I've noticed that a few readers are a little bent out of shape that Percy passed on Eidetic Library. Some even left reviews that disparaged that move. I ask you, would he take such a power in his canon incarnation? He might have Gamer's Mind and higher INT, but he'll always be Percy—studying is not his forte. Heck, the major difference that the Game gives him here is that he can focus on training thanks to Bookworm. But he'll always focus on the physical side of being a hero.
Also, holy snot, twelve-THOUSAND views already? For only five chapters? I was never going to stop just because of some heat or fanbase division, but wow. I must be doing something right.
EDIT (10/2/22): Briefly forgot that the Gateway Arch elevators only house four per car. Fixed that for their trip on the way up.
Chapter 6: Boss Rush
As we patrolled through the halls of the dungeon, Grover warned that Medusa's scent was spreading further the longer we took, making it harder to tell where she was and had been unless she was coming down the hall herself.
During our dungeon crawl, we had come across an exit point in the form of a circle that lit up when I passed across it. But I closed the message explaining it and we continued.
I couldn't be sure how long we had been in here, or even if time passed the same in here as in the real world. But the counter on the objective window still ticked up even though we had passed twenty a while ago, unlike the other quest that replaced the numbers with "Complete" after reaching the objective.
- Bonus Objective: Free Medusa's victims (47/20) [Complete]
While each statue was worth only a small amount of experience according to Annabeth, the sheer quantity we had taken down got each of us a level. Though I had lost count a while back—had we really killed thirty-six more already? Even Piper had taken a couple of the smaller ones down. Her new whip didn't ignite but came in handy for tangling up legs and tripping the statues for finishing off with the horn.
Perseus Jackson (Lv. 13)
Clarisse LaRue (Lv. 19)
Grover Underwood (Lv. 10)
Annabeth Chase (Lv. 15)
Piper McLean (Lv. 5) [Escort]
Annabeth also helpfully reported that Level 15 was a milestone that granted her a Perk Point. Understandably, she wanted to get out of this situation first before deciding what to use it on. At that point, Piper asked for confirmation that my power was game-like in nature and settled for a simple "yes" for now. Like I had said, a detailed explanation could wait until later.
The bear wasn't the only creature that dropped money. While not every statue did, some of the human statues would drop a few dollars and coins while a stone fox had dropped two drachmas. It felt dirty taking money left behind by the victims, but Annabeth insisted that leaving it wouldn't do any good either. We didn't find a map, though. If there were any treasure chests created by the Game in Boss Dungeons, then they were hidden well. Perhaps in a room nestled in a specific section? We had been sticking to the halls, but also hadn't seen any doors or other passages.
The encounter with Grover's uncle a while ago was bittersweet, as it confirmed that most of the statues were either like the animals – confused and walking about blindly while attacking out of confusion – or looking to die. The elder satyr appeared well aware that he was a dead man walking, and only held up a hand to stop us when he noticed Grover.
Holding up his stone reed pipes, they still worked well enough as he silently gestured towards his nephew and held them up to his permanently pursed lips. Ferdinand played a few notes and Grover mimicked them as best as he could. Before too long, they were playing a song that made the ivy clinging to the walls grow longer, the tune seamlessly switching to a different beat that manipulated them like limbs. Grover's were notably less graceful than his uncle's, but he appeared determined to learn the songs being taught to him.
Once the second window that I assume announced the learned skill appeared, Grover put down his reed pipes and his uncle nodded. Ferdinand patted him on the head while being run through with Riptide and pulled the hand away just as the shattering of his body spread to his arm. A necklace made from some kind of fang was left behind, and Grover picked it up before slipping it over his neck. He didn't look in the mood to talk, and I just wanted to find the rest of the statues too.
Now, as more innocent people and animals were put out of their misery, I started getting a gut feeling that we were almost done. That same instinct had me chiming in sometimes on which direction to go in order to find more statues.
Our last encounter wound up being a boy around our age that appeared to be reaching for a weapon that wasn't there. Unlike the others, his dominant hand was frozen in a drawing position at the hip pocket of his overalls—his caption confirmed what the action symbolized.
[Sealed Stone Demigod (Lv. 8)]
"You know this one?" I asked Annabeth, my voice practically numb by this point. He didn't have any of the identifying features I'd noticed among some of the other cabins.
Annabeth shook her head in pity, "Must have been a wandering demigod. Sometimes minor ones fall through the cracks, or even sons and daughters of Olympians that go on the run after their first monster encounter, usually orphaned. He managed to get so close to New York… Medusa must have set up her trap on the outskirts just for this purpose. Far enough to not be on our radar, but close enough to intercept demigods being led to camp."
Piper shuddered between us at that thought, that she could've encountered a similar situation.
The petrified demigod didn't resist as we stabbed him, and his drop turned out to be three drachmas, a five-dollar bill and a folding knife with a gleam of bronze in the wooden handle. Picking it up out of curiosity, I extended the blade to find it made of Celestial Bronze. It was curved with a point at the end and the sharpened edge on the inside of the curve—probably a gift from his godly parent to protect himself.
"Whoever you are, your son can rest in peace now," I prayed in a mutter before warping the knife to my Inventory. Maybe Chiron could figure out which cabin it should go to.
The mission window appeared in front of me again, this time without my summoning it. The counter had disappeared on the bonus objective, and the complete message was updated.
[Medusa's Lair—The Maze of Statues]
- Main Objective: Defeat Medusa
- Bonus Objective: Free Medusa's victims [Complete+]
I nodded, "All that's left is Aunty Em herself. Is she near?"
"Hard to tell," Grover replied. "I don't hear her, and her scent is everywhere by now."
"We could always escape?" Piper offered, sounding like she didn't really believe we would accept.
Annabeth looked at her, "Want to let her live to turn more innocent people into statues?"
"Besides, I'm going against Medusa alone," I added.
Sure enough, Annabeth turned to me with surprise before frowning, "Excuse you? What makes you think that's a good idea?"
"If we have to keep our eyes shut or aimed away from her, then more people would just get in the way," I explained. "And I have something to say to her which you might not be expecting. I can't do it if she goes into a rage the instant she sees you. Assuming, of course, that she doesn't just try to kill me right away."
"…Fine," she huffed. "But I'm staying nearby with my invisibility cap in case you're in over your head. Don't do anything stupid—she's still a deadly monster."
"Eyes shut or gaze averted," I reminded. "And keep your distance if you're gonna be invisible. Don't want to take a blind swing only to lop off something of yours instead."
Piper gagged before swallowing, and I turned to her briefly, "Sorry, but it's a valid concern with live blades."
"S'okay," she replied queasily. "Haven't had much to eat for the past day or so anyway…"
I grimaced before gesturing for us to move on, "Grover, I know this probably goes counter to your instincts, but I need you to tell us if you pick up a fresher trail. After we find her, I'm going ahead with Annabeth behind me. You guard Piper."
He handed me Riptide back, "Give her one from me, for Uncle Ferdinand."
I nodded and, after a moment's consideration, vanished Clarisse's broadsword into my Inventory for a surprise attack. Carrying Riptide in my right hand, we stayed in formation for now. It didn't take long before Grover found a scent trail and we were looping back to the path we'd taken.
"She's trying to track us at the same time," he realized.
"Well, that makes things simpler," I said while holding Riptide at my side angled forward, turning to double back the way we came. "You two, hide around that corner in the next hall until I say it's safe. Annabeth, you know what to do."
She nodded and put on her invisibility cap. Piper reluctantly followed Grover, and I closed my eyes while walking down the corridor with a hand dragging along the wall to keep my path straight. Luckily, aside from some cracks in the tile, the floor was smooth. And the ivy was only on the walls instead of across the ground.
"I don't know what you think you're doing," Annabeth whispered.
I murmured back, "I don't need you to understand, just know that I'm doing this anyway. And do me a favor? Keep quiet no matter what, even if you feel the need to intervene."
"That's reassuring," she shot back sarcastically.
I didn't dignify that with a response, especially since I could hear the hissing of Medusa's snakes coming closer. I pushed away from the wall and sidestepped to where I thought the center of the hall was. Annabeth quietly gasped, but since she was still breathing, she must have been walking with her eyes closed too. I didn't know if Medusa turned a corner or had just entered earshot from further down the hall, but she was only a few yards away now from how close the snakes sounded.
"Perseus Jackson, I'm glad I found you first," Medusa said sweetly. Her voice then dropped slightly, "Though I must ask, what is this place? Some new trickery of the grey-eyed one, to put me in an illusion where my statues flee from me or attack?"
I realized that at least some of Medusa's victims were unintentionally freed by her when they tried to take their revenge. But I moved past that and shook my head, "Neither Annabeth nor her mother are behind this. I don't have to explain what it is to you, seeing as you're about to die."
Her voice took on a honeyed quality, "Oh, Percy, you wouldn't harm an old woman like me. I know you wouldn't. Your friend's mother made me like this. You would strike down an unfortunate victim?"
"I pity you, but any mercy I may have felt is buried under my rage," I retorted, opening my eyes while they were pointed downward until I got her feet in sight. "If you and your sisters conspired with my dad to get into the temple, then I don't know what else you were expecting. If not, and you were… forced, then I can only hope that he's become a better man by now."
"Spoken like a loyal pawn of the gods," Medusa chuckled as her snakes made a shuffling sound. "Poseidon claimed he would protect me from the grey-eyed one's wrath, yet he fled when he couldn't. Don't you see? It's all a game to them. Free yourself from their strings and stay with me as a statue, so you never have to concern yourself with their petty trials. The life of a so-called hero is only suffering. I can make it all go away."
