Challenge: CHB: Capture the Flag Tournament

Round: Two - Time For A Quest

Cabin and Team: Apollo - Team Blue

Prompt: The Waystation - write about trying to find somewhere to settle down.

Bonus Prompts: [colour] burnt orange, [word] joking, [emotion] worry

Summary: After eleven years without contact, Billie received a letter and a suitcase of gifts from her mother, telling her to go to the USA, and ever since then, her life had been turned upside down.

Word Count: 3760

Where the Bright Bauhinias Bloom

The title is taken from translated lyrics of Bauhinia by Sam Hui. This fic takes place in late March to July 2013, which intends to line up with the 5 Years Ahead of Canon Timeline which I used in Partners in Crime.

CW: Discussions of HK politics, cultural shock, Sinophobia, stereotyping and misconception, grief and death, etc.

Billie was ten when she was told she had to leave home.

"Bàhbā, why do I have to go?" she protested. Her Easter holidays were just about to begin, and she couldn't wait to play Angry Birds and Dumb Ways to Die all day on her second-hand phone, all summer. Sure, she would need to get her homework done, but that was boring. She could never focus on those Maths questions about fractions and decimals (she always forgot the decimal point…), and even though the school printed their exam papers for her with a larger font size and gave her more time to finish them, she couldn't really ever get a grade above average in class.

"Because you are destined to do greater things than to live on this farm," Dad said. "Think of it as an opportunity to study and live in a place where you do not have to worry about the government trying to brainwash you." (Her grandparents and great-grandparents fled from the Mainland in a period of time called the Great Leap Forward, and hearing that she might have to call the regime that killed millions in a few years "selfless" is… unsettling, to say the least.)

"But I don't want to go!" she cried. She didn't want to leave their home behind - the quiet mornings of hot green tea disrupted with nothing but the chirping birds, the geckos that roam the house in mid-summer (they're the best unofficial pets a girl could ever ask for), even the laborious weekends where she helped haul her father's truck with freshly grown and harvested vegetables. Sometimes when her dad ushered her outdoors, she would just sit under the lychee trees where the sweet, juicy fruits would ripen as she approached them. The longans also ripened earlier in the summer whenever she was around - which was great, because they were great for medicinal soups, best served in the winter.

"It's for your own safety," Dad added. "Remember that time when we visited Central, and you told me about that giant snake in the middle of the road?"

She did remember that day, though only briefly. When she was eight, she went to Central with her father for a quick visit. While passing a tram line, she noticed a giant serpentine creature slithering down the tracks, as opposed to an actual double-decker tram. Confounded, she asked her father about it, and he told her he didn't notice anything different about the "tram".

There was another time at home while she was helping her father harvest their crop of bok choy for the Chinese New Year holidays, when a long-necked bird trampled across their fields. The bird had a purple abdomen and green-tipped feather, and near the edges of the vegetable patch, she found it devouring the head of a snake with its scarlet beak. She didn't know what the bird was, but the excrement left behind on the ground left a nasty burn through their broom.

"Your mom sent a letter explaining why you have to go. She wants you to learn how to defend yourself from, I suppose, creatures like those. I've never been able to see them, but I trust her judgement," her dad further elaborated. He handed her a letter, sealed in a thick envelope with instead of a normal postage stamp, was one for "Hermes Overnight Express". The letter read:

"Dear Billie,

I don't think I've ever seen you since you were a baby, but I know you've grown so much, blossoming like your father's fruit trees. But the world is filled with monsters, and you must learn to defend yourself against them. As my daughter, I'd like you to come to Camp Half-Blood in New York every summer, or stay year-round if you so choose, to train against these monsters and learn to survive. This is my gift for you - to come here without additional financial burden placed on your hardworking father. May you grow to be hardy and strong as the great pine trees, and flexible and resilient as bamboo.

Love from your mother,


P.S. All the paperwork has been taken care of."

Enclosed in the envelope, as well as the letter, were a plane ticket to New York City, scheduled for the day the holidays began (in late March), a commemorative album decorated with all sorts of trees and flowers, a packet of vegetable seeds, and as stated, all the relevant paperwork and documents needed for her to go to the US (kind of disturbing, really).

