"Percy, you can't seriously be trying—" MJ began but sighed when she saw me tentatively poke a finger into the churning brown substance. Her defeated smile still had a hint of sincerity in it- as if she knew I was an idiot, but she knew I was her idiot, so it didn't matter anyway, "Never mind. Go right ahead. Stick your hand in the churning brown stuff around us. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that."
I examined my chocolate-covered finger intently- now that's a sentence for you. The new and improved version of the Game came with this little black diamond of an indicator, and I made the mental effort to press it.
A small black line shot out from the diamond, pinging a paragraph of words that appeared, glowing softly:
"As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it."
[…] The city of Pavlopetri was once a bustling, up-and-coming town that was decimated simply for being caught in the crossfire of two ancient deities of the Sea that have since been absorbed by Poseidon […]
[…] As a show of good faith, he offered to completely resurrect what had once stood. The mayor, a pacifist with a disturbing streak of pessimism remarked that his town wouldn't safe as long as the eyes of the greedy could gaze upon it. […]
[…] This disguise is a result of that mentality- that need to shield themselves from the peering eyes of the ocean. It's become necessary for the citizens of Pavlopetri to verify who enters their grounds, lest another tragedy befalls their historic home. [...]
"Tastes just like Gelato," I commented, digesting the words I'd just read. While I could empathize with their need for security, a part of me wondered if it was truly a good idea to host, you know, an entire tournament with people from all around the sea here, if security was that great of a concern. In a lot of ways, it kind of seemed like the exact opposite of what you'd want to do.
It's like if I had, I don't know, a prized water bottle collection I was really fond of, but then invited a bunch of thirsty tourists into my house. I'm not usually a fan of victim blaming, but if something terrible happens to Pavlopetri in the coming week- well. I won't get too ahead of myself just yet.
I gestured toward the ice cream, "It's just chocolate ice cream, MJ. Want some?"
MJ looked queasy, the last vestiges of a smile dropping from her face, "No. Just…no. Just because it's ice cream doesn't mean you should eat it. It definitely doesn't mean I'm going to eat it."
Ha! I still had that poison-neutralizing perk from the chimera. A little ice cream wasn't going to wreck my insides. I shrugged and leaned back into the chariot, "Suit yourself."
Eventually, the bottom of our chariot broke through the river of chocolate ice cream and crashed onto a white platform. We landed with a rough thud, and both MJ and Amphitrite fell on me- I'll let you work that part out for yourselves.
The white platform slowly began to lower itself, until we were in what looked like half of a hospital. Well, actually, it looked more like someone was trying their hardest to emulate what a hospital would look like, and only partially succeeding. There were a bunch of hospital beds, some gurneys, and a rack of surgical equipment. IVs and gowns were strewn on the floor, but there was no one in sight.
It was like someone was trying to cosplay being a doctor- maybe Pavlopetri is really into Grey's Anatomy or something.
I stepped out first, my ceremonial shoes almost slipping against the polished white tile. In front of me, a man wearing a tuxedo was slowly walking over.
Okay, I definitely didn't see this guy a second ago when I was in the middle of judging his city. Where did he come from?
He seemed to wince with every step, kind of as if the very act of walking was killing him. "So sorry! We were under the impression you would be using a newer chariot! Our flow was designed to safely bring those ones down. I'm afraid a good deal more force is needed to hold those in place than it is to handle these models."
"That's quite alright," Poseidon said pleasantly, but one look at his face would tell you everything you'd need to know about how he was really feeling. His grip on his trident tightened. "I rather enjoyed that chariot, though, Chet. Antiquity and all. I'm sure you understand."
Chet bowed his head almost instantly, "A thousand apologies, my lord- a thousand! We will see to it that your chariot is repaired- no, I personally will ensure that your chariot is repaired. How's that? Good! No need to be so down on a joyous day, after all. Let's keep our spirits high!"
He paused his little spiel, his eyes flicking to me. For a moment, the pale brown faded to red, before reverting to normal. "Ah! Our guest of honor. You're the last prince to arrive, which, of course, means that you'll need to face the first seed."
