The hull of the boat rocked as waves pushed it back and forth. The movement almost made the orange Blumaroo sick. He was used to the ship, he should have had his sea legs, but something had thrown him off. And he was pretty sure he knew what it was.
Being in a hot kitchen was one thing, but being locked up in the storeroom was another. When Bonju was cooking, he could ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach by concentrating on how much of a certain ingredient was needed. How much Bluchard Root for this dish, how much salt in another. Now all he had to concentrate on was the fear welling up inside him.
It had been about two hours since he was thrown down into the storeroom and manacled to the wall. Kentari had done it, avoiding Bonju's gaze. It was logical for him to do it, being the weapons master. He had searched Bonju, checking that he wasn't holding anything that could further harm one of the crew members.
"You know that knife really was for cooking," Bonju explained, keeping a hold of as much dignity as a Blumaroo can while having all his pockets turned inside out.
Kentari ignored him, sticking to his work. He did know that Bonju only pushed Hoban, and didn't threaten him with any weapon, but if the Captain told him to search, he would search. Bonju sighed as he had his wrists chained together. Kentari then added another metal loop around his left leg, and attached that one to a clip on the inside hull of the boat. Kentari went to leave, but stopped before closing the door. Without turning around, he just said a few words.
"Look, I'm sorry," the weapons master sighed, and slammed the door shut.
The following three clicks Bonju assumed were three bolt locks. That was the last Neopet contact he had had for the past two hours.
Bonju was trapped. Well, trapped for the next two hours. That's how long it would take for the Cyodrake's Gaze to get to Shenkuu. His heart leapt as he thought that word. Shenkuu. His home. It was a beautiful place. Green hills and majestic trees. Mist rising from the bottom of the crevasses. Each building able to touch clouds. He doubted he would ever see it again. Whatever Tuan had in store for him, it surely wasn't a free pardon. He assumed he would be taken somewhere else. One of these ghastly places they had seen on their travels. None of the exotic lands they had visited could hold a candle to Shenkuu. It really was amazing.
This storeroom, however, was not. The walls were green with algae, and water seeped through the ceiling. A drip almost caught Bonju on the nose, but he managed to move in time. There were a few boxes in the room. Bonju could smell the aroma of vegetables and various fruits. One half opened box seemed to contain Chokato. He calculated a meal in his head. The tomato flavour could be improved by the taste of something bitter... Unripe Bomberry perhaps? He laughed slightly. Like anyone would want him serving food again.
Bonju was woken up from his daydream by three clicks. Someone was coming through the door. He straightened up, trying to look a bit more presentable while sitting on the damp floor. A pink Kougra entered, back first. Her tail seemed to sniff out the surroundings before she turned around, revealing she was carrying a tray of food.
"Grubs up," Linae said.
She placed the tray on the floor and started looking through her pockets for something. She eventually found a key, which she stuffed in the chains holding Bonju's wrists together. The chains un-clicked and Bonju started to rub his free, but sore, arms. Linae sat opposite Bonju, half shutting the door. Obviously the Captain didn't want him on his own while his hands were free. He picked up a fork on the tray. He gave a slight thanks that the Captain didn't think having a fork would be any danger. He prodded a quivering mass of vegetables and gooey green stuff on his plate.
"Um... what is this?" he asked Linae.
"I have no idea. Orrin is doing the cooking now. I swear, your food might have been a bit off but his stuff really takes the biscuit! No pun intended," she laughed.
Bonju took the remark with a pinch of salt. Again, no pun intended. Saying this stuff about his cooking was what set him off in the first place. But how threatening was he now? He reluctantly tasted the food. It was terrible, as expected. He could separate the different ingredients in his mouth. Why would Orrin use Bluchard Root and Florange? The sweet to sour ratio was entirely off. However, if he had added something neutral... like some breadcrumbs...
"Linae, this is really awful. Is there any way I can cook? If the Captain doesn't trust me enough to cook for the rest of you, how about just for me? I won’t poison myself!" Bonju pleaded.
Linae shook her head.
"The Captain said firmly, 'Bonju does not leave the storeroom until we get to Shenkuu'."
"Can you just ask him, please?" Bonju added.
