Clang!

"So, run that by me again," Triton grunted out, his sword straining against mine. My hands were shaking around the hilt of Riptide. "You're saying Hermes wants you to save that little prick?"

He pulled back, the edge of his sword flashing toward me again with barely perceivable speed. I reacted instantly, smashing Riptide into the approaching blade, sparks flying everywhere from the impact.

There was a loud metallic ring. Triton pulled back, centering his gravity and slashing the air with his sword to get some water off of it.

"Basically," I replied, twirling Riptide in my hand. I frowned- the edge was steaming. Opting to try something else, I backed up a bit, examining Triton's stance.

To my disappointment- but not surprise- there were no openings at all. Not even microscopic ones. I mean, even if there were any, they probably would've been feints anyway.

My foot shifted in the water, and my [Water Manipulation] skill activated.

FWOOM!

The water churned around Triton, exploding upward in a stream of droplets that instantly hardened into ice spikes.

Triton flicked his wrist, and the spikes melted back into seawater right before they could touch him, plopping back into the ocean with little more than a splash. Boo. "Not bad, kid. You're getting better with that stuff. If I was anyone else, that would've skewered me."

"Here's to hoping."

Triton was giving me another training session. This had basically become the norm for me. Go to school, go to practice, come home, get smacked into the ground by my godly brother. You know, your standard teenager's life.

I was extra tired today- even though it was a Sunday, which normally meant more rest, I'd had my first official game of basketball as a Midtown wildcat earlier, and I'd played the whole game. No breaks.

As you'd expect, that meant that I was even more tired than I'd normally be.

I mean, all of that aside, though, we won. Obviously.

With my powers, [Time Dilation], and reflexes, no one on the court could mentally keep up with me, let alone physically. The poor kid that tried was dusted before he could even raise a hand to stop me.

It was actually fun to do something for the sake of doing it, and not, like, the fate of the world.

Knowing that failure doesn't automatically translate to the death of life as you know it really helps you relax while doing stuff. A lot.

That's not to say I didn't take the game seriously, though.

I dropped fifty points on them, and we won the game by a total of seventy points. Yeah. Seventy.

The scouts were calling it the worst blowout in a decade. My coach, and the principal from earlier, Sherman, were singing my praises the whole time. I think at one point, they were actually hugging each other and jumping up and down, tears streaming down their faces.

It was kind of endearing, in a weird and creepy way. Sort of.

The only downside to that absolute monster of a game was that all the players and cheerleaders were throwing a party in celebration, and as the unanimous MVP, I was basically being forced to go.

No, really. I was being forced.

Liz told me she'd stop talking to me if I didn't show up, and she somehow roped Gwen into it, too- Gwen isn't even going to be at the damn party. One Percy vs two of his best friends? Yeah. I wasn't ever winning that battle. Then they got the lunch ladies involved…

Long story short, I grudgingly accepted the invitation. Very grudgingly.

That wasn't going to stop me from getting a training session in beforehand, though.

Triton came at me again, his sword blurring in and out of existence. I only managed to block half of the hits, the other ones slashing shallow cuts into my arms. I grunted, the ocean around my feet already closing the wounds.

Our home in Hither Hills had a lot of benefits: space, privacy, security- but, by far, the biggest plus to living here was the closeness to the ocean. We were a seven-minute walk to the Atlantic, with a private beach and all.

Poseidon and Hestia really went all out. I'd said thanks multiple times, but neither of them ever took it. They just said it was the least they could do.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed sparring with Triton for a few different reasons.

One, I actually learned things from fighting him. His story from before wasn't an exaggeration- the man was insanely gifted in the art of battle.

Every stance, every slash, each strike- not only had he learned and implemented hundreds of different moves into his fighting style, but he'd also practiced every move thousands of times.

They were all fine-tuned to be as efficient and deadly as possible.

He'd, by his own admission, tightened his skills to levels humans wouldn't even notice. Stuff like working his forms down to the yoctosecond.

In case you didn't know- because trust me, I didn't- a yoctosecond is a septillionth of a second.

That's ten raised to the power negative twenty-four. Yeah. That's the level of detail he conditioned himself with. It's an impossible standard for any normal human to even come close to.

Aside from the obvious upside of learning from a true freak of nature, sparring with Triton also allowed me to fight with my full power. When it came to training with basically anyone else, I found myself having to hold back considerably, just to not injure them.

