Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ Comes to Light Pt. 03: Between Good and Evil ( Chapter 48 )
"Cake-he crushed a man's skull and offered us cake!" Daia shouted to his wife, who lay beside him in complete silence.
"I was there, Dai, I know," Zelda replied, having listened to his tirade end with those same words at least six times already.
"And that doesn't upset you that our daughter is up there with that madman?" he asked, staring up at the ceiling as though trying to see through it and up into Link and Nabooru's bedroom, which was currently empty.
"He reminds me of you," his wife said, rolling onto her right side to face her perturbed spouse. Daia scoffed at the notion. "Look at the whole situation: Everyone that he killed or has killed down there attacked him first. He didn't provoke the knight. And, from what I can tell, the old man sent assassins."
"Does that excuse years of torture? He's no better than Ganondorf-" Daia cut himself off, but his wife's sudden rigidness alerted him that his foot was already in his mouth up to the ankle.
"I don't know what you were watching, but I saw Gerudo that were happy tonight. They wore clothes of higher quality than even the queen of all Hyrule. They serve him without fear, and he's no better than Ganondorf?" She knew it went without saying that the guy had misspoken, but there was no way in hell she could rest peacefully with the thought her daughter was somehow trapped in a situation similar to her old one.
Daia sighed after a moment, looking down his body at the tiny scars where Ganondorf's thin, modified arrows had punctured him: One between each rib, one in both of his shoulders, the bends of his elbows, his forearms, four in his stomach, one for each thigh, one that grazed the area below his left eye, and, lastly, one in each calf muscle. Despite all of the little dots indicating entry wounds, he remembered how long it took for the life to leave his body. He remembered looking at his wife and their two-year-old daughter crying as he bled out like an animal from noon to sunset, at least six hours total, before he could no longer hold on.
"I just wanted Nabooru to have better than this," the knight trainee mumbled, holding his arms out as if to display himself. "Even if she only knew of me for the first two years of her life, I was glad she witnessed me die; I wanted her to see that living and surviving weren't worth it without some truth that no one could take from you. And if she ever found that truth, I wanted her to see that it was okay to die for it. That's why I kept telling Ganondorf where he could shove things when he had me up there."
Zelda rubbed her hand across her bare stomach and the fist-sized scar her deathblow had left; the tough skin made her wince. "I think she got the message, Hero," she told him, spinning her fingers in his damp hair.
"I'm no hero," Daia sighed, grinding his fingertips into his palms. "I'm just some naked guy that failed his wife and child."
"You tried, though," his wife reminded him, the sheen of sweat on her naked body making her skin shine. "Despite every attempt I made to let you spare yourself, the things I told you about that monster, you kept sneaking in and out of here to see me. That's heroic enough."
He stretched out flat on the bed and put his hands behind his head, breathing a bit easier when Zelda placed her head on his chest over his heart. "How is he like me?"
"He doesn't fear Ganondorf," she whispered, listening to the strong thud of his heart, while growing sleepy from their sexual tryst. "And he could've had any woman he wanted … but-" she yawned- "chose some … Gerudo for … his bride … and cared …."
The old Gerudo queen fell silent, before Daia realized she was asleep. One of the few to ever earn a Gerudo Pass, the former knight trainee smiled as he looked down at the mother of his child. She made him feel successful, even though he hadn't delivered on his promise to dispose of Ganondorf. Still, Link occupied his mind. Daia yawned, before licking the fingers on his right hand and snuffing out the lone candle on the table beside him. He would confront the man tomorrow. Tonight, he would enjoy the rare opportunity to sleep beside his wife, a luxury they were only afforded a handful of times when they were alive, but one that they frequently enjoyed in death.
Downstairs, Link, Nabooru, Sepaaru, and two women named Zelda sat in silence, quietly forking down pieces of chocolate cake.
"I think they stopped," Queen Zelda said offhandedly, finishing the last piece of her slice and pushing her plate away.
"Who knew the dead fucked this much?" Link muttered, still trying to purge the sounds of a woman begging Ganondorf for more anything. "Goddess, I still see it when I shut my eyes. Fucking far sight…"
Everyone but his daughter laughed. It was now nearly six o'clock in the morning, and the subject of the events that had transpired earlier weren't breached. People went to bed. People fucked. They did everything but ask one simple question.
"Why?" Zelda asked in a muted voice. "Why did you string him along like that?"
The idle silence broke, giving way to its uncomfortable cousin: sound. Link's eyes casually strafed over to her and paused. The question was sound. His answer wouldn't be.
"Because I can," he replied. The way he said it was confusing, though. Was it sarcasm or egotistical belief? "It's not like that," Link said in an attempt to clarify. "What I mean is that I made a promise to your brother that I wouldn't kill the nitwit. However, at the same time, I have issues with rage. And when I can't express those issues, I find terrifying people the best alternative."
Zelda was perplexed, as evident with her tilted head. "But you still killed him."
"No, I did that," Sepaaru piped in, eating another fork full of cake.
"Why not find a better outlet then?" Zelda went on to ask, talking around Sepaaru's statement as though it never occurred.
"We've already had this discussion," her father said, his calm never changing.
"And I still don't understand," Zelda countered, her nails digging into the linen on the table, growing more infuriated with their apathy than anything else.
"Oh, grow up!" Sepaaru shouted, as the tension seemed to go both ways. "You possess his memories! Maybe you don't know what's on the other side of these walls-but that's reality out there! The world he fought to create exists only within the confines of this Gerudo Valley! Beyond here, people aren't just 'content' to bobble along and smile, because there parents aren't gods or worth their weight in gold. They want this-" she spread her arms to the massive fortress "-and smugglers, thieves, pissant knights-they'll all keep coming so long as we have it, making bullshit excuses as to why they have to take it all away. And when they do come, a speech isn't going to make them stop and say: 'Wow, you're right! This is bad. I'm sorry. We'll never bother you all again.' Some people have to be killed, so either accept that or don't. Just shut the hell up about it in the meantime!"
