The Journey to the west was taking a long time, and it was wearing on Wukong. He and Sandy seemed to be the only ones who tried to look out for anymore demons. And it seemed only Wukong was wise to their tricks. But every time he tried to tell his Master that this latest visitor was a demon, he got a cracking skull in return. But still Wukong mentioned it every time. And every time he took the punishment, and he was sure this time wouldn’t be any different.
“Master, I know, for a fact, that this mountain houses a demon. We should not go into the village!” Wukong practically begged for his master to listen. He had been trying to tell that silly monk to change course for several hours now, but the idiot wouldn’t listen!
“Wukong I- “
“He’s right you know. The whole place is swarming with Demons.” A lazy voice called from down the road. Walking up to them was a man with messy dark hair and wearing an earthen tunic and pants. He seemed normal, save two things. First his eyes were glazed over, almost dead, but there was a fire burning behind the mist, a bright amber color. Then finally was his hair, it was jet black and it shone, not like grease but like Onyx. And it was wild hair, it fell unevenly just above his jaw, save a single braid that fell to his shoulder. In the braid were three brightly colored beads, one yellow, one peach, and one grass green. He smiled lazily to the group pointing back to the village.
“I’m serious, your boy there is telling the truth. Don’t go through there unless you want a fight. I know a better way through these mountains if you want the help.” Wukong, while very happy that he was proven right, was immediately suspicious of the man. He was off, not directly demonic, but not human either, mostly, he smelled…
“Dead.” Wukong spoke and the man turned to him.
“You smell dead.” Wukong explained earning a gasp from the others.
“Wukong! Don’t just say that without proper proof!” Sangzang shouted. Before Wukong could say anything, he could feel the pain of his skull breaking and instantly repairing itself as his master recited the Sutra again.
“Woah woah woah! Hey now! No need for that Young Man!” Suddenly the pain stopped, the sutra teetering off. Looking up Wukong saw the man holding Sangzang’s shoulders with a kind smile. The young Monk was blushing furiously. “I most certainly do smell dead, simply because those demons had me buried in a mass grave with the rest of their victims. Your friend here is very correct.”
Ok now Wukong was pissed. His pride was hurt and why was this freak being so nice?!
“Oh, I see…” Sangzang stuttered turning to face the man.
“Don’t worry too much! Oh! I forgot to introduce myself, I’m Melon. And who might you all be?” Wukong went to protest but was very quickly interrupted by the stuttering Sangzang.
“I-I am Tripisang, I mean Sangataka. Sangzang! I’m Sangzang!” Melon laughed an easy laugh, patting the young Monks head.
“Easy there Sang, breath before you talk yeah? What about you colorful cast o’ characters? Who might you be?” Longma introduced himself kindly and so did Pigsy, who seemed to be rather in awe of the man, Sandy, gave a nickname which Melon accepted. Wukong stayed silent.
“No.” Wukong said calmly.
“What?” Sangzang asked, his eyes finally moving from the stranger to Wukong. All kindness left as he gazed upon Wukong, which only soured the Monkey’s mood.
“I said, I’m not going to give him a name.”
“Of all the rude things. W- “
“Now now Sang. Ease up there.” Melon interrupted. “If he isn’t comfortable giving me his name then that’s fine. What may I call you good sir, so that I do not insult you?”
Wukong thought for a second, but before a rational answer could be formed he blurted out the first word he could think of.
“King huh? Sounds impressive! I like it!” Melon beamed easily AND Wukong bristled. “Well King, it’s great to make your acquaintance. Now, shall we get moving before night falls?”
“Yes! That would be good!” Sangzang exclaimed hurriedly, moving closer to the man eagerly. Pigsy and Longma followed closely behind. Only Sandy and Wukong stood back.
“I don’t trust him.” Wukong spat. “It’s to convenient.”
“I agree.” Sandy said sighing. “However, I’m curious about him. I did not sense or hear him approach before he spoke. And with the road as clear as it is, we should have seen him
approach from a mile away. I want to see what he can do.”
“Pah!” Wukong Spat. “He can probably stab us in the back!”
Melon could not believe his luck. There he had been trying to continue his search without back up when lo and behold! A crew of powerful beings approached! Of course, he put on the charm and covered up as they approached! He was out of supplies and running low on energy. At this rate he’d start falling apart before he finished his search! But with more people in the group he could recharge some, and hey! The Monkey had the right idea. In his job Melon valued those who remained suspicious. It made everything so much fun! Even if he wasn’t hunting, Melon preferred to keep company with those who didn’t trust quickly. Also, he could feel the power radiating off the Monkey and that, oh! That just made him so excited! Maybe he found someone who could be fun to fight? That was if he could get him to trust enough for a spar.