"Why should I?" Linae asked flatly.
It stopped Bonju in his tracks. Of course she had no reason to do anything for him. He was a criminal; he didn't deserve anything better than bread and water. Although bread and water would be more appetising than this. Bonju just wanted to cook. It was his life! He could deal with anything as long as he had a spatula in one hand and a knife in the other. He looked over at Linae. She was obviously bored out of her skull. She was being forced to stay here, for as long as it took for him to finish this 'meal', if you could call it that.
"Take it away, Linae. I can't face it," Bonju finally concluded.
Linae picked up the tray and went to open the door.
"Fine. More for Hoban. That poor guy is starving," Linae said, with intent to wound.
"He wasn't 'poor Hoban' when you were calling him a bad omen!" Bonju retorted.
"Yes, but I'm not stupid enough to chuck him overboard!" Linae ended the conversation.
A dull silence fell over them both as Linae put the tray outside the door. She then leaned down to re-attach Bonju's makeshift handcuffs. While she was fitting them, Bonju felt compelled to say something.
"Look. Can you just tell Hoban I'm sorry?" he asked.
"He won't believe you," she answered.
"I know, but just try," he stammered.
Linae clipped the restraints into place.
She looked into Bonju's eyes.
"Why?" she asked. "Why did you do it?"
Bonju tried to conjure a realistic answer from thin air. He couldn't find one.
"I did it... I did it because cooking is all I have," Bonju answered. He avoided her gaze.
"Cooking is everything to me. That's why I did it. I was fed up with everyone insulting me and attacking my cooking. It was all of you collectively. Hoban just triggered it. And... he didn't deserve it. I'm really sorry." Bonju bowed his head.
Linae stood unmoving for a second, with her tail flicking occasionally. She walked out of the storeroom and locked it. The Kougra thought she could hear sobbing coming from behind the door, but she tried to block it out. Distracted, she walked slowly into the galley.
She was greeted by the sight of a red Nimmo, namely her crewmate Orrin, and Kentari, the Weapons master, both cheering Hoban on with 'EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT' as he ate plateful after plateful of food. They both shouted with joy as the yellow Aisha finished everything off and leaned back on his chair, arms raised in triumph.
"Well, that's everything!" Orrin laughed.
After hitting Hoban playfully on the back, he turned and saw Linae looking distraught. He walked towards her, and patted her on the shoulder.
"Linae? What's the matter?" he asked.
Linae motioned with her head to the kitchen. They left Shumi and Hoban together, now downing mug after mug of water. Linae jumped onto a table and sat down. Orrin followed.
"What's the matter?" Orrin asked her a second time.
"It's Bonju," she replied.
"What's he done? Should I get the Captain?" Orrin started, but the Kougra shook her head.
"No, it's not what he's done. He hasn't done anything," Linae tried to explain.
"I don't understand? What's upset you?" Orrin asked in sincere confusion.
"Have you ever been obsessed by something?" the pink Kougra asked.
Orrin thought for a few seconds before replying.
"No. I get a bit consumed by some things, like a really good game of Godori, but not obsessed. Why?"
"Because Bonju's obsession with cooking is... somewhat understandable to me." Linae trailed off.
Orrin looked at her with his mouth wide open.
"You can't really believe that it's in any way right to push someone off a ship?"
"No! No. I just mean... well, Bonju's wrecked his life over a stupid mistake. And he was tormented by us."
"I'd hardly call a bit of name calling and a few light hearted teases 'tormented', Linae," Orrin explained, "and anyway, Bonju forfeited all his sympathy when he pushed that poor Aisha into the ocean."
"I'm not saying he was right to do so, it's just... oh! I don't know!" Linae giggled. "I'm just a bit confused. I mean, we finally get Hoban back and I'm talking about Bonju, come on! Let's enjoy the fun!"
Linae jumped off the table and Orrin followed. Hoban was now trying to get his hat back from Shumi, who had somehow got a hold of it. They both ended up having a mini tug-of-war, which resulted in both of them falling flat on their backs. This started a riot of laughter from the four crew members, which could be heard on the top deck.