Even without upgrades, my STR was up to a 63. That meant that every punch I threw had enough force to shatter someone's jaw. If I wasn't careful, I could obliterate someone without even meaning to.

Holding it back was almost like consciously using less of a muscle. It was like sprinting but knowing you could go faster, or lifting weights significantly lower than your max. It wasn't hard, or even annoying- it was just an extra mental step.

Not against Triton. I could let loose.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Triton met each of my strikes with a perfectly placed parry, rings of air shooting out from each collision. "Not bad. Show me that reverse Aizen again."

We trained for a few more minutes, and, let me save you the time- I didn't get a single hit off. Despite that, I was still rather satisfied with my progress today. Cuts and all.

Triton thought so, too.

After we were done, we partook in our customary post-training tradition.

We sat in the surf, a big bag of McDonald's in between the two of us. I munched on some fries while Triton slurped a shake.

"How are you holding up with the whole, you know, Aphrodite thing?" Triton asked, placing his cup into the shallow water next to him. The water rose, encircling around the shake and holding it up for him to dip a fry in. "You haven't seemed too off."

"Meh," That just about summed it up. Triton shot me a look, and I shrugged, "I really don't know how to feel about it. I can't even differentiate between what I felt myself, what I made myself think I was feeling, and what I was made to feel. It's a whole shit show. We didn't do anything, and we weren't together for long, so I'm just moving past it. Kind of packing it up into a box and tossing it into the ocean."

"Probably for the best," Triton replied. "God-human relationships are always weird. There's a reason so many of them don't work out. Especially one with her…it's a rough go. She's pretty weird."

"Yeah, she is."

"Well, not that I'm blaming her," Triton added, grabbing some more fries from the bag. "It's a fucked-up situation. Just know I'm in your camp. It's an annoying thing to deal with, especially if that's your first relationship. You should date someone more casual. You know, go on dates, have a good time, make out in weird places. You shouldn't have to make yourself a moral compass for someone or have to tiptoe around them, and definitely not be literally the source of their happiness. It's too much for a kid to handle."

He made a few good points. I hadn't even really considered the sheer amount of stuff I had to do just by being with Aphrodite. I mean, I kind of did once or twice, but hearing it laid out like that was completely different.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," I said a few moments later. "But other than that, I'm chilling."

"Good, good."

We sat in silence for a few moments as the Sun began to set, streaking the whole sky in shades of orange, red, and pink. I looked over at Triton, who was watching the horizon peacefully.

I wanted to return the favor, "Tell me about Arethusa."

"Arethusa was…she was great," Triton said, closing his eyes. A small smile formed on his face. "You know, when we first met, like, some hundred years ago, she didn't even like me."

"No way!" I gaped at him. Triton in those days was the only real child of Poseidon around. He was the biggest celebrity around- kind of like these days- but back then, he was a full-on commander, too. He was the whole package. "She turned you down?"

"Oh yeah, big time. She actually dated some of the other guys in the army," Triton chuckled softly. I pretended not to notice a stray tear running down his face. "I was just a guy who was used to getting everything he'd ever wanted, who had a crush on a girl, who had a boyfriend. Sad, huh?"

I didn't say anything. It felt like he was talking to himself at this point.

"I've done some shit in my life, yeah, but when it came to her, it was a whole different level, Perce. I'll stand by this forever, but aside from the war, it was the hardest thing that I've ever had to do. Just…waiting. Day after day. Month after month. Don't get me wrong, I still flirted with her. Probably more than I should have."

We both laughed at that.

Triton sighed, crossing his arms behind his head, "I can now admit in front of someone, I did know how to knit. And painting? I'd been painting my whole life before she offered to teach me. It'd just been so long someone wanted to teach me something for the sake of teaching me, or spend time with me because they wanted to, not because they needed to, or because it would help us win the war. It felt nice to be wanted because of who I was…and not what I could do."

The sun had sunk below the horizon. The last vestiges of color in the sky were fading. The moon was beginning to rise somewhere over in the direction of the house, bathing us in a silvery glow. I mulled over Triton's words in my head.

"For a really long time, that's all I had. Little moments with a girl who saw me as a friend. A lot of people told me I was crazy to wait this long for a date with a girl who didn't even want to give me the time of day, but I think, even then I knew that...I was waiting for the one."

We sat in some more silence. Triton hummed a melody to himself- a low, sad song. He smiled at me after a little bit, "Thanks, Perce. I've never gotten to just talk to someone about her like that."

