The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13: Comes to Light Pt. 02: Cracks in the Alliance ( Chapter 47 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
And there he was-a crumpled heap on the floor. The youngest in the line of Link had passed out after witnessing his own bloodshed in an effort to supposedly save the queen of Hyrule from a set of unruly knights attempting to forcibly remove her from the fortress under their king's orders. In truth, he'd laid down a challenge to the Sermonian knights, one right after the other. "Fight me for her with no weapons," Junior had proclaimed, undoubtedly inspired by his father's fight and display of godly prowess earlier that day. The older of the two Sermonian knights, a somewhat statuesque man, possibly six and a half feet tall, who was accompanied by a fellow subordinate and one of Zelda's Hylian Elite, looked at the challenge somewhat seriously. Judging Junior's physique as that of a man, his would-be opponent flipped a few loose strands of grayish brown hair out of his eyes before accepting.
And so they squared off.
This was to be Junior's launching platform in his mind. He waved off objections from his mother, her mother, his dad's mother, and the other women, all in an effort to showoff. No, this would be his first official battle that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was his father's son, showing off would be bonus. Besides, it wasn't fair to Queen Zelda, Junior believed, to have to leave if she wasn't ready to, as she'd told the two Sermonians, even going so far as to call off her own guard who'd attempted to intervene on her behalf. Keep the peace was her motto, Junior had learned long ago, as she seemed to talk about peace as much as his father. Then for this knight to actually pick her up, kicking and screaming, and toss her over his shoulder while claiming to serve her best interest, was just disrespectful. She'd even offered to just quit putting up a fuss and go home in lieu of the challenge, but, alas, this was now HIS fight. Armed, Junior wasn't worth much in a quarrel or so he'd come to believe after being bested by his mother a number of times in mock battles. He couldn't hit the woman once, let alone the set limit of five times.
However, when it came to hand and foot speed-especially with the boost his unlocked powers had given him-no one could lay a finger on him. A sound realization, but one he didn't abide by.
"I'll do like Dad," he muttered to himself. "No powers," Junior then proclaimed to his challenger, smirking in a manner reminiscent of the old him prior to Link's return. Or perhaps it was the confidence to express said confidence without the haunting specter of his father to physically live up.
Whatever the case, the "battle" began. As expected, the youth's speed and agility far outmatched the partially armored knight's. The Hylian knight even chuckled at his comrade's expense, as Junior landed grazing blows against the man's cuirass. Due in part to his physical makeup, Junior didn't feel any serious pain from the punch that he took in the gut, but he also didn't make his adversary feel any either. He decided to test his luck and allowed the giant to strike him once in the face. The breath came out of Sepaaru's lungs for the first time since the encounter began, and she almost reacted. However, much to her surprise, Junior wasn't hurt at all. He barely moved from the impact, as loud as it was. It stung, sure, but it didn't rattle him in the slightest, which shocked almost everyone. His grandfathers let out amused little chuckles, where as his grandmothers continued to watch without the same bloodlust their mates seemed to possess.
"Weak," Junior prattled, believing himself tough and strong without relying on magic, never realizing he was half the embodiment of such, thus would always rely on it.
The knight took this in stride, though, laughing himself and complimenting the youth on his bravery and strength. Observation had made the man keenly aware that this was a child, as no real warrior would be so flippant as to be struck purposely. To him, this was now simply a game with the son of a hero he'd heard about in lands far and wide. He'd lost his own sons to the ravages of war ages ago, and relished this moment to spar with this boy as he'd done with his own sons. He was from a different time-an age where Arthur's father ruled, where every able bodied man fought, and queens' words were never considered before that of the kings'. Arthur had asked him to escort Zelda home, never drag her off. But what this fellow heard was different. The words were scrambled into an order a man of the fringe, who'd once served the Original Hellion of Sermonia, would expect his king to say: "Bring her back here, even if you have to drag her." So, that's what he sat about to do. But this little detour was fun, joyous, and pleasant for a man who'd recently come back to serve his former king's son. He'd been waged in war for nearly ten years, he recounted, chasing down the Sermonian deserters and raiding the mine-dwelling cities with a few loyalists to return them to his king's son in Hyrule. Alas, most of his men died-sans Jonas, his nephew, standing against the wall over there-and he had to return with nothing but his loyalty to offer his king.
The heavy thoughts had taken him out of the fight for a mere second, but Junior capitalized. His fist collided with the knight's jaw, snapping the man's head fiercely to one side and dropping the behemoth to his knees as the tendons in his neck snapped his head back to the front, lest they pop and see his head spin completely around. The boy, it seemed, possessed not only the muscular maturity of a man twice his years, but also his mother's right hand. Unfortunately, Junior also possessed her earlier lack of focus, as the brief adulation and whistling from the crowd played to his ego. And in that instant, the knight's mind clicked over and reacted with a warrior's instinct-short distance, short blade, quick slice, even quicker kill. Like that, the dagger in his boot flashed, speeding toward Junior for blood, but the Hylian knight shouted, "Hey! Unarmed combat!"
But the momentum-the warrior's instinct-had completed the action in the knight's mind before his body had time to react, thus his body had to obey the initial instinct and all movements associated with it. Thankfully, however, the body's instinct curbed mere inches, as he wasn't fully committed to the act of killing. Luckily, Junior's tunic was sliced open on the side. That was enough for the knight, though. He felt as though he'd disgraced himself and sheathed his weapon in silence. Rare as it was to find in a Sermonian warrior from the old guard, this one had qualms with breaking his word, even in battle. Of course, Junior saw his fight ending and himself a victor by default, instead of a victor by his opponent's sound defeat. Thus, he egged the old warrior on.
"I heard the Sermonians were weak, but this is sad," he said arrogantly, whistling and shaking his head in a pitying manner, never noticing the effect his words were having on the other Sermonian knight, who was a lot younger and lot more prideful than his contemporary. "I'll still fight you, even if you need a weapon!" Still, the old knight didn't reply or take heed of the words, but merely looked at his surroundings as though he was out of place and time.
"Jonas, Ajax, I'm going back to the castle. Make sure the queen returns home safely," he told his men, making his exit in a quiet contemplation.
"Unreal," Junior said in disgust and mild embarrassment. "He just ran like … like a coward!"
"Like you know anything of battle," Jonas, Sermonian knight and taker in great pride in his people, said with a seething disgust. "You Hylians think everything's so sweet and fantastic in the world, hiding behind our military might, while looking down on us. You're the cowards! You take all of our hard work, endless training, and then what? You give the credit to some fruit in leggings and a ridiculous hat, as though he's the one keeping this shit afloat! People know the Sermonian legacy-a legacy which men like Cyrus there made! People know we're the ones not to be fucked with!"
"Blah, blah, blah-shut up and pick up your sword and fight if you're so upset," Junior replied, taking the situation far too lightly, but seeing an opportunity to replace opponents nonetheless. Again his mother protested, and again she resigned herself to sit there and watch when he assured her that he had this. After all, demigod versus man wasn't exactly a hard outcome to predict. Even if her son didn't have the level of battle expertise that his confidence alluded to, he was still half-god and superior to the angry knight in her eyes.
Link Sr. sat remarkably still during the brief encounter. Even trapped beneath his mortal flesh, he could feel the mystical resonance coming off this knight's cuirass. Sermonian Iron went into the steel breastplate and sword, he realized dismally. Stupid move, he thought of his prior actions. He recalled enchanting the iron mines with a smug satisfaction, but that was how gods gained temporary boosts in power-mortal prayers, sacrifices, and offerings at alters. Each god was born with a certain limit to their respective power, but through the creation and farming of mortals-keeping them appeased and keeping them in worship of you-a god gained more power. The boost dwindled with time, as fewer people worshipped or were swayed into another god's favor, but while the people worshipped and were happy, they added to a god's power greatly. Iron was the elder Link's gift to his recently acquired mortals (the Sermonians) back then, a metal which could be fashioned into bigger, stronger weapons that would allow his people to conquer more people and make those new people worship him, thus give him greater power. The fact that the mines would never run dry wasn't good enough, though. Link Sr. grit his teeth, because he had to go the extra mile and make the iron indestructible to everything less than a god. Now, in irony's finest moment, this eldest Link watched his very creation not only defeat his grandson, but open several vicious wounds across his flesh.