Sepaaru closed her eyes to calm her nerves before realizing that she'd actually stood up during her tirade. Link looked at her from the corner of his eye, but didn't react as the Queen Zelda would've thought. She knew Sepaaru spoke the truth, but the explosion was a bit much. From one Gerudo princess to another, it wasn't really that harsh of a thing to say. But, for a spoiled child that was harboring feelings of resentment toward her fellow Gerudo, one she secretly thought was beneath her, something clicked. The thoughts seemed natural, and, with her grandfather's knowledge, there was no limit to the number of ways she could dismember-
"Oh, god," Zelda gasped, horrified by her own thoughts.
"Is it the fact that you can't understand this," Link began, still looking at Sepaaru, but slowly fixing his eyes on his daughter, "or is it that you do understand it and don't want to?"
"I don't understand anything anymore," Zelda sighed, placing her face in her hands. "I have all these memories growing up, thinking you were this good guy and now you're just this evil monster-"
She took pause as her father stood abruptly, eyes downcast as though he was in deep thought. He walked away without a word, stopping at the door and saying, "Some dream, huh, Zel?"
And like that, Link faded away and left the women to their own devices.
"What?" his daughter asked, thinking he was speaking to her, before her mother pointed to the queen to the child's right. "What does that mean?"
Zelda, Queen of Hyrule, looked at Nabooru, then Sepaaru, and then smiled sort of palely. "When we were … together," she started, coughing to curb the awkward stutter, not to mention weirdness of saying such in front of the ex's wife and … whatever title Sepaaru assumed. "He … we had this dream to one day build a Hyrule that didn't know the meaning of the word 'war,' where our children wouldn't have to hide from people like Ganondorf or know what it was to be raised without parents. When that day came, he could finally stop-stop fighting, stop worrying, stop planning-and enjoy life. 'Until then,' he used to say, 'I'll keep going, keep fighting, keep bleeding, keep killing until I see that day realized, even if I'm not here to enjoy it.'" She laughed a bit, shaking her head. "Always morbid, but that's Link. True to his word, he never did stop. I know he would've preferred to be anywhere besides those dull-ass meetings, if I can be so frank. But once you were born, I remember when he brought you to see me, he was floating almost. 'We're almost there, Zelda,' he told me.
"You can't possibly comprehend what it is to think you're completely alone in the world, change that designation, and then have part of it call you evil. You, your brother, and your mothers are what we worked towards for years: a family. It's supposed to be the one thing that's there to give us strength and love when the crowds disappear. Family is supposed to be that thing that gives us the reason to jump into the pit, not the thing that crushes us beneath its heel. That was the essence of his part of the dream: one day, when the evil was gone, there would be a flesh-and-blood reason for him to have done the things he'd done. Not a justification, just a reason that made the pain and sacrifice worth it. And now, another of his biggest reasons has just stepped on him again." The Queen of Hyrule smirked with an inner pain that made her normally flawless features appear wilted and worn as it manifested outwardly. All she could remember was Link's face as a young man, all smiles and laughs as he spoke of their future. She wanted him to have the family they both so desperately needed, even if thirty kids was stretching it. But the queen also remembered the look he had when she squashed his dreams with her announcement and subsequent behavior around the whole Arthur incident. Link had been shattered, and she had to shatter those pieces time and again to make sure they didn't reform, lest Sermonia destroy Hyrule. Now, over thirty years removed, she had to see that look again … hear that emotionless pain in his voice. And the most fucked up part of all? Someone named Zelda had caused it again.
Still, his daughter remained completely oblivious, almost painfully so.
"What has he sacrificed? He doesn't seem too broken up about any of this."
"His soul," Nabooru, Zelda, and Sepaaru said in twisted synchronization, each woman looking at the other in a mild surprise.
"The first ten years of his life were spent around pacifistic children," the queen went on to say. "Do you have any idea how hard it must've been for him to become who he has? Any idea at all the mental vexing and strain it is to go from 'don't hurt people' to 'kill at will'? Think of it like this: I want the hair on your head." Without warning, the queen grabbed the Gerudo princess's hair and began to tug, as if trying to actually take it.
"Ow! Stop that!" she cried, swatting the queen's hands back.
The process was then repeated, all while Nabooru and Sepaaru watched the Gerudo princess grow more and more irate.
"Take your fucking hands off me!" Zelda roared, which made the Hylian queen do as told.
The Queen of Hyrule then went back into the child's head, this time in a more ravenous assault, as though she might actually yank the girl's hair from her scalp. Nabooru and Sepaaru got the meaning long ago, which is why neither lifted a finger to help or said words against the assault. Zelda only saw red, until she stopped swatting childishly and began to swing harder, heavier blows at the queen to make her get back.
"I said stop it!" she again tried to protest, before Zelda was fingers deep in red hair and twisting it and pulling it like a child.
Then, from one Zelda to another, a punch was thrown that knocked the Hylian queen out of her seat and onto the floor. There was stillness then. Zelda, Link's daughter, looked at her mother and then at Sepaaru, mouth flapping aimlessly to justify what she'd done. The Queen of Hyrule, split lip and all, merely spit the blood out and shakily got back in her seat, seemingly unfazed by the blow, even if her vision was hazy.
"I'm sorry, I-"
"That's the point," the queen interjected. "You did what you had to do in accordance with my actions to make me do what you wanted. Now, if you feel that strongly about having your hair pulled, how do you think a man whose whole life has centered on making and protecting his family must feel when someone gives an order to kill that family or turns a sword or an arrow against one of his kids?"