I nodded back at him, "Of course. Anytime you want to talk, just let me know."

"I think I'm going to head back," He stood up to leave, passing me two orbs. "I think I need a drink. Just crush those. One will take you there and the other will take you back."

"Thanks, man," I replied as he walked off, staring at the orbs in my hand.


The orb transported me right to Mary's house. She was one of the girls on the cheerleading squad, and apparently, her parents were out for the weekend. Perfect timing, or so I was told.

It was my first time at a high-school party, so I didn't know what to expect at all. I just put on some faded jeans, beat-up converse, and a nice jacket I bought the other day. Hopefully, that was cool enough.

It was a nice, humble house. Ingram street was one of those streets where every house was some sort of variation of the one before it. Mary's house was two stories, made of chipping brick, and had a nice white porch.

The house next to it had the same format, but the porch was missing and there was a much larger chimney. The house on the other side had a larger porch, but a smaller second floor. You get my point, I think.

"Percy!" Before I could even knock, the door swung open. Mary was smiling at me. "I saw some dude looking around, so I had to come to check! Glad to see it's you!"

"Thanks for having me, Mary," I said politely, awkwardly realized that I had been looking at her house for a while. "Sorry about that."

"MJ," She offered, waving me off. "All my friends call me MJ. Don't worry- I know it's a beautiful house. Best one in Queens."

We laughed as she led me into the living room, where most of the guys from the team and all of the cheerleaders were sitting around on two sofas. There was a TV toward the wall, playing what looked like the first Halloweentown movie.

There was a loud roar as I stepped through the doorway.

"Mr. MVP!" Flash hollered, walking over to me, and giving me a strong pat on the back. His words were slurring a bit. My nose wrinkled at the smell of something. "This is my boy, right here! My boy! You torched them, bro!"

I let myself get pulled into an awkward bro-hug, "Thanks, man."

"God, Flash, he just walked in! Let him relax! Come on, Percy." Liz came to my rescue, pulling me away from him and toward a sofa.

I plopped down on one of the cushions next to a cheerleader, and Liz squeezed in next to me, half on my lap and half on the cushion. "Isn't that better?"

I was rather comfortable. She handed me a can and patted my head. "Much better now."

I caught one of the cheerleaders giving us a weird stare but didn't pay it any mind. She looked away when she saw me catching her gaze, anyway.

We fell into casual conversation and watched the movie. Some of the cheerleaders congratulated me on the game, and some of the guys talked to me about practice. Pretty standard stuff, honestly.

I didn't care much for the taste of alcohol. It didn't taste bad, per se, but it wasn't good to the point where I felt like it would ever be my drink of choice. I'd rather get a Dr. Pepper or a root beer or something.

It definitely felt like a social thing. Liz kept handing me cans, and it was a good enough vibe with good enough company. I kept drinking.

To my immense disappointment, [Gamer's Mind] messed with my ability to get drunk. Thankfully, it was just a small hindrance- I was able to bypass it with some persistence.

Halfway through the movie, I won't lie, I did have a buzz going. Nothing too strong, but I felt a pleasant warmth spreading throughout my body. Talking to people was getting easier, more fun. Liz's thigh against my leg felt nice. Those feelings of anxiousness from before fully evaporate.

"Percy," Liz randomly said, waving another cheerleader over. She was rather cute, with straight black hair and dark eyes. There was a smattering of freckles on her nose. Was this the one staring at us? "This is Amy! She's a good friend, and she told me she hasn't met the Percy Jackson!"

"Ha, ha," I rolled my eyes but waved a greeting to Amy anyway. She seemed kind of familiar, for some reason. There was this smell of vanilla hanging around her that was tickling the back of my brain somehow. I stared at her, "Hi, Amy. Percy Jackson. Have we met before?"

"Uh, n-no," Amy stammered, and Liz swatted my arm.

"Perce, ease up, damn it," Liz said, frowning at me. "She's a cheerleader, you dolt. You ran by her, like, a million times, just today. She's number ten if that rings any bells. And, funnily enough, Amy transferred to Midtown, just like you. Right around the same time, actually. She's from, uh, where'd you say?"

"Belus, down south," Amy supplied smoothly. We made eye contact. "It was an all-girls school."

Ah. All girls. Maybe that's why she was looking at us all weird. It would probably be a major culture shock to go from an all-girls school to see a girl casually sitting on her friend's lap.