In the present, Link and Nabooru had arrived in jovial spirits from their brief hiatus.
Years had elapsed for them, but only mere minutes to everyone else. But that was of nil importance, as the Gerudo had now enclosed around Jonas for hurting their prince. Once they became aware of Link's presence, the circle of women parted for their king, all feeling somewhat ashamed for letting the fight progress. Still, Junior had persisted through his first injury that he could win. The smile slid from Link's lips as he looked at each of them as though they'd betrayed him again. And, over top of the crowd, he surveyed his father and Ganondorf and their wives, before his eyes locked with his father's.
"Situations where I don't move forward or backward, right?" he asked with a sort of grim chuckle, but his father simply nodded, bridging his hands in front of his face.
"He tried to stop him from carting Zelda off," Sepaaru offered up … lamely by her own definition. "He said …"
"I don't care what he said," Link snapped quietly, extending his hand toward his son and floating him gently into his arms. Junior lay wilted across his father's arms like a wet towel, blood spiraling down his arms and dripping on the marble floor. "You know he's not a fighter," he added, noting the boy was "only" bruised, "slightly" wounded, and "merely" unconscious due to possible blood loss from the gashes in his gut, chest, back, arm, and face.
There was a seething in the room that Jonas was unaware of. To his left, seated precariously at the table, Ganondorf fiddled with a steak knife rather anxiously, overcome with a sort of anger-and not just the typical anger brought on by years of suffering. This was the precise anger of a man who'd seen his family wronged and wanted revenge, but "why" was the question running through his mind. This boy was Link's son-child of the monster-and should hold no sway over his emotions. But, alas, the kid did. And to Ganondorf's right, a few seats down, was the kid's other grandfather-just as angry, just as conflicted, and just as ready to carve something long and brutal in Jonas's head. Their wives knowingly stroked the two beasts' necks, although they weren't far removed from the same emotions themselves. And at the end of this spectrum-not to mention the table itself-sat Nabooru's parents. The boy was of no relation to them, but they were hard pressed to miss the flare of low-key emotions playing off Ganondorf and their daughter's father-in-law.
There was seldom a dull moment in this era, they thought.
"Relax, I was careful to not seriously injure the boy after I realized he was so unskilled," Jonas said abruptly, twisting his wrist sharply and sending a few splatters of Junior's blood across Link's boots, before sheathing his sword.
"Well, I'm glad to know that," Link then said, surprisingly all with his sincerity, before moving through the crowd still holding his limp son. He paused, and then added, "If he tries to leave, kill him."
"With pleasure," Amaraa replied eagerly, licking the dull edge of her scimitar.
"Wha-" Jonas halted his approach toward Link as the Gerudo all unsheathed their swords and surrounded him. "Look, it isn't as serious as all of-"
Link stopped in the doorway and cut his eyes back toward the Sermonian knight, saying, "You have no idea how serious this is." His eyes pulsed with a red aura, giving reflective pause to the knight, who watched the giant fade away with his boy and his wife.
On the fourth floor, Link and Nabooru stood over Junior, tending to his wounds the old fashioned way. Nabooru handled the brunt of the work, being particularly careful to cleanse the lacerations across his stomach, chest, and the one going down the side of his left jaw line, as they were particularly nasty. The one on his arm wasn't so bad. They were all flesh wounds to a degree, missing major muscles and arteries, like the knight had said, but she knew that mattered little to Link. Junior slowly came to, moaning with pain as his wounds weren't healing quite as fast as one would expect. He saw his father's face and knew he was in trouble. Deep, deep trouble.
Man, of all the times to wake up, the kid thought dismally.
"I already know what you're going to say, Dad," he began, pausing only when his dad cracked his neck, indicating he was upset. Really, really upset.
"I'm not going to yell or complain; I'm just going to ask one question: Why?" Link sighed, looking over at Nabooru as he sat on the edge of the boy's bed.
"And I'm not going to accept that bullshit as an answer," Link interjected.
With that in mind, his son sank a little deeper under his sheets and mumbled, "I just wanted to see if I could be like you."
"Be like me? Why would you want that?"
"Because … you're strong and stuff. Even without the magic, you're still strong and aren't afraid of anything," his son continued in equal parts awe and sheepish embarrassment. "I just wondered if I could be the same way you were against Grandpa if I ever lost all the powers."
Link tried to chuckle, but it came out like the pant of a wounded animal. He hung his head some, as he flailed and flapped around his brain in an effort to come up with a decent response. "It's not that I don't have fears," he began, paused, and then started over. "It's not that I don't have fears, it's just that they were beaten out of me a long time ago." His son looked up at his father, watching intently as he began to undo his tunic and slide it over his head. In an instant, Link was in the guise of his twenty-six-year-old self, complete with scars. "This is what no one ever sees, Link," he then said, taking his son's hand and running them across his flesh. It was tough, like a sun-dried leather hide, and raised and lumped full with scars on top of scars. The boy recoiled, as if disgusted, but he was more amazed and shocked than anything. "You should never want strength when it comes with a price like this. You can't be the same way, because you never came up this way. I've been burnt, beaten, shot, stabbed, shocked, poisoned, drowned, crushed, eviscerated, thrown off cliffs, fallen down volcanic chutes, literally chewed up and spit out in my lifetime. At some point, the mind accepts this as routine, like washing your face in the morning. But that's my routine, not yours. I buried a hundred and twenty-three men who thought it was theirs when the Kroatoans came through. They flocked along behind me as if I was leading them to a swimming hole, and they paid for it with their lives, because they tried to walk in my shoes. I can't have that happen to you again, because that truly terrifies me. Never do this again, unless it's absolutely necessary, okay?"
Junior stared at his father as he slipped the tunic back over his tattered frame, transforming back into the pristine giant he'd known his entire life. And though Link's face didn't exactly contort to show any semblance of emotion, his son seemingly grasped hold-if only for a second-to the fact that even if Link could bring him back from the dead, the idea of his death truly scared him. Doing the only thing he could think of, Junior nodded his head, watching Link stand and shake the sullen look from his face. "A-aren't you going to heal me?" he asked, a bit shakily despite his best efforts.
"No," his father sighed, closing his eyes and shaking his head as he stood. "You're not totally guiltless here, so you're going to heal the old fashioned way-or faster if you figure out how to do it yourself. And I'll see you in the stables no less than three hours a day for the next five months once everything's healed."
"But nothing," Link snapped, but calmed as soon as Nabooru placed her hand on his shoulder. "Get some rest, okay?" He ruffled his son's hair somewhat, smirking a little despite the gravity of the situation awaiting him on the other side of the door. "You've earned at least that much," Link added, quietly removing the wound on his son's face.
"Let's go, Link, I'm sure the ladies are getting restless," Nabooru whispered, smiling as Junior also grew rapidly drowsy from the contact with his father's hand.
Link whispered, "Okay."
And as the couple extinguished the torches, Link's son drifted into a peaceful slumber, only staying conscious long enough to ask one thing of his father: "Don't kill him, okay?"
The building forcibly shook as Link's teeth ground. His son didn't notice.
"Fine," he replied, opening the door without snatching it off the hinges.
"I promise that I won't kill him," Link added, not even bothering to try and explain the reasons he should gut the son of a bitch with a spoon.
The door shut behind the couple and Nabooru raised an eyebrow to her husband, who'd only accepted the title in word, but not ring. They walked in silence up the hall before turning right and heading down one of the inclines to the third floor. It would be this way until they reached the landing before the ramp leading to the last level of the fortress. This is when Nabooru spoke her mind.
"You're seriously not going to kill him?"
"Since when have I ever been in the market of breaking promises?"
"Fair enough," she replied, even though a sort of malignant smirk appeared on both of their faces. "Quite a shitty capper to such a lovely … evening, isn't it?"
