Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ Deus Revelatus Pt. 02: Last Chance at Redemption ( Chapter 60 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
It was a quarter until midnight and people were hard pressed not to notice another giant man headed toward the New Hyrule Ministry Building. Currently, he was receiving the same treatment that all visitors got. Of course, Link technically lived there, but he usually warped in and out. Furthermore, Nabooru hadn't attempted another ceremony, so he was subject to the rules.
“Lift your arms, sir,” the male guard instructed Link, regarding him carefully, as he recalled the event's from last year involving a microphone and an assassin. The guard ran his gold paddle across Link's chest in an attempt to locate any dangerous talismans or other magical wares, as well as standard metals.
“Happy?” Link asked, smirking at the slight resemblance between him and the guard.
It amused him—when he allowed for it—when he caught a glimpse of someone closer to his original design than the rest. To an outsider looking in, it was pretty much a world full of people that looked like him. Like the Gerudo, however, differences were apparent to the trained eye. The guard, for instance had the nose, ears, and eyes, but from the mouth down was wrong. Link found it amusing nonetheless. He'd set this ball in motion half thinking. Still, as fascinating as it was, Link deemed it trivial in comparison to his primary objective for the evening.
“Happy? I sit in a four by eight room for ten hours a day, guy. What do you think?” he eventually replied, opening both arms and shrugging, which unintentionally sent the wand past Link's right eye. It whined. They both arched an eyebrow beneath the orange glow of the guard's station. “Let's try that again.” Another attempt saw the same result—an irritatingly high pitched alarm. “Look, you obviously know the queen, so see if I can't get a tech upgrade for this piece of junk. Last week it went off because of my ham sandwich, now your fucking eyeball.” He stepped back in the door and opened the barred gate. “Welcome home, sir.”
“Thanks,” Link said on cue as he strolled through.
As he walked down the long driveway toward the fortress, Link paused and looked up. A 200-story building on top of—and fully integrated into—the fortress with their tower atop it all—Nabooru had built all of this. On twenty-five miles of land, he thought, turning back and looking at the giant buildings with the moon reflected stilly on the surface of the lake across the street, she built all of this. He turned and resumed his path toward the building, but suddenly took a detour.
“Nah,” he muttered of his desire to walk in, opting instead to walk off the drive onto the tailored lawn toward the track. “I don't want them to feel pushed.”
Once he'd ascended the hill, Link stopped for a moment and took in the old targets overgrown with moss and ivy. It was a similar night many, many years ago that saw him attempting to leave Hyrule. Ironic, he found it, that on another dark night on this alien world, he was now trying to return. Link summoned a bow into his right hand and a quiver of arrows on his back, smirking as a thought removed the brush from the three remaining targets. Effortlessly, he pulled the string back until it almost touched his lips and the wood creaked from the pressure.
“Aaaaand,” Link whispered, releasing the empty string to a bass-line hum.
“Quit stalling, Hero,” he could remember Nabooru saying in the old days. Glancing to his right, he was slightly surprised to see her standing there—arms crossed, half smirk on her face, and trying her best to will him to mess up. “We know how this ends.”
“We sure do,” he responded. “I win.”
Link fired an actual arrow and hit a bull's eye.
“Lucky,” she added.
“Luck? I don't do lucky,” he replied, playful arrogance aplenty in his voice. “That's skill!”
Link then fired another three arrows into the large targets, all bull's eyes.
“Yay,” Nabooru cheered drably. She chanted slowly as he drew back on another arrow, “Miss it! Miss it!”
“Never gonna happen, lady,” Link chuckled, releasing the arrow and scoring another perfect shot. “Victory is mine!” He threw in a pompous “ha ha” for effect.
“Pfft, that would be incredible,” she said listlessly, “if I couldn't make such a shot at six years of age with my eyes closed.”
“That was so long ago,” he mused, earning a punch in the shoulder. Despite the blow, another arrow from Link's quiver hit the last of the tall targets dead center. “Still got the goods?” He took the quiver off his back and held it out with his bow waiting to see if Nabooru would accept his challenge.
“Your hat,” she stated, after taking up the bow and an arrow. He summoned the hat and then handed it over. Nabooru pulled it down over her eyes, took a deep breath, and drew back with arrow in bow. “Prepare to eat guay, Hero.”
Her shot landed squarely in the middle of the tallest target at the opposite end of the track.
“Now that is skill!” Nabooru shouted triumphantly, snatching the hat from over her head. “Care to try, Hero?”
Link smiled at her, as the woes of the past year seemed to melt into the far recesses of his mind, and said, “If this got out, it'd ruin me.”
Nabooru rolled her eyes and tossed him the bow, which, in his moment of manic happiness, saw Link catch it with his face. Nabooru laughed before she could stop herself.
“Oh, so this is funny?” asked Link, laughing as he stalked towards her.
“Hmm, the great Hero of Time failing to catch a bow tossed underhanded by a girl funny?” Nabooru false pondered while smiling sinisterly. “Yep!”
She took off running. He went after her. Both of them laughed like two care-free children. For hours, the once estranged couple chased each other around the meadow as though they were the only people left in the world. There were no angry gods or political games to be played. It was back to the core—Link, Nabooru, and the fun they had in each other's company. It was perfection that Link didn't dare infringe upon by bringing up her shift in mood.
“You can't catch me,” Nabooru told him in mid sprint, before stopping and turning to run towards him.
“You're not a bow, so I think I can manage,” Link replied, as they shared a smile.
Where Nabooru should've been easily caught, Link found his arms closing around nothingness. For a moment, he turned in a circle to see if she'd used a spell and disappeared. It only took a few seconds to gather what had happened when it became clear that she hadn't: He'd created one big elaborate fantasy. As the shock caused by the vividness of his creation wore off, Link walked back towards the hill out of the giant shadow the new fortress cast, smiling like a man who'd tripped in front of a group of people, and found the sun staring back at him.
With a fleeting thought, Link was made familiar with the time, which was 8:54 a.m. His smile wavered at first, ultimately fading completely as a more concrete realization came to him. No one had showed up last night. He had spent nine hours running, talking, laughing, and playing with an illusion, sure. But, in all that time, no one showed up. Not Nabooru, not Zelda, not Junior—no one at all.
“Nabooru … didn't show up,” he whispered, looking at the arrow she'd supposedly fired into the target. The trepidation was immense, like he was suddenly falling into a giant chasm. But like any true warrior, Link fought it. There was a reason for this. With the speed of his will, Link's mind could go from that of a man to all-knowing god. Again, he chose to remain a man. Even as the whispered answers to his unasked questions begged for the attention of his ears, Link ignored them.
He careened his head to his right and looked down through the earth into what was once a bubbling lava cavern that doubled as part of the Gerudo Training Grounds. There, seated at the head of the table, was Nabooru—aware, awake and alert. Surrounding her was almost every person that meant something to him from the old world. Nabooru was probably trying to get her affairs in line before leaving, he kept thinking. His ears then began to instinctively listen to the somber crowd for confirmation, a sign that his trust lay more with them than the truth whispering incessantly to be heard.
Clearly, Link wasn't thinking.
“We're in agreement then; we can't go back,” Nabooru said with no degree of uncertainty. Link warped into the shadows of the room upon hearing that, though, no one could sense him. He was about to excuse her admission, but Nabooru went on, “I wanted to go back for so long, but now … it's all different.”
“Different?” Sepaaru added, scoffing at the simple choice of words. “There's a demon inside of him! Not a bad habit, but a real life monster. And who knows what happens now that the Goddesses are out of his head?”
Link's mouth hung partially open, as that blow was … unexpected.
