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Link strolled through Romenian Park while reading the thoughts of his former guard captain. Varia and Takara were miles below him in a secret laboratory, forgotten to the world above for the last eight months. Scientists worked in six-hour shifts, so Varia made little notches on the floor with her nails after each invasive visit. It was crude time measurement for a crude operation.
Link continued to peruse Varia's mind, his sense of urgency not at all apparent. He found her recent memories were about her capture. She'd surmised the moment her capture happened hadn't been eight months ago. No, Varia found the capture happened the moment Takara persuaded her to give up the violence. Link followed that thought to memories showing Takara had lost the bloodlust of old, a loss she hoped her more carnage-driven companion would share.
For love, Varia put the swords down and settled into her new life, only helping the Gerudo Cause in a strictly hands-off manner when it came to violence. Unlike their sisters, Varia and Takara didn't maintain the dual roles of warriors posing as citizens; they actually became part of the common flock. They moved out of the fortress into a nice three-story house on the upper north side of the island, a place with an amazing view of the ocean, red fence, and sprawling garden. It was in that sanctuary of non-violence that twelve armed men suddenly materialized into their living room.
People stopped and took notice as Link passed them now, because he emitted a strange hum like a machine powering up. They watched him veer off the black cobblestone path winding lazily through the park, eventually losing sight of him as he ventured off onto a little trail covered in overgrowth. Unknown to the onlookers, the humming man was beginning to empathize against his better judgment. And his anger and pace only escalated once he sensed the scientists' intent to kill them.
Resuming his place in Varia's memory, Link felt her old instincts flare up during the intrusion. She attacked furiously with a candlestick, but it was a wasted effort. Unfortunately, Varia had indulged her body into a state of disrepair throughout the pacifistic years, despite looking to be in amazing shape. The assailants devoured the two women like the overfed calves they had become. Takara fell first, and the last thing Varia remembered about that night was a blow to the head.
Afterwards, they awakened in their current cells. Four feet wide and eight feet long, divided by a concrete wall and fenced in with translucent windows for doors, they could only see one another in a reflective tray across the room. Varia realized they weren't going to be ransomed, because on the other side of the glass was a lab not unlike her own. Alongside the armed men she saw scientists—and that always meant experimentation.
Varia remembered thinking, “This must be how my rats feel.”
Naked, alone, and stared at in a little box—Link saw her be halfway amused by the irony. And despite his best effort, Link felt her pain. She sat and watched Takara slip further into madness as the experiments began to take their toll. Watching the descent of the person she loved most or not seeing her at all—what kind of choices were those? They were almost as torturous as the experiments.
And the simple sample collecting turned into exactly that: torture. From fingernails to fingers, from strands of hair to scalps, from vials of blood to beakers full—Link watched Varia and Takara endure indignities and atrocities only to regenerate from the abuse and have the cycle repeat.
The men in charge enjoyed their work. Watching them through her memories, he and Varia knew it was only a matter of time before watching would turn into curiousness about how to disable such abilities. Worst of all, Takara went a little further outside of herself with each test. Witnessing that only seemed to drain the will out of Varia.
Link pulled out of the former captain's thoughts again, finding he was surprisingly jogging off the new trail into a sprawling swamp. He breathed a breathless breath—a still unbroken habit—and went back into her head. This time he began to feel Varia's helplessness.
Perhaps it was the memory of what those pirate women had done to him or that internal and external torture were old friends, but Link's anger began to manifest visibly the more he empathized. The swamp that, seconds before, growled and groaned with wildlife went silent. It was as if the creatures knew their master was in a foul mood, and they thought it best to be silent in his presence. They were right.
He saw that Varia had “forgotten what it meant to be Gerudo” in her words. To her, life was never as easy as it had become on this world. Despite their overwhelming victories against the Sons and natives, she should've never underestimated them and agreed to come off the battlefield. Still, as Link could attest, logic was a worthless thing in face of the heart and hers ached more every time Takara screamed … or didn't.
Varia wouldn't break—at least not visibly—and that somehow made him proud. She didn't fight as hard when they came to get her, but she'd always fix them with a stare that let them know she was aware of what was happening and that she wasn't afraid. Even in those first few days, Link could see that they both fought hard to keep those small samples, insisting Nabooru would rain down a shit storm the world had never seen.
But as the days turned into weeks and months, hope turned into anger at their would-be savior's tardiness. And, as the research began to incorporate magic and even more pain, anger turned into acceptance. They were getting close to figuring out how to kill them, Varia knew in her gut, as the team of scientists eventually turned the majority of their efforts away from the two women and focused on the blood that they'd taken. No amount of glaring could change what would happen after they discovered what it was they were looking for.
A month ago, according to Varia's time, Link watched the scientists bring in a vial in a heavily padded case. Through her cell window, Varia could see the scientists taking turns using various scanners on the vial itself, never once opening it. Every time they scanned it, though, they'd make it a point to look back at her and chuckle.
Two weeks ago, they opened it for the first time and tested the contents against a blood sample. While she couldn't see what happened, when the men looked back at her and cheered, it pretty much said all that it needed. For the first time ever then, the scientists emptied out of the lab to take the vial somewhere. They returned with a black dagger with a golden edge a few hours later.
“Be still,” a lankier scientist said to Varia upon entering her cell, as though shackled to the floor naked and starving wasn't immobility enough for him.
Removing his mask, another first, Varia and Link by telepathy finally saw the face of one of her tormentors. Her insides churned even in memory. It was Link or, rather, one of those who looked more like him than the others. He felt ill, sloshing through the murky waist-high water towards the hollowed out tree and secret elevator to the subterranean lab.
