I'm trying to hold off updates so that I could gift you guys with a mass release of chapters to finish this fic, but here you go.
You all asked for it.
If you get angry at the cliffhanger ending, remember that you asked for it.
I do not own anything of Percy Jackson and the series, Rick Riordan does. I follow the books and the plot and I do reuse some dialogue, but I alter them and fit it into my story. Again, copyright is all Rick Riordan's, I repeat, I do not own anything.
I saw Kelli escort Annabeth, Percy, and Rachel into the arena before they saw me in the booths.
"Look what the cat dragged in," Luke said to me behind a hand.
I didn't respond and just watched as Percy exchanged heated looks with Luke. Then, my body froze up the second Percy's sea-green eyes found me.
I saw the shock and pure confusion on his face. The guilt and shame actually kicked in when I saw the same emotions on Annabeth. Percy's look of hurt was bearable, but the distress and anger from Annabeth was hard to handle. Annabeth was the one who held me in high regards and would've never expected this from me.
Her steel grey eyes burned with fury. She shouted something at Percy, but a Laistrygonian clamped a hand over her mouth, silencing her. Rachel's reaction was interesting to see; her eyebrows scrunched together when she saw us, but she didn't seem too surprised as if she had already disliked me and expected this.
Kelli forced Percy into the ring. On the other side of the arena slithered in a tall dracaena. Armed in classic gladiator style, she had a trident in one hand and a weighted net in the other. Chiron's intensive training drills in camp had prepared every camper for this style of opponent, so I didn't doubt Percy's victory. It didn't even take a minute for him to kill the dracaena, which caused Antaeus next us to complain loudly. Luke and I discreetly exchanged eye rolls at the giant's spoiled behavior.
"No!" Antaeus bellowed. "Too fast! Only I give the order to kill, you must wait for my command!"
Percy ignored the giant. "Jade! What are you doing here!"
Antaeus gestured for the next challenger. "Round two! And slower this time, it better be more fun! And wait for my call!"
"Jade, answer me!" Percy shouted, growing angry at the lack of response.
The spectating monsters and traitorous demigods jeered at Percy's attempts to talk to me.
"Why don't you answer him? He sounds curious," Luke said with false pity.
I made a face. "You're so petty."
We watched the gate open and Ethan walked out onto the dirt arena. His Greek armor hung on him loosely and looked cumbersome to wear. When he clashed swords with Percy, it was plainly obvious that the extra protection was just deadweight in the long run. As an expert swordsman, Luke was already able to predict the winner. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, disinterested in the outcome, while Antaeus grumbled at the lack of bloodshed.
"Ethan's pretty good," I commented. "He didn't even get a lot of training from camp."
Luke made a noncommittal sound. "Too much armor. He didn't think about its weight."
Though Antaeus gave the kill sign, Percy refused and spared Ethan. Instead, Percy goaded Antaeus into the arena, which stirred up the crowd. They all wanted to see the giant fight against his demigod half-brother, it'd be an interesting sight.
"Antaeus, you seriously aren't afraid of a half-blood, are you?" Luke asked jokingly.
"It'll look cowardly to refuse the challenge," I added.
The giant shot us nasty glares as he got up from his chair. "You think I can't beat a small boy? Watch me!"
Antaeus leapt off the railing and hit the floor with ease.
"Too easy," I sighed to Luke who let out a small laugh.
"Killing two birds with one stone," he said back to me as we leaned over the railing to get a closer view.
As much as I was looking forward to seeing Antaeus's demise, I was a little worried for Percy. Sure, he was able to beat the giant in the book, but could I count on that happening now?
"If I win, my friends and I go free. And, Jade has to come with us," Percy announced. "If you win, I die. Swear upon the River Styx."
Antaeus chuckled at Percy's gutsy deal. "I swear to your terms. Let's fight to the death!"
Antaeus lunged in a true wrestler's fashion, forcing Percy to roll under the legs. He sliced the back of the knees, drawing a pained cry from the giant. But where blood should've come out, there was a stream of fine grained sand. It spilled onto the dirt floor and then the dirt collected around Antaeus' leg like a cast. When the dirt fell away, the wound was gone.
