A young woman, early twenties, finds herself in a bar in Bangkok. She doesn’t speak the language but the men around her ensure that the drinks keep coming. On the verge of intoxication, she glances up at the man in front of her. Muscular, tall, handsome. Her initial thoughts were that a man so perfect could even make God jealous. He had a drink in hand, and another held out to her. She took it with a smile as the man smiled down at her, his eyes a dark grey, like the gathering clouds of a storm. After an hour of chatting and laughing, the young woman was truly smitten.
Waking up in her hotel room the next morning, she finds the space next to her in bed empty but still warm. There’s a knock on the door. Panicked the woman leaps to her feet and, holding the bedclothes around herself, searches the room.
“Hello?” She asks meekly, trying not to give away her panic. The door knob rattles, as the lock spares the woman from an unwelcome intrusion.
“Your hangover bad? I brought some water.” A male voice calls audibly irritated. The woman continues her search until she comes to the open balcony. When she looks down she can see the man from last night is climbing down the wall like a true expert. He looks up, gives the woman a wink, and continues his decent. Smiling to herself, she closes the balcony doors.
“Lisa?!” The male voice calls. Coming to her senses, Lisa moves away from the balcony and opens the door to her hotel room.
“Morning!” She greets the man, who offers her a bottle of water and some paracetamol. He frowns at her. Moving into the room, he appears to be searching for something, though trying all too hard to pretend that he’s not.
“I hope this isn’t going to be a regular occurrence, this … going out … drinking.” Once he’s satisfied that whatever, or whoever, he was looking for wasn’t there, he turns to Lisa. “Well?” He asks.
“No, Edward. It was my hen party. A normal wedding tradition.” She sits on the bed, feigning a smile.
“Well then. Good. Glad that’s out of your system.” He looks the woman up and down. “Are you sure you can still fit in your dress? You’ve gained weight.” Edward pokes Lisa’s stomach, and looks disgusted. “I’m sure your bride’s maids will be back from their night of fornication soon.” He turns and leaves.
Lisa was a middle class woman from Charlotte, North Carolina. She met Edward at University, and despite his cold attitude, something about Lisa seemed to warm his heart. He came from a wealthy family and needed to be married quickly in order to obtain inheritance from his grandparents, but Lisa didn’t mind. Despite Edward’s distant demeanour, Lisa had always cared for him, but the closer it got to the wedding the colder Edward became to her. A week later the two were married. It was Edward’s mother’s idea to get married abroad. Lisa was convinced that her new mother-in-law just wanted a holiday, but she wasn’t complaining. She hadn’t meant to sleep with another man a week before her wedding day. The mystery man had been so charming and persuasive, Lisa couldn’t help but fall for him. The thought of having the dream man just there, in a bar somewhere, waiting for her to find him, helped Lisa deal with Edward’s attitude towards her. That charismatic smile helped her to keep moving forwards, especially after the wedding, when things would seemingly get worse. Edward never consummated the marriage. Being deeply Christian, Edward believed whole-heartedly in the abstinence from sex apart from, of course, procreation. While Lisa was indeed a virgin before she came to Bangkok, she couldn’t help wanting more from her relationship, especially after what she experienced that night, though despite her best efforts, she remained untouched. Edward had accused her of wicked thoughts, and left her to sleep on the sofa many times over the weeks that followed their union.
It only took a few weeks for the morning sickness to start. Blaming the foreign food that she’d eaten the night before, Lisa knew she’d only slept with one man, and that man was not her new husband. Desperate to not “get caught”, she set about ensuring Edward would think the baby was his. It took a lot of Scotch that night, but eventually she convinced Edward to consummate their marriage. No one would ever need to know.
Slightly prematurely (although the midwife was convinced that it must have been a late birth) a little girl, Lori, is born at home on the 24th November 1970. A beautiful bouncy girl, full of smiles for her parents was born with a small tuft of blonde hair and shining blue eyes to match both Lisa and Edward. The cold attitude from the start of their marriage had faded, and for a time the three of them were happy. Their happiness however, as happiness often is, was short lived. As the child grew, her hair turned from golden locks to straight jet black hair, and the blue eyes Edward once saw himself in, changed to a dark grey, as shining and dangerous as gathering storms. Edward questions Lisa on the appearance of the child a few times, but his wife just shook off the comments, labelling them as “ridiculous”. Questioning the appearance of the child was not unfounded. The resemblance to Edward Lori had shown at her birth faded more and more with each passing day, and the oriental facial structure was not helping dispel suspicion. On the other hand when Lisa looked into the eyes of her little girl she knew exactly where these strange features came from. Often when at restaurants, Edward would catch his wife looking over at the bars, or out the window, apparently looking for someone in particular. The cold attitude experienced before the wedding of the couple was back with a vengeance. It was not long after Lori’s first birthday that Edward began demanding a second child. Forceful in his ways, and confident of the illegitimacy of Lori, Lisa was soon pregnant with her second child.