"Like you're one to talk to me about being a pawn." I readied my sword while keeping my eyes firmly trained on her covered legs and lower torso, "Back then, I bet that people were trying to slay you just because of your curse and very existence. Self-defense, and you get a statue. But now, with your lure and the 'art' you have on display like a freaking trophy collection?"
I clenched the hilt of my weapon, "Unknowing mortals, unwary supernatural creatures, children—the veil could have stayed on, and they would be on their way. They were never involved, and I doubt any of them besides the most aggressive animals raised a hand at you. The one demigod was frozen while drawing his weapon in realization. You may have only been cursed before, but now? As far as I can tell, you're only dancing to the tune set up for you."
A cacophony of hissing came from Medusa, or her hair, as her body language became far more aggressive from what I could see, "You… dare imply that I am a pawn of that loathsome goddess?!"
She apparently gave up on turning me to stone and took a swipe with one of her hands to carve me up. Of course, since her rage had blinded her, I sidestepped it and used Riptide to cut her left forearm in two while briefly closing my eyes. I didn't want to see her face by chance in the exchange, and I had a pretty good idea where it had wound up.
I must have succeeded since I heard a brief shluck/crunch sound before Medusa screeched in pain. I turned my head away while stepping out of reach from the snakes on her head, eyes open again.
"Nobody's ever done anything but go straight for the head, have they?" I asked conversationally without facing her.
Medusa roared again and I felt her rushing at me, but I turned my left hand and was suddenly holding Clarisse's broadsword pointed backwards. From the impact, the gorgon impaled herself on the blade, and a glance down showed it was in her right abdomen as blood ran down its length.
"You… wiiiiilll… diiiiieeee…" Medusa vowed in a raspy voice, a taloned hand attempting to scratch my shoulder as her strength failed her.
Guessing the approximate location of her head, I readied Riptide and closed my eyes, "Spoken like a monster."
A clean horizontal Viper-Beheading Strike led to a sickening squelch and the hiss of a monster body disintegrating. I felt something land near my foot, but took a step away when a snake weakly tried biting at my shoe. Keeping my eyes shut until the snakes stopped their death throes, I abruptly heard Annabeth next to me.
"I'll hold your swords. There's a valuable resource on them now."
I frowned but opened my eyes while turned to her to see she was keeping her eyes fixed towards the ceiling with her hands out, invisibility cap off. Handing each blade to her, I shut my eyes again and turned to take a knee before putting my hands on the head. Shuddering at the clammy feel of the scales, I felt around until I found Medusa's nose and grabbed the snakes from the opposite end. Holding it to face away from me, I envisioned it staying in that position as I warped it to my Inventory.
Opening the window to check afterwards revealed that Medusa's head was turned back from the screen in its own square with the snakes limp. Even if an image shouldn't have the same effect as the real thing if a reflection didn't, better safe than sorry.
"Okay, coast is clear," I called while standing up.
Annabeth lowered her head again and immediately said, "Percy, my backpack. Which parts of Medusa did you cut with each blade?"
I warped her backpack into my grip long enough to set it next to her before taking my swords back, "I cut off Medusa's arm with Riptide and stabbed her with Clarisse's sword."
"Which side, for each?" Annabeth demanded while reaching into her bag and pulling out a vial with a cork in it. As Grover and Piper arrived, she continued. "This is important, and I couldn't get a good look from a distance while minding her head."
"Wait, if I say right or left, would it be mine or hers?" I asked, mostly to be difficult, but also to be certain.
Annabeth groaned in annoyance, "Di immortales, hers!"
Snorting, I replied, "Just making sure. Riptide sliced her left arm; my other sword stabbed the right side of her gut."
She immediately seized my broadsword and held it over the vial, only struggling with the length one-handed for a moment before she adjusted. As we stared at her gradually dripping the remaining blood on the blade into the vial, I gestured with my free hand while asking, "What is this?"
"Gorgon blood from the right side is an extremely potent medicine. Even a few drops can reverse a mortal wound or deadly illness," Annabeth explained. "With a full sip, it can cure the blind, make a person walk again, purge cancer, most everything except raising the dead. That's off-limits."
Really too drained after that encounter with Medusa to wait for her to finish dripping it in, I decided to speed up the process and used Water Collection. Turned out that it let me move blood too by manipulating its water content. I collected all the loose blood into an orb floating between us that then flowed into Annabeth's vial, leaving it half full. The remaining bloodstain evaporated right off my sword, and she sealed the tube with a nod.
"What about the other side?" Grover asked.
Piper chimed in, her voice sounding as tired as I felt, "Deadly poison. Better not get them mixed up."
"I…" Annabeth began as she rifled through her backpack and took out a pen and a set of those thin sticky notes used for marking a binder, "have labels."
She put a blue one around the first vial and labeled it "R" with a black pen, fastening it with a strip of scotch tape wrapped all around. Followed by making a yellow "L" label for another vial she pulled out, a small biohazard symbol added to the paper for good measure before she taped it down. Annabeth then held the container up while looking at me.
Rolling my eyes, I manipulated the blood off Riptide and funneled it into the vial, around a third of the container filled. She was much more careful about corking this one and added three strips of tape crisscrossing each other over the stopper before fastening the ends to the glass with a longer strip all around.
"Now, let's get out of here," she decided after stowing them in her backpack.
A window appeared in front of me, and everybody crowded around.
[Boss Dungeon: Mesdusa's Lair—Complete!]
Main Objective: Defeat Medusa [Complete]
Bonus Objective: Free Medusa's victims [Complete]
Secret Objective: Free every victim of Medusa [Complete]
Rewards in Notifications
Item Drops: Telekhine Fang Necklace (Grover), Celestial Bronze Pruning Knife (Percy), Medusa's Head (Percy), Gorgon's Blood – Right (Annabeth), Gorgon's Blood – Left (Annabeth)
"Yes," I let out in an exhausted sigh.
Unlike the dramatic flash of light that brought us there, the surroundings simply faded away like a dissolve in a movie, returning us to the dining area in Medusa's store. All the statues that had been present were nothing more than rubble now, confirming that they'd been warped inside too.
But unlike what I expected, there were around a dozen translucent figures standing around us. My hand twitched around Riptide still in my hand, but a few of them raised their hands and one of the men said, "Easy there."
I looked around and confirmed that Grover, Annabeth and Piper were touching the surroundings as if glad to be back in the real world, completely unaware of the ghosts. Annabeth even walked straight through one of them to begin searching for anything helpful now that Medusa was taken care of.
Ferdinand silently clopped forward and said, "They can't see us anymore—we're already dead."
I frowned, wishing things could've been different even though he had been petrified for years and the others might have been for longer.
"Don't feel bad, sprout," the elder satyr consoled. "We're free now, thanks to you all."
Movement drew my attention to the same little girl from before as she held a hand towards me with a smile. I warped Clarisse's broadsword to my Inventory and discreetly took her hand between my thumb and forefinger for a moment before she pulled away and was with the young couple. Whether her original family or a newly found one, she seemed happy.
"Hey, buddy," another male voice called, drawing my eyes to the demigod we had found. He had short blond hair and a pair of overalls over a rough T-shirt. "Never saw my mom, but she sent me signs pointing me towards camp along with that knife. If you get back, tell any siblings I have that I'm sorry I couldn't make it. My name is Sam Grest."
I nodded and whispered, "I will."
The ghosts then vanished, perhaps passing on to the Underworld. For a moment, I thought I heard wing beats, but I put it out of my mind since I had gone through enough for one day.
Annabeth returned from another room while Piper had sat down on one of the benches and Grover was clutching the necklace he'd gotten from Ferdinand.
"I found her office. It had some packing slips for Hermes Overnight Express, twenty dollars in cash and eleven drachmas," she reported. Then she held up an accounting book and a receipt, "Also, all her most recent orders have gone to the rulers of the Underworld as decorations for their garden. DOA Recording Studios—West Hollywood, California. No street address or ZIP code, and no books that counted as skill books, though."
"Good work," I nodded. "Now we aren't flying blind. How many of those packing slips have you got? They might be useful."
"Five," Annabeth answered, holding them up.
I held out my hand, "Only need two."
She handed them over and I walked past her to the doorway she'd come from. Finding Medusa's office, I tore a couple blank pages out of another accounting book uncaring that it was spreadsheet paper. It didn't take me long to find some standard envelopes either. Grabbing a pen off the desk, I wrote a quick letter to Chiron to report our progress since he would probably want to know.
"Chiron, this is Percy.
"Annabeth, Grover and I managed to cross over to New Jersey, but the Kindly Ones had boarded the same bus. We managed to take them down while riding through the Lincoln Tunnel but had to abandon the vehicle in the name of covering our involvement with the Mist. Not to mention that you-know-who decided to chuck a lightning bolt at it.
"Along the way, we found another demigod named Piper McLean, godly parent unknown. She has some kind of magical persuasion technique, but I know you probably can't say who the 'mother' is even if you knew for sure. We're keeping her safe, but really can't afford to turn back.
"Our hiking wound up leading us into a trap, but we killed the monster inhabiting the lair, Medusa, and are staying the night out of the rain. Her base turned out to be right on the outskirts of New York barely into New Jersey outside of the Lincoln Tunnel and along the Hudson River. Annabeth thinks that was a deliberate move and I agree—this place should be destroyed before Medusa reforms. Assuming that it doesn't disappear with her death and reappear somewhere else with her rebirth.
"If we can find time to make another report, we'll keep you updated."
