The next day
It was a nice quiet morning in the valley. The sun's rays were warm enough to be comfortable, the birds chirped their morning songs, a woodpecker pecked away at one of the trees, and the slow flow of water could be heard. The light illuminated the entire valley, highlighting the different colors. Reds, whites, blues, greens, yellows, oranges, etc. Flower pods grew into beautiful dandelions, petunias, roses, marigolds, and lilies.
Weeping willows, magnolia sargentiana, and cherry blossom trees grew beautifully about the valley. The mountains stood tall and prouder than ever, lush green grass grew back onto the bases and bodies of the mountains once the winter had passed.
Our little protagonist was currently sitting on a small boulder, leaning back as he observed the scenery. A serene expression rested on his ageless face.
Percy smiled as he looked up at the clear blue sky, breathing in the aroma of mildew and honey. He could feel the sun's warmth as it seeped through his skin and relaxed him. 'What a beautiful day.'
'And it couldn't get any better.'
Percy brought his attention towards the running Clare who laughed with complete joy. Raki was only a few feet behind her, slowly catching up to the young woman. The two of them looked incredibly happy as they ran towards the youngest of the Primordials. Large, jolly, smiles nearly split their faces in half.
The two reached Perseus – both panting – one more than the other. Clare regained her breath faster than Raki. She smiled excitedly at her father figure, hopping up and down like a young rabbit.
"Guess what?" she said, the face-splitting grin never once leaving her face.
Percy raised his right eyebrow, mischief twinkling strongly in his colorful eyes. "What is it?"
Clare crossed her hands and held her arms straight down, swinging them from side to side. "Lake Day~" she sang.
Percy's kind smile morphed into mischievous grin. "Are you ready?"
Clare stood straight up – stiff as a board – and gave her father figure a soldier solute. "Yes, sir!"
Percy nodded, then turned his attention to Raki, who grinned just as wide. It seemed Clare had filled him in on the coming event, and he was excited about partaking in the fun. "Raki?"
"I'm ready, Percy. Clare told me about Lake Day and how it's tradition. I've never been allowed to hang out with the other kids in my old village because of the Yoma. It was too dangerous to be out alone, but I really want to join in on the fun tomorrow. If that's okay with you, sir."
Percy ruffled Raki's hair, making it messier than it already was. "Of course you can join us, my boy. You can join in on all the fun you want." Percy stood from his rock under one of the weeping willows. He rested his arm over Raki's shoulder and spoke teasingly. "After all, it seems Clare wants you to join us, anyways.
The two blushed crimson once Percy said that. Clare began spluttering incoherently while trying, in vain, to deny such claims. Percy chuckled at his daughter in all but blood. She looked cute when she was all flustered. It brought warmth to Percy's heart every time she was around. She always had a way of cheering people up.
"Alright, you kids run along. Clare, I believe you have some chores to complete before tomorrow, correct? Also, can you inform Artemis and her Hunters about tomorrow's events? Ask them if they would like to join. I'll be flooding the entire valley again. Same as every year."
Clare's blushing and spluttering fit ended as if it never happened. She smiled brightly up at Perseus. "Okay!" she said before running off towards the Hunter's camp to relay Percy's message.
Percy watched her go then turned to Raki, raising an eyebrow. The younger of the two males was still blushing as he watched Clare go. "Do you like her?"
Raki started. "W-What?
Percy frowned. "You heard me, Raki. Now answer the question."
"Well, yah." At Percy's blank stare, Raki waved his hands and waved them around erratically. "Not like that! She's so nice to me, and she even asked me to join you guys tomorrow. You all have been so kind to me ever since we met, and I'm really grateful for that."
Percy pated Raki in the back. "There is no need to thank us. I am happy that you are safe. Also, if you do like Clare as more than a friend, then tell her. Don't be embarrassed about it, but, let me tell you this." The earth under their feet shifted a little, and the sun's light dimmed. Percy's expression became somber. "If I find out that you ever take away her smile, I will erase you from existence. Do you understand, boy?"
Raki's eyes widened in fear. He shook his head vigorously. "Yes, sir. I understand, sir."
The ground stopped rumbling and the sun regained its light. "Good. I'm glad we're in agreement with each other. Now, run along. It would be a great help if you helped Clare with her chores. That way, she'll be done quicker."
