Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ Comes to Light Pt. 09: Expulsion ( Chapter 54 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Chapter Fifty-four
The lake reflected a full moon on its still waters, a perfect light by which to mull over one's thoughts. The youth—and he was a youth, no matter how much he wished to believe his radical change had rendered that fact irrelevant or untrue—had finally unleashed his tension … his confusion about how to deal with his father's attempt on his life. Link had kept poking, prying at him to talk about what had happened inside his head, and the dam burst. What followed was a tirade, a stupid fit in his eyes, wherein every single misstep his father had ever made was launched at him with a precision born of … of — there were no words to precisely label it.
“There's nothing wrong with me!” he'd finally shouted. “It's you! You tried to kill me!” Before his father could retort, pandering for forgiveness because of his “past,” Junior was unloading on him with both crossbows. “Right, right—it was the whole green thing! Because we all fucking know that the Ganondorf thing was a few years ago, right?” Link's mouth had flapped, but the kid didn't stop, even as he turned his attack onto his own mother and “Aunt” Nabooru. “To think they were sad when you left us … all moping around here like it was the end of the world. What the hell is wrong with you two? He's the biggest contradiction in the damn world, always telling me and Zelda to use our words, while he'll pretty much kill anything that turns up the wrong fucking color! At least the Terrible Two over here own up to the fact that they're screwed up, but you—it's all this crap about the past, peace, or this happened to me or that!”
Junior groaned, recalling how he'd lost the point of his rant, and was simply going on anger at the end, mocking his father. “`I've changed, really! Wait a second—let me rip my son's throat out! Okay, now I'll change! Really … I just have to stomp this kid over here with the green mask on! You never know, he could be Ganondorf, the mortal sorcerer, out to kill me, the giant super god! Gotta be safe, you know? Look out! My son's wounded! Oh, no! I can hold the fucking sun, but how will I ever heal my boy … with the scratches?'” He was breathing hard by then, his heart racing because he never thought he'd say as much as fast to his father without interruption. The culmination, if it could be called that, was simple: “Screw you, your past, and everything else! I didn't ask to be turned into some kind of walking freak—and I'm not going to let you kill me because of it!”
And that was really the heart of the matter: his skin. Junior focused on his reflection, his green skin mirroring back at him in the pristine glass. Every word, every hate-filled syllable, came from the fact that he didn't know whether or not his father loved him anymore because he'd become the same color as the man who'd ruined his childhood. So, like any confused teenager, he became proactive and decided to hate first. That way, if his dad did hate him, his hate would be made obsolete by the— Ah, screw it, he thought. Who was he fooling? The moment his mouth stopped moving, he knew that he'd messed up. Without his anger, Junior was the same as he always was with his father: meek and possibly a little afraid of the lengths that he'd go for his kids. He just hid it this time and warped away.
Junior had spent the time since his outburst staring through his father's bedroom window, recalling his past with the man who he seemed to possess endless hatred for. The lake, for instance, where his big sister had told him that a giant snake dwelled that ate little boys and men, brought a smile to his face recalling his first encounter with his dad's heroics. He'd told his dad what she had said and, “bad guy” that he was, Link dove in to have a word with the snake on his son's behalf. To a five-year-old, it was the scariest thing in the world. He stayed by the water for what seemed like forever, waiting for his dad to surface, crying the whole time.
In the end, Link surfaced holding what he claimed to be “the remains of the monster that tried to eat his boy.” Looking back on it, it was a hunk of mud-covered wood with some red moss, but, at the time, it was the dead monster's head and it meant the world to him. It wasn't super god or the Hero of Time; it was just his dad in the water fighting something terrible so his son could splash around at the water's edge. He'd bragged to Zelda about it for weeks.
And then there was the time Zelda told him about the monsters under his bed. Junior laughed, but it was a pained, over-pronounced laugh. He didn't leave the bed for breakfast the next morning, and, once again, his father found him. After the lake monster, he was determined to pay his dad back by defeating this one himself. Link stood in the door, he recalled, leaning on the doorsill with that smirk, waiting for him to crawl out of bed. He never did tell what the problem was, and his dad's actions never made sense until the god thing came out, but he realized now that his father had read his mind.
“I know,” Link had said, approaching him that day. “I'll get your boots and we'll go into town for some ice cream afterwards, okay? Now, where are your boots? Under the bed?”
Before he could stop him, his dad had slid stomach first under his bed. Then, the bed began to buck and jump and Link screamed for help. Junior remembered hopping out of the bed and grabbing for his dad's flailing arms and pulling, as the bed monsters seemed to be winning.
“Link! Expose them to the sun! It's the only way!” his dad kept shouting, torso inching out just enough to let his son see his entire head, face twisted in what appeared to be genuine fear.
Junior had got up and snatched the curtains from his window, but it wasn't enough and he was panicking, screaming even. He ran back to his bed, pulling with all the strength he could to get his dad free, but it just wasn't working!
“Flip the bed over, Link!” he shouted to his child. “You have to do it, son!”
Of course, the bed was enormous, so there was doubt. But as his father screamed, the son grabbed a bed leg and strained, tears burning down his face and sobs croaking out between the pained grunts, until finally … the entire bed flipped over. He fell back on his butt, before hearing a pained screech and looking up to see a ghostly black-vapor-shaped hand floating away from his father.
“They almost had me,” Link breathed deep, getting up to his knees and smiling at his son. “I guess we're even now, huh?”
Junior remembered that he couldn't even talk. He just grabbed as much of his father's green tunic as he could and cried. His father held him, shushing him, while whispering how proud he was that his son had faced his monsters. Truth be told, he still didn't know if it was a trick or the genuine article. He saw the hand or, at least, it looked like a hand.
His sister's stories never got to him again, either way. He'd stood on his own two feet. He'd conquered the fear of the unknown for the first time in his life. The dark didn't upset the way it once had, and that was all thanks to his father. The reality of the matter was different, though. That fear wasn't eliminated, just hidden. Silly things like bed and lake monsters weren't really unknowns. The bed could always be flipped over, a lake plunged into, or a closet opened to see what and where the truths really were.
