When Yi’s dad died, it hit everyone hard. A constant and joyful presence in the building was just gone in an instant. While the death itself was horrible, the ripple effect it caused was no joke either. The once open and outgoing Yi withdrew from the world and started keeping everyone around her at arm’s length. Her mother and her grandmother did what they could to help her, but Yi didn’t make it easy. She kept busy at all hours of the day, only coming home to sleep. When she was home, she kept herself locked away in her room.
Her friends weren’t spared the distance, either.
Yi, Jin, and Peng had lived in that building for their whole lives. They grew up together. Jin was a few months older than Yi, but both had visited Peng in the hospital when he was born. So when Yi started to shut them out of her life, they took it hard.
Peng was optimistic. He still laughed and joked with her when he could, asking her to hang out or play basketball like they used to. She turned him down every time, but making her smile was enough.
Jin pretended not to care. As Yi isolated herself and pushed them away, he did little to stop her. If they met on the streets and he was out with his friends, she was usually spared no more than a glance. If they met in the halls they would trade jabs, but Jin’s heart wasn’t in it. Their dynamic had changed entirely. It was almost cold now. Jin had pushed the thought away. He had plenty of other friends anyway, so why let it bother him? Still, Jin could feel that there was a vacancy that his new friends couldn’t fill. After all, Yi had been his friend for their entire lives. It wasn’t as easy as Jin had hoped to replace her.
And then they found a Yeti on Yi’s roof and their lives changed.
For a moment, Jin forgot that he was supposed to keep his distance. Yi was in trouble, there was this thing on her roof and he was not about to watch it hurt her. And then she was gone, carried away by the yeti and in some crazy chase across the city. Jin didn’t hesitate in chasing after her. Yi was his friend and she was in danger, and there was no way he was just going to leave that be.
It wasn’t until after he’d landed on the boat that he remembered. They weren’t friends anymore. They weren’t friends and yet he’d chased her all the way across the city and onto a boat going who knows where, and now Peng was wrapped up in their mess too. So yeah, Jin was a little angry. Angry at Yi for being reckless, angry at Peng for jumping on the boat, angry at the creature for taking Yi in the first place. Angry at himself for forgetting and chasing after her.
He forgot again after they’d tumbled off of the truck. He’d tried to help her up out of the soda cans. She’d pushed him away and he recovered quickly. He reminded himself again that they weren’t friends. And that night he was frustrated.
“-unlike you, I like having friends. I’m not some kind of a-a…”
“Loner?” Yi cut in, sitting up from her spot on the ground. “Is that what you were going to say?”
Jin was starting to regret this immediately. This wasn’t how he wanted this conversation to go.
“Well, for your info, I’m a self-proclaimed loner,” she continued. “There’s a difference, okay?”
Time to play a different card. “Fine, because in the morning, Peng and I are headed back to the city,” Jin said confidently. Sure, Yi was a ‘self-proclaimed loner’ now, but she couldn’t really like being alone. Besides, this little ‘trip’ they’d managed to put themselves on wasn’t exactly safe. She’d have to come with them.
“I- I can’t leave him,” she said, almost hesitant.
Jin froze, turning back around to look at her. “Yi,” he started, his tone almost concerned. Almost. She couldn’t be serious, right?
“You’ve seen what he can do,” she cut in. “He’s- he’s amazing! He’s… he’s magical.”
“Oh, so now he’s a magical yeti,” Jin cut back, mocking. “Do you realize how crazy you sound?” This was insane. Jin almost expected to wake up from a dream at any moment, but he knew better. Yi was too frustrating to be a dream.
And now Yi was comforting the yeti. “Don’t worry. I will make sure you get home.”
“What are you gonna do?” Jin asked, marching towards them. “Take him all the way back to Mount Everest?”
“Maybe I am,” she cut back, defensive. Her face softened a little and Jin leaned back. “Jin, he needs to get back to his family.”
“And what about your family? Don’t they need you, too?” He scoffed, growing more frustrated. ”Always busy, never home. What’s that all about, Yi?”