Link gave her a quick peck on the lips, but agreed as they marched on to the dining area. As the couple neared their destination, they became aware of an argument ensuing between, of all people, the Hylian, Ajax, and the Sermonian, Jonas.
"He's helped rebuild this kingdom from the ground up! Your prince rolls in and marries the queen, and then it's Sermonians on every outpost. That's it. You people just showed up-"
"Look, I'm not taking anything away from the guy, but come on!" Jonas interjected. "We're over 5,000 strong here-some of Sermonia's finest warriors-and people still pretend one man is holding the wolves at bay. We stop revolts and raiders out on the perimeter, but when we come back 'home,' we have to look at statues and paintings of some fruit in green, who was nowhere near the scene!"
The Gerudo exchanged looks of amusement between themselves, though found it a little weird the queen of Hyrule said nothing. In fact, for all intents and purposes, Zelda stood near the epicenter of the argument, but seemed completely removed. What could she say? "I made a political decision and married a man that I didn't want to." True as it was, she could never say that out loud again to anyone other than Link. She had a sneaking suspicion Nabooru knew, but the subject was never breached. Ever. The event transpiring around the queen showed her what she already knew: The cracks between the Hylian and Sermonian union hadn't healed one bit since the unification almost thirty years ago. Thus, revealing a fact like her and Arthur's true feelings-feelings which seemed to only grow more evident after their son left-would be akin to causing civil war, as the Sermonians, by and large, hadn't really integrated into Hylian society at all.
They were just giants that were well-armed and always looking for a fight, who wore their good manners and civility like another plate of armor, which they easily cast off to battle, much like their old god sitting a mere thirty feet away. And while the Hylians weren't exactly defenseless, they were undermanned. Link was the only ace Hyrule had, in conjunction with the men he trained. And while Link alone could easily remove every Sermonian without breaking a sweat, it took large, important events to make him move. With that in mind, if her secret ever got out, the loss of innocent life to these eloquent barbarians would be immense before Link ended it. So, the queen remained silent about all things involving the two arguing soldiers, lest she say something that cost her people their lives.
"Look, this is as clear an example as I can give you about why the public flocks to him," Ajax sighed, lowering his voice and ending the mindless bickering. Jonas also fell silent, indicating that he would listen. "I was fourteen years old when Ganondorf and Link fought. My dad refused to move us out of Castle Town, even after everyone else abandoned it due to the ghosts and dead walking the street. We spent many a night dodging these zombie things to get water or running up to Kakariko to get food. Then, one night, the earth moved and from our roof, I watched the castle take flight. And from night to near dawn, you could hear them beating the life out of each other, light would flash and you could see their shadows in the glass, and finally, in one bright flash, it went still. I thought everything was great and bolted up to the castle to thank whomever it was that stopped the rumblings, but halfway up the path, the whole top half of the castle blew apart.
"Then there were a few flashes and then I saw this 'fruit' flying off the top. He hit the ground beside the castle walls, literally three feet from rolling off the edge and falling into the pit below. There was another scream, this one shook the world, then some more light, and then the castle hit the ground and shook the earth again. Then, roughly, seven lights showed up and stood around the dead 'fruit.' I figured the guy was dead and went to go home now that everything was over, thankful to be alive. I mean, who fights that long and gets thrown off a building and lives? No one.
"Fast forward a few days after that night, I had been home trying to dig my parents out of the rubble that was our house. It'd been completely buried by the surrounding buildings from the aftershock of the castle falling or the scream that shook everything. I'd been trying to dig them up, trying to get help and so on, but no one would come back to Castle Town, because they didn't think Ganondorf was dead. And when the bastards did show up, after the announcement went out by Impa, everyone came to celebrate the big hero. Of course, no one could stop and help me dig, telling me they were dead, despite my being able to still hear them calling out. By nightfall of the third day, I'd passed out from exhaustion and no food in the middle of the square after trying to get anyone in the crowd to help me. So, anyway, after the celebrations ended and no one was around, this guy came down from the castle leading a horse-a kid my own age-and I figure he'll just leave me. Instead, he stops, gives me something to drink that makes me feel brand new, and asks what's wrong.
"I told him my parents were trapped … and he just pulled on his silver gloves, took this stone back to the rubble I pointed to, ran it across the debris until it shook, and then started throwing stone like it was grass-a roof there, a chunk of wall here. He threw sections of walls two times his size like they were nothing. It didn't take longer than an hour for him to move three buildings of stone, and he did all that without ever knowing my name. My dad was on his hands and knees when we found him, pinned beneath a support column from the big gaming hut beside our house, muscles locked into position over my mom and back completely broken. Link warped off after he played the ocarina and came back with a couple of bottles of this blue stuff and my parents just … just went from virtual death to alive and well. Now, did he take credit for this? Barely. Did he mention this at every turn? No. He arranged for us to stay in the castle until the town was rebuilt, and didn't even ask for a "Thank you." And just like that night, he kept coming back and helping out-laying tile, mixing the cement for new buildings, carrying bricks, all of it. You name it and Link did it until most of Castle Town was rebuilt better than it was before. More than that, he never exploited any of his deeds. He could've walked away from me that night and went home without tarnishing his reputation at all. Instead, he dug my folks up with his bare hands and went the extra mile to heal them.
"In short, he's affected almost every single life in Hyrule in some form or another for the last thirty years, just like mine. Link's not admired because he throws on a silly grin and preaches a bunch of heroic bullshit from atop some pedestal, even though he could get away with it; he steps off the pedestal we keep trying to put him on and actually does something. And here's the kicker: He doesn't whine and moan about how he gets no respect if someone fails to say thanks, because that's not the point. You want people to be in awe of the mighty Sermonians? Do something other than fight a rogue bunch of bandits and sit there waiting for the women and money to flock to you. Be like Link, in other words."
After that, Jonas remained silent, as did everyone else. Zelda, Link's daughter, examined the queen of Hyrule's hand, noticing her clenched fists, and found it a bit weird. There was something about the story that upset her, but what? Nabooru's father regarded the knight's words about the god, wondering how the man he met could be the same as the one in the story. For all intents and purposes, Link had indicated on no uncertain terms that he was going to kill this Jonas fellow. What kind of individuals lived in Hyrule now that they could still be in amazement of such a man? Killing Ganondorf and freeing his daughter was highly admirable, but murder for a simple mistake and having this man not question it? That was almost revolting.
In the hall, Link leaned against a wall between the torches, half in shadow and half in light, arms folded across his chest, while contemplating his former pupil's words.
"If this god thing doesn't pan out and I end up dead, you have got to let him speak at my funeral, if there are remains," he quipped, earning a stiff jab in the shoulder from Nabooru.
"Goddess, don't say that!" Nabooru whispered sharply. "I just got you back, and you're already planning a funeral."
"Touchy, touchy," Link chuckled, before they fell silent to hear Jonas's words.
"Answer me this then," the Sermonian said quietly, noting the Gerudo women were absolute in keeping him trapped at the epicenter of their circle with their weapons. "What kind of hero delivers a sentence of death for an error in judgment?"
Ajax replied: "Error in judgment? Diving into Lake Hylia to learn how to swim is an error in judgment. Walking in Link's house and hitting his kid with a sword is just- I can't even comprehend the level of stupidity that takes."
"You didn't answer the question," Ganondorf, of all people, asked calmly, realizing the knight didn't know who he was.
"Fair enough," Ajax noted, pausing as he heard the thud of boots encroaching towards the dining hall.
"It's not a question of heroes or heroics," Link said in much the same calm, drawing all attention onto him and Nabooru, who marched confidently back to her seat as he spoke, a strange golden baton hanging from a chain link belt around her waist. "The hero thing is something a piece of paper called the guy who killed 'the great evil,' which was you."
"But you're the person that killed me," Ganondorf replied, somehow remaining in complete control while discussing this subject, while ignoring the confusion on the knights' faces.
