The next morning, James met up with Koopin once more as he planned to stay the day with his parents, to catch up and reimmerse himself within the daily hustle and bustle of his hometown. James came along, looking over Shelldon's store while avoiding any limes greatly so before exploring the town himself. Travellers came to and fro, traffic that certainly made the town profitable on itself.
"Most people stop at the Dry Dry Outpost," explained Koopin, "but sometimes they like to come here because it's quieter, a li'l cheaper, less hassle from certain folks."
"What kind of folks?" asked FG.
"Well, crime might be higher in Dry Dry Outpost, and then there's the fact it gets more publicity. Sometimes people don't WANT their goods to be on display in the public eye yanno."
"You mean like, illegal stuff?"
"Haha no no not that...much...I mean more like not to show their wares too early so they can get the jump on other competitors in the area."
"Ahhhh...kinda surprised I couldn't find anything here."
"Whatcha mean James?"
James pulled out his tattered map to investigate it once again.
"It was marked here next...but I didn't find anything that could help me in my...studies."
"Aw...well it DOES say the Lavalava Island's next so, who knows! Maybe you'll find something there!"
"Hopefully...hey, what is it?"
"...that guy over there."
Koopin looked out towards the middle of the street. The main thoroughfare where peddlers and stallkeepers passed through was littered with dirt tracks, and in the midst of it all was a rather awkward-looking green-shelled koopa. He was constantly trying to get people's attention, while also trying to remain polite as he desperately held onto a scrap of paper.
"He looks lost," said Koopin.
"I'm gonna ask."
James scrutinised him from a distance to gauge the apparent newcomer's actions. Eventually he shook his head.
"No he's cool, let's go."
"Wh-what is it?"
"Just had to make sure, thieves and such around here right?"
The two approached the wayward koopa, with Koopin asking first.
"Uh, scuse me sir!"
The koopa turned towards them.
"OH, finally someone stops, hello there."
"What's wrong, you lost?"
"Not exactly. My name is Karlos Shellacque, I'm a representative of Professor Kolorado an-"
"Woah woah...THE Kolorado?"
"Yes, the very same. He is looking for a local guide who knows the area in order to undertake an expedition."
"A guide? Expedition?! Here?!?!"
"Mmhmm. But of course he insists on a local guide in order to improve his chances of what we might have obtained."
"Uhhhh what is this expedition for?"
"I am not at liberty to say unless I find a guide."
"Well today's your lucky day!"
Koopin pulled out from his shell the same laminated license he had produced before on Shiver Mountain.
"Koopin S Kennidon, Mushroom Kingdom Institute of Tour Guide Associations."
"Wha?! Oh stars this is just PERFECT! You would be exactly the sort of-hold on, are you local?"
"Yep! Born and raised in Dusty Dunes until I was nineteen, then I moved out to live in Koopamuir."
"And what is your experience with the TGA?"
The off-duty tour guide crossed his arms in an officious manner, bringing out every single inch of professionalism he could muster in this moment.
"Been with them ever since I left high school at seventeen, I'm twenty-two now and I've learnt how to navigate all areas of terrain, I go across the kingdom at least once per year to refamiliarise myself with everything, I was just made an official tour guide two years ago and am currently stationed at the Bob-Omb Fortress."
"I see...impressive, you just might be the guide I'm looking for."
"I'd love to help Professor Kolorado, that'd be amazing if I could join him!"
"Well firstly we need to make sure the TGA approve of you being hired by us."
"Well I'm on vacation right now, BUT I can call my boss and tell them about your offer, you sort it out with Professor Kolorado and if my boss says okay, I'll join ya!"
"Great! What's his address, and yours if I need to get a hold of you?"
"Uhhh you got a pen?"
Karlos brought out a pen and notebook from his shell, with Koopin writing down on it before returning.
"Thank you mister uh..."
"Right, I'll clear this with Professor Kolorado and your boss, and if all goes well you can join us."