It was the mind where true unknown really lingered. There were no signs of monsters on the outside, but inside—what was inside? He didn't know. For all the glimpses into the minds of all those around him from childhood, where thoughts were more than unknown echoes, until the present day, Junior had only the briefest sight into his father's boundless mind. The man who helped him overcome the unknown was the real mystery… the real unknown that made him feel small and always on guard in his presence.
Now, though—now reality was really different. To listen to him out there earlier, his father seemed like garbage. Without the anger and fear, with nothing but retrospect, Junior didn't need to hear the screams of the dying to understand that his father wasn't the bad guy, even if his mind was an unknown. He just needed a window and a little time to remember who his father was extended far beyond his past and the things that were kept hidden.
Junior sighed, looking down at the displaced masses. There were Hylians, Gorons, and Zora, all vying for the same space, all confused as to why they were on Gerudo ground, but never really questioning it as his sister made the rounds and answered queries. Link had left an hour ago, going who knew where, but fifteen minutes after he watched the man come down from the Gerudo Meadow, and walk around the bend leading out of the valley by himself, a massive energy moved through the world around the young man, much the way it did when his father warped in the old days. This time, however, the only things that appeared were roughly 123 of Hyrule's denizens. There was little time to adjust, because less than a second after they touched down, a barrier went up around everything Gerudo in territory and cut the youth's senses off to the surrounding world.
No one had heard from Link.
“How long have you been standing there?” Nabooru asked, her monotonic voice seeming to ease out of the shadows and startle the youth.
He looked at her reflection standing just off to his right, but refused to face her. “Earlier—”
“Forget earlier,” she said with a sigh, dismissively waving her hand as she sank back into the shadows looming over most of the room, sitting at the foot of her bed. There was a feeling in her gut that something was wrong with Link, but she didn't dare dwell on it. “You have responded to this whole thing—the god issue, the dead revived, and all—better than anyone could be expected to. Most people blow your father's reputation and bloodlust out of proportion and fear him due to sheer ignorance. You, on the other hand, had what he is aimed at you. Under the circumstances, your reaction to that issue is natural.”
“I was so scared, Aunt Nabooru,” he whispered, brow creasing in agitation. “It was like the lake all over again. I was just standing there and he was just this thing waiting for me … like his power was just this void waiting to eat me.”
She smiled to herself, though he didn't see it. “It's amazing that you two are that afraid of him, yet talk to him like that,” Nabooru said nonchalantly, watching the young man's back tense up through his vest. “I told him this would happen. I told him, `You have to be a parent first and a friend second.' But no, he left that up to us—the mothers.”
“What does that mean?” Junior asked, turning around to face his aunt.
Nabooru looked up at him and smiled again. “Why did you warp up here—fear of how Link would respond or Sepaaru?”
He winced at her name. Was he eight feet tall? Sure. Did he have his mother wrapped around his little finger usually? Absolutely. Was there anything short of warping that would've kept the skin on his backside after what he'd said to her? Not hardly. That's what it was, though. His mom handed out punishment. His dad handled sentencing. Privileges were removed when he pissed his father off. He was pretty sure ass meat was removed when he pissed his mom off.
“Still …” he trailed, looking for the right words. “It isn't like that with you and Mom, you two wouldn't—”
“Of course not, because we can't hurt you. Maybe in the past, but not now,” she interjected, rolling her neck from one side to the other before standing and approaching him. Junior blustered before her, rambling aimlessly to deny that. “It's the truth, though. Zelda found out about how I killed Ganondorf's wives, all of whom were pretty much unarmed, for simply being his wives. I'm pretty sure that you know Sepaaru killed that knight the other day, too, or at least knew she'd be the one to do it. Hell, Varia had a collection of skulls from all of her kills, and you never once said anything ill of her. And with all the bodies we've stacked up, the only person that you and your sister seem to impale for it is the one person among us that had a legitimate reason to do so. Why?” The punctuating question was rhetorical, and he knew it. “It's because Link is the only person that seriously challenges your station. You two tolerate the rest of us because we aren't a threat, but even if you can't admit it to yourselves, the only reason you judge him so harshly—try to make him feel as low as you do—is because he's the only person you've come into contact with that's stronger than either of you. If he'd maybe slowly eased you into his history, you two wouldn't have reacted so adversely. But when it's dumped on, fear is the only reaction, even if it's a fear that can't be properly expressed.”
Junior wanted to deny that, deny every word of it, but his mouth wouldn't move. Was this the root of it all? Beyond the skin, beyond the killing, beyond the unknown—was it really all about being weaker than the great Hero of Time? He'd never entertained thoughts like that. Ever since his father's murders had come into the light, his only thought and desire had revolved around a single word: why. Now, it was reflected back at him: “Why do I care?”; “Why did I want to know?”; “Why was it so important to know Dad's feelings about it?”; “Why did it matter?” Was he—no, were they (his sister and he) trying to pump themselves up and his one glaring hypocrisy was the only thing they could use to do it? Or was it easier—was it that he killed family for simply being wrong? Was it that he would do it again?
The answer hit him in the mouth with an unnerving accuracy.
His father scared him, not because he killed people, not because his mind was a locked box, but because he killed his own father. Even knowing all that Junior knew about the man, his paternal grandfather didn't seem unreasonable. As sarcastic as he was and uncaring as he seemed, the former god didn't seem like he was beyond being talked to. Somehow, the horrible things that his grandfather had done weren't lost, but somehow the guy just didn't seem like he was that bad. But it was an admitted fact—the guy killed Nabooru and his sister, laughed about it even. Still, Junior felt weighed down, almost forced to see his father as the bad guy in the situation, even as his logic stated otherwise.
“He doesn't care, though,” Junior whispered, looking down past Nabooru's eyes and staring at his feet, trying to force his mind to accept what it had … but paradoxically hadn't. “I mean, he says that he does, but he'd probably kill any of us if we messed up.”
Nabooru, for all of her patience and concern, laughed. Hard. “Kid, come on!” she shouted, laughing still, but as the boy remained silent, her laughter died. “You're serious?” He nodded in reply. “Gods, no!”
