said, smiling cruelly in spite of her injuries.
Suddenly, Percy became aware that the building there were in was shaking and when Percy activated his senses, he felt the entire planet beginning to shake. Buildings around them crashed and tumbled as the ground shook even harder.
Percy looked up to see Invicta slowly limping towards a portal that had suddenly opened. Yelling "NO!", Percy tackled Invicta, tightening his hold to prevent her from escaping.
"If this planet is going down... then you're going down with it. Cause you aren't going anywhere." Percy said through gritted teeth.
"No. You're going down, and I'm escaping."
"How so?" Percy growled.
"BMDs." Invicta replied, shifting slightly.
Wait... that sounds famili-
Percy was then struck by the most powerful blasting spell he had ever encountered.
Since Invicta had been facing downwards on Percy when she released her BMDs, Percy was sent crashing through 98 floors of the building, smashing hard enough into the lobby to create a large crater as unconsciousness crept in.
Percy awoke several minutes later to the ear-splitting screams of thousands of people, feeling as if twenty Beckendorfs had just pummeled him with his hammer.
Slowly and painfully getting to his feet, Percy attempted to teleport, but found himself slamming into an immovable wall of magic that utterly denied him. Cursing End beneath his breath, Percy found, to his surprise, that his implanted chip still worked. Quickly scanning all nearby areas for any friendly channels, Percy was relieved to find a Command-class star cruiser hanging out just above Candor's orbit, for they could easily send down a rescue pod and he could just as easily get back on the cruiser before the planet blew apart.
Hello, star cruiser orbiting just above Candor. Anyone there? Percy inputted desperately.
Hello, this is star cruiser Interp. Who is this? Identify yourself. This is an emergency channel. A clear feminine voice responded to him.
Look, there's no time. This planet is blowing up in about five minutes, and I need a rescue pod at my coordinates ASAP please!
I'm sorry, but this channel is reserved for emergencies only.
NO FUCKING SHIT, DO I SOUND LIKE I'M ORDERING PIZZA?! Percy roared, desperation, pain and frustration overriding any sort of diplomacy.
We are part of the Clydarian space fleet, we can not help Candor citizens. Good luck. Was the ice cold reply before the line went dead silent.
Percy gave a yell of frustration as he faced the sky and called for Achilles, Andromeda and Perseus, praying that they could see him through the dense magic that was preventing him from teleporting.
"Achilles! Perseus! Andromeda?! Chaos!" Percy hollered into the sky as the ground shook violently. Molten lava suddenly shot out of a fissure near him as dark magic pushed the planet into overload.
"CHAOS! ACHILLES! CAN ANY OF YOU HEAR ME?! I NEED YOUR HELP!" Percy roared one last time.
Silence. There was no flicker of golden light, no sign that they had heard, and no reply in his mind that would bring him aid.
Cursing as he realized he was swimming in lava, Percy extended his wings, pulling out Elderstar while calling upon the sword's power as he shot into the air, flying straight upwards as fast as he could, hoping against hope that he would somehow survive the planet's destruction as it began to swell in size.
The crew of the Interp star cruiser stared in absolute shock when part Candor suddenly exploded, throwing fiery debris in all directions.
"C-c-c-capt-tain, the p-p-planet j-ju-just ex-ex..." The navigator just trailed off, his hands and mouth shaking so much that he could not make any comprehensible words. The captain didn't mind, for he too was gaping at the destruction that was unfolding before everyone's eyes.
"S-Sir, General Orion has just sent in a request for all audio communications made in the last five minutes. Permission to send?" The communications officer asked.
"Yes, yes, of course." The captain said, still transfixed by Candor's destruction.
The communications officer dutifully looked through the logs and selected the only one that had been made in the past five minutes, the one she had labeled "Rude bastard."
It was only when she had sent it did she fully realize that Orion himself had asked for the logs within a specific time period, and it just so happened there had been an audio communication within said time period.
Her hands shook as a feeling of dread washed over, something telling her that she would suffer a fate far worse than what had just happened to the man she had decline aid to.
A/N: I'd like to blame my beta Nogoodnms for introducing me to Team Fortress 2. Really addicting, that game. But I'd also like to thank him from the bottom of my heart for getting my ass off the gaming seat and back into work. All credit for completion of this chapter goes to him.
Thanks to Haunted by Shadows for keeping me company. Really helped a lot.
