It's been quite a while since I've updated, but I've been working on this chapter for easily a year now. The last chapter was only 7 pages, but this one has ended up at 23 pages. I've never written that long a chapter. I hope that shows that my writing has improved; I have read all the reviews and they were all very helpful, so thank you! Yes, Wukong in the first chapter was a bit too immature for my taste, and I cannot blame anyone but myself for that. I wasn't quite in my right mind when I wrote it. I wanted Wukong to mature as the story went by, but it is obvious that I made him too immature in the first place. I believe that has been fixed now, but like all other imperfections, please bring them up. I do love constructive criticism.
A quick note about slash: technically speaking, this story will be slash, but I don't want you to judge it according to all other slash stories. This is not a slash story, and this is not yaoi. This story should be a celebration of humanity and the very human aspect of love. It is not exactly the same as Journey to the West, but is instead the culmination of everything Monkey King inspires in me, and I hope it inspires the same in you.
Yes, this story will continue, yes it is very, very long, and yes it is my baby. So for the few Journey to the West fans out there, please enjoy my baby.
CHAPTER 2 – ZHU BAJIE
This new disciple of mine is really strange.
I mean no disrespect, but as I have lived a sheltered humble life, I am unrehearsed in how to deal with the eccentricities of the world outside.
Thus, when a strange beastly ape calls out to me from underneath a mountain, and is said to be a great and powerful immortal, I am helplessly overwhelmed. I do not comprehend the mortal world in the slightest, but this new addition to my tiny traveling group now requires me to comprehend the immortal world as well.
Oh Buddha, may I follow the righteous path and not get ingested by a youkai.
I suppose I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Greetings, my name is XuanZang. I'm a high-ranking Buddhist monk, so my title is Tang SanZang, or TangSeng. As of a few days ago, I am also this monkey man's master. As of yesterday, my poor white horse has been replaced by a dragon horse in the most unfortunate way possible: simply getting eaten.
You can imagine my sympathies for this creature, who shared a similar danger with me, and who has now fallen thanks to this danger. I send my humble pleadings to the Buddha in the hopes that…I'm not next. I don't understand the demons' fascination with eating me. I hope it's just a myth, or perhaps it is the Buddha's doing in order to test my character and resolve.
My disciple's name is Sun WuKong, which means "to be awakened to emptiness". For such an auspicious and powerful name, he does not seem to fit it in the slightest. He is always babbling and cursing at himself as he prances down the path. He says he's forgotten how to walk.
I'm sure being trapped under an enormous mountain will affect you in some way, even if you wouldn't die like normal people would.
Now, about my constant possibility of being eaten by youkai; Lady Guanyin, my immortal teacher, the Bodhisattva of Mercy, once told me in dream that my flesh can be eaten by demons for immortality, though this immortality does not protect me from death or aging.
My existence is becoming more and more unbelievable as I continue on this journey to the West.
Why am I journeying there?
You see, I have lived my life as a true, pious monk, in order to honor the life I have been given by forces greater than myself. When I was just a baby, my mother, after my father had been killed by unknown evil, floated me down a river in a basket, where an old monk picked me up, a few miles later. The monk later named me after this event, and thus I must forever remember my humble start in life.
It is in this way that I have studied for many years. However, when I finally reached the title of Tang SanZheng, I found to my dismay that the scriptures of Buddha were incomplete and falsely translated from its original language. When I couldn't take it anymore, I told my sworn brother the Tang emperor about my leaving for this trip, and I went.
It is these moments that I wonder if I am really just a monk traveling to get the "true treasures," those Buddhist scriptures, or am I really an insignificant mortal in a huge chess game of the gods. A pawn, to be sacrificed in a lonely existence, in order to help achieve something far greater than myself.
This idea of mine solidified when I met Sun WuKong. At first glance, he seems but an oddly disfigured man, but once you look closer, he seems to have an infinite number of secrets and knowledge. Similarly, at first glance, he seems strange and wild, but the more time you spend with him, the more his charisma and character appears, and he becomes much more desirable.
I will try my best to be his master and teach him well, but I wonder about exactly what it is I should teach him. It seems the inherent problem is that I have nothing that I can teach him.
"Disciple, won't you share with us, your grandiose plan that is heavily implied by you to be infallible?" I said quietly, trying in vain to hide my annoyance.
Wukong's grin becomes more devilish. He knows he's gotten under my skin. "Why Master, no surprise is worth anything without the weight of suspense. Fear not, I'll be back before you know it."
I fall silent. What else is there to say after such a response? I have a sneaking suspicion that I should reprimand him for his audacity to talk to me, his master, in such a tone. However, I am but a tiny mortal in this large and unforgiving world, and I am very overwhelmed by his appearance in my life. It takes all my willpower to not let it show.
"Master? Is anything wrong?" Wukong asks. I shake my head no.
We are currently in Lord Gao's abode, where we are informally agreeing to get rid of a youkai for this old man, in exchange for a few nights sleep and some food.
"Wukong, will you be alright?" I ask.
