Home > Scourged (The Iron Druid Chronicles #9)(16)

Scourged (The Iron Druid Chronicles #9)(16)
Author: Kevin Hearne

Twatutia, once we get there, is a marvelous meld of old and new, the architecture of different eras on display on every street, the juxtaposition of the ultramodern with nineteenth-century buildings, structures from the Japanese occupation, and post–World War II growth. The Monkey King’s bubble tea shop is in an older building, accessed via an alley off Dihua Street, and we find it because there’s a line snaking out to the main thoroughfare. We join the line and wait patiently as it inches forward.

The temperature noticeably drops once we get into the shaded valley between buildings. They’re old stone, half blackened by carbon and soot, and the alley smells like alleys everywhere, redolent of rot and unpleasant emissions.

“So is he actually making the bubble tea?”

“No, his employees do that. He runs the register and welcomes people.”

“Are his employees…human?”

Flidais favors me with a grin. “I suggest you inspect them in the magical spectrum. Just to make sure there aren’t any shenanigans. Careful looking at the Monkey King that way, though. It can be intense.”

Forewarned and intensely curious, I take in everything I can once I enter the shop—which appears to be little more than a widened hallway or corridor. It’s a clean, well-lit place with absolutely no seating, and it’s a one-way operation. Customers enter one door and exit at another down the hall, because there’s no room to turn around. It’s a single-file line in front of the register and counter, with a menu of bubble tea flavors and a small selection of cookies and pastries. It must have been a storage or shipping area at one time for some other business in the building, now plumbed and operating as a tiny to-go shop—a very popular one.

The man at the register is just slightly off somehow. Cheerful and smiling, he takes orders and exchanges money, his dark whiskers growing down his jaw to the sides of his mouth but his chin and upper lip shaved clean. According to Flidais, I’m looking at Sun Wukong, the Monkey King in disguise. He almost palpably exudes peace and contentment, and I wonder if people are coming here for that feeling as much as for the bubble tea.

He wasn’t always so serene, if any of his early adventures in Journey to the West have a shred of truth about them, and I’m sure they do. He was contentious and grasping and a consummate narcissist in his early years, causing all manner of trouble on earth and in the heavens, but gradually came to serve the Buddha, until he became one himself.

He greets us with a beatific smile when we get to the register and says something in Mandarin—a request for our order, I’m assuming. Flidais responds and holds up her right forearm in front of her, showing him the back of her hand, where the healing triskele is. I do the same, and his smile fades. He asks something else, Flidais answers, and he punches the register before extending his hand. Flidais drops some money into it along with the apple from Manannan’s Isle, Emhain Ablach, that she mentioned before, and he gives us a tight nod. We move along down the line, seeming to have accomplished nothing but a bubble tea purchase.

“What happened?” I ask the huntress.

“I ordered some Immortal Peach tea. That was the code, along with our tattoos, and the apple was a gift.”

“Immortal—oh, because of that time he ate almost all of them.” That had been quite the episode in Journey to the West, one of the last straws that brought the full force of the heavens down on Sun Wukong.

“Precisely. He’ll meet us after we get our tea here at the end.”

“We’re getting Immortal Peach bubble tea?”

“No, just regular milk tea. He’s going to get one of his employees to take over and then we’ll be able to speak in private.”

A stream of words from the register causes all the employees to look up, and one of them moves in that direction. They are dressed in brown uniforms with golden monkey heads embroidered on the left breast. Carefully keeping my eyes pointed away from Sun Wukong, I switch my vision to the magical spectrum to check them out.

They are, in fact, monkeys passing as humans. They’re sitting on the prep counter instead of actually standing, as it appears to human eyes. Peripherally, I sense a blinding light to my right, where the Monkey King stands.

“Do they talk?” I whisper to Flidais, but one of the employees hears me and snorts.

“Of course we talk,” he says in English. “More than one language too.”

“Of course,” I reply. “Sorry.”

“The time to be sorry is not now,” the monkey tells me. “But that time will come for you soon enough.”

“Pardon me?”

“Come on,” Flidais says, tugging me away from the smirking monkey. A flash of light warns me that Sun Wukong is entering my vision, and I dismiss the binding, returning the veil so that I see merely humans serving up bubble tea and pastries. I blink away the spots dancing in my eyes and collect my bubble tea at the end of the counter, where Sun Wukong awaits. He gestures to the exit and we take it into the alley. He follows us out and then points to a fire escape ladder ahead.

“Let’s talk on the roof,” he says in perfect English, and then he scrambles up it so quickly that Flidais and I are left agape at his speed. Flidais shrugs and discards her tea into a nearby bin, but I hold on to mine as I awkwardly make the climb up to the roof, tea in one hand and Scáthmhaide in the other, grasping the rungs by mere fingertips. This bubble tea was made for me by a talking monkey, and I feel like I should at least try it.

When I get to the roof, Sun Wukong has discarded his human disguise and stands resplendent, glowing, and serene, tricked out in red and gold finery.

“Welcome to Taiwan, honored Druids,” he says. “I am Sun Wukong, and I am very grateful for your aid and your timely arrival. There is no easy task before us. This Norse god Loki has been busy stirring up much trouble. We have reason to believe most of the Yama Kings of Diyu will rise with the very worst souls of the damned to plague us.”

“How many is most?” Flidais asks.

“Eight of the ten. King Yanluo and King Zhuanlun have refused—it is because of them we know this is coming.”

“They can’t convince the other eight to forgo this?”

“Their arguments have proven ineffective so far.”

“When are these eight Yama Kings going to rise, and where?” I ask.

A thunderous boom shakes the sky as it darkens to the northeast of our position. We whirl around and see what looks, from a distance, like a black swarm of insects fountaining up into the firmament.

“Now, and over there,” Sun Wukong replies. “They have chosen to erupt from Seven Star Mountain in Yangmingshan National Park.”

That’s near where we shifted in to the island. “Guess I’m not going to be enjoying my bubble tea.”

“Nonsense,” the Monkey King says, producing the apple Flidais gave him and taking a hearty bite. “Enjoy; take your time.” He plucks a tuft of hair from his chest and tosses it into the air, which somehow forms a full-sized copy of himself, and more copies keep appearing—hundreds in mere seconds. As they materialize, the clones surge to the north to meet the swarm building over Seven Star Mountain. “That’ll keep them busy for a while.”

there is so much fashion happening at the Fae Court I begin to wonder if me own aversion to such frippery is a character flaw. If so, I suppose I can just add it to the infinite list o’ them.

I should rather go ahead and admit that fashion intimidates me. It’s like people are speaking a language all around and I’m missing every word. I’m conscious that something is going on, at least, but I don’t know what it is. That faery has a flared collar and it probably means something. That other one has pointy tips on the end of her shoes and that probably means something too. Sparkly buttons, lace sleeves, codpieces, jewelry, and studded belts, all of them packed to bursting with meaning, like that one item of carry-on luggage ye take with ye to avoid baggage fees.

Brighid is wearing something like fancy working leathers when I arrive, and I’m sure that’s fraught with meaning as well, especially when contrasted with all the finery on display by the courtiers. It’s definitely not something a common lad would wear, because the leathers are tooled and studded beyond belief, but for all its expense, it remains a practical outfit, unlike what most rulers tend to wear. She’s sitting on the Iron Throne and immediately dismisses whomever she’s talking to when she spies Coriander floating off to one side of me. We’re summoned forth and she demands a report. I’m not one for throwing around sugary words, so I get right to it:

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)