“But his—”
“His father is not family, Link. He's a blood relation—nothing more,” Nabooru said sternly. She sighed, but added: “Look, I'll just say this: If you dwell on what happened earlier, you'll probably end up hating a great guy for something that would never have happened had he not been manipulated. If you can accept it for it was—like the sky is blue, birds sing, and grass is green—you'll be fine. The only choice in the matter that any of us get is whether or not to dwell. If he's had reason enough to kill anyone for messing up, it's me, but he hasn't. The bottom line is that your dad would sooner die than purposefully hurt—”
She abruptly paused, a sudden icy chill running down her spine; Junior felt the chill, too. They looked at one another before aunt and nephew disappeared in an instant.
Outside, they were nearly toppled over by Ingo, a man hired almost thirty years ago as a farmhand on Lon-Lon Ranch, who'd gone on to marry Malon. His news was … disturbing to say the least. Neither Nabooru nor Junior thought to question the farmer about how he could've merely stumbled upon Link's body, but all three went to the man's wagon at the bottom of the stairs out in front of the fortress, careful not to draw any attention. Nabooru's stride slowed as she saw—even with the clouded moon's dim light—his boots poking out from under the white tarp. Her heart was in her throat in an instant, loudly thudding and threatening to push up bile, as the smell of battle was all over the situation.
Nabooru and Junior looked to Ingo.
Ingo did as he was silently instructed, moving the white canvas off Link's body. It took a moment for it to sink in. First to hit them was the mark along the right side of his face, which was a smooth, almost painted line, going from his hairline down to his cheek over his right eye. Correction, it was a long, precise cut that had removed said eye, leaving little more than a gaping hole. Their eyes, as frightened as they were, ran across his pale, damp skin, an almost united mind thinking the same thing: “This cannot be happening.” But his lips were cracked, scorched as though burned with fever, and blackened in those cracks and creases—a sight that pulled Nabooru's mind back into the past. The way his skin smelled when the Triforce had cooked him from the inside had left an indelible mark on her mind, which fought to the surface of her thoughts despite her best efforts.
“Goddesses,” she whispered, looking down Link's ripped and torn torso, his tunic shredded to little more than scraps that hung listlessly around his shoulder. The only shining grace was that none of the wounds bled, but that was a small luxury considering this was a man that didn't breathe or possess a heartbeat.
“D-ad?” Junior hiccupped, hesitantly touching his father's leg. Link didn't move. Tears fell from his eyes as his hand recoiled from the still body. “Dad!” He pushed the pain down, forcing himself to shake him harder. Still, Link didn't move. The young man looked to Nabooru who, despite all training, was little more cognitive than dust. “We need to get him inside and maybe me and Zelda can fix him!” The idea was enough to restart Nabooru's blood.
“Get his arms, I'll get his legs,” she ordered, grabbing up one of his massive legs under either arm as his son boarded the wagon to follow orders.
“Wai—” Ingo attempted to say, pausing as Junior's eyes widened with sheer terror after tossing the tarp completely off his father.
Nabooru looked up at the boy's face, then at her husband, and bit her tongue until it bled. Link's left arm and shoulder were gone, removed as though someone had simply decided it no longer served a purpose. The symbol of Hyrule's fighting spirit, emblazoned in countless statues and portraits, held high above the Hero's head with a sword in victory was … gone. Her faith in Link's ability to recover was second to no one, so the loss of an eye, while worrisome, wasn't. The fact that he'd been beat up to this point was bad enough, but this—this was a violation akin to her first child's death while still in her womb. It was a testament to her strength that she didn't merely curl up into a ball and die.
“He spoke!” Ingo shouted almost gleefully, calling the wife and stepson out of their trances. Link continued to mutter, speaking in a weird, rambling manner. “What's he saying? I've never heard that language before.” Nabooru and Junior immediately closed in around him, though hesitantly on the part of the son who was by the armless side.
“It's code,” Link Sr. replied, standing on the top step. He looked down and smiled, as they had never heard his approach. “Each word is spoken in a different language belonging to a race of people that has been long since extinct. It's a battlefield strategy that I developed eons ago for my warriors, so as to keep the enemies in the d—”
“Translate it!” Nabooru growled, which did nothing to move the former god.
Link Sr. walked down the stairs to the wagon at a leisurely crawl to irritate her, smiling as always, pausing only when he caught Ingo's eye. It was irritating how the mortal glared at him, but the former god decided to let him live and focus on the more important matter. The farmer cut his eyes back to Link, who'd somehow survived being ripped apart, and whispered a prayer. Link Sr. rolled his eyes at the woman, but had to keep up airs. The limits of his mortal mind were being exposed to him as he could only keep up well enough to get a rough translation here and there.
Luckily, his ability to lie was intact, so he could make up whatever his mind couldn't translate. “He's having a conversation of some kind …”
What do you mean I'm a moron? Have you heard a word that's come out of your own damn mouth? It's all madness! First, we've supposedly known each other since the first timeline. However, we only began to truly speak during the fourth, and yet I have no memory of you. Next, I supposedly gave you the task of reminding me of who I was AFTER I sent that Ragnus guy back in time to change his history, which subsequently changed mine, creating a fifth line that is sorta/kinda/maybe exactly like the fourth with a few alterations. Riiiight …
And if all of that isn't enough, after his history changed mine, I'm supposed to believe that I accepted Fate's offer to purge my memories of the life prior to Ragnus's changes, accept his made up history, and I did it all in order to be at peace. Last, but certainly not fucking insane, is the idea—the mere notion—that I gave you, my dear friend that I've never seen before, the ability to reverse all that was done to my mind at the sake of hiding you from myself. Is there any part of that I left out?
Good. Now, then, maybe you can humor me. If you were hidden here all of this time, unable to even speak with me, how is it that you would be able to remind me of anything? The lie is convincing up until you hit that wall and splatter against it. The paranoia, the constant planning and preparation, and so on—I can admit that's all pretty much standard operation for me. It all fits, but the lack of possible communi— AAAAH!