And a toast to our old friend PercyxArtemis :)
I'm going to be more active on the tweets now, so if you want to follow my Twitter, the link is on my profile page.
Goodbye for now, dear readers. And expect more chapters to come at a hopefully more reasonable pace ;)
Oh, and of course, the longer the reviews, the better.
Nogoodnms' Note: My dawgs and my dawg-ettes. It's been a while since we talked to the majority of you, no? Since most of y'all, for various reasons, didn't take a look at our twitter accounts (not that Star posted anything since May, and I've only been really updating on progress since late July), you've been left out of the info-zone. But that's your choice, I won't try to influence or change it.
My past two notes/rants have been... controversial, to say the least. Some loved it. Some thought it was excessive. From my perspective, I'm tending to agree with the latter. I was very emotional at both times when I wrote them (especially the one in Chapter 17), so it was reflected in the level of swearing I used and how angry I got at everyone. This was a bad thing because I consider myself Star's PR guy. He's not good at talking to you guys. So I just express my thoughts on things and generally Star and I are on the same wavelength.
But now I'm calm. I'm collected. I'm not going to respond to any reviews except in private messages, so if you review anonymously, you're not getting a reply, no matter what. Speaking of reviews, you guys lost a lot of faith in us. Kept thinking we had ended the story. Come on, really, guys? We're alive, that's a point I've been trying to make to you! We have actual lives. We have things to do. Star's actually a professional pianist. He performs at concerts at the national level and stuff. I'm a pianist too, just not at his level. We both also have academics to deal with.
It took a while to finally get Star's lazy ass up and writing, I kept giving him deadlines and he never met them. Finally, in late July, I contacted Star after being away for four weeks and he still wasn't done. I told him "Star, one year since we published Chapter 17 is on August 21st. I do not want that to pass without us publishing." Obviously it wasn't completely achieved, but we made it close. Very, very close. It was the push he needed to write furiously.
Actually, at one point, I noticed something that created a plot hole that was very distressing. It required Star to rewrite everything he had written (which, compared to what Chapter 18 turned out to be, wasn't much). That took time too. But finally, at August 23rd at 12:31 am, Star texted me with the words "FUCKING FINALLY. Done." Editing process began when we woke up. I was very lazy and unable to concentrate, and Star was actually debating whether or not to post it without much editing.
But today (August 25th) I bucked myself up, took some ADHD medicine, sat down, and went through all 40,000 words, editing everything I could. I probably missed some stuff in the later half. I apologize, please point out any mistakes you see.
And another thing, people, I haven't been beta-ing for Star throughout his story. Only starting with Chapter 16 and onwards. Trust me, if you think that I did a perfect job in previous chapters, you're wrong. There's a lot we need to go over once this story is finished.
One more thing. Because a lot of people just review something along the lines of "good, can't wait for next chapter", I want to help you guys make better reviews. I'll give you a couple of questions to answer in your reviews about specific parts of this chapter.
1. There was a lot of time skips in this chapter. By the end of it, Star and I have calculated that he is forty-two years old. Do you think he's acting appropriately to his level of experience?
2. There were at least three major fight scenes, if not more. How was the length? The level of detail? What would you change overall, or about specific fight scenes?
3. If I remember correctly, Percy helped Calypso with a meal twice in this chapter. To our cooks out there, does that meal sound okay? Was it well prepared? Did it sound extravagant? Also comment on the meal for the celebrating of that leader's birthday on Numoria.
4. How was the level of detail overall? I know it's a really long chapter, 40,000 words is a crap-ton to get through. Some may like it, some may not, but I prefer this over a lot of time skips (even if there certainly were a few).
Feel free to add any more comments on this chapter that you didn't add with the questions above. Flesh out your reviews, Star and I love long reviews. Try your best not to flame, but instead to give constructive criticism.
Chapter 19 will not have Percy returning to Earth. That's Chapter 20. Don't worry, it won't be another year between chapters all over again. I promise this. Star and I are both going to be more active on twitter. To those who can't make an account, simply bookmark our twitter pages. To access my twitter page specifically, go to my fanfiction profile (search it up). There should be a link there.
Thank you guys who decided to read this beta note. Have a wonderful morning/day/afternoon/evening/night, and I'll catch y'all on the flipside.
P.S. Titty sprinkles.