The little fire, raised on a bank of stones, crackled merrily under Wa Shi’s watchful eye. He never thought that he would think this, but there was too much water here. Everything was absolutely drenched from the constant little rainstorms, or the land itself. He had to stack thirty rocks in order to build his firestone, as the rest simply sank into the swamp. Then, actually gathering and drying out the wood was another, hell-sent labour. His Qi rejected the ability to boil water, or dry things out as the Boss could. But Wa Shi was no mere dragon, limited by things his body rebelled against!
So instead, he used his new power to pull the water from the dead wood. It had to be old and dead. Any living thing held onto it’s water too fiercely, but the dead branches eventually yielded to his almighty power.
So here, there was a tiny fire, and over that tiny fire was another stone. Skewers of peaches and balls of mashed up insect sat on top of the stone and sizzled, filling the air with their sweet scent and bitter scent.
...it was the best he could do. There wasn’t actually much variety in this place. There were the swamp trees, the berries, the peaches, and a few types of insect. When he had tried, like the majestic dragon he was, to leap over the bowl-like hills of the valley, he had smacked into the sky! The sky wasn’t supposed to be solid! The Boss said it was infinite, all the way up to the moon!
How curious. How annoying. He just wanted to take a look around! ...And maybe find some things to spice up his diet. This combination was the tastiest so far, but it was still getting old. What he wouldn’t give for what his Boss had described as a pie. A string of drool slopped out of is mouth at the thought. Sugary-caramelised peaches, in a thick crust-- oh, he would have to bring some to the Boss!
He closed his eyes, focusing intently to his task. Listening, smelling, tasting the air.
His eyes snapped open, and his mouth moved, flipping the skewers perfectly. The natural juices of the peach had charred wonderfully, on the bare edge of being burnt, and the bug balls had browned nicely as well.
He smirked, holding his head high, as all masters of their craft did. Truly, his skills were unsurpassed in whatever he decided to pursue! Even the Boss would kowtow to his majestic ability, honed in this inhospitable realm!
He lounged backwards onto the pile of soft reeds, and supped upon baked berries that had been wrapped in a lily pad leaf.
It was the tenth time he had this variation. Truly, this place was hell!
It did not take long for the peaches to finish charring. He claimed three of the skewers for himself. One to taste test, one to make sure he hadn’t just imagined the taste being good, and one to fully enjoy.
The other two would go to the old bastard, as to properly appreciate everything Wa Shi did for him, and praise his sublime skill.
‘Oho! This one thought he smelled something grand. You have worked wonders again, little dragon!’ he praised, as he ate the skewer, wood and all.
Wa Shi himself was of the opinion that the wood didn’t add much flavour, but the turtle seemed to like it, so he held his tongue. There was no accounting for poor taste.
He absently watched the sky of this strange place, as it started to drizzle. There were rarely any clouds, but it rained often. The days and nights lasted for odd periods of time, sometimes as short as a blink, and others, they seemed to last for days.
Now that he wasn’t quite so deep in meditation, and had reached a level of the technique the turtle had called “passable” he had more time to himself. To train and grow, the turtle had said, like he wasn’t already a supreme master.
….well, maybe his control wavered more than he would like. And maybe he had barely scratched the surface. But he was surely an expert of the basic techniques!
The turtle finished his skewer with a crunch of wood. Maybe he could try seasoning the young shoots that he used next? Maybe slathered in berry juice, or smoked in the other wood that was around here? It was something to think about, surely.
‘Ah, it has been centuries since this one has been so sated. Can he not convince you to stay forever?’ The turtle asked, and Wa Shi snorted. How could he stay in such a confined place. There were so many people that needed to see his majesty! So many things he needed to taste!
He wished to leave. He wished to go once more back to his lair, and see his friends--servants again.
The turtle chuckled, gazing at him fondly.
‘Very well then.’ The turtle decreed, and closed his eyes. The world started to rumble.
Slowly, and with great effort, the turtle pushed himself from where he was half buried. Muscles flexed and bulged under scaly skin. The air grew heavy, and laden with intent and pressure, like the Boss when he got angry. The small lake trembled and shook, even as the peach tree remained unmoved.