What the fuck did you jus— AAARGH! Stop that! Feels like my damn head is … splitting … in … two. No, that wasn't — I mean it couldn't. That was you? Yeah, but ho— OW! All right! I get it! Wait, so every time I arrived at a change in the road or encountered something out of place from the original fourth line, you did—don't do that!—that and I'd get the head cramp? Bullshit. It has to be complete and utter …
“Bullshit,” Link Sr. said, continuing to translate the seeming gibberish rushing from Link's mouth.
“Who is he talking to?” Nabooru asked quietly, a little unnerved about the ramifications of what Link Sr. was supposedly translating.
The ex-god sighed, “If you'd be quiet, maybe I could figure that part out.”
Come off it! I wouldn't be that fucking stupid to let him mess with my mind! What? I would've ripped his throat out if he tried to use them! No, I'm not letting you out of there. Why? What the fuck do you mean “why?” I don't know you! For all I know, you're something he's concocted to finish the job his puppets failed! Look, if you had some evidence to prove this it would be one thing, but to stand there with some garbage like “Fate threatened my family with death, which made me peacefully agree to have who I was (according to you) temporarily erased,” is ridiculous!
Why do it at all if I would eventually have it reversed by some benefactor that I conveniently erased all traces of on a conscious level, except for his ability to cause me blindingly painful headaches? True, but how do I know I didn't construct the box to protect me from you, as opposed to protect you from them? If you truly knew me, you'd know it would take more than this to get me to believe you. Hell, if I put you here, there's no way that I wouldn't have left something more convincing than a headache.
What do you mean I'm dying? Look, they got me at an awkward moment, but I'm far from dead. Oh, so now it's my family that's in danger, huh? You're grasping at straws here. Go ahead, though, let's hear it. Ooooh, so that's how he supposedly got me to comply? He said that I would kill them if I didn't comply to his new timeline. I smell …
“Bullshit,” Link Sr. said, his translations having been spot on so far. Nabooru looked as though she wasn't buying it, and began to make efforts to move the body inside. “Leave him where he is, Woman. If these peons see him in this shape, they'll know something's up and then there will be panic, which is something we don't need.”
The Gerudo queen paused in her efforts, grinding her teeth. He was right. The son of a bitch was right. “Junior warp us upstairs,” she said in a moment of thoughtfulness. The kid shut his eyes and did as instructed.
“Hey! I left the wagon!” he shouted, pride picking an awkward moment to peek in about a warp that involved no collateral objects.
“Very good, would you like a cookie or can we find out what the hell is going on here?” Link Sr. replied, his voice stern and almost conveying a sense of worry.
“Just focus, old man,” Nabooru said very quietly. “What's he saying?”
Link Sr. opened his mouth to begin, but Link went silent. His body once again began to buck, as though being electrocuted, arching high off the bed. He gritted his teeth, lips mouthing something, but only a painful series of grunts and groans escaped his throat. On and on the shudders and spasms continued, leaving all four parties confused as to what was happening. With a sudden slump, Link's body wilted onto the bed—flat, silent, still.
He began to ramble again.
Is this it, then? You slam and slam on the box until my head can't take the pain and the walls come down? Well, have at it! I can't feel my body anymore, so I'm a target. Do something! Or is that your plan—to just stand over me and revel in my broken being?
“Ah, so that's your plan,” Link Sr. said, continuing to translate the one-sided conversation. “You're going to rip out my ey—”
Link screamed. It was a long, painful screech of blood-curdling agony that made Nabooru turn away. It was like her heart was being ripped from her chest up through her throat, as she was left defenseless. What good was all of the training—the bleeding, the sweating, the … crying—if she couldn't help him? Junior looked at the Gerudo queen, feeling helpless to help her or his father. They both were thinking the same thing: “What good is strength if I can't help him?”
As the seconds became minutes, even Link Sr.'s cocksure attitude diminished into visible decay. He was muttering—in his head, of course—a singular chant: “Kill it!” His logic, his arrogance, was disobeying him and responding more to the beating muscle in his chest. He looked at his hands, wondering just why it hurt so much. Every time that he looked down at the simpering fool … his chest ached.
Thoughts of revenge swirled and pooled in the recesses of his mind, plans that he should've enacted against those fucking dolts and their schemes. Alas, Link Sr. recalled as bitterly as ever, he was now among the fallen—just another flesh bag with no matter to anything, and helpless beyond all reason to watch his child die without any say so. The only good thing about it was that Esmerelda wasn't there to watch. Ugh, he'd never hear the end of it if she was. He'd rather face those ass demons again than see her there crying over this.
For a moment, there was a brief pause in the screaming and retching—a brief moment where his son felt that familiar tingle slide across his mind, where his father's mind would seemingly reach out and touch his. It faded, though, which hurt more than the screams ever did because it meant his father's mind was dying. He'd only felt the mind of a dying bird before, but this was how it felt to the boy. Still, as though to deny his death through action alone, Link's mind lashed out again. His father wasn't giving up. Once, twice, three times, and four—his dad's mind held onto consciousness and began to think.
“He's … thinking, Aunt Nabooru! I can … I can feel it!”
“Wha-t?” her voice broke the word, a fact that she didn't even try to hide. Even if she was getting back to normal, he was always going to be the one weakness that she would never attempt to be rid of.
Junior repeated himself: “He's thinking! Dad's … thinking! He's still alive!”
“Obviously, he's not going to die from a few flesh wounds,” Link Sr. chimed in, pretending as though seeing him like that hadn't affected him.
It's all overlapping … so many days, so many memories—all of it is … overlapping. The little things like times of day, seasons, smells, tastes, memories—it's all running together like wet paint. That's why you wanted me to let you out, right? I told you to convince me first, but brute force if that failed. I took a loss on this one, didn't I? Yeah, but I thought—even if I didn't really believe it—that maybe Fate's way would cut me some slack and keep the battles off me.
