Despite the multitude of technicolour dinosaurs that existed in the village, it was quite a small place to navigate around. The local general store was the most prominent building, marked by a fire flower as its sign like all item shops across the kingdom. Inside was a light blue yoshi who had a generally-good selection of wares inside his store, Yoshi's Cabana. But what intrigued James even more was the Toad House beside it.
It wasn't even a house, since it only had a wall close to the ground and a single door. If he was inclined to, he could merely step over the wall to see the well-designed bamboo bed and furniture around the small area. Apparently it was to help convey the atmosphere of sleeping at a tropical island, to feel like a castaway but without the dangers of starvation or being left at the mercy of the elements.
It was strange but not enough for him to worry about. The only other creatures he noted around the place were a group of chubby black birds nestling on a tree, as well as what appeared to be a squint-eyed purple fish, somehow flapping around on land while lecturing a few yoshi children. James expected far more tribal origins, maybe some strange dances or rituals. Instead he found a perfectly normal little village. He was almost disappointed.
"So what do you do here?" he asked Koopin.
"Well I just tend to hang out, talk to the locals, maybe walk a li'l bit into the jungle."
"Is it dangerous?"
"There are poisonous plants and maybe some wild natives yeah."
"Spear Guys for starters. Like shy guys but with...spears."
"...hhheheh, I see, guess they're not exactly friendly huh?"
"Theeeey can be a bit territorial yeah. Actually, why don't we go see the village chief?!"
"Really? Can we?"
"Sure! He's a really approachable guy, real nice and real wise. Come on!"
Heading back towards the fishing area outside of the village, James and Koopin gazed towards the sea to notice on particular rocky outlet, which in turn had three rocks set upon it like two chairs and a table. Two yoshis sat opposite each other. One lean and of a light chocolatey-brown. The other green and fat, complete with armbands and a feather on his head. The two newcomers approached the plump yoshi.
"Ahhhh welcome," said the green one, "welcome to Yoshi's Village. I am the village leader, how may I assist you?"
"Hello sir," said Koopin with reverence, "my name is Koopin Kennidon, I-"
"Ah yes, the annual tour guide traveller."
"Y-you remember me?!"
His voice was incredibly mellow, his tired-looking eyes showing a rather laid-back nature that perfectly exemplified a slow methodical mind.
"You visit every year to see if there are any news with your organisation. It is good to see you again Mr. Kennidon."
"Th-thank you sir! OH, this is James Campbell, he's a traveller from far away."
"Pleasure to meet you sir," said James with a bow.
"The pleasure is mine stranger," replied the chieftain. "You are a most unique individual, where do you hail from?"
"I'm from an island far away, like REAL far away, called Chicago."
"Hmmm...that is new to me, I have not heard of such a place...have you heard of a place?"
"Nope," said his brown yoshi friend, "not a peep! But hope you enjoy your stay here!"
"Oh I am," said James. "This place is...well...damn it's just so nice and friendly! I mean, even more than the mainland that is."
The chieftain laughed with a deep slow chortle.
"Ha ha ha, well I am glad to see that your first impression of us is good! But I sense that perhaps your visit is not entirely pleasure...is it?"
Koopin looked nervously up at the village leader, gently pressing a finger from each hand of his together as he tried to be polite.
"Well...thing is...hey, James, show him the map."
"He might know something, he IS the wisest of the yoshis around here."
With no reason not to, the raptor pulled out his tattered map and placed it on the stone table before the village chief. The portly yoshi carefully examined it, taking care not to strain its already-questionable condition with his chubby fingers, poring over each of the locations upon it.
"This map is outdated," was his first estimate.
"We know sir," said James.
"The Beanbean Kingdom is not listed, neither is Rogueport other than this little squiggle-"
"These...stains, whatever they may be-"
"Those I thought were maybe a clue to guide us around the kingdom for something."
"Well...I do not know any map that would be so...vague to give you clues in the form of smudges."
"Yeah...um...it WAS free. I was kind of looking for some sort of...anomalies that might be around here, I'm studying them and I really need to learn this kinda stuff for my research."
"Ha ha ha, at least you were not cheated out of THAT offer. But I am sad to say there have not been any strange anomalies within these islands, for the time being. The last strange occurrence was the eruption of Mt. Lavalava after Mario freed the Star Spirit within."
"But other than that...nothing in particular."
James merely shrugged, feeling rather used to finding dead ends repeatedly to the point that he wasn't minding it much, especially in this world. He felt as if any reason for him to stay longer within this world was good for him. Koopin however asked:
"Are the ravens still around sir?"
"Oh yes of course, they are still friends with us. But they do not speak to outsiders, unless they are of special note."
"...you think they could talk to James?"
"...hmmmm...if they deem him worthy of note, then perhaps. Feel free to speak to them, they sit within an old tree in the village itself. They monitor us for their leader, who I have met."
"Alrighty, let's try that James."
James grabbed Koopin's arm tenderly, turning towards him fully as he asked:
"...you sure we should bother more people about this?"
"Just so we can get it out of the way and enjoy the rest of the time here."
"Thanks for the help sir!"
