Chapter Twenty-Three

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Nico sat in a booth in the ice cream shop Percy had chosen, slowly eating a strawberry sundae while being on the lookout for the demigod. A waitress came over to give Nico his bill. "Thank you." Nico thanked. "No problem." As she walked away, Nico picked up the bill, looking at the amount. Instead of a normal receipt, however, the words GO TO THE COUNTER- TELL LAURA YOU'RE HERE FOR KING. I WILL MEET YOU IN THE BACKROOM. -P. JACKSON. Nico sighed and got up, carrying his strawberry sundae in his hand.

He stood at the counter, waiting until a woman with kind eyes and the name tag that said Laura walked up to him. "How can I help you?" She asked. "I'm here for king." Nico said softly. Laura quickly glanced around, guiding Nico to the cash register, pretending to ring something up for him. She clicked a few buttons in a specific order and another receipt came out. "Thanks for coming- we hope to see you again!" Laura said cheerfully, while looking at the paper in a manner that told Nico to look at it.

Password for Employees Only room: 0818

Nico looked around in confusion before seeing a door that said "EMPLOYEES ONLY PLEASE" on it in bold lettering. The son of Hades sighed and rubbed his temples slightly before walking towards the door, putting the number 0818 in the keypad. The light above the keypad changed from yellow to green, a soft click resonating slightly. Nico pushed open the door to be met with what seemed like a modern, upscale living room. "Percy?" He called. There was no answer. Nico walked around, on guard while looking for any clues as to why he was there.

After a couple minutes, a different door swung open, revealing Percy. With a deep red cloak on, glistening silver armor, slightly glowing eyes, and an aura that demanded obedience and submission, Percy seemed very godly. "Percy." Nico breathed out. To his surprise, Percy's knees buckled and he barely caught himself, gripping onto the edge of a table. "Nico." He said back. "Oh my gods." The son of Poseidon said through an exhale. Nico rushed over. "What's going on?" The Hades-spawn asked as he helped Percy up.

Percy reaches inside his cloak, unzipping a hidden pocket and presenting an envelope. "I need- need you to get this to my mother." Percy practically begged. He- Percy- had thought that he would be able to handle seeing a friend- no, a brother- at this point in the Cleansing, but he was obviously wrong. Memories flooded his brain and he fought to keep them at bay. "No, why can't you-" "Because I can't. This is as close as I get to her apartment. I need you to- please, Nico." Percy pleaded. "Yeah, of course, Percy."

Percy slowly straightened up completely. "Percy, what's going on? Why'd you leave camp? Why'd you kill Juliana? Why-" "Nico. I'm sorry. I can't answer those questions. You're still my enemy." Percy said solemnly. Percy sensed that Kronos knew about the change in the Cleansing and would be arriving any minute to gather Percy and return him to his kingdom. "Nico- Nico, I need you to swear to me that you won't open that letter and that you'll deliver it straight to my mom. Even if the gods demand it, you can't let them read it." Percy pleaded. Nico frowned. "Percy, I can't-" "Nico, please. Promise me." Percy begged.

A whoosh sound happened from behind Percy. The immortal spun around to see Kronos standing there, arms crossed with two guards standing on either side of him. Percy whirled around back to Nico. "Please, Nico!" "Oh my gods." Nico completely ignored Percy, reaching for the sword on his belt. "No! Promise me, Nico!" "Jackson," Kronos growled. The guards shuffled forwards, each one grabbing one of Percy's arms. "Nico!" "I promise!" Nico finally promised. Thanks flooded Percy's features, his gratitude obvious. With another whoosh, Kronos, Percy, and the guards had disappeared.

Nico looked down at the envelope in his hands. In neat penmanship on the outside, the words "To Sally Blofis" was written in a dark purple ink. Nico's fingers drifted over the fold of the envelope, the paper tempting him to open it and read the contents. All he would have to do it just barely rip open the top- no. Nico shook his head. He promised Percy he'd deliver it straight to Sally Blofis's waiting hands, so that's exactly what he'd do. Being paranoid, Nico looked around quickly before shadow-traveling to the hallway outside the Blofis apartment.

Sighing, he knocked on the door. "In a sec!" Paul's voice shouted through the door. There was the sound of a little bit of shuffling and then the door swung open, revealing Paul Blofis. "Ah- Nico, right?" Paul asked for confirmation, gesturing Nico inside. "Yes. Thank you, Mr. Blofis." Nico answered, slowly entering the apartment. Sally came out of the kitchen, grinning upon seeing the son of Hades. "Nico, how are you?" Sally asked, giving him a large hug. Nico hesitantly gave her a small hug back. "I'm fine, thank you, and you?" He asked in return. "I'm okay."

There was a brief pause. "So why did you come here today? Not that you visiting is bad, darling." Sally added quickly. Nico chuckled. "Nah, I get it, Mrs. Blofis." "I told you, just call me Sally." Sally responded with a kind smile. Paul just stood there, watching the exchange. Nico handed her the envelope. "I just saw Percy." He said. The tension in the air automatically thickened. Paul moves closer to Sally and out a supporting arm around her waist. "How is he? Is he alright? Where is he now?" Sally bombarded, a hand over her mouth and worried eyes. "Honestly, Mrs- I mean, Sally? He didn't seem all that great. Also, uh," Nico trailed off, not wanting to tell the concerned mom about everything. "It's okay. Please, tell us everything." Sally and Paul firmly grasped hands.

"Kronos came and personally collected him. He didn't seem very happy, either." Nico almost mumbled. Sally nodded and looked away quickly, tears welling up in her eyes. "He said he would have brought this himself, but the ice cream shop across the street was as close as he could get to your apartment." Nico explained quickly. "Thank you, Nico. Really." Paul thanked sincerely. Nico nodded. He turned to leave.

"Nico?" Nico turned back around. "If you- If you see him again, will you tell him to call us? Please?" Sally asked softly. Nico nodded his head. "Of course. Have a good rest of your day." He replied before opening the door to leave. Nico took one last glance backwards to see Sally carefully opening the letter. With a sigh, he closed the door and then vapor-traveled back to Camp Half-Blood.

Woah, what's this? An update? I start final exams tomorrow so I won't really have a lot of time to work on this so idk when the next chapter will come out (sorry). Honestly, I'll probably end up stress writing and finishing a chapter in, like, the span of forty-five minutes or something. Anyway, enough about me. How are you guys? How ya doin'? How's life?

Alright, it's, like, 1am and, like I said, I have finals in about seven hours so I should probably attempt to go to sleep now.

Thanks for reading!
Susie

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