Link walked over to the table where Luigi was already drinking his black coffee. Luigi only drank a cappuccino on the weekend as a treat. All week long it was black coffee, and he never made a point of it to anyone.
“So how’s it been, Luigi?” Link had a cup of hot water that he was crushing herbs into. It struck Luigi that he had never heard Link’s voice. Link was young in the face but had the voice of a man, there was no mistaking.
“It’sa been agood!” said Luigi. “An ahow abouta’ you? How isa’Hyrule?”
Link nodded as he swallowed his tea “MMM! Good! Good, things are good. The Princess has Ganon under wraps, and that should last for about another 100 years, so I have some time to focus on some other projects.”
Luigi’s eyes sparkled. “Wow, that’sa so amazing that ayou can do that!”
Link shrugged off the compliment. “Well, you know, you gotta take what you win, otherwise why fight?” Luigi nodded in a blank fashion that told Link he didn’t understand. “Luigi, when are you gonna take a sabbatical? What kinda stuff are you working on?”
Luigi looks at the floor. “Wha, me? NO no no no no no, I cannah be doing a sabbatical, I must be saving a’princess a’Peach, and then there’s the plumbing.”
Link paused, confused. “…plumbing?”
Luigi laughed at the Hylian. He had forgotten that Hyrule was a medieval world. “Ah, it’sa these a’pipes that a’go evary-where to take a’water-”
“I know what plumbing is, Lou, I meant, ‘are you seriously doing plumbing?’”
Luigi was the confused one now. “Every Monday to a’Friday, and some a’Saturdays.”
Link put down his tea and shook his head in disbelief. “Whose plumbing are you doing? Do you have a company? Is this like a celebrity deal thing?”
Luigi was almost upset. “No no no, its’a just a’princess Peach, she a’sends me around to a’fix the pipes around the kingdom, I’m a plumber!”
Link sighs and looks down at his tea. “Lou…Luigi I thought the plumber thing was a shtick. Like a back story. You mean to tell me that you’ve been saving Princess Peach with Mario on the weekends? After a 40 hour week of plumbing?”
Luigi was getting embarrassed, but he didn’t know why. He didn’t know why Link seemed to be getting upset. “Well, like I a’said, sometimes itsa’ 60 hour a’week. But a’yes, I usually save a’Princess a’Peach on a’Sundays, sometimes on a’Saturdays or a late a’Friday.”
“Why are you still plumbing? Why do you still have to do that?”
Luigi felt silly having to explain again, “Well, my apartment doesn’t a’pay for itself.”
“You’re paying rent???? To who?!”
“To the Mushroom a’Bank, of course! To a’Princess a’Peach’s mushroom a’bank!”
Link ran his hand through his hair, and then breathed into them for a moment. “Luigi. Are you telling me. That you work 5–6 days a week. Plumbing. To pay rent. To Princess Peach. And then work Saturday and Sunday to save her from Bowser?”
“Saving the a’Princess is an honor, it’s not a’compensated.”
Link fell back in his seat as if hit by an arrow.
Luigi felt that he had to defend something. “Well, I’m a’sorry we can’t all a’be the hero of a’Hyrule!”
Link looked weary. “Luigi, Hero of Hyrule is a contractual position and I negotiated rigorously to get what I have now. You think Princess Zelda gives me a 100 year sabbatical out of the goodness of her heart? I mean don’t get me wrong, I like her, she’s nice, but she’s a monarch, she doesn’t mess around. I had to fight tooth and nail to get my contract the way it is. In some ways I had to fight Zelda harder than I ever fought Ganon.”
Luigi was slumped in his chair, ever deeper by the moment. “I’m obligated by contract to arrive once every hundred years to stop Ganon or a comparable Ganon-level threat, assisting the Princess as needed until the task is done. I’m damn good at what I do. I get to keep all the rupees I make at work, and I’ve kept on retainer for 100 years at a time, all while getting benefits and a small home in Tarrytown, paid for by the crown.”
Luigi was bewildered. “Such a generous a’princess…”
“No, Luigi. Zelda’s great but that isn’t generosity. The Fire Emblem kids got me into the Nintendo Society of Swordsmen and Swordswomen, they taught me how to negotiate the contract. They supported me through the whole process.”
Luigi said nothing, only raised his eyebrows.
“Luigi…the plumbing you do for Peach…”
“Mushroom Kingdom is a ‘right to work’ kingdom. It’s not union. My health insurance eats most of my bills.” With this, Luigi literally shrank to become small Luigi. Link put a hand on his shoulder.
“HEY. Hey. Luigi. There’s a lot of shame that comes with feeling like you got taken advantage of. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Zelda’s family had me working for them as a child laborer for centuries. It happened, but it doesn’t have to keep happening. Maybe we can get you involved in another Smash Bro Union. I dunno, maybe even something through Sonic’s thing, he’s in a union for flagship characters.”
Link carried small Luigi out and sent him some material about unionizing. He wasn’t sure how to talk to Mario about it, he was actually afraid that Mario might go to Peach when he heard what Luigi was doing. But Link assured Luigi that he and the rest of the Nintendo Society of Swordsmen and Swordswomen would do everything they could to help.