Patricia the Turtle, the oldest inhabitant of the island where Li had been stranded some years ago, now welcomed her unexpected guests warmly.
Li’s brothers, who had come with him to visit, were fascinated by the island. They had never left home before and were amazed by the variety of unfamiliar plants.
They looked longingly at the ripe fruit on the trees that smelled so enticing. Of course, Patricia noticed.
“Ah yes, I wish I could offer you some of this delicious fruit to try,” she said. “Unfortunately, they made Li sick when he was here last time. It took an elaborate ‘magic potion’ to help him get back on his feet. I’m sure you remember that, Li.” She looked over at him and winked.
“And I remember it well!” he said. “That’s why we brought a lot of bamboo this time. You can’t have any more visitors with stomachaches,” he said with a laugh.
The two brothers nodded that they understood and continued to look around. They couldn’t get enough of the colorful flowers and plants.
Suddenly, a bird appeared above their heads, cawing loudly. He said, “Is that really you, Li? You’re back! I have to let everyone know!”
It turned out not to be necessary because the parrot was so loud that the monkeys had already come over to see what the commotion was about. They circled the visitors curiously and patted Li’s broad shoulders, amazed at how much he had grown. The monkeys were loud enough that more and more animals joined them from within the depths of the island.
A tiger slowly emerged from behind a bush and greeted Li and his brothers coolly.
The fox came up slowly, sniffed at the panda bears and said, “It’s so good to see old friends. And you even brought reinforcements!”
Suddenly, they all heard a loud trumpeting sound and the ground started to shake beneath them. Li’s brothers began to feel a little queasy.
Then, out of the thickest part of the forest, three huge elephants emerged, waving their trunks in a friendly manner at the visitors.
This parade of island dwellers went on for some time until Patricia and the pandas were surrounded by a huge group of animals.
Li was beaming. He was so happy that everyone recognized him and was glad to see him. He passed around some small gifts he had brought from his island and shared the greetings sent from his friends and family back home.
He told the story of finding their message in a bottle and how it had inspired him to visit and see everyone again. Then he introduced his big brothers, explaining how they had wanted to see the island for themselves and hadn’t wanted Li to make the dangerous journey alone.
Then everyone started talking at once, asking questions about what had happened since they last saw each other. Patricia took the floor to restore order.
“Li, did you notice anything different when you landed on our island?”
“Oh, yes,” Li replied. “We couldn’t find a spot to dock our boat without having to wade through several feet of water.”
The islanders nodded sadly.
“In my memory,” Li continued, “The island was surrounded by a wide, sandy beach. And when we first landed, it was so quiet, I wondered if anyone even lived here anymore at all. What happened?”
“Your memory is not wrong,” explained Patricia. “Our island was indeed surrounded by a wide beach. For the past two years we have been hit by many violent hurricanes and the high tide that rose as a result just won’t go down. It has already swallowed our beach and we fear that it will not get any better.”
“We want to help! What can we do?” asked Li.
“We really appreciate that,” said Patricia. “Many of us are so busy moving our homes to higher regions of the island that we rarely see each other. That’s why everything seems so quiet. Plus, the older of us can’t or won’t leave our homes.”
“I, myself, can’t move,” Patricia continued, “because, as you know, I’m not exactly the fastest creature, and going up and down the hill would take far too long. What we really need is an idea for how to stop the water from rising further.”
Patricia shook her head and said, “But let’s forget about our worries for now. A distraction will be good for us all. What do you say we celebrate your arrival with a little party?”
“Oh yes!” trumpeted the elephants. The monkeys drummed against the tree trunks, the lion roared, the parrot squawked and the giraffes stamped their hooves. It was a resounding show of enthusiasm and the three brothers joined in happily.
They set a large table and everyone contributed something to eat. The pandas offered some of their fresh bamboo shoots.
Everyone laughed and told stories as they ate. Then many of the animals wanted to show off their new homes.
When the group reached the top of the highest mountain, where only a few goats lived, Li thought about the rocks that were coming loose beneath his feet as he walked.
“That’s it!” he shouted. “How many mountains do you have on this island?”
“Just this one,” a monkey answered.
“Hmm, that won’t be enough,” said Li.
“What won’t be enough?” Patricia asked.
“I have an idea and it just might work!” said Li. “If we all help out and find enough big rocks, we could build a dike around your island so not all of you would have to move. The dike would help keep the water level down.”
“That’s right!” said Li’s brother. “Let’s get started right away!”
“Hold on. We thought of that, too,” said an elephant. “It’s a very good idea. The problem is that we don’t have enough big rocks on the island.”
That night, the three pandas couldn’t sleep. They were trying to think of how they could help. Just as the sun was coming up, they found a solution!
The next day, they shared their plan with Patricia and the other inhabitants of the island. Everyone was ready to get started. It wouldn’t be easy, but they could manage it if they worked together.
On Li’s home island, there were countless rocks, as far as the eye could see, and in all sizes. The big challenge was to transport them from one island to the other.
But there was a solution for that, too.
Between the two islands, there was plenty of wood for building rafts which they could use to transport the stones. The plan was to set up a ferry service and then they could get started building the dike.
They sat down together and distributed tasks to all the helpers.
Patricia and Li wrote a letter to Li’s home island and the parrot offered to deliver it.
When the parrot returned with a positive reply, everyone knew that their plan would work.
“I knew it! I knew it!” Li rejoiced. The pandas set off on their raft to collect the first batch of rocks.
After several weeks of back-and-forth transport, so many stones had arrived and been laid that the dike around the island had reached an impressive height.
The capybaras and dolphins worked below the water’s surface to provide a proper foundation.
As everyone gathered to unload the final raft and ceremoniously place the last stone onto the dike, they heard many voices in the distance. As the raft got nearer, the islanders saw a boat following it that was filled with many panda bears.
“I think we’re going to have more visitors!” said Patricia. Li and his brothers jumped for joy.