"A sea-wide tournament to determine the true prince," Hestia scoffed, patting me on the cheek. Her mouth was hidden behind her brown shawl, but I could tell she was frowning. What a rush of deja-vu, huh? "Make sure to stay out of trouble. I told you that last time, but to my utmost displeasure, you nearly got yourself killed. I will not be as relenting this time. Neither will your mother. You gave both of us a fright."

As if her warning wasn't scary enough, her normally tame eyes flared, turning a deeper shade of red and belching outward a little bit. Scary stuff coming from a normally kind woman.

"Come on, auntie, safety is my middle name!" I grinned. I patted her on the shoulder, the warmth of her being somehow seeping into my fingers off that small interaction. "You have nothing to worry about. I promise. All of the bad stuff is over! I'm just going to go, train with Dad, win a tournament, and come back in time for school. Easy as pie."

"I thought your middle name was Hope?" Jason called from behind Hestia. Everyone turned to look at him, and he stood up a bit straighter. "We were playing a game of Wii tennis against Mom and Triton, and we were down pretty bad. That's when he told me his middle name was Hope, and we had nothing to worry about. We still lost, but…"

I would normally be a bit annoyed at him exposing me like that, but I noticed he called my mom Mom so I was feeling a bit more lenient. I decided to let that one slide. And, I made a mental note to call my mom and tell her that- it would make her day.

"No, you might be thinking of his nickname- Hope Jackson. Those beef heads at Midtown eat that stuff up. I think he told me his middle name was Jamie," Piper replied, shooting me a look. "I told him my middle name and was a bit embarrassed about it, so he told me his middle name was worse- which it objectively is. Right, Percy?"

"His middle name is Whitney," MJ set the record straight, placing a hand on my chest and straightening my collar. She kissed my cheek softly, "It's one of the cutest names ever… or was, rather, in the seventies. You would've been a rockstar back then."

"One, I'm still a rockstar," I said, holding up a finger. "Two. I'm seriously reconsidering letting you guys come to this- and MJ, you're supposed to be on my side, not theirs. Worst girlfriend ever."

"Hush," MJ smiled at me, and I was suddenly overcome with this intense desire to kiss her, but I reminded myself we had company. "There's nothing to be ashamed of, Whitney. You're the prettiest lass in town."

I groaned, and the small group of people assembled on the shore started breaking into peals of laughter. Even Thalia, who didn't know me all that well, managed a smile. She was having a bit of trouble acclimating to the world again, but I gave her credit for trying and coming out to stuff like this.

You might be wondering why there even was company at this hand-off- last time it was just Hestia. And even she was just there to make sure I didn't spontaneously combust on my way into the water.

Well, to answer that, this time it isn't a hand-off, per se. I already know my way to Atlantis, I'm comfortable in the ocean, killed Oceanus- all that good stuff is already taken care of.

Hestia just showed up because she wanted to say bye (and threaten me), and I guess somehow along the way, word got around that we'd be setting off for Atlantis around this time. With the addition of EDEN and its limited but steadily growing pool of citizens, the Camp Half-Blood rumor mill was churning out stuff exponentially faster than before. I told Medea yesterday that I'd be leaving the following evening, and by dinnertime, everyone and their mom knew the entire logistics of my plan.

So, it's more of a friendly, loving send-off, really. If that even matters…

The entire camp was technically seeing us off- even if only Jason, Piper, and Thalia were physically here. No, the campers made their presence felt by collaborating on this gigantic sign that read: HAVE FUN IN ATLANTIS!

As the story goes- mind you, this is from Piper, so how much you believe it is up to you, more people wanted to come, but it just so happened that there was a game of Capture the Flag at this exact moment- go figure. I appreciated our core friend group coming out, though. It meant a lot, especially with this being the first Capture the Flag game without Tantalus, and Jason's uncanny desire to skewer people.

Anyway, back to the sign. You could tell that some of the campers had really gone all out on it.

