I can't remember exactly when it started, but I believe it was when my old master told me about the Three Disasters, the only flaws of learning the Way. My old master was a Buddha, a Patriarch, and a learned man, for great was his magic and knowledge.

He made me swear to never mention his name to anyone. He had seen my boastful and troublesome nature, and did not want to be associated with me.

That day, he gathered all his disciples beside him, and then once again singled me out. Soon he sent away the others, and made me stay behind. But I was happy, for only when he was alone would he teach me what I truly seeked: immortality. He had taught me the magic of cloud-traveling and the ways of the Dharma and the Source, and through that I would be able to shed my mortality and join the world of the immortals.

But this day changed my life forever.

"What are the Three Disasters, Master? How can I avoid them?" I asked. "Disciple, the three disasters come once every 500 years. The first, a thunderbolt will come to strike you down; the second, 'hidden fire' that will burn both body and soul, and the third and last, the monster wind, which will tear your entrails apart and scatter your existence to the four winds."

I was alarmed: years and years of training and leaving behind my monkey family for nothing! Determined to skirt these obstacles with skill and willpower, as I had done and would do with all other obstacles in life, I asked him, "Then what should I do? Oh teach me, Master. Your disciple is frightened!"

"To escape them, you must disguise yourself with magic. So you now have a choice, which would you rather learn: the 72 earthly transformations, or the 36 heavenly ones?"

'Oh that's easy!' I thought. 'More is-!'

But then I stopped myself, and asked in a moment of strange clarity, "Master, which would you choose?"

"I would choose…the 36 heavenly ones." He told me slowly.

I nodded, and said "Then I shall ask you to teach me the 36 heavenly transformations, great Master." Thus he whispered to me his secrets, and I learned.

Yes, it was this moment, this one moment, that changed my fate and determined, my future. It is this decision that I made that allowed me to eventually become human…

and fall in love with Tang SanZang.

36 TRANSFORMATIONS

CHAPTER 1 – ZHU BAJIE

You'd think that being stuck under a mountain for 500 years that someone, anyone, would come to you and offer you food and shelter and say, "You poor thing!"

It really doesn't matter what I did to deserve that, NOBODY deserves to lie under, UNDER, a mountain and expect to live out that time. I ate iron pellets and drank molten copper as my sustenance, and iron and copper are nothing compared to fruit! Oh it was terrible in the spring, when all the flowers and trees bloomed on the mountain, and all the smells of the delicious fruit and flowers that just STUNK of home, and you're a monkey, what else can you do but try to get at it, and-

"WuKong." My new master calls, jarring me from my thoughts. "Please walk with me, not off on your own." He chides gently, before continuing on my way.

While I was wrapped up in my train of entirely justifiable complaints, my feet decided to take a detour into a local forest. I was just a few centimeters from smashing my beautiful nose into a tree.

I muttered a quick apology, and started jogging.

This new master of mine is strange. Sure, he's not immortal, or really, anything special, but he's my master! Guan Yin sent me to him! A blessing! He should know that the Great Sage Equaling Heaven is his disciple! But nothing! No reaction! It's like he's-

"WuKong!" Master yells at me.

-Just not paying attention. I look down at my feet and see the edge of a cliff. Oh, irony, how you love to spite me.

"Be right there, Master." I call, hurrying now to catch up.

"Really, WuKong, do I have to put you on the horse and walk myself to keep you from wandering away?" Master says, as his version of a joke.

Boy, he's got the driest sense of humor, right up there with that Emperor of Heaven and The Buddha himself. So I nicked the heavenly kingdom a bit, big deal! It was time for remodeling anyway. And the Buddha? It's his fault for disguising his hand as the mountain at the edge of the world! He made me pee on him!

"WuKong, where are we?" Master asks.

"Uh…still at the base of the Five Elements Mountain, or eh, what's left of it. Hehe. Maybe we should call it a hill now – it's not even worth a lofty name after what I did!"

"WuKong, don't boast. It's unbecoming."

"Awww, but Master."

"No means no."