Ah well! They were taking the long way around, Melon had time.
Wukong was exhausted. He couldn’t bring himself to sleep with that Melon man present! What was worse, was that every time Wukong tried to warn Sangzang of any coming danger, he would be dismissed. But as soon as Melon so much as breathed Sangzang would praise him like he made the sun rise each morning! But, truly, that wasn’t the worse of it.
Apparently, everyone listened to Melon over Wukong. EVEN Pigsy would listen when the man would point out that the cute girl that came by was evil! Wukong was at the end of his ropes.
“Fight me.” The party suddenly stopped in their trek. Wukong glared down Melon who blinked.
“You want to fight?” Melon asked, Wukong spat and nodded. “I’m not very good at fighting but sure, why not?”
“Wait! Mr. Melon you don’t have to- “
“Nah.” Melon cut off Sangzang. “I wanna! I haven’t gotten to practice in a while, so this will be fun!”
“Sure.” Wukong spat. “Fun.”
Melon smiled lazily and pointed just off the road to a clearing. “How about there?”
“Perfect.” Wukong sneered. Earning a glare from Sangzang and worried looks from everyone else, even Pigsy!
After a few minutes of getting situated Wukong and Melon stood across the clearing from one another. Wukong was glaring daggers at Melon who was smiling.
“Alright, how about some rules yeah?” Melon offered, Wukong just nodded and grunted. “First, let’s not dismember each other yeah? I think we both need all our bits and pieces attached. Second, let’s not hit the audience yeah?”
“No shit.” Wukong spat, and Melon shrugged.
“Just getting it out there. Third, no poison weapons, I’m mainly talking about me.”
“What the hell?” Wukong heard Pigsy whisper to Sandy, but he didn’t hear the rest as Melon kept talking.
“And finally, first to be knocked out loses yeah?”
“Yeah.” Melon nodded.
“Good! Ready?” Wukong shifted to a fighting stance, lower to the ground, and opting to leave his staff behind his ear for now. “Go!”
Wukong shot forward, too fast for Melon to react in time, and rammed his shoulder into the other man’s solar plexus. Melon gasped, flying bask towards the edge of the clearing. As he flew Melon flipped himself in the air and rammed something sharp into the ground to slow himself down. A deep gash cut the earth and Melon managed to slow down to a stop right before the tree line.
“Not bad.” Melon laughed. “Try again.”
Melon placed a hand behind his back, his other hand waved Wukong forward. Wukong growled and charged again. This time instead of hitting a solid body Wukong flailed as a hand grabbed the collar of his shirt and he was flung up into the air. The was a hiss, like steam being released from a pressure cooker and suddenly Wukong felt the blunt edge of a knife hit his kidneys before he hit the ground. Gasping, and righting himself as he fell, Wukong scanned the clearing.
Melon was holding a blunt dagger in his left hand, it looked old and rusty. Wukong growled.
“Not taking me seriously huh?” Wukong spat his eyes glowing bright red, and his teeth sharpening back to their natural state. Wukong let his anger grow, and with it his demonic heritage resurfaced. His fur stood on end bristling and standing still like carved stone. His pupils narrowed to tiny slits and his irises grew bright red. His teeth grew jagged and sharp, and several extra rows of teeth grew within his widened mouth. He didn’t see Melon’s smile falter for a second, concern filling his face, before he returned to his easy smile and nodded.
“Ah, so you are taking it more seriously no to? Lovely!” Wukong paused and watched as Melon flipped the blunt knife back into his belt and pulled out a larger, sharper dagger out. This one was made of Damascus steel, and was sharpened to a fine, fine point. Even in his rage Wukong recognized this blade as the tool of a trained killer.
“Assassin then?” Wukong Hissed, his voice rasping as smoke poured from his mouth.
“Aye, many say my methods are… less than ideal, but if you want someone dead I will kill them no matter what it takes!” Melon said cheerfully, spinning the knife in his hands. Wukong growled.
“Well, lets see how good you are!” Wukong shouted charging once more. Melon’s easy smile spread into a large malicious and toothy smile and he dodged the charge and swiped upwards with the knife.
Wukong dodged instantly, moving behind Melon and striking out at the Assassin’s ribs. There was a crack and Melon gasped for air as he tumbled away.
