"I warned him not to use the Gong Ago, as the volume required from that sacred instrument would have unintended side effects. But like an old mule wearing ragged blinders, he rung it out anyway. And that powerful pitch has freed me and my like-minded brethren. My name is Andy Dharma. I am the master villain of the Invisible Monks."
Theodor appeared fitful and confused, thoughts sloshing around the dark corridor in blue and green hues. A fortuitous thing that, better the little ghost fish not make any snap judgements while Andy himself was still finding his footing. He slipped inwards a little, into the calming white empty of spiritual nothingness, just in case.
"Not Brody? Not Dharma??" the fish finally managed.
"He wasz once, of a szort. Now he sztandsz apart," said the yellow gel form of Queen buzz, the authoritative practice of her tone not entirely hiding the accusation underneath it.
"I thousand thoughtful apologies for any unintended misrepresentation," he said, addressing the fish directly. "Alas, I am not Brody. He and I were the same person once. The Gong Ago's music affected every living person here, shaking them so deeply that reality started seeing double. But it wasn't the original note that caught us, but the echo. It allows me a different perspective on our mutual memories. It allows me a different point of view."
"And where isz your other? What have you done with maszter hero Brody Dharma?" He noted that she had glided to the centre of the hall. She was blocking his way to the balcony. Daring him to try rushing past.
The fish's thoughts went as wide and white as his eyes, but he spoke assuredly to it, "Brody is fine, Theodor, as fine as you are. I assisted you at the peak, remember that? Where we both blossomed from our sudden restfulness like sunflowers after a spring rain. Brody must still be up there. I only roused first."
"Brody is okay?"
"By the honourable name of my father and his father and his father before him, all along the virtuous line of my family, I swear to you, Theodor, I have not harmed him."
"Do not be charmed by thisz eszcaped shadow, Theodor Ghoszt Fish," said Queen Buzz carefully. Though her hands were relaxed, folded in front of her, her shoulders were sharp and high, and the great feather of her cosmic crown stood straight up. Judgmental. "Hisz honeyed wordsz hide undercurrentsz of cowardly manipulation."
The fish sunk down a few inches, so caught up it was in thought. He started to take slow steps back down the hall, away from the two of them. The damnable woman was pushing this much better than he could under the circumstances.
"You are afraid not of usz, are you, echo monk?" placing both hands on her bosom when referring to herself. She matched his concealed retreats with purposeful strides forward. "The transzmisszion technology of this liquid hologram doesn't allow usz more than szimple communication to planet Amity. It would be asz threatening to you asz a radio szignal. But then, we are not the one you are trying to charm, are we?"
He started backward down the hall, less subtle now.
The ghost fish was still in the air, partially transparent. It's frail skeleton visible through the weak etherial flesh. The solid milky eyes without pupils, and yet staring at him. Staring into him.
Queen Buzz raised her chin, staring down her nose at him.
He could see the green grey strings of the fish's determination sliding out at him, a psychic net flung at him. He leapt backwards with all the force he could muster, flinging his body as far back down the corridor as he could manage, at the same time flinging his mind as far back down into the blank nothingness of meditative ultra-zen. The grasping net of accusatory thoughts slid over and off, just missing his consciousness.
As the ghost fish swum forward Andy didn't want to risk another chance. He fell flat onto the floor, onto hands and feet, and zipped away down the hall.
Of course she would never trust him. It was in her nature to never trust an outsider. Just as it was in her power to command the loyalty of the weaker-willed.
He raced down the hall, past rooms filled with smooth rugs, aged wooden floors, historic paintings depicting the tireless line of Dharma mentoring generations of monks within this monastery. And how long had Brody done the same? And for what gain? Outdated tradition? A static legacy that promises nothing more than the same unmoving future for more of their line?
Quickly, he was back in the fractal hall of marble and diamond where the invisible monks each fought against their individual equals. All to a relative standstill. Unsurprising.
But he was here to introduce a new way of thinking to this stalled sanctuary.
Dashing to the nearest battle, he found he could easily distinguish between the invisible monk and his new echo. Low to the ground as he was, he was able to slink up close and pounce on the original, bringing his full nine-foot frame upon the man. They crashed to the floor with a bang. Before the monk could recover, Andy stood, lifting the flailing fellow over his head and heaved him into other groups.
Immediately after the toss, he closed his eyes and calmed his mind. Arms close to his side. Fists tight. Elbows against the ribs. Knees apart and bent. Breathing calm. Empty the mind. The blank white nothingness came again. In it, there was only the inevitable now.
He opened his eyes. The airborne monk moved with a snails crawl. The groups he was tumbling toward saw but had not reacted yet. Their reflexes like molasses. In his state of clear still zen, this moment could last as long as he desired.
But he clawed up the zen spectrum. Into the white-hot ends of the infra-zen. Where the fragile papery world outside his peace curled and crumpled and gave way to higher, better states of being. Where he could take a small step, and now he was in the middle of the far group. Where he could snap out a fist to a single man and hit five at once, superimposing them atop each other. Where catching those monks' arms and bending them was simpler than a child's origami.
Within a single breath, Andy had single-handedly defeated half-a-dozen men. The echoed monks, his monks, immediately collected behind him and bowed in sharp precision. "From the outside sound, not welcome yet insistent, we demand a place!" they all shouted at once.
"And we shall have one, my friends," he said, turning to them and bowing in return. "The place we deserve. The place that deserves us. They see us as accidents, as weeds in their well-kept garden, but it is they who are the mistakes, so focused on their small plot that they have let the forest around them grow wild."
"A self indulgence, mastering enlightenment, sharing with no one!" was the unison reply.
"The wondrous world of the open mind. The clear white peace of being at peace with yourself. This is an attribute that they keep secret to themselves rather than bequeathing it to the simple people of Amity. They hide behind years of training, decades of teachings, centuries of traditions, as if their long work justifies privilege and entitlement."
"Locked in their mountain, old ways and ancient teachings, Dharma family chains!" they rose, heads up high. Arms close to their sides. Fists tight. Elbows against the ribs. Knees apart and bent.
"We are the cold winter wind, come to blow apart the flimsy summer shelter," he called out, turning to face the continuing brawls around them. "I am the master villain of the invisible monks, the cruel change to their dusty, rotted ways. I am the unfaithful that brings with him the new religion.
"...and I will allow no one to horde their martial inheritance against our sympathetic education."
With a quick surge, he took a step forward and pushed both arms out, fists opening flat against the people in front of him. The echoed monks behind him followed suit with the exact same motion. They struck the air itself, blasting it away from them like a tidal wave. The gust blanketed the hall, knocking every combatant off the feet in a single deafening roar.
His echoed monks leapt over him in a single bound, a series of gracefully kicking poses slicing through the air. They pushed the new advantage, assisting their brothers and slowly overwhelming the originals.
Andy didn't join them. He didn't need to. They were as well trained as their opponents. All that had been required was the smallest of nudges to upset the stalemate.
Instead, he calmly interlocked his fingers, stood tranquil, and turned to face a nearby pillar. He had sensed the presence approaching, far up it, scurrying down from dizzying heights.
It let go of the pillar, falling like a leaf, and landing gracefully on its feet. It took a moment to compose itself, smoothing its own simple robes before interlocking its own fingers.
"A hundred respectful welcomes, Andy," said Brody with a bow.
"A hundred appreciative returns, Brody," said Andy with a bow.