Link tipped his head to the left, shrugging in a here-or-there manner, warping to the island at the opposite end of the room and retrieving a large knife from one of its drawers. He moved about in complete silence, going to the cool box and getting a half cut of ham, a wedge of cheese, and an unnamed jar before he sat them all on the island next to Varia's cake. From there, he turned back to the cool box and retrieved a loaf of bread, which was white with a few sesame seeds, as was Varia's specialty, from the box on top of it, and sat that on the island, too. Everyone watched as Link sliced said loaf in half, coated each half in a funky yellow paste of some kind from the jar, and began to saw off slices of ham and cheese.
"Thing is," he said abruptly, slapping the slices of ham and cheese between the bread, "I'm also a father and a husband, both of which come before the hero thing." He closed his sandwich and bit it, casually chewing despite the thick atmosphere surrounding him. "God, I missed your food, Varia. You still grind the mustard seed with the cayenne?"
"Of course," she replied, taking an obvious pride in her work. "It tastes like shit otherwise."
Link just sort of hummed in concurrence, biting another chunk out of the sandwich and treated the whole situation very casually. "Now … now," he began, pausing to use his tongue to fork a stuck wad of bread, meat, and cheese from the roof of his mouth. "I forgot to produce spit for a second there."
"Link, take this seriously-"
"I am," he snapped at the queen of Hyrule. "So, who are you anyway? I mean, to hate everything I supposedly stand for, you must know me awfully well."
"Jonas," he replied, inching around in a circle to face the man speaking to him.
"Never heard of you," Link said in return, setting his sandwich adrift in mid-air as he went about cleaning up his mess. His father laughed a bit, and so did his mother, a little parental pride in this blatant show of godliness. His aunts merely rolled their Gerudo eyes. "So, man-that-I've-never-heard-of, explain why you decided to carve my son up like a game hen."
Jonas ground his teeth, as not only did Link not bother to face him, he turned on the sink to wash his knife, treating him as though he were nothing and forced him to speak up.
"The disrespectful little-" his neck snapped back and nearly off from the force of Sepaaru's hand.
"Careful now, Sepaaru," Link admonished, back still facing the incident, "you'll get your turn. Now, please, continue."
Jonas, looming figure that he was, swayed from the blow, but answered, "The boy needs to learn to hold his tongue."
This response caused Link to laugh in earnest, as he rinsed the knife, ever aware of the knight's muted response to such a brazen assault. He then turned to face the knight, and placed the knife back in the drawer. "Let me see if I understand this: You felt it necessary to accept the challenge of a fifteen-year-old, who you're obviously more skilled than, because he said some nasty things about you. Correct?"
The floor thumped once, almost as a prelude to an earthquake, interrupting the knight for him.
"So, saying you speak for all of Sermonia's warriors for a second here, it's safe to assume that you find it acceptable to beat the living crap out of someone for saying something disrespectful?" the question was obviously a loaded one, which held a deeper meaning below its shallow surface. Link's sandwich orbited around his head and came to his mouth to be bitten, before resuming its plodding course as he awaited a response.
"Sure, but only-"
Again, Link interjected, "Then, by your own logic, I should not only rip your throat out for calling me a fruit, but I should also reduce about ninety percent of the Sermonian warrior class living in Hyrule now to bones."
"Now, wait just a-"
"Shut. The. Fuck. Up." Link replied with a precise indignation as he leaned with both hands against the island and glared at the knight. "Of course, I'm not going to do anything as rash as all of that," he clarified with a smile, before swallowing his sandwich bits, and biting off another chunk as it made the rounds. "'He called me a bad name,' said the big knight in all of his armor. 'His daddy's more respected, too. Waaah!'" The Gerudo laughed in their haughty way, turning the embarrassment factor up fivefold. "I could see if Junior actually hit you first or if you'd just took it all in good sport, like that Cyrus guy who left earlier. But you went in to maim a kid-disregarding the fact that he's mine for a moment-and for what? Talking trash? I've listened to you assholes talk about me for years-since Arthur and his little coterie arrived, in fact-and I've never once put my hands on one of you for it." Again, Link paused to swallow, though this time he walked slowly toward Jonas. "You talk on and on about respect, and how it's your due, but you haven't even got the common decency to respect yourself. Beating up the weak, while understandable if you're threatened, wasn't even necessary here."
"You're calling your boy weak?" Jonas straightened up and said, as Link was now within arm's length of the circle of women.
Link perused through their ranks as the sea of beauties parted for their king, and now stood before the knight, who was almost as tall as he was. "He got inspired by the little rumble I had with his grandfather earlier, and decided to fight while holding his power back. If he hadn't, you'd be dead, and I'd be dealing with a whole other set of problems," he told him, taking another bite from his massive sandwich as it floated past, noting Jonas didn't seem to buy that. "Perhaps the biggest irony here is that Junior didn't even have to stand up for Zelda. Unlike you, she seems to grasp that you don't have to maim the weak, even if they've crossed the line and touched you."
And like that, Link scanned his mind and began to pull levers.
"What! Are you trying to say the woman's stronger than me?"
Link looked over the crowd and smiled at the Hylian queen as he chewed. "Come on, now. You don't think I'm the only person a little changed by our unique upbringing, do you? Two kids, both of which were made to be orphans-or believed they were for a time-all intertwined with a madman driven by a piece of the Triforce to rule the world. While I make no bones about what that's done to me, she likes to hide it, which is the Sheikah way, after all. There was only so long that she can stay the girl trapped in the pink crystal, before that helpless feeling began to gnaw at her and make her take steps to change it. Point blank: She's a lot stronger than most people realize, and it's by design." He swallowed, before interrupting Jonas with more insight, which was becoming quite disorientating to the knight. "I know what you're thinking: 'There are no calluses on her hands, though. Why?' She wraps the insoles of her hands before training. 'But, surely, there would be some bulging muscles if she's to be stronger than I am.' Nope. She doesn't have any heavy gear to carry around. 'Her skin's still just as pale as when I first met her. Why?' She trains in a full body suit, which doesn't let the sun touch her," Link smirked as the knight frowned, obviously playing on the Sermonian ideal that men were superior, even to their queen.
"Bullshit," Jonas grumbled, but deftly aware of how unfazed the queen seemed by it all. "She may strong for a woman, but no woman-anywhere-is as strong as a man-especially a Sermonian warrior. And you'd do right to remember that."
"If that's the case, take a step forward," Link goaded, raising his eyebrows in expectation. Jonas didn't move. "Look around, this place isn't called a fortress for nothing," Link then said, ignoring the blatant threat, and taking yet another chunk out of his shrinking sandwich, before speaking between chews. "Barring the fact that you're-damn, that's good-guarding a woman who should probably be guarding you, you're surrounded by the best warriors in Hyrule-both dead and alive," he mused, beginning to pace around his charges.
"This is ridiculous! A man in charge of a bunch of women is trying to tell me-"
"Shhh," Link playfully admonished him, wrapping his large hand around the Sermonian's mouth and nearly crushing his jaws. "Don't sell them short, Jojo," he continued with a benign chuckle, before releasing his prey and leaving him to examine the brute strength of his grip. "Let's look at this 'bunch' of women: I've got ladies who specialize in torture, like Varia here," Link paused behind Varia, startling her some by the way he sat his chin on her shoulder and laughed, unaccustomed to both this kind of physical contact with him and such open doting. "Then I've got ladies like Amaraa, who, if I'm not mistaken, are quite adept with the poisons, as well as the pillow-talk. It also doesn't hurt that they all possess that little pheromone thing in their breaths at this stage, which can puddle men … unless, of course, you don't like women in that way." He trailed over to Amaraa, as they laughed at the Sermonian's expense. Amaraa merely smirked, and perhaps leaned a little further back into Link's chest as she licked her teeth, not exactly caring what Nabooru's thoughts on the matter were, considering Link almost seemed to be flirting. Of course, Nabooru's jealousies had been curbed considerably, though no one knew why, so she didn't mind. "Then I've got the silent types who'll run in as quiet as the night, and slit your throat from ear to ear before you ever knew what happened." He waved his hand over top a group of about ten, all clad in green, before continuing and skipping over Sepaaru. "I also have archers, ladies who specialize in bare knuckles, swords, and lances. And these, while all special to me, aren't even my crown jewels of the … 'bunch.'"