The yoshi chieftain merely smiled, nodding humbly before returning to a conversation with the brown yoshi. The tree was near the village's immediate entrance, a red spring having been placed there for easier access to the top. Though James had to wonder why such a thing existed if only birds sat in trees. Koopin hopped up first, catapulting himself up to the very top of the tree with an uppercut-style jump, landing in the branches.
James followed hesitantly, hopping onto the spring and leaping up tremendously fast into the branches. All around him, in the midst of green leaves, sat several squat chubby little black birds, with yellow beaks and feet. Their white eyes gazed unblinking at the two newcomers. Koopin tried to make contact.
"Um...hello there sirs."
"Uh...can you guys understand me? Caw twice if you do."
"Is this really gonna work?" asked FG.
"Um, me and my friend here, we're looking for like, strange anomalies or such that might be happening in this island. Has anything weird happened, or anything we can do to help fix something? A problem, a predicament, something, here to help! Caw once for yes, twice for no please."
"Oh...so...you don't need any help from either of us?"
"Okay...um, sorry to bother you guys, thanks for taking your time. Bye now!"
With nothing else to say, James and Koopin hopped back down the tree, which was quite a drop despite the spring somehow helping them bounce lightly off onto the ground below. James merely sighed, rubbing his snout tiredly.
"Feel like I'm never gonna find out what I need."
"Aw don't feel bad, we might get that job from Kolorado soon! Oh man, if I get that job, that'd be a GREAT thing to have on my qualifications!"
"...you already have a job."
"But I might get paid more, or get bigger duties, if I had someone like Professor Kolorado giving me a good report! He might even take you along since you said you were a bodyguard!"
"I can handle enemies pretty well yeah...did I ever show you these?"
The raptor pulled out the two sticks from the back of his waist, twirling them like a drummer.
"Ooooh what are those?"
"Hammer handles. I picked 'em up in Dusty Dunes, I beat up that bandit with them. The guy selling them gave them to me too."
"Hah, cool! But...why did you take 'em?"
"Sometimes my scissors are a little too big for the job."
Koopin giggled at such an odd statement, but nodded in agreement as they decided to relax and enjoy the island atmosphere, remembering this was a vacation first and foremost after all. Koopin caught up with the yoshis and of their local news, the only thing of interest being a small wrestling tournament. According to Koopin:
"Yoshis are pretty athletic, they love to be active all the time with all kinds of sports! Wrestling, soccer-"
"It's football, not soccer."
"...that's what YOU call it?"
And about everyone else outside of America, thought FG silently.
"Oh, cool, well they love wrestling, soccer, athletics, even golf!"
"...that's gonna be a tough game on an island."
"Hehehe, well they play it on the courses in the kingdom obviously."
"Riiiight. So what are they best at?"
"Mostly athletics, running an' jumping, they're REAL good jumpers, they have this pretty amazing technique!"
Koopin went further to explain the anatomy of a yoshi. From the super-long dexterous tongue which FG terrible ideas, to the strange chicken-like method they had of laying both fertilised and unfertilised eggs. Unfertilised eggs they would even use for self-defence, which were apparently created very quickly as an almost instantaneous replica of an actual egg, the shell being very thin for aerodynamic purposes. It was also linked to their absurdly-high metabolism, which in itself was a great mystery.
James also learnt of their greater athleticism by the way they could simply hover in the air for short periods of time, by simply kicking their legs absurdly fast to create an extra puff of air underneath them. This gave FG an intriguing idea to experiment with later concerning his own nano-abilities.
Night time soon came, and with it came a campfire meet of all the yoshis of the tribe, as well as some of the tourists who wanted to witness some native-style wrestling. Koopin explained how Yoshi Wrestling worked, as the spectators sat around the outside of a large circular ring made in the grassy sand.
"It's a lot like normal wrestling, but with one major difference. If you fall onto your knees, or if you fall at all, then you lose. The opponents have to push and punch and kick each other either out of the ring, or until one of 'em falls down. You can't throw sand or dirt, do jump attacks or use outside implements. You have to use your own body in whatever way you can, while standing on the ground."
"Huh, kinda like sumo wrestling."
"It's like this only really fat Japanese people wrestle."
James bowed with his eyes closed, making Koopin smirk as they saw the two opponents step into the ring. In the firelight of a warm island night, he could see the muscles were more pronounced on these two than on most regular yoshis. Two young adult males, one green and one light-blue, both of whom had incredibly strong-looking legs. The village leader sat upon a rock at the circle, a small row of drums lined up along one side of the arena as he proclaimed:
"Tonight we witness a great event! Two members of our tribe, about to enter the cusp of adulthood, must prove their strength against each other. Do you both understand the rules of this engagement?"
Both combatants nodded with a "Yes sir".
"Did you come to prove your strength, your intelligence, your cunning, to represent your tribe?"
"Then I wish you both best, Yoshino and Cyrushi. Whoever shall fall first...can always try again another day when they have grown more in wisdom and strength. BEGIN!"
The battle began, the drums soon played a tribal rhythm that tapped into their people's hearts, as both yoshis charged into each other with a good grappling of arms. Smooth scaled fingers clasped tightly upon the other's upper arms. At first it became a pushing match, both of them gauging the other's strength as they forced harder, boots causing grooves within the scrubland grass.
