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Homesick

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Life at Zora's domain was peaceful for the most part.

The structure stands above Ruto Lake, just as it had stood for thousands of years, making it isolated enough to prevent most monsters and bandits from accessing it. It had its good and bad sides, obviously: While keeping the peace was the reason their ancestors had built the domain in the depths of Lanayru, some Zoras found it a great shame that their communication with the rest of the world was so poor. No wonder the others races often considered them strange, or too intimidating to approach.

And being a member of the royal family doesn't help. A prince can't easily leave his domain, and it's rather saddening for Sidon.

There is one time when a member of the royal family is encouraged to leave the domain, though. As the Zora tradition goes, every prince or princess  must go on a journey across Hyrule to strengthen their bond with their dear allies, and to expand their knowledge by discovering the many wonders the kingdom has to offer.

As a one hundred and fifteen year old Zora prince, it's something that Sidon had been impatiently waiting for. He had been told traveling a few years after reaching adulthood was for the best, as it allowed him to reach a certain level of maturity that would improve the experience. He feels himself ready by now, and the king's permission for him to leave had been an immense joy to receive. There is still much about Hyrule he has never seen yet, and it leaves his head filled with curiosity for what awaits him outside.

It’s what distracts him now that he stands in his father’s throne room, accompanied with his sister, the future queen Mipha. They listen to Dorephan’s rambles about the tradition, though it’s nothing they don’t already know; Still, he supposes it’s better to humor him if they’re going to be away for so long.

"Do not forget that the culture in the other regions you will see differs greatly from the one you are accustomed to,” the king says, his voice a reassuring echo while Sidon’s mind is already wandering through Hyrule. “It will be important for you to expand your mind, to let yourself be guided by those who know what you do not," he adds, as if he were reciting ancient texts that were passed on over the years. Sidon pretends to listen at this point; He's too thrilled to be able to stop smiling. He had been thinking about his departure for months .

"And remember, the traditions says that you must travel by foot, as swimming through the rivers would prevent you from communicating with our friends of the land, understood?"

They both nod to his words, though Mipha already knows all this. Being much older than Sidon, she had already traveled her way to a few regions the previous year. Her trip had been cut short, unfortunately, due to a few important matters that needed to be taken care of at the domain. Nothing that really matters now, though, and Sidon knows she is just as exalted as he is about seeing what she has yet to discover.

"Have you given a notice to the knights that will accompany you? You have three each, as I have suggested, yes?" Dorephan asks.

Truth be told, that amount feels a little excessive, to him at least. Sidon is a warrior just as much as he is a prince, and he knows he can take care of himself like his older sister. The princess is even a bit taller than him now - who would even want to try and mess with her?

But his father is right, he always is. Almost. While the monsters and thieves have made themselves rare, it's only wiser to be as careful as possible. Besides, it would bring a welcome company.

“Four, actually,” Mipha suddenly pipes up, then gestures to her brother with a graceful hand. “Well, Sidon has four. I will be fine with three guards.”

Sidon pulls his head back in confusion - what? Four ? He had already complained much more than he should’ve about being overprotected, and he certainly hadn’t been the one to request an extra knight. He lets it slide for now - Mipha must have something in mind, and he knows he’ll have to ask her what this is all about.

After a few more minutes of listening to the king, they leave the throne room, setting themselves the task of finding the knights that would join them on their journey. The domain is lively when they step outside and into the thin layer of water that covers the marble floor, and Mipha finally turns to Sidon, the corners of her mouth quirking up.

"Do you know the original meaning of this tradition?" She asks, clasping her hands together and somehow expecting an answer. Sidon shakes his head, his eyes already searching for the knights.

"Princes and Princesses would usually travel in order to find someone to marry," she replies, her smile growing mischievous. "The meaning got lost in time, but is it not something you would like?"

Sidon just shrugs, a careless expression across his features. "I fear I am way too young to consider this," he replies as he turns to her.

"Well, you are an adult," she adds, "It could happen at any time."

She's right, but the concept had never truly been one of his priorities. He had always believed that his fate would draw itself without him needing to look for it sooner or later, and truth be told, he’s fairly certain that it won’t happen in the near future.

"What about you, then?" He asks in return. If his sister is trying to urge him to find a lover, why isn't she doing so herself?

"I do not need anyone for now,” she replies, examining her own claws with a certain smugness. It's an answer that Sidon expects, and one that has him grinning as a puff of laughter escapes him. Right, they were both more interested by traveling than going on some kind of quest for love. There's no need to worry about this for now, he supposes.

“Oh, and what was that about?” Sidon suddenly asks, straightening himself and frowning at his sister. “I do not believe I asked for a fourth guard, nor was I informed that I would be accompanied by one. Is this your doing?”

Mipha looks away for a moment, her shoulders drooping in resignation. “Perhaps I should apologize,” she begins with a quiet sigh, putting her hands together. “I felt it… necessary. After what happened in the past, I am fearful of what could happen to you during this trip.”

“Mipha…” Sidon wants to be upset. He’s had enough of being babied, of being followed every time he has to even take a single step out of the domain. But can he really blame her for being worried? Can he really feel any type of anger towards her, while she only has good intentions? The past four years, the ones that passed right after his accident on Lanayru promenade had certainly been rough, but… He wonders if he will ever be trusted with his own life once again now.

“Alright,” he mutters, begrudgingly accepting the fact that he would be watched over perhaps more than what is necessary. “Well, who is it? The fourth guard?”

The three others who are to come along with the prince had been designated long ago - those who everyone called ‘the triplets’ out of convenience. The wise captain Bazz, the hotheaded Tottika and the determined Torfeau. The three are skilled warriors and bodyguards, and Sidon's sure they haven't really traveled across Hyrule either - this would be a good opportunity for them too, but he can hardly guess who else is to come with them.

“I’ve picked Link, the Hylian guard,” Mipha replies, pointing to a figure that stands near the city’s gate. “He’s accompanied me last year, on the first half of my trip. He’s very reliable, and knows enough about Hyrule to act as some kind of guide as well,” she adds, her arms falling back to her side.

Sidon’s eyes dart to find Link in the distance. It's always sounded quite unusual to him that someone of another race would be a royal guard in Zora's domain, but he must admit that he had been curious about him ever since he came here a few years ago.

Link is... well, he's mysterious. Despite his Zora disguise, it's easy to tell he's a Hylian - He's short. Really short. Maybe not too short by Hylian standards, but very short by Zora standards.

He has to wonder how and where he acquired his work attire: Link wears what could be described as stealth clothes, all in a pretty pastel blue adorned with glistening fish scales of a darker blue color, sprinkled across the outfit in irregular patterns. On top of that, he wears the usual armor plates that Zora guard usually protected themselves with, and he even has a few pieces of jewelry to go along with the rest.

The most unusual thing about his attire is the hood, though. Shaped like a fish tail to resemble a Zora’s head, it wraps around the back of his head, hiding his hair completely. A mask is attached to it, one he covers his mouth and nose with at all times.

Sidon had heard the man in question was mute. It had never seemed much of a problem, thanks to the sign language that he used and that most Zoras understood. The prince hadn't really talked to him before though, aside from greetings and other formalities, and to be fair, it looked like Link wasn't really trying to approach him either. It's a shame, now that he thinks about it; Sidon was as close as a prince could be to his guards, but he knew almost nothing about the Hylian.

Maybe bringing him along would be a good start.

"Yes, Your Highness?" He hears on the side, and he realizes that he's been staring. Mipha stands next to him in front of the triplet guards: Bazz, Tottika and Torfeau. Three Zoras of around the same height, of a black color, all wearing the same pattern of grey dots on their tails and arms.

It's still extremely hard to tell them apart. Torfeau is a woman, so at least her features are different, but Bazz and Tottika look almost identical. Even after having known them for such a long time, Sidon still finds himself hesitating when he has to name one of them. And they're not making this any easier, with their identical pieces of armor and jewelry... Something tells Sidon they might be doing it on purpose.

He usually lets them speak first. At least their voices sound different.

"Are you ready to leave the domain tomorrow?" Mipha asks, staring down at the triplets.

"Of course!" They reply in unison, something they can barely refrain from doing at this point. Bazz grimaces at the act before putting back on his formal attitude. "It was seemingly decided that Link was to give us a few precisions about our destinations before we left. Should we meet up with him later today?”

Sidon has to refrain himself from tilting his head in incertitude; He hadn’t been told about that either. Well, he supposes it wouldn’t hurt.

“Yes, that’s right,” Sidon nods to them, keeping a completely unbothered attitude. “I still have a few matters to attend to, but I will see you in the meeting room this afternoon so we can study the map with more care.”

“Understood, Your Highness,” they say together again, and Sidon is sure that he’s caught a glimpse of Torfeau elbowing Tottika in the ribs.

With a salute to the triplets and his sister, Sidon walks away, his feet carrying him across the domain until he reaches the gate. He finds Link standing in front of one of the luminous stone pillars, watching in front of himself as he briefly fidgets with one of the forefins of his hood. Sidon watches him for a moment, studying the attire the best he can; Does it allow the Hylian to swim like Zoras? Or is it designed for him to blend in their society?

"Good morning, Link," Sidon muses as he walks behind him. Link's body slightly jumps in surprise, and he instantly straightens himself upon realizing who the voice belongs to. He turns to face him completely, bowing respectfully in greeting.

"Oh- Forgive me for frightening you," the prince instantly brings a hand up in apology, offering him a reassuring smile. “Link, you were assigned to be one of my… bodyguards for the Hyrule tour, am I correct?”

Link nods to him, his face remaining completely unreadable. Well, the mask certainly doesn’t help; He supposes Link doesn’t like to show himself that much to others.

“Perfect,” Sidon replies, putting his hands together behind his back. “My sister - Lady Mipha mentioned to me that your knowledge of Hyrule is very reliable.”

Sidon expects another nod, but Link seems too modest to simply leave it at that.

I know of some places you could visit, Your Highness, he signs, and Sidon finds himself at a brief loss at the sudden change of language. He can get used to it, he thinks to himself. I could be helpful if you would like to know about other cultures beforehand, if that is what you wish.

"Yes - I have read a few books about them, but I do believe it would still be helpful to have someone to guide us," he replies sheepishly, rubbing a hand against his neck, the silver of his bracelet and necklace clicking together. "In that case, I would be happy to have you at my side during my journey. I have told the triplets to join me in the meeting room soon to plan a few things ahead. Will you join us?"

Link nods, his grip on his spear loosening as the tension seems to leave him. It's certainly unusual to witness a Hylian wielding a silverscale spear, a traditional Zora weapon, but Sidon will have to admit that it suits him. It’s much taller than him, but he seems to carry it with ease, and Sidon at least knows that Link is skilled with it in combat.

"Perfect!" Sidon exclaims, waving as he turns back. "I will see you in a few hours, then. I will send another guard to replace you while you go and make your preparations,” he adds, to which Link replies with a polite bow of his head.

Sidon is still unsure of how he should read him. While the triplets were quite approachable and expressive, Link seems a little tougher. He takes his leave for now, deciding that he’ll just have to try and understand a bit better in the few days to come.

The prince isn’t quite done with his own preparations. He soon finds himself in his chamber, in front of a highly protected bag to pack his belongings in.  Zoras don't wear clothes, so at least that's one thing he doesn't have to worry about. If he needs them for any reason, it would be wiser to buy ones he finds on the way - if he finds anything his size, that is. Being a Zora prince was not always easy.

He owns different sets of jewelry, though, some of them fancier than the others. He takes a few just in case, placing them carefully in boxes that would hide them well. He watches the books on his shelf: Perhaps he should bring some, if he ever gets bored at night. His body would often reject sleep, for some reason. The amount he usually got seemed to be enough for him, but finding himself awake when no one else is can be quite dull.

He decides he will hold onto his lightscale broadsword. He's sure Mipha will bring her trident with her - one never knows what threat can await them. Even if he had guards, he still has to be able to defend himself. And he knows how to; He’s had enough training for it. In the end, it’s almost like he’s one of his own bodyguards as well.

He gather necessary bathing products, as well as a few elixirs he can find around his room. He does find a few scarves in his closet - they'll be useful if the air starts to grow cold. He's heard of the mountains of Hebra: They're the coldest in Hyrule, and he's not a fan of that particular weather, honestly. But he had to see everything he could, right?

He had been to mount Lanayru before. It's not too far from the domain, so at least it allowed him to see something other than his home. Naydra, the legendary dragon had made her home into the mountain, and he had been... 'lucky' enough to see her on his journey to the mount. Not that the circumstances had been the most enjoyable.

He had been to the neighbor regions of Akkala, Necluda and central Hyrule before - they're nice to visit, from what he remembers. Necluda had a few small welcoming villages, and Akkala was gorgeous, though the weather there was never too kind. Too stormy for Sidon's liking, but perhaps he’s just picky. And the fields of Hyrule were... empty, for the most part.

Well, those three regions would be out of the way now, he supposes. There were many more things he needed to see, and the enthusiasm of sharing it with company warms his heart.

If... the company is so kind as to treat him as a friend, rather than their prince, that is.

It's an expectation that he had been told multiple times was ridiculous, unrealistic. While the triplets (and any of the other guards, really) had been there for him in tough times or had joked around with him, there's always a thin layer of formality between them that Sidon can't manage to tear, no matter how hard he tries. Is it so silly to want the people he sees every day to feel more like... friends, instead of guards?

And what should he expects from a Hylian guard he knows nothing of?

For now, he pushes the thoughts back in a corner of his mind. Perhaps it really was silly. For now, he'll focus on trying to communicate with him effectively enough. That would be a start, since he had never really had a conversation with him.

But Sidon must admit - he is very curious, and he wonders what hides beneath the hood and mask.

*

The sun shines bright in the early hours of the afternoon, and Sidon finds himself sitting in the meeting room with his four bodyguards: Link, Bazz, Tottika and Torfeau. It's amusing how much Link stands out, but after all, the other three were practically clones.

A map rests onto the table before them. Link is the center of attention at this point - he's the one who marks the recommended destinations, not a single word in his hands before his task is done. He first points to a region south to Lanayru named Faron.

Faron is our first destination, and it should be an easy start, Link signs, it gets rather warm, but the lakes and the sea should be pleasant for all of us. There is an inn near Lake Floria where we can stay, and we can visit the fishermen village, Lurelin.

The four Zoras watch attentively as Link gives his brief explanations. There seems to be much more he wants to say, though perhaps he wants to keep certain things for the others to discover. He then points to a region to the southwest of the map that has the others gulping.

The Gerudo region will be more difficult to handle, he begins, the air is constantly dry over there, and it never rains. We should be fine with heat-resistant elixirs, though, he adds, his finger then pointing to a small structure in the middle of the desert. As you all know, most of us won’t be able to enter Gerudo Town. They only let women in.

“Perhaps I could go there while I’m off-duty,” Torfeau whispers, though she’s made it so anyone could hear it. She looks at Link with eyes full of wonder. “This has been one of my dreams for quite a while."

Tottika can’t help but snort at her words, but Link doesn’t seem to pay it any mind.

...We can stop at Kara Kara Bazaar, though, he adds, switching back to the main subject.

The place seems to be an oasis, from what Sidon can see on the map. At least he'll be able to swim in there. He's allowed to float around at least, right?

Link soon slides his finger up the map, pointing now to Tabantha and Hebra altogether.

These two will be interesting. It can get rather cold, but there are always warm clothes that we can buy. Plus, the Rito village is very welcoming, I’m sure you will love it. We shouldn't be wandering too far into the mountains, though; Some monsters still hide in there, and the cold can be harmful.

Sidon nods to his words, as focused on Link's face as he is on the map. The Hylian guard doesn't need to know this, though. He seems to love what he is talking about, and watching the glimmer in his eyes as he signs is comforting. Sidon knows he's in good company.

Eldin will be a problem, Link signs again after pointing around the volcano to the northeast. We most likely won't be able to go to Goron city. It’s surrounded with lakes of lava, and it might be brutal to put it like this, but we would die. We can go to the hot springs around Death Mountain though, and watch it from afar.

There was no real use in going back to the regions Sidon had already visited, and with that, Link has gone around the whole map of Hyrule. It seems easy when he puts it this way, but... Sidon's sure the journey will be very, very long. It's nothing that will discourage him, though.

We have to travel by foot, Link continues, But renting a few horses will be necessary, to at least carry our luggage for us. And they will be very welcome if one of us gets injured.

"One question, Link," Sidon begins, looking directly at him. "How will we recognize thieves?"

His words are followed by a silence that seems to drag on. The clan of thieves that people called the Yiga was known to be merciless, and while their numbers seem to be growing mysteriously low as of late, they still have to be careful.

Most of them disguise themselves as travelers, Link signs in reply. But… If that can reassure you, I have learned to tell them apart from experience. If I see one of them, I will know.

Sidon thinks for a second. He carries a lot of precious ornaments with him, and he knows it's likely that the thieves will be after those. He certainly hopes to avoid meeting any of them, though.

There will be times when we will have to set up camp, Link starts once again. I suggest that us guards take turns standing watch when that happens, what do you think?

The triplets all nod at the same time, something that feels rather off-putting. Once all is said and done, Link holds up the wide map, rolling it to finally hand it to the prince.

You can keep it with you, Your Highness, Link signs after Sidon takes the map in his hands. If you wish to reflect on our destinations. Should anything bother you, feel free to reach out for me, and I will change our course if needed.

"Thank you very much, Link," he replies. "I will place my trust in you for now. You seem to know very much about what you are planning."

Link shrugs lightly in response, a slight twitch of his cheeks that indicates a smile beneath his mask. Finally, something that Sidon can see.

They all leave the meeting room eventually, and Sidon spots Mipha in the corner of his eye. She seems to be leaving the other room, accompanied with three guards as well: Rivan, Dunma and Gaddison.

"I take it you have finished planning your journey?" Mipha asks with a smile, the three guards giving a salute to Sidon.

"Link here suggested many places that we could visit," he replies, "What about you?"

"I am only finishing the trip I have already started. I will start directly with Eldin and then proceed to explore Tabantha and Hebra. Perhaps we will cross paths?"

"I should hope so," Sidon replies with a bright smile. He had heard of the other regions from Mipha when she came back from her first trip, and he remembers how envious he had been back then. To think that he will get to experience it soon... It's something that has his heart fluttering with enthusiasm.

As they all leave the palace, the guards go back to their duty for the rest of the day. Sidon finishes his preparations, checking his luggage many times for things he could have forgotten.

*

The domain has gone quiet at night, but Sidon once again finds himself wide awake. As he floats into his pool, he realizes the room isn't dark enough for him to sleep peacefully - there isn't much he can do about the luminous stones that shine bright on the cliffs outside his window and through his curtain, though.

If he's true to himself, he'll admit he’s nervous about leaving the domain. He had been outside before, but this time he'll be on the other side of Hyrule. While he couldn't be more excited, it's still something that has the worry pooling in the pit of his stomach. What if he's needed at the domain in an unexpected turn of events?

He knows his father would want him to bury these worries far away, though. After all, the king is in still good enough shape, and he's not the ruler for nothing.

His mind is also filled with pictures as his imagination takes over, visualizations of what the unknown to him would look like, smell like, taste like. He's sure the many different regions have a wide variety of meals he has never tried before, and that's another thing he can't wait to see for himself.

Usually, he wouldn't mind being awake at this time. But he has to walk for a while tomorrow, and he's more used to swimming, honestly - he needs to be well-rested, but the anticipation of the trip has his body pushing sleep away insistently.

He'll close his eyes for now. Perhaps rest will come in time, and hopefully it will be enough for him to feel full of energy in the morning.

Morning had come to wake him up with the first rays of its sunlight, and he lets out a yawn as his head leaves the surface of the water. He doesn't remember when he'd fallen asleep, but at least his body had been kind enough as to let him find enough rest for-

Oh, today is the day.

He had almost forgotten this, and the enthusiasm is back as soon as his eyes open. As they adjust to the light, he takes note of his luggage around the room - everything seems to be ready, and he hopes he isn't late, at least.

As he's about to leave the water, a knock can be heard on his door.

"Your Highness," Sidon hears through it. He easily recognizes Torfeau's voice. "Forgive my intrusion, but we are to leave in an hour."

"I will be there soon," he replies, swimming out of his cistern and walking on the marbled tiles of his room. He lets the water cling to his skin for now as he scrambles to his nightstand to gather his ornaments. "How long have you been waiting?"

"We already had to push back our departure of an hour because you would not wake up," she replies, and Sidon can hear the joking tone in her voice. He sighs in faked annoyance, carefully putting his bracelets around his wrists.

"Do not lie. I will join you all as soon as possible."

After he readies himself for the day, he finds the map of Hyrule sitting on his desk and unrolls it, noting the many marks Link had made onto it. Most of them are circles indicating the different places they will be sleeping at, and crosses that Sidon assumes are dangerous places they should not venture into.

There are... a lot of crosses, now that he gets to look at it up close. He knew Hyrule had a few monsters roaming around it, but he never expected that so many places would be considered dangerous. Or are they crossed out for another reason...?

A particular place in Faron piques Sidon's interest. A place named "Riola Spring" is circled several times with insistence, but nothing of importance seems to be situated in the area. It seems difficult to access by foot, but Sidon could definitely go there by ascending the waterfalls. Perhaps he should ask Link about it first - there must be an explanation to it.

He quickly takes his bags with him, taking one last look around his room. He most likely wouldn't be able to sleep in a pool of water for quite a while, and while it wasn't entirely necessary, he still found it more comfortable than a bed. Well, it will depend on where they stay, he supposes.

He finally closes the door behind himself, a strange feeling of guilt lingering into the back of his mind for a few moments before he heads to the throne room.

"I see you are both ready," He hears his father say as soon as he steps into the large room. Mipha is already there, looking to her brother with a gentle smile. "It will certainly feel different here without you two around. You will send me letters, yes?"

"Of course," Sidon replies to accompany Mipha as she nods. From what he can see where he stands, the guards all seem to be waiting at the entrance of the palace.

"Sidon, I have heard Link will be one of your bodyguards," Dorephan starts again, his voice strangely quiet as it catches the prince's attention. Sidon nods to the words, a hint of confusion across his features.

Dorephan hums, the pink skin beneath his brow wrinkling. “I believe you’ve made a good choice. He will be very helpful, though… He tends to be quite reckless during fights, against monsters or others. If that is to happen, I trust you to remind him of his duty."

While Sidon doesn’t know much about the Hylian, he’s seen him fight a few times - it’s true that he might be a bit more… brutal towards enemies, than the rest of the royal guard. He’ll have to keep an eye on him.

As they say their goodbyes to their father, Sidon and Mipha finally leave the throne room. The sun shines brightly outside, and it's almost like the world is greeting them, waiting for them to come to see its wonders. The light feels warm onto Sidon's face, and he takes one look around as the guards salute the two.

"Where do we start, Link?" Sidon asks, looking down to the shorter man with a soft smile.

First, we should go to a stable, Link signs, There is one just at the end of Zora river. Then it’s highly possible that we will need to set up camp near Nabi Lake further to the south.

Link looks to him, his eyes waiting for some sort of approval that Sidon is quick to give. He looks on his map, noting the location of Nabi Lake - It's a rather wide one, perhaps he would be able to swim inside.

In any case, his enthusiasm has his heart fluttering, his eyes opening wide to take in the sight of the horizon.

And with that, they set foot outside of the domain, looking back at the structure one last time before they begin their journey.  

 

Chapter Text

It’s a nice change in his daily routine.

Most of Link’s days lately had been spent watching the surroundings of Zora’s domain, as calm as they usually were. Lanayru was a peaceful region, save for the few monsters that lurked in the heights of the highlands, but taking care of those was never really a problem, at least to him. He supposes being a bodyguard is much different, however - nothing he hasn’t already done, though.

Link had barely left the domain ever since he had accompanied Mipha on her first journey the previous year. While he doesn’t get to see the world as much as he used to, he’s fairly certain that his knowledge hasn’t vanished. There’s a lot that he has to be careful about though, and he hopes he crossed out all the isolated places on the map that various monsters had conquered. All the high mountain peaks, the bogs, the forests that felt far too deep to be safe… While they would need the monster parts for elixirs, there’s no use in straying in such places. All that’s to see there are rotten corpses of various animals, weird slime scattered wherever the beasts lived.

He takes a deep breath, gulping in the fresh air of Lanayru while he’s still here. He’s learned to fight off the anxiety after these four years of living in the domain; He knows how to defend himself, and how to protect others. It’s an honor that the prince would bring him along.

The only thing though, is... It's the prince.

The Zora prince, Sidon. Truth be told, Link knows little about him aside from appearances. The prince had always seemed like some sort of show-off to him, something that still somewhat irritates the Hylian. But well, maybe he has his reasons for acting the way he does around his people.

...No, Sidon has every reason to be like this. Everyone in the domain loves him - he’s strong, attractive, and he has a voice like no other, silvery and always musing sophisticated words that had people swaying like pudding in front of him. The guy even has a fan club, for Hylia’s sake - it’s from them that Link had heard so much. The way they would constantly be rambling about him, fanning themselves every time he would pass by, had Link feeling almost uncomfortable, perhaps a little jealous.

He had noticed Sidon's qualities too, he supposes. How could one just… ignore all of this?

Still, it's something that Link often finds himself shaking his head at. But assuming certain things about people he barely knew was one of his bad habits, one that he needed to get rid off soon. Accompanying him on his journey would certainly allow him to learn a lot more about the prince, at least he hopes. He would need it, if he wants to be a suitable bodyguard.

He doesn’t need to know him that well to know what places in Hyrule Sidon would love. He had barely seen anything of the world, and Link knows how much the poor prince will enjoy the various ruins, the villages and the landscapes… Everything that comes with the great variety of environments and cultures.

They all find themselves walking along the Zora river, a peaceful path that was once a monster-ridden hellscape. It twists around the cliffs, bends in a way that has them panting from the efforts. They follow the luminous stone pillars that were constructed to guide land-dwellers to the safety of the domain, glowing in the darker hours of the day and giving a blue hue to the surroundings. Zora usually used the river instead, but they’ll need to travel on foot, and it’s better to start and get used to it right away, isn’t it?

Link likes walking, he had even missed it. Swimming had become part of his everyday life at this point, and while it wasn’t that much of a problem for him anymore, it’s nice to feel his feet on the ground as they wend their way out of Lanayru. Though it if comes to it, he’s thankful that he’s learned to swim almost like Zoras after living in their domain for four years. He could even ascend waterfalls with his special armor, after having been taught by his new friends.

Link and the triplets stay near the royal siblings, watching their backs as Mipha’s bodyguards walk before her. The three in the front row seem focused onto their steps, barely talking to each other as the rest of them follow. Link can’t quite hear what the prince and his sister are laughing about together, but there seems to be no end to their chatter - the two always seemed to be very close.

As he focuses onto the prince's back, his pointless thoughts are interrupted by an enthusiastic voice he recognizes. Torfeau, the youngest of the triplets, had become Link’s best friends over the few years he had lived in Zora’s domain. The woman was something else, for certain: More enthusiastic about anything than he will ever be, and compassionate enough to have Link get out of the little disaster bubble he had built around himself during his first year as a royal guard.

"I’ve never left the domain to go this far," Torfeau says to him, clutching the handle of her bag excitedly. "Link, have you heard that this trip is also meant for Zora princes and princesses to find their life partner?"

Link shakes his head, somewhat uninterested. The tradition reminds him of the Gerudo, in a way; Many people in isolated areas seemed to believe that traveling would instantly guide them to their ‘true love’, which is honestly much harder than it sounds.

“I wonder if Prince Sidon and Lady Mipha are going to try and find it,” she adds, looking longingly into the distance. “Well, I for one hope that I’ll find someone interesting.”

A smile plays at the corner of Link’s mouth, hidden behind his mask. He’s sure the woman can sense it, though. You should go take a look at the Lover's pond in Faron, then, he signs, It's where y ou're supposed to meet the one you are fated to spend the rest of your life with.

Torfeau’s eyes shine up with enthusiasm, and she gives a toothy smile. “I’ve heard of the legends,” she replies, “Are we going to make a stop there?”

The Hylian nods to her, thinking to himself as he remembers the map of the region. Yeah. It’s a few kilometers away from Lurelin Village, so there shouldn’t be a problem with that.

While Torfeau clasps her hands together in excitement, Link can hear her sibling mumbling behind them. He’s about to turn around until Tottika finally speaks up.

"You really believe in that kind of things?" He asks, and Link can already see the frown on Torfeau’s face.  "I mean, it's just a heart-shaped puddle, or so I’ve heard. Have you ever been there, Link?"

Link nods. I never found anyone, though, he replies.

"See?" Tottika says, looking back at Torfeau with a complacent grin. It’s enough for Torfeau to hit the back of her spear against the ground, in a weak attempt to show authority.

“Goddesses, will you ever shut up,” she hisses, looking in front of herself once again. “Unlike you, I have some hopes for the future. And you’re toeing the line between getting invited to my marriage or not.”

Tottika barks out a laugh, knowing well that his sister loves him too much to ever forget about him like that.

“And Link,” Torfeau continues, “Perhaps you need to go several times in order to find someone at the pond. Don’t lose hope.”

Link shrugs. Perhaps I'm not destined to marry .

He's still a bit young to make such an assumption, he supposes. And Torfeau's intentions are good when she reassures him that he'll find the love of his life eventually, but did he even need that? He humors her for now - Torfeau was one of the Zoras that had been the friendliest to him ever since he came to live in the domain, after all.

Most guards had accepted him by now. It had been a little harder for Bazz, though - the oldest of the triplets and guard captain had some kind of sixth sense that had apparently warned him about Link. Not that Bazz had told him directly about it; Tottika never knew how to stop running his mouth.  

Now everyone considers him part of the group, thankfully. And while they all knew well that he was a Hylian, wearing the Zora ‘disguise’ really helps him feel at home.

They soon find themselves stepping onto Luto's crossing, the bridge being high enough above the lake that it could give anyone vertigo. Link avoids looking down - he's the type to want to jump off to dive into the water as if it called for him.

They come to a halt when Sidon walks to the barrier, golden eyes gazing to the domain that makes itself more and more distant as the time passes. The palace is still visible from there, with a glimmer on its walls as the sun shines down upon it.

"It will certainly feel strange to be away from the domain for so long," he sighs through a soft smile, pupils narrowed as the light enters them.

"Do not tell me you’re already homesick," Mipha replies, rolling her eyes. "We haven't even left Lanayru yet."

Link suppresses a laugh. If the prince is so used to his home, he will need to forget about it for a while - the rest of the world is so different he might get some sort of culture shock. The same had happened to Mipha on her first trip, now that he remembers.

"I will be fine," Sidon replies as he straightens himself, keeping a proud composure. "You know I can adapt well."

Mipha giggles, throwing a glance at the Hylian guard. Oh, this is going to be fun.

Once they've crossed the bridge, the path narrows the further they go. They're soon forced to walk in a line, with Gaddison leading their group. The lavender Zora shows calm, though Link’s eyes are acute enough to catch the way she discreetly looks behind herself as she walks. He won’t pay too much attention to it, he supposes.

They tread between tall rock formations, around puddles of water that had gathered after the rain, soon reaching the riverside once again. Slippery rocks form natural bridges that they cross with extreme carefulness, and they quickly reach the last bridge of their path. A stable is visible in the distance, and Link points to it when Gaddison turns around.

As they reach the small structure, they are instantly met with entirely new faces. People of every races gather around there, mostly travelers, not only for the horses - the place doubles as an inn, and many merchants would stroll around the place to sell their wares.

Sidon's interest seems to be instantly piqued when he saunters over to the horses in their enclosure - Zora's domain was unreachable by horse, so he probably doesn’t get to see them so often. Despite their small size compared to him, he seems somewhat intimidated, still hesitating on even approaching nearer.

Link joins him, placing a hand above the muzzle of a particular horse that Sidon had been staring at. It’s a rather strange coincidence that his eyes would instantly land on the horse that Link had rented multiple times in the past, making him his ‘friend’ before he had anyone else. His name, Telum, was never given by the Hylian himself, but rather by the stable owner who caught him. It’s still a great name, Link thinks to himself.

Telum really stands out of the rest. His salt and pepper coat and mane are highly distinguished features, making him one of the most popular horses in the region. It’s a surprise that he’s available now. He snorts when he recognizes Link, keeping his deep black eyes onto the Hylian.

“How many of them should we rent?” Sidon suddenly pipes up, catching Link’s attention as he looks down to meet his gaze.

Link hums to himself, his hand leaving the horse. Considering you Zoras don't have many things to carry, I would say two should be enough, he signs, looking back at Telum and giving him a faint smile. They can carry about four bags each, so while one of them carries everyone's luggage, the second one could carry our supplies of food and elixirs.

"I see," Sidon muses, a hesitant hand reaching to imitate Link's gestures while he pets Telum’s forehead. "How does this one sound, then?”

Truth be told, Telum was more built for races and horseback combat rather than carrying some luggage. Link would normally suggest another horse, but… he’s missed his friend. Now would be a great opportunity to bond with him again, after having been separated from him for a full year.

Perhaps he should buy Telum, before someone else does.

Link nods to Sidon’s words, turning his head to look at the stable owner. He catches his attention with some hand signs, and the short Hylian man walks over to them for negotiation.  

Link lets Sidon pick the other horse. He's rather used to deal with formalities, filling several forms to finally rent the two horses they would need. The second one is a chestnut female named Terra. Rivan, one of Mipha's bodyguards, seems to be taking care of renting the horses that would accompany their own group. After all, the two groups' path would differ once they would leave this stable.

Once it’s all done, they take some time to sit around and rest their legs. Link sits with the triplets around one of the cooking pots, reuniting a few ingredients bought from the merchants to prepare a few elixirs. Most of them are for healing purposes, for now - They wouldn't need anything too specific in Faron.

Link watches the grimace drawing itself across Bazz's features when the black Zora throws a dried hearty lizard along with a bokoblin horn into the pot. The foulness that emanates from it is something that could make anyone flinch upon being presented the liquid of a dirty red color, and even Link’s nose scrunches up in disgust. No matter how many of those he had made, he doesn't think he can get used to the smell.

"Gross," Link can hear Tottika mumbling under his breath as he holds a keese eyeball between two fingers, staring at it for much too long before throwing it wit the rest of the ingredients.

"I just hope we won’t need to use the elixirs," Bazz adds, his hands rubbing themselves together to try and remove the stickiness, to no avail. "And I certainly hope the stench will not cling onto us after we’re done."

Just wash your hands after this and you'll be fine, Link signs, taking out a bokoblin heart out of the box as if it were nothing. Even with gloved hands, he can still feel its sickening texture. There are many monster horns he could use to avoid grossing out the rest of them, but if he's true to himself, he's doing it on purpose to mess with the triplets.

"Would you look at that," Torfeau says, her tone strangely quiet. Link's eyes focus to where she's looking, and he can see a group of Hylian girls hiding behind an apple tree, spying on Sidon and Mipha as the two sit together and converse.

...No, they're not Yiga spies. Link recognizes the attitude of easily impressed young girls who seem to have a thing for fish people.

"Everyone loves them already," Torfeau adds, a hint of envy to her voice.

"Please," Tottika replies, his eyes rolling. "Everyone in the domain has a crush on at least one of them. Zora women even made a fan club for Prince Sidon because they all love him so much."

"Prince Sidon is good-looking," Torfeau whispers with a shrug, "But I'm rather stunned by Lady Mipha's beauty. She is... more my type, should I say."

Link runs a finger against his temple. He throws more monster parts inside the pot, pretending to ignore the gossiping at his side.

"Link, do you like any of them?" Torfeau asks, catching his attention in the most unpleasant of ways.

He shakes his head. Why would he? He's a Hylian in the middle of a population of Zoras; He never really fit on any of the sides.

...Alright, maybe he used to have some kind of crush on Mipha a few years ago. But he was younger, and also lonelier - while Mipha was a great person, that little infatuation was nothing he had ever wished to pursue, and it had faded away quickly enough. Nobody needs to know this, though.

Around an hour more is spent at the stable, enough for them to fill a dozen of small bottles of the healing elixir. At least it doesn't smell as much after it cools down.

As they settle their luggage on the sides of the horses' saddles, they find Mipha walking over to them. She wears a hopeful expression, though Link can somehow detect the worry that lies deep down, buried underneath a layer of optimism that had been hard to build.

"I shall say my goodbyes for now," she says with a half-hearted smile. "I will head to Eldin with my guards. I hope you will all enjoy the journey, and…”

She suddenly pauses, biting at the inside of her mouth. It only lasts a few seconds before she looks up again, regaining her composure.

“Protect Sidon. I am counting on you,” she addresses the guards, though she knows that her brother is close enough to hear it.

“I will be fine, Mipha.” The way he says it has Link feeling like he must have been repeating himself all day. “But thank you. We hope you enjoy your journey as well.”

With a respectful bow from the guards, the two groups finally part as they follow a different path.

And instead of walking along the road, Link suggests that they cross the Lanayru wetlands. While it isn't the most pleasing path, it's a good shortcut to where they're heading; at least, the Zoras don't seem to mind it.

They wade through the wetlands as they guide the horses, the sounds of their steps in the still, shallow waters. The grass and trees grow under it, and they step through the dead leaves that have gathered to float around. Link didn't exactly remember the cold that the wetlands would bring to his feet, even through his shoes, and a little bit of regret settles in the back of his mind. Hopefully he won’t catch a cold.

He catches a few frogs on the way, a type that was often used for other kinds of elixirs. The looks he get from the triplets are jokingly disgusted, while the prince looks surprisingly amused. Well, Link has good reflexes - it's better to make good use of them, isn’t it?

Crossing the wetlands proves longer than Link expected, but the relief washes over him once they reach the dry road once again. It's only a bit late in the afternoon, and Link supposes they could walk more, but the Zoras’ legs aren’t quite built like the Hylian’s own. Besides, Nabi Lake is the best place they could set up camp at before they reach Faron.

The lake is only a half hour away from where they are, and Link is the one to lead them there.

The lake in question had always been one of Link's favorites - It lays serene under the Mable cliffs, and its water is a crystal clear that gives a purity to the air around it. It's full of various types of fish, which was another reason why Link had wanted to stop there - he knew the Zoras liked to fish, and that would give them a meal for the evening. Perhaps he could practice his fishing, too.

The sand beach that surrounds it feels soft to walk onto, and it should be easy to set the tents on it. The air isn't too cold this time, thankfully - they should have a rather peaceful night. If no thieves come to bother them, that is.

"We should be able to swim as long as we do not use the water to travel," Bazz says when he notices the hesitant looks on the Zoras' faces. "Besides, we might want to find food before the night settles."

Their weapons are soon settled into the sand as they almost run to the water. Even the prince goes, despite the guards insisting that he doesn't have to fish for them - but Sidon seems to enjoy the task, and he is quite talented, if Link must admit.

The Hylian guard keeps his weapon with himself. While Zoras usually caught fish with their teeth, he's not sure he's mastered the skill, and for now he'd rather use his silverscale spear as a harpoon, as unpractical as it sounds.

Basses and carps swim around by the dozens, and at this point it's almost become a competition to see who will catch the most. Link's reflexes are quick enough to pierce them on the first try, before bringing them back to the lakeside on his heap. Of course, he would only need to eat one, maybe two at most - but Zoras were bigger, and needed more than that for a meal.

He often catches sight of the others as they dive down, lunging through the water just as fast as the fish that they prey on. They usually ate them cooked, though, so they swim back to the lakeside to set up camp as soon as they’re done.

Sidon is the one who caught the most fish, obviously - why does he have to be good at everything? Link, on the other hand, hasn't caught as many as he would've liked. A bit of shame weighs onto him as he looks at the sad heap he's made onto the beach, but it washes away quickly enough when Torfeau reassures him as he cleans up his spear with the lake's crystalline water.

The sky soon turns a darker color without any stars to adorn it. The crescent moon is only slightly visible through the cloud; Tomorrow's weather would most likely not be as kind as it had been today. Link prays for a light rain; traveling in a thunderstorm could quickly become dangerous, and they have a long way to go until they reach Lake Floria.

Link makes sure to feed the horses himself, communicating with Telum with hand signs and various reassuring noises that he won’t let the Zoras hear. He’d often been told how bizarre bonding so much with animals was, but he knows the horse wouldn’t be so performant if they hadn’t built such a strong relationship.

The tents are soon set up for the night after the horses are fed, and the fire crackles at their feet as they sit around it in a circle. The fish are skewered onto wooden sticks, eaten with the appetite of hinoxes - they hadn't eaten much at midday, now that Link remembers. He eats with his face lowered when he removes his mask, hiding it on instinct like he always does.

It’s a bit difficult for Link, who usually prefers his fish at least a little seasoned. The Hyrule bass on his skewer is a bit tasteless, maybe a little too burnt in some place, but… He’s starving, and he’ll probably need another one.

It's not the best meal they could have, but that's always how it is to sleep outside. He wonders if Sidon’s ever had such an experience before, or if he's used to sleeping in luxurious bedrooms with glimmering pools like the prince he is.

But surprisingly enough, Sidon doesn't seem to mind. He even seems to enjoy their moment as they gnaw around the sticks, chattering over the incessant chanting of the night crickets. They talk about the upcoming trip, about the destinations they will visit, and one particular subject comes up.

"Link, one place on the map has my curiosity piqued," Sidon speaks, "You have circled Riola Spring quite a few times. May I ask, is there something over there that you want to show us?"

Link thinks for a moment. To be honest, it's one of the most interesting things they will see in Faron, but saying it now might ruin it.

That will be a surprise, Link signs, I will take all of you there when the time is right.

"Come on, Link," Tottika laughs at his side, tapping him on the shoulder. "Give us a hint? Are there some kind of ruins? A hidden cave?"

It's even better than anything you can imagine, he replies. But no hint - I want to see your faces when we get there.

"He's right, Tottika," Sidon muses, setting his skewer to the side as he’s seemingly done eating for the day. "The anticipation will only make us appreciate the moment more, and I trust Link's choices."

As the silence drags on, Link feels a bit of pride swelling in his chest. While he’s somewhat confident in what he’s doing, it’s always nice to have his work praised and recognized.

It’s a thought that he quickly pushes aside. The prince always praised everyone, didn’t he? But as long as Link is trusted, he supposes everything else is fine.

Link eats a lot more than he expected. All the fish is gone soon enough, and they spend a bit more time around the fire, playing cards and talking until the late hours of the night.

While Sidon has a tent for himself, the guards have to sleep in a tent big enough for three to four people. Link isn't exactly used to sleeping with several people around him, and he doesn't really know what to expect - did any of the triplets snore loudly? Did any of them kick the others in their sleep? It's something he'll discover soon enough, but for now, he asks to be the first one on guard duty.

He keeps the fire lit as he sits in the sand, watching their surroundings for the rest of them. Several people pass by - mostly merchants, travelers; nobody that seems too threatening. The prince and the triplets rest in their tents, and Link uses the moment to indulge in the appeasing silence.

He looks around once more. He supposes he could remove his hood, now that nobody is looking. He doesn't think about it for too long - he lowers his mask, pulling back his Zora tail-like hood. It's made in such a way that his pointed ears wouldn't feel to compressed inside it, but it's still a relief to feel the air on them, to feel them flutter as he shakes his head.

Even after four years, he’s not confident enough to show his face around anyone in the domain. There’s nothing wrong with it, at least he doesn’t think so - while some of them thought he was hiding some kind of scar, he was mostly doing this to hide the fact that he was a Hylian even more. The triplets had seen him without his mask before; Link doesn't exactly have a problem with them knowing, since he's so close to them.

A shift in the tent on his right has his body jumping, instantly pulling up his hood and mask again. He knows this tent is where Sidon sleeps - Seriously, Link almost just had a heart attack. Why is the prince leaving his tent in the middle of the night?

Link stares blankly while Sidon gets back on his feet, ambling towards the Hylian guard. His toothy smile melts into a tender one as he approaches, finally speaking up once he’s close enough.

"May I sit next to you?" He asks, the sound of his voice low enough to not wake up the other guards. Link nods in response, still taken aback by the request - he didn’t expect to have company now, especially not from him . He's sure a few messy strands of hair are sticking out of his hood now, and he nervously adjusts it as the prince sits on the sand.

"I usually do not fall asleep this early," he continues, "and I was getting quite bored alone in my tent. I hope you do not mind my company...?" His sentence drags on as he gives him an unsure smile, and Link shakes his head - he truly doesn't mind, but it's still somewhat surprising.

You should be careful, though, Your Highness, Link signs, We have a long way to go tomorrow. You will surely need to be well-rested.

Sidon shakes it off with a gesture of his hand, a quiet titter escaping him. "Oh- please, you can call me Sidon. Using such honorifics with me is unnecessary when the setting is so relaxed."

Link blinks a few times, tilting his head in confusion. I am your bodyguard, he replies, should I really?

"I know. But I feel that it is important for me to be closer to my guards, if we want to enjoy ourselves on this journey. I have known the triplets since we were children, but I do not know much about you, unfortunately."

Link raises his eyebrows. The triplets also use honorifics for you, don't they?

Sidon sighs at that as a weak laugh escapes him. "I have told them to stop, several times," he replies. "But they do not want to drop it. I think they are doing it on purpose to... fluster me, perhaps."

Link thinks for a moment. There was no way that he’d call the prince by his name, not now at least. He doesn't know him that well - besides, there's still a huge hierarchic difference between them.

Oh, and signing names is a drag. He'll have to stick with honorifics for now, and perhaps he'll exaggerate them.

Understood, Your Excellency, he signs, his grin unnoticeable by Sidon. The prince instantly flinches at the words, scratching the back of his tail as he laughs sheepishly.

"Please, not you too," he says, and Link is thankful that he doesn't seem to take it too badly, at least.

A few moments of silence pass after that, ones that they settle into without complaint. Link uses that time to examine him in the corner of his eye. The prince is tall , almost as tall as his older sister and taller than any other Zora besides his father, the king. His jewelry is all silver, adorned by aquamarine pieces that shimmer like icy water. A single feather sits on top of his headpiece, and it dances lightly with every movement of his head. At least it's silent, unlike the jingling of Mipha's ornaments every time she nods.

He can somewhat understand the affection many Zoras seem to hold towards him. But the prince's regal gaze is turning to him, making him believe for a moment that he got caught staring.

It's exactly what happened, if the grin on Sidon's face is anything to go by. He really thinks he can make anyone swoon, doesn't he.

"I wonder, Link," Sidon begins, leaning back as he lets his hand support him up.  "How did you become a royal guard in Zora’s domain? If I recall correctly, I do not think we've ever had Hylian guards before - Of course, it isn't a bad thing. I am simply curious."

The Hylian expected that question to be asked. He’s not the first one to wonder this, really, and he supposes he will give him the same answer he gives to everyone that asks.

I needed a job, Link signs, And there was an available position.

Sidon's eyes are wide open, a glint of confusion in the golden of his irises that wants to say - Is that it?

Of course it isn't.

But if that's the question that crosses Sidon’s mind, at least he keeps it to himself, and Link is grateful for that. Talking about himself wasn't his favorite thing, especially when it came to that particular point of his story.

"I see," he replies, "Well, I certainly hope you will enjoy yourself, even if you seem to have traveled a lot already." Sidon is getting up, adjusting his bracelets as he turns to his tent. "I will try to rest this time. Have a good night, my friend."

Link gives him a curt bow of his head, signing him goodnight. He didn't exactly travel - he had seen a lot of Hyrule without really asking for it, honestly. Still, sharing his knowledge with others somewhat reassures him that he's not completely useless.

He still has one more hour of guard duty in front of him. The exhaustion is already dragging his lids down, and he fights the urge to doze off as he lets his gaze focus on their horses and on the wind blowing through the distant trees.

He lets himself remember his conversation with the prince, if it had even been one. Link curses himself for not being responsive enough - perhaps he should have humored him, participated in a friendlier way.

He hopes he'll have another occasion to do so, at least, and that his usual cynical attitude will stop getting in the way of everything he tries to do.




Chapter Text

 

Sidon hadn't slept as much as he had wanted, once again. The night had pushed him away for the most part, laughing in his face as he had kept his eyes tightly shut to not be distracted by his surroundings. There was nothing of interest in his tent aside from the books he had brought, but he knew picking one up would only keep him wide awake until sunrise.

His attempts to befriend the Hylian hadn’t gone the way he had planned them too, either. Their conversation had been pretty short-lived, almost awkward, and Sidon often found himself at a loss of what to say when the silence would drag on. Perhaps he should have prepared that beforehand, or perhaps Link was too tired to sign more than what was necessary.

They don't have much to eat for breakfast aside from the apples that hang from the nearby trees, freshly picked by Tottika himself, the last one to be on guard duty. It's almost not enough for Sidon's appetite, but he could handle it; Besides, they would most likely be finding more fruits on their way.

Once the horses are ready and their luggage is settled, they make their way back to the road they were following the day before. This part of Hyrule is easy to cross by foot: the paths are mostly flat, allowing them to walk at their own pace without exerting themselves. They go slowly enough to have time to enjoy the scenery around them as they tread through forests, bridges and plains.

While the weather isn’t so agitated for now, Sidon can feel a heaviness in the air, accompanied by dark, grey clouds that hover menacingly above them. He expects a rainfall soon, which doesn’t bother Sidon at this point - it would compensate for the lack of water to swim in.

As the hours go on, Sidon’s thoughts wander back and forth, and he’s mostly silent through the trip. He’s used to be the chatty one, but focusing on his own steps proves to alleviate the fatigue that creeps along his ankles.

It's only when they reach the bridge of Hylia around noon that the first few raindrops start to fall onto their skin and onto the grass around them. Sidon takes in the jaw-dropping sight - he had only ever seen Lake Hylia in paintings, but the real one is even more impressive.

It extends beyond his visual field, laying peacefully in the middle of a quiet valley. Small ripples form in the water as the rain falls lightly onto it, and Sidon can make out an islet in the distance that he would love to swim to if he were allowed to. The bridge of Hylia stands on tall pillars above the lake, the other end completely out of Sidon's line of sight. The bricks it's made of are slick from the rain, and they take extreme precaution as to not slip onto them as they go forth.

A fountain sits in the middle point of the bridge, and little sparrows splash here and there in the water without fear of the group that approaches. Sidon can’t help but notice the way travelers stare at the Zoras with no attempts to be subtle about it, but he pays it no mind; It was unusual for Zoras to stray so far away from their domain, after all. Especially by foot.

They continue along the bridge until they finally reach the end of it. The meandering path continues from there, leading to another forest not too far. In the far distance, a few impressive cliffs stand tall, ones that Sidon can only distinguish.

He squints, and his attention is instantly caught by Link when he signs to them as they halt their steps.

Do you see this forest? He asks, pointing to the trees. Those are the Faron Woods.

"What - Already?" Torfeau asks, putting a hand horizontally against her forehead as she stands on her toes.

We'll still need to walk a while before we can reach Lake Floria, but we're in Faron, yes.

"Amazing," Sidon replies, ready to move again to finally see it for himself.

They’re in the woods before they know it, walking through a path surrounded by trees thicker than anything Sidon's ever seen. The tall grass and overgrown bushes are all of a vivid green, most likely thanks to the humidity of the area. The rain has made itself heavier now, and puddles of water are rapidly forming themselves around their feet as they go. Sidon often catches sight of deer grazing onto the grass, prancing away with ears raised when the group approaches.

The forest is all they see for a long moment until they reach a bridge, crossing a river that seems act as a landmark to separate two completely different types of environment. Their surroundings are soon replaced by a more tropical type of flora, with palm and banana trees standing tall above them.

Their steps have picked up a faster pace now that the rain falls like a curtain onto them. It's not as pleasant as it was before, and this time, it lasts for the rest of their walk through the woods.

It's as Link said, they had a long way to go until they reached Lake Floria. But they finally arrive a few hours later, and the sight of the stable brings an immense relief to Sidon’s exhausted body. He’d give just about everything to have a bed for himself right now.  

The sight of Lake Floria is breathtaking. While it isn't as large as Lake Hylia, the large number of waterfalls around it make it almost look like Zora heaven, as represented in the paintings back home. Such a place exists in reality, then?

He’s already mesmerized.

The water is so clear that Sidon can see the fish from up the cliff, but something... unusual emanates from the water, something that seems to fill him with energy despite the rain that pours onto him without end.

Let's go inside, Link signs hurriedly tapping on his Zora friend’s backs to get their attention, We'll have plenty of time to look around tomorrow.

Link is right - judging by the color of the sky, Sidon can tell it's already quite late in the afternoon. Hopefully the stable keepers will let them in, as soaked as they are.

And while the two horses are led to an enclosure, they manage to enter the inn’s main hall. They are handed several towels to dry themselves off before they can make another step inside. They’re assaulted by curious or stupefied stares as soon as they enter, as if they had never seen a Zora before, which doesn’t surprise Sidon as much anymore. Oh, and someone his size, so bright and red - of course he attracts the attention.

Thankfully, the place also has a restaurant. They soon find themselves sitting around a table large enough for the five of them, though Sidon's chair seems a bit too small for him. He knows how much it amuses the triplets - at least, if they have any smart comments in mind, they keep it to themselves as they eat.

And it’s so delightful to finally eat a proper meal, even if it’s different. Their plates are filled with raw porgy cut into cubes, nothing too unusual - but they’ve been marinated in lemon juice, coconut milk and are presented with various types of vegetables from the Faron region. The rare hearty radish is sliced, presented in the plate elaborately and sprinkled with tasty spices. It’s a complete discovery for him and the triplets.

Link seems to be more familiar with the dish, seeing how fast he engulfs it all, and how little he hesitates. And… While it’s not the most polite thing Sidon could do, he can’t help but try and steal glances at the Hylian who hides his mouth behind his hand as he lowers his mask to eat. The prince waits for a moment of inattention to finally see , but it all seems so calculated - there isn't a single moment when he can catch sight of the rest of Link's face.

A loud crack resonates through the room, one that has Sidon’s body jumping in surprise. A thunderstorm has started quickly after they’d settled down to eat, preventing anyone from remaining outside at the later hours. Lightning bolts crash into the distant lands above the waterfalls of Lake Floria, and the prince just hopes there’ll be an end to it.

"We should be thankful that we've arrived here before the storm started," Sidon begins, watching out the window as he brings another piece of fish to his mouth.

"Link, are we not going to be able to see Riola Spring?" Bazz asks with a hint of disappointment across his features already.

We are, he replies, Just not today. I promise I'll take you there tomorrow.

"I cannot wait to see this place in broad daylight," Sidon adds, "By the way, Torfeau, you've booked our rooms here already, haven't you?"

"I have," Torfeau replies, shoving more food into her mouth. "One room for you, Your Highness, and one room for the rest of us."

Link turns to face her, his brow furrowed in confusion as he puts his mask back on. What?

"We've already slept in a tent together, it’s not a big deal," she replies with a brief shrug, "Besides, they didn't have any more single rooms. I booked the last one available for Prince Sidon."

Guard captain Bazz brings a hand to his face, pressing against it in frustration until his features twist. He shakes his head, sighs deeply as he gives up on even trying to negotiate; If that’s the only solution, what else is there to do? Sidon is thankful he'll have some privacy, at least.

Though if he's being honest with himself, he knows he won't sleep much once again. Having some company would have been nice, but… The guards seem more concerned about his well-being and comfort. It's considerate of them, he supposes.

At least, it doesn’t seem like any of the guards will be watching his door like they do back home. Many Hylian knights are always gathered around the stable for this, for protecting the inn in its entirety. It’s better for his guards to find sleep for now.

The night has fallen, but there isn't much to see when the thunder is roaring outside with a downpour this heavy. Once the food is paid for, they leave the restaurant to rest into the main hall of the inn. It's a bit too early to sleep yet, so they once again settle in conversations to let the time pass. The guards' company is enjoyable - Sidon knows he's picked the best ones he could. And while Link doesn't talk as much as everyone else, the few witty remarks he makes are something Sidon finds himself laughing at more often than not.

Just like the triplets, the Hylian guard hadn't accepted his offer to call him by name. Perhaps it was too early to ask, he realizes. Still, Link seems to take a certain enjoyment in exaggerating the honorifics ever since - calling him things like "Your Majesty", "Your Excellency", and, well… It’s really too much for him.

