On the side of a small lake, a simple man was fishing off the end of a rickety dock. The lake was usually a clear blue, filled with many delicious fish. It was not so now. It was murky, tinted pink and red, the fish preferring to stay closer to the bottom, where the water was cleaner and lines could rarely reach. It meant the man would be lucky for even a small catch, but that would be enough. He lived alone on this shore, in his cabin up the hill, and had only himself to feed.
But today, it sounded like he had company. He heard the rat-tat-tat of wooden sandals clattering down the dock toward him and someone out of breath. Looking over his shoulder, he saw it was Yohei, the rice farmer who lived on the other side of the hill. He looked to be very excited, having apparently run all the way from his home.
"Hanaya!" Yohei called out, grinning widely. "Huff huff huff! Wondrous news! Wondrous things have happened! Huff huff!"
Hanaya put down his fishing rod and stood up slowly. His knees creaked with age, he smoothed out his long silver whiskers with a hand. "Does this news have anything to do with why I cannot easily catch a meal anymore?"
"Yes! Oh yes!" Yohei exclaimed, trying to catch his breath. "The sky has fallen! The ultimate constellation, great Star Beast itself, has been slain!"
"What? Are you certain?"
"On the grave of my grandfather, I swear to you! Word is spreading across the land, that the constellation fell out of the night sky, dragging the ghosts of our ancestors from heaven! That it crashed against the Stairs To The Skies, stole the Gong Ago that hung between them, then plunged under the mist to devoured half the valley!"
"Terrible tragedies!" Hanaya shouted, wide eyed with horror.
"The survivors speak such tales that would turn your blood cold! Teeth the size of palaces, ripping up streets and cities in single mouthfuls! The devastation was so vast that the Invisible Monks themselves descended the Stairs To The Skies to slay the beast... struck it down with a blow so mighty it darkened the skies and caused the monster to burst!"
"Yes! That is why your lake is so bloody, Hanaya. It is why your fish do not bite. It is the remains of their guiding stars, they are lamenting on the silt bottom."
Hanaya clasped his hands together, closed his eyes, and muttered a prayer of thanks to the Invisible Monks, the guardians of heaven that lived above the mist.
Yohei placed a hand on Hanaya's old shoulder with an excited grin. "There is more news."
"The gods have demanded a funeral! A great festivity in the valley! The guardians of heaven are to host the gods beyond space, to mourn the dead constellation! To this task, the Invisible Monks have sent messengers to all the rice farmers under the mist, to harvest all their crops for a magnificent feast!"
"So much food? Who for..."
"Look!" Yohei pointed out at the lake.
Standing on the water's surface were two half-visible figures, more like mirages than anything else. They stood with abnormally perfect posture, one wearing the oranges of a sunset for his etherial robes while the other had wrapped himself in the black of the night sky. The two men clapped their hands together, bowed their heads humbly, and closed their eyes, too much in awe to look directly at their divine visitors.
Hanaya blubbered through his veneration. "I am honoured to not gaze upon your righteous forms and welcome you to my simple home."
The invisible figures pulled out gongs of incredible metals and rung them in unison. When they spoke, they spoke with one voice, in harmony with the tone. "Sharkasaurus Rex, his rampages now over, the universe grieves." They rung their gongs a second time. "You have been summoned, to climb the Stairs To The Skies, to serve and attend." They rung their gongs a third time, then turned and faded completely from sight after taking a step and a half.
Hanaya and Yohei kept their heads bowed and eyes shut for a long count, until they were certain the holy messengers had gone. When they finally peeked, they grasped each other by the shoulder, slapping the other with vigorous congratulations.
"Haha! You were telling the truth! What news!" exclaimed Hanaya.
"Yes! Yes! Is it not exciting? To climb the Stairs To The Skies! To stand in the very presence of the living Dharma! To witness a gathering the which has only been told of in stories!" cheered Yohei.
"New stories have to be written, I think! You must tell me everything when you return!"
"I will not need to, old neighbour of mine! This was what I have run over the hill to tell you of! That divine calling was not for me. It was for you!"