"How?" Nabooru asked immediately. "You're not this stupid, Zelda."
"And it still doesn't change the fact that he tortured that old man or how he toyed with that other guy for making a mistake!" she shouted, almost on the verge of tears of rage.
"You wanted an alternative to killing," Zelda said calmly, "and that's his. You look at the surface and think you know everything there is to know about a situation, completely ignorant of the true subtleties and meanings behind his actions." A level of insight was there that none of the Gerudo present seemed to hold, because they all were a little clueless as to why Link played with the knight or why he played head games with any of his enemies, for that matter. The Queen of Hyrule elaborated: "Think about it: Link placed that man's fate in Sepaaru's hands and had no idea what she would do. Therefore, he had to make a set of plans. The first plan would be to illustrate the danger Jonas was in among the Gerudo, which he did by elaborating on their strengths. The second plan, which Link kept showing throughout the whole situation, was his power. If Jonas couldn't believe what Link had said about Sepaaru and the rest, he wouldn't be able to deny the power Link displayed before his very eyes. Now, the last and final plan was the countdown after Link's superiority had been established, which hastened Jonas's panic. Setting a time limit established a sort of main idea for Jonas's brain to grasp, and that didn't allow him time to debate whether or not Link was bluffing about what he'd said or done. It was just a countdown to his death in Jonas's eyes, which made him all the more anxious to get away from the invincible Gerudo and their king. All three of those plans were made to work in conjunction with each other to scare Jonas away, and make sure he stayed away in case Sepaaru had let him live. If the plans worked, he would've been so freaked out by everything-Magi's death, the sandwich, the eyes, the tremors, the finger puncturing steel, et al-that, if he'd made it across the bridges, he would've been too afraid to come back, which means he would've lived and wouldn't have died. Narrow as it was, Link gave the man a chance to live. However, knowing his type, I'd be willing to wager that Jonas stopped after crossing the first bridge and said something in reference to coming back at Link again."
"Correct," Sepaaru concurred, "which is why he had to part ways with his head."
"Then why heal him?" Zelda asked, a little less devout in her convictions about her father, but still ever leery.
"He did that to give Jonas every opportunity he could to make it," the Hylian queen replied, tonguing the small cut on the inside of her cheek, as her fellow Zelda looked a bit wilted.
"But the old man-"
"Actually had my mother's son … my little brother … chained up in a secret cell beneath the castle," the queen interjected. "He made her choose between taking the lives of the Gerudo and her own child, which saw you and your brother killed. Magi was going to die, one way or the other," Zelda replied with an air of blatant malice, as her fists clenched so tightly that her knuckles popped.
"But the Sheikah are still alive-"
"Which means Link isn't a monster, because monsters would've killed everyone involved, not just the guilty party," the Queen Zelda said, once again interrupting the girl's attempts to besmirch her father's name. "True enough, he did kill the Sheikah or, at least, make an illusion that suggested he did to make my mother talk, but once Magi was revealed to be the coward behind it all, they were brought back to life."
"Face facts, the only thing 'monstrous' about your father is how far he's willing to go for us," Nabooru quietly concluded, eating the last of her cake in quiet company. "I don't understand why he wastes time with either of us," the Gerudo queen said as she stared at her chocolate-smeared plate, a bit of her own guilt resurfacing as she frowned at her reflection. "Sepaaru and Junior are far less selfish, far less demanding, and really more deserving than either of us. It all just makes me wonder if he ever wished he'd let us stay dead…"
In a study behind a dummy wall that once belonged to Ganondorf, Link sat alone behind a massive desk in the center of the room. The room was no bigger than twenty feet by twenty feet, but its ceiling was at least seventy feet high. Thus, every wall was lined with massive shelves that held ancient tomes, books, and parchments breaching every subject one would ever care to know-and they were all Ganondorf's. Link had discovered this place during one of his exiles from Nabooru's bed during the pregnancy, when he'd went into the training grounds and skipped around the lava for a while. In the crevice just below where the giant boulders rained down on him as a youth, there was a red switch no bigger than the tip of his index finger. Pressing the switch, he recalled the sound of the heavy stone door dragging itself across the floor and revealing a room that was still coated in a thick haze of mystic energy, as it illuminated with no torches or crystals.
Ganondorf's lair had been revealed. It was a mess at first, like someone had been trying to read everything at once-basically the way a madman have left it. In the dead of night, though, Link went about organizing it all the old fashioned way: by hand. The shelf against the wall in front of him contained all there was about magic-renowned wizards and mages, witches and warlocks, and mystic weapons. To his left, a listing of the world's known races of the time and their specific weaknesses to a particular brand of magic. Lining the shelves to his right, there were collections of Gerudo stories, beliefs, customs, and history. Ironically enough, the new King of the Gerudo hadn't read any of that, as something always seemed to come up the moment the thought even entered his mind that would cause him to abandon the idea for the day. Behind him, and, perhaps, the most heavily lined of the shelves was information on Hyrule itself. The shelves contained everything from old painting canvases of how the three goddesses looked, to the words they supposedly spoke, on up to them ordaining Zelda's family as the eternal guardians of the land.
Say what he would about Ganondorf, but the man's quest for knowledge rivaled his own.