"Heavenly threshold," I translated. Huh. Weird. Belus was another name for Mount Olympus back in the old days. "That's Greek."

"How interesting," Amy commented pleasantly, a small smile forming on her face. Her tone was neutral. "How'd you know that?"

The conversation had a weird vibe to it. I was just buzzed enough that this didn't dawn on me at the moment, though. I answered, "My dad's Greek. He taught me a thing or two."

"Greek," Amy repeated, her eyebrows knitting together. "That's cool. My family is from somewhere in that area, or so I was told. I don't have parents, so…"

"Oh." I didn't really know what to say. Liz awkwardly rubbed the back of her head, too.

"I'm sorry, that was rather forward," Amy apologized diplomatically. "I'm still, er, adjusting to this sort of life."

"That's okay," I placated, getting pulled toward the ping pong table by some of the guys. The last thing I saw before turning around was Amy talking to Liz, her eyes still trained on me.


The night was over pretty soon after that. MJ got a call from her parents saying they were on the George Washington Bridge, meaning we had to wrap it up and clean and everything in an hour or two.

By we, I meant me and MJ. Everyone else dipped. Even Liz, who said she had to get home before her parents came looking for her.

Not too bad for my first party, though. I got to watch a movie, hang out with my friends, and I also learned that I was insanely good at ping pong. All in all, not a bad night at all.

"You really don't have to stay and help," MJ told me for what felt like the millionth time as she stooped over to clean a table. I tried not to stare at her bent-over form too much. "I can clean up by myself. I'm used to it."

"It's fine. My mom isn't making dinner tonight, or expecting me home for a few hours, so I kind of have time to kill. Besides, you invited me over. It's the least I could do," I answered honestly. Plus, every time she turned around, I just used my powers to clean. Easy enough. "So, where'd your parents go off to?"

"Some conference in Jersey," MJ replied, blowing a strand of red hair out of her face. She frowned, "They weren't supposed to come back. I guess something must've happened."

"I'm sure it's fine," I comforted awkwardly.

MJ let out a short laugh, dusting a china cabinet. I noted how pretty her eyes looked when she laughed.

I finished deep-cleaning the sofa. I'd let the water soak in there, superheat it, and then pull it back out and dump it in the sink. Honestly, the furniture looked better than it did when I walked in by the time I was done.

I moved to clean in the kitchen, right next to MJ. We worked side by side, and I caught her throwing glances my way.

MJ spoke up a few minutes later, "You said you were going to get food after this?"

"I was thinking about it."

"I'll come. I don't want to be here when they get back."

I nodded, not saying anything else. I felt a bit awkward at her honest admission but I didn't mind the company.

That was that. We finished cleaning the rest of the house in silence, and with another thank-you, the two of us exited the house.

The night was cold. The air was frigid and crisp- the kind of air that felt fresh when you breathed it in but hurt your lungs on the way out.

I pulled my jacket around my shirt and zipped it up. MJ mirrored my actions, her hoodie not offering her as much warmth as my jacket gave me.

I know, I know.

I literally said I wasn't looking for anything- and I'm not- but I couldn't just watch the poor girl freeze. She took my offered jacket, the sleeves going down past her waist. "You're warm. This thing feels like a space heater."

I smiled at her. We continued down the steps, our shoes crunching some of the fallen leaves. "Where do you want to go?"

"Honestly, I—"

Before she could answer, a large roar caught my attention from the end of the road. I saw the hulking shadow of something flip a car over.

Could I get a day off?

"You've got to be kidding me," I mumbled to myself, pulling Riptide out of my pocket. I gave MJ, who was staring at me with wide eyes, a serious look. "Stay here."

I jumped off the porch, landing into the street gracefully. I uncapped Riptide, and the bronze blade sprang to life in the night sky, glowing lightly. What monster was coming to get destroyed, now?

MOOOO!

A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. I'd recognize that sound anywhere. It was the Minotaur…one of the first monsters I'd ever defeated.

I still had his horn somewhere in my [Inventory], not that I ever used it.

Four months ago, almost to the date, he'd nearly killed my mother on Half-Blood Hill. I still had nightmares about that from time to time.

And now he was back. Already.

I mean, to be fair, monsters come back. That's just the way things are.

They don't have souls, like you and me. You can dispel them for a while, maybe even for a whole lifetime if you're lucky. But they're beings of mythology- forces of nature, almost. They always come back.

But why did he come back this fast?

