Reyna was unbelievably attractive.
Nico didn't usually feel this way towards girls - as his biggest secret had conveyed, but Reyna was different. She radiated a delicate happiness and yet inside, she was so cold and dark, haunted by past experiences. Just like Nico.
He shuddered from the cold, and wrapped his dark black coat around his shoulders. He should be sleeping right now, regenerating his energy before the next jump. Carrying two demigods with him while shadow-travelling was bad enough, but with a forty foot tall statue of Athena as well? It drained his energy and consciousness down to the core.
But Nico just could not get to sleep. There was always too much worry on his mind, so much burden on his shoulders. His thoughts drifted back to Reyna, as he gazed at her longingly. She was so beautiful when she slept. Nico managed a small smile. He didn't want to express too many feelings for now. Just play it safe, he thought, let her come to me.
Nico was the only one awake, apart from Reyna's two dogs, Argentum and Aurum. The Athena Parthenos stood about ten meters in front of him, radiating its anger and resentment. Reyna had willingly gone to sleep, as Coach Hedge and her dogs guarded the perimeter of their makeshift camp. However, the Coach had fallen asleep on the job... no surprise there. He was lying on his side, legs spread all over the place, sucking his right thumb, with his trusty baseball bat gripped tightly in his other hand. Nico didn't even want to imagine what kind of things he got up to when he was in bed with his cloud nymph girlfriend. Gross.
The night was particularly cold in the city of Naples. The trio had set up camp in an abandoned courtyard, not far from the Temple of Dioskouri. It seemed as though the courtyard had once been a majestic place of Roman gatherings. The cobblestones were arranged in floral patterns, but were dirty and cracked in a million different places. A ruptured and dried fountain stood coldly in the center, shadowing the very stone it was made from. A marble altar - most likely to make sacrifices to the gods - was placed behind the fountain at the back of the courtyard.
Nico could sense the old presence of ghouls, and dead legionaries, which suggested that the courtyard was once used for rituals of the dead. It didn't bother Nico that much, being a son of Hades and all, but he was beginning to worry that the lemures - troublesome ghosts of the dead - may be irritated by Greek and Roman demigods, plus a mad saytr taking up residence in their long lost partying courtyard. The Athena Parthenos could deter any monster or ghost that came near it, but it wouldn't hold them off for long.
With a deepened sigh, Nico lent against the fountain, hoping it wouldn't collapse on top of him. He was tired as hell, but his thoughts still provoked him. Nico was a dark person. He held back so much sorrow and bitterness. Sometimes, it played in his favour. But other times, his deep personality had caused him even more grief, and had irritated his comrades. He remembered that time when he'd scolded Percy, and left Camp Half Blood, when he had told him that Bianca was dead. Nico refused to believe it, but because of his dark and mysterious ways, he had felt as if it was his own fault his sister had died. He'd come to learn that one of his biggest downfalls was actually himself.
A muffled squawk echoed passed the courtyard. Neither Reyna or Coach had stirred, but Nico heard Aurum's nervous growl as his red eyes stared back at him. An investigation was upholding answers. The detective? Nico. He hauled himself up, his legs still weak from his last shadow-travel. He hobbled over to the courtyard entrance.
He looked left.
He looked right...
Nico's presumptions were correct. Hordes of already-dead-and-about-to-die-again ghosts were flooding through the city's walls and caverns. A compelling purplish glow lined each and every one of their transparent bodies. There were hundreds of them, and Nico suspected they were under the influence of Mother Dirt Face herself. Two demigods and a saytr would not be able to fend off a few hundred ghosts in full battle armor and imperial gold weapons.
"Reyna! Coach!" Nico yelled back as loud as he could for the scrawny boy he was. Reyna woke immediately. But Coach, not so good. He groaned and muttered curses under his breath, but Nico could still hear them from ten meters away.
"What's going on?" Reyna called, as she came closer. "Nico, you should be-" A sharp in take of breath was all it took before Reyna drew her gladius and called to her dogs. "They're dead legionaries, they'll form ranks and do whatever it takes to destroy us. We have no chance." Her eyes were full of hatred and worry, and yet when she met Nico's eyes, a glint of love shone through.
Behind them, Coach Hedge came raging over, waving his baseball bat in the air. "Oi, who do you think you are waking me up like that and-"
"No time, Coach." Nico said. "We've got some serious fighting to be getting on with. You up for some ghoul smashing?" A sideways smile lit up his face for the first time in a long time. Reyna laughed slightly, and jokingly shoved his shoulder as she ran back to the fountain. Nico followed her, and drew his Stygian Iron sword ready to fight. Back at the courtyard entrance, Coach Hedge jumped around shouting insults at the mob of evil ghosts, and waving his baseball bat around, occasionally shouting, "DIE YOU USELESS DEAD PEOPLE!" or "I'LL PULVERIZE THE LOT OF YA!".