The H in have was blocky, with pink and white frills popping out. It was enchanted to glow in the night sky, too. The I in Atlantis was lowercase, with a skull instead of a dot- courtesy of the Ares cabin, I'm sure. The red eyes of the skull looked like they were lit matches.

The Athena cabin pitched in by making all their letters with rulers and calculating the length of each stroke- kind of impressive with dry erase markers, really. The Demeter cabin had supplied vines and wildflowers, intertwining them in various places throughout the sign.

Hephaestus and their EDEN friends automated a celestial bronze hand that was hanging off the bottom of the sign, giving MJ and me a mix of thumbs-ups, waves, and the occasional flip-off.

I got the sense that some of the younger kids got confused somewhere in the process of decorating the sign. I sure hoped so, anyway, because a gaggle of hand turkeys adorned the entire top left area of the sign, and I wasn't really sure what that had to do with me, MJ, or Atlantis.

Malcolm drew us a rhino in the top right, complete with a list of his favorite rhino facts and a signature. His friend Ned, who was scared of me for some reason, drew a smiley face that was "for the pretty lady" and for her only.

Thanks, Ned. I'd have to make sure to scare him for real once I got back from Atlantis.

Finally, our EDEN counterparts wrote their own messages of good luck and goodbyes all over the sign. Elena's was the brightest and largest, with gold glitter and a polaroid of me and the rest of the board. I couldn't help but feel like it would've been a bit more memorable if she hadn't taken it this morning at breakfast, but I wasn't going to complain too much about it.

In a lot of ways, though, the sign was a good omen. The campers and EDEN were open to working together, and the work they put into something as novel as this little sign made me optimistic about this new era of peace and prosperity that was hopefully coming to our world. The demigod world, I mean. Only me and a few others knew just how bad things were on the Titan end of things.

I decided to put those thoughts out of my mind- I didn't want to ruin a perfectly good moment with the eventuality that I'd be fighting my grandfather somewhere down the line.

Medea got a pin made for me, a black and white pin that had a picture of a panda hanging from a bamboo tree on it, reading, "You must let go of the illusion of control and give into panda-monium."

Jason was his standard rigid self, even with Hestia right in front of him. I could tell he wasn't ecstatic about me going away and leaving him with his newly-alive sister, but we had a small talk when I got the news. We also finally convinced him to stop carrying weapons everywhere, but his hands were clenched by his sides like he was holding two imaginary daggers.

I'd have offered to bring him down, too, but my dad wasn't that benevolent, and even Zeus would've stepped in at that point.

I told him, not so bluntly, that he had to put his big boy pants on and spend time with his sister. I knew they were both just nervous about it, but come on- every time they hung out, they invited me, and if I had to hear one more story about their mom, I was going to foam at the mouth.

I mean, they completely disregarded me when I was there! It was like having kids and making them go on a playdate, and even without Atlantis coming up, I was quickly moving away from that sort of thing.

Piper, not as mad at me anymore, decided she was going to go back home for a while. Her relationship with her father had been a bit strained ever since she found out about Aphrodite, but she felt like she was at a good enough stage to at least hear him out. I respected that level of maturity from her, which is ironic because she's supposed to be older than me. I say supposed to because, well, I don't even know anymore. Going to Atlantis a second time might just make me feel biologically too old for high school.

I hadn't seen her much this summer, but I still managed to score Annabeth an internship working with some of EDEN's architects. Malcolm would tag along with her every day until the school and library were built, and I was told he'd be enrolled in a kiddie program after that. It was one of those programs where they taught the kids through stuffed animals and puppet shows- that kind of thing.

Even my own mom had plans for the summer- she was officially enrolling in a graduate program for teaching. Apparently, seeing me getting kicked out of schools for the better part of my earlier life made her want to help as many kids as she could. Living alongside Hestia gave her enough clarity to pursue that, anyway.

So, all the cards were set for summer without me. All the important people in my life had their own thing going, and in a way, I was grateful for it.