"What?" Jonas could only ask, as Link seemed to be enjoying himself greatly.
Seemed was the key word.
"You know, my insurance," Link elaborated, fading into place atop his dining table and walking to a stop before Nabooru, who sat across from her daughter. "There's my son, first of all. But we've discussed him. So, now we'll talk about the other jewel-Zelda, my first born. Her brain's completely stamped with my fighting abilities, as well as your patriarch deity, my father. Dad, say hi to the people."
Zelda merely looked at her father as though he was losing his mind, unable to understand why he was drawing this out as long as he was.
"You're enjoying this aren't you?" his father asked, laughing a little as his son paraded about with a sandwich revolving around his head. "Hi," he added.
"She doesn't care much for the killing and all, though, but desperation has a way of changing that," Link continued, winking at his father before moving on. "From there, we have Nabooru-mother of my first child and cause of my many joys and many pains." He squatted down in front of her, lifting her hand in his and kissed it, smiling the whole while. "Now, while she might not pack the heaviest punch, she makes up for raw power with speed. I'm talking about a lady who can cut quicker with a lance than I could with a sword when I was … less of a person. However," Link paused, as though thoughtfully remembering something. "Of course, there's one more jewel to make the crown complete. Sepaaru, mother of my second child," he said rather dully, almost instinctively sparking inward worry within her, before continuing his speech and warping into place behind her. "While today seems to be one of her off days, I can personally attest that this is the strongest full-blood Gerudo among us. She has a 323-foot vertical leap, a little more than three times that distance with a leap from full sprint, and manages to pack more strength than a Goron into such a beautiful body without sacrificing much speed. It's amazing really. If we cared to, we could destroy most of the Sermonian warrior class in a matter of months. Hmm, imagine that, ladies-it takes 5,000 Sermonians to equal up to less than fifty Gerudo women," Link said with a sort of bemused realization, his sandwich stopping in front of Sepaaru's lips as he stood behind her with his arms wrapped around her stomach.
The Gerudo laughed along with their king, as the mind-fuck had caused Jonas to see things a tad bit differently. The confidence that'd been instilled in the Gerudo was prevalent to anyone with eyes, but, more than that, none of them wavered with the boisterous claims of their king. As a warrior, Jonas was trained to notice little indicators that gave away bluffs-an odd blink or glance of the eyes, a tweak in breathing, and so forth-but the Gerudo showed none that his eyes could see. But how could women be so powerful? Impossible. The son of a bitch was bluffing.
"Good sandwich," Sepaaru noted after taking another minor bite, but never taking her eyes or her sword off Jonas.
"Indeed," Link replied, before getting serious. "How's the family, Ajax?"
"Good," the knight said jovially, despite the wealth of questions spinning in his head from Link's little displays of power and speech about dead people. Then there was the whole thing about the green guy being THE Ganondorf. He did look like the guy in the paintings at the castle, but how could he be the same? Link had killed him years ago. And the thing about being part god … Yeah, it was a little too much to consume, so he decided not to digest any of it. "The wife's complaining that I work too much, but I figure it's the hormones kicking in from the pregnancy."
That statement seemed to turn the anger in Link's eyes back on, the Hylian noticed dismally.
"I want you to take the next few months off," Link said in a tone surprisingly stern, as his glare snapped toward the Hylian. Needless to say, Ajax found his bowels trying to retreat into his chest, as he figured he was about to take the blame for not slitting Jonas's throat for intervening on Link's son's behalf "Relax," added Link, "I'm just offering a piece of advice. Take the time off and spend some time with your family and let them know you still care. So much stuff can happen while you're trying to make sure the world's a better place … your kids end up grown and you're just drifting and- Just take the damn time off."
"Yes, sir!" Ajax shouted, quite literally frightened to attention by the sudden halt and return of Link's voice. "I mean, Your Highness, is that okay?" While Link's orders still held precedent over the knight, he had been instructed long ago by the same man to obey the queen's words above his own, even if what the two parties wanted clashed. And people wondered why his hair was gray at twenty-five.
The queen nodded.
"And when you go back to the castle, deliver a message to Arthur for me," Link continued, not even bothering to prefix his king's name with the word king. "Tell him, today makes the third time now that one of his people have drawn a weapon on my family or had someone do it for them. Tell him that there's not going to be a fourth. And then I want you to tell him that if he can't command more respect from his men than this, I'll put someone on the big, fluffy chair that can."
For these words, the Queen Zelda's eyes actually came alive with total astonishment. This is bad, she thought. This is real, real bad.
"But … sir, to say that … it's like a declaration of war against the crown," Ajax said sheepishly to the man who'd taught him that ages ago, twitching because a declaration of war against the crown would mean he'd have to go to battle in the oncoming war with the party that made the statement. And since Link made the statement- his mind seemed to shut down as the fear seized him completely. The extent of Link's mental toll on Zelda's elite was about to come to light for all to see. "Is this because I didn't kill him for hurting your son? You know if you say the word, I'll kill him, Link! I'll do it however … with a spoon, a fork, a biscuit- I-I don't care! Link! Tell me how you want it done, and it's done!" he shouted, eyes wide with excitement and an unreasonable fear that had the entire room gazing at the once calm knight near the wall.
"Ajax," Link said with a soothing calm, even as the knight rushed through the pack of women and grabbed Jonas by the hair growing from the back of his balding head.
He kicked him in the back of the knees to make the giant kneel, and screamed, "Say it, Link! I'll kill him with my teeth, a-a cheese wheel, anything! Just don't make me deliver that message! Please! I have a family! Oh, god … my girl's only eight years old!" He pulled his favorite dagger-the weapon at which he was most adept with-and put it right on Jonas's windpipe. "You want him to apologize? Apologize, goddamn it!" Everyone watched the knight punch his struggling comrade in the face repeatedly, as tears welled up in the assaulter's face. "Say it!"
Link released his grip on Sepaaru and made his way over to the knight, sighing as he took hold of his flailing hand.
"Look, I never said I was going to kill the king," he said placidly. "I just said I would put someone else on his throne. Now, straighten up, deliver the message, and go home."
"But-" Ajax began and stopped short, as Link stared at him … through him in some ways. On that note, it was better to say whatever it was to the king. Irritating Link any further wasn't wise. And just like that, the knight took a deep breath, punched Jonas one last time, and mumbled with a voice on the verge of sobbing, "Jackass." He bowed to his queen and backed out of the room, leaving in his wake a group of befuddled people.
Jonas's steadfast calmness hadn't gone unnoticed by Link, his father, Nabooru or Sepaaru. He didn't so much as lift a hand to defend himself, which was quite out of character for a race of warriors. Perhaps there was more to the man than met the eye.
"What did you do to him?" Link Sr. asked bluntly, watching his son bite his sandwich again, also noting the behemoth on the floor was quietly surprised by the Hylian's strength.
With his most recent swallow, Link revealed both genuine emotion and an answer untouched by flippancy.
"I took his life," he replied cryptically, as his eyebrows fell and left his face in that paradoxical emotionless frown.
"And that means what exactly?" Ganondorf asked in much the same manner as his archenemy's father.
"When he and the others signed up to be knights, I tried to duplicate myself-but not just in body," Link continued in stoic fashion, tapping his left temple. Continuing, he said: "So, almost everything I had to go through to get to you-" he pointed at Ganondorf- "I put them through. And somewhere in the midst of all that, when they saw how easy I made it look, the rumblings and rumors started. Half of the group swore I wasn't Hylian, while the other half thought I'd stolen all of Ganondorf's power," he chuckled, as his sandwich revolved around his head again, and an orb of energy took shape in his palm, its top stretching the orb into the shape of a teardrop as the mortal realm leeched its potency, before Link's fist snapped shut and snuffed it out. "They were all right, I suppose. But they were also afraid of me, though. So, I let the fear build and build and build until some broke, and others excelled out of sheer will to survive. The ten that lasted until the end-well, the old books at the castle call it a trial by battle-I'd gather them up periodically at random times and we'd all just go to town with the swords on each other-an hour here, then three, six, seven, and so on-until the time limit expired. Before we started, I'd tell the one I'd chosen to fight that I'd fight my hardest.
