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After my romp through the Dawning Valley, I continued on to the Dai-Lo Farmstead!
This beautiful place is the breadbasket of the Wandering Isle, and I read in the Great Library that the region's soil is some of the most fertile in the world. Dai-Lo itself is a small farming community near the Rows—long, winding tracts of tilled land bursting with pumpkins, carrots, and other goodies.
All that ripe food sitting out in the open makes this area a prime target for annoying pests like virmen. Those furry critters will devour anything they can get their grubby little mitts on, but they especially love vegetables.
But virmen are just one of the problems at the farmstead. While taking me to Dai-Lo, the cart driver Lun told me about a group of hozen thieves that had snuck into the village and made off with a few sacks of rice and veggies. Normally, the tenacious monkeys kept to Fe-Fang Village in the northwestern part of the isle, but sometimes they would show up to cause trouble.
Don't get me wrong; I like hozen. They have their own captivating culture and customs. Hozen are crazy in a fun, lovable kind of way. But every so often they get a little too crazy.
I was shocked to learn that no one was trying to find the thieves. I guess with virmen snooping around, Dai-Lo's farmers didn't think losing a few bundles of food now and then was a big deal. The way I saw it, if the farmers let the hozen snatch their crops, the fur balls would just keep doing it. That was our food they were taking, and I wasn't going to sit back and allow them to get away with it!
Lun said the hozen were last seen heading through the forests north of the Rows, toward an area called the Singing Pools. It didn't take me long to find a trail of chewed-up carrot bits and discarded broccoli heads (I guess even hozen hate broccoli). I followed the trail into the secluded emerald forests surrounding the pools.
I've always enjoyed visiting the pools. They're serene and full of magic. I've spent a lot of time there, balancing atop narrow wooden poles that rise up through the water. Those training sessions are a big thrill, because falling in doesn't just mean you get wet. There's more to the waters than that.
See, over the years, all sorts of animals have died in the pools, and their spirits have merged with the enchanted waters. If you get wet... BAM! Next thing you know, you're hopping around as a frog or waddling through the mud as a turtle. There's even a pool infused with skunk spirits. After that curse wears off, you'll stink for days!
I took my time searching around, watching cubs leap from pole to pole under the guidance of a pandaren named Strongbo. He's a burly, no-nonsense fellow who's been one of my teachers for years. He has a good heart, but he's about as much fun to be around as a bucket of week-old fish bait. It's always Don't do that! with Strongbo... just like with my pop. They're both complete opposites of Uncle Chen.
Strongbo spotted me as I walked beside the pools, and he gave me the evil eye. He probably thought I was up to no good. (He was right, of course.) Luckily, he was too busy teaching the cubs to bother me.
Finally, I found the hozen thieves—five of them, to be exact. They were hanging around the shore of the skunk pool, pushing each other into the water. Whenever one of them fell in and briefly transformed, the rest would jump up and down, hooting and hollering like it was two-for-one night at the Ki-Han Brewery.
I saw what was left of the sacks of rice and veggies on a nearby hill, tucked behind a tree. The hozen were so busy with their game, they never noticed as I quietly approached the hiding spot for a better look at the goods. I crept closer and closer until the food was within arm's reach, and then... two fuzzy hozen babies popped up from behind the bags!
I hadn't expected the thieves to be a family. They must have taken the stuff to feed their young, so I couldn't bring myself to reclaim the food. But I could still get a little bit of revenge. I hurled one of the stolen pumpkins at the hozen near the pool, and then I raced off into the forest. From the big splash that followed, I figured I'd knocked at least a few of them in, although turning into a skunk probably made the hozen smell better than they normally did.
Well, it was about time I finally faced my fears. I gathered supplies in Dai-Lo, and then I was off to Pei-Wu Forest, the most dangerous and forbidden spot on all of the Wandering Isle!