“I know,” Nabooru admitted quietly. The lack of objection was also making itself known, as there were looks of discomfort, but no one disputed any of it. “What happens if we go back and the sights set him off? And, like Sepaaru said, there is the demon. It's obvious that Link had vulnerabilities prior to and after becoming a god that could be exploited, so why wouldn't the demon? We know what it said, but it is in their nature to deceive.” She sighed, adding, “There are a lot of questions now, but the one constant is that we don't know if the Link we knew even exists without the Goddesses. And if he does exist—how long do we have until he doesn't?”
As much as it hurt to hear her say that and to see everyone nod in agreement with it, Link forced the pain back. This was fixable in his mind. All he had to do was warp in and explain things calmly, rationally, and everything would be fine. There was no massive conspiracy behind this. They were doing what anyone would do when faced with the type of circumstances he brought: Ask questions. This was easily fixed.
The silence lingered, as a new giant ape in the middle of the floor was ignored. Who'd tell Link? Fortunately, Link made his appearance and erased that question. Everyone heard, felt or saw his entrance near the door this time. No one moved. They knew that he knew the topic of discussion, but the sense of fear surprised, hurt, and (loathe he was to admit it) empowered him. Empty serving trays and food carts indicated that this meeting had been in progress for hours, though, exactly how many, Link refused to know. Even the words that were spoken prior to his arrival began to whisper for his attention, and Link willed himself deaf to those as well.
Dressed in their clothes and still projecting his more pristine, matching-arms-and-eyes image to them, Link addressed the situation.
“I'm late, aren't I?” he said jokingly to no response, save a sort of uncomfortable smile from his daughter. Link attempted to be serious while remaining light-hearted about it all: “I understand there's a lot to take in regarding … well, me. We're all the designs of someone—parents or lack thereof, gods, environment, and a lot of other variables—and that doesn't make us any less real.”
“True, but the rest of us weren't tailor made to fit life. We were allowed to grow with our influences,” Nabooru countered, her voice sounding more objective than she would've liked. “Aside from that, I'm worried that you're glazing over your feelings on this and a lot of other issues, Link. Can you honestly say that in the last year you have given any amount of serious thought to what happened to you?”
“Okay, what possible reason would the demon have for bringing me back here? If there was influence that he had over me, why risk its existence in that battle? It doesn't make sense.” He proved Nabooru's point by trying to defuse the first issue without addressing the bigger picture. Irony at its finest.
“You still didn't answer the question,” she replied solemnly.
He sighed, brow creasing as a momentary blip of anger showed itself in the form of his red eye glowing through the illusion.
“Yes, I've thought about it,” Link admitted, almost shouting, “but it's irrelevant. I won; they lost. The end. The important thing is—”
“That you heal,” Nabooru interjected calmly, careful not to sound patronizing. “You fought an army of gods for more years than I'd probably be able to count—”
“And that's why I need you,” he was quick to say as the distance seemed to be growing between them right before his eyes. “I don't need to dwell on that. I've made my peace—”
“You've made peace with being a puppet to the Goddesses you've professed to hate almost every day that I've known you? You made peace with being their puppet even after becoming their superior?” Nabooru asked, not quite scoffing at the notion, but obviously not believing it. “Let it be known: The demon thing worries me, but I can believe its motives are sincere … in time. My only real concern is that, even with your abilities, you are just using us as a way to ignore everything that has happened and one day it will swing around to make us suffer.”
Link's mouth fell open slightly, as he asked, “And what's `it' supposed to mean?”
“With no real evil left to fight—no colossal conspirators trying to hold you down—your only way to avoid confronting what has happened to you will be to att— um, focus on us for our sleights toward you,” Saria, of all people, said. “That's it—you'll think one day that we weren't worth all the trouble and we'll become the new conspirators to be hunted down.”
Link laughed at first, but, as no one joined in, he stopped laughing and began to feel ill.
“You're … you're all serious, aren't you?” asked Link, staring in sheer amazement at the table of steadfast faces. “Those three whores may have balanced my `psychosis' through manipulation, but my life's goal—my choice—was to have a family. I've fought and killed everything from monsters up to the origin of life itself for that one reason, and you're going to tell me—with straight faces—that, because there's nothing left to kill, I'll turn and destroy you one day because the one thing I ever wanted isn't worth it?” No one responded, but that was answer enough. Link stood there for what seemed like hours, eyes scanning each face and wondering just what the proverbial fuck, before anyone said anything.
“I—we—think that more time is in order, Link,” Nabooru said on behalf of the group.
The fight to remain deaf ended and the knowledge came to him in an instant.
“Interesting,” Link said with a grim sort of understanding replacing the look of shock on his face.
His illusions faded, revealing a glowing right eye and a glassy black left hand protruding from the sleeve of his expensive suit coat. As the pain from his knowledge sank in deeper at the sight of his daughter's face, even the oldest of his changes—his mortal blue eye—returned to its original incandescent white.
“After all this, you people don't trust me,” he whispered, speaking on their fears and misgivings. “After all the lies, the deception, and manipulation—you have more faith in them. Low and behold, how did I ever think that I could possibly know myself better than a group of bored gods who only saw me as an object?”
Looking silently at his dark hand and his reflection within it, Link stopped smirking and frowned. The arm and the eye were to be his reminders not to become lazy in face of his power and, with the knowledge gained from his expanse of mind, never to doubt his inner “monster.” After all, as it turned out, Hadrian's impromptu surgery had ripped the black energy for the arm, as well as his new eye, from the demon without ever knowing it was there. They were to be his two most physical mementos, but as he looked at the smooth, silken-like material on the cuff of the suit they'd given him, Link found himself with another. The suit changed from black to a subdued shade of green in the blink of an eye. It would be another memento in a line of many that reminded him of just how fucked up it could get.
“What more could I possibly do to earn your trust?” Link asked rhetorically, with a slight grunt, slipping off the shoes they'd given him and replacing them with his old brown boots—a strange contrast to the suit if ever there was one. “Eat my legs?”
“You're taking this the wrong—” Sepaaru attempted to say.
“Naturally,” his voice boomed from everywhere as the façade of calm cracked, “because I'm this broken thing who can't decipher friend from enemy.” That helped his case about as much as a stab wound would the anemic. “For a year, I reached and I reached to try and reestablish some kind of kinship here. Two people reach back, but, in lieu of the evidence, I guess they left it up to a vote.” Junior and Zelda both lowered their heads, as every attempt to explain stopped in the space between their brains and lips. “You're all so `concerned' for my well being and your survival, yet it takes a full year for a committee to address the … situation? Bullshit.”
“Are you finished yet?” Link Sr. asked, earning an irksome glance from his peers.
Link laughed in earnest, as the murals of him on the walls began to fade away.
“That's amazing,” said Link, as his eyes grew brighter staring at the face of his father. “Here we have a former God of War who actually killed you and our unborn daughter because you were little more than bugs to him, but he's trusted. Why—because he's `harmless?' Here's harmless—” he stopped as everyone lurched back from his glowing hand.
In actual fact, godhood not death is what Link was offering through that glowing palm, an even split of his power among all who reached back. He looked at his hand and shook his head. Link had to admit that his feelings for them were ingrained deeply, because it took all of mere minutes for him to reach for them after resolving not to do so again. Still, their fear was resolute and his smile became a frown that held in an almost infinite lifetime of rage, sadness, and rejection.
“Amazing,” he muttered, turning his glowing hand back toward the elevator and blasting a diagonal chute up to the surface. A second explosion made the group turn away from Link, as the once secret lair that he and Ganondorf came to share was destroyed. Spells, pictographs, and memories—all of them were cleansed in white flames.
Alarms sounded on the upper levels and Nabooru's phone rang incessantly, but no one moved.