The green one, known as Yoshino, backed away with a hard shove, pushing Cyrushi away as he swung out with a hammerfist, smacking the cyan-coloured foe hard across the snout. A small bruise started to show, but Cyrushi countered with a spinning kick, smacking forwards hard with his booted foot. James had to wonder why in a fighting sport they would even be allowed to wear them, but he nevertheless kept quiet amidst the shifting of the grass and the pounding of drums.
Yoshino swung out hard once again, spinning himself closer towards Cyrushi only to receive a roundhouse kick to the face. The boot barely missed his green bulbous snout, when Yoshino pulled back a little more, stepping onto his back foot before bullrushing forwards with a head charge straight into the gut. Cyrushi wheezed from the blow, panting as he sidestepped into a spin, smacking his green foe with two swinging fists.
Yoshino wasn't handling himself well from the apparent greater strength of his light-blue opponent, but he shook his head clear of the welting bruises of his face, a black eye now showing as he readily sidestepped closer. Cyrushi wasn't letting him get close, making a stand in the sand as he bent low to the ground and headbutted upwards, straight into the green yoshi's chin. James winced as he imagined hearing a crack of the jaw, as Yoshino started to fall backwards.
But he wasn't out yet, when he quickly shot out his tongue straight towards his opponent, and wrapped it hard around Cyrushi's leg. Cyrushi panicked, trying not to fall over from the slick tongue coiling like a python around his thigh, as Yoshino pulled himself back onto both feet before smacking the blue yoshi with his tongue. That made his foe rather mad, and soon Yoshino would pay for it when a sudden bullcharge came.
As much as the green yoshi tried to block or evade this move, Cyrushi was smart enough to use his own tongue as payback, wrapping it around one of Yoshino's legs as his mouth met up with it. A brutal headbutt into the gut made Yoshino unable to stand, the young inexperienced yoshi soon crumbling onto the ground with a restrained whimper. The drums stopped. The crowd cheered for the victor, a cyan smooth hand lifted up with victory.
"The winner!" proclaimed the village chief. "His strength and wisdom has earned him that title! To the defeated, I only ask that you try harder, and try another day with hope and spirit."
Yoshino nodded as he slowly got up, panting heavily from the bruised stomach as he was carefully escorted out of the ring. James was impressed by the wrestling, with Koopin smiling even moreso at the whole thing as he said:
"It's so awesome to be here whenever they have a wrestling match!"
"Hehehe, this happen often?"
"Not that much no. Always feel lucky when I time my vacation just right to see it, it's an awesome thing to see two young strapping yoshis duke it out in a battle of wits and brawn."
"U-uh! I mean, well, yeah, look at the muscles!"
"Was it just those muscles you were looking at?"
James smirked teasingly at Koopin, who merely stammered and started to blush. The raptor chuckled and patted him on the shell.
"Hhhhhaaha I'm joking come on, you clearly enjoyed watching."
"Well, I love wrestling, what can I say?"
"Oh yeah! I love the mixed techniques, the thrill of the arena, the slam of the canvas-"
"-the rippling muscles covered in sweat."
Some of the newcomers looked at James and Koopin curiously, having not heard what they were discussing, which gave Koopin enough time to recompose himself.
"A-a-anyway, yes, I do appreciate seeing new styles being used around the world besides Toad-Kwon-Do."
"Well hey, fair enough, kung-fu's cool to look at."
"Oh totally! ...maybe I can show you what I know one day?"
"Sure, when we got nothing else to do, maybe later even?"
"Nah not tonight, it's getting late, we should rest up at the Toad House."
James nodded as him and Koopin headed towards the cabana-style inn to sleep off. He didn't even consider making a move on his koopa friend due to the rather open wall-less nature of the inn. Thankfully it was a warm night, with warm green beds of sturdy island wood allowing a rather strange but soothing night. The sounds of the jungle calmed James down, as a memory began flitting faintly in his mind.
The stars glinted down from above his head, the swaying of tropical plants above scaly bark calming down his addled mind. He could feel others nearby, other creatures the same as him. Brown shadows resting in the dirt, warm scales against his own. He found himself soon standing, sprinting out towards the lake shore. The moon glinted high above the water, infinite and blue to the point of blackness.
The water smelt strange to him, not clear and translucent like it should be, but somehow filthier. A thicker pungent scent started to throb from the wettened drift of the sandy lake shore, making him look down. Blood began to darken the water before him, spreading out and dissipating. He couldn't stop himself from bending down to reach into the source of the newly-formed puddle within the water.
A scent he could recognise, but he could not pinpoint where. Reaching further inside, he felt something solid. It started to pull back, making him pull away from it as he started to struggle. The raptor shrieked and snarled, trying to form words, begging the bloody pool to let him go. The moment he found his hand coming out of the water, he saw what had been trying to pull him. Another hand, exactly like his own.
Morning soon came. But FG's dream had faded away into the morning breeze of southern seas, leaving nothing more than a strange shiver deep inside of him.