Higher and higher he rose, until he was standing on his hind legs. One knee was a mass of scar tissue, the front of his shell was battered but unbroken, proof against any who dared to test it.
‘Ahhhh…. It has been so long since this one has stood.’ He declared, turning his gaze to Wa Shi.
The fish gaped at him. Staring at his massive form.
‘Come. This is the last thing I shall teach you.’ The turtle slowly moved his arms, sliding into a position. ‘What you take from this, is up to you.’
The water flowed, and the turtle began to dance.
Something ancient and primal stirred in Wa Shi’s soul.
They dined one last time on peaches together. The turtle was back in his place, once more mostly buried. He held out a large leaf, and Wa Shi was allowed to fill it with berry seeds, and a single peach pit.
‘Tug here, and it will shrink enough for you to put it in your mouth.’ The turtle instructed him. “It will not last long, but it will allow you to get home, without dragging much bulk around.”
‘How will I get out?’ Wa Shi asked the turtle.
The turtle pointed to a waterfall that filled the lake, rising up the solid stone wall.
“The exit has always been in front of your eyes.”
What, he just had to climb the waterfall? That was easy enough.
Wa Shi looked to it, and began swimming toward it, when he paused.
He turned back to the turtle, and swallowed his pride.
The Fish bowed as best as he was able.
The Boss would probably let you stay, if you feel like visiting. Much more interesting than this place.
The Turtle smiled indulgently.
‘I cannot leave, little dragon. But this one thanks you for the offer.’
Wa Shi nodded. He turned back to the waterfall, and dove to the bottom of the lake, before shooting up and begging his ascent. The water would part before his majestic form, and he would return to his rightful place! He swam upwards, and upwards, as everything but the waterfall and the mist faded around him. It would be a lovely day for a swim, and--the water wasn’t parting.
In fact, it was getting rather hard to keep going.
He went from a leisurely swim to suddenly struggling, his tail pumping as hard as it did when the Boss went after him.
And then he saw the other fish. There were other carp around him, struggling against the same stream he was. Throwing themselves at the waterfall with reckless abandon. Striving, striving to the top.
The sky had blackened, and there was the crash of thunder, and the bright flashes of lightning.
Just where had that old bastard turtle sent him?! He just wanted to get home, damn it! This sort of thing wasn’t for him!
Terror overtook his heart. He barely managed to juke to the left as a bolt of lightning hit the waterfall. He dodged around another fish, it’s body limp as it fell back down. It was an odd looking creature, with a greatly elongated head, and massive teeth. He jumped, and strived, and struggled.
He didn’t know how long he was there, as the water started to batter away even his inviolable scales.
He pushed. He shoved… and he started to fall.
The water started carrying him back down. He sighed in irritation. After lowering himself, he would have to return in shame?!
And back to the place where he had sampled every delight?!
Terror turned to determination.
No! He was Wa Shi! The Dragon of Fa Ram! There were crops to water. There was food to eat!
How dare mere water attempt to impede his progress?!
He pulled on his Qi. His water did battle against the water that threatened to punch him back down. His descent slowed.
And once more, he started to rise.
Decrease the diameter. Increase the pressure.
A blade of water in front. A jet of water behind.
He surged back up the waterfall. He blasted around rocks, and parted the waterfall around him.
A bolt of lightning smashed into a shield of water. His tail pumped furiously.
And still the waterfall increased its pressure, roaring furiously. The water was like rock, barely being pierced through by his blade.
Decrease the diameter. Increase the pressure!
He thought of all the food he would eat. He thought of Pi Pa’s squeal of shock at seeing him again. He thought of his lair.
He thought on his math formations.
His scales had been nearly completely blasted off by the water. He could feel his vision growing dark. He was alone. There were no more carp around him.
With one final roar of effort… the waterfall ended. He burst out of the top.
Wa Shi’s body sailed through the air, his whiskers training behind him.