“I suppose that'd be my cue to leave,” Link said quietly, as he turned and walked towards his exit.
“Link … Hero, this—” Nabooru faltered to continue, because Link didn't stop.
“You just run away now?” Sepaaru asked spitefully. “She held this shit together for millennia waiting for you and you just leave her stuck to you like a tick?”
Link stopped at the doorway.
“And it all comes back to the `love spell,'” he said still facing the smoldering tunnel. “Like I said a long time ago, I never wanted people to love or trust me because I said so. Despite the light show, the decision has always been entirely up to her.” The looks on Nabooru and Sepaaru's faces were enough for him, even through his mind's eye. “If there is nothing else…”
Marching forward into the opening, Link smiled at the irony that was the green light at the end of the tunnel. The smile was a flimsy cover, though. Each step that he took towards that light stoked a fire within him, a fire carried over from a tortured little mortal boy magnified through the lens of a tortured god. He gritted his teeth to hold the torrent of curses and insults begging to be released towards them. Un-fucking-real! Ungrateful, short-sighted, narrow-minded, imbecilic little— “Freeze!”
The anger boiling within him simmered down, as Link emerged from the hole out front of the building and found himself surrounded by thirty-three soldiers aiming guns and swords blessed with anti-magical ordinance at his head. The men were dressed in black from head to foot, sans a golden Deku tree, crescent moon and star insignia on the left chest pocket of their tactical vests. They were like armored shadows and not even their goggles allowed a glimpse of the people within. Still, Link's teeth audibly ground and his eyes illuminated further at the sight of the emblem that he designed being turned against him.
“What happened down there, sir?” the largest soldier shouted, slowly flipping a switch that made his gun go from neutral to hot, which caused the two-inch muzzle on his shoulder mounted unit to go from black to red.
“Betrayal,” muttered Link, who took a step to his left and began to walk forward.
“Stop!” the lead soldier shouted, as the whole circle moved with their would-be prisoner, and he stepped back in his path.
Link's eyes pulsed with rage, but, still, the hero within fought the urges of an angry god and tried to remain tactful. “Look, she was going to announce to the world that I was her husband. Do you really think I'd up and kill her?”
The guard regarded the question the way any soldier would: “I've got a protocol from the boss lady: Magical attack happens on or around this installation, my team and I detain or neutralize the party responsible. I've got zero communication with the boss lady. And I've got you—the worst poster child of magical anger management in history—coming out of the mouth of the incident without a scratch. Because the boss has taken a liking to you, I'm hoping for detention. If that won't work—” he paused as his men all made their weapons go hot— “neutralization can be arranged.”
Below ground, Nabooru and the others sat in contemplation of their decision. Link would blow off some steam for a few months or years, come back, and this would all be settled in a nice, rational manner. The hurt would pass, they all figured, because he would see their position and work through his problems. They were ripped from their thoughts by the screams of the dying, as Link's rage boiled over and burned all that were too close. Nabooru left the table first, followed quickly by her daughter and the others. By the time they reached the surface, Link was gone and the only proof that he was there lie in thirty-three melted weapons.
“My team,” the former Queen of Hyrule said in disbelief, as she recognized the weapons. She reached slowly into her pants pocket and retrieved an earpiece with a lithe tube that ran down her cheek to her mouth. “Shadow One this is Shadow Leader … respond.”
“Shadow One here,” Impa responded, and Zelda exhaled. “It's good to hear your voice. I dispatched men to respond to a magical disturbance at the fortress, but I take it they weren't needed if you're there.”
“Negative,” she replied stoically, “they're dead.”
“What? What happened—the Sons? How is that possible?” Impa shouted back, dismayed that immortal soldiers—Sheikah—were cut down with the rank and file culled from the natives.
Zelda looked at her fellow committee members, all of whom looked from one face to another, and told her mother the truth: “It was an act of god.”
On a higher dimension of existence willed together between Fate's grid and Charon's, a new conversation was waiting to take place as Victorious finally awoke from his coma.
“He's awake,” Victorious heard a voice say, before sight returned to both his mind and eyes.
As his vision cleared further, Victorious found himself surrounded by the pantheon of his kind. Thousands of gods all crammed together in one place at the same time and for one reason: to devise a plan. He sat up on the slab of stone that was his makeshift bed, as the two designated to be the speakers approached him. Communique stepped into the light first. She was a lithe, gangly goddess of sound—round, yellow eyes, no hair, and red skin with a series of black and purple lines running in a diagonal latticed pattern up the entire length of her arms and legs. The lines were her only clothing.
“Been awhile since I've seen your … face,” Vic said with obvious humor. She smiled, intimately familiar with him and his sense of humor, but remained silent. “Did—” he stopped short, nearly collapsing as his senses felt for Link and found the massive power pretending to be him. No trace of the Originals. At all. To say that he was a bit overwhelmed was an understatement. No one spoke, watching the greatest mind among them slowly begin to put the puzzle together. “Yes, I remember I was hit and I ended up on his planet. My brothers …”
“Dead,” Communique said stoically. “We've gathered here to ensure that doesn't happen to the rest of us.”
Victorious's hair went from black to an illuminated orange, as his mind deduced all it needed from her thoughts. “You brought me here to figure out how to dismantle Link.”
The crowd bristled to life at the mere mention of his name, but no one objected.
“You're the last remaining God of War now, Victorious, and also the smartest,” she said quite plainly despite the would-be flattery. “He's killed three of us for merely being sarcastic with him! And Esmerelda's sisters? Their bodies are chained up to that gaudy throne of his. All they do is moan and mess themselves like the mortals!” Communique shuddered, adding, “And Destiny's body is in a crystal on display like some kind of primitive funeral!”
The crowd shouted various epithets about Link, but quieted soon after.
“They deserve sympathy?” Vic countered, incredulous at the feeble reasoning being displayed. His mind read the events—even those he was not present for—of their home dimension like a book. “And spare me the banding-together-for-the-greater-good bullshit. Link said, and I'm quoting: `Your day-to-day lives can go on just as they did with Fate and Destiny at the helm, but listen carefully, because it gets no clearer than what I am about to say: Stay the fuck away from my family. If I sense even one of you near them, I'll kill you and every god in your line of sight right now.' That seems pretty reasonable considering everything that's happened.”
“And what happens if his children learn to traverse realms and we happen to be there?” Communique shouted at him, voice taking on the properties of a knife scraping across glass.
“Ask him,” replied Victorious, which earned upset banter from the crowd. “No, of course not!” he shouted back at the masses, his strength beginning to return in a magnificent supply. Actually, it seemed to be greater, but the tactician continued to address his fellow gods more than his health. “This is all a race for the fucking throne, and you know it!”
A new female voice then spoke, one that hadn't been heard by his ears in ages, not since his father was lost in the vortex. “This is a race to put you on the throne, my child,” she said soothingly. “Everyone here is in agreement that you above all others have what it takes to rule this place in Fate and Destiny's stead.”
Victorious shook some as the hand comprised of a silvery liquid touched his shoulder. Looking over his right shoulder, the last of the primary Gods of War, uttered one word: “Mother?”
Cyria, Goddess of Water, stood before her youngest son as he'd remembered her: liquid body changing color from one moment to the next, still refusing to be bound by clothing, but her face was what made him happiest. It never changed color, remaining a rather mundane shade of light blue and flesh-like, despite the eclectic nature of the rest of her. She smiled at him, onyx colored eyes looking down on him, and this made Victorious rise to his feet.
“I can't get a hug?” she asked, hands on hips, as she went from silver to blue from the neck down.
“Hey, uh, when did you get back?” Victorious asked sheepishly, a bit lost for words—and thought—in her presence. “And I see you've changed your hair,” he also added, noting it went from short in the back to shoulder length towards the front.