Yi stood up, stepping around the yeti. “Don’t talk to me about family,” she warned, but her eyes were wide. “You have no idea. No idea. Your…” she took a quick, shallow breath, pointing at Jin’s chest before moving back a step. “Your life is so easy, Jin. Do you even… do you even want to be a doctor, or do you just think that you’ll-- I don’t know-- you’ll look good in white?”
Jin worked to school his face into as neutral a mask as he could. “All right. Call me shallow all you want.” He gave his former friend a disappointed glance over before turning around and walking back to the other end of the clearing. “At least I’m not delusional.”
“I don’t care if you think I’m crazy,” Yi said, shoving past him.
Jin sighed and rolled his eyes. Somehow the most frustrating part was that he knew that was true. She really didn’t care. “You’re impossible.” he huffed, taking a spot on the ground. But by the time he curled up on the grass, he didn’t have it left in him to be angry. The frustration was gone, and in its place was a vaguely blue hollow. It took him a while to fall asleep.
When Jin woke up, he thought for sure he was still dreaming. That was the only time he ever heard a violin anymore. He had actually curled up a little more, trying to hold onto it for a little longer. And then he realized that it wasn’t a dream. He sat up slowly and looked around the clearing. Peng was still sprawled on the ground and snoring gently. Yi and the yeti were gone.
Jin got up and started walking quietly towards the sound. He stopped at the edge of the treeline, seeing Yi sitting on a rock a decent distance away. It took him a moment to truly process it. Yi hadn’t played the violin since her dad died. At least, not that anyone knew it, anyway. And now she was sitting on a rock next to an impossible creature, silhouetted against the gorgeous sunrise.
He sat down quietly. She’d stop if she knew he was there, and that just didn’t feel right. He wasn’t sure how long he sat and watched, but he didn’t realize he was smiling until Peng wandered over. The smile vanished the moment Peng started to walk towards Yi. He caught his cousin’s shoulder and pulled him back. It worked for a moment, but then Peng took another step forward and a stick snapped. The moment was over.
“Wait! Don’t stop. It’s really good,” Peng said, walking farther out of the trees. “Your Nai Nai said you stopped playing when your dad died.”
And then Peng told her that he had really liked her dad and for a moment Yi looked so small. There really was nothing else for it.
“Well,” Jin started lightly, “we better head out if we’re gonna make it to the Yangtze River.” He put his hands on his hips and smiled at Yi. Her face lit up in hope and for a moment Jin wondered why he thought it was worth it to fight over this.
His smile grew a little and he flipped his phone out of his pocket. “Yeah. I checked, and Dahe village has boats leaving for the city every hour.”
And then Yi and Peng were flying through the sky on a giant dandelion and Jin was left alone with the people they’d been running from. “All right, look. I-I just need to find my cousin and my friend,” he hesitated, sweeping his hand over his hair. “And get ‘em back to the city in one piece.” If these people could promise him that, what was the harm? The old man seemed a little crazy but Dr. Zara seemed genuine enough.
Staying with Mr. Burnish and his employees that night wasn’t all bad. While the old man still seemed a little crazy, he didn’t seem quite as bad as Jin had thought. He tried to settle in for the night, but he couldn’t relax enough to really sleep. Yi and Peng were god-knows-where and he had no way of knowing if they were okay. He finally decided he’d just go back outside. And then there was that snake in his bed… Jin tried not to wonder how long it had been there.
He was going to go sit by the fire when he heard Dr. Zara talking. But it was strange, she didn’t seem to have her british accent anymore, and- oh no. Oh, that wasn’t good. Jin had sold their destination out to a crazy woman who was determined to catch a yeti at any cost. And Jin had a pretty good idea what she meant when she said to take care of the kids permanently. Rescued rodent in hand, he delivered it to Mr. Burnish. Clearly he was the better of the two expedition heads. Now left with the captain’s keys, he moved to pick out his getaway vehicle.
With one bike destroyed and the keys gone, Jin just started charging through the forest. He ruined his shoes, he ruined his sweater, and he ruined his hair, but he was alive and he was moving. A trade later and he had a boat and he was down a phone, but he’d make it to Dahe. He had to find Yi and Peng before Burnish and Zara did.