"Don't you want to know what it is you're going to be doing?" Chet grinned, showing off teeth that were browning and pointed. Honestly, they kind of reminded me of this necklace I got at Montauk when I was a kid- a great white shark tooth necklace, I think. "After all—"
"Sure," I replied, pressing the black diamond on top of his head as he started prattling off. "Lay it on me."
"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on."
[MAYOR OF PAVLOPETRI]
[LVL]: 54 (11,000/63,000)
[HP]: 113,000/113,000 (BOOSTED)
[MP]: 30,000/30,000 (BOOSTED)
[STR]: 108 (+5)
[CHA]: 81 (+5)
[…] The original Ketea were the monsters of the sea, the two greatest of which were slain by the OG Perseus first, and then again by Herakles at Troy. Though, to be honest, Herakles is kind of a push-over. […]
[…] Chet himself has been the mayor of Pavlopetri for just under a century. His political leanings are moderate, as he's neither supported the extremist tendencies of malevolent beings such as Oceanus, nor the progressive policies of Atlantis. […]
[…] Ketos was also a generic word for any large sea creature and included mundane whales and sharks. […]
I nodded to myself slightly. That was good information to have- perfect, almost. Why was it that my HUD was throwing all kinds of information at me now, whereas before, I'd be lucky to get just the basics?
Almost as if on cue, a question mark fluttered into existence right next to Chet's face.
Your new and improved vision is a result of your near-death experience. Think about your body like a glass of water. When you were nearly felled, a significant amount of that water spilled, only to be replaced by whatever was available. As such, you have more divine energy inside of you!
Your ability- the Game, I believe you called it, supports a more thorough examination now, one where anyone you look at is subject to immediate identification, though the downside of this ability is that you can only see descriptions of the person and/or object in sight afforded by your companions, that is, anyone who REVERES you.
That's why there are so many different tidbits of knowledge, all denoted by […]
"So, to summarize, either beat the guy in front of you or edge him out of the ring! This will decide your original placement in the bracket," I blinked away from the description as Chet started walking again, "So, if you'll follow me, I'll take you to the starting booth."
Heket really juiced me up. Or, well, Aphrodite, technically. Both?
I mean, if we're being honest. I guess it's more like Aphrodite was the batteries and Heket was the machine or something. In my body.
Give me a break- analogies tend to turn a bit sideways when you're talking about two multidimensional beings that like to shack up in your head.
I tucked all those tidbits about Chet away, for now. If I had to guess, they were probably from the minds of Triton, my dad, and MJ- though, a part of me wondered how strong the Game was really becoming if it meant stealing knowledge from the head of any Olympian like that.
Meh. The Game always has been powerful, even if I've wanted to ignore it. The next time I get a moment alone, I'm really going to have to sit down and look at some of this.
"Are you excited?" Chet asked me, still staring ahead as we continued down the hallway. His tone was colder than it had been around everyone else, "There's a lot of money riding you. Lots of…people rooting for you."
"I'm grateful to participate in this competition," I answered easily, deflecting the question into one of the basic responses I'd been coached to give out. "To that extent, mayor, I'd like to extend my deepest appreciation to you, and your city for hosting this event. Atlantis recognizes your willingness to aid the betterment of the sea."
Chet just snorted, running a hand through his graying hair. His jaw clenched as his eyes flicked back to me, glowing red, "You can drop the goody-two-shoes act. I know you're not some benevolent overlord, and I sure as hell know you're not who you say you are."
"I apologize for any trouble," I returned pleasantly, my emotions bubbling a little bit behind the lid of Gamer's Mind. We turned a corner, "I hope to endear myself to you throughout this coming week, sir."
"Did you bring it in?" Chet asked abruptly, stopping the both of us in the middle of the hallway. His neck strained. His shoulders slumped downward. The row of brown, pointy teeth in his mouth unhinged slightly, a trail of drool running down from his bottom lip. A guttural sound echoed from his mouth, "Answer me!"
I kept my fists at my side and my back straightened. I wouldn't go out of my way to antagonize the clearly distraught man, but I wasn't going to give him any ground, either.
Green eyes met red. "I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about. I'll swear an oath to that effect if it helps rests your weary mind, mayor."
"You have to know," Chet stepped closer to me, his hand beginning to rise. Before he could make a move, my family walked back into over vision, on the other side of the hallway.