With that done, I folded it up and fixed it closed with a paperclip, putting it in one of the envelopes and filling out the packing slip with Chiron's name and Camp Half-Blood – specifically the Big House – with Long Island, NY as the location.
On the other paper, I wrote out a note to Clarisse. Bearing in mind her cabinmates possibly being nosy, I made sure to be vague in references to the Game.
"I don't know how closely you're watching/listening for developments, but I'll give you a brief rundown anyway.
"We encountered the three Kindly Ones on the bus we were taking. Annabeth killed two with stealth before I had to get involved against the last one. Unfortunately, we had to abandon the bus due to both the Mist probably about to cause trouble and a lightning bolt striking it soon after.
"If you've heard, we came across another demigod named Piper, unclaimed and untrained. Between you and me, whoever her divine parent is, they threatened me in a dream after putting me to sleep—protect her or else. Considering the history of cursed fates in Greek myth, I'd really rather not find out what they have in mind.
"Unfortunately, our hiking took us past Medusa's lair and I didn't notice the enchantment until we were already inside. Working to cover that weakness. I got to use that new ability we talked about, though. I'll tell you more about that later, the encounter was a bit heavy if I'm being honest, and we just got out of it.
"For now, we're using the empty lair for shelter. Just wanted to let you know that I'm still in the game.
Using another envelope, I filled out Clarisse's full name and the same information on the location, the only difference being the specified "Cabin Five" in Camp Half-Blood.
My own cash was separate from the total counted when Annabeth's backpack was in my Inventory, so she couldn't complain about me doing this. Dropping two drachmas in each pouch, a cash register bell rang out before the slips turned into light that transferred the addresses onto their respective envelopes. The stamp was a blue caduceus symbol in a circle, and the letters floated into the air before each disappeared with a pop.
When I turned back towards the doorway, Annabeth was already there. She didn't seem entirely happy with my actions, but shrugged.
"If one of those was Chiron, that saves us the trouble of having to report to him later," she granted. "Who was the other for?"
"Clarisse. That's why I used my own drachmas from the bear and fox," I answered.
Annabeth hummed in grudging acceptance, and I held the pen out to her with a teasing smile, "Want to write one to Luke?"
Predictably, she blushed slightly, but turned away with a huff, "I can just IM him for one drachma. We can't waste resources."
Nodding in acceptance, I walked past her back towards Piper and Grover, Annabeth not too far behind me. They had both calmed down slightly and looked at us when we entered.
"All of the statues are gone now, and our original goal was shelter from the rain, so I'm finding the first moderately comfortable surface and going to sleep," I announced. "I suggest you all do the same."
As I walked off, Annabeth abruptly grabbed my wrist, "Don't think I forgot what you said. If you can defend your dad, I can defend my mom."
I didn't even try to act any way but utterly done with today as I replied, "Can't it wait until morning?"
Looking skyward for a bit, I glanced at Grover and Piper, "Go on and find somewhere to sleep—this'll take a while."
Once they left, Grover more reluctant as Piper pushed him towards the front of the building, I turned back to Annabeth.
"From how you were talking to her, it almost sounded like you were saying Medusa didn't deserve to be cursed for what she did," she said in a warning tone. "Especially since we just found out it was consensual on her part."
"There's no way to know an unbiased account of the actions and motivations in that myth," I countered tiredly. "Medusa is clearly in favor of my dad – though I don't know why – even if she hates that she was abandoned after the fact. We're obviously on our own parents' sides, and could you honestly see either of them admitting they were in the wrong?"
"Your dad was in the wrong. My mother cursed Medusa for the disregard to her temple's sanctity," Annabeth insisted.
I shook my head, "Maybe so, but two wrongs don't make a right. Like I said, nobody's the hero of that story. I agree that he should have kept Medusa out of his feud, but that's it. If your mom wanted to punish him, then she should have cursed him or found another way to get him in trouble. Given Medusa's attitude towards his memory and twisted affection towards me, along with appearing to solely blame your mother, he might have expected that your mom would try and fail to curse him."
"That… is an unproveable statement," she retorted, gaining momentum in the second half of her sentence.
"This whole discussion is unproveable speculation, but here we are anyway," I pointed out. "My money's on the fact that your mom knew she couldn't curse my dad, even if she would never admit it. So, she pulled a classic mythological move and cursed the person associated with him at the time to wound him by proxy. Can you honestly say that's out of the ordinary for any god or goddess?"
Annabeth frowned, "You make my mom sound heartless when you put it like that."
"You're the one who said sometimes the gods don't care," I continued, getting a deeper scowl from her. "And that's for their own children. Imagine how little they would care for a mortal that they felt had slighted their 'honor'? Especially since that mortal is now less than human as a monster that cannot truly die?"
I crossed my arms, "Turning an only partially involved human into that cursed an existence – being regularly assaulted and/or killed – comes off as rather cruel, especially since the now eternal monster is a permanent reminder of the incident to my dad. Having layers to her cursing and how it affects those that wronged her sounds very in-character for your mom's complex 'plans.'"
Annabeth frowned as if she had caught on to something, "So that's what this is about? You're demonizing my mom because of what I did in Capture the Flag?"
"Please, that's small-time and I set it aside to get your help on this quest," I retorted. "Perhaps it's escaping your notice that Medusa will never have an end to this. She won't age, she won't get to stay dead, or reincarnate—an endless loop of killing, being killed, and reforming to go through it all again. It'll continue long after you and I are dead, forever."
Annabeth looked like she couldn't decide what to say. If I had to guess, her loyalty to Athena and basic decency were warring with each other on whether Medusa – or any human – deserved such a terrible fate. Since an answer didn't look like it would be ready soon, I continued.
"For Elysium's sake, even the big Z had the decency to either kill people immediately via lightning or curse them into animals and be done with it instead of drawing it out like this. The only exceptions off the top of my head are Prometheus, his wife who led the plan to bind him, and, uh… the fire wheel guy."
Shaking my head at losing traction with the last name slipping my mind, I continued, "I meant every word when I said that Medusa was dancing to a tune that was set up for her. But I don't intend to do anything but keep this locked in my soul, since I imagine saying as much to your mother wouldn't do any good. That's the whole reason I avoided dropping her name, which I'm glad you picked up on."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Annabeth asked challengingly, pulled out of whatever she had been thinking of. I think she was trying to latch onto another subject at the more direct remark to Athena as a goddess.
I sighed, "Annabeth, I'm sure that your mother is infinitely smarter than you, correct? If she's the smartest person in any given room, imagine how she would react to someone saying – or even implying – that she was wrong, whether in terms of knowledge or morality in her actions."
When she only blinked in realization, I elaborated, "While none of the gods or goddesses would be likely to tolerate it, I feel that's an even bigger no-no for her in particular. I quite like my body the way it is and would prefer to avoid it being cursed to Tartarus and back."
For once, Annabeth was not only unable to retort, but she truly looked speechless. Her jaw hadn't dropped or anything drastic, but she seemed like she was repeatedly trying and failing to think of a comeback instead of deciding her options to retort. As if she had lost a discussion instead of strategically withdrawing or trying to change the subject.
"I didn't want to dig into this, since there's no point," I added with a shake of my head. "It happened hundreds of years ago, didn't involve us personally, and I could even be wrong. Maybe it wasn't malicious intent towards Medusa or my dad, and she just didn't care after the deed was done. Helping Perseus was just in the name of killing another monster by backing a favored hero."
Turning around, I walked off while saying, "I'm going to sleep. This has been an emotionally draining night."
I heard her take a breath, as if Annabeth wanted to get the last word in. But I didn't stop walking, and she didn't try to catch up and stop me as I headed back for Medusa's office. More importantly, I meant what I said when I wrote to Clarisse that I would be working on the 'weakness' behind not noticing the enchantment even though the Game notified me.
'I got too comfortable,' I said to myself. 'Instead of leaving it on auto, I should have been switching in and out of Focus Interface. I have mental navigation for a reason, and the Game can pick up more than I do. Focus Interface off.'
A window appeared in front of me, indicating that I had switched it back to normal. A further test back and forth confirmed that it was only a thought away, so I left it off for now. Once the notice of Focus Interface being off disappeared, a wall of different-sized windows appeared in my vision.
[Modern Greek Sword Form – Basic increased to Lv. 8]
[Sprint increased to Lv. 3]
[You've created a new skill through repeating a special action.]
[Quick Attack (Lv. 1)—Instantaneous]
[MP cost: 0; SP cost: 200]
[Duration: 2 seconds]
[Cooldown: 10 seconds]
[Put on a burst of speed before attacking your opponent, whether with fists or a blade. Cost does not stack with Sprint.]
- Unusable with heavy weapons
- (DEX x .8) + STR for direct impact on opponent [33% damage – VIT for recoil]
- (DEX x .5) + STR for passing slice [Blade only]
- Power increased by levels of Sprint (+3)
[You fought with more discipline and precision than expected to take down a larger opponent. Good show!]
- Gained +20 reputation with Annabeth Chase
- Gained +30 reputation with Piper McLean
- Gained +50 reputation with Grover Underwood
[You have grown to Lv. 13!]
- You gained five unsorted stat points
[Viper-Beheading Strike increased to Lv. 4]
[Modern Greek Sword Form – Basic increased to Lv. 9]
[Even if using a magically enhanced metal for your weapon, you're cutting or smashing stone with a sword. No small feat.]
- You gained +1 to STR
[By pacing yourself and conserving stamina, you endured a marathon of small fights against weaker foes. Not as easy as it sounds, even with allies.]
