Summary: So, I'm aware that a pebble that falls inside a pond causes a ripple. I really, really didn't mean to cannonball into the dammed thing.
A/N: Gosh, do I hope this fandom isn't completely dead yet, ha! Some days ago, I started to feel a bit nostalgic, and boy, can you bet I binge-watched this show. So, I wanted to try a new (quote, unquote) concept: A woman falls into the Xiaolin Showdown story and everything is as ridiculous and cartoonish as ever. She has to navigate the story, forced to deal with a lightheartedness that's not really common in our reality, while also trying not to throw the whole natural order of this world to hell. It's going to be, mostly, a wholesome fanfiction with some serious moments.
Chapter 1: I, raise
I've always found dreams to be peculiar things. It's funny how someone's brain manages to make up the most outlandish, bizarre, and disturbing scenarios inside their head, and still make them believe―at least most of the time― that there's nothing out of the ordinary.
Then there's lucid dreaming; a particular kind of fun, which I personally haven't had the luck to experience that much since reaching my twenties. I guessed this was normal. Not much time to be a dreamer when you're too worried about paying your bills and graduating college, even though I did cherish every dream I could remember having after waking up from it.
And boy, did I hope I'd remember this one.
It wasn't my alarm that woke me up. Instead, it happened the way it used to when I was a kid and I'd pass out in the garden: The sun gently rousing me from deep sleep, a blade of grass just barely tickling the tip of my nose.
This, of course, became the very first thing I noticed to be wrong. Moving out of my parents' house a little over two years ago, I now lived in a cheap, small apartment complex, with tenants whose only appreciation for plants began and ended in cacti. The second ―and I perceived this with a grimace― was a dull pang in my shoulder. It hadn't been anything to be surprised of; I had been laying on the cold, hard ground, after all.
Easy to say, I had not found myself particularly happy with the situation.
I'm, in fact, the kind of woman that sleeps with her own army of pillows: Fluffy, soft pillows, filled to the brim with faux feathers for extra comfort. Said pillows, that, as I realized, were then nowhere to be found. The beforementioned circumstance had begged the following question:
"Where the hell is my bed?"
It then suddenly clicked that I still hadn't risen, so I sat with the abruptness of a heart attack. My pajamas were sleeveless, and my skin prone to grass rash. A second question originated from this concern:
"Why the hell am I in a meadow?"
Now, if this had been where my problems ended, I wouldn't have been as freaked out by this dream as I currently was. Waking up in the middle of a clearing? Absolutely vanilla compared to all the weird shit I've dreamt about throughout my life.
Still, as I finished digesting the scene unfolding a few meters away from my prone body, I had a final question that needed to be answered:
"What the hell did I smoke before going to bed?"
"Rejoice, my brothers and sisters, for the Ancient ones have listened to our prayers!"
The public didn't need to be told twice, as they proceeded to burst out in cheers: A conglomeration of people, ―men, women, and children alike― with faces that were obscured by hooded clothing.
You know the feeling of walking in on the tail end of someone telling a joke, that is apparently so funny it has everyone slapping their knees; yet no one there is willing to repeat the joke or explain what's so humorous about it?
This is how I currently felt. Except these were no annoying coworkers. Oh, no sir, they definitely weren't.
"So, cultist?" Came the thought, but I didn't want to assume. Even if the robes, torches, hoods, plus the pentagram I currently sat on, were, in fact, pretty strong indicators of this being the case.
They stood in a crescent formation around their leader―Or who, at least, I guessed to be their leader―, a man of unidentifiable age and a booming, yet raspy voice. He had his back turned to me and gestured wildly as he spoke. I simply kept looking at my surroundings, periodically pinching my arm, and growing a bit confused when I realized that my dream hadn't bothered to correct my glasses-less, blurry, piss-poor joke of a vision. God, out of all things that had to be kept realistic―
"… A new order! No one will be able to stand in our way!" Came the last lines of what had most likely been a lengthy, motivational speech, which had prompted yet another round of howls and applause. Goodness gracious did this guy like the sound of his own voice.
Rubbing my now tired eyes, I sighed loudly and began standing up.
"Alrighty, alright. What kind of party am I missing here?"
Seeing my movements, the crowd fell into a deafening silence.
The lack of reaction elicited their leader's attention, too, who turned around to stare with a fearful, yet awestruck expression. Just in that moment came the acknowledgment of the multiple pair of eyes that seemed to burn through my clothes.