"OOOH that'd be awesome! Uh, when do you plan to leave?"
"In two weeks time, if all goes well. If not, maybe three. I still need to make sure the excavation permits go through with the Dry Dry Outpost authorities, then I need to find a bodyguard and-"
"Bodyguard?" asked James.
"...well yes, there ARE bandits and Pokeys in the desert."
"...maaaaybe I can help."
"James Campbell, mercenary for hire."
The raptor extended his hand to shake, much to Koopin's surprise as Karlos shook it back.
"Um, Karlos Shellacque, pleased to meet you, are you two together or..."
"Oh Koopin here's just showing me around, giving me a tour of the place to see where I can fit, right Koopin?"
"U-uhhh yeah, yeah thassit."
Koopin was wary, wondering why the raptor was so quick to lie in order to wedge himself into an expedition. But he decided not to make his guest look like a fool and kept schtumm as Karlos asked:
"What are your qualifications?"
"Ohhhh travelled for four, maybe five years, trained for three as a swordsman, skilled in hand-to-hand combat, stickfighting and swordfighting. Also know a li'l magic."
"Really?! Is this true?!" asked Karlos to Koopin.
"Uhhh...yeah it, yeah it is!"
"Oh my gosh this is the best day of my life, things will be so much easier now, will you be willing to come with us as protection on our expedition mister..."
"Mmmm depends on how much you charge."
"W-we'll negotiate a price at a better time, but I assure you it will be no less than fifteen coins per day."
James sucked in through his teeth while rubbing his chin. He had absolutely no idea of whether this was a good price or not, but he decided to play it shrewd just to look professional.
"That's your LOWEST number right?"
"...hmmmmm...well...offers are hard to come by, sooooo...alright, you got a deal."
"Great! Where can I reach you?!"
"Uhhhh Koopin's address, he knows me so he can pass it along to me, is that okay man?"
"S-sure!" stammered Koopin.
"Excellent!" said Karlos. "You've made me a very happy associate, I think we're done here. I'll mail you at your address mister Kennidon if all goes smoothly. Have a good day!"
As Kolorado's associate headed off into the bustling streets of Dusty Dunes, Koopin turned towards James with a cock-eyed glance.
"Alright, what's going on with you?"
"You lie to my parents about your parents, you lie to him about being a mercenary, are you even REALLY a student?"
"Hah, come on Koopin, I didn't make that stuff up."
"I do know magic, I do know to use a sword, I'm trained at this stuff and you've SEEN me do that."
"Well...I guess you did but...how does a student know that?!"
"I went to a course?" said James nonchalantly. "Come on, they got classes for this...don't they?"
"...well...we DO have self-defence classes I know that, I mean I'm in one."
"Yeah I study over at the Toad Town Dojo, I've been doing it for two years twice a week."
"Hah, martial arts? ...I wouldn't have guessed it but see, you know your skills and I know mine."
"Well how long you been training for, what's your style?"
"Uhhhh...Glenn-Style Swordfighting, it's a very particular skill I been learning for about five years in practice. And you?"
"Toad-Kwon-Do. Still a real novice but I know a few basics!"
"Well good! I mean I might as well pull my weight around here and do SOMETHING for money, right?"
With the matter settled, the rest of the day passed by amicably, the raptor glad that he had been able to deflect Koopin's more inquisitive nature. As much as he disliked lying in particular to the young guide, he did not feel it right to burden him with his problems of the past. He wanted to try and start anew, to cleanse himself free of the past as a whole new person. Something he had been trying to do for years.
After two days since their arrival in Dusty Dunes, Koopin bade farewell to his family before making his way back west towards Mount Rugged, with James in tow. Their next destination was to traverse back through the mountains and to return to the central point of Toad Town, to a place of more southern climes for a breath of fresh air.