The Boat was being driven by the Captain, a rather sturdy looking blue Gnorbu. Tuan held the wheel steady, and scanned the skies for any approaching clouds. No way would he risk his ship through another one of those. Shumi, Tuan's next in line, a green Scorchio, stood by Tuan's side. He could tell that the Gnorbu was worried.
"Cap'n? If you don't mind me askin', what's on yer mind?" the Scorchio inquired.
Tuan sighed, but didn't take his eyes off the clouds.
"I don't know. We've got Hoban back, but I half expected for no one to have pushed him. Now I know it was Bonju, well, I just don't see what I can do!"
Shumi thought for a second. He assumed Tuan meant when they got back to Shenkuu. The Captain and he always seemed to share a similar thought pattern, which was extremely useful while sailing.
What would they do with Bonju? They couldn't lock him up forever, which was going too far. No real harm was done, but they couldn't exactly let him go free either. And in the state the ship was in, there was no way they'd be able to sail out yet again to drop him off somewhere else. Who would take him anyway?
Tuan sighed. Shumi guessed he had come to no conclusion.
"What on Neopia am I going to do, Shumi?" the Captain asked.
Shumi didn't have an answer. No one would have. He thought that it would be simple, find Hoban, celebrate, give out a few prizes and back to Shenkuu! But the reality of it struck him. It would have been the same for any of the crew, not just because it happened to be the chef. The crew used to be like a tightly knit family; now it all seemed to have evaporated away.
Before Shumi could reflect more on this, Kentari appeared from the other end of the ship where he had been looking out into the sea. He raced towards Tuan, and gave a quick salute.
"Sir. We are going to Shenkuu, right?" Kentari asked.
"Yes, of course, why?" Tuan replied, puzzled.
"It's just; I don't think this is the right way. Those groups of islands don't look familiar, and I've travelled this way hundreds of times." He vaguely indicated to some small deserted beaches to the North.
Tuan picked up his compass and checked it.
"Oh Fyora, we're going the wrong way. Get Hoban up here; we need the Navigator," he instructed Shumi.
Shumi gave a small salute and raced down to where Hoban and the rest of the crew were eating in the Galley. Tuan steered the ship to a safe place to lower anchor, and Kentari did so. The ship stopped with a thump.
"Zzz... OWWW!" Bonju was snapped awake from his sleep by the action of the ship knocking his elbow onto the wall.
What had happened? Had they run into some rocks? The familiar three clicks alerted Bonju to someone coming through the door. It was Anshu. The old Ruki stood in front of him, carrying a small aid kit.
"Did you get hurt by the bump?" Anshu asked.
"More so by the food," Bonju joked.
Anshu didn't seem amused.
"Well, just a hit on the arm really," Bonju explained, rubbing his arm where it had collided with the ship.
Anshu put the kit down and inspected the injury.
"There doesn't seem to be anything of severe danger. Just a bit of a bump," Anshu diagnosed, "but just in case, I'll put a bandage on it."
He started to unpack some medical bandages, and wrapped a few around Bonju's arm.
"Was Hoban alright?" Bonju asked, picking his words carefully.
"Yes, a bit dehydrated. Nothing too bad," Anshu replied.
Bonju felt himself sigh with relief.
"So, what's the matter with the ship? We haven't docked already, have we?" Bonju inquired.
"No, we seem to need a slight correction to our heading. Hoban and the Captain are discussing it now," Anshu explained.
He had finished wrapping Bonju's arm, and started to pack the stuff away.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Bonju asked.
Anshu looked at him, slightly perplexed.
"You really are sorry, aren't you?"
"Of course I am! I'm just glad he wasn't hurt. I'm not some monster like Dr. Sloth or the Darkest Faerie. I just made a stupid, rash decision and now I'm paying the price for it. I just want to help out," Bonju explained.
"Well, it's up to the Captain, and more importantly Hoban. Maybe I coul..." Anshu was interrupted by a shout from the Captain.
"ALL HANDS ON DECK! WE NEED HELP WITH THE SAILS" came the unmistakeable sound of Tuan.