"Usually, fear kicked in and they'd fight for survival, believing they'd die by my hand otherwise. Naturally, I would fight hard, but just shy of killing them, because they still weren't exactly brimming with swordplay know-how. Other times, I'd stalk them. I'd call a class over at the end of a day, warp to a pad near that day's victim's home, and set myself up on the roof or somewhere out of sight around their homes. They'd drag in and I'd attack from where they'd least expect it-out of a dark closet, from under a kitchen table, from under a stack of hay. I'd come at them from anywhere I could bunker down and wait comfortably for a few hours. Eventually, they all became ever alert and would pop up with a sword drawn if a floorboard squeaked or check every crevice they could think of before getting into bed. After a few years of this-a little while before Arthur arrived and right in the transition after the war-they'd improved to the point I actually had to fight as hard as I could to survive. The injuries had caught up to me a little by then, but I could always seem to gut it out, and because of that, they all kept this fear of me-especially after the thing with the Kroatoans."
Daia interrupted, saying, "I still don't understand how any of that makes a man act the way he did."
"You can't understand it unless you lived it," Link replied, a little less than cordial. "They'd survived every hardship and fear that a person could imagine-war, starvation, the dark, bugs, heights, fatigue, water, being burned and buried alive, and on and on-but they could never beat me. Like most people who do something death defying over and over, a feeling of invincibility develops. However, if you fail consistently at one thing over and over, coming an inch closer to death each time, you start to fear it. And if the failures keep mounting, so does the fear, until one day-" Link snapped his fingers- "your mind twists so far until that one thing suddenly becomes your sole fear, because it's the one thing that you truly believe can kill you. Thus, I hold their lives, which makes them more afraid of me with a quill beneath ten feet of water than a sword pressed against their throat by anyone else."
"You did this to them purposely?" Daia asked, once again shocked and slightly appalled by this.
Link's eyes landed on the Hylian knight trainee from years past and replied, "Yeah."
"That's insane," the deceased Hylian attempted to argue, before Link shrugged.
"You don't get it," Link sighed, though he noticeably didn't deny his father-in-law's claim. "You died here on an archery target without regret for your wife and child. And you'd do it again and again if you thought it would matter. At the time, that was my mindset about her, because if I died, she would be the only person to bring our dreams to fruition," he tilted his head toward Zelda. "Someone pops up that requires my attention, and off I'd go into the battle. It didn't matter if it was an army or a king with grubby paws for hands; I fought for her, because she was all that I really had. However, I knew I wouldn't last forever if the surrounding countries started to invade Hyrule in its weakened state. That's why I needed insurance that she survived, Sheikah training or not. So, I created her Elites, who'd not only go down fighting without hesitation, but would also possess skill enough to take a large chunk of the enemies with them. Ordinary soldiers seize up when the odds get too large. Men who've had the fear beaten right out of them don't. They're able to focus and treat every encounter as though it was their family's life at stake, whether it's one man or one million, they'll run in and fight without pause on her word until they die or everyone else does."
Daia's hand inched into his wife's, but he didn't argue any further.
"And," Link began anew, healing Jonas with a thought as he lifted him to his feet, "that's why it is the way it is now. Like I said before, my being a father, a husband, and a king has to come before all the heroic prophecies and other bullshit out there."
Jonas, amazed at his injuries being healed, didn't tip his hand. He segued immediately into more banter to potentially throw off Link's calm, which would give him an advantage if they came to blows. After all, an angry opponent was a confused opponent or so experience said. Unfortunately, the opposite held true with Link. One Magi could attest to that if he weren't walled up several hundred feet underground having his heart eaten by insects again and again and again ….
"After everything that guy's offered to do for you, you're just going to call all that emotion 'bullshit'?"
Link popped his neck and the circle of Gerudo widened.
"You know I've never killed a Sermonian," he admitted quietly.
"And Magi wasn't Sermonian?"
"I didn't kill him," Link muttered, as the old man, covered in grime, blood, and his own excrement from years of torturous nibbling from the insects in that cold, dank hidden chamber beneath the castle, fell into being right at the center of the Gerudo collective in front of their king. "He sent the Sheikah here and had them attack my women right in our front yard … had my children killed because they came home," he yelled the last word, rumbling the room, and causing the knight to sway to keep his balance as an unseen force seemed to push him away from Link. "And all I did was put him in a hole in the ground for the last few years, and let the bugs eat at him and his honey-covered heart."
Jonas watched Link stalk around the old man, absorbing his collective calm with a new astuteness and clarity. Much like his Hylian comrade, he'd not tried to piece together the reactions, temperature changes, and so on that came and went when Link's calm slipped. As disgusted and slightly confused by the whole thing as Jonas was, he had to admit-Link was admirable to him. He was completely detached from the situation, yet rooted firmly within it, as he never took his eyes off the old man.
Magi would die, the knight then knew.
"I figured I'd let him go after a time, ignoring instinct and trying to be somewhat civil," Link's voice was quiet now, barely emoting anything other than a distant sadness and a growing fire, a far cry from his once fun-loving, arrogant tone of earlier. He continued: "Tonight, you've come into my dining hall and drew a sword on my son, wounded him even, for running off at the mouth. Anybody that knew me back in the old days would tell you, I would've killed you as soon as I came in this room. Not just that, but I would've ripped pieces off you. So, the fact that you're still alive shows not only a great deal of 'heroism,' but also that I think Ajax's sentiment is more than petty bullshit. I've been civil and doing the heroic thing for everyone out there, while failing where it mattered most …"
Jonas looked up at him, trying to decipher whether that was fact or fiction, and asked of the trailed statement, "What's your point?"
Link healed Magi, startling some and making others feel as though he'd continue on his heroic way. But no soon as the old wizard began to mutter crazed and confused thanks and pardons, like a sick calf mewing for its mother, Link placed his boot on the back of Magi's head and applied pressure. In an instant, the old man screamed as his skull began to crack. And in that same instant, went silent as Link mashed his head like a grape against the cold marble. Everyone but Sepaaru, Jonas, Nabooru, and Link's father had turned away when the old man screamed, his eyes bulging bright red with blood, before they heard his head pop.
Link had never let go of the Sheikah incident. Not by a long shot.
"This is the end of civility," Link told him in that same hauntingly composed manner, even as Magi's brain covered his boot and smeared across the marble in a maroon ooze of bone fragments, brain chunks, and blood. "I'm through playing the nice guy about these strikes on my family. You've attacked us in the front and now where my family eats dinner. More important than that, you've attacked my children! I'm not waiting for you to come into their bedrooms and pick them off while they sleep. From here on in, touch my ladies, I'll kill you if they can't. Touch my family-" he let out a sharp, harsh breath through his nose that produced (purposely or not) a steamy breath, almost as though breathing into the winter's air- "and I'll erase your whole damn bloodline. You're dealing with a husband and a father now, not the kid in the paintings out to protect some ideal. These people-my children, whether they hate me or idolize me-are my tangibles, and I'm not losing them again."
The breath had come out of the room. For some, namely Link's daughter, her dreams had just been manifested into reality. For others, this was the homecoming of the king that they'd waited years for. And, for all the rest, this was a combination of surprise, fear, and humor. Even though Jonas didn't want to admit it, he was rapidly falling under the column of fear. This guy just killed a man in cold blood, which was pretty normal for Sermonian warrior standards. The only variables were the idle non-combatants. The majority didn't say anything or even look upset by it. The loyalty, perhaps, stunned him more than anything. He'd always figured if a real man stood up and said a properly composed, heartfelt tirade against Link that the people would rally behind that man. Alas, Ajax's words came back to him. Link had affected almost every life within Hyrule directly or indirectly for the positive, thus no speech could ever swing the people against him. The book in Hyrule's library had called Jonas's dreams of swaying the populace against Link with some heartfelt speech "delusions of grandeur."
