Zor and the Blumaroo Chef
Zor the Pea Chia sat behind a bottle of water on the table, his eyes as scrunched up as he could make them. The bottle magnified his sulk at least twofold. He did not touch the piece of Neowaiian Bread which his oldest sister was offering.
"Come on, Zor," said Yinna, her orange Grundo antennae curving patiently to one side. "Finish your lunch."
"Where's Yoyote?" the little Chia demanded. He hadn't seen their owner all day.
"She got a Neomail from one of her guildmates," Yinna explained. "Apparently someone's managed to the get the Bonju avatar, and the Avatar Chat's in an uproar. You know how crazy Yoyote can be about avatars. Now..." She brandished the bread again. "Yoyote put me in charge of this house, and I must make sure that you finish your lunch."
Zor slumped down further. "Everyone's having fun but me," he mumbled.
"Well, I wouldn't go to the Avatar Chat if I were you," said Yinna, finishing her own meal and taking the plate to the sink. "From what I've heard, the crowd's moving so fast it's practically a stampede. You'd get squashed!" Her amber gaze was full of real concern.
"Can you take me in your hand then?" Zor pleaded.
Yinna hesitated briefly. "There's another reason why Yoyote doesn't want you to go," she said. "Everyone's in such a frenzy... Some Neopians are trying to find the solution themselves, but most are arguing over whether or not the Bonju secret should be leaked out. There's a lot of anger and passion there, Zoradysis. It's not safe. Even I, with all my Battledome training, would prefer to stay out of that hubbub."
The Pea Chia bounced down from the table. "I'll go find Blippita," he declared. "She won't mind taking me out, not like you!"
Yinna called after him. "If you change your mind, I could read you a picture-book!"
But Zor had already bounded out of sight.
The Grundo sighed, cleared away the dishes, and sat down by a window with her latest book.
Out in the garden, Blippita the purple Draik was perfecting her glide. In the clear sunlit air, aglow in her latest outfit, she looked like an airborne dancer. She was the only one of Yoyote's Neopets who could fly, and she made full use of this ability to humble Yinna whenever the Grundo got a little too overbearing.
She landed gracefully on the grass, and caught sight of little Zor sitting on top of a mushroom. He looked up eagerly as she approached.
"I'm bored," the Chia announced.
Blippita smiled. "Well, I'm going into the marketplace to look at some of the latest fashion trends. Want to come? We could stop by at Pizzaroo. And then..." She folded her wings slowly, tilted her head toward Zor, and winked. "We could go for a spin in the air."
Zor leaped for joy. "Sounds like a plan!"
Blippita picked him up in her hand and walked to the nearest window in their Neohome. "Yinna!" she called. "Zor and I are going out for a bit. We'll be back for dinner."
"Be careful!" the orange Grundo called back.
Blippita didn't stay long in the shops, on account of Zor's repeated tugging. At length, she found herself saying, "All right, all right, we'll go to Pizzaroo."
The small restaurant was delectably inviting, as usual. Its unmistakable pizza ceiling could be seen from a great distance in the air. With Zor clinging on and squealing in delight, the purple Draik curved round in a smooth arc, swooped, and landed softly in front of Pizzaroo's double doors.
The shopkeeper, a green Blumaroo with a bouncy chef's hat and an equally bouncy moustache, didn't look quite as happy as usual. "Uniquely flavoured pizzas straight from the oven!" he called wearily, wiping down a table.
"Are you okay?" asked Zor, sliding down Blippita's arm.
"Why would I be okay," grumbled the shopkeeper. "Now that the Chef Bonju avatar has been figured out, my pizzeria isn't getting as much attention as before. I was the only other Blumaroo chef besides Bonju, y'see. After his avatar was released three years ago and everyone was trying to figure it out, lots of Neopians thought that I might be of help. 'Course, I know nothing about the avatar, but I was pleased to sell pizzas of all kinds to Bonju theorists. Now it's all over." He rubbed a lamp absently with his cleaning-cloth and hoisted a smile onto his face. "What can I get for you, happy Neopets?"
"I'd like a pepperoni and mushroom pizza," said Blippita. "Sound good to you, Zor?"
The Pea Chia nodded. "Hope you cheer up soon," he told the shopkeeper. "Maybe there will be another Blumaroo chef avatar?"
"Yeah, well," said the shopkeeper, setting down a glass of ice-cold water, "a Blumaroo can always hope." With that, he bustled into the kitchens.
The pizza, when it was served up all hot and steaming, smelled delicious. Blippita gave Zor a pepperoni slice and a mushroom, which he ate with great zest. Much better than the piece of Neowaiian Bread that Yinna had tried to give him earlier, he thought gleefully. After the meal, he dragged an ice-cube out of the glass and skidded around on the table.
Blippita let out a merry burp. "Don't tell Yoyote, now," she warned her little brother. "That was half of the allowance she gave me to buy groceries with."