"My apologies," Chet returned to normal a moment later. He dabbed his lower chin with an embroidered handkerchief. "There has been a slight security concern as of late, and I had to be sure it wasn't you. Rest assured, all of the other princes received the same treatment."
I resisted the urge to snort- there wasn't a single fiber of my being that believed the blatant lie this dude was shoving in my face. Not even the really gullible part of me- the part that once believed Gwen when she told me that Neapolitan ice cream was pronounced napoleon ice cream (stupid Dyslexia).
"That's quite alright, mayor," I patted his shoulder. "Should you require anything of me, please do not hesitate to ask. I'm in your humble city, after all. Might I suggest taking a well-warranted break, after this? You seem to be a bit high-strung."
"Thank you, prince," Chet intoned, his face covered in a smile that was stretched way too far to be true. "I'll keep your kind words in mind. Let us make haste to the stadium."
As we reached the end of the hallway and I stepped through the doorway, my vision was instantly assaulted by blinding light and a roar of applause so loud I felt like my eardrums were going to explode.
"Ladies and gentlemen…" A voice boomed overhead. I cranked my neck to see a big, puffy cloud zipping around the top of the arena, which was encased in a glass-like dome. With my good eye, I was barely able to make out the silhouette of a man standing atop it, somehow maintaining his balance.
I blinked away from him as the ground around me rippled, bubbling with pure energy.
The air was charged. Mana began crackling around me, arcing off my body and smashing together into various constructs; a butterfly, an eel- at one point, a beetle formed on my hand, scuttling between my knuckles, and disappearing.
I felt like someone flicked a switch on inside of me. Feelings of excitement rushed through my body, accompanied by a sharp spike of adrenaline that made my breathing grow just a bit heavier.
The way I'd felt about this tournament, how I'd hated the whole idea of me taking time out of my summer to come down here felt far away. I felt the same tingle I always got before a battle- who it was or why I was doing it didn't matter one bit.
As I walked a bit more, my shoes barely sunk into the perfectly trimmed white turf of the stadium. It stretched really far- almost as far as I could see- wait, no.
While the field was big, scarily big, what I'd originally thought was the end of it was actually some of the fans.
They were everywhere- around us, below us, on top of us. It was like an entire sphere of violent entertainment, and we were in the middle of the whole thing.
Really, though- there were so many of them, it was mind-boggling. There might've been triple the number of fans that were there for the welcome day parade, and even that's probably lowballing it. We could've probably a fit all of us, standing, on a regular-size football field or two. Maybe three.
Most of the onlookers were wearing black and white uniforms, though some certainly wore their own outlandish color. I couldn't tell if that was just preference, or if they were representing their hometowns, or whatever.
"…Percy Jackson! The Crown Prince of Atlantis has descended from his throne!"
There was this swell of momentum as, almost at once, fans started singing, and chanting for me. Flashes of light and glimpses overloaded my vision. The noise kept getting louder and louder as other fans arrived and joined in.
As I looked closer, I noticed that some of them actually looked like they were a bit uncomfortable- sitting in those seats must've been a real pain. They were built so close together, that it looked like you had to squeeze into some of them.
Yet, the pushed onward. They sat through the pain- all for a shot at seeing their hometown heroes throw down. I almost felt a bit bad- they'd basically thrown a bunch of guppies in with a freshwater shark.
And boy, was I hungry.
"After fifteen amazing rounds of beautiful, friendly sparring brought upon by some of the sea's finest- and one round of carnage- I'm looking at you, Epidaurus," The announcer let out a bawdy laugh, "Our main event is here. Kalios, the pride of Archampoli, the Liquidated Lancelot- patent pending- faces off against Perseus Jackson, the vanquisher of Oceanus and what many are calling a pseudo-Olympian!"
What a load of bullshit. You defeat a Titan once, once, and now everything expects you to move mountains. Hero propaganda is definitely a real thing, and the more I see it, the easier it is for me to believe some of the older myths about the Olympians.
It's funny, actually. If the one-off myth about me defeating Oceanus (which was based in truth, by the way) made it seem like I destroyed him in a show of raw power, how had the myths altered some of the other feats of the gods?
