As Percy led Selene to his private clearing, (hard to call it secret when Annabeth, Rachel, Calypso and now Selene knew about it), he tried to come up with a conversational tactic that would get him real answers instead of the cryptic schist he usually got when he asked questions. If he got an answer at all.
They reached the clearing.
Percy glanced at her. Hoping to get her to open up, he said, "What do you think? Cool place right?"
He walked to the lake.
Selene's eyes swept around as she followed.
"It's beautiful," she said. "I've never seen a place like this."
Percy smiled. "I figured you'd like it, being a Hunter and all."
She looked at him suspiciously. "You doubt Lady Artemis' words?"
"Not exactly," he admitted. "I just get the feeling it's not the whole story."
"Even so, what business is it of yours?" Selene challenged.
"Normally it wouldn't be," he took out a pen from his pocket. "But this thing says different."
"A pen?" Selene asked skeptically.
Percy uncapped it and it grew into a bronze sword.
"This is Riptide," he said. "It was a gift from a close friend; she gave it to me on her deathbed. She was the last lieutenant before Thalia. Her name was Zoe Nightshade."
He had a smile as he spoke, a mixture of joy and sorrow was all over his face.
Selene watched as the boy stared at his sword, likely lost in memories. She had been given a second chance at life, she wasn't going to have regrets this time around. But she was at a lost as to how to proceed with her confession.
"You must have been close to her," she said with a guarded tone, "for her to give you such a gift."
Percy swung the sword a few times. It seemed to sing as it moved.
"Not really," he said, still shadow fighting. "I mean, we reached mutual respect during our quest but before that she hated me even before she had even met me."
He stopped and looked at her. "Apparently she thought I was an arrogant jerk, just like the hero who tricked her and abandoned her, breaking her heart in the process."
Selene tensed as he talked. She relaxed just as quickly, but she was sure Percy noticed it. She turned to the lake, an attempt to calm herself.
"You okay?" He asked.
She nodded. "What was your friend like?" The question was meant to distract him and to find out whether or not she would open up now or later.
Percy stared at her. Something was bothering her, but he was sure that if he pressed her, she would either keep quiet or attack him.
Answering the question was the safer route.
"She was strong and beautiful," he said, looking at the lake. "Not just physically but in personality too." He smiled wistfully. "She was loyal, confident and caring. She was, she was a friend that I ended up caring for a lot more than I thought I would considering our week long friendship."
Selene absorbed every word he said. He sounded proud to have called Zoe a friend and also regretful that the friendship ended as soon as it started. There was something in his eyes that she couldn't identify. The first time she met him in her last life, she had been able to read him easily; the boy sucked at hiding his emotions, but now... well, his eyes were a vault and yet, the way he phrased his words, it was as if he knew her secret and was telling her: It's okay. You can trust me.
There was one way to find out.
"Percy," she started. He hummed in response, eyes still fixed on the calm lake water. "Did you, by any chance, develop stronger feelings for the last lieutenant?"
There it was. The question that detemined everything.
For moments, only the forest made a sound.
Percy smiled teasingly. "Why so curious?"
She shrugged. "Just wondering; I mean from how you talk about her, it sounds like you liked her more than a friend."
"I guess that depends on whether or not she likes me back."
She looked at him like he was crazy. "What?"
He held up his sword again. Now that she paid attention, there was a constant hum coming from it.
He moved it closer and the hum got louder.
"What are you doing?" She asked irritated.
He pulled the sword back, the hum dimmed. He repeated it a few more times, the hum was louder or softer depending if it was closer or further from Selene.
"What are you doing?" Selene was definitely irritated.
He capped his sword and put the pen back in his pocket. "Confirming my hunch," he said.
Selene stared confusedly.
Percy gave her his crooked grin. "Anything you'd like to say, Daughter of Artemis?"
She looked away from him.
"You still look like a Persian princess you know," he said.
She stared at him, her ears burned. "What?!"
"When we first met," he elaborated, "I thought you looked like a princess. I mean, with your regal attitude and the circlet in your hair, it wasn't that hard to think like that."
Selene was shocked. He really thought of her past life like that? Well, no turning back now.
She locked eyes with Percy. "You probably guessed who I am by now."He nodded. "Well, it's true. I am, or rather, I used to be, Zoe Nightshade," she confessed.
She almost fell down when Percy hugged her.
"How?" He asked. "How can you be alive?" He pulled back, grabbing her shoulders as if to make sure she didn't vanish.
