The henchmen drop Rashid and Haroun off at the bus station and zoom away. The station is plastered with rhyming signs about driving safely, and the ticket window is surrounded by a violent mob rather than an orderly line. Rashid dives into the mob while Haroun stays and watches the rude game the bus drivers are playing with passengers, made possible by the fact that there's no posted bus schedule. One bus starts its engine, and when passengers hurry over to board, the driver smiles and turns off his engine and another bus hurriedly leaves the station. Haroun remarks that it's not fair.
In Alfibay, the road and traffic authorities use rhyme to encourage citizens to drive safely. As a general rule, rhyme makes things easier for people to remember (think of nursery rhymes). Further, as a literary tool, rhyming passages stand out and indicate importance to the reader. In this case, the importance of driving slowly and safely will be essential to the logic and humor of the rest of the chapter.
Haroun hears a booming voice behind him, which says that the game isn't fair, but it's still fun to watch. Haroun turns to look at the man, who has an abundance of feather-like hair on his head and face. The man introduces himself as Mr. Butt, a Mail Coach driver, and tells Haroun he's at his service. Haroun replies that there is something that Mr. Butt can do for him, and asks Mr. Butt if he could give Rashid and himself front row seats in the Mail Coach all the way to the Valley of K, making sure to make it to the Tunnel of I before sunset so they can admire the fantastic view. Mr. Butt (who speaks in rhyme) begins to protest, but seeing Haroun's face, agrees.
Haroun is beginning to take an active role in helping Rashid be successful in this storytelling adventure to G and K. This instance of actively trying to help is also the first instance in which Haroun actually experiences success in the matter, which provides him with confidence to try again later. Note too that Mr. Butt speaks in rhyme, which (along with his humorous name) adds to a fundamental absurdity in his character, as well as suggesting that what he says is important.
When Rashid reemerges from the ticket office, Haroun and Mr. Butt are waiting in the Mail Coach. Rashid and the other passengers are impressed, and Mr. Butt is extremely excited. He drives with increasing speed through the villages, completely forgetting to stop to deliver the mail. The coach begins its ascent up the mountain, going faster and faster, and the passengers first begin to argue and then fall into a terrified silence. Mr. Butt continues yelling and pointing out sites of gruesome accidents.
Despite speaking in rhyme himself, Mr. Butt is evidently oblivious to the rhyming signs warning of the dangers of driving quickly. We're also encouraged to remember the earlier aside about the mail service employees being extra excitable due to the difficulty of their job. Mr. Butt is evidence of that, as having this purpose that doesn't include mail is thrilling for him.
Haroun as well is silent with fear. Roadside signs warning of the danger no longer rhyme, and Mr. Butt has gone silent to concentrate on his driving. Suddenly a cloud appears in the road, and Mr. Butt slams on the brakes as they drive into it. Haroun then finds that they've emerged from the cloud alive and are in the tunnel of I. Mr. Butt announces that there's one hour to sunset.
Here, the fact that the signs no longer rhyme indicate just how dangerous the roads are, just as Mr. Butt's silence and concentration further indicates that this is a truly dangerous stretch of road.
Mr. Butt stops the Mail Coach on the far side of the tunnel so that the passengers can enjoy the sunset over the Valley of K. The colors are magnificent. Rashid hugs Haroun and admits that for a time, he thought they were done for: "khattam-shud." Haroun asks Rashid about a story he used to tell, and Rashid slowly responds that Khattam-Shud is the enemy of stories and of language itself, and because everything ends, people use his name at the ends of things: "khattam-shud, the end."
This is our first introduction to the idea of “khattam-shud,” which will go on to create the character Khattam-Shud. The novel is also beginning to pick at and consider story structure by bringing this element to life as an actual being. This is made possible in part by using the Hindustani word, as it's more natural for an English speaker to take khattam-shud as a name than "The End" would be.
As the Mail Coach descends into the valley, Mr. Butt drives slowly, saying there's no need for speed now that Haroun and Rashid have had their view. A sign that had once read "Welcome to K" has been vandalized to read "Welcome to Kosh-Mar," and Haroun asks what Kosh-Mar is. Rashid explains that it's from an ancient language that is no longer spoken, and the valley used to be called Kache-Mer or Kosh-Mar. Haroun asks if the names mean anything, to which Rashid replies that all names mean something. He says Kache-Mer means "place that hides a sea," but that Kosh-Mar is rude and means "nightmare."
This exchange makes it very clear that language and names are living things that change and evolve over time. We as readers can infer that the language Haroun speaks is both responsible for the valley now being known as "K" and is far removed from the language that called the valley Kache-Mer. This is also the first explicit mention that names mean something, which encourages the reader to consider the meaning of names going forward.
The Mail Coach arrives in the bus depot after dark, and as Haroun and Rashid disembark, Mr. Butt says he'll be there when they return to drive them home. Rather than being greeted by more henchmen, Haroun and Rashid are greeted by the politico himself, who is shiny-faced with an insincere smile. As he greets them, Haroun realizes that the news of Rashid's failure in Town of G hasn't reached the Valley of K yet. The politico introduces himself as Mr. Buttoo, and he leads them to the edge of the Dull Lake. As they walk, Haroun notices that they're surrounded by guards and that the citizens of the Valley look hostile.
Haroun here is considering what qualities and traits make a villain. He notes physical traits, such as the smile, and also the fact that Mr. Buttoo feels the need for guards walking among his own constituents. The reader isn't given any reason to believe that Haroun is wrong in his assessment, but this mental cataloguing of people is one place Haroun will later begin to develop more nuance than we see here.
When they reach the edge of the lake, a boat in the shape of a swan is waiting for them. Mr. Buttoo tells Haroun and Rashid that they'll be staying in the finest houseboat on the lake, and Haroun understands that he's being insulting. As they move across the lake, Haroun tells Rashid to not be sad, and Mr. Buttoo angrily jumps on Rashid for disliking the arrangements. Rashid truthfully tells Mr. Buttoo that he’s sad because of a matter of the heart, and Mr. Buttoo replies that there are plenty more fish in the sea, angering Haroun. Rashid sighs that one must go a long way to find an Angel Fish. The weather suddenly changes, and the boat is surrounded by a mist so thick that Haroun can't even find his own nose.
Haroun is still trying to care for Rashid and help mitigate the damage done since Soraya left. He takes Mr. Buttoo's reactions to Rashid's sadness as personal attacks to both himself and his father, further cementing his belief that Mr. Buttoo isn't a good candidate. Note that despite Haroun's youth and black-and-white understanding of the world, he's able to pick up on these extremely underhanded insults. This gives a sense of how very observant Haroun is.