How had Olympian propaganda messed with some of the things I'd done? I mean, I saw the first Percy Jackson movie back in Atlantis last year and thought nothing of it, but looking back, that movie definitely made me seem like more of this seasoned warrior who knew what he was doing at all times and less like a scared little kid willing to put it all on the line for his mom.
Heh. What tells you that you aren't reading some propaganda about me right now? For all you know, I'm a deranged serial killer. Or, just a kid with a crazy imagination. Maybe I'm a stand-up comedian spinning the world's longest joke.
"Who will win? Who will lose? Let's walk through the rules again, for our bloodthirsty participants! One: no leaving the ring," The edges of the field, which stretched out for a mile in either direction, glowed.
Despite the situation, I shook my head slightly- just how far did they think we were going to hit each other?
"Two, no harming our wonderful viewers," The dome pulsed an ominous red. To demonstrate the dome's effectiveness, a boulder the size of a minivan lifted off the center of the field and launched itself into it. To the crowd's amusement, the boulder vaporized instantly the moment it made contact. "And three- don't hold back. I'm looking at you, Jackson. Give us a good fight! Begin!"
The dome had loads of smells. I swear, even looking back now, I can still smell the light summer breeze (can there even be a breeze underwater?) intermixed with the salty sea. The aromas from different foods were so strong you could taste them in your mouth.
As the guy on the cloud floated away, four massive columns rose from each end of the field, their tops glowing blue. A minute passed, and light from the gigantic columns boomed to life, blinding me for a moment. The way it shined down on the field made everything look so bright, so shiny, that I might've even missed the red missile heading for me.
Unluckily for Kalios- and for any of my haters in the crowd- I didn't miss it.
My feet lifted off the ground as a churning vortex of water exploded out from my thighs and wrapped around my body like a glove. Just as Kalios got close, the vortex raised higher, vaulting me over him.
His red blur slammed into the base of the vortex, and much to my surprise, it blasted through the bottom and formed a pocket of air that started pulling my feet back down.
I started at him for a moment, eventually pressing the black diamond when it appeared above his head.
"What am I dying for? I'm dying because this world I'm living in isn't worth dying for! If something is worth dying for, then you've got a reason to live."
[PRINCE OF ARCHAMPOLI]
[LVL]: 74 (XXXX/XXXX)
[HP]: 454,000/454,000 (BOOSTED)
[MP]: XXXX/XXXX (CURSED)
[STR]: 208 (+55)
[CHA]: 51 (+5)
[…] The first prince of Archampoli would be rolling over in his watery grave if he could see how much of a pushover this guy is. In the first war with Oceanus, Archampoli was one of the first cities to be fully taken over, and eventually destroyed. Now, well, they make stupid warriors like this kid. […]
[…] The people of Archampoli are known for their resilience in battle and indomitable spirit. Archampoli is a city under the crest of Atlantis and is one of our major suppliers of seahorses. […]
[…] His title is 'Lancelot,' huh? In the French-inspired mythos, Lancelot was the orphaned son of King Ban of the lost Kingdom of Benwick, raised in the fairy realm by the Lady of the Lake. Lancelot eventually became the lord of the castle Joyous Gard and personal champion of Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere, but when his adulterous affair with Guinevere was discovered, it caused a civil war that was exploited by Mordred to end Arthur's kingdom. […]
Riptide flashed out, clanging against Kalios' steel lance. I felt him try to push more weight into the hit, but I pushed back just as hard.
As the red glow faded around him, I got a better look at my opponent.
He was muscular, incredibly so, but almost to the point where I'd assume it was more than a little detrimental to his agility. Huge, hulking shoulders framed a bulky body that was hidden in a tattered cloak.
As I stared at him some more, I got an odd flashback to seeing Trunks ascend to Super Trunks for the first time as a kid, though I'd wager this kid was overloading his frame with just a teensy more bit of muscle than ever Trunks had- definitely a scary thought.
Dirty, matted crimson hair fell to his elbows. His face, covered in scars and weird-looking bite marks, had a mask covering his mouth and chin.
And just like that, his nostrils flared, and his body was overtaken by the same red glow from before- though, now since he was closer, I could smell some sort of chemical literally burning the water around me.