Percy's eyes widened at the phenomenon and then dodged sideways to stab Antaeus in the ribs. Antaeus turned, wrenching Riptide out of Percy's grip, and threw him across the arena.
At this point, Antaeus was playing cat and mouse with Percy. Percy was trying to get some space in the ring, but the giant blocked his path at every turn, slowly cornering him at the edge. Antaeus clearly enjoyed the game, laughing everytime Percy attempted to make a run for it.
Luke impatiently tapped the armrest with a finger. "Come on," he muttered. "Any minute now."
Against Luke's wishes, Percy gained the upper hand in the fight. He charged straight ahead as if he'd roll between the legs again, but at the last second, Percy jumped and ran up Antaeus's arm. He scrambled up the shoulder and pushed off the giant's head, reaching for one of the dangling chains that hung skulls and skeletons. The spectators cheered when Antaeus jumped for another chain to reach Percy who was swinging in the air.
Like a monkey, Percy swung between the hanging chains and made quick work with cutting off spare rope and metal links, snagging Antaeus's loincloth like a painful wedgie. The giant clung onto his loincloth with dear life or else he'd accidentally flash his birthday suit to the entire crowd. With Antaeus cursing and flailing midair, Percy moved like Tarzan, pulling in more chains and metal hooks to add to the entanglement. Within minutes, he successfully had the giant suspended above the ground, hopelessly caught in a giant knot.
Percy dropped to the floor, panting and sweaty.
"Get me down!" Antaeus shouted. Percy glanced up at our booth, waiting for our verdicts.
"How do I get Jackson to kill him?" Luke mused quietly. We both looked down where Percy stood, sweat shining on his brow. Even though we were separated at a distance, Percy's eyes stuck out. His sea-green eyes blazed with defiance; Percy-boy had such an unshakable, unforgettable gaze. He always seemed to gaze directly into your soul.
I guess Percy's eyes were one of the things that attracted Nico so much.
"Reverse psychology," I suggested. I was sure Percy couldn't hear me, but he gritted his teeth when he watched me speak.
"Free him!" Luke ordered. "He is our host!"
Percy uncapped Riptide that had returned to him and with a spiteful smile, he said, "As you command."
As rebellious as ever, Percy stabbed Antaeus in the stomach. The giant yelled in pain, writhing as sand poured out endlessly, but the earth was too far below to heal him. Antaeus simply dissolved, disintegrating like a sand castle until there was nothing left except for swinging chains and a really big loincloth on a hook.
"Luke! Let us go!" Percy shouted, his voice straining. "We swore an agreement with Antaeus and I won."
"Antaeus is dead. His oath dies with him," Luke responded from above. "I'd like to have you killed now."
"Then, let's make another bet!" Percy sounded hurried yet determined. "The same agreement as before, but you pick the opponent this time."
Luke was about to reject the offer, but the crowd roared in approval. They chanted for another fight to the death.
"FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT-"
Luke ground his teeth. There wasn't a single monster in Kronos' Army that Percy probably couldn't handle, and there most certainly wasn't a single demigod that could beat Percy either. The only one that stood a chance was Luke, but that was risky. Though he was more experienced with the sword, Luke didn't exactly have the cleanest winning streak against Percy. If he lost against the son of Poseidon here, in front of the Titan Army, he'd lose all respect and authority. The Curse of Achilles provided an advantage, however I wasn't sure if Luke would 'lower' himself to fighting Percy due to his pride. Yet, if he chose a monster or demigod, he'd basically be handing Percy an escape ticket. It was essentially a lose-lose situation.
"Alright, I'm feeling merciful today, I'll give you another chance. Win the next fight, then maybe I'll let you go," Luke said slowly to the audience's appreciation.
"Swear on the River Styx," Percy demanded.
"I swear," Luke said. My neck snapped towards him.
What is Luke thinking? Who's he going to send down to fight Percy?
"Jade, you're up. Kill him when you have the chance."
I stared at Luke, probing his soulless blue eyes.
… Luke has officially lost his mind.
Without another word, I vaulted over the booth barrier and fell twenty feet, hitting the dirt in a low crouch. A jump like that would usually fracture a few bones, but the Curse of Achilles was a true blessing in moments like this. Percy's eyes widened in horror when I came closer, searching my face for answers.
