Yaochi and the turtle slowly approached the temple, sneaking out of the sight of the mogu. The girl had hoped the mogu would soon leave and she would be free, but life is rarely that easy. Although neither side wanted to attack, they were both ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Iron Qon just sat atop his red quilen, grinning his fangs at the temple’s defenders. When Yaochi got close enough, she noticed something even rarer than the ancient warlords that seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately. She saw a female mogu. A tall, slender figure, red-skinned and beautiful in her own way, although still unmistakably mogu.
She remembered in this moment an old tale about the consort of Iron Qon, Diaochan, a woman as ruthless and ferocious as she was beautiful. Diaochan was a vicious woman who hid her true colors behind her powdered face and elegant dress, making the impression of a demure and obedient lady. But Iron Qon knew the true fire that slept underneath these robes and those who heard the tales about her knew it too. But every now and again someone would underestimate her. Coupled with the infamously chronic backstabber Iron Qon, these two together meant trouble.
“The White Tiger will destroy you,” one of the warrior-priests spoke up. Iron Qon only laughed, not moving from his mount.
“I was here once before, you know,” the mogu said. “I saw the animal you consider a god face off against my god, the Thunder King.” The warrior-priest shuffled uncomfortably. “I saw your precious White Tiger fall under Lei Shen’s might. Soon, he will have to kneel once more.”
“The Thunder King is no more! You live in the past, unable to face the truth of the present,” the priest responded, not taking his eyes off the warlord. His subordinate nearby was watching the consort and seemed a little too happy about that task.
Iron Qon laughed again. “You will be surprised, pandaren, very soon.” The warlord then looked around his soldiers and finally looked back at the priests. “Soldiers!” he yelled out. “Remain here and make sure nobody leaves the temple. I have duties to attend to make sure everything goes according to plan.”
After the mogu pulled the reins, the red quilen backed out a couple of steps and finally turned around. Diaochan obediently followed him as both moved out and went in the direction of the mountains with two most elite soldiers. The remaining mogu remained in front of the temple’s entrance, as did Yaochi, sitting in the nearby bushes and observing the exchange.
“Did you hear that?” she said, looking at the turtle. “Does that mean what I think it means?” The turtle obviously could not respond. “Kun Yomi spoke about the return of Lei Shen too. They must have found a way to bring the Thunder King back to life! There was this rhyme I heard once… by something-something voice he will awaken.” She looked out towards the four departing mogu, and then back at the turtle. “We must stop them!”
She turned and attempted to go, but the turtle grabbed the leg of her outfit with its jaws, stopping her. “What’s the matter?” she asked the turtle. “You told me what he did to you, you shouldn’t want his return either!” It just kept staring at her, still incapable of speaking. “Do you think I’m risking my life needlessly? Well, maybe, but if we wait until I return to the Vale and alert the Golden Lotus, it may be too late! We cannot afford facing the Thunder King again!” The turtle wouldn’t listen and kept pulling at her outfit. “Fine, then I will tear the cloth off, but you will not stop me!” Only then, it finally let it go and she ran off. For a moment, she looked back at the turtle and called out, “Come on!” Having little else to do, it decided to follow her to what seemed like certain doom.
Before long, they were back in the mountains, hiking around in search of who knows what. Yaochi was determined to stop the mogu from resurrecting Lei Shen, but she had no idea how! She did not know where the Thunder King may have been buried, and she did not know what could Kun Yomi or Iron Qon have found that might have brought him back. Or even worse, what if they have a leader above them both, someone who could have reigned in those two? A terrifying thought, but even more terrifying to Yaochi was realizing that she is quickly getting lost in the mountains.
Finally, she knelt in the snow and started breathing heavily, tired from their voyage. She began to regret training all night. The turtle just stood next to her and watcher her carefully. But as she was about to speak to it about resigning, she heard a loud howl, echoing across the mountains. She rose up quickly and grabbed the bow off her back, ready to fight. But no one appeared, until more howls echoed from other sides. As they increased in numbers and intensity, she realized what she was about to face – hozen. Soon enough, monkey-shaped shadows began to jump across mountains and crevices and both she and the turtle knew they were surrounded.
She started turning around, looking for any hozen that would appear to her. Finally, one odd hozen, wearing strange jewelry unheard of on one of their kind, leapt onto a nearby ridge and… just sat there, clapping its hands. Then another popped up on the other side, lying down and looking on. And then more appeared all over her, none of them fighting, but all of them looking at her with curiosity, and all of them wearing the same strange jewelry. Finally, a particularly loud and odd howl echoed, and all the other hozen howled in unison with it. One final hozen, adorned with a crown and even more jewelry, wielding a long, but simple staff, jumped down from a mountain and landed right before Yaochi. This was when she knew these were not just any hozen. They were the legendary Sky Hozen and their king, Shi Hou, the Monkey King.
“Hi!” the Monkey King said, rising his left hand in greeting. Yaochi felt confused – this didn’t seem like the ferocious creature that once challenged the Celestials to become one of them. “What you doing here?” he inquired, seating himself comfortably.
Yaochi didn’t know if she should answer him. “We’re looking for something,” she just said, “I think we can find it on our own.” She didn’t want to risk getting this dangerous legend involved in this.
“No, you can’t,” he blurted out. “You’re very lost, princess.”
She looked at him with bewilderment. “How do you know who I am? We have never met before.”
“Because I am the Monkey King. I know things.” That didn’t sound very eloquent. People who ‘know things’ usually express it in a different manner. “You heard tales about me, didn’t you?”