Hanaya staggered back, a hand on his heart. "Me? But what place have I amongst the giants of time and space? I am but a mere..."
Yohei's grip of Hanaya's shoulders became solid, and he shook the old frame in overwrought seriousness. "Do not speak so! You are famous for your craft across the valley and across the continent and across Amity! Is it any wonder that the Invisible Monks, in all their meditations above the mists, have not heard of honourable Hanaya and his art? Who else would they have?"
Hanaya was shocked silent. He tugged at his beard. This was an amazing event, so much more than what he imagined his simple day would be like.
Yohei pulled Hanaya, leading him off the dock and toward the little cabin. "Come! Come! Get ahold of yourself, old fool! You must pack light and pack quickly! Over on the other side of the hill, my tired wife and my twenty-four children are overloading my cart with ever scrap of rice my farm can provide. You will ride with me, I will take us to the base of the mountain!"
And so, with constant prodding and rushing, the two of them eventually got to the farm over the hill. Yohei took a moment to kiss his wife goodbye and to hug every one of his two dozen younglings before both men boarded the dangerously full cart and started down the winding gravel road.
They travelled for days, over rolling hills of green grass, past lazily rolling rivers, through sparse bamboo forests. They slept under the cart at night, enjoying a meal of steamed pork buns and egg rolls.
"They say there is no such thing as wind," whispered Yohei as they watched the tops of trees swaying, "That it is the monks striding along the branches, each step as light as a thought."
As they crossed the countryside, they were joined by other carts, all equally loaded with bundles and bundles of freshly harvested rice. Everyone shared tales of recent visitations by the Invisible Monks, always in pairs, always a bright orange robe and a dull black robe.
Eventually, the growing caravan arrived at the mystic valley, nestled at the most perfect point on the equator. Flanking the thin land were two colossal peaks, said to be the tallest mountains on the entire world. Their tops disappeared up above the mists, rumoured to lean on the very gates of heavens. Only the Invisible Monks have climbed their dizzying heights, asking the stars and winds to teach them the secrets of inner peace.
"Look there!" called out Yohei, pointing to the end of the road. At the base of the mountain sat two great figures, taller and larger than any man. They were cross-legged, each on a perfectly round boulder across from one another, balanced and in holy harmony. One was a massive gecko like lizard, green as the richest of fields and radiating a warmth like a summer day. The other could nearly be his twin, a great lizard as grey as the thickest fog, commanding and cold like the start of a winter's evening.
The caravan came to a stop before them and, as a whole, disembarked and prostrated themselves before the sacrosanct guardians of their world.
"I bid you welcome!" said the green lizard with a peaceful grin and a bow of his head. "I am Brody Dharma."
"I bid you welcome," said the grey lizard in a passive tone and a practiced nod. "I am Andy Dharma."
"The Invisible Monks, the students of heaven, humbly thanks you for your swift assistance in this astounding event," said Brody. "With the final passing of a most venerated space-champion, it has been our honour to host guests from across vast spans of space and time. The Infinite School Of The Infinite Ocean see all forms of death as freedoms to be celebrated, not mourned, so we celebrate their beliefs by celebrating ourselves."
"We will eulogize as the great shark himself would; with a great feast," stated Andy, who gestured to the foot of the stone steps. "You and your fellow farmers will unload your wares at the base of our humble homes. From there, our students will whisk them up to a million great pots of boiling water. You will be handsomely rewarded for your tribute with payment in silver. Traded pound for pound for your rice."
The farmers looked upon them in shock. Silver! Enough to purchase all the land they ever wanted, to hire all the labour they craved, enough to make mansions of their clay and wooden shacks.
Yohei was the first to clap his hands and bow deeply. "A thousand appreciations on your house!" he exclaimed, they began hurriedly unloading his cart. The other farmers quickly shouted out praises and followed suit.
"And what of me?" asked Hanaya quietly of the holy lizards, yanking at his whiskers nervously.
"Ho ho ho! Why, you have the grandest honor of all... you will prepare Sharkasaurus Rex himself!"