As he watched the scientist rake the blade across her right shoulder and leave a shallow wound, Varia didn't even react to the pain. It was just another violation in a series, and that resigned thought from a woman of her pride nudged Link ever closer to the edge of his anger. The swamp water turned to steam around Link's legs, as he saw her wound began to rot almost immediately.
Try as he might to keep this situation cut and dry, Link stepped into the elevator emotionally attached and angry. If it weren't for Charon's soul cleansing, thousands of dead would scream their ethereal throats raw to warn the scientists: “Run!” As it stood, the scientists would shortly join them.
The elevator door closed and a god descended.
While thoughts of murder and evisceration danced in Link's mind, so did Varia's thoughts in the present. She wondered if torture by a Link look-alike wasn't fitting given how the family helped torture him. He'd fought those monsters for who knew how long only to come back to … nothing. It was for that reason alone she didn't dare to expect him to save the day miraculously. Either Nabooru sent people or it was over.
“We all deserve this,” he heard Varia mutter in the present, looking at the black and green pustules oozing around the edge of her shoulder wound, which spread down to her bicep days ago.
“No, you don't,” Link replied automatically.
Varia looked up, almost relieved to hear his voice, but grimly chuckled when she found no one on the other side of her cell window. Varia refocused on the wound, figuring whatever the nature of the dagger didn't allow her to heal. With each passing day that the wound hadn't closed, she found the scientists became even more convinced that they had their weapon against the immortal outsiders.
This slow, infected death was her … fate. Stripped of all her worldly riches, naked and alone in a cell, Varia saw the world as she used to see it: She'd gone from a poor, illiterate thief to a world renowned inventor and scientist, all thanks to a man who'd quite literally moved the world for her and her people. Four feet wide and eight feet long, these cells would now be her and Takara's tombs.
She looked across the room at the reflection of Takara in the cell beside her, now a catatonic husk of the woman she once was and for the first time, Varia cried as a guard walked past.
“Ooh, I think this one's broken,” the slender guard replied, his body armor bulging awkwardly from beneath his bogus civilian disguise.
“Intruder! Intruder! Intruder!” a mechanical voice shouted as emergency lights flashed.
Outside the lab, Link had found himself without the proper keycard to exit the elevator and promptly ripped the elevator door off. He walked down the long concrete corridor towards the red double doors at the end, sensing his two women on the other side. Needless to say, the blaring sirens further agitated his already poor mood. A particularly loud speaker overhead exploded in response to his ire.
Arthur would endure some suffering for this, Link thought, as he passed three doors, each leading to a different maze of laboratories dedicated to diseases, weapons, and explosives where other abductees were treated to experimentation. Suddenly, he paused as knowledge from the scientists' memories sliced through his mounting anger.
From their respective minds, Link saw they had found the unique metals in the Gerudo blood and were weaponizing it. Their discovery was the result of his earlier paradigm shift, which removed Fate's plan from the landscape. He'd completely underestimated the speed it would happen. And, as Link's consciousness expanded even further, he found Arthur had put Ajax in complete control of the Sons of the Sermon. Like a good soldier, Ajax was performing to meet Link's expectations of a six percent annual death toll on the Sons side.
That meant, instead of the small strike force that was set to take another blow at New Hyrule—a type of strike that had grown unpopular—Link found his former student rallying the soldiers and putting the wheels on a full-scale, ten-year war to destroy the “invaders.” The first wheel was six percent of their fighting force, roughly 360,000 men, and they were being poised for the first strike … tomorrow. Also as instructed, Ajax provided them with improper intelligence that said the immortal contingent, specifically the General Kokiri and his sister, were off island (like that mattered).
Link lifted a hand to do away with the whole stupid plan, but, for some reason, he hesitated. His anger receded and he reconsidered the numbers: Over ten million people lived in New Hyrule, and a million and a half of those people were soldiers. Two demigods and immortals were among those numbers. The weapons made from the metal in the Gerudo blood introduced a true threat and struggle. Struggle would only enhance his family's victory and keep it from seeming staged, he reasoned, and Zelda and Junior's presence (loathe he was to say it aloud) would ensure not one of those 360,000 made it back alive.
Once this plan went into motion, Link had to see it through, but this—THIS—was setting another war upon his family. This was the endgame of them all, and without the country-less Sons, none of the other countries would break the various peace treaties. If he manipulated this right, his family would only endure ten (eleven counting Ajax's suicide run with the last forty percent at the end) reasonably sized battles over the next ten years instead of hundreds of smaller ones.
Hesitantly, Link lowered his arm. He made the decision: the Sons' research would continue to exist; eleven mass battles over hundreds of smaller ones would go on under his watch; and, in the end, once all of the enemies were dead, his family would rebuild. Together. Without the distraction of war paranoia. Arthur had no idea what was happening and was keeping well away, thus his life still had meaning for the time being.
“Stop!” someone shouted, interrupting Link's thoughts.
Link looked ahead and found the hall congested with guards, all of whom had spilled out of the four doors. There were forty men dressed as everything from civilians in shorts and sandals to store employees and police—all obviously in disguises that allowed them to blend in among the citizenry and abduct subjects.
“Lay down!” they all screamed at him, figuring to capture him for research purposes.
“No,” Link replied, seething as Varia's plight came back to him.
The hall was twenty feet wide and twenty feet high, which gave him ample room to maneuver. That thought made him smile, as a little of the old mortal mind bled through and weighed an unnecessary option. His left hand lit up, and with that show of power, the men scrapped their plans and fired. In an instant, the soldiers found Link right on top of them; they never saw him move.
“Scary, isn't it?” he said to a man dressed in a red-and-white striped suit identical to the ice cream vendors above. The men's world distorted, twisting into black sand, leaving each in the mouth of fear.
“Aaaaah!” the fake vendor screamed, firing shots into his comrades' faces, necks, and arms, before they returned fire in self-perseverance. “Stay away from me!”