She did. She heard of a monkey that spawned from a black rock through its own will, who trained under the greatest pandaren monks, found numerous artifacts and gathered great power that rivaled the August Celestials. Finally, this Shi Hou would demand to be considered one of them and be denied, only to gather an army of monsters to try to defeat the Celestials. Only Yu’lon, the Jade Serpent, could finally defeat the Monkey King and imprison him under a mountain. But then, the Monkey King’s story changed completely. He helped a pandaren monk, a jinyu waterspeaker and a grummle lama recover the Jade Book of Emperor Gaozong from the mantid and for that, he was released to reign among the Sky Hozen again.
“I did. What do you want?” the girl said, remembering all the sins of the Monkey King first. She kept her bow in the ready, even though she knew she would be no match to the hordes of angry hozen.
“Oh, I just heard a fancy story,” he responded after standing up. He then started walking on all fours around the princess and the turtle, only prompting the girl to keep turning after him. “A hozen tells me he saw a ferocious pandaren girl, riding on the back of a turtle.”
“Ferocious?” she said, surprised. She wondered if he could be talking about her.
“Yes! The hozen tells me, no one else came through the Great Lift today! And then she comes! Clearly, she grooked everyone down there!” Yaochi raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“Woah!” she replied, “I didn’t do anything like that!”
“I believe you,” he said, coming closer and looking her in the eyes, “but you see, he saw something ookin’ weird and he instant think dook about you!” He then smiled at Yaochi with this wide grin only hozen can make.
“This is supposed to be some kind of lesson?” she said, stepping back.
Shi Hou just sat right next to her. “What lesson? Do I look like teacher? I’m just a monkey,” he said, shifting his crown sideways. “I just say, every tale has many sides.” He then looked down on the turtle. “I thought you would know that with this wikket around.”
She preferred to hide as much as she could from the stranger. “It’s just a turtle.”
“Oh, is it?” he said, giving her again the same smile. He then grabbed his staff from his back and hit the turtle’s shell. In the blink of an eye, Yu Gwai was standing before them – no light, no transformation, suddenly he was just there.
“What?” Yu Gwai said, surprised to see the light of day. “I’m myself? During the day?” The warlord looked up and immediately covered his eyes.
“You forget that sun burns eyes?” the Monkey King said mockingly. The mogu just looked back.
“You broke my curse?” he shouted in surprise.
“Oh, no!” the hozen replied, raising his hands. “Nothing is that easy. I just suspended it so I can talk to you.” The warlord wasn’t very happy. He immediately grabbed the polearm from Yaochi and suddenly struck it towards Shi Hou.
“You dare mock me?” he said, impulsively. But the monkey simply grabbed the weapon and pulled it, knocking Yu Gwai down.
“Yes!” the Monkey King exclaimed. He laughed and started clapping in joy over the situation. “I dare mock you! That’s what I do!” Yu Gwai was slowly getting back up, but the hozen wasn’t stopping. “Such a big, old wikket and still didn’t learn ookin’ simple thing.”
“Like what?” Yaochi said. “Monkeys are fast?” Shi Hou started clapping again in joy. All the other hozen started clapping and laughing with him.
“That’s a good one!” he said in the end. As Yu Gwai finally stood up, the Monkey King raised a finger. “I won’t stop you for long, but if you want to stop what the mogu are doing, you need to know something.”
Yu Gwai was snarling at the insolent hozen. “Why are we still talking to this… animal?”
Yaochi looked back at him, saddened. “At first, you talked to me like that too.” Yu Gwai looked back at her, searching for her point. “And you told me so much about controlling my emotions. All you’re doing here is lashing out in anger.”
“The girl is smart,” said the Monkey King, “you should listen to her even when you’re mogu.”
Her words calmed him down, but he still didn’t want to give the monkey who just humiliated him the pleasure of agreeing he was wrong. “Good, because I’d rather listen to her than to you.”
“Ah,” he said, standing back up, “then if you won’t listen to silly, old monkey you won’t need to see that either.” The Monkey King quickly got up and ran off towards a nearby ridge. Yaochi and Yu Gwai just looked at each other and after some quick nods, they decided to follow Shi Hou. When they arrived, he was pointing down, to a valley shrouded in mist.
“I don’t see anything,” Yaochi said. The Monkey King only laughed and struck the ground with his staff. The mists began to part immediately and the view of a large valley filled with ancient mogu tombs appeared to them.
“The Valley of Emperors!” the girl exclaimed. “The pandaren were searching for it for centuries!” The hozen just nodded and kept pointing his finger. That’s when Yu Gwai noticed the mogu soldiers crawling all over the valley.
“Soldiers of Iron Qon… and Kun Yomi,” he said. Yaochi looked at him, troubled. “They are working together and they must have found the tomb of Lei Shen.”
“And in another tomb,” Shi Hou added, “they will find a Titan artifact that will let him come back to a new body.” The girl understood what was the meaning of these revelations, but didn’t understand why was he simply looking on if he knew what was going on.
“Why are you just showing us this? Why don’t you go down yourself and deal with them?” she responded. The monkey just shrugged and smiled.
“I know you can do this,” he replied.
“But I’m just a little girl!” she responded, “And he’s a turtle during the day! How can we stop the return of one of the worst villains of Pandaria?”
“You can stop them! And now you know where to look for them! Good luck!” said Shi Hou as he jumped up. Immediately, he disappeared off sight, as if he jumped into a cloud. His hozen began to depart after him, leaving just the two unlikely companions above a valley full of mogu. Yu Gwai tried to speak to Yaochi, but only a turtle’s growl came out – before his departure, the Monkey King must have reinstated the curse. They simply looked down and Yaochi knew she had to devise a plan if she wanted to stop the return of the Thunder King.