And then he did find them, and not a moment too soon. But really, an amphibious vehicle? That’s cheating. But the giant rice field wave? That was pretty cool, up until they all wiped out. Jin never thought he’d be afraid to drown in leaves and flower petals. And then for a terrifying moment, Jin thought Peng was hurt. But he was okay, and Jin had a moment of relief. They were all okay. They’d escaped Burnish and they were okay.
And then the yeti- Everest, barfed up a veritable sea of petals into Jin’s face and he was back to tired and disgusted.
And then they saw the violin, and it was over. Yi was devastated and suddenly she looked so small again. But Yi ran off before anyone could do anything. When Jin finally found the courage to follow her, he found her on a rock in the middle of a bamboo forest. He didn’t know what much else to do besides listen, so that’s what he did. Yi finally opened up a little, finally started talking to him again. It felt almost like maybe things could go back to the way they were. But Jin kept quiet and he listened.
“Yi, I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I’m- I’m sorry for what I said. Too busy, never home. I…”
“No,” Yi said, cutting him off. She stood up and walked a few steps. “No, you’re right. I… I know I keep busy. I just… I don’t know why.” She sighed, but she didn’t turn around to face him. “I mean, I… I miss him, and I don’t want to miss him, but… I haven’t even cried yet, Jin.”
Yi finally spun around to face him and his eyes widened at the admission.
She turned away again. “And my family, we’re all so distant, and I…” she groaned, shaking her hands in front of her. “I don’t know.” She wrapped her arms around herself and looked at her feet. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, are you sure they’re the ones who are distant?” Jin asked softly. She turned around for a moment and he smiled. “But you were right about me, too,” he said, soft and light. “Yeah, hate to admit it, but,” Jin stood up and walked towards his friend, a smile growing wider on his face. “I mean, that thought about looking good in the white doctor’s coat, it did cross my mind,” he said, making a small winky face as he stepped forward. “I am a horrible, horrible person.” He straightened up and put his face towards the sky, screwed up in some approximation of a shame-faced monster.
He heard Yi start to giggle and he opened an eye to watch her. Satisfied that she was out of her funk for the moment, he let his hands fall back to his sides and relaxed, an easy grin on his face.
“Yeah, you are the worst,” she agreed softly, smiling as she turned back to face him again.
“I really… I am.” Jin’s smile tugged harder at the corner of his mouth. There was more light in her eyes now and she didn’t look nearly so small. But the time for jokes was over. He had something to tell her about Burnish and Dr. Zara, and she wasn’t going to like it.
Jin was right. She didn’t like the news at all. Honestly, he counted it as a small miracle that Yi wasn’t upset with him about it. She’d understood why he told them, he guessed. And in his defense, they’d made a pretty good case for themselves. Jin almost regretted telling her, watching her shrink a little back into herself at the thought of the danger they were all in.
The light didn’t stay away long. Everest and Peng managed to fix the violin, and it seemed like Yi was back in full force. Better, even. Jin could see glimmers of the Yi he’d known all his life shining through. Between the old Yi and the new Yi, it was a sight to see.
And when they climbed the Leshan Buddha, they got to see it again. Yi shut out the world and just played the violin. She poured her heart and her soul into the strings and the bow. The music she made was so beautiful that even the sky seemed to cry. Before, Jin would have denied that such a thing was even possible, but he knew better now. The strings were made of Everest’s hair and, well, it was Yi.
Flowers burst from the moss where the raindrops landed and the sun broke through the clouds. Yi, the flowers, the music, the buddha. It was beautiful.
As they climbed up the stairs to leave, Jin stopped her.
She turned to look at him, the look on her face just a little quizzical. Jin stared at her for a long moment. It was clear that the Yi standing in front of him was changing. She wasn’t quite the old Yi, but she wasn’t the new one either. She was something between them, someone stronger and fiercer and somehow more her. Jin smiled and pressed a flower into her hand. “We are so going to the Himalayas,” he said confidently. He gave her his best determined grin before turning to chase after Everest and Peng.