“Wukong, stop this instant!” Sangzang’s protests were lost as Melon gave a loud whoop and dove to the side, Wukong had swung upwards and missed. Melon took the opening to slash at Wukong across the back. A shallow cut spread down the Monkey king’s back the length of the spine. Wukong screeched, pivoting on his heel as he landed and swinging a foot out at Melon’s face. The kick connected and there was another crack and blood spilled from Melon’s nose. As Melon stumbled back the two fighters paused. No one could hear Sangzang shouting, or Pigsy cheering on Melon, or Sandy calling to Wukong in worry. The two could only hear their blood pumping in their ears and their heavy breaths.
“Heh. Well, gonna have to be I little trickier for you King.” Melon said with his wicked smile. Wukong didn’t have time to respond as Melon fizzled out of sight.
Wukong didn’t move, his ears were useless, he could only hear his thoughts, his eyes were no good, Melon had vanished, and it wouldn’t do to feel for the man, that left him open to attack so…
Wukong struck to his left, he hit open air, but he smirked.
“You know. If you are going to vanish, you might want to mask the smell of decay first.” Wukong taunted. Striking out once more.
“Ah. But you see King. I already planned for that.” Wukong froze as a sharp pain cut through his right side, opposite of the smell. Wukong screamed in rage as Melon reappeared in his peripheries. And, for a brief second, Wukong thought he saw Burning red scales before he was only seeing red. Wukong struck out, this time with his staff and-
Suddenly blinding pain and the world spun. The ground suddenly appeared to close to his face and a hand caught him before he crashed face first into the ground.
“I said that was enough! Stop being so dishonorable Wukong!” Sangzang’s furious yelling brought Wukong back to his senses. He ignored the monk and instead followed the arm that caught him. Melon had caught him and Wukong recoiled at the strange emotion in the man’s eyes.
“Pah. I would have won.” Wukong spat, getting to his knees and shoving Melon away. But the emotion never left Melon’s eyes. Instead it morphed into something, softer, kinder. It made Wukong wince and panic.
“I think you did win. There was no way I would block that last hit!” Melon said, his manic grin back to a normal lazy smile. Wukong huffed and stalked off, ignoring Sangzang who fussed over Melon.
“I’m going to scout ahead.” And with that Wukong flew off.
Melon let the boy fuss, to focused on the injured monkey. He was starting to get a better idea of the situation. Melon sighed and started to walk away, letting the flustered monk and his disciples follow. His well learned instincts were screaming, but he couldn’t do much right now. He unfortunately had to wait.
“Why don’t you listen?” Sangzang shouted to Wukong. Camp had been set up that night following the sparring session and Sangzang was still pissy. Melon had gone off with Longma to find some food and Pigsy and Sandy were patrolling the area to make sure nothing tried to kill them in their sleep.
“I should be asking you that! You listen to a total stranger and not your own disciple? I’ve been saying the exact same thing that Melon man has but you punish me every time! Hell, we both fought with the same ferocity and intent and you only yelled at me!”
“You are only looking for a fight! Mr. Melon wants to avoid fights! And you were getting carried away, Mr. Melon is only a mortal human, you could have killed him!” Wukong growled as Sangzang defended his actions.
“No, I don’t! I’m trying to avoid fighting demons as well! And you saw him Vanish! There is no way he is human!” Wukong felt the anger building, burning in his chest. As he went to shout more at the young monk, he felt it all melt away. He huffed, deflated. “Fine, whatever.”
“What does that mean?” Sangzang screamed. Wukong didn’t answer. “Answer me!”
Still nothing. Sangzang screamed. And started the headache sutra. Wukong grit his teeth, refusing to scream and refusing to speak. Sangzang kept going. Soon, Wukong couldn’t hear anything, his mind consumed by the pain. Then after what felt like an eternity it stopped, and Wukong only saw black.
“What on earth are you doing?” Sangzang turned around to find Sandy, Pigsy, Longma and Melon staring at him. Wukong was out cold on the ground and Sangzang was panting from repeating the sutra. How long had it been? A few minutes? An hour? Before Sangzang could say anything, Melon brushed past him without a word, inspecting the monkey carefully.
“What happened?” Sandy asked, his voice taking an authoritative tone that could only belong to a parent.
“Wukong was being unreasonable. So, I punished him. He’s probably faking it.” Sangzang said innocently. The clearing suddenly filled with the smell of brimstone and burning flesh.