Link smiled, jamming their guns, to prolong the orgy of fear-driven fratricide. Still, as the men bashed and pummeled one another to death, it was missing something.
“Mouths only,” Link told them, smiling as the men immediately began to bite chunks out of each other.
The men sounded like animals, eyes dancing with consciousness, fully aware they were acting against their own wishes yet unable to stop themselves from gorging on flesh.
In the lab, Varia jumped in response to the screaming on the other side of the door, but figured it was probably the slaughtering of escaped prisoners that caused it. After a long time, the screams stopped. A series of loud, dull thumps like the beating of a drum soon took over—and even that stopped a moment later. Her tormentors' faces turned pale, as they had borne witness to their armed guards … devouring each other. Barbaric monsters they were, all the scientists could do was sit in awe and whisper of the man—the man in a green suit—at the epicenter of the carnage.
“That's the guy that killed Ucano last year!” one of the scientists shouted, remembering his comrade tasked with assassinating Nabooru on public television, only to find himself mutilated and killed by a nameless guard. “It's the damn Gerudo woman's bodyguard!”
Outside, Link's eyes pulsed from the scientists' fear. He took in the carnage left in his wake—concrete walls decorated with the remains of forty Sons, half-chewed chunks of flesh, and intestines filled to near bursting thrown about as if by a child in a sugar fit. Approaching the lab, he looked up into the security camera and his eyes grew brighter. That was all the incentive the scientists needed. They ran to perform emergency shutdown protocols at their computer terminals, because if he did that to field-approved operatives, what chance did they stand?
Obviously, the New Hyruleans had their own secret weapon.
After uploading all of their data about the blood to their leader's servers, the men hit the mystical panic buttons around their necks. Unknown to them, their leader had seen the error in his ways. Arthur felt the mystical signal, but did nothing. He knew what was to befall them, yet also realized what awaited him if he interfered. Steven Romenian, once proud King of Hyrule and Sermonia, numbed his otherworldly senses the way all people did on this new world: Television.
They were on their own.
“Gentlemen,” Link said almost casually, “don't move.” And beneath his almost casual tone, the divine spoke to them—and they obeyed.
He found Varia slumped in her cell sinking further into herself, ignorant of her salvation. As the door on her cell opened, she looked up expecting another white coat with a device of “science,” but found the last face she expected to see. Glowing eyes, one red and one white, snow-colored hair, and that smirk—it was Link. And, for another time in her life, there stood her savior in green. Her only question: Why?
“It's what I do,” Link replied to the unasked, snapping the enchanted shackles on her feet and hands effortlessly. “Can you stand?”
“Yes,” Varia said, as Link helped her up and materialized a large blanket around her naked, emaciated body.
She intended to say thanks, but Link was already at Takara's cell. The Gerudo screamed upon first sight of him crashing through the door, backpedaling to get as far into the corner as she could. Her fingernails were broken and caked with blood from where she clawed the table during more painful inspections. Like Varia before her, various parts of Takara's body were inflamed and in the process of healing, all but the large gash on her stomach, which was where they cut her with the dagger. For a split second, Link transplanted Nabooru and Sepaaru into the situation … and it took all of his willpower not to weave the men together in a grotesque quilt of flesh.
His control was waning, as the men began to see a gigantic shadowy outline of Link's true form appear around him, though kneeled to fit in the physical dimensions of the room. To make matters worse, the emission of power was beginning to unravel reality around them, making smaller items disintegrate. Scientifically, it was fascinating. Personally, their testicles were retreating into their chest cavities. Behind him, Varia felt ill, but didn't speak, as Takara looked at her the way she did their captors.
“Takara,” Link whispered into the woman's fractured mind, forcing the anger down again, and watching her eyes dart from left to right to identify where the voice came from. “Rest.”
“R-rest,” she repeated, collapsing as she went into a restful slumber.
“Do you need any help with this?” Link asked Varia, implying a similar mind easing.
For a moment, Varia almost leapt at the chance, but she bit her lip and reconsidered taking advantage of his kindness.
“No, but thank—”
“Okay,” Link interjected, breaking Takara's shackles and covering her as he picked her up.
As the trio moved to depart the cell, Link's rage came back tenfold as he felt hope radiating off the scientists. He passed the unconscious Takara to Varia, who almost toppled beneath the added weight, and approached the scientists. They didn't deserve to get away with this. Just one would serve his other purpose well enough. Even without pupils or irises, they could see the bad intentions clicking within Link's eyes.
“Would you like to see an experiment?” Link lifted his left fist, exposing the back of his hand, and a pure red eye opened. The shadow demon chuckled upon seeing new souls, but the scientists jerked back in surprise. “And by experiment, I do mean dragged somewhere to be violated in ways that only a demonic horde could imagine.” A small black hole opened before the scientists where thousands of red eyes suddenly opened; the presence of fresh meat and souls awakened them. A horrible smell assaulted the men's noses, a foul odor that fell somewhere between decayed flesh and sulfur.
“Link, just … forget it,” Varia said cautiously, careful not to sound like she was demanding anything of him. He looked at her over his shoulder, a sneer twisting his face into an almost unrecognizable visage. Still, she asked, “Can we just go home?”
Link's shoulders went up and down, mortal emulation of heavy breathing, but his face unwrinkled.
“Fine,” he muttered, closing the portal on the demons reaching towards the science types.
The aroma of urine was heavy in that corner of trembling cowards, yet none of them made mention of it. To tell the truth, they'd all pissed themselves, as Link seemed to radiate everything that scared them. The demonic glimpse only added a new dimension to it. Their hair slowly turned white the longer they looked into Link's face because he was scarier than anything their psyches could cook up.