Wukong groans in response and I try not to blush in embarrassment. "Master! How many times do I have to tell you? I'm the Great Sage Equaling Heaven! I don't need you to run after me when I go fight people, alright? I just need you to stay put. Otherwise, you're going to get kidnapped, and I'm going to have to save you again. So stay put!"
"Fine." I muster out, the only response I can give. It is in these times where I wonder who is the master and who is the student.
Wukong scratches his head again; he seems disturbed by my lack of a response. "Look, I didn't mean to raise my voice, it's just, you can't go running off by yourself, you know, and – look, just don't take it personally, ok?" He tries again.
Despite my thin limbs and weak stature, I am still a man. It's hard for me to swallow my pride and accept my inevitable role of waiting for Wukong to save me like a young maiden trapped in the eternal hell of teahouses, whose only salvation comes in a very knowledgeable and powerful man.
"You go learn the scriptures and whatever it is you monks do, and leave the fighting for me, got it?" Wukong finishes, now with an embarrassed look on his face and a much softer tone in his voice.
"I understand, Wukong. Please be careful." I try to reassure him, and he smiles back at me.
Wukong jumps up. "Alright, it's a done deal then! That youkai will be crying in front of you in no time. Old Man Gao! I expect you to entertain my master while I'm gone, you hear? He better be taken care of well, or you're going to hear from the Great Sage!"
"Wukong! Just go already!" I scold.
He closes the door and both Gao and I listen for his footsteps to disappear. We let out a sigh simultaneously. The old man looks at me with sympathy. "He's just like a thunder god. It scares me."
"He scares me too." I admit.
Bang! Wukong smacks the door open again, and we both jump. "Wukong! Open the door nicely!"
"Sorry. So, old man, could you…eh, show me where the youkai is?"
The old man leads us to the middle of his courtyard. We are joined by one of his servants, a young man who brought us firewood and tea. "It used to be clean and well-swept, with good redwood furniture. But the youkai came and wrecked everything!" He wails.
"Yeah, yeah, just tell me where the bad guy is." Wukong cuts him off. I sigh.
"There. For some reason, we just can't get through that doorway." The old man points to the entrance leading to the inner house. Wukong walks over, and then just simply steps inside.
"It's fine. Are you sure you're not senile?" Wukong yells over.
From the look of the old man's face, he isn't senile and there really is something wrong. "Perhaps it's a trick of the youkai." I offer. Wukong turns away from us, but not before I spy him rolling his eyes.
Wukong sighs and waves for the old man and the servant the walk through the doorway. They are but centimeters from it when they suddenly bounce off the air in front of them and land on their rumps.
Wukong soon follows them, falling on his rump too from his loud cackles and air-wrenching guffawing.
"Wukong. Stop. Why won't the doorway let Lord Gao and his servant in?' I ask as I help the poor souls up.
Wukong wipes the tears from his eyes and sits up. "It only blocks humans. Demons and everything else can get through." He says matter-of-factly.
"Did you know that in the first place?" I ask him. He only grins at me, before walking back to the outer court, where we are.
He leans down to my feet and takes some dirt from underneath me into his hands, and starts swirling it around. "So that I will return to you Master, for I am only the dirt underneath your feet." He says, grinning.
I have not the slightest idea whether that was his version of a compliment or another sarcastic comment. I settle for sighing and staying confused.
He walks back to the courtyard doorframe, and blows the dirt onto it before chanting a quick spell.
The air clears, and a light breeze picks up.
"Alright, we're good. Come on, you two." Wukong orders, gesturing once again for the old man and his servant to walk over.
This time, they refuse. The servant shakes his head madly as the old man tries vainly to push him to the doorway.
"Come on! I don't have all day! Don't make me throw you over!" Wukong yells.
"Wukong, be nice. They're scared." I said. He turns to me.
"Then Master, you walk through the doorway. Come on." He says, walking back over to my side of the courtyard. When he is standing in front of me, he reaches out a hand.
I put my hand on top of his, and he leads me through the doorway. It is safe. He smiles back at me when we've crossed to the other side; a tiny moment of bonding amidst a very convoluted day. I suppose I should count my blessings. I smile back at him, and we enjoy our small victory in comfortable silence.
After I passed through safely, the old man and the servant scrambled in, all arms and legs as they flail their arms trying to get through at the same time. Wukong lets go of my hand to magically assist them through.
And by assist, I mean use his magical powers to inappropriately force them through like insignificant flies. I open my mouth to reprimand him, but my mind draws a blank, and I regretfully close my mouth. I still don't know how to act around my disciple.
The old man and the servant both stand now, gawking at their surroundings. "Well? Aren't you going to go save your daughter now?" Wukong asks.
The old man runs to the locked doors and starts wrenching on them and crying out, Daughter! Daughter! Mei! Mei! We hear a strangled sob from the inside, before the father's cries are joined by heartbroken shrieks from inside.
Wukong waves his hand, and the doors unlock. An unkempt woman falls into the arms of the father. Before long, the family has dissolved into sobbing, and I too become overwhelmed by tears.
Wukong sees me crying and walks over to me. "Don't cry, Master. There's no need." He whispers, before cupping my face with both hands and wiping my tears away. Then he steps back, and lets his arms fall. "Go and hide in the house with the family. My real job starts now."