Well, lucky I had worn my good pajamas to bed, right?
I cleared my throat, thinking of what to say now that everyone had shut up.
I glanced around a final time.
Alright, so there were cultists. Cultists that, from what I assumed, appeared to have just finished a ritual in the middle of an abandoned clearing. And then, there was me, who should've, by all intents and purposes, been sleeping in my bed after eating the equivalent of half my weight in takeout.
And while this was probably still the case for real-me, dream-me currently sat― very much appropriately dressed, mind you―, in a now half-destroyed pentagram made from several spices. One which, by the way, I figured out to be pepper.
I sniffled and held back a sneeze. A cooing rose from somewhere in the back of the multitude.
"Okay, so if I'm reading the room correctly. And I think I'm―" A shiver ran down my spine at the adoring gaze of dozens of strangers. "I think I've been summoned, and now am some kind of deity."
Which was fine. Hella weird dream. Whatever. I didn't know I still had that kind of self-love buried deep inside my subconsciousness, but cool beans.
A new kind of pressure made me sweat.
"Should I be, like, benevolent? Mysterious?" I swallowed. "What the hell do you guys want from me!?"
In the end, I decided that I might as well get them used to disappointment.
"Um." Came my words of wisdom. Their heads jerked up, and I beckoned the leader to come closer with a hand gesture.
"My liege!" The leader exclaimed and stepped closer. I cringed at the volume but allowed a polite, yet definitely, strained smile to settle on my lips. No need to be rude to these people. They were clearly trying their best. "What is that you desire? From now on, we live to serve you. So, please, I implore you, do use me as you see fit!"
My mouth twitched.
"Yeah, that― no." The last word broke without my permission. "Just… ugh. Just explain, please."
"Pardon?" He cocked his head, as if he were the one who had the right to be confused in this situation.
I licked my lips, then massaged the bridge of my nose, thinking of a way to simplify the next question.
"What am I doing here? What exactly do you want to ask from me?"
"There. That's that. Now it wasn't that complicated, was it, Liz?"
It had, actually, been easier than I had previously anticipated, as the man appeared to be more than happy than to update me on the situation.
And that, my dear friends, was when everything went to hell.
Few elements exist in this universe that are actual constants: There's the speed of light and the gravitational constant, for instance. The parameters of the Higgs field potential. A phase in the QCD vacuum.
(The last two of which I really knew nothing about, but boy, did Physics students love to rant about them.)
Then, there was Chris. Everyone with any kind of social life had, at the very minimum, one Chris in their group: The bastard that was known by many but loved by none. That one person whose sudden presence in a room would be followed by tensing and scoffing and murmurs of "Ugh, it's Chris. Who the hell invited Chris?"
So, when a new person stepped into the clearing, eliciting this same reaction, I just chalked it up to him being a Chris.
Dude had no hood and wore a toga. Totally ruined the atmosphere, right?
In the next five minutes or so, I came to realize that I had been wrong in several points.
Fist, that had been no toga.
Second, the sudden guest was no Chris, but actual trouble; from the cultists' perspective, at least.
"Ah, what do we have here?" The man walked with long and confident steps. And while my lack of glasses didn't allow for proper scrutinization, some of his features stood out enough to be noticed even with my shortsightedness; such as the fact that he was bald, and built like brickhouse, too.
Was that supposed to be the foil? The good guy?
"Gosh, are my dreams becoming elaborate."
"Stand back, Master Monk." The cult leader snarled at the man. For the first time, I noticed a growling undertone in his voice. "This matter does not concern you."
I wanted to point out that this whole matter technically didn't concern me either. But the crackling strain in the air was beginning to rub me in the wrong way, which probably meant this wasn't the time nor place to offer clarification.
It turned out that my original theory had been correct. Mostly. It had not been a normal deity that the cultists were attempting to summon, as Yurk―the cult leader―, had so graciously informed me, but some sort of Demon Lord that would bring a thousand years of darkness upon the Earth.
Why, you ask?
Because world domination, of course!
And while this was far from being the end of the conversation, at this point, I found myself far too focused on the facts that―
A: These douchenozzles somehow had confused me, and still were confusing me, with some sort of Eldritch god.
B: I was the one who hadn't only imagined these douchenozzles to life, I had also been the one who was responsible for their dumb and uncreative, train-wreck of a plan.
World domination? Really? Could you get any more cartoonish than that?
As Yurk finished his villainous monologue, in which he, of course, divulged his entire plan to his enemy, the monk seemed to be thinking along the same lines. We both made eye contact, and I shook my head strongly from side to side.