No, you're right. At the same time, I guess we were both right. You told me it was a bad idea from the start. I agreed, made this little hide-and-seek plan, but went along anyway. Heh, I should've known even if I put myself into his scheme, it was still his scheme. How would I survive without you? Pfft, don't give me ego. Being right ONE time and having me be partially wrong doesn't mean shit. Bah, screw you. But, seriously, welcome back.
“So, I suppose this is the part where I make my triumphant return?” I speak without opening my eye, coughing as the beating took more out of me than I'm willing to admit. Damn, I can't believe they tore out my eye. I feel Nabooru's body fall against mine, whispering how much of an asshole I am, laughing all the while as she cries. Suppose I can't rightfully hate her, even though, like everything else, the emotions pertaining to her contradict each other. Using my mind to see, I survey my surroundings with a bit of interest. My son's here, so is my father of all people, and— I warp from the bed to standing, carrying my family along with me.
“Ingo,” I say it as foul as a curse word, swaying from the accumulated damage, barely able to stand.
“He saved you,” my son tells me, but that's only half of the picture.
“You're not Hylian,” I tell him, which makes as much sense as two left shoes. “While I'm being pounded into the ground that used to be Kakariko Village, I hear someone whistling. I call out for him to leave, run, escape—do anything but come towards those monsters,” I continue, trying to make sense of it more for me than anyone else. “He ignored me, though. He rode in like he was making a milk delivery, unconcerned both with the magic that had killed every single thing on the planet that I couldn't save and the five monsters dismantling me piece by piece. They only stopped when they saw him … backed up when he approached … did nothing as I was picked up and carted off. No mortal's walking that could do that.”
“I knew something was odd about you,” my father says to himself. “That you in there, Fate? Decided to get up close and personal with the game?”
Could it be that he's their real leader? After all, what do any of us know about the guy? He showed up and started working on Malon's farm claiming to have no memory. It's the perfect setup. I've never sensed anything mystical about him. Even now, he's as mortal as the people wandering around the Gerudo grounds. This has to be a trap, but for what?
I was beaten already by the millions upon millions of minds that sent their death cries out for a god—any god—to save them. By the time their foot soldiers got to me, I was fighting on mental empty. What I thought to be the leaders had me at their mercy in Kakariko, literally willing me out of existence piece by piece, until he showed up. If he's the top dog, saving me serves no purpose unless he is so egotistical as to want to brag prior to throwing me back to his monsters. If I seem worried, it's because I am. He glanced at me and I woke up in front of you. That's not everyday mojo.
And aside from him, these things aren't a random mob like everyone had me thinking. They're an organized army with ranks determined by, in my brief observation, mental functionality, power, and size. Bottom tier are full of small, disproportionate warriors that seemed to be made of the same stuff Fate was. Their only adherence seemed to be to hit something. If I was close, it was me. If it was one of them, they'd attack each other to a degree. Above them were commanders that kept the lesser from turning inward. Yeah, I'll exploit that if I can.
Above them were the five that had me in Kakariko, the big, giant types that stood about fourteen or fifteen feet tall. Assuming that even in large quantities, the others can't beat me, this means I'm tasked with taking out the five who obviously can—and the one who gave me the countdown with the sand. Is Ingo him? He/she/it wasn't with the five, now that I think about it. It all sounds easy, but you're forgetting one thing: the problems.
First, the commanders (and I'm assuming there is more than one) look like the infantry. The only way I even realized that there were lesser commanders than the elite five was because I caught a brief, brief whiff off one of their minds. Every command is given on a mind-to-mind basis, and those minds seem exceptionally tuned to keep people out, considering my attempts at communication—both offered and forced—were met with the equivalent of being hit with a building. Plus, their numbers are such, that if I stopped and attempted to devote enough time or energy to forcing one of their minds open it could be fatal, as they swarmed when I briefly overheard the one captain's.
If I knew if there was a single captain or multiple captains ahead of time, let alone how to tell them apart, I'd know who to kill first—and that's barring they aren't like the infantry in composition. What does that mean? Well, imagine if you fought a piece of glass and shattered it. Now, imagine if those shards simply put themselves back together to continue the fight. You use your fist, a sword, a hammer, a cannon—it doesn't matter, because the result is the same. This is what I'm dealing with, multiplied by thousands. And if that was what they stormed the proverbial gate with, there could be thousands more for all that I know.
Can you believe I even attempted to talk it out first? I tried to enlighten them that we were both being used, pushing aside the fact that millions were killed, and what did I get? “We are strong; you are weak,” he said into my mind, before the sand stopped pouring from its hand. “Time's up.” And then I was mobbed by faceless legions. Like I said, by the time I realized that it was a countdown, the sand was gone, and lives were being lost faster than I could truly comprehend.
No, when I said faceless, I meant faceless. You see they have no mouths, ears, noses or anything that defines a gender. It's like looking at a room of unfinished dolls when they stand together in the air with their bald heads and beady little eyes staring down at you. The silence is probably the weirdest aspect of it. To be in a world devoid of life beyond one little protected area, where my enemy doesn't even grimace or groan to acknowledge how soundly my hits land is … I don't know. I think that perhaps more than hearing that many lives end caused me the most problems. Well, that and the farmer's appearance.
Speaking of whom…
“I suppose this looks odd,” Ingo finally says, eyes twinkling a bit, revealing a bit of the power that undoubtedly lies within. “I should clarify that I'm not their leader, this isn't a trap, and, while a little egocentric, I'm not here to gloat.”
Well, he's the first person that's ever heard me conversing with you. Interesting this one is, though, I'll imagine that's because we aren't trying to hide right now. “That has yet to be determined. So, who are you?” I ask, watching him take a seat on my wife's footlocker. He sags some, elbows on his thighs with his hands hanging loosely between his legs. “Or is that what?” He looks up and smirks.
“Many names I've held … and many people, too,” he says cryptically, as a weird energy surges through the room. Definitely not mortal. “Unfortunately, none of that matters. I suppose it goes without saying, but I'm not from around here.”
“By all means, tell me where you're from, because I'm coming up blank,” I respond, irritated by his flippancy and the fact that my knees won't be still.