Reluctantly, Link backed off and put Takara on his back. As Link exited the room with the two Gerudo, the scientists thought they'd survived to experiment another day. The scientists simply fell down because their legs were too wobbly to support their weight any further.
Save one. Kill the rest and their families.
Varia paused as they walked through the bloody hallway and remains of the dead guards. Something fell out of Link's dark hand and dashed past her, she noticed. Varia looked down and then back to see if she'd stepped on it, but didn't see anything. The hall did seem to grow darker behind them, almost as though a living abyss swallowed it, she noticed. It had to be stress.
“Thank you,” Varia whispered to Link, as her fake strength disappeared and let the frail warrior collapse.
Four hours later, on the third floor of the New Hyrule Ministry Building, the centermost window glowed from the muted television within. Inside, in two parallel beds, Varia and Takara lay silent, resting comfortably despite their horrible ordeals at the hands of the Sons of the Sermon. Rhythmic beats pulsed on their respective heart monitors, a good sign in the midst of bad news.
Nabooru stood vigil over them watching her most potent health potion traverse tubes and enter their systems intravenously, but otherwise helpless to save them. A few hours ago, Link had left them at the gate, emaciated and dying, but with a message.
“Tell Nabooru to call in her troops. All of them.”
He had only provided them with the blankets to cover their naked bodies.
Nabooru had rushed out to them ahead of her medical personnel when the guard at the gate called, but she couldn't recognize them. They had been tortured and mutilated, as tracks of skin and fingers were missing, as well as signs of burns. Even after the initial shock and self-loathing, those injuries—like other Gerudo who'd suffered damage—appeared to be healing. The emaciation was the most disturbing aspect, however, because as Nabooru herself could attest, the Gerudo couldn't actually waste away without food thanks to Link's gift … or so she once thought. Something had changed. The question was what.
A clue might have been the infected wounds. Each woman had one and they both rotted the surrounding tissue away at an incredible rate. Worse than that, Nabooru's potions only slowed it down. In fact, judging the growth rate of the bacteria in the wounds, Nabooru found the wounds were only weeks old. She didn't have the courage to ask how old the others were, because to assign a number to how long they'd held on would have been maddening. She walked between the two women's beds and sighed. This was her fault.
“I'm sorry,” Nabooru whispered, turning back towards the muted television mounted on the wall. She turned up the volume when she saw it was the news.
“…story tonight is a system of laboratories hidden under the swamps of Romenian Park in Krailen City, one of the country's largest port cities,” a female reporter began. “There is no official word on the ownership of these labs at present time or speculation on the type of research performed there. Officials are also reluctant to estimate a time of operation. Reporters weren't allowed to bring cameras into the area, but report that sixty survivors—all victims of experimentation—were retrieved without incident. Pending further investigation, police aren't allowing the survivors to make comments at this time.
“In the only statement released by police, Chief Thomas Resoli had this to say: `All survivors are being quarantined to ensure public safety until the exact nature of the experiments can be determined. That is all.' In a statement released by his attorney, A. Jackson Kakariko, Steven Romenian maintains that he is quote, `Upset by the staggering loss of life' and is `completely clueless as to how the park became a scene for such heinous activity, but will lend his full cooperation to the authorities.' We'll have more as the situation develops. In other news—”
Nabooru turned the television off and looked at Varia and Takara again. At current, Varia would lose her arm, but Takara—the rot had reached her stomach and internal organs. Removal was not an option. Nabooru gritted her teeth, because … how did she tell her best friend that the love of her life would die? Junior and Zelda, as powerful as they were, couldn't counter whatever magic caused the wounds nor could Esmerelda.
Still, Nabooru didn't panic; her best medical people were working on the problem. She dialed Amaraa's private line to get the details kept out of the broadcast. Obviously there had to be security recordings. And if footage existed, Amaraa's people would have or could get it. Hopefully, unlike other times, the footage showing actual Sermonian involvement wouldn't be distorted or unusable.
The phone rang once before Amaraa answered.
“Nabooru, I was about to call,” Amaraa said expectantly, looking at the recording her people had acquired from woefully underpaid authorities on the mainland. “Are Varia and Takara okay?”
“They're fine. What happened?” Nabooru asked, getting straight to the point.
“If these dates are right, those two were abducted about eight months ago.” Amaraa sighed, watching her sisters-in-arms scream while being sliced open at the scalp. “How'd we miss this, Nabooru?”
Nabooru sighed as well, standing over her oldest friend.
“I don't know. Tell me—is Link in any of it?”
“You think he'd let this go on?” asked Amaraa, taking the phone from her ear and looking at it incredulously as the silence loomed from the other end. “Let me scan through this last disc,” she continued, popping the last information disc into the disc player on her television and fast forwarding until the alarm lights started flashing.
“There,” Amaraa stated. “He appeared five hours ago—busted out of an elevator, actually—and … well, that explains what was in all those bags the police hauled off.”
She chuckled as the soldiers devoured one another at her estranged king's whim, a savage and brutal end for fucks that deserved no less. Amaraa sped the disc to the scientists getting theirs, or she expected to see them getting theirs, but saw the strangest thing.
“It looks like Varia called him off the fucks that did this to them. Still hard to believe she's seriously put the swords down.”
Nabooru was silent once more. On one hand, she felt guilty that he had to pull her people out of the fire. On the other, it was somehow relieving to know that he was still willing to do it, even though his not healing them came off as strange.
“Oh, shit!” shouted Amaraa, as a silhouette of Link appeared in the room along with a group of people seconds after walking out with Varia and Takara. “This shadow thing just popped up with, like, forty people. Hold on, I'm going to send the video stream to your phone. Watch this.”
Immediately, Nabooru recognized her husband's … friend.
“First, I'd like to congratulate these twelve `brave' men for pissing Link off.”
