The next few days passed by in a flurry of activities and near-death experiences.
Since Seulgi hadn’t been claimed yet she was run through a gauntlet of challenges to see if she had any noticeable abilities. Things didn’t exactly go well for her.
The first morning, Yeri and a few of her Hermes siblings tasked her with stealing supplies from the camp store. Situated a short way away from the main building, the camp store was run by a man named Argus, who doubled as the camp’s head of security.
Yeri assured Seulgi that if she was a child of Hermes it would be easy to sneak by him and snag a few candy bars. Yeri also failed to mention that Argus quite literally had eyes in the back of his head. And all over the rest of his body. Seulgi was given a very stern talking to and when she returned empty-handed to her fellow campers it was decided that her godly parent definitely wasn’t Hermes.
Seungwan took her for a shift at the infirmary, introducing Seulgi to her boss, the head counselor of the Apollo cabin. Solar was a couple of years older than them, and she ran the infirmary with a tough but kind hand. Seulgi found she could perform basic first aid well enough, but when a Dionysus kid came in with a broken arm so bad it had bent in the opposite direction she almost threw up at the sight. Maybe healing wasn’t for her.
She almost drowned in the lake when Sooyoung overturned her canoe, proving to everyone that not only was she not a child of Poseidon, she couldn’t swim. A friendly hippocampus saw her struggling out in the middle of the lake and took pity on her, kindly ferrying her back to shore.
Weapons class wasn’t much better. Seungwan informed her that everyone at camp had also been diagnosed with ADHD at some point. It was their innate battle reflexes at work that caused them to be hyperactive. In an actual battle it could save her life. But in practice, when Seulgi was placed other demigods, she was at a disadvantage. Especially when compared to the Ares and Athena kids, whose godly heritage granted them increased strength, stamina and proficiency with any and all weapons. After a particularly nasty bout with an Ares girl named Nayeon she decided sword fighting wasn’t her strong suit. Ranged weapons came a little easier to Seulgi, and while was decent enough with a bow, her talents were nowhere close to the Apollo campers.
The only relaxing part of her day was when she had her Ancient Greek lessons. Seulgi was surprised when she opened up the book and the letters didn’t seem to fly across the page or get scrambled together. For once she actually found reading enjoyable, and she was picking up Ancient Greek fairly quickly. The only downside? Her teacher.
“Read it again.”
Joohyun looked like this was the last place she wanted to be, teaching remedial Ancient Greek to Seulgi. She was a stickler for grammar and pronunciation and she had no problem with making Seulgi repeat passages over and over again until everything was just right.
Seulgi sighed, leafing through her book again until she found the beginning of the chapter.
“ὁρᾷς τὸν Ἀκτέωνος ἄθλιον μόρον,
ὃν ὠμόσιτοι σκύλακες ἃς ἐθρέψατο
διεσπάσαντο, κρείσσον' ἐν κυναγίαις
Ἀρτέμιδος εἶναι κομπάσαντ', ἐν ὀργάσιν.
Look at Actaeon’s wretched fate
Who by the man-eating hounds he had raised,
Was torn apart, better at hunting
Than Artemis he had boasted to be, in the meadows”
She looked up at Joohyun to see if the other girl approved of her attempt. Joohyun narrowed her eyes, as if trying to find something she could pick to harp on about but after several tense seconds she nodded begrudgingly.
“Fine. Good job, I guess.” Joohyun seemed to be even less interested in their lesson today than she normally would be, staring past Seulgi and towards the woods. Every now and then she’d jot something down in a notebook, muttering to herself about battle strategy psychological warfare.
“Joohyun?” Seulgi asked timidly, closing her book and tapping the older girl’s shoulder warily.
“Hm?” was Joohyun’s response.
“Are you feeling okay? You seem to have something on your mind.” Seulgi caught a few lines of the notes Joohyun had written in her notebook. It looked to be in some type of shorthand because none of it made any sense to Seulgi. Psychological warfare. Ares beserker rage. 2yeon. Use Aphro kids?