"Jade," his voice nearly cracked. "What are you doing?"
"A fight to the death," I answered as I pulled one sword out of the Void. "As you swore with Luke, he gets to pick your next opponent."
Percy shook his head. "No, I'm not fighting you."
Ethan backed away behind Percy, watching me with a hard expression. I made direct eye contact with the son of Nemesis and let loose a small sigh.
"Then you die," I said coldly. "And so will the redhead. Luke wants Annabeth alive, though, so I guess you won't have to worry about her."
Something about that statement snapped Percy out of it. He got angry.
"Why are you doing this?!" Percy yelled. "Since when were you one of them?!"
"My reasons go beyond this war," I said vaguely as the tip of my sword leveled in his direction. "Sorry, Percy, it's nothing personal."
I closed the distance and swung at him.
Percy didn't know what to think.
He never imagined that he'd be fighting Jade, with her as an enemy.
Sure, he'd sparred with her before in the training grounds at Camp Half-Blood, but those were always friendly. There was never any intent to hurt or kill.
This fight wasn't like those spars.
Percy weakly deflected another blow and retreated. He didn't want to attack Jade, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"Jade, stop this!" He pleaded as Jade went after him again.
She didn't even hesitate with a follow up swing. Percy blocked this time and held his ground, his arm shaking under the impact. Jade was using just one hand to pressure him and didn't even appear to break a sweat.
And since when did Jade have this strength? It was abnormal, even for demigod standards.
Jade pulled her second sword out of the Void and brought it down, forcing Percy to roll to the side.
The monsters and demigods in the seats began crowding at the lowest ring of the seats, overly eager to see the fight up close. There was no way Percy, Annabeth, and Rachel would be able to escape without a trick up their sleeves. Fighting Jade was nothing like fighting Antaeus. Although the giant was bigger and physically more imposing, Percy felt more backed into the edge when facing Jade. There was no easy way out of the situation. He couldn't pull any quick ideas like he had with Antaeus; there was no special information or secret to defeat Jade.
Most importantly, Percy didn't have the same heart to fight Jade like he did with Antaeus. He didn't have the will to hurt Jade and it was painful to see her pointing her swords at him. Jade had every intent of obeying Luke's command. It was the worst feeling.
What made this even more unbearable were her sarcastic remarks. None of her words were out of the ordinary because he'd heard them before and he would laugh at them, but it was different now. Jade wasn't being nice. She was just being downright cruel by acting the same way, as if there was nothing wrong with the situation.
"Come on, Percy-boy, you gotta win this bet," she remarked as she slashed diagonally. "What about using your water powers? Your dad is called Earthshaker, remember?"
Percy parried and retaliated with a strong swing. Jade twisted with her two katanas slicing through the air. Percy ducked and jumped back, gaining distance to catch his breath. Jade was purposely drawing out the fight as she took her time to clash swords with him again, but that didn't make him feel better.
Percy wracked his head to figure out something.
Jade walked a wide arc around him. "No party tricks? How about an SOS whistle?"
Whistle. The dog whistle.
He felt a freezing sensation growing colder and colder in his pocket. Percy's clammy fingers closed around it. As he watched Jade walk slowly towards him, Percy debated his options. He'd been avoiding using Quintus' gift, as there were reasons to suspect the sword instructor for betrayal. But, maybe Quintus was never the traitor. Maybe it was Jade all along. Either way, he had no choice.
Percy took it out of his pocket and blew. It made no audible sound and then shattered into shards of ice, melting in his hand. For a second, a heavy ball dropped in Percy's stomach as spectators hooted loudly at the seeming failure.
And then behind him came a surprised yelp. The Laistrygonian giant who'd been guarding Annabeth flew past him and towards Jade who sliced the monster in half instead of colliding with it.
The crowd screamed when a half-ton black demon mastiff plowed through the scene, crushing monsters. Mrs. O'Leary snarled, and the two dracanae guards backed away. For a moment, everyone was caught completely by surprise.
"Let's go!" Percy yelled desperately. "Heel, Mrs. O'Leary!"
"The far exit!" Rachel cried. "That's the right way!"
