Son, is your book report ready?
All good, dad.
Can I take a look at it?
It's all up here.
You have nothing written down?
I have it down cold.
What if the teacher interrupts you?
I'll be fine.
What if someone asks you a question? What if someone distracts you? What if someone lets out a big fart in the middle of class? Don't laugh. I'm serious. Still think you'll be fine?
Son, can I tell you a story? It has something to do with the book report.
Yes. Of course! Will it be The Cotton and the Toad?
No. One you haven’t heard before. It's called Prince Nonito and the Ghost of Rigo.
Does it have beasts and princesses and kings and lollipops?
There are kings. No beasts, but there are warriors, and ghosts. Golden bays and beautiful islands.
But no lollipops?
There will be one lollipop.
Trust me. You'll like it. Let me begin. There once was a poor boy named Nonito who was born in Melonia, a chain of islands in The Great Sea formed by the angriest volcanoes you've ever seen. As a young boy Nonito dreamed of glory and riches. He was short and other kids picked on him. But Nonito was very strong and very fast. In time, he defeated all of his bullies and the townspeople started to notice the small boy with the fighting spirit.
With a push from the villagers, he realized that becoming a warrior was the best way to improve the life for him and his family. The first time he picked up a sword and shield, he took to it like a fish in water. Immediately, Nonito became a special warrior. As he got older, he destroyed many formidable enemies in the Third Lilliputian Wars. Eventually, he became one of the best and most celebrated warriors in Pugilia, a land made up of the best warriors in the history of time. There were many foes he had vanquished, some spectacularly.
During every battle, Nonito tried as hard as he could to impress the citizens of Pugilia, maybe too hard. He wanted to do something so breathtaking and unique that he made his battles harder than they needed to be. But lo and behold, the citizens of Pugilia started to embrace him and the Council of Scribblers took notice of his every move. They anointed him a prince and he was awarded a grand castle in the province of Golden Bay. And although the new prince was respected throughout Pugilia and had riches as far as the eye could see, he was not content. He wanted to be king.
On the throne sat King Moneyflow, an older warrior who was appreciated for his brilliant mind and the wealth he bestowed on the citizens of Pugilia. However, King Moneyflow was not necessarily beloved. He was very secretive and as he aged, many throughout the land believed that he was afraid of Pugilia's enemies. They hoped for a new king, a truer warrior.
In Pugilia, one did not become a king because of birth or lineage. What I mean is you did not ascend to the throne because of the royal status of your parents or family. In fact, King Moneyflow was a far better warrior than his father – far more powerful too. In Pugilia, you were selected to become king by votes from the Council of Scribblers. The Council anointed royalty based on the performance on the battlefield. For Prince Nonito to become king, he needed the votes of the Council, and they had not yet seen a warrior to replace King Moneyflow.
For the prince's quest to become king, he aligned with Arid, a brilliant but often treacherous sage. Arid had fought a losing war to King Moneyflow a decade earlier. Even in old age, Arid was still seeking vengeance upon Moneyflow. He saw Prince Nonito as a grand opportunity to influence a new king.
So, daddy, why didn't King Moneyflow kill Arid?
Because he was a clever man. He wanted Arid to remain as a demonstration to his enemies of what would happen when they lose to the king.
But Arid regrouped and slowly rebuilt his power, hoping one day to find a new warrior who could become king. Arid believed in Prince Nonito and helped guide him on the king's path.
Prince Nonito had just destroyed Jarman, a decorated warrior who would ride to battle with the finest horse in the land and the biggest, most delightful lollipop ever created. People all throughout Pugilia started to sing Prince Nonito's praises.
His wanting to become king consumed his every thought. He went to Arid for advice on how to get there faster. Arid told Nonito that on his quest to be king, he must defeat the Ghost of Rigo, one of the most dominating spirits in the history of Red Island.