Her dad coughed awkwardly behind her. "She also sent these." He gestured towards a plastic rolling suitcase and a green backpack. Tucked into the suitcase was a… wicked bronze knife-sword with a broad, three-foot-long blade. She pressed the golden wheat sheaf embedded in the guard, and the sword shrank into a silver bracelet with a golden wheat sheaf charm.

Deep down within her, rage bubbled. She hadn't ever heard of her mom before this, and suddenly, she had the urge to send all of this? Was she joking when she said she cared?

But she's your mother, some part of her reminded herself, and you're supposed to respect and listen to your parents. That's what you're taught in Chinese class, right? Filial piety?

She hated that the voice was right.

Billie told all her friends and classmates and teachers that she got a scholarship in the US and was leaving right after the holidays began, so she wouldn't be back to finish the school year or even graduate the following year.

"Send me an email or a Skype call," she told them all. Jacky and Beatrice both agreed to send over homework assignments and updates. Coco asked their teacher if they could allow her and her friends to take a group photo before she left. Holiday, Pippa and Atticus compiled a list of songs for her sending-off party, ranging from Minecraft parodies (Minecraft sounded epic to play but her savings couldn't exactly afford a game that costs about $200 for an account on PC) to Cantopop classics. Katelyn and Benson compiled a scrapbook of the past five years at school with them. Heidi and Joyce bought an actual cake - Mango Crispy, her favourite - for the whole class to share. It was happy for her to see that all her teachers and friends were so supportive. But no good things could last forever - even the most beautiful flowers wilted in the winter.

At home, she packed up most of her possessions - her clothes, the second-hand phone, a couple of books that she bought with her lai see money, the scrapbook, etc. She bid farewell to the tomato plants and the carp and turtles in the pond, and Dad placed a hand on her shoulder as he drove her to the MTR station and told her to take the Airport Express after reaching Central. It would be the first time she had ever left the city, and who knows when she could return? Geung si jumped their way home, arms outstretched - she wondered if she would become one if she died in America.

The plane trip was long. And boring. She spent most of the plane ride watching movies and re-listening to Gangnam Style to the point she swore she could sing it in her sleep. Which she swore she had a dream about while asleep on the plane trip.

At JFK Airport, she ran into a redheaded girl from Ontario who was also looking for this "Camp Half-Blood" place. As a Hongkonger, she chose the most practical option - taking a taxi. From the streets of Queens up to the tip of Long Island. Meaning a car trip that was about 2 hours long.

"You are joking."

"Oh, come on, two hours isn't even that long."

"I can, in two hours, go to Central and then go back home."

"Well, then, maybe you just... live in a small town."

"Hong Kong is small? We have 7 million people ah..."

They talked throughout the whole journey, even if their start was a tad rocky and her English was still kind of choppy. She learnt that Kayla's father was an archery coach in Canada, and she didn't know anything about her mother - and that she could apparently shoot Birds at the perfect angle, even if the game was just on a screen with a slingshot and not in real life with a bow and arrow. Kayla learnt that Billie's favourite colours were blue, silver and gold, her favourite book series were Geronimo Stilton (though the multi-coloured fonts were murder on her eyes) and Magic Tree House, which she borrowed from the public library, and that wontons and dumplings weren't, in fact, the same thing, and "potstickers" were basically lightly-fried dumplings.

When they emerged from the taxi and crossed the threshold of the Camp, a teenage boy in a burnt orange T-shirt greeted them. A bow and quiver was slung over his back. Four clay beads hung from a leather necklace around his… well, neck. He introduced himself as Michael Yew, son of Apollo.

The only thing that came up in her mind regarding the name, even after a few moments of thought, was, "Like the ice-cream company?"

The other two stared at her incredulously.

"No, like the Greek god of archery! The arts! Healing! Plague! Marble, truth, reason, prophecy, the streets, foreigners, male beauty- oh my gods."

They were still staring at her, but above her head this time. A golden hologram of a sickle with a few sheaves of wheat had somehow appeared above her head. "Meh lai ga? " [What is this?] she asked.

"It's the symbol of Demeter," Michael answered. Oh, so that's what the D stands for… oh, whatever, your mother is a Greek goddess, it's life, can't stand around moping about the past. "Goddess of the harvest, fertility, and agriculture. S'go, I'll take you to your siblings and the other girl - what's your name?"


"-Kayla to the Hermes Cabin. Welcome to Camp Half-Blood, and gods help you if you support the Titans in this establishment."