Still, despite the wealth of information Link had read, browsed, and organized in his nemesis's old study, the hero only read from his addition to the room this morning. In the desk's drawer, there were two books, each with red leather covers and bindings, which contained pictographs. One book was labeled "Link Jr." and the other "My Baby Girl, Zelda." Right now, as Link thumbed through the latter, two words echoed in his ears: Evil monster. The little girl in the first picture, who was only two days, three hours, fifteen minutes, and three seconds old at the precise moment the pictograph box flashed, suckling from her mother's breast, thought he was an evil monster. He wasn't a freak without a fairy or a fruit or a weird fairy boy. No, no! He was now an evil monster. There wasn't even a cheap way around this, like deciding not to care and then doing it. True enough, there was emotion suppression, but he couldn't hold it for longer than ten seconds at a gap when it came to his daughter. His biggest reason to not curl up in a ball and die when his marriage slid saw him as nothing more than a fucking evil monster! Sermonian pigs! The whole fucking lot of them! If they'd kept their mangy asses out of his home, he would've never killed the damn wizard … in front of her.
"Maybe I am evil," Link said to himself, almost in a muted whisper.
"We're all a little evil," a voice said from out of the surrounding world. "The key is to keep that evil in check-and you do a most splendid job with that."
Link smirked, closing the pictograph album, as he sat back in his chair. "Nocturna," he said, obviously a little happier.
"The one and only," the blue goddess of sleep replied. Nocturna faded into the mortal plane and leaned against his desk, one long leg folded over the other. She wore a form-fitting blue dress, with a slit going up her right leg that stopped at her upper thigh-and Link noticed to her amusement. She smirked, pleased that he had, but remained silent. For a time, the once chummy god and goddess did nothing but look on and smile. They'd changed the dynamic of their friendship in that hole on the island, but, even though Link didn't make the choice she wanted-rather, he made the one she wanted him to make but her "conscience" made her pretend she didn't want him to make that one, as though she were dumping him, and sent him back to his family-they were still amicable despite the decision. "It's been a while."
"Indeed," Link said with a nod of concurrence. "How's life?"
"Not bad for a woman who sent the man of her dreams back to his family," she admitted, overstepping some and exposing her actual thoughts while looking him up and down in a rather flattering manner. "I suppose I'll survive, though. The question is, will you? I couldn't help but notice you're sending out some very unique signals."
"Poisoning the realm again?"
"Then what?" Link asked, obviously a bit perplexed as to what he could be giving off that would warrant attention from the other side.
"Sadness," Nocturna replied, a lot less flirtatious with her smile, but, instead, a more subdued friendly one. "What have the mortals done to you now?"
"Not much, really," he said in lieu of that. "My son goes popping off at the mouth to some soldiers, gets cut up in the process, I lose my temper, step on the old wizard's head in front of my daughter, and now she thinks I'm an evil monster. It's standard affair, really."
Nocturna didn't respond. She just sat there, watching him, waiting for the silence to break him-and it would break him. For whatever reason, the pale blue goddess was the only person he'd ever met that had made him uncomfortable with silence. Oddly, this time Link didn't break. He opened up the pictograph album of his daughter again, and began thumbing through the pages. His chair transformed into something of a sofa, allowing room for the goddess to sit beside him. This was all done in complete silence. Nocturna took the invitation and sat down alongside him, her solid purple eyes scanning the pictures of Link and his daughter.
"I look at all of these pictures and it feels like I've ruined something," Link said softly, smiling fondly at a picture of his two-year-old daughter's first painting. He was the giant green blob in the middle of all the brown dots with purple edges, which represented Zelda, her mom, Sepaaru, and the rest of the ladies. "There's this eight-year gap between us thanks to my little explosion, and the only thing I've done to fix it is certify that I'm this evil monster-"
"You're not evil, Link," Nocturna interjected to reassure him, placing her hand on his back and softly stroking it. "You're not a monster, either. And she's no longer that little girl."
"I know that," he said in the same defeated tone of voice. "But that's all I see when I look at her. She was the only thing worth going to those stupid meetings for the longest of times. I could go there, listen to the bullshit, and come home to her and Nabooru, and then I could just relax. Didn't matter if she wanted to draw on me, dress me up like her mother, or chase imaginary animals-I just wanted to keep her happy at all costs, because that's what she did for me. Then the dreams … and now all the shit from earlier today … I just keep taking that happiness away from her."
"Link, you have to let go," the goddess told him, still stroking the giant's back to soothe his nerves. "Happiness is something you can't give away like candy. She's a grown woman now and has to earn it for herself. You're both going to have to understand that the choices you make and things you do are not always going to make sense to her or make her smile."
"I know that too, but it doesn't make my decision any easier," Link said placidly, shutting the album and looking back at the door. Both gods sensed a new presence approaching their location, but only Link stood to acknowledge it. He looked at Nocturna and asked, "Care to meet her?"
The blue goddess shook her head, adding, "Maybe some other time. Mind if I stay here?"
"Nah, I'll be back," he told her, sighing a little as his daughter's voice echoed through the underground cavern on the other side of the door.
"Dad, are you down here?" Zelda shouted across the lake of lava. "Daddy?"
Link's resolve faltered some in the doorway, as his first instinct was to rush to his daughter's side whenever she called him daddy had to be ignored. He calmed himself and emerged from the shadowy pathway so that she may see him. The light from the glowing magma highlighted her father in a weird way, the Gerudo princess noticed. She'd hurt him for real this time. Everything Victorious had told them about Link's fragile social skills and so forth, the explanation from the steps earlier that day, all of it had gone out the window in one moment of stupidity. Link walked above the lava and came to stop beside his first child, who'd been irrepressibly moved by the words of her mother, Sepaaru, and Queen Zelda.
"Look, about earlier, Daddy, I'm sorry," Zelda rushed to say, a bit shaken by her dad's strange behavior. Usually, he'd have hugged her and told her not to worry about it right now. This time, he merely stood there-the same tired expression, the same pain, the same nothingness.
