Usually when one of the little ones went missing, it wasn’t long before they turned up again. The mountain stretched for miles, after all, there was a lot of space to cover and many places which could be explored. So of course he wasn’t worried.
But when the little one was gone so long that the others were starting to worry, then he started to become concerned.
There was always the chance that something had happened to him, and the list of possibilities was a long one; the one that crossed his mind first of course was that he had wandered too far away from the temple, and too close to one of the human settlements and been hit by one of their metal machines on their road. Or captured, turned into a pet, or worse.
Wukong didn’t like to think badly of humans, but when it came to some of the things he knew them to be guilty of, he couldn’t help it. The little one that went missing was still young, after all, he hated the idea of him ignoring the words of caution he’d given about most humans before. Again, he didn’t like to think badly of humans, not all of them were bad, after all, but some could just… some definitely didn’t deserve the Bodhisattva’s mercy.
A great commotion drew his attention away from his thoughts and to the trees below the cliff he stood on. He stepped off the edge casually to descend and see what all the ruckus was, one of the little ones bouncing off the stop of his head and to another nearby branch to beat him to the crowd of monkeys that had gathered in the small clearing. He felt all his worries melt away when he saw the missing little one in the center of the circle, being embraced in welcome by his family troop, their shrill cries of joy becoming infectious in the growing crowd as several of its company began to bounce up and down in joy.
“Well look who decided to come home!” he said, opening his arms as the little one jumped over, then into his embrace to greet him. “And just what was the big idea, making us all worry about you?” he asked, holding the little one out in front of him.
The little one began to chatter, waving his hands almost wildly as he sputtered out his tail to the Monkey King and the crowd of other monkeys around him.
Turned out, he had ignored the warnings and cautions against going too close to the human settlement, and he had gotten struck by one of their metal machines. A smaller one, so it was a miracle he wasn’t killed, but his leg had been badly broken. He even stuck his leg out to show where the hair was growing back around the scar, which Wukong raised a brow at. The little one went on to explain that another human, a human woman, had found him, took him to her “cave”, tended his wound and returned him when he was healed enough to walk again.
Wukong set the young monkey down to let him continue his tale, wondering if he was embellishing a little to make it sound all the more grand to the others, then he asked. “Is she still here?”
The little one paused long enough in his story to point Wukong down the mountain, towards one of the only roads that led near its peak. He patted the little one on the head, gave him one last scolding about wandering off, then left in that direction. He wasn’t quite sure why he was so curious about this woman, but if she came all this way up the mountain just to return one of his little ones home, then the least he could do was make sure she made it down safely; it was getting dark.
He found her near the road, hiking back down towards it and to one of those less dangerous human machines… Bikes, right, they were called bikes. One her back was a makeshift sling made from a basket and some strips of cloth that carried the little one’s scent. So she’d carried him all the way up here on her back, peddling them both the whole way. Impressive. The little one wasn’t that heavy, granted, but still, it was a long trek. That was impressive for a human.
She herself was still quite young. Not a child, but not past her prime, either. Just barely a woman, really. Long, dark hair that stretched down her back, and a sweet, but rather plain face. Nothing special about her, really, but to come all this way for an act of kindness… again, it was impressive. He watched as she peddled off on that bike, and followed her from a distance until she was about halfway down the mountain, where she reached the main road that led back towards the city.
But didn’t make the turn to go back to the city. She made a turn in the opposite direction. Odd…
Curiosity overtook him and he continued to follow her, making sure to stay high enough in the air that humans passing on the road wouldn’t notice him on his cloud. He was laid across it on his belly, almost lazily. He really didn’t know why he was bothering to follow this human. Sure, she helped one of the little ones, and yeah, he was wondering why she was headed out towards the middle of nowhere on that little bike thing of hers… Oh? Hang on…
He didn’t know there was a town out here.
He stopped his cloud to hover over the area. It wasn’t so much of a town as it was just a little village. It couldn’t have been more than… maybe a hundred people or so living here? It must have been built in the last few years, he hardly ever came down to this side of the mountain, nothing here but the river delta, really. And since his temple was up on top of the mountain, he didn’t really bother with what was at the bottom anymore. Still, the place seemed… quaint. Quiet. Well placed, despite how small it was. People from the big city would probably never even notice that it was ever here… like he did.