Nabooru's skin crawled as the creature's voice slithered through the phone and into her ears. She silently hoped those kids were just for decoration.
“Second, I'd like to clarify that, if I had a heart, what I'm about to do here would make it heavy with sorrow. Probably. Maybe not. If it makes you feel better, go with it.” Its laugh turned into a piercing shrill of sound before the killing started.
From a two-by-three inch screen in a phone designed in part by Varia, Nabooru watched crystal-clear video of screaming men, women, and children. She shook as she watched children—some no older than ten years old—run screaming through a living nightmare where parents and siblings were cut down around them. The monster ripped them all apart gleefully, stringing murders—severing, breaking, and disemboweling whomever he caught—together like the links of a chain.
Helpless, the men screamed in primal pain, leaping for the creature as it ripped its way out of a woman's chest, only to fly through its shadowy body and slide in the pulp of their loved ones. All totaled, their families' deaths took no more than five minutes, but they were the longest five minutes Nabooru had experienced since her daughter's birth.
“Who are you? What are you?” one of them asked, scientific curiosity the only thing keeping him alive after witnessing that.
“The `what am I?' is demon. As for the `who am I?' … I'm not big on names,” it replied, completely disconnected from the carnage, poking the severed head of a woman with bloodstained blonde hair with its foot. “Well, I guess it's all right if you think of me as the Left Hand of God.”
It took a moment to reconsider as no one said anything.
“That's not too long, is it? Everybody else has one or two names—like Link Kokiri or just Link.”
Still, no one spoke, which seemed to make the creature genuinely uncomfortable.
“No? Shade? Shady?”
The men stood silent, tears and mucus streaming down their faces, but the creature continued. Its flippancy and their inability to make it respect their loved ones' lost lives made them cry harder.
“The Hand, then? Handy? No? None of those?”
Again, no one replied. One guy sobbed loudly.
“I'll take that as a maybe,” the demon replied to the sob, before he shrugged and faded away.
Nabooru's mouth hung open. Her mind reeled. There was always a part of her that thought Link was capable of this, but to hear him threaten it was one thing. To see him carry it out—even through his minion—was something completely different and profoundly disturbing.
“No, he wouldn't order this,” she told herself. Link would not cross that line. Children? Impossible.
It took only seconds for one of the scientists to find the black dagger with the golden edge on the floor amidst his family's remains and slit his throat. Seeing his example, the other men moved to execute themselves, too, each uttering, “God forgive me.”
Nabooru's anger grew over Link's lack of control over the monster. This was unnecessary. Kill the scientists, not their families. As the last man took up the dagger, the shadow reappeared and slapped it away from him.
“No, no, no—I almost forgot!” it said with the same amusement. “You live and you spread the word: this is the … fate of all who oppose New Hyrule and the god Link's people,” the creature told him. “There will come a time for judgment! Judgment will be passed on the unworthy, as it was passed on you here today! Like you, they will have only one more chance to redeem themselves in his eyes! Preaching his word shall be your penance for siding against his people. Or something like that. He rambles and I tune him out sometimes, but you get the gist here, right? It's a new day, friend.”
Both disappeared and the video turned to static.
“Nabooru, if there are backups and this gets out, we're collectively fu—” Amaraa abruptly snatched her head from her phone, as it howled with a nasty screech. “Oookay.”
Nabooru appeared on the roof of the tower that was once their bedroom, smoldering hunk of black junk that had once been a phone in hand, and shouted one word with all her might: “Link!” The skies around the fortress rumbled with her fury and red bolts of lightning flashed throughout.
“You bellowed?” Link asked nonchalantly.
She turned towards the familiar voice and found Link sitting on the edge of the roof looking over the nighttime city skyline with his back to her.
“I'm assuming this is about the lab work.”
“You set that … thing free and it killed those children!” Nabooru screamed, dropping the melted phone. “It beat a woman to death with her own child!”
Link swung his legs from over the edge and back towards her, but remained seated as he spoke. “You don't have to imply, Nabooru. I told him to do it.”
“Why?” The shock was apparent in her voice, as was the revulsion, but Link merely looked at her as if she were overreacting. Any attempt to put a scolding tone to the situation fell apart because he seemed genuinely indifferent.
“It wasn't an easy thing to do, but after Varia asked me to spare them, I found there were a lot of eyes focused on us,” he began by saying. “I was uncomfortable with that level of scrutiny. To me, the observation suggested they were looking to exploit you somehow. Today, I showed them that this familial exploitation thing runs both—”
“You did this to make a point?” she whispered in astonishment, before anger consumed her again. “There's no one left to hurt us!” Nabooru screamed. “You stopped—”
And, like her, Link interjected, “Victorious. The rest of the gods want him as a leader and he seems to see me as an obstacle on his way to a throne I don't even want. Funny, isn't it?”
Nabooru's fire dimmed. She wasn't so far out of touch that she couldn't see the pain in his face, even if all but his glowing eyes hid in shadow. Where once she would've reassured him that he was right, questions and silent accusations loomed.
“Are you sure? Does he know that you don't consider him an enemy?”
Link looked at her as if she'd kicked him in the teeth. “What?”
“Given your last message to them and your erratic behavior—” Nabooru stopped as he stood.
“I'm not erratic,” Link said with a slight twinge of bitterness.
“You just had eleven men, twelve women, and twenty-eight kids between them executed,” she thought to remind him.
Perhaps the condescension in her voice was too high or he lacked the patience to deal with her mortal misgivings. Whatever the case was, the switch clicked, and Link responded like the god he was.
“Whether you want to see this or not, understand one thing: These people—they are mine to do with as I see fit. How many `innocent' men, women, and children have fallen in your quests?”