"Any chance you want to tell me what your little party trick is?" I asked good-naturedly, noting that his lance was beginning to steam.
"I'll do you one better," Was his simple response as he hefted the lance at me and threw it. Mid-throw, he jumped into the air, a good thirty or twenty feet.
I ducked under the lance instantly, my eye tracking the red trail of something it was leaving behind. My senses reached out, the water practically teleprompting where Kalios was.
As Kalios crashed toward me, the line on his lance tugged and began shooting back toward me, whizzing through the air. As it got closer, three more ethereal lances shot out of the ground around me, like a bear trap.
I glanced downward for a moment, then back at the lances, and finally, up at Kalios, devising a plan.
His quickness seemed laughably slow, if only slightly exacerbated by that weird red glow around him from time to time. It made him go from fat-kid-in-gym-class levels of speed to the-person-in-front-of-you-is-holding-the-door-open-and-you're-an-awkward-level-of-distance-away levels of speed.
Zeus, that was a mouthful.
Another look at his stats showed that I probably wouldn't be able to outright overpower him- not with that level of strength and that amount of health.
It would be like trying to punch a wall, and while I'd been able to fight enemies like that before (Carcinus, for example), that kind of battle of attrition wouldn't be very sportsmanlike, to say the least, and it would also leave me a sitting duck if he simply survived it.
No, the right play here for me was to overwhelm him before his inferior reflexes could catch up. Things like [The Grim Reaper] and [Opportunist] would reward me based on the number of hits, not the quality of the hits. It wouldn't matter if he was hurt or not- the hurt would come later, snowballing together and catching him by surprise.
The only issue was going to be stacking the effects, but I could probably work around that, maybe messing around with [Time Dilation] or [Accelerate], and letting the relentlessness of the process take whatever toll it would on his body. Especially considering how quickly those effects tended to stack up.
I phased out from under Kalios, exploding the chunk of turf underneath me with an enhanced jump.
Just as I'd expected, his mountain of a neck didn't even budge as I planted my flame, lightning, and water-covered fist into it as hard as I could.
The top right of my vision beeped, with two sets of numbers appearing, starting from 0 and changing as the second set of numbers, an equation, began flicking.
[TOTAL] = [LEAP] + [LIGHT. HANDS] + [ATL TRAINING ] + [MUSC. TRAIN.]
X = (200 x STR) + (100 x STR) + (100 x WIS) […]
+ (.5)(X) […]
+ (10)(WIS)(SEC) [...]
X = (103)(200) + (103)(100) + (3)(100)(38) […]
+ (.5)(X) […]
+ (10)(38)(1) […]
[TOTAL] = 63,830!
After a long year of training with Jason and Triton, fighting two titans and an immortal demigod, and then taking my personal training a bit more seriously, I'd forgotten how strong I truly was.
Lightning lanced off my fingertips, digging into his skin as the full force of my attack smashed into his back.
There was a blur of smoke and a flash of heat. A sonic boom echoed as my closed fist cracked against his thick neck, snapping his head backward and forcing a sharp groan of pain out of his opened mouth.
The crowd roared in approval as Kalios exploded into the ground with a monstrous plume of smoke, excavating the entire area underneath him into a giant crater that was the size of a small swimming pool.
"And Percy Jackson takes the first hit, and WHAT A HIT IT IS!"
The currents swirled around me, holding my body as I surveyed the smoke for Kalios. I moved closer to the bottom as the smoke flattened, thinking- wrongly, of course- that he was trying to psyche me out and sneak out.
Blindingly fast, a spear made of red energy shot out from the smoke. My eye snapped to it, and for a second, I almost couldn't even register what I was looking at. The small region, intermixed with the distance and smoke around it made it seem like a ping of light in the distance.
Then, all of a sudden, the synapses in my brain began firing into overdrive, forcing my neck back as the construct of energy went streaming past my chin.
In response, I growled and pointed Riptide at the sky, drawing a bit more of the annoyance I felt at both the fight and the dumb tournament out. Now since the initial adrenaline of fighting an opponent was wearing off, my true feelings toward this tournament were coming back to the forefront.