There was this little bit of anxiety that always stuck around these days. The more powerful I became- every time I hopped up a little bit higher on that ladder, the more I realized I wasn't that powerful at all, in the grand scheme of things.

I couldn't be everywhere at once. I couldn't protect everyone I cared about- and it was a scary feeling. Knowing that everyone close to me was planning on doing something relatively safe helped keep that anxiety at bay.

"We should get going," I nudged MJ. "Dad told me we needed to get there by 8."

"Bye guys!" MJ waved to our gathered friends and bowed to Hestia. "Thank you for your help, Lady Hestia."

"Of course, Mary," Hestia smiled brightly. She'd been a lot happier since I started piecing together the Olympians one by one. "Be careful, Perseus. I mean it."

I winced at my full name, "Yes, auntie."

MJ smoothed some of the wrinkles out of her dress. We were both dressed like celebrities about to hit the red carpet, with matching couples' outfits, fresh out of the minds of the Aphrodite cabin. It felt kind of weird going back to a place I almost died in wearing a designer suit, but I was getting over it fast, "How are we getting down there?"

"Swimming."

"Percy…"

"What! Did you think we were going to take a submarine?" I scoffed. I dropped my voice a few octaves, "Nah, girl. All me. I'm the only submarine you're ever going to need."

"Two things. First- never say nah, girl in that voice again," MJ gave me one of those smiles that said you're an idiot but I love you anyway, and patted my chest, "Second, won't I get wet- and don't say that's what she said."

"Wouldn't dream of it. I definitely didn't have a joke lined up," I bit my tongue, "But, um, as long as you're touching me, you should be fine. Besides, that earring my dad sent over should help with that, in addition to making sure being leagues under the sea doesn't crush your body like a grape."

"You always know just what to say."

With another wave to our convoy, I stepped into the shallow end of the lake, taking a deep breath, and feeling the power of the water surge through my veins.

Being in contact with water used to feel like downing a cup of coffee- it would give me this temporary little buzz that heightened my awareness and reflexes, and made me stronger. It was kind of like an adrenaline shot.

As my power grew, though, so did the call of the ocean and its effect on me. My brush with death only seemed to add to it- now, I became acutely aware of every facet of my body the moment more than half my body went underwater.

I could feel the slow beat of my heart. I felt the hair follicles on my arm slowly be flattened by my dress shirt. The water droplets on my eyelashes. My senses slowly reached out, and I began feeling Long Island sound, in addition, to slowly feeling every voluntary and involuntary function of my body.

With each cresting wave, past each school of fish sending vibrations a few yards away- my awareness grew further and further. I could feel the seagull taking a dip somewhere in the night. Even the little ripples spreading outward across the lake from where an eel found a half-eaten granola bar worked their way into my senses.

It was a powerful feeling.

I inhaled again, and water blasted outward from my position as if a grenade had exploded. Everyone on the shore yelped, and I held the waves in position before they could crash onshore. I gently summoned the water back toward me.

I exhaled slowly, and the water slowly swirled around my waist. MJ, who was watching with wide eyes, stepped closer when I offered her my hand. "Hold on close, okay?"

She stepped into the water, and I pulled her close to my chest. "I've been told this is a little disconcerting, so I'll try to go slow for you."

Full disclosure: I didn't go slow.

The lake rose up in a column to catapult us into the air. Long Island bent to my will, churning into a small tornado over itself. From this high in the sky, we could see the beginnings of the Capture the Flag game. Lights lit up the construction site on the other side of camp. The night sky glittered above us. Artemis must've been happy.

MJ whimpered and buried her head in my chest as I held her over the lake. My senses told me Atlantis was somewhere…over…there!

As quickly as we rose over the lake, we smashed back into the depths, this time, exploding toward the city of Atlantis.