"What are you going to do?" I ask.
"I'm going to disguise myself as that daughter and get rid of that monster, of course." He replies, before walking into the inner house. Before the door closes, I see his clothes suddenly turn into flowing robes.
I ignore my pounding heart and coax the family off the ground and back into the house. It is going to be a very, very long wait.
I'm going soft. I am definitely going soft. Two gentle actions from me in about the same amount of time. What has this world come to? If anyone who knew me before saw me doing those…things, I'd be laughed to death. Then when I'm in the underworld, trying to get King Yama to let me out again, he'd be laughing so hard he wouldn't listen to me anymore. And by listen to me, obviously I mean give in to my demands.
No. No no no! This won't do! I'm a King! I'm heartless! I beat up a child, for crying out loud! Yes, he may have had magical weapons, but still! A child! What more do I have to do to prove my power? How in the world can five minutes undo years and years of carefully cultivating my reputation?
I'm going to hurt Guanyin, damn it! Who the hell does she think she is, burdening me with this soft-spoken monk whose only power is to elicit uncontrollable feelings of possessiveness and protectiveness out of everyone? He must have reincarnated from a small bird, yes, that's it. The little birds that only sit in their tiny cages and annoy you with their constant chirping, but when you turn around to end their miserable little existences, they give you just a stare that your heart drops to the floor, followed by your courage.
Damn it all, even my description of him is nicer now. I try to growl to make myself feel better, but all that comes out is a girly breath.
That's right, I'm disguised as the old man's daughter right now. I go to her vanity mirror and fix up my appearance, even going so far as to put my hair up in the same fashion as the heavenly maidens I saw when I was in Heaven. There. I stare at myself in the mirror.
Perfect, I look just like her; except for the grieving part. But the monster's probably too drunk to care. He will definitely be too drunk to care once he sees what I look like. Wow, I look gorgeous. That girl could never look as good as me.
Something soft pokes me in the back, and I turn. Oh no! There's my monkey tail, peeking out from under my robes. I stuff it back under, and with a lot of jumping around and cursing I manage to tie it down with a hair ribbon. It wiggles and squirms, but the ribbon holds.
That will have to do.
Bang! BANG BANG BANG! Fists are pounding on the door, and my adrenaline starts rushing through. I can't wait for the fight to start, but I must be patient.
"Wife! Wife! Darling! It's me, your wonderful husband!" A fat man wails from outside. His youkai stench is overpowering, gross! I first got a whiff when I walked in the old man's house, but this is unbelievable! I know I can smell bad, but this is a whole different league! I shake my head and quickly climb under the covers.
My poor nose is immediately attacked by the smell of the youkai's essence. Apparently he got into the girl's bedroom a few times, and he hadn't done it to just sleep beside her. I sit up and vomit onto the pillows, before crying out, "I'm sick! Don't come in!"
Immediately the monster softens into what he obviously believes is a soothing tone. What he doesn't know is, his voice would make Heavenly ogres shit in their pants. And nothing scares those guys. Nothing. I kid you not.
"Are you ok, honey? What's the matter?"
"What's the matter is that there's an ugly bastard creation of nature outside my bedroom door, and I've been trapped in the same rooms for years. That's what's wrong. Evidently, you've also raped me a few times, so I may or may not be carrying your child!" I shriek indignantly.
That daughter is amazing. I'm surprised she hasn't killed herself yet, if she can't kill the monster. She must have been holding out hope for her father's attempts at exorcism. Man, she must be glad I showed up!
Well, she should be.
"Baby, won't you let me in!" The monster groans outside, ignoring everything I just said. "I have needs, you know."
Oh, that is just disgusting. I wonder how much hair the Heavenly Emperor would lose if he had to deal with this guy! Ooh! Hahahaha! He'd be bald.
Wait; shouldn't I have made him lose all his hair already? Damn it!
"Darling, why are you laughing?"
"I'm not laughing, I'm crying! You raped me, you son of a bitch, and you're a terrible person!" I wail.
"Don't be like that, honey. I may not be pretty-"
THAT IS A HUGE UNDERSTATEMENT.
"-But I work for your family from dawn to dusk in the fields, and I take care of you. Don't you think I deserve better treatment?" He whines.
Alright, play time's over. "Alright, fine." I say. "Come in, the door's unlocked." The monster wobbles in, and when the moonlight strikes his head, I grimace.
He's a pig. An outright pig. I am not fucking with you. No shitting at all. Speaking of which...
Just as he slips under the covers, I slip out and run to the bathroom. "Where are you going, honey?"
"I need to take a shit. I'll be right with you. Lie down already." I order him.
The pig chuckles. "My wife has such a dirty mouth, it sure turns me on." Oh Heaven, I'm going to need therapy after this. Perhaps I should go back to Taoism. Buddhism, after all, hasn't done much to make my life easier. So far.
But evidently, Life's got my back. I hear rustling from the bathroom, before I hear a strangled yelp and loud cursing. "Wife! There's vomit on the pillow!" He wails.