Koopin would not remember his original question about James' origins until it was too late to ask again, around the time they reached the train station. He decided to hold his tongue, not wanting to look argumentative or stubborn in front of his travelling guest. For now he just wanted to enjoy his vacation, as well as a chance to show a newcomer around the many places of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Upon returning back to Toad Town, Koopin took James towards the docks. He explained that the third and final part of his trip was to sail over to Lavalava Island, a tropical island of great interest to tourists. While there were other islands farther away, Lavalava Island was one of the most easily accessible, and one of the few islands within the boundaries of the Mushroom Kingdom.
James was eager enough to go, having had good experiences in his travels whenever he found himself among tropical waters. A boat would come back from the islands within two days, which allowed FG and Koopin time to explore the town further. Despite being called a town, it was still deceptively large to the raptor, as Koopin showed him further throughout the place.
The next day, the ship had come to port, and with tickets in hand from Koopa's well-received earnings, the two set sail to warmer climes of a less dry nature. The ship was a cute white passenger ship that could possibly hold at least 20 people, not counting crew. The decks were clean, the crew courteous and the skies clear blue. It was almost bizarrely idyllic, a far cry from the last time James was on a boat. And even moreso from the last time he was on a modern boat.
True to James' word, he did not get seasick in all of the two-day cruise, enjoying the calm breeze of the tropical currents and the cries of seabirds high above. He chuckled at how strange it was to see ones here, as Koopin and him leaned against the railings of the ship
"Nope," said Koopin. "Goonies."
"Goonies? ...you know that movie?"
"Movie? No no those birds up there, they're not seagulls, they're goonies."
"Is that what you call them in your language?"
"Yyyyeah, we call them seagulls."
"So you say you travel once every year right?" asked the raptor.
"Mmhmm! Just to make sure I keep updated with the tour guide thing and all."
"Nice...so why did you become a tour guide?"
"I wanted to explore the world! I loved geography in high school and I wanted to do something about exploring, but in a safe way. I know I wasn't gonna be an archaeologist because well, a lot of it's just teaching students in boring old classes, they don't always get to go outside. I wanted to get out there. Just...out there...in the big wide world."
"Hah...I understand that easily."
"Do you ever...imagine there are worlds out there? Beyond this one?"
"You know...like, maybe some of those stars in the sky are like other worlds, full of strange and interesting people, or bizarre ruins from faraway civilisations!"
"Hhhehehe...yanno what? I do."
He smirked without the slightest hint of irony.
"I do imagine that...what worlds do you imagine then?"
Koopin turned around to place his back against the railing, gazing upwards at the sky as James joined him in his thoughts.
"Long scaling roads between asteroids...beautiful green jungles with snow-capped mountains-"
"-and wide stretching lagoons full of pirates."
"Ooooh yeah...maybe a world entirely full of water, without land to be seen anywhere."
"Seaside villages with the smell of coffee."
"Towering castles above grand lakes!"
"Dark cities filled with demons."
"Islands stretching across the entire globe like sandy fingers grasped around a blue shiny ball!"
"...foggy towns...filled with strange and disturbing nightmares."
"Bountiful kingdoms filled with magical creatures high upon a city in the mountains!"
"...heh, tropical islands where candy grows on trees."
"OOOH that's a good one! ...mmmm, now I wish they had candy on Lavalava Island."
"Why wouldn't they?"
"Well Yoshis don't really make it, they have an all-natural diet after all."
"Wow, are they like tribal natives?"
"Mmmmm traditionally yeah. I can't wait to see 'em, OOH I could see my penpal!"
"Yeah! His name's Rocky, he's an awesome dude!"
"Hahaha, wow I gotta see this."
And soon James would, when there came the day the ship would land upon Lavalava Island. The moment he saw that volcanic mountain hover into view, rising high above a lush verdant jungle that circled around its craggy base, he knew this would be a fun place.