Joohyun caught her looking and quickly snapped her notebook shut. “It’s nothing, Kang. I’m one of the captains in charge of tonight’s war game, I’m just planning out my strategy. Actually since you’re bunking with Hermes you’ll be on my team tonight.”
It was probably a trick of the light, but in that moment Seulgi swore Joohyun had smiled briefly at her. It was gone all too quickly though, as Joohyun grabbed the book Seulgi was reading from and underlined a few phrases in red pen. “Now read it again.”
Seulgi just sighed.
The atmosphere at dinner that evening was noticeably charged with excitement. Seungwan had taught Seulgi and Yeri how to make offerings to the gods, so after scraping off some of her meat into the giant fire pit at the center of the dining pavilion, ("To whoever my godly parent is.") Seulgi joined Seungwan, Yeri, and a few other kids at their table. Seungwan was bantering back and forth with an Athena girl named Tzuyu about who was going to win tonight's war game.
"No way, we're totally going to win. Hermes managed to ally with Ares this time. Which means by default we also have Hades, which means we have Joohyun. There's no way we're losing."
Tzuyu huffed and threw a french fry in Seungwan's face. "Your cabin is such a sellout, what privileges did you have to trade to get on their team?"
Seungwan smirked, "None, Sooyoung approached Minho last night and asked if we would join them. I'm not going to look a gift horse like that in the mouth. But having Joohyun on our team doesn’t automatically mean we win. Director Kim and Mr. D banned her from shadow-traveling straight to the flag after that one time, remember?"
Shadow-traveling? Seulgi hadn’t come across that phrase yet so she leaned in close to Seungwan as the other girl took a sip of her drink before delving into her story. The rest of the girls at their table seemed interested as well.
“Okay, so Joohyun has a lot of abilities as a daughter of Hades, right? One of them is called shadow-traveling. I’m not sure about the exact specifics of her power but it basically allows her to tap into a network of shadows and create portals. It doesn’t have a huge range and she can only cast it like twice before it exhausts her but that didn’t stop her that one time we played.”
“It was Hermes, Hades, Aphrodite and Dionysus against Ares, Athena, Hephaestus, Demeter and Apollo. We have more people but they have a wider variety of demigods. A genius soul from Hermes (she pointed at herself) asked why Joohyun couldn’t just shadow-travel to their flag, take it, and shadow-travel right back.”
Sooyoung, who had been passing by with a second plate of food, leaned over and interrupted Seungwan’s story. “So Joohyun portaled to our flag and stole it, ending the game in two minutes and fifteen seconds. That’s why her use of shadow-traveling is restricted. The end.”
Seungwan grumbled at her story being cut off, taking one of Tzuyu’s fries off her plate and throwing it Sooyoung, who easily dodged it with a smirk on her face. “Thanks for ruining my story. Are you sure you picked the right English name, Joy? Cause you’re not being very nice right now.”
Rolling her eyes at the antics, Tzuyu turned to Seulgi as she approached the table. "How about you, new girl? Are you excited for tonight?"
"Should I be?" Seulgi asked, pulling up a chair and setting her tray down. Meals at Camp Half-Blood were so much better than the meals at her last school. It was as if her plate knew exactly what she was in the mood for and provided for her accordingly. Tonight she’d been given Korean-style bulgogi and rice, with kimchi and a bowl of soup on the side. It even tasted like her mom’s homemade food.
"Uh, yeah!" a girl named Jeongyeon cut in. "Tonight's the night we play war games. Technically it’s supposed to prepare us for when we get chosen to go on a quest, or if a monster somehow manages to get past the camp’s magical boundaries. Just picture it: eighty demigods armed to the teeth playing capture the flag." She sighed happily, taking a bite of her pizza. "It's so much fun."
Seulgi looked confused. "Wait, seriously? You guys actually play war games with real weapons?”
