Over the next few months Bowser was pretty pleasantly satisfied. He tried to eat better, drink more water. He did lose a few pounds. He caught up with DK every few weeks, and Ganondorf, too (who was now over 200k followers), but he kept stuff with the pseudo bros on text. DK had suggested to him that maybe he just needed a new challenge for challenge’s sake. Ganondorf, of course, liked that idea. The Nintendo Company was always down for him to contract with them, they always had been. He wrote to his contact there and told them he was looking for a larger challenge and would be willing to move around his schedule to do so, if they had anything that seemed like a good fit. He went to sleep a little embarrassed but ultimately proud of himself for reaching out.
He woke up to an email that surprised and scared him.
I hope this email finds you well. It’s serendipitous that you wrote when you did, the rest of the team wanted to reach out but were sure that you wouldn’t have time considering your responsibilities as monarch. We’re in the process of interviewing for a senior leadership position that we think you’d be perfect for. Please let us know a time this week that would work for a call, or preferably a meeting.
Bowser had some coffee and reread the email on the toilet to be sure he had read it right. He felt his blood rate rise, and frantically wrote and rewrote a response and got scared about taking too long before calming himself, reminding himself that a few hours before a response would make him look busy, and busy is good.
Around 3pm that day he wrote back.
Glad to hear it, I think this will work out well. I can come in on Thursday afternoon, let me know what time is good for you so I can move my meetings.”
Bowser had no meetings to move, but…
The meetings were friendly, but the people across the table were a little more dodgy than usual. Avoidant. They wouldn’t say outright what they wanted him to do, they just asked about his leadership experience (extensive) and his familiarity with Nintendo lore (“I’m about 30% of the lore!” he bellowed, to much applause from the room). But everyone in the room seemed pleased, even excited. He shook hands and left. The next day he opened his email to send a thank you follow up when he saw another email from Reggie.
I’m excited to be writing to you, the team feels very positively about you and the possibility of bringing you on. I’m happy to be the first to tell you that we’ve been doing the rounds interviewing for the new vice president of Nintendo America. Let me be the first to extend our invitation.
Beneath the text was an image of a bright “+1 UP!”
Bowser immediately panicked and texted DK frantically to see what he thought.
“DUUUUUUUUDE FUCKING YESSSSSSSS Dude you gotta try it!” said DK.
“Thanks man, it’s just, it’s a little more than I was even hoping for! I mean, I’ve run a small nation before, I think I’m good at it, but Nintendo? It’s just a lot!”
“You don’t have to say anything yet. Tell them you wanna think it over for a few days. They sprung this on you, you have the right to deliberate!”
“Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. OK. OK cool. Thanks DK.”
“When you’re sitting at the top of Nintendo you just send some Bananas my way, man!”
a few more “lol” texts between them and Bowser was feeling calmer.
This felt different. This felt big. Was he ready to be that kind of team player? To be answerable in so many directions? And what about the new team? Would they like him? How would he strike that balance between fun and discipline? Was this even what he wanted to do with his time? Was this “Bowser”? DK’s words rang in his mind, about not needing to be a villain. “I can try something new,” He said out loud to the dungeon halls one night.
Two days later he sent Reggie his acceptance email, and posted for the first time in a while on his socials “Big stuff on the way…” The post took off a little, enough to make him feel cool but not enough to spur any rumors that might hurt Nintendo.
Bowser’s first weeks went as well as first weeks can. He often felt overwhelmed, or suspicious if he didn’t feel overwhelmed. He talked to DK for understanding, and to Ganondorf for raw hype-up. The work wasn’t actually as bad as he feared, there wasn’t much that he didn’t know how to do from administrating a nation, there were just more odds and ends than he was used to. But he could learn quickly. When he felt stressed he started to exercise with Ganondorf, just to clear his mind. He started to see what Ganondorf had been talking about; working out was never fun, but it was better than the chaos of an unexercised mind and body. He had a picture on his desk that faced him so only he could see it. It was of Bowser headbutting the top of a doorway, refusing to bend or pull his head into his shell. “Nothing Makes You Shell Up” it said.
There was one problem. His changed role with Princess Peach and Mario was confusing him and even months after starting, it wasn’t feeling right. Mario and Peach were salaried, but they carried themselves with the independence of contractors. It made it hard to get quality work out of them, and they loudly supported each other in meetings in ways that Bowser felt undermined not only his authority, but the team’s efforts. Peach was endlessly late to meetings, wasting the paid for hours of many other characters. Once, when she entered late and simply announced that the meeting would need to be restarted for her, Fox and Falco looked to Bowser for some sort of correction. Bowser kept the meeting in line, but his inability to get punctuality from Peach felt like a shortcoming to him.
Mario’s problem was that he basically took orders from no one but Peach. In almost every room, Mario was a smug little showman, grinning for whoever would cheer for him. He literally entered meetings with “It’s a ME, Mario!” Insufferable. It grated on the rest of the team but none of them seemed to want to confront him, maybe they had tried and failed. He consistently lost focus, dropping his parts of projects to go hang out with whatever Peach was working on. And even as he shirked his work onto other team members, he had the nerve to smile at them as he left the building. “It’s Friday! Here’a we go!”
This went on for months. Bowser had been liking the work, but trying to get Peach and Mario in line was draining any joy he had from it. Still, when he thought back to his time before this job, he didn’t wanna go back. Being the Vice President, he didn’t feel like an NPC.
