Well, the world had to be ending.
That was the only possible reason for Percy and Annabeth to break up, in Nico’s opinion. They were the most natural, perfect couple he had ever seen. Heck, they’d braved Tartarus together. Nico knew from experience what that did to a person. Whoever you went through it with you would be linked with forever.
And yet, here they were, in the Poseidon cabin consoling a bawling Percy.
“Why would she do this to me?” he croaked between sobs.
“It’s not your fault, Percy, don’t worry,” Piper said, cradling his head in her lap and playing with his hair. She was seriously laying on the charmspeak for this one, thicker than Nico had ever heard. It made him feel like none of the craziness going on at camp had anything to do with him. Still, Percy seemed unaffected.
He mumbled something impossible to make out and let out a loud sob. “Shush, it’s all right. It’ll all be okay,” Piper whispered to him.
No one knew where Annabeth had run off to after dumping Percy. Some said she had run into the woods, others reported that she retreated into Rachel’s cave or the unused Cabin 2. Either way, Cupid had made her stop loving Percy somehow, and that was unforgivable.
Nico watched Piper soothe Percy, sort of in awe. He would never be good at that, dealing with emotions. To people like Piper it came so naturally, but it was his biggest downfall.
Suddenly, a shining white arrow appeared out of nowhere, stabbing Piper in the thigh. For a moment her face flashed with surprise and longing, but she immediately returned to helping Percy.
“Oh, Zeus help me,” Nico grumbled. More lovestruck demigods stirring up trouble were the last thing he needed. “Stay with Percy, guys, I’m gonna go talk to Cupid.”
“Alright. Good luck!” Jason called after him.
Running through Camp Half-Blood was like running through a warzone; maybe even worse. He barely dodged a crazy demigod whirling around wielding knives, only to get hit in the head with some kind of a golden mango. A thornbush grew out of the ground and circled his legs, tripping and stabbing him, while a pig snorted in his face. His aura of death freed him from the thorns, and unfortunately, the pig as well. As he stood, a knife nearly caught him in the shoulder, but he dodged just in time. He bolted for the Hades cabin.
He slammed the heavy obsidian door behind him and made for Hazel’s bed, where the rabbit’s foot still rested. As he reached for it, he heard labored breathing from somewhere near him. He peeked over the side of the bed to see Mitchell and Butch making out on the floor.
“Get out of my cabin!” he shouted at them, and they scrambled to their feet, looking sheepish. Nico didn’t actually think they were that bad of a couple, but he knew it wasn’t what Aphrodite intended, and she should be the one making the decisions, not Cupid. They raced out of the cabin, leaving Nico with the rabbit foot.
He clutched it in his hand and thought of Cupid. “Hello, Nico,” the god answered.
“What do you think you’re doing? This has gone too far,” Nico said.
“Well, clearly. I have nearly destroyed the entire camp. Is that not enough to sway you to my side?” Cupid asked.
“Listen to me, and listen well,” Nico said, his voice boiling with anger. “You will stop meddling with us. You will stop meddling with anyone! You will do only as Aphrodite tells you to from this moment forward. And you will not talk to me ever again! Do you understand?”
For a moment, Cupid didn’t say anything. Then his booming laugh began to echo inside Nico’s skull. “You do realize you can’t charmspeak, right? Mere threats from a demigod will not scare me. Perhaps to rattle you I will have to hit a little closer to home. Like with that sister of yours?”
Nico’s heart pounded in his chest. “If you even think about touching Hazel-”
“Oh, have I struck a cord? I wonder how she’d feel if that Frank boy left her. After all, praetors often become romantically involved. I could pair him with Reyna...the excuse is already built in! Child’s play,” Cupid said.
“Hazel has been through enough crap in her life. Frank is all that she has. If you so much as try to-”
“Submit to me within the hour, or their love is history. Not only that, but you can still have anyone you want! Trust me, you don’t want to see what else I have up my sleeve,” Cupid warned. The rabbit’s foot turned smoldering hot in Nico’s hand, and he was forced to drop it.