It's only in the late hours of the night that they decide to head to their rooms, preparing for a hopefully restful night.

*

Bazz is the first to open the door to the guards’ shared room. Link can notice how his shoulders stiffen when he does as the black Zora’s stare inside with narrowed eyes.

"Seriously? Bunk beds?" He asks with an annoyed groan, looking over to Torfeau who wastes no time getting in the room.

"It's all they had, I promise," she replies, strolling her way to one side of the room to settle her belongings down. Tottika walks past his brother, completely unbothered as he throws his bag onto one of the top beds.

Link would have preferred to have his space and privacy, but he has a bed for himself, at the very least. Being crammed in a tent with the triplets had been… nerve-racking, to put it lightly. Tottika’s snoring is still something Link is apprehending for the next few nights, and the kicking of Bazz’s feet could prove to be more than a slight inconvenience.

"Who cares," Tottika says, his tone nonchalant now that he’s off-duty. "Anyway, I'm taking this one," he adds, pointing to the bed where his luggage was already settled. Link chooses the one under his, while Torfeau picks the other top bunk to leave Bazz to sleep on the other bottom one.

The beds seem comfortable enough, thankfully. It’s time for the Hylian to remove his mask and hood now, to feel more comfortable as he unties the ponytail in his hair. His hair flows against his back, through it must be messy as all hell due to the fact that it had been trapped under the hood for the entire day. His ears flutter as his fingers trace their outline.

"Link?" Torfeau’s voice interrupts him, and he opens his eyes. The black Zora is removing her armor plates to prepare herself for the night, and there’s a glint of concern flickering in her eyes. “I’ve noticed the way you hide while we eat,” she continues, rubbing at her sore wrists. “Has the prince… never seen your face before?”

I don’t think so, he says, his shoulders rolling in a shrug. Why?

“No, I just feel like it’s a little strange,” she says, to Link’s surprise, and the Hylian cocks an eyebrow. “But anyway, don’t you think it’ll be more comfortable for you both if he can see your face? I can tell he’s not used to being stared at so blankly.”

Link frowns, his expression falling into a pout. Is there something wrong with my eyes?

“Not exactly, it’s just…” she starts again, her hands gesturing to something unclear. “Well, when you wear that mask, it kind of looks like you have this… resting bitch face. I’m saying this as a friend.”

Link can’t help but snort at her words, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. So that’s what he must look like, to him - no wonder their conversations go so awkwardly.

"Watch your language, Torfeau," Link can hear Bazz mumbling while the Zora is already in his bed, the covers pulled over himself. His sister replies silently with a roll of her eyes, finally climbing the ladder to her own bed.

As soon as Link’s changed into a more comfortable attire for the night, he lets himself slip into his bed and under the covers. He's utterly exhausted from their walk, and right as he thinks he can finally fall into a peaceful slumber, Tottika's snoring rumbles through the room.

Sidon lies awake still, though this time his eyelids seem to fall down with more ease than the previous nights. He’s not so used to walking for this long, really, and today had been particularly difficult on his feet. Perhaps the exhaustion will help restore his sleeping schedule, at least a bit.

It’s still hard to find a comfortable position in these small beds. He hunches over himself in the dark, buried beneath the covers as he reminds himself that his sister must have just as much trouble as him finding rest in regular inns. Then again, nothing was as comfortable as his private pool back home, really.

But at least, the silence here is divine. He barely has time to think about tomorrow before his eyelids fall shut, the hours drifting him into a restful slumber.

But he’s startled awake soon after, when a bright light flashes outside his window. His body jolts in a tension he’s never experienced before, and he can barely move - it’s like it pins him down on the mattress. He takes a sharp inhale, clawing at his sheets and grinding his teeth together as the eerie glow flickers onto the ceiling above him. He’s utterly still the entire time, until the green-ish light fades into nothing. That’s when he manages to get up from his bed to finally take a look at what’s going on outside.  

And to his surprise, there’s nothing particular in view. Lake Floria and its waterfalls are still the same, and the rain has turned into a light drizzle by now. Still, there’s a feeling that sticks itself to his throat, merging with his flesh like a parasite, something that tells him that going outside now would be outright deadly .

He doesn’t know why, really. His gut instinct was something he’d always wanted to trust, however, and now there’s no way he’ll even try to open his window.

Still, he’s as curious as a young Zora prince can get. Perhaps he’ll have the courage to investigate him tomorrow, but for now, it’s a miracle that he can stand while half of his brain is still very much asleep. He shuffles back to his bed, pulling the covers over himself once again as he buries his face into the pillows.

He wakes up early the next morning, the covers a complete mess from how much he had shifted in his sleep. The sun has risen already, and the warm rays fall onto his face as he slowly opens his eyes.

Once he is awake enough to leave the bed, he readies himself for the day, picking only a few of his usual ornaments to wear. He forgets about the sash, cravat and headpiece for now - a necklace, some bracelets and his belt will do.

He finds his four bodyguards in the main room, ready for the day and sitting around a table. Some of them feast on what seems to be a plate of infinity symbol-shaped donuts. They salute him as soon as they see him, gesturing to the remaining chair for him to sit with them.

“Good morning, Your Highness,” Bazz muses, presenting him the plate full of pastries. “Have you slept well?”

"Better than usual," Sidon replies with a thoughtful hum, genuinely forgetting to mention the bright light as he takes one of the donuts to examine it. It’s covered in sugar, and it leaves a stickiness to the tip of his fingers that he should wash off later.

“Let’s say next time I’ll try my best to book separate rooms,” Torfeau says, sipping her tea as she shoots a poisonous glare at Tottika. The Zora in question shrugs it off, refusing to talk while his mouth is still full of food.

"I see," Sidon laughs through a voice not yet fully awakened. "Anyway, what are the plans for today, Link?"

Link puts his mask above his mouth once again, behind the hand that was hiding it while he was eating.

I was thinking we could go to the Zonai ruins, he signs, They aren't too far from here, and we could also walk to the spring of courage. What do you think?

The Prince agrees to his words with a smile, and at this point he believes it would be for the best to leave all the planning to Link.

Finally taking a bite on the pastry, an intense sweetness overwhelms his tongue. It catches him off-guard - The traditional food of Zora's domain was rarely ever this sugary or mellow, but it tastes good nonetheless. It becomes quickly addictive, oddly enough, and he finds himself eating more than he’d planned. He orders Electric Safflina tea to go with it, a kind he’s never had before, and while he tastes rather good, he’s not sure the shock resistant effects will really work on him.

The number of travelers seems to have raised overnight, and tourists from all over Hyrule have gathered. There are so many that some of them have set up their tents right outside the stable, as the inn had no more room left for them. They leave the place in groups, sometimes accompanied by a guide, sometimes not, as they head for the path that the Zoras had taken before arriving.

Sidon and his bodyguards soon follow, letting Link guide them to the famous site that all travelers have come here to visit.

They tread along sinuous paths, soon surrounded by the remains of a town that belonged to an ancient civilization that had disappeared mysteriously thousands of years ago. Not much is known about the Zonai, and even Link can’t exactly explain what went on in the area. Many theories suggest that they were attacked and decimated by Lizalfos, seeing as the monsters’ skeletons are still scattered across the ruins, but no remains of Zonai civilian had ever been found. All that stays aside from that are the dilapidated statues of giant serpents covered in moss and lichen. They step along a narrow river that hosts a wide variety of fish, watching the dead leaves that stop their course through the water the closer they get to another lake.

Before they know it, they’ve reached a new area surrounded by broken walls and towers, and the distant sight has the Zoras’ mouths falling.

While all the other serpent statues had a closed mouth, the statue in the center of the lake is a lot larger, its open mouth leading to some kind of cave. A lot of travelers stay in front of it, artists painting the scenery or simply gazing at the structures. Some of them even dare to venture inside the serpent’s mouth, between its intimidating canines.

We can go inside, Link signs, his cheeks twitching into a smile. You might see something you recognize.

Sidon has to look warily inside before he makes his steps, but there’s nothing threatening in there - just a statue. But not some statue, he realizes when he recognizes the divine form of Goddess Hylia, towering over even the tallest of them. Her hands of stone are brought together in prayer, her eyes closed with a smile that radiates warmth.

He had seen a similar statue before, when he had accompanied Mipha at the top of Mount Lanayru, to the spring of wisdom. He doesn’t need to pray to feel her blessing as the sun shines down upon her through a crevice in the serpent’s head. Travelers all around lower themselves to bow, sumberging their hands into the water of the spring to offer a few glimmering items that peacefully float towards the statue.

The prince can hear someone stepping on the wet stone to his side, someone that gets closer with each second. A complete stranger stops in her tracks, standing right beside him despite the immense space that offers itself to her.

The Hylian woman is tall, almost as much as a Zora (a ‘regular’ one, that is). Brown, wavy hair cascades down her back, and her fringe is almost long enough to cover her eyes. Her features are sharp, her lips painted a light brown, and she closes her eyes.

"It is a peaceful place, is it not?" She asks in a strangely sophisticated tone, and it takes a few seconds for the Zora prince to realize she’s speaking to him.

“It is,” he replies with somewhat of a smile. “Are you a traveler as well?”

He can already hear Torfeau giggling behind him, something he chooses to ignore for now.

“Oh, me?” She asks with a quiet titter, though there’s something in her eyes that Sidon can’t quite name. “I have wandered through Hyrule for far too long,” she replies with a pensive sigh. The way her lashes flutter instantly tell Sidon that she’s not just here to talk, that’s for certain. There’s no other gaze in the world that says ‘I want you to come with me’ more than the one she wears in front of him.

Sidon gulps silently.

“You are the Zora prince, are you not?” She suddenly asks, turning to face him completely, and Sidon can’t help but flinch just a little.

“Your ornaments are very beautiful…” The sound of her voice lowers in volume, and without so much of a permission, she gently takes his wrist into her hand. Her fingers trace the silver bracelet that hugs around it, and Sidon’s fingers go rigid.

Before he can express any form of protest, a silverscale spear is brandished next to him, the sharp end pointed right towards the mysterious woman’s throat. She barely pays it any mind, only stopping the movement of her fingers and keeping a hand around Sidon’s wrist.

The prince turns, his eyes instantly meeting Link’s own, though the Hylian guard watches the woman with a stare that burns in anger. Sidon’s sure he’s never seen him looking so threatening before.

Link can’t sign as effectively while one of his hands is holding the shiny spear, but he still manages to throw her a message with his free hand. Get out of here.

As soon as his hand is back onto his spear, the three other guards brandish their weapons as well, adopting a battle stance as they rely entirely on Link’s instincts.

But the woman remains still, completely unbothered by the threat right under her jaw. Her expression falls into a blank one as she finally lets go of the prince’s wrist, and Sidon finds himself closing the distance between his hand and the broadsword attached to his hip.

“Oh, it’s you,” the woman says, her voice now sounding like a macabre song. Her ice cold gaze is now directed towards the Hylian as she stares through the strands of hair in front of her eyes. “I almost didn’t recognize you, with the Zora getup and all. Very clever,” she adds, her words causing Link to move his spear forward to force her to take a step back. By now many travelers have begun to stare, clearly terrified of what may happen.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye for now,” she speaks once again, her lips crooking in a fake smile now that she looks up at Sidon again. “Perhaps another time, yes?”

And before any of them can say anything, she takes a small item out of her pocket - she throws it on the ground, and it explodes in a large puff of red smoke that conceals her completely. And while it clears up quickly, it had still given her enough time to escape, leaving a vengeful aura around the spot where she stood. Sidon’s mouth parts to say something, but his voice is sealed in his throat, and cold sweat invades him.

'Keep your head up, Sidon,’ he hears inside his head, the words attached to something grim that he doesn’t want to remember.

A silence drags on in the cave, all nearby travelers immobile under the scrutiny of the Goddess statue.

“Oh no,” Torfeau suddenly says, approaching behind him and placing a reassuring hand against his arm. “My lord, are you alright-”

“Stay away!” He shouts, swatting the black Zora’s hand away and holding onto his arm as if to soothe a burn.

‘Keep your head up, Sidon.’

The instant guilt that darkens Torfeau’s features has him straightening himself back up, bowing in front of his own bodyguard in apology. “Forgive me, Torfeau,” he says sternly, though he can’t seem to prevent his voice from trembling. “I reacted inappropriately towards you. You have my most sincere apologies.”

“No, Your Highness, it’s fine,” she replies, her tone quiet. She holds her spear once again, deciding to give him some space.

It hurts in the back of his neck.    

“Link,” he manages to speak after a while, focusing on the Hylian guard who instantly stands upright. “She was a Yiga, wasn’t she?”

Link’s expression falls into a saddened frown, and he nods.

“You knew her?” The prince asks, and he keeps his head up.

I’ve fought many of these thieves before, Your Highness, Link signs, They remember me.

Aside from Link, none of them would have even guessed that the woman disguised as a traveler would have been one of them before. Thank Hylia Link is here. Thank Hylia his sister thought of assigning him to the prince. Thank Hylia.

Just the mention of the Yiga has Sidon growing almost petrified, but he won’t let them do as they please again.

For their own good, they decide to step out of the ruins, to go and find peace near safer places. Perhaps getting paranoid now wouldn’t do them any good, but Sidon’s hand finds itself settled on the side of his silver belt, his pinky finger against his sword more often than not.

It's only when the sun brushes against the horizon that they walk back to the inn, and Sidon instantly notices the gathering of travelers right at the cliff before Lake Floria. They sit on the ground as they feast on various types of snacks, and it’s not something he remembers seeing the previous day.

"What are they waiting for?" Torfeau asks discreetly to Link, who just gestures towards himself.

You'll understand if you follow me, Link signs, determined steps taking him closer to the edge of the cliff. A strong push of his feet brings him up as he curls over, taking an impressive dive down the lake and leaving Sidon’s mouth hanging.

The fact that a Hylian can dive like this is still something that the Zora prince has a difficult time wrapping his mind around. It’s graceful, flawless - just like how any trained Zora knight would dive. It takes a few seconds for Sidon and his other bodyguards to register it as they gaze down the water, watching as Link floats up and waves for them to join him.

And so they do under the travelers’ curious stare, diving like Link did to join him in the lake. The water feels different, now that Sidon notices - it carries some kind of static, something that pricks at his skin while Link guides them to the nearest waterfall. They go forth against the strong currents, the static growing heavier the further they go, and it's only when they've climbed a second waterfall that they find themselves in a spring, soon enough swimming back to land.

"Is this Riola Spring?" Sidon asks, watching the place with interest. When Link nods, he gives him an incredulous stare; There isn't much to see around, aside from the same vegetation they've been surrounded by since they arrived in Faron, and a few stone structures in the spring similar to the ones that stand in Lake Floria.

Link guides them further away, leading them to a few fern bushes that the Hylian guard gestures for them to hide behind. The Zoras follow despite their confusion, soon giving up on asking him questions - It doesn’t seem like the Hylian will reveal what he wants to show anytime soon.

They wait here for quite some time, and even Sidon starts to feel a hint of frustration settling in the back of his mind when Link stays perfectly still. It’s only when the first stars begin to shine into the darkness above that he finally decides to move, gesturing for the Zoras to go back further behind the bushes and to focus on the spring in front of their eyes.

The travelers are gathered down there to watch something that happens once every three months, Link signs, But we'll be closer to it here.

There’s a sound coming from below the surface, something akin to a low breathing. Sidon focuses on the ripples forming themselves in the middle of the spring, noting how they seem to grow in intensity when the air around them starts to act strangely. Updrafts are coming from the ground itself, blowing intense through the prince’s gills and fins. And as he’s about to question the Hylian, something emerges from the lake.

The gigantic creature flies up, its serpentine body undulating through the air. Fluorescent green scales cover its entire form, and an enormous lightning bolt-shaped horn stands at the top of its head. It has a mane, too - it’s of a pure white that seems to burn with a green flame under. Its three pair of limbs make a swimming motion as it soars through the air

Sidon immediately recognizes her. Similar in appearance to the dragon of Lanayru, the ethereal being that moves before them must be none other than Farosh, the protector of Faron. He had seen her in paintings, but nothing could ever compare to the real one.

The prince watches, his mouth hanging as he takes in the almost blinding sight. No words leave any of the Zoras’ mouths; They’re absolutely stupefied, stuck in place by the sheer amazement. The only movement Sidon can detect in his vicinity is from Link, who shifts his arm, pulling his mask down and his hood back.

He instantly steals Sidon’s attention, despite the presence of the Goddesses-like creature that flies just above them. Link is looking up at Farosh, his azure eyes reflecting the dragon’s natural light, and his smile is just as bright as the balls of lighting that she emits. The updrafts blow through the Hylian guard’s dark blonde hair, tied into a low and short ponytail, and his long, pointed ears flutter with a chill.

And Sidon is just staring at Link at this point, his eyes examining all of what he sees for the first time. It’s not quite what he expected - no scars, no particular features that seem worth hiding at all times under a mask.

All that he sees is that his bodyguard is absolutely gorgeous .

Sidon thanks the Goddesses with all his might that Link doesn’t notice him, or how absolutely smitten he finds himself. The prince’s eyes lock onto him even as the Hylian leaves the bushes in a rush, striding closer to the spring and extending his arms to his sides. He breathes in, takes in all the of the reinvigorating energy that Farosh can give.

It looks like a painting, and Sidon is at a complete loss of words.

"Hey, Link-" the Zora can hear Torfeau's voice behind the whistling in his head. "Come back here! It's dangerous!"

Approaching the electric dragon as a Zora would be downright suicidal - and so they stay behind the bushes, waiting and watching as Link stands there until Farosh curls, descending the waterfall they had just ascended a few moments ago.

It's only when she's out of sight that Link turns back to them, his hair a mess from the strong winds as another bright smile draws itself on features, one that has Sidon's heart skipping a beat.  

 

Chapter Text

 

*

It’s not so often that Sidon gets to leave the domain.

The few time he’s ever had to was mostly for political purposes, or military purposes. Being requested to take down aquatic monsters was far from uncommon for the Zora army, and it’s why he finds himself out of his home today, marching along the Lanayru road accompanied by his sister and a large unit of Zora soldiers.

They had been called by the residents of Kakariko village this time; The Lanayru promenade had recently been plagued by an emergence of silver lizalfos, and the more the days passed, the more of these pests would crawl their way to the village. The Sheikah had become too scared to even leave the safety of their own home.

But the Zoras have what it takes when it comes to eradicating that type of monsters. The fiends were a species that could stay in the water as they fought, which proved to give them a great advantage against land-dwellers, as they weren’t fit for combat in these circumstances.

And their plea for help had been heard. While the lizalfos are mere monsters, they’re intelligent and cunning creatures, with a thirst for blood that only their kind could have. Most of them would stay in the highlands or at sea though, so it’s a really strange occurrence that they’d come so close to villages.

Just as Sidon expected, the Lanayru road is almost devoid of life. Travelers have stopped using the path, and even the pink herons have made themselves rare; Not only the monsters inconvenienced the people, but they could also be a great danger to the region's ecosystem if they were to stay any longer.

The Zora warriors walk forward, with Bazz leading their pack. Sidon follows closely behind, giving additional orders and encouragement speeches as they approach the promenade. Mipha walks along with the archers and healers, her lightscale trident in hand.

Sidon halts them when they reach the paved walk. The river at their side seems calm at first glance. He notes the absence of monsters in his line of sight, but his sense of smell is sharp, and the mutant lizalfos reek of something unknown, something ill. A non-Zora would never be able to sense this, and eventually be ambushed by a multitude of these beasts.

They’re around for sure, and Sidon can tell there must be at least… fifteen of them. By now their warriors have adopted a ready stance as they hold onto their spears or swords.

There’s one warrior that doesn’t rely on his sense of smell. The mysterious Hylian guard that had joined their ranks very recently stands out, a Zora sword in his hand as his eyes scan the area. The prince looks to him briefly - his name… is Link, if he remembers correctly. A few questions raise themselves in his head before he can hear a deep, guttural croak.

Sidon’s gaze directs itself towards the river, and the scarlet eyes of a monster pierce into him. It’s not long until several forms show themselves in the water, their colors brightening as soon as they’ve abandoned their camouflage. The prince had counted right; Fifteen of them, to be exact. While the monsters are largely outnumbered, they’re a species that doesn’t seem to know fear or reason. They plunge back into the water, swimming towards the warriors as they ready themselves to throw their acidic spit at them.

With Sidon’s signal, Bazz leads their unit towards the water. They dive gracefully, swimming with all their might to the beasts with silver weapons in hand. Sidon is quick to join them, readying his lightscale broadsword and isolating two lizalfos to slay on his own.

Metal crashes against metal, silver pierces through scales in a cacophony only the water can hear. The sharp ends of every spear and sword stains itself with blood, dirty, dark blood that belongs to the monsters. The Zora archers face the lizalfo ones, thankful that they only use fire arrows - at least, those aren’t the most effective against Zoras. A rush of adrenaline courses through Sidon’s veins, still, each movement is calculated and flawless. It’s a fierce battle, and he’s not sure how long it lasts. Everything seems to move slowly in his eyes as he does his best to finish the enemies in a single shot, swimming away to another once he’s done.

The water is soon tinted a crimson red, like an ink that spreads with every strike. The smell of blood and death is present at each second, as if their bodies were rotting as soon as they lost their life. Sidon’s learned to ignore it with time, though he knows it’ll feel even worse when there’s nothing else to focus on.

A pained cry can be heard from above the surface, something that has his eyes widening in fear. Plunging his sword right into a lizalfos’ heart, he uses it as support to push himself up to the surface.

Once his vision adjusts, Gaddison is a few meters away from him, struggling to keep herself afloat. The prince can immediately tell she’s injured - her right ulnar fin has been speared. It bleeds profusely, throwing off her balance completely.

She’s an easy prey.

“Get her back!” Mipha orders from the promenade, gesturing for the healers to come to her aid. Sidon and Torfeau take care of the the armed lizalfos while the two healers swim back quickly enough to tend to Gaddison’s injured arm.

Thankfully enough, the only two remaining lizalfos are already weakened and easy to get rid of. Their bodies float up, leaving behind a trail of blood and slime that the Zora warriors quickly swim away from.

Gaddison seems to be the only one with a wound that needs direct attention. A light green Zora concentrates a warm magic onto her injured fin, healing slowly, but surely. The woman can’t help but grimace in pain when her skin patches itself up.

“Do not worry, guardsman,” the healer says, with a reassuring smile despite it all. Sidon knows how important it is for them to show optimism and reassurance while healing - it usually accelerates the healing process, or so Mipha would always say. “You will surely be able to swim again once I am done healing you. But you will need to protect your arm for a few days.”

“Yeah, yeah, thank you,” Gaddison mumbles, though her face scrunches up in pain and her voice is strained with frustration.

Sidon’s thankful that there are no major injuries to tend to. He can tell that Mipha is, too.

He looks down at his own form. A thin layer of water mixed with lizalfos blood clings to him, and the rest of the warriors are in the same state. Thankfully, the purifier lake is only a few minutes away; They’d have to wash everything off before even considering going back to Kakariko village for their report.

But at least, the area is now safe. Sure, everything looks gross, and they need to take care of the dead monsters' bodies still-

"Highness!"

Rivan’s voice reaches him, perhaps a little too late. Sidon wants to turn around and face him, but something is landing right onto his shoulders - not something. Someone?

The prince only has a second to look up, meeting the eye of the Yiga.

It’s painted in a crimson ink onto a pure white mask, and it feels like it’s piercing right into him. His pupils narrow until they’re only thin lines, but his surprise prevents him to fight back as the thief’s hand reaches for the back of Sidon’s necklace, undoing it to pull it off.  

And just when Sidon thinks that’s all they’re looking for, something strong and sharp plunges into the back of his neck. He watches as it traverses him, the bloodied tip of a sword poking out from under his jaw.

There are only three things he can register in the following seconds.

One, the slick sound of the blade as it leaves his throat.

Two, his sister’s horrified gasp.

Three, the pair of hands that grabs at his neck to cover the wounds.

“I got him!”

A voice resonates at his side, though he’s not sure he knows who it is. Bazz, perhaps? The black Zora’s tense hands are pressed flat against his neck, and Sidon coughs.

He can tell something is really wrong when a worrying amount of blood leaves his mouth, staining the paved promenade more than it already is. The Yiga thief is already gone, jumping away from his shoulders and pushing the prince down with the force.  

“Lie him down! Quick!” Mipha shouts, kneeling at Sidon’s side as she gathers her healing magic at the tip of her fingers. "Someone stop the Yiga!"

Sidon’s vision is a complete blur at this point, but an arrow flies above him, hitting the thief right in the back of their head. They fall limp into the river, joining the dead lizalfos in the dirtied water.

“Bazz, keep your hands on his wounds, I implore you!” Mipha says to the guard, and Sidon can feel himself being held in place. “Help me, healers!”

What in Hylia's name is happening ?

Another warm magic spell is concentrated, onto him this time. His vision spins too much to be able to see anything else than Mipha as she looks at him, her hands focusing all the healing magic she has onto the prince’s throat.

She’s not smiling, he realizes.

He doesn't know how much time passes while Mipha uses her grace, and he remembers - doesn't the princess only use it on dying soldiers? It's an extremely exhausting power, something that she can only use rarely.

Is he dying? Is that what's happening?

"Hang in there, Sidon!" Mipha talks to him, keeping him awake as he grimaces at the taste of his own blood down his throat. "You're going to survive, I promise!"

With a fragile trust for his sister’s words, his eyes move to look at the waterfall, where something unknown moves above it.

It’s distant at first, only it seems like it approaches their unit with every second. Something else appears in front of it, blocking out his sight; Link, the Hylian guard.

Link waves at the silhouette with panicked hands, repeating the same gestures incessantly. Sidon’s not sure how he’s still able to follow the signs of his hands, but they’re sharp in the center of his wavering vision.

H E L P

It’s a word that Link spells out rapidly and clearly, somehow catching the distant form’s attention, whatever it is. It swims through the air with ease, growing in size as the Zora warriors watch it come closer.   

The ethereal being flies right above them, a dragon with a crown of blue horns. It undulates through the sky, and its spectacular icy gaze peers right into Sidon’s own, as disoriented as he is. His golden eyes go as wide as they can, and he’s sure the light that emanates from the creature’s scales could almost burn his retinas.  

"It's Naydra of the legend!" He can hear one of the Zoras shout a bit further from where he lies, and he can tell that Mipha's concentration lowers only slightly as she looks back, mouth agape at the sight.

"Your Highness, If I may suggest you to focus." The voice of a healer can be heard behind him, surprisingly keeping their calm. "We will lose him if you direct your eyes elsewhere for too long."

"Shut up! I know!" Mipha retorts, focusing herself once again on her younger brother.

Sidon can feel the air leaving his lungs, never to return again. His life is slipping away from him and he knows it - he can tell from Mipha’s teary eyes, from the way she shakes her head in desperation.

But this time, instead of a healing warmth, it’s ice that envelops him, or at least that’s what it feels like. His back arches as a freezing force shakes him awake, forcing the air into his lungs so he can breathe once more. The dragon hovers above him, and she feels so close, so monstrous - her eyes bore into him, and the frosts closes his wounds as it pricks at his skin like a million of needles.  

It’s what saves him, he supposes.

The air enters his lungs once more in a gasp as he awakens, and he finds himself in bed, in his room at the inn of Lake Floria. He lies there alone, the covers put aside and his chest heaving in quick breaths as he comes back to his senses.

He’s safe .

It’s a realization that dawns upon him with a little more difficulty than usual. His claws grip at the sheets for a moment, thinking the blood will gush out of his throat if he makes a single movement.

The air in his room swelters, but can he really open a window? Who knows what’s outside, possibly looking for him?

He’ll gulp it in for now, keeping his eyes on the ceiling. He's used to that nightmare coming back every once in a while. It doesn't mean it's become less jarring, though; Everything repeats itself in great detail, the exact same way it had happened four years ago.

The nausea takes hold of his throat, and a sudden shiver runs through his skin. He knows that he won't find sleep again, no matter how hard he tries.

*

The main hall of the inn feels even more packed than the previous nights, after all the travelers had gathered for the Farosh sighting. The energy from the Faron dragon still lingers through Sidon's body the day after, and he's sure he's never felt this alive in a long time, even after such a restless night. It's a good thing, since they are to leave Lake Floria today - Lurelin village isn't too far from there, a half day's walk at most, according to Link. The fishermen's village was said to be very welcoming to travelers, and well, the beach was always a perfect destination.

"We should go to the lover's pond!" He can hear Torfeau exclaim as she looks over the map once again. She points to a heart-shaped body of water, and seems rather enthusiastic about it - Well, Torfeau had always had some sort of obsession with love and marriage.

It won't be of any use if we all go at the same time, though, Link signs, putting a hand to his chin as he thinks. Those who want to go should take turns.

"Well, Link," Torfeau continues, "You should take our Prince there while we finish packing. We will go after you."

The reason why Link had been picked so quickly is something sort of mysterious, but Sidon looks over to the Hylian with a smile. If Link smiles in return, Sidon can't see it behind the mask; It's a surprise he would keep it even now, despite having shown his face to him the previous day. But Link seems hesitant when he nods, and he gets up from his seat to pick up his spear.

We should go now, in that case, he signs, and Sidon agrees to his words as he gets back on his feet. He's not sure what to expect if he is to be accompanied, but it won't hurt to try anyway. Besides, finding himself alone with Link might allow him to strengthen their bond...?

It's a bit hard to say, especially since the Hylian only seems all the more silent when Sidon is around. Did he make him uncomfortable? Did Link dislike him for a reason he's not aware of?

Link’s feelings remain unspoken for now, and the prince can’t exactly read minds. Perhaps time is all they need, after all.

He had managed to catch a glimpse of his face, at the very least. As pretty as Link is, he still feels the need to hide it for a reason Sidon’s still unaware of. Perhaps he will get the chance to see it again, and hopefully as soon as possible.

The two of them find themselves walking out of the woods to find a path that leads them through a plain. It's silent for the most part - while Sidon tries to spark conversations, Link seems kind enough to at least reply, but it never goes very far. Perhaps the Hylian didn't enjoy talking, which is something that Sidon can easily accept, but... He seems much more talkative with the triplets.

After walking along a beach, they climb through the path of Tuft mountain, something that proves rather tedious - for him, at least. His legs aren't built for that kind of strolls, and Link seems to reach the top with much more ease than him.

They stand before the lover’s pond before they know it, its heart shape seeming completely unnatural to him. It’s deep enough to dive inside, but Sidon wouldn’t risk it; If the legend is true, who knows what kind of magic sleeps inside the peaceful waters.

But while he likes to believe in legends, it's no surprise to him that there's nobody but the two of them around the pond. Link sits into the grass, looking into the distance as if he were waiting for something. Sidon soon follows him, sitting by his side as he looks into the water.

“It seems we are out of luck,” Sidon sighs through a soft smile, turning his head to look at the Hylian guard. It's a bit frustrating that the mask and hood are still on, as he stays unreadable like this, with only his hands to communicate.

I never really believed in legends, Link finally signs, But I do believe in fate. Some of us will find their destiny, eventually.

Sidon’s tail perks up in interest at the unusual statement, at a loss of words. While a few moments of silence pass through with the breeze, he finds himself asking something, perhaps a bit too personal.

“Have you found your destiny?”

Link’s eyes light up, though it seems more out of surprise. Awkwardness is what Sidon expected to find there, but oddly enough, the Hylian’s shoulders relax as he sighs deeply.

I don’t know, he replies, his arms coming to hug around his knees. I want to believe I did.

It's a quick and to-the-point answer, which Sidon somewhat expected. What he doesn't expect is when Link looks at him in the eyes, signing once again, What about you, Your Excellency?

Sidon chuckles at the name, deciding to let it slide for now. “I’m afraid it is already drawn for me,” he replies with a half-hearted smile. His eyes meander to the pond again. “I am the prince of Zora’s domain. I will rule at my sister’s side once it is her time to become queen, and… have children? With someone?” He titters at his own hesitation. Of course that’s what’ll happen.

Link simply hums in response, not bothering with a reply. Sidon’s not sure what he expected, really. Still, there’s a glint of sympathy in the azure of his eyes, and the prince will accept it.

There’s a cracking sound in the grass, something that has Link grabbing at his spear without hesitation. He turns himself around, and Sidon freezes in place. The air feels so cold suddenly, almost icy, and it takes great efforts from him to turn around and watch.

A little green sparrow flies away in fear, and Link’s body relaxes.

Sorry for scaring you, Link signs, bowing in apology to his prince. But the Hylian instantly notices the trembling in Sidon’s hands, and he kneels in front of him. Are you alright?

“Uh,” Sidon hesitates for a moment, his head turning left and right to watch his surroundings. There’s nothing threatening, still, there’s an anxiety that pools in the pit of his stomach as he swallows. It feels like a sharp blade is descending down his throat, again. “Yes, forgive me. I have been feeling a little… jumpy, since yesterday.”

His heart pulsates with a force he won’t speak of.

And his bodyguard hesitates for a moment, his expression falling into a frown. It’s because of that Yiga woman from yesterday, isn’t it? He asks, and Sidon nods.

“Forgive me,” he apologizes again, bringing his hands together as he fidgets with his bracelets. “I know it’s silly of me to react so strongly in their presence.” There’s a fake, weak laughter escaping his mouth at that moment, and Link is acute enough to pick up on it.

Nothing about this is silly, Link signs, letting his spear on the ground. Please do not worry about showing weakness. We all understand.

Link knows exactly the reason for Sidon’s anguish. He was there that day, when the prince had fallen to the ground, when he had almost lost his life to the Yiga. He had seen him convulsing on the Lanayru promenade while Mipha had tried to save him. The grim incident plays into Link’s eyes, and Sidon has to look away.

“Thank you… for understanding,” he says, his tone quieter than usual. “I have to keep my head up, don’t I?”

Link stands up, a small sigh leaving him as he gestures for Sidon to follow him. Right, it must be time to leave for Lurelin.

If you want my honest opinion, Your Highness, Link signs, then pulls his mask down to show a little more of his expression.

Sidon’s pupils grow just slightly. Still gorgeous, he thinks to himself.

You do not have to keep your head up. You have emotions just like everyone else, Link adds, beginning to walk down the mountain. Smothering them won’t do any good.

When Sidon gives no immediate response, Link’s steps slow down until they come to a halt.

I realize it was rude of me to try and give you advice on your personal life. Forgive me.

“Oh no, Link!” Sidon waves his hands in gentle dismissal. “I appreciate your concern, really. I was just… taken aback. It isn’t often that I am told to let myself be transported by my volatile emotions. So… I thank you, my friend.”

Link gives an small nod, the slightest smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

And for the first time in a while, Sidon feels like someone really understands him. He won’t ask what the guard has gone through to become so wise, and he so badly wishes he could truly follow his advice - but alas, he is a prince, and a prince must stand proud through everything. Even petrifying fear.

They continue their descent down Tuft mountain, meeting the triplets again when they reach the flat path. While Torfeau walks up on her own, the rest of the group walks and takes their horses towards the east.

The road to the fishermen's village isn't too long. They tread between cliffs, down towards the beach, and Sidon can already smell the marine air, feel the balmy weather. He had seen the beaches of the Lanayru bay before, but it all seems so different in Faron. He can see more coconut trees in the distance that grow around the small village, the wooden houses similar to what he had seen in travel books.

It’s mostly Hylians who live in the village, all either fishermen or shop owners. The travelers are greeted with a surprising amount of enthusiasm by the children as an adorable dog sniffs at them curiously.

One of the children approaches them somewhat shyly. The little Hylian boy is tan, his clothes light to help him withstand the hotter days in Faron. He wears a seashell on a necklace, almost as big as his hand.

"Are you travelers?" The boy asks, tilting his head to the side as Sidon kneels down to try and not tower over him. It's not very helpful - he's still gigantic, and the child still needs to look up quite high to meet his eyes.

"How did you know?" Sidon asks, his tone playful. "My name is Sidon. May I ask yours?"

The child squints, looking at the guards who wave at him awkwardly. He grabs at a tiny bag that was hung down his belt, opening it as he speaks.

"I'm Kinov," he replies, handing a tiny white bead to each of them. Sidon inspects the object curiously, holding it between two fingers. "My mommy made those caramels. Do you like caramels?"

Sidon can't help but flash a bright smile at Kinov, holding his tiny hand in his own in some form of handshake.

"I cannot say I have tried them before," he replies. "Thank you for the gift, Kinov. Do you know where we could find an inn?"

"Over there," Kinov points to a boat-shaped building in the distance. It doesn't look very big - hopefully they'll still have room for them. "See you later, Mister Sidon!"

The child is gone almost as quickly as he'd appeared. He runs off, the black dog following after him to play. The prince watches him go as he stands back up, his attention soon caught by Link as the Hylian signs.

Here, Mister Sidon, he hands him his caramel, placing it in the center of his palm. I'm not very hungry.

“...Thank you, my friend.” Sidon can’t help but roll his eyes jokingly at what the Hylian just called him. Well, he supposes it’s still better than the ridiculous honorifics he always uses.

He takes a tentative bite of the sweet, feeling his crack under his teeth as he notices the strong taste of caramel and honey. It’s very sweet, similar to the donuts he had tried the previous day. There’s a hint of vanilla, too, and Sidon can’t help but smile when he tastes it - vanilla had always been one of his favorite flavors, and it’s truly a shame that they have so little of it in Zora’s domain.

There are no stables here, so they settle for an enclosure that the villagers are kind enough to lend them for their horses. After taking their luggage off them, and after Link gives an affectionate pat on their snouts, they take some time to walk around and discover the village in its entirety.

The sand is warm and soft to walk onto, and the coconut trees tower over them as they provide as slight amount of shade under the hot rays of the sun. The clear blue sea is calm, and Sidon can make out a few fishing boats in the distance. Seagulls and surprisingly, cows, can be heard over the sound of the water as it flows back and forth. The peace of the sea is something that Sidon hadn’t felt this often, but he had missed it - oh, and the Lanayru bay was nowhere near as peaceful. He doesn’t think he’ll ever forget the monsters he’s had to fight over there.

They are enthusiastically greeted by a woman at the desk once they enter the inn, her eyes wide and sparkly with wonder as though she had never seen a Zora before. Sidon realizes he has to bend down slightly to avoid bumping his head against the ceiling.

"Oh! Welcome to Lurelin village!" She beams, her voice strong yet melodious, in a way. "I am Chessica. I run this inn, but I am also the mayor. Will you be staying here tonight?"

"If possible, yes," Sidon says somewhat sheepishly.

"Do you have five single rooms?" Tottika asks, and the woman nods.

The guards sigh in relief. They'll finally be able to sleep alone, to have some privacy, something Link had been awaiting. They book their room for the next night, leaving their luggage in their respective rooms before going back to the hall and meeting the woman once again.

"You're lucky to be here today," she says, "We're preparing the village festival for tonight. There will be food, drinks and music. Will you join us?"

"Of course!" Sidon replies with enthusiasm, already impatient for the night to settle. Now that he gets another good look at the village, people are gathering large tables onto the beach, and he can smell something being cooked from afar.

Much further away, a black Zora stands still at the edge of the small heart-shaped pond.

Torfeau watches her reflection in it, her attention caught every so often by the ripples formed by the darners that fly right past the surface of the water. A disappointed sigh escapes her once she notices that she’s alone, even if she expected it.

She’d always believed in fate, and that legend seemed to be right what she was looking for. Maybe it’s a bit childish of her, but it’s hard to have something to hold onto other than that, when the woman she’s pining for doesn’t seem to want a serious relationship. While Torfeau had accepted that, doesn’t it mean she’s supposed to find someone else soon enough?

But no, there’s no one at the pond, and the black Zora knows she can’t wait for too long. Maybe the lovelorn lady that she is should do something about her own feelings before she grows weary. Still, she had tried, and it’s not as easy as one would think.

She should go back to Lurelin for now.

*

Sunbathing isn't an activity Zoras usually engaged in - Despite this, they find themselves sitting or laying down onto the sand. The water tickles at their feet as some of them doze off under the sun, and even Sidon can feel a hint of weariness pulling at his eyelids. They finish their afternoon by helping the villagers with the preparations for the festival, using their tall bodies to light up the high torches with a little more ease.

The village is illuminated when the night settles, and most villagers seem to have left their homes to gather around the beach. A band plays traditional music from southeast of Hyrule, a pleasant arrangement of strings and drums that colors the evening with joy. A large bonfire is lit up further away from the table, the children of the village already gathering to dance around it in a circle. The smell of rice and seafood cooked together emanates from a enormous cooking pot, a giant paella to feed everybody.

The guards’ weapons are settled into the inn - while they had wanted to keep them, the Lurelin villagers were extremely reluctant to let them. Hopefully nothing goes wrong - Sidon doubts they’ll be bothered in such a peaceful place.

Kinov, the child from earlier, is distributing flowers for the villager to hang in their hair or clothes. Sidon receives a purple exotic flower that he settles right above his cravat, and the gesture earns him the brightest of smiles from the little boy.

While the prince is used to fish, the seafood isn't something he's ever had the occasion to taste back in Lanayru. The mussels and shrimps are something he finds himself enjoying greatly as he eats surrounded by the guards and the children of the village, who ask them a multitude of questions about their home. Sidon tells them of the domain, of the cold rivers and lakes that surround it and the fish that they catch with their bare teeth. The children stare at the razor-sharp things in wonder, begging him to teach them how to do the same.

When Sidon looks to his side, he sees Link sitting as he plays hand-clapping games with a little girl that seems just as silent as he is. His mask had been removed to let his smile show, and he seems much friendlier this way - Sidon finds himself staring, perhaps for a little longer than he should. It's something that Link notices, and he offers some kind of smirk to the prince as Sidon turns away in embarrassment.

The evening goes on as they finish their meal, joining the children around the bonfire to dance with them. The moon above shines bright, the stars dancing in Sidon's eyes until the later hours when a good amount of people have started to go back in their home. The music has long stopped, leaving only the night crickets and the waves to be heard.

They use their last bit of time before a night of rest to swim near the shore, giving them their well-deserved daily dose of water. Even Link joins them - it seems like he had become quite accustomed to the Zora lifestyle over the course of four years as he lived with them.

They float around carelessly, sometimes swimming with the fish as they chase them around without catching them. Sidon is watching a particular red and white porgy that had caught his attention. The poor thing makes a dart away from the shore upon seeing the gigantic prince above it, escaping as Sidon follows it with interest. Catching it would be a waste, though - He's not really hungry, besides, it would be more respectful to buy them from the fishermen as long as he’s here.

His eyes stay focused onto the fish as he swims around, his trajectory defined by the movements of the smaller creature. The water soon turns into a deeper blue the further away from the shore he goes, and the porgy makes a sharp turn that Sidon isn't even able to follow with his eyes. As he goes forward, a silhouette below him has him reducing his speed until he's completely stopped.

Link has dived deeper into the sea, facing a coral reef full of life and colors. Without his mask and hood to hide himself, he gazes at a spot below with amazement.

Sidon's blood turns to ice when he sees it. A large moray eel has made its home in a narrow crevice, sliding out slowly and approaching the Hylian with a mouth open wide, full of pointed teeth. Despite this, Link stays there, extending his hand towards it.

Sidon barely thinks about it. He lunges towards the Hylian guard, catching him in his arms as he dashes away to bring his closer to the shore. Link clings to him, gloved hands tense against his arms, and the prince soon brings the both of them to the surface.

Link inhales sharply as his head emerges, and Sidon’s hands find themselves staying against his shoulders, keeping him in place for a moment. There’s something almost offended to the Hylian’s his expression now, his eyes blinking the salt away and his pointed ears drooping.

“Those are venomous,” Sidon says, catching his breath and staring at Link with intense golden eyes. “Are you alright, my friend?”

Link nods his head slowly, dismissing the danger with a shrug. He can't sign while he keeps himself afloat, but his expression says enough - I was fine.

“Do not be so reckless,” the prince replies to his unspoken words as his hands move to cradle Link’s neck. It’s a gentle thing, and a thumb brushes lightly across his cheek when his bodyguard’s confused gaze turns to him, his mouth parting in a frustrated sigh. A light push is given to Sidon’s wrist, forcing him to pull his hand away as it falls back into the water.

The gesture has something tugging at Sidon’s heart.

Link is swimming back to the shore as he watches him go, but he can't stay in the water any longer - it starts to feel too cold onto his skin for his liking, and so he leaves the sea, hugging himself as Link looks at him again.

Their poison isn't deadly, he signs, his brow furrowing slightly. It takes a few seconds for Sidon to remember that Link is speaking of the moray eel he had just encountered.

"I know," Sidon replies, "But I did not want you to be hurt." It's a simple reply, one that he is truly sincere about - but Link is sighing again, his expression somewhat softer than it was a few seconds ago. He offers no answer to it, simply giving a push of his shoulder against Sidon's hip, one that the Prince interprets as playful. A smile draws itself across Sidon's lips, watching as Link signs again.

We should go rest, it's late.

It's an advice that Sidon follows, walking closely behind the Hylian guard towards the inn. The triplets are soon leaving the waters too, following the other two until they've all reached their respective rooms and locked themselves in for the night.

Sidon finds himself in a bedroom dimly lit by a single lantern that rests on the nightstand. The bed is large enough for him, thankfully - it rests low onto the floor, its shape not striking Sidon as very comfortable. Despite this he removes his ornaments, putting it onto the nightstand before extinguishing the lantern to let himself rest.

He doesn't have much time to reflect on the day - the exhaustion is there before his eyes, and he takes the chance to close them before it escapes.

More images fill his brain when he sleeps, of the Yiga, of the weapons that pierce skin and flesh. The dragon is either there or not, Sidon isn't sure, but he finds himself once again stuck in the heart of a cruel night that brings nothing but chaos to his soul.

What has he done to anger whatever part of his brain that reminisces, the one that shakes him awake violently, only to leave him alone with his thoughts in an empty room?

He breathes steadily, remembering what his sister had said. ‘Breathe slowly until the images are gone’. It’s easier said than done, especially when it feels like a thief is standing right on his bed, their sickle pointed to his throat.

He can’t stay in his room. It feels like there’s something even if he knows well that he’s just being paranoid like always. The nightmare will remain as long as he stays here - and so he leaves, finding himself outside at the early morning hours. He’d taken his broadsword with him… Just in case.

The sun has yet to rise, and no one in the village seems to be awake for now. It’s what Sidon thinks until he spots someone in the corner of his eye - a Hylian fisherman whose name Sidon had learned was Sebasto, already preparing his boat for the day.

"Good morning, Sir," he says, throwing a few more supplies into his boat. "You're up early."

Sidon smiles, approaching the man as he watches curiously. It's natural, he assumes, for fishermen to be already awake at this time. "I cannot fall asleep," he lies through a feigned smile. "Do you need any help?"

Sebasto shakes his head. "I'm ready to go. If you're bored, you should walk along the shore for a while - you'll end up near the Palmorae ruins. They're quite the sight to see, and there's an artifact there that glows in the dark, it's pretty impressive."

"Thank you," Sidon replies. "I shall take a look while I wait for the others to awaken."

With a bow of his head, the prince follows Sebasto's advice. He begins his stroll along the beach, following the cliffside with vigilance. The sand-covered path soon leads him to another beach, and he can make out the ruins in the distance.

Sebasto was right - a broken artifact is settled into the sand, a few pieces missing from it. Ancient writings are etched in a circle onto it, and they glow of an eerie blue that feels familiar. It's somewhat similar to the luminous stones, but he knows that's not it. Perhaps there was another type of natural material that glowed this way...?

He studies them for a few quiet moments, thinking to himself all the while. His senses are still sharp, however, and he doesn’t miss the shift in the atmosphere as he hears something - no, someone, several people stepping in the sand to approach him.  

He turns himself around, and his entire body freezes.

His eyes are instantly met with three people of a short stature, in a red and black attire that covers their entire body. Their black hair is tied in high ponytails, and all three of them wear a white mask with a single red symbol; The eye of the Yiga.

His survival instinct kicks in, somehow. While a crippling fear courses through each of his nerves, he takes a battle-ready stance, unsheathing his sword and baring his teeth. The thieves might be short in size, but three against one could be tedious work, even for Sidon. The pink skin below his brow creases, and he glowers at the three foes who approach slowly.

“It’s him,” one of them says clearly enough for the others to hear despite how muffled their voice is behind the mask. "We should get him first."

A lump forms itself in Sidon’s throat as a cold sweat reaches the back of his neck. And the scar hurts suddenly, it hurts so much - and he realizes that this time, he’s completely alone.

“Not another step,” he snarls, though he can’t seem to stop the trembling of his voice. His pupils narrow to slits, moving back and forth between each of the thieves.  

But the three Yiga clan members seem completely unbothered by Sidon’s threatening gaze as they proceed forward, their steps light and silent and the hold on their sickles tightening.

It’s only after a few seconds of utter silence that one of them jumps, bolting towards the prince with an abnormal speed in their steps and their weapon brandished.

 

Chapter Text

‘You have nowhere else to go.’

It’s a sentence that falls like a meteor into the sea, creating waves to drown the Hylian until he’s no more. It repeats itself in his head, dreadful and grim, echoing eerily almost every night. He’d learned to ignore it by now, to smother the intrusive thoughts that desperately try to tear him apart.  

‘This is your last chance.’

It’s a woman’s voice this time, one he hears every so often. It’s somewhat reassuring compared to the rest of it, soothing him only for a second before something pushes his body around.

‘Only here will you be welcome.’

And the unpleasant voice is back, so loud that it shakes through his bones and has them knocking together like wooden chimes. It hasn’t been this loud in at least two years, he realizes; He must have done something to deserve this.

A gigantic silhouette in the distance approaches, a light that could burn his retinas. Farosh swims through an unknown void, heading towards Link with obvious murderous intent. It has the Hylian wondering what he’s done to anger her, to have to see her mouth slowly opening as she comes closer. Once again, he must be deserving this.

The dragon follows her meandering path until she comes to a halt right before him, her mouth wide open, and her teeth are the size of his body. She’ll devour him alive like she was always supposed to, that damned Goddess - Just try it, Link thinks to himself.  

As soon as the figure is only an inch away from him, it’s not Farosh that stands there. The Zora prince, Sidon has his feet hovering above the invisible ground. His teeth are bared, and his eyes are sometimes there, sometimes not; It’s when he opens his mouth that Link’s stomach twists.

His teeth are sharper than ever, covered in blood that drips onto his tongue and down onto Link’s face. The Hylian is stuck in place, utterly stunned as he lets the droplets dribble down his skin.

Sidon moves before Link can even let out a breath. The teeth are buried into his neck, and all that escapes his mouth is an incoherent, fearful sound. They rip into it, and he can feel the warmth of his own blood trickling down his skin. Sidon chews at him like a toy, teeth digging deeper and deeper, pulling back to rip his flesh off - and Link lets it happen.

He deserves this.

Waking up doesn’t feel as jarring as he had expected. His eyes snap open to catch sight of the ceiling, and all he feels is a cold sweat on the back of his neck. The nightmares are there often, but he must be getting used to them; He still remembers how fast his heart would beat at every instance, when he was just a bit younger.

What he didn’t expect was Sidon’s presence in his dreams. What did the prince have to do with any of this? And especially hurting him this violently. It doesn’t take much to figure out that Sidon is kind , way too kind to do that much damage to anyone.

No, Sidon is more the type to ‘save’ people from nonexistent danger, like he ‘saved’ Link from that moray eel the previous evening. Remembering this has the Hylian rubbing at his temples - he is Sidon’s bodyguard, he is the one supposed to save him when needed, not the other way around.

But while it had been completely unnecessary, Link isn’t exactly angry. The prince’s intentions were good, he supposes, and well… Perhaps he shouldn’t have gotten this close to a dangerous animal in the first place.

He shouldn’t dwell too much on it. He’s sure it’s still pretty early in the day, but getting up before the prince does would be wiser anyway. He steps out of his bed, putting on the Zora disguise that he had washed later at night. It’s dry by now, and he’s thankful for that, as the morning air carries a chill that he would rather not aggravate by wearing damp clothes.

As he leaves the inn, he can see the sun peeking out from the horizon. It’s nice to watch, even if it’s barely there, so he indulges in the sight for a few peaceful moments, letting the gentle sound of the waves accompany him before something tugs at his sleeve.

Turning his head, he finds the little mute girl he had met the day before. Her short, black pigtails bounce as she jumps up, the missing tooth in her smile something that only makes her more adorable. Link had bonded with her easily the previous day, at the festival; Their lack of speech had brought a mutual understanding, a refreshing feeling that he hadn’t felt in quite a long time.

The child hadn’t given Link her name, as signing them took longer than she had the patience for. But she had asked him to call her ‘Mermaid’ instead, a pretty signed name to simplify their conversations.

Did you sleep well? Link signs, pulling down his mask to show a smile full of warmth.

Mermaid gives a dew quick nods of her head, staring at the Hylian with curiosity. You’re still wearing armor, she points out, lightly poking at the silver wrist protector with a finger.

Of course, he signs, keeping his spear tucked under his arm. I’m a guard after all.

The girl nods in understanding, though there’s a hint of doubt in her eyes when she squints and focuses on his face.

Are you the prince’s husband?

Link tenses up, giving her a look of confused surprise. His shoulders raise, making sure that she understands how puzzled he is in that moment.

No, I’m just his bodyguard, he replies, tilting his head to the side. What made you even think that?

Mermaid lets out a puff of laughter, her hand forming a fist as it gives a harmless punch to the Hylian’s thigh. You just kinda look like a princess, she signs, and Link has no idea where she would get that from, but he supposes he’ll take it as a compliment. He leaves it at that, his only reply a sheepish laugh before he clears his throat.

Speaking of the prince, she starts again, gesturing hesitantly. Why didn’t you go with him at the ruins?

Link’s heart stops for a moment, beating again only so he can ask his question. What ruins?

Palmorae! Mermaid spells it out despite her impatience, pointing towards the east. He went there not too long ago, but I thought he would be accompanied...

Link doesn’t waste any more time standing in place. He pulls his mask back on and runs off, his spear in his hand and his steps hasty as he darts to the place Mermaid had gestured to. The child watches with perplexed eyes, her expression falling into worry as soon as the Hylian is out of sight.

And Link is panting, his side aching from running at full speed without any previous warm-up, but he can’t stop now. Why? Why and when did Sidon go to the ruins, and why alone? Perhaps Link is overreacting, who knows - he could be fine, just exploring the region on his own. But still, he has bodyguards, for Hylia’s sake! They’re here for him, yet he didn’t ask anyone to come with him. Was it because he cared too much about their comfort, and didn’t want to wake them up? This is absurd , but truth be told, the emotion that overcomes Link at the moment is closer to fear than anger.  

The rocks feel harder to step onto than usual. He almost trips on several occasions, still following the cliffside without slowing down. He sucks in the air through his teeth when his feet hits a particularly sharp rock, but chooses to ignore it completely until he reaches the Palmorae ruins - and when he does, the sight he discovers has his blood turning ice cold and freezing inside his veins.

The Zora prince is facing three Yiga thieves on his own, his arm wounded and bleeding from a large cut, staining the sand a crimson red that leaves a bad taste in Link’s mouth. One thief is on the ground already, most likely knocked out by Sidon. The other two still stand unscathed while the prince breathes heavily, his hand over his arm as his face scrunches up in pain.

It’s enough for Link to dash forward with a brandished spear, as fast as his legs can make him.

One swing of it is enough to disarm one of the two thieves. The sickle is thrown away from their hands, spinning on itself until it hits the sand further away with a muffled thump.

“Link,” Sidon gathers the strength to speak, his voice a strained and torn thing that reflects his anguish. Link realizes how afraid he must be, how desperate for help he must’ve been all this time -

Link throws him a glance, noticing that his tail was damaged as well. There’s a long slash across the length of it, and it curls up on itself like a dying snake.

The Hylian intends on facing the remaining two alone . Sidon had already hurt himself more than necessary, and Link still curses himself for letting it happen. He throws the other end of his spear forward, punching the disarmed Yiga in the throat to give himself some time with the other. The second one jumps to him his sickle ready to pierce his temple - Link stops him with his spear, pushing him away with a heavy swing.