"A complicated process involving the Doors of Death and some other stuff I didn't completely pay attention to."
Percy smiled. "What matters is that you're back." He hugged her again.
She hugged him back. The warmth felt great, she smiled against his chest.
"You never answer my question you know," Selene told him.
Percy looked down at her just as she looked up at him, only a few inches of separation. He leaned in, she did the same. They met in the middle and their hearts soared. Percy couldn't help it, the feelings he had for Zoe had resurfaced when he suspected her reappearance.
The need to breathe made them separate.
"We shouldn't have done that," Selene said. She knew Artemis wouldn't have a problem, but Annabeth might. She liked the daughter of Athena, she was a brave warrior. Selene would never forgive herself for stealing another's love.
"Don't worry," he whispered next to her ear, his warm breath made her shiver. "Everything is going to be fine."
Selene doubted that, but she failed to respond when he slipped his hand under her shirt, trailing her spine. She felt like she had too much Ambrosia and had also ran a marathon form New York to San Francisco.
"How could this, possibly be fine?" She demanded between breaths.
Gods, his touch should be illegal, she thought.
She realized that as a practically married man, Percy's touch was illegal as it was reserved for Annabeth.
"Annabeth is going to kill us both," Selene reasoned, as Percy kissed her neck. She unconsciously tilted her head, giving him more access. "We won't even know what hit us." When he didn't stop, she added, "And if she doesn't, Lady Artemis will."
He stopped, but didn't move away.
"Annabeth understands what's happening, for the most part anyway. And I know for a fact that Artemis is okay with this."
"How would you know?!" Selene demanded.
Percy locked eyes with her. His eyes, to her surprise, were filled with love; something that she never thought would be given to her, certainly not by him. But there it was, clear as day.
"Let's just say I had a similar encounter when I woke up today," he informed her. "Not only did Annabeth join in, Thalia told me that Artemis allowed it. So I think she'll understand."
Selene made to argue, but his kiss stole her breath away.
"I love you, Zoe Nightshade," Percy said breathlessly.
Selene swallowed thickly. Those words had never been directed at her. She never imagined they ever would. As she stared at his eyes, full of love and affection, there was no doubt she loved him too.
"I love you too, boy," Selene said with smirk, looking a lot like her past self.
Percy's lips covered the smirk and they went sprawling in the grass.
The sounds of the forest covered their own.
The rest of the day went surprisingly well considering the morning's events.
Percy and Selene went their separate ways and informed Annabeth and Lady Artemis respectively about their encounter.
Percy spent the day teaching sword fighting to first and second year campers, and also to the majority of the Aphrodite cabin who were ordered by Piper to train so they could get rid of their vain and shallow image.
Annabeth multitasked between her designs for Olympus (its closing had put great delay on its reconstruction.), the upcoming war (she was still mad about that bit of news), the issues about Percy having his own harem (thinking about it made her blood boil, but she would deal with it, and make sure she had the most time with Percy,) and of course planning a way to somehow win Capture the Flag against the Hunters. She would have to talk with Frank and Clarisse for the last one, their input could be valuable.
Thalia and Selene focused on training their initiates. They were not about to give up their winning streak simply because some girls were surprised by whatever the campers came up with.
Will and Nico kept busy in the infirmary due to the large number of Romans who got sent there and constantly refused to say how they got injured in the first place.
All in all, the day went by peacefully. If only the night could have been the same.
Everyone was in high spirits as they sang to the tunes of the Apollo cabin. After a few songs, Chiron stepped forward.
"Yet another great day isn't it? No incidents too, despite our visitors."
A few Hunters grinned smugly about the statement while many injured Romans winced.
"I've spoken with Lady Artemis," Chiron said. "And the capture the flag of campers versus Hunters will be played in two days' time. That should give both sides plenty of time to prepare."
When everyone quieted, Percy stood from the Poseidon section where himself, the rest of the Seven, Calypso, Will and Nico were sitting in.
Percy shouted, "Isn't that a bit unfair? I mean its three hundred campers against fifty Hunters."
Thalia and Selene stood at once. They shared a look then Thalia said to Percy, "You're right, Percy. It is unfair." She grinned. "How about you get another three hundred and we'll call it even?"
The Hunters broke into laughter and cheers.
Everyone quieted when Percy and Thalia walked towards the stage. They faced each other in the center.
"I'm trying to help you," Percy said.