The next few years were truly awful for the couple. Four miscarriages, all at late stage pregnancy, left Lisa feeling broken. Edward began a campaign of hatred against Lori, angry and upset that his money would be passed on to a child that wasn’t even his. Despite this negative home atmosphere, Lori was a happy child. Being six, she never really understood more than she was going to get a new brother/sister soon. While she enjoyed causing trouble in kindergarten, the one thing her teacher could always rely on to calm the small child’s feral behaviour was a picture book. A simplified geography book, it showed pictures of vast oceans, mountain ranges and trees taller than skyscrapers. It was rare to capture a child’s interest with something so basic. Usually the children wanted to hear about brave princes battling dragons, and while Lori did fight other children, she made it clear that fairy tales were not her interest. As she once told her teacher;
“Castles are cold and boring, I want to see real things!” This said before starting a fairly one-sided discussion about how ridiculous the concept of a dragon was, before the conversation ended with a warning to stop fighting with other children, even if it was just play.
After an argument of unreasonable proportions between Lisa and Edward, the police were called to their place of residence. The neighbours were convinced it was domestic violence, but that was not the case. Yet another miscarriage had led to yet another argument about Lori. Edward was pushing for Lori to attend a boarding school, screaming to the high heavens that he did not want that child in his house. Lori, who heard the commotion starting, thought it best if she let her parents work out their differences, that what the teachers made her do when she got into a fight with someone. Putting on her favourite shoes, Lori left the house to find some trees to climb, she’d come back later when her parents were done. When Lori came home, her mother was waiting for her at the kitchen table. Pale faced she looked up, eyes red and puffy from crying.
“Lori sweetheart, where have you been??!” Lisa took the young child up in her arms and held her close. Lori was her sole purpose for living these days. Lisa had never truly realised what an unhappy marriage she had placed herself in till that day. Lori told her what park she’d gone to, and about all the pretty birds she’d seen.
Edward’s mother visited the next day and announced that she would be taking Lori on holiday, so the couple could set about producing a true heir to the fortunes Edward’s family had hidden away. Despite Lisa’s protests, the next day six year old Lori was on a flight to Brazil. Edward’s family ran a logging business, and his father had come to Brazil to inspect the new section of rainforest to be torn down. Thinking it bothersome to find a babysitter, the elderly couple brought Lori with them to the logging station, which had been set up just on the outskirts of the forest. Standing on the practically grey dirt, looking forwards into the endless ranks of tall green trees, almost identical to the pictures in her book, Lori felt a deep sense of wonder. Like a rope pulling on her, her heart told her that the rainforest is where she should play today. Looking up at her grandmother Lori asked, as nicely as any 6 year old girl can,
“Grandma, may I go play over there?” She pointed towards the trees. The old woman looked down in disgust.
“Do what you must, but do not call me that again.” Edward’s mother knew this was not her blood, and she was tired of pretending. Edward’s father had said, that for the sake of the marriage between their son and this woman, Lori was their blood. She, however, would never agree to that.
Lori, taking the woman’s cold comment as a “yes”, headed towards the trees. As she walked, something caught her eye. It was a large monkey, staring right at her. With a smile and a yell, Lori broke into a run. Seeing this the monkey turned and, also with a yell, began to run, hoping the child would not dare to enter the forests. The monkey was very wrong in his assumptions and as the chase began to exceed 30 minutes, another monkey dropped from the trees to face the small human, who, once she had caught up, was looking up at him with very familiar dark grey eyes. After an awkward moment, the monkey realised that the small girl was not afraid of the potentially violent animal in front of her. The monkey appeared to pause for thought, soon after its form began to alter. It’s difficult to describe exactly what happens when a monkey takes the shape of a man. The vertebrae, once forming a tail, is pushed back into the spine. The hands also require some contortion, seeing as the need for apposable thumbs while in human form is essential. After a few seconds, where there was once a monkey, there was now a young muscular man, with dark grey eyes, glaring down at the seemingly meek child in front of him. With a Bo staff in hand, a low growl is heard from the monkeys which had gathered to be at his side. He expected this form, standing surrounded by his subjects, armed and clearly dangerous, would frighten such a small girl, but this did not seem to be the case…
I think it’s safe to say that this was a shock to Lori. Surprisingly, however, not a cry was heard. While she was scared, unlike most children her age she didn’t cry very often. The things that confused or scared her in this world were more fascinating than upsetting. Her mother had always appreciated this attitude, and it had allowed Lori to conquer milestones such as sleeping with the lights off and not wetting the bed, significantly earlier than most children. This attitude was what allowed Lori to speak first. In a small cheerful voice the little girl asked; “Who are you?”