They found a plateau filled with dead willow trees as night fell and the stars began to glitter in the sky. Between Yi and Everest, one tree quickly bloomed back to life with beautiful pink petals. They rested for a while before continuing on their way. They had places to be and crazy people to outrun, after all.
They made it to the bridge to Mount Everest and the end was finally in sight. Once Everest was home, he’d be safe from Burnish and Dr. Zara. They were barely halfway across when it all fell apart.
Helicopters moved to cut them off, landing at the opposite end of the bridge. They turned to run back where they’d come, only to see Burnish and his men cutting them off at the other end. They were trapped and Burnish security was closing in from both sides.
Everest charged to the top of the bridge supports and began to humm, the sky lighting up like the northern lights had come to stay. Wind howled and thunder cracked, beating back the goons at the start of the bridge. But then they fired and Everest stumbled. The storm stopped and Jin, Peng, and Yi watched as Everest began to fall. Yi’s scream was terrible. She ran forward as if to catch him and Jin was too late to try and stop her, electing instead to follow.
The yeti was barely on the flat boards of the bridge before the three of them were being restrained by Burnish’s employees. They tried to get loose, but they were being held by adults a good deal stronger than each of them. Yi finally managed it and tried to stop Dr. Zara. Peng and Jin watched helplessly as they fought, calling out her name. The cousins had just been forced into the car when they watched Zara push Yi from the bridge.
They pounded against the car, screaming. No, no no no. Not Yi. It can’t be, not Yi. The cars started to pull away, taking Everest, Peng, and Jin away from the bridge. Away from Yi. Away from the open violin case on the bridge, alone and forgotten.
The boys were torn from their panic by light in the sky converging from the bridge. Jin and Peng breathed a sigh of relief as purple light wrapped around Everest. It could only mean one thing. And then there was a roar as Everest woke up, his body glowing with blue light as he broke the cage and sent it tumbling free of the car and down the mountain side. With a sweep of his big hands, ice began to shoot up from the road, trapping the transport vehicles and alerting them all to his escape.
Jin was too wrapped up in the desperate belief that Yi was still alive. He couldn’t be absolutely sure until he saw it, but it was Yi. Indomitable, unstoppable Yi.
They didn’t have time for wallowing. The boys braced as the car crashed against the ice, finally getting a good look at Everest as Zara got out of the car. Jin wasted no time in trying to wake up Mr. Burnish. Only another moment and they were all free of the car, Yi sliding down some of Everest’s ice to meet them.
Peng was the first to reach her, almost tackling her in a quick hug. Jin reached out as if to hug her, but since she was already busy, he stood back. Yi grinned at him and put her hand on his, giving him all the reassurance he needed that she really was okay. They turned to face Everest, all amazed and thankful they were okay.
But behind the yeti, ice began to fly as a black transport truck smashed into view. It turned and plowed into Everest, crashing into the snowy mountain wall. The wall began to crack and Jin hastily pulled them all back a few steps, putting himself between his friends and the avalanche. The transport was swept from the pass and off the mountain.
When the snow settled, Mr. Burnish, Jin, Yi, and Peng ran to the edge of the road, looking for any sign of the yeti. Burnish and Duchess spotted him first, standing right behind them. The reunion was happy and brief.
“Now, can I please help you get back to the city?” Burnish asked, clearly more than willing to make up for all the trouble he’d caused them over the last few days.
“Thank you, but…” Yi started, sharing a glance with Jin. Jin shook his head with a smile, already knowing where she was going with this. “I promised to take Everest home,” she continued, turning back to Mr. Burnish. “And he’s not home yet.”
Mr. Burnish seemed to consider it for a moment. “You’re going to take Everest all the way back to Everest? That is impossible.”
“Sir, with all due respect, when Yi sets her mind on something,” Jin started, shooting his friend a small smile, “nothing is impossible.”
The old man caved, but insisted on giving them coats to ward off the cold on the mountains. Not even the previous owners of the coats complained.
Peng looked out towards the Everest’s peak. “Guys, it sure is a long way up there,” he called.