Anshu groaned and raced out of the storeroom without locking Bonju's door. Bonju's hands and foot were still tied and bound, so there was no way to escape. He sat in the wet, and looked at the roof. Actually, it was slightly wetter than he had remembered it before. And that leak in the roof seemed to drip faster. He looked around and saw something strange behind the crate in front of him. He managed to kick it out of the way, and saw a mended, albeit crudely, hole in the ship! This must have been where the storm had done most of its damage! And now, it was leaking terribly!
Bonju knew what was going to happen. The patching was going to give out and the whole ship would go down. Him along with it. He wrestled to the crate, touching his finger tips to the wood, but the bolt attaching his leg to the ship prevented him from repairing the hole himself.
"HELP!" Bonju cried out, "HELP!"
Whether the crew could hear him or not, no one came down. The amount of water increased from the now widening hole. He was sitting in a puddle about two centimetres deep. He needed to get out, warn the others. He grabbed the medicine box Anshu had left on the floor. He tipped out the contents.
"Roots... no," Bonju eliminated, "plasters... no. Yes! A knife!"
He picked up the sharp instrument with both hands, as they were bound together, and started to hack away at the chain on his leg. The water continued to rise, but he continued to saw through the metal. Eventually it gave way, and he could stand up.
Bonju paused. He could get away now. Get onto a life raft and row away. However, it would be leaving the Cyodrake’s Gaze to sink. Maybe even taking down a few of the crew to Davy Jones' Locker. Could he really have that on his conscience?
No, he decided. They might think the worst of him, but he knew they were decent Neopets. He looked at the hole. It was too big to be fixed by one Neopet. He ran out up onto the top deck, where he collided with Hoban. They both landed clumsily on the deck. Hoban rubbed his head, and suddenly realised what had happened.
"You! How did you get out?" Hoban snarled.
Bonju backed off. The last thing he wanted was another confrontation with Hoban.
"Deal with me later, I need to see Tuan!" Bonju tried to move past the Aisha, but Hoban wasn't moving.
"So you can push him off the ship as well?"
"I'm sorry, Hoban, but I need to get to the Captain! The ship'll sink!" Bonju shouted, desperately.
Hoban's rage grew inside.
"You think you can do something like that to me, then boss me about?" he shouted.
Obviously someone heard the heated argument, because Bonju felt a thump to the back of his head. He spun around, dizzy with the impact, and could hazily see a pink blur holding a frying pan. Before he collapsed, he shouted.
"In the storeroom... hole... sinking..."
"He's coming 'round."
"Quite a nasty hit."
"I told you I had a good arm."
"Remind me to never annoy you again, Linae."
Bonju heard voices coming through a foggy darkness. The pain in his head throbbed as he tried to open his eyes. He could see the distinct faces of his six crewmates and his Captain peering at him. He was lying on Linae's bed in her cabin. He tried to sit up, but Anshu held him down.
"Don't move. You need to rest," Anshu explained.
Bonju looked at the faces surrounding him, and it occurred to him that he wasn't chained. The ship also wasn't moving. Bonju suddenly remembered about the hole.
"Captain! There's a leak in the storeroom! You need to..."
The Captain started to laugh. "You've been unconscious for three hours, but thanks to your information you, umm, gave Linae, we managed to patch up the hole in time. You saved the ship!" Tuan answered.
Bonju relaxed. The ship was safe. But it had only just occurred to him what was going to happen next.
"So, where am I going? Are you shipping me off somewhere else?" he asked with a trembling voice.
Tuan looked at Hoban. Hoban stepped forward.
"Listen, Bonju. I don't forgive you for what you did, but I can understand why you did it. I didn't listen to you because I was clouded with rage, and it might have got us all killed. It's obvious that you didn't want us dead, or you would have fled when you got yourself free. Tuan and I agree the two incidences weigh each other out," Hoban concluded with a smile.
"So, I'm free?" he asked.
"Yep!" Linae chipped in.
"Now come on, we've docked and I for one am feeling a little peckish," Tuan added.
"Well, I have thought up this little creation," Bonju ventured.
"Don't stretch your luck," Hoban murmured.
Author's Note: This is dedicated to all the Bonju Avatar searchers out there and anyone who ever wondered why they still let the guy serve food. Everyone should know, Bonju isn't evil; his Avatar is!