That evening, Billie sat with her siblings - Katie and Miranda with crazy similar surnames that she could barely tell apart, Abbie, Charlotte, Erica, Justin, Stephen, Madeleine from Paris (who spoke with an accent as thick as her own), Maisy, Alice, Anthony. She cringed at the cuisine served at the Dining Pavilion - she knew that Westerners didn't eat meals like what and how she ate at home, but she knew she probably wouldn't be able to take most of the foods served there. (The only food item she accepted could be eaten as a meal by itself was the pizza - American barbeque was nice but nothing like what HK-style barbeque was like, plain bread was breakfast food, and fruit were for dessert and snacks, not an actual meal.) And of course, as she slipped into her bunk in her mother's Cabin, she knew she wasn't meant to be here - she missed her simple life 12 time zones away, where she didn't have to help prepare for a war.

The next day, Kayla was claimed by Apollo (A god and a mortal man, having a child? It's more likely than you think!) and taken under Michael's wing during archery class, when she demonstrated her prowess with her own bow and arrows at the archery range, and finally understood the implications behind the rainbow flag hanging on her father's wall at home. Billie learnt that she was surprisingly good at the dadao her mother had gifted her - "Mom is a great swordswoman, you know, one of her epithets is of the golden sword". But day after day, Camp reminded her of how she was not like the other campers. Kayla settled in with her siblings quite easily, and it seemed that a vast majority of the Campers were American, or had lived in the US for long enough to know what life was like. Madeleine flew in from her home directly, like her, but they still clashed every time they spoke to each other, since she was used to going to bed early, while Billie insisted on studying into the night for school subjects she no longer studied officially - she had no idea why her subconscious told her to do such things, perhaps it was under the false hopes that she could one day return home and take her exams, get a decent job and take care of her father.

And then there were the questions. An unclaimed boy kept harassing her about "General Tso's chicken" and fortune cookies, even when she stated over and over again that she had heard of no such thing before, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Barely anyone in the place knew what the heck a Celsius was and she had no idea how to convert it to Fahrenheit - nearly everyone was concerned for her sanity when she said that 33 degrees was summer to her (meanwhile, New York was so north that she knew she'd probably freeze to death in the winter). Every other day, she had to ask people to repeat what they said more slowly, because how the hell is my brain supposed to keep up with first-language English speakers who speak so damn fast I can't hear what they are saying? English was a second/foreign language at home and all of a sudden, she had 24 hours to adjust to these people talking so fluently that her head spun? Then there was always some puk gai that would condescending repeat what the instructors said and sneer at her with an expression so bad that she wanted to throw poison ivy in their faces.

Life wasn't easy in the US. She tried to catch up with her classmates after the Easter Holidays ended on the other side of the world, but the best she could do was squint at the screen and try to copy down the notes Jacky had noted down in his "typhoon handwriting". But war was brewing on the horizon, and by the gods, she would have to prepare for far more than she thought she could handle at the time.

A couple of months later, it happened. Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase and a few other demigods ventured into the Labyrinth, which has an entrance right by Zeus' Fist. Billie cursed both herself and the whole Camp for being so oblivious to a route straight to their home base under their very noses, but she was also thankful that they had found out before it was too late and the Camp had been decimated.

One night, a girl about age 15 that she recognized as an Aphrodite camper came up to her on the cabin porch, while she was studying the puberty unit for General Studies and talking to her teacher over the phone about it. She introduced herself as Esther Monet Thompson and asked her if she wanted revenge against her mother for abandoning her as well, and not helping her adjust to life in the US. She turned the offer down, and then Esther disappeared into the night. She quirked an eyebrow at that, but continued her studies with her teacher - it was exam week back at school, and she had agreed to take her end-of-year exams in July.

Some days later, Annabeth returned to Camp, distraught and sobbing about how Percy was missing; and two weeks later, when they decided to burn his shroud, it happened - the son of Poseidon himself had decided it was a great idea to return to Camp, alive and well.

By the time Percy, Annabeth and company turned up at Camp again after leaving, tensions were at an all-time high, and it was time to prepare for the invasion. She had propped on a blue-plumed helmet and a bronze chestplate, but there was not much she could do other than wait for the battle to begin, other than have one hand on her dadao and another on a bag of assorted seeds and seedlings, ready to be cast as distractions and even weapons at a moment's notice. She had also rigged a couple of traps to go off at a moment's notice, should they be needed. And as the Titan Army exploded from the Labyrinth entrance, the battle began.

