The Myth Behind the Gard - V: Grandma Meng's Teahouse
Grandma Meng is patterned after Meng Po, a goddess from Chinese mythology that guards the last bridge that leads out of hell. As the goddess of forgetfulness, she makes sure souls do not remember their previous lives as they become reincarnated. She does so by offering them a tea or soup made from a variety of herbs called 'the five flavored tea/soup of forgetfulness.' This is intended as a way to purge a soul of all the sins from its previous life so it may be ready to be reincarnated.
This myth is used as an explanation to another mythical phenomenon known as 'miracle births,' where a baby is able to speak right out of the womb. It is said that the child had somehow managed to avoid drinking Meng's tea and retained memories from their past lives. Remembering events from past lives later in life is also attributed to someone not drinking all of Meng's tea as they passed over the bridge of forgetfulness.
In some versions, Meng Po is derived from Meng Jiang, a human woman from a Chinese folk legend with many variations. According to the myth, Jiang's husband died while working on the great wall. Stricken with so much grief, Lady Jiang cries so mournfully that the wall comes crumbling down, revealing the bones of her dead husband. But because so many had died building the wall, she could not tell which set of bones were her husbands. She resolved this problem by cutting her finger, believing that her blood would soak into the bones of her husband to identify him.
Later versions of the story had the emperor who ordered the wall built play the villain. In these tales, the emperor hears of Meng Jiang' s devotion and asks for an audience with her. When the emperor looks upon her beauty he falls in love with her and asks her to marry him. She then presents the emperor with three conditions for her hand: that a festival be held in her dead husband's honor, that the emperor and his vassals attend her husband's funeral, and a terrace be built on the wall where her husband died so she can make a sacrifice in his honor. Once the terrace is completed, she goes to the top and curses the emperor before throwing herself off into the river below and drowning herself. After her death, Meng Jiang becomes Meng Po and develops her amnesiatic soup as a way to help similarly tragic souls deal with their grief.
In modern times the folk tale has developed numerous adaptations into operas and songs, as well as westernized versions by English and Russian authors. Most recently Meng is prominently depicted in the 2018 fantasy-romance film The Ferry Man Manjusaka.
The Last RE:Spawn - The House of Fire
The house of fire was as hot as the house of frost was cold. Rivers of lava spewing plumes of super heated gas crept through the craggy canals surrounding Avanyu and the twins. Molten forgelings busied themselves in the ravines below, minding the currents by breaking away clots of pumice from the furnace's thermal rods.
'Oh I am so glad I found you in time, you'll catch heatstroke if you're not careful dearies!' A woman in a flowing robe drifted down through the heat shimmer poised on an equally billowing cloud, her youthful face contrasted against her matronly demeanor. ' Why don't you let granny Meng treat her babies to some refreshments?'
With a wave of her khakkhara staff the swirling clouds thickened around the heroes, dissolving away the surrounding heat in a soothing mist. The fog gave way to a dimly lit tea house with rows of tables bustling with all types of avatars.
'Have a seat my sweets, granny will be back with a frosty glass of iced tea for my newest lovelies.' Meng drifted away into the rafters to tend to her burbling cauldrons floating overhead. The waft of aromatic soups and beverages permeated the air, pulling all kinds of status ailments out from the heads of the other patrons in flashing green text. The scent alone gave the heroes a tingling taste of the resistance bonus it gave to the unforgiving swelt.
'If her tea tastes as divine as it smells, the house of fire will be our easiest trial yet!' Blanque leaned back and mopped a sheet of sweat from his bald head with confidence. Avanyu scratched his chin doubtfully with his tail.
'Something doesn't feel right: the lords of death are not the type to leave their opponents any kind of advantage.'
'Here you go: three ice-cold glasses of granny Meng's famous tea! One sip and you're sure to feel like you just respawned!' The ominous words she left lingering as she turned away was enough to give each of them pause.
