In a small town in Meridell, a bouncing blue Yurble runs up to a food stand, stares at a large green marrow, then gestures excitedly at it, looking back at his mother with a pleading expression. She sighs, then pulls out her bag of Neopoints to pay for it.
The shopkeeper takes it, then leans back in his chair, his hands laced together behind his head, as the child and mother walk away with the sticky marrow. The sun is shining on his large straw hat; it is an unusually nice day for early April in Meridell, and he is happy to be enjoying it outside. He pulls out an apple and starts munching on it.
My mouth waters. I pull away from the telescope and refocus it; now I can see the Koi splashing happily in the Maraquan waters. All Neopia is enjoying the arrival of springtime. Except me.
For good reason. I should be hatching my next nefarious scheme. I should be plotting to regain control over Virtupets. But instead, I am in a small shack in Kreludor, spying like a peeping Tom into the lives of Neopians in that bright green and blue planet below me.
"Er, Mr. Sloth?"
"Mister?" I breathe, slowly turning around.
The small green Grundo blushes profusely, turning bright red under his bushy black mustache. "Er, Dr. Sloth, I meant to say, of course..." I always wondered how Nob developed his unusual facial hair with such a timid manner.
"It's Master to you," I growl. "What is it?"
"Well, um, I was wondering, if going to Neopia was in your plans at all for your next nefarious scheme?"
I smile a little sadly. I do kind of want to visit Neopia, and not for a nefarious scheme. As happens sometimes when I spend too much time on Kreludor, I find myself homesick for the rolling hills, the sweeping deserts, the bright blue seas of Neopia. If only to conquer it. "No, it isn't. Why?"
"Well, um, Easter is coming up, and my sister has some great-great-nephews, one three-year-old and two two-year-old twins. They would love to have Easter Bunny come, except there's no one to dress up in a Cybunny costume. So I was thinking, that maybe, if you were going to Neopia anyway, I could take a detour and--"
I cut him off pensively. "Cybunny costume? Where would one find one of those?"
"Well, I have a cousin, twice removed, who makes costumes. He can make anything, masks, wigs, even fake mustaches! He could fix one up for me in a jiffy. I mean, of course, if it were possible, which of course it isn't, because--"
I stare at Nob's mustache curiously, which he is curling around his finger in nervousness. "So if, say, one got a fake mustache from him, one could put it on, and no one would recognize one and scream and run and say 'OMG IT'S DR. SLO--' I mean, 'IT'S ONE!'"
"But of course. He's quite a proficient mustache maker."
I stand up decisively. My back makes quite a large creak because of all the hours crouched over the telescope, but I ignore it stoically. "We're going to be paying a visit to your cousin twice removed."
"But see, I only need the Cybunny costume if we go to Neopia, and we're not, so--"
"We're going to Neopia."
"Do you think anyone is noticing?" I mutter out of the corner of my mouth to Nob. We are strolling casually down the main street of Neopia Central, and so far I haven't gotten any suspicious stares.
"Um, no, I don't think so, Mister--I mean, Doct--Master. It is quite a good disguise, though I don't mean to sound cocky about the skills of my extended family."
I now have an identically bushy, black, and curly mustache. I have also included in my disguise a large top hat, and switched my majestic black cape with shorts and an Altador Cup T-shirt. I feel rather stupid, but I suppose that's what Neopians normally feel like.
I tried everything, but I couldn't hide the green skin. Hopefully it isn't noticeable.
I swing my tourist-like camera by my side. I haven't felt as lighthearted since, well, the time I thought I was going to take over Neopia. So much for that time. "So, Nob," I ask cheerily, "don't you need to go play the Cybunny?"
"Oh, I don't need to until Easter. That's in a few days. I can stay with you. Unless--" he practically chokes as he realizes I might be trying to get rid of him, "unless you want me to go? I mean, I totally understand, a guy needs his privacy, especially a nefarious villain, so I'll just go and--"
"Of course not." I slap him on the back, and he stumbles forward. "Feel free to stay as long as you want, old chap." I stride rapidly to the hot dog stand.
"Old chap?" he mutters under his breath before he follows me.
"Two hot dogs, please," I say to Hubert behind the counter. "What would you like, Nob?"
He rattles off a convoluted order, then I request a plain one. Hubert fixes them rapidly--there's nothing like fast food, that was one thing I was missing in my hermit-like state in Kreludor--and hands them to us with a wink. "I love the matching mustaches, guys," he says. "What is it, Twin Day?"
"Oh, we're brothers," I reply.
We walk off munching on our hot dogs. Who knew just a mustache could convert me into a perfectly normal Neopian, albeit a twin?
"So, where should we go next?" I ask Nob. I've been away from Neopia so long that I have forgotten what there is to see.