The adrenaline rushes through Link’s veins, his anger the only thing that drives him. He lunges towards the falling Yiga, pinning them down by pressing the handle of his silverscale spear against their throat.

He could kill them, he has the opportunity to. And while his history of hatred with the group of thieves is vast enough to write a book about it, he can’t kill them.

At least, not unless Sidon orders him to.

If that were the case, he wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest. But for now, making them surrender the fight should be enough.

A noise behind himself catches his attention at the wrong time. The Yiga he just disarmed had been fast enough to get their weapon back, striding towards Sidon once again. Link lets out a startled sound to warn him, but the prince doesn’t seem to need it - his broadsword is raised, parrying the sickle’s blows repeatedly to defend himself. Their weapons crash together, and confidence shows in every single one of the prince’s graceful movements. Still, Link can detect it, the horror in his eyes as the Yiga emblem reflects itself into them.

Link’s moment of inattention is much too long. He soon feels a sharp pain in his left foot, something that has him crying out and almost toppling from his position. His hold onto his spear is still tight, but the Yiga under him had taken advantage of that moment to plunge their sickle into Link’s foot.

The pain has his blood boiling as it gushes out of his wound, his teeth gritting as his pupils narrow. Hearing the prince as he fights behind him only fuels the fire, and his vision soon clouds itself with rage; He brings his spear up, burying it deep into the Yiga’s forearm in an act of vengeance.

The thief under hims cries out as Link pulls his weapon out to point it against their forehead in a sign of threat. Their own blood drips onto their mask, and Link could do it, he could pierce through it and impale their damn head on his weapon -

But no, the Yiga clan was a cowardly group, and will always remain so. They had hidden a smoke bomb in their palm, giving them an easy way out, and a cloud of red smoke burns at Link’s eyes before he can prevent them to get away.

Link isn’t sure how or when Sidon had managed to put the remaining one into a choke-hold, but it brings too much pain on his wounded arm. The Yiga’s legs flail as they’re lifted off the ground, and the prince’s arms quickly give out, letting the thief go to escape like the other did.

And the last one, the one that Sidon had knocked out, is already gone.

Sidon and his bodyguard find themselves alone on the beach, breathing heavily without words as their blood falls in droplets onto the white sand. The air burns everywhere around Link, his eyes stinging when he blinks.

A push of his foot has the Hylian grunting in pain, his injury preventing him to walk and sticking him in place. He would curse if he could speak, but all he can do right now is hit his fist against the ground in frustration, his jaw falling as he lets out a wrathful yell. He almost doesn’t catch the way the prince’s steps falter as he approaches him, kneeling by Link’s side with a gasp.

“This isn’t good, Link,” he says, his voice a hoarse whisper. “We need to go back to the village, right now-”

But his bodyguard interrupts him, the movement of his hands stronger than everything else as he remains trembling on the ground. Why did you come here alone? He asks, gesturing incoherently to Sidon’s wounds. There’s something else he wants to sign, but he can’t gather enough lucidity and willpower to do so.

Sidon’s reply comes with a despondent frown, his lips pressing into a thin line. There are a few spots of blood on them, Link realizes. “I have no excuse,” he admits, his head still held upright. “Forgive me. Let me carry you, please- we need to go back to Lurelin, alright?”

You’re injured, Link signs, pointing to Sidon’s own wounds as though he weren’t noticing them. Why do you worry about me?

There’s a silence passing between them, one that Sidon quickly fills with a calm sigh. “You are my friend, not my puppet,” he simply says, forcefully lifting Link off the ground to carry him against his back as he gets up.

His friend .

The words leaves Link at a loss of words, his mouth hanging open behind his mask. He can’t sign in protest when he finds himself pressed against Sidon’s back, his arms crossing around him to keep himself in place. The prince moves forward, carrying Link’s easy weight as the Hylian falls numb onto him.

“They seem to have something against me,” Sidon says, his voice regaining a certain steadiness as he speaks, though Link knows how hard it must be on him. He breathes out, holding Link tightly against him. “Thank you for coming to my aid. I doubt I would’ve made it without you.”

Link sighs against him, his foot still hurting like hell. He’s sure some sand has made its way into the wound now, and he grimaces at the thought of having to remove all of it.

Being so close to the prince is somewhat awkward now, and he can see the scar right under his tail from there. He contemplates it without mentioning it, unconsciously moving his face closer to Sidon’s skin.

His head pushes lightly against one of his forefins, a hand tracing the outline of the intricate necklace that he wears. It’s the first time he gets to see it so closely, and it’s… distracting to look at. Just as distracting as the splashes of blue in the golden of his eyes, and…

Perhaps Link is making the situation a little more clumsy than it already is. He can tell Sidon is having a hard time transporting him, but Link adds a shiver to his skin as he rests his head against him, closing his eyes to forget about his surroundings for just a moment.

“Link,” Sidon says without words to follow the Hylian’s name. Link lowers his head, his tired lips brushing against the skin of his shoulder and feeling the goosebumps tingle at him even through his mask. Sidon has gone silent despite everything, stopping himself from commenting on the situation and letting his steps take them where they need to be.

It’s only when Lurelin village is in sight that Link spots the triplets running in their direction in panic, their weapons ready to strike if needed. A gasp flies out of Torfeau’s mouth as soon as she sees the injuries, instinctively rummaging through a small pouch settled against her silver belt.

"What happened?" Tottika asks, settling his spear against his back to free his hands.

Bazz urges Sidon to let Link go, relieving the pain in his arm as the guard carries Link himself. The Hylian can't help but feel a little disappointed as he finds himself onto the back of the shorter Zora, who seems to have much more difficulty carrying him around.

"I was attacked by thieves," Sidon replies, placing his hand back against his arm in an attempt to soothe himself. "Link came right on time. I do not think things would have ended well for me without him."

He looks over it once again, grimacing at the gross, dried up blood that sticks onto his skin. Torfeau hands them small glass bottles, shaking them slightly beforehand.

"Drink this, please," she stutters, and Link opens the bottle, downing the elixir in one go. His lips crook at the taste - thick like pumpkin soup, sickly sweet like cough syrup. It feels like tons of sugar has been added to the substance, as if they had used anything but monster parts and lizards for it. He’ll never wrap his mind around it. And Sidon seems to share the same feeling, if the way he shakes his head is anything to go by. Still, it's a relief to have them; This particular type of elixir was made to reduce bleeding, to accelerate the healing process and to reduce the pain.

The guards guide them through the village, taking them to the infirmary.

*

They find themselves sitting upright on a bed, the triplets watching as the nurse tends to their wounds, disinfecting them properly. The stitches that Link has to get onto his foot hurt like hell despite the elixir he had just taken, but he grits his teeth through it - they're necessary if he wants the wound to heal soon enough.

Sidon rests at his side, watching with concern through the whole process. It's a bit irritating that the prince is so worried about him, honestly; Sidon had been hurt twice , unlike him. He shouldn't have been hurt at all .

But Link knows it’s his fault. If he had been there to accompany him, Sidon wouldn’t have needed to fight and put his life on the line. Everything had been going alright so far, but Link’s sense of self-doubt is back once again. It creeps along his spine, pricking at the base of his skull as he averts his gaze from the prince.

"We need to practice extreme caution from now on," Bazz says, his arms crossed as he leans against the wall, his expression somewhat somber. "It seems we were underestimating the amount of thieves we would encounter."

Link sighs to himself, putting a hand to his forehead. Even he had thought the Yiga clan was on the verge of disappearing, but he couldn't have been more wrong - there seems to be more thieves than there used to be, somehow. How could that be possible?

"Then we need to patrol the area," Tottika replies, ready to step outside. "Let's make sure none of them enter Lurelin village for now. There could be more of them around."

The two other guards nod to his words, bowing gracefully to the prince before leaving the infirmary with their spears in hand. Link watches them as they go, wishing he could join them to at least forget about what has come to bother his mind. But his foot still hurts, and he's not sure he can walk properly until at least the next day.

“I’ll bring you a crutch, Sir Link,” the nurse says, leaving the main room, the wooden door creaking slightly as it closes behind her.

And Link is alone with Sidon by now, his eyes wandering to the bandages that wrap around the Zora’s arm and tail. Sidon sits quietly, his hands resting on his knees in defeat, looking at his own feet as soon as everyone else is out of sight.

Truth be told, Link had rarely ever seen Sidon looking so stern, at least before the Yiga threatened them in the Zonai ruins the other day. It was hard to imagine him with something other than a smile, as Sidon would always hide his emotions like his family told him to. That’s what Link assumes, at least.

"To think I called you reckless last night," Sidon finally breaks the silence, turning his head to face Link with a sheepish smile. "Forgive me. It seems I have no room to speak."

It has Link chuckling to alleviate the mood. Promise that you won't run off alone again, he signs, Then I might forgive you. He offers him a playful grin, one that Sidon returns, oddly enough.

"You have my word." His tone is gentle, a sort of whisper to it. His words are followed by a yawn as he covers his mouth with a hand, instantly apologizing to Link.

You look like you haven't slept a lot last night, Your Highness, Link begins, Maybe you should sleep here. I will join the guards once the nurse comes back.

Sidon blinks slowly, hesitation flashing across his eyes. "What about your own injury? You needn't push yourself. I do not mind you staying here while I rest."

Link gives him a shrug, grimacing when he tries to push his foot onto the floor. Do not worry about me, he replies, I will be fine.

The nurse comes out of the back room, handing a crutch to Link for him to get up. It's a bit embarrassing to have to use this, but he supposes he can handle it for one day.

When Link notices that the concern still doesn’t leave Sidon’s expression, he turns to sign a single word. Rest.

Sidon nods to his words with a weak smile. "Alright," he whispers, finally lying down onto the bed that feels a little too small for him.

Link leaves the infirmary, trying his best to minimize the movements of his left foot as he holds himself up with the crutch. It's not very practical to use in the sand, though - despite this, he manages to join Torfeau who guards the eastern entrance to the village. She turns her head to him, her gaze turning gloomy once she spots him limping towards her.

"Forgive me, Link," she begins, scratching at her head in shameful embarrassment. "We should have been here to help you two."

We are all fine, Link replies the best he can while he holds himself up. There's no use in dwelling onto it. Now we know what to expect, we just need to be more careful. His reply is something he would like to believe, but truth be told, he just wants to think about something else for now. The sight of an injured Sidon, as minor as the wounds were, had triggered something into the depths of Link's mind that he would rather smother.

Torfeau offers him a faint smile. "You're right. I’ll do whatever I can to prevent such events from happening once again. How are you feeling?"

I'm fine, he signs, dismissing the pain he still feels where his flesh had been pierced. Prince Sidon is resting at the infirmary.

"I see," Torfeau replies, her shoulders drooping slightly. "Say, what did the thieves look like?"

Usual Yiga attire, I'm sure you've seen them in drawings before, he replies as Torfeau gives him a nod. These three seemed to be amongst the weakest rank. They carried sickles, but other ranks have much more dangerous weapons like the Demon carver, or the Windcleaver. Some of them are archers as well... We really need to be careful.

Link rests himself against one of the pillars near the entrance, pulling his mask and hood back for more comfort.

So, about that… situation, Link suddenly brings up a sensitive subject, something that has Torfeau tensing up immediately. You didn’t meet anyone at the lover’s pond?

“I doubt I was supposed to, anyway,” she mutters, her eyes falling to the waves and following it as it ebbs. “Looks like I’ll be a mess forever.”

You’re being pessimistic, Link signs, suddenly straightening up and giving her a fake flirtatious gaze. I’m thinking she’s just waiting for you to say something, you know. Gaddison’s a bit complicated, but if you get the message across…

Torfeau interrupts him with a raised hand, closing her eyes in denial. “Stop talking. She’s on the other side of Hyrule now, and I don’t want to think about it.”

Fine, Link signs again, shrugging as he rolls his eyes. You could write horny letters, though. I could teach you.

“How do you even -” She’s about to ask him how he even knows how to write those, but she’ll keep it to herself for now. “Goddesses, I can deal with this on my own. I am much older than you, in case you’ve forgotten, and you have your own problems to take care of, don’t you?”

Link bites at the inside of his cheek. Torfeau doesn't know about his problems - if only it were something he could take care of. Right now, his main concern is Sidon's state, but he can't accelerate the healing process more than he already has. Perhaps Link is too fixated onto it. Despite this, it stays on his mind, blocking out other more reassuring thoughts for a few long moments.

The atmosphere is shaken here and there - seeing a bloodied-up prince and his guard had been enough to alert the Lurelin villagers that something was amiss. For now, Bazz feels it necessary to keep close watch on the surroundings, even if the attackers are most likely gone. Who knows how many there are.

A bitterness settles in the back of his throat, something that prevents him from smiling, and he just hopes the locals won’t blame him too much. He should’ve been there. The black Zora should’ve been at the ruins with the prince, to protect him from any kind of attacks. He’s sure the others feel the same, but he’s the guard captain, for Hylia’s sake. He’ll die to bring back the prince in one piece to the domain if he has to. His hold on his silverscale spear tightens, and he’s taken a silver bow with him as well. His archery is good enough to take down moving targets, at least.

“Sir Rozel,” Bazz addresses one of the older villagers, a man who had lived here his entire life. “Does the Yiga clan often cause you trouble?”

The old man’s brow wrinkles as he looks to the sea, humming to himself. “There used to be a time when our village lived in fear,” he replies, and Bazz directs his attention towards him. “The clan would often attack at night, and steal whatever they could. While our guardsmen are skilled in combat, there’s only so much they can do against a group of armed thieves.”

Bazz nods to his words. These people have never reached Zora’s domain yet. The path towards it is treacherous, and there’s only a few guarded bridges that lead to it, so he supposes they don’t feel like taking that kind of risk. That’s something to be thankful for, at least.

“Over the course of a few weeks, the attacks made themselves more and more rare,” Rozel continues, “Until they completely stopped. I am not so proud to say why, though.”

“What happened?” Bazz asks, his curiosity suddenly piqued.

“Well… Let’s say we all begged for the Sheikah’s help at some point,” the old man replies, scratching at his beard. “You know, since they have a similar training in combat. We couldn’t handle seeing our houses burned down anymore, our riches taken after we’d worked so hard to accumulate them. We swallowed our pride and sent a messenger to Kakariko village.”

He pauses for a moment, gesturing to the village’s gates. “Only one person showed up. She hardly ever talked, only to ask questions about where she could find the thieves, at what time they would usually come… I’m ashamed to admit that none of us took her seriously, at first.”

“Why is that?” Bazz asks.

“Well, you see,” Rozel continues, “That woman… she was young. I’m not even sure she was above twenty years old. She kept that cloak on herself, as if to hide something, so of course some of us were wary. When the guardsmen asked if she needed help to take down the thieves, she said she could handle it all on her own.”

“Preposterous,” Bazz replies with an amused laugh, tapping his spear against the ground.

“That’s what we all thought, really,” Rozel says, raising his shoulders in disbelief of his own words. “We let her go without expecting to see her again. But… She chased the Yiga away. She kept the fights outside of our village, but we know how merciless and gruesome it was. That’s not the most bizzare of it all, though” he ends his sentence before pointing to the waterfall to the east.

“That pond over there,” he says, “teenage girls always use it to swim and play. There are some… rude boys who keep watching them when they do. One of them went there after the events, only to find the cloaked woman bent over the water, washing the blood off of her clothes, and he caught a glimpse of her bare skin.”

The man clears his throat, embarrassed that he has to describe it. “There was… a tattoo, on her back. It represented the emblem of the Yiga.”

Bazz’s eyes snap open in surprise. “What? She was one of them?”

“None of us know. It certainly didn’t seem that way, given how violent she had been with the thieves, but it’s true that this remains a mystery to all of us. How can we complain, though? We haven’t been attacked ever since,” Rozel shrugs, about to turn on his feet to find some rest elsewhere.

“That woman,” Bazz begins, “Where is she, now?”

“I have no idea,” the old man replies apologetically. “She was there one day, and she was gone the next.”

*

Link spends the next few hours observing Lurelin's surroundings, making sure that no one else from the Yiga clan is lurking around. Thankfully, it seems calm - the guards manage to appease the civilian's panic from when they saw Link and the prince coming back from the ruins.

Sidon still hasn't left the infirmary, and at this point, Link believes the only way he can reassure himself is by going to see him once again.

The nurse is walking out of the small wooden building, a few bundles of paper between her arms. "If you want to see the prince, he's still asleep," she says, "Make sure you don't make too much noise."

Link nods to her words, pushing the door to the infirmary to see the bed directly on the side of the room. Sidon is lying on his back, resting above the covers with his jewelry put aside. Link's presence doesn't seem to wake him for now, and Link is thankful for that. He walks over to him with careful steps, mindful to not let his crutch hit the floor with too much noise.

The prince is peacefully asleep, lips parted ever so slightly as he breathes through rows of pointed teeth. Link stops at his side, watching the bandaged injuries once more; Nothing has changed, obviously. They don't even seem to hurt him as much anymore - Link contemplates them for a moment, a finger tracing the gauze that hugs around his arm. It jumps slightly under his touch, and Link retracts his hand immediately. He almost wants to rip the thing off, to see what the cut looks like now, but he quickly buries the thought away.

Link finds a chair to sit on, bringing it closer to the bed. Putting his palms flat against his knees, he watches Sidon's chest as it heaves, and something painful starts to prick at his heart. Sidon might be what he is - too curious among other things, Link's duty is still to protect him. Nothing can ever get in the way of this.

Perhaps watching him as he sleeps isn't the best thing he could be doing right now. It's a thought that lingers, yet he finds himself staying at his side. He's not sure what he's waiting for, honestly; Does he want Sidon to wake up? Does he want to stay here watching until he falls asleep himself?

He doesn't realize how close he gets. He stares at the teeth now, the razor-sharp things that had ripped his throat apart in his dream. There's a tingly feeling along his neck now, and he smothers it as he brushes his hand against it. His head hangs above Sidon's own, and something crashes through his body when the prince's eyes open abruptly.

The pupils are narrowed to slits, golden irises adorned with blue dots fluctuating ever so slightly. It has Link pulling away clumsily, accidentally pushing his foot against the floor, making him grunt in pain. He curses himself mentally - Why did he think watching Sidon as he slept would be a good idea? He's expecting a threatening look, perhaps a punishment when the prince is slowly sitting upright, his eyes locked onto the Hylian through the entire process.

"What are you doing?" He asks, his tone surprisingly gentle. He blinks the fatigue away as he wakes up completely, his eyes bleary from resting for so long, and Link has no idea what to say.

He has no excuse for what he was just doing. He stays silent for now, regretting that he forgot to put his mask back on before Sidon woke up; Now he has to see his face, his embarrassed expression and his reddened cheeks. Damn it.

He's fucked.

"Were you worried about me?" Sidon asks again, tilting his head to the side as his tail perks up.

Link nods slowly - what else is there to say? Of course he was worried. Still, he shouldn't have gotten this close, what was he thinking-

"Do not be so bashful," he continues. "Feeling your eyes linger upon me felt quite pleasant, if I must be honest." Link can see the smirk that plays at the corner of his lips, and honestly, he has never wanted to go hide somewhere else more than he wants to right now. Sidon was already awake when Link had started staring, he bets, and it makes everything even worse.

I was inspecting your injuries, he signs after hiding behind the mask once again, wending his way out of the mess he’d just put himself into and trying to keep the last bit of composure he has.

"I see," Sidon replies, seemingly playing along. "Well, at least they've stopped hurting by now. How about yours?" He asks, and Link thanks the Goddesses that he's changing the subject.

It's fine. Link grabs at his crutch, forcing himself to finally straighten up and get back on his feet. Do not worry about me.

There's a slight frown to Sidon's expression as he places a hand onto the bed. "Do not say that," he begins, "Your well-being is just as important as mine. Of course I worry."

Link’s lips press into a line. It’s irritating. He can't help but sigh when he turns to face him once again. No answer is given, but his eyes lock onto the prince's own.

"If you do not want me to worry," Sidon says, "Stay by my side for now."

It's a request Link had almost expected. With a faint smile that Sidon can't see, the Hylian moves to sit upon the bed, releasing his crutch to let it fall against the wooden wall.

"Thank you," Sidon murmurs as he falls back, lying down on the mattress once more. There's a glint in his eyes, a gratefulness that can be felt through his gaze as he lays his hand down for Link to take.

Link hesitates while his eyes find their way to his smile, to the way his tail relaxes against the sheets, to the golden eyes that flutter with fatigue.

The Goddesses damn it all, Link's strange attraction to fish people isn't ready to fade away anytime soon.

*

Link hadn't felt the need to speak to her in at least three years.

What he used to do could hardly ever be called praying. Kneeling in front of the Goddess statue of Zora's domain had become a rare occurrence for him as the days had passed, until he had stopped considering it necessary. Was it thanks to the routine his life had settled into?

He's not sure of the answer. But for the first time since he's stopped, he's feeling that urge to talk again, to offer words to Hylia that she would never reply to. Perhaps she can hear, perhaps she can't - perhaps she doesn't even exist.

Link doesn't think he can call himself religious. His beliefs are, for lack of better words, all over the place; And while he doesn't expect an answer from the Goddess, talking to her seems to be enough to put his thoughts back in order.

Thankfully, Lurelin village possesses a small Goddess statue. It stands on the shore, surrounded by a set of rocks that cover her from the rain, as rare as it is. Her empty eyes of stone reflect the light from the torches on the sides, the only source of light around the statue in the middle of the night.

Link had chosen to come here at the later hours, to avoid anyone noticing his presence near the statue. He stands alone in front of who the people of Hyrule had come to call Hylia, the only sound accompanying him being the gentle flow of the waves and the slightly cold breeze.

He takes out of his bag the very last scale of Farosh that he owns. He had managed to catch one a few days before, when she had made her appearance above Lake Floria. It doesn't exactly matter what he believes - talking to the Goddess without at least an offering seemed a bit disrespectful. Then again, respect… isn’t something he shows so strongly towards her. Not anymore.

He places the glimmering green scale at the bottom of the statue, kneeling as he removes his mask and hood to show himself. Did the Goddess even see sign language?

He doesn't think he can do much about it, anyway. For now his words are half-signed, half-thought, and Hylia will have to be satisfied with that.

Remember me? he asks with a familiarity, as if he were speaking to an old friend. It's been a while since I've talked to you. I wonder if you're angry.

The Goddess doesn't answer him, the statue silent just as it had always been. It's only a sculpted rock after all, Link thinks to himself.

It doesn't really matter if you are, he continues, glowering at her vacant eyes. I'm angry too, sometimes. Sometimes I'm angry at myself, sometimes I'm angry at you, or at everyone else, and now... I'm forgetting what I'm supposed to believe.

He lets his chest swell before releasing a deep sigh that he had been containing for what feels like hours. Farosh's scale rests onto the sand, shining as its presence makes itself barely noticeable. Link knows it'll disappear - apparently, Hylia is more willing to accept his offering than to answer his words. Not that he didn't expect it.

Will you ever explain to me what went through your head? Link asks, looking back at the statue's eyes, devoid of life. Why you decided that I was worth another chance?

Still, her silence has the frustration gnawing at his throat. His teeth grit as his hands ball up into fists, almost ready to punch the damn thing until it breaks.

You stack the odds against me now, as if it were entertaining to you and those damned dragons, he continues, Why don't you just let them devour me and end it all?

He stares down at the scale once again. Its presence grows faint, and just this once, perhaps Hylia doesn't deserve what he gives her. He grabs the object from the sand, giving back its physical form. If Hylia has to bring him misfortune, he’ll gladly serve it back to her.

How arrogant.

If you need it so badly, take it from me, he starts again, expecting the scale to disappear from his hand. It's no surprise to him that it stays there, glowing to the rhythm of his frantic heartbeat.

Or give me a good reason why I should offer it to you next time I talk to you, if I ever do.

With these final thoughts, he puts the scale back into his bag, keeping it for himself until a better day comes.

It feels good to finally give her the words that had been plaguing his heart. Perhaps he had angered her, or perhaps not, and he can feel a tinge of regret for talking to the Goddess in such a disrespectful manner. But what does he have to lose? Pretending to pray had never brought him the answers he'd been looking for. Perhaps there's no hope. Perhaps he's fated to stay in a world he doesn't belong in.

There's no use in sulking - his existence has one purpose, and it doesn't matter what he feels or thinks. All he lives for is the protection of the ones who had accepted him despite his past wrongdoings, the ever so kind people of Zora's domain.

Throwing one last glare at the Goddess statue, he walks away, heading back to the inn while the salt of the sea lingers on his fingertips and in his heart.



Chapter Text

 

Being a great fairy in these times had become difficult, perhaps even boring. Few people still had rupees to spare for magic, if they even believed in it. The last time someone had given her enough rupees to let her fountain open must have been… What, a century ago?

Mija had closed again since then, trapping herself in the darkness of a decaying fountain. She wasn’t in a place where many would come by, unfortunately; On the border of lake Akkala, the stormy region. And she’s already started to forget what she looks like when she comes out - as long as she’s underwater, all she is is a mass of shadows and fairy wings, of eyes and armoranth petals until she comes to the surface. Only then would she transform into a huge, beautiful creature, and she misses that ethereal appearance.

But today is another day. As she sulks in the water, a few light steps make themselves heard right outside her bud. A traveler? No one had visited her in so long. It doesn’t hurt to try and speak once again.

“Oh, traveler,” she pipes up, surprised at the sound of her own deep, echoed voice. She’s thankful that she only sounds like that while she’s hiding. “I am the great fairy Mija. Will you hear my story?”

When she hears no answer, she looks through the small gap in front of her eyes. The young… person is still there, close enough for Mija to understand that they know very well what’s going on.

“This place was once a beautiful spring,” she says, her voice somewhat weakened over the years as she recites the same story she’d be telling to anyone who would come by.  “But as the years passed, fewer and fewer travelers came to offer me rupees. As a result, my power has abandoned me.”

The traveler outside stays utterly still, their fingers fidgeting with the button of their pouch. Maybe today is her lucky day?

“I beg you, traveler, offer me rupees so I can become whole again,” she pleads, “I can help you do great things once my power comes back.”

She manages to breach through the bud, her shadow forming a non-threatening hand that extends towards the traveler. The contact with the outside world transforms part of her, but she needs more , she’s had enough of not having a physical form. “Please, I just need five hundred rupees-”

It doesn’t take much imploring for the traveler to throw the money in her hand, pushing it back hurriedly once Mija closes her finger around it. She brings her hand back inside the closed but, counting the rupees...

It’s exactly five hundred.

Oh, thank Hylia, she must have been kind enough to send someone willing to help her once again. Whoever that person was, she has to thank them in any way she can! Finally, she can see the outside world again!

A burning energy courses through her, giving light to her very existence, stirring the waters until a purple smoke comes out. The bud scrunches around her, pumping in the fresh air, until at last, it blooms open.

She can’t help but laugh in pure joy as she comes out, feeling herself taking form as her magic surges into her again. It colors her face with warm pinks, gathers at her fingertips so she can use it at will. It’s just like it’s always been; she’s an utterly beautiful woman, covered in gleaming ornaments, and her hair is of a lavender color, descending against her back into a braid that dips into the water. She breathes in, feeling the pleasing scent of soaked grass, she’s free.

She almost forgets the presence in front of her as she bathes in the natural light. The traveler watches her, waits patiently without seeming even a bit impressed, which is certainly odd, but… She’s met weirder people, she supposes.

“Thank you ever so much, traveler,” she muses, pleasantly startled at the sound of her new voice. It’s higher-pitched, much more tuneful and charming, unlike that eerie echo she uttered while she was trapped inside the bud. “I now have enough power to reward you with my magic. I can enhance your clothing-”

Once again, the traveler barely lets her finish before throwing in front of her a stealth suit along with a heap of hearty basses and naydra scales. Mija eyes the items with curiosity - there usually were a few rules when it came to clothing and magic, and it doesn’t seem like her guest knows any of them.

“Forgive me, I’m a bit confused,” she says with the most gentle voice she has, bending down to close the distance between them. “What exactly do you want me to do with that?”

The traveler doesn’t answer. Instead, they rummages through their pouch, finding two thousand more rupees and handing them to her.

Some rules can be broken, she supposes.

*

They had stayed in Lurelin village for a few days and more, enjoying the sun and the sea for a little longer than planned. Their days were occupied with careful exploration of the surroundings, the beaches and the sea itself. The locals were absolutely thrilled to have them as guests, too - Sidon hadn't expected such a warm welcome, but he had been pleasantly surprised.

Truth be told, he finds himself rather concerned about their next destination. The desert is a place Zoras rarely ever strayed towards, and while they have the means to withstand and survive the dry climate, Sidon isn't sure what to expect. It's something he notices among the triplets as well, who weren't part of the group that had accompanied Mipha to Gerudo the previous year.

Link seems confident, at least from what Sidon can see. He hadn't exchanged with him much since the day they had been attacked by that group of Yiga thieves; There hadn't been any other attacks, but Link had judged it necessary to spend most of his days patrolling and training in combat further away. The Hylian had healed quickly, just like Sidon had, yet there still seems to be something that bothers him even now. But all that Link offers when Sidon asks is a nod, a gesture of his hands to assure him that he's fine.

Gerudo is far enough from Lurelin that their trek would be several days long, but it's nothing that will demotivate Sidon. They take the path they had used when they came to Faron, crossing the woods once more for the entirety of their day until setting up camp near Lake Hylia. The next day is spent walking once more, crossing the bridge and following the road that leads them to the desert.

As expected, the sky turns a deep blue before they can even enter Gerudo. They find a stable in the outskirts, in the vicinity of a ruined coliseum. The ground is covered in dead leaves that crack under their feet as they walk, and many trees have been cut down. The weather is drier than in Faron, but it isn't too warm, and there is a lake nearby - If the Zoras need water, they will know where to find it.

Once again, the guards find themselves forced to all sleep in the same room, much to their displeasure. Sidon has one room for himself, seemingly a bit smaller than the ones he had slept into up until now.

Their horses are left in the care of the stable owner, and now seems to be the appropriate time to start preparing the elixirs they would need to help them survive in the desert heat. They still have a few monster parts available in their supplies, but they quickly realize that the merchants around the stable do not have many to sell, at least not enough for them to make the right amount of potions for their entire group.

Sidon sits with Bazz at the cooking pot, helping to prepare the base for the elixir. It's a particular substance made of medicinal plants and water from sacred sources, a concoction they settle on buying instead of making themselves. It boils into the pot, ready to take the ingredients that would turn it into something efficient.

As for Link, Torfeau and Tottika, they had designated themselves to go on a monster hunt to find the parts they would need. Sidon watches as they head further down the path, most likely to an isolated group of Bokoblins to take down.

And as chatty as Bazz can get, he seems to be holding something in. Their wait is silent for now as they watch the bubbles into the pot and rest their legs for the day. By the end of the afternoon, most travelers have retired inside, leaving the place a little more peaceful for Sidon to break the silence.

"You seem troubled, Bazz," Sidon begins, looking at the shorter Zora with soft eyes. Bazz raises his head, and his eyes are bleary; He mustn’t have slept as much as he most likely needed to, much like the prince.

“Do I?” Bazz asks, a sheepish, tired smile forming itself across his lips. "Forgive me. I do not mean to burden you with my thoughts."

"Please, you are no burden. Something seems to be bothering you," the prince adds, resting his chin against the back of his hand. "If you believe that speaking about it might help, know that we are not friends for nothing."

“Thank you, Your Highness,” Bazz says with a sigh, throwing a glance behind him to check if the other guards are coming back. "It is just... The Yiga. It has been on my mind since you and Link have been attacked."

“Oh.” Sidon straightens himself back up, his voice cracking ever so slightly at being reminded of what happened once again. He supposes he can’t blame Bazz for bringing it up; It’s important to talk about it, if they want to avoid any further incidents like these. "I see. Do you have any idea of what we could do to prevent this from happening once again?"

Bazz’s expression twists into one of discomfort as he scratches at one of his forefins in nervousness. "There is something that us guards have been meaning to talk to you about," he replies, "I suppose it is better that I do it now."

"I am listening," Sidon says, his tail perking up in interest.

"Link has told us much about the Yiga clan, and how they have operated for the past few years," Bazz says, “And I mean absolutely no disrespect to you when I say that… It puzzles me that you would rather avoid killing them. I know they are living beings like you and I, but… Haven’t they done enough to warrant a punishment? If not for vengeance, to at least defend ourselves.”

Sidon’s throat tightens, and he feels… something to the scar in the back of his neck. Is it phantom pain? The wound had long been closed, but he’s never mentioned just how much it hurts at times, how it tingles as though the frost were spreading once again. “I know this very well,” he replies, his teeth gritting around the words unintentionally, something that makes him sound more bitter than he actually is. “But wouldn’t that make me stoop just as low? I am no murderer. I shall not stain my hands with the blood of others unless it is necessary.

“And that is indeed respectable, my lord,” Bazz replies, a sort of sigh to his voice. “But your life comes first, no matter what. King Dorephan and Lady Mipha have made that clear; We have to bring you home safe. Do you understand what that means?”

Sidon gives a slow nod, his eyelids closing in begrudging acceptance. “You will not ask for my permission to kill the Yiga from now on,” he speaks, biting at the inside of his cheek to smother the pricking sensation at the back of his neck. “Is that right?”

“I apologize, Your Highness,” the Black Zora replies with a respectful bow, still. “But we will do whatever we need to ensure your safety, and that includes getting rid of whatever tries to harm you. I hope you understand.”

“Yes, I understand,” Sidon replies, rubbing at his scar briefly. “And I know I will have to do the same, if I am unable to do anything else to stop them. I certainly did not expect to have to resort to violence on this trip, though.”

Bazz’s expression softens as the seconds go, and he’s slightly lowering his head, his eyes settled onto the boiling water. “Lady Mipha did say one more thing,” he begins, his grip on his spear tightening. “If… At any point in time you feel the urge to go back to the domain, there is no need to continue on any further. If that is what you feel at the moment, please do let me know.”

Sidon lets out a resigned laugh, adopting a smile to brush it all off. “You and Mipha have always insisted on treating me like a hatchling,” he says, putting a hand to his own chest to emphasize on his sincerity. “I am fine, Bazz. As… troubling as these attacks may be, I know I can trust you and the other bodyguards. And I am still able to defend myself, of course.”

“Understood,” Bazz replies with a curt nod, but he still seems stiff. Sidon isn’t sure he wants to let that slide - he lets the silence settle for a few minutes, only to speak once again.

“Forgive me for forcing you out of the domain for all this,” Sidon says, bowing his head slightly in apology. “Most of us are out of our element here. I understand that it mustn’t be easy for you.”

“What are you saying? It is my duty to protect you. There is no need for you to apologize.” Bazz remains calm, though his confusion seems to unfurl as the prince starts to smile.

"I mean, do you not miss our home?" Sidon asks, his legs crossing as he rests his back against the wall. “I assume you aren’t very used to traveling that far away.”

Bazz lets out a laugh. "Of course, I do feel a little homesick-"

"What about that shop owner? His name is… Cleff, if I am not mistaken." Sidon's smile turns to a knowing one as he cuts in, changing the subject completely to push away the negative thoughts. “You two have been apart for quite a while.”

"Oh-" Bazz's cheeks flush lightly as his eyes find another place to look upon. "So you're aware that we..."

“It is quite alright, my friend. I do not mean to sound judgemental. I am truly sorry that you are unable to see him during our journey,” the prince replies, his eyes softening. “You two seem good for each other.”

"Thank you," Bazz stutters, his hand resting nervously against the back of his tail. While the shorter Zora had always been secretive about these sorts of things, his growing relationship with Cleff is something that Sidon had noticed a long time ago. He won’t pry for anything else, but witnessing his friends finding a good person to spend their time with brings a warm feeling to his heart, at least.

The amount of time that passes without the other guard coming back grows worrying. Before Bazz can get up to check up on them, a merchant runs towards the stable. He's fast despite the heavy luggage he carries, and his freckled face displays a panicked, horrified look as he approaches the Zoras.

"Hey! Are you two friends with those three other Zoras? The two black ones and the blue one?" He asks, panting as he rests his hands on his knees. Apparently, Link's Zora disguise seems to have fooled him. The two nod in response, and the merchant points to the coliseum.

"I saw them enter the ruins when I walked past," he continues, "There's a Lynel in there! It kills everything that tries to enter! I'm sorry I couldn't approach them - But you need to stop them!"

And when Sidon registers the words, his heart feels like it stops beating. He looks to the coliseum in the distance, the words completely stuck in his throat and his pupils narrowed to lines so thin that they can barely be seen in the golden of his eyes. He wastes no time getting to his feet, following the path to the ruins as Bazz stays close behind.  

Why? Why did they decide to go into the coliseum? Sidon’s sure they’ve mentioned going to hunt easy targets like Bokoblins, yet there they are, taking on one of the strongest beasts of all Hyrule.

Sidon's can feel his pulse racing, his fists clenching as he sprints the fastest he can go. What in Hylia's name went through their mind for them to engage in something so dangerous? All the possible outcomes to their expedition come to his mind, burying just about everything else, including Bazz’s voice as he speaks to him. Is he really speaking to him? No - a prayer for his siblings?

What would he find once he gets there? Would the three of them be dead, crushed to death by the centaur's hooves? Would they still be fighting, their wounds too severe to be fixed even if they prevailed?

The sight he sees when he arrives near the entrance of the coliseum is a scenario he hadn't considered. Only Torfeau and Tottika stand there, hiding themselves behind the walls as they look inside.

"What are you doing?!" Sidon shouts, his voice loud with panic. The sound has the two Zoras’ bodies jumping, and Sidon meets Tottika’s horror-stricken eyes. Torfeau is at his side, crying her eyes out as she blabbers whatever words she can  gather.

“Link went in there, he’s fighting the Lynel on his own,” she says, her teeth gritting and clattering as she looks back inside. "The Lynel uses shock arrows! We can't even go help him!"

Sidon doesn’t think it through. He pushes himself forward, stepping through the gate to join Link into his fight before Tottika’s hand grabs tightly at his wrist.

“Don’t go!” He says, his grip tight enough to stop even the giant Zora prince. Sidon needs to remember that the guards have as much training as he did, if not more. “This would be a certain death for us Zora. Link isn’t wounded yet, he's still fighting!"

He steps back with careful movements, looking inside the ruined coliseum with more attention. From where he stands, he can see his Hylian bodyguard clashing with the Lynel fiercely, his spear bloodied-up and his mouth hanging as he breathes heavily.

With a silver bow that he had brought along with him, he manages to shoot the beast in one of its legs, making it cry out in pain and limp slightly as it moves in circles around the tireless warrior. The Lynel is bleeding from several spots, still managing to stand and fight somehow as it removes the arrows that stick out of its body.

“Please trust him,” Bazz says, though Sidon knows the fear is still hidden behind his words. “I’ve seen him fight before, and as insane as it sounds, he can do it. Stay here with us, Your Highness."

The prince looks to Link once again, his muscles tenser than they’ve ever been before. Link has no shield with himself - If he were to take just one of the Lynel's attacks, it would mean the end for him. It has Sidon waiting with bated breath as some kind of vertigo hits him, a paralyzing spell that only allows him to move his eyes. They follow the arrow that Link nocks, soon shot at the monster’s back; It tumbles, falls onto its knees momentarily.

Link takes the chance to lunge towards it, jumping onto its back with his spear brandished and riding it like a horse. Obviously, the Lynel will not be tamed - It gets up, jumping around insistently to force Link to fall off him. The Hylian manages to stay, gripping at its white mane for support. He takes out his silverscale spear, and with a grunt of effort, plunges it deep into the Lynel's back.

The growl that comes out of the beast's maw is one that has Sidon's stomach twisting painfully. He can only watch as Link pulls out his weapon, only to strike the beast repeatedly, mercilessly, until it kicks him off.

Link lands back on his feet, settling his spear against his back once again, and he does something that he never should have.

He turns his head to look at the prince.

The moment only lasts half a second. He’s soon taking out his bow, but half a second had been enough for the Lynel to pull out its own bow, nocking a shock arrow to aim it at the Hylian guard.

Sidon calls out Link’s name to warn him, but it only startles him more - the arrow cuts the air with a blinding light, striking Link’s arm and sending a dangerous electricity through him. The prince can’t help but shout in desperation, witnessing the whole scene as Link’s body convulses, his voice escaping his lungs in a ragged cry and his eyes rolling back until they're white. The sudden shock forces him to drop his spear to the side, disarming him.

Sidon fears for the worst. He wants to go to him once more, to save him - but Tottika is holding him back, insisting that the Prince will die if he takes another step. He can feel the tears gathering at the corner of his eyes, stinging as if he hadn't blinked for several minutes.

Link comes back to his senses, seemingly dizzy from the attack. Sidon thanks Hylia and all the other Goddesses the Hylian’s arm seems only slightly injured - while the shock arrows were deadly to Zoras, they were mostly made to… well, shock, rather than pierce.

Still, Sidon doesn't think he's ever been this scared for someone's life. Especially now that the Lynel is putting some distance between them, only to rush back towards Link, ready to maul him with teeth larger than Sidon's ever seen.

Link manages to run to the side, effectively avoiding it as he manages to grab at his silverscale spear once again. The beast takes a few seconds to stop itself, and the Hylian guard takes advantage of it to dash towards it, throwing his spear forward and aiming it at the Lynel's heart.

It doesn’t take long for the monster to fall to its knees, its arms dropping to its sides as it lets go of its gear. Link pulls his spear out, simply watching when the Lynel falls to the floor, the life leaving its broken body.

And as soon as Sidon’s sure that the beast is dead, he moves to join Link, quickly followed by the triplets. "Are you alright?!" He asks, reaching Link's side to inspect for injuries. The Hylian is unscathed, save for a small wound on his arm where the shock arrow had struck.

Don’t touch me, Link signs hurriedly, stepping away from the prince. The electricity might still be coursing through me.

Sidon retracts his trembling hand, his pupils narrowing as his gaze finds its way to the blood splattered all over Link’s Zora disguise. It takes him a few seconds to register that Link is almost  perfectly fine, and it’s enough for a sort of anger to flare inside of him.

"Why did you do this?" He asks, his throat tightening around the words. "That was unnecessarily dangerous. One wrong movement could have gotten you killed."

It takes quite a bit of hesitation for Link to grant him an answer. The Lynel parts will make better elixirs with longer-lasting effects, he replies blankly, readying himself to scavenge the beast's remains.

“How do you expect me to not worry about you when you put yourself in such perilous situations?" Sidon says, and his tone is harsh, something he rarely ever used. The words have Link facing him once again, his eyes completely unreadable while the mask covers the rest of his face. The triplets watch from behind, mouth agape to Sidon's sudden burst of anger. There’s blood everywhere , and the monsters leaves a pungent smell in its wake, as if its body had already started decaying. The three black Zoras remain silent as ever as they kneel around the Lynel, opening up a wide bag to put the remains in.

“Your Highness, you do not have to look,” Bazz says, his voice tremulous. "We will take care of this."

Being told what to do only fuels the fire, but Sidon knows Bazz only has good intentions - he keeps his calm despite everything, but the blood that courses through his veins still boils to the point they could melt.

"No, no, let me help you. We're all going to need them."

With that said, he kneels with them, grabbing at one of the beast's horns before ripping it off.

*

The night has fallen completely once they've taken the time to cook the heat-resistant elixirs, enough for them to stay in Gerudo for a few days. A heavy atmosphere hangs over the group after what happened - even if Link had prevailed against that Lynel, watching him had been more than nerve-racking. Sidon can barely keep the imagery of the Hylian guard getting shocked from coming back to his thoughts; What if Link had truly been a Zora? He would have perished for sure, and the thought alone has Sidon shivering. Or that might be the chill the air carries late at night - he isn't sure of what his own senses tell him at the moment.

The waterfall of emotions he had just been through leaves him utterly exhausted. He hadn't spoken to Link since the Lynel had been defeated, and the Hylian hadn't tried to engage in any type of conversation either. The last hours they had all spent together had been silent for the most part, he realizes - the triplets must be just as shaken as he is.

He somewhat understands what his father and sister meant when they had talked to him about Link, about how reckless he could be. To be honest, Sidon hadn't expected it would go this far - what pushed Link to endanger himself like this? What is it that drives him to throw himself into the beast's mouth when there are other alternatives?

Perhaps he trusts himself enough to survive. Perhaps he's trying to prove something to himself. Perhaps he's trying to impress others, but that doesn't seem to be his type.

No, Link is much stronger than he appears. He had made that clear enough already.

The prince reminisces the Yiga attack from a few days ago. The thieves had spoken as if they knew him, as if they had attacked him for a reason. It's still unclear to him, but if there's one thing he's sure of, it's that he would have ended up in a much worse state had Link not come to his aid.

Sure, the Hylian guard had seemed angry with him for a few hours. Which is understandable, Sidon supposes - he had wandered further from the village alone, putting himself in danger just to see some glowy ruins. They weren't even that impressive, now that he thinks about it; They didn't compare to the ones he had already seen, at least.

But Link had come back to see him, to make sure Sidon was alright in the infirmary. The prince had felt Link's gaze upon him as he pretended to sleep, his light touch against his injured arm, and he hadn't been able to help the jumping of his body at the unexpected feeling. He remembers the way Link had accepted the request to stay by his side, taking Sidon's hand in his own for no other reason than the prince had left it open for him.

Truth be told, he hadn't expected Link to actually take it. But Sidon remembers the feeling of his small, gloved hand against his own as he squeezed gently, stroking his palm with a thumb. He remembers the surprised sound that had escaped Link's mouth when Sidon had laced their fingers together, staying like this without an explanation to his gesture.

There's something about Link that Sidon can't quite explain. He doesn't think he's ever had this level of... physical closeness with another guard before. It was simple hand holding, he supposes, but there was something about it that had Sidon's heart beating perhaps a little faster than usual.

Still, Sidon doesn't know much about him, and his behavior grows all the more mysterious with each day that passes. The prince realizes that a certain frustration has made itself present in the back of his neck, clawing at his jaw whenever the gruesome display of Link's armor painted with the dirty blood of a monster comes to mind.

Despite the lateness of the day, Sidon finds himself sitting outside, his back against the trunk of a tree. The guards have long retired for the night, leaving him alone with his thoughts without them knowing. He knows they would be staying with him if they knew he had escaped his room, to pester him with words he didn't need to hear.

Besides, his bed at the stable is far from comfortable - the mattress is too hard, too small for him, forcing him to hunch over himself if he wants to sleep. Perhaps he'll sleep in the lake, if the fatigue does end up catching him.

But no, the lake is too exposed to the outside world, thus making him an easy target for more thieves. All he would manage to do is anger the Hylian once more, which isn't something he wants to deal with.

A wind passes through, bringing with it a few more dead leaves and an unpleasant scent that feels familiar. It's faint, but it seems smothered by the distance, though it doesn't seem to be too far away. Sidon gets up, checking his surroundings for any rotten food or dead animals that could be the source of the stench. He barely realizes he's started walking, following his sense of smell as it takes him a bit further from the stable and towards the lake.

He realizes it smells of blood. Moving any further could be dangerous - but he quickly notices that it fades in the lake, as if someone were washing the blood off something.

It's a surprise to him when he arrives to the lakeside that the source comes from a certain Hylian guard with casual clothes. Link is crouched in front of the water, washing the Lynel's blood off his weapon, armor and suit. Judging by the grunts of frustration Sidon can hear, Link seems to have a rather difficult time dealing with the dried gore that had settled between the makeshift scales.

It's the first time the prince sees him wearing something else than his armor, though. He wears a simple, long-sleeved beige cotton shirt with brown trousers while he remains barefoot. His spear has been settled to the side, and Sidon notices a few red spots still clinging to the silver despite his efforts.

He walks over to him with silent steps as to not scare him. He doesn't believe Link can hear him, but he couldn't be more wrong - the Hylian turns to face him, an expression of pure wrath that fades away as soon as he recognizes the prince. His tired eyes lose focus, turning back to give his attention to his armor once again.

It's something that has Sidon biting at the inside of his cheek. Staying silent in the face of conflict is useless and childish, he realizes - he walks closer, sitting himself down to Link's side, giving him enough space to work.

Link barely spares him a glance. If anything, he looks more tense than he was before he had noticed Sidon approaching him, seeming much more focused onto the water turning crimson than the prince that observes his movements.

"Do you need help?" Sidon asks, his voice quiet through the incessant splashing of water when Link rubs at the fabric of his disguise.

The Hylian shakes his head instantly, a gesture almost expected. Sidon can now see the wound that had been left by the shock arrow - it forms a pattern of white lightning-shaped rashes onto his swollen red forearm. From what Sidon had heard, the reaction is temporary; If that's the only injury he had gotten out of his fight with the Lynel, well, he supposes Link can consider himself lucky.

Or perhaps he had planned it all, if his combat skills are truly more than enough to take down a beast this dangerous.

"Perhaps I should apologize to you for getting so worked up," Sidon begins, his eyes moving to look to the horizon. "I should have trusted your skills. You are very strong, perhaps among the strongest of the royal guard." The words of praise are said in a formal tone, hiding something else underneath.

Link notices, if the way his brow furrows is anything to go by. His eyes are still focused onto his clothes, though his movements have become slower, minimizing the sound to hear Sidon speak.

"I have watched a good part of your fight. I have seen how you work, and you are no ordinary Hylian, I must admit - despite this, the worry that plagued me during that time is something you should know about."

It takes those words for Link to stop, putting his disguise to the side before finally looking up to meet Sidon's gaze.

"I know that you do not want me to worry about you, but you must understand my perspective, my friend," he continues, "No matter what you say, I truly thought I was going to lose you. Should you think my concern is unnecessary, I will leave it at that - but know that I refuse that you throw your life away unnecessarily."

Link shakes his head rapidly, finally granting him a response. No, you're right, he signs with a sigh, I shouldn't have done it. It was reckless of me.

His reply isn't something that Sidon expects, but he finds himself pleasantly surprised that the Hylian admits it. "It was," he says, "But all is done now, and you were victorious. Perhaps I was wrong to ever doubt that you would be," he adds with a soft smile, looking into his azure eyes once more.

You were right to be worried, Your Highness, Link signs with a trembling in his hands. I’ll admit it, I thought I was going to die, too.

Sidon's heart stops at that. Had the Hylian just been lucky to get out of this alive? Did he not know what he was doing?

"When did you believe so?" Sidon asks, frowning slightly as his eyes remain fixated on him.

Through the whole process, Link replies.

Sidon feels like a knot ties itself in his chest, the previous fear suddenly back to haunt him. The Hylian is proving him wrong - he hadn't trusted himself to survive, yet he had gone to risk it anyway.

"Why?" He asks, moving closer to him. "Why did you go fight it anyway, despite your fear? What drove you to it?"

There's a silence that passes as Link's fingers clench around his bloodied-up clothes. He takes a deep sigh. I don't know, he replies, Somehow, I knew deep down that I would survive. That's how it felt, just like every other time I've fought dangerous enemies.

"What do you mean?" Sidon asks, straightening himself back up. There's a hurried tone to his words that pressures Link to reply quickly, the movement of his hands rough enough that Sidon almost misses a few words.

There's something that pulls me in, I suppose, he signs, To see just how far I can go.

"My friend, there is no need for you to do this." The prince's voice is gentle, yet confused - What is Link talking about? What is his purpose for launching himself into these atrocious situations? He wants to ask, but it doesn’t seem like the Hylian is willing to use coherent words.

I know there isn't, Link replies. I just can't stop myself. I'm sorry. I think all I try to do is prove to myself that I can stay-

The gestures of Link's hands only make themselves slower until they come to a halt. When Sidon realizes he won't finish his sentence, he urges him to do so. "Stay what?" He asks, and Link shakes his head.

Please forget about what I just said, he signs weakly. I hear what you tell me. I will be much more careful, from now on.

Sidon sighs in relief. The last few words he had signed had seemed more cryptic than anything he’s ever seen him say, but while he's curious, he's not the type to pry, especially if Link shows discomfort. Understanding his strange reasoning will come in time, he supposes.

"You certainly are intriguing," he whispers, relaxing against the ground he sits onto. "I am thankful that you are willing to listen to my words, but you are somewhat difficult to read, if I may say."

There's a chuckle escaping Link's mouth as he bends down, putting his disguise below the water to scrub at the dried droplets of blood once again. Sidon watches him do so, thankful that the Hylian seems to have relaxed for now - He can distinguish a faint smile, something more reassuring than the previous frown that had written itself across his features.

It takes a few minutes and more for him to finish cleaning up the blood from his armor and weapons, finally resting them at his side before he turns back to Sidon.

I'm sorry once again for worrying you, Link signs, If... Perhaps that makes you feel better, the shock arrow's effects have died out.

Sidon tilts his head in confusion, watching as Link averts his eyes from him. There a small hand extending itself towards him, waiting to be taken.

Sidon reaches for the Hylian's hand, holding it into his own with apprehension. He doesn't feel any hint of electricity coursing under his skin, and it's relieving enough that it has him sighing in contentedness. This time, Link’s usual gloves are off, and the skin-to-skin contact feels completely different than what he had experienced a few days before.

They look into each other's eyes for a few sweet instants, and Sidon can feel a warmth enveloping and cradling his tired heart. Link is... attractive. Way more attractive than any other Hylian Sidon had ever seen in his life. He should keep the thought to himself, he thinks - driving Link away in such a peaceful moment would be absolutely regrettable.

His shoulders jump slightly when Link lowers his head, closing in on the prince's hand to place his lips upon his knuckles.

“Oh.”

He gives them a gentle kiss, and Sidon's sure his face has never been this flushed in his presence - he almost pulls away by reflex, but the sensation is... nicer than he had expected.

What he expects even less is Link pulling away slightly, only to move up and kiss at the back of his hand this time. Sidon feels a tickle where his lips brush against, and he lets a sheepish smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he watches. Link looks up at him, finally pulling back before offering him a grin that could mean many things that Sidon can’t think of at the moment - his mind is much too hazy and disoriented.

You should go rest, Sidon, Link signs, finally taking the time to spell out the prince's name. The gesture has Sidon’s smile brightening, his eyes shining with wonder.   The road to Gerudo will be quite long tomorrow.

"...You're right," Sidon says, watching as the Hylian takes his armor and weapons before heading towards the stable with a simple wave of his hand.

He stares for perhaps a little too long, but he shakes his head around, trying to pull himself together - no, Link must have known exactly what he was doing just now. Was he trying to fluster him? Or was it a gesture of genuine appreciation?

The touch of his lips lingers onto the back of his hand, and he doesn’t dare do anything with it for the next few minutes as he finds himself sitting in the grass, utterly stupefied.

Whatever that was, it's something Sidon is sure to think about and turn over in his head for the whole night as he nestles himself into his tiny bed at the stable.


Chapter Text

 

They leave for Gerudo in the early morning, their supplies ready and their spirits high despite the events of the previous day. There's still a tension in the air that Link can't seem to shake off; He had spoken, admittedly vaguely, to Prince Sidon of his motives for throwing himself into danger, but he might still need to have a word with the triplets, he supposes - especially Torfeau. The young woman had gotten so scared for him that she hadn't even been able to eat the previous night.

The road is tough, especially when they enter the region. The vegetation makes itself rare, the ground dry and rough for their feet. The environment is so different it almost feels like leaving Hyrule; Link hadn't come here in a year, but the place doesn't seem to have changed much, at least he hopes.

Their path leads them through the dry region as they walk between high plateaus, giving them a certain sense of safety. The climate grows more arid with each hour, but it's bearable for now. If they're lucky, they'll only need to use the elixirs once they reach the desert.

They soon reach a stable, the very last one they would see until leaving the region. It sits between tall cliffsides, big enough to welcome all travelers still preparing themselves to endure the harsh sun that falls onto the sand a bit further away.

They can't bring the horses to the desert with them, unfortunately - it will only make their trek all the more tiring, but they have to carry their luggage themselves while the horses stay at the stable for the time being.

It's a little after noon that they finally reach the end of the path, in front of the gates that open the way to the desert. The temperature has raised drastically now that nothing provides shade in the wide expanse of soft sand, and Link can only imagine what it must be like for his Zora friends. It's difficult even for him, especially while he wears that thick disguise covering his entire body.