He couldn’t do that to Hazel. She was his only family. But how could he just give in to Cupid?
He decided he may as well go check back in with Percy. As he walked back up the green dodging manic campers, he noticed Piper sprinting away into the woods. Something definitely felt off about that. He decided to follow her.
He stayed about thirty feet behind her, keeping her just at the edge of his vision. Suddenly she ducked into a cave. Nico decided he may as well run for it, so he bolted for the lip of the cave. He peered inside and realized that this was the home of the Oracle, Rachel Dare.
A large, colorful bed stood on one wall of the cave, and the floor was covered in canvases splotched with paint. The cave walls and ceilings were covered in paintings of strange scenes; perhaps glimpses of the future, perhaps just random thoughts from a teenage girl. An easel faced the cave entrance, so the Oracle could have a view of the forest while she painted. Rachel herself wasn’t here; she was off in New Rome, recovering the Sibylline Books. But Piper was here, and surprisingly, so was Annabeth.
The arrow, Nico thought. He remembered Piper getting struck. Know he knew who had gotten the arrow to match.
Piper and Annabeth were laying on Rachel’s bed, kissing each other passionately. “What the Hades?!” he shouted at them, and they looked at him with wide eyes.
“Oh my gods, Nico,” Annabeth whimpered.
“What is wrong with you too? You just ditch your boyfriends out of the blue and start making out with each other?!’
“We can’t help it!” Piper protested. “It feels so right.”
“But Percy...and Jason!” Nico reminded them.
Suddenly, two black arrows shot through the cave entrance, hitting Annabeth and Piper. Their eyes narrowed in unison. “Who cares about Percy?” Piper spat. “He was just holding Annabeth back.”
“And Jason doesn’t deserve Piper!” Annabeth told Nico. “He barely deserves to live.”
“Don’t do anything you’re going to regret,” he warned them.
“The only thing I regret is wasting time with Jason,” Piper said.
“Let’s go deal with them,” Annabeth suggested, hatred clear in her voice.
“Gladly,” Piper agreed, and they pushed past Nico on the way out.
“No!” he shouted, but it was no use. “No,” he muttered.
Suddenly Cupid stood beside him, fully visible. “Well, Nico, the hour is up! Hazel’s heart will be shattered within the next ten minutes. Unless you have a different idea?”
“Oh, just give it up, Cupid! I will never, ever help you with anything! Okay? So do what you please to me, tear me apart, I don’t care! But I will not serve you,” Nico promised him.
Cupid’s expression turned sour. “Alright, you’ve made your choice. Today marks the start of the second Trojan war.”
“I figure we’ve already repeated two wars, it was only a matter of time,” Cupid told him. “Both wars were spawned from love.”
“But this isn’t a war,” Nico argued.
“Oh, but it will be.” Cupid chuckled. He pulled all of the arrows from his quiver and loaded his bow. He fired them into the sky, and they vanished in the air.
“Where did you fire those?” Nico asked.
“Everywhere,” Cupid said, firing off another round.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nico shouted to him.
“It means everywhere. Camp Half-Blood, Camp Jupiter, and everywhere in between,” Cupid said.
“As in, mortals? You’re firing on mortals now?” Nico screamed, outraged.
“Not that you seem to care. If you did, you would have ended this long ago.” Another volley went up.
“Stop that!” Nico cried out.
“I will never stop until you submit to me,” Cupid growled. “Now, you may want to hurry back to camp. Blood will be spilled very soon.”
Nico let out a scream and pulled his sword from its sheath. He stabbed straight through Cupid’s midriff, and golden ichor flowed out like a dam had broken. “Nice try, Nico. But it won’t be so easy to defeat me,” the god said. He vanished into the air just as the sound of swords clashing against each other reached Nico’s ears.
He cursed and bolted for camp. He had a war to stop.