Oh, man. I went fast, so much faster than I'd ever gone before. The feeling was intoxicating. My stomach was doing those flip-flops you get on rollercoasters as the blurry depths shot by us, bubbles not even having time to fully form as we went careening toward Atlantis.

Animals shot out of the way, eager to get out of the way of the two-person missile that was rocketing down the depths. As we left the camp's wards, I considered saying something to MJ to see if she was alright, but it was kind of dark and the roar of the water was deafening anyway. I figured I'd wait.

Unlike last time, I saw the bubble of Atlantis break through the darkness of the ocean in about five minutes. And, even further away from the image I remembered in my head, the bubble was about four times bigger and illuminated like the world's biggest party was being thrown.

Little specks dotted the bubble- upon squinting, I realized that they were people, all waiting for something- for me.

I stopped our rapid descent and stared on into the bubble, confused. My dad didn't mention anything about this…

"Honey?" MJ said meekly, peeking out from under my arms. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," I replied, gesturing at the bubble. "I just wasn't expecting a whole…parade. Do you see that? All those people are waiting for me."

"It makes the Macy's day parade look like a poker party," MJ noted, the light shining off her eyes. "Well, I mean, you should give them a show."

"What?"

"If I was standing in a crowd that big, waiting for some mystical hero to show up, I'd want it to be pretty cool," MJ shrugged. "Just saying. I mean come on, babe."

A show, huh?

"Hold on."

A jet of water erupted around us again, but this time, green fire flared to life around it, encircling us like a spring. Strands of lightning roared behind us, sizzling through the water. We shot back toward the dome, and I tried to aim for a spot where it looked like no one was standing.

It would put a damper on the party if the crown prince eviscerated a small family for the sake of making a grand entrance.

It grew and exploded, and as we landed, the cocoon of water and fire slowly dissipated into little snowflakes.

And then…

"Ladies and gentlemen!" Triton's voice boomed to life all around MJ and me as we got our bearings through the haze of flashing light. I recovered rather quickly, just in time to see him pass overhead on the back of a monstrous beluga whale. "My little brother and your crown prince- Percy Jackson!"

The atmosphere of Atlantis was completely different.

Last time, it had been quiet, peaceful. Relaxing. It was like walking into a sauna. Now, though?

I could barely hear myself think.

Crowds of people were lining the streets, waving flags with my face on them, holding signs of me in armor, and standing shoulder to shoulder, clamoring to get a glimpse of me. They all yelled for me, hoping they'd catch my attention just by saying my name loud enough.

Triton's band was playing in the center of a nearby courtyard, and a crowd of people was gathered, climbing on the columns, and hanging onto the pavilion. Their speakers were the size of a door, and the vibrations from their instruments sent shockwaves through the nearby water.

Parents were smushed in lawn chairs with their families or standing with children on their shoulders

Groups of kids piled onto the coral reefs for a better view. A few nereids even floated above us, giggling, and waving at me.

Large, tumescent fish shone brightly overhead, bathing MJ and me in shades of purple and blue. Gigantic sharks, bigger than I'd ever even imagined before, swam overhead. Guppies swam between our legs, making little blub-blub-blub noises and swimming off into the distance.

Before, I felt like I was walking into a city that knew about me but was ultimately indifferent. Now, the city was buzzing with life just for me. It was waiting. And now, I was here.

Triton landed on the sand next to us in a flash of sea-green light, pulling the both of us into a hug. The crowd somehow got louder at the sight, and I barely heard Triton say, "Perce! MJ! I'm psyched to see you guys!"

"Hey, Triton," MJ greeted, still a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people. "Is this…normal, for Atlantis?"

"Nah. We've had a lot of people apply for citizenship after your boyfriend destabilized half the ocean," Triton said brightly as I rolled my eyes.

"Your idea, by the way," I pointed out. I turned to MJ, "This psycho literally pulls up to camp, fights Hestia and Aphrodite, poisons me, drags me down here to fight Oceanus with him, and then pins all the blame on me. Typical."