He spotted the girl again as she steered her bike to a small house on one side of the town, getting off her bike and going inside. He watched until the light came on inside, then grew bored and flew his cloud back up the mountain to his temple. He’d definitely have to look in on this little place another time.
And he did. He found himself checking in on the small village at least once a month. Especially on the young woman whose kindness had saved one of his little ones. That one in particular kept asking about her, how she was, and all that. So Wukong checked on her every time he went to that village. He learned quite a bit about her in that time. Turned out that sweet face of hers wasn’t just for her looks; she truly was a kind person.
Every time he went to see her, she was helping someone or some critter in some way or another. In fact at one point when he came to see how she was doing, he found her halfway up an absurdly high tree, trying to return a baby hawk to it’s nest. Nearly gave him a heart attack at seeing just how high up she’d gotten! But she managed to do it and get back down just fine… still. Humans were so weird.
He liked her, though. If he had to compare her to anyone, he’d have to compare her to Guan Yin in the mortal flesh.
Though there was something about her that just seemed… sad, somehow. It made him all the more curious about her. He poked around, peeking into her house when she wasn’t looking through the windows, listening when she had visitors or talked to anyone from the village. She always wore a smile when she talked to people, even when she tended to a wounded animal or creature she came across; a smile that, while genuine, seemed so sad that it almost drove him nuts.
Until he learned just why she was so sad.
He had snooped around the village, and found out that she was barren. Couldn’t have children even though she wanted to bear her own badly. But that wasn’t even the saddest part…
She had a husband before. A husband who wanted children of his own so badly… that he left her to find another woman who could give him some.
That bit reminded Wukong why he disliked some humans especially. They could be so damn thoughtless and shallow sometimes. Just hearing that at first made his hands ball up into fists. He’d half a mind to find that husband of hers and give him a stern talking to about just abandoning a woman who was so kind, even if she couldn’t give him children. But he saw how she carried on, trying to stay happy, stay positive, and he thought better of it… at least for awhile.
He wasn’t sure why he was so invested in her and how she was feeling. Maybe because she did remind him so much of the Bodhisattva of Mercy; someone who gave so much and expected so little in return, even if they were well respected.
He sat there, that night, watching from a spot by her open window where she couldn’t see as she made herself tea. He watched as she spun the spoon around in a circle, his eyes following the rotation for several minutes before looking back to her, amazed that she could still smile, even as her hand subconsciously, and gingerly touched her stomach in a way of longing that he could clearly see. He sighed, leaning away from the window and stretching himself on the ground below it, one leg swept over the other as he ran his fingers through his hair. It was bothering him--probably a little too much--that he couldn’t help her, and he wasn’t sure why he was even really that invested. It happened with humans, sometimes… it couldn’t be helped!
Wukong stopped, finger curling anxiously, almost out of habit around one particular hair on the back of his head, his golden eyes widening in remembrance.
It was one of--no, not one of, the last of--the three magical golden hairs that Guan Yin had given him for his journey with Tripitaka to the West. He’d completely forgotten about it!
Wukong sat back up and peeked back through the window, keeping low enough below the sill that she wouldn’t see him. She was still sitting there, stirring her tea, completely unawares, and he fingered the hair again. They were magical, supposed to grant miracles… but not that kind of miracle… right? But then again the Bodhisattva’s were in no way slack when it came to magic… so it couldn’t hurt to try, right? It was supposed to only be for emergencies, the kind that only a miracle could save him from… but when he used the other two, those were only for miracles that other people needed, never one for himself… so he could at least keep the trend going, right?
He made up his mind.
The Monkey King plucked the hair from his head, bringing it forward in front of his eyes, before closing them and saying a quiet prayer, like he’d done twice before. Once his prayer was done, he took a deep breath, opening one eye to make sure the moment was right, then blew the hair in through the window. He watched it with baited breath as it drifted, unseen, towards her before landing into her cup of tea; there was a momentary golden sheen of light from the cup before it faded, the magical hair seeming to dissolve completely, and just in time as she lifted it to drink.
He finally breathed a sigh, backing away from the window quietly before mounting his cloud again. He said another small prayer as he started his ascent, hoping, by whatever small miracle that last bit of magic gifted to him by Guan Yin, would actually produce a miracle. He’d hate to think he wasted such a gift…
Though if he knew the Bodhisattva, she would probably say something along the lines of an act of compassion never being truly wasted.