Slightly taken aback, silence hung in the air. After several moments, the monkey-man smiled at her; “My name is Wukong. What’s yours?”
“Lori! Mister Wukong, why don’t you look like a monkey anymore?”
Wukong hesitated; “Where are your parents?”
Lori looked at the ground, “At home. Grandma says my dad doesn’t want me around anymore.”
The Wukong’s brow furrowed, with a deep breath he asked “And why is that?”
Continuing to avoid eye contact, Lori carefully explains that her grandmother say she’s not her grandmother, and that her father doesn’t like any of her drawings, “He even ripped up the family portrait I drew!” She explained the miscarriages, as well as any six-year-old could, and that her dad really wanted another child. She also explained that she would be heading to school soon, and that there was talk of her going to a boarding school, which obviously would be “Super-duper fun!” even if Lori admitted that she would miss her mum. Once the child started rambling, Wukong’s collection of subjects returned to their trees. Humans, after all, talked a great deal.
Stifling boredom and irritation, Wukong managed to sit and listen to the whole of Lori’s story. Eventually, he managed to convince her to head back towards the edge of the forest. Wukong could hear the panic from the logging camp, but he’d deal with them later.
Once Wukong had escorted Lori back to camp, in monkey form of course, she was scolded by her “Grandmother” loudly. That was the first time Lori was ever smacked by anyone older than herself, but Lori didn’t care. She met a monkey-man, and that was pretty cool.
Assuming that she had contracted some form of illness while in the forest with all this talk of monkey-men, Lori was flown back to the United States as soon as possible. Lori told her mother everything, and while she knew the story must be made up, Lori’s description of the man she’d seen in the forest peaked Lisa’s interest.
Over the past six and a half years Lisa has had several miscarriages. Each one she has leaves her body more and more broken. Illness began to take her. Finally, on the evening of 14th July 1979, Lisa’s heart gives out while giving birth to a stillborn child. Standing in the middle of a hospital corridor, aged eight, Lori listens to the sounds of midwives and nurses running around. Like gears in a machine they continue their attempts at resuscitation, but Lori knows her mother isn’t coming home. Without a single tear being shed, Lori just stands, unable to cry, but unable to move. Her father won’t look at her, either way, she wasn’t in the mood to be looked upon with such hatred today anyway. She must have stood there for hours. The sun had long since gone to bed, however as Lori is looking down the bustling corridor, she sees a familiar face. Unsure of where she’s seen that face before, a young man, with dark grey eyes walks down the corridor towards her. As he passes, he ruffles her hair. Lori turns to watch him leave, continuing to wonder where she’s seen that face before, but suddenly filled with the strength to keep moving forwards.
As September comes around, it is explained that Lori will be attending a boarding school as of this year. Her father packs all of her belongings hurriedly, while Lori sits on the end of her bed watching her well ironed shirts get creased. It seemed very last minute to Lori, but she believed that this way, she might be able to enjoy herself more. Become happy, like her mother had always wanted. When her mother was still alive, Lori loved to climb trees. She was never any good at sewing, or ballet and especially not drawing, but climbing was a skill she instinctively had. Lisa encouraged her daughter to practice climbing, as well as all the other skills Lori seemed to have, but one thing Lisa could not ignore, was Lori’s struggle with literature. Lisa loved books, and she made sure Lori understood, that while she was stronger than all the other kids in the area, “a healthy mind is always better than a healthy body”. As a child not much above the average intelligence for her age, it was difficult to hear her mother tell her that she was good at the wrong things, but as she grew, Lori understood what her mother had tried to teach her. Lori fought with the other kids in the neighbourhood lots. She often came home with cuts and bruises, but Lori never seemed to mind. Once or twice Lisa asked the small girl why she fought with the other kids and, to her surprise, every time she asked the child, Lori would answer with the same response.
“I just do. The boys say that they want to fight me, so I kick their buts!”
Lori found herself thinking about this age old battle between “brains and brawn”, in the taxi on the way to her new school. With the passing of her mother, Lori decided that fighting is not the answer to anything, which was a shame because Lori enjoyed fighting. She decided that at this new school, nothing was going to make her fight.
With a huge smile on her face, Lori quickly made friends. Excelling at Physical Education, and pushing herself to study subjects like Mathematics she, eventually, began to pass all her subjects. School life was generally uneventful. The word generally is used rather generously here, due to the constant trouble Lori found herself in for comments made in class. Taking the blame for her friends on their last warnings, Lori was fearlessly loyal. Nothing ever seemed to come from these endless warnings however. The matron of the dormitory Lori stayed in slapped Lori a few times, but it all flowed off Lori like water off a duck’s back. In turn this meant that the only difference between Lori and the other children, besides Lori’s aptitude for athletics, was the fact she never went home. When all the other girls in her dormitory went home for breaks, Lori stayed on campus, looking for a taller tree to climb. Lori never minded this however, going home would be a pain. Dealing with her father after all these years would be a bother, especially considering the lack of contact between the two.