"I can't keep doing this, Zelda," Link replied, hanging his head for a moment before lifting his eyes up to meet hers. "I can't keep running this little torture gamut with you anymore. As much as I wish it was true, you're no longer my Baby Girl, and I can't keep treating you like you are. You've grown into a beautiful young woman now," he paused, noticing his daughter smile as though receiving a compliment. "And, as a grown woman, I'll have to treat you that way. So, that means I can't let you keep ripping my heart out because I am the way I am. It means I can't let you just say whatever you feel like to me, and then try to cover it up by saying, 'I'm sorry,' only to do it again a week later. For probably the first time in my life, I'm happy with the person I am and I can't let you or anyone else take that happiness away from me."
"W-w-what are you saying?" Zelda asked, her whole body seeming to shake with a growing fear, as her security blanket was about to seemingly vanish again.
Link looked at her for a long, long time before ever saying another word. Then, as the first tear left her eye, he said: "I'm saying that I'll always love you. I'll always be there if you need my help. But I'm also saying that, if you truly can't accept me for who I am, I'm not going to keep apologizing for it. I'm saying that, if you truly believe in your heart that I'm an evil monster, I think it'll be best that you move on, because what happened up there could only be a prelude."
"A prelude t-t-to what?" Zelda whispered, feeling very small in her father's presence all of a sudden.
Link's face was completely blank, but he replied in a voice that made the young woman's bones cold: "Chaos. If they attempt to take revenge on me through you or your brother, I will kill them all-from the man at the top to the squire at the bottom, I'll erase every last one of them. But," he said, adding the emotion back to his voice, "that's only if. In the meantime, you have a decision to make-and I'll leave you to make it."
"Nocturna, I'm going to go for a walk now, care to join me?" Link thought back to the goddess who soon appeared at his side, startling his daughter some. "Nocturna, this is Zelda. Zelda, this is Nocturna."
His visibly numb daughter had only enough brain activity left to ask a single question: "Who is she?"
"The reason I came home," he replied, as the goddess nodded her head in acknowledgement of the Gerudo princess.
With that, Link leaned down and kissed his daughter's forehead and breathlessly sighed before exiting the cavern. In the main corridor that led to the three rooms of Gerudo training grounds, Link and Nocturna faded into nothingness, reappearing a few miles away in the center of Castle Town. It was now six in the morning, as signified by the chime of the clock, and the town was starting to buzz to life with people entering inns and so forth. The addition of the Sermonian Guard Towers to the castle walls allowed the gate to stay open at all times, which added an increased throughput of traffic. The two gods took a seat on the fountain, ignoring the looks and whispers around them. Link was trying to recover from potentially ending his relationship with his daughter, and Nocturna-well she was just there to make sure he didn't sink too deep. He decided on the spot to purchase something for himself, as opposed to materializing it.
Link looked down at the ground and sighed, before noticing his boot had an undone strap. "Oh, that's perfect. The great and mighty Link has a broken bootstrap," Link announced with an exaggerated laugh, like some arrogant knight who'd triumphed over a dragon.
"Why do you bother doing that manually?" Nocturna asked, smirking as she watched his behind sway back and forth in her face. "Not that I'm complaining about the view…"
"Funny, woman, very funny," he replied, standing up and turning so as to be almost kneeled in front of her, and resumed buckling up the strap before checking the other one that ran around his calf. "And I do this and other … things manually because, sometimes, that's just the best way to do them."
Nocturna laughed outright, but caught his meaning. She'd caught it at least a handful of times in that hole, the goddess recalled, her aura flaring up in a moment of lapsed concentration. It was at that precise moment that Link felt someone bump into him. The contact was faint, but even without his godly acute senses, his missing rupee wallet would've been a noticeable subtraction from his person. Unlike most people in Hyrule, this person was bold. "To steal from the Hero of Time," Link imagined some of his more loyal proponents saying, "that is outrageous!" To the unconventional hero, however, he simply smiled and stood up slowly, as the theft had even missed Nocturna's eyes. She looked up at him and smiled too, wondering just what could've curbed his mood so suddenly.
"What is it?" she asked, smiling herself now, as it always felt good somehow to see him in good spirits.
"Funniest thing just happened," Link laughed in earnest. "I was robbed."
"When?" Nocturna asked, completely oblivious to the crime and feeling a tad bit embarrassed by not noticing, as he pointed to his belt where the swollen pouch had been previously.
"Just a second ago," he told her, beginning to look through the bevy of minds littering the town square. "Got him!" Link shouted, taking off down a side street behind him, only slowing to call back his intentions to return to his godly companion.
Going the opposite direction, and the long way around, a small boy was running with a purpose. He had been supplementing the family's income through "finding" rupees-or at least that's what he told his mother. Tonight, though, he'd hit the mother lode. That big guy was carrying a wallet that was stuffed! His little body was shaking with youthful excitement from the rush of his newest theft, almost to the point he dropped the wallet. Still, there was no way he would ever do something like that. His mom was counting on him, and so was his dad … even if he didn't show it that much. Rounding the corner, the child was now on the street with his home. The houses in this section were older. They were worn and a little frayed, but still in relatively good shape, but still nowhere near the level of design and beauty of the richer homes that had sprang up since the merger of Hyrule and Sermonia, and the subsequent increase in communal wealth.
"She's gonna freak!" he whispered to himself, cautiously watching the adults skulking past him, before bumping headlong into something.
Link stepped out of the literal shadows cast from the street's lone torchlight, and figured he'd scare the boy. "You stole that from me."
"It's mine!" the child said, tiny fingers digging into the brown leather as he hopped to his feet and bolted back in the opposite direction. But, as he rounded the corner, there was Link, his face still partially covered in shadow.
