In the depths of their underwater kingdom, the mighty Dragon Lords quaked with fear.
Before them pranced Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.
The legendary troublemaker been hatched from a stone, schooled in divine magic, and was currently brandishing the Dragon Lord’s most treasured weapon.
This magical staff, originally large enough to measure the depth of a great flood, now obeyed the Monkey King’s will and shrank at his touch.
Terrified of this bewildering power, the Dragons graciously allowed Sun Wukong to keep the staff.
The Monkey King stowed the weapon away, and gleefully sped back to his kingdom to show this treasure to his tribe of warrior monkeys.
After a lavish celebration, Sun Wukong fell into a deep sleep.
But just as he began to dream, the Monkey King quickly realized two things.
The first was that this was no ordinary slumber.
The second was that he wasn’t alone.
Suddenly, he found himself caught in the clutches of two grisly figures.
At first the Monkey King didn’t know who his captors were.
But as they dragged him toward their city’s gates, Sun Wukong realized his deathly predicament.
These were soul collectors tasked with transporting mortals to the Realm of the Dead.
This was the domain of the Death Lords, who mercilessly sorted souls and designed gruesome punishments.
From here, the kingdom of death was laid out before him.
He could see the Death Lord’s palaces, and the fabled bridge across the river Nai He.
Manning the bridge was an old woman who offered worthy souls a bowl of soup.
After drinking, the spirits forgot their previous life, and were sent back to the world of the living in a new form.
Further below were the souls not worthy of reincarnation.
In this twisting maze of chambers, unfortunate spirits endured endless rooms of punishment— from mountains spiked with sharp blades, to pools of blood and vats of boiling oil.
But Sun Wukong was not about to accept torture or reincarnation.
As the soul collectors attempted to drag him through the gates, the Monkey King whipped out his staff and swung himself out of their clutches.
His battle cries and the clang of weapons echoed throughout the underworld.
Sensing a disturbance, the ten Death Lords swooped upon him.
But they had never met such resistance from a mortal soul.
What was this unusual creature?
And was he a mortal, a god— or something else?
The Lords consulted the Book of Death and Life— a tome which showed the time of every living soul’s death.
Not knowing what category this strange being was under, the Death Lords struggled to find Sun Wukong at first; but the Monkey King knew just where to look.
Unfortunately, the records confirmed the Death Lord’s claim— Sun Wukong was scheduled to die this very night.
But the Monkey King was not afraid.
This was far from the first time he’d defied destiny in his quest for wisdom and power.
His past rebellions had earned him the power to transfigure his body, ride clouds at dizzying speeds, and govern his tribe with magic and martial arts.
In this crisis, he saw yet another opportunity.
With a flash of his nimble fingers, the Monkey King struck his own name from the Book.
Before the Death Lords could respond, he found the names of his monkey tribe and swept them away as well.
Liberated from the bonds of death, Sun Wukong began to battle his way out of the underworld.
He deftly defeated endless swarms of angry spirits— before tripping on his way out of the kingdom.
Just before he hit the ground, Sun Wukong suddenly awoke in his bed.
At first he thought the journey might have been a dream, but the Monkey King felt his new immortality surging from the top of his head to the tip of his tail.
With a cry of triumph, he woke his warriors to share his latest adventure— and commence another round of celebration.