Journey to the East

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March 6, 1997, Shandong province, China

"The Monkey King is a Chinese folk-hero," Robyn said.

The Squad stood in a circle, over 100 yards away from where Sun Wu-Kong was imprisoned.

"Then…we should cut him loose?" Fang asked.

Robyn shook her head. "He was also a notorious Trickster. And a prankster. Legend says that he entered the Jade Emperor's court unbidden and demanded a title. So the Emperor—,"

"He gave me the title Pi-Na-Wen," Sun called out. "'He who smells horses dung' I demanded a better title."

"Made him the caretaker of the gardens of the Sacred Peach Trees," Robyn continued, clearly annoyed that the monkey had interrupted him.

"Matrix?"

"Everyone hop please," Matrix said as he surrounded them in a soundproof bubble.

"Tricksters are at the same time the most and least trustworthy of the Oberati," Arthur said. "I say we should probably leave him be."

"But…you said he was a hero too," Dingo commented.

"Yes…," Robyn said hesitantly. "The Monkey wasn't supposed to eat the peaches…just guard them…but…"

"Quis Custoeius Custodiadat?" Arthur said.

"Then he crashed a banquet that was meant to be attended only by high ranking officials. He drank the Emperor's Jade Juice which made him immortal…they punished him by locking him under a mountain."

"Where he remains," Fang said shrugging. "Ole King Cole here is right then…we should leave him where he is."

"That's what confuses me," Hunter said. "He shouldn't still be here. In Journey to the West a book written about the Monkey King's legend, Monkey was eventually released by the Bodhisattva, to travel on a journey to redeem himself."

There was a pregnant silence.

"We should let him go," Dingo said.

"Yeah," Fang said quietly.

"I concur…but I think it's Arthur's decision. He knows more about the Third Race than any of us," Hunter said.

"I do not presume--," Arthur started to say, he paused and thought better of it. "All things are true, but few things are accurate. It may be that the story of the Monkey's redemption was just that: a story. But…I think a leap of faith—,"

"I apologize for interrupting," Matrix said. "But there appears to be an army of animated stone figures that are surrounding my sphere. In addition to which, the 'sun' has dimmed to a glow equivalent to the full moon's glow and artificial stars now light up the sky. Ironically however…the sun has risen in the world above…meaning that Yama and Sir Griff may now be incapacitated."

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Ambassador Gates awakened abruptly. He groaned and struggled to his feet. Looking around he frowned. He looked around for his new friends. He glanced around the rock outcropping. He could see Yama's silhouette in the moonlight.

"Oh…uh, Yama right?" the ambassador asked. He frowned, and began making his way towards the gargoyle, using the rocks as a brace. As he drew near the gargoyle he gasped. Yama was stone. His clothes and weapons lay in a neat pile on the rocks, he wasn't nude however, as there was a solid stone wrap around his loin.

Gates looked horrified and tapped on Yama's face. The gargoyle showed no reaction. Glancing down he spied a four foot long bamboo shaft on the ground. Using it as a cane he staggered away from the stone gargoyle.

"Griff, Sakura?" he yelled. "Something's happened to Yama! Where are you? I think that that Quong—"

The ambassador had stumbled into the clearing where Griff, Sakura, and Fu-Lion had turned to stone. He stared in horror and staggered up to Griff. His clothes, even his Lightning Gun had turned to stone alongside him. Sakura's clothes had turned to stone as well, but not her sword.

"What in God's name has happened here?" Gates said.

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The terracotta soldiers surrounded the giant silver orb. Quong smirked as he approached the orb.

"These interlopers will not survive," he chuckled. The sphere began to warp and shrink. Bursts of lightning shot out and blasted the first row of soldiers. Quong leapt back in surprise.

Fang emerged from the sphere first, firing a gun with one hand and shooting lightning with the other. Hunter and Arthur lunged out a moment later, Robyn firing rapidly as the Once and Future King sliced through three warriors with his blade. The shrinking writhing sphere warped itself into Dingo's armor, and he too lunged forward. His left hand warped into a spade shape and shattered through a dozen soldiers.

"Another gargoyle!" Quong said eying Fang eagerly.