Of course they would, she thought to herself. And here she thought almost dying four times in two days was a fluke. Seungwan patted her shoulder reassuringly, "Don't worry there are nymphs always on the sidelines ready to perform first aid if anyone needs it during the match. And the Apollo cabin takes a shift at the infirmary after to help out. Deaths are uncommon."
"Deaths?" Seulgi spluttered, almost choking on her soda, clearly unprepared for such a nonchalant response. Jeongyeon had to thump her on the back for a good minute before she managed to catch her breath.
"Relax, they're being overly dramatic," the daughter of Dionysus assured. "It can get dangerous, but no one has actually ever died before. Oh, there's Director Kim, the games are about to start."
Kim Jongkook strode out into the middle of the pavilion, where two metal flag posts had been placed. Twelve small blank flags surrounded the flag posts. Four of them, representing Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and Artemis had already been filled in. The head of Camp Half-Blood cleared his throat and raised a bullhorn.
"Alright everyone, I know you're all ready for tonight's war games, but before we begin, I'd like to restate the rules. Especially because some campers," he glanced pointedly at a table full of Ares campers, "are fond of playing roughly. Anyway, the rules for tonight's capture the flag are as follows: all magical weapons and armor are allowed, as well as animal companions for those of you that have them. Here at Camp Half-Blood we have a strict no maiming or killing rule, while these events are meant to simulate potential battlefield experiences, they are by no means meant to cause permanent damage."
A chorus of boos sounded from the Ares table, but Director Kim simply waved them off. "Yes yes, I know, what a disappointment. Now for the teams."
He blew the horn once and Sooyoung jogged out into the center of the dining hall carrying a large flag. She was flanked by two of her siblings, Nayeon and a boy named Chanyeol. The flag was eight feet long and blood-red, a sigil of a tusked boar in the center. Sooyoung stuck the flag in one of the flag poles and seconds later, four of the smaller once-blank flags began to shimmer and change color.
Director Kim read the flags as they changed. "Fighting with Ares tonight we have Hermes," a white flag emblazoned with a blue caduceus appeared. "Aphrodite," a pink flag with a white dove, "Dionysus," a dark purple flag with a green grapevine, "And Hades," a jet-black flag with a three-headed dog.
As their cabins were announced, the campers cheered loudly, the atmosphere becoming even more tense and on-edge as the games inched closer.
"And opposing them tonight we have…"
"Athena!" a young man yelled, making his entrance with some of his siblings, holding the silver flag of his cabin and planting it on the other pedestal. Tzuyu cheered, showing her cabin pride as the ally flags next to the Athena flag changed.
Director Kim smiled at all the competitiveness, "Yes, tonight is our classic Ares versus Athena. And allied with Athena we have Apollo," a golden flag with a lyre. "Hephaestus," a bronze flag with a hammer and anvil, "and Demeter," an earthy olive flag with a stalk of wheat. He waited patiently for the latest round of cheering to die down before continuing.
"Wow," Seulgi muttered at the sheer noise now shaking the dining hall. People really got into the war games here. "This is insane. What have I gotten myself into?"
"Alright guys, come to Yeri, I’ve…acquired some treats for you, courtesy of the Hephaestus cabin," Yeri grinned wolfishly as the rest of their team gathered around her. She produced a handful of walkie-talkies from behind her back and began handing them out to the leaders of the various squads.
“You stole these from them, didn’t you?” Seungwan accused as she was handed one, but she looked impressed.
"Yep!" the blonde chirped cheerfully, giving the last one to Joohyun and instructing everyone on how to change the channels so they could listen in on the enemy team’s communications. "So, as Joohyun-unnie told me, most forms of modern human communication don't work within camp boundaries. But with a little teamwork, my siblings and I managed to snatch about a dozen of the custom walkie-talkies the Hephaestus cabin has been working on. So now not only can we constantly be in the loop with each other, but we can also hear the other team’s plans."
Even Joohyun looked impressed at the feat Yeri and her siblings managed to pull off. But then again, the children of Hermes were basically evil geniuses.
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