And the truth is, as much as I tried to hide from it, or even play it off as one of those tasks I just knew I had to do, I very much wasn't fine with this tournament.
Lately, I'd been feeling a bit weird, and no, not just because of my conversation with Aphrodite (though that did factor into things).
Every summer, the more time I spend doing demigod stuff, whether that's hanging out at the camp, or coming down to Atlantis, or now, more recently, overseeing construction at EDEN- which I guess is technically still camp stuff- I'm reminded of a little something I call the timer.
You know: a single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze.
I'm fourteen now, even if I don't look or feel it. Assuming that the prophecy goes by my birthdate and not my physical age- knock on wood, there- I have two more summers before I either die or kill everyone I love.
I want to enjoy that. Not the killing part, I mean. Obviously. The two summers.
I want to spend them with the people I love, doing things I love, and training hard for the inevitable moment my life is snuffed away- like it was preordained so long ago. Not spending a week of it to reassert something everyone basically knows by now, anyway.
I let out a long exhale, finding Kalios' glowing frame in the smoke.
The inside of the dome cracked with energy. Wisps of ice trailed off the tip of Riptide, curling upward into the ocean above as clouds began forming around me, darkening, and rumbling off my body.
I flicked Riptide down, and there was a monstrous whizzing noise as the clouds swirled down, cloaking the long blade, and funneling down into the smoke, obscuring the shards of ice that barreled down with them.
I heard a few satisfying thunk noises, followed by a gut-wrenching scream from Kalios. A moment later, the visage of gray dreariness was broken by an orb of red, then two orbs of red, then three-
I swerved to the right, avoiding one of the basketball-sized globes of red, before feeling a tug in my spine as the water forced me around the second one. Three, four, five- each of his globes of red went streaking past
Cracking my neck, I focused my attention on a break in the smoke, where a furious Kalios was looking at me with one of the angriest looks I'd ever been on the receiving end of.
"The party trick," I reminded him, pausing to grin. "Can you tell me the trick?"
Kalios wiped some turf against his right arm. The top of it was skinned off, revealing the shiny skin underneath, "Again, I'd much rather show you."
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Kalios raised a glowing hand, and I heard the same whizzing noise from before.
I turned, and the red balls from before were back, but this time, hanging in the air behind me, floating aimlessly. My eyebrows scrunched together- Kalios couldn't use any mana, I was sure of that.
Well, for one, the Game said so.
Yeah, lame, I know, but I also didn't detect any mana coming off Kalios when he let the balls fly- just energy. I didn't give it two thoughts at first, but now…
"You did pack kind of a punch there! I respect you for that. But, at the end of the day, you're just a human," Kalios grinned from underneath me. His body glowed red again, and I forced myself to look closer. "You wouldn't get it."
The glow wasn't a glow at all. It looked like a really bright red fuzz growing, set alight by the gigantic lights of the stadium.
"And, I'm a nice guy. Nicer than you! So, I will tell you what this party trick is, right before I kill you with it and take your place in this tournament," Kalios' grin widened, bridging the gap over to full-on crazy. "I'm part teddy bear crab. We're born with anemones, these bright red little bristles that grow all over our bodies! The anemone isn't just something to attack people with, either—it's also a food source. Oh, we love the taste! Some of us go so far as reaching inside the anemone's digestive system to pull out anything the anemone has already eaten!"
A scowl formed on my face. This dude was batshit crazy! And if he thought I was about to sit here, and let him finish his spiel, he had another thing coming.
I swarmed down to him, re-engaging him in hand-to-hand combat.
Slash! Slash! Slash!
I ducked under his lance, jumping over the red anemones that kept floating back toward me, hissing maliciously.
Riptide moved like a pen on paper, easily carving past his slower defense in an arc of bronze. His health bar, which was another interesting mechanic put out there by the game, read: 340,000
After a few minutes of trading blows, I'll admit, one of the anemones got to me. It hooked onto my shoulders and bit down hard, and I growled in pain.
[Pyrokinetic], the new and improved version, blasted around me in a ring of green and blue. It sent out a shockwave of air that made Kalios stumbled backward, and it instantly deep-fried the anemone on my shoulder. I screamed, and the ring of fire blasted around the ring, vaporizing some more of his anemones.
