Disclaimer: Kazuya Minekura owns Saiyuki. I do not.
Warning: Language, slight reference to Gaiden, blink-and-miss 39.
Note: Just some random musings that hit me during class.
You respond to 'Sanzo' without really thinking about it. As far as you're concerned it's your name.
You were an anonymous orphan when your master reached down and dragged your half-drowned little ass out of the Yangtze River. After that you were dubbed 'Kouryuu' and entered into your life in the priesthood. Names weren't important then, because you had a father figure and a home and a purpose. Your nickname 'River Rat' didn't phase you nearly as much as your mean-spirited peers had hoped.
Thirteen years later you watched your master forfeit his life in a gory scene of chaos forever etched into your repressed memories, into a distant corner of your mind that you try desperately to avoid on rainy or moonlit nights. His dying words changed your name to 'Genjo Sanzo, the Thirty-First of China,' and you were shoved violently into reality, into a world outside pristine temple walls.
Four years later you arrived, traumatized and jaded, on the doorstep of Chang'An temple, and your wayward search to recover the stolen Seiten Scripture lay in shambles at your feet. The corridors of this magnificent and holiest of monasteries whispered mockingly around you of your heinous deeds, actions you took to survive in a rough and unsheltered world. A silly old man decided that you were a demon from hell, or perhaps a trickster from the moon, and then managed to get himself killed and dumped the burden of running the entire temple complex in your lap. You decided that you were rather fed up with people dying and leaving their burdens to you to sort out. 'Genjo Sanzo' took on an entirely different meaning that day.
And when a nameless voice began ringing through your mind, first in place of your long-dreaded nightmares, then in the middle your tedious paperwork-strewn days, you weren't sure what your own name was anymore. It sounded strangely like 'savior' but mostly like 'desperation', and it grated on your nerves like rugburn. You left Chang'An and ventured back out into the harsh, unforgiving world and found yourself at the summit of a dismal and lonely mountain.
The golden eyes that stared out at you from the bowels of that ancient rock prison were the saddest things that you had ever seen. You couldn't explain the pull on your heart at the time because you refused to analyze it, but it felt like a force more powerful than heaven and it scared the ever living fuck out of you. Grudgingly, you led that dirty kid down from on high and your name was, for a brief and irritating moment, 'dumb droopy-eyes.'
After several hours of whining your name became 'Sanzo', because it was much easier for a primate-sized brain to process. He promised you with shining, beautiful eyes and a genuine smile to call out to you with that name, and it's been abused like a fucking mantra ever since. It's tossed around in an undertone among your comrades, whispered in hushed awe by wide-eyed townsfolk, and spat upon the ground like a bad taste by your enemies. You even hear it screamed into your mind in his all-too-familiar voice like a lifeline when you're in dire straits, and that's when it means the most to you. For seven long and agonizing years you've heard him crying out to you, and you understand with absolute clarity that the day you cease to register that warm tenor in your head will be the day that time comes to a screeching halt and your heart finally punches through your ribcage in a havoc of blood and gore. It's a part of your very existence as sure that your name is 'Sanzo', and you aren't even certain when you came to terms with that.
Your name itself is as important to you as your rank and title, and that equates it to worthless. After everything is said and done it's merely a label that others use to identify you. If you get really dirty and honest with yourself, it wouldn't have mattered what he had decided to call you that day, so long as he kept smiling up at you like you were the greatest damned thing that ever happened to him and continued to follow you to the end of the fucking world.
His name, however, is invaluable to you. You use it to berate him daily, to locate him in battle, to reassure yourself that he's alive and attached to your side like a second shadow. It's been carved into your very soul for what feels like centuries, but that's just a ridiculous notion.
Kougaji the Rabbit Prince calls him a fellow demon. The monks of Chang'An mutter amongst themselves that he's a monster. Others refer to him as 'Seiten Taisei', the primordial being that lurks like a threat beneath his very skin. To Gojyo he's the 'bottomless pit', and to Hakkai he's 'both-of-you-quit-fighting-before-Sanzo-reloads.' In your more surly moments he's best known as 'you stupid fucking monkey.' In your heart, where it counts, where you refuse to acknowledge it aloud, he's your best friend, your strength, your resolve. He's the near-innocence that you lost far too early in life. He's the unconditional trust that you avoid like the plague. He's the safety on your Smith and Wesson. He's your truth.
His name is Son Goku, and perhaps one day you'll remember that the most important name in your world is one that you gave him yourself.
S P O I L E R W A R N I N G
I don't remember the specific chapter of Gaiden, but Konzen Douji (Sanzo's former incarnation) did in fact name Goku. And according to the final chapter of Gaiden, Goku's name was the only memory that the Merciful Goddess did not seal when he was imprisoned on that mountain for 500 years. When I read that I almost fucking cried, it was so sad.