The stampede of ghosts flooded through the entrance, Coach Hedge already trying to kill them with just a baseball bat. Nico doubted those Roman insults he was firing at them would help at all, just made the even more angry.
And so the battle began.
Nico was still weak, and tired from all the shadow-travelling, so he could not use that one as an escape route, he just wasn't strong enough. He wished he'd just gone to sleep when he was told to. The Scepter of Diocletian was long gone, destroyed in their last battle in Pompeii. As he fought with incredible skill, Nico was desperately thinking of an ideal escape plan. He just needed logic...
Over in the middle of the battleground, Reyna was repeatedly trying to stab a legionnaire in the gut. Nico could tell he was an ex-Roman Praetor. He had the letters SPQR burned into his right arm, and five lines for years of service. His eyes were ruthless, and antagonizing, and his nose was just huge. The deceased dude had an arrow pierced through his chest, the feather fletching almost touching the wound. Reyna's face beaded with sweat, but she kept it together, and fought like a demon. Gods she's hot, Nico thought.
His side suddenly burst with pain like a hot spike curling it's way down his throat. A Roman pilum, much like a huge javelin was impaled in his thigh. Nico buckled, his vision going haywire as he shrieked in pain. Reyna dared a glance in his direction. "Nico!" her desperate call was vivid in his mind, but quickly faded as his vision went black.
He woke to the sound of Coach's voice. He was shouting something, but Nico struggled to understand it. He forced his eyes to open and light poured through, clearing his head for a moment. His thigh burned like hell, as he pulled the two meter pilum out of the wound. Reyna and Coach Hedge were still fighting with the mob of evil spirits. Nico realized he'd only been unconscious for a few minutes.
At the entrance to the courtyard, a huge humanoid figure loomed in the shadows. As the silhouette shifted, it slowly morphed into two figures, one larger than the other. Nico tried to stand, only to find that his body disapproved, and punished him harshly with another wave of excruciating pain. Everyone, even the ghosts, even Coach Hedge, stopped fighting and shouting insults and stared at the two figures.
Nico inhaled sharply, as the moonlight illuminated their flimsy and weak bodies.
Bob, he thought. And the Giant, Damasen. B-But they died in Tartarus.
What Nico found even more bazaar, was the fact the Bob the Titan held the Scepter of Diocletian in his hand. It had previously exploded in Nico's hand when the trio were in Pompeii. How was it possible that Bob had received it? The Titan held it to the sky. "Bob will destroy you!" he announced. "Bob will save Nico di Angelo and his friends!" The ghosts just looked at each other and laughed, but Bob showed no expression of anger on his face. He just looked up to the sky, and a flash of burning light flooded the city of Naples.
When Nico opened his eyes, he was frightened to see Coach staring right in his face. He had a small gash cut on his forehead, from all the fighting that had been going on. Nico could smell his pungent odor from all the times he refused to wash. It forced him to move away rather quickly. Bob and Damasen were towered above him, as Reyna helped him to sit up.
"I'll get you all bandaged up." Reyna's tone was full of concern as she handed him a square of ambrosia, taken from his coat pocket. He nibbled at it until it was gone, but he didn't feel much better. Bob sat down on the cobblestone floor. It shuddered under his weight, but no cracks appeared.
"Bob." Nico started, but winced as Reyna wrapped a bandage around his thigh. "Percy said you and Damasen were d-dead. How did you escape from Tartarus, and how did you get the scepter?" He felt as if he was asking too many questions, but all questions have an answer. He fiddled with his silver skull ring. It reminded him of the good times, when Bianca was alive.
Bob looked frail, with cuts and gashes all over his weak body. "No time. Gaia threatens to rise and sacrifices have to be made." Bob looked sad, and his eyes were full of regret. Nico felt sorry for his friend.
"What sort of sacrifices?" Reyna asked. She didn't meet Bob's eyes. Nico would go as far as saying she couldn't meet his eyes.
Bob sighed. "Only way to defeat Gaia, is to sacrifice one of the good from each generation..."
Nico knew what was coming.
"One Titan, one Giant, one God and one demigod featured in the Prophecy of Seven. Their blood must be spilled upon the earth to destroy her."