- You gained +1 to VIT
[You targeted a psychological weakness in your opponent to enrage them, even if that wasn't your entire goal. And it came from the heart more than the mind.]
- You gained +1 to CHA
[Your actions have been noticed by the gods. Prayer tends to get attention if they weren't watching/listening already.]
- You gained +20 reputation with [?]
- You gained +30 reputation with [?]
- You gained +50 reputation with [?]
- You gained +50 reputation with [?]
- You gained +10 reputation with [?]
I was surprised that I had gotten so much attention, but unsurprised that the Game would hide whose exactly. If the gods didn't want me to know, then I was probably only being told at all because it was a direct result of my actions.
[You have grown to Lv. 14!]
- You gained five unsorted stat points
[While centuries of bitterness towards the gods and her own fate cannot be undone in one conversation, you planted a seed of doubt for Medusa to reflect on while she reforms.]
- You gained +1 to WIS
[Water Collection increased to Lv. 2]
With that, I had gone through the backed-up notifications from the dungeon. Now it was time to go over the rewards for the objectives.
[Main Objective: Defeat Medusa—Complete]
- You gained 225 XP (150 x 1.5)
- You gained Medusa's Head.
[Bonus Objective: Free Medusa's victims—Complete]
- You gained +20 to Heroic alignment
[Alignment Level Up!]
[By collecting over 25 points in the Heroic alignment, you've grown from Hero Trainee to Apprentice Hero.]
- STR and VIT +2 - STR and VIT +5
- (NEW) DEX +2
[Secret Objective: Free every victim of Medusa—Complete]
- Special Status unlocked: Merciful Reaper
- Perk unlocked: I See Dead People
- New Skill Unlocked: Way of the Reaper – Mercy
- New Skill Unlocked: Ferry's Toll
- New Skill Unlocked: Reaper's Blade
While the increased bonus from my alignment was good, I was admittedly more interested in what the new special status would do considering the others that I had, along with the perk and new skills that seemed to come from it. Though I could guess that the perk is what let me see the ghosts of Medusa's victims before they left. Focusing on each one, text ballooned outward as usual, displacing the rest of the messages on the window.
[Sometimes the most difficult yet heroic deed is to end the suffering of a poor soul. Your heart is not hardened by this task, and your intentions are seen by the souls and judges of the dead. This status can be lost by succumbing to hatred or apathy in your actions.]
- 20% less damage taken from Undead, Sealed or Phantom monsters
[I See Dead People]
[You now possess a sixth sense for the spectral plane. Children, adults, demigods, or even spirit-based monsters—any lingering ghosts with regrets or malevolent intentions are visible to you.]
- Ability to see Phantom monsters and Wayward Souls
- Ability to sense Sealed souls within 10-meter radius
[Way of the Reaper – Mercy (Lv. 1)—Weapon Style (Special)]
[You have begun the life of one determined to free and protect any wayward souls from cursed fates. Armor and flesh alike will fall before this style revolving around peerless slashes and phantom-like footwork.]
- Usable with any bladed weapon (Swords, Knives, Scythes, Axes, Glaives, etc.)
- 10% increase in damage to Undead or Sealed monsters
- 20% increase in damage to Phantom monsters, nullifying Intangible status
[Special cost: 1 golden drachma]
[In order to ride the boat, one must pay the ferryman. If you're willing to sponsor those who are not so lucky, then they'll be able to cross over no matter where they are.]
- Allows the passage of one Wayward Soul per drachma
[Reaper's Blade (Lv. 1)—Active Buff]
[MP cost: 250; SP cost: 0]
[Duration: 2 minutes]
[Cooldown: 5 minutes]
[As one walking the Way of the Reaper, a prayer to Thanatos and a small sacrifice of your energy will bless your blade to have the same cutting edge as Death's scythe for a time.]
- Piercing damage to all monsters except ones with Invulnerable or Prophecy Armor status while active.
- 5% chance to pierce Invulnerable status with attack while active.
- Nullifies Regeneration on wounds inflicted while active.
I was quite surprised at the small list of rewards I had just received, but I guess it was because I had completed a "secret objective", which were often hidden for a reason. To be honest, I couldn't say the death theme appealed to me, but I would take what I could get. If nothing else, this new family of skills and traits would let me help more people trapped like Medusa's victims had been.
I winced at the cost, short time and longer cooldown of Reaper's Blade, but couldn't deny it would almost certainly be useful down the line. And two minutes could be a long time in the heat of battle. Still, that would definitely need some levels ASAP to hopefully reduce some of those costs and downsides.
Moving on, I noticed a couple more notifications that probably spawned from my interactions with Annabeth.
[You reminded Annabeth about her crush while talking about the person she believes you're seeing in secret.]
- Bonus XP to Flirt
- Annabeth is flustered
She was still on that train of thought? I palmed my face since, sure, it wasn't such a bad prospect, but I wasn't going to sneak off with girls just because of who my dad was and my embracing the Flirt skill a little.
[While easy to care for your friends, it is a great feat indeed to sympathize with your enemy's plight. Even when there's little in your power that can be done about it.]
- You gained +1 to WIS and CHA
[Your argument was too sensible to dismiss out of hand. And Annabeth has been reminded of both your previous statement about your divine parentage not being held against each other and her actions towards you in the past. She is unsure of herself and what she might become.]
- Your next move can determine interactions with Annabeth Chase in the future
Oh. I hadn't meant to imply that she was like her mother. I thought I had said that her bait plan was small-time next to Athena's curse. But perhaps I shouldn't have compared the two at all.
Turning towards the hall leading from Medusa's office, I weighed the possibility of being able to comfort her, but decided it was too soon. We were all tired, and she might not listen to me right now since I was the one who brought it up in the first place. But it would have to be fixed ASAP, where she couldn't just leave or lock me out.
With that decided, I didn't bother looking for anywhere else to sleep and capped Riptide – which I hadn't let go of the entire time – before lying back right on the floor and pulling my backpack out to use as a makeshift pillow. I still kept the pen next to my right hand, though—call it a precaution.
"Really?!" I groaned when I found myself standing a short distance away from a pit the size of a city block resting in a dark cavern. I would probably be more scared if not for Gamer's Mind, because there was definitely a presence leaking out. It felt like it was trying to sap my warmth right out of me while burying me in sheets of lead, but heat blossomed right in my chest and drove the chill away.
'Thank you, Lady Hestia,' I silently prayed.
Gray, misty figures swirled around me, trying to pull me away. Their features were clear due to my new Perk, but I didn't know any of them. All their voices were muddled together since they were talking over each other. But all of them seemed scared of the pit.
"I have to do this," I told them. They reluctantly released their hold and fled back to the mouth of the cave. Marching forward, I stopped two feet from the edge. Even glancing down at an angle didn't present a visible bottom or anything but pure darkness.
The same deep voice from my dream about Zeus and Poseidon chuckled, "The little hero pretends to be unafraid."
"The novelty of dream messages starts to wear off," I retorted.
"You act like you're making your own choices while following the game of those who would use and discard you," the dark voice taunted. "But I have what you truly want."
Golden light gathered above the pit, forming into an image of my mom frozen in the moment right before the Minotaur crushed her. Even with the pain contorting her expression, I could tell she was begging me to flee and save myself the same as back then.
An invisible hand gripped around me as the voice laughed, "Help me rise, hero! Bring me the bolt and strike back against those treacherous gods!"
I worked Riptide out of my pocket while being pulled and wondered if my Reaper status and new weapon style would work through dreams. Popping the cap off, I got ready to stab when a shout interrupted the scene.
"Percy! Wake up!"
I snapped awake almost immediately to see that Piper was against the wall to be away from me and I was where I had fallen asleep, Riptide unsheathed in my hand with the cap on the floor. I must have been moving in my sleep. The window announcing my waking was hovering in my face, but I looked past it to Piper's worried expression.
"Sorry," I said regretfully. "Nightmare."
She sighed, "I noticed, and it's okay. You weren't threatening me, I was just worried you'd cut yourself in your sleep."
Sitting up and taking the cap to sheathe Riptide, I finally read the window I usually ignored.
[You have slept on the floor. Health and Mana were restored by 25% due to Hunger status.]
With that, I realized that I never ate any of Medusa's food and just crashed after all the fighting in the dungeon. No wonder I got hit with that status, as my stomach now announced with a loud gurgle.
"What time is it?" I asked.
"None of us really know—there are no clocks in this place," she answered. "But the sun's up, and Annabeth and Grover sent me to wake you. We have breakfast and a plan to move forward."
After I followed her, "breakfast" turned out to be a bag of corn chips and one of Grover's apples for each of us. I couldn't blame them; I wouldn't trust any non-packaged food of Medusa's either after last night. The new addition to the group was a bona fide pink poodle sitting on Grover's lap, which would have been weird enough on its own. But unlike the few animals I'd seen in passing, the dog had captions hovering over his head.
I cleared my throat while taking a seat at the metal picnic table, hesitantly asking, "So, Grover… you made a friend?"
The poodle barked at me and then at Grover, who spoke up, "Percy, this is Gladiola—Gladiola, Percy. He prefers it when people don't talk about him like he's not here."
Despite the surrealness of the situation, I looked at the dog who stared back at me, "Sorry, Gladiola. Can I ask how you two met?"
Grover explained, "I was out for a walk earlier to see if I could find that path I was being led to before last night's incident—picking up some trash." His voice abruptly dropped to a grouchy murmur, but he apparently moved past the memory and continued, "I met Gladiola out in the woods. After I told him about our situation, he agreed to help us go west."