'You're right not to trust her, I wouldn't drink that if I were you.' The hushed voice hissed from an opulent avian perched inside an ornately fillagreed cage that hung in a shadowy corner near their table. The bird's shook out its feathers as its glare darted between them and Meng with a nervous side-eye.
'I know I might seem like just a bird, but I used to be an adventurer like you: sure granny promises to show you a way out, but she never mentions at what cost. Why don't you ask the next table over how long they've been waiting, and you'll see what I mean.' Junah turned to the table of ninjas and carnies raucously clashing their drink together with gusto.
'Perdon amigo, but how often do you come here?'
'First time and last! Once you try granny Meng's, you'll never want to leave!' The assassin's words were noticeably slurred.
'So...you've been here a while?'
'Oh it's easy to lose track in here, but whenever anyone is ready to leave granny has a secret passage that leads right out of this level! I've been trapped long enough to know a good deal when I see it!'
'Who cares!? these drinks sure beat the heat outside!' The ninja turned back to his boisterous party, shaking his head.
'You see? It's the drinks. They mess with your memory. I managed to figure it out, but granny doesn't like it when her guests are ungreatf- uh, I mean: *squak*!' The vibrant bird's eyes glazed over vacantly when Meng approached their table again, tuting her lips.
'Now those drinks aren't going to get any colder, You wouldn't want to be rude to your dear old granny would you?'
'A thousand pardons madam, we meant no disrespect. we are just so in awe of your lovely establishment that we felt we should take a moment to absorb the atmosphere before we indulge ourselves.' Avanyu hoped his natural snake-y demeanor was enough to conceal his insincerity.
'Okay sweeties, but I will be very cross if those drinks are still untouched when I return!' Her voice trailed off behind her with a menacing curl.
'Sorry about that, it's bad enough she has me locked in here. Now, let's work on ditching those drinks. Take a look outside: this venue might seem isolated, but it's still just a pocket instance within the house of fire.' Blanque pulled back a blackout curtain, revealing the burning landscape churning below.
'That window may be enchanted to prevent escape, but it still let's in the heat. Enough heat to perhaps...vaporize a glass of tea.' The bird tilted its head and arched an eyebrow coyly. The trio placed their drinks at the edge of the opening. Sure enough, the beverages began to steam and bubble. Once the entirety of the content had sublimated away they returned the cups before them and mimicked wiping their mouths
'That's better, I knew my babies were thirsty! Aren't you feeling better already?'
'Muchas gracias abuelita, now, you think you can point us to the exit? we really should get going.' Meng's eyes narrowed into a skeptical leer. Junah kicked her brother under the table and shot him a daggering glare.
'Of course, but what would the granny Meng experience be without a complementary cigarillo to send you on your way? Now, we also have a bit of a tradition: if you light the cigarillo and manage to reach the front of the tea house with it intact we will comp your tab!' Meng gave a sinister smile along with her parting gift. The cigarillos reeked of a dank pungency, alluding to the herbs anesthetizing potency.
'Great, now what? Something tells me one puff of this stuff will do just as much as those drinks, and I'm sure whatever the bill is going to come out to will be more than we bargain for.' Junah threw up her hands in defeat.
'Here, I may be trapped but I can least make sure you don't end up like me.' The bird shook itself vigorously. A flurry of shimmering pinfeathers floated down onto the table. Their iridescent orange glow was a strikingly close approximation to a smouldering cherry. They each tucked a feather into their dubious doobies and made their way towards the front. They solemnly bid farewell to their avian accomplice.
'My my little ones, I must say I am quite impressed! I can't recall anyone who could hold their drink and smoke like that, much less three.' Meng sized them up suspiciously before finally raising the portcullis that blocked the exit. The heroes gingerly stepped past the napping cerberus that guarded the way. The gate snapped shut behind them as soon as they were through. The Cerberus woke instantly to bellow steaming growls through the gaps 'Oh, did you think the gate was to keep you in?' Meng smiled sardonically. 'You may have made it out of the house of fire unscathed, but as far as the next house goes...I don't think any of you will make the cut!'
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