Entry 1: Fishing for Lunch
Post Chime 15, aboard the Ferret Express
She had enough of gruel.
After the fifth bowl of the horrid concoction that consisted of oats, barley, stringy bacon, and everything but the bathroom sink, Rui took today's lunch into her own hands. She kicked the cook out of the kitchen, no matter how much the Pole Cat growled and hissed at her. The man even waved the cleaver in anger—the nerve of that man—but one ferocious snarl was enough to send him running out of the dingy room.
She might be indebted to the Weasels for the ride, but Rui Brewfort would not tolerate vile meals.
Granted, the food was technically well-balanced for a sailor, rich in vitamin C and other nutrients, so it was not as if they were being malnourished. Yet the way it was just mulched up, blended and pureed into a hot soup that had the consistency of oatmeal struck the golden Fox's nerves.
While she never expected to be served restaurant quality foods, she still wanted a real meal that she could chew.
Cheh, damn Weasels and their shitty food.
She was certain that it was a race thing, for Lana was not the best of cooks either and preferred feeding efficiency over food that was actually appetizing. And for that reason, Rui prepared all of their meals, learning how to cook as she went.
Now she was faced with a nostalgic challenge.
How to make an edible lunch plate with ship's limited provisions…
She raided the pantry and found eggs, heads of cabbages, a barrel of pickles, a whole dried ham hanging from the ceiling, and sacks upon sacks of various flour and grains. There was a cooler to the side, but the frozen meats and other foodstuffs were rock solid, making them unfit for quick preparations.
Grumbling, the golden Fox grabbed a cabbage and the bag of giant carrots next to the sack of potatoes. Next, she snipped the ham from its rope with her claws and fished a pickle from the barrel with a knife. She placed all these ingredients on the kitchen counter, muttering about how unclean it was. Her own kitchen in the Cog Weasel was pristine, and she kept it that way by forbidding Sakura and Yutsu from ever using anything in it, not that the other two could cook to save their lives anyway.
She cleaned the place up a bit even though her instincts told her to clean every nook and cranny, and once she was remotely satisfied, she began to work. She shredded the cabbage and the carrots with practiced efficiency then she diced the single pickle into tiny pieces. After sprinkling some sugar on the relish to neutralize its saltiness a bit, she dived back into the pantry to retrieve some eggs and cooking oil. She made these ingredients into a simple mayonnaise before she targeted the dried smoked ham she pillaged earlier.
Rui tasted the ham and found that it was one of those meats preserved to high hell with salt. She would have to slice this thinly so that it would not overpower the slaw she planned to serve it with.
Fortunately, the Pole Cat had already baked loaves of bread in the oven, so that part of her dish was good to go. At least, the man's bread making was not too bad. The crusty loaves were the only things she was able to finish in these past few days, making her antsy for something more substantial.
After prepping the various ingredients and mixing the simple slaw, Rui arranged the layers of her sandwiches in a production line comparative to that of a factory, designed for efficiency and orderliness. One after another, she constructed the small submarine-shaped sandwiches, each with even portions of coleslaw and shredded pork. She even took the Weasels' stack of toothpicks to hold the layers in place, uncaring of whether the men would complain or not.
They could certainly try.
Once satisfied of her trays of neatly lined sandwiches, the golden Fox now scoured the kitchen for something she could turn into a good drink. She looked in the fridge and only found bottles of beer, and when she looked in the pantry, she was greeted by barrels of rum and whiskey. Though she was once a server of alcohol and a gourmand of spirits, these sights only made her growl.
I can't serve these things to the kids…
Then something yellow caught her eyes. There, half-hidden behind the stash of cabbages was a bag of lemons the size of her fist. Her crimson eyes glinted as her mouth curved upward in triumph.
When her whole entrée was complete, Rui opened the door that led to the ship's deck to call for her charges. Much to her surprise however, it seemed like Sakura and Nita were preoccupied with something else.
"This is boring, Nita," the black-haired girl, who was half-draped over the railing, flicked her bushy tail as she looked down towards the sea, "how do you know you'll catch anything there?"
In spite of the Foxroach's doubt, the Bear only beamed and wiggled her tail in confidence, "I'm sure there are lots and lots of fishes down there, Sakura. There's so much water! And besides, Mr. Paddy said so."
The shorter girl flopped her chin over her folded arms, "but with only a fishing rod? Don't they use giant nets to catch fish out here?"
The blonde's blue eye blinked in wonder, "they do? Should I make one then?"