"Well, there's Krawk Island, Mystery Island, Lost Desert..."
"What is a haiku?" I ask Nob, confused as I stare at the sign.
"It's a short poem of three lines. The first and last lines have five syllables, and the second has seven. It's really quite simple to create one, in fact, my great-aunt on my sister's side is quite well known for her poem named quite aptly--"
"Engrossing. Well, you think the Haiku Generator dude is going to recognize me?"
"Beats me." He shrugs.
I throw caution to the winds (figuratively) and step up to the Kougra. He intones:
River controls wide
Peophin amplifies 0
ornament jumps wind.
Nob and I stand in awed silence.
"Powerful," I offer.
"Insightful," he tries.
"Makes absolutely no sense at all."
We walk on. I offer a silent prayer of thanks to Nob's second cousin three times removed for the mustache; without it, I would never have experienced in my life the life experience of listening to a haiku. Whatever it meant.
A Flotsam with an olive on his face greets us talking a mile a minute. "Ever since the Royal Family of Maraqua lost their home, I have been living on Mystery Island serving food to the great Mumbo Mango. And he is SOOO hungry, demanding meals every five minutes. Can you help me make his latest--"
Nob, predictably, interrupts. "It should be 'lost its home,' actually."
"What?" the Flotsam and I say simultaneously.
"You said the Royal Family of Maraqua lost their home. Family is a singular subject, so you should have said the Royal Family lost its home. It's really quite elementary grammar, actually."
The Flotsam stares at him for a few moments, then continues. "Oh! Here is another recipe. Well don't just stand there... make yourself useful! Do you want to help me or not? I need you to go and hunt for the ingredients for me... if you do it, I'll reward you with something special :)"
"Sure," I say. I only have a day with the mustache rental, so I want to make the most of it. The ingredients turn out to be Hot Dog Split, Three Layer Hummus, and Hairy Fungus Salad. Delicious.
As soon as we leave the earshot of the Flotsam, I turn to Nob and squeal, "We're going shopping!"
I swear I can see the '...' forming in a thought bubble over his head.
It shouldn't be that surprising that I'm enthusiastic about visiting the Marketplace. I've never even set foot in it before. Whenever I've tried to buy even hair gel (not that I use it, my hair is naturally beautiful) the shopkeeper screams and slams the door in my face. It's amazing the amount of freedom a mustache gives you.
I search for the first store that sells a Hot Dog Split. The shopkeeper is a friendly pink Aisha. "One thousand, one hundred Neopoints please," she trills. I hand her the money, and she tosses the slightly squishy Hot Dog over to me.
"Thank you, ma'am." I twirl my mustache at her, which I find is quite an impressive mannerism.
She looks at the mustache askance. "You're welcome. Nice mustache, by the way, sir."
"You look familiar. Have I seen you anywhere?"
"Probably in the Most Wanted section of the Neopian Times," I banter.
"Yeah, probably," she banters back.
"Well, I've got to get going, thanks for the banter!" I chuckle at my own joke and drag Nob along behind me to search down some hairy fungus salad.
"So, you'll make it back okay?" I worry.
"Yes, Master, don't worry," Nob reassures me. "I'll catch the next shuttle back to Kreludor."
"Okay." I stroke the mustache. "I'll be sorry to return this."
He sympathizes sympathetically. "Too bad it's only a one-day loan."
"Yeah." I watch as he pulls on the large Cybunny costume and hops away.
"Thank you, Dr. Sloth," the green Grundo, Nob's second cousin four times removed (or is it five? I keep losing track) says professionally as he takes back the mustache. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you."
My upper lip feel bald. I've grown to like having a mustache. And stroking it is just so good for my self-confidence.
I am back to being plain old most-evil-villain-of-all-time Dr. Sloth.
I sit in my evil-villain chair at the tallest part of Kreludor, staring in the mirror. My perfect hair is nicely greasy, my green skin smells sufficiently bad, and my red eyes gleam like pudding. There's something missing. I just don't look enough like an evil villain for my next nefarious plot.
Suddenly, I yell "Eureka" and summon Dob, Nob's distant relative of uncertain relation who is excellent at making disguises.
"Remember when you made me a fake mustache a few months ago?"
"Of course, Master."
"Do you have another readily available? I am thinking of changing my official image. No villain is a proper villain without a mustache to curl while yelling, 'Muahaha.'"
"Of course. I always carry an extra fake mustache in my pocket, in addition to duct tape." He pulls it out and hands it to me professionally.
"You are dismissed." I pull off the sticky tape on the back and arrange it carefully upon my upper lip.
I stroke it slowly in front of the mirror, practicing my most evil expression.