Catapults were activated. Showers of arrows fell from the skies. Greek fire bombs rained on enemy monsters: Laistrygonians, dracaenae, hellhounds, telekhines. She charged at a giant earthen statue heaving a boulder and it melted into clay as her blade slammed through its stomach. Then she tossed a random seedling from her bag and it grew into a wide red flower emitting the stench of rotten meat, which someone tripped into and started screaming like a little girl as a reaction - wait, was that Esther?

...oh, right, there were demigods on their side too.

A muscular, brown-skinned girl retreated from the battlefield with blood gushing from her side. A pair of twins, a boy and a girl, were pummelling mercilessly at a duo of campers wearing matching T-shirts with an omega-shape print. She cast another seedling in their direction and poison ivy slithered up their legs - one of the campers, bleeding from the temple, started dragging their friend from the front lines, but she could damn well see that the aforementioned friend had a bashed-in skull and was probably already… gone.

Then the hellhound caught her off-guard. The drool splashed around her like the waves at the beach she visited last summer with her dad. She drew her blade again and darted around it, before a crossbow bolt hit it dead in the eye from behind her and it dissolved into dust. She waved at half a dozen dracaenae, which slithered in her direction. Once again, she bolted, and as they retreated to the edge of the woods, the serpent women accidentally triggered a tripwire with their tails. Hissing angrily, they too dissolved into dust as they were squashed to dust by her piano trap, which hoisted a grand piano over their heads and slammed onto those who triggered the trap - no thanks to Tom and Jerry and other cartoons for teaching her how to do such things. Splinters of wood flew everywhere - a couple ended up in her leg as she tripped over from escaping the crash, and her knee was scraped. The wounds stung and it hurt, but there was still a war going on around her and she had to move, fast.

She hobbled back to the main battlefield, pressing a tissue to the scrape and bruise, but it was slow progress since the forest was just so big. All of a sudden, a loud, trumpeting sound blasted and reverberated across the woods. She just stared into the distance for a bit, but continued heading back to Camp.

And thus the battle ended. Enemy stragglers were coughing and sneezing like they had the flu, though a gut feeling in her knew that it was something far more serious than that. She had the splinters removed with little difficulty (though she had to duty to inform the Apollo Cabin that yes, there was a broken grand piano used to crush half a dozen dracaenae in the forest, and she can't afford another for reparations) and the scrape was disinfected with nectar and they just stuck a band-aid on the closing wound.

Eight campers were dead. One of Dionysus' sons. Both Alice and Charlotte - my sisters, she reminded herself guiltily - had been caught in the crossfire between a Greek fire explosion and the hammers of telkhines. A son of Hephaestus went down in an ambush. Three of Kayla's siblings had been ripped from her, one of them their Head Counsellor, leaving Michael to lead in his lost brother's place. And last but not least, the camper who kept harassing her about questions regarding American Chinese food, who was claimed in time for the funeral - his godly parent turned out to be Iris.

Stephen was stuck in the Infirmary with two broken legs and a concussion. Katie, their Head Counsellor, was too busy helping to manage the funeral rites of their sisters, along with basically the rest of their still-alive sisters. Justin was too busy sulking over the passing of his best friend - Isaac from Hephaestus - and Anthony was too busy trying to take his mind off of things by slashing and disemboweling training dummies in the sword-fighting arena.

So she decided to do something that reminded her of home. She gathered minced pork and shrimp and wrapped each meat ball up in a thin square of dough, which she convinced Chiron to let her go into the city to purchase. She boiled a large pot of thin noodles and as opposed to the wood nymphs serving classic 'Greek' food, the Campers received a simple taste of Hong Kong's less glamorous and more homely side. (For the vegetarian/vegan campers, she used assortments of vegetables instead as the filling.) Lychees and strawberries sat side by side at the tables.

Though the funerals had already been conducted for a couple of days, the Camp was still subdued in atmosphere - Campfires came without Lee leading the sing-along, Pollux was left sobbing at the loss of his twin, and the Demeter Cabin felt empty without two of their sisters. The Camp accepted her condolence gift without so much as saying a word to her, but she was fine with it - as the campers did try to get back on their feet after that fateful dinner, and life carried on at Camp Half-Blood, though far more tense than it used to be.