“Well, it used to be a quaint little place—stone buildings, paved roads, and the ilk. It changes every once in a while, though,” he says, indicating the god connection. “Of course, when you're betrayed and imprisoned, things might change!”
His power hits me like a Megaton Hammer shot to the face, manifesting in an instant as he goes from sitting down to holding my father prone by his throat almost faster than I can realize.
“H-H-Hadrian,” my father fumbles to say, eyes indicating that he does know this man and was probably the one who imprisoned him. He's dropped without a word.
“Who is Hadrian?” I ask, watching my father massage his throat and sit back against the wall.
He looks up at me and rolls his eyes, grinding his teeth. “This, oh, simple son of mine, is your grandfather.” Mouth, meet Floor. Floor, this is Mouth. I'm glad we all know each other now. “So, the vortex spit you out, huh?”
Junior and Nabooru's breaths escape as a simultaneous hiss, where my lower jaw opts to simply dangle. Hadrian walks away, going from a small, somewhat muscular farmer to a seven-foot-tall mirror image of myself … if I had two arms, two eyes, and a body made of obsidian … without clothes … or my dick. His body is like theirs, I notice, except it's like a polished crystal and not craggy, save for his face, neck, and hair, which are like mine down to the way his hair hangs. And his power is un-fucking-real. He really is something else … something more. My father looks up at him with a malignance in his eyes, feeling even lower in his presence without his powers, I'd bet.
“Why come out now, right?” Hadrian asks intuitively, which asks my question for me. He sits back on the bed, crossing his bare feet, as a pristine version of my clothes appear on his person. “You see, being thrown into a vortex is the equivalent of being thrown into a lake for a mortal. If it's a good, clear day, it's nothing to reach the shore. If it's a war where you're holding off fifty-eight of them, for instance, and your son decides to push you into a distortion caused by the mystical output—well, let's just say that it becomes more ocean than lake.”
“Blah, you survived,” my father replies, waving his hand to the tale.
“Yes, until I spent so much power that I forced myself free and appeared on the outskirts of Hyrule, naked and in mortal form a few years ago,” he replies, white eyes glaring at his son. “I had no memory of who I was or anything else. I had to start completely over, you spoiled little brat!” He takes a deep breath, but calms himself down. Somehow, this is nothing like I'd imagined him to be. I don't know; he seems like my father. Well, I suppose you're right. Apple and not falling far from the tree and all. “I didn't regain my memories or my powers until the day you two decided to knock each other senseless, which played bloody hell on anyone with the ability to feel mystic presence. I guess it reawakened that part of me. At any rate, I'd grown accustomed to this world … and my family within it, so I was fine to be Ingo the farmer and never say a word. Although, I don't know how Cyria's going to handle th—”
“Yeah, I killed her a few years after you went under. Had to get my latest power boost somewhere, so why not home?” my father interrupts, smirking over this false admission.
Why is he lying about something like that? To my knowledge, she isn't dead so much as on a dimensional scouring looking for her husband. His father's eyes turn red and the whole building shakes. As I look to my right, I see Junior's opinion of his grandfather fall, which brings me marginal satisfaction … even if it's over a lie. Of course, with all that's happened, I have to wonder if Fate didn't go through Vic and lie to me about her. I know my dad's free, because I severed his tie at the track along with—
“Didn't last for shit, though,” he adds.
What is he trying to prove?
“You know I can't save you,” I inform him, as I'm barely able to stay on my feet without Nabooru and Junior propping me up.
Hadrian stomps across the room, eyes illuminated with pure rage, as he snatches his son up by his neck and puts his fist right through him. Well, obviously he forgot to read his son's mind. Jeez, now there's blood on me.
My father grits his teeth, blood pouring from his mouth, and smiles. “Y-y-you don't h…ave to.”
Well, if he insists. I watch the father-son impaling, along with my own son who looks poised to vomit at any second, wondering if my dad didn't want to die again. Hadrian drops him, stepping back as his son slides down the wall with a hole through his chest, and blood pouring everywhere. The downpour pauses within a few seconds as the blood flows inward and the hole shrinks in diameter. Guess the old one had a change of heart.
“Not a change of heart, it's just a well known fact that I—”
“Can't kill,” my father chuckles darkly. “He can maim, puncture, disembowel—do all the things that should kill you, but, for whatever reason, his powers opt to undo it even if he doesn't want it to be undone. Right, Father?”
Hadrian claps sarcastically. “Lady and gentlemen, my son the scholar.” He then adds: “It's true. All the power in the world and I can't kill an ant with a boulder. How weird is it then that my parents are just like those that did this to you?”
I look at myself and my situation, blind to everything to the right of me and unable to hold anything to the left, wondering now if this wasn't all meant for him somehow. I can see it in his face that he knows they're out there, the parents of a child that shouldn't exist. He's probably weighing which is worth keeping, the family that he's forged as Ingo or the one he was either rescued or abducted from. If he leaves this place, there's a good chance that he'll go with the unknown, which will be the end of his current, because I can't do this without him—even if he's a neutered killer. It's a shitty spot to be in.
“The eye and the arm—you can't bring them back can you?” he suddenly asks.
I shake my head. “No, but I can't say that I've never imagined it being like this.” He laughs along with me. It's a sick sense of humor, I suppose.
“I figured as much,” Hadrian says in turn. “I can fix it, though, it won't be the same. Nothing is or ever will be after a run-in with them.”
I shrug … my shoulder. “Let's get this over with.”
He raises his eyebrows, saying, “I'm surprised that you didn't ask if this would hurt.”
Now that's hilarious. “Pain is coming whether I want it to or not. However, if this is their best, I'm not worried.”
“Your confidence is a bit startling, if not foolish,” he replies, eyes tightening into a concentrated glare. “You're barely holding yourself together, and you're talking as though this is something that you can `gut' out. This isn't the bottom of the well; this is merely the edge of the hole. Do you know what it is to fight for a thousand years without pause?”
The question catches me off guard. He knows it, as his whole attitude shifts.