The boy huffed some, but decided to risk it-running as fast as possible toward Link, ultimately sliding right between the hero's legs. Link wasn't trying to catch him, but the move did catch him by surprise. He turned back toward the town square and market place, watching as the boy weaved between the twilight movers and shakers, already fully aware of where the child was attempting to go. Link appeared there first, standing atop the roof of the Temple of Time, and just waiting. Like clockwork, the boy came bumbling up the stairs, a tad freaked out, because this was truly the first time he'd ever came this close to being caught.
"Goddess-that man's fast," the boy wheezed, dropping to his knees to catch his breath, never aware of the falling specter that silently approached him.
"Well, not exactly man," Link mused, snatching the child up by the scruff of his shirt. "Resistance is fu- just stop struggling."
"No! Let me go! Let me go!" the boy screamed, fitfully kicking at the god.
"Sure, but we're going to have a little talk as we walk back to your parents' house," Link informed the child, wondering just what a five-year-old would be doing out committing crimes at a time like this. "What's your name, kid?"
"I don't have to talk to you!"
"True, but I could just snap your neck and leave you here, and no one would ever know," he bluffed, as the boy swallowed and went still.
"My name's Rampart, all right? I-I was just trying to get some money for my mom, okay?" Rampart replied, this time causing his "victim" to pause.
It was the name of an attempted rapist in one timeline, but, in this one, Rampart had never reached that age. In this timeline, he was merely Link's staunchest follower. He was Rambles, a boy with a speech problem that wanted nothing more than to be like Link. He was a little boy that, in Link's mind, he let die on a battlefield. Link's flashback abruptly ended, which saw his march continue.
"Is your father a knight by any chance?" Link asked, figuring this for more than a coincidence.
"No," replied the child, still a bit fearful for his life.
Digging no deeper, Link then asked, "Why does your mother need you to steal?" His tone immediately fell into a more relaxed and friendly one, as he realized the child was still genuinely afraid. The question's answer should've been an obvious one, the hero noted to himself, as the boy's shoes were run through almost and his clothes were about a step and a half away from being scrap cloth. "It's all right to answer; I won't tell anyone."
"She doesn't … it's just my dad, you know? He-he hasn't had a job in a while," Rampart confessed, Link's gentler tone somehow making him seem more trustworthy than anyone the child had ever known. "And she has to work all the time so we can keep our house. She said Dad gave it to some people he shouldn't have or something, all about some cards … I don't know. I just know I can take stuff real good with my hands, and, when I do it, she can stay home sometimes and Dad can have his funny wine stuff."
"You're strong," Link said in turn, never uttering another word while they went through the crowd in a mutual silence, only pausing to let an onlooker move past. Before long, the captor and his captive arrived at their destination. He sat the kid down and looked at him, watching the child watch him in hopes that Link wouldn't rat him out. A strong feeling of dread and morbid fear wafted off the boy the moment Link's hand struck the door, he noticed.
"I'm going to work! You know, the place that keeps us indoors like civilized people!" a woman shouted from the other side of the door, before snatching its worn wood open and staring into the chest of a rather large individual. The sandy-haired woman could've been no older than thirty, dressed in a barmaid's outfit-low shoulders, lower neck, and sides cinched tight to push up her … assets-and flawed by an obvious tiredness to her pale features. Despite all of that, she was, in a word, cute-round face, light brown eyes, and a thin, almost regal nose-but somehow, she was marred. It was the hair that hung over her left eye that stated all that needed to be said to the hero, as it was done in such a way that attracted more attention to that part of her face and made it look blatantly obvious that it was done to hide something. The sun had brightened the world just enough by this time to leave no illusions or shadows to obscure Link's face, and this enraged barmaid saw fit to squeal this: "Oh, my gosh! You're Link! I mean, the Hero of Time! I mean, you're him! He's you! He's you, you're him, and you're here!"
Link chuckled to himself and nodded, asking, "May I come in?"
Rampart merely looked up at the giant and lost the ability to keep his mouth closed. It was really the guy from the statues and pictures! He'd robbed the Hero of Time! It was an amazing feat, but also a bit frightening. There were rumors about the guy, some good and some bad, but, in the present, he was much, much bigger than any rumor-and stronger. He'd walked from the Temple all the way across town holding the boy with one hand, and that was freaking amazing to a five-year-old.
"Of course!" she shouted, almost oblivious to the fact that her son was standing there holding another man's wallet. "Do you want something to eat … drink- I can't believe the Hero of Time is in my kitchen!"
"I'm fine, but the boy here isn't," Link replied, keeping his voice gentle, but serious enough to take the awe out of the woman's eyes. "About fifteen minutes ago, this little man lifted my wallet and took-" his voice halted suddenly. Thoughts of dread, fear, and terror suddenly leapt into his mind from both woman and child. Footsteps came from the opposite room, starting above the wall slightly, and edged on down, obviously the sounds of someone descending stairs.
"What's all the screaming about, woman? I'm trying to sleep up there and if that boy-" the man's voice sharply halted as he appeared in the doorway to the adjoining room.
Face to face, the two men looked at each other. In the doorway leading to the living area stood one Cornelius. In the doorway leading to the outside, cutting off all hopes of escape, was Link. The anus of one of these men was trying to climb its way up into a nice, warm chest cavity-and it wasn't Link's. The old knight stood before his mentor shirtless, beard unshaven for months it seemed, yet his body remained almost unchanged. He was still completely muscle, all but his gut, which seemed to be more like a muscular drum now due to the drinking. Cornelius had continued to train, despite falling from his elite status into the gutters of Hyrule, because he knew Link was coming. Right now, though, he just wanted Link to snap his neck and get it over with. Eight years he'd spent running from shadows and staying constantly surrounded by people to avoid a one-on-one with the hero.