"I ain't no gargoyle shmucko," Fang crowed. "I'm a mutate bub!"

"Pity," Quong said taking out the black orb. "Then you are useless to me."

He waved his hand over the sphere, which began to glow. At the same time Fang and Robyn's guns began to glow as well.

"What?" Hunter gasped as her gun jammed.

"Hunter, Fang, Arthur, look out mates," Dingo cried as he lunged at Robyn with his spade hand. She narrowly dodged him. An eerie black glow was emanating from Matrix.

"I can't seem to control Matrix…" Dingo said.

"The orb," Arthur said glaring at Quong. "There is the source of our troubles."

"Take him out," Hunter cried. "I can keep the Ding-bat here busy."

Arthur nodded and lunged at the Chinese wizard.

"I can still hear you, Hunter," Dingo said annoyed.

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Gates sat, leaning against Griff's wing crying. His hope was almost completely gone. Cracks began to appear along Griff's stone form. Gates stopped crying and looked up at the gargoyle. Using his cane he struggled to his feet. Cracks appeared along Griff, Sakura, and Fu-Lion's stone forms.

The lattice of cracks spread over their bodies, and then with terrifying roars…

"HUH-ROOOAAAAR!"

The gargoyles awakened. Sakura wasted no time and leapt upon Fu-Lion's back. With swift motions of her talon's she sliced the collar off, it clattered to the ground.

"You—you're all right!" Gates exclaimed.

"Of course ambassador," Griff said brushing shards off his shoulder. He looked at Fu-Lion and drew his gun.

"It's all right Griff-san," Sakura said. "She will not attack us. The collar was made of gold, so Quong could use his orb of metal to control her. That's how he was able to instruct her to do something so specific. It wasn't her will. Free of the collar, she may aid us."

"Goliath's clan has a beast like this," Griff said petting her. Her tongue lolled out as he scratched her behind her ear. "Staghart said that they call him Fu-Dog."

"We had eleven beasts in my day," Sakura said. "I wonder how many remain."

"Nine when I left," Yama said approaching the others, having re-dressed in his Redemption Squad uniform.

"We don't have any of these noble animals in my clan," Griff said. "Goliath's got two though."

"What just happened?" Gates demanded. "I thought that wizard…I thought he cursed you or something."

"We gargoyles turn to stone during the day," Griff said.

"But…you were stone at night…"

"Quong's night," Yama said. "He controls day and night here—but the imitation would not fool our internal clocks…we became stone when the sun rose on the surface. And now that we are flesh again…"

Fu-Lion sniffed the air. Her eyes began glowing brighter. Then she went bounding off.

"Beasts have a sixth sense," Sakura said. "We should follow."

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"Fight it Dingo," Hunter said dodging Dingo's spade-like blade.

"No really?" Dingo snapped sarcastically. "I never would have thought of that. What do you think I'm trying to do here?"

Arthur lunged at the Chinese sorcerer who nimbly dodged the attack.

"What makes you think you can defeat me in my own domain?" he said to the Once and Future King chuckling. He held up the black orb and waved his hand over it. A soft glow began emanating from the orb.

Arthur smirked. "Your sorcery will have no effect on Excalibur. She is an enchanted blade in her own right, and the enchantment nullifies yours."

Quong scowled. "Then I shall simply have to take your blade."

"I think not," Arthur said, he raised Excalibur above his head and swung it downward. Instinctively Quong raised his arm to block, and the blade struck the glass orb. It cracked, and then shattered apart.

"NOOO!!!" Quong gasped. There was a massive explosion that sent Arthur and Quong flying in opposite directions.

Dingo suddenly stopped attacking Hunter, just as she ducked down low and used her legs to trip the armored Aussie. The black glow faded away as he tumbled to the earth.

"Oof," Dingo croaked, "Ow! I'm in control again you deranged Shelia."

Quong staggered to his feet. He appeared to have aged a couple of decades as a result of the blast. A look of pure rage and loathing covered his face.

"You shall pay for that," Quong said glaring at Arthur, who lay unconscious by the Monkey King's prison. "With your chi."

"Release me and I can aid you!" Sun exclaimed through the bars. "Leave me incarcerated and you will surely perish."

To Be Continued…