Hadrian appears in front of me, mere inches away, staring into my eye. “Of course you don't—and that was giving you favorable odds against a hundred. They're over a 100,000 strong out there. You've lived almost fifty-three years, a virtual second to our kind. And no matter what you've endured in this mortal realm, fighting them isn't something you should just decide on a whim. To take up that fight is to push what and who you are beyond the mortal construct that you've accepted. Even if you push them back, you'll be changed if you survive. Your mortal tether will have moved on—”
“And if I run and they catch us?” I ask him, which interjects his attempt to make me realize this is damn near suicide for someone as inexperienced as me. I look at Nabooru and force her trepidation from my mind, as well as my son's. “What of our `mortal tethers' then? If it wasn't for the fact that they breached as far away as they did, our `tethers' would have died like the rest of them—unraveled to their very cores, dying a million times within the frame of the one-fucking-second that the unfortunate were able to survive. You're clued in, but look at me, through me, in me—whatever you want—and tell me which outcome in this matters to me: my being changed or their potential deaths.”
His teeth grind, but he doesn't reply right away. For a time, we stare at each other, but it doesn't last. Hadrian makes another run at persuading me to run … or prepares to anyway.
“If I die what happens then, right?” I offhandedly ask, which surprises him some, as I force myself into his head for a change. “I'm a little weak right now, but I'm not defenseless.” My father chuckles at the remark, folding his arms across his chest and leaning back against the wall.
“Yes, sacrificing yourself out there isn't going to earn you anything or save anyone. The energy alone—”
“I'm also not stupid,” I interrupt once more, smirking. “This goes down without the mortal contingent in this realm. If I keep it strictly melee, it'll curb outward damage to this dimension and the other realms within as a whole.”
“Well, I guess you've thought of everything, huh?” Hadrian applauds, sarcastically. “So, what are us half-powered gods going to do, then? Go out here, swing our fists and swords, and kick the big, bad evil down? I'm sure the decrease in power I took from being mortal for so long is minimal enough to battle them.”
Heh, if only it were that simple.
“If you can't kill, you're useless to me out there,” I inform him, making his eyes go wide with a barely controlled rage. “You're going to stay with them as whoever—Hadrian or Ingo, I don't care which. If they get past me, I trust that I don't have to tell you what happens to Malon and your son.”
Check. His eyes lock with mine, and I feel him trying to push his will on me—force upon me that this is a lost cause, give up the realm, and move on. By the same token, despite the sheer weight of his presence bearing down upon me, I push back, fueled not by the desire to exist, but to preserve life. I'm not losing my children; I'm not losing Nabooru; I'm not losing anyone else out there. I will protect my family at all costs, and I will lay waste to everything that threatens them so long as my shitty little existence thrives. His will—his power—is big. But when it comes to matters like this, however, mine is simply bigger. Hadrian's eyes lose the heat of defiance. Bit by bit, I dig deeper and deeper to exert more of my will over his, establishing a sort of dominance over the situation.
“Fine, I'll play this your way … for now.”
“No, you'll play this my way until it's over,” I respond, as I'm not in the mood for people going off the path when my family's welfare is at stake. “I'm trying hard to keep this decent, Hadrian. You've got a family. I've got a family. Their safety is paramount. But when it gets right down to it, I don't know you. If you want to take your family and run, go for it. Do it now, because when I move the ball, it's going to bounce the way that I want it to. Are we clear?”
My father chuckles again. “Kinda hard to take it, huh, old man? Feels odd not being the one dealing from the top of the hill—and it's not as easy as you thought.”
“Who says I'm powerless?” he responds in kind, eyes sliding over to his child.
Dad snorts, and looks at his father squarely, saying: “You just did. Your whole demeanor says that you're too scared to strike him. I've spent enough years watching you to know your patterns, measuring just how far the shit-talking could go before your more base instincts kicked in. It's how I measured my strength for eons.”
“What are you babbling about, boy?” Hadrian sighs, growing increasingly annoyed.
“You hesitate when you're unsure of your standing,” my father says, laughing to himself as his father growls. “You've done it three times in my lifetime, but that's all it took for me to get it: once with Fate, again with Destiny, and lastly Charon. If victory or a draw isn't assured, you don't move. So, then, isn't it ironic that my son—beaten silly, down an arm and eye—could, at the very least, hurt you more than you're willing to accept as an invalid, let alone what he could do with all of his limbs intact?”
I suddenly understand my father's statement. No, think about it—if his dad responded with violence towards everything that he was sure to beat, my father must've been siphoning power looking for the moment his powers increased to such a state that the old man didn't lash out at him. And if the three heads brought him pause, despite the story of him as an inviolable child, he must not have been certain that the three of them combined couldn't take him.
Hadrian glares at his eldest for a time, before moving the threatening glance to me. “He's nothing more than a stupid child—an infant thumping his chest at a giant the likes of which his mind can't understand!” he shouts. Wow, I'm hurt. Really. Still, Hadrian stands firm in place.
I become increasingly aware of Junior's thoughts, as well as Nabooru's: “Please don't hurt him. He's weak. He only has one arm.” It upsets me, for some reason. I suppose I haven't really thought about it, but what's the point? I'm missing an arm and an eye, but I'm still a god. I can fight like this if need be. Yeah, I've recovered from most of what they did to me. It's easier to stand, yet a chunk of me and my power is missing.
“Child or not, my son isn't quite normal,” my father says on my behalf, suddenly the picture of fatherly pride. “I know it hurts not to be the top of the pile, but, as someone once told me, `Get over it.'“
Again his father's temper seems to short out, as punctuated with a sharp grunt and warp. All at once his movement is slowed down through my remaining eye; his desire for silence and his rage all combine in his left hand, which is hurled in a tight fist towards my father's head to silence him. It'll heal again, but I … react. With a reflex that I thought was beaten dim, I intercept the punch with my right hand. Shit, I missed. I force time to a crawl, seeing his hand go from a straight with the left to an uppercut with the right—aimed at me this time. He forces time to speed up, but I force it to slow again—back and forth, back and forth and back. What the … fuck? I can't move! I grit my teeth, as the power in his hand begins to multiply exponentially. I can block this— No, I can't! My left arm, even though it feels like it's still there, it isn't. He refocuses his energy within the punch, switching it from finger to finger—index, middle, ring, pinky … pinky, middle, index, ring—to knock me unconscious. If I move, the force of the miss alone shreds Nabooru and Junior like cheap sheets. Gotta take this one on the chin, because no one's going to hurt them again!