Like all boarding schools, after church on Sunday all the children wrote letters home to their parents, to be sent out first thing on Monday morning. Lori, never received a reply to her letters, nor did she get visits like the other children. The parents of her friends would often bring Lori extra treats, so in Lori’s eyes, losing a father meant she gained several other parents. It took a couple of years, and the start of puberty for Lori to realise precisely how oriental she had begun to look. Not that she minded, but those nasty words from her grandmother about being illegitimate began to sink in. Happy to accept that she wasn’t a part of that horrible family anyway, Lori set about ensuring that she’d be able to manage once she left school, knowing full well that no one would be coming to pick her up.
Summer holidays 1985.
Aged fourteen, Lori found herself running through the park. Summer break had started a few days ago and everyone had gone home, meaning the tallest tree in the park has grown taller since the last time she’d climbed it (at Easter), and the ritual climb must be made. Scrambling up the tree, Lori had nearly reached the top when someone called her name. Frozen, she slowly turned her head to face what she assumed to be the matron of the girl’s dormitories at her school but instead found, sat on a branch, a young man with dark grey eyes, smiling at her. Taken aback by the friendliness of a complete stranger, Lori eyes him suspiciously. Silence fills the park as a stare-down commences between the man and Lori. Finally realisation flashes in her eyes.
“I’ve met you before, haven’t I?” Lori have whispers at the man before her. He raises an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you have.” He begins to climb down the tree, pauses, and looks back up at Lori. “Well, are you coming?”
After a moment of hesitation Lori drops from the tree. Matron would kill her if she knew Lori was about to go for a walk with a complete stranger, but she’d take the slap from matron any day to figure out why she saw this man everywhere.
After a long silence, Lori speaks; “So then … Who exactly are you then?”
“My name is Wukong. You’re fourteen now right?” He makes no attempt to disguise his blunt attitude, his stare was cold and his pace of walking slightly too fast for Lori to keep up with, but she manages to reply;
“I’ll be fifteen soon, why does it matter?” Unblinking Wukong grabs a faded piece of paper from his pocket and hands it to Lori.
“Does this ring any bells?” He asks while Lori unfolds the paper to find a child’s drawing. It is rough, but Lori can remember drawing it. It’s a picture of, or at least supposed to be, Lori, standing next to a half-man half-monkey blob. Lori stops in her tracks.
“Where did you get this?” Lori asks accusingly. Her mother loved this drawing, she never understood why, but it was on top of all of her mother’s things when Lori left home, or at least should have been.
Upon Wukong’s realisation that the girl was not going to continue walking, he found a bench and sat. Lori sat on the furthest corner of the bench as she could, without risk of falling off. Wukong explained what he and Lori’s mother got up to before she married Edward. He explained exactly what he was, generally speaking, and ensured that Lori knew exactly what the world truly was. After listening for some time while Wukong spoke, Lori found herself strangely believing him. Even if what he says about magic and pantheons was complete garbage, the resemblance is too great for this man sat before her to be anything else but a family member, although seemingly much too young to be her father. Seeming to sense her doubt in the complete picture, the man spoke directly.
“I know this is a lot to take in, but I need you to do something for me.” Silence hung in the air. The sounds of the park almost seemed to freeze at the abrupt end to the explanations. Lori turned to face the man. A smile spread across her face.
“What do you need?”
Leading Lori to a more secluded area of the park, Wukong spread a map out across the grass. Instantly recognising her school, Lori grew suspicious but before she could say anything a voice called out to the pair. “Hey!”
Lori turned to see a man in his late twenties running towards them. Dressed in an odd fashion, with a pair of pistols at his waist, Lori noticed that the man’s left cheek was bruised. Clearly he had been hit recently, but Wukong didn’t even flinch. Uncertain of his intentions, Lori examined the approaching man. Dusty brown hair framed his face, with deep brown eyes to match, but he hadn’t seemed to notice her as he walked straight passed. “Not late am I?” the stranger asked.
“Just in time, Joe meet Lori.” Finally turning to Lori, the man seemed to hesitate. Lori held out her hand, but Joe seemed uncertain about accepting her greeting.
“Nice to meet you.” Joe said uncertainly. Turning back towards Wukong, the plan was explained.
Apparently one of Wukong’s favourite masks had been stolen. Though not a particularly powerful artefact, however it was made around 15 CE, so completely irreplaceable. Besides that, Lori got the impression that “Gods” did not like having things stolen from them. With their quest explained, Wukong left the pair of God-borns to meet with him again in the park in two days.