“I felt it was time for a change,” his mother replied. “I guess I didn't make it back in time, though. Your father died, didn't he?”
Victorious pulled back, but kept his hands on her shoulders and nodded solemnly. “Even after all this time, he still placed Fate and Destiny above his actual family, except he paid a price for it this time.”
The other gods grumbled in response.
Cyria shook her head, obviously wounded after wasting millions of years of effort spent trying to locate him. “I knew it was true when they told me, but I couldn't believe it until I heard it from you.” She put on a brave face, but Victorious could sense the pain below the surface. He knew she was going to start on about the leadership thing to cover up not only the loss of most of her remaining children, but the loss of his father. “About this assuming leadership…”
“Yes, we know this situation with Link looks bleak,” Communique picked up after his mother drifted, “but we are confident that you know or will know of a way to stop him.”
“Why would I know a thing like that or even care to know?” Victorious turned away from his mother and asked.
Cyria smirked, telling him: “Because that's what you do. Your siblings fought, but you always thought. Strength and weakness, advantage and disadvantage, and so on—you may not have cared to act on them, but you always had a plan.”
Victorious laughed, but, despite his best intentions, it was a prideful laugh. “Perhaps, I do … did,” he said with a little ego, which earned cheers from his peers, “but no. Link's a good guy that's going through some things right now.”
“Then why not strike now?” Communique queried, as if she had any idea how complicated the task at hand was.
Victorious laughed uproariously at the idea, saying: “You're talking about someone that's stronger than Fate, Destiny, the Originals, and Charon—combined. There is no `now.' He's stronger than everyone in this room at maximum while he's at rest.”
“All I heard was that he can be beaten,” his mother said quite simply. “Hadrian was once spoken about in such flattering terms, but look at him.”
“Let me put an end to this discussion,” Victorious sighed. “We can't beat him. Do you want the best plans that I can come up with? Here they are: Aim for a tie or don't. If you want the tie, put him and his family back together again, and we'll likely become irrelevant to him in time. Don't do that and keep down this road—we die.”
His statements went over well—if well were to equate sodomy with a hot poker.
“Coward!” came the call from the back of the dimension.
“You simple-minded fools!” Victorious shouted, which, unexpectedly, blew the gods back. Was he a powerful god? Sure. Did he ever possess the ability to move them all? No.
Cyria smiled at his sincere confusion. “While you were asleep, we had some of our more … technical-minded people bond your power to that of the dying Original. With its hide cracked open as it was, we were able to get at—”
“What?” Victorious screamed, as his mother's liquid body rippled like a pond during a windstorm in face of the power emitted through his voice.
“I slipped out after Fate summoned us all to protect him and Destiny,” said Communique, “and retrieved the creature's body and yours while your nephew was busy here.”
Truthfully, Victorious felt defiled. Beyond the truth, however, he began to feel the power within him growing. Sure, his ancestors were Originals, but—no, this still wasn't enough to defeat Link. Or was it? Even as the fallen gods stood back up, their commune of thoughts hushed and listened enrapt to Victorious's. Technically, no one knew what powered the Originals, and perhaps with time he could come to understand the power that was now a part of him and how to make it grow until it was challenge worthy of Link. There were possibilities with this new station, he reasoned … even if a part of him didn't want it that way. Still, this was—WOULD—this would possibly be betrayal for a hunch.
Cyria watched the wheels of her child go to work, as she smiled. The bookend sons: where Link was all about gaining power and brute force, Victorious was all about strategy and finding the weakest spot in your armor. Still, with her eldest indisposed on the mortal side of things, Victorious could go unopposed for the top in her eyes. After all, if Hadrian, Fate, Destiny, and the Originals could all fall on the same day, her grandchild would be no different.
Curiosity versus loyalty—it was an interesting dilemma. And, as Victorious's mind burned through scenario after scenario, wave after enhanced wave of concentrated thought energy invaded creation. The first mind to become aware of it was the last one anyone present would've wanted.
“You, too, huh? Clever hiding in the gap between Charon's domain and the living like that,” Link's voice suddenly rang out through the expanse. Gods and goddesses alike attempted to warp away, but found those attempts quite easily negated. “Vic—you think I wouldn't have just given up the proverbial crown if you asked me?”
“Link, I was merely—” he attempted to say, a bit frightened at how close Link felt despite the distance between them.
“All those thoughts in your head, I can't help but notice that you never thought of the easiest one: Asking,” Link interjected, his tone slightly weary having been betrayed yet again. “Granted, I've never been high on this god thing, but me and you—I thought we were closer than this.” There was a long stretch of silent air where neither side spoke, but Victorious merely lowered his head, undeniably ashamed and moved by the pain in his nephew's voice. He was also aware of what had happened with Nabooru and the rest, which is why he was anything but shocked when Link next spoke. Anger stoked to the maximum once again, Link concluded, “To hell with it. Study the power and do what you want. I'll gut you and them if you come after me.”
“Be reasonable, Link,” Victorious said to the voice of his nephew. “Link? Link!”
Try and try as he might, Victorious didn't receive a response. Compromised and experimented on, left to incubate in a coma for over a year, Victorious found himself awakened to a new reality, a reality where he was now forced into the role of savior. The enemy was no longer a supposedly mindless horde from ages past, but his nephew—a newly abandoned, if not endlessly tortured god. The only way out that Victorious saw was through Link's family. They were the real control device, but given their current transgressions against him, Link might've been walking around off any semblance of a leash.
How to fix that situation was the new mystery, because, even now, goddesses were warping out of the room with personal agendas. That's what the weak did, though—cuddle up to the strong. A part of him felt a bit jealous how quickly some were deserting or planning to at least. For now, the enemy was simple: Get Link back with Nabooru before some more power hungry goddess got her hooks in him.
“Let's go home,” he said to his followers, who all shakily warped behind him, and left their meeting place to collapse on itself.
Back on the planet, an even angrier Link stood at the entrance to what was now known as the New Hyrule Museum of Cultural Heritage. He'd been trying to walk the incident with Nabooru and the others off when he ended up here and caught a glimpse of the gods meeting. What made it worse was that he was actually wishing Victorious was around to talk him down. To find him at the heart of the meeting was bad enough, but he was unconscious and brought there. So, how he ended up there was forgivable.
To hear him deny them made Link feel even better. But to see Victorious realize that he'd been more or less bumped up the power scale and suddenly ponder attempting to take his life—well, it hurt. That's what it was, though: lifetimes spent doing right all void because he was stronger than people would like. Now, of all people, one of his most trusted allies on that side turned out to be no better than Fate. The museum's hours were 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., as posted on a small green sign with black letters on a brass pole to the left of the door, Link noticed.
It was 12:23 p.m. when he smashed through the door and set off another wave of alarms.
Link eyes briefly shone brighter as the alarm melted, leaving nothing more than red flashing lights. His boots crunched the broken chunks of glass even further into the red carpet as he took in his surroundings. Beneath a huge, glowing crystal ball shaped light, Link saw a statue of himself looking down on all who entered from the top of the stairs. Its head exploded with a glance from him as he reached the top. The base with his remaining torso was knocked aside with the back of his hand, splintering as easily as the window, if not easier. Display cases lined the walls with his various effects, each case telling a little recorded story about each piece with the slightest pressure on the glass.
“The Master Sword,” Link said as he approached the case with it. Tapping the glass, the voice spoke, “The Master Sword. It is said that the hero wielded this sword in his many quests and used it to defeat an evil sorcerer. Legend also has it that evil is repelled by its blade—” he put his fist through the supposedly unbreakable glass and protection spell to grab the sword by its hilt. The mechanical voice screeched to a piercing halt as museum security arrived from the door to his right.