"Err…" the black-haired girl looked nonplussed, "wouldn't that take too long?"
Out of habit, Nita flicked the fishing rod she probably borrowed from Paddy and beamed, "it's not that hard. I can probably make one big enough in a couple of days."
"Are you serious…?" Sakura asked but Rui was sure the question was directed towards the Bear's dedication to catch fish, rather than the latter's ability to weave fishing nets.
"Kit," the older woman called to her charge, "lunch time. Help me get the trays out."
But before the tiny rebel leader could hop down from her perch, the younger blonde had already perked up, eager to assist and complete with a happily wiggling stub of a tail. "I'll help, Miss Rui! Sakura stay here and keep an eye on the line, okay?"
Shaking her head, the golden Fox huffed exasperatedly at the Cub who bounded towards her. However, it was obvious that even though she was more than glad to help, Nita still politely observed the older woman's boundaries, a quality that Rui appreciated. She held the door open so that the Bear could step inside the kitchen, where trays of food and pitchers of lemonade were waiting to be served.
"Wow, you made all these by yourself?" The young blonde whirled towards her in amazement.
She flicked her ear and nodded, "I'm used to making meals for several people. That one on the far right is for you and the Kit. I put an extra portion for you if one isn't enough. Take a pitcher of the lemonade too."
"O-oh… um, thank you."
Rui quirked an eyebrow, wondering why the Cub suddenly seemed apologetic and embarrassed, to the point that she twiddled her thumbs uncertainly. The Fox decided to guess the girl's concern and said, "Don't worry. Growing kids should have big appetites."
The Bear's lone blue eye lit up in gratitude, so much that the golden-haired woman had to look away, unused to such a happy person. Nonetheless, she was inwardly glad that the once sick girl had become this bubbly individual after recovery. That was still much better than having a deeply scarred one, damaged by her hardships.
Clearing her throat, the golden Fox gestured towards the door, "come, we have mouths to feed."
After Nita had obediently picked up the trays and exited the kitchen door, Rui followed suit with both her hands full as well. They were greeted by Paddy, who finally came in to check up on the usurper of the kitchen after two hours.
"Those look good, aye?" the Otter took some of the trays from the Fox's hands, "Ol' Broggan wasn't ta happy but I be thankin' ye anyhow. Even a seasoned sailor like me would like somethin' other than that gruel. Hehe… mind if ye cook the meals from now on, Lovely Miss?"
Rui responded with a terse growl that was enough to make the man back away and halt his teasing. "Aye, aye… I was jest jokin'?"
"Gah!" Sakura suddenly yipped, her tail flailing and fighting to retain her balance, "I got something!"
However, it was obvious that that something was a lot stronger than the tiny rebel since it was literally pulling her off the railing. Nita was the first one to react due to her fisherman's instinct, knowing that if something went wrong they would either lose the fish or Sakura would be pulled off-board. She gave the food she was carrying to Paddy and rushed towards the Foxroach's side, taking a hold of the fishing rod's handle.
"I be careful if I were ye," the Sea Otter chuckled jovially, "the catch around these parts can be as big as a man, aye?"
This immediately made Rui bark at the two girls, "just let it go! It'll drag you two down."
Expectedly, Sakura did not let go, "but Nita's been waiting for this bite all day! Nnggh!"
"We can get it, just hold on!" The equally determined Bear braced herself against the railing to provide more traction.
Growling, the golden Fox dumped the trays in her hand at Paddy as well when the fish seemed too much even for the physically stronger blonde, "you never listen to me, damn it all."
She did not have any more time to scold the two, for the fish had already dislodged the Kit from the railing, and left her hanging by her tail and ankles, which were now held tightly by Nita. Instinctively, she grabbed the Bear by the waist and pulled, but in doing so, she accidentally made the blonde unbalanced, allowing the fish to pull the girl off the railing as well.
"What the hell is this thing?" Rui snarled as she held onto the two girls. Paddy, who had placed the food on the deck, also came to their rescue. However, the Fox did not like where the man had grabbed her from behind so she involuntarily chucked the Otter off the deck using one of her invisible tails.
"Capt'n!" The Weasels on the deck, who witnessed their leader fly off board, chorused loudly.
"What was that for?" Paddy yelled as he surfaced from the waves.
"I didn't ask for your damn help," her tail swished angrily. This was not the time to feel her up, especially when two kids were on the line.