And why was he here now? He'd sniffed me out last time because Hades was looking for me, but now…there was no way my scent alone had been enough to clue him in.

Besides, there weren't any other powerful demigods, or even gods in that room, to the best of my knowledge. Had I really grown that powerful, or was I missing something? My mind still felt a bit foggy.

I was drawn out of my thoughts as he stepped into view, his horns scraping the top of a broken streetlight. The last time I'd seen the Minotaur, he'd been wearing nothing but his tighty whities.

You know, to this day, I don't know why.

Maybe he'd been shaken out of bed to chase me. Maybe he thought I wouldn't be a challenge. Maybe he just had a thing for hunting down new demigods in barely any clothing.

Whatever the case was, this time, he was prepared for battle.

From the waist down, he wore standard Greek battle gear—a kiltlike apron of leather and metal flaps, bronze greaves covering his legs, and tightly wrapped leather sandals. His top was all bull—hair and hide and muscle leading to a head so large he should've toppled over just from the weight of his horns.

He seemed larger than the last time I'd seen him—ten feet tall at least. A double-bladed axe was strapped to his back, but he was too impatient to use it right away. As soon as he saw me across the street- or sniffed me, most likely, since his eyesight was bad, he bellowed and picked up a car from the side of the road.

I scanned his stats- he had an absurd amount of strength, but little of everything else. His health was the only notable thing about him, sitting somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000- I say somewhere between because it kept fluctuating as he walked, shooting up and down.

"P-P-Percy," MJ stuttered, falling back on her butt, and scampering backward. Her eyes were wide. "W-w-what the fuck is that thing?"

"You can see it?" I said in honest confusion. "That, er, is a long story—"

Mid-sentence, MJ screamed loudly.

Despite the fact that we were at least a hundred feet away from the overgrown cow, the car he'd picked up earlier came sailing toward us, flipping fender over fender like a two-ton boomerang.

I stood calmly, my eyes trained on the car.

I pushed into Accelerate mode and blurred to the side, grabbing MJ and safely depositing her on the side of the road. The car went crashing where I'd been a moment before, smashing up and down all the way down the street.

"Let me handle this," I said comfortingly, pushing some warmth into her system. "Hang tight. I'll, uh, explain when I can."

She nodded, clinging to me. Her arms were hooked around mine, and she was shaking uncontrollably.

"Um, MJ, I'm kind of going to need my arms…"

MOOOOOOOO!

The Minotaur's nostrils quivered. He unstrapped his axe and swung it around in a circle, accidentally chopping a telephone pole in half. One of the residents on the street complained loudly about his TV losing service.

My attention was drawn to his axe, which was glowing brightly under the dim light of the streetlight.

Each of its twin blades was shaped like an omega: Ω—the last letter of the Greek alphabet. Maybe that was because the axe would be the last thing his victims ever saw.

The shaft was about the same height as the Minotaur, bronze wrapped in leather. Tied around the base of each blade were lots of bead necklaces. I realized they were Camp Half-Blood beads—necklaces taken from defeated demigods.

White-hot anger coursed through my veins. I was going to put this fucker in the ground.

I twirled Riptide, walking up to the Minotaur. "I'm going to enjoy this."

He swung his axe in an arc. I easily sidestepped it, making a tsk noise. "Slow, Bessie. You haven't been practicing. This is how it should go."

Death's Leap (Level 8):

TIER 1: Add this move to your fighting arsenal to give your enemies an unpleasant surprise…

Gain knowledge of a nasty attack that warps in and dive-bombs the enemy from a distance. Add in elemental flair at your own risk!

Base DMG: (200 x STR)

Elemental DMG: (100 x STR) + (100 x WIS)

MP cost: 250 MP!

TIER 2: Gain the ability to teleport between markers placed within a certain radius of your body!

MP cost: 100 MP for every yard!

I appeared behind the Minotaur before it had time to react. I delivered an angry Death's Leap to its neck, my leg snapping into it with unbridled force.

(200 x 68) + (100 x 68) + (100 x 33) = 23,700!

THUNK!

The Minotaur, howling, stepping backward. Its hooves smashed through a car windshield. Shards of glass cut the skin around his hooves.

"Come on, buddy," I complained. Without my emotions being sapped, I started feeling the rush of adrenaline course through my veins. It felt good to see the monster flail around. It felt right.

A grin formed on my face, "I know you can do better than that."

I sidestepped another lunge, jumping up to smack it in the forehead with a Thousand Hand Technique enhanced flick.