They were pitifully armed in comparison to the guards at the fortress and out of shape, a statement in itself about how much his history was worth. Link turned towards the ornate tapestries and paintings of his image on the walls, ignoring the guards' warnings, as the items on the wall became the next victims of Link's ire. The ancient artifacts were ripped and shredded with a look. All of the supposed love and care that went into each piece was a lie. These people didn't care about him.
“Liars,” Link whispered, walking past the four chubby guards, down the steps and outside.
At least they were smart enough to know that a sword trumped a stick, but it was more than that. One shred of tapestry survived the onslaught, a piece showing Link's face as it was in god form without the mortal eye—white hair, one red eye and one white—and the four portly fellows noticed. The Hero of Time was supposedly a myth about their god brought over by the ancestors of the current queen, but there this supposed myth was brandishing a sword. They'd walked past the picture enough to know it by heart, but the question remained: Why would God pull a heist this poorly? Outside, Link began to dim his rage and think. He collapsed on his ass, as the omniscience was turned off as well. More guard types had the exit surrounded in a half circle, but these were police. Despite the numbers, Link laughed when they shouted orders at him.
“Fate sank his hooks in deep,” he laughed, noticing the only things left of his design on this planet were the color scheme and the facial features (which were fading) of the crowd gathered behind the police barriers. “Almost countless worlds out there and each one of them he has everyone go through roughly the same experiences, evolutions, technologies, and even names. How do you stand it?”
“Sir,” Link heard someone shout at him for the umpteenth time, “drop the artifact and lie face down on the ground!”
He smiled a sad man's smile, but no one saw that. It was all glowing eyes and a big sword that they noticed. The chatter from their radios and in their earpieces told the tale: maniac wizard brandishing a sword at 1330 Gerudo Forest Ave. Link looked up at the skyline and shook his head. Gerudo Forest? Soulless concrete, glass, and crystal stretched towards the sky on all sides of him. The forest fell to make way for build—
The officers interjected by opening fire on Link the moment his eyes sparked.
Weapons hissed, crackled, and exploded with everything from shaped bronze to crystallized blood. Fifty men had showed up for a break-in at a museum where the only destroyed artifacts were about him. Fifty men had showed up armed to the teeth with kill orders. He had to smile because, if nothing else, it proved he had some worth. All those shots and not a single one touched the sword not because he willed it, but because they were aiming expressly to miss it. The click of empty or depleted weapons rolled across the fifty-man execution squad. According to the specs, Link should've been less than a stain, wizard or not.
“And yet here I am,” he replied to no one in particular just as reality rippled with the warp of his “family.”
“Stand down!” Nabooru told the awestruck men, who, despite hearing her, clutched the only thing between them and the monster. “Link—” she paused mid run in the middle of the street, looking at the mauled god before her. For lack of a better term, Link looked like chewed food. Chunks of his face were ripped off and most of his torso was scattered on the bricks behind him in black, brown, and gray hunks, with a scrap or two of green and white fabric thrown in for color. His left hand clutched onto his old sword—his gift and his curse—while his eyes stared forward with a sort of catatonic blankness.
Without the rage propping him up and with his preoccupation with his betrayal, Link had merely opted out of invulnerability … or so it seemed. Despite the blood and torn sinew, the scene was not as it appeared. While it was true that his rage was subdued, it also meant that he was free to think. And if he was free to think … well, this was one of many possibilities. Like the Originals before him, Link's body crawled back together piece by piece until it was whole. He still didn't stand, though. The pain had woken him up.
“This is—” Nabooru began then stopped, obviously taken out of her chair of control in lieu of Link chunks crawling across the ground.
In response, Link added, “I had to know if I could choose an out. Guess I can't.” It wasn't quite as all-knowing and deified as that day the year prior, but there was an eerie sort of calm about him, like his rampage had brought him clarity. It was unnerving.
As Nabooru prepared to scream at him, all parties became aware of the sound coming from Link's left hand. It was as if two ice cubes were being rattled around an empty glass. Link relaxed his godly grip and the sword flew twenty-five feet and embedded itself in the street blade first. No one spoke, appearing genuinely shocked.
“The sword that repels evil,” Link said thoughtfully.
“Y-You're not evil,” Nabooru was quick to announce, but Link didn't take his eyes off the sword nor did his deadpan expression change. The officers around her suddenly collapsed, unconscious to the man, and the spectators who'd gathered in response to the weapons fire were no longer there.
“Without Fate around, this planet is mine again,” Link said calmly, his expression changing for the first time, but only to those sharp enough to catch the second-long twitch. It was the same twitch where he heard, broke down, and found flaw with someone's argument back in the old days at the council meetings. It usually happened when some Sermonian tried to make a point.
Nabooru didn't want to do it, but she asked, “What is it?”
“In a few years, this planet will slowly drift away from his paradigm, where magic dwindles as technology rises. The natural course will resume, meaning magic and technology both grow.” Link looked up from the sword into Nabooru's eyes, but with clarity instead of pain reflecting back at her.
None of them got the point. It wasn't a difficult concept to understand, but their preoccupation with Link's change from hot to cold blinded them. He continued to enlighten them.
“If you aren't versed in magic, become so, because certain assumptions will prove to be wrong. This includes the two of you,” Link stated, looking at his children now, but still as calm as ever despite the warning. And just like that, he turned around and walked off without another word. This time, despite the street labeled a dead end, he'd see what was beyond the Desert Colossus.
Again, it was Nabooru who called after him. “W-where are you going?”
“To see the Sermonian leader about the future,” he called back.
And that kicked them all into alert mode.
“Who is it?” Junior shouted at his father's back, finally attempting to seize an opportunity that'd walked around him … for a year.
Link spoke directly to their minds, saying, “It's clear that you wanted to handle the situation without me. So … do it.”
With that said, Link began to exercise his will over the surrounding world. One by one the unconscious officers began to disappear along with their vehicles and the destruction to the museum's door; everything physical about Link's presence in the society merely disappeared. As Link rounded the corner, a sea of pedestrians faded onto the street in mid-stride or in their vehicles, surrounding the family.
I'm fine now. Stop asking that question, okay? What do you want me to say, “Losing everything gets easier with experience”? Don't hand me that. You didn't see their fears. I mean, it sounds simple enough. Give us more time. Then, as I stood there, I started seeing the layers come off that statement like an onion. Get to the point? Screw you. The point is they are afraid of me. Like a person afraid of heights will never go out on a ledge without an extraordinary reason, they are never planning to get close to me again without one. No, that's exactly what I'm saying—it would never be enough time.
I have a plan, though.
My plan is simple enough: Put them out on the ledge until it stops being scary. Ah, you know me too well. I'm going to stay on this world for the time being. Not only that, but I'm going to play with it openly. They'll see me as my influence grows among the people—and their guilt will grow, too. No, you aren't wrong to think that. For a while there, especially when Saria said that, I thought about just saying fuck them. I even vowed to stop reaching, but I couldn't—at least not yet.
Through Fate, I've found a lot of facts that contradict a lot of assumptions, and a lot more lies than I even thought possible. In those truths, I've found out how to stop suppressing emotion and ultimately remove it. If this plan doesn't work, I'll use that knowledge on myself. I won't be a miserable sheathe to a sword that doesn't need me. Maybe I'm being too hasty? Maybe it's the dimension—what? No one's controlling their thoughts. I've looked. It's all them. This also isn't haste. You've seen how fast my mind moves; you know better than anyone that I can condense years of thoughts into fractions of fractions of a second. So, are you up for this or not?