Red Island was this mysterious place where adults were not allowed to leave. They would send out teenagers to vanquish Pugilia's teenagers every four years. The conquering teenagers would then return to the island, never to be seen again. The people of Red Island were trapped under the iron rule of Dr. Cast and his band of torturers. But the Ghost of Rigo, a free spirit full of cunning and wit, found a way to escape.
Dad, is all of Red Island made of ghosts?
No, Red Island has all sorts of types. Even on an island noted for its conquering teenagers, Rigo was regarded as one of its very best. When he escaped, Dr. Cast was so distraught that he turned the throne over to his younger brother, and he lived the last few years of his life in complete solitude.
So Rigo arrived in Pugilia and settled in Pastel Town, a tropical paradise where the few others who escaped Red Island lived. The people of Pugilia looked at Rigo strangely. They admired his fighting skills but weren't used to his to his wizardry and questioned his bravery.
So he was a ghost, and a wizard?
Yes, as I said, he was very special.
Sounds like it.
Rigo started dominating young and inexperienced warriors in Pugilia. Eventually, he also came into contact with Arid, who believed that Rigo could one day become one of the best warriors in Pugilia. Although Arid pledged his support to Prince Nonito, he also knew that if the Ghost won, he may one day have yet another potential warrior to dethrone King Moneyflow.
The battle was arranged to take place on Commerce Island, a place where Prince Nonito fought before and had failed to impress. He once won a battle there against a man from Footina but didn't endear himself to the citizens. Nonito vowed that his next battle at Commerce Island would be the battle to end all battles.
But then the Prince got off track. In preparing for battle, Nonito did not study his enemy. He and his battlemaster, Rogar, did not put in enough time to understand Rigo's weaknesses. Meanwhile, Rigo's battlemaster, Pez –
Pez, like the candy.
Yes, similar name. Just a coincidence.
So, while Rigo and Pez were ready for battle, Prince Nonito was spending time with well-wishers. He thought that he already had all the tools needed for victory. The Prince believed that his armor made of the best iron, the sharpness of his sword and the safety of his massive shield would make the Ghost cower, and he would win with ease.
Even though most thought their Prince would win, a vocal few expected Rigo to be the conqueror. One in particular, Ig, from Stallion City, claimed that he had been foretold of Rigo's victory two years earlier by an oracle.
The day of the battle arrived. Right before witching hour, the fight commenced. Very quickly, it became clear that the Ghost had the speed, the movement and the intelligence to win. He would joust and thrust with lightning fast movements. The Prince couldn't catch him. Whatever plan of attack Prince Nonito had, it didn't work. He stood there, afraid to make a mistake. Hesitant, he was no warrior. Even when he would land a thunderous blow with his sword, he didn't know what to do next. He was spooked.
When the witching hour was over, the battle ended. The Ghost of Rigo was the clear victor. All across Pugilia, citizens were dispirited by Prince Nonito's loss.
In the end, Prince Nonito was a beaten man and the Council looked down upon his performance. He left Commerce City to return to Golden Bay. There was no more talk of being king.
Rigo was now a warrior on the rise. His technique was strange, his skills untraditional. He fought like a ghost – there one minute, gone the next, and with all sorts of scary tricks. He would be a challenge for any mere mortal.
After years of fighting to become the king, the Prince spent many months alone in Golden Bay. His name was tarnished, his future uncertain, his honor in question and his warrior spirit deflated. He was no longer beloved by the citizens of Pugilia or regarded fondly by the Council. He would never become king.
So that was the story. What was the moral?
Never underesimate –
Un-der-es-ti-mate. With a t.
Underestimate. Never underestimate your opponent.
Very good. What else?
Always prepare for battle.
Umm. I think I should go upstairs and write down my book report.
Such a smart kid. I love you.
Dad, one more question.
If Prince Nonito prepared for the Ghost more and trained harder with Battlemaster Rogar, would he have defeated Rigo?
We'll never know son, we'll never know.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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