“The correct answer is 1,100,034,” Link interrupted with deified authority. “That's over a million lives lost in collateral damage that had absolutely nothing to do with anything. The eleven men—who killed themselves, by the way—experimented and tortured one of your best friends for eight months, not to mention hundreds of others. Those twelve women? They knew it happened and why. They simply didn't care because the victims were `less than people' to them.
“Those innocent kids? They were little fucking monsters who would take up their fathers' work. And, while we are riding high on the state of morality, what about Varia's virtuous morality? I seem to recall her having an impressive collection of young boys' skulls in my day. I guess expecting a lecture on morals for her would be too much considering `all she went through,' right?”
That was the thing about watching Link arguing that she used to enjoy. No matter how right someone thought they were, he had ammunition to leave them and their argument on the floor with their collective asses blown open. Only now, the whistling, misshapen anus was hers. Without actually conceding, Nabooru, like an experienced woman and politician, deflected the topic elsewhere.
“So, is this your idea of helping the cause?”
“Like I said earlier, there were a lot of eyes on us,” Link said, deciding at that moment to enlighten her. Nabooru gasped as Link suddenly allowed her to sense what he had. She felt thousands of powerful gazes moving on or around the world. “This is after my demonstration.” There were no signs of anything remotely godlike. “Whether you elect to believe me, I do want the killing to stop. That doesn't change the fact that some people need to be killed.”
“Same boat, Link, in regards to the killing,” Nabooru replied listlessly, still a bit disorientated from having her senses rise and fall from such a height. “Generations of psychopaths—and not just the Sons—seem to think our deaths will somehow make for a better world. The difference is that I'm not purposely destroying their children to set an example.”
Link chuckled, which surprised her.
“Not to undermine it, but as complicated and as big as the game you think you're playing is, it is very small compared to what I'm doing,” he told her, still speaking from the perspective of a god.
“Is that what this is to you—one big game?” she asked, visibly upset with the insignificant roles everyone else was reduced to within his words.
“That's how I keep it from overwhelming me,” he replied calmly, this time taking the divine out of his voice. Link wiped off the cocky smirk, too.
“Why are you doing this?” Nabooru asked, seeing a chance to get an answer untouched by godly rhetoric.
“Family,” he replied, closing his eyes for a moment to remember what it was like to be a part of one. “I'm alone again, and it's their fault.”
“You are not alone,” she said, though, with nowhere near enough confidence to sound believable. “We've just—”
Link laughed and cut her off.
“I have a demon, strength, and a plan, so I guess I'm not alone,” he said with another short laugh. “Of course, I had a family to go with all of that at one time.”
Nabooru closed her eyes and turned to look out over the darkened horizon behind her.
“You still have a family.”
“They just don't trust me enough to sleep under the same roof.”
The wind howled as if to punctuate his statement and her silence.
“You'd think with all this pain and suffering, I would have had enough. The fact remains, I still can't give up yet,” Link laughed in spite of this disastrous encounter and her looming silence. “Suppose we can call this one a draw and try again?”
When she opened her eyes, Nabooru was startled to find Link standing in the air before her with his right hand extended. Her lance materialized in kill form and sank its blade into his chest without warning, a purely defensive response to her fear and the level of danger the object that scared her represented. As the lower half of his tie flittered to the ground, severed by the blade, Link's knees buckled slightly, as luminescent blood sprayed from around the edges of his wound and splattered Nabooru.
“W-Well, t-that was un-unexpected,” he joked.
Nabooru attempted to pull it out, apologies pouring out of her mouth as fast as the luminescent blood did his chest wound, horrified by the weapon's reaction. Surprisingly, Link grabbed Nabooru's hand and pushed forward down the weapon until he was a few inches away from her. The blade now protruded from his back, but he focused solely on her.
“I'm still not giving up yet.”
Eyes wide, Nabooru shakily nodded.
As the light faded from his blood splatter, Link gritted his teeth behind his lips and pulled the lance out. Twice her lance had stabbed him. A third time would … he shook his head. There was no point dwelling on what happened if there was a third time.
“Just as long as you know.”
And with that, Link was gone.
Nabooru's lance faded away, but as she prepared to re-enter the fortress a question formed.
No, I'm fine. I'm a stabbed up, out-of-work Hero of Time. I'm also of dubious moral fiber. At the root of it all, I'm a father that's two sheets away from crazy out to complete a plan to make gods of a family that is potentially too afraid to be near me again. Yes, I am absolutely, unequivocally fine. Without question. No, really. I'm in-fucking-sane is what I am. I want to say fuck them, but … it's like I know something colossally wrong will happen if I don't make this last attempt.
Enough of them, though. Let's just stick to the plan.
Did the scientist bend our way? Excellent. He'll become the first spoke on the wheel of change in this world. And speaking of power abuse, how'd it feel to stretch the old murderous legs? Yeah, I thought you'd like that. Must say, though, the names? Not one of your finest moments. Bah, it's not hard to think of a name. Find something that fits and choose it. And— wait a second. Oh, that's hilarious.
How'd you like to stretch again? I bring it up because it seems Victorious is starting to move the gods' dimension from place to place. How'd you like to go behind enemy lines? Why? Well, with you on the inside, it'd be easier to get information. Benefits? Well, what would you like? Hmm, I suppose that's doable under certain conditions.
For now, your job is simple information gathering. I'll make the shadows their blind spot, which'll mask your presence so long as you stay in the shadows. The main goal is to report on Victorious. I want to know his state of mind; how he's reacting to the bond with the Original's power; and whether or not his mother's sway is absolute. No, there will be no assassinations—not yet, anyway, because you're going in light.
What do you mean fuck me? No, no, fuck you! How in the hell am I supposed to get you in wielding a part of my power? Ugh, of course there's an out. If, for whatever reason, our bond fails and I don't instinctively pull you out of harm's way, think or say, “I want out.” That's it. You're home. And if it isn't so simple and they catch you? That's easy. Give them something to use against me, but make them work for it. This isn't a suicide mission, so anything that keeps you alive is fair game.