Excellent. Now, let's take this opportunity to warp to the mainland and pay a visit to the esteemed leader of my wife's bane, also the first step in the plan. I plod through the lobby, earning a mix of odd glances and frightful apprehension, as the suit-and-tie crowd first chuckles at my fashion sense, but grow frightened as the light from my eyes is cast toward them. Invigorating this fear thing is, if I may say so.
“Welcome to Romenian Industries, Mister …” the clerk trails as I approach the desk, her brown hair pulled back into a single, unassuming ponytail. She's unafraid, but moving to clutch a weapon beneath the desk in her booth.
“Your boss should be expecting me,” I tell her in my best voice, smiling as if I can't see through her.
Predictably, she replies, “Mr. Romenian is out of the country on business. If you'd—”
“I'm sure he won't mind if I just go up.”
As I walk away from the booth, time slows to a crawl as the receptionist attempts to hit an alarm. I move her arm two inches to the right, so as to avoid the irritating alarm noise when time eventually resumes, and enter the center elevator of the five behind her. I must admit, Nabooru must be flustered. An operation this big and this open, yet she misses quite possibly the worst deception ever. They manufacture food, though. How could they possibly engage in espionage and secret wars?
And how could he have such horrible music on such a long ride? Sounds like me when Saria first tried to teach me how to play an ocarina. Trust me—it was assy. Hmm, now that's interesting. This building has ninety-five floors, but the number of people on each floor since eighty-five has steadily decreased. Insulating himself from the violence—smart man. What? Oh, come on, where would the surprise be if I told you?
I step off at ninety-five and approach one of only two life signs on the floor. One is security; the other is the man in charge. I should hesitantly call him a man, though. He's been changed—
“Are you the new recruit?” a voice calls out from behind me. I stop cold. I know the voice. “Your interview was at seven this morning. It is clearly … cl—” he chokes on the word. Ajax. “God, I'm getting too old for this,” he sighs, figuring that I can't be me. “The boss said that you were his spitting image, but damn—you got his whole glowy eyes and green thing down. Well, come on then. You're lucky that the plans require someone with your … unique look.”
I allow him to approach me, as I don't even bother to pick apart his mind to figure out why one of mine is here. Without a word, I follow him, allowing my former pupil to brief me on what's expected of me. Was that all it took to make him turn—an expensive suit and a little bit of power? He prattles on and on as we get near the giant black double doors at the end of the hallway. I should snap his neck, but his fear should ripen excellently with a little provocation.
“Right through there,” Ajax informs me.
And, like a kind god—a caring god—I squeeze the fruit some.
“Thanks, Ajax.” I walk in and as he prepares to say something in return, it dawns on him: he never told me his name. The doors slowly close behind me and I feel his eyes watching my feet walking across the blue marble floor, but I also feel that beginning murmur of terror creeping in on him. And there's the man we came to meet at the window. Yes, but knowing everything would make life boring. Nice disguise—fat, balding, and with a nice smell of hot sweat. No wonder they don't suspect him. Let's get this started. “That's an amazing view, Arthur.”
“Indeed it is, Link, indeed it is, but the name is Steven here. Steven Romenian,” Arthur responds casually, hands clasped behind his back, as he stares at the horizon. “You're looking at me as though you expected me to be taller or something.”
“Not taller, but perhaps … less than alive.” He chuckles at the inflection in my tone before the dark blue suit fades and he takes his true form.
“Is this better?” he asks, looking like a twisted blend of Fate and Destiny. His body is half black and half white on a lengthwise divide with seeming buttons of light going down the median that divides him, a series of lines the opposite side's color on both halves, all reflective like polished steel. Arthur turns to me for the first time and smiles, his face still as I remember it and hair still blonder than mine. That still irritates me for some reason. “You're wondering how I survived?”
I nod as though I didn't allow him a brief glimpse into my mind for that question.
“What a man does for a facsimile of love is amazing,” Arthur says with a pale imitation of a smile on his face. He sits in a wine-colored leather chair big enough to be a throne, but without all of the ornate designs, and stares up at me. One of the two lesser versions of his chair in front of his desk slides towards me, so I sit. “You know as well as I do that my marriage to her was a business arrangement. Hyrule and Sermonia would unite under joint rule, the end. And, to borrow a bit from you, years and years go by and we fuck like rabbits—” he gauges me for a response, but gets none— “forgetting how we sacrificed true love for the greater good. The exception to that rule is that I sacrificed, because the woman I loved hung herself the day that sham was announced.”
A spark crackles around Arthur's fist in response to the memory of his lost love.
“An actual relationship formed around the birth of our son,” he continues, losing the attitude, but obviously still upset. “As he grew up and fell in love with your daughter, my wife started painting more seriously. First, it was the family, but then it started drifting back to you. Then there were statues commissioned, books, and even throw rugs. And, as we sent our boy away, it dawned on me: my true love is dead; my wife's true love lives mere miles away.
“I sit there and take it, though—paintings of the other man, the jabs about how Link did things, and even you upstaging the men I looked up to as a boy with a mere glance. What could I do, though? Nothing, I thought. And then, on the day Zelda and your daughter left, I'd had enough. Zelda would at least let me feel like I mattered somehow by letting my men trail her, but not this time. She'd gone to you in secret, I thought. I mounted up the horse and left by myself. Even if I lost the battle against you, I would win the war because I fought back where everyone else curled up.”
“None of that explains how you've become what you have,” I so kindly point out to him.
Arthur smiles, eyes illuminating a bright blue, as his aggression grows. “I arrived at the brownstone leading into Gerudo Valley just as the world rumbled. All I remember is crimson light and pain—an ungodly amount of mind-shattering pain. When I awoke, there was darkness and in that darkness two children were there—a boy and a girl—who asked me what I wanted.”
“And what did you want?”
Again, Arthur smiles, but looks at his hands with love and affection as he made fists. “I wanted the power back that you took from everyone in my life—my men, my advisors, my father! Whatever they wanted from me in return was no price at all if I could just reclaim that power. They told me so be it and when I awoke, I was as I am now, lying on the beach of this exotic world. The power was overwhelming at first, but I adjusted. Still, I didn't speak the word of what I thought I was, but they did. They told me—showed me—that I had been made into a god!”
I smile at him, suppressing the urge to outright laugh, but ask a serious question: “And this is what you've done with all that power?”
“I've been waiting for you for a thousand years,” he replies, growing very serious. “At first, I thought there would be a bigger catch involved—some colossal scheme to take you out. Then, I realized something—probably what my benefactors knew all along but chose to test my worthiness upon—I was gifted with these powers to deal you the perfect blow.”
This is hilarious, because he's so serious! Okay, okay, let's see what he's got.
“And that perfect blow would be?”
“The same blow you dealt me: make you watch everyone you know and love overlook you,” he says, reclining back in his seat. I try to stop it, but I already know what he's about to say and I feel stupid for not seeing it. “Magi tried the assassination angle, but killing the family only makes you vengeful, which makes you even sharper. Most others attempted to attack you directly—also a waste.
“The key to beating you, then, lies somewhere in between the two extremes: attacking you through them just enough to let you destroy yourselves. Obviously, your family is strong … physically, but it's also morally overflowing. If I send out random warriors for the `Sermonian Cause' to perform acts of mayhem towards the family, it would create a climate of paranoia for a small contingent of people trying to assimilate into a hostile environment.
“If I waited until the family was fully assimilated FIRST and looked upon as protectors … well that would cause even more tension. The best way to start the ball rolling, however, would be waiting for them to gain full assimilation into the culture, leadership status, and material wealth—and then using it all against them. Can't stay wealthy without the status, can't have the people if you don't lead, and can't lead if there's no one willing to follow and if no one follows, you're just an outcast on an alien planet. Simply put: the stress of losing everything can blind even the smartest people. The more you have to lose, the darker the blinders. And as deep as Nabooru and the rest are—heh, they can't even see the enemy with his name on the door and half a dozen television networks to his name.”