Annabeth and Rachel caught up to him with Mrs. O'Leary covering their tracks. Ethan Nakamura followed his lead as they raced together across the arena and out the far exit. Percy took a look over his shoulder at Jade as they escaped, half-tempted to urge her to come with them. This was her chance to leave.
Instead, Jade stayed put and didn't even try to make chase. Kronos' Army rushed forward around her to try and catch them. Her silver katana swords disappeared as she just watched them disappear into the Labyrinth. Jade's face was unreadable and while Percy was used to that and was okay with it since he trusted her loyalty, he felt uneasy this time.
He now knew that he couldn't trust her anymore.
Rachel led them through many turns and twists in the underground passage until Annabeth lost track. They didn't stop to rest until they came to a room the size of a gymnasium with old marble columns holding up the roof. Percy stood at the doorway, listening for sounds of pursuit, but he must have heard nothing because he rejoined them at the center of the room. Luckily, they lost Kronos' Army in the maze.
Annabeth scanned their group, making sure that everyone was in one piece. Mrs. O'Leary had disappeared at some point while they were in the Labyrinth, but to be quite honest, that was the least of her concerns at the moment.
Their newcomer collapsed on the floor and pulled off his helmet. "You people are crazy."
Annabeth gaped. "I remember you! You were one of the undetermined kids in the Hermes cabin, you left years ago."
He glared at her. "Yeah, and you're Annabeth. I remember."
The black patch was the most stark difference in his appearance compared to when she last saw him.
"What-what happened to your eye?"
The teen looked away, obviously unwilling to discuss the topic.
It took Annabeth another second to recall his name. "You're Ethan. Ethan Nakamura. You came back to camp every once in a while when you needed ambrosia."
That detail seemed to catch his attention. Ethan looked up in surprise. "How'd you know that?"
"Jade-," Annabeth answered without realizing. Jade had informed Annabeth of Ethan's visits.
Jade's name cloaked over the atmosphere like a cold mist. The emotions from the arena washed over Annabeth a second time as the adrenaline faded and the sting of betrayal returned.
Hot anger mixed heavily with deep sorrow. Annabeth didn't voice it aloud, but Jade's apparent betrayal cut her to the bone. It hurt and it made her want to cry, however Annabeth had to hide those tumultuous feelings. There was no way she was going to break down in tears in front of Rachel or Ethan.
Annabeth kept a level tone, hoping that she wouldn't sound distressed. "Jade. Why was she there?"
Even Ethan seemed vaguely uncomfortable at the topic and took a moment to think. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes.
"I don't know much," he admitted. "I know that she's probably been with Luke for a while. She's the one who connected me to him in the first place."
Annabeth's heart turned to lead as Ethan recounted his brief exchange with Jade at camp and how he'd discovered for himself that Jade was Luke's undercover spy at the Titan palace. From what he'd observed and overheard, Jade even had the trust of Kellie, the lead monster of Kronos' Army. Ethan didn't know exactly what she'd been doing or specific details, but Annabeth had heard enough to know the basics; Jade really was the spy that Chiron had talked about.
"Why would she be on their side?" Percy voiced his confusion aloud. "It's the wrong side-"
Ethan sneered. "There's no right side. The gods never cared about us, so why wouldn't she join? She's unclaimed and a child of a minor god, just like me. It's not surprising-"
"She's not like that," Annabeth snapped, her nails digging into the palms of her hand. "She wouldn't leave camp."
The lanky teenager looked like he wanted to argue, but instead he shook his head and sighed heavily, "I'm not going to argue with you because honestly, I don't even know what her real intentions are."
Annabeth stilled. "What do you mean?"
Ethan opened and closed his mouth, unsure of what to say. "She… she said that she doesn't like the Titans, even hinted that the Titans' side might not be the best choice."
Annabeth's eyes narrowed at the little piece of information. It might have been an ambiguous, small thing, but to Annabeth, it spoke volumes of Jade's actions. Though the feelings of denial and initial burst of anger lingered, the daughter of Athena cleared her mind so that she could think through the situation. It would be easy to determine the reason for Jade's apparent betrayal as a simple, straightforward gesture of rebellion against the Olympian gods, however Jade wasn't someone who acted based on emotions. Jade also wasn't fond of putting herself in difficult situations and was fairly skilled in getting out of them, so why would she be involved in this? Was she willingly obeying Luke's command? Did Luke have something over Jade? Or were the Titans controlling her?