"I know. I put it there." I saw nonchalantly.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"You little bitch!" He yells out. Evidently, playtime is not over yet. I screw up my face and start sobbing loudly.
"NO! Husband don't be mad, oh please, oh please, OH PLEASE, don't be mad!" I sob out loudly, kicking at the walls and door with my feet while I yell out my lungs for fun.
"It's fine, wife, as long as you clean this up and join me soon, hehehehe." He replies when I've quieted down.
I still need therapy.
"I'm still taking a shit."
"Oh. Well, hurry up then."
I wait a few moments, and then decide to milk the situation for what its worth.
"So, have you heard? My father has hired the AMAZING Sun Wukong here to get rid of you."
"Who?" He replies. Oh that's it, Fatso, I'm skinning you alive right now, in your precious wife's form. I'm going to bleed you out, chop you up, and serve you up at your wife's wedding as the main course – roasted pig. How do you like that huh? Huh?
"He's the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, the one that caused huge chaos in the Heavenly Kingdom five hundred years ago." I call out, in a fake cheery voice.
I hear the bed creak, and the monster says, "In that case, we're through. Goodbye."
I burst out of the bathroom without washing my hands. "But husband, I need you to protect me!"
"Have your worthless coward of a father protect you!" The youkai yells back.
I am faced with a slight predicament. Rush out now and jump him, or do I seduce him until he's weak in the knees, and then cripple him? I always enjoy the more direct method, but since I'm under the killjoy of all killjoy monks' pupilage now, I might not get to have fun. Again. Ever.
Then again, fighting is more fun. Oh, why can't we have both?
"Please wait, husband!" I cry out. The monster immediately stiffens.
"I was hoping for one more night…for old time's sake? I even dressed up for you…" I trail off. The monster turns, and the smell hits me full on. I cover my face with my sleeve to hide my disgust.
The monster walks forward, entranced by his lust and disgusting fantasies, before freezing in place. What went wrong?
I immediately put all of my senses on high alert, and let my animal instincts take over as I scan the area. It's my nose that recognizes what went wrong. Before, the room was filled with the smell of his demon essence and the stink of alcohol. But now…
The doors, having been blown open many minutes ago, has allowed most of the original smells to leave the room, leaving room for new smells.
And I do smell like demon.
But I didn't beat Heaven by reacting to every little thing; I did it by being coy. "What's the matter, husband?" I ask breathily as a I sway my hips over.
The monster continues to gape, and then my eyes notice the second thing that's gone wrong. Instead of his nostrils blown open, it is his eyes. In fact, his eyes are most definitely staring at something particular…right…behind…me…
It's my tail. Oh, forget this.
With a magnificent whirl and a roar that cracked the heavens and earth, I reveal myself and throw myself at him, staff already in hand. The youkai squeals like a pig, but grabs his weapon as well, and meets me in the air.
We shoot up into the sky and land somewhere just at the first layer of clouds. "Impressive, demon. I did not think you would even survive the first blow from me, the Great Sage." I yelled.
He snorted at me, and his huge pig snout shook with the effort. "I was Heavenly Marshal! I can take a damn monkey who's obviously really a snake with his abilities of trickery and escaping punishment!" He mocked.
"Says the lowly youkai who just about abandoned his poor wife just at the mention of my great name!" I retorted.
Blood pounded in my ears, and the adrenaline and bloodlust filled the air all around me with a constant buzzing. My muscles vibrated with excitement, and I could feel my senses becoming sharper, my mind changing, in anticipation.
"Despite that, lowly demon, I wish to know the name of the one who has managed to survive this long against me." I announced.
"I am Zhu BaJie!" He shouted back.
I burst into laughter. "Zhu BaJie, the idiot who tried to woo the moon-maiden, Chang E? Oh, I know you alright! Your stupidity was the only thing I and the old king of heaven agreed upon." I laughed uproariously.
"You insolent ape, I'll tear out your entrails with my nine-toothed rake!" With an almighty roar and a huge shake of his belly, he charged at me.
I sidestepped quickly and shot my hand into my ear. I breathed the incantation, and immediately my treasured staff appeared. I managed to box him twice with it before he backed off again. We resumed our standoff.
"Really, pig? A rake? Really? Yes, I'm sure that will strike fear into the hearts of all the great sages of the world…" I mocked again.
"I am as good a fighter even without a heavenly weapon! And at least I earned my rake, whereas you stole yours from the poor Dragon Kings."
Ouch. That hurt.
"We made a deal!" I was pissed now. "If I could lift the damn thing, it was mine. I lifted it, it was mine. It is their loss that they underestimated me."
"And it's your loss that they cried their sufferings to the King of Heaven and got you into trouble!" BaJie crowed back gleefully.
Really. What is he, a monkey babe incapable of fighting his own battles and reliant on petty remarks and insults?
Luckily I knew exactly what to say to that. "But I won." I said defiantly.
Stupid pig shut up after that.
I took an experimental swing at his head. He dodged, of course. I began executed my first set of staff twirls, and managed to get him again before he jumped back. He growled, and came at me.