I couldn't find another presence in their heads, because Arthur got in their heads the hard way—through their environment. It's so … basic that it's genius. Higher you are off the ground, the further the fall. They're so afraid to fall until they can't even let me or anyone else into their little group. True, they are afraid of me, but I can't believe that it would remain like that if they had a moment to think clearly without the yoke of the Sermonians on their neck.
As I stare into his eyes, I understand that this really is all about the two of us. He knows I'm over a hole on this one. I don't fuck with people's minds, so he knows that I'm fighting an uphill battle against everything that he's done. He also thinks that he doesn't have anything to lose, so it's his victory regardless of whether I choose to kill him or not. This is what Fate was aiming for, isn't it? His mind was so complex that he needed a fresh pawn, someone simple, someone who figured himself to be worthless and a tool—someone like me. It's a great plan, but, as I've found out, everyone has something to lose. They just don't know it.
“And what makes you think this plan will work?” I ask, trying to remain as ignorant as possible.
He smirks, saying: “You're here. You want to rip my head off, but deep down, you know it won't matter. I've succeeded in doing the one thing that I wished for in breaking your hold on everyone that knows your name. Your family has been conditioned through years of fighting with the natives, my former brethren's minions, and now my own all to be on permanent guard. My people can't kill them or even hurt the ones you really care about—though, we have been looking thanks to a couple of captures—and your people can't see you because they're too busy fighting a faceless enemy.”
He's sickeningly accurate, but I've got my plans, too. Victorious, more than likely, is going to seek the challenge that I represent. Despite his best intentions, he's ruled by the idea of breaking apart challenges. It's his weakness and more than likely he's had the same plan this idiot had years ago, but now it's in the wind because it's already happened. No, I've got the anger thing in check; I'm seeing the pieces of the puzzle too clearly not to.
We've gained so much knowledge from Fate, but a lot of it is rigged to lead nowhere but a pointless loop. Physically, he's gone, but his information—his thoughts—fight on. Still, I've got the timeframe that I needed—about 2,000 years to convert a mortal, soul and body, into a god. If we keep it simple, Junior and Zelda should take half that time. Oh, don't worry—I'm going to have my way. Undoing what he's done will take a while without erasing their minds, but it will be undone. And when that happens and they realize the mistake they made in casting me out, we're all going to the top.
“Where are these benefactors of godhood? What are their names?” I ask innocently.
Arthur laughs openly at my question, not quite drunk with power, but comfortable and confident with it.
“Well, being that you're a god, I figured you'd know them,” he says, bravado practically rolling out of his mouth like foam. “The mother and father of all origin: Fate and Destiny.”
The laugh slips out of me as Arthur remains steadfastly dancing in my palm.
“Tell me something,” I manage to say without laughing, “is there a television here?”
He materializes a remote and the screen lowers over the large window overlooking the bay and New Hyrule. What is it? There's this show called Haunted that shows footage of ghosts. Every show opens with a grainy video shot by some person claiming an encounter. Some are real. Some aren't. For the last two weeks, though, every show opens with a panel discussion about two figures called “The Warriors.”
“Any channel in particular?” he asks, as I put it on the desired channel with a thought. “Why am I not surprised that you of all people watch this?”
“It's what they play at the diner,” I reply, to which he shrugs and reclines back in his swiveling chair, completely off guard. He's completely fearless of me. It's almost irritating.
“Today, we're once again joined by experts in the field of paranormal activity, Drs. Samantha Keen, Marcus Samuelson, and Eugene Catsmore, to discuss the growing number of sightings of two apparitions known only as the Warriors. For those who haven't seen the footage, here it is.”
I say absolutely nothing as the people filming footage of the local wildlife follow a bird's takeoff. At first, it's just a clear green sky, but glimpses of something flickers in and out in the sky. As the shot is steadied even further, I hear Arthur hum, obviously intrigued. Even though the battle between me and Fate seemed auspiciously quick, it wasn't. He fought back—feebly as it was—for a great deal longer than the family realized. We moved faster than the laws of what could and couldn't be done were built to handle. We fought everywhere and nowhere at once. The result is that the battle is played out in a delayed fashion on billions of worlds as certain waves of light bounce off the energy we left behind and form a sort of ghostly replay.
“Watch me bait him with the left here,” I tell Arthur, watching his mouth fall open. “Bam! He never even saw the right.”
“So, that explains why they've not returned, assuming you've killed Destiny as well,” Arthur says rather calmly as I nod, watching Fate take a boot in the face before the clip is stopped. “Is this supposed to frighten me?”
“Of course not, because you've got nothing to lose.” I play it genuinely that way, watching his smug look return. “I must admit, your plan is practically flawless in design and execution.”
“I do so try to please,” he tells me, leaning forward over his desk and bridging his hands below his nose. “I'm a hunter, Link. It just took me longer to find your weakness.”
“Why not bring your true love back or your son?” I ask, still keeping the inflections out of my voice, and keeping him off guard.
“I'm not that powerful,” he admits, shrugging despite the obvious heat from his glare. “I've accomplished my goals and made peace with the past.”
“You're not powerful enough?” Arthur nods, but smiles to show that he's fine with that admission. “I am.”
Against his will, his cool falters, as I knew it would. I've got him. I lean forward towards his desk and he doesn't move, even as I slam both hands hard on the desk. Just a smile. Not a trace of fear on him about losing his life. I lift my hands slowly off the desk and two six-inch-tall beings appear.
“A-Arthur?” the blonde woman in her little white dress asks of the giant. “How'd ya get so big?”
The smile falls off his lips, as her voice is instantly recognizable to him.
“Dad? What's going on?” the other little person asks. Arthur stands up, but breaks apart piece by piece in front of me now, as my presence no longer even charts for him.
“You could have it all back, you know?” I tell him, as his eyes lose the godly glow and tears well up inside them. “The way it was meant to be—you, her, and your children—all living together.”
He attempts to speak, but the tears fall. “F-fuck you!” Arthur manages to shout, slowly reaching towards the two little people, afraid that he'll somehow break them.
I push my lips out and hum, sort of like, “Hmm, I see.” Well, can't say that I didn't try to do this the right way. I let his fingers get a little closer for maximum penetration in his mind. I slam my hands down on his desk again, this time crushing his son and his first love under my palms. Their blood oozes from beneath my hands and Arthur's legs give way. Just like that, Mr. I-Have-Nothing-to-Lose is a broken husk.
“The plan was good, Arthur,” I say as I wipe the blood from my hands with my handkerchief and round the desk to his side. I lean against the polished oak and tell him in the nicest possible way, as I sit the bloody cloth on his head like a little hat, “The difference between a hunter and a predator is the hunter has to find a weakness. The predator already knows.”
Arthur sits there on his knees, numb on the floor with tears rolling down his face looking up at me. His mind races to find new solutions, but he's afraid now. He's thinking, “I hit him this hard when I never used my abilities to kill one of his, so what'll he do to me if I kill one of them?” It's a shame that his strength comes from titles and assumptions based on ranks. He's a god and a king—what should be my equal or better in status—but he's still not good enough to beat me. Poor bastard doesn't realize how close he came to winning. If the Goddesses' hooks were still in me, the rejection at home probably would've broken me at the firing squad outside the museum.