The mask was on display in the headmaster’s office, Lori noticed it last time she was there. It was clear her headmaster had nothing to do with the theft. He had bought it through some questionable sources Sitting quietly and listening to Joe’s ramblings about the best way to complete the quest, Lori looked up at the man next to her and spoke. “Who exactly are you then?”
He paused, “I’m Joe.” The silence that followed that statement made it clear Lori wanted an actual explanation, not just the basics. “I’m your half-brother.”
“So we share the same father?”
Joe paused, then smiled at Lori, “Yeah we do, but I think you inherited his look much more than I did… It’s a bit startling actually!” Laughing off the resemblance, Joe confirms all that Wukong had told Lori previously, then pauses. He turns to Lori, “How would you get the mask back?”
Hesitating for a moment, Lori offered her plan. If she could get into the school, which is still open for the older students currently sitting their exams, she could pull the fire alarm. During the confusion, Joe could sneak in through the window of the headmaster’s office. Lori knew the window was never locked during school hours, because the year previously she’d used it to sneak into the teacher’s lounge to correct some answers on her friend’s test paper.
To Lori’s surprise, Joe followed her plan. Even more surprisingly it worked. While Lori got into trouble for ringing the fire alarm, theft had never been one of the things Lori had gotten caught for, meaning the adults around her wrote off the idea that Lori’s indiscretion with the fire alarm was anything more than a mere coincidence to the theft. After Lori’s successful first mission, she saw Joe a lot more. She knew that he could have easily completed this task by himself, but for some reason he had let Lori take control of the situation. He was in town till September, so her whole summer holidays were spent learning how to use swords, and how to fight “like a real Wukong God-born”. There was a feeling of guilt when Lori was learning how to fight “properly”, knowing that this wasn’t what her mother would have wanted, but when Lori picked up a sword she felt more in control than ever. Something about fighting was just right to her, it felt the same as breathing. She realised that she’d broken a promise to herself about fighting, but if this would bring her closer to her family that was still alive, why shouldn’t she try? According to Joe, it wasn’t right for her to be without a weapon, but Lori was sceptical. Something Joe had said bothered her. He seemed to think that because of who their father was, Lori was somehow expected to be a fighter, to be aggressive and adventurous. While Lori knew she was no saint, with an enormous school record of poor behaviour, but why should her father characterise her actions? She wondered about the conations of being the daughter of Wukong. Would other God-borns, when she met them, judge her for her father? Certainly the Gods would, it’s probably easier to generalise mortals that way. Before he left, Joe left Lori with a small knife, “to remind her of where she comes from”.
“Where am I even supposed to hide this?”
On a school trip to Pokhara, Nepal, sixteen year old Lori returns to her hotel room to find a monkey sat on her bed. Seeing Lori, the monkey mumbled something and handed Lori a letter, after which it proceeded to leave out of the open window, and down the side of the building. Still rather confused Lori called after the monkey, “Thank you!” The monkey didn’t respond. Judging by its grumpy attitude, the monkey wasn’t her father but the letter was certainly from him. It was an invitation to meet at an old abandoned temple on the edge of Pokhara later on that evening. Her friends knew better than to question where Lori was going when she left after dinner. Lori loved exploring, she’d once shared her personal goal, which was to see a sunrise in every country she could before she died. Lori called each one “A new horizon!” Lori’s friends called each one 3 hours of missing sleep. They were thankful Lori had not asked them to go, but promised to cover for Lori till she returned.
Arriving at the small stone temple, Lori could see a large monkey sat cross-legged on the ground. Certain of who it was, Lori sat next to him, mirroring his pose. After a few moments of silence, Wukong, jumped up, Bo staff at the ready. He pointed it directly at Lori;
“Are you ready to learn some magic?” The monkey smiled at her. Following his movements Lori beamed back at him.
Lori had 2 weeks in Nepal before flying back to the United States, and the two met every night. The first few nights they spent meditating under the stars. Wukong said he was teaching her the principles of Tao. By meditating in such a quiet environment, he said that he could sense the cosmic order around them. Lori thought it sounded like mystic mumbo-jumbo, but also thought it best not to say that directly to her all-mighty monkey father, a phrase which in itself sounded like total rubbish. It must be said, however, that even with her doubtful thoughts, the feeling of the wind flowing around her was soothing and welcoming. On the third night, half way through their meditation session, Wukong stood up and moved in front of Lori. Unsure of what to do, Lori attempted to keep concentration on the “cosmic order”, or whatever it was she was meant to search her mind for. The monkey took one of her hands, and held it with the palm facing upwards. He stepped back and waiting. Lori, trying to ignore her father, felt a breeze wrap itself around Lori as it passed through the crumbling temple. She found this a lot over the past few nights, but tonight she opened her mind to embrace it back. Wukong spoke;
“You’re a lot more disciplined than my other children… Open your eyes.”