"Really?" I couldn't help asking. Sue me, but I wasn't sure how a poodle could help us find transportation.
A bit more explanation and translating on Gladiola's behalf revealed that he had run away from his family, some rich locals. They were offering $200 for his return. He didn't want to go back but was willing to if it meant helping Grover. Annabeth pointed in a direction beyond the wall saying that there was an Amtrak station around half a mile beyond the Garden Gnome Emporium. So, we would be able to get a ticket for Los Angeles – or at least closer than before – and continue our quest.
"Gladiola, how do you know about the reward?" I asked out of curiosity.
He barked, and Grover translated in deadpan, "He reads the signs. Duh."
I blinked at him and held up a hand, "Okay, back up. I don't know what kinds you run into regularly, Grover, but either I need to re-evaluate the average intelligence of mortal animals or Gladiola's an exception, not the norm."
Gladiola barked some more, and Grover looked down at him in slight sympathy before explaining, "He says that he's the only one he knows of that can read or 'talk properly'. All of the other dogs are simple-minded and make for boring conversation."
"Then maybe he has some mo-" I stopped since that could be rude, and instead said, "-supernatural blood in his lineage. Something tells me he's strong for his size too, if you catch my drift."
Gladiola looked at me suspiciously, as if he was curious how I could come to that theory, but he apparently dismissed it and turned away. Grover and Annabeth apparently caught on to my hint and she mouthed "Seriously?" in disbelief. Piper only watched us for now, but she would get an explanation once we were on the train.
"Listen, Gladiola," I said. "First off, I wish you luck on your next escape, and thank you for helping us like this. Second, when you get out again, start asking around for the Goddess of the Hunt. I get the feeling you'd fit right in there given the chance to grow."
The poodle looked back at me like I was crazy, and then let out a mix between a growl and confused grunt towards Grover.
"Yes, he's serious," my friend replied. "I told you the gods are real, and Lady Artemis does have a pack of hunting dogs as part of her retinue. Being honest, I should have thought of that."
Gladiola looked back at me, and I just nodded. He still didn't seem like he wholly believed me, but would think it over.
We got our tickets, Piper's presence along with needing to save for food, emergencies and our return limiting us to Denver as far as distance went. As it turned out, coiling the whip and putting it over her shoulder let the weapon disguise itself as a paisley-patterned handbag like the Kindly Ones had carried. It came in handy for storing the Minotaur horn inside. She had offered the improvised weapon back, but I let her keep it for luck.
Our ETA was two days, leaving us with roughly six days and seven nights after our arrival.
Conserving our funds by skipping the sleeping car, Annabeth led us to our seats where we thankfully had an empty space from the other passengers in the car that gave us a measure of privacy. Piper was next to me while Annabeth and Grover sat across from us.
Taking a breath and turning to Piper, who looked back at me expectantly, I began, "Since we have the time, I should probably explain what happened last night. It all began when I woke up after arriving at Camp Half-Blood…"
Explaining the sudden presence of the Game only confused her, but I replied that her guess was as good as mine. I didn't know why it picked me or how it came, but I was making the most of it. The stats were relatively easy to explain since she at least knew of video games. The skills and perks – especially those that could counteract natural flaws – were harder for her to swallow, but I confirmed that Annabeth and I were dyslexic like she was and only able to read Greek until we got perks to counter that.
"If I didn't have a whole ton of proof dropped in my lap with that dungeon, I'd think you're crazy," Piper said while letting her head fall against the back of her seat. "Who else even knows?"
"Aside from the four of us? Only Clarisse," I answered. "Since I don't know what this is, or if anybody would try to either take it for themselves somehow or kill me, I'd prefer to keep it to as few as possible. The only reason I've told Annabeth, Grover and you is because of the circumstances. If there's a chance that powering all of us up can increase our odds, then I'm willing to take that risk."
"And they're all in your party, but the game keeps me separate?" she asked.
I shrugged, "I don't claim to know everything that goes through its mind. All I know is that it can have an attitude sometimes and hide stuff from me if I don't have a way of knowing for sure. My best guess is that you're essentially one of our objectives to keep safe and escort back to camp, so powering you up to make that easier is off the table except through a 'special event.' I can say that you did get a level last night."
Piper sighed, but just glanced up as if looking through the ceiling, "So this is my life now. Any sense of normality is out the window. Not only are the myths real with me in the middle of them, but you have something that's beyond the regular weirdness of demigod life. What was my mom thinking when she sent me your way?"
"Considering I'm staring down the barrel of a curse if you get hurt, I guess she figured the benefits outweighed the risks," I offered in consolation. "And depending on how close they've watched me, I'm not sure if they know that I have this extra power. At most, they see me growing at a faster rate than normal, like Clarisse did."
I patted her on the shoulder, "Just sleep on it. I haven't had long to adjust to this either – the Game or being a demigod – so I'll be willing to listen if you need to talk."
Piper nodded and closed her eyes, though whether she was going to sleep was up in the air. That made this as good a time as any to try reassuring and making amends with Annabeth. She had pulled out her architecture book from the start of my explanation, but knowing her, she hadn't missed a word.
"Hey, Annabeth," I called. She didn't look at me, but lowered her book slightly in a sign that she was listening. "I know what I said last night. But remember how I also said that I wouldn't hold your mom's actions against you if you didn't hold my dad's against me?"
She glanced at me, but didn't give anything away with her expression.
"That's because we are not our parents," I explained. "Your mom would never work with my dad in a million-billion years, but you're here with me. And you're just as invested in this quest as I am, taking down two of the Kindly Ones and several living statues. We might not have a perfect record as allies, considering last week's Capture the Flag, but two-for-three is progress in my book. I admit I'm still a bit iffy about our… non-professional interactions, but I know I could trust you to always fight on—with or without me. For that, you have my respect."
Annabeth stared for a moment before going back to her book, "You really think the gods wouldn't be able to figure out what this power is?"
"Oh, heck no," I replied. "I know I probably can't hide it forever. But I don't think I've given them any major reason to suspect yet. At least they can be secure that the gods' levels are literally beyond the Game's comprehension—or at least so high that it won't let me perceive what they are. Mr. D didn't call me out on anything to do with the Game when I was right next to him, though that might just be because he doesn't care enough to report it."
I furrowed my brow in thought, "If I had to describe it, the interface and everything else might be to the side of their perception. It's outmatched in power, but something keeps it from being spotted even though it can be affected by the Mist. The Game didn't show me Medusa's name when she was posing as Aunty Em, and Gamer's Mind only immunizes me from the Mist when manipulated by those within twenty levels of me. It was probably fooled because we were right in her lair until I made a dungeon out of it. I don't see the gods' names either unless they let me or at least don't care enough to hide it."
She hummed in thought, "Actually, that probably would make your power seem more like a novelty than a threat. While you might not be incinerated, seeing their true level and power even on the interface would probably overload your brain."
"…Excuse me?" I asked in slight worry.
Grover turned from watching the countryside pass by, picking up the line of conversation, "Seeing a god or goddess's true form incinerates mortals. While demigods might not be burned away from the exposure alone, it'd almost certainly be the equivalent of instant death in either case. If a god or goddess starts glowing all over, look away."
"Noted," I replied with unease.
After the first day of travel, each of us had a turn at the dining car and a chance to doze off in our seats. Annabeth and I also took the chance to use the bathroom to give ourselves a light scrubbing at the sink and change into our secondary outfits. Luckily, we weren't quite in the red yet with our leftover starter funds from camp still in Annabeth's backpack and rationing of Grover's apples.
After she finished her book, Annabeth spent her time meditating from what I could see. She wasn't doing any of the typical things a monk from a movie would, but she sat up straight and leveled out her breathing with her eyes closed. It might have been related to a new perk if she spent her point last night after I was asleep.
And during our time on the train, I had a moment to distribute the points from all the levels I had gotten yesterday. Trainee was definitely paying off now, making me glad that I had completed that sidequest back at camp. With fifteen points from three levels, I was able to give myself an overall buff to my stats that were falling behind. And my Alignment boost introduced modifiers to me, the interface probably triggered because I had more than one now. The window said that I could display them next to the raised base stats on my Status page. Clicking the keyword had pulled up a window explaining how they worked.
[Modifiers come in two forms: Active and Passive. Active modifiers are only applied when certain conditions are met (e.g., being in battle, equipment, terrain, time of day). Passive modifiers are always active, as they are obtained from being intrinsically a part of you (e.g., Perks, Flaws, Alignment). Either form of modifier can be positive or negative and the net total is displayed next to the stat while applied.]
With that question answered, I switched it to show the modifiers separate from the affected stats and added points where I felt I needed them.
STR: 30 (+5)
VIT: 32 (+5)
DEX: 26 (+2) – 29 (+2)
INT: 20 – 24
WIS: 25 – 28
CHA: 22 – 25
LUCK: 15 (+1) – 17 (+1)
MP: 2250 – 2600
SP: 5800 (+700) – 6100 (+700)
Thinking it over, I probably would wind up specializing in physical stats as time went on—my Alignment bonus seemed to be helping in that regard. But I wanted to at least feel secure in my other stats before I did. After all, from how the Game called me a "Trainee" until Lv. 15, I had time to grow far past that. Assuming I lived that long.
I had the same dream as before with the pit once I dozed off, and I resolutely ignored the desire to draw my sword since I had to remember that I was in an enclosed space with my friends and several witnesses.