Raki nodded quickly then took off towards the direction Clare went.
The next day
Clare spluttered, the water was splashed onto her face and entered her eyes and mouth.
Noel was laughing her ass off at Clare's misfortune, but let out a loud "Eep!" once she was pulled under by Teresa. Once the former Claymores surfaced, Noel was coughing and Teresa was the one laughing this time.
Teresa playfully shoved Noel. "That's what you get."
Noel stared at Teresa in disbelief. "What did I do to deserve such cruelty? Why is the Faint Smile being so mean to me?"
Teresa rolled her eyes, but smiled anyways. "Nothing."
Noel "hmph'ed" then crossed her arms and turned her head away from the former Number 1, vowing to get back at her tenfold.
"Good luck with tha-," but Teresa was never able to finish her sentence for the simple fact of magical water being dunked onto her head.
And it was very, VERY, cold.
Cackling could be heard from farther away. The uncontrolled laughter sounded suspiciously like a certain mermanified Primordial God sitting on a large boulder he created that broke the surface of the water.
The valley had been flooded two hours ago, everyone was currently swimming and splashing around the "Great Lake" having fun. Percy informed everyone that the monthly treasure hunting game would start at high noon.
Teresa slowly turned her head at Percy – who was trying to balance himself on the large rock.
He was clutching his stomach, gasping for breath as he laughed in merriment, tail splashing at the water and creating waves. Everyone felt the water vibrate, as if it were laughing with him.
Teresa glared at him murderously.
Any other day, her glare would have made anyone fear for their lives, but today was different. Today she was sopping wet in her swimwear and her hair was currently sticking to her face. You could also see her shivering a little bit, but that wasn't important. What WAS important was the fact that she was swimming towards the deity with visible killing intent.
Ilena – who was sitting next him on the rock – poked his side in warning, and Sophia pulled at his tail-fin. Percy's laughter slowly turned into chuckles then stopped all together once he noticed that Sophia and Ilena were still trying to get his attention. He raised his eyebrows at the two females, but, at their pointing fingers, he finally noticed Teresa's descent.
Percy chuckled nervously at Teresa, who was approaching fast. "Teresa! Are you having fun?"
Teresa had finally arrived, shivering less, and glaring up at him. She began to climb up the rocks length.
Percy's eyes widened in panic. He looked towards Sophia and Ilena for help, but was only met with bored looks. Then, somehow, they both spoke at the same time. "Don't bring us into your mess. She's your technical wife. Both of you are Clare's parents, now."
Percy slapped the rock in exasperation. "What does being Clare's parents have to do with this?!" Percy glanced nervously at Teresa. "And we are not husband and wife!"
The two females only shrugged their shoulders and pointed towards Teresa – who was getting closer. It was a pretty tall rock.
Percy muttered the word "Traitors" then quickly dove into the water below, moving farther away from Teresa. He swam towards Artemis and her hunters and hid behind Thalia.
"Perseus!" Teresa bellowed. "Don't you dare run away from me, you coward!"
Percy squeaked (in a manly manner, of course), grabbing Artemis by the arm and made a human barricade made out of the Goddess of the Hunt and her Lieutenant.
Artemis frowned. "Perseus, why are you hiding?"
Percy tore his attention away from Teresa and onto Artemis, finally realizing who he made his barricade out of. "Sorry, Artemis, but I don't wish to be crippled for a week. I hope you understand."
Thalia laughed at Percy. "Is it safe for me to assume that this isn't the first time she was after you, Kelp Head?"
"Unfortunately." He murmured, returning his gaze towards the vengeful Claymore. "Help me…" he whispered as he tried to make himself unnoticeable.
Thalia crossed her arms and spoke teasingly. "I don't know. Maybe you should face her like a man, or are you too chicken to do so?"
Percy glared at his cousin. "I'd rather be chicken than crippled, Thunder butt."
Thalia growled. "If water wasn't so conductive, then I would have zapped you're fishy ass down to Hades for that." She then gained a thoughtful look, a look that made Percy fear for his well-being. "Well," she turned her gaze towards Teresa – who was getting closer by the second. "Maybe I won't have to worry about that. Your girlfriend's coming closer. She'll deal with you while I watch, laughing at your suffering."