In fact, that's how he came to drink. The wine just helped keep him loose, he used to think, to make sure Link didn't intimidate him. Still, before long, the wine stopped keeping him loose and just kept him filthy, stinking drunk. He'd met Isabella before it had advanced to that point, though. He tried to give it up and live for her and his son, but he knew the truth: Link was going to come at him through them to make him suffer-and that knowledge hurt, but the fact that he couldn't stop him hurt worse. And so, to cope, he drank-and drank, and trained, and drank, and swung at them to make them leave, so they could survive, and drank to forget that.
"This is-is my husband, Cornelius," Isabella said on her husband's behalf.
"We've met," Link replied, immediately laughing it up to break the silence and take the tension off the woman and her son. "I remember this one time, in this battle with Kroatoa, he actually saved my life. I'm sure he's told you two the story a million times, so I won't bore you."
Rampart came to life first, as some of his "friends" were quick to claim his father never really was a knight, which is why he stopped even referring to him as one. But now-now the kid had proof. The Hero of Time fought with his dad. Heck, his dad even saved the guy's life! Even his mother looked slightly surprised by this, and she'd known Cornelius when he was still a knight. Still, those days seemed almost a thousand years in the past, back when he was sober and they could lie for hours in each other's arms. Link's presence only served to remind her of the good times, though, and that was precisely what he wanted to do-make them feel at ease.
"I … well, I'm sure he must've mentioned it," Isabella replied, snapping out of her reverie and cursing herself for not remembering.
"Who knew the student would save the teacher, huh?" Link continued, ignoring his desire to remove the man's throat and laughing as he reminisced over false memories. "Anyway, I was on my way here to see him, when the whole misunderstanding with your son came up."
"I'm so embarrassed. Rampart, go to your room!" Isabella shouted at the boy, her cheeks flushing as her social status would drop even further once this made the rounds. "I'll pay you back double, sir. I swear! It'll just take a little time, but-"
Link shook his head to the woman, though, boldly taking her hand in his. "Nonsense," he said, kissing it and causing her to nearly fall down with shock, "I wouldn't dream of asking that. Instead," Link replied thoughtfully, releasing the now completely flush-faced woman's hand, and facing her son, "he's going to keep the wallet and work off what he owes me … unless there are any objections?" He looked at Cornelius and Cornelius didn't move, almost as though he thought Link wouldn't be able to see him if he kept still.
And since Cornelius didn't object, neither did Isabella.
"Excellent, we're all in agreement then," Link announced to his spectators. He then added: "I'll be here to pick your son up every day at this time. So, my advice to you is to get some sleep, kid. I don't like my stables cleaned by sleepy children." He ushered the awestruck little boy into his home and winked at him as he inched past his father and marched upstairs, before turning back to the stone-still parents. "Oh, let me get out of your way and let you go to work."
"Oh, right, work," Isabella said before rushing out the door, as her financial situation took precedent over being formal, but not quite overriding the fact that the Hero of Time had kissed her hand and looked at her like she was still a woman. Today would be a good day, the barmaid thought.
"And then there were two," Link said to the man who'd raped his marriage. He closed the door behind him with a mere thought, before striding over and taking a seat at the family's dinner table-a round number, probably made by Cornelius himself. Say what you would about the man, but he never forgot how to fight or how to build. "Please, have a seat."
"I'm comfortable he-"
"Sit down," Link interjected, sliding the chair out across from him with his foot.
And, like that, Cornelius complied. Eight years, almost nine, and Link still owned a very large chunk of him.
"So, this is it?" the former knight asked, anxiously waiting for his deathblow. "Come on! I'm ready! I've been waiting for this day for eight years! I can take it! Kill me! Do it!"
To that, Link replied, "I should, but-"
"Don't kill my daddy!" Rampart shouted, having used the infamous "stamp the stairs like you're going up, but don't" trick. As he ran toward Link, eyes filled with innocent and confused tears, to do anything he could to protect his failure of a father, his father's arm shot out across his chest and threw him back and to the floor.
"Stay out of this!" he shouted, before turning his demands for death back to Link, who sat completely unmoved by any of it. "Do it, Hero! I'm sick of looking over my shoulder! End my life here!"
Link extended his arm to the boy, who'd begun to cry, and silenced him with a thought. From there, the sleeping child's mind was erased of all memories pertaining to what had just happened, and he was placed in his bed to rest.
"I'm not here to kill you," Link informed the man. "Coincidentally, your son lifted my wallet and made off with it. Now, imagine my surprise, when I find out that a five-year-old boy and his mother are supporting a knight that I trained. You destroy both of our marriages and, for whatever sick reason, you find another respectable woman to take your ass in-and then you fuck that up!"
"But it's your f-"
"My what? My fault? I know you wouldn't say that," Link said, almost daring the old knight to say it again.
Cornelius didn't even try.
"So, what's going to happen is this: Tomorrow, you aren't going to drink anything stronger than apple cider. I'll show up here for your son and I'll get you reinstated as a guard, since you've obviously kept up your training. And if Zelda won't have you, we're going to find you something to do to support your family. Before that, though, if memory serves, you could cook. So, when Isabella gets home, you're going to have something delicious prepared since you're playing the role of housewife now. You'll then apologize to her for being a fucking failure as a father and husband. You will then make love to that woman-if she even allows you to touch her-until she can't remember her damn name, and you won't stop a moment before. After all of that is accomplished, your new objective will be to keep them happy until you die. Understood?" Link stated, eyes never once leaving Cornelius's and his tone betraying not even the slightest room for jest. Before the fallen knight could reply, Link then added: "Oh, I notice the woman has a black eye and the kid has a couple of chipped teeth on one side, which leads me to your final objective: Don't raise a hand to either one of them again."