I'm not sure what he understood. I had only wanted to express my bewilderment. Yet, for some reason, it was this particular action that preceded the entire mayhem which took place.
It had been the monk who sprang into action first.
I gasped as he drop-kicked a kid in the face, then, said kid stood up and removed his hood: Revealing not a child, but a goblin underneath.
The others removed their respective robes to expose their identities: They were all similar creatures, of different heights and coloration, who wasted no time to launch themselves towards the monk. They surrounded him like a pack of wolves, and as punches started to be thrown, I began thinking that maybe ―just maybe― it was time to scram for good.
I threw a last glance over my shoulder and frowned at the scene. While the goblins were indeed surrounding him and had a clear advantage in numbers, they fought him one on one (occasionally in pairs) and would only give it a shot once the previous contender had met defeat.
My mouth hung open, then closed.
"Are you kidding me!? Just gang up on him, guys!"
"Freaking henchmen," I whispered harshly under my breath as I began to run away from the chaos.
"My liege! Please, wait!" Yurk stood on my way, wrinkly, grey hands grabbing the edges of my camisole in desperation. I felt the fabric beginning to slide down at the front and quickly tugged it back up in panic.
"Dude! Hands off!"
"Please, Dark Lady!" His sniveling face made me cringe. "Just this once, I implore you to help us! Help your loyal servants, my liege!"
"You literally have the wrong person!" I screamed, temper completely thrown out of an eight-story window and buried six feet underground.
The goblin cried harder. I wanted to drop dead then and there.
"Dear Solomon, when is this dream going to be over!?"
Then, from the distance, someone shouted:
"Huh?" Paralyzed on the spot, I turned to the origin of the voice, and felt my heart drop to my stomach as I saw, what I thought to be a goblin, flying rapidly in my direction.
"Dodge!" The monk repeated.
I didn't have enough time to dodge. I did have the opportunity, however, to feel completely and utterly pissed off.
An impact: Darkness, and nothing more.
"When will I stop waking up in strange places?" I thought groggily as my eyes adapted to the twilight lit room. The white of the walls and rice paper door reflected the light outside, basking the entirety of my surroundings in burnt gold. Birds chirped in the distance, announcing the end of the day, and I felt warm and generally pleasant despite my throbbing head.
A face appeared in my field of vision. From his clothes and figure, I recognized him as the monk from the field, whose facial features were now clear due to its closeness. He held a mortar in his left hand, and pestle in his right.
Asian? Came the vague thought from the back of my brain. It seemed to be the case.
"And good-looking as well."
The monk smiled kindly.
"Thank you. I am very flattered."
Ah, so I had said that out loud?
I closed and opened my eyes repeatedly, trying to blink away the remaining traces of somnolence, snorting in frustration when this wasn't the case.
Why did this man look somewhat familiar?
"Have I seen you somewhere?" My words slurred and died prematurely.
"Wow. It's almost like a real concussion."
He shook his head.
"I don't think we have ever met before. But perhaps you've heard of me through descriptions? I'm fairly well known."
It then hit me.
"You look like Guan." I smiled dumbly. I had re-watched the show recently with my neighbor's kid. Good cartoon, nostalgic as well, although a bit too lighthearted for me at times.
"Master Monk Guan." He corrected gently. "And yes, that is who I am."
My lips twitched in amusement, and I decided to go along with the joke.
"Well, I guess I could have a worse host, then."
"I do my best." He nodded solemnly, yet his eyes reflected nothing but mirth. "Would you like something to eat now that you're awake, then?"
I looked out of the window. Outside, as if painted on the sky, was one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. I tried to imprint it in my muddled mind; maybe I could sketch it once the dream came to an end.
"If it's okay, I'd rather sleep a bit more."
"That's alright. Rest as much as you need to. You can have breakfast in the morning."
My eyelids closed, yet the sunset remained in front of me.
"Watercolors? Yeah, I think so. It has been a while. Ah, but I still have that Calculus project to finish―"
Eventually, the thoughts blended into each other, beginning to disappear, and I hoped, before fading, that'd remember this dream when I woke up. It had been strange, but also interesting.
Samuel would love it.
It had been morning for hours, but Master Monk Guan reminded himself that people outside the temple didn't usually wake up to the first rays of sunlight.
With a tray in his hands, he walked out of the kitchen and across the garden. It was better to wake her up now so she could eat. It had been, most likely, several hours since her last meal. Goblins weren't particularly known for their hospitability.