With that said, she skillfully maneuvered herself around Perseus and held his arms behind his back before he realized what she was planning. She turned her attention to Artemis – who was smiling faintly – as if she knew what was going to happen next.
Thalia grinned mischievously at her. "My lady?"
Artemis' smile widened. "With pleasure." The goddess swam towards Percy's right while Thalia was at his left, both holding onto his arms in a vice grip. The two of them began swimming towards a faintly smiling Teresa.
Percy shook his head – muttering "no" repeatedly – and tried to swim back, but Teresa had already reached them and the girls held onto him tight.
Teresa swam in front of him, smiling mischievously. Revenge was clear in her silver eyes, and slight malice in her smile.
Percy laughed nervously. "Teresa…having fun? How are you enjoying your day?"
The former Number 1 didn't answer, but she swam close enough to be only inches away from his face.
Percy tried to move away, struggling against the girls' hold. "Look, I'm sorry. I was just having some fun. It was a joke…Please don't try to kill me!"
This time, Teresa finally spoke, but the way she did sent cold shivers up his spine. Fear plagued Percy's entire being, the water, light, and the earth responding to his emotions.
"Oh, Perseus, I won't try to kill you, don't be ridiculous. I'll just make sure you will never pull a stunt like that ever again." With that said, she channeled thirty percent of her Yoki into her right hand. Cocking her fist back, she punched him in the stomach. The force of the punch made him cough up silver ichor, and it pushed him backwards a few feet - forcing Artemis and Thalia to let him go.
Percy groaned. He actually felt that punch. The water wrapped around him, encasing him in its embrace. He wouldn't dare fight back, he didn't want to accidentally kill anyone.
Percy clutched his aching stomach. Damn that hurt. How much Yoki had she put into that punch? She was clearly intent on hurting him. He wasn't lying about having been left temporarily crippled by her hand before. The water around him solidified. Teresa was banging against the ice, trying to get to him.
Percy noticed that there were cracks appearing on the ice.
'Oh no you don't, you psychopath!'
Percy bent the light around him, making himself appear invisible, then melted the ice behind him. He knew she would use her senses to find him, but she wouldn't be able to do that if he were everywhere.
He then did something he hadn't done in a long time.
He merged with his domain. The small part of his essence that formed his body merged into the water around him. He had become one with his domains. Percy no longer had a physical body. His consciousness was now scattered around the universe. He focused part of his essence onto the lake that flooded the valley.
He then spoke through the water. His voice made the lake and the earth vibrate (Imagine him sounding like Optimus Prime from the Transformers movies, then imagine how Optimus would sound underwater. Make sure to mix both.). "You can't harm what you can't touch, Teresa."
Teresa frowned. He hasn't done that in a while. This would be difficult. She would have to trick him into changing back into his humanoid form. His human form was preferred, but she knew he wasn't a complete idiot.
"Are you really going to hide behind your domain like this? Are you really going to cower away?"
The water rippled, "I'd rather be called a coward then not be able to move."
Teresa chuckled, "So you're okay with being like that all day?"
"I'll hold this form for the rest of existence if it means you can't do anything to harm me."
Teresa held her chin as she floated in the water. "I see, but won't that get boring?"
"No? How so?"
"I'll be entertained by the rest of the universe."
"But won't that get boring?"
"I guess we'll just have to see, won't we, Teresa?"
"Okay, but just remember that you have a world to save in a few days~"
"If you're trying to trick me into changing back, then you should just give up. I will not fall for your tricks. Not this time."
Teresa smiled mischievously and began to swim around. "Who said I was trying to trick you? I was only curious." She stopped swimming. "But, you know, Clare would most likely miss you. Having an omnipotent and omnipresent father figure is just no fun."
"She will be fine. It's not like I won't be with her everywhere she goes."
"Yes, but that would just be annoying. Can't you imagine your own father watching your every move? It would be horrifying. She'd never be able to have a proper male friend knowing that you'll be watching."
"Better to keep her from getting into trouble." The water around Clare wrapped around her waist and lifted her into the air. The water below her formed into the upper body of a man - standing at thirty feet - with her currently being held in his fist. "You better not get into any trouble, young lady."
Clare crossed her arms. "Dad, I'm not a kid anymore."
The humanoid figure seemed to frown. "To me, you're practically a baby. Twenty-six years of age against five thousand is a large gap."