He burned that book.
For Jonas, he couldn't understand why it was so delusional for a person to conspire for a few months to kill the local hero and become more than a thankless soldier in a king's legion, who had to constantly kneel to a queen who gave more respect to paintings of her former lover than the Sermonian at her side, and eventually rule himself. That was thoughtful planning. No, those were goals. Despite his round face, beady, protuberant eyes, and massive six-foot ten-inch frame, Jonas was intelligent. His outward looks betrayed that to some, but, to Link's father, he was obviously hiding from the moment he walked in. Link Sr. noticed how the "simple" knight's eyes kept fluctuating, a subtle twitch here or there, but enough to display a high level of reasoning and thinking. Always thinking. Even now, the old god imagined, as the fear was probably mounting, he knew the knight was trying to scheme his way out of this to fight another day.
"Idiot," he muttered, knowing the sap's fate.
"What?" Esmerelda asked, barely hearing her husband's voice.
"Nothing at all, dear," Link Sr. said, smirking, "nothing at all."
Everything he's ever done for these people has been in their best interest, Jonas thought in lieu of the response to outright murder. That's when the biggest epiphany hit him: He realized that Link could do nothing wrong in Hyrule. From killing people in the street to wiping out an entire race, if Link did it, the majority of Hylians believed it was for the best and simply shrugged it off. It was a realization made too late, however, as Jonas could only think one thing: What the fuck have I stepped into? Judging from his calm, Link was probably struggling with his emotions in Jonas's eyes. It was a gamble, though. All signs pointed to Link being focused with his rage, so he had to gamble, look for some sign that gave him odds.
Link's gaze drifted to the puddle of mush that used to be Magi's head and seemed to sigh. That was it! Jonas thought. It was a crack in the façade.
Now, how could he capitalize on that without getting killed?
"You're saying this as though I might live long enough to tell someone," Jonas said simply. "How's the-" he caught sight of his queen and paused. The woman could get the message back. A new tactic came to him in an instant. "Does it seem right to you that you just killed a man, after admitting to torturing him for years, in front of your daughter?"
Ha! Inner turmoil has been achieved, the knight thought with an internal smirk, never knowing Link was all but sitting on his brain like a mother hen, waiting for her eggs to hatch.
Link looked back at Zelda, as her sort of listless take on everything from earlier was replaced with a kind of baffled "why."
"Come at me through my family," Link whispered to himself, as his father's words leaped to mind again. And, like that, Jonas heard the wrong answer: "I won't say that it was right. And I won't say that it was wrong. I'll just say that she has to determine how to feel about me and the way I conduct myself. At the end of the day, I can deal with her choosing to hate me, because, in the grand scheme of things, that's all that matters to me-is that she's alive to do it. As for whether or not you live long enough to tell someone, I'll leave that up to my son's mother, because I promised him that I wouldn't rip you apart at the seams. Sepaaru, what's the verdict?"
"You know the verdict," she replied, her eyes burrowing into Jonas's, as Link shrugged at the knight as if to say, "Shit happens."
Jonas was officially out of options, as the world seemed to come down on his shoulders when Link looked back at him. He drew his sword then, because he was not going out at the hands of a woman. The Gerudo went to intervene but Link shook his head, and like that, they retired their weapons in silence-sans Sepaaru-and backed off. This was Link and Sepaaru's kill, they figured, and they had no problem letting them have it. Everyone fully expected him to shift forms to battle the knight on "equal" footing. Of course, Link never seemed to do quite exactly what people thought.
"You're actually gonna draw a sword on me," Link chuckled and looked at Jonas's face, shaking his head, dropping silent in the same moment. "You have exactly sixty seconds from the moment you exit this fortress to mount your horse and leave. If you're not on the other side of that water at the end of those sixty seconds, Sepaaru's going to …"
"Kill you," she said calmly, her voice filling the drifting void left in Link's statement.
Again, Jonas's façade of manners crumbled in lieu of that. He roared: "Coward! Enough of the games! Pick up a sword and fight me yourself!"
Link's body indicated he took a deep breath, as he slowly popped his neck from left to right, but there was no sound.
"Ladies, have a seat," he instructed, eyes still closed as the Gerudo complied. When his eyes opened, the blue irises were gone, replaced by an incandescent white glow. "I'd have to hold so much back to beat you the way you deserve to be beaten until you aren't even worth my time," Link said in an almost primal growl. He stepped up to the armed knight and began to drum his fingers against the black steel breastplate, eyes glowing so brightly that it hurt to look into them for more than a few seconds.
Jonas remained silent, no fear resonating within him about Link's eyes. However, one thing had made him fearful. It was a simple thing, too. See, for every time Link's finger touched his armor, it was pierced up to his knuckle. And for every time Link's finger went through and touched his chest, Jonas felt as though his chest was being hit with a hammer, even though he didn't flinch to reveal his extreme discomfort.
"Indestructible?" The mental advantage was now Link's, as Jonas looked down at his armor and saw it was damaged for the first time in his many battles … by this guy's fucking finger! "Get out," Link went on to say.
Jonas didn't flinch. "I will not run," he said defiantly.
Link's eyes turned black then, emanating an eerie glow, almost as if his eyes were glowing with shadows.
He flicked his index finger at Jonas and shouted, "Get out!"
The release of energy not only shattered the front of the armor and sword like glass, but also blew a hole from the dining hall all the way to the yard of the fortress, tossing Jonas end over end like a piece of paper caught in the breeze. He stopped rolling and landed on his stomach, before struggling to get to his feet. And even though he was still one foot in the fortress and one foot outside it, Jonas couldn't help but notice his horse hadn't been injured by the explosion of debris at all. He looked down the 600-foot tunnel Link's mere finger had created, barely noting the disproportionate distance he'd been thrown versus how deep the fortress appeared from the outside, and shook for the first time, taking an unconscious step back. The "fruit" wasn't normal. Jonas literally bled fear now, and that's when the countdown began.
"Fifty-nine, fifty-eight, fifty-seven," Link began, eyes still focused firmly on the knight, who was so frightened he couldn't even move.
"M-Monster!" he shouted, mounting his horse in one leap and snapping the reins.
Sepaaru came to stand beside Link, watching as the horse and its owner got further and further away, until they'd disappeared around the first bend in the path that led to the Gerudo Fortress. "Now?" she asked, taking her shield off her back and handing it to Link.
Link waited a few more seconds and then spoke. "Now," he said.
And like that, Sepaaru burst down the expansive tunnel that used to be bedrooms after her prey. And while Nabooru's speed was a few ticks above Sepaaru's, Link smirked as he remembered his protégé was no slouch in that department. Taking a hard left, she ran furiously toward the old archery track, traversing land as though the wind carried her. She ran partially up the slope to the track and leapt deftly atop the cliff. Sepaaru took a deep breath and estimated that she had about 200 yards to reach the bridge, before tearing across the flats. Seconds continued to lapse by as she ran from one end of the massive plateau to the other. Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight, she thought to herself, smiling at her time, as she reached the overhang within a handful of seconds and looked down on the path to see Jonas was almost at the bridge. Sepaaru smiled, noting she'd gained ground on him because he had to navigate the tight turns in the path with his bulky beast while trying to keep it at full gallop. Still, he was at the mouth of the path now, though, and that was a straight away to the bridge.
Twenty-four, twenty-three, twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, she thought, taking a leap from the top of the cliff beside the river and landing on the far end of the bridge, closest to the Valley.
Jonas made it across the bridge and looked back to see if he was really pursued. And true to his word, Link had released the Gerudo after him, but that was unimportant now. He'd made it to safety.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Your day keeps getting worse and worse, woman," he shouted across the bridge to her.
"Maybe," Sepaaru shouted back, watching him dismount the horse, noting the small waterfall emanating from the crack in the wall behind him.
