Maemo and Vrai Visit Mystery Island: Part Two
"There it is!" Maemo's voice lilted with glee as she saw the pitched roof of the Neolodge in front of them. Her angry trudge transformed into a swift skip in her excitement. Vraiment hefted his duffle bag, picked up his pace, and once again wondered how his master's mood could shift so suddenly and completely.
"Kougras," he murmured to himself. "Strange creatures..."
Vraiment stole a glance at the gloriously detailed fountain on their right as he hurried to keep up with his master. When they arrived at the door, he heaved a sigh of relief. Surely Maemo would slow a bit once they entered the Neolodge. And slow she did.
The interior of the Neolodge was paneled with dark brown wood; the lighting was dim but adequate, provided by elegant, shaded wall-sconces. Our two heroes walked forward, awed by the rich environment, and approached the giant, intricately carved desk in the centre of the room. The spotted Bori behind the desk greeted them with a particularly large, inflexible grin.
"Why, hello there!" he boomed. "I'm Sharden, and I represent the Neolodge Foundation! Who might you be?"
"I'm Maemocala, and this is Vraiment."
"It's great to meet you, Maemocala! You're not here to book a vacation, are you?" The Bori was still speaking loudly, and most of his words were sifted through the implacable grin plastered on his face. Vraiment wondered whether the Bori had a tongue behind his teeth – she certainly couldn't tell by looking.
"We are, in fact!" Maemo, energetic as always, was veritably bouncing at the idea of really getting the vacation started.
"Great! The Bori plopped down into the giant chair behind his desk and waved them into the seats in front of him. "Are you looking into visiting any of our hotels in particular, or are you open to suggestions?" He winked at that last phrase. Vraiment raised an eyebrow, but kept to himself.
"Oh, we want to go just everywhere! I can't imagine what the best place to start would be, can you, Vraiment?" Her petpet gave her a blank look, and shrugged. "He doesn't have any ideas either, but you said you had suggestions...?"
"Oh yes!" The Bori seemed particularly relieved, and actually let out a sigh at being given liberty. "There's this great little bargain hotel on Mystery Island – great vacation location, Mystery Island – and I think it'd be just perfect for a small party—" he looked askance at Vraiment, apparently hesitant to acknowledge a mere petpet as an important part of a travel group, "like yours. It has great views, interesting décor, and all the amenities you would naturally expect from hotels in the Neolodge line. How does that sound? Should I book you... two a room?" His smile was starting to waver a bit, perhaps the effort required to hold such a broad grin through such a speech was getting to him. Perhaps it was something else.
Maemocala was naturally unfazed. "That sounds fantastic! Put us down for a week!"
"A week! That's just wonderful! That'll be thirty-five neopoints, please." Maemo counted out the points and handed them over. The Bori, after depositing the neopoints into a small lockbox, pushed papers with remarkable speed, zinging pencils and paperclips across the room when their presence threatened to slow his scribbling, stamping, and shuffling. "It's all done! You're booked for one week at the Cockroach Towers. There are, of course, no refunds or exchanges. We hope to see you back here, at the Neolodge Foundation, very soon!" The salesman handed the two their papers and shuffled them through the door.
"Cockroach Towers," Maemo puzzled as the door slammed behind them. "What in Neopia is a cockroach?"
It was gigantic. Its brown, hairy antennae reached high into the sky, towering over the verdant foliage of Mystery Island. Its mandibles protruded from its circular head, its jaw hanging open to consume all who looked upon it. The thing's body extended the length of several neopets, and was composed of a series of slightly overlapping, full-body-width scales. To complete the image, six hairy, pointy legs protruded from its sides at even intervals, the last pair bending down to aid in its bipedal stance. A blinking sign was propped up behind the monstrosity, "Cockroach Towers Welcomes You!"
"Admiring the artwork, I see." Maemo and Vrai turned to see the source of the warm tones, and were greeted with the sight of a sweet, elderly Island Usul. He held a broom in his left paw, and his expression was both wistful and pleased. "It's rare for folks to really see the beauty of Lotun's invention, the cockroach, but I see it. I can tell you see it, too." The Usul smiled. "I'm Siri," he said, extending his left paw. "I take care of Cockroach Towers. Repairs, cleaning, that sort of thing. There aren't too many visitors, so the job's pretty laid back. That, and the fact that I get to be around this beauty every day makes life just about perfect."