Apparently, this also applied to their supposed goddess.
It had been a normal, summerly day. Master Monk Guan sat below a waterfall when the sky, as if swallowed by an ocean of ink, darkened a few kilometers to the west.
For the first time in many years, the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight.
He had instinctively reached to his back, where the handle of the spear would have normally been, before realizing his mistake.
As he hurried to his objective, the skies cleared once more, the black clouds disappearing with any feelings of impending doom. This had made him quicken his pace.
The calm before the storm.
He had eventually reached a clearing, not finding what he had expected; far from it, as a matter of fact.
In the middle of a circle of hooded figures stood a young woman. Her long, and somewhat mussed hair, fell in dark waves all the way to her midriff. By her facial features and olive-toned skin, he could tell she was not from the surrounding area ―Mediterranean, maybe? ―, but all of this wasn't really what caught his attention.
"Is she not afraid?"
For a young woman in her situation, she showed a surprising lack of fear. She barely regarded the scene taking place before her eyes; the same way someone who watched a mediocre movie did: Curious, a bit surprised, but not completely present.
Not that he would criticize her for it.
The chief of the horde got into the same, old rant that he had heard multiple times, over and over again, in his 1500 years of roaming the Earth to fight the forces of evil. Despite his initial indifference, a particular part of the monologue stuck to him.
"A demon?" He had looked at the girl; unsure, but cautious. Yet, as their eyes met, he could sense no malice from them.
The girl shook her head. For the first time, her dark irises reflected a feeling that differed from her initial curiosity.
"Or was it puzzlement?"
No. It had definitely been consternation.
It was then he had decided to rescue her.
"Although I had not meant to hurt her in the process." He sighed awkwardly, still guilty for what had occurred.
At least, she still thought him to be good-looking.
Silver lining? He thought.
Still, one question remained to be answered: What did those goblins want from her? A demon, they had said. There was something peculiar about that woman; This, he could not deny, but she didn't feel like someone who belonged to the Heylin side, least of all a demon.
"Maybe they had planned for her to be a vessel?" He reflected, and a wave of disgust made his temperate expression twist the slightest of bits.
Whatever the case, everything was over now. He'd help her as much as needed to make up for the damages he had caused, and after this, he'd personally see her home.
"She's probably awake and hungry." He had made some egg soup and rice pudding, so it could settle well with her stomach. A glass of warm tea and pain medicine had been pushed to the corner of the tray.
Monk Guan reached the end of the hallway and stood before the sliding door.
"Miss? Are you awake?" He called to his guest but was met with silence. As he balanced the tray of food in one hand, about to enter the room as quietly as he could, a soft sob reached his ears.
His hand froze.
Slowly, monk Guan settled the tray on the floor, made sure it was out of the way before opening the door.
His eyes widened at the sight before him and he rushed inside.
Knees close to her chest, the woman sat on the mat, face buried deeply into her arms as rhythmic, and heartbreaking whimpers broke through her self-made barrier.
Sitting by her side, the monk gave the woman a tentative and gentle tap on the arm.
Abruptly, the sobbing stopped.
Ever so slightly, the girl lifted her head. Her eyes were red and rimmed with tears. The emotions in her eyes were many and passed to quickly for him to recognize. Then, her lips parted.
"Who are you." She asked, voice hoarse. The monk frowned in confusion. Hadn't she recognized him just last night?
"I'm Master Monk Guan." He answered anyway, thinking that this might serve to calm her.
A beat of silence, then―
It started as a snort. Soon, however, the light rumbles that originated from the back of her throat grew louder in volume, turning, much to his growing concern, into broken, rambunctious giggles.
The monk stared at her in worry.
"What happened to you?"
The woman pressed a hand to her mouth, attempting to silence the remnants of her laughter. She rubbed her eyes, which were now swelled and crinkled in unamused amusement, and sighed deeply as to regain her breath.
"I think―" She snorted again, unable to help herself. "― that I've been made the punchline of a bad joke."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure myself." She whispered, and her eyes slid to the window. "But you really are Master Monk Guan, aren't you?"
He didn't answer nor move. It didn't look like she cared.
"I'm really sorry about that." She wiped the remaining of her tears with her left hand and extended her right. He noticed a tattoo on her wrist. "My name's Eliza."
"Eliza?" He confirmed, voice soft. The woman, no longer anonymous, nodded.
"Eliza, but Liz is fine."