“Kid.” All eyes turned to Melon who was crouched next to the unconscious monkey King, there were heat waves pouring off him, his eyes obscured by his hair and his voice lost its lazy jovial nature. “Do you know what this crown does?”
“It causes a headache when the sutra is recited, he’s fine.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Melon stated simply. Sangzang blinked and Sandy sucked in a breath. The air grew heavy.
“What does it do then?” Surprisingly the question came from Pigsy, who was shifting uneasily.
“Simply put, this crown shrinks as the sutra is spoken. It breaks the skull as it shrinks. When he skull breaks due to such pressure the bones explode in any direction it can. Even through the brain. The result is death. Ad when you do that to someone who is immortal, what you get is an excruciatingly painful experience.” Melon rose, before he was about Wukong’s size, but now he seemed to tower over the group. His glassy eyes burned with a fury that did not seem to be of earth. “You have been killing this man over and over again. He is your disciple, he is looking out for you, he puts his trust in you. And you have been repeatedly killing him.”
There was silence as the party absorbed this and Melon bent down and picked up Wukong.
“I… I didn’t mean to- “
“It doesn’t matter what you say you meant.” Melon spat, cutting off Sangzang who winced. “I have the feeling you aren’t being honest with yourself. Despite how young you are, I expected better of you Kid.”
Melon then turned heel and began to walk into the woods.
“You do not follow until you realize why you praised me for all the faults you punished Wukong for. Come day We will return to continue travelling. Good night.” And with that Melon and Wukong were gone.
Wukong woke up feeling warm, and very light headed. Trying to open his eyes sent wavs of pain through his head, so he opted to keep them closed. It would pass soon enough.
“Oh, thank the Gods you’re ok.” And suddenly the pain wouldn’t go away fast enough. Wukong shot up, forcing his eyes open through the pain in a panic.
He was alone, with Melon. No one else was nearby and he had no clue where he was. Wukong tried to jump up, only to collapse in pain.
“Easy, easy. Your body just had to repair itself from way too many deaths. Take it easy King.” Wukong tensed at the softness of the tone, and the kindness that he felt as Melon reached out and gently pet his head.
“I’m fine.” Wukong bit out. Each word sent waves of pain spiraling through his body. Wukong felt his muscles spasm and his vision went black. He felt the soft warm body of Melon hold him steady as the spasm’s left.
“Not yet. Just take it easy. Bad stuff happens when the brain gets damaged, even if you are immortal. You will need some time to heal before you can do anything to strenuous.”
“I. Don’t need your pity.” Wukong hissed, cursing himself for being so vulnerable. This thing probably wanted that!
“I’m not pitying you. I am showing affection. I’m worried about you.” Wukong suddenly tensed, it was suddenly very, very hard to breath. There was silence for some time as Wukong tried to breath, panic rose in this throat, mixed with bile and his lunch.
“Why?” Wukong could only whisper, choking back the panic.
“I get it yeah? You look up to people and even when you try your best to do good by them they only hurt you. I get it. I lived that life. Hell, that life killed me!” Wukong shuddered. He was dead! “And what’s worse, even after you think you are at the end of your rope, even when you decide that enough is enough, you still can’t leave.”
Suddenly, Wukong felt the man behind him tremble, the arms that were gently wrapped around him tightened ever so slightly and Wukong could feel the man’s hot breath on his shoulder.
“Because the people who hurt you show the tiniest bit of what they claim is kindness, they say good job. They give you a reason to desperately believe that it will get better, that it will be ok. Maybe they make you think it was all your fault, even if you did what the told you to do.” Wukong was shaking. It was true. This was happening, it had been happening to him his whole life. Always punished, never fully praised. Wukong felt hot tears welling up in his eyes and the darkness covering his vision began to dissipate.
“But it’s not you. It’s not you. You deserve better. You are doing great.” Suddenly Wukong couldn’t hold back his sobbing. Tearing streamed down his face and grief and relief suddenly flooded his senses. Overwhelmed Wukong reverted to his instincts and turned and clung to Melon who held him close.