"Come on! Come on, piggy! Let's play! And then I'll roast you for the old man to eat. It's too bad you don't have a real weapon, but the weapon doesn't make the warrior, does it?" I snickered as I balanced on top of my staff. Everyone knows the weapon most definitely makes the warrior, but seeing as how he lacked by warrior skills and the weapon, this was going to be a quick victory for me.
He lunged, and I went for it. Just then, a great cloud of dust appeared before me, and only a little sparrow came flying out.
I spun around, gawking. This incompetent little foot soldier can transform! I was so shocked, I said so aloud for him to hear.
Ha ha, I couldn't even say that with a straight face either. Shocked, me? Never. I am always ready for battle.
But the pig didn't get my jokes (obviously too stupid for my intellect) and tittered away, laughing at me instead! "You stupid monkey, you're not so tough. I too have 36 transformations! If you didn't have your staff, you're nothing!"
I sneered at him, and he stopped laughing. "You ignorant fool. I have 36 heavenly transformations. Would you like to know a few of them?"
He changed back to his normal self, and slowly nodded.
"The first one is animals." I said. BaJie dropped his jaw. For once, I sympathized with him. The heavenly transformations compassed everything of the 72 earthly ones, and more. And to think I almost chose wrong!
I continued. "The second, is plants. The third, the elements. The fourth, humans. And so on and so forth…my old master was great, and knew many tricks…"
"But my favorite, is most definitely when I can change…into a god." And thus I turned into a monstrous dragon, larger than all of the four Dragon Kings combined, and gave chase, but then-
"WuKong!" My master's voice stopped me in my tracks, mid-heavenly flame about to burst from my mouth and everything. I turned, and Zhu BaJie disappeared.
Tang Seng rushed out, and I decided to approach as well, still in my dragon form. "Wukong, is that you?" He asked slowly.
"Yes." My voice rumbled with the sounds of thunder, and rain started to pour down after I began to speak. "You let that dumbass get away." I said, intentionally using the most crass and crudest language I knew.
Master gave a start, and then sighed. "So it is you in that terrifying form. Please change back for me."
I nodded, and let my body morph back into my own skin. When I was done, Master awkwardly patted me on the shoulder. His sleeves fell down his arm and rubbed against my arms, revealing his weak scholar's wrist. Once again I am reminded that I am nothing more than a bodyguard for this helpless man.
"Let me see if I can still find him Master, but if not, then he has most certainly fled from me for good, knowing that the old man now has my protection."
"Alright Wukong, but please, come back soon." He said softly.
I stared for a moment, and then got on my knees, like I did for my old master. "I ask humbly for my master's blessing."
His eyes widened a fraction before he slowly replied. "You have my blessing…Wukong."
I looked up, and let his eyes stare straight into me. "I will return to you Master."
"Good. Now go, and make haste." I turned and flew off, and dismissed my pounding heart as the remnants of the battle lust.
Many hours later, I've decided to end my search. Demons aren't too picky; although they may become particular over certain victims, once a bigger bully joins the game, most demons will leave. The others are too stupid to live.
So I hope, for his sake, that he does not return, otherwise…
The shadows have grown long, and for a second my treacherous mind reminds me that I could run, right now, and never go back to him, to Tang Seng, the monk of only words and no actions.
But I promised, didn't I? I promised I would return.
That damn monk better appreciate what that means.
Master Gao and I have long run out of topics to speak about, and now I have become nothing but a necessary burden on the poor old man until Wukong gets rid of that demon for them.
The family has retreated into the inner quarters for the time, to spend some well-deserved time with their poor estranged daughter. And I have been left here to wait for Wukong.
And it has been several, very long hours. I know many see a scholar's life as wasteful in the first place; I do not view it as such, and yet I can't help feeling incredibly bored. Just a glimpse of the action would be much more rewarding than this mindless waiting I must endure.
My eyelids have become heavy, but I must wait up for Wukong. It would not do for me if I just went to bed even while Wukong still continues his daunting search. Though he is my disciple, he seems to be the only one of us who has accomplished anyway these few days, and I do value his time a bit more than mine right now. I wish I could call him back and cancel the search, but I have no way of reaching him.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this inability to communicate will become a much bigger problem later on.
Bang! Bang Bang Bang! "Father-in-Law!" A deep voice cries out just beyond that door. "I've come back for your daughter!"
My blood turns to ice, but my body acts anyway, running to the entrance and wrenching open the door.
I almost faint at the sight. If Wukong was a strange-looking creature, then this monster is nothing short of terrifying. His entire body seems to be stacks of fat; his expression a constant look of lust and gluttony. His two beady black eyes are suspicious and evil-looking. One of his huge hands is held up, as if preparing to knock a second time. In his other hand is a large rake, covered with rust and blood.
Blood. "Are you the youkai who lived here?"
He blinks his fatty eyelids at me, before nodding slowly. I don't know what's wrong with him, and I don't know what I'm doing either, but I surge forward and grab at his greasy clothes.
"What have you done with Wukong?"
"Hah?" He finally replies.
"What have you done with Wukong? Answer me!" I yell, louder this time.