When I snapped awake, Piper and Grover were asleep, but Annabeth had apparently been awake or too keyed up to sleep. I could relate, since going a full day without an attack after the disaster of our first day out was making me paranoid. Probably why the voice in the pit was bugging me right now.
"When you were asleep just now, you were quietly growling and flinching," she noted. "Like you were refusing to talk with someone. Considering your past of sleep talking, that seems a bit odd."
I never received a notification on whether we were on good terms after I reached out yesterday, but she was the one most likely to have answers or at least a theory. I rubbed my hand down my face, "It's been the same for two nights now—somebody's trying to reach me. And I doubt it's for any favor I'd be comfortable with."
At her prompting, I explained the details of my dream. Annabeth crossed her arms in thought and didn't speak at first.
"Think it could be dear old Uncle H?" I asked.
She shook her head, "He always appears on a black throne, and he never laughs."
"Can't say I blame him," I deadpanned. "The Underworld sounds like a depressing place to govern. Still, the voice from the pit offered my mom. Who else could do that?"
"Even if it was him, you shouldn't try to strike a deal with the Lord of the Dead," Annabeth warned. "He's greedy, heartless and deceitful—it wouldn't end well."
I scowled slightly, "You think I don't know that? I'd just like to see her one last time and at least apologize for not being able to save her."
Annabeth grimaced at the raw emotion in my voice and tentatively replied, "A fresh demigod could hardly be expected to-"
"I don't need an excuse," I cut her off with a sigh. "But thanks for trying to make me feel better."
She clearly welcomed dropping the subject and moved on to the next issue, "Still, why ask you to bring him the bolt, even if he wants you to help him rise? Shouldn't he already have it?"
My eyes widened, "That's a good point. Right before I killed her, the last Fury screeched 'Where is it?' I was operating on Gamer's Mind and adrenaline at the time, but she couldn't have been talking about the bolt if we're on a quest to retrieve it from the Underworld…"
"Grover and I were talking about that too," Annabeth murmured. "If they were looking for you, then they would have said 'Where is he?' instead. More importantly, the last one demanded it of you, the main person they should be looking for."
"Something's fishy here, but the only lead we have is continuing west," I decided. "According to the prophecy, there is a god who's turned, but there's a chance that things might be different than they appear. Chiron told me that hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to prophecies."
Annabeth gripped a glazed white bead with a pine tree that rested on her necklace, "But who else could it be? He stands to gain the most, it must have been him."
"That bead…" I muttered in realization. "And you and Luke have both been at camp the longest. Five years, the same as-"
Her hand flinched away from the bead as if burned as she retorted, "You didn't see that."
I kept quiet, but we both knew I had picked up enough pieces to start putting events together. Grover was Thalia's keeper, and the two demigods that accompanied them were Annabeth and Luke. Considering Thalia died holding off Hades' monsters at Half-Blood Hill, it was to be expected that she would hold a grudge. And my memory of myths wasn't the greatest, but Hades struck me as one of the more well-behaved gods if I recalled correctly. He mainly kept to himself aside from kidnapping Persephone. But if my dad could hopefully change into a better person by the present day, could Hades have become worse than he was in the original legends?
Still, if I pushed harder now, I would probably only set myself back with Annabeth. So far, I hadn't gotten any messages about increased or decreased reputation, so she was probably still unsure.
Towards the end of our second day in the afternoon, we reached St. Louis, the Gateway Arch visible beyond the Mississippi River as we looked out the window.
Grover was still dozing in his seat while Annabeth looked past Piper and me, saying, "I want to build something like that one day. A monument to the gods that would last a thousand years."
"Explains the architecture book you're always reading," I noted.
"Athena expects her children to create things, not just destroy," she explained distractedly. "Unlike a certain God of Earthquakes I could name."
I just leveled an unimpressed look at her, and Annabeth's brow twitched as she apparently registered what she'd just said.
"Habit," she half-heartedly attempted to excuse while glancing away from me.
Sighing, I replied, "Just keep working on it. You're building up a streak, though. Two days of ceasefire on the train."
After the arch disappeared behind other buildings, we pulled into the Amtrak station and an announcement rang through the PA about a three-hour layover before continuing to Denver. The scratching noise of the mechanical voice was enough to wake Grover as he stretched in his seat before standing.
"Come on," Annabeth said to Grover before turning to me. "This might be my only chance to see the Gateway Arch, especially the view from the top. Are you three coming or not?"
Grover and I looked at each other while Piper only seemed to be waiting for my answer. My friend shrugged, and I agreed with the silent statement. If Annabeth was going anyway, we couldn't let her go alone. And even splitting the party into two pairs in a major city like St. Louis was asking for monster trouble without the full force together.
"All right, let's go," I decided. "Not like we have much else to do for three hours."
Grover nodded as well, "So long as we can get some snacks for the road. The dining car isn't cheap."
Since it was already the afternoon, the Arch didn't have that long a line for the tour. While Annabeth and Piper waited for our turn to get assigned to a group, Grover and I hit the gift shop to get some snacks at a relatively cheap price. Probably not as cheap as a regular convenience store, but food was food.
I made sure to have my backpack on me so I had something to carry our purchases in. On a whim, I also bought a couple of water bottles for emergencies, discreetly storing one in my Inventory while the other stayed in the backpack. Thinking it over, it was kind of hilarious how I considered something like bottled water a viable tool for getting me out of trouble.
After the group we joined was called, we took a tour through the underground museum first, making Grover antsy. As I recalled, he said that satyrs hated being underground. Still, he seemed to keep it together even if he was more vigilant in watching the people around us.
Piper seemed to still be wrapping her head around the fact that her life would never be normal again, even without my powers factored into being a demigod. She absently nodded to the trivia that Annabeth excitedly rattled off but was distracted the whole time.
Honestly, it was a little odd seeing Annabeth let her guard down so completely as she followed the tour with glee. But given the hints I'd gotten of her life before Camp Half-Blood and the little time for herself she'd had since living there year-round, I decided to let her have this.
Still, I palmed Riptide in my pocket while trying to spot any odd levels in our tour group, glossing over the names. None of the kids had a level beyond three, so everything was normal there. Most of the adults were Level 5, so likely civilians. The park ranger serving as our guide was Level 6, seeming moderately fit, so probably just regularly trained. A large woman wearing an all-denim dress with a matching hat and holding a chihuahua clad in a rhinestone collar in one meaty arm was Level 7—the highest I'd seen on a regular adult, but not in spitting distance of Medusa.
As she read one of the plaques explaining an exhibit, I glanced at her hefty gut and less-than-sculpted physique compared to the park ranger. Was that what maxing VIT without strength looked like?
Murmuring to where I was pretty sure only Grover would hear, I asked, "Hey, you smell anything?"
"Can't," he answered in frustration. "The air underground smells the same as monsters."
"Ah, so you can't shake this uneasy feeling either," I noted.
As if fate wanted to taunt me further, we were then led to the tiny elevator in the train of them that would take us through the Arch to the observation deck. Ever since I was a kid, I absolutely hated cramped spaces. To add insult to injury, Annabeth and I were crammed in with another tourist and the denim-clad woman, the woman's girth making the small space seem even tighter. She had already been in there, and Piper justifiably didn't want to go alone since it was four to a car. She and Grover paired up and took another car in the train.
The lady still had her dog in hand, making me wonder if it was okay to have a pet in such a high space like the Arch.
"No parents?" she asked us in concern as the elevator started moving.
The curve made me a little too nauseous to answer, but Annabeth covered for us, "They're waiting back below. Scared of heights, you see."
"Oh, the poor dears," she replied.
As I tried to keep my lunch inside my stomach, a message snapped me out of my daze for a moment.
[Detect Bloodlust activated!]
I shook it off and directed my gaze towards where the source seemed to be, at the same time that the chihuahua in the stranger's arms started growling in an annoyingly high-pitched tone that bounced around in the small space.
"Now, now, sonny," its owner said scoldingly. "Behave."
Trying to take my mind off the motion of the elevator, I asked, "Sunny? Is that his name?"
"No," she replied with a placid smile.
Frowning in confusion, I looked up at her caption to see that she was still Level 7, her name being Patricia Anfang. As I continued to wrestle with my nausea during the ride after looking away, I kept getting that prickling feeling on the back of my neck and eventually got a notice that Detect Bloodlust leveled up.
We arrived shortly after and joined back up with Grover and Piper. But for all that Annabeth gushed about the observation deck's design and the changes she would make, being back in stationary ground didn't make me feel better. We were 630 feet in the air – by Annabeth's own description – and while the diagonal windows facing downward made for a nice view of both the city and the Mississippi River down below, it didn't feel spacious enough.
After the park ranger announced the observation deck to be closing shortly, we began being ferried to the elevator. Grover and Annabeth got in first, but two other tourists shouldered past me and Piper, leaving us outside as the elevator became full. A quick look showed that all of the cars in the elevator train were full.
"Next tram, please," our guide requested blandly.
Annabeth started trying to get past the tourists blocking her way out, "We'll wait with you."
"It's fine," I said before I caught myself. Despite the oddity, my mouth moved on its own, "We'll meet you at the bottom."
Piper seemed okay with it too, and the elevator doors closed before I could figure out why I just said that. Looking around, it was us, a little boy with his parents, the park ranger, and the denim-clad lady with her chihuahua.
She smiled at us, and I smiled nervously back. At least until a forked tongue darted between her pointed teeth. Piper clinging tighter to me as she quietly gasped let me know it wasn't just a hallucination.
The lady's dog was barking even more furiously now, and she looked down when it hopped out of her arm, "Now, now, sonny. Does this look like a good time with all these nice people here?"