Landing upon the sandy shore interspersed by a smooth rock-sculpted port, the passengers all climbed off in order to explore the island for themselves. There were all sorts arriving, none of whom he hadn't seen before in his travels. As the wide jungle expanded out before him, Koopin was stopped by a Shy Guy who seemed to be offering him a watermelon. Koopin replied in an odd language that James tried to understand, to which the Shy Guy replied fluently.
The little one waddled off slightly dejected, with Koopin looking very quizzical.
"That was weird."
"What?" asked James.
"Guy tried to sell me a watermelon...on an ISLAND full of 'em."
"Hah, must have tried to take you for a sap."
"...yanno there was a guy like him selling watermelons at Dusty Dunes."
"You think it's the same guy?"
"Eh...I dunno. Come on, I need a good tour of this island."
"Okay doke, let's head on out!"
Passing through the jungle with the occasional fellow traveller beside them, James felt and smelt the sweltering heat all around him, moist leaves and mulchy undergrowth accompanied by the caws and chirrups of the local fauna. It certainly felt like an island, and the raptor almost expected to see an explorer pass by them on his way towards an ancient overgrown ruin.
Instead he found something much more accommodating, once they reached an inland fishing area that acted as an estuary towards the sea, with small plateaus of grass above the shallow waters. It was also here that James first saw the signed gate of the local settlement
YOSHI'S VILLAGE ===>
Standing alongside it was a dark blue dinosaur, with a large bulbous nose and a white underbelly from chin to undertail. Small red bumps lined down its back, its soft clawless hands having four fingers on each, including the thumb. The creature's eyes widened with delight at seeing the newcomers arrive.
"Hi there! Welcome to Lavalava Island and the Yoshi Village!"
"Hello there!" waved Koopin happily.
The other newcomers greeted with varying levels of interest as they made their separate ways, checking further into the island as Koopin walked up to the smooth-bodied dinosaur. Not a single claw or sharp point was anywhere on it. James even saw it had a saddle-like back and brown hiking boots on its feet.
"Koopin Kennidon, Tour Guide Associations."
"Ohhhh yeah, I remember you last year! No updates from the TGA in this area I'll tell ya now."
"Oh...well, that's okay, it's good to make sure personally right?"
"Yup! ...who's your friend? I never seen a Yoshi like him before!"
"Haha I'm not a yoshi," explained FG, "I'm a raptor. I come from much farther away."
"Ooooh, cool! Good to see a new face around here, my name's Yang of Lavalava."
"...Yang of Lavalava?"
"Yoshis tend to name themselves after places they're from," explained Koopin, "since the Yoshis have no surnames in their culture, so they use the place they're from."
"That's right," said Yang, "Not all yoshis do that though, but it's a more traditional way and it's more common on the islands. The ones who head off elsewhere or go live on the mainland might pick up a surname."
James was still confused, but then he perked up with a realisation.
"Hold up, Koopin you haven't done your little tour guide speech!"
"Hahaha be patient James," said the koopa with a pat on the shoulder, "it's all about the presentation. Wait until we see the village okay?"
"Alriiiight. So...you're a yoshi?"
"Yep," said Yang. "First time seeing us I take it?"
"Well come on into the village and see more of us uh...what's your name?"
"Well, come on in James!"
With such a warm invitation from a fellow reptile, he had no reason not to follow him through the scrubland of a jungle beach, curious to see what sort of home the Yoshi tribe would have.
The village itself was exactly as he expected an island tribal home to be. Huts made out of bamboo-like plants, campfires, open spaces where Yoshis talked and played amongst each other. He noted there was an entire rainbow of colours they had, from the cyan-coloured guard of the largest hut, to the yellow-skinned hatchling waddling around excitably with his friends.
Every single colour he could imagine existed here amongst this tribe. The raptor was amazed, a cheerful excitable tribe of smooth-skinned reptiles with saddlebacks and bulbous noses. He even saw one of them pluck fruit from out of a tree, using an absurdly long tongue to reach out and grab it like a frog. Koopin smiled happily at his friend's expression of awe at the local village ground.
