Voyages: Part Two
I knelt and scratched Chuffer Bob's back. Chuffer wriggled in delight. Assured that my Petpet companion was alright, I headed back to the front of the shop just in time to see the shopkeeper retrieve a wooden box. A Grobrin stood to the side. As I approached, it snapped its jaws, revealing an overflow of deadly white teeth in warning.
"Enough, Gristle! This is my apprentice. He is no threat," the Shoyru said, beckoning me on.
Gristle walked away, to patrol the shop. The shopkeeper opened the box. It was filled with Neopoints and my eyes widened. I didn't know how to count but the shopkeeper spoke aloud for my benefit. The Shoyru slowly put the coins in separate, unmarked sacks, which bulged with wealth.
"I take the bags to the bank once a week," the Shoyru explained, without waiting for a question to be asked.
After that, all was silent, save for the shopkeeper's voice, the click of coin on coin, the click-clack of Gristle's sharp, long claws on the floor and Chuffer Bob's soft snores. The entire procedure took about an hour. The box, now empty, was put back. The bags were placed under a trap door in the floor.
"Time for dinner. I usually only have myself and Gristle to cook for. If you haven't noticed, yet, I rarely deal in Petpets, or pets, for that matter," the Shoyru said, giving a light dry chuckle, though without humor.
We made our way to the kitchen and the shopkeeper told me to wash my hands and help. After showing me the soap and water, the Shoyru began tossing lettuce. I washed my hands, relieved that it was only my hands (for I despise water). I was handed a knife and told to chop vegetables: Cheery Tomatoes, carrots and leeks. That finished, I was told to put them in with the lettuce.
"Now, we must boil the eggs," the shopkeeper said, procuring the white orbs from an ice box underneath the kitchen counter.
I, at least, knew how to do that. I grabbed a pot and filled it with water while the Shoyru let the eggs slip from his fingers into the pot.
"You know how long to wait," the shopkeeper asked, his expression dubious.
I nodded my head, smiling, pleased that I really did know. "Yes, three minutes."
"Actually, three to five minutes. In the mountains, it takes longer, due to the higher elevation."
A roaring fire was kindled and the two of us stood in companionable silence. The shopkeeper leaned on his cane. He held his pocket watch open in his other hand, keeping track of the passage of time. He glanced at me, his unexpected charge.
"Remind me to buy you a watch," the shopkeeper said.
I smiled and nodded. The shopkeeper snapped shut his pocket watch. He took the eggs and handed one to me.
"Peel it carefully. Wash it, chop it up and then put it into the salad," the shopkeeper instructed me, doing the same with the egg that he held.
Once all of the wanted ingredients were placed in the salad bowl, it was given one last toss and then it was served out on two plates.
"Before you settle down to eat, it will be your task to feed any Petpets that may currently be in the shop. We will alternate feeding Gristle. He eats once a day, at dinner. He is on a strict meat diet. All of his food is stored in the ice box to the left of ours," the shopkeeper said, gesturing towards the object in question.
Thankfully, all of the excitement and change in my life that day had stolen my appetite. I could wait to eat. I went to Gristle's box and opened it. I almost recoiled from the contents. It wasn't a bad smell that permeated the air but it wasn't the most pleasant, either.
My stomach churned and I wrinkled my nose. Putting my reaction aside, I reached in and pulled out a Tako Taco. I shut the box gratefully.
"Do I warm this up, or no," I asked, tossing the question over my shoulder to my benefactor.
"You can. Gristle will accept it either way," the Shoyru informed me.
I decided to heat up the taco. I carefully wrapped the taco and placed it in the edge coals. Warming didn't take long. I took Gristle's meal out to the shop. I found the Grobrin waiting on the front desk.
"How in Neopia did you get up there," I wondered out loud.
It was then that I saw the steps, attached to the side of the desk. Gristle clacked his teeth, eager for his meal. I gave over the Tako Taco. Then, I walked to Chuffer Bob's pen. The Pygui was still sleeping and I decided to leave the Petpet alone.
I went back to my own dinner. The shopkeeper was already seated at the table, fork in hand; he had waited for me before eating. This deeply touched me because I rarely got a good meal and if there was none to spare then I got nothing to eat because there was no way that Uncle or Amenofi would starve if it meant I got to eat. I smiled at the pet that I already considered my mentor, for he had taught me more than Uncle or Amenofi ever had. I mimicked the Shoyru, letting him have the first bite, before enjoying my own salad.
No appetite aside, I had to admit that the salad was delicious, each lettuce leaf crisp, each leek slice was crunchy. Simple though it was, it was the best meal I had ever had in my young life. I enjoyed it immensely.
"Aed, you will wash anything that you get dirty. I expect you to be clean and presentable, especially when you are in the shop," the Shoyru said, demonstrating by washing his own plate, fork and cup.
