Yakima was a fisherman, who fished unsuccessfully every single day. Yakima would hope to catch at least one fish on his way to the sea. He became famous as an unlucky fisherman in his village. But one day, he saw a shining golden fish in his net. Yakima was overjoyed; at last he had caught one fish. When he pulled the net and was about to remove the fish from the water, a voice suddenly interrupted him. He was shocked to hear a fish speaking in a human voice. The next moment, the golden fish transformed into a merman. “Yakima, please spare me. I promise you three rare fish every day hence-forth”
Yakima could not believe his ears. “How do you know my name? What’s the surety that you will get me three rare fish every day if I let you go?”
The merman said, “I’m the Sea Prince, Ju Shan, and I have knowledge of all things beneath the sea and above. I promise you, my subjects will fetch you three rare fish every day.”
“All right I shall let you go,” said Yakima after much thought.
However, before Ju Shan swam away, he warned Yakima, “Remember, you must sell the fish only to an old man; and don’t ever try to eat them. If you do, you will not get them any more!”
The next day, when Yakima was surprised to find that he had caught three rare fish in his net. He looked around closely and saw mermen and mermaids swimming near his boat. He thanked them for fetching him the three fish. He went his way back with the fishes. When he got back to the shore, he looked for someone to buy the fish from him. An old Chinese man, with thin moustache and a long beard came upto him.
The old man asked him, ”Are the fish fresh? Will you sell them to me?”
Yakima replied, “Yes, but they are rare fish and so they are pretty costly.”
The old man thought for a while. “How much will they cost?”
Yakima eyed him. “Each fish will cost one gold coin. Give me three and take all the fish.”
The old man took a red velvet purse and gave Yakima three gold coins and took the fish from him.
Yakima walked away feeling happy, while the old man tottered away with the fish. Not worried about the old man anymore, Yakima fingered the coins greedily.
Days passed with Yakima getting three rare fish every day. He would trade with the same old man. As time passed, Yakima began charging higher prices for his three fish. Selling them to the old man, he started possessing a lot of gold coins. Soon he moved out of his shabby hut to a strong house. With more money in his possession Yakima grew more greedy. He wanted more than three fish each day. The next day when he went to the sea, he ordered the mermen and mermaids, who were delivering the rare fish to him to take him to their Sea Prince.
When Ju Shan heard what Yakima had to say, he was saddened by the greed in his eyes. However, he promised him more fish to fall in his net. Yakima went back home content and happy. A few days passed, and he became rich by charging more for the fish that were really rare. Soon he was living a grander life.
With his growing status, Yakima married a charming girl and lived with her in a big house. Soon, he became known as the rare fish seller. His popularity grew. All these got into his head. He now hired fishermen to work for him and opened up a wholesale fish market. But he kept going for fishing the rare fish himself. The same old man continued to buy them from him for whatever price he demanded. One day, surprised that the old man was willing to pay any price, he decided to ask him what he did with the fish.
When confronted, the old man replied, “I cook them and eat! They have a rare property that lengthens my life!”
Yakima was intrigued by what the old man had told him. He now thought of eating the rare fish himself. He totally forgot the warning of Ju Shan against putting the rare fish to his own use.
So, the next day, when he caught the rare fish, he rushed with them to his house. He cut and cleaned them and started to cook the fish on the fire. But soon the stove caught fire and black smoke rose from it. In the smoke, Yakima saw the face of Ju Shan. He admonished Yakima. “I had warned you not to eat the fish yourself. You’ll be punished for not heeding my warning.”
The next minute everything that Yakima had built up vanished and he was back to his ragged clothes. His business, palatial house and wife too, had mysteriously vanished. Nothing remained of his fortunes.
Even though Yakima tried to look for the mermen and mermaids, he could not see them anymore. Once again, he came to be known as the unlucky fisherman.
Yakima loved his wife very dearly. For many days, Yakima rowed his boat along the coastline in search of his wife and the Sea Prince. He was surprised to see the old Chinese man walking along the shore. He approached him to seek his help. “Old man, do you remember me? I’m the fisherman who sold the rare fish to you.”
The old man replied, “Of course, I do remember you. What happened? You don’t look your previous self!”
Yakima answered, “After I tried to eat the rare fish myself, I have lost all my wealth and my wife. Please, you must help me to get back my wife. Do you know the where I can meet the Sea Prince Ju Shan?”
The old man replied, “You must have angered the Sea Prince. The only way to regain your wealth and family is by pacifying him.”
Yakima asked, “How can I pacify him? Please tell me”
The old man said, “You’ll have to meet him in his palace beneath the sea. Remember, it is a difficult journey.”
Yakima replied with confidence, “I shall undertake any hardship to find my wife.”
The old man said, “You travel to the north of your country and you’ll come across a snow covered mountain. When you climb to the mountain summit, you will find a fissure. On full moon nights it would expand into an opening. Enter and you’ll come across a cavern.”
Yakima impatiently interrupted, “Does the cavern lead to the Prince’s palace?”
The old man replied, “Yes, it does and the cavern will lead to a tunnel. But you’ll be tested thrice while in that tunnel.”
Yakima asked, “Test? What kind of test will they be?”
The old man said, “The tests are to find your weakness. So, beware your weakness would be your downfall.”
The old man walked away, leaving Yakima alone with his thoughts. He packed some food in a piece of cloth and found a sturdy stick to help him along. He had to reach the mountain summit before the full moon which was three days away.
Two days and one night had passed by the time Yakima reached the summit. He found the fissure and sat next to it, waiting for the moon to rise.
At midnight the fissure expanded and Yakima entered. He would have hardly walked a few paces into the cavern when he came upon a bright silvery light from a bend of the cavern. He took a turn to find out what it was. He came upon a room filled with silver coins and glittering ornaments. Yakima could not believe his eyes. It was more wealth than he had ever possessed in his life.
For a moment, greed took over his thoughts and he wanted to take them away with him, but just then he remembered the old man’s warning. He also remembered why he had come into this cavern. He proceeded further in.
He had just walked a few more paces when he came upon a bright golden light. He went to find out what it was. He came upon a room filled with gold coins and golden ornaments. In disbelief, Yakima left the place to continue his walk to the underworld palace.
Soon he came upon a rainbow coloured light. He went near and saw a room filled with precious stones - Rubies, Mother-of-Pearls, Catseye, Emerald, and Diamond! Yakima once again refused to be lured and followed the route to the palace.
The tunnel now widened into a passage made of glass. Outside he could see water and sea creatures floating by. Yakima could very nearly touch them. At the end of the glass tunnel, there was a huge iron door. When Yakima stood near the door, it opened to let him in.
He saw an inner chamber where on a high platform there were several silk cushions. Some fanfare announced the arrival of the Sea Prince Ju Shan. He sat down on the cushions. He appeared not surprised to see Yakima. “I knew, the old father of the sea would guide you to me. If you have reached my palace, then you must be reformed in your ways.”
Yakima hurriedly spoke, “Sire, I just want my wife, and I shall never eat your rare fish. I shall never seek wealth beyond my means.”
Ju Shan smiled. “I forgive you for all your mistakes and I shall return your wife along with the fortune you amassed. But be advised that you should never ever become greedy.”
Yakima thanked the Sea Prince profusely and left with his wife to his seaside country.