Things broke around the plumbing installation of the new Nintendo America headquarters. Bowser was in the lounge area with the team for their weekly status meeting.
“How are exterior platforms doing?” Bowser asked.
“All on schedule, sir!” chirped Isabelle.
“That’s great, Isabelle, you’re really knocking it out of the park on this.”
Isabelle smiled and waved away a mimed applause from Bowser.
“And how about the PR around the cost of moving families here?”
Bayonetta spoke up “It’s all looking pretty good. There are a few families that have had some gripes, but we’re able to turn it into a story about meeting their needs, listening to them, rather than a story about them feeling slighted. And we are covering those new costs, aren’t we?” She shot Captain Falcon a sharp look.
“Of course! Yes! I told you we’d cover it last week and we’re covering it, aren’t we?” Falcon turned to Mr. Game and Watch, who made a few strange sounds that the rest of the team laughed along with.
Bayonetta was satisfied and turned back to Bowser with a confident look.
“Perfect, that’s really nice stuff guys. Falcon, you let me know if you need help pushing anything through, and Bayonetta, you let me know if you need me to push Falcon around.” Bowser winked at Captain Falcon, and the group laughed along. “Well, if that’s everything-” Wii Fit Trainer raised her hand.
“Yes, yeah what’s up?” Bowser touched his tie.
“Well, the rec rooms are a little stalled up in construction, the plumbing for the pool and the locker rooms isn’t installed yet.”
Everyone in the room turned to Mario, who only seemed to realize it about ten seconds later.
“Mario, can you tell us where you’re at with the locker room plumbing?” Bowser offered.
“The locker rooms, they are nota’ part of my scopa,” he said with smug confidence. The lounge immediately felt hot.
Bowser was bewildered. “What do you mean?”
“He means that they aren’t his job,” Peach interjected. Bowser knew she would, and simply squared his head at her to acknowledge the comment. He turned his head then to Wii Trainer.
“Mario, I sent you those plans months ago, I have your confirmations on them!” Wii Fit Trainer protested.
“That’s impossible,” scoffed Peach.
Bowser now squared his head and his shoulders to her. “Princess Peach, I’m gonna need to have Mario speak for plumbing dept on this one, thank you. Mario?”
Mario was cocksure. “Ah, I guess it’sa possible that Wii Fit sent me those plans, I can get to them at the end of the month.”
Bowser clenched his fists and released them, and that motion alone was enough to gently shake the floor around him. The rest of the team looked at each other. Bowser put on his toothiest smile. “Let’s offline this one and loop back around to it later.” The room lost some tension, but not completely.
As the meeting came to an end, people started to shuffle out. “Mario, can I talk to you for a minute?” Mario and Peach both turned back and paused. “You can go, Peach,” Bowser said.
“You can GO, Princess Peach.”
Peach gave Mario a worried glance, Mario smirked and reassured her.
Bowser led Mario into a side room. He was ready. When Mario closed the door behind him, he started to let it out like bile over his teeth.
“Mario, we can’t wait until the end of the month.”
“Aw c’mon Bowsy, that’s how long its’a gonna take!”
“No. No I don’t think you understand. The rest of the team is on time. The rest of this whole team showed up and did their work. You dropped the ball, Mario.”
“Bowsy I’ma sorry to disappoint you but-”
“Disappoint ME? No. I’m fine. Bowser is fine. You let Mrs. Wii Fit down. You let down everyone on that team that is taking the deadline seriously to move 2500 people here to give them a new start in a new city. What you did didn’t hurt me, Mario, but it has the potential to hurt the rest of the team.”
“But Bowser, to make up the lost time, I’d have to work nights and weekends!”
“Well then I better see you every night, Saturday and Sunday, or you’re off the project.”
Mario opened his mouth and closed it, incredulous. “But…but Peach, what if she needs help?”
“It’s sweet that you would worry. Thank you Mario, but our princess is in another department. You focus on plumbing, and Peach will focus on security infrastructure.”
Mario raised his hand and lowered it. Opened his mouth, and closed it, fuming.
“That’s…so much a’work. I was a’gonna take a’time off to go a’fishing”. Watching Mario get madder and madder, the feeling was filling Bowser up. Something was feeding him. Watching Mario’s sense of weakness, Bowser felt right. It felt like he was crushing Mario without even touching him. This was better than anything he had ever felt in the castle. This was better than a rock hard shell covered with spikes. This was better than flame breath. Wielding the cudgel of the corporate power was the single purest rush of villainy that Bowser had ever felt. Being a boss to fight at the end of a game was fine. Being the boss with the ability to set hours and withhold pay and career advancement was villainy beyond anything Bowser had ever known. What Ganondorf had for himself was great. If DK wasn’t a villain anymore, fine. If drugs and mayhem were all the pseudo bros needed to sleep at night, great. Bowser needed something very specific, and he had found it again. He strode out of the meeting room feeling ten feet taller than before. He walked to his corner office, where the door had been adjusted for his size. He turned back to see Mario storming out of the meeting room. “And Mario,” he called, his mouth expanding to a Cheshire grin, “if you wanna talk it out, you know where to find me.”
Bowser looked out of his window over the massive fortress that was Nintendo’s American HQ. He thought of the palatial new home he was making. That night he posted a pic of himself with DK and Ganondorf working out together in The Dungeon. Bowser wore his spikes and his tie, and captioned it “Chillin Villains 🤪”. It was the most liked post he had ever made.