"Welcome to Lavalava Island! Here we have the remains of a now-dormant volcano, having set itself off one last time during Mario's great adventure to free the Star Spirits, one of whom was trapped inside Mount Lavalava itself! The Yoshi tribe who settled here originally come from Yoshi's Island, which is now a protected reserve due to being the ancestral home of all yoshikind. They have a store, an inn, and an elder who watches over the village with great wisdom. Any questions?"
"Yeah...oh god I dunno where to start."
"Hahaha, just take it one step at a time okay James?"
"Right, right...man these guys are friendly, I got at least five of 'em saying hi to me the moment they saw me."
"Yeah yoshis are pretty famous for being a very easygoing and friendly race. They live on the islands, they got nothing to fear, even their belief system's relaxed and laid-back."
"What do they believe in?"
"Oh, the Stars like anyone else, but they also have a great respect and love for nature all around them, as well as wanting to spread peace and love across wherever they may roam."
"Don't ALL you guys have that...sorta?"
"Well the yoshis do it moreso."
Oh god, thought FG, it's a hippie commune isn't it?
"So what else can you tell me about the Yoshis?" asked the raptor.
"Well they're very intelligent, even from birth, they possess a real fast maturity rate in terms of learning how to speak and walk, like right off the bat! They're pretty unusual in terms of growth compared to most others in the Mushroom Kingdom."
"Right...maybe it's all the fruit they eat."
"What about the boots?"
"Well, funny thing about that, see-"
Hearing his name blurted out across the village grounds made the koopa jump, before he turned around to see a blood-red yoshi run up towards them with an excitable grin in his eyes. Koopin in turn almost squeaked with joy.
The two clashed together into a bearhug, the yoshi almost lifting Koopin up from the ground with a hearty embrace. James almost worried for him until he was put back down again for the yoshi to ask:
"I didn't know you were comin' here, you shoulda mailed me man!"
"Hhhehehe, sorry man I got busy on my vacation and uh...well was doing my usual!"
"Ahhhh it's cool, great to see ya again though, how's the house?!"
"Good good! Still small and humble, still not too far from a rave club for those fun nights."
"Heheh, I bet. Who's yer friend?!"
"OH, this is James! He's from far away and I was helping him out by giving him a tour around the kingdom."
Rocky crossed his arms and replied with a mock accusatory tone:
"Koopin. ...you been cheatin' on me with another penpal?"
"Wh-what?! N-no no, it's not what you think I-"
"HAH, psyche, course I know it's not shellboy!"
The yoshi sprang forwards to give a quick noogie on Koopin's shell, making him giggle and bat him away lightly.
"H-h-hey, come on cut it out!"
"Hahaha...whooo man, what else is up Koopin?"
"Just my usual vacation and James here. James, this is Rocky, my penpal."
"I guessed that," said James coolly.
"Name's Rocky of Lavalava," said the red yoshi with a hand to shake. "Never seen a guy like you before."
"I'm a raptor, from VERY far away. James Campbell."
"Huh, cool. Hope you haven't been runnin' my buddy here ragged."
"Naaaah he's fine, I mean come on, look at this guy."
He swept his hand towards Koopin, who pretended to flex some muscles, making Rocky laugh.
"Pfffthahaha, awww dude you gotta keep up yer Toad-Kwon-Do yo, you got arms like sticks!"
"I know I know," said Koopin with a warm sigh, "I'm keepin' at it."
"Yeah you better, I wanna brawl you sometime an' see how well you can handle a li'l island wrestlin'."
"Hehehehe, s-sure, uh, gimme a year or two?"
"HAH, alrighty then! You guys need a tour of the place?"
"Now THAT I can do on my own thank you. Catch up with you later okay?!"
"Sure, later Koopin!"
Rocky ran off back into the village grounds, leaving his penpal with James as they in turn began to explore deeper within the village itself. Out of all the places he had been to so far in this world, this island was already the one place he could relax fully in.