I stood and did as I was told. When I finished, I turned and blinked in surprise as I saw a lollypop stuck in the shopkeeper's mouth. Where had the lollypop come from?
"What? Would you like one? They're cherry flavored. They give me just enough energy when I need a boost. They're my favorite," the shopkeeper explained, pulling the lolly out of his mouth and pulling open a kitchen drawer, to show a bag or red candies.
I had never had sweets before but I went ahead and got a Cherry Twist Lollypop for myself. It was sweet and tangy and as I sucked on it, I did feel a slight energy boost, as the shopkeeper had described.
"Since you don't know how to read, write or do arithmetic, we'll have your lessons now," the Shoyru said, patting the flat surface of the Coconut Glass Table.
I sat and, for half an hour, the Shoyru taught me the alphabet and how to write my name.
After the lesson, the Shoyru stood up, "We get up early in the morning. You have no set bedtime or curfew but I will not tolerate you sleeping on the job. I'm headed to bed now. Don't disturb my rest!"
The old pet sounded cranky. I was used to being snapped at' it didn't phase me one bit.
"Also, you must take a shower and I'll get you some new clothes. You look filthy," the shopkeeper exclaimed.
My heart sank at the mention of the shower but I knew better than to protest. I was grateful to the shopkeeper for taking me in. I owed the Shoyru that much. The shopkeeper led the way and at the end of the room was another hidden panel door. The Shoyru slid it open to reveal the bathroom.
When I exited the bathroom, clean and well groomed, the shopkeeper presented me with pajamas complete with slippers. It felt nice and everything was comfortable.
"Thank you, sir," I said, my voice thick with gratitude.
"You're welcome. Now, I'm going to bed," the shopkeeper harrumphed.
I followed suit but as sleep took its hold, I had one more question to ask of my new guardian. I was clean, comfortable and kindly treated; something that had never happened to me before.
"Sir, how am I to address you," I asked.
"Call me Mr. Loon," Mr. Loon said.
With that, sleep came easily.
One Week Later
I had settled in well with Mr. Loon in Shenkuu. I didn't realize that the old Shoyru was watching me quite so closely. I got my first inkling that evening at dinner.
"You're quite close to that Pygui, now aren't you, Aed." A statement, rather than a question.
"Yes, sir, I am," I admitted.
"Its going to break your heart when that Petpet is sold."
"Sir, I was wondering. May I buy Chuffer Bob from you?"
"Very well. We'll keep track of your account until the full amount has been paid off."
After that, Chuffer Bob and I were inseparable. Our bond had been strong to begin with, but now it strengthened even more.
Three Weeks Later
Mr. Loon told me that we were going on vacation.
"So that's why you held back some of your Neopoints! I wondered," I said with a smile of understanding.
"Yes, we're going all going to go and visit one of my dear friends in Brightvale. Since that is the case, I must get protection for the shop while we are away," Mr. Loon said.
Mr. Loon led Chuffer Bob, Gristle and myself to a squat building. The words PROTECTION ELEPHANTE NETWORK were over the entrance. We entered this building and I got the impression that it was a very strange place. There was only a red Elephante sitting at a small desk, with a directory and a Fire Faerie Pen.
The Elephante looked at us expectantly. Chuffer Bob, who was resting in my arms, and myself looked at Mr. Loon with the same expectant look.
"I need a guard for my shop. I request Ms. Snardell, Herd Number Fifty-five," Mr. Loon said.
"Yes, sir, though, you understand that the Elephante you have requested is a bodyguard," the secretary looked questioningly at Mr. Loon.
The elderly Shoyru nodded his head in understanding. The Elephante looked down at the directory, flipping through to the right page. Snardell, Herd Number Fifty-five was highly requested, it seemed.
"Yes, sir. The Elephante you requested is available. She shall see you shortly," the secretary stated.
"Very well. Thank you," Mr. Loon said and then we made our exit.
We hadn't been back at the shop very long when a blue Elephante entered the shop. She approached the front counter.
"Mr. An Loon? I'm Ms. Snardell, Herd Number Fifty-five," the Elephante introduced herself.
"Yes, I'm glad you came. Aed, please close the shop. This shouldn't take long," Mr. Loon instructed me.
The Shoyru and Elephante waited as I did as I was told before speaking further.
"I know that you are a bodyguard, Ms. Snardell but I was hoping that you would remember me," Mr. Loon began.
Ms. Snardell dipped her head. "Yes, I do remember you, Mr. Loon."
The two pets studied each other for a moment. I didn't know what to think. There was a formality here that I did not understand.
'I will be gone for a month. I understand the standard rate. No one, other than myself, Aed, Chuffer Bob or Gristle, is allowed inside the premises. All suspicious activity around the shop must be dealt with. I want it reported to me, via Neomail, as soon as possible. These are my terms. Do you accept them," Mr. Loon said.