"Old habits die hard," Triton turned back to the crowd and pumped his fists. They roared in approval as he yelled "Whoo!"

"Let's get to the palace- Dad has a surprise for you," Triton said, cupping his fingers and whistling loudly. A large shadow was cast over us as a manta ray the size of a plane slowly descended toward us.

It had a torso wide enough to encompass a school bus. Its tail smashed into the sand with so much force that everyone got quiet. As we climbed on its back, I noticed old battle scars and discolorations- bite marks, sword slashes, and even a baby tattoo.

"Whoa," I heard MJ whisper near me. "That is one seriously huge fish."

"This is your fish, isn't it?" I asked, kind of rhetorically as I ran my hand over its flesh. It lifted off the ground and everyone cheered as we started floating toward the palace, soaring over the white columns of the Atlantis courtyard.

"The one and only- isn't that right, Odie?" Triton purred, rubbing one of the ray's antennae. Odie let out a low, deep echo that vibrated his whole body. "Who's a good boy?"

I heard the response, I am! I am!

"Aw," MJ cooed, patting the manta. "Odie is such a cute name. Are you a fan of Garfield, Lord Triton?"

"Lord Triton- we all ate at a Taco Bell last week. You literally saw me eat four chalupas with my bare hands, I think we're a little past the Lord stuff," Triton chuckled and rolled his neck. "And Garfield! Right! Odie definitely isn't short for οιωνός θανάτου."

O-die. Of course.

"Omen of death," I translated for MJ, who shook her head.

"Also, Lady Hestia told me to refer to everyone by their highest title- even if they insist that I don't," MJ looked right at home in the low light of Atlantis. Maybe it was just for me, but she more than looked like a princess. "So, Lord Triton, what kind of surprise is this?"

"Well…nah, you're not getting it out of me that easy. Dad's real strict on this one," Triton turned to me. "He's proud though. It's hard to tell, but you should see the way he's been setting stuff up. You did good, kid."

"I'm going to do better," I grinned. "When I touch down at this tourney, I'm going to torch everyone else."

"You should see some of the other contestants. Blech. MJ could take them out," The palace swam into view. There was a huge banner in front, with a picture of my face on it. "We'll set out for it in a few days."

"Do we get to watch?" MJ asked curiously.

"Oh, you betcha. We all get to go with him and help him train and all that," Triton replied, shrugging. "Again, not that I think he needs it. I know it might be hard to conceptualize, but Percy gets this insane boost by just being in contact with water. He could probably lift a plane right now—"

"—not that I will—"

"—right. Not that you will. Voluntarily." Triton winked as Odie descended near the steps. "Hup! Up and at them, prince."

"Triton, shut up."

We shuffled through the gigantic entrance hall, the ceilings stretching out, much lower than I remembered them being.

The walls were buzzing with life, with power- the entire city had this undercurrent of excitement and power that wasn't here last time. Not at all.

Triton pushed open the heavy doors of the dining hall, "After you, little bro."

"Thanks, Triton. Why are you being so—"

I felt it the moment I walked through the door- a shift in the momentum. The water called to me, whispering in my ear. A surge of power had exploded from somewhere in the room, heading right for us.

I leaped forward, my hands flickering with putrid green fire. I grunted and released a torrent of flames that traveled through the room at instant speed. The expulsion of power- a blast of mana- was gutted in a wall of viridian so hot I felt the haze on my face.

"Do we have to do this every time I come back?" I called out as the flames died down, twirling an already-formed Riptide. "Huh."

It wasn't Delta this time- he was sitting beside my dad at the table, not even bothering to hide his smile. He was reveling in my confusion, "Well, I needed another student."

Standing in the center of the room around the dying flames, clad in Atlantean armor and with a broadsword larger than I was to boot, was a significantly stronger-looking Malia.

She was at least a foot taller, and her hair was cut so short it barely reached her shoulders. The somewhat childish look I remembered in her eyes was gone, replaced with this quiet kind of strength- but I guess the events of that night could've left a deep impact on anyone.