I groaned and whined and in a roundabout way gave just the best performance of my life, but Master just wouldn't budge. It probably was because he was my master, and so I can't just threaten him with violence like I do to…everyone else.

That, and Guan Yin gave him a magic circlet to stick on my head…which can squeeze my head and give me migraines via a magic spell…

Which Master is extremely good at chanting.

Wait, what do you mean what did I do to deserve that? Your question should be, who in the world would be so mean to me?

Yeah, I didn't believe that one either. My reputation precedes me.

I suppose I should start from the beginning. I'm Sun WuKong, the Handsome Monkey King, the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, and as of yesterday, Tang SanZang's disciple. I'm immortal, all-powerful, and just overall amazing, and they stick me as a sad little wimpy monk's bodyguard.

I've been Buddha's little whipped dog for a while now. To really earn the title Great Sage Equaling Heaven, and to teach those Heavenly dogs a lesson about how they mistreated me, enough people whined to Buddha that he came to take care of me himself.

Obviously, by "take care of me" I mean squish me under a mountain for 500 years. On my good days I can happily boast that I ruled Heaven for a while, and only Buddha himself could defeat me.

But on my bad days, I just really hate that guy.

500 years later, I got a visit from the bodhisattva Guan Yin, who told me to protect this guy and whatnot. However I got into a fight with him yesterday because he wouldn't let me kill bandits. Bandits.

Bandits = murderers.

But I'm not allowed to kill them. Meanwhile ALL of heaven gets to just shit on bandits and murderers for fun, and torture them as games, but I have to be good.

Because Guan Yin said so and forced me to wear a torture device on my head. So now it's also, Because Master TangSheng said so.

"You Buddhists are really something." I said to Master. It's my way of small talking.

"I mean, because I took down all of Heaven, literally. I demolished the armies, trashed the chambers, even scared the Emperor from his throne, and then Buddha and the other clowns come along and before I know it, I've been under a mountain for 500 years."

Can you tell I'm just a little bitter over this? Just a bit miffed? Just a bit?

We keep walking for a bit, and I try not to stare at Master while I wait for his response. He doesn't give me one.

"So…what do you think Master?" I ask as subtly as possible.

I'm not one for subtlety.

He looks at me with that dry stare of his. "WuKong, I'm not giving you sympathy."

Ouch. Great first impression Oh Venerable Monk! Tell a poor sap who's just a little hurting and smarting from the wounds to his pride that he's not getting any TLC. The least you can say is, oh sorry?

"WuKong." Oh great, he's still talking.

"WuKong, do you really want me to judge you by your past actions?"

I stop in my path. No one's ever asked me that before. My reaction is obviously what he was going for, so Master turns the horse around to look at me straight in the eye.

"WuKong, our meeting was fate, destiny. When two people who are fated to meet finally do meet, I believe it is a rebirth of sorts, for the connection that comes from two people with that kind of destiny inevitably changes these people in unimaginable ways. Thus I am reborn here, and so are you. I hope to get to know you by what you do in the future, and not what you did in the past." Having finished his lecture, he promptly turns around and continues going.

"Oh." I said, as my grand reply.

He looks at me then, and my mouth just opens on its own. "I guess you're not just a bumbling idiot monk after all." I blurt out.

STUPID ME STUPID ME WHAT DID I SAY THAT FOR STUPID STUPID STUPID MASTER'S GOING TO KICK MY ASS AND CHANT THAT HEADACHE SUTRA TO GIVE ME MIGRAINES AGAINST STUPID STUPID-

Master just smirks at me and says thank you.

I try not to blush too red as I hitch the luggage higher on my back and take my proper position: in front of the horse, with the reins in my hand as I lead Master forward.

Before I take two steps, a red haired man with garish purple robes fly out of nowhere and land in front of me. I crack up laughing.

'HE LOOKS SO RETARDED AHAHAHAHAHA!" I gasp out.

Master jumps off the horse and runs over to the unconscious man. "WuKong, quick, check if he's alive!" He says, a scared look on his face.

I roll my eyes and smile at him before doing as I'm told. "He's alive." I say nonchalantly.