As Lori opened her eyes, she looked down at the palm of her hand. A small cluster of clouds had formed over the palm of her hand. As she stares down at the fluffy white clouds in her hand, they begin to swell and turn dark grey. Bringing her other hand up, the mass of clouds grows to cover both hands, soon a small storm rages in the palms of her hand. She looks up, to see that Wukong is gone. With a smile Lori brings her hands together, and when she opens them again, the storm is gone too.
Over the next few evenings, Lori experimented with storms. A few times lost and drunk tourists turned up around the temple, but thought nothing of the teenager sat with her monkey friend. After mastering the basics of storms, Lori moved on the flight. Trying to bridge the gap, Wukong started off by showing her how to create and use his iconic cloud. It took a few nights for Lori to get used to sitting on the cloud, let alone making it. The first time she tried to sit on the cloud Wukong had made for her, she ended up falling directly through. It was at this point when Lori truly believed what her teachers told her about clouds being made up of water. Needless to say, Lori walked back to the hotel room in fairly wet clothes that night. Once she’d gotten used to sitting on the cloud, the next problem was making it. Starting with her miniature storms, it was all about stretching the dark clouds outwards. As she pulled at the tiny storm, the clouds, once a dark grey, began to lighten. As she continued to stretch the clouds very carefully after learning that if you pulled too hard, you’d end up with a fist full of water. The clouds stretched, until they lost all tones of grey. Ending up with a small, cloud, just big enough for one. Of course the first thing they did, once Lori was stable, was race clouds back to hotel. Wukong won, of course, but as they parted ways, he gave Lori a simple warning;
“This cloud is one of my symbols. When you use it, you represent me. Do not use this lightly … Also, don’t ride clouds around the humans, it’s not exactly conspicuous.” With a smile, Wukong left.
Flying, it seemed to Lori, was every human’s dream, why else would people spend so much money on planes? And while she wasn’t exactly human, it still seemed like a good dream to have. The problem was that she couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. She lost count of how many times her body had fallen back to earth like this. Battered and bruised, confident that she must have broken something this time, her body impacted the cold stone of the temple floor. The monkey in front of her looked down, unimpressed at her efforts. Wiping away the blood from her face, aggravated and irritable, Lori shouted at him;
“Yeah, yeah I know! I know! ‘I need to try harder!’ ”
The monkey raised its eye brow and proceeded to walk over to Lori, this was the last night she had to learn anything from her father, and all she could think was that she was wasting his time. Why couldn’t she get this? Flying can’t be that much more challenging than making a storm can it? Lori had just about managed to pull her broken body onto its knees when the Bo staff the monkey was holding slammed into the back of her head.
Coming to her senses, Lori took a deep breath in and looked at the sky. Dawn was breaking. Her friends must be worrying but the horizon, viewed between the broken walls of this dusty old temple warmed her heart. Taking another deep breath, Lori smiled. She didn’t need to try harder. She was trying too hard. With another deep breath, Lori felt the breeze on her face and the air surrounding her. Thousands of different directions of wind pulling at her body and hair, slowly she picked away each irrelevant current till she found the direction she wanted to go. Up. Focusing on the pull of the wind, she willed it to carry her body. Lori didn’t quite understand how long she sat there in meditation, but she soon felt her body gradually get lighter. Starting with her head, moving down to her arms and waist, by the time this weightlessness reached her legs it felt almost as though she was standing. Soon, all she could feel was the wind carrying her tired body. As she stared out at the dawn, Wukong, sat on a cloud, smiled at her. She did not know if it was her will or his, but through eyes which refused to stay open any longer, she found herself drifting back to her hotel room. Although Lori was asleep well before she made it to bed, she was sure that someone had tucked her in. She found herself wondering in the morning, exactly how many half siblings did she have? She had met Joe, but did he get the same treatment as her? Wukong seemed to base his entire Godhood on being “manly” and doing masculine things, like being a playboy, or a warrior, and causing mischief. Doubt formed over whether or not she could live up to that legacy. An un-killable legend.
Lori dropped her backpack on the cold laminate floor; “I’m home!”
As expected, when she finished school there was no one to pick her up. The school couldn’t make contact with any family members, leaving Lori essentially homeless. Lori looked at Matron, hoping that her assumptions were correct. After setting up a bank account in town, Lori requested that all money coming in from her “father”, be transferred to her personal account. Much to her surprise, Matron agreed. While Lori had always been a terror to the old Matron, she saw Lori’s dedication to writing letters to her father, and noticed the consistent lack of replies, no phone calls, and no visits. The poor child couldn’t even go home for holidays. A child like that needed every penny she could get, and it’s not like her family couldn’t afford it. Lori packed a single rucksack with the vitals. As she packed up her room, she found the knife Joe had left for her. Concealing it in her boot, she set out to complete her own quest, viewing the dawn of a new day in every country she could.