What will I be doing? I'm the backup plan. I've set war upon my family, so I have to ensure their victory. This blood thing has me annoyed, though. Thing is, I knew something like this would happen on some level, but I put it out there and went with it.
I made Nabooru and Sepaaru's weapons with a blend of sentient metals and … well, me. When I sent them here and bonded them with the weapons, the metals in their blood transformed into metals like the weapons'. This causes the metal in the weapons to defend Nabooru and Sepaaru the way it defends itself. The part of me in the metal allows it to appear instantly and in response to all threats (seen or not) or in regards to what Nabooru and Sepaaru assume to be threats. That little pinch of me also gives it the god killing abilities.
Unfortunately, the metal seemed to assume ALL Gerudo were Nabooru and Sepaaru, as it has transmuted the metals in all of their blood. No, it's nothing that invasive. Simple Gerudo contact with the metal initiates the transmutation. I have to set all the rigs and computations for the manifestations, which is why a sentient lance or sword and shield didn't appear and save Varia and Takara.
You've seen the horror story that comes from this metal in Varia and Takara's wounds. Separate the metal from the blood, add it to anything that pierces or cuts, and it becomes the most lethal weapon in existence. Add this blood to a world where magic is abundant and a wizard-grade scientist could replicate it. The only bonus in this is that it becomes weaker with each replicated dose. Still, with the blood Varia and Takara lost, the Sons have enough to wipe my family off the globe with a series of well-placed shots.
Yes, even Nabooru and Sepaaru. They don't know it, but the weapons' all encompassing defense works only so long as they're not holding them. Why the flaw? To make a long, self-blowing story short, if Nabooru or Sepaaru were holding their weapons, a sniper shot would do them in because the metals' will is secondary to theirs.
The backdoor is because, I suppose, anything can happen. The trust among us astounding, I know. The husband gives to his wife and the other woman weapons that can kill him in case it ever became necessary. And, to counter that, he left a gaping hole in their defense in case the other shoe came down.
Huh? Mind control and make them drop it? If you recall, I exempted them from that. Every mind processes information in its own unique way to tell the body how to react. Under mind control, there's a slight difference in the signal transmitted. Thus, I tailor fit their muscles to respond only to signals of their own making, which makes it impossible to disarm them via mind tricks.
This combined with other bits and bobbles of reality bending has enabled a seemingly unsolvable problem. Still, I find it rather amazing how many things escape the grasps of the gods. I suppose this particular problem doesn't require in-depth research. After all, who needs to know the inner workings of mind control, so long as the subject is controlled?
Now, unless you want to know why water is wet, let's go pay my uncle a visit and drop you behind enemy lines.
Victorious stood before several hundred chess sets. Each set represented not only a finished game, but also the last matches versus his nephew. Twenty-four wins, he thought, pacing about the floating boards. All of those games and there were twenty-four victories that belonged to him. With a thought, each game restarted and played out as it had at their hands.
Victorious studied the moves all at once. Where each side that represented him started with queen or king's pawn, no two consecutive games started from the same point with Link. The key to Link's … potential downfall was somewhere in the game. The dimension shifted once again, but this time Link's presence followed.
“Decided to retire the old tunic-and-tights apparel, eh?” he said with a slight smirk, turning back to face his new visitor.
Link chuckled, but added, “It's a new day in an old story.” He pointed to his old boots.
“Always ready for the worst case scenario,” Victorious replied, smirking.
“So, I suppose this means trying to reunite me with my family is out of the window,” Link said with a sigh, walking through the crowd of chess sets like a window shopper, leaning in and expecting each board and piece before moving to the next.
“Everything doesn't require violence—”
“Said the man polishing his favorite weapon,” countered Link, a point his uncle conceded with a small nod. All the games disappeared on his command, which ran counter to his uncle's desires. It was also a subtle show of power. Looking in his eyes, Link found there was indecision in Victorious. A test would answer what an invasive mind probe would, but without the violation. “Would you like to know an answer?”
“Sure, though, I should probably ask to which question,” Victorious remarked in stride, circling to Link's left, which made his nephew naturally circle right. And like his nephew, Vic found no commitment to violence. Just power. Raw, unnerving power.
“Conqueror,” Link said objectively. “You cover it well, but there is no mistake—you are my father's brother.”
“What?” he asked, genuinely unsure what to make of that.
“The fact that you're asking is a problem in itself,” Link added, his voice devoid of positive or negative inflection.
He pushed the test further, as Victorious's power inched further up. The dull brown floor of the large chamber illuminated before turning classic chessboard black and white. Large, ethereal pieces fifteen feet tall appeared behind both men. The pieces began to move through the two gods like apparitions, conducting themselves as though controlled by unseen hands.
“You're obsessed with power.”
Victorious laughed, but his power surged slightly. “You're going to analyze me? Please, continue. This is … fascinating.”
Link smirked, but did as told, as the pieces kept moving at a slightly elevated speed through one of their prior games.
“It's who you are, Uncle—a God of War … a conqueror. It's also why you can't find the answer in these games and why none of this is going to matter in the end.”
Victorious eyes narrowed then. His hair turned a dark crimson, but he didn't speak. He was sure whatever game Link was playing, the details weren't beyond his comprehension. And still his power surfaced even more.
“To be a conqueror, you have to reach,” the hero said simply, as Victorious's queen rushed to take the bishop in front of Link's king. If Link's king captured the queen, Victorious's last bishop would be in line to take Link's king. It was an excellent play, but with his uncle's queen moved, Link's remaining bishop had an unblocked path to Victorious's king.