"You didn't even check." He retorts indignantly.

With a sigh, I put my ear to the man's chest. One heartbeat, two, three.

"See? He's alive, like I said." I'm always giddy with happiness when I'm right and someone else is wrong.

"WuKong, I want you to take them home." Oho, this man is just full of ideas, isn't he?

"I don't know where he lives! He can't even tell me! I can't read minds, or whatever-"

BONG!

I wheel around, my magical staff already in hand, only to find another unconscious guy with a stupid expression on his face and a bump on his head too.

I crack up laughing again. Master shakes me by the shoulders to stop.

"Check him too!"

"Obviously it's the same guy, so if one's not dead-" I protest, but Master pushes me towards the growing pile of stupid-faced guys.

I stop half a meter from the man's chest. Odd…I smell incense. Is he a shaman?

I hurriedly check for a heartbeat (it's there, just like I said!) and start inspecting the surrounding area for the source of the incense.

There! Hanging in the trees: a demon-banishing sword. The incense is coming from the wood. I jump up and snatch it down.

"There's a youkai around here. These men sleeping over there? They're amateur shamans trying to get a pretty penny for their freaky youkai-chasing away dances. You have no idea how stupid they look-"

"WuKong. We need to guard these men, otherwise they might get eaten." Master says. For an utterly helpless man with a utter hatred for all things remotely violent, he sure has an INCREDIBLY annoying and possibly fatal need to be the hero for people.

"You really should worry about yourself more. Didn't you say that if demons eat your flesh, they'd become immortal? We should just go. Now." I argue.

But Master just smiles at me. "But you said you're the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. I'm sure someone as great as you can protect me from a few small youkai." He replies happily.

He knows he's trumped me. I manage to convince him to let me levitate them into the town for safety instead of watching over them in the forest the whole night.

"WuKong. There's a house over there, let's go see if we can stay there for the night."

"Alright, Master." We walk up the stairs to the house, and just before I knock, another man flies right over our heads and into the forest.

I catch him before he gets too far.

"Oh good, WuKong, you saved him!" Master praises me.

"Don't praise me too early, Master. I only did it because you would've made me go back to get him anyway." I state bluntly.

He sighs with disappointment. "Well, I suppose you're at least smart."

The door opens, and a wobbly old man comes to answer the door. Master immediately starts into his introduction, the one that gets everyone, and I mean everyone, to let us stay for the night and give us food.

I don't know how he does it.

"Greetings, grandfather. I am the High Monk from the Tang Court of China, traveling this way to the West to obtain Buddhist scriptures in order to better understand Buddha and his teachings. May we stay here for the night?"

The old man nods, and quickly gestures for us to come in. I walk two steps in and immediately start cussing. "Fuck! This place smells like shit! What the hell lives here?" I cry out.

"WuKong! Language!" Master chastises me. The old man drags Master and I into a private room. As we sit down, he gestures for a servant to bring tea and refreshments.

"A few years ago, our village was constantly bullied by local bandits."

Hear that, Master? Bandits. Bullying nice people.

"One night, a few broke into my home and tried to take away my poor daughter. Suddenly, a big strong man appears with a huge rake and completely overwhelms the bandits. He chased them out within 5 minutes, and 5 months later, he was working for me and arranged to be wedded to my daughter."

The old man sighed, and shook his head. "How was I to know that strong young man was really a pig demon in disguise? Now, my daughter is trapped in her private courtyards, while that hideous beast rules us with an iron fist, and beats at my daughter's bedroom doors with those same fists at night. It's just so terrifying, so terrifying…"

With that speech finished, the old man dissolves into sobs. Master too sheds a few tears and holds out his hands to comfort the old man while he turns to me.

"WuKong, you must help this poor suffering man and get rid of that demon." He orders me. Usually I'd be annoyed at him hiring me out to do little tasks like this, but demon-hunting means demon-kick-assing, and that means fun and games for me.

"Don't worry Master!" I grin widely. I lean back in my chair and mock salute Master. "I've got it all planned out…"