Sliding across the laminate floor into the kitchen, Lori helped herself to juice in the fridge as she heard someone run downstairs. A young Arabic woman entered the kitchen and threw her arms around Lori;
“You stupid cow, why did you go somewhere so cold?! I thought you came to here to get tanned?” The woman laughs and snatches the juice carton from Lori’s hands. “Happy Birthday Lori!!”
Lori had been staying with one of her old classmates in Cambodia while she tried to find a place to live and settle down, but the search had been fruitless. Lori wasn’t sure she wanted to settle down, but all her friends insisted that she had to in order to keep in contact with everyone. After leaving the school, Lori had backpacked around Central America and Mexico, completed a road trip down the west coast of South America, toured the key cities in The Soviet Union, and had just gotten back from a trip to Antarctica. Over the past few years Lori had practiced all the “magic powers” she’d learnt, and even discovered one extra. While backpacking through the forests in Central America, Lori wondered if she had inherited any monkey-like traits from her father. She found a small troop of monkeys, and set up camp close by. Remembering her father’s Tao teachings, Lori spent the next two days meditating on the “cosmic energy” surrounding the monkeys. On the third day, she was just about ready to give up when she sensed it. Deep in her chest something primal awakened. Allowing the feeling to take over her body, Lori could feel her back stretch out. Her hands and feet contorted, her thumbs were no longer apposable, but it appeared that the meditation had worked. It look a moment to calm herself. Her appearance was quite shocking. Unlike her father, Lori could only reach a “half-monkey” stage, where the vitals for climbing and balancing, (hands, feet and tail), were there, but she still appeared to be very human, facially speaking. Hair had grown all over her hands and feet however. Struggling with walking on her new feet, Lori approached the monkey troop. Though slightly confused, they appeared to be completely uninterested. Slightly disheartened, Lori instead tried climbing trees in her new form. Needless to say, it was significantly easier.
Every time Lori returned from a trip, she noticed more and more that she lived in a completely different world to the one her friends inhabited. When she went on trips, Lori dedicated herself to improving her skills, being up in time to watch the day dawn, and going to bed when the sun sank back behind the horizon. She didn’t eat gourmet cooking, like she did with her friends, she didn’t wear flattering clothes, like any woman her age would, nor was she looking at men to date. Despite the seemingly tranquil life Lori lead while away, she found that it was a breath of fresh air to come home to a world where people couldn’t fly. To a world where the only thing that mattered was getting a good tan, wearing nice clothes and being happy. But Lori wouldn’t have it any other way. She loved her double life. It was almost as though she was free to be whoever she wanted to be, no matter where she went. Knowing in her heart that she was a warrior, knowing in her head that she was just a normal girl, and knowing in her soul who she shares blood with, Lori was never more confident that she could take on the world. However realising that she had spaced out, Lori suddenly found herself being dragged across the floor.
Something … something … birthday shopping, is the most Lori could translate from her friend’s gibberish as she was driven to the local shopping mall. Apparently a huge party would be thrown tonight in celebration of Lori’s nineteenth birthday, so of course they had to go dress shopping. Lori had never much liked dresses, but her friend made sure that she looked “Super-hot” so Lori could “Pick up some guy so she’d settle down already!”
Lori shrugged off the idea that she needed to settle down. She was only nineteen, there must be something exciting to do with the rest of her life other than sitting in some desk job and being someone’s wife. The pair headed straight from shopping to a hotel in Krong Stueng Saen, where guests for this party were already arriving apparently. The sun was just beginning to set, and Lori changed into her new dress. It didn’t look bad, as dresses go that is. Looking in the mirror, she couldn’t help but think;
“This is not what a real warrior should be wearing…”
The party didn’t continue much past 1AM. Lori found herself out in the gardens, trying to make a cool breeze to help herself get over the party. A man approached her.
“You know …” He said in a cheerful tone “… I may go to a lot of parties, but that one was particularly fun.”
Lori turned around to see Wukong standing behind her. Dressed in a suit, he had barely aged a day since Lori had last seen him in human form. Smiling at Lori he spoke gently; “Happy Birthday.”
Lori smiled back “Thank you, Dad.”
“I know I shouldn’t show favouritism amongst my children but …” Wukong held out a box, wrapped in beautiful blue paper. Lori’s eyes lit up as she took off the lid of the box.