(100 x 20) + (100 x 68) = 8800!

"Saper!" I said gleefully as he tried to hit me again, using the Egyptian spell for miss. I danced around his axe as he grew angrier and angrier. "You picked on the wrong guy, Bessie, I can tell you that. What even brought you out there?"

He mooed angrily. I pretended I could understand him, placing my chin in my hand and nodding along encouragingly.

"Uh-huh."

Another moo.

"Oh, wow, I see. That bad, huh?"

A third, more annoyed moo.

"Yeah, no, I can't understand you."

He started mooing loudly, starting his assault again. Clearly, my attempt to speak to him went unappreciated. Funnily enough, the incessant sound died when I dodged his first swing and sliced his axe in half, right between the handholds.

I blasted the Minotaur backward a bit with a fireball, walking up to the split-up axe. I sheathed Riptide, putting it back in my pocket and picking up one half of his axe. This thing was bigger than I was!

"Hear me out," I said, flipping the axe around in my hands. "How funny would it be if I killed you with your own axe?"

Oh, he didn't like that. This time, he started moving toward MJ, who was cowering behind a telephone pole.

Yeah, as if.

I teleported in front of him, spinning and kicking him in the snout with another Death Leap.

He staggered backward, trying to regain his footing, then lowered his head to charge. Again, facing MJ and not me.

My smile died. Our fun little game was over now. Honestly, it was over the second he tried to put MJ's life in danger.

The Minotaur stared at MJ, looking to skewer her, but I'll be quite clear.

He never got the chance.

I hefted his axe. Despite it being twice my size, I funneled a little bit of mana into my muscles, and I lifted it like it was nothing.

It flashed—slicing off one horn, then the other. He tried to grab me.

I rolled away, picking up the other half of his broken axe. The Minotaur bellowed in rage. He was never very smart to begin with, but now his anger made him reckless. He charged me, and I ran right at him, killer intent permeating my entire being.

The Minotaur didn't even slow down. My ring let off a flash of blinding light.

CRUNCH!

The next time the Minotaur opened his eyes, he looked down in surprise at the axe handle sprouting from his breastplate.

"Bessie, here's one prize for you," I said, green fire bursting to life on the other half of the axe. It bled into the air, greedily sucking up air. The seams began to unravel.

I flash banged him again, angry grunts coming out of the beast as he tried to pull out the axe that was lodged in his chest. I jumped, smashing the second, burning half into the giant beast's ugly face. "And there's the second. Thanks for playing."

He fell back with a mighty thud, his body twitching.

I kicked him a few times, frowning. Why wasn't he exploding?

"Back up a bit," I told MJ, who obeyed instantly.

[Pillar of Fire] activated!

I pointed my hand at the twitching minotaur. For a few moments, nothing happened. Just as I was beginning to wonder, I felt it.

My mana stores dipped a bit, and I felt a veritable rush of power surge to my fingertips. My hand buckled, and a monstrous tower of flames exploded on the Minotaur, shooting high into the sky.

I made sure to wait until his body disintegrated into dust before turning around.

"Oh my god!" MJ screamed, backing into a car. She was looking at me like I was a reanimated corpse. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably. "Oh god, oh god!"

"Hey, whoa!" I went to comfort MJ, but she shot forward, wrapping her arms around me before I could say anything. "You're fine, MJ! You're fine! Nothing happened, see?"

"What the fuck was that, Percy?" She heaved, her chest rising up and down. "I…why…you…"

"I don't know how or why you can see any of this," I said honestly, running a hand through my hair. Safe to say, I was fully sobered up now. "I guess this is a good place to start as any. That thing was the minotaur, and I'm what you call a half-blood. A demigod."


MJ was taking it pretty well. Well, eventually. Once I could get her to stop threatening me with a plastic fork she found on the ground, things went rather smoothly.

As most people would, she was understandably distraught, but with a little coercion from me and my powers- thanks, auntie- I managed to get through the basics of it without her completely bugging out on me. She still bugged out, but like, an acceptable amount.

I was getting around to my dad when one of her neighbors' doors swung open. A kind-looking older woman walked out, clutching a broom tightly. "Is he gone?"

MJ and I looked at each other. She took the lead," Um, who, May?"

"The man!" May said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. She pointed the handle of the broom to the grease spot on the ground that had been the Minotaur. "Right there! There was a man making all sorts of ruckus out here! You two were out here, too. Did you really not see him?"