God, my knees are shaking in terror. This youkai is easily two, three times my size, and could snap me like a twig.
"I haven't done anything with him." He says stupidly.
"Then what is that?" I cry out, pointing at the blood on his rake.
It takes a few minutes, but soon his face contorts into anger, and my feet barrel backwards. " That's my blood! That damned monkey hit me with his golden stick, and made my rake bite me instead of him!"
I let out a sigh of relief, which turned out to be the first bad thing I did that day. "Hey, what? Who are you? Are you the monkey's master?"
I freeze in place, but he continues anyway. "That ape did talk about having a weak monk as his new master, and I did hear rumors…"
I try to ignore the sting from his off-hand remark, and instead concentrate on distracting the demon from his original mission. "Yes, it is I. I am Tang Seng, from the court of the Tang Emperor. I am traveling to receive true gold, the scriptures of the Buddha, so that I may understand Buddha better and become more enlightened."
The pig giant resumes his stupid expression, and I decide to take a risk and continue. "Oh youkai, though your fate may seem hopeless, there is always room in Buddha's holy kingdom for you. If you would only repent your sins, and become a Buddhist, you too can escape suffering and achieve enlightenment."
"E-even me?" He asks.
"Yes, even you." I smile mischievously then. "If the monkey who clashed with heaven can do it, so can you."
His face breaks into a huge grin, and he suddenly seems a lot less frightening. "What is your name?" I ask.
But before he can answer, a loud whistling comes out from behind him and pierces the air, before a large golden projectile bodily flings the youkai's body up into the air before smashing him into the roof of the inner quarters.
Screaming follows the crash, and when the dust settles, I see Wukong, glowing triumphantly from his powers. "You think that you can lay a hand on my master just because I'm not around! Guess what, you idiot! There's nothing I can't do!"
"Wukong, wait!" I yell, and it works. My disciple turns towards me again, and the demon that I almost convinced to join our side has disappeared once again.
This time, Wukong is less than pleased at my appearance. "Why did you interfere, Master? Even better, why again?" He growled.
"Wukong, don't fight him! He is going to join our side and become a Buddhist."
Wukong stared at me incredulously for a few seconds before bursting into laughter. "What? A demon – willing to join Buddha – you're crazy! Absolutely crazy!" He crowed as he slapped his knee and guffawed with laughter.
I felt my face turn hot, but I persevered anyway. "It's true! He almost did – and I forbid you from scaring him off or fighting with him again!"
Wukong stops laughing then. "You fool, Master, you're a fool! He's a demon! He gains your trust, then eats you! Demons don't want enlightenment, that's stupid!"
"But what about you?" I cry out.
"I don't want enlightenment! When did I ever give you any indication that I wanted enlightenment? When did anyone ever ask me what I wanted before forcing me into playing this stupid game, huh?"
I was speechless.
"So don't think for a second that you know what I want at all! You don't! All you need to know is that I want this whole farce done with as soon as possible!" And with that, Wukong's flown off again.
I did not have time to tell him to stop searching for today. I don't think he would've listened.
And this time…he did not promise me he would return to my side.
I release my strength and let my golden staff whip through the air. With a whoosh and a shriek, my staff takes down the tops of all the trees in a mile-radius around me.
Even with that feat of incredible strength by yours truly, I'm still furious.
Doesn't he realize that demons, that youkais, are your enemies? Doesn't he realize that enemies aren't here to stinking study with you and chant with you? Doesn't he realize that demons are never sincere, are only around to take advantage of you and then leave?
Has he forgotten that I am a demon? I'm not just any demon either, I am half beast and half human, chaos personified, a youkai born from nature, infused with the power of earth and wielding the powers of heaven. Who does he think he is, telling me to do-
I let him off too easy. I let him treat me this way, and once I let it go once, I have to let it go every single time. I must retrain my master, and-
Oh, who am I kidding? I'm not the Great Sage anymore. Not really. I no longer have the whole universe under my thumb anymore. I'm just Buddha's dog now, fit only to bark at enemies and chase them off so Tang Seng doesn't get killed (again) on his missions for the Buddha.
He wants me to leave that damn pig alone? Fine. I'll leave him alone. Forget all of this. I need some food.
I've been pacing for a good 30 minutes now. I stop to look at the sun, just rising. I haven't' slept a wink this whole night. We'll need to recuperate somewhere tomorrow, assuming we can find a place to stay again.
And assuming I don't have to turn back and go home immediately because my only disciple has abandoned me.
I should have thought my words through, planned them. He is not used to taking orders from others, and definitely not used to being forced to listen to the words of a man who he does not respect. If it weren't for Guan Yin, I have no doubt I'd have to kowtow to him if our lives were different.
The sounds of footsteps suddenly echo off the walls, and I turn. There is Wukong, tired but no longer tense with anger and nervous energy. He seems approachable, and I start walking towards him.
His eyes snap up, and the sudden darkness inside them stops me in my tracks. "Wukong?"
He sighs, and walks past me. "I need some food."
That's it. I am tired of having others do this for me. I'm tired of waiting. I change into outdoor robes, and lace up my shoes.