"You dare?" Kalios roared, shooting toward me. His anger, while partially obscuring his technique, kind of helped him hit harder, which was a problem for me. Despite the fact that I could outright dodge most of his attacks, the ones that got through definitely felt like they'd leave a bruise. Even the ones that I blocked still made my arms hurt. "You blasted poser!"
"What're you talking about now?" I replied snarkily, slashing his anemones out of the sky. I turned and blasted a fistful of lightning into his mouth, following it up with a kick that snapped onto his throat.
The combination stopped him in his tracks for a moment, and he fell to his knee. Steam rose from his shoulders. Roaring loudly, he ripped his mask off and grabbed one of the anemones out of the air, shoving it in his mouth.
My eyes widened as his health bar slowly topped itself back off. And then-
Moving faster than I could even track for a moment, Kalios trudged across the field and socked me across the face.
A sense of vertigo wracked my body as I went skidding across the turf, flipping head over heels over and over again.
Eventually, I regained my bearings and slammed my hand into the ground, dragging it for a bit before the momentum of Kalios' punch finally gave out.
Those anemones had to go- if he got that juiced up off of one of them, he'd start wiping the floor with me in no time, and there's no way I was going to let that happen. Besides, if he kept healing, no amount of speed or power was going to take him out.
I thought back to the first time one of them landed on me- he'd been in pain when I fried it. That had to mean that even in the slightest of ways, he was directly tied to those cotton candy clouds- he felt it when they got hurt.
I rubbed the turf burn on my hand and cracked my jaw back into place. There was an easy way to go about this.
My first instinct, as I'm sure anyone's would be, was to send a lightning bolt through them. After my initial heatwave, there weren't that many left, and lightning would travel fast enough through the water that Kalios wouldn't have that much time to do anything.
On second thought, though, I realized it would be better to let the anemones come to me- that is, wait for Kalios to try to use one, and then neutralize it in the process. That way, my attack would be able to hit both him and the anemone (which would essentially be like hitting him twice) and I wouldn't have to worry about him blocking the attack, or the anemone flying away.
On a big, open field like this, being able to restrict the area of movement would let me easily flip the battle in a direction Kalios wouldn't want it to go.
Kalios leaped on top of me, stabbing his lance downward as I was forced out of my mental gymnastics.
I rolled out of the way of his lance and swept his feet out from underneath him.
He placed an arm down, his muscles bulging as he flipped back up, his back never even reaching the ground.
"Not just some party trick now, is it?" Kalios grinned, slamming his lance into Riptide.
I shifted into [Accelerate], letting the world around me slip into stillness as I blurred past his lance and slashed Riptide through his cloak.
The Game pinged, drawing my attention to his shoulder, which was glowing red. I charged up my next punch with the rest of [Accelerate]'s time, and slammed it into Kalios' shoulder, hearing a satisfying crunch.
[TOTAL] = [THOUSAND HAND] + [LIGHT. HANDS] + [MUSC. TRAIN.]
X = (100 x SEC) + (100 x STR) + […]
+ (100)(100 MP/SEC)(20 SEC) + (100)(103)[...]
X = (103)(200) + (103)(100) + (3)(100)(38) […]
+ (.5)(X) […]
+ (10)(38)(1) […]
[TOTAL] = 252, 381
[TOTAL] x [CRIT] = 324, 560
My fingers broke on impact. I recoiled instantly, grabbing my hand back and slashing wildly with Riptide to keep him at bay- not that it was needed.
Kalios gasped out, falling to his knees as his right arm all but rocketed out of the socket, hanging limply at his side. The force of my punch echoed through his body, and I saw some of his ribs crack inward. His shoulder socket imploded in a mess of blood and bone.
Falling in line with my hypothesis, the anemones started circling downward, trying to hook onto Kalios, but I wasn't having it. I blasted a wall of lightning upward, evaporating the last of Kalios' powerups into thin air.
I turned the stream of lightning back at him, intermixing it with a kick to the parts of his ribs that were sticking out.
I yelped as he tanked the kick and shook off the lightning, grabbing my leg and slamming me into the turf.