Thalia crossed her arms. "We don't need help, Kelp Head."
"Seriously? Three hundred against fifty and you don't need help?"
"Of course not," Selene said, stepping next to her fellow lieutenant. "You're talking about the elite strike force of Olympus versus a mass of demigods who will probably end up fighting each other in order to get the glory-" the crowd looked at each other when Selene said that. "Also, let's not forget the fact that only nine of you guys are any real threat."
That comment caused an uproar. As Percy and the girls stared each other down, the campers were all arguing about who were the nine threats.
Percy turned to the crowd and shouted, "Enough!" The shout was accompanied by a small tremble that filled the Amphitheater with silence.
Percy glanced at the leading Hunters while gesturing to the crowd, "You're telling me that out of everyone here, you're only worried about nine people."
"Of course." Selene grinned. "It would be eleven, but Thalia's already on our side, and the other praetor stayed at camp Jupiter so-" she shrugged, "yeah, nine campers."
A girl from the Ares section stood up with her spear strapped to her back. "I better be one of those campers otherwise you'll be eating this spear."
"Sit down, Clarisse," Percy shouted.
He ignored her threat of "I'll kill you, Prissy."
Selene watched on with an amused smile.
"You're enjoying this aren't you?" Percy accused.
Selene shrugged. "It's not my fault your egos are so easily offended." She smiled not so innocently. "I have complete confidence in my sisters. See for yourself."
She swept her hand towards the Artemis section, which by pure coincidence was a bit separated from the Aphrodite and Ares section.
Percy stood next to Selene and Thalia, shoulder to shoulder, a feat that would have had any other guy in the Underworld by now.
He fixed his eyes on the Hunters; he studied them critically as he tried to remember what each one was capable of.
Thalia noticed many of her sisters attempted to hide their blush as Percy looked at them.
If he wanted, she mused, he could charm every girl in here. She glanced at the crowd. There were a lot of angry and jealous looks thrown at Percy and the Hunt in that moment.
"So what do you think of my team?" Selene asked. She really didn't want to send campers into the infirmary at the moment; too many witnesses.
It was better to do it during the game. That way it would be legal enough to beat them up.
Percy turned around and faced her. "Well, you girls look pretty solid. But there are a lot of weak spots too."
"Maybe," Selene said. "But that's eighty percent danger versus, what, five percent of the campers?"
"Who are the nine anyway?" Percy asked.
The whole crowd leaned forward. Selene rolled her eyes at the question.
"Isn't it obvious?" She asked, waving her hands around.
When no one responded, she sighed and pointed to the Poseidon section. "There's your answer. Except for Calypso and the blonde boy whose name I do not know. That's eight campers and the other one is that violent Ares girl who threatened me with her giant stick."
Everyone started talking at once.
"Wait a minute," a Hermes boy shouted. "Now I can understand those guys being the most dangerous or maybe the highest priority, but to say that they're the only threat is Minotaur dung."
"The punk is right," Clarisse said, standing with Maimer the Third in her grip. "My cabin had the best close range fighters in the camp." Her cabin cheered.
"Those wimpy golden punks have the best archers and medics." The Apollo children complained that they weren't wimps.
"The owl geeks can think of very successful and unnecessarily complicated plans." The Athena kids frowned at being called geeks and refrained from saying that it's not their fault everyone else can't understand their ingenious plans.
"Then there's the fact that those burglars over there often come up with the weirdest defenses." Hermes/Mercury campers looked smug at the praise, they almost seemed to take being called weird as a badge of honor.
"Those antisocial hammer punks tend to make decent equipment." Leo stood and flexed his almost nonexistent muscles at the praise. The forgers smiled at the praise.
"And while everyone else may not be as established as the rest of us, you shouldn't underestimate them. That'll simply cause them to want to prove how big a threat they are," Clarisse said to finish her speech.
Everyone stared in silence. No one expected that kind of talk from Clarisse La Rue.
"Stop gaping you bunch of idiots!" Clarisse yelled. "If this is the reaction I get for defending you useless punks then I'll just keep insulting you all then, see if I care!"
"Clarisse is right," Percy said into the silence after composing himself. If he was honest with himself, Clarisse's speech didn't surprising him that much since he always thought she cared more than she let on.
Strangely enough, If it had been him saying the speech, (and he had thought about saying something), no one would batted an eye.
Percy focused on Thalia and Selene. "Clarisse is right. You really shouldn't count your victory just yet. I think, that the Hunt's winning streak is about to come crashing down."