Furious, Rui stomped the ground and widened her stance. Then, she wrapped a couple of her imperceptible tails around Nita and pulled as hard as she could, tapping into the strength she so rarely used. The force was strong enough to even the tug of war, but it made the Bear exclaim a cubbish roar due to the pain of being pulled at. Sakura was yowling too but she remained stubborn and did not want to let go of the rod.
That was it, she has had enough.
With one mighty heave, she tugged the Bear back onto the deck. However, it also threw the screeching Foxroach meters away, where she landed on the crates that held the ship's cargo of coal with a small mushroom cloud of soot in her wake. Then suddenly, another figure landed on the crate adjacent to the coughing girl.
"Sakura!" Nita exclaimed as she hopped down from Rui's hold and ran towards her new friend and the catch of which they stubbornly refused to let go. She helped the Kit up and patted her as much as she could, although it was obvious that Sakura now needed something more than a good dusting to get rid of the soot.
"D-did we get it?" The Foxroach shook herself like a puppy and immediately turned to the flailing fish that was about her own size but was probably more than thrice her weight.
"It's Tuna!" The Bear happily exclaimed before pouncing on the fish to steady it, lest it might thrash back into the sea.
"We got it! Yes, we got it!" But before Sakura could completely celebrate the victory of her catch, the tuna smacked her with a well-aimed tail to the shin, making her bend over in pain while mewling like a kitten.
"I hate fish…" she whimpered as she nursed her bruised leg, her fluffy and dusty tail curled around herself like protective cocoon.
Still panting, Rui approached the two with a reproachful glare, which made both kids shrink against the crates. She let them squirm for a bit as a punishment for disobedience, but even she could not deny the adrenaline-filled enjoyment of this small victory. After all, it was not every day that she saw a massive fish like that.
So instead of scolding Sakura, she only flicked her forehead with a finger, eliciting a startled yip and wide-eyed confusion.
"Good job, Kit," Rui smirked and swished her tail triumphantly, "we'll have Tuna for dinner tonight."
The little rebel leader almost grinned, but then she remembered that she abhorred eating fish, which turned her smile into a scowl and her complexion somewhat green.
"No…" the poor girl almost curled up at the thought.
On the other hand, Nita was only too happy at the news from where she sat on the massive fish, "I'll help cook it! Of course o-only if you let me, Miss Rui."
The Fox shook her head at the Bear's bashful fidgeting, "that's alright. I can handle it."
She then turned to the Otter who had just climbed back on board with the help of some crew members, "Patrick, make sure this fish is gutted and clean before four o'clock."
Paddy, who was wringing his hat to get rid of excess sea water, only held his hands up, unwilling to confront a woman who could easily throw him off board with her tail, "Ma'am, yes Ma'am."
"Good," Rui dusted her hands and turned towards her sandwiches that have been ignored due to the ruckus, "time to eat lunch. Everyone help yourself. There are more on the kitchen counters."
She picked up two of the wrapped subs and tossed one over her head towards the roof of the cabin, where a gloved hand caught it with ease.
"I put extra slaw for you, damn Rabbit. No ham."
Yutsu twittered from where she was napping, obviously amused at the turn of events, "thank you, Foxy~ That was a great catch too! Tuna with sootball on the side."
"I am not a sootball, damn Roach!"
The blunette only laughed louder.
Sakura indignantly raised her ruffled tail like a war banner, fangs bared with antennae and whiskers frizzled. "Grr, just you wait, I'll climb over there and show—"
"Ignore her and go eat."
"Hnff! Foxy saved you this time, damn Roach—"
"Did you not hear me, Sakura Kurama?"
The use of her full name made the black-haired girl's ears and tail droop as she mewed her assent, like a child scolded by her strict mother. Fortunately, Nita was there to turn and distract her from the reprimand, tugging her towards the trays of sandwiches specially prepared for them.
"Wait," Rui suddenly stopped them after having the epiphany that the girls were now either covered in soot or drenched in fish slime. "Clean up first."
The Foxroach blanched, "But—"
"Okay…" the two obediently filed towards the washroom, but the golden-haired woman saw them run happily after turning the corner. Those mischievous little rascals…
"My…" Paddy spoke as he chewed his sandwich, "I wanna say that I'd want ye ta be me mum cuz this grub is tasty but… I'd rather not, seeing how strict ye are."
"Don't worry," Rui turned away from him and flicked her tail dismissively, "I wouldn't want you for a son either."
TBK - Journals is a series of short scenes that did not make the main books' pages due to space constraints. They are still regarded as canon material, however, in spite of the different tone and lightheartedness. They exhibit a more intimate look at character development, especially interactions between the cast that could not be shown in the main books.