Jin’s eyes widened as an idea struck him. “Everest?” he prodded, turning to the yeti with a grin.
The yeti began to hum, summoning clouds from the sky to greet them.
“Alright,” Jin challenged, bouncing up and down. “Bring it!”
The clouds enveloped them all and before they knew it, they were soaring through the sky on the backs of giant cloud-fish. They flew through the clouds, painted by the sunset. Bright pinks and oranges contrasted with the deep blue and the growing purple of the evening sky. Like the persevering koi, they flew through a river of swirling clouds as they approached the peaks of the mountain range.
It felt like they landed on Mount Everest too soon. They followed after the yeti as he trudged through the snow, looking around the vast peak for something they couldn’t see. Everest began to hum and his voice was quickly joined by many. Giant yetis began to appear, walking slowly towards their young kin and the three human kids. The three of them watched in awe.They said their goodbyes and gave the yeti one last hug.
The trip back down the mountain was largely uneventful, but that wasn’t to say it was boring. While they were all sad to be leaving Everest, they were also so incredibly happy. They’d just been on an incredible journey together. Sure it started out rough, and maybe the middle was rough, and well, maybe the end was too, but it was more than just the struggles. They’d learned a lot, seen a lot, and done a lot together. And besides, they had to get their stories straight for when they returned home. After all, their families thought they were visiting universities in Beijing. Now they’d have to explain why Jin needed a new phone.
The journey back home was equally as calm. They talked with Mr. Burnish and got to know him some more. Jin had already heard about why the man wanted a yeti, but there was more to a person than one story. The man regaled them all with tales of his various adventures and promised he’d help them out if they ever decided to strike out on their own journeys.They all had a sneaking suspicion that they would end up taking him up on that offer before too long. They’d seen too much to stop and stay still now.
Burnish dropped them off at their building and the three of them wasted no time getting inside. Peng and Jin watched Yi dart up the stairs towards her home before making their way to theirs.
A few hours later and the boys were ringing Yi’s doorbell. Nai Nai was making pork buns and they were invited. Yi’s family wanted to hear all about their trip, after all. Why deny them? Jin and Peng brought in a large package that Mr. Burnish must have sent over while they were still in their homes telling their own families about their ‘trip to Beijing’. The three quickly opened it in the corner, finding some equipment perfect for adventuring. Yi’s mom called out to them and the box was quickly closed and hidden.
“Hey, kids, how was Beijing?”
“Oh, it was, um…” Jin started, struggling for a moment with what to say. “Life-changing,” he said at last, sharing a knowing look with his cousin and his friend. That was hardly the tip of the iceberg, but it was the truth.
True to their word, the three of them started hanging out more often. Yi started opening back up to her family, both born and made. Jin started caring less about his social life and status outside of them. They’d not been as genuine as he’d tried leading himself to believe anyway. They had always been there to fill some kind of hole that he couldn’t pin down.
Yi started playing the violin for people again. She replaced the yeti-hair strings though, putting them away where they’d be safe. She didn’t exactly want to start using yeti magic whenever she played. Yi and Jin started playing basketball with Peng again. He was honestly starting to get really good, not that he’d ever been bad to begin with. He still had a disadvantage because of his height, but Peng made it work.
Peng finally convinced Nai Nai to share the secrets of her pork buns with him. Jin estimated that his cousin would either become a basketball star like he dreamed or he’d discover a passion for running a pork bun business. It was honestly pretty close to a 50/50 chance in his mind, and Yi agreed. Peng’s love for pork buns was a powerful force to be reckoned with.
It wasn’t long before the three of them started planning their next journey. Between all of the equipment Mr. Burnish had given them and their newfound drive, it was only a matter of when. They had a lot of things they wanted to see, and China was a big place. Not to mention the world outside of China.
They were hanging out on the roof one evening when they saw a cloud fish in the sky. Peng had been so excited he nearly fell off the roof. There was no doubt about who sent it.
Yi went back to work and saved enough for her family to finally go together on that trip. Jin and Peng helped when they could, taking odd jobs or running errands when they could find them. It was finally the start of a new chapter in their lives, and you know what? Things were looking good.