“So this is the what time you’ve met me?” Anubis asked curiously.
Nico paused to think. “Um… like the fifth time. Look. I have an idea, but I wanted to run it by you first.”
Anubis looked interested. “Oh? What idea is this?”
Nico exhaled. “So I think Kronos took a swim in the River Styx.”
“The one that made that Greek guy invincible,” Anubis said. “The one with the bad heel.”
“Achilles,” Nico nodded. “Which means that Kronos probably had the curse of Achilles. He has a weak spot somewhere. Percy is supposed to fight Kronos and in all the past times he’s fought Kronos, it hasn’t ended well. But if we were to level the playing field, maybe Percy would stand a chance.”
Anubis nodded slowly. “That’s a good idea. But are you sure it will work?”
“No,” Nico admitted. “But it’s my only plan. Besides, if it goes wrong… I guess I just have to try again.” He looked Anubis in the eyes. “I’m getting desperate.”
Anubis held up his hands. “Fine. Whatever. If you want my advice on this, look into it before you shove this Percy guy into the water. Achilles is the only one who’s done this before, right?”
“Yeah,” Nico nodded. “His mom dipped him in the river. She held him by his heel which is why his heel was the only part of him that wasn’t invincible.” He shrugged. “Well, Percy’s got to agree to this before we do anything. I’m going to run it by him and have him think about it while I look into it more.” He gave the Egyptian god a small smile. “Thanks for all the help. Even if you don’t remember giving it.”
Anubis rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe you’d go to me. Me .”
“We’re too much alike,” Nico grinned. “I’ll see you in December.”
“December?” Anubis blinked. “Why?”
Nico laughed. “You’ll see.”
Nico materialized on a fire escape next to Percy. The son of Poseidon was staring at a flowering plant.
“Nice plant,” Nico said.
“Sorry,” Nico said. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”
“That’s—that’s okay. I mean…what are you doing here?”
“I’ve done some exploring,” Nico told him. “Thought you’d like to know, Daedalus got his punishment.”
“You saw him?”
Nico nodded. “Minos wanted to boil him in cheese fondue for an eternity, but my father had other ideas. Daedalus will be building overpasses and exit ramps in Asphodel for all time. It’ll help ease the traffic congestion. Truthfully, I think the old guy is pretty happy with that. He’s still building. Still creating. And he gets to see his son and Perdix on the weekends.”
Nico tapped at his silver ring. “But that’s not the real reason I’ve come. I’ve found out some things. I want to make you an offer.”
“What?” Percy asked.
“The way to beat Luke,” he said. “If I’m right, it’s the only way you’ll stand a chance.”
Percy took a deep breath. “Okay. I’m listening.”
Nico glanced inside Percy’s room. His eyes landed on something strange. He frowned. “Is that…is that blue birthday cake?” he asked curiously.
“Come inside for some cake and ice cream,” Percy said. “It sounds like we’ve got a lot to talk about.”
Nico, Thalia, and Percy stood on a balcony overlooking Asphodel. The newly named Bob the Titan sat inside building a toy house out of bones and laughing every time it collapsed.
“I’ll watch him,” Nico said. “He’s harmless now. Maybe… I don’t know. Maybe we could retrain him to do something good.”
“Are you sure you want to stay here?” Percy asked. “Persephone will make your life miserable.”
She probably would , Nico agreed privately. But…
“I have to,” he insisted. “I have to get close to my dad. He needs a better adviser.”
Percy nodded. “Well, if you need anything…”
“I’ll call,” Nico promised. He shook hands with Thalia and Percy. As he turned to leave, he glanced back at Percy. “Percy, you haven’t forgotten my offer.”
“I’m still thinking about it,” Percy said evenly.
Nico nodded. “Well… Whenever you’re ready.” He went back inside Hades’ Palace.
He would get Percy to agree to this eventually. He had to. The fate of the world literally might depend on it.
Nico stepped out of the shadows and into the graveyard. Anubis glanced over at him.
“You’re late,” the god said. “It’s almost the end of December. I’ve been waiting for your visit.”
“I only said I’d see you in December,” Nico defended himself. “I never said when in December.”
Anubis glanced around uneasily. “Yes. What made you wait until the Demon Days to finally contact me?”
Nico shrugged. “Wanted to ask about your date.”
“Not a date,” Anubis said flatly. “Sadie Kane is-”
“-the single most annoying girl you’ve ever met?” Nico finished. “I’ve heard. What did you say you’d do for her again? Oh, right. The closing of the mouth ritual.”
Anubis opened and closed his mouth. Finally, he managed to ask, “Were you spying on us?”
“No, you told me this last time,” Nico said.
Anubis glared at him. “We have much more important things to discuss. And I have very little time. The Demon Days are upon us.”
“And thanks to you, I know what those are now,” Nico said. “Five made up days of the year. And Set is trying to destroy the world.” He paused. “I don’t know what happened. After we talked the last time, I spent all of my time in the Underworld training and trying to figure out what’s going on. I didn’t have time to come see you. And now, well, I have to get closer to my dad. Persephone isn’t a great advisor.”
“So unless you come to me…” Anubis said.
“Yeah,” Nico said grimly. “We won’t see each other until after the war. August.”
“Hmm, well, thank you for the warning about Set,” Anubis said sarcastically. “You’re a few days late, but thank you.”
“I can’t exactly mess with that,” Nico said. “I would have warned you if I could.”
Anubis sighed. “Of course. We shouldn’t talk too often anyway. The pantheons are not to mingle. I would get in trouble if this gets out.” He paused. “Maybe not so much because it’s you. I have had many conversations with Hades and Thanatos over the millenia.”
“Believe it or not, that isn’t the strangest thing I’ve heard,” Nico muttered.
By August, Nico was pretty sure about what he and Percy would need to do in order to successfully give Percy the Achilles curse. Yet, Percy still had not given Nico an answer which was worrying to say the least.
If this was going to work, Percy needed to make up his mind before the invasion. Not after.