“I was hoping this would help you complete some errands for me.” Lori lifted a sword from the box as Wukong spoke. When she drew it from its scabbard, to her surprise the sword seemed to part in half.
“A butterfly sword…” she whispered, unable to stop herself from smiling.
Joe had taught her about notable sword types and fighting styles, so Lori knew that each set of butterfly swords is individually crafted, usually commissioned for individuals. The swords are an extension of hand-to-hand combat, and therefore need to be identical in size shape and weight. The set Lori held in her hands were perfect, sharpened traditionally with the bottom of the blade blunt, she could see her name engraved in small modest letters into both blades just above the hilt. The well-polished blades reflected the moonlight above them, in the bottom of the box was a sharpening stone, as well as a red handkerchief. Joe had mentioned once that when you travel, washing blood stains was a pain, so during sword maintenance use a red handkerchief, then no one knows it’s blood stained. Lori didn’t have the heart to tell him that it reeked of blood anyway.
“These errands would send you all over The World I’m afraid. I can’t guarantee you had a place to stay, and I certainly won’t be able to help you, but you’d likely visit every major city worth visiting.”
Staring up at her father, Lori smiled gently. “When do I start?”
Lori looked at her tattered journal and sighed. It was full to the brim with extra pages, business cards and freshly written letters, it had been difficult to find a trustworthy postal service in Singapore. After posting her letters, Lori found her way to a small café, where she pulled out a new journal. Over the next hour, she transferred phone numbers and addresses of what felt like hundreds of contacts. She’s been running errands for her father nonstop for well over a year now, it was nice to be able to sit and do something relatively human. One of the many things she’d looked for as she travelled is the rest of her extended family, but to her surprise seemed to only find brothers. Maybe the male side of the family was just easier to pick out from the crowds of enlightened and God-born. She got the feeling that “Sun Wukong, The Greatest Warrior of Heaven” wasn’t exactly in the habit of looking for his offspring. Either way Lori was challenged to many duels when meeting her brothers, and the idea of being “weak” had become a sore spot. Lori found her brothers all had a strong sense of “male duty”, a “protect the women and children” attitude, although once they realised who Lori was, she seemed to be excluded from this category, and was expected to share this attitude. It must be mentioned that some of her brothers had disowned her for loosing bouts. The idea of a God-born not being able to protect themselves against another of their kind was apparently sickening to them, and thus Lori had been dismissed as weak, cast aside as “not worthy”. Once or twice she found herself left on the streets to die. There were, however, many brothers that she was stronger than, but all the same they seemed to judge her by strength in battle alone. Without the strength to win a fight, her brothers would never accept her. She did find herself writing the details of many brothers in her small journal now though. All those she’d beaten in combat, with the pair of swords given to her by her father.
Finished with her task, Lori glanced around the café only to find her attention drawn to the door. Her father entered, his face wrinkled up with thought. Lori only smiled at him however, knowing better than to test her father’s vanity with a comment. He sat down in a chair opposite her, and began to explain her next quest. Vishnu had contacted Wukong about a prophecy, and darkness stirring up trouble. Both Gods had been too busy to meet in person, so that was the most information he could ascertain, but the Deva needed God-borns to investigate. Vishnu and Wukong apparently “go way back”, so as his current go-to “errand boy”, Wukong decided to send Lori. He handed her a piece of paper with meeting details, but before he left, Wukong spoke in a serious tone;
“This is a chance to prove your strength, not just to your brothers, but to me as well.” He smiled down at her. “Don’t let me down.” And with that, he left.
The contents of the piece of paper left by her father were pretty straightforward – if frustratingly lacking in detail:
“Hey kiddo, we’re having some trouble. When Rama (Vishnu’s incarnation) killed the Demon King Ravana, we thought that was the end of that and were pretty relieved – at the height of his power Ravana was a match for Zeus. But we’ve learned that there is some prophecy about his eventual return. Not just that, but the prophecy mentions that someone is fated to stop that from happening. Problem is – we don’t actually have the prophecy’s words, they were lost a long time ago as fear-mongering garbage by his spiteful followers. Turns out though, that the little we know of it has now happened (“When the Five Heads of Brahma are silent” – Brahma’s suddenly gone silent with no waning.) You are to meet a group of the most promising Godborn we’ve got (no pressure). Your official job is to investigate this prophecy. Your real job, is to become the one fated to stop whatever’s happening, whatever that means. We do know it will require “perfect virtue” – beware temptation. Yes I know it’s ironic for me to say that. Good luck.”
Tucking the paper into her new journal, Lori finished her drink and left. She only had a few days to get to the meeting place in New Delhi, a café called “Raam ke Ghar”. While she preferred traveling by cloud or backpacking, she decided that maybe, given the time frame, she should take the train.
“Perfect Virtue” huh? That’s not gonna be easy …