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A general murmur of assent followed Chon Po's question, and the Elders fell to discussing more mundane matters.
Li Li hastily scrambled away from the door and scurried outside, ducking along the hedgerow until she was far from the Temple of Five Dawns. Her mind raced, analyzing what she'd overheard. The giant, magic pearl—the Pearl of Pandaria? Li Li sat down against a tree and tapped her chin with her fingertip. Zhahara had claimed the pearl was a powerful, ancient artifact. Li Li had been sure it was a myth, and so had both her father and Chen. But now...
The shadows began to lengthen in the grass beside her. Li Li jumped up and hurried home. Her father couldn't suspect anything, so she had to act normal, but her mind whirred away, brimming with ideas.
Late that night, Li Li crept silently down the stairs of her house. She tiptoed through the hall and timidly shut the front door behind her as she stepped outside. All that mattered was getting to the pearl. She had to see it for herself.
The Great Library never officially closed, and the little magic lanterns lining the hallway obligingly lit for her as Li Li hurried by. She guessed the pearl would be showcased with all the library's best collections, and she set off toward the display room.
Sure enough, the pearl sat proudly on a wooden pedestal in the middle of the floor, protectively covered by a glass casing. Li Li carefully lifted it away, placing it to the side.
The pearl was even larger than Li Li would have guessed, nearly as big around as a melon. Its opalescent sheen reflected the dim light in a kaleidoscope of muted pastel rainbows. Li Li stared, entranced by its unique beauty. Unable to resist, she placed her paws gently on either side of it and held it close to her face. The pearl was warm to the touch, and it hummed faintly with an energy all its own. As Wanyo had said, this thing was definitely magic.
"You showed Wanyo where to fish," she whispered at the pearl, "but what can you show me?"
As if on cue, the pearl started to shimmer softly, the colors reflected on the surface swirling together into a great pinwheeled vortex. Li Li's eyelids grew heavy, and she dropped them shut. When she opened them, she found herself surrounded by thick, silver-gray mist, no longer holding the pearl, feeling curiously as if she floated halfway between wakefulness and dreaming. Was this real?
The fog began to dissipate, fading away to reveal a bird's-eye view of rolling green pastures lined with beautiful, pink-blossomed trees. Li Li flailed in midair, fully expecting to plummet to the ground, but she did not. Gradually she calmed, and she craned her head to the left and right. Her heart raced with excitement; the pearl was granting her a vision.
The scene changed, focusing on a bustling town, streets filled with pandaren hawking wares and going about their daily lives. Li Li furrowed her brows; she didn't recognize anyone or anything there. Architecturally the buildings looked like the ones on Shen-zin Su, but something was off. The roads, the landscape, were all wrong. Similar, but wrong.
The view continued to pan around. Huge, dense forests of cypress and conifer blanketed the slopes of snow-capped mountains that climbed into the sky. Gulls and mergansers sped along the sandy shore where the land met the sea. Everywhere, Li Li saw the telltale signs of her people—from the great temples dominating the hillsides to the distinctive markers along the roads. This place, whatever it was, had been home to pandaren for a very long time.
Li Li floated slowly upward, the silver mist billowing toward the center of the region, rolling in off the sea, thickening until it completely obscured the land below. Hanging in the sky, Li Li could see the sun setting on the western horizon, far beyond the edge of the fog, its red-gold light glittering off the ocean's surface. Stars already blazed in the east, and Azeroth's twin moons shone brightly, late in both their phases.
A geography lesson from years ago popped into her memory: great swaths of the southern ocean were virtually unnavigable, perpetually covered in thick mist. Shen-zin Su avoided those areas.
An unknown land of mountains, forests, and fields, hidden among the great mists of the South Seas, yet filled with her people?
As soon as the thought dawned on her, the vision began to fade away, disintegrating rapidly before her very eyes. Li Li blinked, and the sky was gone, along with the floating sensation, and once again she found herself standing firmly in the Great Library, staring into the gleaming surface of the giant pearl she held between her paws.
Pandaria... the legendary homeland of her people, the place Liu Lang and his followers had once left behind in pursuit of a more thrilling life upon the back of Shen-zin Su. Did it really still exist? Most of the pandaren on the Great Turtle figured that Pandaria had long since been destroyed by war or succumbed to disease, or... something. Otherwise they would have seen it again by now, wouldn't they?