The heat-resistant elixirs don't exactly have a taste. It's mostly as if he were drinking the ice cold waters of Hebra, and it gives an unpleasant brain-freeze that fades away quickly enough, thankfully. There's a sort of fruity aftertaste, and Link wonders where it comes from; The ingredients mostly consisted of insects and monster parts, nothing that was ever really pleasant to the tongue.

It provides the relief needed, at least. They sigh as they walk forward, their heavy luggage hung around their shoulder, arms, or tied against their backs.

It's not too long of a trip until they reach the Kara Kara Bazaar. The oasis is surrounded by palm trees, various types of shops, and tents set up by travelers. There seems to be an inn despite this, thankfully.

And… Link notices the way the travelers stare right away. He’s always found it a bit irritating to be watched with so much attention by strangers, but glaring in return will most likely not be of any help to them, if they want to be seen as regular tourists.

Link had taken the time to teach the four Zoras of the various Gerudo sayings they would need to remember on their trip here. While it's not entirely necessary to use them, it's always better to adapt oneself to the lifestyle of the people whose land they're stepping on.

They enter the inn, meeting the owner inside. The middle-aged Gerudo woman's gaze darts their way, a welcoming smile drawing itself across her painted green lips.

"Sav'aaq," she greets them, and Link looks up at Sidon and watches him tense up slightly. He decides he will let him do the talking, just to see if he remembers what he's told him. "Are you in need of a place to sleep?" She asks, closing the book she had been holding open.

"Sav'aaq", Sidon stammers with an awkward wave of his hand, "Yes. How many rooms would you have left?"

"I'm so sorry," she says with a hint of compassion across her features. "We have an unexpectedly high amount of travelers resting here right now. I'm afraid I have no more rooms left for you."

It’s a little disappointing, and the triplets are already losing their content smiles. Sidon remains unbothered, though. "I understand," he says, "Is it possible to set up tents around the oasis?"

"Of course! We welcome everyone here. Gerudo guards from the town always come to patrol at night, so you will be entirely safe."

There's a sigh of relief escaping them as they bow in thanks, finally leaving the inn to find a spot where they would rest at night. Thankfully, there's enough room for the two large tents - they set them up quickly, leaving their supplies inside under the watchful eye of the guards.

Even with the elixirs, the climate is still difficult to withstand. The Zoras soon find their way to the lake, soaking in it for the time being. Link watches as he stays on the side, taking in the sight of the desert once more. He’s not so sure how he feels, seeing it after so long. A vague melancholy settles in for only a short moment, before he decides to bury it and replace it with whatever else he finds.

He lowers his gaze towards the water. Sidon is swimming in there with the three black Zoras, and Link can't help but observe the prince as he dives down, the muscles of his back playing under his skin in a way that has the Hylian smirking to himself.

It's no use to even deny that Sidon is very pleasing to look at. Link had always known this, but spending more time with him had added something new, he supposes - while his character is something Link still needs to get used to, he doesn't mind letting his eyes wander towards him just because.

"Link?"

His thoughts are soon interrupted by a woman's voice, one he quickly associates with the Zora guard in front of him. Torfeau looks up at him as she floats, a bit of concern across her face. Link faces her, waiting for her to speak.

"Aren't you hot in that?” She asks, pointing to his disguise. “Do you want to go buy some different clothes?"

He thinks for a moment. The heat is nothing he can't handle, but he must admit that wearing something lighter than his current outfit would be very welcome. He nods to her with a shrug, and the woman leaves the water.

"I'll come with you!" She beams, pointing to the clothing store just a few meters away. "They seem to have really nice things there."

With that they leave Sidon with the two other guards, heading to the small stores that seems to sell traditional Gerudo clothing.

And traditional Gerudo clothing means... Only women's clothes, or vai, as they call them. It was so rare for a male to be born among their race that they didn't even bother selling clothing fit for them. Link still browses despite this, eyeing at the light clothes of his size.

"Oh, I had no idea," Torfeau sighs, looking through the outfits herself. "Sorry, Link, we could go look somewhere else-"

It's fine, he signs, Didn't you want to go to Gerudo town? He offers her a grin, and instantly catches a glimpse of the light that illuminates the Zora woman's eyes upon seeing his words.

"I would love to," she replies, "Why? Are you trying to..."

I'll just buy this and sneak in with you, he signs, You'll need someone to show you around.

"Link, are you serious?" Torfeau lowers the volume of her voice as to not be heard by the shop owners and other customers. "Have you done this before? They won’t go easy on you if they find that a man has entered their town!"

Link smiles, picking one of the outfits along with a veil that will hide his face effectively. Trust me, he replies, I don't plan on getting caught. Just wait and see.

With these last signed words, he heads to the fitting rooms a bit further away. Torfeau walks to wait for him closely enough, and it only takes a few minutes before Link is ready to show himself.

He first looks in the mirror: The top is short, its purpose only to hide his chest. It's of a green color with traditional Gerudo symbols, with frills hanging down. Thankfully, it hides the part of his back that he doesn't want to show to the world. His gloves are long, flared and fingerless, leaving enough space between the fabric and his skin to hide it from the sun without smothering it. The light purple sirwal hangs low at his hips as various jingly belts hug around them, just like the traditional dancers - was that too much for him?

Hiding his face is still something he feels the need to do around complete strangers. A blue, slightly see-through veil hangs around his face, hiding his nose and mouth just like his usual mask. It covers the top and back of his head, concealing most of his hair.

It's not the first time he's worn such clothing, and now he doesn't even mind it. He finds it comfortable, even - he finally opens the curtain, revealing his new disguise to Torfeau.

"Goddesses, is that you, Link?" She asks, her smile turning bright as she clasps her hands together. "You look amazing! You could most likely enter the town without even being found out!"

Link makes a shushing motion of his finger towards his own lips, telling her once more to be careful with her words. I told you. I'll change back, and you buy this for me or the seller will be suspicious, alright? Here, I'll give you the rupees.

"What about the others? Do you think they could do the same?" She asks, looking to the door and towards the oasis.

Link laughs softly. Ask them, but I doubt they even have Prince Sidon’s size.

A giggle escapes her as she takes the rupees in hand. "You're right. That would be a sight to see, though."

Link makes quick work of changing back to his original outfit, leaving the store innocently with nothing in hands. Torfeau already waits for him outside, smiling with increased enthusiasm when the prince and his two other guards stare with curiosity.

The Hylian moves to hide into his tent, changing once again to the Gerudo vai outfit he had just bought. It's only when he gets out that he meets the other's gazes once again, especially Sidon's. The prince's eyes widen as Link moves forward, trying his best to adopt a more sophisticated gait to blend in.

"Link, are you... really sure about this?" Sidon asks, and Link can just notice the way his eyes drag up and down despite his tries at being subtle. "I have no objections to you two going to Gerudo town - honestly, all three of us feel much better staying here in the water, but..."

Link gives the prince a smirk that he can't see through the veil. When he realizes it, he gives him a wink instead, and he's sure he's caught sight of a slightly warm hue spreading across his cheeks.

"Please do not get caught. That would be extremely unfortunate. And do come back soon," he ends with a bow of his head, somewhat hiding his face.

"Understood, Your Highness," Torfeau replies, "Let's be off, Link."

Sidon takes some time to watch him go, submerging his face in the water and letting only his eyes right above the surface. Bazz and Tottika don’t need to see the warmth that’s obviously spreading across his cheeks, much unrelated to the sun that beats incessantly onto him. The Gerudo outfit that Link bought certainly looked… nice, on him, to say the least.

Who is he to lie to himself like that? Link is one of the most gorgeous creatures he’s ever seen walking around Hyrule.

“What do you say, Your Highness?”

The voice on his side interrupts his inner musings, and it’s easy to recognize Bazz’s voice. The black Zora is looking at him, expecting an answer to a question Sidon hasn’t heard. How unsuitable of him to lose his attention so easily.

“Forgive me, I am not sure I heard you,” he says as he rises out of the water, giving a flick of his tail.

“We heard that sand seal races are happening this afternoon near the bazaar. Would you want to go there to watch them?” He asks, pointing to the animals in the distance. Right, Link had mentioned those at some point - that was part of Gerudo culture, wasn’t it?

Anything that will take his mind off of what he just saw will be great.

“Absolutely.”

*

Seeing Sidon's bashful reaction to a simple outfit was rather entertaining. Link finds himself remembering about the previous night, about the warmth that had risen on the prince's handsome face as the Hylian kissed the back of his hand. There hadn't been any real motive behind his gesture, apart from the fact that he had felt like it and that Sidon had allowed it. Feeling the muscles of the prince's hand tensing up slightly only to relax immediately under the touch of his lips had felt satisfying, enough to have him wanting to try again another time, the sooner the better.

But for now, they're in broad daylight, and Link is heading for a town he's not supposed to venture into. It's more thrilling than staying at the oasis and waiting for the day to pass, at least.

Their trip to the town isn't too long. They tread on a sand warm enough that it would be uncomfortable had they not used their elixirs, soon reaching the city, the entirety of it surrounded by tall rock walls to hide it from prying eyes. The gate is carved into it, the sides adorned with tiles of cold colors and various sizes. Two guards stand at the entrance, allowing them to get in with a bow of their head, only barely sparing a glance at Link's outfit. Just as expected, he blends in perfectly.

The plaza they find themselves in is decorated with a few fountains bringing a coolness to the air that feels welcome for the both of them, and palm trees that grow in designated spots. Around them, a dozen of shops are open, and several street vendors sell various foreign fruits or meat. Link’s sure he's never heard this many sounds of high heels clicking against the tiled ground at the same time; It seems like it was still a tradition to wear those for most Gerudo vai. Link takes the time to throw a few looks around, noticing the changes that had been made to the structures since last time he'd come. He often catches a few women staring in their direction, instantly averting their eyes once they're spotted.

"Link, they keep staring... Are you sure they can be fooled by your disguise?" Torfeau asks as she leans in, fidgeting in nervousness.

They're staring at you, not me, he signs, and the Zora woman tenses up. It's extremely rare for Zora vai to ever come here. Most of them probably have never even seen your kind before.

Link's speculation confirms itself as soon as he's mentioned it. Two young Gerudo vai race towards them, almost tumbling forward when they approach Torfeau, their eyes sparkling with amazement. It's always a bit strange to see kids wearing makeup and expensive jewelry at such a young age, but that seems to be part of the culture as well. They skip around, watching Torfeau under every angle and Link can see the slight embarrassment that draws itself on her features.

"Uhh, Sav'aaq...?" She says, timidly waving a hand at the two little girls, and Link does the same. He's already breaking a rule by being here, he might as well be polite.

The girl with the pigtails jumps back, gasping as her eyes widen. "She can talk!" She exclaims, running to the other one (are they sisters?) and grabbing her shoulders. "She's a huge fish and she can talk!"

If Link thought Torfeau's face was as red as it could be, he couldn't have been more wrong. She's practically sizzling at this point, and the Hylian can't help the bark of laughter that forces itself out of his mouth at the situation. The Zora woman smiles at the kids despite this, clearly unsure of what to even reply.

"Makure, Kalani!" Link can hear another voice, one rusted by the smoke over the years. It belongs to an old vai that approaches, calling over the two little girls that had been examining Torfeau with attention. "Staring at people is rude," she scolds them, and the children bow their heads in apology, to her, then to the two travelers.

"Forgive them, they’ve never seen a Zora before. Is this your first time coming here?" She addresses the two, her head moving to face the taller Torfeau and the smaller Link. The Hylian shakes his head while the Zora nods, and the old vai hums in understanding. "You two are very beautiful," she says with a worn smile.

Link squints discreetly enough while she's focused on Torfeau. He's sure he's seen this woman before. It feels distant, but it wouldn't be a far off possibility that he had already met her the first time he came here.

"Why, thank you so much," Torfeau stutters, pressing a hand against her own cheek while her eyes move anywhere but to the woman.

"You should check out the jewelry shop over there," she points to a small structure that seems fancier than the others. "Isha’s stuff would suit you. Oh, and I sell arrows a little further, so feel free to come by. I'll say Sav'orq for now, and I hope you two enjoy your time here. Come on, girls," she ends, gesturing for the children to follow her at her shop.

"Sav'orq!" The girls say in unison, following the old vai with little steps as Link and Torfeau simply wave goodbye.

"Have you heard what she said?" Torfeau asks, looking to Link with an amused grin. "She called you beautiful."

I know I can be a beautiful vai if I want to, he signs nonchalantly, lashes fluttering to joke-flirt with the the Zora woman who obviously only has eyes for the same gender.

"I'm still not interested in you," she snickers, giving a light, affectionate punch against the Hylian's shoulder. "Anyway, should we go to that jewelry shop?"

Link nods to her words, and they both head towards the small, yet fancy building. If there's one place Link remembers about Gerudo town, it's the jewelry shop. It hasn't changed much since last time; Each piece of jewelry sits on a display unit, the sophisticated items each more expensive than the other. They're mostly made of silver or gold, with various rare and precious stones set onto them.

Link can't help but glance at the diamond circlet, the golden headpiece being possibly the most expensive item the shop must sell. He might be very well-paid from his position as a royal guard, but that doesn't mean he should spend so much in one go. He quickly pushes the thought aside, instead watching as Torfeau eyes an intricate sapphire and silver circlet.

"May I help you?"

Link turns to find the shop owner strutting towards them, her hands clasped together as she smiles brightly. The tall vai wears a ridiculous amount of jewelry, her flamboyant red hair tied into an elaborate style that she decorates with a golden tiara. Her dark lipstick accentuates her smile, and Link finds himself tensing up as he lets Torfeau do the talking.

"Yes,may I try on this circlet?" She asks timidly, feeling somewhat small in front of Isha, and the woman hums in agreement. She takes the jewelry off its shelf, gently attaching it around the Zora's head. The tail on the back of Torfeau's head makes it difficult, and she ends up wearing it in a way more unconventional than how anyone else would wear it. It still looks pretty, in Link's opinion.

"My, that color really suits you," the vendor muses, showing her a small mirror. "It will also be of great use for you in the desert. You see, this sapphire has heat-resistant properties, and will cool you down in warm areas like here."

Torfeau turns her face around, admiring the glimmer of the piece as it sits against her forehead. Link almost doesn't see the way Isha's face has turned to him, staring at him insistently and squinting in mistrust.

Oh no.

"Have we… met before?"

There's a long moment of silence passing through, and it doesn't help that they're the only customers present. The craftswoman at the other end of the room turns her gaze towards them, alerted by her manager's words and shooting them an absolutely terrifying glare. Link feels a cold sweat on the back of his neck, noticing the worried look that Torfeau gives him.

Thankfully, he's good at feigning innocence. His expression stays calm, and he shakes his head with faked confusion. She might be right, but the circumstances of their encounter are something he would prefer not bring up.

Or rather, they must not be brought up.

She stares at him still, letting the awkward silence drag on as Link doesn't make a single move to communicate. It's only when Torfeau looks back at the seller that she stops, focusing once again on the Zora woman.

"Sorry, that must have been my imagination," she says, deciding to ignore Link for now. The Hylian sighs to himself, planning to leave the place as soon as Torfeau is done.

To his surprise, the Zora guard buys the expensive sapphire circlet. They walk out of the shop, and Link lets the tension wash away from his shoulders as he listens to her gush about her new purchase. Once they're far enough that the shop owner won't hear, Torfeau stops in her tracks.

"What was that about?" She asks, gesturing to the shop with her head.

What do you mean?

"You know," Torfeau continues, "She said she knew you.”

Link shakes his head with a slight click of his tongue. She didn't. She said it was her imagination.

"Do not play smart with me, Link," she says, her tone suddenly stern. And with the time he had spent getting to know her, the Hylian knows it's no time to be joking around when she’s like this . "I could smell how uncomfortable you were. Us Zoras notice these things, you know."

Alright, he signs, resigned. I went to her shop a long time ago. But something bad happened there, and I don't want to talk about it.

“I’m baffled that this isn’t even the first time you’ve broken the law by coming here. Did you get caught, or something?”

When Link gives no response, Torfeau decides to switch the subject while she can. Her eyes turn bleak, and she clutches her small bag in one of her hands.

"I worry about you sometimes, Link," she begins, "Last night, you... put yourself in a great amount of danger, you know? It was terrifying to watch."

Link knows she's referring to that fight against the coliseum Lynel. He couldn't do anything but agree when the others would tell him it had been foolish, reckless - He knows it was. He knows that's all he is, despite his attempts to stay under control. But he feels a certain spite, a wrath that tells him to anger Hylia with his dangerous stunts, with his carelessness.

One thing he often forgets is that it's not just Hylia that he angers, if once again, she even exists. The people that feel close to him, that had ended up appreciating him as a person start to fear for his life, and it's only natural. Scaring Torfeau had possibly been the worst of it all, considering how much she cares about him. He really needs to be careful from now on.

I should've apologized to you earlier, Link signs in reply. Sorry. It really wasn't necessary.

Torfeau gives him a warm smile, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I cannot help but think you were trying to impress someone.”

Link scoffs, rolling his eyes into a slow circle. Right, and who might that be?

Torfeau’s expression falls deadpan, staring silently for long enough to make Link feel uneasy.

Stop that. You’re scary, he says, swatting playfully at her tail. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

“Right,” she replies, and it’s her turn to roll her eyes. “Your stubbornness aside, let’s not forget that we must protect the prince first and foremost, yes?”

Her words have a small smile tugging at the corner of Link's lips, something that the Zora woman can't see. He nods to her, and with that, they continue on with their tour of Gerudo town.

Further away in the desert, a celebration is happening.

Tali, the sand seal racing champion, has broken her record once again. Many Gerudo vai and travelers from all over Hyrule were there to see, and watching her slide onto the sand with her radiant shield had been exceptionally thrilling. Sidon can’t help but offer her his congratulations, something that the woman accepts with a polite nod.

And now that the race is done, free access to the circuit had been given to the travelers, to have them try it out. Except… Sidon doubts any of the sand seals will be strong enough to drag him along. Still, Bazz and Tottika are just as tall as Gerudo, so at least the two get to try.

Sidon won’t lie - it’s hilarious. The longest one has managed to stand on the shield for had been five seconds or so, and even then, Tottika had gotten up, raising his fists in the air in triumph. Their resolve is unbreakable, though, and they keep trying, even if it takes a few falls and many, many rolls onto the sand.

The prince watches with entertained interest, laughing heartily each time one of his guards topples, still encouraging them from afar every now and then.

“How’s the heat treating you?” Sidon hears a voice behind him, and he can only assume they’re talking to him; He turns around, seeing Shabonne, Tali’s coach, standing right there with her cane in hand.

“Oh- The elixirs are certainly helpful,” Sidon begins, showing a toothy grin. “I should be fine until the night falls. I appreciate your concern.”

Shabonne hums to herself, approaching his side with a soft smile despite her sharp features. “It’s not just me who’s concerned,” she says, and Sidon’s tail perks up. “Everyone… The Gerudo aren’t used to seeing your kind here in the desert, and we know how difficult it must be for you all to handle. Zora and Gerudo are almost opposite races, aren’t they?”

“In a way, they are,” Sidon replies with a titter.

“Even our way of speaking is different. You Zoras are so sophisticated and refined-”

Shit!

Sidon turns to watch the circuit again, only to find Tottika sprawled out in the sand after another embarrassing fall.

I win this time, dillweed! ” Bazz shouts, and Sidon almost wants to yell at them to stop, until Tottika raises his middle finger at his sibling. As hard as he tries, Sidon can’t help but laugh at the irony.

“...When we think no one is watching, some of us do forget about our manners,” Sidon says sheepishly, and Shabonne reassures him as she laughs as well.

“Well, anyway I won’t lie,” she says, her tone suddenly stern again. “Most of us were… surprised that you’d choose to come here, after what happened.”

Sidon feels a twinge in his gut. “What do you mean?” He asks, though he might already have an idea.

“The Yiga attack. The word traveled across Hyrule, my prince,” she says, her compassion visible even through her sunglasses. “You probably know that the largest of their hideouts is settled in the depths of the desert, don’t you?”

A shiver runs across him, so intense that it pricks, and he has to stop himself from looking in each and every direction of his surroundings. No, he was having a fine afternoon, why did that subject have to be brought up?

“I just thought I’d reassure you,” she continues upon noticing Sidon’s lack of immediate response. “The hideout was destroyed about two weeks ago.”

Sidon tilts his head, only slightly relieved of the weight that had been pressed upon him. The mere mention of the thieves was always enough for his throat to tighten. “What? How?” He asks, and the woman lowers her glasses, pointing into the distance.

“Not sure. All we know is that there’s nothing left there, aside from debris and ashes,” she replies with a shrug. “So in other words, you’ll be fine here. Besides, your guards might not be skilled at sand seal racing, but they’re probably good at defending you, right?”

Sidon thinks back to Lurelin, to the palmorae ruins. To the Yiga’s attempts. To Link as he came to his aid.

And suddenly, he thinks back on the way he held and kissed his hand.

“Indeed,” he says, keeping a soft smile that he had wanted to force at first - except, he doesn’t need to. “They are more than they appear to be.”

*

Thankfully, there’s still a lot to see in Gerudo town.

Link and Torfeau take their time browsing the various shops first, buying a few snacks to fill their stomachs. The hearty durians are something that Link already knows about, but Torfeau's reaction to the smell and taste is a comical thing to witness. They admire the unique architecture, looking at the palace from afar where the chieftainess resides. The person in question seems to have changed as well; A young vai named Riju sits on the throne now, most likely the child of the previous leader. Link doesn't even want to go there - he had caused enough trouble to her mother as it was.

And to end their tour on an amusing note, they find themselves attending the Gerudo love class. The teacher, Ashai, seems to be teaching to younger vai how to find a partner, and the advice given is very cliché. It has Link grinning to himself, trying to keep it down to not bother the other vai who are actually here for a reason. Torfeau seems attentive, though, and Link is sure he just caught a glimpse of her taking notes.

Once the class is done, Torfeau walks up to the teacher with the intent of speaking with her. Link follows closely, preparing himself to be questioned.

"Thank you so much for having us, Miss Ashai," Torfeau begins, hiding the small notebook in her bag. "Your class was very interesting."

"It was an honor to teach you two, who come from so far away," Ashai replies, brushing at her pink ponytail. "So? Do you feel ready to go and find the love of your life?"

Torfeau nods in excitement, and Link gives a small tilt of his head and a shrug. It catches the teacher's attention, of course - she inspects his face, humming as she thinks.

"Young Hylian vai," she begins, "You're still young, and you still have enough time to find true love. Or is there someone in your life that already makes your heart beat faster?"

There's a name that comes up almost instantly, but Link shoves the thought far away in a corner of his mind. He shakes his head repeatedly, trying his best to assure her, and himself, that there isn't .

... But the knowing smile that Torfeau gives him has him sighing to himself. She could smell that shift in his mood, couldn't she?

"Well, you are an attractive vai. I'm sure you will find someone soon," Ashai ends, seeing them off as she leaves the room as well to teach the night cooking class.

The sun is starting to set when they stroll along an alley. The atmosphere changes now that the torches are lit up, and the few restaurants and bars finally feel livelier.

"There's someone that makes your heart beat faster," Torfeau teases, a shit-eating grin across her face that Link wants to throw sand at. Knowing well that she smelled it, he gives up on denying anything. "Do you need to talk about it?" She asks with genuine concern.

Link drops his shoulders, sighing as he rubs at his temples. What I need is a drink, he signs, looking over to the famous 'Noble Canteen' bar just a few feet away.

"Oh, I would love that too, actually," she replies, "But we really need to head back. Prince Sidon and my brothers are going to start worrying if we stay here for the evening."

Oh, right. They would better leave right now, especially since the air is growing somewhat cooler as the night creeps closer and closer. Perhaps now would be a good time to change back to his regular Zora disguise.

They soon depart for the bazaar once again, their steps hurried as they lose light. It's a good thing to remember that they won't be needing the heat-resistant elixirs at night, at the very least.

Once they arrive, they can already see Prince Sidon, Tottika and Bazz sitting around a campfire away from another group of tents. They notice the relieved smiles from here, and they practically run to join them at this point.

"How was it?" Tottika asks, hugging himself to minimize the cold sensation as he leans closer to the fire.

Torfeau is the one to tell them all about their trip to Gerudo town while Link disappears in his tent, changing back to something warmer. He comes back with his armor once again, putting the Gerudo vai outfit in his luggage carefully. Who knows, perhaps he'll need it again some day or another.

"What about you? What did you do all afternoon here?" Torfeau asks.

"We watched the sand seal rallies," Sidon replies, "I had always wanted to see one. It's quite impressive, Bazz and Tottika even got to try it themselves."

You couldn't? Link signs, almost knowing the answer in advance.

"It seems I am too big for them to carry along," he says sheepishly, gesturing to himself. "I expected that, though. I really enjoyed watching Bazz and Tottika roll in the sand when they couldn't keep a balance."

It has Torfeau snorting as she imagines the scene. "I wish I could have seen that," she laughs, sitting herself with them as Link follows.

"Well," Bazz mutters, and Link can see the tiny band-aid that was stuck against his cheek. "You only have yourself to blame for that. If you had stayed here, maybe you could have tried it with us too."

"I think I prefer Gerudo town anyway," she replies. "Speaking of, Tottika, perhaps you should take advantage that we're in Gerudo to try and find a wife. The women over there are desperate to get married, you know."

"Don’t tell me what to do," Tottika replies, sipping at his cup of tea.

They finish their evening by chatting some more around the campfire, telling each other about their day in detail. There's a sort of carelessness to the way they sit around thanks to the Gerudo guards that already patrol the area, but Link still feels the need to watch their surroundings with attention.

It soon becomes difficult to stay out comfortably. They retire to their tents in the later evening hours, and Link finds himself staying outside a little more to keep watch, and to keep the fire lit. Not that it exactly matters, since the tents cover them well enough that they don't have to fear the cold.

It's a relief that they haven't met a single Yiga thief on their first day in Gerudo. He knows their main hideout is further away in the desert, meaning there should be more of them around, but... for now it seems calm, for the most part.

"Link?"

A honeyed voice interrupts his thoughts, having him turn his head towards the prince's tent. Sidon is poking his head out, letting his hand out as well to gesture him to get closer.

Does... Sidon want him to join him in his tent? Sure, Link had kissed his hand the previous day, but such an invitation feels bold , even for him. Link stares in confusion for a moment, his eyes asking for some kind of explanation beforehand.

"Come, my friend," Sidon insists, "There is something I must show you."

Link looks around one more time. There doesn't seem to be anyone close enough to witness this, and the triplets are already nestled in their tent. He's not sure what to expect, but he gets up, bending down to finally enter the prince's tent.

Sidon is sitting there with a full smile, an open book resting on his legs. "Sit with me, Link," he says, and the Hylian does just what he is told. He settles himself to his side, throwing a curious look at the prince.

"I could not help but look through this book on traveling," he muses, flipping through a few pages. He suddenly stops when he reaches a page about Tabantha, pointing at a drawing of the dragon that often comes by. "It says that Dinraal moves through the Tanagar Canyon once every three months," he continues, this time looking at Link. "I have asked other travelers, and it seems like the next time she will appear is in ten days. Will we have time to reach the region by then?"

Link thinks to himself for only a few moments. I actually did plan that out, he signs, We should be in Tabantha right on time for the dragon's arrival. I was trying to keep it a surprise like I did for Farosh.

"Were you?" Sidon asks, his smile fading. "Forgive me, it seems I have ruined it."

Don't worry about it, Link replies with a grin. Nothing is like the real sight.

There's still a bittersweet feeling that takes hold of Link's throat at the mention of the dragons, but it's something he must swallow down, something the others don't need to know about. Meeting Farosh two weeks ago had already turned him upside down, shaken him to the core in the most unpleasant of ways. He's not sure what he expects to happen, at this point.

"It is truly a gift to have you along." Sidon's voice interrupts his rumination, accompanied with a warm smile that plays at the corner of his lips. "We all would be very lost in Hyrule without you."

Link shrugs it off, looking away for just one moment. Don't exaggerate. It reassures me to know that you're enjoying this trip.

"Oh, I am," Sidon replies. "Especially since I can enjoy it with ones that I hold dear."

There's a slight warmth that makes itself known on Link's face as he lets himself chuckle. You are so very sentimental, Your Highness, Link signs, giving him a smug grin through his mask.

"Please, my name," Sidon sighs, laughing weakly as he moves his hand to tug at the Hylian's hood with two fingers. Link lets him, tensing up ever so slightly when the prince pulls the hood off, revealing hair tied into a messy ponytail. The mask is soon pulled down by Sidon's careful movements as well, and Link finds himself face uncovered once again in front of him.

Sidon, Link spells out slowly, his eyes locking with golden irises that stretch out at the sight.

Sidon could say whatever he wanted, Link knows his intentions are much more than friendly, if the way his fingers brush against his own is anything to go by. Which... Is something that had never bothered Link in the first place.

Dinraal isn't the only reason why you called me here, is it? Link signs, getting on his knees to face the prince a little closer.

"How did you know?" Sidon asks, a chuckle escaping him as he places a hand against the small of Link's back. A shudder shoots through the Hylian, from the tip of Sidon’s fingers, rendering him a little more needy than he’d planned on being.

You enjoy my attention, Link replies before holding the prince's hand in his own, bringing it closer to his lips once again.

"If I may trust my sense of smell," Sidon starts again, his voice a husky whisper. "I would say you enjoy this closeness as well-"

Sweet words are interrupted once Link places a kiss against the back of his hand, and he feels himself burning up with pride upon feeling the slight twitch of his fingers. The Hylian kisses again, his movements intentionally slow to savor it all. Sidon stays silent, save for the satisfied sigh that leaves him when Link moves his lips up towards his wrist, going up his arm, feeling the thin webbing of the prince's fingers with his own.

But there's something on his mind. Link pulls back abruptly, looking Sidon in the eyes to meet pupils that grow all the wider.

Why? He signs. Why do you enjoy this?

Sidon's grin fades away slowly, giving way to a sheepish smile instead. "Are you uncomfortable? Forgive me-"

Link shakes his head vigorously. I'm not, he replies. I'm just curious. What is there about me that makes you want this?

It's a genuine question - Obviously, Link didn't mind the intimate gestures. But Sidon is a prince, and Link is his bodyguard, and there is still so much Sidon doesn't know about him. It must be the same for him, he supposes; Link only knows his princely talk, his good looks and his golden eyes that feel like they could swallow him up.

He doesn't mind learning a little more, though.

Sidon clears his throat in embarrassment, averting his gaze for just a second. “How fitting of you to be so straightforward,” he begins, a red warmth spreading across the soft skin of his cheeks. “Well… Not only are you pleasant to talk to and to look at, but I must admit, the way you look at me, and your scent... Those things draw me in."

Unfortunately, Link is now the one to redden. Even his ears feel like they're burning, and he lets out a small laugh to conceal it.

"What about you?" Sidon asks, and Link raises his head again. "What drives you to give me your... attention?"

Are you kidding? Link signs. You're one of the hottest things in all of Hyrule.

It's not exactly the way a bodyguard should be speaking to his prince, but if Sidon wants closeness, well... Link will give him just that.

"Oh my," Sidon stutters, pulling Link closer. "Do we need to explain ourselves any further?"

Of course not.

Link throws his arms around the prince's neck, shifting closer until their bodies are almost pressed together. Their desire-filled eyes stay focused onto each other, and the Hylian's lashes flutter down as he lets himself relax in Sidon's hold. Once they're only one breath away, Link can feel the prince's hand dragging up, caressing the upper part of his back, slowly...

It has the Hylian flinching, his teeth gritting in some sort of discomfort. There's something there, something that hurts even though it shouldn't - Link instinctively grabs at his wrist, fingers tightening around it enough for Sidon to let out a sound of surprise. His other hand goes up to hold the Zora prince's jaw, tilting it to the side, and his lips soon find home against his cheek instead of... wherever they were about to go.

"Link...?" Sidon's voice is quiet, the confusion clear in the way he utters his name.

I have to go, Link signs, pulling away from Sidon's embrace and letting his gaze wander to anything that isn’t a huge, beautiful Zora prince.

"Wait, my friend, have I done something to upset you?" He asks, the worry plaguing his features.

Link shakes his head. Don't worry about it, he signs. I just don't think this should happen today.

"Oh." There's still a bit of relief that washes over him, and he smiles lightly. "I understand, Link," Sidon whispers, nodding in understanding. "I will keep my hands to myself for now."

Thank you. Link turns back, ready to leave the tent before looking back to the Zora once more. See you tomorrow, Sidon.

"Goodnight," Sidon replies, yawning as he lies back down onto the mat that makes his bed. It doesn't look too comfortable, but the prince hasn't complained in the slightest ever since he's had to sleep on those things.

Link finally leaves the tent, glancing at his surroundings. One Gerudo guard notices him, though she doesn't seem to pay him any mind. She goes back to her duty as Link moves to his own tent, or rather, the guards' tent. Remembering that he'll have to deal with the triplets' noises and movements as they slumber has him sighing, but his exhaustion is heavy enough that he might fall asleep on the spot anyway.

After changing to a more adequate attire as he hides from prying eyes, he enters the tent, fitting himself into a corner with enough space for him. He pulls the cover over himself to avoid the chilly air to crawl against him, shutting his lids tightly, doing his best to avoid thinking about the previous situation once again.

But the feeling of Sidon's hand against his back lingers, and it's much less pleasant than he thought it would be.  

 

Chapter Text

 

The rain and the adrenaline often made him forget, even for only a few instants. Still, he doesn’t want the memory of his parents to turn into a mismatched picture, after all, it’s only been two- no, three weeks?

Link has long lost the track of time, now that he finds himself all alone in the wild with nobody to help him. He doesn’t remember the woods of Necluda being so forbidding, then again, he’s not so sure he’s in Necluda. He's walked for so long that he might have ended up in another region by now, not that he would know much about the rest of Hyrule anyway.

But the incident took so much. Whatever controls the weather must hate him and everything that surrounds him. Lightning was his worst enemy, after it had struck down his house in Hateno village, setting it ablaze and taking his poor parents with it. The whirlwind of emotions he was sent into had turned his mind hazy, and he had left his reason with the inferno as he had ran far, far away from home. He doesn't remember how he escaped, being so little and weak - in fact, he doesn't remember much from that night. All that he knows is the fear striking him at the thought of ever coming back to what is now a graveyard, to find his aunt crying over the loss of her sister and nephew.

No, he didn’t want to see anyone weep. He didn’t want to be found and cradled. He didn’t want to be told over and over that his mother and father were new comets in the sky.

No one outside of the village knew him, and that was better this way. Link had no will to show himself, to show just how weak he was alone. He could survive on his own, right? Being a kid didn't have anything to do with it. All he needed was to find food, to find places safe enough for him to sleep, if he even could. But the night was never kind; Most of the time, he would just lie in the grass, curling up in a ball and squeezing his eyes shut to forget about that night.

Sometimes, the tears would fall along his cheeks and into the dirt.

Truth be told, he's not sure how long he can survive on apples alone. But stealing anything else at the stables was nearly impossible, given how warily the merchants would guard their stuff. It left little room for Link’s clumsy hands to grab at the raw meat they had just came back with from their hunt, and most of the times, all he could obtain was a few fruits lying around here and there.

Now that he focuses on his surroundings, he notices the Dueling Peaks in the distance - Oh, right, he’s still in Necluda. Perhaps he had just walked in circles all this time, making no progress whatsoever. Not that there was much of it to make.

He runs into the woods, the pitter-patter of his feet in the wet grass adding itself to the sound of heavy rainfall. He's managed to steal three apples this time; Perhaps he would sleep better with a filled stomach. Once he reaches a deeper part of the forest, he sits under a tree to somehow cover himself from the rain, breathing heavily as he recovers from his race against whatever was tailing him. Perhaps it was the stable owner, or a merchant...?

Who knows. Right now he’s starving, and there’s food right in front of him. He presses his knees together and towards himself, providing just the slightest of warmth despite how soaked his clothes and hair are. His toes squeeze together - when had he lost his shoes?

He takes a bite from one of his apples, barely chewing before he swallows. It hurts in his throat, but he can't wait any longer to have something in his stomach again. He's so focused on the fruit that he almost doesn't notice the little form that wiggles in front of him.

It’s a small, rabbit-looking like creature, except its face is shaped like the one of a barn owl. Its body glows a bright blue, and two long antennae stand at the top of its head, shaped like branches from which little orange leaves stick out.

Link simply frowns at the thing for a moment, tensing up under its scrutiny. Then he remembers the name of the creature - a blupee.

It's an animal that Link had only heard of in legends, but it looks exactly how it had been described to him. Those would wander around the forests, hopping through the grass as they chased fireflies. And he knows another thing about them: If someone were to strike the little being with an arrow, a few rupees would come out of its body as it fled. But Link has no bow or arrow on him, not a single weapon. He lets his apples go for just a second before he pushes himself up on his knees, extending his arms to catch the Blupee. The creature skips away, too fast for Link's reflexes as he falls forward, face first into the wet dirt.

He stays like this for a moment, as if his muscles were giving up on him. Maybe that's what's supposed to happen, after all this time without a proper meal.

Quickly giving up on ever catching it, he pulls himself back up, rubbing at his face to try and clean up the mess. It'll wash away with the rain anyway, he supposes.

Something tickles at his nose as he scrambles back against the tree, and he sneezes violently. Was he getting sick? Was it because he had lost his shoes?

He had been through so much during the past two weeks, surely he could handle a cold, right? But it somehow adds itself to a list, an endless list of every little thing that had made him want to give up. As minor of an inconvenience this could be, it all overflows. As he sniffles, he can barely help the whine that escapes him. The tears pool at his lower lids once again, and he throws his head forward, burying it against his knees as he hugs them tightly. He sobs quietly under the downpour, his apples forgotten to the side.

The cold is catching his bare feet, numbing them as he kicks them onto the ground. Was it wise to eat? Was it useful to try and survive in a forest that wants him dead anyway? Mother nature had already proven that she was out to get him.

A louder cry escapes him as his hands find their way onto his head, pulling at his hair in tearful anger. It hurts, but at least it keeps him alert, reminds him that he's alive when he shouldn't be.

"Hey, you there!" A light yet masculine voice can be heard a little further, distracting him from his turmoil. He snaps his head upwards, his eyes meeting three silhouettes gathered under another tree a few meters away from him.

"Kid, are you okay?" The taller of the three asks as it approaches, and Link scrambles to catch his apples once again. Who was this? Were they here to take them from him? No, no- He won't let them! He went through so much trouble to get them!

“No, please don’t worry,” it says, raising his hands in attempted reassurance. “I promise, I won’t take your food.

Link finally looks up to meet its gaze. It's a young Sheikah man, perhaps a teenager? His skin is tan, his features sharp and his eyes of a dark grey. His hair is a pure white, tied into a short braid that descends in front of his left shoulder, and a few stray strands stick to his forehead with the rain. He wears a single scar, a small cut on his chin, and dons the traditional Sheikah tunic, though it’s been teared in different places.  

Link inspects him with eyes reddened by the tears. The man slowly crouches in front of him, extending a hand towards him for a handshake.

“It’s alright, everything will be alright. Are you lost?” His voice is pleasing to listen to over the loud rain, and he shows a warm smile.

Link gives a vigorous shake of his head, unconsciously backing away, though he finds himself stuck as the tree blocks his way.

"I see. What's your name? I'll help you, don't worry," he tries to reassure, but Link's eyes focus instead on the two other smaller forms that stand further away, waiting with their mouths hanging.

The taller of the two is... a Zora. Link had rarely ever seen any, but he can tell it's a young male. His skin is a light yellow, mixed with a pastel blue that forms the usual markings around his body. Dark freckles spread across his round cheeks, shoulders and arms and - Goddesses, Link is sure he’s never seen so many scars on one person before. One of his ulnar fins is almost cut in half, and his entire body is covered in healed, randomly placed cuts. Something else seems rather unusual; His upper lip is painted black, but it looks more like a birthmark than actual makeup.

And like all other Zoras, his eyes are of a majestic golden. They pierce Link’s gaze, and the Hylian has to look away and find the smaller person partially hidden behind the young Zora.  

A little Sheikah girl. She stares with hypnotizing round, brown eyes, concealing herself timidly as her hand squeezes the Zora’s own. Her white hair is cut messily into one of these fluffy bob-cuts, and the eye of the Sheikah is tattooed in red ink right onto her forehead, the tear descending down the length of her nose. She wears a warm sweater, obviously much too big for her, making her look even younger than she probably is.  

Link's eyes find themselves onto the taller Sheikah man once again, remembering the question that was just asked. But he won't give his name - His mother had always told him to not sign to strangers. He purses his lips instead, clutching at his apples.

"It's okay if you don't want to tell us our name," the man says, "I'm Luwas, but I can’t really introduce myself for now - The stalnox is going to wake up soon, and you don’t want to be around when that beast is standing. Hold my hand and I'll take you somewhere safe, alright?"

The stalnox; Link had briefly heard of it, of the hunters of his village going to face it every once in a while, never to come back again. He knows better than to stay in such a dangerous area and meet the same fate as they did, so he stands back up on his feet, hands too full with his apples to take Luwas's own.

"Alright, everyone follow me," he says calmly, standing back up as well and gesturing to the two other children to come with him. They follow with a nod, and Link runs after them, with no single clue to where they're headed. Anything will be better than here.

While Link runs behind the small group, he can’t help but feel a little uneasy; These people were complete strangers, after all. He can only hope his decision to follow them won’t lead him to some kind of trap.

"Why don't you talk?" A sudden voice addresses Link, and his head perks up. He meets the Zora youth's vibrant golden eyes, his pupils forming thin lines. "Luwas asked you a question. Why didn’t you answer?” He asks, obviously wary and seemingly ready to kick him and leave him behind.

A slight panic settles in. Link hadn't been able to speak for years, but how does he explain this while his hands are full of fruits? Did the Zora even know sign language? What about the girl?

"You weirdo." The Zora frowns at Link's lack of response, turning his head back to watch the Sheikah man's back. "Don’t expect me to give you my name either, then."

Link shrugs mentally at that. Why would having this boy's name help him in any way? For now, all they have to concentrate on is where they walk as to not trip and fall. But he feels a slight tug on the sleeve of his dirty shirt, a timid hand that asks for him to turn his head.

Dark brown eyes fixate him like he’s a target, but they shine like faceted gemstones. Link spares the Sheikah girl a mistrustful glance at first, expecting to be berated like he had been by that rude Zora kid.

But instead, she blushes, stuttering as she tries to find her words and running all the while.  

"I-, I'm Pa-, Pa-" She stammers, the sound of her own half-finished words obviously flustering her even more than she already is. Link's eyes soften at the sight.

"You don't have to tell him your name," the light blue Zora retorts, his voice more gentle for the obviously delicate girl. "Wait until Luwas tells us what to do."

The girl looks at the Zora, then back at Link with apologetic eyes, her tiny eyebrows falling into a chagrined expression. "Sorry," she murmurs, though Link can only read it on her lips, with the rainstorm being so loud.

It takes a few more minutes of running through the grass until Link can finally see a small structure in the distance. It's a wooden hut, standing away from the roads and villages, next to a waterfall. They run to it, Luwas opening the door for the other three to enter, and Link does so without question. He's had enough of the rain and the cold and the dirt on his freezing feet.

Luwas closes the door behind them, lighting up a single lantern. The house Link finds himself into is small, only containing one room with a cooking pot and small, messy mats that possibly served as beds.

"Sorry about that, everyone," the Sheikah man utters, sitting himself down onto the wooden floor as the other two kids follow. Link stays standing there, unsure of what to do or what the other awaits from him. Luwas uses another match, this time lighting up the wood under the cooking pot.

"You can sit down, kid," he says, his smile warmer compared to the Zora's hostile eyes and the girl's expression of curiosity. "It's okay, we're going to help you. How long have you been outside?"

Link lets his apples drop to the floor this time with three knocking sounds as they roll around. The three others watch, confusion spreading across their faces as Link raises his hands to sign.

Two weeks, I think, Link signs, under the puzzled gazes of the strangers.

They stay silent for now, finding themselves staggered as they look at each other as though one of them had the answer to their questions. And Link knows what that means - this was usually the reaction he would get when meeting people who couldn't understand sign language.

Link stomps in frustration, catching their attention once again. He thinks for a moment, then makes a motion of his right hand to mimic the action writing on some paper.

"Ah! Writing, yes!" It's something Luwas seems to quickly understand as he scrambles back up, rummaging through his belongings to find a little notebook and a pencil. Some pages are filled with words and stories, or doodles, and Link uses a blank one to write down his own thoughts.

"Two weeks," the older man reads aloud, humming to himself. "Do you know where your parents are?"

Link feels a lump forming in his throat, and a few tears welling up at the corner of his eyes as he blinks them away. He doesn't think reciting his story in detail would do anyone good in this situation, and he's too tired to write more than a single word: Dead .

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Luwas utters, his expression turning doleful when he reads the word. "Hey, I understand if you don't want to talk about it. All three of us lost our parents, too... We live together now, as a family."

Link wears a confused look as he glances at the kids once again. What a peculiar family.

"Would you like to write your name?" He asks, and Link thinks for a moment. The three might be strangers, but... It doesn't seem unwise to trust them, especially since they're in the same situation as he is.

He nods quietly, scribbling his name in capital letters so they will read properly.

"Link?" Luwas repeats. "It's nice to meet you, Link. You can stay here with us if you want - actually I'd rather you stay here for now. Being alone in the wild isn't something that will guarantee a long lifespan, especially for a kid like you."

Link frowns, taking a certain offense to being belittled like this. But he knows deep down that the man is right; He already knew he wouldn't last long in these conditions.

"Lu," the young Zora interjects, his expression even colder than the weather. "Are you really sure about this? We don’t know him. And we might not even have enough food for another person.”

“No need to be so harsh, Xila,” Luwas replies, and the kid flinches when his name is revealed without his permission. “If I remember correctly, we didn’t know you either when we found you. Don’t you think it’s best to help those in need?”

Xila shrugs, nodding in begrudging acceptance. “Yeah, I guess,” he replies, putting a hand against one of his scarred forefins.

“Besides, look, he has three apples with him! I’m sure he’s talented,” Luwas adds, gesturing to the Hylian boy.

Link feels a hint of panic as he looks down at his apples once again. Was it what they were after?

"Link, we have food here that we will share with you. We can try to cook a nice meal to eat together with your apples, what do you think?"

Link nods slowly at the words, though his trust is still somewhat fragile. The way the Zora seems do dislike his arrival doesn't help either, though the shy gaze of the Sheikah girl could be a bit reassuring.

"Paya, go get some courser bee honey from the bag," Luwas gently orders, and the girl moves to stand up as she hurries toward a large bag in a corner of the room. "And while we cook that, Xila, do you think you can go find some fish in the lake? It’s alright if you can’t swim for long."

"Okay," Xila agrees without protest, leaving the tiny house to go hunt with his natural fishing skills. Paya comes back from the corner of the room, a large piece of honeycomb in her hands.

"If you allow me, I could bake your apples with a bit of honey inside," Luwas begins. "It's really good and reinvigorating, is that alright with you?"

Link nods, gathering back his apples to hand them to him. One of them is already bitten, though Luwas doesn't seem to mind. With a kitchen knife, he scoops out their cores to leave a well inside of each apple, pouring the honey he can gather into them. Paya and Link watch with admiration, sitting around the pot to watch the whole process.

It doesn't take very long, and once they are out of the pot and gathered in a small dish (possibly the only one they have), Xila finally returns with his arms full of Hyrule basses. Seemingly proud of his catch, a grin tugs at the corner of his mouth as he brings them to the group.

"Nice catch, Xila!" Luwas exclaims, giving a pat on the Zora’s back. "We should make skewers with those. The apples will be dessert."

Link thinks to himself while they cook together, everyone helping with their part. What is he doing here? Is he meant to stay here forever, in this tiny room with three other people he knows nothing about? He supposes he could stay for the night, at least, seeing how the rain still hasn't stopped.

The fish skewers are copious enough to fill his stomach, but well, he'll always have room for more. He picks the apple he had already bitten into earlier, and the three children insist on sharing with Luwas. But the Sheikah man refuses, reassuring that he's satisfied with just the meal.

They all go to bed early after dinner, sharing the mats and the covers despite the lack of room. Link finds himself facing the wall, hearing the frequent exasperated sighs coming from Xila every time Link accidentally bumps against him. The Zora holds onto Paya in his sleep, in some sort of protection despite the area seeming safe.

And surprisingly enough, Link does stay more than one night.

It's still difficult to call this new place 'home', though. There's always something in the back of his mind that tells him it's only temporary, but where else could he ever go? At least the three seem to accept him as a member of their strange family now, and even Xila seems to have warmed up to him.

One morning of a day dedicated to ‘training’, Link and Luwas sit in the grass as they watch Xila and Paya from afar. The Zora is waving a dragonbone moblin club around, exalted to teach the younger girl how to handle the weapon - but as soon as he hands it to her, her arms fall with its weight.

“I told you she was too small, Xila,” Luwas says with a sigh, though the young Zora seems too far away to hear his words. Instead, the Sheikah man turns to Link with a compassionate smile.

“How old are you, again?” He asks, and Link holds seven fingers up. He’s thankful that this is easy to sign, at least.

“Just one year older than Paya,” Luwas replies with a hum, directing his eyes towards the cloudless sky. “And ten years younger than me. I’m sorry. I guess none of us have really had the gut to talk about each other yet, have we?”

Link shrugs. He’s not sure he wants to say much, especially since he knows he’ll have to write everything down, and while he doesn’t expect Luwas to tell stories, the man still does so.

“What happened to us is a little weird,” Luwas begins, playing with his braid and watching the two children again. “Paya… is my stepsister. My mother had her with another man not so long after my own father, a highly respected warrior, died in battle. And for that, many of the Sheikah in Kakariko village resented her and her child. I guess they thought it was disrespectful, or something.” He pauses for a moment, his natural smile fading. “I never understood that. I was beyond excited to have a sister, and I vowed to protect her from anyone that would try to do her any harm. She’s not much of a fighter, you see…”

Link’s eyes remain locked on him, listening with undivided attention. He can’t say much, but he wishes he could - words of sympathy, perhaps.

“When my mother and stepfather died, our grandmother soon followed, and Paya and I soon found ourselves without a guardian. No one in Kakariko village was willing to help us, obviously, so I decided to run away with her. It was a bit reckless of me, wasn’t it?” He asks with a weak laugh.

“I had planned on coming back after a while, but we never found the motivation to do so. No one was bothering us out here, and Paya seemed so happy to just be with me. I still feel kind of bad about tearing her away from her hometown, but she doesn’t seem too bothered. Maybe because she’s so young,” he ends, and waits a few minutes before picking back up.

“Technically, Xila is the oldest of us all. He’s fifty-four, but I’m sure you know how weirdly Zoras age, right? If you were to compare this to Hylian ages, I would say… It should be around fourteen years old. I’m seventeen, so of course we don’t have the same maturity…”

“And for him, well… Things turned out pretty grim. Him and his parents were fishing in the Zora river when a heavy thunderstorm showed itself. All three of them were taken away by the currents, and Paya and I found them washed away at the lakeside. His parents… It was much too late for them. Xila, however, was still breathing; He cut himself on sharp rocks, got one of his hip-fins severed and one of his ulnar fins cut in half. All these scars you see on his body came from that same accident.”

Link swallows dryly, imagining the sight - the gruesome display isn’t something he can perfectly picture, but Luwas’s description is enough to have his stomach twisting. How painful it must have been.

“We took him with us, and offered to take him and his parents’ bodies back to Zora’s domain, but… He refused. He insisted that we laid them to rest at the bottom of the lake, and that he never wanted to go back to Zora’s domain. He never explained why.”

Luwas ends the story there, though Link feels a little curious about what even the older man doesn’t know. He somewhat changes the subject, his pointed ears falling as he frowns.

“You live in Hateno, right?” He asks, and Link’s shoulders raise, his heart stopping at the mention of his old home. “Do you want me to bring you back? It’s not too far away. You don’t need to live in the wild with us.”

Link shakes his head rapidly, certain of his own answer. No, he already told himself that he didn’t want anyone from his hometown to see him like this. It was his fault that his parents died - if they hadn’t tried to protect him, if he hadn’t even existed in the first place, they would still be alive.

Luwas sighs, a faint smile tugging at his lips. “Are you going to tell me why?”

Link makes a sign that should be enough for the older man to understand, and he averts his eyes.

Later.

*

Finding food in the wild wasn't always easy, and hunting was even harder. The only one that could really do it was Xila, but his injured fins never allowed him to swim for too long. They would often resort to stealing what they could from the stables, sometimes lucky enough to bring back meat and other goods from the merchants like eggs and milk. Link even remembers having to catch a cuccoo from their farm, only to kill it and cook it with whatever they could find - not their proudest achievement, really. Especially considering the cuts and rashes they had gotten from the other cuccoos as they avenged their fallen friend.

But obviously, the stable owner and the merchants rapidly grew suspicious. Link had learned that the group would never stay in one place for too long as to never get caught, and so they traveled from region to region, from hut to hut through Hyrule.

Their next house was settled in Lanayru, in an abandoned hut in the heights of upland Zorana. A tree branch was enough for Luwas to swat away the occasional keeses, but their meat tasted like burnt bread; Even if he was hungry, Link wasn’t sure he could handle it. However, thanks to the dried monster parts and the various insects they would find, they had been able to make elixirs that would reduce the sounds of their steps, making them difficult to notice if they were to steal again.

They would often find themselves wandering towards the statues of Hylia during rougher days, praying for their safety and for a long life. Link had always believed in Hylia, but it had only been reinforced ever since he'd been 'adopted'. It almost seemed like they were her servants, sometimes bringing apples to the statue of the Goddess as offerings instead of eating them. It was said that praying to her would only bring them good, and Link believed it.

One day, Xila had volunteered to teach the other three how to fish. Which was more of a fun activity rather than useful, since Hylians and Sheikah weren't exactly built for catching fish with their bare teeth.

It's only after a long hour of training that they stop to rest, gathering the fish they had caught (mostly by Xila). They’d planned to start a campfire near Toto lake to eat and stargaze while the clouds are few, before going back to the hut to sleep.

The three children stroll around the lake while Luwas takes his leave to find some firewood. They stand above the edge of a Zora fountain, the water from the reservoir lake directly falling into Ruto lake to provide the domain with what it needed. Xila seems to gaze down at the domain in the distance, the structure standing on pillars above the lake.

“I haven’t seen it in a while,” Xila says, his hold tightening around Paya’s hand as she looks down the waterfall. “It feels kind of weird. It’s like I forgot what it even looked like.”

Link can't exactly asks question, with no paper on himself. But he's thankful that the Sheikah girl is here - she curiously throws the questions at him instead.

“Do you ever want to go back?” She asks, looking up at the taller boy. Xila turns his head to face her, displaying a faint smile that tries hard to be reassuring.

“It’s not the place for me,” he replies, shaking his head slowly. “My parents… People in the domain didn’t really like them. I don’t really know how this stuff works, but let’s just say they weren’t completely innocent. So these people definitely don’t like me either.”

“But it’s not your fault,” Paya says, attempting to give a reassurance that Xila didn’t seem to need. “You didn’t do anything wrong, did you?”

Xila pauses for a moment, and the most terrifying grin spreads across his face - Link can’t help but flinch, taking a step back and holding his hand out to pull Paya towards him if anything wrong happens.

“What if I did?” He asks, and Paya starts punching his thigh.

“Stop it! I don’t like that face!” She yells, pummeling him with her tiny fists. “You’re mean! With your pointy teeth!” She adds, and Xila bursts out laughing.

“I’m joking!” He says, patting at her head affectionately. She still pouts, giving a weak headbutt to his side.

Link sighs in relief; Truth be told, he still needs to get used to Xila’s weird sense of humor.

"Anyway," Xila says, dropping the subject. "You see that lake below? Wanna see me jump down?" He asks, his sharp teeth flashing in a bright smile as he looks to the two younger children.

"It's dangerous," Paya stutters, "You shouldn't..."

"Don't worry, I'm a Zora, it's what I do," he adds with a laugh, no longer waiting for approval from his friends. "Okay, just watch and don't follow me."