I'm going to go look for that demon myself.
When I return to Master's bedroom, arms laden with rice and bread and meat, I immediately notice something's wrong.
His sleeping robes are on the bed, thrown haphazardly. He would have folded them.
His slippers are in different places at the door. He would have put them in their proper places.
He would have waited for me to return, and inquire after my health.
I drop my bundle of food, except for the steak in my mouth, and take off running. That fool! He went out after the demon himself.
And Buddha help us all if I can't find him in time.
I shoot myself into the forest and start running. With an impatient tug, I pull out a few magic hairs from my head and blow. 5 different Wukongs appear, armed with their own golden staffs, and I send them on their way with a wave of my hand.
Suddenly, I am hit with a strange smell. It attacks me, filling my sinuses and making my eyes water. It's familiar, this smell. It's….it's…
Despite my body's protests, I start running towards the smell. My eyes are watering freely now, but I push forward. I swing through a few trees, smash through some bushes, and come skidding forward to a small clearing.
There! In the middle, is my master, chanting softly under his breath as he meditates. The smell attacks me once again, and I fall to my knees.
The thud startles him, and he gets up. "Wukong?" He cries out, and rushes to my side immediately. I look up, and his aura glows with a light I hadn't seen before from him ever.
"Master, you're-" I start, but another thud makes us both turn around.
It's BaJie, the snake-pig demon. I curse and draw out my staff, but Master suddenly puts a death-grip on my arms. "Stop, Wukong. Do not fight him."
I take a deep breath, and relax my muscles. "Alright." I say through gritted teeth. My staff disappears back inside my ear, and Master finally stands up and lets go of my arm.
The pig demon steps forward, and then falls to his knees in front of my master.
Well, I'll be damned.
"Oh Master, my name is Zhu BaJie, and I have been sent here by Lady Guan Yin to accompany you on your journey, in order to better myself and repent for my sins. Please forgive your humble disciple for causing trouble."
"Oh of course," my master says tenderly, and I burn red-hot with jealousy. Damn. "I will do my best for you as your master, but first, you must apologize to Old Man Gao and his family. Then you will help me go to India to retrieve the scriptures."
BaJie nods somberly, and I sigh as I get to my feet. Might as well get this over with.
"Welcome to the team," I say. And Master smiles at me afterwards.
Finally, my new disciple has grown quiet. With some begging and many apologies, BaJie has managed to get Old Man Gao to allow us to stay for one more day, and we are spending this time catching up on sleep. Although BaJie is in the next room, his snores have been shaking the walls for a good hour now, and both Wukong and I have lain awake in bed the whole time.
I sneak a glance over to him. For his bedtime preparations he's taken off all his clothes, and the curve of his back and the sheer size of him makes me think that he's human. Yet, his postures, his bones, now show more beast than ever.
I still don't understand him, but nevertheless we have managed to make it through our first obstacle, our first adventure. Perhaps if we continue to compromise, we will succeed.
Wukong seems deep in thought. I turn slightly towards him and his eyes snap open. I know that I won't be able to sleep until he stops being so restless and tense, and so I sit up.
I was right. Wukong had been watching me. His eyes glow again now with an unearthly yellow color, and right then I cannot tell if he is heavenly, demonic, or both.
"Wukong? What is the matter? You are restless."
He seems surprised by my answer. "It is nothing, Master." He replies shyly.
"It is not nothing. You have been watching me. I am no fool, Wukong. Now tell me what is the matter." I say, in a harsher tone now. I am tired and exhausted, but he will inevitably continue to keep me up until this is through, so I hope he will forgive me my less-than-amiable tone
It was to be the first step towards the edge, towards a cliff of ragged edges, covered by green fog. It was a cliff that that bespoke of all of heaven's riches, and yet only plummeted down, down…down to the depths of hell and to Old King Yama, the god of death.
Slowly, Wukong rose out of his bed and padded over. His eyes, never leaving my face, burned bright holes in the fabric of night and into my soul. They glowed now, with the fire rumored to have been born from the eternal flames of the Cauldron of Immortality – a proof of Wukong's might and dogged survival.
He came over now, slowly, one step at a time, like a predator. Do not be afraid, I told myself.
"Wukong?" I asked.
"You are very…gifted, Master. Indeed I am troubled. One of life's many great pleasures is the pursuit of answers to life's questions, and today alone you have given me nothing but questions." Wukong says formally, yet with a tone that sent shivers down my back.
He was now sitting at my bedside. I unconsciously started leaning back down to my bed.
"You called BaJie to you today."
"It is only with GuanYin that I was able to-"
"No." He cut me off softly, with barely a whisper, while his eyes continued to ravage my soul. "No, she didn't. You did."
He leaned back slightly, and I felt my body relax just a fraction. I had not noticed that he had been so close before. He turned away from me now, pensive and perplexed.
"I should have recognized it, but…I have long since grown used to the lotus essence, and it has long since lost its novelty."
"What?" I manage.