Thalia and Artemis gasped. "What do you mean five thousand? You've only been gone for ten years?!" Thalia asked.
Percy turned his large, watery head towards his two cousins and their hunters. "Don't forget that Tartarus does not have an actual time zone, cousins."
"So you've been down there for five millennia?" Artemis asked, eyes wide in horror.
"Does that mean that Annabe-" Thalia began.
"No." At their confused looks, he explained. "Tartarus is selective with its prisoners. It warps time for some, prolonging their suffering, but not all. By the time I found her, I had already been in the Pit for five millennia."
"Papa?" Clare asked.
Percy turned his attention to Clare. "Yes, dear?"
"What is Tartarus?"
Percy sighed, Clare and the others noticed melancholic aura in the atmosphere. "It is a terrible place. A place where no innocent beings should be. I wouldn't even wish for my enemies to be there. Not after I have had the misfortune of experiencing its horrors, myself."
Clare's lips trembled a little. She could practically sense the pain and sadness radiating off of her adoptive father. He had suffered. "Daddy, turn back."
Percy sighed again, but complied. The memories were coming back. They were terrible. Once he turned back into his merman form, Clare wrapped him in a bone crushing hug. He could feel her shaking. She was crying. Why was she crying? Did he do something wrong? He voiced his questions.
Clare shook her head. "No, but you're in pain. So much pain. Daddy stop being sad, please, daddy."
A tear fell from his eye at Clare's words. She was right. He was in pain, and it was hurting her. He's the reason she's crying. She's crying for him. She knows he was suffering. He returned her hug, nuzzling her neck. She tightened her hold.
Everyone was silent in shock. No one knew what to do. Percy was so happy, but once the topic of Tartarus came up, his mood took a one-eighty degree turn. Whatever had happened down there really broke him inside.
The fight had left Teresa almost instantly once she realized what was actually happening. Clare was doing the exact same thing she did to Teresa when they first met. She was trying to console Perseus, and it was working.
Clare sniffed as they separated. She held onto his forearms in a vise grip, intent on making him feel better. "Stop being sad, Percy. That was a long time ago. You'll never go back there, I promise. I won't let you go back to the bad place. I won't."
Percy's age showed on his face. His now sea-green eyes gazed at her in admiration.
No one had ever tried to help him with his Tartarus problem.
No one had ever brought up the subject.
They just pretended that it never happened.
Annabeth had moved on, but Tartarus had become a large part of his life. He could never truly forget about the horrors that he went through. He could never truly forget the pain he felt, the suffering.
He could never truly forget.
But here she was, trying to help him. He had put Tartarus past him, only getting the occasional dream, every-now-and-then, but once Tartarus had been mentioned, the memories had surfaced. The pain, the suffering, it was all coming back with a vengeance.
Percy smiled down at Clare. "Don't worry, Clare. I won't be going back there any time soon." He croaked.
Clare nodded up at him. "Good."
Percy sniffed, then dove under the surface and resurfacing again a few feet away from Clare – she felt his tail-fin move against her leg (it tickled). He was much more comfortable being fully submerged in the water in this form.
"Now, enough of that. Today is a day of fun! We will not ruin it because of past memories." Percy examined the position of the sun. It was almost noon. "In two minutes and twenty-seven seconds we will begin our game. Hunters, I trust Clare has filled you in on the rules; Whoever can find the most jewels and precious metals, wins." At their nods, he continued. "This version of the game will be different. I had to change some of the rules because of the larger number of participants. There will be two different teams. The Hunters of Artemis vs. the former warriors of the Organization, Clare, and Raki. The group who can find the most treasure, win. I will also be spicing it up a bit. So expect the unexpected. Also, just to make it fair, Artemis is not allowed to participate for the simple fact that I am not participating. These terms have been agreed upon by both Artemis and myself." Artemis nodded in confirmation as her handmaidens groaned in annoyance. "So, without further ado, let the games begin!"
At the form of dismissal, several pillars of water shot up into the sky. The water rained down on everyone for several seconds, then the earth began to rumble making the water vibrate.
Percy commanded the earth to uncover jewels and precious metals, scattering them about the flooded valley and hiding the most precious from sight.
At the signal, everyone, save Percy and Artemis, dove into the water in search of the earthly treasures.