I felt my back crack painfully on impact, and a ring of dust floated into the air above me. The crowd booed loudly.
From this angle, I could see his face again, except this time, there was a look of trepidation in there- of fear, too. I got the sense that this wasn't him trying to continue the fight or gain the upper hand, but rather, him using every last bit of energy to try to get me to give up, "Why did you have to come here?"
"Same reason as you," I returned, flipping myself over him, grabbing his neck, and channeling a bit of mana to my arms. I groaned with exertion and suplexed him into the ground as the crowd screamed even louder. "To win. To show everyone I'm the strongest."
Unluckily for him, in the water, my stamina was nearly limitless. It was going to take a bit more than a few good hits to take me out of the fight.
"You're not the strongest," Kalios spat, his words coming out a bit strained as I grabbed his arm and pinned my leg into his back, forcing his face down on the turf. I ran some lightning down my hands, getting more screams of pain as his body shook with electricity, "You're not even stronger than me! You didn't work for any of it!"
"Didn't work for any of it?" I repeated, scoffing. Just for that, I pushed his face even deeper into the turf- he'd touched a nerve. "If you saw how much time I put into training, you'd fucking—"
"I put in more!" Kalios roared, trying to get up. "We all did! We all spent our lives training to be perfect soldiers, perfect warriors! I don't want to do this!"
"And you still lost to me," I said, grabbing his leg and slamming him into the turf again. "You see that? This is all that's left. This is what you worked for. To lose in front of your whole village."
Kalios growled again, trying to get up, but I had him all but figured out by now. The currents flowed around me, encasing my hand in a column of glowing water that kept him forced down.
A more sadistic part of me felt satisfied at seeing Kalios squirm under me.
Like I said before, whether he meant to or not, he touched a deep nerve with his comments about how I didn't work for any of this, because the truth is, he's kind of right.
A year ago, even, I was just some random kid going to a private school. There was nothing special about me at all. Everything from my hobbies, to my home life- it was about as boring as it could be.
Chances were, there was someone more or less like me at every school. Maybe even more than one person.
Then, one day, I woke up and discovered I had powers. That my life was a videogame- that I could bend and alter the rules of physics and matter- just to grow stronger at an exponential rate.
Everything special about me started off with luck. Sure, I worked for my power after a certain point, and I put in hours and fought people and achieved things, but anyone else could've, too, if they were given the headstart I was.
I wasn't like these guys, born and bred, trained from childhood to fight. I was born with an ExpressPass to the top, with a powerful dad and a broken ability.
"Yield," I said a moment later, done with the fight. One look at his health bar showed that he was in no condition to keep the fight going- besides, we weren't trying to kill each other. We were just supposed to be showing off. The watery arm splashed back into the sea around it, "You can't win."
Kalios stayed facedown for a moment, muttering something I couldn't quite hear. I gently took my foot off him and waited for him to reply.
He shifted, and in a moment, he was sitting up. I eyed him cautiously, but he kept muttering, just low enough that I couldn't hear.
"Protect them," He said to me a moment later as the red glow- the anemones- covered his body again. Before I could even react, he barrelled toward the edge of the dome, jumping.
As he flipped over the edge, he grabbed his lance and shoved it into his own heart.
Confetti blasted from the pillars, and a jaunty tune broke out across the stadium as the man on the cloud roared: "PERCY JACKSON TAKES THE FIRST ROUND!"
AN: Another chapter for you guys. I'm almost done with my summer job, so I'll be excited to get back to more frequent updates, but yeah! Hope you guys enjoy this action-packed start to Atlantis.
There's a decent bit of stuff in this chapter, and I hope to see you guys get a lot of it! The themes for Atlantis this time around, well, I don't want to spoil every last thing, but one important one to keep in mind is self-doubt.
Everyone, literally everyone expects Percy to be this picture-perfect prince, this powerful warrior- in a lot of ways, they expect him to basically be a god following his defeat of Oceanus, when the truth of the matter is, he doesn't even know if he is that prince. Or if he can be.
Make sure to join me next time. I don't normally do this, but I don't think I'll be able to fit this in the chapter field, so just know that my original title for the next chapter was: Percy Jackson Will Meet His Wife in 58 Days.
See you guys next time.