Vraiment recovered the use of his jaw long before Maemo, and thus he was the one to respond, "Yeah, that thing's beautiful all right." Maemo smacked him with her tail and snapped out of her own stupor at the sound of her petpet's sarcasm.
"It is," she said. "So, is the whole hotel decorated this way, or is there only the statue?" Maemo tried to appear as if she liked the idea of the whole place being themed around the statue, but was having a bit of difficulty.
The Usul winked. "You'll see. Come on, I'll show you inside, introduce you to the creator. I know he'd love to meet folks of such good taste as yourselves." He nodded for them to follow him, hefting his broom in his paws. Maemo and Vrai exchanged glances, shifted their own burdens into more manageable positions, and followed the Usul as he traveled under the legs of the beast.
"Siri! You know I love it when you come to chat with me, but wait, who have you brought with you?" The Red Scorchio's handlebar moustache wiggled as he talked, and his voice was perhaps a bit too grandiose, but it was clear that he really did enjoy the company of the Usul.
"I've brought... wait, you never introduced yourselves, did you? Come on, out with your names." He turned to our friends with a jovial smile, waving and bowing slightly to give them the metaphorical stage.
"I'm Maemocala," the silver Kougra said tentatively (this much outright attention made her feel just a bit out of her element), "and this is my Baby Vampire, Vraiment."
"A Baby Vampire, huh? I haven't seen one of those in years!" The Scorchio peered down at the petpet, who promptly stuck out his tongue at the inspection.
"It's not that spectacular, I assure you. We have a room booked. Maybe you should take us there." Vraiment was mildly irritated. Not only had he been exposed to even more cockroach statues in the corners of the reception hall, but now some Scorchio was staring at him with more attentiveness than he'd probably give a charging meepit.
"Yes, yes! Sorry about that, I really didn't mean to stare. I'm Lotun, and I built this place." He grinned and puffed out his chest, apparently proud of his work, "Now, I presume you're here because you have a room booked?"
"We do," Maemo replied, trying not to cringe. She pulled out her booking papers and handed them to the proprietor.
"These say you're due to stay a week." He looked up and smiled at that statement. "That's great – I wish everyone could take that much time to enjoy the place." He looked down to skim through the rest of the document, and nodded once he finished. "I know just the room for you two. I'd be happy to take you there myself... and perhaps to share some of the history of the place along the way?"
The Scorchio looked too hopeful for Maemo to refuse him. "Sure," she said, "you can tell us about the place while we walk." She smiled, encouraging him.
He stood from his seat, rubbed a claw through his hair, and straightened his suit. "Great! I can tell you're really my kind of people. Thoughtful, considerate, and with excellent taste. Follow me." Maemo and Vrai exchanged glances at the particular string of compliments, Maemo with raise brows, and Vrai with the clenched lips that indicated he was probably biting his tongue with a fang. Still, they followed the pet to their room.
"I built this place, it's mine." The Baby Vampire twirled an imaginary moustache and preened on the bed, shaking his hips and dramatically puffing out his chest with each sentence. "The cockroach was my dream, I simply had to subject Neopia to it!"
"Vrai, stop that. He was just trying to be friendly. I'd rather you not mock our host."
"What? It's not like he can hear me."
"That's not the point. It's rude. Stop it or I'll make you help me."
"Fine." Vraiment plopped down on the bed, crossing his booted feet beneath him and flaring his cloak about his tiny form. "I guess I'll just enjoy the scenery."
The scenery was something to look at, though even Maemocala would admit she had problems enjoying it. The furniture was constructed from what looked to be some sort of dark brown shell with individual black hairs poking out at irregular intervals. The legs of the bed resembled the legs of the statue outside, and the mirror on the dresser was held aloft by a curving apparatus that looked very much like the statue's antennae. Thankfully, the furniture itself was sparse, and outside of the drab brown colour of the fabric used for the beds and two chairs' upholstery, everything else seemed fairly ordinary. Two twin beds, two chairs by the window (the window sported a great view of the giant statue's back-side – Maemo quickly closed the curtains after suppressing her initial shudder), and the dresser with vanity were all that the room contained.
It didn't take long for Maemo to finish fiddling with clothing and hairy dresser drawers and make an announcement that pleased them both. "We're finished unpacking. You know what that means?"
"We get to flee from this terrible dive and explore the more palatable parts of Mystery Island?" Vrai guessed, a smile of pleased relief on his face.
"Exactly," Maemo said, patting her petpet on the head with a furry paw. "Now, let's get going!"
To be continued...