Even with Paya's protests, it doesn't seem like Xila is ready to stop. And it's safe to assume he's been waiting for Luwas to leave, too - the grownup would never let him do this.

Xila pushes himself on his feet, jumps up, and somersaults into the air. And Link had seen Zoras dive before - while most of them were naturally graceful, the blue Zora couldn’t really be called that. His movements are uncalculated, almost disoriented despite his confidence; His healthy ulnar fin is the only one that flattens against his arm when he suddenly straightens himself, diving straight into the lake below with his head downwards.  

Once he resurfaces, he's so far away that they can barely hear him anymore while he waves. Despite the other waterfall that follows, he seems to stay in place, and Link doesn't even second guess what he does next.

Link imitates him. The way he jumps is even worse, and the plunge is probably going to traumatize him. Xila did tell him to stay up there, but would he have any other chance in his life to do such a thing? Probably not.

He can hear Paya above, yelling his name despite her naturally quiet voice. All he hopes is that she won't follow him. After a few seconds of falling, he dives into the water with a splash, joining Xila as he frowns at him like an angered parent. When Link's head resurfaces, he meets the narrowed gaze of his Zora friend.

"What the fuck did I tell you!" He snarls, extending his hand to catch Link's own. But he's not as quick as the current - while Xila tries to bring him back, Link can feel the water taking him away to the next waterfall.

He's not strong enough to swim against it, and his desperate tries are few when the current is so strong. He finds himself falling again, squeezing his eyes shut in fear of what awaits him below.

Thankfully, it's more water. But the way he splashes into it is violent, rendering him slightly dizzy as he tries to keep his head above the surface. Everything around him blurs, as if the force had knocked him out. The strings of his entire being vibrate and hum as he waves his arms around to keep himself afloat, and when his consciousness leaves him, all he can see in the water is a hand grabbing at him with webbed fingers.

"Wake up, little one..."

The voice Link can hear behind his awful headache is one he doesn't recognizes. It's feminine, strong yet gentle as he feels a wet palm caressing his forehead. The feeling of that kind of skin is familiar, though - a Zora? But it's not Xila's voice, so who...?

Link slowly opens his eyes, his unfocused sight adjusting to the blinding light from the sky. He groans, trying to register what just happened.

Right, he just fell from a waterfall. Xila was yelling at him, and Paya was still up there, and...

His hands feel a strong cold, his fingers twitching against marbled floor. He was about to drown, and someone took him before he passed out. Who was it?

"Are you alright?" The voice asks, and Link angles his head ever so slightly to finally face whoever speaks to him. His eyes meet a golden stare, almost the same as his Zora friend but the eyes are much bigger, and rounder. He finally sees the face of a Zora female, obviously worried for the Hylian child. The dark markings on her skin sends a warning into Link’s brain; She’s a stranger.

"Do not be afraid," she says, as calmly as she can. "I am Torfeau of the Zora. I brought you here to help you."

Link snaps his eyes open, instantly wiggling away from the woman's hold. He soon realizes he's being stared at by multiple people - all Zora. The sight of the palace not too far is enough to tell him where he is.

He doesn't know how he ended up in Zora's domain, but he knows he's not supposed to be here. Where are his friends? They were up the waterfalls just moments earlier, are they looking for him?

"Wait!" The Zora woman says, too caught off guard to be able to hold Link back. The Hylian child runs away, the new shoes he had managed to steal once again lost to someplace he can't explore. He truly doesn't know how he manages to escape the domain after such a fall, but his head throbs in pain as he crosses the bridge, finally distinguishing his friends hiding behind a coral bush nearby.

"Get over here, Link!" Luwas yells to him, and Link runs all the faster. He knows he's about to get scolded, but it's better than ending up in a place he knows nothing about, with nobody that knows him.

Maybe he needs to stop being reckless.

"Hey, Link, get up."

Link groans, turning around to face the other way. He buries his face against his own arm, ignoring completely the order that was just given.

"It's eleven in the morning, for Hylia's sake-" The voice grows louder, and all the Hylian can feel is someone shaking him slightly as he replies with another, louder groan. “So rude, everyone else is up and waiting for you, sleeping beauty.”

Link opens his bleary eyes slowly, blinking sleep away as he takes in the sight of the inside of the tent. Oh right - he's in Gerudo right now, accompanying the Zora Prince along with three other guards. And the only one who would ever talk to him that way despite the traditional Zora manners he was supposed to hold would be...

"When did you even go to bed?" Tottika asks him, kneeling back up upon noticing that the Hylian is finally awake.

None of your business, Link signs. While there had been some kind of… closeness between him and the black Zora in the past, it doesn’t mean Tottika can wake him up and be an ass first thing in the morning.  

Well, maybe he was right. It is kind of rude to wake up so late while everyone else is awake.

"Alright, you should hurry if you want to take a bath," Tottika says, "The inn's stalls are empty, so you'll be in peace."

Link nods slowly, sitting upright as he rubs at his eyes. There was something he was worried about the previous night, and it takes him a few minutes of establishing consciousness before remembering.

Right, he had flirted pretty heavily with the prince back there in his tent. It's a relief to know that Sidon's intentions seem similar to his own, but there's still this feeling along his back that he can't seem to shake off.

When Link has made his way to the bathrooms, it's just as Tottika said. The stalls are empty, leaving him the entire room for himself. He makes quick work of stripping down, leaving his clothes in one of the holes in the wall designated to leave one's belongings. He enters the stall, filling up the basin before slipping inside. He shouldn't stay here too long - he's already made the others wait long enough. He washes with the soaps he's brought, relieving the dryness of the desert.

But washing his back hurts , somehow, right where Sidon had touched the previous night.  Link puts the washcloth aside for a moment, focusing on what causes it. He rubs at his neck with a wet hand, lowering it as far as he can to feel the upper part of his back.

Right, a festering wound, that’s what he would call it. That feeling comes back every so often, but it’s about ten times stronger now - Every time his fingers brush against it, it feels like a dozen of centipedes are crawling in an out. He’s sure he’s heard the macabre voice of the Goddess in the back of his mind for a second, whispering words he’s trying so hard to hear despite everything.

But no, all that she ever does is laugh at him anyway.

Go fuck yourself, Hylia, Link signs, into nothing, knowing his words won’t ever reach her. It’s been like this for the past four years, and there’s no reason why it would change; At least, he knows he wouldn’t wager on it.

For now, the static that creeps along his spine is enough to have him stuck there in the bath for a while, trying his hardest to pull himself back together. He can't go back to seeing his friends, not when his teeth are bared and his eyes are so unfocused he can barely see.

He just needs to wait a little.



Chapter Text

 

Link does manage to leave the bath, once the feeling on his back has faded to something more bearable. Putting his disguise back on along with his silver armor pieces, he moves out, finding Sidon and the triplets sitting nearby and chattering. Perhaps a little company will help.

"Good morning, Link," Sidon says, his tone enthusiastic as ever, though there's some sort of affectionate lull to his words. Maybe it's the way he says his name? In any case, Link replies with a brief grin as he waves. And he curses himself for constantly forgetting that Zora can smell mood switches - Link finds himself being stared at by the triplets, their head turning to their prince and going back and forth this way. There's an obvious knowing smile spreading across Torfeau’s lips; Of course she would realize what was going on between the Zora Prince and Link sooner than everybody else. For now, Bazz and Tottika just look at each other, shrugging as they let it go.

If Link has ever wondered what being surrounded by people that can practically read his thoughts felt like, now he knows he hates it.

Thankfully for Sidon, the prince seems to keep a composure that doesn't betray him. Link will have to learn how to do the same at some point.

What would you like to do today, Your Highness? Link signs as he sits himself down, noting how the seriousness comes back to him once the honorifics are used once again. He clears his throat, taking the map of Hyrule in hand to unroll it and point at a specific spot in the desert.

"If that is possible," he begins, "I would like to see the statues of the seven heroines. I have read about them in my books, and as realistic as the paintings are, I think it would be a thrilling experience to see the real ones."

He raises his head, looking to Link for approval. It's still somewhat strange that the prince would rely so much on Link's advice, but the Hylian won't complain. If he can help in any way, it's enough for him to take his mind off of whatever was weighing him down just moments ago.

Though, if he's true to himself, what he really needs in order to forget about the feeling on his back is to blow off some steam. He could go and find a molduga to slay, and that would give them strong monster parts for their next elixirs -

No, no. He has to stop with that. Moldugas were dangerous, and throwing himself into unnecessary danger was something he'd said he would stop. For his own sake, and... for his friends to stop worrying so much about him.

We can do that, Link replies, looking into the distance. The desert is so empty that he can already see the silhouettes of the statues from there, but that doesn't mean they're close. The trek would be half an hour long at most, but the air is so hot further down the desert that going without precautions would be reckless. We need to bring as many elixirs as we can, though, he continues. I'll be fine, but if you start to suffer from the climate, you have to say it.

"We could use sand seals to surf there," Torfeau chuckles under the glares of her two brothers. It seems like falling from their shield and tumbling into the dry sand was not in their plans today. Besides, well... Sidon is too large to be carried like this. His size must an inconvenience for many, many things. Link laughs to himself as he remembers the king, the monstrous whale that can't go anywhere besides his domain. Will Sidon ever reach this height? It's something Link will surely have to ask him.

They shortly start their walk towards the east, their bags full of food and elixirs and their weapons ready, just in case. They follow the distant sight of the statues behind the sand dunes, keeping their eyes locked onto it as they walk. It's a scary thing to get lost in the desert, and Link knows from experience that it's never good to wander too far from the bazaar.

Still, it's hard to not pant when the sun above is so bright and hot, and when it almost feels like the sand gets in his mouth when he breathes. The sand doesn't allow them to walk as fast as they usually would, and Link remembers - they should have bought some sand boots. He's known Gerudo and its wasteland for so long, yet he couldn't think of this? What a fraud.

Honestly, he thought that at least one of his Zora friends would give up on walking through the desert after five minutes at most. But while the exhaustion is prevalent in the way they walk and breathe, it seems like they can endure it for long enough. All that he can feel a little sorry for is the fact that talking will only tire them out more as they go forth; Link's thoughts as he is left in silence come back to the previous night, to the way Sidon had held him and flashed his pretentious grin-

"Oh Hylia." Link can hear Bazz whispering, interrupting Link's inner ramblings. The Hylian directs his eyes towards the Zora knight, and he doesn't need to look at his face for long to realize that they've reached the ancient statues of the seven heroines.

They're just as their name calls them. Seven pillars stand in a circle, representing giant women carved into the stone. They remain here silent and proud, their eyes closed and their hands brought together to hold their swords. The points of the weapons are plunged deep into the sand, the stone they're made of bit around the edges by time’s passing.

It's a sight Link takes in, despite having seen it a few times already. It still seems like the heroines are guarding something, some kind of treasure that would’ve been buried in the center of their circle long ago - perhaps that was what the colorful orbs rolling around the sand were meant for? While the objects were curious, Link knew better than to touch an ancient artifact without being prompted to.

But it's even better to just look at Sidon as he gazes up at the statues that tower over him. The prince is most likely used to being bigger than everything else, but the statues' size are not to be rivaled by anything or anyone. Sidon's eyes shine with amazement despite the desert's dryness, turning himself around to watch under ever angle.

"Incredible," Torfeau whispers, her mouth agape as she looks towards one of the statues' face. It's a funny thing that her word would add itself over his thoughts when the Hylian's eyes drag up and down Sidon's form, along the curve of his back and around the pretty traits of his face. He does so without restraint - his Zora friends are too busy staring at the historical treasures to even notice the way he acts.

He has every reason to, truly. He's not sure when he's started feeling such physical attraction towards the prince, had it always been like this? No, probably not; When they were back at the domain, Sidon seemed to be just like any other guy who knew how handsome he was, but that was probably Link's fault for not paying attention to his character. Well, now Sidon just seems like a thoughtful, sensitive guy who knows exactly how handsome he is.

Really, it's unnerving.

The group is separating itself, with each guard walking to a different spot as they observe the time-old stones. What a lot of people don't know is that there's an eighth heroine, Link signs, catching the prince's attention as he walks up to him, taking advantage of the fact that he'd isolated himself further from the triplets. It's much further away in the region. Do your books talk about this one?

Sidon's face lights up with enthusiasm as he searches around himself, as if the statue in question would be in view. "No, they do not," he finally replies. "Are you sure it exists? Have you seen it?" The way his hands ball into fists instinctively when he's excited is something that Link has started to notice, and he smiles to himself under his mask. Sidon's cute.

I certainly have, he replies, It's not someplace we can go, though -

Link’s eyes find their way to something that stands on the guard of one of the heroines’ sword. It interrupts his signing; A humanoid figure, a silhouette blurred by the distance. It stares down for just a moment, disappearing as soon as it came into sight. It leaves no trace of its presence behind, only a slight wind that fades away in mere seconds.

What was that? And why was he the only one to notice? If it had been a Yiga, he supposes it would’ve been possible for them to conceal their scent. But Link had learned to detect vile intent, and this… thing certainly didn’t present any.

He finds himself stuck there as he thinks, Sidon's voice soon pulling him back to reality. "You were saying, my friend?"

Link turns his head to face him once more, waving a hand in dismissal. It shouldn't be something to worry about, though he knows he'll have to sharpen his senses for the rest of the day. I just mean, the statue is in the heart of the Gerudo Highlands. Only monsters go there, it wouldn't be safe for us.

Sidon hums in acknowledgment, bringing a hand to his chin. There's doubt in his golden eyes when they lock onto Link again. "Why did you go there, then?" He asks, though there's more curiosity than mistrust to his words.

Link shrugs it off, just like he does with almost everything. I sort of found myself in the mountains, I suppose, he replies, averting his gaze from the man who questions him.

"Is that so." A small smile still tugs at the corners of Sidon's lips. "I do hope you will tell me about your adventures one day. You seem very... wild."

The words Sidon uses and his expression are something that has Link's eyelids twitching, his composure faltering for just one heartbeat. He's flirting again, isn't he - he's blatantly flirting in front of everyone else. Amazing.

But Link is a lost cause at this point, and the only one who's to blame for it is this bastard of a prince. I'll tell you one day, he replies, grinning like a madman under his mask. This is ridiculous. Link knows the others can sense what's going on, and he's sure he might lose his mind at this point. But at least, they have the decency to not mention any of it, and he’s thankful for it because he cannot help it.

He wants to spend the rest of their short visit watching their surroundings, for any signs of the strange shadow that had showed up. Whatever that thing was, Link is at least ninety percent sure that it wasn't there to attack. It had probably been just another stealthy Gerudo guard on patrol. It's clearly more difficult to be on guard than it was just a few moments ago, with Sidon using a teasing voice with every word he utters to him. Link knows he won't complain, despite how unprofessional he knows he's being.

As expected, they leave the area when the Zora begin to express signs of discomfort with the heat. Link doesn't want them to fall sick or worse, and so they go back to the oasis, the short trip tiring enough that they're prepared to rest for what remains of the day.

But more plans seem to come to mind once they reach Kara Kara Bazaar. Link soaks into the water of the oasis, his Zora disguise on to blend in with the rest of his group. Sidon, Bazz and Tottika do the same, almost dozing off with only their heads above the surface. Link is careful to not bump into them while he floats onto his back, unwilling to bother them if they have indeed fallen asleep. They've been in there for hours, Link realizes, and the stares of the travelers are still incessant despite this. The Hylian's eyes meet the ones of a Rito merchant, his blue gaze sending the curious man a warning to not get too close. He's pretty good at communicating with his eyes; the Rito flinches, backing away from the waters to go back to his activities.

Link uses the moment of peace to let himself sink down, bending his form back as he dives head first. His eyes are shut, tiny bubbles forming along his lashes as he breathes out slowly. He wishes he had gills; The water is so comfortable that he would want to stay there longer than his Hylian lungs allow him to. There was only so much magic his getup could provide, after all.

The start of the day had been rough, yet here he is now, basking under the sun and under calm waters that cradle him like an infant. Why would he let his unpleasant memories stain his soul with bitterness when everything else feels so delightful ?

His inner peace is soon interrupted, though it isn't too unpleasant. Torfeau is joining them in the oasis, clearly swimming towards Link as he resurfaces. The woman greets him with a toothy smile, her voice hushed as to not wake up the three other Zoras.

“I remember you mentioning you needed a drink yesterday,” she asks, sparking Link’s interest instantly. He tilts his head in question, unable to sign while he keeps himself afloat.

“I found a tavern nearby,” Torfeau explains, pointing to the structure in the distance. It looks similar to any other type of Gerudo building, so perhaps that's why he didn't pay it any mind. That was new, though - he's sure it didn't exist last time he'd come here. "We could go all together tonight, what do you think?" She asks, her head gesturing to her brothers and the prince.

Link gives her a questioning look. He hopes the thought will come across somehow, but Torfeau seems to quickly catch on.

"We’re not getting drunk on the job, I know!” She says, rolling her eyes with a sigh. “Just a drink wouldn’t hurt, right? I’m sure it will help us unwind a little. We’re all still pretty tense after what happened with the Yiga.”

She keeps adding to it, hoping this would be good enough to convince him. But it doesn't take much to convince Link to drink, really - all they need is the prince's permission once he wakes up. He gives her a grin of approval with a thumbs up, the only kind of gestures he can really do for now.

But he has no idea if Sidon is the type to engage in these activities. Link must admit he's never seen him drunk or even tipsy, unlike the other way around - he still remembers getting caught at a festival, playing stupid drinking games with his Zora friends while he was off-duty. But perhaps Sidon did a better job hiding the effects the drinks would have on him...?

Well, it's something he will soon find out. The night hasn't fallen just yet, and Torfeau is soon joining them to nap in the water for now.

When the moon does rise, they've long stepped back on land to start their evening at the tavern. While the guards stay in armor, Sidon chooses to wear more 'casual' ornaments than his usual ones. They're similar in appearance to those the civilians wear in Zora's domain; A simple neck brace, a silver belt lighter in design than the one he usually has around his hips, and small bracelets of silver only. His headpiece is forgotten, and the change of attire somewhat makes him look less... princely. But his status is still given away by his monstrous size. He has to stoop down to enter through the door, and Link finds himself chuckling at that - even the ceiling feels too low for him. It looks like he will have to sit down for the evening.

And so he does, on a couch at a corner of the room. Bazz and Tottika sit with him, the guard captain somewhat nervous while his younger brother almost slouches against the backrest. The room is full of Gerudo women along with tourists of other races, already drinking tall glasses of... beverages that Link has never tried. A band of traditional Gerudo musicians play on the stage a little further, accompanied with women belly-dancing for the beatific tourists that watch with round eyes. Link and Torfeau walk to the counter, eyeing the board against the wall where the prices are listed.

"Sav'saaba," the barmaid greets them, adjusting her high, red ponytail. "My name’s Soovaeni, but you can call me ‘Vae. I’ll be the one serving you tonight. What will you be having?"

Link takes a few seconds to examine her face, her heavily painted skin and her blue lips. Thankfully, it's not someone he knows this time. Hopefully the atmosphere will be lighter in here than in the jewelry shop back in Gerudo town. Her large golden bracelets jingle as she moves around, gesturing to the slate on the wall. "You're lucky to be here now, this is our happy hour," she says, a grin across her face. "I've heard Zoras are quite fond of Nightshade rum. We have that, if you'd like."

Torfeau lets out an awkward laugh, not being too keen on having that particular drink. Link knows she doesn't handle it well. "I think us Zoras would like to try some Gerudo specialties while we are here," she replies, bringing a finger to her chin. "I think I will order four... 'Urbosa’s Fury'? What is it made of?" She asks, her eyes darting to the collection of bottles behind the woman.

"Mighty thistle rum, and a hint of electric chuchu jelly. It's pretty strong, but it won’t kill you. You ready for that, miss?" The bartender asks, raising her eyebrows at the Zora woman, though she doesn't even wait for her answer before turning to prepare the drinks. "And for you, sir?" She adds, the question clearly directed towards Link.

He scratches his head for a moment. He supposes he could start with something sweet for now. He points to the slate, to the words 'Great Fairy'. All he knows is that it tastes like wildberries, and that's enough for him to make his choice. He loves wildberries.

"Alright," the woman behind the counter cheers, shaking her head to the music a little further away. Link intents on watching the process of how the drinks are made, but Torfeau is the one to catch his attention instead.

"This is a nice place," she begins, looking to him with a grin. "Oh, and she is nice, too," she adds, pointing to the bartender with a discreet thumb. Link gives her a smug smile behind his mask.

You just got here, he signs, looking back behind him to find the Zora prince and his two other guards. There's too much background noise for Link to hear what they're talking about, but they seem relaxed, at least. Does the prince ever drink? Link asks out of curiosity. He already knew that Bazz was a lightweight and that Tottika was quite the party animal, but...

"He does enjoy a good occasion to do so, I suppose," Torfeau replies, humming to herself. "He never gets really drunk, though. He has an image to maintain, you know?" She shrugs, teeth gleaming into another smile.

Understandable, Link replies. He doesn't imagine that a drunken prince will ever make a good impression to his people.

"Here you go," the bartender says, coming back with the drinks after a few minutes. "I hope you guys enjoy it."

Link and Torfeau gather their rupees, handing to her what was needed. "Sarqso," Torfeau says with one of her playful smirks, somehow managing to take three drinks in her hands. Link takes his own and another one for one of his Zora friends, bringing it to them while they come closer to the table.

"Thank you very much," Sidon says, contemplating his beverage as Link offers it to him. It's of a fiery red, yellow bubbles dancing as he turns the glass around. The Hylian's drink is a transparent mauve, as expected, with a few wildberries floating onto the surface.

"Cheers," Tottika says, raising his glass and being the first one to take a sip. He goes too fast, Link believes - he soon pulls the glass away, grimacing and shaking his head around as he sticks out his tongue. "Hylia, that is strong."

"Will you slow down, for once in your life," Bazz says, still examining his glass. He knows just one of these will have some of his words stuck around his tongue already.

The drink seems to elicit the same reaction from each Zora, and Link takes great amusement in watching them sipping ever so slowly. Perhaps he should try that a little bit later. For now, he enjoys his; It burns a little as it flows down his throat, yet it's possibly the sweetest drink he's ever had. It's almost too much.

At least it's far different from the traditional Zora drinks. Theirs are rarely ever consumed in their culture, and for a good reason: They hit hard . Link remembers getting absolutely wasted on one of them, something armoranth-based, though he doesn't remember anything that had happened next. All that he knows is that he woke up near the reservoir lake, his head throbbing in pain strongly enough to have him wanting to crack it open like an egg against the marbled floor. He's never tried it again.

He twirls his glass around, watching the berries as they float. He looks to Sidon through it, smirking to himself at the strange shape the glass gives him - it earns him a curious glance from the prince as he sips again, soon getting used to the drink that seems to burn in his throat.

"I will pay for the next round," Sidon says, teeth gleaming into a grin as he looks at his guards. "To thank you all for accompanying me on this journey. I have never enjoyed going out of the domain this much before."

"Even with the desert heat?" Torfeau asks, bringing her glass to her lips again.

"Well, at least it is cooler at night," the prince replies, putting his drink down on the table in front of them for now. "Perhaps sleeping during the day would be a better idea," he adds with a sigh, leaning back against the couch as he closes his eyes for a moment. They had done a bit of that today after all.

Something changes about the atmosphere of the room, about the way the crowd organizes itself. The music that the band plays feels like it intensifies as Link feels a presence behind himself. He turns around warily, his eyes dark as he narrows them.

He sighs in relief inwardly when all he sees behind him is a Gerudo bellydancer, dressed in the traditional clothes, similar to what Link was wearing the previous day. She's very pale for a Gerudo, and her long pink hair reaches the small of her back. She places two hands against the Hylian's shoulders, giving him some sort of fake smile with her lips painted in bright red. He tenses up in his seat when he feels a push, forcing him to lean to his side. Is she trying to reach for something on the table? Link moves his chair, giving her enough room to go where she wants to.

And what follows feels quite unexpected. The dancer moves to stand to his side, facing Sidon and giving him a graceful bow as she flutters her lashes. Tottika watches with the least subtle of gazes, his mouth hanging in mockery mixed with amazement.

"Oh Goddesses," Torfeau whispers, and Link's not sure how he heard her behind all the noise. The Gerudo woman silently stands up straight once more, beginning a dance of her hips in front of the prince who watches with a face redder than Link's ever seen him wear.

This is dumb. He doesn't know why that's his first thought, but this is dumb and he doesn't need to see this. He turns his head to face Torfeau, who can only give him an awkward smile. He buries his face against a palm, the corner of his eye spotting Bazz just getting up and walking away, heading towards the stage to watch the band more closely. Or to escape the embarrassing situation, most likely.

And as the dance goes on, the group soon dissolves across the room. Sidon stays in place as he watches, unsure of what to even do, which is honestly understandable. Tottika has retired to get another drink, and Link and Torfeau now sit by the counter onto high chairs.

"Lelea is quite the charmer," the bartender laughs as she watches the scene from afar, addressing Link and his Zora friend. Torfeau just smiles weakly, while Link rolls his eyes. "Is your prince looking for a wife still? I've heard she hopes to at least bed him."

For fuck's sake-, Link throws his hands up in frustration, sighing at the crude comment. Torfeau rubs at the bump of her forehead with a grimace.

"Do not tell her I said that, but I do not believe this is going to work," she replies, downing another drink and pushing the glass at the counter.

"Oh? Why’s that?" The woman asks, raising her eyebrows in question.

" Because ," Torfeau insists on the word, crossing her arms as she leans her head in. "She would back away at the last second. Zora sex can be scary to anyone unfamiliar with it."

Link turns his head slowly to her, pulling down his mask to reveal a shocked expression mixed with some kind of amusement. Torfeau was starting to lose her inhibitions, and Link could tell.

“’That so?” ‘Vae asks, leaning against the counter to match the Zora’s gesture. “Who raised you, miss? Has no one told you you shouldn’t underestimate us Gerudo?” Her tone grows more flirtatious with each word she speaks, and that alone is enough to have Torfeau’s pupils twitching to grow a size larger.

Oh boy does he love third-wheeling.

Can I have another Fury, Link signs, hoping to catch the woman’s attention despite the sexual tension hovering above the two. He's already had a few drinks, but he probably needs another one after hearing all this. The bartender chews on some kind of candy, hands on her hips before turning away with a nod.

"Link, what in the Goddesses' names is going on?" Torfeau asks, her eyes locking onto him like a lizalfos watching its prey.

What? Link sends the message with his eyes, frowning when the music grows louder.

"You’re so testy,” she replies with a cocky grin. "What is it? Are you upset because that dancer stole your prince?"

Link feels himself tense up for a millisecond, though it's something he quickly dismisses. He lets out a sound of disbelief, tilting his head and gesturing. The hell are you talking about?

"Please, everyone knows you're very into Zoras for some weird reason," she adds, her expression shifting to a scoff. "A few of us saw you making out with Ledo a few years back."

I'll kill you if you don't shut up, Link signs roughly, shoving a hand against her face. For the record, I've only been with Zoras for the past four years because you guys are all I see every day of my life.

"Is it so much of an inconvenience, though-"

Her sentence abruptly stops when Link freezes in place. His eyes find someone at the other end of the room, someone sitting alone and drinking a simple glass of water. They wear a long white cloth, hiding their entire form as well as the top of their eyes. Their finger plays at the edges of their glass, and Link recognizes the shadow he'd seen at the seven heroines' statues earlier.

He lets go of his friend, soon returning to a normal behavior as his shoulders stiffen. But he can feel the person's gaze on them somehow, even though they're not looking directly at them. And it hits him - the reflection in their glass, of course. How clever.

"We're being watched, aren't we?" Torfeau says, only glancing in the corner of her eyes.

Link gives a quick nod, subtle enough that only his friend will see it. He can't sign now, that would only let the silhouette know exactly what he's talking about. Torfeau is quick to understand, and she throws yes-or-no questions at him, her eyes focused onto her glass.

"Is this a Yiga?" She asks with a hint of fear in her voice, and Link shakes his head.

"Should we all get out of here?" She asks again, and Link shakes his head.

There's a silence passing between them, and even the background noise of the bar feels muffled to him. He looks to the reflection in his glass to imitate the one spying on them, meeting only a blank expression on features he can't distinguish.

"Is Prince Sidon's life in danger?" Torfeau asks, her fist clenching against the wood of the counter.

Link shakes his head. He doesn't mention it, but this person... They're staring at Link, not Sidon. They don't seem to have any business with the prince, and that's relieving at least. The figure gets up from their chair, leaving a few rupees on the table as they quickly leave through the door that leads to the bazaar.

I'm out of here, Link signs curtly, giving up on his drink. Stay here. Don't tell the prince anything about this, alright?

"Are you joking? I'll come with you," Torfeau says, getting to her feet and taking back the spear she had left near the entrance. “I refuse to let you run into danger on your own again, do you understand?”

Fine, mom, Link replies with an incoherent grumble. Don’t attack just yet. We don’t know what they want.

They dart out the tavern and into the desert without so much of a warning, under the eyes of the confused barmaid and a few other travelers.

A certain wind has picked up, a bit stronger than the usual night breeze. Link walks far enough from the tavern as to not be seen, pulling his mask back on and climbing upon the rock formations that sit around the oasis. And a simple glance towards the north is enough for him to find what he looks for.

The figure from earlier is standing further away in the desert, stopped in their tracks as their heavy cloth flows with the wind. Link stops, feet settled against the ground as he begins to reach for his silverscale spear in warning. The silhouette turns their back on him with a somber drop of their shoulders, running at full speed towards a sandstorm that has formed in the distant wasteland.

Anyone with a brain knows that the sandstorms of Gerudo are strong enough that one could get lost into one of these, never to be found again. Yet, this person is going straight towards it, disappearing into a cloud of sand as thick as the bogs of the Thyphlo ruins back in Woodland. Link knows better than to follow, if he wants to come back safely to his Zora friends - But only one kind of person would be trained highly enough to find their way into the storm, and a chill runs up Link's spine at the thought.

The Yiga.

“What do we do?” Torfeau asks, her voice a hundred times more stern than it was just moments ago.

Link stops to think, meandering around the logical explanations for whatever that was. They were definitely watching us, Link signs, abandoning his battle-ready stance. But you could tell that there was no aggressivity in them, right?

“Yes, indeed,” the Black Zora replies, letting her spear rest against her shoulder. “I do not think it’s wise to follow. We don’t know where this storm could take us.”

Link nods in agreement, and while there’s still something that worries him, he lets the thought die for now. There’s nothing they can do aside from keeping an eye out.

“Hey, cutie!”

A voice makes itself heard in another direction, though it’s definitely not addressed to him. He turns to find the barmaid from earlier, dressed and leaving the tavern. She flutter her lashes at Torfeau, giving a beckoning gesture.

“My shift is over,” Soovaeni begins, and Torfeau straightens up. “What do you say we go someplace together? I’d like to know you better.”

Link has his mask pulled up, but he’s sure Torfeau can still detect the mischievous grin spreading across his face. The Zora’s face is flushing, her words stuck in her mouth as she stutters half an answer. She looks to Link for approval, and the Hylian nods vigorously.

Go for it, girl, he signs enthusiastically, I’ll stay here to protect the prince.

“I owe you one,” Torfeau replies, stepping away and finding Vae a little further. Link watches with fondness, knowing that he’ll tease the hell out of her for this in the morning.

He lingers outside for a little longer after the two women are out of sight, finding quietude in the night away from the music and the chattering. He’s practically alone here, as most travelers are either drinking at the tavern, or gone to sleep for the most reasonable ones.

"My friend...?"

Link hears a voice behind him, one he recognizes instantly. Sidon is standing right outside the tavern, leaning against a palm tree with a tired gaze. "Are you alright?"

I should be asking you that, Link signs as he scoffs at the man who perhaps had just a bit too many drinks. What happened to your image?

"Mmh." Sidon lets a smile tug at his lips, putting a hand under one of his forefins to rub at the side of his head. "I am quite fine, actually." His words are slurred as he speaks, his teeth flashing into a grin.

That you are, for certain, Link replies, batting his lashes to imitate the dancer from a few moments ago. You know that Gerudo bellydancer was trying to get you to sleep with her, right?

Sidon's smile falters slightly, instead letting his lips press into a tight line as he tries to think of what words to express. "It was noticeable, yes," he replies, tilting his head to let it rest against the trunk of the tree.

So? Are you going to? Link asks, hiding a certain bitterness in his throat with a teasing expression. Perhaps that was a bit too personal of a question, he realizes.

Sidon snorts, shaking his head slowly as the top of his tail rubs against the wood. He simply leans against it even more, as if he were unsure if he could even keep himself standing up. "You know I wouldn't. Women are amazing, but I don't... My preferences are simply not settled onto them. Not in that way."

Link lets out a hum of understanding, not too surprised by his response. He glances back to the sandstorm, deciding to let that silhouette go completely.

"I'm afraid I'm going to need to lie down," Sidon utters, slowly blinking as he straightens back up, heading towards the lakeside while he hugs himself. "Come with me?" He asks, gesturing for Link to follow him as he sits himself onto the ground a bit closer to the water.

Link does so, joining his friend to simply sit next to him as the prince lets his entire form rest onto the ground. He opens his eyes as if it were painful for him, taking in the sight of the infinite expanse of stars above them. Link looks at Sidon instead, his eyes soft in a show of reassurance that the prince was very much allowed to show a vulnerable side.

"The Gerudo drinks aren't as strong as the Zora ones, but that might be why they're just as dangerous," Sidon murmurs, and Link wonders just how he can muster enough thoughts before speaking at this point. "They taste sweet but hit later, when you expect it less.” The way he speaks is much different now that he lets his formality slip away from his grasp.

Zora drinks aren't even that great, they're just pure death, Link signs. You take one sip and you still feel it burning on your tongue days after. Who even thought of that?

Sidon lets out a laugh, though it's weak from an apparent fatigue now that he's finally settled down. "I did not think you to be a quitter."

Sorry for not being built like a giant fish person, Link signs, giving him a pout. Hylians were most likely not made to be able to handle liquid chaos.

Another joyful laugh escapes the prince's mouth, his hand falling to rest onto the ground. Link finds himself laughing with him, pulling his mask down to reveal a sincere smile that Sidon notices. "Say," he begins, "Will you tell me about your story? About how you came to live in Zora's domain, despite being so different from us?"

Link turns his head to face another direction, pulling down his hood as he runs a hand through his hair. Goddesses, he wishes he could. There's so much he wants to say about the good parts of his life, as shadowed by the rest of it as they are.

Perhaps when you're not drunk anymore, he signs, escaping from the situation once again. Sidon would most likely not even remember asking this in the morning.

"Fair enough." The prince sighs peacefully, raising a hand to play with a strand of Link's hair. The Hylian takes some time to focus on the touch, his head tilting for his cheek to rest against the prince's palm instead. His hand reaches for Sidon's own, feeling the rough skin of his knuckles with gloved fingers. Things are good like this, he believes - he enjoys the tenderness that has settled between them for a reason he's still unsure of. It's not something he wants to think about too much for now; He lets himself lean into the touch, feeling the prince's thumb slide gently across his cheek.

"I'm afraid I do not have the words to express how much I enjoy this closeness with you," Sidon begins, his words still tripping over themselves. "You are not indulging me only because you feel obligated to, are you?" There’s a tinge of worry in his voice, and his smile fades, giving way to a concerned frown.

Don't be ridiculous, Link signs, letting a smile full of warmth spread across his features. Do I look unhappy?

The Hylian's own attraction for the Zora prince is something that gets on his nerves still, somehow - everyone loves Sidon, and there he is, just as smitten with his handsome face as they all are. How could he have silently been making fun of his fan club all this time? They were right, completely right.

Sidon shakes his head loosely, his hand now resting against the back of Link's neck. "You smile brighter than the moon, actually," he replies, his words so quiet yet full of honesty, and Link can feel it. He welcomes his words as he looks upon him with glossy eyes, lying down onto the ground to find himself resting right against Sidon's side.

"I will fall asleep if you stop signing," Sidon whispers, holding his Hylian friend into one arm. Link sighs in contentedness - he's not sitting back up to sign again, not when everything around him feels so comfortable. To be honest, he's not entirely sober either, and it's already becoming difficult to stay alert.

Perhaps taking a short nap under the stars wouldn't be so bad.  

 

Chapter Text

 

Link looks to the castle, down the deep moats surrounding it. If the King of Hyrule were smart, perhaps he would have put a few defenders to watch the waters, but it doesn't seem like he had caught ear of Link's methods. A few Zoras would have done the trick, yet there's nothing, nobody, leaving the path completely open for the Hylian to infiltrate the castle and break his friend out of the lockup of Hyrule Castle.

An ordinary Hylian wouldn't be able to swim that distance, especially with the strong currents shaking the murky waters around. But well, Link isn't an ordinary Hylian. Not only had he trained to swim, he had also managed to get his hands on a very useful Zora armor that improved his abilities. How he succeeded in stealing it is still beyond him, but perhaps he was just that talented.

Then again, stealing isn't something he should be proud of. He never was, truth be told. But what can you do when your friend had been clumsy enough to get caught by Hylian guards, only to be locked up with the worst of criminals? Link doesn't believe Paya deserved it. Of course, she had been stealing just as much as he had - but her heart had always been pure, unlike... well, the people that had recently taken hold of his 'family'.

About six years had passed since Link had been 'adopted' by Luwas and the two other kids. He's never left their side, as their company proved to give him what he needed to want to stay alive. And everything was going well, until an attempt at stealing a knight's arrows went wrong. All of their faces had been seen, making them now wanted thieves, their portraits plastered over the multitude of stables scattered across Hyrule.

They were to run and hide until they either died or got imprisoned, but another 'family' caught their sight. The group of four Sheikah adults and one teenager offered them shelter in Tabantha, ignoring their past wrongdoings, or even admiring them. That's when Luwas started to realize something was wrong; Where was the other family going during the day, leaving Link and his friends alone in the dark? Why did they have weapons, and why would they always come back with bags full of rupees and food?

They were thieves in disguise, much smarter and experienced than Link's little family ever was. It didn't take long for them to be pulled into their group, going on 'missions' to steal anything possible in exchange for the group of Sheikah thieves hiding them from the public eye. They didn't have a choice.

That's how they all came to dye their hair black, in some sort of erasure of their past identity. They were criminals now, and Link had never seen it coming.

He doesn't like to think on it too much. Luwas had repeatedly told them to obey to the older members of the group, that there isn't anything else they can do to escape the king. All that he can do is stay strong, and aid his friends in need.

Link looks down the moats once more, no ounce of hesitation in his movements when he plunges with barely a splash. He would have to take care of the castle guards, but it's nothing he can't handle. Xila would probably have been better suited for the mission, but he was already busy on another one - everything had become so formal lately, Link can hardly believe it.

He swims towards the castle with little difficulty, soon stepping onto land right outside of the guarded prison. Two guards stand at the gate, watching their surroundings with caution. But stealth was Link's specialty, and not a single one of them see it coming when he shoots two narcotic arrows in their necks. The weapons are something he made himself; Putting the guards to sleep was always better than killing them, in his opinion.

He darts through the gate, his steps light and silent onto the ground. He soon reaches a long corridor, and the prison cells are watched by a few guards that most likely have the keys in hand. With a determined exhale, he nocks three arrows, firing them all at once. They all reach their target, and the guards fall to the floor with a thump and a metallic clanging of their armor against the polished stone.

A startled gasp can be heard from one of the cells, and Link knows exactly where to go. He runs towards the source of the noise, finally finding his friend behind bars, her mouth agape.

"Grasshopper," Paya whispers, her hold on the metallic bars tightening. Link brings a finger to his own lips, making a shushing motion as he walks over to the sleeping guard. A series of keys dangle from his hip, and Link makes quick work of detaching the keyring. He tries the few of them on Paya's cells until a click can be heard, and he opens the door to let her escape.

The girl had grown much ever since Link had met her. She's thirteen now, the same height as Link and her once pure white hair now dyed into a charcoal black. The red ink on her forehead that represents the Sheikah symbol is now hidden under a cheap headband, making her ever less recognizable from the portraits.

How come they didn't even remove it to check your forehead? Link signs, already making his way towards the exit as she follows him. The guards had become very wary over the past few years, so it's honestly a surprise that they would simply leave it alone.

Obvious embarrassment shows into Paya's eyes as she raises her hands to sign. They tried, you know, she begins, her clumsy sign language necessary when they both must stay silent. I’m not proud of myself for this, but I bit their hands until they would bleed and give up, and... it worked.

Link lets out a chuckle, trying to picture the scene of his usually delicate friend savagely biting down a few grown adults’ hands. Well, they wouldn't be hearing from her anymore now, at least he hopes.

They waste no time running out of the lockup, stopping right in front of the moat Link has to cross one more time. Paya didn't have a Zora armor, so she would most likely drown if he were to let her dive down on her own.

Hold my hand while we jump, and get on my back once we're in the water. I'll take you to the bank, alright? He signs, holding his hand out for Paya to hold onto.

She does so with a nod, gasping in a moment of fear once Link jumps without warning. They fall a bit less gracefully, splashing into cold waters once again. When they resurface, Paya holds onto the Hylian as she climbs on his back to let herself be escorted back.

"Thank you for saving me, Grasshopper," she says, trying her best to be loud enough over the sounds of the strong currents. Link simply gives a nod as he swims towards the bank, the fastest the Zora armor could possibly make him go. Paya is a little heavy, but he knows he'll be able to handle it until they reach land, and then... well, they'll just have to run back to Tabantha.

Link takes a moment to catch his breath once he's back on land, with Paya standing at his side. She looks to him a bit concerned that carrying her might have drained him of all his energy - But the Hylian takes out a tiny bottle from his pouch, downing a stamina elixir to help him regain his strength. The taste stings, as if hundreds of tiny needles were pricked into his tongue, but it manages to reinvigorate him at least.

You're going to have to do something with your hair again, Link signs. We don't want the knights to recognize you. The girl's hair is already as black as it could get, and the color wasn't something she could change for now.

"I suppose I can cut it really short," she replies sheepishly, adjusting her headband to keep her mark hidden. "Where are Luwas and Xila?" Paya is throwing a few glances around, expecting the duo to show up.

They're on a mission in Tabantha, Link replies, shrugging as he puts the empty bottle back in his pouch. Don't forget to call them by their code names, by the way. Even if you think nobody's around.

The Sheikah gives an apologetic nod, tucking a strand of hair behind her pointed ear. Link doesn't emit a single warning sound when he starts to bolt towards the west, where their 'home' is settled. Paya is quick to follow, making sure to stay silent while they move forward. The path is clear, save for the occasional stal monsters that emerge from the ground when Link and Paya run past their hidden bones. They completely ignore those - monsters couldn't talk, and it was no use to stop and fight them when they ran much faster than the skeletons.

Without so much of a break, they reach Lindor's brow in a half hour. A hut bigger than the ones they used to live in stands in the heart of the forest, where no traveler ever came. Link and Paya reach the door, entering the home without knocking. The door opens with a creak, revealing a seemingly empty room until two figures show up on the mezzanine floor.

"Snowdrop!" Luwas and Xila both exclaim, scrambling to go down the ladder that would lead them to the two. They had most likely finished their mission already, and Link can only confirm it to himself when he sees the pile of food lying onto the wooden table.

"Thank Hylia you're safe," Luwas sighs in relief, almost brought to tears at the sight of his stepsister. He pulls the shorter girl into a hug, with Xila soon joining them.

Luwas has had to dye his hair black too, at some point. All of them did. And as for Xila, well... It was more complicated than that. Zoras obviously didn't have hair, so he instead used some sort of dark blue body paint that he would use to hide his natural pastel blue color. His freckles were constantly hidden behind white powder, making him look unrecognizable from who he once was.

They had all grown much, except for the Zora youth, who had aged much slower. He isn't all that different from six years ago, aside from the look in his golden eyes that had turned to bitter resignation. Then again, it was the same for all of them, no matter how strong they all tried to be.

The house was bigger than the huts they used to live in, but still small enough that they would have to sleep huddled up against each other. The other group of people that they had met had separate beds on the first floor while Link's 'family' slept on the mezzanine floor, on disorganized mats. This was better than nothing at all, Link supposes.

"Please be careful from now on, alright?" Luwas says, patting a hand against Paya's shoulder. The girl simply nods quietly with a shy smile. "Do you want me to cut your hair?" He asks with a saddened frown, obviously uncomfortable about the idea. It's a shame, but they don't really have a choice if they want to minimize their chances of being found.

But Paya had long understood that her hair was much less important than her safety. She would most likely get a pixie cut, though it would probably look very messy at first - while Luwas was talented at many things, cutting hair wasn't his forte. No one else was really good with scissors either, so he was usually the one to do it.

Link would cut his own hair sometimes. He would rarely let it grow past the base of his neck, but his work was just as laughable as his friend's. They all looked like right messes in the end, but they had decided that it was fitting, after all. Only criminals would dare to ruin their own appearances like this.

Spending time together without the five other thieves was something Link had learned to appreciate. Their presence would always bring something heavy to the atmosphere, making every second longer than the last and pummeling their hopes for better days to the ground. When Link steps onto the mezzanine floor, the sound of a door slamming makes him realize that they won't be getting any relaxing time today.

"Damn it!" A woman's voice resonates in the narrow walls of the house, making Link and his friends flinch as they peek towards the first floor. One of the Sheikah women is here, her teenage daughter following closely behind her. They're both panting, as if they had ran away from something. And to everyone's surprise, they've brought nothing back.

"Mom, what are we gonna do?" The daughter asks, and Link's ears perk up as he tries to hear more. Their presence can't be hidden, but the woman clearly knows that they're already here.

"You stay here," the thief hisses, biting her lip in frustration as she starts to undress. Link averts his eyes, still doing his best to listen her words. She's most likely changing into a different attire, for a different mission. "We're not continuing this without them. I’m going to free them, the Rito guards can eat it." She adds this with a scoff, and an expression of disgust at the mention of the Rito. From what Link can understand, the rest of the Sheikah thieves had been captured during their mission.

The Hylian can notice the woman bandaging her own arm once he looks again, and the wrathful glare she throws him has his blood turning to ice. He cocks an eyebrow at her, and she simply shakes her head as she turns away.

"If the Rito want war, they'll get it," she spits, taking out a knife out of her pouch that she uses to cut down the gauze. She finally gets up, opening the door again. "I hope you guys like chicken for dinner!" She yells towards the mezzanine, slamming the door behind herself as she heads out to save her... friends. Or whatever they were.

Her daughter simply stands there, rubbing her dirty hands together as she shrugs it off. The Daisy was her codename. Her hair is dyed black as well, cut into a bob cut with an overgrown fringe. How can she even see?

Well, Link doesn't need to see her eyes to notice the way they dart up to watch the group that has settled into a dreadful silence. She gives an innocent smile, bringing her hands behind her back as if to hide something.

"I'm glad you're back, Snowdrop," she says, her face directed towards Paya. "It would be a shame to lose more of our members, you know. Mom and dad are preparing something, and we need a lot of people." Her words sound almost ominous, and Xila is the only one who dares to speak up.

"What are you talking about?" He asks, his teeth bared. There was no way the stubborn kid would ever show an ounce of trust to these people.

The daisy smiles bright, making a motion of her hands to indicate something wide . "Mom and dad want to meet other people who've been abandoned by society, like all of us," she begins again, her fists clenching. "We're going to form an even bigger family. We will all be safer and stronger together, isn't this exciting?"

The other four say nothing, looking down on her like the fool she is. But she seems so sure of her words, and Link can't help but feel the cold sweat that pricks at the back of his neck. A bigger family? A family of people who barely know each other, who only stay together for convenience and who rob people of more than what's necessary?

Link doesn't want this. He's never wanted this.

 

The night falls around them like a curtain, but Link has long abandoned any kind of activity for the sake of sleep. It's what his friends have decided to do as well; What else is there to do on the mezzanine floor when the other thieves are down there, chattering incessantly about deranged plans? It's been too many nights. The Hylian wants to get up and leave, but not without his own family - not without Luwas, or Paya, or Xila. He knows they all want to leave as much as he does.

But for now, they know they'll be punished for their treason if they do anything rash. Link lies on the uncomfortable mat, his eyes still wide open as he watches Xila's back. The Zora isn’t asleep yet, he can tell - Luwas is, on the other hand. The poor man had grown so exhausted lately that he would fall into sudden slumbers at every single moment of what resembled peace.

It’s the sniffling at the Zora’s side that worries Link sick.

Xila sits up, bending his head down to look at his sister at heart. Link can’t exactly see what’s happening like this, and so he raises himself slightly, raising his ears to listen to whatever the two say.

“You okay?” The blue Zora asks, placing a hand onto her shoulder. Now that Link has moved, he can see Paya’s face again; Her long hair is gone completely, and she looks the opposite of the girl he had met six years ago.

“Mom and dad, and grandmother, they wouldn’t have wanted this for me,” Paya sobs quietly, her voice broken with hiccups. She wipes away her own tears with the back of her hand, and Link sits himself upright to come closer to the two. “This is going too far,” she continues, only slightly calming down when Xila moves to squeeze her hand into his own.

She’s completely right, and the Zora knows it. It’ll come to bite them in the ass one day; While Xila feels just as defeated as Link, there’s no way he’ll add onto Paya’s suffering. “It’ll be alright,” he says, his voice so soft compared to what it was when he was speaking to the Daisy. “We were pulled in. It’s not your fault, okay?”

Paya’s voice breaks once again, her tears falling onto the wooden floor. “Do you think Hylia is angry at us?” She asks, and Xila turns back to Link - his eyes show something, a small glint of hope that soon fades as soon as he notices Link’s downcast gaze.

There is very little hope, and they all know this. But there’s something else in Xila’s eyes, and Link has spent enough time around him by now to know that something has changed .

“We haven’t prayed in so long,” Paya continues after noticing that the Zora stays silent. “And we’ve been doing so much wrong - she might punish us, one day.”

Truth be told, Link has been doubting a few things lately. If Hylia truly did exist, would she have let this happen to them? Would she have taken his parents, and his friends' late families? They had done nothing but pray ever since they met, yet their lives are still going downhill. How could she punish them, when she had done nothing to help them live a better life?

Xila seems to share his thoughts on the matter.

“Then she’ll have to come for us,” Xila utters, his teeth gritting through it. “I’m prepared.”

You want to fight the actual Goddess? Link asks with a small smile, trying his hardest to alleviate the atmosphere, but the young Zora doesn’t seem to have it in him to joke around today.

“I’ll bring weapons with me in the afterlife if I need to,” he says, his hands balling into fists and Link realizes.

He’s completely serious.

*

They hadn't planned on staying much longer in Gerudo. The weather was hard enough to withstand, and a few days had been enough for them to know that they had to leave. Link had made himself clear about the subject as well, as he was completely unwilling to have to pick up the pieces of his dried up Zora friends. They had only stayed a few days more until they had headed back to the last stable they'd visited, finally freeing themselves of the weight of their luggage as their horses were back to help them carrying it once again.

It's only once they leave the Gerudo canyon that Bazz feels like he can breathe properly again. The air had returned to something a bit cooler, and he almost wants to jump down the Digdogg suspension bridge to meet the refreshing waters below.

He knows they won't be reaching Tabantha at the end of the day. It's still a long ways, and they're going to pass by the outskirt stable again. While he apprehends the idea of sleeping in the same room as his siblings and Link once again, it's better than setting camp outside, at the very least. He just hopes Link won't go out of his way to find and fight some other coliseum monster while they spend another night there.

Thinking back on that event with the Lynel, Bazz can't help but feel a certain type of worry, or perhaps doubt settling into him. Honestly, he had given time to the Hylian to prove himself. It had worked out in the end, he supposes; Bazz had been wary of Link ever since he came to Zora's domain. He wasn't the only one, obviously - How strange was it that a Hylian would appear out of nowhere, just to go and enroll in the Zora army? He was a simple soldier at first, who managed to work his way up towards the same position as his siblings.

But well, Link was a great warrior, and Bazz had to give him that. The black Zora had softened about the subject over time, beginning to trust Link just as everyone had started to long before him. Perhaps his paranoia is playing with him again, but his senses had truly never been wrong. And his senses had told him that the Hylian was hiding something.

Maybe his senses are right. Maybe Link is hiding something, but who is he to interrogate him about anything, and out of nowhere? Bazz might be the guard captain, it still doesn't allow him to just say something like - 'Hey, Link, strip down and show me the injury you have on your back.'

Because that's what the thing with the dark aura on his back is, right? There’s no use denying it, Bazz’s senses were most likely the sharpest among his kind, and so far nobody has mentioned the presence of something unusual lingering onto the Hylian’s spine. What could it be? A scar, some kind of spell?

He inwardly looks through the speculations he had hoarded until his senses calmed down, his stare directed towards Link while the Hylian walks before him, side to side with the Zora prince. Bazz can't hear their conversation from where he stands, and behind the chattering of Torfeau and Tottika, but he supposes eavesdropping would be rude anyway.

"What I'm trying to say is," Bazz can hear Tottika talk next to him. "As much as I like to drink, we should’ve been more careful the other night. The prince was so hungover in the morning he could barely walk straight. Had anything happened, do you think we were ready for a battle?”

"Right, I know," Torfeau replies, pulling her tail over her shoulder in nervousness as she would with a strand of hair. "We messed up. How do you think we can make up for it?" She looks guilty, as if she were trying to take all the blame for it.

Tottika pinches the pink skin of his crested brow, frowning and sighing deeply in exasperation. "The prince isn't even angry at us," he mumbles, "But I don't know, perhaps next time tell us when you see someone suspicious in our surroundings so we can act accordingly?"

Tottika's words dawn onto Bazz, and he realizes that he hasn't been listening to what seemed to be a crucial part of their conversation. Or perhaps Torfeau was trying to hide a certain fact from Bazz...?

"Goddesses, will you shut up!" She exclaims, throwing her hands in frustration. Her face flushes red with angry shame, averting her eyes from her sibling and dragging her hand across the bump of her brow.

"Torfeau, what is he talking about?" Bazz asks, directing a piercing gaze towards his sister. She faces him, a resigned expression painting her features before she speaks again.

"Okay, Bazz," she begins, obviously apprehending her brother's reaction to her words. "The other night at the bar, Link and I saw someone. I don't know who it was, and Link doesn't either - all that I’m sure of is that it wasn’t a Yiga, and they had no vile intent."

"What- are you kidding me?" Bazz says, his words almost a bit too loud, something he changes upon noticing. Prince Sidon doesn't need to hear it. "Why didn't you tell us? This could've been an extremely delicate situation!" His pupils are narrowed into thin lines as he speaks, feeling like he’s scolding a child after they’d done something wrong.

"I know, I just-" Torfeau stammers, obviously feeling guilty enough about what happened, and about the fact that she had ran off with some woman right after that. "Look, that person ended up disappearing into a distant sandstorm before we could catch up. They were just some weirdo, alright?” She explains it as calmly as she can, her shoulders dropping once she finishes.

"You do realize that we found Prince Sidon and Link sleeping on the ground outside right after that, both in a completely vulnerable position?" Bazz continues, coming back to talk about a situation that had already been too much. If Sidon wanted to fall asleep, fine, but Link should have stayed up to watch his surroundings. Link is his bodyguard, for Hylia's sake, what was he thinking?

"Link usually takes his duty very seriously," Tottika adds. "I'm sure it won't happen again, but we should all be careful anyway. Prince Sidon has been attacked by Yiga footsoldiers in Lurelin, and almost by another one in the Zonai ruins."

"Indeed," the guard captain replies, before rising his pace as he walks in front of his siblings. He would need some time alone to think for now. "We don't want what happened four years ago to happen again. Lady Mipha isn't there to save him, this time."

Bazz still remembers being there and watching when a Yiga had attacked his prince at the Lanayru promenade, when a sword had been plunged into the back of his neck. It had all felt like a nightmare back then, but such was the harsh truth; And none of these bodyguards have the same healing powers as Mipha does. What if another attack happens? What if he has to see the prince falling to the ground once more, in a pool of his own blood? The only way to prevent this from happening again would be to stay vigilant enough to tackle any thieves before they even come close to Sidon.