"Doggy!" the little boy called with glee as he began to approach only for his parents to pull him back.
When the dog began snarling with its teeth bared and foam working up from its lips, I grabbed Riptide in my pocket and gradually started leading Piper back.
"Well, son," the woman sighed, "if you insist."
"Don't suppose you call him son because you're a dog breeder, huh?" I nervously asked while taking out Riptide in pen form. At the same time, I thought, 'Focus Interface on.'
She smiled to reveal pointed reptilian fangs and rolled up her dress sleeves to reveal green scales, "Such wishful thinking is only setting yourself up for disappointment, dear."
It was only after the dog's barking became deeper and it started growing with each one that a caption appeared over its head, rising as the process continued. Blood-soaked fur grew out from its neck after it grew to the size of a horse, and more shaggy fur rippled from its body as its tail lengthened and wriggled as if coming to life. And it didn't look close to finished with its yips becoming roars.
The owner must have been using the Mist to conceal them both, which only meant one thing.
I pushed Piper towards the exit where the elevator would come in and jumped back repeatedly to gain some distance since I didn't know how big it would get and thus how close I would be if I didn't move. The family was screaming and pushed themselves against the park ranger who stood frozen in shock at the monster.
Only Gamer's Mind let me pop the cap off Riptide and theatrically announce, "So you reveal your true form, foul beast!"
I had to at least try working the Mist to my own favor instead of letting whatever on earth everyone else was seeing just play out. No matter how outclassed the numbers made me feel. I was still scared, but it and every other thought besides "survive and protect" had become a dull echo.
The dog had become so large that its back brushed against the ceiling of the observation deck. Its head was of a lion – but it thankfully only had one attached to its torso – its body a goat including the hooves at the end of its legs, and a ten-foot-long diamondback snake as thick as my arm extended from its rear, hissing threateningly as it faced me. The gaudy rhinestone collar had grown with it and the tag was as big as a dinner plate with its classification and address for returning.
Two heads, probably deadly venom in the snake, muscles that made a hellhound look like a kitten, and – if I recalled correctly – the power to breathe blazing hot fire.
Either this monster somehow caught on and directly affected my interface or the Mist was adapting to change what I saw depending on the monster's intentions. Because the other's real name and level were revealed; this one was way higher than twenty levels above me.
And her level was still in the interface without the Mist! That meant the gods or anybody else with a question mark were even more powerful!
The woman who was definitely not human now had slitted eyes as she hissed in a twisted sort of laugh, "Be honored, Percy Jackson! Lord Zeus rarely allows me to test a hero with one of my brood. For I am the Mother of Monsters, the terrible Echidna!"
Well, that made things ten times worse. If Zeus was watching directly after sending this monster, then I needed to be discreet about using the Game unless I wanted him to find out. Not to mention that I was right in his domain at the top of the Arch where he'd be more likely to notice what's going on in any case. There was no telling how he'd react on a good day, much less while willing to have me killed in a test.
At that moment, I empathized with Medusa even more about her saying the gods played games with mortal lives. Especially considering Piper and the civilians that could easily become casualties.
Forcing myself to respond, I brought Riptide in front of me and said, "I hope you won't hold it against me when I win." Raising my voice without taking my eyes off the beast before me, I shouted, "Piper! Get everyone in the tram when it gets here and go!"
"But what about-"
"They're here for me!" I insisted. "How could I call myself a hero if I didn't hold this monster off? I'll be right behind you!"
That wasn't entirely in the name of manipulating the Mist. Gamer's Mind or not, I wouldn't let anyone else die on my watch. Not after losing my mom.
Echidna laughed, "How amusing. Destroy him, son!"
The Chimera roared and lunged for me, but I dodged and intercepted a bite from the snake head by parrying its thrashing mouth away. I didn't have a prayer against the main body, but the snake seemed relatively weaker. I just needed to stall, and my racing mind already had an idea to win even if I would need to be smart about it.
Making sure to keep the Chimera's collective eyes on me, I threw a slash that sheared off some of its mane but no more than that as only a nick opened on its flesh. Celestial Bronze was powerful, but hardly an instant win.
Bracing Riptide with both hands, I blocked a paw swipe and let it fling me further down the deck and away from Piper and the tourists. I managed to keep my feet under me, feeling like the air shifted for a moment as I landed, but focusing back on the Chimera as it followed me.
Echidna watched the whole time and followed us, chuckling as she appeared to see through what I was doing.
I readied my sword again and made sure to watch the paws, lion head and snake tail as I parried, dodged, and sidestepped while trying to mark wounds where I could. The snake scales, unfortunately, bounced my blade away as effectively as any armor with the probing strikes that I took. I couldn't risk swinging harder only to get stunned if the force rebounded into my arms from failing to cut into it.
The monster apparently got fed up with playing around since it opened its mouth wide and I only registered the scent of smoke and burning before I instinctively jumped diagonally.
A stream of fire so hot that the carpet near to it combusted flew through the space I had just occupied, and I got more distance than I thought I would as my feet touched down on the ground a distance away. The wall and part of the ceiling behind my previous position now had a new hole and the metal at the edges was still steaming where it hadn't been melted.
Great. If the Chimera or his mom didn't kill me, Annabeth would finish me off for letting a national monument get damaged.
"I must admit, no heroes are made like they used to be," Echidna commented from my left as the Chimera turned to face me again. "But you at least give an earnest effort to be heroic."
Trying to focus, I replied, "I'll try to be flattered, considering you're totally rooting for your son to kill me."
"The downside of such heroism, of course, is the recklessness it inspires in today's youth," she continued with a sinister chuckle.
I glanced her way out of confusion at her statement and paled when I saw her left hand having turned into a mass of mottled tentacles. From behind her back, she pulled Piper into my view. She was holding the Minotaur horn and couldn't move a muscle under the mass of limbs holding her.
"This little maiden thought she could sneak up on me," Echidna scoffed. "Son, why don't you show her-"
Without thinking, I activated Sprint and rushed for Piper, but not necessarily to free her by cutting Echidna. The Chimera's serpent tail was already lashing, and it would be too late if I went for the limbs holding Piper. I barely managed to extend my left arm in the way of its fangs. As they sunk into my skin, I felt burning beyond any pain I'd endured start running through my veins.
But I pushed through while mentally shouting, 'REAPER'S BLADE!'
A subtle aura of wispy energy coated Riptide as I practically felt my MP lose a significant chunk, blending in with the natural glow it held. I brought the sword down with all the strength I could muster one-handed on the snake's body. It wasn't an effortless cut, but I got halfway before the blade slowed down and I put on more strength to shear through the rest of the flesh.
As the snake head crumbled to dust and left me with two bleeding punctures and a burning limb, I staggered away while the Chimera roared in pain at losing a chunk of its tail.
Echidna hissed in rage, "Such a fool! Not only did you wound my son, you signed your own death by protecting this mortal. You think you're a hero by doing that?"
I had shucked my backpack and opened it to reach inside before grabbing the water bottle that I'd kept in there. I could already feel the venom working its way towards my chest. Hand shaking too much to open the lid with my left and my sword taking up my right, I just controlled the water and made it rise towards the top regardless of the water already there. The upper half of the bottle bulged from the pressure before bursting, letting me coat my forearm in a thin layer of water.
The fluid seemed to boil, especially around the bite wound, but the pain gradually went away. The water settled as the punctures became pale circles that vanished a moment later. Running the water over my chest for a moment showed that I was clear instead of needing to purge the poison everywhere. With that done, I let the liquid fall to the ground.
"Accursed sea-spawn," Echidna growled lowly. Her whole right arm turned into a living black mamba that hissed at Piper, "All you have done is buy her a little time more before my patience runs out. My children being hurt tends to make me angry."
I had wanted there to be no witnesses to minimize risk of my plan backfiring, but I would just have to try making this work. Both their eyes were on me, so there was no time like the present. If Piper came back, then I could only hope she got the civilians out first.
"Piper, I need you to trust me and keep your eyes shut until I say you can open them," I called in a steady voice.
Her eyes darted from the snake staring her down to me, fear very much the dominant emotion. I met her gaze, and she reluctantly screwed her eyes shut.
"A false reassurance so she doesn't see her death coming," Echidna laughed mockingly. I reached into my backpack in answer.
"Actually, I just needed any witnesses out of the way so nobody else had a chance of seeing this!" I replied while averting my gaze to the right and summoning Medusa's head to my left hand before pulling it out of my backpack.
For good measure, I also closed my left eye so there was no chance of noticing the lethal sight in my peripheral. A sound like shattering glass rang out through the enclosed space before it was replaced by repeated stone crackling that could only be described as cement hardening in fast-forward.
Stuffing Medusa's head in my pack again, vanishing it back to my Inventory in the same position as before, I looked back forward to see that both the Chimera and Echidna herself were life-sized statues. Their captions still hovered over their heads but were now grayed out. Piper was still in Echidna's cement grip, but out of danger without either monster to attack her.
"It's clear," I announced. "I'm sorry you got dragged into this."
Piper opened her eyes and stared at both monsters being stone before she let out a hysterical chuckle and started laugh/crying with tears running down her face.
Brandishing Riptide while leaving my backpack behind, I walked up to Echidna's statue first, "I'll get you down."
Hacking at the base of the left hand that had split into so many tentacles, I managed to break through with a few swings since Reaper's Blade was still active for now. As the detached stone limbs crumbled away, Piper's knees immediately gave out upon touching the floor and I caught her to hold her steady.