For a moment-a tiny, fleeting moment-Cornelius forgot his place, so embarrassed was he by even having Link know that, that he jabbed back at the hero, "Just who the hell do you think you are to come into my house and tell me how to raise my family?"
Link's "eyes" disappeared into the incandescent white light suddenly emitting from them, as he said: "Who am I? Motherfucker, I'm the man that carried your brother's corpse off a battlefield and dug his grave. I'm the man who didn't slit your throat for hiding like a little girl behind a rock until one of your little brothers died trying to fight a war for his country. And please believe me when I tell you that I'm the man whose only reason for not ripping your heart up through your neck and putting it in your ass is because of a little boy up there. Nearest I can tell that boy doesn't possess a single memory of you where you aren't completely drunk off your ass and shouting. And, despite all of that, he still tried to sacrifice himself in order to save you. Don't think my disappearance has somehow softened me up or released you. No, no. So, I'll tell you how to raise your family, how to drink from a glass, or how to hold a spoon. Hell, I might even tell you which hand to wipe your ass with-and you'll do it exactly the way I tell you to or I will kill you. Not just kill you, but erase every sign, memory, and scrap of paper saying that you even existed."
Sure, most people would probably want to laugh off such claims. Of course, most people weren't seeing what Cornelius was. Link was sitting there, eyes glowing like the sun, and the entire area surrounding him was not only actively distorting, as though he were underwater, but melting-the wood walls, the copper pots, the floor, the table beneath his hands, all of it was … melting. Yep, Cornelius's anus and heart were effectively sharing chest space in that moment. Link wasn't a man anymore. He wasn't a monster or even a god for that matter. He transcended both, just like that crazy knight on the battlefield that day said: Link was the Druzldorfan. Cornelius had never understood the word until he escorted Queen Zelda on a trip years ago and came across the word beneath a painting in the kingdom of Centricia. The word wasn't a word; it was part of a term and meant: "Transcends evil." The full term was Druzldorfannogleoffitus, which, in Hylian script, meant: "The nexus of life and death is he who protects all, yet transcends good and evil."
It was his fit, Cornelius now saw. Link was that tie between good and evil, in Cornelius's eyes, doing the honorable thing and allowing a man to make amends with his family, while also leaving no doubt that he would do the evilest of evil deeds to that same man if he didn't adhere to his "advice." Link would've found these internal musings interesting had he not been so lodged in his own thoughts. And with that established, the fallen knight hung his head, defeated … again. As the silence lingered, so, too, did Link's power emissions. Passersby on the street behind him whispered as they stood and watched the walls come down, astonished by the sight of wood being liquefied, but unconcerned enough by it to alert anyone. It was their personal peephole into "that guy's" house.
From "that's one of the Elite" to "that guy" is how far Cornelius had fallen in the wake of Link's departure. It was about two years after he and Nabooru were last caught, and Sepaaru got the marriage dissolved, before he met Isabella at the tavern. A few months after that, their son was born. And after their son was born, it was one wine barrel after another, one stupid choice in an almost infinite continuum. Those barrels were then followed by any and everything a person could drink to get drunk-sneaking drinks while on duty became a staple, until he got recklessly ruined at the young prince's twenty-first birthday party, and tried to start a fight with a painting of Link out in the hall. And, as if that weren't embarrassing enough, he took a swing at the queen, who promptly dismissed him on the spot, but gave him an honorable discharge in writing to keep his status high. But, alas, he fucked that up with even more drinking and a card game that cost him his home and put his wife's meager wage to task by stretching it between meals for the family, upkeep, and "due payments" to that fuckwit card house owner around the corner.
"I'll get your house back," Link said as Nocturna appeared at his side.
She looked at the mortals through the hole in the wall, which still oozed and dripped occasionally, and nervously laughed: "Hero, uh, I think it's time we move on. You're doing it again."
The light continued to burn in his eyes, as did the venting of mystic energy from his body, but, as she placed her hand on his shoulder, the hero managed to calm his nerves. Without another word, Link stood and slid his chair under the table and restored the half of the table and floor that had melted. Still, the onlookers watched with a sort of shock and awe.
"Sorry, children, but it's naptime," Nocturna said to the crowd of ten or so witnesses to this display, before a purple-colored wave of energy burst from her hands and dropped them all instantly. It was like watching a hive's worth of bees fly through a sulfur cloud the way the crowd dropped. They would wake up, naturally, but they wouldn't remember anything of what they saw. "What do we do about this one, Link?"
"He's fine," Link replied, "but we have another stop to make, if you don't mind."
"No, I'm all right, but can I come along for this one or are you going to leave by another fountain?" Nocturna laughed, and so did Link as he opened the door and held it open for her.
As stupid as it was, Cornelius stopped this exodus: "Wait, you said you'd get my house back-don't you mean my son's?"
Link replied, without nil an expression on his face, "So I did."
Cornelius was perplexed, visibly so. He then felt as though his strength returned, as though he was now a man once more. Another few words left his lips, which stopped his exiting company: "Wait-Ophelius has, like, thirty men at his-" he paused, awkwardly. It wasn't that he'd just told a god that there were thirty mortal men potentially waiting to kill him. It was the fact that he said that to Link, as though thirty was a big number. An odd sort of understood smirk appeared for a moment on either man's lips, as Cornelius bowed his head and said, "Never mind. I forgot who I was talking to."
And with an errant chuckle, Link and Nocturna left his home, and Cornelius went to work on planning that evening's dinner, immediately setting about to fulfill Link's orders. Strange as it was, life seemed easier to him that way.