And as much as he apprehends it, Bazz will have to confront Link eventually. There are still questions on his mind, ones that need answers, and precise ones. And as personal as those questions might seem, the Hylian's position is too important as of now to ignore little secrets that he had hidden for the past four years.

*

It's another few days until they finally reach the region of Tabantha. While the climate isn't too peculiar, the scenery certainly is - they've crossed plains and scablands, avoiding the particular isolated plateau where the thunderstorm never seems to stop. It had been storming there for over ten thousand years, according to Link's knowledge, giving it its famous name of Thundra Plateau. The rest of the region bathes in sunlight, the air slightly cold the closer they come to the mountains of Hebra.

The trees that surround them are tall, their tops flat while their roots seem to climb upwards along the trunk. Sidon's sure he had only seen that kind in books, once again. Some of them stand much taller than the pine trees back home, perhaps five times their size? It's an impressive sight that Sidon takes in as he follows the path, accompanied with his guards.

Link had talked with him for a while, about the region and the culture. It had been a nice way to kill the time, though the Hylian had gone strangely silent once they had reached the scablands. His mood had switched to something more somber, though he hadn't wished to say why, even with the worry that Sidon had shown towards him. And while the prince was curious, he was never one to pry; He simply hopes Link's thoughts aren’t too grim, and that his mood will improve over the day.

They soon reach the Tabantha great bridge, a suspended one that allows travelers to cross the Tanagar canyon. A stable stands near it, their designated spot to rest at for the night. Hopefully they'll still have a few rooms left despite the crowd that had gathered around it. They're all there to see Dinraal fly through the canyon, most likely. It almost seems like a festival, with all the merchants clamoring and showing off their souvenirs. A bearded Hylian man sells handmade clay figures of the dragon, while some others sell clothing or snacks.

They didn't have this back in Lanayru. Naydra would never wander towards any of the stables, and would only find herself in isolated places, where only the wildlife gathered or where it was so cold that any traveler could freeze to death. It's a nice change to see all of this, this many people gathering to watch the ethereal entity even for only a few seconds. Sidon feels himself filling up with excitement the more he sees of his surroundings, the more the Rito children sing songs about the dragon. Even at such a young age, the colorful bird people have a voice that cannot be rivaled, and Sidon finds himself listening to a group of five young girls accompanied by a Rito musician with his accordion.

Link is the one to retreat with the horses, leaving them in the care of the stable owners. Thankfully, there seem to be a couple of rooms in the inn left - it seems like the guards won't need to share anymore, at least for tonight.

It's still bright outside, and the dragon won't come out until the beginning of the night. Sidon kills a bit of time by strolling along the canyon, not too close to the edge while he peers down at the depth below. It's even more impressive to see it with his own two eyes, and he sighs in amazement as his eyes trace the path.

"Watch out!"

A voice startles him out of his thoughts, and he's sure he's going into cardiac arrest as he sees the edge of the cliff so close to his feet. He turns around, his tail coming to rest against the front of his shoulder when he sees a familiar face.

"Mipha?!" He exclaims as he recognizes his taller sister, in a place he never expected to see her. She's the same as usual, except she wears clothing - warm, traditional Rito garb. "How dare you scare me like this! I thought I was going to fall!”

He walks towards her, pulling her into a half-angry hug. He's not used to being apart from her for so long, so it's truly a relief to be able to see her again; And if he’s honest, he had missed her.

"Are you not happy to see me?” She replies with a quiet titter. "I did not think I would meet you here. Are you here to watch Dinraal too?" She tilts her head towards the canyon, gently tugging at her brother's arms for him to walk further away from the edge. She's still so protective of him, as if he still were the pup he once was, after all.

"Of course. How was your trip so far?" Sidon asks, walking closer to the stable as his sister accompanies him. From there he can see that Gaddison, Dunma and Rivan as there as well, reuniting with the triplets and already driven into a lengthy conversation about the many sights they’ve seen, and the people they’d met.

"Very different than I imagined it would be, to be honest," she replies sheepishly. "But why don't we talk about it while we go shop for warm clothing for you? The cold of Hebra is worse than anything you've ever known in Lanayru, you know."

Sidon nods to her words, following her to a little shop situated right next to the stable. It's crowded with travelers, all there for the same thing: warm clothing. The nights in Tabantha were most likely a lot colder as well.

"Do you remember how we thought that going to Goron city would be impossible for us?" Mipha asks while looking through the wares, looking for something of Sidon's size. It obviously proves difficult.

"Yes...?" Sidon's interest is instantly piqued as his eyes dart towards her, and he brushes his fingers against the feathers of one of the outfits.

"It seems like the elixirs have been improved," she replies, a bright smile on her face. "Now anyone can go to Goron city as long as they have enough fireproof elixirs. They work just as well as a protective armor!" Her words come out fast, the sound of her voice rising slightly.

"So you're telling me you actually went to Goron city?" Sidon asks, eyes narrowing in disbelief. "This is insane. How was it on the volcano? Were the Gorons nice to you?"

Mipha giggles, finally taking out one of the outfits. "I would love to tell you about it, but are you not supposed to go there soon? It would be more fun if you were to discover all of it on your own," she says, pointing to the outfit that she holds. It's similar to hers, traditional Rito clothing, though the colors are different. It's mostly white and red, the peculiar coat adorned with various colorful decorations. It looks stuffed with feathers, while a few blue ones stick out of the sleeves elegantly. "If they have this in a bigger size, that would be perfect for you," The Zora princess continues, changing the subject.

"Right," he says, only a little interested now that he gets to talk to his sister after all this time. "By the way, are you going to go home once you've finished visiting Tabantha?"

"It's likely." Her smile falters for just a short moment. "Why? Are you afraid of continuing on your own?"

Sidon isn't sure he wants to say the truth. While the Yiga clan encounter they had in Lurelin hadn't ended with his throat impaled on a sword, seeing the cause of his near-death experience from a few years ago had given him more fears than he would like to admit. But what kind of prince, of warrior would he be if he were to let the fears get the best of him?

"Of course not! Who do you take me for?" He replies with a laugh, completely dismissing the hint of anxiety that had settled on the back of his mind. He won’t mention the thieves’ attacks, not yet at least. His sister had already worried herself sick over him more than enough times.

A smile quirks at the corners of her lips  as she goes back to look through the garments. It takes some time, but they do find an outfit of a good enough size for him, which is surprising. Who else in Hyrule even reached his height, or Mipha's? He didn't know about Ritos that much, so perhaps some of them did become as huge as him.

Once the rupees are given to the very flustered seller, they walk out of the shop, Sidon keeping his new coat folded in his arms for now. The sun still feels warm enough, perhaps he should wait until the night settles to actually wear it.

The seven guards wait outside, all bowing together once the two siblings come outside.

"It is a pleasure to see you again, Your Highness," Gaddison addresses Sidon, her voice clear and strong as usual. "Lady Mipha was actually worried you would not be here on time for Dinraal's sighting. She was really concerned about you missing out on such an experience."

Sidon lets out a laugh. "Well, as you can see, I am quite lucky." He throws a glance towards his Hylian guard, who still radiates the same troubled energy as before. He hides it behind his mask, leaving only his azure eyes visible to the rest of them. He can’t ask about it now; He knows Link would rather keep things private, if possible.

For now, he tries to keep his head up and stay optimistic for everyone else. "While we are all here, why don't we try out the specialties of Tabantha? I have been smelling an interesting aroma. Don't you agree?"

*

Link is usually gluttonous, and that much was known. And Tabantha's traditional food was among his favorites, but the region doesn't bring back the best memories. Even with a growling stomach, his throat almost refuses to swallow anything, not even the strongly flavored macarons that he usually enjoys so much. It'll pass, he knows - it's not the first time he's felt uneasy, and he's learned to deal with it.

But there's been another trouble on his mind for a few days now, and this time it's about Sidon. The two have talked much recently, but it's almost like that one night in Gerudo had disappeared in thought. All that had happened was Link crawling into his tent for a short moment, only to recoil as soon as the prince had touched his back. There was something behind their actions, obviously, but where is that something now? Is Sidon this afraid of addressing the subject?

Link scoffs. He didn't think the Zora prince would be the shy type. There's something obvious in his eyes, something he won't speak of unless the Hylian does first, apparently. How convenient for him it must be.

But Link isn't the shy type, oh no, he never was.

Your Highness, he signs, catching Sidon's attention as he looks down to meet his blank stare.

"What is it, my friend?" He asks with a reassured smile, almost as if he had been afraid that Link wouldn't be talking to him after he’d appeared so gloomy.

Can I talk to you privately?

 

Chapter Text

 

Mipha didn’t exactly expect to see her brother running off so soon after they’d met again. But what’s all the more concerning is that it’s Link who takes him away; They retreat to the mount further, until they’re hidden away from the crowd. She trusts Link to protect Sidon if anything must happen, of course, but the reason why they would need to speak without anyone else hearing… Puzzles her, to say the least.

"Has something been going on between my brother and Link?" Mipha asks, turning to face the triplets. All three look at each other, shrugging simultaneously. Despite this gesture, it's obvious to the princess that they at least know something . Her eyes squint with suspicion, her way of silently asking for the juicy gossip she had been missing out on. Tottika is the one to speak up, to nobody’s surprise.

"Nothing bad, we assume," he replies, looking towards the mount where the two have gone to hide from prying eyes. "But I have the feeling they have to talk a few things out." Bazz and Torfeau nod to his words in agreement and mutual understanding.

Whatever it is that they’re implying, Mipha isn't the type to push it any further either. Her younger brother has his own life to live, and she obviously doesn’t need to know everything of it.

Still, what was that about?

*

They find themselves far enough from the stable that no one would really hear their conversation. They rest in the grass for now, enjoying the quiet and the sky; It’s already started to adorn warmer colors, meaning it’s not too long until Dinraal arrives. Sidon can see the Gerudo Highlands far away from there, and he wonders just how they've traveled so far from their previous destination in such a short amount of time.

It's the direction in which Link looks for now, leaving a moment of silence floating above them before engaging in any type of conversation. Whatever he's reflecting on, Sidon waits patiently until he's willing to talk.

After another minute, the Hylian finally removes his mask along with his hood. He reveals his face and hair once again, and Sidon can't help but feel a slight warmth to his heart - it’s always special to him, that his friend would trust him enough by now to show himself. Sidon still wonders why he does it, but he's not sure now is the right time to ask.

How do you like Tabantha? Link signs, a question that Sidon didn't exactly expect.

"Huh? Um- It's very nice, I must say," he stammers, letting his smile grow. "The climate is certainly better here than in Gerudo. I really thought I was gonna fry over there."

Link lets out a laugh. Just wait until we get to Death Mountain, he replies, finally letting his gaze settle onto the prince's own.

With a glimmer in his wide blue irises, he blinks slowly. His eyes wander to the canyon, and Sidon finds himself tilting his head in question. What is it that Link really wants to speak about?

I'd like to apologize first, for my weird mood switch ever since we came here, he finally begins, his movements smooth and showing more calm than earlier. I don't... like Tabantha as much as you guys do. It doesn't bring the nicest memories, you know?

"Oh." Sidon's smile fades, leaving his mouth slightly hanging. "I... I'm sorry that you have to relive them, Link. Would you like to talk about it?" He asks with a hopeful tone, his pupils fluctuating with interest and his hand moving to almost reach for Link's own.

I... had an accident here. Link’s hands are pulled away to sign his words, and he purses his lips. Would you believe me if I told you I fell down that canyon? He gestures downwards, his hand falling back as if it had become numb.

Sidon looks down the cliff, finding nothing but a fogged up void. There's an end to it, obviously, but wouldn't anyone simply die by falling from such a height?

"I do not think I would believe you if you were anyone else," he replies. "But how did you survive? I would expect you to be at least heavily injured. I am truly glad you are fine, though," he adds, shifting to sit closer to his dear friend. After second thought, he had come close to death as well before - perhaps it's silly to question that.

I don't really know, Link replies dismissively. I don't remember. But that's not really what I wanted to talk to you about, Sidon. The subject is changed so quickly that it catches the prince off-guard, but it doesn't seem like their conversation about the guard's accident will come to a conclusion, at least not right now. While Sidon is slightly frustrated with Link's way of avoiding subjects, he did expect their meeting to have another purpose.

"What is it then?" He asks, feeling his nerves tense up, a hand subconsciously reaching for his own face as he briefly bites at one of his claws. Link looks up at him, his cheeks a little more colored than they were just seconds ago.

I was wondering... about that night in Gerudo, when you called me in your tent. Do you remember? Link looks somewhat concerned now, waiting for a quick answer.

"...Of course I do," Sidon replies, a sheepish smile drawing itself on his features. How could he forget? He had thought about it almost all night after Link had left him, and he still does, every so often. Whatever happened, the prince had been needing some closure on it ever since. "I was sober that time, I hope you're aware of that."

Yeah, I know. Link nods, turning to face the tall Zora. I know I acted a little weird, but... I just hope things are alright between us. I'm not sure if you wish to meet again in similar circumstances, since we haven't talked about it at all.

"Hmm." Sidon lets himself think for a moment, still nervous about the matter - but truly, he had considered intimacy with the Hylian for long enough. "I stand by what I said to you that night," he replies, one of his fingers moving to touch one of the Hylian's own. "You have been on my mind for a while now. I just... wanted to give you time, considering the reaction you had."

I'm really sorry about that, Link replies, signing rapidly in mild embarrassment. I just... felt kind of weird doing any of that stuff in a tent right next to the other guards.

Sidon's eyes snap open, and he tilts his head in confusion. "Was that really it?" He asks, a little of disbelief resonating in his voice. "I can understand your wish to have more privacy, but I did not think that was your reasoning behind it. I assumed you... were not ready."

The Hylian lets out a puff of laughter at his words, and Sidon wonders; What is so funny, exactly? He wants to ask, but Link is shifting closer until he can rest against the prince’s side. A small hand wanders its way towards the curved lines that form the prince's gills, a finger tracing along one of them. Sidon is unsure if the gesture is something Link simply needs to occupy his hands with or not, but his reaction is immediate.

"Hnn," Sidon lets out a startled sound, his hand moving to rest gently against Link's shoulder, brushing the base of his neck with a thumb. "To tell you the truth, my dear," he tries to speak through the sudden surge of emotions he's sent into. "I have... been craving that sort of touch, from you, for a few days now."

Sidon can't help the disappointed sound that comes out of his mouth when Link pulls his hand away to sign once again. The feeling is mutual, he simply replies, getting up on his knees to try and close the distance between their faces. It doesn't do much, with how tall Sidon is even when he sits down.

The prince lets a relieved sigh escape him, bending down to come closer as well. His eyes search for some kind of request, of permission once they’re just an inch away, and Link looks up through half-lidded eyes.

The slow blink that he gives him is all that Sidon needs.

The prince is the one to initiate it. His lips soon reach the Hylian's own, pressing against them with a hunger he had been repressing for the past days. His large hands find themselves cupping Link's cheeks, keeping him in place as he feels his own face grow all the warmer. With time, their clumsy movements make way for something more and more passionate. Sidon had never kissed a Hylian before - Link's lips feel different, taste different than anything he's ever known.

It leaves him desperately searching for more, his curious hands wandering towards Link's neck. His fingers brush against the skin, thumbs moving to rest against his collarbone. His eyes open to look at him more often than not, and it almost feel surreal, until his light touches have the Hylian guard melting in his hands like ice under the sun. Everything feels so soft, yet so shaky, and Sidon's sure he's never heard Link make the sound he just let out before.

And when Sidon almost pulls away, Link's hands reach for him to stay there. He draws Sidon towards him with a pleased grin, deepening their kiss when he angles his head to the side. Sidon reaches for Link's hips now, caressing them like they're precious things that he could keep in his hands forever. Another image flashes in his mind now, of him holding onto his hips like this while Link straddles him-

He's snapped out of his thoughts when he feels the sudden swipe of Link's tongue across his lips, followed by a hum against the prince's mouth until he pulls away to just let himself breathe. Sidon takes the time to catch his breath as well, his grip on Link's hips tightening. If he thought the lust he’d felt lately was indecent, now he’s at least reassured that the Hylian seems to feel just the same.

There's a slight fear now that someone could be watching, but it's hard to stop when the man in front of him makes the prettiest of faces, his lips red and wet and begging for more.

I want you, Link signs, the movements of his hands shaky yet so confident. Sidon's mouth falls open, his eyes focusing onto the Hylian's own as he looks for his own response in his head.

"Come with me," he whispers.

Sidon isn't sure if anyone notices the way they hurry to the inn, and even less if Mipha or any of the knights see them running past. There's too much on his mind, and all his thoughts are disorganized and thrown out of his head when Link grabs at his hand to pull him in the hallway. He releases him in front of the prince's room, unexpectedly turning back to face Sidon.

I'll go change into something more comfortable first, alright? I'll join you in your room quickly, h e signs, and Sidon nods despite his confusion. Was it a Hylian thing to want to wear something particular during those moments, or...?

Well, he wouldn't know. He's never slept with a Hylian before.

And suddenly, he’s incredibly nervous.

Sidon doesn't need to wait too long for Link to come into his room, locking the door behind himself. The room is unlit, the small hint of light showing through the window enough for the prince to see the Hylian. Link wears a simple shirt, with a pair of trousers that feel... almost too normal for him. He's not sure he wants to ask the meaning of it, but if Link wants to take things slow and keep his clothes on first, he supposes it's fine.

No words are needed when his knight walks towards him, sitting him on the edge of the bed with delicate movements. With experienced gestures, he reaches for the back of Sidon's neck, undoing his necklace to gently remove it.

This is enough for the prince’s breath to catch itself in his throat. How would the Hylian know that the act of removing someone else’s jewelry was already an act of intimacy, to Zoras?

"Um- Link..." Sidon stammers for an instant, his gaze flicking towards the other man. His face feels warm enough that he can probably see how nervous he is, but he continues despite this. "I've wanted to ask... Do you have any... 'experience' with Zoras?"

A small smile tugs at Link's lips, and his hands move to reach for the prince's bracelets. Undoing them both at once, his fingertips deliberately caress his palms and slide away while he nods in response. The jewelry is settled away on the nightstand with a slight clank, the silver reflecting the weak ray of light coming through the blinds.  

So that’s where it comes from - only someone familiar with Zora culture would know just how enticing the simple gesture already is.

"I suppose that's only natural, considering how long you've been living in our domain," Sidon begins, reaching for his headpiece that he removes himself. Link is still too short to reach the top of his head. "Then I should confess... I have no experience with Hylians. Is this alright?"

His heart jumps in his chest at the sheer embarrassment of admitting it. He gives Link an unsure smile, one that the Hylian quickly kisses away. His reddened lips taste different on Sidon's tongue now that they’re slightly bitten; The blood is so much closer to being drawn, still, he won't bite for now. He might not know anything about Hylian sex, but he sure knows that their skin is much more fragile than Zora scales.

I'll show you then, Link signs, kneeling on the bed at Sidon's side. His hand strays languidly, soon resting against the prince's chest.

"Actually, I think I have an idea of what I'd like to do," Sidon begins, a little more confident in his own words now that Link seems to be doing his best to make him comfortable. "If that is alright with you... May I 'explore' you?"

It's Link's turn to grow red, pulling back in confusion. His hands fall back to his knees, and Sidon shifts to face him completely.

You're something else, you know, Link signs, letting out a chuckle and obviously dismissing the effect the prince's words just had on him. Alright, I’ll let you ‘explore’. May I be your guide, my prince?

"Yes, dear." Sidon’s reply comes in a murmur, his hands moving to cup Link's cheeks. One of his thumbs reaches the Hylian's bottom lip, pulling it down slightly to tentatively lick at the small red scratch that his teeth accidentally carved. "I can already feel how good you taste." The words have Link's shoulders jumping in what seems like surprise, or excitement - Sidon's unsure, but he certainly doesn’t seem displeased.

Let me set this one rule, though. Link's signing grows a little shakier, and he brings his body as close to his prince's as possible. You can't look at my back.

Sidon pulls away. "Why?"

There’s an ugly scar, Link signs, and the way he moves shows impatience. Sidon wishes he could ask more, but he's just as impatient as Link is, truth be told. The subject of his scar falls, fades away in the back of his head and will have to wait.

"I understand," the prince replies without any intent on questioning him any further. With a light push, he gently shoves Link against the mattress to let him lie down, allowing Sidon to do anything he wants to the gorgeous creature below him. Link lets him take control, his hands resting on the covers for now. His blue eyes seek Sidon's own, for the dark circles that his pupils have grown into.

It starts with another kiss, one that Sidon is quick to deepen this time. When Link slowly parts his lips to leave room for the prince's slender tongue, he feels himself melting, merging with him as he holds him in place.

The prince's large hands wander up Link's body, soon reaching his jaw and letting his finger brush over the outline of the Hylian's pointed ears. Those were something Zoras didn't exactly have - he's been wondering...

"Mhh-" The hum that Link lets out against Sidon's lips is quiet, yet it's full of what the prince can only identify as desire. There's a shiver that runs rapidly across Sidon's spine, pushing him forward as he plays gently with the tips of his ears. They've grown redder than ever.

"Incredible," Sidon whispers as he pulls back, feeling a little guilty when Link lets out a disappointed sound.

What? The question isn’t signed, but Sidon can almost see it by the way Link’s eyes raise and flicker left and right.

"You respond with such hunger, just by having these touched," Sidon replies, gently pulling at the teal earring. The sudden sting has Link's lips parting in surprise, a silenced moan stuck in the back of his throat.

If there's one thing Sidon doesn't want, it's to seem selfish; He'd love to trace every feature with his fingers, to caress every inch of his soft skin, but Link needs to enjoy this as well. There has to be more than the ears that are sensitive.

But Link is the one to guide him this time, gently pulling at his wrist until his hand slides down his neck, brushing past his collarbone, down his clothed chest until it rests against the Hylian’s stomach. Link's body jerks slightly at the contact, but he’s quick to relax as he pulls his own shirt up, revealing his chest with a slow sigh. He takes hold of his wrist once more, dragging his hand up and helping his fingers to reach one of the sensitive nubs that Zoras didn't have either. Sidon's other hand holds strongly around Link's ribcage, feeling it heave with every long breath he takes.

"Ah-" The sound that escapes Link's parted lips is enough for Sidon to understand how the simple touch can affect him. With a grin on his face, the prince lets his fingertip circle around it, and the stimulation has Link's hands jolting. His scent has long shifted to something more sensual, and Sidon keeps himself alert by watching Link's closed eyelids, twitching every time the prince does just the right movement.

As his eyelids flutter open, the Hylian’s blue irises fluctuate as they settle onto Sidon. It’s not long until Link's breathing grows slightly louder and more rapid, something he tries to conceal with a bite on his bottom lip.

"You look so good, Link," Sidon whispers, lowering himself so that his mouth finds its way closer to the Hylian's chest. Curious fingers leave him to make way for his tongue, playing with the hardened nub as Link throws his head to the side. His hair falls around his face, one strand reaching his lips as his eyes focus onto his prince.

A large hand slides down the Hylian's chest, down to his stomach. Sidon caresses everywhere, kissing at his skin and licking where it seems the most sensitive, and it’s enough to have Link panting uncontrollably. If Hylians are at least a little similar to Zoras in that aspect, Sidon knows where to focus the movements of his hand - it reaches between Link’s legs, palming through the clothing.

The right place. He knows as soon as Link’s hips buck up, seeking relief with a sharp intake of breath. With his other hand, Sidon pushes his hips back down, beginning to grind his palm against his still clothed length.

It helps that Link’s chest seems so sensitive; He’s practically writhing on the bed, desperately trying to find more friction than what the prince gives for now. Even through the trousers, Sidon can feel the Hylian’s cock hardening, and that’s when he knows to give him enough room to move.

Link does the work for him as he undoes his belt buckle with haste - it seems somewhat tough, now that the tip of Sidon’s tongue plays at the hardened flesh. His trousers are soon thrown to the floor, and sharp nails tug at the string of his underwear. Sidon head raises for just a moment, waiting for a nod, for something that will allow him to keep going. All that Link manages to do is prop is hips upwards in response. The Zora pulls it down, taking sight of his arousal and wetting his lips.

Link can keep his shirt on, if he really wants to hide his back - but removing everything else feels a lot more convenient now. Almost all of him is exposed, and Sidon stares perhaps a bit too much; Link is grabbing at his shoulders, pulling him back and spreading his legs to give room for Sidon's large form.

One of Sidon's hands moves up, its movements filled with desire and lust as his claws dig into the Hylian's skin. He places it under Link's back, lifting him off the bed slightly until his head hangs back. The way his entire body jolts at the contact reveals more of him, exposing his bare neck, almost as if he wanted Sidon to bite into it. How cruel; He must know that it’s one of the things Zoras desire the most during heated moments like these. But would he allow it, on their first time together?

Sidon highly doubts it.

The prince's other hand wraps itself around Link's cock, his thumb giving a few tentative circles around the head.

"Ah-" The prettiest sounds leave Link's hanging mouth as his hands search for a place to rest upon. He settles onto holding Sidon's shoulders, thrusting his hips up into Sidon's hand.

"Does that feel good, my sweet Link?" Sidon murmurs against his skin, feeling the shiver that runs across it. He feels so warm despite this, and Sidon can't help but let his razor-sharp teeth graze the skin, to feel the pulse thrumming through his veins, even just a little.

Link manages a nod, catching his breath before Sidon strokes him, keeping him right in place with his other hand. He can feel the jolt in his guard's legs, something that has him grinning to himself as he revels in the desire that fills his voice.

Sidon kisses at his chest, humming in satisfaction with every reaction that Link gives him. Hylians are much softer than Zoras, and he wasn't sure how exactly that would feel - but honestly, now that he's had a taste of it, he knows he's going to want more. And Link is incredible, so responsive to each of his touches that his mind is already drifting into a strange haze.

The bed creaks under Sidon's weight as he shifts around, putting Link back against the mattress as his head rests on one of the pillows. It's much more pleasant to see his face while he continues to work on him, truly - He thumbs at the tip once more, slicking Link up with his precome.

Goddesses, I'm gonna go crazy, Link somehow signs, his hands then moving to cover his face briefly. He breathes into them, his legs twitching in excitement with every stroke that Sidon gives. The prince's stare on him feels almost overwhelming - it swallows him up like a beast would, but dammit, he'd give everything to have him looking at him like this again while he does the dirtiest things.

"Gorgeous," Sidon whispers against him, his lips pressing hurried kisses at his chest, stomach, hips - he wants to worship everything, to let Link know just how much he enjoys this. Link chokes back a moan, one that almost sounds like a sob; That's when Sidon decides to move up, to cover the Hylian's flushed neck with open-mouthed kisses as he accelerates his pace.

Link wraps his arms around his slender neck, breathing heavily against his forefin and kissing at the scar just there. His fingers tense up and relax repeatedly, pressing against the scales of Sidon's back and keeping him close as though he would run away at any moment now.

“I’m here, Link.” Sidon’s voice is a whisper, one meant to reassure the slight hint of panic beating behind the Hylian’s ribs. The soothing words seem to prompt him to let his voice resound however much he wants, even if someone outside might hear them; Sidon doesn’t care. Every other Zora will know what happened between them as soon as they step out of the room, anyway.

Still, his heart beats all the faster every time Link grows a little louder. He didn’t expect him to be vocal, in fact, but that only helps him to know that he must be doing things right. He keeps his eyes settled on his face, watching out for any sign of discomfort, but none ever come. The Hylian looks absolutely blissful as he bites at his own bottom lip, only barely stifling the breathless moans that follow.

Glossy eyes show beneath Link’s fluttering lids. Embarrassment is what Sidon expects to find in the splashes of blue, but there’s only passion, a sentiment that can be found upturning the corner of his lips. Link smiles through it all.

He’s an absolute wonder.

The pleasure seems to reach him in intense waves, making him lift his hips and try to give Sidon some kind of warning. Close, he spells across his scales, his fingers trembling all the while.

The prince is quick enough to understand; He strokes him through it, whispering sweet words into his sensitive ear. “Come for me, my sweet one,” followed by “You’re perfect,” and other words of praise that seem to help him quite a lot. Was it his thing, to be encouraged and praised through it? Either way, Sidon is happy to oblige, if it means he can coax out more of these beautiful, lustful sounds.

Kiss-, Link spells against his scales again, abruptly interrupted when the pace of Sidon’s hand accelerates. He finds a rhythm that has the Hylian’s legs spreading even more. His fingers clutch at the sheets, and it’s not long until the prince captures his lips into a heated kiss. It stifles his moans in a way that is still very much enjoyable, and Link can only respond with a few messy swipes of his tongue, disoriented as he is.

He's pushed over the edge with a few last strokes of Sidon's hand, toe-curling pleasure erupting through him as he throws his head back. He comes with a torn moan, and the sight is absolutely stunning - no wonder Sidon was so attracted to him. He must’ve sensed it in some way or another, that the Hylian would become even more gorgeous once reduced into a twitching mess. His release covers his partner's hand in thick stripes, his expression soon losing the tension from the sudden burst of pleasure.

With a last sigh of relief, Link falls limp against the mattress, a pleasant numbness overcoming him as he basks in the afterglow. Sidon watches with peaceful eyes, his pupils like an abyss that Link would gladly throw himself into. They engorge with every breath he dares to let out while his thoughts are clearing up, something the Hylian watches, entranced by Sidon's beauty.

"May I kiss you again?" Sidon asks, and Link lets out a chuckle. It's probably silly to ask such a question after what they've just done, but such was his habit, he supposes. The Hylian nods, thank the Goddesses, and it's all that it takes for Sidon to bend down again and capture him.

The way they kiss is messy, just like what they've done onto the bed that doesn't even belong to them. It's incredible that Link is alert enough to respond so well, cupping the prince's cheeks as he licks at his lips. And Sidon loves the way their bodies press against each other, so much that he doesn't want to part.

It doesn't last long enough, in his opinion, or perhaps he's just that obsessed with the Hylian's taste. It was all it took to fall into a pit, a bottomless one with no significance he can figure out just yet, one that he still welcomes with open arms.

Link lets himself breathe for a moment, soon returning to his senses and opening his eyes to watch Sidon above him. It's your turn, now, he signs, sitting himself up and letting his hand tantalizingly rest upon Sidon's thigh.

"Mh, Link," Sidon begins, holding the Hylian's wrist to tug at it gently. "I am fine. You don't have to do this." His words are sincere as he pushes Link's hand away with a warm smile, watching an expected confusion show on his features.

Why? He asks, the feeling transforming into concern. Sidon reaches to play with a strand of hair with his clean hand, giving a gentle kiss to the corner of his lips. But I want to make you feel good too, Link adds, looking up at him with eyes that almost want to make the prince surrender.

"I feel very satisfied with just pleasing you right now," Sidon replies, straightening himself up and towering over his dear friend once again. "Perhaps we can continue tonight? I believe the moment would be more appropriate. There is so much more of you I want to see, and... I want to know what you can do, as well."

You're so weird, Link signs, showing a disappointed pout that swiftly shifts into a grin. But... I can't wait for tonight, then.

*

With the sunset comes a chill, soon forcing most travelers and others to cover themselves with warmer clothing. It's a beautiful thing to see everyone adapting to the region's culture, adorning the colors of the traditional Rito garments. Sidon wears his own, joining his sister and the knights near the canyon as he hugs himself. The scarf added to the feather-stuffed coat relieves the shiver that runs through his scales, and he watches the air coming out of his mouth in puffs of fog.

The Zoras don't need to stand too close to the edge - their height is enough for them to see it all, and they wouldn't want to inconvenience the smaller travelers. Sidon notices them near one of those strange trees, looking at the sky with eager smiles on their faces. Mipha wears several scarves, one even wrapped around her tail - Sidon wishes he had thought of that, actually. The tips of his fins are starting to feel the cold as well.

"We were starting to think you wouldn't show up," Mipha begins as soon as she notices his presence, giving some sort of knowing smile to her brother. He simply shrugs it off, tightening the scarf around his neck as a way of fidgeting. "Where were you this whole time?"

"Taking a walk," Sidon replies nonchalantly, walking to stand next to the princess. She looks down at him, shooting him an incredulous stare - Of course she’s realized what’s going on. Still, he’ll pretend he’s not completely obvious for now.

"Dinraal should be arriving at any minute now," Bazz says as he crosses his arms, talking into the void and looking to his right. "What should we do once she is here? Should we make some sort of prayer?"

"I suppose not, considering we haven't done anything special when Farosh appeared," Torfeau replies, huddling herself against Gaddison for warmth. Sidon notices the jolt in the lavender Zora's shoulders at the contact, something he briefly squints at. "Maybe we should ask Link, but I have no idea where he is."

Sidon's tail perks up at that. "What? Was he not with you before I joined?" His teeth clatter as he speaks, his eyes scanning his surroundings in search for a small Hylian with a pastel blue Zora disguise. No sign of him, and now that he thinks about it, he hasn't seen him once ever since they've left the room. Sidon had given him some space, letting him wander to wherever he wanted for the moment.

"We thought he would be with you, " Mipha shoots him another side glance, emphasizing on her last word. "Where did you see him last?"

"I- uh," Sidon stammers, shaking his head in confusion and embarrassment. "I saw him heading to the shops further away. It was about an hour ago."

"Dinraal is here!"

An unknown voice interrupts them, one belonging to someone in the crowd. It has everyone else turning their heads towards the eastern end of the canyon, where the dragon is supposed to arrive.

Sidon can make out a serpentine form from where he stands, something that flies in slow undulations through the air. It's different than what he's seen in Faron - Farosh had jumped in sight, while Dinraal seems to approach calmly, a glowing warmth enveloping her. It doesn't take long for the warmth to reach the crowd as they gaze at the living wonder, at the fire that she breathes out of her nostrils and through her teeth.

As she comes closer, Sidon can see a few more details. Her horns are different than Farosh's, a fiery red and growing in sinuous patterns at the sides of her head. Her eyes burn with at least four different colors, Sidon realizes, and she even has eyelashes - sharp, bright lashes lining her eyelids.

And cnce she's reached the crowd, everything goes silent.

All the clamoring, all the chattering and the whispering disappear, leaving a soundless void around them. Dinraal makes no noise as she moves, throwing glances at the tiny creatures with a hypnotizing turquoise eye. The updrafts are there again, making the tiny Hylians look like they'll get carried away by the wind if they're not careful enough. The Ritos could very well be letting themselves fly up, to play in the high winds, yet they remain there silent and bowing respectfully to the deity.

Is Link missing all of this? Or is he watching from another spot, where the view must be ten times better? Either way, Sidon finds it rather upsetting. He could've at least told him where he went.

But for now it's almost like the sight sticks him in place, leaving him unable to move or take his eyes off the dragon. He barely registers how overwhelming the heat from the flames has become, and how dry his mouth has made itself.

The silence stays long after Dinraal traverses the canyon, until she's completely out of sight. The moment that only lasted a minute now leaves to be replaced with tired chatter, the kind that stays in Sidon's head for hours at night. Sleeping wouldn't be easy tonight either - while seeing the dragons made for amazing experiences, there's still a familiar feeling in the back of his throat that he knows will linger until something or someone important enough snatches his attention back.

"Is there really someone at the bottom of the canyon?"

It's a sentence he hears, in the middle of all others. It somehow stands out, and he realizes.

Without any certainty, he moves through the crowd as he politely shoves everyone away from his path. He can hear Mipha asking where he's going, but he doesn't find the time, nor the will to answer - not when he notices a familiar figure standing at the bottom of Tanagar Canyon.

Link has gone down there somehow, for a reason Sidon is unaware of. He looks fine, but why would he be there? Did he want to see Dinraal from under? The prince isn't sure it's the best place to be at when the dragon flies so close, and he knows Link will come back to them soon, but his impulse control switches off completely as he takes a paraglider that was just lying on the ground next to him. He'll have to borrow it for now.

He's tried that kind of stunts before; The paraglider wasn't too unfamiliar for him, and he supposes that Link must have gotten down this way too. He opens it up, jumping off the cliff and letting the cloth slow down his fall.

It doesn't take long until he's reaching the ground, but the Hylian has long noticed his arrival. Link watches him with wide and confused eyes, walking towards him in hurried steps.

What are you doing here? Link asks, putting his silver bow to rest against his back. He looks as though he was caught doing something bad, fidgeting with whatever he can find on himself.

"I should be asking you this," Sidon replies, placing his hands on his friend's shoulders. They jump slightly in response, yet Link softens at the gesture. His mask doesn't allow Sidon to see his expression, but he knows he's smiling.

I was just curious about how it felt to have a dragon flying right above me, he signs, his own hand now reaching to place itself onto Sidon's own. We should go back. We have to go to bed.

"My, you're so impatient," Sidon chuckles, wishing he could pick him up and kiss him right there, but anyone could be watching from up here. But it's not a stare that halts him, surprisingly enough; It's the sound of something flying right past his face and hitting the ground a little further with a metallic clunk.

"Dammit, you can't aim for shit." Sidon now hears a voice, a bite to it that has his blood turning to ice. He's soon shoved away by Link, who now stands behind him. The prince takes some time to examine the object that was just thrown at him; The curved blade is adorned with dents, in a circle made to cut as well as rip the flesh apart. When he finally turns around, his narrowed pupils are met with two figures that stand a little further away.

"I knew sending somebody like you to off him would be a waste of time," one of the Yiga footsoldiers says, and Sidon’s heart feels like it had been pierced by a shock arrow.

The white mask, the red eye; They grin at him once more, as they always do in his worst nightmares. He feels it all over again; The pain in the back of his neck, the taste of blood on his tongue, the healing warmth of Mipha’s grace, the frost of Naydra’s breath.

They’re after him.

Link doesn't sign. His stance is defensive, protecting the prince with everything that he has. A dangerous aura emanates from him, and Sidon knows that his spear could end up in one of these thieves' chests at any minute now.

Despite all the might with which he trusts his knight, he freezes in fear.

"Oh, it's nice to see you, Grasshopper," the other soldier says, approaching the two with light steps. It has Link's grip on his spear tightening as he steps back, forcing Sidon to do the same. The prince's hand reaches for his belt, something he does almost unconsciously - he forgot his sword back at the inn.

But he can use his raw power, and his size clearly shows advantage, right? Besides, he's seen Link take on two Yiga clanmembers before. It's not an impossible thing, and just when he sees a glint of hope at the end of the tunnel that is his fear, he realizes his mistake.

There aren't two Yiga - no, there are more of them, more than Sidon can bother to count. His senses twirl and feel like static, leaving him unable to register what's happening. Some of the thieves wear hoods, and have a much broader figure than the tiny footsoldiers that stand just before them.

And what did they just call Link?

It's something he knows he wasn't meant to hear, when Link turns to look at him with striking fear in his eyes. He's never seen such an expression painting his features, and that alone is enough to send a loud warning deep into Sidon's brain.

"Yeah, we all missed you so much." Another Yiga speaks, heavy sarcasm in the tone of their voice. It only angers Link more, yet he stays still as a stone, most likely still trying to figure out what to do.

"Link, what is-" Sidon wants to ask something, but he's quickly cut off by a gesture of dismissal from his bodyguard. With one hand, he manages to sign his words to the prince.

I’ll protect you.

Sidon's throat tightens, coils around itself like a snake as he swallows hard. No, no, this can't be happening - they're cornered in the middle of a canyon, where no one else can come to their aid.

He can't let them do as they please again .

"Come any closer and I will rip you apart," Sidon snarls, the trembling in his voice completely crushed by his heavy words. He keeps his teeth bared, his pupils narrowed to slits as he watches his surroundings.

The Yiga that stands the closest before him barks out a laugh, simply crossing his arms in a gesture of superiority despite their drastic difference in size. "Do you even know who you're siding with?" He asks, only to be interrupted by a Yiga blademaster's signal to all take out their weapons. They're all armed with windcleavers, demon carvers or sickles - and all that Sidon and Link have is one silverscale spear.

The Hylian rolls forward, impaling one of them and throwing their body to the side. His movements are clean, precise as he catches a few of them off guard, knocking them out with the back of his weapon and disarming one of the blademasters. Swiftly, Link throws the windcleaver towards his prince, giving him what he needs to try and defend himself in case Link won't be able to.

He's never used such a weapon before - it still wears small stains of blood belonging to innocent people, Sidon knows. Something bitter settles into his mouth, yet he holds the blade without a single hint of doubt in his movements. It doesn't take too much time for him to figure out how it works - at a long distance, he can simply slash the air to send a gust of wind so sharp it could cut through flesh.

One footsoldier dashes towards him, and Sidon dodges with a jump to his side. His heart races as he turns to face his attacker, using the air between them to his advantage. The blade of wind reaches the thief's throat, cutting it apart fatally as they crumble to the ground in a pool of their own blood.

Sidon is tainted with it, and his chest heaves as he breathes heavily. The relentless buzzing of his head doesn’t seem like it will stop anytime soon. He can hear his own heart pounding as he turns around, his unfocused vision catching a glimpse of Link fighting as well. He tries to prevent the thieves from approaching the prince, but there's so many of them - he doesn't blame him when a few of them escape his judgment.

He wishes he could speak to him, to tell him a few things he would want to say if they are to part ways. He knows it could very well be the last time he sees his dear friend's eyes when he looks at him with all the horror and fear that could be contained in a small Hylian body.

And he swears he's never felt a heavier weight on his heart before, when a group of Yiga hurl towards Link to hide him completely from Sidon's sight. How is he going to defend himself when he's up against six, or seven of them now?

Sidon ignores his current targets, charging into the fray with his blade ready. The wind escapes it, shoving two of them aside, but it's not enough - Link is struggling under them, defending himself with whatever he has, even his blunt teeth.

He's wounded - His shoulder is slashed, and Sidon can smell it. It's not pleasant like it was before, when they'd met in Sidon's room; It's tainted with panic, with grunts of pain from Link that only show how weak he's becoming against them.

"Get away from him!" Sidon shouts, impaling one of the Yiga footsoldiers against his blade. The thief cries out, letting go of his weapon as it falls to the ground with a metallic sound.

The prince manages to pick it up, holding it into his free hand. Dual-wielding was certainly not his specialty, but if it meant he could save his friend from the fangs of death, he'd wield as many weapons as his tired body can carry.

The demon carver is plunged against a blademaster's throat, catching him off guard and preventing him from landing a blow onto the Hylian that would've been fatal otherwise. But Sidon doesn't allow himself to sigh in relief - some of the Yiga switch their target now, approaching Sidon with a glare from their painted eye.

"And you'll die for him, wouldn't you?" Sidon can hear a feminine voice, one that belongs to one of the blademasters. "We can make that happen."

Sidon can hear the grin in her voice - but the worst of it all is the eye, the one that peers into him like the sword that had almost killed him four years ago. He almost freezes again, letting his fear get the best of him until he can hear choked voices.

Bubbles full of water wrap around his attackers' heads, tightening around their throats like ropes meant for them. The Yiga woman in front of him gasps audibly, choking as the water enters her lungs - she reaches for her own neck, desperately trying to undo the spell that was cast onto her. Her hood and mask fall, revealing black hair so long that it reaches her legs, and a heavily scarred face.

Her struggle doesn't last too long, and her panic only speeds up the process. She soon falls limp to the ground, her eyes rolled back as the vengeful water reaches deeper inside of her lungs. Two other Yiga have shared her fate. The bubbles burst, covering their bodies with magic water that turns to sickly mud within mere seconds.

Sidon knows this spell. He's seen it so many times during training, always accompanied by the glimmer of silver and sapphire.

Mipha arrives, her lightscale trident in hand and a deadly stare directed towards the thieves. All the guards stand to her sides, their weapons ready as they run to their aid.

Sidon soon catches sight of his Hylian friend, of his injured form trying his best to get up and fight back. His attackers are soon taken on by the Zora knights, who manage to move them away from Link.

"Link!" Sidon calls out his name, running towards him to check for his condition. The Hylian is standing up now, grabbing at his wounded shoulder and covering his gloved hands with blood. Sidon wishes he could hold him - but now isn't the time, especially when a few more thieves are still standing against them.

He stays with him for now, watching their surroundings to be the one to protect him if needed, this time. He watches the knights fight, his eyes focusing onto Dunma for a brief moment -

"Dunma!" Rivan cries out the name of his daughter in warning for the thief that's about to stab her in the back. And just when Sidon thinks it's the end for her, another, completely unfamiliar figure shows up to slay the Yiga in a way too fast for him to decipher.

The cloaked creature moves through the canyon, targeting a few of the thieves that seem to be the most threatening. They hurt them fatally, without even shedding a single drop of blood; Sidon manages to see eyes, brown eyes burning with anger and strength.

The mysterious person sends a message with these eyes, directed to Sidon, but there's no way he can understand anything that's going on aside from the massacre. And the smell of blood is becoming so strong, it brings a headache that spreads into his skull and makes him grimace.

"Now is not the time to falter, Your Highness," a feminine voice can be heard, one that comes from behind the mask of the cloaked figure. Her voice reaches him somehow, and his hold onto his borrowed weapon tightens. Who is this woman? She's siding with them, helping to slay the Yiga and speaking to Sidon as if she knew him.

She soon jumps out of sight, leaving them alone to fight off the remaining few. The thieves are outnumbered by now, and their hopes are a little higher at least. Sidon brings a hand to his face, feeling a bleeding cut on his cheek.

His train of thoughts is abruptly interrupted by another voice, a cry of pain that crawls along his spine and twists his gut. He turns to search for the source of the noise, but it stands just inches away from him.

Link is shielding him, his arms spread open in panic when a Yiga footsoldier was about to attack Sidon from the back. Everything slows down before his eyes as he peers down at Link, noticing the heavy gush of blood that escapes a slash on his body. Sidon has time to think about everything once again - about Link, about his presence, his mesmerizing eyes and his reassuring touches. And now he finds himself there, falling to the ground with a thud as he sacrifices himself to save his prince's life.

Goddesses, no. This can't be happening - Link can't fall here, he can't leave him like this -

The foe that just dealt the massive blow to his Hylian friend is soon dealt with, pierced right through the chest by Tottika. With a swing of his spear, he shoves the body away, leaving it to rot with the rest of them.

"Link, oh no- Please, Link, wake up," Sidon stammers, getting to his knees and turning Link around. He lies him on his back, noticing the deep, bleeding cut on his chest. Link isn't dead just yet - he's breathing, though it's a strained and desperate thing that comes with blood staining his tongue and teeth.

"Please stay with me, Link," Sidon continues his pleading, holding Link against him as he turns to look at Mipha. His sister has long understood the situation - she strides towards them, handing her trident to Gaddison as she kneels to Link's side.

"Let go of him, Sidon," she orders, opening and closing her hands repeatedly as if to warm up her healing magic. "I'll save him. I promise." He knows that she's trying to keep her calm - but Sidon can see the way her eyes narrow, and the hitch in her throat when she sees the injury up close.

"Mipha, I'm sorry, it's my fault," Sidon speaks through his panic, carefully leaving Link to rest on the ground in front of the princess. His heart shatters when the Hylian turns his head towards him, showing eyes full of fear as he holds his hand out for Sidon to take.

"No, Sidon," Mipha cuts in, putting her hands flat against Link's chest and staining herself with his blood. A warm glow lights up her fingertips as she focuses her magic, her grace onto the dying knight. "He was protecting you. Link is your guard, it is his duty."

"No- I-" Sidon shakes his head around, catching Link's hand into his own and holding it as if it were the most fleeting, precious thing. "I was careless. Link, forgive me." He chokes back a sob, his fingers trembling as Link's own move ever so slightly to show signs of life.

Not your fault, Link slowly spells out into his prince's palm, something only Sidon can feel. Don’t cry.

Sidon had never really witnessed Mipha using her grace on someone else, but now he understands why she uses it so rarely; It visibly exhausts her, leaves her breathing heavily as he forces her magic inside Link's wound. The prince can feel her aura, her dedication when her fingers show the slightest twitch. She purses her lips into a thin line, the pink skin of her brow furrowing with concentration.

While the blood doesn't fade, the cut is slowly closing itself. It has Sidon sighing in relief as she looks into his dear friend's eyes, his other hand joining to catch Link's own. He can judge by his breathing that he's hurting less, at least - but he can smell his consciousness fading by the second, a normal occurrence after receiving Mipha's grace.

His eyes close slowly as his breathing returns to normal, and his hand soon falls against Sidon's own without strength. The wound is closing up completely, leaving a temporary scar under his torn suit. Slowly, Mipha pulls back, catching her breath as she lets her hands rest against the ground. She's exhausted - hopefully she won't need her healing powers again anytime soon.

"Thank you, Mipha," Sidon whispers, looking at her with tearful eyes. What would've happened if she hadn't been here? It's a question he's asked himself many times, but it only amplifies today.

"There is no need to thank me," she says, showing the slightest of smiles. "He will need to rest for now. You will not be able to head for Hebra right away, understood?"

The guards had managed to keep them safe during the healing process, knocking out any of the remaining thieves. But there is one more standing, and this one has dropped his weapon to the ground, his hands raised as he speaks up.

"Before you do anything, I feel like I need to clarify what you idiots can't seem to understand." His voice has Sidon's pupils narrowing again as he looks stares back, his tail perking up. "That Hylian you're holding, have you not realized who he is?" The thief asks, pointing to Link with an amused tone to his voice.

"Speak your words, thief," Torfeau says, brandishing her spear towards him, only inches away from his throat.

"The Grasshopper is what we used to call him," the Yiga replies. "We still do, when we talk about ripping him to pieces and punishing him for treason."

The words dawn onto Sidon as they are spoken, letting a fear that was deeply buried in the back of his mind resurface. Link is still unconscious before him, his head falling to the side, as if he were sleeping peacefully.

The prince's throat tightens as he looks down at him, and all of a sudden, every memory he has of his dear friend turns venomous.

“Oh, you understand?” The thief asks, a maniacal laugh in his voice. “I’d be pretty pissed too, if I learned that I was holding one of those ‘damned thieves’ in my arms.”

As soon as the sentence ends, a sharp grunt of pain escapes the man's throat. Bazz's hesitation on decimating him has faded completely, leaving only fury as he stabs the foe with his silverscale spear and lets him fall to the ground. A heavy silence settles above them, until the guard captain is turning around, showing a face covered in stains of blood and tears.

"Please don't tell me I was right this entire time," Bazz begins, pointing his spear towards Link, as though he were ready to bring judgment upon him. "About the fact that he was hiding something from us."

"Guard Captain," Mipha interrupts him, placing a hand in front of him in a sort of pacification. "Wait. Can we really trust the thief's words?" She asks, but all she manages to do is anger the black Zora even more.

"Why don't we take a look at his back, then?!" He hisses, his pupils so thin they're almost invisible. "Just to check! Why hasn't anyone done that a single time?" There's a bite to his voice as he walks towards Sidon, still respectfully kneeling in front of him.

And the prince realizes, no one here must have seen the Hylian's back before.

With delicate gestures, he sits him up, reluctantly catching the buttons on the back of his suit and undoing them one by one. Everyone watches as the anticipation hangs inside of their throats, and everything goes silent once his back is revealed.

The eye of the Yiga is drawn along his spine in a blood-red ink, a permanent marking that must have been there for years. It's just the same as the ones on the masks - the same dark energy emanates from it, and it has Sidon catching his breath in his throat.

Something horrible overcomes him, worse than whatever he's felt since he's left the domain. All he can focus on now is Link, his lies, and all this time hiding his true identity from him. It takes over all of his thoughts, replacing the images of Link in his memory with the masked criminals and the raw concept of betrayal.

And with a shaky sigh, he lets go of his 'friend' to let him fall against the rocky ground once more.



Chapter Text

 

He was twelve, Link remembers, during his last year of living alone with his three friends. And after that, it all went downhill; Now he’s nineteen, and while he’s still at their side, the only place he can call home is a large hideout in the Gerudo wasteland. The only people he can call family are Luwas, Paya and Xila, and everyone else feels like a ghost walking around. No face, no smile, just a red eye drawn on a white mask.

He still remembers how clumsy his hands used to be when he would try to catch a handful of hearty durians from one of the merchant's backpacks, when he was much younger. It had been so scary back then, but now... It all just seems funny in his memories, almost cute.

It's more than fruits that he's been spending time stealing, these days. Well, his peers are, for some reason, extremely fond of the mighty bananas from Faron, but that's besides the point. Why steal fruit when he's skilled enough to steal rupees from merchants or travelers?

Their clan had 'homes' all over Hyrule, all hidden in places where no one dared to go. And while the situation left a bad taste in Link's mouth, where else could he go? Him and the rest of his family had long accepted that they would live like thieves, and die like thieves. Probably younger than average. One day one mission would take a wrong turn eventually, bringing him to an expected demise.

His dismal thoughts have only been intensifying lately, ever since the emblem of his clan had been tattooed on the skin of his back. It still hurts every so often, but he can't complain - he had pretty high pain tolerance, unlike Paya, for example. The poor girl had suffered so much for hers, she must have cried for days.

She seems to have lost all her energy for the day, now that she sits in the sand. Around the campfire, the four hopeless children remain mostly silent, enjoying each other’s company and drinking tea while the night breeze blows through their hair. Spending time together had been nearly impossible lately, and Link blames it on the new Master - What was his name again? Kohga, or something. The Hylian barely cares at this point. But since the old Sheikah had been there, missions were assigned much more frequently, and they only got more difficult with time. Or easy, depending on the thief - now that killing was allowed, some finally felt like they could do what they wanted.

Disgusting.

The hideout is calm for now, and it allows them to find some peace, at the very least. Link still remembers the time they used to look up at the myriad of stars in the sky, but it’s hardly impressive these days, now that they’re sure the Goddesses don’t have much to offer.

The exhausted Paya has fallen asleep against Luwas's shoulder, as the older man slouches in his seat. Once again, he smokes whatever the other thieves had given him - expensive herb that helps him relax, he says, but there’s no way that he'll let his family try. Link still does, when no one's looking.

"You two have a mission tomorrow, right?" Luwas asks, slowly blinking as he stares into the crackling flames. He obviously addresses Link and Xila, who both nod in response.

"I don't like this," he continues, pressing his fingers against his forehead and rubbing into the skin. "Going to Gerudo town is dangerous. It's crowded with guards lately, and if you get caught... There's no way you can escape."

Xila stares into his cup, not even bothering with a reply. He used to be the one talking when Link didn't want to - But it's almost like the roles have been reversed lately, even with him being mute.

We'll be careful, it's a promise, Link signs, setting his cup aside and silently wishing Luwas could share whatever he’s smoking.

"Coral," the older man interrupts him, uttering Xila's codename as he moves slightly as to not bother Paya at his side. "Please put the cup down and go get some fresh water at the base. You're going to pass out at this rate." There's worry in the way he orders him around, and he gestures for him to do as he was told.

The desert truly isn't the place where a young Zora belongs. While heat-resistant elixirs existed, they weren't exactly made for daily consumption. Not for that long, anyway. And the dryness of their home had him losing his colors, making him look even more pale and sickly than he already was. Xila's lips were too dry to allow him to smile, and his heart too heavy to even try to fight against the illness that was surely settling in. It didn't matter how many times Luwas asked for the young Zora's transfer in the Lanayru hideout - he was a skilled warrior, and so the elders would always refuse.

And while Link wouldn't speak about it, he would pray almost every night that Xila would wake up the next morning.

To who he would pray was still a mystery, though.

*

Entering Gerudo town meant another thing; With their tradition of never allowing men in, Link and Xila would have to dress up.

The feminine Gerudo clothing isn't something that Link minds that much - It's comfortable, and if he's honest with himself, he looks great in them. He's not sure how Xila feels about wearing them, but if he does feel anything, he doesn't mention it. Link doesn't dare asking, in case he might touch a sensitive subject.

You shouldn't even be on a mission, you know, Link signs to him discreetly before they enter the town. The elders should be letting you get some rest at least. You're looking paler and paler everyday.

Xila barely moves his lips as he heaves a sigh, adjusting the bracelets of his Gerudo vai outfit. He takes out one more of the heat-resistant elixirs, downing the small bottle and grimacing as he shakes his head around.

"Do you ever stop worrying about others?" He finally says with a strain in his voice that has the Hylian flinching. “I’m stronger than you think. Why do you think they want me here?”

Link’s brow furrows. How can I not worry? You look awful-

“I know, Grasshopper,” the Zora hisses, and at least his teeth still look somewhat healthy. “I know.