I peeked at her stats. While I was impressed with her apparent growth- she'd doubled her level and buffed up some of her stats- that sort of organic growth still couldn't match up to the artificial growth I was put through by training with two powerhouses.

"Well, damn, Malia," I complimented, undoing the buttons of my suit. "Take it easy on me?"

"No."

"I see you've passed on your amazing sense of conversation to her," I called out to Delta as Malia and I both broke into a sprint, barreling toward each other like two cars with their brakes slashed out.

Malia struck first, wielding her broadsword with surprising strength and purpose.

I slowed down time for a moment, allowing my eye to analyze her stance and commit the rest of her form to memory.

Delta didn't waste much time passing knowledge on to her. One of the first things he'd tried to teach me was the importance of a good base- it was clear Malia took that lesson to heart.

You see, when wielding any sort of heavy weapon- heavy being subjective, of course- your feet should always be at a thirty-degree angle, while your hips remain cocked slightly to give support to your off side.

She was a bit rigid, though, which wasn't entirely unexpected.

Soldier training is cutthroat. When I say thirty degrees, you'd better believe that any good warrior worth the armor they're wearing will have that measurement down to the degree.

Especially in the Atlantean army- you have to remember; the ocean has been largely unaffected by some of the technological advances in the overworld. Sure, they have television and movies, and all that cool stuff here, but in terms of the military and whatnot, it's still the same it's always been.

It's basically a Medieval form of fighting- a millennium of the strongest warriors to walk these halls developed it, and every generation of warriors afterward maintained it and perfected it. They built upon it like a monument- which in a way, it was. It was a testament to their strength and ingenuity.

Based on her commitment to maintaining it, though, I'd be willing to guess she still hadn't seen much action. That rigid base would definitely prove to be easy to exploit, though, because most of my own moves were based on fluidity and quick attacks.

I felt another change in the water- a flash of warning, followed by a jolt of surprise. Hm…

Time unfroze, and I slid under her swing. I admired the power and speed behind the strike as it passed over me but ultimately decided she still needed some work.

My left leg shot out and lightly shifted her right foot, and I watched her base crumble for just a second. That second afforded me enough time to spin backward and land a roundhouse kick in her face.

She stumbled backward, wiping her mouth. To her credit, she didn't seem too fazed by the hit. If I was wearing my boots, she would've lost a tooth. Now, though, I was clad in a pair of Oxfords. Not really the best for cracking noises.

I shifted my weight so that it was concentrated on the balls of my feet- a tendency I'd picked up op from Jason. He tended to bounce on the balls of his feet mid-fight for easy access to the skies, and after trying it for a while, I found that it gave me the advantage to move to either side at a moment's notice.

Mobility was always my go-to strategy- especially against slower or less mobile opponents. With my speed and powers, I could blitz them up close or dance around them and whittle away, slowly but surely.

In the event I needed to back up, I could do that- and after getting that separation, I could chain that attack into a {DEATH DROP} or something of that nature. It just made my combat abilities so much more versatile- it helped me flow, heh.

I shifted my weight to the right, and then blasted left. Malia raised her sword to block, and I bounced again, flipping over her, and almost sending her sprawling to the ground with a vicious ax kick to the neck.

"Tighten up, soldier," Delta said gruffly from the table. He was less annoyed than I expected him to be. "Low center of gravity."

Malia nodded, gritting her teeth. She blasted toward me again, the tip of her sword flashing at me, shaking like a baby's rattle.

Riptide parried the strikes, barely moving under the weight of collision. While Malia was audibly groaning with each movement, I had yet to change my breathing or exert effort. I'd trained with this sword to the point where it was an extension of my body- in a lot of ways, this fight itself was unfair from the start.

I mean…Delta worked with me last summer. Did he really think I'd either lose all my skill over the school year or that he'd somehow be able to train a complete nobody into being stronger than me?