Melon held the crying Monkey close. He didn’t let go even when the boy fell asleep, having exhausted himself on top of his injuries. Melon stayed awake and released his disguised. He reached out sending an aura of death and Decay around him and the sleeping Monkey. His skin dried out and began to flake, blisters formed on his skin and turned the flakes to burning red, orange and charred black scales. His eyes widened, the glassy cover melting away to reveal solid burning amber eyes, no whites, no black pupils, just endless hellfire. His hair grew rigid, sharpening into strands of Obsidian. The beads melted into long strands of glowing crystals each radiating magic and floating around his head in a jagged twisted halo. Rows of fangs poked out of his lips, jagged and cracked with burning veins of Magma pulsing underneath. His cheeks wasted away, skin and flesh melting down to charred and cracked bone, showing even more teeth. Melon’s form, which was muscular suddenly thinned and became bony and sickly. His finger grew long obsidian claws, and his feet, long and lizard like, broke through his shoes. No use hiding this, Melon was to angry to keep up a living appearance. He wasn’t about to kill these people, but like hell was he going to keep playing nice. Melon turned his attention back to his new child and sighed.
“Well Spritzer, looks like you have a big brother now. Once I find you.”
Longma sprinted away from his hiding place. He had decided to follow Melon to keep an eye on the man. He didn’t expect this. No one would have expected this. After all, there hadn’t been a Hellbred walking the mortal realm in thousands of years. Not since the Ten Kings of Hell had banned their creation.
Guan Yin was going to flip.
The next day dawned and Wukong woke up slowly, or he tried to, then the previous night’s events came flooding back and he sprang up. His panic only increased as the overwhelming smell of death and brimstone hit his nostrils and dizziness sent him falling to his knees.
“Ah I’m sorry Little King. I will try to mask the smell better in the future. Are you hungry?” Wukong gaped at Melon, who sat by a small fire roasting some veggies and fish.
“What are you?” Wukong sputtered.
“Ah, I’m a Hellbred.” Melon answered easily.
“Ah, you must not have been taught about them huh? Well there used to be a deal that the Emissaries of Yama would offer to mortals. Repent for your sins and you may live again upon the mortal realm. The thing was, you had to accomplish a Great deed before you died again, or your soul would be forced to serve the emissaries for eternity.” Melon explained. “However, many Hellbreds figured out that they could easily over power the emissaries to gain freedom, so the ten Kings of Hell forbid the deal and collected the rest of the Hellbred’s souls.”
“Then how did you escape?” Wukong asked.
“Ah well. My Spouse was a Xaolin Monk. We had already married when the edict went out, so they pulled a few strings to allow me to remain behind. When they passed, I managed to convince the Kings to let me stay to raise our daughter.” Melon sighed. “I’m looking for her now. She went West to learn but, it’s been a while since I heard from her. I wanted to make sure she was ok.”
Wukong paused. Melon was sincere. It was obvious, in the open and very very clear. He was desperate to find his child and still, a fury burned under the man’s skin. Wukong sighed.
“Then, why are you so angry? And what did you mean about, life killing you?” Wukong suddenly smelled fear, fear from Melon.
“When I was alive, my parents, hell my whole family were Criminals. So was I, Hell! I still am! But.” Melon paused and took a deep breath. “Not like them. Never like them. I was the oldest. I was supposed to take their place. Me and my twin, Pear. Thing was, Pear didn’t want to do any of it. She wanted to sell flowers and I supported her. Even before they found out we couldn’t seem to do anything right. We were always wrong always punished. We tried to get away, but every time we tried they would suddenly be nice. Say that we were perfect, the envy of our siblings. We bought it and the cycle continued. Then they found out that Pear was working in a Flower shop for fun. I defended my twin and of course they decided we had betrayed them. Pear died first. I followed shortly after.”
Wukong’s mind reeled. It seemed very similar to his life, but he had prevented his own death. Subodi had nearly killed him often enough that Wukong had to master Immortality even faster. Even in Heaven various spirits had nearly killed him enough that he decided to steal Immortality if he had to.
“I thought that was normal.” Wukong muttered. Melon suddenly grabbed him and shook his head.
“It’s not! My Spouse taught me that! They spent their adult life teaching me that! I swore that I would never let anyone think the same. If I had to live life again because those dumbass Emissaries don’t understand fucking sarcasm, then I am using this time to make sure no one else has to hurt.” Melon proclaimed this so firmly and with so much determination that Wukong nearly missed one little detail.
“They brought you back, because they didn’t understand sarcasm?” Melon sighed dramatically.
“Yeah, either that or I pissed them off by mouthing off, I was am angsty teen of course I did!” Wukong laughed as the Hellbred flailed and began to weave a great tale of how he came back.
It took some time, but eventually Wukong accepted Melon’s kindness. It helped that the Hellbred was willing to mediate and often kept the others in line. He also was damn good at his job and together the two were able to thwart several attempts at Sangzang’s life. The monk had a ways to go before Wukong forgave him. But things were looking up as Melon kept close.