“Now, with that settled, tomorrow you're going to do the next attack you have lined up,” I begin, as the pain on his face twists with confusion. “This time, instead of warping your people out, you're going to leave them to be slaughtered until thirty-three of them are dead. These will be thirty-three of your best, by the way. Over the next—oh, let's say ten—ten years, the attacks (and your forces) are going to start tapering off by roughly six percent each year. In the tenth year, after one final feint, you're going to have the remaining forty percent of your forces make a mad dash on the island at various critical junctures. These forces will be slaughtered to the last.”
“W-w-w-what?” he asks, as the emotional turmoil racks him even further.
“I'm outlining the end of this game. Keep up,” I continue by enlightening him to what should be the obvious. “Your land holdings, businesses, and whatever else can remain in your control. But, in ten years, this ends. Steven Romenian—cute, hiding Sermonian in the name like that, by the way—will be just another businessman.” I test him now to see if the fear of potentially watching his family die repeatedly has taken hold. “Where are Varia and Takara?”
“A-a-a-a science lab over in Romenian Park,” he stutters, his mind a soup of confusion and fear.
“The tests you've been running on them are going to yield results in the coming years, by the way.” For a split second, hope shows up in his eyes. “It will allow you to circumvent the immortality of all of them, and even deal damage to my children. The weapons make Nabooru and Sepaaru the exception, though. The thing about that discovery,” I tap his nose and deliver the final blow, “is the day that you try to use it—and I can't emphasize the word try enough—will be the day you die. And when you die, you will relive this day for all time.”
Seems like I'm done here, because Arthur's a wreck, but he's done well to fight this hard. In the coming years, I'll study him to see what the effects of mortal-to-god transmutation are. Yes, obviously he's held together for years, but I want to know the long-term effects. We can't have this process breaking down on me. I said I wouldn't give them up, but I'm not killing them in an attempt to keep them, either.
As I open the door, I find Ajax on the other side, hand in mid-knock. Watch this.
The former knight looks in the room behind the interviewee, and everything that he at first feared was true.
“Link!” Ajax shouted, excited at first, but all too quickly it set in. “I-I-I-I know this … it looks bad, right?”
Link smiled and nodded, face so innocent and childlike that it scared Ajax further.
“See what had hap … happened …” the former knight said as his voice went all over the sound spectrum, “Zelda—QUEEN! QUEEN ZELDA!—she said that we were … f-free, right?”
Link smiled and nodded, face so innocent and childlike that the extra large turkey sandwich that Ajax had an hour ago was digesting rapidly.
“S-s-s-OH, I figured—l-let me … try a-a-and be more than a soldier, right?” he smiled and Link did likewise, though, he'd never stopped. “I-I-I got … job—I got the job—not like job is a disease and I got it, you know?”
Link smiled and nodded, face so innocent and childlike that the extra large turkey sandwich that Ajax had an hour ago was now fully digested and down to nothing but waste material.
“H-ha-ha! R-r-right! S-so, I got … job—THE JOB! THE JOB!—h-here.” Ajax laughed and Link did likewise. Sweat ran down the former knight's face in a sheet.
Link smiled and nodded, face so innocent and childlike that the waste from the extra large turkey sandwich that Ajax had an hour ago, the tuna sub from last night, and the roast lamb from the Thursday before were now squirting in a watery torrent from his ass.
“I—” Ajax stopped lying and abruptly ran. It was useless to run, but he got caught trying to play both sides. Still, the bigger picture loomed: Link was supposed to die at the hands of angry gods. He'd gotten arrogant thinking Link could die. And now here he was—shit steaming in his pants, socks, and shoes—about to pay the ultimate price. “What the fuck was I thinking?” he could be heard shouting, sliding in the murky brown squish covering his designer shoes.
Link appeared at the end of the first hallway, but Ajax ducked into the stairwell. He was in excellent condition, leaping whole flights at a time without pause.
“Ajax,” Link called out to him, voice coming from everywhere due to the acoustics.
Ajax looked back only to trip and roll from floor eighty-seven to eighty-six. He popped up and Link was there, blocking his path down to eighty-five. Link smiled as the man screamed and ran into the door and down the hall towards the other stairwell on the eighty-sixth floor. The security details on that floor didn't hear or see anything in the cameras. It was like Ajax was being chased down by a wild animal across a barren plain, but his only support was a blind, deaf hunk of wood.
“I never tried to hurt them!” he shouted, running and falling in his own fecal matter, completely terrified.
Link stepped out of the other stairwell and Ajax backpedaled, turning to find Link blocking the escape back that way too. He was trapped. On his right, the men's bathroom—locked—and on his left, the women's bathroom—also locked. Behind him, a large window! A large window! Luck was with him today! Without even a second's hesitation, Ajax ran at full speed towards the window. If Link took his immortality for this failure, surely a face-first dive into the street would spare him. Rationally, this was exchanging one death for another in most people's eyes. To a man conditioned to fear nothing but Link, he couldn't hit the ground hard enough or with enough desire. With one powerful leap, Ajax hit Link square in the chest and landed on the floor.
“You've been working out,” Link mused, squatting down and looking at his former pupil, who was rapidly approaching sanity's edge. “Sssh! Sssh! It's okay. You fucked up. We all do.”
“I-I-I—” he stuttered, choking on mucus as the tears ran. “J-Ju-Just talked! No-Noth—Nothing im-important!”
“Good, good,” Link assured him, patting his head like a puppy. “And for being such a good boy, I'm going to give you a choice.”
“R-really?” Ajax asked, almost like a kid who'd seen a magic trick.
“Yep,” Link assured him once more. “You can be the new face behind the Sons of the Sermon when they make their final attack, at which point you'll die on the field of battle or …” he purposely drifted.
“Or—or w-what?” sniffled Ajax, already feeling more optimistic by the second.
“You can disappoint me and decline. And you wouldn't want to disappoint me anymore, would you?” Link smiled so innocent and childlike that Ajax had to wonder what he did to deserve this much good fortune. Dying on the battlefield! Awesome! Sure it was death, but it wasn't that Link death, where who knew what happened. This was just throwing a fight in his eyes.
“No! T-The first one! Please let me do the first one!”
“In ten years, you will hijack one of your boss's news networks and announce yourself as the leader of the operation and declare war on New Hyrule,” Link replied, watching Ajax nod to every word. “You'll sabotage the people on your side when and where you can to give Nabooru's side the edge, of course.”
“Of course!” he repeated like a broken toy.
“Once your side is defeated, you'll make that last stand alone, where you'll be cut down,” Link said quietly, still treating the man like an animal. “If you do that, I won't have to express how disappointed you've made me here today.”
Far happier than any sane person could reason, Ajax got off the floor and walked away, as happy as a Goron in a rock quarry, brown shit drying on his pants and shoes. Ten whole years! Ajax kept thinking, as though it were a cash prize. Unbeknownst to the turncoat, Link had brought them back to the top floor in front of Arthur's office. Inside, the broken god had heard everything and watched his informant in utter confusion. Was Link that scary that fighting a war with the goal of dying a better alternative?
Link walked to the elevator content with his work for the day. Nabooru and the others would get rid of their main enemy, which would allow them to see things clearly again and make inroads towards them losing that helpless feeling, which should allow them to start trusting people again. He would also get to study Arthur, who obviously couldn't lead the war to end wars for that reason, to see what—if anything—was wrong with Fate's conversion process not to mention testing that destruction of emotion thing. Step two was next.
As Arthur looked through his open doors at the man by the elevator, he summoned all of his hatred to cast the most hardened glance possible. This monster walked in like he owned the place, telling people what would and wouldn't happen. Just who the fuck did he think he was?
“Monster,” Arthur whispered under his breath, as though it wouldn't be heard.
Link looked back and winked as the elevator dinged, knowing without fail that the next ten years would play out exactly as he'd said—and there wasn't a damn thing anyone could or would even attempt to do to stop it.