Besides, Jade was the first to bring up the possibility of a spy through her dream of Achilles two years ago. Why would she bring it up if she was going to join Luke? Did she not realize that she'd become a spy?
Her mouth twisted into a grimace. Whatever the reason for Jade's betrayal might be, it complicated everything and wasn't as simple as it seemed.
The ache of hurt from seeing Jade fight Percy still echoed. Having trained at Camp Half-Blood together for years, Annabeth knew when Jade was putting in effort. Earlier in the arena, Jade didn't hold back and was actually fighting without hesitation. Trying to formulate all the potential answers in her head, Annabeth desperately hoped that there was a good, reasonable explanation for all of this.
With Antaeus gone, Kronos' Army was able to pass the arena without further trouble and went straight to the Titan palace. We arrived quickly due to the help of Ariadne's string and I was feeling a little better about the current state of things. I hadn't heard word of Ethan's return, which told me that I had successfully deterred him from rejoining. I hoped that my vague words had left him questioning the bigger picture of the war, that there was something else at hand more important than the Titan's rise. Percy, Annabeth, and Rachel were able to get out of the arena too, despite various factors happening, so that was a big win too.
Luke, on the other hand, was not entirely happy. He could've had Percy dead and Annabeth in his grasp, yet neither happened. I think he blamed me for the latter part because he'd make side comments, but I ignored his pointed remarks since they were true; I purposely let them run off and didn't even try to catch them.
We took a momentary break in our respective quarters in the Titan Palace, away from the other demigods and monsters. Currently, Kronos' Army was gearing up for the invasion on Camp Half-Blood, but unlike the original events, Luke and I would be joining this time.
The second I closed my door, I took a clean towel and left it to soak in cold water in the large marble basin. Taking off my light armor, I wrung the towel and wiped my face, leaving it hanging around my neck to cool me down as I pulled out battle armor from my wardrobe.
There was a wartime breastplate handcrafted by the telekhines. Usually they'd cast dark magic over their creations, but I had to insist that they leave out the evil charms except for the standard enchantments such as lightweightedness, force repellent, and durability. Telekhine magic reeked of foul energy and caused major headaches, so I couldn't stand dealing with it constantly. After fitting on the heavier breastplate, I replaced the hard leather greaves with plated bronze ones and tugged on the straps for a fitted tightness. I didn't change out of my clothes underneath as there'd be no point changing into clean clothes before an invasion. I kept on the tough, black long sleeve shirt with a high collar tucked under tan camo pants. It was the staple uniform for demigods in Kronos' Army as all of the clothes, gear, war supplies, and weapons had been provided by Triumvirate Holdings. The conglomerate's enthusiasm for an economy driven by war was disgusting.
I sat on the floor, leaning against a wall, and closed my eyes. The realization that I was about to join an invasion against Camp Half-Blood was beginning to hit me. Was this okay? Perhaps things wouldn't be as bad as before because Kampê didn't join Kronos' Army.
That's right, focus on the positives.
Kronos had pushed back his plans to possess Luke's body, now more patient and greedy with the idea of obtaining the power of the Ophiotaurus on top of an Achilles' cursed demigod body. It was a small victory over everything else, but I needed Kronos to pick me. Kronos liked Luke because he had experience in manipulating Luke, but the Titan knew nothing about me. The Titan didn't have a grasp on my insecurities, weaknesses, or fears, so he wouldn't know how to control me. If I had a weakness that he could exploit, then I would've exposed it myself for Kronos to jump me, but my fears were related to his demise. If he found out that my ultimate goal was to use him as a pathway to seal Tartarus, then he'd never choose me as a host. He wasn't deeply interested in the benefits that came with my body: better suitability due to closer blood-ties and faster regeneration out of Tartarus. Luke's stupid idea of sacrificing the Ophiotaurus was tempting for the Titan.
I needed Luke out of the picture.
Opening my bleary eyes and gazing off into the distance at the opposite wall, I thought to myself, What do I do? What can I do?