Hadrian grits his teeth and seemingly forces his will onto the young god, which returns time to its normal speed. At the last moment, the punch drifted effortlessly past Link's chin, grazing him with the thumb, yet the concussion created by this mere graze vibrated the bones of Nabooru and Junior. They couldn't measure it or see it, really, but a single thought passed through Link's mind as his head was snapped viciously to the left: “Thumb.” Hadrian had him, he realized, as his grandson's head was still turned parallel to the floor from the force of the shot. Now, he could ensure the survival of his family and take those survivors to a place far away from their current realm. Link would understand in time how to use his gifts more thoroughly, realize that all the power that he possessed was absolutely useless against tech—
“Headbutt,” Link Sr. said, upon hearing something in his father's face crack. “You can't beat my boy with a punch, Hadrian.”
The elder god grabbed his face, a universal reaction, but the wrong move. Link's right hand hit him square in the temple and his grandfather's world went dark, a combination of fear and bloodlust pushed against him in such supply that it was a testament to his own fortitude that he'd survived. But as the old god came to in the sinkhole in the middle of the floor, nose smashed against his face, and … the illuminated blood of a god pooling in his hands, he looked up at his grandson and understood one thing: he was alive because the boy said so. What the Originals, Charon, Fate, and Destiny couldn't seem to do to him, this “infant” simply opted not to. For a long while, Hadrian looked up into the glowing eye of his grandchild and was frozen with … fear. It was as alien to him as once was needing food and/or drink to maintain his life as Ingo. Still, with rational thought slowly creeping back to the forefront of his mind, the elder god felt that for the first time since his first trip onto the battlefield that the conflict with the Originals could actually end. This man before him may actually be able to stop them, but a new question arose from that.
If Link could stop them, what could stop him?
“Hero,” Nabooru said softly, placing her hand on his shoulder, “what happens now?”
His fist unclenched and the illuminant eye of a god was replaced by a subdued mortal one instead. Hadrian inhaled slowly as Link turned from him, the smallness of the room—the tightness in his stomach—suddenly eased off his back. The show of will earlier was nothing. Faced with their harm or his, the god before him did not hesitate to put himself up for damage or death first. However, his will seemed to move boundlessly upward to compensate and ebb almost completely out when the threat was over.
If Link didn't have the experience or technique to battle, he had the traps, his grandfather figured. To look at him standing there with his wife and son, Link looked broken—far more broken than Hadrian himself felt after being mortal for so long—yet he wasn't. He was lying dormant, reserving all energy until the moment of action, appearing to anyone with the ability to sense a mystical entity as little more than a fledgling mage. Whether this dormancy was instinctual, intentional, or the result of his prior exertion, the old god couldn't say because the boy's mind had once more sealed itself from outsiders. And here he thought he was doing the schooling. The boy must've had trillions of worshippers to call upon such power from seemingly nowhere, he thought.
Of course, Link had none—a fact that probably would've scared his grandfather shitless.
Link looked at Nabooru, smiling as he breathlessly sighed, saying, “First, I'm going to find my aunts and tell the Hylian sect that I've once again let their friends, neighbors, sons, brothers, mothers, and fathers die.” His shoulder moved up then down, indicating another sigh, but Link steadied himself. He felt his son's eyes on him and his unsure feelings of how to approach him, wondering if this would forever be his fa—
The twinkle caught his mind's eye. Before he was able to detach Junior, the whole episode had unfolded out in the meadow. The thread! Son of a bitch had his son still! In an instant, Link was behind his son with the tendril in his hand, writhing and struggling to be free of his grasp. Junior screamed as his fate was literally pulled from him bit by bit. “Fight it,” he suddenly heard in his mind. “Fight it!” His father's voice kept repeating it over and over in his mind: Fight it! “Don't let Fate do this to you!”
“Link, that's e—” Nabooru attempted to say, before she felt the unlikely hand of her father-in-law grab her shoulder.
“The boy has to survive this on his own,” he said, voice surprisingly docile, quickly unhanding her. “He has to decide who he believes in more—his father or that midget fucking puppet master.”
Through the screams, tears fell from both father and son, each experiencing a unique and blinding pain as Junior unwittingly held onto certain misgivings Fate had transplanted into his psyche, which, in turn, allowed the god to hold onto the boy. Back and forth, contradicting images of his father played, each with his voice—or what seemed like his voice—telling a similarly contradicting opinion of his father.
“He's going to kill you if you mess up!” one shouted, almost desperate to be believed.
“He saved me from the lake monster; he wouldn't hurt me!” the other screamed back.
“Link, come on, I can't do this without you!” his father's voice suddenly said over top the squabbling. “I can't beat him here alone!”
“He'll gut you like a fish!” the voice, this time darker and more childish, screamed into Junior's mind.
“Dad won't hurt me!” Junior screamed back in his head, this time causing the mystical thread in his back to slip toward Link a few unseen inches to all involved.
The voice shouted in turn, growing fiercer with those few inches, “He'll kill you by morning, you silly little half breed!”
Junior's opened his eyes, which both were glowing solid purple, and he screamed for the world to hear: “MY FATHER WON'T KILL ME! HE'S GOING TO KILL YOU!”
Link fell back against the wall and onto his ass, holding the thread of fate that was ejected with nothing less than extreme prejudice from his son's body. He smiled at his boy, who shook with both rage and fear, and was filled with an unyielding pride. He looked at the thread—the last thread, as Hadrian didn't seem to have any—which still writhed, and whispered, “And that's a promise.” It went limp and faded from his vision. Link watched as his son sank to his knees, pain receding into the far reaches of his mind. Junior looked over at his father and smirked, watching his dad do likewise.
“I do something good?” the young man asked, mystic haze fading from his eyes.
His father replied, “Always.”