That summer, she took her exams and her grades were still average, but there were more than her academics on the line. She had been scarred with pain and loss, but life would still carry on. As Valentina Diaz, a new Aphrodite camper combed streaks of chestnut brown dye into her cut-short hair, Billie knew that life would never be the same again.

A/N: Much like the last fic, a lot of this one is based on research too, because despite living in HK, I'm a "pretentious" city girl who has only really been to the countryside for hiking and day trips, and went to a private school for primary school. I apologize if I got anything incorrect this time.

The "brainwashing" thing refers to the "National Education" controversy of 2012, where the government tried to make this new subject about "moral and national education" but it turns out that the textbooks have literal CCP propaganda in them. People protested and the idea got shelved. The government has definitely considered bringing the idea back since then. Billie's ancestors' relationship with the CCP has roots in real life, as HK experienced a huge population growth from refugees fleeing the communist takeover, Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution between the 1950s and the 1960s. Even I can only call myself a third-generation HKer, since at least one of my grandparents was born in the Mainland.

It is my belief that since Western Civilization has influenced most of the world, Greco-Roman monsters have ravaged the world with them. However, regional pantheons may dominate in the less "Western" regions. Central, being the de facto capital of Hong Kong were we a country, would likely be a hotbed of monster activity (as well as "Western" neighbourhoods like Stanley and Discovery Bay, while Chinese creatures would be found in less "Western" regions like Wong Tai Sin (named after a temple dedicated to a Chinese deity).

The bird with the corrosive excrement is the zhenniao, a mythological bird found in ancient Southern China. Of course, I decided that they didn't go extinct and still roam the countryside to this day.

Commemorative albums (Chinese: 紀念冊) are used by kindergarten and primary school students to keep track of their classmates and friends from their school before they leave (usually by graduation but also by transferring to another school). They are usually decorated with cartoon characters like Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars, Sofia the First, My Melody, Mr. Men and Little Miss, etc. (Of course, there are more masculine designs for boys.) They differ from yearbooks because they are not printed by the school.

The epithet of Demeter referenced in this fic is Demeter Anesidora, i.e. "she who sends forth gifts".

The reactions of Billie's classmates are based on how my class reacted to two of our classmates leaving in the middle of the school year. The names are all inspired by some of the "English names" (actually usually not official and just nicknames) HKers have come up with - and they're not even the more ridiculous ones. I named a few after my classmates, and the "typhoon handwriting" really is barely legible, if legible at all, and written by a guy called Jacky, who was in my class last year.

Lai see refers to 'red packets', red envelopes of money which are given to children during Chinese New Year and usually used for savings.

Geung si are the jiangshi Frank refers to in The Tyrant's Tomb (just using the Cantonese transliteration as opposed to Mandarin pinyin) - zombies which hop around from their place of death far from home, trying to get back to their hometown for funeral rites.

A 2-hour car ride is very long for a HKer, because HK is a very small city in comparison with many others, and everything is so compact and close together.

Someone on Quora actually asked why wontons and dumplings are considered different things. *sighs* Wontons have thin skin, dumplings have thick skin, they have different shapes, etc.

Appolo (spelt like that) is a HK ice-cream company that sells frozen desserts. Yes, it's spelt like that, and no, they do not take criticism. It's relatively cheap, their ice-cream, for more than Dryer's and Nestle and Häagen-Dazs. We also don't learn about the Greek gods (officially) until Secondary/Form 1 (seventh grade) History class. RIP.

Paris has the shortest average working hours per week among 71 cities, at around 30 hours a week. In contrast, Hong Kong has the longest, at over 50 hours a week.

No, General Tso's chicken is not served in China proper, and I had never heard of it before watching videos about American Chinese food.

All Titan Army demigods who appear in this fic are my OCs - I gave them names and a bit of background and everything.

In case some of you can't tell, I'm basically projecting the little I remember of my childhood on Billie, as well as the cultural differences I can tell (without going) between HK and the USA. HKers also tend to be resilient af and we just ride to the rapids and go with the flow of fate unless it concerns our core values and/or personal interests. Then we stand our ground and fight to the death. That's probably one of the few circumstances where our pragmatism doesn't (necessarily) take priority.

And that's it for Round 2! See you in the next couple of weeks!