Link knows he can’t press the matter any further. It hurts to see him that way, to see that even his eyes are losing their once vibrant golden shade. Xila is fading, and that much is obvious.

You haven't changed, Link adds, beginning his walk towards the town gates while Xila follows closely. Let's go.

The jewelry shop is their target this time. The owner is ridiculously rich, selling the most precious stones to anyone who will dare enter the shop. The circlets and earrings are the most popular, with their magic properties - it's what the Yiga wants. Not even the beauty of the items themselves; Just their monetary value, the amount of rupees they could bring to their growing treasure.

Link used to feel bad about this, about stealing someone else's hard work. It'd been shadowed by his own bitterness over time, despite the absence of wrongdoings on the innocent merchants' part. He doesn't like to think about it too much. He has to steal, and if he doesn't, he already knows what will happen to him.

It all sounds so easy. The plan is to enter the shop, pretending to be travelers with the intent to buy some of the expensive jewelry. Isha, the shop owner, doesn't notice anything peculiar about their behavior, meaning they're doing a good job at least. All that seems to worry her is the way Xila looks down, his eyes almost empty as he tries to fight off the narcolepsy that had been plaguing him with the hot weather.

Link's heart wrenches as he watches one circlet, a sapphire one. The blue of its stone is deep like the Lanayru sea, shining like a starry, midnight sky. It's almost physically refreshing to look at.

Things are going well. He has a plan, and all that Xila has to do is distract the shop owner and her craftswoman. They compliment his outfit, musing about how they've never seen a single Zora vai inside the walls of their town before - it almost elicits a chuckle from the young Zora, who silently wishes he had died to the sand long ago.

One wrong movement is enough to turn everything upside down.

Isha yells out. The thieves are found out, and the guards are warned as soon as she screams, leaving Link's ears buzzing and his heart thumping so fast he could faint. But now isn't the time - they have to go. They have to run and hide, no matter what it takes. Link pushes Xila out as they escape the shop with nothing of value in their hands, and his heart drops into his chest when the guards are already there and ready to fight back.

Xila surprisingly picks up a rapid pace, running faster than he can even swim. He follows Link with diligence, removing the veil that covers his face to let it fly with the wind of an impending sandstorm. The mission had failed; It's not the first time that it happens, but there's something different about it, something that has Link considering turning himself in.

The Gerudo guards use ice arrows. They're practical to stop thieves from running away, freezing them in place without hurting them fatally. It's theoretical, Link realizes.

The bowstring creaks, the arrow hisses through the air, the sand dunes muffle the sound of something heavy falling to the ground, Xila’s steps are silent.

Link turns around, catching sight of the blue Zora slumped into the sand. An ice arrow is stuck into his side, and one of his forefins has moved to cover his eyes.

"Ah!" Link yells out, unable to pronounce the Zora's name to call out to him. He runs back towards him, picking him up and carrying him. His light weight is worrying, but not as worrying as the frost that rapidly spreads onto his scales. Link notices his eyes, the tired things still open wide as they lose themselves into rapid, disoriented movements.

The Gerudo guards are catching up, but Link can't let it happen. With a newfound surge of adrenaline, he pushes himself forward, running towards the east to cross the desert and lose them.

It’s alright - Xila is only frozen. That’s what ice arrows do. Link just has to take him someplace safe and wait it out.

It's only after a few minutes that he reaches the Gerudo ruins, hiding near one of the giant heroine statues. It feels like she peers down at the two in utter disappointment, her sword ready to bring them to their demise.

The Hylian settles Xila onto the sand, letting his head rest against the statue. He signs his words, close enough in front of the Zora's eyes so he can see through a blurry fog.

Look at me, Xila! He orders, waving his hands around, catching a glimpse of his friend’s eyes darting to him. His fingers hover around the arrow, and a gasp catches itself in his throat as soon as he notices how deep it’s plunged into his body.

Why is there blood? Why has the frost stopped spreading? Why is Xila still moving?

“...That arrow isn’t working,” Xila utters through barely moving lips. “It’s not working, Link.”

I have to take you to a healer back home, Link signs hurriedly, moving to put his arms under the Zora’s frame again in hopes of lifting him up. While the Hylian and the Sheikah siblings had both grown much, Xila had aged slowly - he’s just about the same size as Paya, now.

Still a teenager. In his body, and in his mind.

"No.” Xila winces at the contact, and Link barely hears him. The Hylian tries to lift him up, only to be rewarded with a weak slap across his cheek.

He huffs out some sort of reply, until Xila’s pupils retract and grow as thin as fishing lines.

“Let me go.”

And Link does just so, only to sign for a moment.

Are you crazy? He signs, finally ripping his veil off. I’m not leaving you here! I can’t get the healer to cross the desert, you know how they are!

“I said,” Xila continues, taking a deep breath. “Let me go.

Link kneels at his side for now, unable to find his words. He finds the horizon, noticing that no one is after them anymore. He’s succeeded in escaping.

He might be failing at everything else.

I can’t give up on you, he signs, and the trembling in his hands shows what he doesn’t dare mention. I can’t do it. You’re not falling asleep on me.

Link lets his eyes search for the wound - the shape of the arrow has pierced widely enough into his side that he’s bleeding profusely. Carefully putting his hand towards it to at least reduce the bleeding, Link finds himself being pushed away one more time.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Xila murmurs, and with a swift movement of his hand, he grabs Link by the fabric of his Gerudo top.

“I’m done. I’m done, Link. Stop worrying and let me go.” His voice comes out in pained snarls, and the Hylian can feel it - something warm on his cheeks, something he hasn’t felt in a long time.

Why? Link signs weakly, seeking the light in his friend’s eyes, only to see it fading with the rest of him. Why are you making me do this? Did you take the arrow on purpose?

Xila’s chest heaves, and a cough has his body jumping. The blood splatters all over his legs, over the golden sand, over Link’s hands.

“It would’ve hit you otherwise.”

His words feel like a hand that squeeze at his heart. The Hylian would’ve taken the arrow. He might have survived , considering he isn’t as sick as Xila is - once again, someone falls to have him live longer.

He has no words, but he knows he would be yelling at him if he could speak. For now he lets his fist hit the sand as he lets out a sorrowful cry, his hand twitching with the pain. It’s not long until the Zora speaks again.

“I just want to go home.”

He takes long breaths, each of them gradually decreasing in intensity. If Link doesn’t take him to a healer now, he’ll die on the sand from the arrow and the sun.

Zoras are supposed to live to be over two hundred years old, for Hylia’s sake. Xila is sixty-five. Zoras are supposed to rest in the water. Xila is wilting.

Where’s home, Xila?

It’s all that Link finds to sign now. He could lose him anytime - now’s the moment to know.

When the Zora doesn’t answer immediately, the panic settles in. Where’s home? Link asks again.

“To you guys,” Xila breathes out. “I don’t want a healer. Take me to Luwas and Paya.”

The tears that run down Link’s face finally fall to the sand, staining it in dark circles.

Xila, he signs, pleading for any sign of life from his brother at heart. Some of the frost reaches the skin of his fingertips as he holds tightly onto the light blue Zora, but he doesn't pull away. He deserves all the pain that it brings, anything that will punish him for being so careless. His heart is being ripped out of his chest, and he might end up hollow - he deserves this, he deserves all of it.

“Just-” the Zora speaks once more, the slightest of smiles showing through his blood-stained lips. “-make sure to protect Paya for me, okay?”

The guilt weighs on him like the heaviest piece of gold he's had to carry. It crushes him, and he can tell Xila's consciousness is fading into nothingness. But the Zora can't speak anymore - he looks up at the sky, watching into the clouds and searching for the silhouettes of the parents he once knew.

I'll bring you home, Link signs before holding his friend's hand through everything, clutching tightly when the life hangs just at the tip of Xila's fingers.

Xila gives one last smile, a weak one that paints his features as his heartbeat fades, never to return again. His last breath feels so faint, so small - yet it's like a sigh of relief, one that Link registers as the noise that shatters him to pieces until he's nothing.

Luwas and Paya will never have heard his goodbyes.

A tremor shakes through him, leaving his shoulders jolting, and he finally releases the sob that he's contained while Xila was still looking him in the eyes.

Link cries against his chest, his voice loud enough to be heard by vigilant guards, but he can't care anymore. His friend is gone by his fault - to protect him, just like his parents did to save him from the flames in his old home.

Carrying Xila's lifeless body slows down his walk as he joins the hideout again, expecting what everyone else will say. Most of the thieves wouldn't care - none of them cared about Xila, but it doesn't matter. Luwas and Paya have a right to know what happened, and they have a right to see him one last time before they give him a proper burial.

And when he sees them in the distance, he can only let his head hang.

They run to him once their eyes fall onto the sight, already aware of what happened when they notice Link's reddened eyes. While Luwas can't fight back the tears, he stands still, gritting his teeth to the point his jaw could snap. There's as much anger as there is sadness in the way he clutches Xila's hand, and Link's last few remaining tears fall when Paya kneels down, crying her soul out as she brings her hands together.

“Why, Hylia? He was my brother,” she sobs into her own hands, her body hunching over itself. “He was my brother - and now he’s gone .”

Luwas is quiet for now. His hand moves to find Xila’s face, to rest his fingers gently onto his eyelids and pull them down to finally let him rest peacefully.

Everything hurts, from the headache that has settled in, to his heart at the dawning realization that Xila won't be waking up anymore.

"Goodbye, Xila," Luwas utters, giving one last stroke against his young friend's head fin. "We love you so."

*

"She doesn't exist, does she?"

The words Paya murmurs are the first she's said after hours, after Xila's body was retrieved. They weigh heavy upon Link, almost as heavy as the sledgehammer that his tired hands are holding.

Link gives a shake of his head as he stands before the small Hylia statue near their hideout, watching its empty eyes and silently scoffing at the way her hands are brought together in prayer.

"If she did, she wouldn't have let this happen," Paya continues, her eyelids puffy and wet. She barely looks in his direction, still acknowledging his presence when the hammer is lifted.

"Go on, if it eases your pain," she adds, looking away from the scene. "I know it will ease mine."

And with just her words, Link brings the hammer down, shattering the Goddess statue.

***

One hour or so has passed since Link has been saved by Mipha's grace. The Hylian guard is finding rest into his room at the inn, surely to wake up soon - Sidon isn't sure he wants him to.

But not in the way that he wants him dead, no, he wouldn't go that far. But the fear of confrontation is what has him stiffening in his seat. One hour isn't that long of a time, still, it feels like the longest hour Sidon has ever lived through.

And while the air outside is uncomfortably cold, he can't imagine going back inside for a single second. Link's presence falls into the inn, and could be felt in the entire region, the prince is sure of it. To him at least, that's what it feels like.

He's found nothing better to do in the midst of the night than sit close to one of the campfires, focusing on the sparks and the crackling flames that illuminate his surroundings in addition to the lanterns. The crowd has dispersed, leaving a quiet chatter from the remaining travelers as they all prepare to go to sleep or to play games all night long.

How long had Link been planning to keep this little masquerade up? His way of lying was beautiful, his words always entwined with mystery that had left Sidon mesmerized and wanting to know more. He liked the mystery somehow, the charm that it brought to the Hylian and the way it left his imagination running wild like a horse galloping through the fields.

Sidon was smitten, and the feeling doesn't go away as easily as he wants it to. But the truth was there before him moments ago, in the form of an eye carved into Link's spine in a crimson ink that never vanishes. It's a truth that has his stomach twisting in fear as much as disgust, and honestly, he has no idea how he will speak to him again.

And thinking back on their moment, just hours before it all went down - when Link had offered himself to the prince, writhing with every touch, Sidon's name on the tip of his tongue as he had wished he could speak it - what was it, in the end? Was it all that Link had to offer; Sex and a heap of lies?

Sidon tries to swallow down the bitterness that had settled into the back of his throat, shifting closer to the fire as he stops blinking. It stings, elicits a few tears at the corners of his eyes while he hears a few footsteps in the grass behind him.

Two hands are placed upon his shoulders, yet he doesn't have the heart to turn around. It seems like his sister is trying to speak, instead settling on walking to sit at his side by the campfire.

"How are you feeling?" Mipha asks, avoiding his eyes when he frowns. He knows he must be looking like a sulking child right now, and it's really, truly hard to even say anything when his throat feels so tight that he can barely swallow.

"Not good," he replies bluntly through his teeth, not even bothering to face her. Mipha simply gives a sigh, bringing a hand to the bump of her brow as she concentrates.

"I had no idea either, you know," she continues, her eyes searching for something in the flames. "I do not think anyone did."

"Father must have known," Sidon replies with a bite to his words. "Every guard that is recruited has to see him and go through an interrogation. You know how good father is at seeing through lies." He almost wants to blame the king for it, for having to put him through this without telling his own children.

"I know you're hurt, Sidon," Mipha interrupts, placing a gentle hand onto his shoulder. "I could tell how close you two had become, when we met again here-"

"How could he have let me grow close to him when he knew- ” Sidon begins, finally turning to let his eyes meet the princess's own. “They almost killed me, Mipha. It could’ve been him. It could’ve been his sword in my throat.”

The only sound left after his voice is the crackle in the fire, something that feels heavy onto his shoulders. Sidon takes a deep breath, letting his head fall into his palms for it to rest there. "Link had become a welcome presence in my life, Mipha," he continues. "I feel betrayed."

Mipha bends forward, hugging her knees together as she rests her face against them. "I understand that," she speaks through it, "But Sidon, do not forget that Link has almost sacrificed himself to save you while we were down there, in the canyon."

Sidon's throat hitches at the words, and he finds himself at a loss of what to say.

"You might want to avoid thinking in black and white," Mipha talks again, her voice softer than a few seconds ago. "According to our attackers, he betrayed their clan, didn't he? We might want to ask him for clarifications when he arises."

"I suppose so," Sidon replies, his shoulders rising and dropping as he sighs heavily. She might be right - his thoughts are clouded with hatred for the thieves, with fear that plagues him every time he sees that emblem.

There's nothing left to say, not for him at least. He finally gets up from his seat, brushing the dirt off of his knees and stretching out to relieve himself from the stress. It doesn't do much, as expected.

"I need to go take a walk, to... think." His tone is tired as he searches for his own words, his eyes still a mess after fighting back the tears.

"You are not going alone, Sidon," Mipha replies, getting up as well. "I will tell Bazz to come with you. After what happened, I do not want you to wander off on your own."

"Fine," he mutters curtly under his breath, adjusting his cravat and looking one last time towards the inn.

While he usually doesn't mind company, this time he wishes he could be left alone. The guards' thoughts on all of this is still something he has to uncover, but they must be as disoriented as he is.

Thankfully, Bazz stays silent while he takes him to the nearest forest, just by Washa's bluff. It still doesn't feel like home, but at least the trees are more familiar, and the humidity in the leaves feels relieving. The guard captain's expression is unreadable, but Sidon knows how betrayed he must feel after having given his trust to the Hylian despite his doubts.

He walks towards nothing, just taking in the breeze and letting it wash his thoughts away while he can. The hooting of the owls adds something peaceful to the chaos that is his mind, a high contrast that soon fades when their slow song stops as they fly away hurriedly from their tree.

The sound of a branch breaking has Sidon stopping in his tracks, and Bazz taking hold of his spear. The paranoia is only getting stronger, leaving them on their guard with any sound that seems out of the ordinary.

"Show yourself," Bazz says, somewhat unsure of his words as he looks towards the tree. Someone must be hiding in there, and Sidon's instinctive response is to walk a few steps back.

Something emerges from the leaves - a person. Their head hang downwards as they lower themselves to face Sidon, in a strange upside-down position that has their hood almost falling. The leaves ruffle around them, confirming that the suspicious noise came from them.

Sidon recognizes the cloak: It's the person who was in the canyon with them moments ago, who managed to save Dunma from a deadly attack. The woman's eyes fixate the prince, their color like caramel as they shine under the stars. Sidon finds himself freezing in place, balling his hands into fists and ready to defend himself if needed.

At last, the hood falls. It reveals the face of a young Sheikah woman, long white hair that falls freely under her head. Some of it is tied into a bun at the top of her head, and her short fringe falls, revealing a forehead painted with the eye of the Sheikah.

Seeing it upside down again has his blood boiling - but he knows better than to attack someone who shows no threat.

"Who are you?" Sidon asks, walking one step further back. He's not naive either, at least, that's what he'd like to believe.

"It's a relief to see that you are all fine," she whispers, tilting her head to the side as her eyes move to examine Bazz. The black Zora tenses up, his pupils narrowing under the sudden pressure.

"Answer the question," he finally replies, and Sidon can just hear the weariness in his voice that comes with his absence of speech for the past hour. "I will show no mercy if you do not cooperate."

"Wait, Bazz," Sidon halts him, raising his palm to stop him from moving any further. Can he really show a single ounce of trust to this person, even after she saved one of them? Was it wise to believe that some people remained their allies?

Or was it all an act, like the one Link had played for the past four years?

"I am a soldier," the woman continues with a swift movement of her legs, allowing her to get down from the tree and back on her feet onto the ground. She bows respectfully for them, her hands still hidden under the cloak. "For some strange reason, it seems like the Yiga clan is targeting your group. Being out of your domain is very dangerous for you at the moment."

"You've saved one of our knights," Sidon starts, noticing how Bazz's head turns to him in surprise. "And for that, we must be thankful. But... Did you have any motivation behind your actions? Is there something that you want from us?" His jaw starts to hurt from gritting his teeth.

"No need," she replies, raising her hands and showing the absence of weapons. "I live to destroy the clan of thieves. Not a single one of them must escape me. And I am looking for... someone."

Sidon's throat tightens at the words. "Who might that be?"

"That Hylian who is with you," her stare darkens, and the prince is quick to understand. He tenses up, his eyes widening in a sign of threat. "May I ask his name?"

This is what she's looking for. Erasing the Yiga clan is a noble mission, indeed - but Link used to be one of them. And considering the Hylian had lied through soft eyes all this time, it would make sense for the Zoras to hand him over, wouldn't it?

Bazz is looking up at his prince, his mouth open, yet he stays silent. His words are stuck in his throat as he reconsiders everything, but it doesn't take long for Sidon to make his decision.

"You may not," Sidon replies, letting his sharp teeth show in an attempt to scare her. It doesn't seem to work; she sighs, taking a step back and turning herself away from them. The prince is rather surprised that she doesn't seem to insist; Then again, even if she did, he wouldn't surrender.

Link might have lied, Sidon still wants him with them. That might be a selfish thing, he knows; He supposes that he can't help it. He needs answers, and the Hylian has yet to give them to him.

"You should go to Rito village as soon as possible," the Sheikah woman speaks again, "It's safer for you there." She pulls her hood back above her head as she utters the words, and in just a blink she's gone as fast as she appeared, leaving Sidon stuck in his thoughts and Bazz's head full of confusion.

*

The inn's main hall is mostly empty at this time of night, aside from the few Zora knights that remain awake, seeking company when the adrenaline from the previous combat is still flowing through them and pushing sleep away.

Torfeau is the only one locked in her room, in fact, though Tottika knows she's not sleeping. His sister was one of Link's closest friends; He can only imagine what she must feel, and he knows she'd rather be alone at the moment. While he keeps his head raised to listen to Gaddison as she speaks, his mind is somewhere else - somewhere distant, in a place where Link once was.

Spending his nights alone wasn't his favorite. One could call him crazy for it, or whatever could come out of the more sophisticated Zoras' mouth. He never saw it as a bad thing, to want to bring home a few short-time lovers and have them give their warmth to the tattered mess that was his heart. Link had been one of them, a few years ago. He's not sure if it had been a one-time thing, two-time thing; He doesn't think about it that much. It had been fun, he'll admit, but the mark on Link's back was something he had never seen.

Or rather, he wasn't allowed to see. The Hylian had set a simple rule before they had even entered the house, and Tottika was all too hungry to even comprehend it and realize something was off. 'I promise I won't look', he had said, and he never did.

But even if he had, there's no way to know what he would've done.

"He's still asleep." Rivan's voice comes lightly as he re-enters the main hall, stepping away from the room where Link rests. He sounds more tired than angry, but there's still a trembling to his words that suggests something akin to sorrow.

"I don't know what we should do when he wakes up," Gaddison continues with her musings, and she's almost talking to herself at this point. "We should tell King Dorephan, and send him back..."

"I don't mean to act as if I were in a higher position, ma'am," Tottika begins, only moving his eyes as he stays utterly still against his chair. "But we still don't know Link's motives. Perhaps there's an explanation to all of this."

What would sending him back meant, anyway? Would he be imprisoned for his past wrongdoings? "Do you really want this, ma'am?" He asks, finally turning his head to face her completely. "I thought you and Link were friends, too."

"We are ," she insists, sighing as she pinches the pink skin of her brow. "But I am not a simple civilian, I am a member of the royal guard. I cannot let my own feelings get in the way of my work. If Link was truly a Yiga, he's committed crimes, and we cannot just... let it slide."

It's Tottika's turn to sigh in frustration. His leg starts kicking, his teeth chewing at the inside of his mouth to somehow try and distract himself. It's certainly not his decision to take, and in the end, the royal siblings will have to judge what would be best to do in their situation. Even if... the prince seems even more emotionally implied than the rest of them.

And just as he thinks it, the one to enter the inn once again is the prince, accompanied with his sister and Bazz. There's an awkward silence settled between them as they approach the group, and Mipha only looks more tired with each second that passes. Tottika can't exactly imagine what her powers must do to her, but he knows he wouldn't want to be in her place.

"I will go rest," she announces quietly, her eyelids falling shut for a few seconds. "If you hear about Link waking up, please tell me. I need to talk to him; I think we all do."

“It’s better for you all to rest now,” Sidon adds, “I will watch over Link.”

“Your Highness-”

“Trust me,” the prince replies to whichever guard dared to speak up. “I believe you all know what happened between us. I have to do this. I will not let anyone interfere.”

His glare travels across the room, and the guards all know how terrible of an idea it is to argue with him when he looks like this. They nod silently to his words while Mipha is much too tired to say anything more.

“Goodnight, everyone,” he says, “I will see you in the morning.”

*

There's still a shudder across his scales at the thought of staying alone with him in a room, though this time the feeling is very different from when they had met earlier in the day.

Sidon walks through the hallway, mindful of the clicking of his ornaments that comes with every step. Just because he's awake doesn't mean he has to wake up everyone else. For now he finds himself in front of Link's room, turning the door handle with hesitation before entering.

It's no surprise to him that the Hylian guard is still in his bed, in a deep slumber that seems peaceful enough for him. Sidon takes a chair, moving it towards the bed to sit at his side and wait until his eyelids flutter open.

He stares for a moment, taking a bit of time to watch his sleeping face. He had never quite seen it, not even that night in the desert when the two had a bit too many drinks. His hood and masks are removed, leaving all of his features visible and his hair messily splayed across the pillow. His lips are slightly parted, and slow breaths are coming in and out of him. Sidon can just consider for a moment that none of this is real. Link is real, however, his secret must be some sort of nightmare, one he would awaken from with a bad taste in his mouth.

One twitch of Link's fingers has Sidon wondering if the Hylian is dreaming.

He's not certain how much time he spends at his side, just watching and waiting for a single sign of consciousness. But truth be told, Sidon can't handle the exhaustion for much longer; He finds himself nodding, snapping his eyes open every so often. He rubs at them, lets the heels of his palms press against them as he lets shapes and colors appear beneath his eyelids. Maybe he can forget everything for just a minute like this, but something startles him out of his rumination.

It's not Link, unfortunately. The noise comes from outside, like branches creaking under a weight. It could be some kind of animal, he supposes, but it's curious enough that it has him getting up from his seat and walking towards the door. If he's lucky, Link won't wake up during the short time he's outside.

Leaving the inn only allows him to see the dead of night, only lighting up with a half moon and a multitude of stars that expands above him. The stable owner has left the counter to find sleep, and the only living things close to him are the horses. The warmth left behind by Dinraal is completely gone by now, and Sidon hugs himself as he adjust the scarf around his neck.

The noises from earlier has stopped, but there's a smell - something familiar, though he can't quite put his finger on it. He walks a few steps forward, taking a look around himself, and just when he wants to turn his head to the left-

Something resonates through his head; It's incredibly loud, and it crashes from above onto his skull. His tail gives a panicked flick as he breathes out all the air from his lungs, and he bends his head down, his knees giving out while he tries to keep himself up.

But his head is the one that plays tricks on him now. It hurts terribly, and it feels like his brain is being filled with electricity. He grits his teeth until he stumbles forward, falling on his front with a loud thud as his vision swims in all directions.

And right before he loses consciousness, he can just distinguish a boko club, held loosely by a slender hand. It belongs to someone shorter, someone with a voice muffled behind some kind of mask that the prince can't see.

"Beware, fool, the eye of the Yiga."

The wind whistles like a lullaby that has Sidon drifting into unconsciousness.

 

Chapter Text



"You know he might die if we just leave him here, right?"

A low voice can be heard from further in the hallway, one that wakes Sidon up slowly. As soon as his consciousness is back, an instant, awful headache hits him - he brings a palm to the top of his head, feeling a bump just there. The cold ground pricks at his scales, and it takes him a while to register where he is.

The room would be pitch black, were it not for the weak flicker of a torch outside of his field of vision. Gritting his teeth, he tries to raise himself up on his elbows, grunting when his entire body feels like it had been pummeled in his sleep. His sides are full of scratches, as if he had been dragged around, and he can't remember for the life of him how he ended up here.

"What, you really think his little knights are going to leave him here to rot? The Grasshopper especially will know that he's here. We just have to wait." Another voice resonates through what seems to be a cave, and he brings a hand forward. The cold surface of iron bars has his hands flinching, and he realizes he's trapped behind them.

"He's the Zora prince, Daisy," the first voice comes again, "We're fucked if we mess up."

“How many times do I have to tell you to shut it? Go to the first floor and wait there. I’ll join you in a bit.” The feminine voice speaks, a bite to its words as the light of the torch fades.

Sidon’s body shivers so intensely that he can barely think about anything else. Whatever position he puts himself into doesn’t relieve the cold that comes from the stone under, and honestly, he wishes he could levitate. Even the air feels painful to breathe in. His teeth clatter, his fingers grow numb.

And where is he, exactly? Even mount Lanayru never felt as cold as here.

His brain can barely think when he feels like he's freezing up with every second that passes. It feels almost as intense as Naydra's ice, brings back awful memories that he can't bury anymore these days. He’s imprisoned for a reason unknown to him, in a place so isolated that he starts to fear no one will find him again. His head is still throbbing in pain, and even the warm Rito clothing doesn't allow him to feel safe in such a harsh cold.

He rubs his hands together in an attempt to warm them up, but the frost bites at his fingers, spreading through him like a plague.

"Mipha?" He calls out his sister's name, though it's a weak thing that she probably wouldn't hear even if she were here. The sound of water dropping gently to the rocky ground is the only response he gets, and he almost gives up on talking until another name slips out of his lips.

"Link?"

*

A quick, startled breath escapes him when he wakes, the inside of his room feeling all too empty. He lies on his back, staring at the ceiling for a while as he tries to recollect his thoughts.

Link turns his head to the right, finding an empty chair, positioned as if someone had been waiting for him to open his eyes. Wait - when did he fall asleep?

Hadn't him and Sidon agreed to meet again at night, after Dinraal had made her appearance? He expected to be going to Sidon's room once again; besides, it doesn't seem like Sidon had been in the bed with him at all. Everything looks so tidy around him, the covers tucked under his arms as if he were on a hospital bed. What the hell happened last night?

He remembers the events in chronological order. After him and Sidon had met to... share a moment, he had went out to gather his disoriented thoughts. Then, he went down the canyon to shoot at Dinraal from under her, to get one of her scales, then... The Yiga attacked.

It's all blank after this. He knows they must have prevailed, if he's lying peacefully still onto his bed. Was anyone hurt during the fight? Was anyone else involved, aside from their group?

He brings a hand to his chest, noticing an unusual feeling growing all the more present now that he’s wide awake. It feels tight, as though someone had punched him right there. While a few images of combat are coming back slowly, they're brumous and faint, and he knows he won't get any answers if he doesn't get up first.

The sun doesn't shine from behind his blinds yet. It's a peculiar thing that he would wake up so early, completely unlike him, in fact. The wall clock displays the hour of three in the morning; Perhaps he was just having a bad dream.

He's still wearing his Zora disguise for some reason, as if he had been too tired to only bother removing his pieces of armor. The silver garments rest neatly in the corner of the room, and he walks up to them, picking them up and putting them on himself one by one. He supposes he'll just get ready despite how early it is, after all, it doesn't seem like he'll go back to sleep anytime soon.

He ambles out of his room, his silverscale spear in hand, watching the unlit hallway. Mindful of not walking right into the walls, he proceeds until he finds himself at the exit door.

It's still awfully dark outside, save for the few lanterns that are still lit up. The air is chilly, though his suit keeps him warm enough. The air comes out in fog as he breathes out, and it's a surprise that everything feels so calm; Where did the Yiga end up going? Did they truly defeat each and every one of the group that attacked them?

The silence of the night allows him to hear the slightest sounds, including the incoherent mumbling that comes from the stable. The owner seems to be in some sort of panic as he fumbles around, waving a piece of paper and walking in circles. Did the stable owners always get up so early? Perhaps the horses need early attention.

It's not what worries him the most, though. His behavior is unusual, and Link might as well go and ask him if he can do anything to help. It doesn't seem like the prince is awake right now, anyway.

What's up? Link signs to catch his attention, eyeing at the man with curiosity. The owner turns his head towards him abruptly, stammering before he can say anything. Something wrong with the horses?

"What? No- Not the horses, sir," the short Hylian man replies, still searching for some kind of explanation. "I heard some ruckus outside a few moments ago, and I was wondering who was bothering everyone's peaceful night. When I went out, no one was there, I just found this." His speech grows faster as he talks, and he hands the piece of paper to the guard.

Link carefully takes the letter in his hand, unrolling it to reveal words written in a dark red ink. His eyes dart through the text, reading each words and mouthing them behind his mask.

If you want to get your prince back, Grasshopper,

You'll have to get to us first.

You know where to go.

It's not signed with any names, though the emblem at the bottom of the words has Link's blood boiling and rushing through his veins. His fingers tense up around the paper, and he hands it back to the stable owner.

I need my horse, right now, he signs, gesturing to the stable where Telum rests. The owner gives only one tilt of his head in confusion, but the glare that Link gives him has him shuddering and obeying to his words as he goes to release the horse.

Thank Farosh, Telum is a fast horse, he knows. He had helped him so much in the past, carrying him through Hyrule as he tried to find his new destiny. Without a doubt, the horse will take him to Hebra as fast as possible.

Telum snorts, shaking his head under Link's hand as he briefly pats him. He still needs to establish some sort of emotional connection for the horse to take him wherever possible, but he doesn't have much time to be friendly right now. He hops onto the saddle, giving an initial kick against the horse's side.

He would need to go around the canyon; It’s the easiest way to reach Hebra. He's not properly dressed for it, but Sidon is in a worse situation, he knows. What happened to him? Has he fallen into the thieves' hands, somehow? In any case, no matter how fast he moves, it's as if everything around him were about to collapse. He knows the Yiga would do absolutely anything to lure Link to them, and he knows it's a trap - but he can't take any risks, if Sidon is truly with them, in the Yiga hideout of Hebra.

No, no, this can't be happening - If they did lock him up, there's no way he'll handle the cold for so long. The caves are filled with freezing cold moisture that falls onto the rocky walls and could very well produce the same effect that the ice cold water of the Hebra plunge gives. Is he still alive, and safe? Is he sitting in a room with a bunch of them, being tortured for fun by the most disgusting ones?

A thousand of scenarios play in Link's head, and the worst ones always come back to overshadow the rest. The Yiga are capable of anything, having worked with them for ten years had taught Link that much.

But no, they can't take Sidon away. They can't take Sidon away from his family, from the domain he reigns onto; They can't take Sidon away from him . He'll bring him back, no matter what it takes.

All he hopes is that he'll be there on time.

He swallows down the lump in his throat, lunging forward as Telum speeds up. The animal is thankfully fast enough, allowing him to reach the snowy region without much trouble. It's almost as if he knew where to take him, as if he felt his panic and knew something was off.

The snowflakes fall upon them, some of them reaching Link's mouth as he shakes his head around. He only has a silverscale spear with him, nothing more - is he hoping to defeat whatever enemy he will have to face with only this? Probably. Will him and Sidon be outnumbered in the hideout? Most likely. All that he can pray for now is that his fighting spirit will be enough to at least get Sidon out alive, and what happens to him will come next.

Link had transferred to the Yiga hideout of Hebra before. He knows exactly where it is, and where the hidden entrance has been carved. It lies deep in the mountains, at the end of a snowfield so vast no one would dare crossing it without being properly equipped.

Telum takes him there, and Link forces him to hide in a small gathering of pine trees. He ties him to a trunk, feeling his eyes water at the harsh cold that overcomes him, as if Naydra herself were breathing into his face. The entrance is paved with small statues as usual, wooden chimes hanging from the treetops. They produce a familiar sound, one that usually calmed down his panics during his Yiga days - but now all it does is bring him a painful nausea, and he can almost feel Sidon's presence lingering along the path.

He breathes in, entering the unguarded gate and gazing at the lit up lanterns. He takes out his spear, watching his surroundings with an intensity that even a thief could feel. But if they hurt Sidon, he hopes they'll come for him - at least it'll give him the opportunity to punish them, to make them feel ten times what they’ve done to him and the prince.

Thankfully, he knows where the lockup is. A dark stairway goes down an even colder cave, one that Link can barely see through. He takes hold of one of the decorative lanterns, bringing it with him in his descent to at least allow him to see through bars.

The stairs are wet, slippery from the melted ice that comes from above him. He walks down slowly as to not make any sound while his eyes remain almost unblinking.

The Yiga of Hebra had the largest lockup of all the other hideouts. It was uncommon for those of the other regions to keep prisoners, but he knows the mentality usually differed. Those of Hebra were the most vile, always capturing rich travelers and torturing them until they were willing to give them access to their home.

Link gulps at the thought. The hideout of Lanayru had mysteriously disappeared long ago, but if the Yiga were to know how to enter Zora's domain, all of it will be his fault. His fault again, like everything that's ever happened to him. The ones he held close died to protect him, including his parents - everything is his fault, and now he can’t even protect the Zora prince, like he had promised he would.

He's pathetic, so pathetic he might as well die as soon as he gets Sidon back to Lanayru.

He moves the lantern around, his gaze flicking towards empty cells as he reaches the lockup. It's extremely cold in here, almost colder than it is outside. He minimizes his own sounds as he proceeds forward, accidentally splashing in puddles of icy water every so often.

His silence is briefly interrupted by shaky breathing, a sound that has his heart filling with hope once again. Silent as ever, he approaches the source of the noise, lantern held up towards the bars. The cell he approaches isn't as empty as the others, and he soon recognizes Sidon's form, sitting deep inside the hollow cave where he is imprisoned.

Link lets out a gasp, waving his lantern left and right to alert the prince. He must be so cold, even with the Rito clothes on; The movement and the light catch the Zora's attention, having his head slowly move up as his eyes squint when the light enters them.

Link has never seen him look paler. His waving stops, and he kneels in front of the bars, setting the lamp to the side. He holds at the iron, shaking his fists to at least try and budge them a little, to obviously no avail. He is a warrior, but he isn’t as strong as a Goron.

"Link?" Sidon breathes out, his voice strained with something worrying. One glance towards the prince's mouth has Link noticing how chapped his lips are.

I'm here! Link signs hurriedly, reaching through the bars to try and give a reassuring touch to his prince. He manages to place a gloved hand against his shoulder, squeezing it with affection and determination.

Sidon brings his own, larger hand to Link's own, his fingers seeking for Link's and staying there for a few seconds. A hesitant twitch of his palm has the Hylian sighing in relief, though the feeling is short-lived - Sidon pushes Link away with a swift movement of his bruised wrist, leaving the guard with a broken expression on his face.

The rejection hurts, and it's not something Link expected either. It's unlike Sidon to act so coldly towards him, especially with no apparent reason. A few seconds of silence have Link letting out an incoherent sound, knowing well that Sidon isn't looking at his signing hands.

Well, strange behavior usually came with hypothermia. For now all that matters is that Sidon is safe, and the Hylian has to get him out now.

He snaps his fingers in front of him to try and catch his attention, though the fabric of his suit doesn't allow him to make much noise. Sidon still notices the movement, finally tilting his head back up to find Link’s eyes.

You look so cold, Link signs, stating the obvious and looking around for some kind of warm source he could use. He moves the lantern as close as he can to him, gesturing for Sidon to at least warm his hands up with it. I'll get you out, I promise. I'll protect you from them.

Sidon, too desperate for any kind of warmth, brings his hand towards the lantern without protest. He shudders at the feeling, grimacing through an apparent fever that needs to be treated as soon as he gets out of this place.

"You're one of them, aren't you?" Sidon asks, his eyes moving to face the Hylian's own. The source of light has his pupils narrowing, and Link's breath hitches in his throat at the words.

He pauses, slack-jawed. Why would he say this? Does he not recognize him?

No, it could be worse than that, Link realizes.

The one thing that he was trying to hide, his past as a thief - could it have been revealed to the prince? Goddesses, no. He had never prepared himself for this, not with the knowledge that Sidon’s trauma comes from this very clan. If that really is what he means, is he aware enough now to have anything be explained to him?

Would he listen to his words, anyway?

No, no, Link shakes his head as he signs, attempting to hold Sidon's hands, only to be rejected once again. It feels like a knife is being plunged directly into his still beating heart. No, it's me, Link, remember? He asks, hoping that the prince was simply too stunned to truly recognize him in the dark. Except... He did pronounce his name when he arrived, didn't he?

"I know who you are," Sidon says through clenched teeth, looking away from his friend. "The Yiga told me, Grasshopper, and I saw the symbol on your back."

No way.

A cascade of horror descends upon him. His heart shatters into millions of pieces. As reluctant as he he had been to do so, he shows weakness; The tears pool at his lower lids, shedding uncontrollably. He had felt such a strong connection with the prince, one that he had welcomed with open arms in the past few days, and now it all falls apart around him.

All that he gets, he deserves.

I'm so sorry, he signs through his tears, the single revelation rendering him completely vulnerable in front of his prince. Sidon watches him, utterly still even though some kind of weariness is trying to get the best of him. I promise you this is all over - I'm not one of them anymore, Sidon, he tries to explain himself, but he soon realizes that now isn't the time to be bawling over his own relationship with the prince. Sidon still has a family, and it's Link's duty to bring him back safely to them.

He swallows the lump in his throat. It doesn't matter what they told you, he signs, sniffling through it. I'll get you out anyway. But you can't fall asleep, alright? You're too cold to fall asleep. He regains some sort of calm as he feels the prince's eyes fixate onto him, and he gets up from where he knelt.

He needs a key to open the cell, one most likely tied around one of the thieves' wrist. The Yiga in questions aren't guarding the prison, and there's a reason for it - they must all be waiting for Link in the floor above, knowing the Hylian would never be able to save Sidon without a key. But if he leaves him all alone here, the prince might fall unconscious as the cold takes him away.

Something lights up in his head, an idea he hadn't thought of before. That was exactly why he had been in the canyon the previous night before; To shoot at Dinraal from under, to try and get one of her scales. The shiny, fiery items were an excellent source of warmth for the travelers in Hebra, and were one of the most expensive items of the souvenir shops for their rarity. Link always found it better to acquire them on his own, and he had gotten a full, bright scale thanks to his trusty Lynel bow.

By pure luck, he has it in his pouch. He rummages through it, taking out the fragment of Dinraal that brings an intense light between them. He slides it between two bars, letting it fall before Sidon's knees while the prince examines the object cautiously, as if the Hylian were giving him poison.

This will warm you up, Link signs, ignoring the sorrowful expression that darkens Sidon's features. Please, hold it close to your heart. Think about Lady Mipha, think about King Dorephan.

‘Stay awake for me’, he wants to say. He decides against it in the end, and sighs shakily at the thought that he's nothing more than a bodyguard now.

Perhaps he never was destined to be more than that.

They're all waiting for you, Your Highness. I will be back soon. His hand reaches between the bars once again, instinctively seeking Sidon's own for reassurance. He soon pulls away, deciding to not invade his space anymore.

He takes hold of the lantern once again, moving it towards where he came from to finally face the thieves that have been looking for him. With one last glance at the silent prince, he walks forward, reaching the slippery stairway and ascending once again.

It was only a matter of time until Sidon learned the truth, really. He knew there would be consequences for hiding this from him, and while his heart aches, he knows it was meant to be like this. And what will become of him, once Mipha hears about this? It was the Yiga who attacked her brother four years ago, after all.

He reaches the first floor again, the path soon lit up by torches and lanterns that guide him through despite him knowing the surroundings. It's the same as ever, perhaps a little emptier? Blademasters used to be patrolling around at all times in here, but it feels strangely dead, as if something else were awaiting him in the depths of the mountain.

His theory proves itself once he enters the main room. Usually empty at this hour of the night, it's crowded with a group of Yiga, all seated or standing around and waiting for Link to appear at the gate. They stay under dim lights, the crimson emblems on their masks glaring at him as dozens of eyes search for the fear that has him stuck in place. He had guessed right; It was all a trap.

"How nice to see you again, grasshopper," one of the blademasters chuckles, and Link instantly recognizes her voice - the Daisy. That cursed kid who he knew would turn into a monster. She’s about as old as he is now, and he can tell she’s confident, when he notices that her mask is pulled to the side. "We knew you would come here if we used a little persuasion."

He swallows down, peering at the different individuals that watch with grins under their masks. He could recognize them by their body shape alone, and his eyes stop when they meet one hooded thief, someone about the same height as him. The cloak hides their arms completely, and Link's sure he's never seen that kind of uniform before - perhaps a new recruit?

Let the prince go , he signs, his mind returning to the situation at hand. That's what he was here for, and he's not leaving until Sidon is safe. The few that can understand sign language bark in laughter at his distress, at his plea for mercy.

"Oh, we will," the Daisy says, her arms crossed as the young recruit gets up from their seat. "But not for nothing in exchange. I'm sure you know what we mean." The smaller Yiga walks up to him, taking Link's spear from where it's tied and keeping it with themselves. He's unarmed now, and the thief is walking behind him, throwing the lantern away and putting his wrists together behind his back like a prisoner.

He can't sign anymore like this, but he knows exactly what they want. Betraying the Yiga was an act punishable by torture or execution, and he knows this all too well.

It’s easy to guess what they’ll do; First they’ll break his legs, and reduce him to a slave crawling on the ground. They’ll make a show of his pain while they play with knives, wherever it hurts most, and they’ll end him once it stops being fun.

If that’s what it takes to save the prince… So be it.

"Don't move," the young recruit whispers, a feminine voice that sounds familiar to his ears. He can't exactly put his finger on it, and the mask muffling it doesn't help, but he doesn't have the heart to be thinking about this anyway. "It's over if you don't cooperate."

Somehow, her words sound more gentle than threatening. Perhaps it's his fear talking, finding reassurance in any kind of softness expressed towards him. She presses his wrists together, her own way of insisting on her words as he bends slightly forward.

"We're true to our word, you know that, grasshopper," the Daisy adds, putting her hands on her hips. "We'll free the Zora prince right in front of you. You'll watch him go, but you'll stay with us, so you can clearly see that we won't harm him anymore. That's a fair deal, right?"

He knows them well, and he knows that's exactly what they're going to do. But it still feels so humiliating to simply agree, to not even try to fight back; But if he does, it's not only him that will be in danger. They'll go after Sidon as well. He grits his teeth, throwing an intense glare at the woman who's been speaking to him. If only he could spit at her, to make her feel just an ounce of the despair that Link went through.

One footsoldier reaches for Link, for his mask as he pulls it down. He reveals Link's expression to the rest of them, mocking him when the Hylian bares his useless teeth. He isn’t a Zora, and he forgets about it sometimes.

"Why don't you use your words for once, you piece of shit," the footsoldier shouts as he yanks Link's hood backwards, giving a heavy kick to his stomach.

"Urrk-" The blow shoots a jolt of pain through his body, kicks the air out of his lungs as he heaves above the ground. His knees weaken, leaving him almost toppling onto the floor until the woman behind him holds him back up by pulling on his wrists. The footsoldier grabs at his jaw, squeezing it as he lifts Link's head back up.

"Not so strong now, are we?" He says, his masked face much too close to Link’s own. The Hylian grunts through the pain, expecting the fist that lunges towards his face, and punches him with monstrous strength. He can feel himself shedding tears, ones that burn at the corner of his eyes like the flames of his anger.

"That's enough, soldier," the Daisy speaks again, to which the shorter Yiga immediately obeys. He stands back, his glare still settled onto the helpless Hylian guard. "We'll continue once he sees his prince leave the place."

The woman holding him forces him to turn around, to walk back where he came from. She keeps her hands on his wrists as he walks weakly, the entire group of thieves following silently behind. He can hear their chuckles every time his feet slow down, and more pressure is applied against his back whenever he feels like he can't move anymore.

He keeps his head up through it, watching the water that trickles down the narrow walls of the cave. He recognizes the stairway, and he makes his way towards it, entering the lockup once again - accompanied, this time.

He finds himself standing at a halt, stuck in place right next to Sidon's cell. He can't see inside from where he is, but the Daisy reaches for the lock with her key, readying her sickle in the prince's direction. "One strange move and you’re dead," she tells him, and Link watches as Sidon slowly leaves his cage to stand up to his full height again.

The sickle is still pointed towards him, and he knows to stay in place in that case. He doesn't seem to expect the crowd that have gathered there, his eyes widening once he spots Link in the middle.

"Link?" He calls out, stepping in his direction until he's stopped by the sickle once again. The Hylian looks to him with tearful eyes, shaking his head. Get away, he wants to say - if only he could sign.

"Here's the deal, prince," the woman begins, gesturing to Link. "Your Hylian friend here agreed that he would stay here with us, in exchange for your freedom. If you leave now and forget about the Grasshopper, we won't bother you and your people ever again," she continues, and Link feels like a thousand arrows are piercing at his heart once he notices Sidon's mortified expression. He's still freezing cold, and the Hylian wonders if he even has the strength to walk.

"I can't," the prince stammers, stuck in place on the freezing rocks. "Please, let him come with me," he whispers through his fever, holding his hand out for Link to take.

The Daisy barks out a laugh, swatting his hand away and startling Sidon. "That's not an option," she replies, putting her hand against Link's shoulder and squeezing with possessiveness. "It's either what I told you, or you stay with us too. What do you prefer?"

Something dark shows on Sidon's face, something that threatens the entire crowd with just a glare. He stands still, his hands balled into fists and his teeth bared. "You know what will happen if you kill me, or him, right?" He begins, trying his hardest to keep his composure. "My entire domain will be after you, and you will be punished for your crimes. Do you understand?"

The crowd stays silent, save from the few incredulous chuckles let out by a number of careless footsoldiers. Link mouths to him, trying his hardest to tell him to go , but a quiet whisper reaches his ear to interrupt his train of thoughts.

"On my mark, run back to the Zora prince and take him to the exit as fast as you can."

Link turns his face around, meeting the mask of the woman who still holds his wrists together. He stares for a moment, first trying to comprehend if she had truly been the one speaking.

"Three." She whispers again, her gloved hand shoving Link's head back to face Sidon. The tall Zora is helpless despite it all, after all, there are at least twenty thieves surrounding them. The fear bleeds into the golden of his eyes, and he looks down at the sickle once again. Its sharp end is right underneath his jaw, and Link fears for the worst.

"Link, I cannot leave you here," he murmurs, and the Hylian's heart fills itself with hope - perhaps he could be forgiven once more, after all.

"Two." The woman says after a second, her hold on Link's wrists weakening ever so slightly. He wiggles around, to which she responds with another squeeze, meaning 'I didn't say go yet.'

"One."

Why would a Yiga be helping him? What would she be gaining from this, and what does she hope would happen to her? This will be considered to be an act of treason, something he had done to them long ago. She will share the same fate.

"Go!"

She yells it out, her grip loosening. Link breaks free, swiftly striding towards Sidon as fast as his tired body can make him, and he grabs at his arm to take him to the exit. Loud curses and shouts are thrown in their directions, and he can even hear the Daisy losing her calm; She sounds line she’s about to rip her hair out.

Sidon follows with a startled gasp, looking back to see the thieves again. Their savior follows; She pushes them outside, far away enough from the gate before the Hylian comes to a halt.

He steadies himself, shoving Sidon behind himself as he turns around. Tell me who you are, he thinks, catching a glimpse of an imaginary halo around her head.

And suddenly, it feels like he bathes in holy light. The voice of the Goddesses resonates once , speaking incoherent words that must be coming from his disoriented thoughts. For an instant, it feels like time slows down - the woman removes her mask, throwing it into the pure white snow and letting her hood fall back.

Long white hair descends down her back, and flows with the wind. Out of nowhere, she takes out a bow and nocks a bomb arrow that sizzles and smokes under the snow.

Her voice clears up.

Hylia does not sound like that.

"Stay back, thieves," she shouts, her voice stronger than it's ever been. Snowflakes fall onto her long, white hair, melting with the heat of the fire so close to her.

"What the hell- Snowdrop!" The Daisy exclaims, obviously caught off guard by the woman's identity. She stands back, her hands up under the threat right at the end of her arrow. "How did you get here?!"

No, there's simply no way this is her. She died .

"Look at this face one last time," she adds. "For it will be the last thing you ever see before the mountain swallows you."

With these last few words, she fires her arrow right into the hideout's entrance, setting fire to the inside. Loud rumbling can be heard before long when it blows up, the shouts of the Yiga almost entirely covered by the screaming mountain. Crevices break through the walls, and snow slides down without any intent to stop.

It swallows them. Each and every one of these Yiga fall under the avalanche, never to be found again. This is the fate they deserve, Link thinks to himself as he takes Sidon’s hand in his own without second thought. The prince gives a squeeze, and Link can feel his pulse thrumming through his wrist.

"Let's go!" The woman says, gesturing for Link and Sidon to follow her, away from the mountain and into the wide field. Link has to turn around, to see Telum in the distance still hiding in the woods - the avalanche lunges towards him, and the Hylian lets out a shout as he tugs at the woman's wrist.

My horse is still there! He signs desperately, pointing to the animal that had helped him to cross the field. He shakes his wrist repeatedly, trying his hardest to get the message through, even if he knows that she understood him the first time. He has to insist - it’s his horse, for Hylia’s sake! Will the cruel Goddess take him away like she had taken everyone else?

The woman finally turns around to face him, and Link knew , still, the sight of her eyes has him losing his words.

Paya.

Brown eyes shine with anger as she stops to think, but the determination is stronger than her soft spot for animals. The tattoo of the Sheikah eye on her forehead had never faded away, but it's been so long since Link's seen it, he had almost forgotten it.

"We don't have time, Link," she says, squeezing at his wrist for him to follow her. Link turns around once again, and the sight of Telum getting taken by the snow has his heart falling down into his ribcage, heavy with guilt. It’s as he thought - everything that comes close to him will be cursed in some way or another. The horse’s soul had never been anything but pure - he was the one who took him to Zora’s domain. He was the one that Link wanted to see for every escort mission -he was his friend . As silly as it might sound, Telum was one of his best friends; And here he is, trapped under the thickest layer of snow he’s ever seen, before the Hylian even had the chance to buy him with all the rupees he’d saved.

What pricks at the corner of his eyes might be tears, or it might be the cold - he doesn’t know anymore.

Another forced glance further away falls on the hideout, on the entrance that collapses on itself and buries the thieves. While he wants to sigh in relief, everything else that happens before his eyes has him choking back a sob.

Despite all the noise, something else can be heard right next to him, like a thump in the snow. Link's ears perk up, reddened by the cold, and he turns around to find the source of it.

Sidon has fallen, lying on his side onto the cold snow. He's still conscious, though a faint pained expression shows on his features, something that alerts Link of another type of danger. No, not him too - He kneels at his side, trying his best to pick him up and force him to stand again.

"He won't handle this for much longer," the Sheikah woman says, placing a hand against the prince's head. Sidon looks at her with eyes full of questions he can't quite ask while he's so weakened, and Paya stands back up. "There's a lodge to the east, Link," she starts again, gesturing into its direction. "Take him there and light a fire. You have to keep him awake while I go get help."

Wait! Link stops her with a gesture of his hand. How are you still alive? Promise you’ll come back, he signs, Promise you’ll come back and answer me.

What had she been doing for the past four years, while he was tucked away in the depths of Lanayru? Did she know he was there at all?

"Promise," she replies hurriedly, already making her way to the distant stable. She's probably faster than he will be, with the number of hasty elixirs she must have downed. That probably wasn't the healthiest thing to do, but Link knows better than to even comment on it.

She disappears behind a thick curtain of snow and mist. Link's attention goes back to Sidon instantly, undivided and intense. The prince is heavy, but the Hylian still manages to at least sit him back up - he could probably still walk, but there's not much time until he collapses completely.

I'm here for you, Sidon, Link signs, not bothering to put his mask and hood back on. If Sidon has to deal with the blizzard in his face, so will the Hylian. I'll help you walk to the lodge over there. We're gonna warm you up in here, alright? You're going to be okay. He signs clearly despite his panic, waiting for any kind of response from Sidon with bated breath.

The tall Zora nods weakly, pushing himself up and slowly getting back on his feet. He's still hunched over himself in an attempt to regain some of his own body warmth, though it all seems so faint, like a flame almost dying out. Even the scale that he hides inside his coat isn't enough to keep him alert anymore.

Link stays at his side, one arm wrapping around Sidon's waist to push him forward. His determination to stay alive still shows with the way he stomps into the snow, a large hand squeezing against Link's shoulder for support. The snow falls violently with the wind onto them, covering them with it and doing nothing to improve their body temperatures. Link grunts at the efforts, but by Hylia, he'll get his prince to safety no matter what.

The walk to the lodge is thankfully shorter than he thought it'd be. He comes to a halt in front of the door, praying that it'd be unlocked - and thank the Goddesses, it is. The lodge was meant to welcome travelers of all kinds before they headed to climb the mountains of Hebra, with a fireplace and a cooking pot. There was still a lot of wood that could be used in the corner of the room, and Link wastes no time sitting Sidon onto the edge of the bed.

The bed is... too small to allow Sidon to lie down properly, but if he bends himself, he can fit. It's not the most comfortable position for him, but for now he has no other choice than to cover himself with the blankets. Link helps him get under the covers, taking Sidon's hands into his own and rubbing at them to warm them up. He blows onto them, providing the slightest of reliefs.

I'll light a fire, it'll help, Link signs, scurrying to the other side of the room where all the wood is stored. He takes a bundle of it, setting the pieces under the cooking pot and grabbing at the flint that just lies there. In only a few seconds he uses the stone and his spear to create a spark, something small yet enough to burn the wood and start a long-lasting fire.

Sidon watches him through the whole process, a new warmth enveloping him once the Hylian is done with his work. Link dusts off his hands, his face lit up with the orange glow that's now their only light source. It's still so early in the day, perhaps five in the morning? He takes some time to look through the window, for any sign of help that could come to them.

"Seems like we are stranded here for now," Sidon whispers, a weak smile tugging at his lips. It has the Hylian abruptly turning to face him, walking until he kneels in front of the bed.

I promise I'll keep you safe, he signs, his hand reaching to rest upon the prince's cheek and feel his temperature. He's still freezing all over - it'll take some time for him to come back to normal. I'm sorry that... I let this happen to you. I'm sorry for everything.

"Are you sorry for hiding all this from me, too?" Sidon asks, and though his words are accusatory, there's not much venom behind them. Just... something else he can't quite put his finger on. It's a mix between apathy and disappointment. That's what Link feels, at least, but perhaps that was the hypothermia speaking instead of Sidon himself.

I am. Link shakes his head, his hand retracting to avoid giving his unwanted touch to the prince. I... don't have any excuses to give you. The life I led before I came to the domain, it's all... I try to forget about it sometimes. I don’t even know how I survived this long. Sometimes I feel like it was all a dream, that my home had always been Lanayru, and... I'm sorry, you probably don't want to hear this.