He turned his eyes back to me, and leaned forward. I unconsciously leaned back again, until I was lying down on the bed, and Wukong was looming over me. "The lotus is the essence of Buddha, and you have it, especially when you meditate. It rivals the essence of heaven, and it is this smell on you that attracted BaJie, nay, every youkai who has and ever will have a run-in with you."
All my instincts were screaming at me to run, run from Wukong, but how could I? That would be…rude…so…
His eyes held me in place.
"And you have the smell of a martyr, a martyr thrice died for the sake of the Buddha. It is entirely possible that ingesting your flesh could give a youkai immortality, albeit an incredibly…cursed one." He whispered now.
I started to panic. Wukong was going to eat me! Oh-
"You attracted BaJie to your scent from at least 50 miles away. Every single youkai we run into, every single problem I have to get rid of, it will be because of you and your damn smell."
"So…how do I get rid of it?" I manage.
His eyes turned red. "I make you…smell like me instead." And he leaned down and dug his fangs into my shoulder.
I almost screamed, but the air immediately rushed out of my lungs. Wukong held me down; one hand on my arm, the other on my stomach. I started to struggle, but he would just bite harder.
"Stop, no, Wukong, stop, please, no, Wukong-!"
I was starting to bleed. I could see the blood dripping from his mouth when I turned my head.
Somebody help! Anybody!
Wukong suddenly screamed so loud he curdled my blood and raised my hackles. His claws tore into my skin and took flesh with them just as he brought his hands to his head.
"!" My hands started shaking again.
All of a sudden, someone raised their arm, waved it, and Wukong's screams immediately ceased. His body slammed forward onto my legs before bouncing off the bed to land on the ground. His eyes were blown wide open; his fangs and claws still with flecks of blood, my blood, on it. As if it was painted on, a gold circlet appeared around his head, glowing brightly before turning black to match the color of dusk.
"Tang Seng…" A woman's voice whispered behind me, washing away my fears. I turned slowly, and was greeted by the sight of Lady Guan Yin.
She came up to me slowly, now in human form, and slowly bandaged me up. When she was done, she fixed my clothing as well, before finally opening her mouth to speak.
"You have questions, Tang Seng. I have answers. You may ask."
"What happened?" was the only thing I could manage.
"Wukong is right. You are indeed a martyr of Buddha. You died a disciple of Buddha four times, and for that both your soul and your body is incredibly blessed. Youkais can easily sense something like this, and will flock towards you hoping for a bit of your magic and your blessed life."
Guan Yin's eyes turned hard then. "Wukong may seem human, but he is still an animal. He sought to rid you of your blessed essence by taking you, marking you. By doing so you would always smell like him. If he had continued…"
I did not understand where she was going, though my heart sank at her implication. I don't understand." I said quietly.
"He would've forced you into sexual intercourse with him, Tang Seng."
Now I understood. "But he would never do that! Wukong is not that kind of person!" I immediately defended, though I'm not quite sure why. His previous actions mere moments before had already disproved my argument, but still - And I am a monk; it is-"
"I know." She sighed then, and led me out of the house. For a long time, we just stood there, goddess and mortal, staring at the moon, just like the first time I met her.
"Wukong the human is capable of higher morals, but when his mind is addled with battle-lust, it is his animal instincts that reign supreme. It is during battle that Wukong is most dangerous, which can be both a blessing…and a curse."
Then, Guan Yin turned back towards me once again. "You must understand Tang Seng, that you have been blessed with good omens, but Wukong has not. Not exactly."
"Your existence has been nothing but blessed since the beginning, Tang Seng, and you taking this journey also has nothing but auspicious fortunes. But the omens regarding you and Wukong are…"
She did not need to finish that sentence. I understood.
"Wukong is both your damnation and your salvation, Tang Seng. His existence has been created by nature to be the epitome of chaos, to bring light to the cracks of justice and truth and destroy all. However, it is not his destiny to build up justice and truth."
"Tang Seng, Wukong is the ONLY way you will survive this journey. Without him, no matter what you do or whom you travel with instead, you are doomed to fail. But while he is your only hope for success, he will also be your personal downfall."
Suddenly, it hit me. I really wasn't just getting the scriptures. I was the pawn in effecting the existence of the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, and I was going to be sacrificed. There was no longer any doubt in my mind who was more important now.
"Just…be careful Tang Seng. You will never be able to overpower Wukong, which is why I'm giving you this." Guan Yin said, as she handed me a slip of paper.
"What is this?" I ask.
"It is what I chanted to stop Wukong before he went too far. It will cause him terrible pain in his mind, and will make you his equal, for it has the power to stop him in his tracks. But beware Tang Seng, the more you use it, the more his animal side will prevail."
Her robe turned back into heaven's silks, soft and pure like the spring winds, and I knew it was time for her to leave. "Good luck," she whispered to me, before disappearing.
I went back inside, brought a washcloth out, and carefully washed Wukong up. He had relaxed now, and was sleeping peacefully on the ground. I carefully wiped the blood from his face and lips before turning my attention to his hands. I wiped the blood from his fingers, one by one, before cleaning his palm.
"Master…" he whispered aloud.
I stopped. I could not continue, so I returned to bed. It was a very long time before I finally went to sleep.