That was my first sign that something was up with this battle. Delta was smart, but at the same time, he was irritatingly pragmatic. There's no way he would've put Malia up here for the sole reason of fighting me.

PSSSSSSSSSSSSH!

My gaze snapped back to Malia as she unhooked her armor, steam pouring out from underneath it. She grunted, tossing it on the ground and running back at me.

She was significantly faster now- I had to pull myself out of my thoughts for a second to adjust to the new, if not frenetic pace.

"No armor, Malia?" I ducked under a horizontal slash and punched her in the stomach. "That isn't the best trade-off."

"It will be."

"There's two of them," I mumbled under my breath as we fell back into trading slashes. Now, our division was never going to win any awards for being friendly. "Because why not."

Last time, it made sense why he'd wanted to fight me. It was a test of power, the kind of trial that fell in line with that old-timey Greek tradition of making sure your warriors were actually capable.

There had to be something else going on here. Using Malia was a strategic choice- I knew for a fact that he had stronger soldiers at his disposal.

What was special about Malia? She seemed like an average soldier in every regard. The only special thing about her was that we had some sort of personal history. She had to serve some different purpose.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I looked back to MJ, and for a brief moment, I saw the currents shift next to her.

Well…looking back…I definitely overreacted.

At the moment- all I knew was that there was someone near MJ. That's all I needed to know.

Everyone at the dinner table was blasted backward. The room shifted as if it was being tilted, with the water inside the room blasting backward, pinning everybody to the wall. I disappeared from the spot I was standing and reappeared next to MJ, anger rearing its head inside of me like an angry dragon.

Killer intent started leaking off me before I could help it. The muscles in my arm coiled and tightened, and the force behind my arm multiplied exponentially. Lightning sparked to life around my hand, thousands of volts sparking to life and heating the air by thousands of degrees.

The rapid expansion of the heated air produced this clicking sound that felt like the metronome of a clock.

The soldier- some random soldier- dropped his invisibility instantly, his eyes glued to me. Fear was written all over his face.

In the last moment, I remembered where I was and what I was doing- this wasn't some enemy trying to hurt me or MJ, it was some foot solider called up by Delta to test my awareness- I couldn't hit him with this, or he'd be seriously hurt.

I changed direction at the last moment and buried my first into the wall.

CRKKKKKKKKK!

The bronze wall groaned as my first shot right through, bolts of electricity trailing upward from my hand and into the wall.

"I think we can call the spar there," Poseidon called from the head of the table, grumpily summoning some wine off his shirt. "Delta, once more, I beg of you- have you not tested my son enough?"

"Forgive me, my lord, I simply wanted to be sure."

"And ruin my new white shirt, to boot," Poseidon grumbled again, and raised his hand. Malia and the soldier, who was looking at me like I was a nuclear warhead, shuffled off to the side after giving me a bow. "Ahem- welcome home, Perseus."

"Thank you, father," I replied, bowing alongside MJ, who dropped in a perfect, ninety-degree bow. "It's good to be back."

"I thank you for passage into your sacred territory, Lord Poseidon," MJ said in what I could only describe as an aristocratic tone. "I humbly request permission to stay in your court."

"Permission granted," Poseidon replied, decidedly impressed with MJ's spiel. He turned his attention to me, his eyes crinkling. He gestured for me to come closer, "Son."

"Father," I repeated, stepping toward the throne. I waved to some of the people I recognized- Delta's brothers, Amphitrite. Amphinome. "It's a pleasure to see everyone again."

"My son has returned, following his vanquishing of Oceanus. Is there anyone in the court who can doubt his achievements? His role in uncovering the conspiracy brewing beneath our very noses?" Poseidon raised his voice, raising his trident into the air. "I say again, is there anyone here who would deny that my son is deserving?"

Triton cleared his throat, and everyone in the room looked at him expectantly. He just raised his hands, "Frog in my throat. Sorry."