The sky was no longer dark, but a warm, diffuse gold. There were mountains, sticking up through the clouds, gates atop them, or great palaces and buildings. He could even see a man nearby with a fishing rod, absolutely delicious smelling bait on the end. His mouth began to water at the mere smell…
When he remembered what the Boss did when he took from the hook.
His body began to fall, as he finished bleeding his upward momentum.
A streamer of water lashed out, and plucked a morsel from the man’s negligently open bait box. The Man’s head whipped around, staring as Wa Shi shot a jet of water behind him, shoving the golden morsel into his mouth.
The Man shook his fist and shouted at Wa Shi’s retreating form.
It was tasty. Nay, delicious. As good as what the Boss made.
He closed his eyes, as he descended back through the clouds.
He opened them, and was on the bank of a river.
Slowly, he pushed himself up. Wrath overtook him.
That bastard turtle!
How dare he scare him like this?! Couldn’t he have warned him about the gut wrenching terror? He could practically hear the ohohohohohoho!
He roared his wrath to the heavens, the trees shaking with his call, and punched the riverbank. He would find that bastard turtle again, and turn him into soup. For real this time! So spoke Wa Shi!
….Punched? That wasn’t right.
He paused, as he stared at his new limbs.
The bright blue, and lightning gold.
He instead went to check on the one thing that he had gotten over the turtle. He reached into his mouth, and pulled out his leaf. The leaf that was bulging slightly more than it was when the turtle gave it to him. He tugged, and it expanded again, revealing not just a peach pit, but a whole stolen peach.
He frowned at the size of it. The peach had filled his mouth but now… it was so small. He could eat it in one bite! The joy of a peach was taking a big bite, and letting the juices spill out over one’s face! Not popping it in your mouth like a berry!
….Well, maybe if he had a lot of peaches….
No. This one was for the Boss, because Wa Shi was a generous, and virtuous soul.
He popped the peach back into his mouth, and went into the river. The river that was a bit too small for him now. He was dragging himself along the bottom.
He sighed, and his whiskers waved in the air.
...Which way was home again?
Something tugged on a whisker. A girl giggled.
His head snapped around.
Ah, that way.
Wa Shi set off.
It was a pleasant swim. The trees had their leaves, and the world was bright and beautiful.
As a test, he jumped, sailing into the air, and he didn’t hit a wall.
Streamers of water lashed out as Wa Shi went. He plucked new, interesting bugs from the air. He grabbed mushrooms that probably weren’t poisonous, and he sampled flower buds, in all their delicate flavour.
As the sun set, the terrain became familiar to him.
He could feel it. He could feel it as he got closer. Home.
He smiled, as he smelled the scented air, and basked in the waters that were the perfect temperature.
There was, for some reason, a bunch of posts in the pond. Very strange, but not his business.
But.. as he approached the house, he realised there was a problem.
He couldn’t fit in his lair. His head was too big. He frowned. He liked his lair. If only he was smaller-- There was a muted pop.
The world expanded, to what he was used to seeing.
Ah. Much better. Whatever his form, he was a Dragon, and this one was a bit more convenient.
“Alright, you greedy beasts, here.” The Boss said. Wa Shi smiled at his voice--
And there were other fish in his lair.
Wa Shi saw red.
“Alright, you greedy beasts, here.” I said, as I started putting dishes into the water. There was a whole host of carp now, but none that I could point to like Washy.
It was kind of sad, really. They didn’t do as good a job cleaning, either--
There was motion.
One of the carps was hit from below, and launched into the air, as Washy surged after it. He bounced off the wall, his fin going to work as he gave him an aerial five him combo, and then spiked him back into the water.
The rest of the fish fled, and Wa Shi resurfaced. He slapped his fins angrily on the concrete floor, and spat a wrapped leaf package at me.
“Washy!” I shouted with delight. “Where have you been, little man?!”
He huffed angrily, and turned his back to me.
Ah, he was upset that I let other fish in, huh?
“Hey, we’ve already eaten, but let me whip you up something, huh?”
His head perked up.
Man, we had a lot of catching up to do.