Ah.

I'd originally figured that there was a dip in the Mist going on. Monsters can do that sometimes.

I haven't ever seen it happen personally, but the logic's something like this:

Each monster has a set amount of mist they command when they enter the mortal plane. It's almost like gravity- the way our weight represents the pull the force of gravity has on our bodies, the mist does the same for monsters. Sometimes, for brief moments, large monsters can make everyone capable of seeing through the mist, but clearly that isn't the case.

It honestly wasn't ever the case. I just didn't know what else to think. Now, though, I think I've figured it out.

It's MJ. For some reason, she can see through the mist.

I took over, "Yes, ma'am. He was yelling up a storm. I think he's gone now. I set him straight."

"Good," May said in a no-nonsense tone. She pulled her cardigan around her tightly. "I was worried I'd have to get Ben to come out…no matter. You look hungry, dears. I know your parents are out of town, Mary. Have you eaten?"

"Er…"

"Come in," May said in a tone that wasn't really asking for permission. She turned her gaze to me, smiling, "You too, young man."

"I don't want to intrude…"

"Nonsense. Come now, it's cold outside."

Deciding that I wouldn't get anywhere arguing, I nodded, walking up to the house beside MJ, who was shooting me an amused look. "Peter's aunt. It's impossible to turn her down for dinner, and that's a lesson you won't soon forget."

I walked into the woman, May's, house.

If I had to choose a word to describe what her house was like, I'd settle on: cozy.

The house was on the smaller side, yeah, but it made up for that by feeling lived-in, if that makes any sense.

The smell of cinnamon hung in the air as I walked in. There were picture frames on the fireplace, throws on the sofa. A small tv was surrounded by bookshelves. May had a few decorative pumpkins out for the fall, along with a metal gourd that was filled with peppermints and gum.

"Did you find that hooligan?" A kind-looking man, presumably the Ben that she mentioned, asked when May walked in.

"Yes, dear. This young man scared him off."

"Good on you, son," Ben nodded to me. He gave me a kind smile, "Ben. Ben Parker."

"Percy Jackson," I shook his offered hand.

I decided, just off a look and a handshake, that I liked Ben Parker. His eyes had the same laugh lines I'd seen on my dad's face, and even though he was on the older side with his white hair, he had this undeniable charm about him. Plus, he had this comfortable-looking maroon sweater with a picture of a duck on it that read Try Your Best!

He strode across the room, clasping May's hands and giving her a quick kiss. It was a rather adorable display of affection.

"You two should join us for dinner," Ben decided a moment later, smiling gently at us. He had his hands placed on May's shoulders, massaging them.

"I invited them already, dear," May reached up to hold one of his hands. "Come now. The pasta will get cold. Peter! Honey, come down! MJ and her boyfriend are here for dinner!"

"Oh," I started.

"Uh," MJ blushed right down to her roots.

We both added quickly, "Just friends."

May winked at us as we settled around the table. I was beginning to like May a decent bit, too.

A moment later, that scrawny kid from the first day of school appeared between the doorway, his eyes widening when he saw us. "MJ?"

"Hey, Pete," MJ smiled softly at him. "How's it hanging?"

"What, uh, what are you doing here?" Peter's voice got notably higher for a moment, and I repressed a smile. "I mean, not that I, like, mind that you're here. Wait! Not like t-that, I don't…"

"Oh, we were just outside when your aunt invited us in for some dinner," MJ cut him off before he could backtrack his backtracking. She gestured to me, and Peter noticed me for the first time.

If possible, his eyes widened even more. I could see some mental cogs turning in his head as he took the seat between MJ and May. He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

"Hey, um…"

"Percy," I offered kindly. I was a bit miffed he forgot my name, but I wasn't going to be mean to him in his own house. "Jackson. We met when Gwen was giving me the tour."

"Oh, right!" Peter laughed awkwardly. "Sorry. My memory's a little, er, spotty sometimes."

"No worries."

May passed a plate of pasta with a slice of garlic bread to me, which I graciously accepted. Ben poured me a glass of juice.

"Thank you."

"Don't mention it, son. Our doors are always open to any of Pete's or MJ's friends," Ben waved off my thanks. He sipped from his glass of wine, "I don't believe we've met, though. Why don't you tell me a bit about yourself? You seem like a good kid. I'm surprised you haven't been over before!"

"We haven't, sir," I confirmed. "Well, my name's Percy, and I'm from upstate New York. I'm going to Midtown on a sports scholarship."

