At three oâ€™ clock in the morning, deep in the cave, Monkey got out of his bed. Wearing his pajamas, he tiptoed to the back of the cave, where Master Subhodi slept. As Monkey expected, the door to the masterâ€™s chamber was only half shut.
Monkey crept in and stood by the masterâ€™s bed.
Master Subhodi sat up. â€œYou wretched monkey! What are you doing here?â€
â€œBut you told me to come,â€ Monkey said.
Master Subhodi frowned.
â€œMaster,â€ Monkey insisted, â€œwhen you hit me over the head three times, you were telling me to visit you at three oâ€™clock in the morning. When you folded your hands behind your back, it was a sign I should find you at the back of the cave. So,â€ finished Monkey with a grin, â€œhere I am.â€
Master Subhodi gazed shrewdly at Monkey. Ha, he thought, this monkey is truly the product of Heaven and Earth. Heâ€™s the first one who has been able to read my secret signs. Perhaps he really can become an immortal.
â€œAll right, little monkey,â€ Master Subhodi said aloud, â€œI accept you as a student. But you will need to study very hard.â€
Monkey did a somersault of delight.
Master Subhodi shook his head. â€œMonkey,â€ he said, â€œis that the proper way to thank me?â€
Hastily, Monkey made a deep, clumsy bow, making sure his paw hid his grin of joy.
From that day on, Monkey was Master Subhodiâ€™s favorite student. He studied during the day with the other students. But at night, secretly, he studied with the master alone.
Soon, Monkey learned many things the other students did not know. He learned transformations that allowed him to turn himself into anything he wished.
He learned magical spells that enabled him to stay young and thus increase the length of his life. Truly there was no end to the things he learned.
After studying for one whole year, Monkey King began to get bored.
One morning Master Subhodi was giving a lecture. All the students were listening intentlyâ€”all except Monkey. He kept pulling his ears, scratching his armpits, poking the students sitting next to him.
Master Subhodi stopped his lecture. â€œMonkey? What are you doing?â€
â€œMaster,â€ Monkey replied, â€œI . . . I was so excited by your lecture, I could no longer sit still.â€
â€œMonkey,â€ the master sighed, â€œdo you think youâ€™re a good student?â€
â€œMaster, I study for hours. When I am not studying, Iâ€™m working. I sweep the floors, and hoe the community gardens?â€
â€œThatâ€™s not true, Master,â€ said one of the students. â€œYesterday, while everybody else was hoeing, Monkey was in the peach tree eating the fruit.â€
â€œAnd when he was supposed to fetch water from the stream,â€ said another student, â€œhe just sat in the river and took a bath.â€
â€œAnd when he was supposed to be sweeping,â€ said yet another, â€œhe made piles of dust, climbed a tree, and dumped the dust on our heads.â€
â€œMonkey,â€ asked Master Subhodi, â€œare these things true?â€
â€œMaster,â€ Monkey replied, â€œthere are reasons for everything. When I was in the peach tree, I was just testing the peaches, making sure you only had the best ones. The bathing in the stream. . . well, I was only trying to make my body as clean and pure as my mind.
As for dropping dust on the students . . .â€ Monkey paused, trying to think up a good excuse. â€œI was working on my cloud-soaring. The dust was just an accident.â€
â€œSo, Monkey, you have been practicing your cloud-soaring. Please, be good enough to give us a demonstration.â€
Monkey was delighted to have the opportunity to show off. He put his feet together, breathed deeply, and spoke a magical charm.
When a small cloud appeared, Monkey jumped on it and floated a few feet into the air. Next moment, however, he crashed to the ground in front of the master.
Master Subhodi laughed out loud. â€œDo you call that cloud-soaring?â€ he asked. â€œI think itâ€™s cloud-crawling.â€
Monkey did not know what to say.
â€œA true cloud-soarer,â€ said the master, â€œcan start at the Northern Sea, cross the Eastern, Western, and Southern Seas, and land again at the Northern Sea. One hundred and eight thousand leagues. Thatâ€™s real cloud-soaring.â€
â€œA hundred and eight thousand leagues?â€ exclaimed Monkey.
â€œExactly! And youâ€”who think you know everythingâ€”what about the Three Calamities?â€
â€œWh . . . what are they?â€
â€œThe Three Calamities are celestial wind, water, and fire. They come from the Jade Emperor. If you donâ€™t know how to ward them off, you will perish.â€
â€œPerish!â€ cried Monkey. â€œBut Master, youâ€™ve taught me the secret of life.â€
â€œNonsense,â€ said Master Subhodi, â€œall you have learned is how to stay young, and a few magic tricks. Oh yes, and a few transformations. You are not even close to knowing the secret of life.â€
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Monkey Becomes a Student