Thalia huffed. "We'll see about that." She turned to her cabin mates. "Sisters, time to go sleep. We have a busy day of training tomorrow." The Hunters left the Amphitheater.
Chiron walked up front. "I think they have the right idea. It's best if everyone went to bed early today."
The campers slowly headed to their cabins. Percy and Annabeth were the last to exit. They were about to go when someone shouted at them.
It was Rachel.
"Hey," Percy said. "You okay?"
Rachel looked worried. "Yeah, I'm fine. Well, not really. It's complicated. I need to talk to you guys, and the two Hunter bosses."
"You mean Thalia and Selene?" Annabeth said.
Rachel nodded. "It's important. What's the most private place we could talk in?"
Percy scratched his cheek. "I think that would be either my cabin or your cave. I mean, neither of us is sharing our room with anybody else."
Rachel nodded again. "Perfect. We'll meet at the cabin. Annabeth, think you can convince the girls to come?"
Annabeth scrunched her eyebrows. "Maybe. But we'll have to be careful not to be seen. Who knows what everyone will think if they see two Hunters sneaking into Percy's cabin?"
Percy's ear turned pink while Rachel grinned.
"They'll think that he's the luckiest guy on the planet," Rachel said. "Especially if they find out he's dating all four of us at the same time and we're all okay with it."
"For the most part anyway," Rachel amended. "Don't worry, Annabeth, we'll work this out. Just not now, now go get the girls. Let's go, Percy."
She grabbed Percy's hand and ran with him towards Cabin Three. Annabeth stood there gaping at Rachel's nonchalance about the harem.
Then again, Annabeth thought. She's already been with him since the break started, so of course she doesn't mind sharing him.
Annabeth shook her thoughts away; now was not the time for that. She had to see what Rachel's message was.
As Annabeth left towards Cabin Eight, she had no doubts that Percy would make Rachel feel better.
The door to Cabin Three swung open, letting a cold breeze sweep the room as Annabeth, Thalia and Selene went inside.
"Wow, Thalia said. "Never thought I 'd see it this clean without Tyson around."
"And why were you here when it was messy?" Selene asked.
Thalia sat in one of the bunks. She looked curiously at a duffel bag on top of another bed.
"It was mostly to catch up with Annabeth," she answered, "and to get to know my kelp head of a cousin."
"Percy, are you in the shower?" Annabeth said, standing in front of the door.
"No," his voice called out. The air in the back of the cabin seemed to fold on itself as Percy separated the curtain. "Sup?" He said with a grin.
Annabeth walked up to him and pulled him into a deep kiss. Still connected, they disappeared behind the curtain.
Selene focused on the constellations on the ceiling, her face slightly red. "Affectionate, aren't they?"
Thalia shook her head in amusement. "Considering everything they've been through, I'm amazed they manage to keep to themselves this long." She smirked at Selene. "Though I guess it's hard to have your hands on your girlfriend when they're all over another girl, don't you think."
Selene went red. "You make it sound like I'm trying to tear them apart, or like I'm a harlot or something. I am not a daughter of Aphrodite; I don't play with people's love lives for my entertainment."
The bathroom door opened and Rachel walked out in paint splattered underwear.
"Hey guys," Rachel said. "Where are Annabeth and Percy?"
Thalia pointed behind to the back of the room.
"Ah," Rachel said. She walked to the bed with the duffel bag. "I knew the harem thing had to be bothering her more than she was letting on."
"Is that what I think it is?" Selene said, pointing at Rachel's waist.
On the Oracle's left side, just below the panty line, was the Monarch crown emblem. This one was ruby red with an emerald green python coiled around a golden scroll.
"It's kinda what I wanted to talk to you guys about," Rachel said, putting on an oversize yellow hoodie for cover. "I had a dream vision earlier today, and since we're the only ones at camp that know what's going on..."
"You brought us together to discuss it," Thalia said. Rachel nodded.
The curtain opened, and the couple walked out.
"Okay," Annabeth said, slightly out of breath. "What's the problem?"
Rachel rummaged through her duffel and brought out a book. "This is the problem."
Annabeth took the book. She looked skeptically at Rachel. "This is a monster guide for the Pokemon videogame."
"It is?" Percy said, sounding excited. "Does it say how to find the really hard to find ones?"
He tried to reach for it, but shrunk under Annabeth's hard gaze. "You know what? That's not important," he squeaked.