Poseidon looked like he wanted to turn Triton into a frog, but nodded gruffly. "Good. Come forth, Perseus, and receive your reward."

I gazed at him in confusion as a ring floated out of his hands and into my palm. It latched itself around the ring Poseidon had already given me, and I felt a surge of power flood my system.

The Game pinged.


|| Forged in the heart of Atlantis, Poseidon's finest cyclopes worked for months to develop the perfect armor for you! ||

[VIT][XXXX] Lernean Exoskeleton Ring

The particular supposedly insurmountable attribute of the Hydra that threatened

the hero was its ability to regenerate its multiple heads when severed, seven, nine, or

fifty, and by some accounts as many as one hundred, each doubling whenever

decapitated.

Forged for the express purpose of being your suit of armor, this exoskeleton contains a system of water delivery that will simulate being underwater, even when you're on dry land.


No way. With a ring like this...I'd be literally unstoppable.

"Go on, then," Poseidon's grin was blinding. "Activate the ring."

I mentally made the effort to activate the ring, and there was a small hissing noise. I felt a warm current on my arms and chest, and then- a small, teal ball of energy formed on my chest. It pulsed, and my arms and chest became coated in water.

It traveled up past my neck and around my face, hooking into my ears and eyes.

Black lines shot out of the ring, wrapping around my body like strings of linen. The lines hardened and melted together just as a final layer of bone appeared on my back, forcing me into an upright position. The second layer of bone hardened to life on my chest, framing the teal ball of energy that was still humming.

My dad stepped up from his throne again, a serious look on his face. I thought he was going to give another big lecture or something, but instead, he raised his arms. "Enough ceremony. Let's get the party going!"


AN: And we're back! Hope everyone enjoys the parallels between this iteration of Percy's journey to Atlantis and his first one because those are the only similarities there are going to be!

The semester is at the point where every week I have, like, five million different things due for each class, so updates are definitely going to be a bit more spaced out, but after the first week of May or so, I'll be back to my weekly-biweekly updates. Thanks for your patience during this time.


greenarrow679: This is probably one of the best reviews I've ever gotten. Your comments about the original version of Percy's interrogation scene were indeed true. I'd always intended for that to be a major scene where Percy's rose-tinted glasses came into play.

It's a tense situation because Percy does have some form of unreliable narration, but like you rightfully pointed out, the gods are using their emotional connection towards him to manipulate him. Even if it isn't fully on purpose, it's undeniable that Percy has the favor of gods like no demigod before him, which is a two-way street. The more he interacts with and understands the gods, the harder it is for him to decide how to play things.

I won't say I don't still love the idea- in fact, the premise is still there, just a bit less obvious. There's a slight way to tell, of course, based on how he views the characters themselves. For example, when he first meets MJ, from his POV, she's pretty normal, but in this chapter, he's kind of obsessed with her.

I know, I know, obvious right? Well, Piper is also an example of that, still. Even if she's objectively right or wrong to feel anyway, from Percy's POV, when she's annoying, she's really damn annoying. I can tell a lot of the people reviewing the story feel that way, which is a good sign because it means I'm conveying Percy's emotions well- kind of, anyway. Cause the truth is, Percy is still the bad guy in that whole situation.

I'll quote a part of your review, here: "Demigods thrown into bullshit, used as tools, not even having a chance to accept the life they've been pushed into. Then for her to be protected and uplifted by the seemingly perfectly stable rock that is Percy Jackson must have felt like she at least had the hope of not having to suffer through it all alone. She fights her fears to help him even when he seemingly left her behind, then sadly gets pushed to the side and abandoned by the safety blanket she just warmed up to."

That's it. That's exactly it. It's why, even after his apology and his apparent closeness with Piper, even after they spend more time together, they still don't fully understand each other- because Percy doesn't understand the effect of how deeply he affected her.

That's all I'll say for now, though. Thank you again for your review- I was really happy to read it.

Dragon Bone Z: In good time, dear reader. In good time.