Victorious smiled to himself. He said, “And reaching is a problem?”
Link shook his head, but replied, “Not at all, but to be an exceptional conqueror, which you are, you need to make exceptional reaches. The problem is that conquerors—especially the best—see everything they want as exceptional. An exceptional reach is fine when there's something exceptional to gain. Do you understand what I'm saying?”
The game ended when Link's bishop took Victorious's king. Victorious's queen took Link's king immediately after. So focused on his own pursuits, the god hadn't realized the game was over. Instances like that were sources of comedy usually, where both would chuckle about it, like an inside joke or running gag. Now, it was an alleged weakness—a sign of how anxious he was to grasp victory. Victorious's powers surged again, even as he smiled with seeming indifference, because he wasn't sure if it was a running gag anymore.
“So, my destruction lies in taking an `exceptional' risk for something insignificant. Interesting…”
“Everything doesn't require violence,” Link mirrored his earlier sentiment down to the vocal inflection. “You want the supposed crown? By all means, it is yours.”
“And the catch?” his uncle asked, gritting his teeth behind his lips over the statements this gift made about his abilities.
Link smiled but shook his head, as his uncle moved further away from him figuratively and literally.
“There is no catch. After all you've done for me, why would there be?” Emotion crept into Link's voice, but he found his uncle stiff, and his power still growing. “You're reaching too far for something that's right here in front of you.”
“There's a mortal saying, perhaps it reached your old world before it collapsed,” Victorious said, his power ebbing as he regained clarity. “The saying was `I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.'”
“But I'm not out to make you do either,” he reminded his uncle.
Victorious shook his head, as he said, “You still don't get it, do you? On every level, checks and balances exist to make the people feel comfortable with their leadership. Be it a royal spouse that's endeared to the people or a committee of some kind, there is something tethering leader and people together that lets them sleep at night.”
They warped to Link's so-called throne room where the Goddesses dangled from chains across the back of the massive throne like a banner.
“You've been tutored among us, but make no mistake about it: You are not one of us. You are an entity that exists so far outside the realm of what we are that none of us can even stand close enough to check or balance anything you choose to do. And, like all societies where individuals rise to exist so far beyond the norm, conflict will arise.”
Link took a moment to consider what was said—the admission of hopelessness, weakness, and political bullshit—and asked a question.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“To illustrate the last reason this will come to pass,” Victorious replied, looking up as the Goddesses moaned in sensory reaction to the sound of voices. Waste fell from between their legs and pooled in the seat of the large throne, as whatever hell they were experiencing caused them to do so. “Do they deserve this? Absolutely, however, when someone of your magnitude utilizes methods like this, it appears small. Very, very small.
“You've risen so far beyond Hero of Time, yet you wield your power like an angry mortal—a scope that is far too limited for us. Gods are large, Link, and imperfect. When we fuck up, it's huge and it's sloppy … through mortal eyes. That—” he pointed up to the Goddesses— “is an overreaction. Were your labors insane? I'm sure they were to you, but we cannot be governed by someone who will judge our actions through so limited a scope as mortal eyes.”
“Limited scope?” Link asked immediately, though, stoically. “There's a matter of perspective that you're neglecting here. When I look at them, I don't see a punishment brought down from a mortal's limited scope. I see divine retribution, a purification of the soul that'll save Charon time and effort. And, as I listened to you, I realized something else.”
“And what would that be?”
“You'll never have my perspective,” Link replied, eyes pulsing as he read the fear. “While I can go back and forth from mortal to god, none of you can. Neglecting even that, I know you all realize your `minor' screw-ups cause great upheaval. Rather than admit responsibility or try to curb the fucking up, you want to hide behind class and birthright or `eliminating an unstable element.' I see the truth, though. This isn't about me being too strong or even too petty. This is about eliminating the one thing you all fear most: Punishment.
“You look up there at them or at Destiny's corpse in the little crystal and realize on some level, `I'm just as guilty as they are, so when is my turn coming?' The mere idea of living at the mercy of another god who isn't down with the program scares you. Even when all I asked in return for letting you continue to live as you have is to give my family space, I find you still trying to kill me.
“`I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees,' huh? Nah, it's more like `We'd rather die than admit we were wrong.' And despite everything I've been through or how many more of you deserve the same, I'll walk out of here now and let some other poor bastard end up as fucked up as I am or worse if it means we don't have to fight. Just accept the offer and it's done.”
Victorious stood silent in rebuttal. His hair went black, a sign of his mood, but his mouth never parted. Could he throw the war against Nabooru in Link's face? Sure, but he knew that war wasn't a decision made by an indifferent god but a desperate man. Victorious still wasn't sure how his new powers worked, but it would come to him. After all, if anything came from this exchange, it was that Link wouldn't throw the first blow. It was grim knowledge, of course, because that one blow was probably the only one Vic and his team would land.
“Take care, Uncle,” Link said, his voice sounding a bit wounded, realizing the next time they met would probably be the last.
Victorious warped without a word.
As Link looked up at the Goddesses and the corpse of Destiny, he shook his head. Vic missed the point. Overreaching wasn't his main problem. Always desiring victory on his terms was. As any warrior worth his weight in salt could attest, victory came how it came. Sometimes the best a warrior could hope for was a dual exchange or a sacrifice of a limb to ensure the win. Compromise, though, was always the key to success in battle. Vic, on the other hand, liked to win how he liked to win and refused to seize victory if it wasn't how he wanted it.
Link sighed and reality twisted into grains of green sand as he warped. All that remained in his wake was the demon. It was happy to be out again as it slithered through the shadows in search of its target. Victorious had assumed the first blow would go to him, but as he should've known, information was as deadly as any weapon—and everywhere shadow lurked, he was being unwittingly pummeled by his nephew.