"Tell Link this isn't over," Jonas shouted once more, surprisingly bold for one who was so frightful a few seconds ago, before turning to face the footsteps at his back.
Link walked up the plank behind the boisterous knight, solemn as ever with the remainder of his sandwich still orbiting his head, causing Jonas to turn in astonished horror. This wasn't possible! He'd escaped! The bastard was a man of his word, wasn't he? Link was such a thing. Although, how much "man" he actually was … well, that was up for debate. He wasn't going back on his promise to his son, never that. And to Jonas's surprise, he wasn't killed by the giant. At the same time, the frightened knight became aware of the other body of water and makeshift bridge behind him.
He'd completely forgotten about that one in his mad dash.
"I never said which water," Link mumbled, as he went past and on to the bridge, eating the last of his sandwich in the next moment. He paused, swallowed, and offered a few words: "It's kind of funny how your type never changes. I would've kept my word if you could've just walked away, but no-here you are talking about what is and isn't over, like you actually have some say in the matter."
Link faded away, and the first thing Jonas saw across the bridge was … nothing. Where'd she go?
"Four," Sepaaru continued on counting, using Link's obstruction of view to leap from one end of the bridge to the top of the cliff alongside Jonas. She'd overshot the landing, though. Still, it worked out, as she was now on the cliff in front of him. "Three, two, one," she said with a deep breath, waiting for the right moment to dive right over the edge at him. She wanted him to see her coming, and know there wasn't a thing he could do about it.
To hell with her, he thought, mounting his horse as quickly as he could. The beast turned in a wide ark and marched toward the plank.
"Now!" she whispered, her powerful muscles all constricting in one fluid motion before releasing their tension, and throwing Sepaaru like some kind of ungodly arrow toward the Sermonian.
Just as his head turned forward, Jonas heard his death call. In that slow eternity before contact was made, he wondered just where she'd come from. How could a woman be this fast or strong? She seemed to fly like a bird right toward him and there was nothing he could do-and that's the way she wanted it. He'd go to his grave for hurting her boy. He'd go to the grave and acknowledge the Gerudo as his superiors. Fuck equals! Gerudo were the best!
Sepaaru smirked before her sword went right through Jonas's neck and took his head clean off.
Jonas's head flew back toward the bridge with her momentum, while the horse and his body ran across the bridge and out into Hyrule Field. Sepaaru rolled through the fall, flicking the thin stream of blood from the blade of her sword, and sheathing it no sooner than she stood up, all with a fluidity that seemed preternatural. The Gerudo Captain stood beneath the moonlight and took a deep breath, allowing the rush to settle. She picked up the knight's head from the dirt, noting his eyes were popped with the sickly knowledge that death was at hand, and punted it over the edge into the rushing rapids below. And despite the gruesome act she'd just performed, Sepaaru sighed-but not with remorse or concern about what family Jonas may have had. She sighed about her lousy performances. First, she lets her child go into a fight with a superior warrior and fails to react accordingly when it becomes clear he's not using his powers. Second, she failed to take the entire body off the horse. Now, some nitwit was going to find the headless body galloping around the countryside, which would cause Sermonian/Hylian conflict when Zelda ultimately refused to bring Link up on charges, which-if her brief stint in political council meetings had shown her anything-would see the Sermonian warriors leave in a huff. Those huffs would turn to action sooner or later, and this would only expedite that.
She whispered to herself, "I'll be ready when it does."
A breeze blew a few strands of her dark hair across her face, bringing to mind a new set of problems. The first problem was attending to her son. The second was where the hell Link and Nabooru went. The third was where the hell Link and Nabooru went. Okay, so she did notice they were gone for a little while. Still, there were no screams of orgasmic thunder, so they couldn't have had sex … not that she was getting possessive or anything. It was quite the opposite really. There was just this feeling that Nabooru had done something to sabotage her.
"Is something wrong?"
Sepaaru looked toward the encroaching footsteps from her right, but there was no one there. "You could at least make yourself visible," she replied, before looking back into the chasm in front of her.
Link ebbed into the physical world, standing in mid-air before her, saying, "Is something wrong, besides the issue of paranoia?"
"I suppose not," she shrugged, allowing her guard to come down with him as usual. "Just wondered where you two went."
"We had a few things to talk about." Link smirked then, before adding, "Nabooru had a few queries about this beautiful woman who mistakenly picked her up like an infant."
Sepaaru laughed. "Disturbed her that much, huh?"
"Yep," Link replied in turn. He went on to say, "And then there was the whole issue of her kicking you in the chest and that not really fazing you. She went so far as to let me train her."
"What do you mean 'train'?" Sepaaru asked, her smile turning into a look of concern. The obvious question of how was negligible; Link controlled reality.
"Well, it's not like I could leave the balance that far off, Sepaaru," Link told her, already sensing the confliction this was going to cause. "You're a one-woman army, so it wasn't exactly fair to leave my other half completely defenseless-"
"Wait, so you're training us to fight like chickens or something?" she asked, her right eyebrow arching in anticipation.
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing. And the loser will be cut and quartered for dinner tomorrow night, with a nice bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy of some kind."
"Cute," Sepaaru replied, her expression falling into a listless sort of annoyance. "So, let me see if I understand this: You gave the wench the ability to kick my ass at her leisure, right?"
Link's expression mirrored hers, but he clarified by saying: "I didn't give her anything, except the weapon. I put her on the grindstone, same as you, to give her a fighting chance if you two ever came to blows. As it stands, I wish you both could drop this defensive posturing, but I'm not going to force the issue one way or the other."
This didn't exactly settle well with Sepaaru.
"Ugh! Goddamn it! I can't have one thing in this world that she doesn't try to possess! The training was ours, but now she's co … co … co something or other with it! Then the weapons-" She stopped and closed her eyes, growling as she ground her teeth.
Link silently sighed, taking the brooding Gerudo into his arms and floating up into the sky a ways, despite her fitful attempts to do otherwise. Trapped, Sepaaru stopped struggling and merely glared up at his face, knowing it wouldn't intimidate him in the slightest.
"What's wrong?" Link asked, his tone indicating both a kind understanding and a manner that suggested he wouldn't accept anything short of the truth, which saw Sepaaru sigh now.
"I … just don't want to lose someone else I … love to her, all right?" she replied. "I did everything I could think of to keep that man happy, but … she wooed him away-did it twice. And I know you said you wouldn't forget me-and that should be enough-but I'm …"
"Afraid," Link added in her ebb of space. Sepaaru solemnly nodded. "I think it's time we change our arrangement, so we can put some of this fear and question to bed."
"Yeah," she agreed, before a thought occurred to her. "Does this mean we can't … you know … as much? I figure there's going to be some adjustment, but that was always such a cool capper to a shitty day."
Link laughed and kissed her without thinking. "You never felt used, did you?"
Sepaaru smiled, the moonlight making her teeth appear to glow, as she shook her head. Taking a moment to reflect, she went on to say: "I'm sorry you did. I just thought it would be a pretty cool 'Welcome Home' gift to let you get your rocks off with all of them. It was never supposed to seem like you were some kind of service animal, because it wasn't about them."
"It's all right, I got who I wanted out of it," Link smirked, before sitting them down on the bridge. "Suppose we should get back and dispose of the corpse?"
"Meh, you should bring him back and bury your foot in his ass," Sepaaru said, taking his left hand and tugging him on up the path with her. "And I need to see how Junior is."
For a time, the couple walked hand-in-hand in mutual silence up the path toward home, and didn't speak again until they were within the tunnel Link had made through the fortress. A couple of Gerudo were standing in their destroyed bedrooms, looking through the rubble in disbelief, knowing full well it would be fixed. As they passed through the tunnel, the damage reversed with every step-bricks reshuffled to form walls, splintered beds rebuilt themselves, and so forth-until, at long last, they reached the starting point of the destruction-the hole in the dining hall wall-and it transformed behind them, as though none of it had never existed.
Looking at his guests, all of whom were still where he'd left, Link asked the most obvious of questions: "Sooo, who wants cake?"
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