"Golly, Percy, what do they feed you back home?" Ben said, taking stock of my physical appearance for the first time. "Jesus, son."

I laughed, "Yeah, that's how my mom felt. I grew a foot in a year and put on twenty pounds of muscle."

"Percy's on the basketball team," MJ added helpfully. "He's the only reason we won today."

"No kidding. Good job, son," Ben replied, giving me a thumbs-up. Laughing, he added, "Man. Basketball. I used to play back in the day, too. You would've given me some trouble, though."

I don't know how to describe it, but Ben was a master at making people feel validated. He had to be. We'd met maybe ten minutes ago, but his genuine curiosity and then happiness for the achievement of a stranger he'd never met was nothing short of heart-warming.

My insides felt fuzzy. I felt like I'd drank an entire thing of hot chocolate.

"Are you excited for Oscorp tomorrow?" Peter asked MJ, who shrugged.

Ben scoffed from next to Peter, "Oscorp. What a bunch of shmucks. That Norman Osborn is bad news."

"Is he?" My interest was piqued. I'd been doing my research on Osborn and Oscorp for a few weeks now, but there was nothing quite like getting an eyewitness firsthand account.

"Yes," Ben nodded grimly, biting into some farfalle. "He's cutthroat. I've spoken with him a few times in the past and the man just feels evil. I'm sure you know the story about his wife, right?"

"No." His wife? There weren't any mentions of his wife in the databases at camp. "He has a wife?"

"Had. He had a wife," Ben amended, sighing. "They said she died in a car accident, but that's baloney. It was a huge cover-up. Anyone who knows the family will tell you. Plain as day. He killed her."


AN: Again, not much here. More for pacing. It's almost Oscorp time *woot woot*

Also: we broke 3k follows and 2.5k favorites. It's still surreal to me. I'll keep cranking these bad boys out as long as there are people here!

Thor: Thor will be MCU/Comics Thor, not Magnus Chase. I'm not too familiar with that series.

Pairings: Still undecided. I like Carol Danvers or Felicia Hardy at the moment, though. That doesn't mean it'll be the final pairing, though...


SpeedFox22: This is the saddest good review I'd gotten. Your review, to some degree, is correct. Percy with game power and dating a sad Aphrodite is exactly what I'd had in mind when I started writing this story. I was just some dumb freshman who'd read multiple Gamer fics and thought he could write one. As I grew older, took more writing classes, read more fics, and grew up, I realized there were a lot more directions I could take the story in terms of fleshing the world out and opening avenues to make things more interesting. It has strayed from its original premise, you're right because when I originally wrote it, I was a vastly different person. I never meant to betray any original readers, and I'm truly sorry if you feel that way. Knowing what I know now, I could just never write a basic Gamer fic as I'd originally planned to. Sorry.

falcon5: A separate version that's a mix of all three! There's a lot of original stuff I'm planning, just because, as I said, I love the character and I want to do right by him. I'm glad you like how I'm manipulating the universe! If you liked those things I'm certain you'll like what I have planned. Hmm…I'll keep Piper in mind.

Ilayhyams: He will, for sure.

Caelum Est Finis: Thank you for the kind words. Yes, Percy will play a part in the Carter Kane chronicles. You're very correct- all of his true enemies are going to be scaled up. Calypso…you're onto something. I haven't heard about her in a while. Interesting. Magnus won't be here because that interferes with Marvel Thor, but he may make a cameo. He definitely will have a foil. There're hints about it in this chapter. Looking forward to seeing you again!

Xager-the-Chaos-King: You're very correct. Aphrodite is incredibly misunderstood and probably the character I've planned the most for. That's all I'll say for now. As for the Spider-Man arc, yes, a lot of Percy's problems are going to be unrelated to fighting. It'll be about sixty percent fighting and forty percent everything else. Also, Zagreus? Never heard of him. Can you tell me more?

Joe Lawyer: I didn't mean to pull off narrative trickery. He's not into relationships because he just ended things with Aphrodite, nothing else. Otherwise, he's exactly where a teenager would be. Sexual urges and all.

AWESOME1356: You know it.

shinigami00000: It's a secret, *cackles*

Inhaled Atoms: I have too many crossovers to pick just one, or I would change it.

ScientistXXXX: I guess this is just where we disagree. I don't think many people go into a murderous rage after a break-up, but maybe we've just had different experiences.