"Guys," she said. "The problem is not the book; it's what's inside it. Like I told these two just now, I had a dream vision sent by this Cadmus guy and-" she took a breath. "It's not pretty."
The demigods exchanged concerned looks.
"What did Father show you?" Selene asked softly.
"I saw, I saw the camp in burning, I saw everyone dead or dying." her voice cracked a bit. Annabeth sat next to Rachel and put her arms around her.
Rachel calmed a bit and continued. "The ones responsible-" she pointed at the book, "were the Pokemon."
The trickling of the fountain could be heard loud and clear.
"Let me get this straight." Thalia started to pace a bit. "You're telling me that weird monsters from a videogame are going to destroy the camp?" She folded her arms, staring at the redhead. "Forgive me if I don't believe you."
Rachel looked down from Thalia's eyes. It wasn't her fault that that was her vision.
"Let's say it's true," Percy said. "How are they going to get through the magic borders? That thing is even stronger now that the Athena Parthenos is here in camp."
Rachel didn't have an answer. Annabeth seemed in deep thought.
He turned to Selene. "Anything to add? You've been kind of quiet."
Selene looked at him. "Yeah, sorry. It's just, the whole mortal fiction is actually real stuff sounds familiar."
"How?" Annabeth asked. "You think it's something you saw or heard while in the Hunt as Zoe?"
Selene nodded. "Something like that." She looked at ceiling as she tried to recall. "I think it's from before the memory alteration." She furrowed her brow. "There were times when Lady Artemis and Father would go on hunting trips. Supposedly, they traveled to other realities, to other worlds that are considered fiction in our world."
"Like Pokemon," Annabeth said. "For us, Pokemon is a fictional mortal videogame. An invention made for entertainment and profit."
"But if what Selene is saying is true..." Thalia said.
"Then Rachel's vision makes sense in a way," Annabeth added. "The enemy is going to use Pokemon to attack us."
"If that's true, we might be in trouble," Percy said.
At the questioning looks, he continued. "If the stats on the game are any indication, some Pokemon are extremely dangerous."
"But Percy," Annabeth said. "Those stats are made up."
"If there really is a reality where Pokemon exists," he said, "I think it's safe to say that those stats have some merit. We just have to hope they don't send a Legendary."
"Why?" Thalia asked.
"Because they're basically the gods of the Pokemon game," Rachel answered. "Legendary Pokemon are among the strongest and most sought after Pokemon in the gaming community. If the game is truly a reflection of the real Pokemon world, then we better pray, because we'll be in for the fight of our lives."
"Okay guys," Percy said. "I think we need a good night's rest. We've had enough excitement for today."
He looked at Rachel. "When do you think it's going to happened?"
"I don't know," she said. "It feels, close. Like a few days, maybe a week."
Percy nodded. "Got it, we'll just have to do our best to prepare. Thalia, I'm sure Artemis is already aware of this or at least she suspects. Let her know what's going on."
"Selene, think your dad can get us help or something?" He said. "I know he told me he's stuck keeping the big bad boss in check, but maybe he can help out somehow."
Selene thought about it. "There might be some help I can get. Especially if we can work this whole mortal fiction is real to our advantage. Lady Artemis might have some answers on that front."
Percy seemed satisfied and hopeful.
"Excellent," he said. "We'll check those leads, get everyone ready as much as we can. Right now, we need to rest. We'll need all the energy we can get; especially if we want to kick Hunter butt in captute the flag."
The Hunters looked like he grew a third eye.
"Excuse me?" Thalia lifted an eyebrow.
"I don't think I heard you correctly," Selene said.
Percy grinned. "You guys better head back. We don't anyone getting suspicious now, do we?"
The two girls glared at him for a moment before leaving.
"You're crazy you know that?" Annabeth said as soon as the door closed.
Percy shrugged. He looked at the two girls sitting on the bed. He really loved the sight of Annabeth in one of his shirts while Rachel also wore a hoodie that made it seem like that was all she had on.
Percy wasn't sure this whole harem thing could work out. But he hoped it did. He hated it when his friends felt bad, especially when it was his fault.
"So," he said. "You girls ready for bed?"
Annabeth and Rachel locked eyes, apparently having a silent conversation.
At the same time, the girls stood on either side of Percy and looped their arms with his.
"The better question, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth started.
"Is the bed ready for us?" Rachel finished.
Before Percy could process anything, he was dragged inside the curtain as it adjusted, hiding them from the world.