A shadow in the corner of my eye rippled.
I blinked hard and stared at the shadow on the wall that now looked like it was vibrating.
My katanas appeared in my hands automatically and I shot up, gearing for an intruder, when a short, gangly black-haired boy stumbled out of the dark shadow. I didn't see their face since the kid couldn't hold his footing and tripped, but I recognized him.
I nearly choked in surprise. "Nico?"
He had dirt patches on his face and clothes, a tattered backpack hanging off his back, and faint shadows of eye bags hanging under his eyes, but it was Nico. The kid scrambled to his feet and recklessly wrapped his arms around me, not caring about the sharp blades in my hands.
"I found you!" The elated glee in his black eyes was unmistakable. "I knew you weren't dead, I knew it, I knew it!"
I dropped my swords to the side and distractedly patted his back, checking to see if he was real and not an illusion. Then I panicked and firmly pushed him away with my hands on his shoulders.
"What the fuck? How did you get in here?" I nearly shouted. I think I might've shook him too.
Nico, the oblivious kid, didn't register my anger. "A ghost taught me how to shadow travel! He taught me a bunch of other stuff, but he was getting really pushy, so I-"
He kept rambling on and on about his solo travels in the Labyrinth with a ghost and I just gaped at him the entire time.
I was genuinely on the verge of having a mental breakdown.
Oh God, this kid has absolutely no idea what he did by coming to this place. If anyone sees him here, they'll force him to join Kronos. If he gets recognized as the son of Hades, then there's no way I'd be able to get Nico out of here.
Nico was still talking excitedly when I cut him off.
"Nico, you need to go back where you came from."
He faltered, only now realizing how I wasn't as happy as he was with the reunion.
"You shouldn't be here, it's not safe. You should go back to Camp Half-Blood-"
No, not there when there's an invasion about to happen-
"-actually, go to the mortal world," I amended. "Just get out of here."
"But I want to be here, with you," Nico weakly said. "I was looking for you-"
"Yeah, I get that, kid, and I appreciate the sentiment," I said firmly. "But you can't be here. You need to go."
Nico grabbed my bronze greaves on my arm, insisting "No, I don't want to!"
A frustrated groan slipped out of me. "Ugh, Nico-"
"I'm not leaving," he sounded like a stubborn toddler.
"You're just a kid!"
"I'm not a little kid anymore, Jade, you taught me how to take care of myself!"
I did, but I didn't want you coming after me, I nearly snapped at him, but I bit my tongue. It wasn't right to yell at him like that, Nico did what he thought was best and didn't deserve my anger, but it was hard to restrain myself. Him being here was putting more troubles on my plate.
My head began to ache with the sudden turn of events as I tried to keep my thoughts in order. I needed to convince Nico to leave as soon as possible before anyone sees him-
My stomach sank.
It was Luke at the door.
Luke closed the door behind him, eyeing Nico curiously. I didn't say anything, completely shell-shocked by the situation. I hadn't anticipated this. I wasn't prepared for something like this to happen. I didn't know what to do to keep Nico safe. I just didn't know what to do.
"This is… he's…" I stuttered.
"My name's Nico," Nico said boldly. "I came here to find Jade."
Luke had an icy smile. "Nice to meet you, Nico, that's pretty gutsy of you. Do you know your godly parent?"
I held out a hand. "Don't-"
The son of Hermes' cold smile went slack. The curious gleam in his eyes intensified and twisted into something sinister. I roughly pulled Nico behind me, blocking him out of Luke's view.
"He wishes it was Hades," I said quickly. "Nico plays this mortal game called Mythomagic and his favorite figurine is the one of Hades. He's just an unclaimed kid from camp."
Luke looked straight at me. "Jade, if he really is a child of the Big Three, then this changes everything for us. Tell me, is this kid a son of Hades?"
I held his gaze evenly. "No, he's not."
Luke held his stare for another second before shaking his head in disbelief.
"To think you would lie to me," he muttered. "He is, isn't he?"