"Yes, I accept your terms," Ms. Snardell responded, extending her hand.
With an agreement made, the two pets shook hands. Ms. Snardell left but the shop remained closed.
"We must pack now. The last ship leaves at eight this evening," Mr. Loon said.
I nodded. We went to our room and packed. I had one bag. Mr. Loon had two: one and a half for himself and half of a bag for Gristle. We went to buy our tickets and there were no issues there.
The weather was a completely different matter. The winds were blowing and anything lighter than a building with a solid foundation was having difficulty not being blown away. Mr. Loon had to hold onto me as we walked to the boarding dock. Chuffer Bob and Gristle were settled in the modified pockets of my Altador Cup Collectors Jacket. I also had to carry the luggage.
Though the sky was dark grey with unshed snow, none had fallen, yet. I was quite grateful for this slight reprieve. Another good point: all ships were docked properly in Shenkuu. Everyone and everything that boarded crossed a broad plank walkway. Although our ship wouldn't be leaving for several hours, we decided to board immediately.
It was better this way. Mr. Loon wouldn't be rushed to a seat and we wouldn't have to find our way through bad weather more than once. We found an empty cabin and Mr. Loon was able to rest. Gristle, not cuddly by nature, sat calmly in the Shoyru's lap. Chuffer Bob and I sat on the other bed.
Mr. Loon had given me a journal so I could put into practice everything I learned. I decided to take the time then to write down my experiences of the day. I had poured my very soul into this journal. I had expressed all of the negative things that had happened in my life, before meeting Mr. Loon. It was a healing and restorative activity for me; I always felt so peaceful after writing.
I glanced at my mentor. My heart wrenched painfully. Mr. Loon looked so old and frail. I was terrified that I would one day lose the Shoyru. He was resting, quite tranquil, for once.
Whatever sickness had claimed Mr. Loon's youth had left him restless. There were nights when the old pet just couldn't sleep. On those nights that he did, pain would make him cry out and he would writhe in discomfort. There were times when Mr. Loon could hardly function in the day, his speech punctuated by yawns. I had been a heavy sleeper but no longer; I could never forgive myself if my beloved mentor needed assistance during the night and I wasn't there to help.
Not wanting to wake Mr. Loon, I took out a book to read. I was currently reading JubJub Roll! It was about JubJub battle tactics and the best way to battle them. Not being the Battledoming type, I would not have chosen this particular book to read. However, Mr. Loon had said to read as much as I could, no matter the material.
"It will raise your intelligence and broaden your horizons. The more you know, the better," Mr. Loon had said.
I loved my mentor and I admired the Shoyru for his wisdom. I had learned so much already and I was amazed that someone could never stop learning' there was always something more, new and exciting, to understand. While working in the shop, I had met a handful of JubJubs. They were soft spoken, small and fluffy. I didn't realize they could actually be dangerous!
"Now we know better than to make a JubJub angry, don't we Chuff," I said in a low voice, fondling the Pygui's ears.
Absorbed in my book, I hardly realized that the ship had left pot. I finished the book, closing it with a soft sigh. I waved away the puff of blue smoke that had taken its place. I looked at Mr. Loon, still sleeping.
"The best thing to do is sleep, Chuff. When we wake up, we'll be in Brightvale," I said.
The Pygui sat up quickly, ears and nose wriggling in an excited manner. I was surprised by his behavior at the mention of Brightvale. It had been the place where he had first been captured. Surely he didn't have any reason to go back? He had been a wild Petpet when he stumbled upon our campsite, hadn't he?
I thought about this as I changed into my pajamas. With one last look at the sleeping Mr. Loon and Chuff, who was still unsettled on my bed, I fell asleep.
Brightvale! Kimchee had recognized the word almost instantly when Aed had said it. He was finally going home! He had been treated with gentleness and kindness while he had been with the blue Tonu but his care did not replace Professor in Kimchee's heart. He paced restlessly, unable to sleep but he finally exhausted himself and curled up next to Aed's head, sharing the teenage Tonu's pillow.
I awoke as we came to the landing sight. I helped Mr. Loon out on deck, as Chuffer Bob scampered happily at my feet.
We made our way on deck and I turned pale, "Mr. Loon..."
"We can do this, Aed," Mr. Loon lightly encouraged me.
The ship's crew had a folding ramp that we could walk down. No climbing ropes this time around! It took five minutes for the ramp to be set up. Not wanting the Petpets to get trampled, I once more settled them inside of the deep pockets in my jacket. It took fifteen minutes to actually walk down the ramp.
I distracted myself by helping Mr. Loon, counting backwards in my head and thinking of being on solid ground once more. Finally, we made it! I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Come, Aed. We must alert the Professor that we have come for a visit," Mr. Loon said.