"I won't tell," Zor promised solemnly.
The houses and the trees shrank below them.
"Where do you want to go next?" asked Blippita, her elegant Draik ears streaming back in the wind.
"Roo Island!" cried Zor.
Blippita nearly fell out of the air. "What? I thought Yoyote took you to the merry-go-round just last week!"
"I want to play Dice-a-Roo," said Zor. When Blippita didn't immediately answer, he added, "Please? Pleasepleaseplease?"
"Okay, just because you're an annoying little brat," said Blippita, wheeling toward Roo Island.
They soared out of Neopia Central and over the rainbow bridge. On the open calm of the sea, Roo Island looked like a jewel. Most prominent of all was King Roo's palace, blue and imposing in the centre. On top of the Blumaroo-shaped building, a turret perched like a crown.
"My goodness, look at those crowds!" gasped Blippita, after landing. "I wonder what's happened here?"
Zor jumped out of the path of a heavy-booted Xweetok, dodged a swinging basket, high-jumped to avoid a running petpet, and clung onto Blippita's shoulder.
"I guess we'd better go home," said Blippita, her eyes wide. "I mustn't lose you in this crowd. Remember when Yoofyoof went missing on the Day of Giving? It was the first time I ever saw Yinna cry!"
"But I want to find out what's happening!" Zor was flushed with excitement. He jumped onto a passing Chomby's head. "Hey-hey," he exclaimed. "Why's everyone crowding into King Roo's palace?"
"To play Dice-a-Roo, duh," the Chomby answered. "Haven't you heard about the solution to the Chef Bonju avatar? King Roo gives out one of the ingredients as free food when entertaining dice players."
"That's right." The Elephante beside him nodded. "I wouldn't be surprised if other places are crowded close to bursting, either. This is the greatest conundrum that Neopia has seen in a while." She put on the Bonju avatar and did a little dance. "I already have the avatar, but my, if I could get hold of extra ingredients, what profit I'd make!"
"Zor!" Blippita was shouting, some way off. "Let's go home!"
But the Pea Chia was already zipping ahead to get a closer look.
King Roo was standing at the top of the palace. "I don't have any more free food to give out!" he roared at the crowd. "Go wait outside the Food Shop, for Fyora's sake!"
"It's already sold out, just like the Book Shop!" somebody in the crowd shouted.
"The Shop Wizard's half-strangled too, because he keeps reporting high prices!" somebody else pointed out.
"That's not my fault!" King Roo shook his sceptre. His red cloak and spiky yellow hat shook in unison. "I didn't ask for the Chef Bonju avatar to be figured out today! Those of you who can't afford the ingredients will just have to look elsewhere!"
Zor was leaning forward in wonder, his tiny arms stretched out behind him. "Wow!"
Somebody coughed, not-too-politely, behind him. Zor looked down to find that he was standing on top of a long, dark ladle. Turning around, he found himself face-to-face with a Blumaroo chef. An orange Blumaroo chef. Complete with singed hat and baleful eyes.
"You're Chef Bonju!" Zor breathed.
"That I am," sighed the chef. "I'm amazed you recognize me at all. Everyone's parading around dressed in my avatar."
Zor looked curiously at him. "Doesn't that make you proud?"
"Me? Proud?" The singed Blumaroo gave a bitter laugh. "I'm just relieved. After all these years of people making my pot explode and roaring in my face, threatening to set me on fire if I don't give them my avatar, I can't say how grateful I am to finally be able to get away for a while. Now," he coughed again, "will you get off my ladle? I was just making my way to the merry-go-round."
"Oh," said Zor. "Sure. I'll be on my way. Have a good time, Chef Bonju!" he waved.
As Bonju melted into the crowd, he looked no different from the various other Neopians all donning chef's hats. It was thanks to the prevalence of the avatar that Zor was finally able to find Blippita, a purple figure among the orange seas.
He caught up to his sister breathlessly. "Guess what? I just talked to Chef Bonju!"
"I'm not surprised," said Blippita. "There are so many Chef Bonjus in Neopia today. Now do you want to go home or not?"
"No! I swear, it's the real Chef Bonju!"
At that moment, another Chef Bonju came up to them. "Blippita and Zor!" it admonished sternly. "Time to go home."
Blippita drew back her wings, laughing. "You can't fool me, Yoyote."
Yoyote stepped out from behind the avatar, smiling. "You're lucky I'm in a good mood today," she said. "I just got my 304th avatar! But seriously, you guys shouldn't be out here. It's dangerous! Let's go home and make some dinner."
"Zor?" said Blippita. "Come on, Zor! Get on my arm, we're flying back."
The Pea Chia came so quickly that Yoyote was astonished at his obedience. But Zor was smiling secretly to himself. Despite his owner's and his sisters' efforts to shield him from all the fun, he'd spoken to Chef Bonju on this big day! Now that was something that even Yoyote couldn't boast about.