I knew what Luke was thinking. As a child of the Big Three, Nico would become the new host for Kronos. The kid was younger than Percy, more impressionable, more emotionally vulnerable, and not completely attached to Camp Half-Blood. And Nico wasn't sixteen years old yet, so Kronos could buy even more time in the war should he decide to do so. Based on the Great Prophecy, a demigod of the eldest gods was implied to save or ruin Olympus. If Kronos thought that bringing a son of Hades under his control would ensure his victory, then he'd want Nico.
"He's just a kid."
"He can help us."
I didn't budge. "Luke, you can take any demigod you want, but you can't have him."
Luke narrowed his eyes at me. "First, you let Annabeth run away and now, you're telling me to ignore the fact that we literally have a son of Hades? Jade, this is our ticket to freedom-"
"No, he has nothing to do with-"
"He has everything to do with this war!" Luke bursted aloud. "Jade, what the hell is wrong with you?! He could help us win-"
"He's a kid!" I yelled back. "He's not even twelve years old and you're going to let Kronos use him?!"
Nico shrank at our escalating voices, shifting closer to my back. I felt his small hand holding the waist strap of my armor as Luke got into my face, trying to argue me down.
"This kid is going to see Kronos, whether you like it or not," he pointed at Nico behind me. "There's no way I'm letting a chance like this slip by."
Luke turned away to leave, presumably to inform Kronos straightaway of Nico's presence. I grabbed Luke's arm.
"Don't," I said. "Luke, please, we can do this without the kid, let's talk it out-"
"Let go, Jade."
I wasn't planning on letting him go, but then I saw something that was most definitely a hallucination.
A man dressed like a doorman appeared out of thin air and stood to the side, between Luke and me. He would've seemed like an ordinary mortal except for the two faces on his one head. One looked to the right and the other looked to the left. Equally distracting was the flashing gold key that constantly passed between the two hands as if they were indecisive of which hand to hold the key.
I glanced at Luke and Nico, checking if they saw the bizarre being as well, but their faces remained frozen as if time had frozen. I went back to staring at the doorman.
This had to be Janus, the god of choices.
The left face turned and spoke first. "So, what will it be, heretic? Left or right?"
He turned the opposite direction and the right side said, "Go right, of course! You wouldn't be so horrible to inflict such a curse, would you?"
"Don't listen to him, you know that the son of Hermes won't listen to you. So, here's your chance to get rid of him!"
"No, don't do that, you will regret it forever! It'll be significantly more difficult, but you must take the higher ground!"
"No, no, you have the queen's permission!" The left exclaimed eagerly. "She's allowed it! Go left, it's what should be done."
"You have the queen's permission," Hypnos had told me.
For a second, it felt like the world axis tilted.
Ah, so this was what he meant.
The goddess Hera, queen of Olympus, had given me permission to inflict her curse of madness onto another person. She was letting me curse Luke, the threat to her precious family.
I had the chance to get Luke out of the picture. My fingeres twitched.
No, you'll never be forgiven-
You weren't born to live a life in this world. There's no need to be forgiven.
I closed my eyes briefly, reaching into the familiar Void.
"We see you've made your choice!" The two faces chorused together. "Well done, heretic, may your decision bring the ending you desire."
The hallucination faded away, returning me to reality. I felt Luke's skin under my hand as he tried to pull away from my grip. The weight of Nico holding onto my armor waistrap grounded me, an anchor in the midst of this storm.
"Let go, Jade," Luke repeated himself. "Or I'll make you."
The madness of Hera was easy to detect in the gaping hole of nothingness. It was such an angry, ugly hive of malicious intent. This wasn't even the full brunt of the original curse that Hera placed upon Heracles since these were only the remnants. However, this much poison was more than enough to afflict any person or demigod, but no one should ever be inflicted with this. It was agonizing, mind-wrenching, and cruel pain, the type that drove you to the brink of self-destruction and alienated you from everyone you love because it only brought misery and harm to everything around you.
Opening my eyes, I pulled it out.
I'm sorry, Luke.
I released the curse.
You guys asked for an update. Here is the update. Suffer the consequences of a cliffhanger.
Also, thank you for the reviews. Every single one is a treasure, especially the ones who encouraged me. I write because it's fun, but it's even more fun to see you guys enjoy it so much.
Hope everyone is safe and managing okay in your everyday lives. I updated today so that your Monday might be a bit more bearable :)