I loosed the Petpets so that they could finally stretch their legs. Chuffer Bob kept squealing loudly with delight, trotting quickly forward and then circling back to us. I didn't think he would be this excited about coming back to Brightvale. What did it all mean? I tossed my head, clearing my head of such thoughts.
I was quite shocked when we began to walk towards the Brightvale castle. We stopped in front of the castle gate, with one guard on either side. To my chagrin, one of them was a red JubJub, the other, a yellow Aisha.
"State your name and your business," the JubJub intoned.
No weakness there, I thought ruefully.
"My name is An Loon. I am a shopkeeper, origin Shenkuu. This is Aed, no surname, Chuffer Bob, the Pygui and Gristle, the Grobrin. We are here on leisure, visiting Professor Cherry," Mr. Loon said.
The gate was raised and Mr. Loon, the Petpets and myself entered the castle grounds. Mr. Loon led the way through the manicured front garden and through the castle's front door. Then, we turned right, out of the foyer and down the hall. We entered the first door on the left. That's when Chuffer Bob emitted an almost ear-splitting squeal and raced away from us.
I watched in amazement as the Pygui ran right into two wide, furry arms. The red Kacheek that had scooped him up looked down at Chuff in shock. I furrowed my brow and quickened my step. This scene was unexpected and I didn't like it. The Kacheek cuddled my Petpet close to her and tears rolled down her cheeks.
This stopped me in my tracks and I looked to Mr. Loon for direction. I didn't understand who this pet was and I certainly didn't understand why Chuffer Bob and she would meet this way.
"Oh, Kimchee, you've come home at last," I heard the Kacheek say.
Kimchee? Who was that? The Kacheek was rocking Chuff gently in her arms and gave a gentle laugh. I watched as Chuff tried to eat the pebeanjay flower in the elderly Kacheek's silvered hair. It was then that she finally looked up at Mr. Loon and me.
"An, thank you for bringing Kimchee back to me. He's been missing for a month. What are you doing here," the Kacheek spoke, bright curious gaze on me.
I took a step back, confused. How did she know Mr. Loon?
"We're on vacation. I needed to get out of Shenkuu. We didn't realize this Pygui belonged to you. He was sold to me. Aed, my apprentice, formed a bond with Kimchee and he's been working off the fee," Mr. Loon explained.
I saw the Professor (for who else could it be) nod her head in understanding. Before anymore could be said, a wraith Korbat seemed to come out of nowhere. He looked terribly upset.
"Why don't you all shut up," the Korbat hissed.
"Lure, Kimchee is back. Terribly inconsiderate of me. We'll leave you to catch up on your sleep," Professor said.
"Good, so heartwarming. The more you chatter the more sleep I lose!"
Professor held open the door and we exited, leaving the grumbling wraith to his own devices. I was glad to get out of there. I glanced back and saw Lure roost in a cranny near the vaulted ceiling. Then, something clicked.
"Who was that," I asked.
"Lure, a genius who supplements the laboratories here, including those for Kayla. He is known for being vengeful. Its best not to cross him. As you can see, he hates his sleep being disturbed," Professor said.
"Yes, he's your age, Aed. I see great potential in this boy, Cherry," Mr. Loon said.
I beamed at the praise. Professor Cherry looked at me, again.
"So, I'll evaluate him. Then, we'll go from there," Professor said.
I followed behind the two old friends as they continued to talk and catch up on news. We settled in at the farm, where the Professor lived. Over the next week, I helped the Professor at her workplace. I was paired with Lure on a number of occasions and I learned a little about what exactly Lure did to his potions, especially those to do with concealment. I didn't particular care for the Korbat but I could tolerate him well (he had nothing on Uncle and Amenofi but I did respect him). After the week ended, Professor Cherry, Mr. Loon, Lure and I had a meeting.
"Aed, I too, see great potential in you. How would you like to stay here," Professor Cherry asked.
I felt honored by the Professor's offer, "I would enjoy it. However, I am Mr. Loon's apprentice."
Just because I felt honored did not mean that I had to accept the offer. I felt like I couldn't leave Mr. Loon after everything he had done for me.
"This would not be a permanent arrangement. Lure would assist you in most of your lessons."
Oh great! More time with the happiest Neopet in Neopia? I definitely wasn't keen on that!
"Yes, I survived without you forty years. I could go another forty years in the same manner," Mr. Loon said.
"Oh, are you trying to get rid of me so soon, 'old man'?"
With that, it was decided. I nodded my head in agreement. Since it wasn't a permanent arrangement, I felt I could leave Mr. Loon to stay with Professor and learn more than what I had a chance to in Shenkuu. Besides that, I didn't want to leave Kimchee so quickly. With the help of a Pygui and a Shoyru, I had come from nothing and was now embarking on the next voyage in my life.