She clung to me for a moment as her half-laughter turned into full crying. I patted her on the back with my free hand, but as her breathing became more ragged, she turned to Echidna and shrieked in rage as she repeatedly stabbed her stone gut with the Minotaur horn. It didn't work at first, even if the horn was undamaged in being thrust at the unyielding surface, but a crack formed before long. Piper widened that crack before ramming her makeshift weapon as deep as she could.
Her purse was actively sparking now and before I could say anything, she let go of the lodged horn and took the disguised weapon in her hand. Apparently on instinct, she lashed it outward to lengthen it into the whip and it caught fire in a blaze before she swung it at Echidna's frozen face. A portion of her head was broken with stone melting at the impact point, and a second strike made it cave in before the rest of her body followed suit.
With that done, her arms went limp and she panted in exhaustion while the fire extinguished. I patted her on the back again, and she just walked to the undamaged wall nearby before sitting down.
Noticing some extra items amid the rapidly disappearing rubble, I picked up a twenty-dollar bill along with some smaller bills and a dozen golden drachmas from where Echidna had stood. After pocketing them – feeling Riptide's cap in the process and taking it out – I repeatedly bashed the lion head of the petrified Chimera with my sword until its hardened flesh cracked. Driving the sword in like a stake to crumble it, it didn't drop anything, whether money, a weapon or an accessory. So I just sheathed Riptide, picked up my backpack from where I'd left it and retrieved the horn before sitting next to Piper in silent comfort.
"…Does it get easier, being in situations like this?" she asked at length.
I shrugged, "I had only two incidents under my belt before I was called to this quest. The first one is where I lost my mother, and the second attack I only survived more-or-less unharmed because Clarisse saved me. Hopefully, it does get easier, but for now I try to focus on saving those that I can. I failed to protect my mom, and I refuse to fail again."
With that said, she managed to get to her feet with my help and we walked back to the elevator doors, waiting for the next tram to get here. As I had hoped, the other tourists were already gone.
"I went along with your act and persuaded them that it was a movie, thanking them for their cooperation before saying that I had another scene to play," Piper explained tiredly.
I snorted, "Good improv. Just wish it hadn't put you in danger."
"You're the one who got bitten," she pointed out.
I held up my left arm to show clean skin, "I can heal and purify poison with a little water. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
Piper smiled faintly and leaned against my shoulder when we sat down. Her breathing deepened and I realized she was asleep. I didn't blame her. Even a little catnap until the elevator came would probably help.
'Focus Interface off,' I thought, bracing myself for the wave of notifications judging by the little "20" cheerily hovering in the notification box before I deactivated it.
[You put on an act of false bravado to reassure your party member as well as try to deceive those not in the know about a movie being the reason for the fantastical sights.]
- You gained +1 to WIS and CHA
- You gained +5 to Heroic alignment
[You realized that the gods could be watching closely at this moment and limited your use of the Game to your most subtle of powers with effective concealments.]
- You gained +2 to INT
[Way of the Reaper – Mercy increased to Lv. 2]
[Modern Greek Sword Form – Basic increased to Lv. 10]
[You've created a new skill through a special action!]
[Analyze (Lv. 1)—Instantaneous]
[MP cost: 0; SP cost: 5]
[Observe your foe for weak points and measures of their defenses or the nature of an item before you dependent on the knowledge already possessed along with INT and WIS measurements. Higher levels give more information and occasionally allow you to identify unknown items or beings, providing a brief description.]
- Variable success depending on prior knowledge and INT
- (WIS x .5)% chance of deducing information and acquiring description in Normal Interface
[Dodge like your life depends on it—because it does.]
- You gained +1 to DEX
[You've created a new skill by repeating a special action!]
[Phantom Glide (Lv. 1)—Active]
[MP cost: 50 per second; SP cost: 0]
[An aspect of footwork from the Way of the Reaper, this technique allows you to slide an inch above the floor while maintaining your balance and controlling your motions. Like a phantom, you don't have to concern yourself with petty things like terrain or friction so long as you have the MP to spare. Higher levels reduce cost.]
- Footwork maneuvers are always successful when active
- Stackable with Sprint and Quick Attack
- Does not apply to tumble maneuvers—feet must be aimed towards the ground
- Does not grant flight
That explained the wind-like feeling carrying me during the jump and when I got hit away, giving me more distance while staying upright. Since I unlocked the Reaper fighting style, it must have been there as part of its techniques. And now I had it as a separate skill that I could level up individually.
Hopefully, Zeus wouldn't take offense since I was technically only hovering one inch off the ground.
[Sprint increased to Lv. 4]
[Water Collection increased to Lv. 3]
[Achievement: My Body as a Shield]
[Protected a party member from a surely fatal attack with your own body. While undoubtedly the right thing to do, maybe invest in an actual shield?]
- You gained +50 to Heroic alignment
[Alignment Level Up!]
[By collecting over 50 points in the Heroic alignment, you've grown from Apprentice Hero to Heroic Heart.]
- STR and VIT +5
- DEX +2 – DEX +5
- (NEW) Last Breath perk gained!
Immediately interested in what this additional new perk would do, I focused on it.
[Beyond adrenaline, nothing is as much a motivator as having someone or something to fight for. You'll keep going until Hades himself comes for your soul!]
- When health drops below 15%, STR, VIT and DEX are increased by 50%
- Effective on land until health rises above 40% of new maximum HP
- Effective in water until health rises above 25% of new maximum HP
[Reaper's Blade increased to Lv. 2]
[You powered through a horribly venomous bite that was already killing you long enough to wound your opponent and heal up the damage.]
- You gained +2 to VIT
- Bonus XP to Water Control and Water Collection
[Water Control increased to Lv. 23]
[Water Collection increased to Lv. 4]
[Against all odds, you managed to both kill the monsters and save Piper. She is very grateful, if mentally and emotionally exhausted. Despite choosing beforehand to help instead of fleeing, nearly dying takes a lot out of you.]
- Piper McLean has joined your party
- Reputation with Piper McLean has jumped to Liked (200/1000)
- Reputation with [?] has increased to Liked (10/1000)
- Piper McLean was awarded 500 XP for her bravery and has grown to Lv. 6
I glanced at Piper unconscious on my shoulder and smiled. While she never asked to be involved, at least the Game would let her power up further now.
[You defeated two monsters WAY above your weight class and out of your league with a quick plan and brilliant execution. That being said, petrifying them beforehand reduces experience acquired to one tenth of the original value.]
- You gained +1 to INT and +2 to WIS
- Petrified Chimera granted 1500 XP (1000 x 1.5)
- Petrified Echidna granted 2500 XP
[You have grown to Lv. 15!]
- You gained five unsorted stat points
- You gained one Perk Point
- Trainee special status has expired.
[You have grown to Lv. 16!]
- You gained ten unsorted stat points
[Achievement: Beyond the Peak]
[Lv. 15 is the cap for any mundane human with little to no godly lineage. By reaching and surpassing that limit, you have truly begun your journey to the wider world of myth.]
- You have gained one Perk Point
Reading the last three messages again, I couldn't help getting a little suspicious about the Game suddenly being generous. While it cut down the amount of XP from defeating the Chimera and Echidna, it still gave enough for two levels and now another achievement.
Annabeth said that she got a Perk Point at Lv. 15 as well, and maybe this was just another "Player One" thing. But the extra point along with that downright foreboding statement about how big the world is after I just fought two monsters it all but stated should not have been beatable at my level had me worried that it was trying to prepare me. Like a save point or healing items right before a difficult boss. But to give them to me right after instead?
After the Game being largely a bystander and just noting and rewarding me for my training, it seemed to be taking a more active role now. Was passing the cap into Level 16 even a real achievement? Some of them seemed cosmetic, like killing the Minotaur with its horn, but this seemed like too much of a coincidence.
My power had given me some harmless mocking before and wrote its descriptions with some charm and occasional references—even ones that I didn't know myself. Could it also manipulate parts of itself I couldn't see until I got them? Some sort of difficulty adjustment?
Did the Game not see Echidna's presence coming?
[Analyze increased to Lv. 2]
Narrowing my eyes at the window, it felt like the Game was trying to distract me. That or mock me for puzzling over whether or not it was actually sapient. Possibly both.
Sighing, I muttered, "If you could talk, I'm sure you'd have said something by now. It seems even you aren't immune to the Mist, though—not really. If I can be affected, it must do something to you too. I'd like to think you'd give a warning if I made a dungeon that had high level enemies or a boss too hot to handle."
Then I blinked as I realized I was talking to an interface. Palming my forehead, I added, "I have got to take a break after this quest. My mental health might be starting to slide."
I decided to close my eyes for a moment. I wasn't nearly tired enough to sleep and kept my ears open for any noises, but taking a breather sounded really good after this nightmare of a tour.
Hoo-boy, that was a big one! I kinda-sorta wanted to divide this into two chapters, but I couldn't find a decent stopping point that wouldn't be a total cliffhanger to anyone who's read the book. Thus, an extra long chapter with an apt title.
The lost demigod being named Sam Grest was just a bit of self-fanservice with that cameo. Anybody who gets it, great. If not, a hint is that he liked pickled onions while he was alive. Or you can just look up the name.
Anfang is German for "beginning", which I felt was appropriate for the progenitor of monsters. And including "fang" in the name seemed too good to pass up. Coincidentally, when I looked up the meaning of Patricia, it came out as "noble", so it could be seen as "noble beginning". A narcissistic name for a monster like Echidna.
'Til next time, see you when I see you.