Sidon watches him sign without interruption, sighing softly when Link stops himself. The silence feels so heavy, swallowed by the blizzard outside that might very well trap them here.

I understand if you don't want to know my reasons for... doing what I did, Link signs again, moving to reach the wooden boxes in another corner of the room. They contain a few different types of fruits and mushrooms, ingredients that were mostly brought here everyday for travelers. I understand if you don't want to have anything to do with me anymore.

Link doesn't want to burden the prince with any of this. His problems were his own, and Sidon had nothing to do with the Yiga - besides, if they still showed any type of closeness, the thieves might want to kidnap him again to try and lure Link in one more time. None of this was the prince's fault, and he deserved none of this.

Truth be told, he really had thought he would be taken in exchange for Sidon's freedom this time. He would surely have been their new torture toy, if it hadn't been for... the Snowdrop.

Paya's existence into this world, after all that happened - had he hallucinated it? He thought the woman was long gone, taken by the thieves when betrayal had shown itself. Had he been lied to? Or was Paya just like him, alive when she shouldn't be?

"Link-"

"Sidon!" The prince's name can be heard closely when someone barges through the wooden door - Lady Mipha. Her expression is as fearful as it’s angry when she stumbles inside, followed by all the knights. She approaches the bed, kneeling in front of him to feel his brow, flinching at the contact. "Why didn't you call for help, Link?! Why did you go alone?!" She shouts, turning to face the Hylian who has long abandoned his ingredients to the floor. His shoulders slump over in defeat, avoiding all of their eyes - they must know. Each and everyone of them must now be aware of what he'd done before.

Mipha is strong. While she had a heart of gold, she always kept her emotions to herself, kept her head up when no one else could. She would be the future queen, after all - very few had seen her vulnerable, and she always tried her hardest to keep it that way. But her brother had almost been taken four years ago by the thieves, escaping death by pure luck. And now they've tried it again, and that was too much . Though Link can barely see it, he knows her face is scrunching up with sorrow, her tears falling as she holds her recovering brother.

She sobs softly in the silent room, accompanied with Sidon's reassuring hand on her back to calm her down. "I'm still alive," he whispers, to which Mipha thanks Hylia aloud.

It almost makes Link want to believe in the Goddess again.

"The white-haired woman said he'll be fine until the Rito arrive," Tottika mumbles, the only one willing to face Link at the moment. He acts as if he knew nothing, and Link wonders if he knows just how reassuring that is, even if he's not being sincere.

The Rito? Link signs to him. Was it a coincidence that Paya had crossed their paths?

"She asked a Rito merchant at the stable to get help from his people. They have a way to transport Sidon from here to their village. It'll be easier for him to recover over there," Tottika explains, knowing much more about the situation, apparently. "We'll need to go back to the great bridge inn so we can get our stuff before moving there. But... You lost Telum, didn't you?"

Link's throat tightens at the words as he remembers the horse. There's no way he must have survived the avalanche, and it must be impossible to find him now under all the snow that's now covering the field. It's much too late for him, and thinking about it has the tears pricking at Link's eyes and the guilt weighing on his heart.

"Hey," Tottika interrupts his inner self-blaming, placing a hand against his shoulder. The gesture isn't so reassuring, perhaps more forced as to pull him together. "None of this was your fault, okay? Things might be hectic right now, and none of us exactly know what happened with you - but I for one, still have faith in you. And I know I'm not the only one. So get ready, because the Rito are coming soon, and we need you to come to the village with us."

Link stares at him through all of it, his unshed tears drying up soon enough. Tottika brings him back to reality, to his true duty - to protect Sidon whatever happens. His personal issues come second, and for now he has to keep facing forward.

"They're here," Dunma says, her eyes fixated onto the window. And Link can see them too; a group of Rito arrive, carrying some kind of stretcher that can be lifted up. The Hylian had seen those before - Rito rescuers would often be requested to fly to the mountains, retrieving travelers in danger or hurt and bringing them to safety. The one they have seems to be large enough for Sidon, thankfully - they approach the door, barely knocking on it before opening it.

"Bring him on the stretcher, and cover him with the blanket," an emerald-colored Rito orders, his voice strong though reassuring enough to him. He wears the emblem of the rescuer squad on his garb, and his feathers ruffle under the strong winds that don’t even seem to have much of a physical impact on him.

A group of four other Rito arrive, approaching the bed while Sidon looks up to meet their eyes. They carry him without much trouble, and even the prince seems completely disoriented when they get him out, the blanket wrapped around his large body. He surely wasn't used to be handled like this, and Link knows he wishes his guards wouldn't see him in such a weakened state.

They lie him down on the stretcher, and all four of them go to each corner of it. They grab it with their talons, lifting Sidon up in the sky to lead him to the village as quickly as possible.

"We unfortunately can't carry all of you there, so we'll need you to join us by foot or horse," the emerald Rito says, mostly addressing the princess. "Though the lady that requested our help seems to know how to help you with that. We'll wait for you at Rito village."

When Link turns to look at where the Rito is pointing, his eyes are met with the sight of Paya standing right there, feet planted in the snow. She takes out a few bottles of hasty elixirs, handing them to the helpless Zoras. "We'll have to run there," she says, handing one to Link as well while he keeps his eyes onto her. Is it safe to believe that it's truly her...?

I have a lot of questions to ask you, Link begins before opening the bottle, watching the puff of vapor that leaves it.

"So do I," she replies, not giving him any time to continue. "But sorry, that will have to wait. Let's go!"

The group of travelers follows the woman through the snow, in the opposite direction of where Sidon is sent; And Link watches, a lump forming in his throat.

 

Chapter Text

No matter how many times Link had tried to transfer away from Gerudo, the Yiga of the desert had never given him the chance. Ever since they’d lost Xila, the Hylian had been staying there, continuing on with his life and visiting his grave every night. Luwas and Paya weren’t the same as they used to be, and Link wonders if he’s changed, too. None of the two would ever tell.

He can only hope he’s not going downhill the same way Luwas is. Now, the Sheikah man is almost like an empty shell with no will to even go on. ‘No one can save us’ was the string of words the Hylian would hear from him every now and then, and truth be told, he’d started to believe it. It’s safe to say that the only thing that keeps Luwas standing these days is the presence of his sister at the hideout.

But did Paya still need to be protected? Link had noticed she’d been coping in much different ways. Always on edge, she would keep her weapons on her at all times, taking her training much more seriously than she used to. She would never talk about it much, but Link can only guess it's a way for her to unleash her anger. No one could've guessed such a timid and calm girl would ever change so drastically, yet there she was, a warrior detaching herself from everything she used to be.

Sitting further away from the hideout provides a little calm for Link at least, after everything that's happened recently. He stays at the edge of the cliff above the pathway, looking up at the sand that falls lightly from the landforms above. The distant sound of the wooden chimes adds some sort of peace to his moment as he sits surrounded by the small frog statues. No one would bother him here, and he could smoke in peace - or at least that's what he liked to believe.

Pulling his Yiga mask to the side, he can finally see a little more clearly. Someone is approaching him from his left, but he knows better than to stay on his guard - he can recognize Luwas's footsteps, approaching and making intentional noise to not startle him completely. The Sheikah man removes his mask as well, showing a face darkened with weariness and scarred from battle wounds. He still manages a smile, sitting at Link's side with a sigh.

"Get that out of your mouth," he says, making no effort to stop Link besides that. The Hylian barely replies, giving him only an annoyed glance as he puts his hands against the ground.

"They still haven't found Kohga," he continues, to which Link chuckles at. Their master had ‘disappeared’ overnight, or at least, that’s what the other thieves believed. The small grin that tugs at Luwas’ lips reminds Link of how low they’ve all sunk. Still, showing this horrendous piece of trash any mercy would've gone against his beliefs, and the Hylian knows he deserved what he got.

They’ll never find him, Link begins, concealing the anxious tone to his words. He’d like to believe what he says. None of us even know what’s in that bottomless pit. We’ll have to praise Paya for the idea.

A silence settles in while Luwas turns to face him, the emotion leaving him. It’s not uncommon these days for the Sheikah man to change completely in attitude in the middle of a conversation.

“Don’t say that. Kohga fell on his own, remember?” He whispers, hoping that only the statues would hear and taking his gloves off. Marred by fresh battle scars, his hands tremble, and he balls them into fists.

Right, Link nods with a sigh, he fell on his own.

He knows very well that it’s not what happened. The three of them; Link, Luwas and Paya had taken action against the one who they considered to be the cause for Xila’s death. In an isolated place, they had cornered him, putting their lives on the line to obtain revenge - and so they did.

The battle is a blur, honestly. All the Hylian can remember is the fact that Kohga was still alive when they’d forced him to fall down the pit. There is no way he will come back from it; And it’ll be impossible for anyone to find him there.

Revenge was what they seeked, yet… Link feels as though a hole was dug into his chest. Or rather, the hole that had been formed when his Zora friend died hadn’t been filled, even with the master’s death. Will it take time? Will this place forever feel empty?

For now, he finds no satisfaction. Xila is still gone.

A lump forms in his throat as he looks to the distance, finding a duo of thieves striding back to the hideout. What they’re coming back from is unknown to Link, but there’s a third person; A tall, grey Zora man, wrists attached behind his back and begging incoherent pleas. What can they do but watch? Getting into arguments with their peers would only raises suspicions.

“I’m going to look for Paya,” Luwas says, standing upright. “She’s been worrying me lately. What are you going to do now?”

Link scoffs, dusting off his gloves and trying his hardest to ignore the scene playing out further away. Run away, probably.

“Without us?” The Sheikah asks, knowing well that Link would never do so.

If you don’t hurry, yes, he replies with a half-hearted smile. A slight breeze passes by with the silence, making Link’s dark hair flow with it.

“Sure,” Luwas replies, taking a strand between his fingers and examining it. His face is still as blank as it was earlier, and Link can’t help but frown. “Family sticks together, Grasshopper. And your roots are showing, so you’d better do something about it.”

He gives him a salute with his hand, and Link smiles back, even if his friend can't see it behind the fabric mask in front of his mouth. It's hard to feel anything these days, as if everything else were so heavy that it crushed any emotions that threatened to show.

But if he can still count on his family, if they still manage to make him smile, even if it's just faint and short-lived... Perhaps there's still a small light of hope.

*

It had taken a surprising amount of time for the Yiga to finally find the master's dead body. That unexplained pit outside their hideout had never been explored, but that was their last chance in the end. Kohga barely looked like himself anymore after having crashed into whatever was below, but perhaps he could understand now the amount of pain he inflicted on others everyday, even on his own clan.

But things might’ve gone wrong, now that Paya is being led into one of the secret chambers of the hideout. She knows what they’re used for - but why is she being taken there? Why are her hands tied?

As she enters the unlit room, a silhouette on her right catches her attention; A Zora hunched over himself, his entire body trembling. Paya’s heart stops in her chest.

“Xila!” She shouts, startling the Zora and causing him to turn sharply in her direction.

She might be going insane. Of course it’s not Xila. Her Zora friend was never of a grey color, and he was never this tall - and he had a lot more scars than this stranger has. She shakes her head under the fearful eyes of the grey Zora, until something else catches her attention.

In the center of the room, Luwas sits on a chair, his arms tied to it. There’s no room for movement for him, and she wants to call out his name, only to remember that no one in the Yiga should ever hear it.

“Where’s the Grasshopper?” One of the footsoldiers ask, his arms crossed as Paya is brought closer to her brother. Her brow starts to sweat under her headband as she is seated in front of him, tied to another chair.

“On a mission,” the blademaster tying Paya up replies. “We’ll get him after that. For now, bring the Zora forward.”

The tension in the room is one heavier than what Paya’s ever felt. Her brother is barely looking at her, his head sinking as he stays unmoving.

The blademaster speaks once more when the grey Zora stands closer. “You two didn’t participate in The search for Kohga’s body,” she says, her hands hidden behind her back. “May I ask why?”

Paya gulps subtly, using her abilities to conceal whatever shift in her emotions she can. A lie detector? She remembers well how Xila used to smell every change in her mood. It’s some sort of power only Zoras have, and it’s not a far off possibility that they could detect lies as well.

When she notices that her brother isn’t ready to answer, she decides to do so herself. “We were on a mission,” Paya replies. So far, she’s only telling the truth - for her, at least.

Her eyes flicker back to the Zora, noticing that he’s not budging. The only visible expression on his face is horror, though it hasn’t changed from what it’d been ever since she’s entered the room.

The blademaster hums, pushing the Zora forward. He lets out a gasp, stumbling and catching himself up. “That sounds true. However, do you know what we found near the pit where the master was found?”

Paya keeps her eyes on her brother this time, who finally dares looking up. It looks as though something had taken his voice, as he still won’t respond - she braces herself, her shoulders stiffening. “What is it?”

“Blood. Scent.

The Yiga’s words feel like a blunt object crashing through Paya’s head. The realization dawns on her; This isn’t a lie detector. They already know .

“Zora, answer me now,” the woman says, looking back at the stranger. “The blood you smelled near the pit - whose was it?”

The grey Zora looks sorry for whatever he’s about to say. Had he detected that the ones in danger weren’t the Yiga themselves, but rather the three individuals that he’s about to incriminate?

But who knows what will happen to him if he lies?

“It’s-” The Zora looks between the siblings, his breathing growing heavy with fear.

“It’s the two of them,” he says. “They both were there when your master fell. Them, and the Hylian who was sitting on the cliff yesterday.”

All of their hopes are torn asunder. Luwas barely moves, but Paya knows she’s being a lot more obvious than he is - her eyes are snapped open, her teeth gritting as her eyes stay on him. It’s too late to escape; The only one who can now is Link, but how are they going to warn him?

Suddenly, the blademaster barks out a laugh that has Paya’s pulse racing. “And there you have it!” She says, removing her hands from behind her back to reveal a blade she had been holding onto. “Take that Zora somewhere else and off him,” she orders to one of the footsoldiers, “We don’t need him anymore.”

Paya wishes she could cover her ears when she hears the grey Zora struggling as he’s taken away, possibly to another chamber. He screams and begs for mercy as he gets dragged onto the ground by the wrists, his feet kicking into nothing in a desperate attempt to get away.

When the door slams behind them, only a few thieves and the blademasters are still here. The room has gone silent, save for the woman’s steps as she makes her way right behind Luwas. She finally removes her mask, revealing a full smile, the kind that feels unfair to have when you're so full of shit.

“You know what this is, right?” She begins, her voice almost singsong. “Betrayal. You three betrayed us. You know what happens when you betray the Yiga, right?”

Luwas takes a deep breath, baring his teeth in front of her and revealing a missing tooth, fallen from a previous punch to the face. His bloody and bruised face only show more resentment, and he spits right in her face - something that has Paya gasping, praying that they won't kill him on the spot for it. The woman seems largely unbothered, only flinching at the gesture before Luwas speaks.

"Wasn’t it betrayal, when you forced one of us to die?” He finally says, obviously implying Xila’s fall.

The Yiga wipes at her face with a gloved hand, putting her mask back on to avoid any other pitiful attack thrown at her again. She straightens up, ambling around the man’s chair and bending herself in front of Luwas's hands to examine them. "You've forgotten that the Coral died on his own," she whispers, taking one of his tied hands and tracing its lines with a finger. "Shot by a Gerudo guard with a defective arrow. We have nothing to do with it, dear."

Luwas scoffs at her fake kindness, glancing at Paya to make sure the immobilized girl is still alright. "Yeah, right," he begins, spitting a drop of blood on the ground this time. "If he hadn't been forced to stay in this hellhole by you guys in the first place, maybe he would've been able to go home. Maybe he would've survived."

She slides the knife against his ropes, making him believe for one second that she'll release him - the hope is short-lived, as all she does instead is take his hand again and cut his palm open with a swift movement of the blade. Luwas cries out, his fingers twitching in pain at the sudden sensation and his brow sweating.

"Stop!" Paya shouts, doing her best to move until the Yiga behind her keeps her in place with an arm around her neck. He intentionally gives her enough space to take slow, painful breaths, very keen on her having to watch her brother being tortured.

"I should've known," the woman says, her voice breathy from an anger she's trying her best to contain. "I should've known you would all betray us one day. You reek of animosity towards the rest of us! I should've killed you from the start!"

Luwas's head turns towards Paya, and for the first time in her life, the Sheikah woman can see fear darkening his features. His eyes widen in horror when the blade is pointed against his throat, threatening to plunge right into it. But she can't shout anymore while the thief behind her is tightening his hold around her neck, squeezing until the air stops reaching her lungs.

"Don't kill her," Luwas pleads, his voice so shaky that it's too quiet for anyone to hear other than Paya. Her face grows hot as she chokes, and she keeps her watery eyes onto Luwas, watching until the very last second.

She has the time to catch sight of the Yiga woman jabbing her blade inside Luwas's throat, piercing his carotid in the process. She quickly removes the knife, letting the poor man cough, his blood gushing out of his neck and mouth. His previously white mask dyes itself up in crimson red as his eyes roll up, hiding themselves behind his lids, and it only takes a few seconds for him to fall unconscious.

"Finish the job," his killer says, addressing the thief behind Paya. Her face is covered in blood, and she looks delighted. "Avenge the master."

It's all that Paya has the time to hear before her vision blurs, divides itself until she sees white. A pale veil falls in front of her eyes, and for just half a second, she can swear she sees her parents and grandmother waiting for her in a peaceful void that offers itself to her. Xila is there too, distant but welcoming.

Maybe it's not so bad to leave this rotten place, if she's going to find her family and friends there.

*

Being on a mission alone had become a routine, one he didn't mind settling into. Today's one was simple: Rob a few merchants from the Bazaar discreetly, without being seen. He had succeeded, obviously, and now Link is walking back to the hideout of his clan, his pouch full of stolen rupees and other pieces of jewelry from the travelers.

He would come back at the entrance, the only ones greeting him being Luwas and Paya, but today something feels off. He can feel it from further away, when only the first few wooden chimes start to show up. The atmosphere feels heavy, as if something terrible had happened in the place; He almost doesn't realize how slowly he walks now, apprehending what he might find at the hideout.

It doesn't take long for him to see a crowd of thieves standing right outside the gate, all with their masks on as they wait for Link's arrival. Most of them stay with their arms crossed, but the one in the center catches his attention - he holds two limp bodies against his shoulders, two other thieves that he drops onto the sand as soon as he notices Link's presence.

On the right, Luwas lies there, mask-less and eyes opened wide. A worrying amount of blood stains his chin and throat down to his clothes. On the left, Paya stays utterly still, her limbs falling to her sides as Link notices the marks around her neck. The two of them aren't breathing anymore, and Link can tell even from this far away.

They figured it out. The Yiga found Kohga's body, and somehow found out it was them.

He has to live on, to escape for them. They've worked so hard for this goal, and he's the last one remaining to do it; He unties the heavy pouch from his hip, letting it roll onto the ground as he turn on his heel.

Taking his last few hasty elixirs, he opens the bottles as he begins his race against the thieves that must surely be after him now. He downs the blue liquid without a second thought, even if taking so much might give him a heart attack - he has more chances of surviving if he runs away than if he goes back to them. While he's certainly able to handle some of them in combat, the entire hideout is against him now, and he can't trust himself to prevail.

No one in the clan can climb like he does. And joining the road to escape further would not only reveal him to the world, but also endanger innocent travelers. Barely anyone ever went around the Gerudo Highlands, the tall mountains covered in thick layers of snow where nothing existed besides monsters. The Yiga would surely have a more difficult time following him there, but counting on their inability to climb as well as him would be underestimating them. They most likely had other methods to reach him from somewhere else, but for now, that's not what he should worry about.

Instead, he worries about the cold, about the snow that slows him down. His suit doesn't provide enough warmth for a climate so harsh, and the monsters could attack him for stepping on their territory. The white-maned lynels would most likely turn him into their dinner if he ever crossed their paths, and the icy lizalfos would definitely freeze him to death and rip his limbs off one by one.

Just the thought has him shuddering, but he can't stop going forward. He's not sure where he'll end up if he goes on, but hopefully it'll be better than here or there, maybe somewhere he can hide safely for a little longer.

It takes him three days to cross the highlands. The only sleep he gets is when he finds a lodge inhabited by a woman, a so-called retired surfing champion. Selmie was her name. The woman didn't understand sign language in the slightest, but had offered Link shelter despite his outfit - she hadn't recognized the Yiga suit at all, thankfully. She had given him food, warm pieces of clothing to help him survive until he left the highlands, garments removed as soon as he had joined the woman's bed. Living alone in such an isolated area must have left her feeling so lonely she would feed on any occasion a man would present himself to her in search of a place to sleep. Link didn't mind giving her at least that, in exchange for everything else - but he had left the next morning without so much of a goodbye, hoping the Yiga wouldn't find her either.

The ground loses its thick cover of snow once he leaves the highlands, and he finds himself in Tabantha. Was there even any place there that could offer him safety, aside from the stables and the villages where he would only bring danger? The forest? No - these were full of hungry wolves, ready to jump on any prey that wouldn't be careful enough.

Perhaps Satori mountain would be a good spot. He could just lie in the spring for a while, waiting until the spirit that lives there would cleanse him of everything he's done. He scoffs at himself as he realizes he still believes in that childhood tale, but that was everything he had left after Hylia had showed she wouldn't have any mercy for him or his friends.

But his thoughts are interrupted when he hears noises around him, those of laughter that he recognizes. It only took him leaving the mountains for the Yiga to find him again, their weapons ready and their red eye peering into every angle of him as he freezes in place.

"We found you," one of them teases, waving his sickle that he obviously sharpened for the occasion. Link doesn't bother with a reply, only turning around to face them as he takes out his own weapon. His demon carver might not be enough against the eight thieves that surround him, especially when four of them carry wind cleavers that will cut through him as if he were goat butter.

Now that he stands there, he realizes one thing.

Death is inevitable.

It will be either the Yiga that kills him, or the bottom of the canyon in which he's tempted to jump into. The Tanagar canyon is so deep that there’s no way he would survive the fall, but there’s no way he would win against eight Yiga at once either - and if he has to choose, he'd rather die by his own hand.

What a pitiful, sad coward he is. All the work he's done to escape them and avenge his friend going to the trash in mere seconds, because he's too prideful to let himself be caught by the ones that caused his downfall into a life of shame.

With a single step back, he feels the ground slipping under him. Only air awaits him under as he lets himself fall back, his lids closing slowly to let himself fall asleep.

The fall feels like it lasts longer than it really does, even with the scenery moving so rapidly around him. There's a small moment of peace while nothing halts his fall, something that soothes him with good memories.

The touch of his mother's hand against his cheek after he had fallen in the grass. The laughter of his father the day before his house burned down. Luwas's smile when he caught him stealing fruits at the stable. The timid Paya tugging at his sleeve before trying to utter her own name. The jokes Xila cracked even when he was sick under the sun.

A loud crash resonates through him, one that breaks each and every bone in his body. He almost bounces back, his spine shattering to millions of pieces while his ribs puncture his lungs violently. It hurts so much, a hundred times more than every injury that life had ever given him. Everything spins around him, and the pain surprisingly doesn't go away - shouldn't he be dead by now? Shouldn't he be seeing his parents and friends waiting for him above, while his consciousness faded?

But no, Hylia must despise him that much. Even with his body shattered, he's still in there, feeling everything and seeing everything. The Yiga that were after him manage to slide down the canyon, walking towards him and prodding at him with one of their windcleavers.

"Wow. He's definitely dead," one of them mutters behind his mask, putting his hands against his hips. The disbelief can be heard in their voices, and Link can still feel the blade being pushed against his face while they treat his body like garbage.

"He deserved it. Too bad we didn't get to do it ourselves," the blademaster retorts, sheathing his blade back against his hip. "Let's go back," he says, gesturing for the others to follow.

How can they not see that he's still alive?

While they walk away, one stays behind, watching Link and removing his mask. His grey eyes show in a satisfied stare, and lets the pettiness overcome him - he spits onto Link's corpse, just as Luwas had done to his superior.

"So long, grasshopper."

*

The place where he awakens is... different. While his back fell on rough rocks, he now lies on smooth, cold stone, his view of the sky blocked by blurry patches of green. Once his vision sharpens, he can distinguish leaves, ones that belong to trees standing tall around him. Most of the sky is hidden by another type of branches too, adorned with thousands of pink flowers.

Behind it, the sky is still dark and starry. The pain in his bones is mostly gone, and he can feel his hands again, somehow - he moves his fingers around, noticing how well they still work even after such a fall. Did someone bring him to rest in a different place? Was he cured by a strong healer, or something similar?

"Something similar would seem to be the answer," a deep voice resonates from above, one that startles him completely awake. He sits up, amazed by the absence of cracking noises in his body, taking sight of everything around him.

If he thought he'd seen all of Hyrule, he couldn't be more wrong.

He finds himself in an immense forest, the trees so numerous it feels completely isolated from the rest of the world. The vegetation is of a green more vivid than anything Link's ever seen, even in the dark of night. He sits on what seems to be some sort of pedestal, and a large number of bright critters fly around him carelessly. A few pathways are lit up, the light source being... pea-pod shaped lanterns?

It's unlike anything he's ever seen, and it's not a place he's heard of in books either. But he's not alone here, he can feel the presence of many beings surrounding him, and he can make out a small creature in the distance.

The animal stands on two tiny legs, its body a light green that mixes with the rest of the forest. Two horns stand at the top of its head, and its face is... hidden behind a mask. But not the type of mask he's used to see - A leaf turned into a mask, with holes to represent eyes, a mouth and a nose. It stares right through Link, and the Hylian feels a shudder running through his spine. He questions everything he knows for a moment, until another one of these creatures show up in his vision.

Two of them stand further to his side, watching him with interest. Three of them float in the air, holding little pieces of wood attached to leaves that spin like screws. They all stay silent as he turns around, counting each of them until he loses track.

He realizes one more thing.

He's completely surrounded.

"Ah!" He lets out a sound of surprise as he pushes himself back on his hands, ready to run away from whatever they are. But every path he could take is crowded with them, looking like they could jump at him at any moment.

"You can see us!" One of them speaks, stomping its tiny legs on the ground and shaking two branches full of berries around. "You must be a kind person."

Oh right, he might be in the afterlife, now that he thinks about it.

"Don't run away or you'll get lost!" Another one of them pipes up when he tries to get out, but these creepy little shits are extremely good at blocking the way somehow. "We just want to make sure you're okay!"

Link takes a deep sigh, giving up on trying to find a way out of this strange forest. Where would he end up if he were to escape, anyway?

He shakes his hands around, trying his best to sign to them. Where the hell am I? He asks, though he gets no answer. The creatures simply tilt their heads to the side, as if they had just witnessed someone flapping their hands needlessly. Right, how would any of them know sign language?

“You are in Korok Forest, young one.”

That voice again - Link heard it just after waking up, and it’s there, very close yet he can’t seem to pinpoint the source of it. It sounds deep, old, loud enough that it seems like it comes from his head rather than from a person in his surroundings.

“Here,” it says once again, making Link’s body jump in surprise. “Look up.”

Feeling the cold sweat against his brow, Link does just as he was told. He slowly raises his head, letting his eyes travel along the trunk of the tallest tree he’s ever seen. He’s never been tall, but in that moment, he realizes he’s never felt so short in his life than now, and holy shit, it has a face.

No way, his eyes must be playing tricks on him. The roots of that tree must be growing in strange places, making it look alive, but still, no tree has any business being this tall.

“You seem very lost,” the tree speaks, and Link is sure he’s going crazy. Yes, he sure is lost, in the middle of a forest full of what his mind makes up to have him believe he’s still alive. He finds himself stuck in place, just staring at the tree, mouth agape. He soon realizes that the pink petals he saw earlier belong to that tree, which is probably why they’re ever-present above the forest.

“You were brought here not long ago,” it speaks again, and at this point Link knows he’ll just have to accept that this giant tree is talking to him, and that he might have to answer at some point, despite how ridiculous it might seem. “On that pedestal where you stand. Now, do you have any idea of what happened to you?”

Link doesn’t like when people reply to a question with another question, and he doesn’t like doing so either - but he has a right to know why he’s here .

Who brought me? Link signs, despite knowing the fact that the tree most likely doesn’t know sign language. A lot of strange things happened in his life, but he didn’t expect that speaking sign language to a plant would be one of them.

“That I am not sure I can answer,” it says again, and Link sighs in relief at the fact that they can communicate. “You were in the light, traveler. You appeared before my eyes in a moment as short as a blink.”

Link can’t help but place his palms against his face, squeezing and rubbing at it in frustration and confusion. In the light? He was at the bottom of a canyon just moments ago, his bones shattered and his guts splayed on the ground, and now he’s fine . No injury whatsoever, no pain, nothing . What the hell?

“This might be a delicate question to ask you,” the tree continues despite Link’s lack of response. “But, who are you exactly? While I previously thought you were a traveler, I sense something else in you. A strength I have not felt in a long time, something that only certain skilled warriors have, something that comes from the heart and soul.” There’s a pause in his speech when Link frowns, mentally scoffing at the tree’s choice of wording. “And if you are here now, you must be no ordinary Hylian. Am I wrong?”

Screw it. I’m a thief, Link signs, throwing his hands in anger. It’s not like the vegetation would report him to the authorities anyway. A skilled one, I guess. But there’s nothing to be proud of.

“I see.” The tree’s oddly quick acceptance is something that brings some relief, at least. “But my friend, you died, did you not?”

The Hylian’s heart almost stops at that, and he’s surprised it was still even beating. Did he die? Logic would say yes, with the injury and pain he’s suffered, but what is his body telling him? He hasn’t felt in such good shape in years.

“You needn’t answer this question,” it continues. “I already know. Only the dead that were given a second chance ever wake up here.” The way its face moves as it speaks is the most terrifying thing Link’s ever seen, but it’s not the reason why his blood is turning to ice.

A second chance? He signs, only half-believing the tree’s words. I didn’t deserve a second chance. Who brought me and why? There’s anger mixed with disbelief flaring in the pit of his stomach, and the eyes of the other little creatures on him feel more than exasperating as they continue to watch the scene.

“I am afraid only Hylia knows the answers to your questions,” the tree continues. “I truly wish I could be of more assistance. But all I can do now is let the children guide you out of the woods, so you can go on with your life.”

Go on with my life? Link signs, rolling his eyes and letting out a forced laughter. I- I don’t-

He almost keeps signing, but he’s not sure it would do any good. What would it bring him, to have the tree know that the entire Yiga clan was after him? And if it’s a hallucination, there’s no point in speaking to it anyway. He realizes that it’s pointless to stay here; It doesn’t seem like he can wring out some answers from any of the weird creatures in that forest, and he might as well just go back out. Even if death awaits him there, at least it’ll be realistic.

Whatever. I’ll go now, he signs, and the tiny children all hop towards him simultaneously. He’s even more surrounded than he was before, and now he has to look at them directly in the eyes - if they really have any, that is.

“Farewell, child of Hylia,” the tree finally says, and Link can’t help but roll his eyes at the expression. “May her light guide you to your home.”

And where would his home be? His house in Hateno village burned down years ago, his parents are gone, and so are all of his friends. The rest of those who he used to go back to now want him dead, and he has no place to rest. Whatever might be going on outside, it’s not like he can plan anything ahead now.

Link at least follows one advice from the tree; He lets the children of the forest guide him out. They might be the creepiest thing Link’s ever seen, but after seeing how the woods change after they leave the Korok forest, he knows he would’ve gotten lost on his own.

He finds himself surrounded by dead trees, their trunks resembling open mouths that could swallow anything that comes close. The fog is so thick that he can barely see from two meters away, and it all swirls around them like some kind of enchanted smoke that could coil around his ankles and take him away to a place unknown. And it’s so cold, so humid that he has to hug himself, trying his best to ignore the howling of non-existent wolves as he walks through the grass.

He follows closely behind the Korok children, listening to the pitter-patter of their feet accompanied with the sound of something rolling around in their hollow, wooden bodies. They make strange, awkward turns at times, almost going backwards, but Link will have to place his trust in them for now if he doesn’t want to be eaten by whatever is haunting this forest.

They come to an abrupt halt after some time, when they reach two lit torches that stand in the middle of the path. One of the tallest ones turns around to look at Link, gesturing to another part of the forest with its tiny arm. “We can’t go further than this,” it begins, its high-pitched, echoed voice somewhat reassuring in the midst of the magical woods. “But you can. Here, take this.”

The little thing gestures around, making a larger object appear out of thin air. A few leaves swirl around it, soon revealing its nature while a smell of holly invade Link’s nose.

It’s a wooden sword, something Link has only ever seen children use. But a more focused look on it has Link realizing how sharp the blade is, and perhaps… It might work just as well as a regular sword. He’s pretty used to that kind of weapon, at least.

“It’s a forest-dweller sword,” the Korok child says, waving its little hands around. “Use this if you encounter anything strange in the woods. All you need to do from here is to follow the torches, okay?”

Link holds the sword in his hand, examining the design of it. It’s rather pretty, despite the unusual curve of the blade along the sides… Well, it’ll have to do for now. He has no idea what the Korok meant by ‘something strange in the woods’, but he has no real way to ask for more precisions.

The Hylian nods to the child’s words, sheathing and tying the sword against his hip. He can already see the next torch from where he stands, but he knows he’ll be running there - there’s no way he’ll stay more than five minutes in this hell hole.

“Bye-bye!” The children sing innocently at him, and he doesn’t spare them even a last glance. He runs towards the torch, finding himself surrounded by fog again, finding another torch further away and so on until at last, everything clears up.

And he’s still in Hyrule, right outside the Lost Woods where nobody dared to go. Nothing seems out of place, and no one is waiting for him right outside; It allows him to slow down, to try and reconnect with what he thought he’d lost, even if for only a minute.

Is it truly what happened? Did he really die in the canyon, only to be brought back for no reason?

No, it all seems too far-fetched. The most probable theory is that a strong healer found him, saved him from what would’ve been a certain death, and somehow brought him to the Korok forest for safety.

Yes, that’s what it must be.

And despite this, it only takes him about three weeks to lose his patience.

Hiding from the Yiga had been surprisingly easier than he had thought. As soon as he had left the forest, he had used his new sword to cut down his dyed black hair, leaving only his blonde roots. He hasn’t had hair this short in a long time, and he knows it doesn’t look too great on him, but… It’s not something he can really worry about for now. He was apparently difficult enough to recognize like this, in addition to the fabric mask he would constantly cover his mouth with. His forest-dweller sword had long broken during a fight against monsters, but he’d managed to get new weapons soon enough.

It was easy to find random people in Woodland that were either too scared or too lazy to do their own things. Go fetch me this, go kill that for me, Hylian, those were the things that people asked Link to do in exchange for money. Most of the tasks were rather easy, considering the training that he had, and it was a better way to earn money than stealing. Thanks to these people, he had managed to maintain a somewhat normal life, eating when hungry and sleeping in stables or inns whenever he had to. And while Woodland wasn’t the most exciting place in the world, it was always better, more peaceful than the Gerudo hideout.

But even now, there is something on his mind. What does life have to offer to him, now that he’s the only one left among his family and friends? Is he supposed to start anew, to find new people to bond with? While that’s most likely what he needs to do, it doesn’t feel right. Something is missing now - a good chunk of his life is gone, and he’s not sure he can adjust.

So why? Why is he still alive, when the others aren’t?

Sharing a meal with strangers had become a routine for him, and while he would usually stay quiet, he believes this time that he can allow himself to ask one simple question.

He takes the chalkboard in hand, something that had become quite useful in a region where almost no one spoke sign language. While the two strangers look attentively, he scribbles something onto the board, turning it around as soon as he’s done.

“‘Where can I find a priest’?” One of the men reads aloud, scratching at his beard as he tries to think. “Surprising that you would ask,” he says, to which Link tilts his head in confusion. “I mean, no one in Woodland is a huge believer. I didn’t think you were one.”

Link shakes his head, turning to wipe at the chalkboard to write down on it again. I’m not, he scribbles, and the two men just look at each other with their brows furrowing.

“Then why do you wanna see a priest?” He asks, and Link shoots him a glare through squinted eyes, one that clearly means None of your business.

“Alright, damn,” he chuckles warily, leaning back in his chair. “I’ve heard there’s one in Akkala, in that little town that was built recently. A Zora priest, I think. Don’t know his name, though.”

“Tarrey town,” the other fills in the blanks, pointing to the Akkala citadel seen in the distance. “If you get a fast horse, you should be there in a day and a half.”

Thankfully, Link knows a fast horse. The one he’s rented for the last three weeks, Telum, is one he hadn’t had too much difficulty bonding with, and he was fast enough. Truth be told, if he had more money, he would buy the horse and keep him forever, but… for now he had to settle with renting him, and leaving him at stables whenever he had to. But it felt nice to have something he could call a friend, after having lost so many people.

He nods to them in thanks, leaving the table and letting his unfinished meal sit there. He already has enough supplies for the trip to Akkala, some stuff that he had prepared knowing that he’d most likely have to travel to find the kind of person he was looking for. And without thinking much more, he takes his horse, tying his bags against the saddle and sitting himself onto it. Giving an initial kick of his foot, he lets the horse join the road, kicking two more times until Telum gallops in the direction of the stormy region.

Link knows about Akkala, but he’s not sure he’s heard of that small village before. Its exact location isn’t pinned on his old map, but he supposes he’ll have to follow the path and make sure to read the signs.

He crosses Eldin in one day, stopping at the Foothill stable for the night. Sleep takes a long time to overcome him, no matter how hard he tries - he hadn’t left Woodland since he’s come out of the Lost Woods, and now his chances of getting caught by the Yiga are increasing. But… oddly enough, he doesn’t go through a single instance of them attacking him, or any other traveler for that matter. The clan was always so dangerous, putting everyone on edge, but now everything was starting to seem strangely calm, as if they had decided to stop their activities.

But it would be stupid to assume so, and Link knows he still has to be on guard. He uses every sense, every ounce of attention he has to watch his surroundings and detect if someone lurks nearby. The only few presences he detects are those of animals, or children playing carelessly in the grass, so… nothing he really has to worry about.

The next day, he finally enters Akkala. As expected, it’s raining there, and Link wonders just how annoyed the locals must be. The entire region is surrounded by mountains and beaches, and Link’s sure the scenery would look so much better if the sky weren’t so grey and cloudy.

Telum snorts as the Hylian comes to a halt, stabilizing himself to read another sign. While one of them points at the stable further, the other points towards Lake Akkala, and the recently-carved letters read ‘Tarrey Town’. It takes a few minutes of grimacing in confusion for Link to notice the islet in the middle of the lake, reachable by a fortunate natural bridge that seems wide enough for Telum to pass, if he’s not too reckless.

Walking along the path above the lake, he can make out a few lanterns shining at the gate. While the sky has darkened, it’s not too late into the night - Link would say ten in the evening, at most. Perhaps the priest is still awake, if he’s lucky enough.

But when Link finally enters the village, his attention is caught by what surrounds him.

It’s almost the prettiest, most peaceful town he’s ever seen. It’s so small that only a handful of houses are built; Six of them, actually. But they seem to be made to host big families, standing on wooden terraces and decorated with an absurd amount of flowers. Their design is unlike anything Link’s seen before, looking like several colorful cubes were put together like children’s toys. While it’s a strange choice of architecture, Link will have to admit that it’s truly adorable.

But he’s not exactly here to look at the houses in awe. He gets down from his horse, leaving him at the gate and trusting him to stay close. Even the population is surprising; A few people of all races live here, making the town look like a pleasant mix of cultures. They’re either occupied by chattering with each other, barely noticing Link when he comes closer to the center of the islet.

The only eyes on him now are those of the small statue that rests there, a neatly cleaned statue of Goddess Hylia. Standing in the middle of a peaceful fountain and lit up by two lanterns at her sides, her hands are brought together in prayer as usual, while her empty eyes stare into nothingness.

Link has come to stop believing in her, after all that happened. Seeing her face again brings memories he wants to stop reminiscing for now, but seeing her being so adored by the locals… It fills him with envy. Every day must be calmer than the next, with Hylia watching over them - at least they have a reason to believe in her. Link wishes he still had one, but looking at her now only weighs on his heart and leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

“It is not often we get to see a new face here…”

While the voice is quiet and old-sounding, it’s enough for Link to be startled. He finds himself reflexively putting a hand against the sword sheathed on his hip as he turns around, something that he quickly retracts once he sees the person who was just talking to him.

An extremely old Zora stands behind him, his body hunched over itself in an attempt to relieve an apparent back pain. His wrinkled face is partially covered by the crest of his brow, something that was once pointing forwards now falling as if it were deflated. His red color had most likely tarnished over the year, making him look like he’s covered in a layer of dust that will never come off. The golden of his eyes has lost its vividness, and so has the blue of his ulnar fins. This one must be over two hundred years old.

“No need to be afraid, young one,” he speaks again, putting a hand against his chest. “I apologize for startling you. My name is Kapson. May I be of any assistance to you?”

This is him. This is the person Link is looking for. At least he didn’t have to look for long. Good evening, Father Kapson, he signs with all the respect he has for people this dedicated to an entity with no physical form. I need your help. May we speak privately?

“Of course, my child,” the old Zora says, gesturing for him to follow. He walks towards a building slightly larger than the others, opening the door for Link and letting him inside. It’s not a church, not a temple - it’s an inn, surprisingly.

“I am a retired priest, as you have guessed,” he says again, coughing between his words. “Here, I offer people a place to stay thanks to the Goddess’s benevolence. Are you in need of a room, or is it something else?”

Something else, Link signs, sitting on a couch in the corner of the main room. Kapson walks slowly to sit before him, resting his elbows against his knees and putting his hands together. There’s still just an ounce of hesitation in Link’s mind, that maybe this wouldn’t be a good idea - but he’s not going anywhere in life if he keeps going without the answers he’s looking for.

Do you know if… Hylia can revive people? He asks, doing his best to avoid stating explicitly what his issue is. It might be a silly question - of course she can’t, but at least, he’d have gotten that out of the way.

“... My child, if the Goddess has decided that one’s life should end, it is never wise to try and bring them back. The person you lost is resting peacefully in her arms now,” Kapson says, and Link does his best to stop him through it. He waves his hands around, dismissing what the priest had just said.

No, it’s not what I meant. While he would love to be able to revive his parents and friends, he knows that’s impossible. What if Hylia… Doesn’t want someone to die? What if she doesn’t want them in her arms to rest peacefully? What does she do?

Kapson hesitates for a moment, scratching at his pointed chin as he hums. “It seems unlikely to me. Hylia loves unconditionally, no matter your background. Why would she push someone away?”

What about criminals, then? Link asks, his brow furrowing in frustration. What happens to them when they die?

Kapson bites at his lip, obviously feeling forced to reply to a question he never liked. What, indeed, happened to those who had tainted their soul with blood? Were they cursed, with no way to die properly?

“In these delicate situations, the ones with a twisted soul must confess to the Goddess, and only Her will know how to judge.” His face wrinkles as he looks down, only for his attention to be caught once again by Link’s signing.

Then I’ll confess to her messenger, he tells as soon as the priest is done talking. I’m a thief. I’ve stolen food and riches, I killed my master, and left my friends to die. I don’t deserve her forgiveness, I just want to know why… Why I was saved, why I’m still here today.

It’s baffling how Kapson barely flinches, taking each and every word that Link throws at him and analyzing them carefully. “Please, take a deep breath,” he begins, trying to calm down the Hylian who loses his composure. “You are not telling me everything.”

Link’s eyes widen, completely bewildered by the priest’s words. What more could he possibly say? Did he need to confess about his smoking habit, and his deranged sex life as well? He’s about to get up and leave before Kapson comes closer, extending a hand in front of himself.

“Oh, my poor child,” he says upon examining Link’s face now that he stands closer. “Your soul is in shambles, what in heaven happened to you?”

His wrinkled hand reaches the Hylian’s shoulder in a comforting gesture, squeezing it as soon as it comes in contact. He grunts in pain as Link tries to get away from him, and Kapson stops, his eyes widened and his pupils so narrow they’re only lines as thin as a wire.

Blinking the horror away, Kapson looks back at the Hylian like he’s a monster.

“You… You came back from the afterlife, did you not?” He asks, his hand trembling as he utters the words.

That’s what I’d like to know! Link signs hurriedly, his hands tense with all the frustration he’s piled up over the past weeks.

“Listen well, my child,” Kapson starts again, going back to a calmer expression and a quieter voice. “I could feel what happened, I could sense it just now. Hylia… Only Her would ever be able to save someone from an injury this severe.” The atmosphere only grows heavier with every word, and Link feels something else creeping up his spine now; Something cold, something painful that pricks at his skin and leaves him stuck in place.

But why? He asks, his eyes widening. Mom and dad, Luwas, Xila and Paya, they weren’t brought back, so why was I? I didn’t want it!

“I am afraid I cannot know this just yet,” Kapson continues, his attitude towards Link changed to something more fear-like now that he knows that the Hylian is basically a zombie. “Was there something you needed to do before you fell, that Hylia might have wanted you to accomplish before accepting you with her?”

Link’s eyes fall as he watches the floor, searching into his soul for an answer. He needs time to think, he needs time to process what just happened - with no other words, he gets up, walking towards the door and finding the fountain where the Goddess statue stands once again. Kapson lets him go silently only watching through the window of the main room when Link sits in front of Hylia.

The night is darker now, and the stars are barely visible through the clouds. It’s not raining for now, thankfully - he allows himself to stay outside, staring into the Goddess’s blank eyes and patching himself back together.

Because that’s surely not what Hylia had done that day, oh no. She might have healed his broken body, but what is left of him inside the shell now? Out of all the people she could have revived, why was he the chosen one? His parents deserved life so much more. Luwas deserved it more, Xila, and Paya too. At least they all saved him in a way, died for him while he wallowed in self-hatred and ran away like a pathetic coward.

The Goddess had never been of any help so far. His life had only gone downhill no matter how many times he had prayed, and she had taken everyone he loved away - how could he trust her with his life? Is he really just her toy?

What do you want from me? Link asks in his head, and he already knows the words won’t reach her - not because she was too far away, but because she never listened.

He supposes he can believe in her existence now, but as a benevolent, supreme being? No way. All he would ever remember her for is being the whimsical Goddess that she is, playing with him and his friends for her own amusement. Yes, she brought him back for a reason - he had to fix something, and that something was the Yiga clan itself. And by fix, she meant destroy.

But what does he have to gain if he does so? His family and friends will never be brought back. Such was the cruel reality of it all, and truth be told, he’s tired. He’s so tired he might just jump off the cliff, to off himself once and for all and to join his loved ones without having to deal with any of this.

She might just keep bringing him back, he realizes.

He stays there for a while longer, his eyes filling with tears that he can’t shed for some reason. The peaceful flowing of the fountain water isn’t even enough to put him at ease, and Hylia’s presence is only a faint wisp inside the stone.

“Do you wish to redeem yourself?” Kapson’s voice tears through his thoughts, pushing them out of the way for his own suggestions. Link simply turns around, standing up again in front of the old Zora and wiping at his eyes.

“In Zora’s domain, the place where I was born,” he begins again, clearing his voice mid-sentence. “They search for new knights, for their army. You are skilled in combat, yes?”

Link blinks away the surprise, letting his brow crease in confusion instead. I’m not a Zora though, he signs, and he lets out a startled gasp when Kapson takes his hand in his own, placing a piece of traditional Zora jewelry inside.

“It does not matter, my child,” the priest replies. “I have seen your life and what awaits you. You must redeem yourself by going there, where they will accept your presence and let you become one of their own.”

Link takes some time to breathe, to register his proposition. While it seems completely absurd, nothing else really offers itself to him - but can he really be trusted to be assigned to protect an entire region, now?

I don’t know, he signs, examining the silver jewelry. How could he ever fit in in their society? Sure, he had been a close friend to a Zora all his life, but it had been an orphan, not really the traditional type one would likely find in the domain.

“I will send you, with a letter for the king,” Kapson continues. “King Dorephan trusts my judgment. You will be of great help there, and you will be protected. All this after you have followed through a few examinations, of course.”

Link grimaces at the words, knowing they’ll find the ink on his back. Won’t it set them off, to see an ex-Yiga in their town?

Why are you doing all this for me? Link asks, tugging at his mask to let it slide down and reveal his nose and mouth.

“Young one, in my two hundred and sixty six years of life, I have never met someone with a spirit so strong. I do what I feel is right, by bringing you to a place where you will be needed and rewarded for this strength to let yourself be guided by the Holy Light.”

*

Kapson had expected that Link wouldn’t be taking his decision on the spot. First he needed a night of rest, after all he had been through - while there was no room left in his inn, there was simply no way he could ever let him sleep outside.

The Hylian rests on the couch of the main hall now, with a brown blanket only covering part of his body. He seems to have fallen asleep now, but it’s far from what could be called a deep slumber. He twitches in his sleep, whimpers as he moves around restlessly when the nightmare takes hold of his mind. Kapson doesn’t know what he dreams of, but until Link goes to Zora’s domain or finds another place to go, he’ll have to watch over him, to push the demons away from this Goddesses-blessed child.

For now, the light of his lantern flickers above his calligraphed words destined to the king, and he hopes they will be of use.  

Chapter Text

*

The sky is of a vibrant blue, completely cloudless, a sight that Link takes in as he lies on the cold marbled floor.

The east Reservoir Lake had been his hiding spot for a few days, when the crowd and the noise suffocated him. No one would ever bother him there, not even the birds when they would see him coming, as they’d leave as soon as they’d feel the negative aura that radiated off him at all times.

It’d been three weeks since he’s started living in Zora’s domain, as a member of the Royal Guard. Truth be told, he still needs some training to be truly considered one; While he knows how to fight, the ‘Way of the Zora’ isn’t something he’s fully comprehended yet. He’s not as graceful for now, as most weapons he had used in the past involved being absolutely barbaric.

He’s really, really not used to the silverscale spear.

But he’s here for a reason, and he’s going to stay here for Naydra knows how long. For now, he’s decided that he might stay forever. It’s not like he has any other place to go.

So even while off-duty, he finds places to train. He goes down the Zora river, faces the lizalfos and wizzrobes on his own, armed only with his glimmering spear. He fights until he’s either exhausted or until there are no monsters left to hunt down. It’s even better when the monsters are strong enough to fight back - it gives him a thrill, makes him aware of his own existence that feels too ghostly to be real. What if he died once again? Would the Goddess still bring him back? Or would he stay dead?

It’s not a question he has an answer to, but it gives him another reason for his recklessness - he challenges death, laughs in Hylia’s face whenever the monsters die.

And by accidentally eavesdropping a conversation between Bazz and the royal family’s secretary Laflat, he had learned that a beast unlike any others lived on top of Ploymus mountain.

It had taken quite a while for Link to bring it to its demise. There had been so much blood, so much violence coming from the Lynel’s deadly weapons; He’s sure his heart was beating out of his chest from it, from the adrenaline rush that had made him feel like this time, he would perish without ever coming back.

And after Link had scavenged its remains, he had jumped into the reservoir lake.

It had allowed him to clean off the gore, to refresh himself after the fight that had dragged on for so long. He’d managed to swim to the dam to find some rest there, under the gentle rays of the sun and accompanied with a bottle of armoranth wine.

He had brought it with himself to celebrate his victory, just in case. Any excuse to drown his memories in alcohol worked, and whenever Xila, Paya or Luwas would come to mind, he would hide and drink by himself.

So far, he had been quite reluctant on trying the Zora drinks; From what he’s heard, they’re too strong for any other race. He’s only had more gentle drinks up until now, but he’s already survived a fall into a canyon - surely a sip of this wouldn’t be the death of him, would it?

Oh, well. He supposes that would be another way to challenge Hylia.

He uncorks the bottle, bringing it to his lips with no second thought. The liquid pours down his throat, and just when he starts to think it’s no so bad, his insides start to burn.

‘Fuck!’ Would be the word to come out of his mouth if he were able to speak. He can only let out an incoherent sound as he pulls the bottle away, sticking his tongue out and waving his hand in front of it as if it were going to help. Goddesses, he’s so stupid.

“Oh hey, new guy! You’re here!”

The surprise has him almost dropping the bottle, and honestly, he would let it shatter if he hadn’t paid over a thousand rupees for it. But someone is walking up behind him, and he turns to face whoever it is.

A tall, black Zora approaches him carelessly, her silverscale spear tucked under her arm as she kneels to his side. The way Link glares in her general direction doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest; She examines him instead, her eyes finding their way to the bottle full of death.

“Oh.” She blinks, pointing at it with a clawed finger. “Did you just really try drinking armoranth wine?” She asks, and soon, she glances back at him, concerned. “Are you doing alright?”

Link scoffs, a sarcastic ‘I’ve never been better’ thought that can be read on his expression, and he coughs as soon as he opens his mouth. Who is she and what the hell does she want? Just as he thought no one would come to bother him here.

“I mean no offense, but this isn’t really made for small people like you,” she says, sighing before sitting at his side and resting her legs. “Though I understand wanting to take on the challenge. I would suggest that you surround yourself with a few Zoras if you really want to try it out, we know how it goes.”

What do you want? Link signs after settling the bottle on the tiled floor, trying his hardest to conceal the burn in his throat.

“I saw you swimming up the waterfalls earlier, and knowing the Lynel wasn’t so far from where you were headed, I was worried,” she says, pointing her spear to Ploymus mountain. “It seems like you’ve challenged it already. It’s quite impressive,” she adds upon noticing the bag full of monster remains.

Thanks, I guess, Link replies, his shoulders drooping. He certainly didn’t expect to have company, but at least the woman doesn’t seem to want to berate him for his recklessness. Now that he thinks about it, she sounds somewhat familiar…?

“May I ask your name, by the way?” She asks, “If we are going to work together, I’d like to know you better.

The Hylian spells out his name, still hesitant about all this. But she’s right, he’s already acknowledged he would stay in the domain for a while, so it’ll always be better if some of them at least know his name.

“Link,” she repeats with her contralto voice. “Nice to meet you. My name is Torfeau,” she adds, extending her hand for a handshake - Link had no idea Zoras even did that. “I’ve been working as a royal guard since I was eighty. It’s pretty unusual to have new recruits from other races, I would even say it’s never happened in my lifetime, but… If you’re here, don’t you think you need someone to help you understand the culture and customs a little better?”

She giggles, pointing to the bottle once again. “So, you know… That kind of incident doesn’t have to happen again.”

Torfeau.

That name rings a bell.

*

It’s too early for Link to be awake.

The sun has barely risen, only half of it showing above the mountaintops. Its vibrant orange color paints the sky and clouds, waking up the birds that chirp their first few songs of the day. The air is cool, but it’s not too much of an inconvenience now that Link covers himself with the warm garb that the Rito villagers had kindly given to him.

They had planned to make a stop at Rito village during Sidon’s Hyrule tour, but none of them had really expected it would be in such circumstances. Being forced to leave the great bridge inn in a hurry, following after the rescue squad that had taken Sidon after the cold had almost gotten the best of him… While things could’ve been worse, they could’ve been much, much better.

But that was his fault, again. If he had been there to protect the prince when needed, he wouldn’t have been kidnapped, and he wouldn’t have been tucked far away into the snowy mountains of Hebra. Link doesn’t know much about the situation; All he’s sure of is that Sidon is resting in the infirmary, forbidden to go outside until his body temperature goes back up. He knows Mipha and the knights must be visiting him, keeping him company, but he doesn’t know if he’s allowed to go in.

After all that happened, the Hylian must not be the person Sidon wants to see first. Link understands how he must feel, after finding out he’d been lied to - and for that reason, he stays under the gazebo at the bottom of the pillar that hosts the village. He sits alone, scratching slightly at the healing wounds on his face, only to stop himself before it all gets worse. He hasn’t looked in a mirror since he left to find Sidon in the Yiga hideout, but he’s pretty sure he has a black eye, at least.

While Link knew a lot about Rito village, he had never gone there himself. It’s a reassuring surprise to see that the locals are nothing but kind, offering hospitality and garments to travelers when the shops were closed. A lot of them had offered their company to the Hylian, which he politely declined - for now he needed some time to think, to try and come up with whatever he would have to say to Sidon, to Mipha, to everyone.

A silhouette appears in the corner of his eye, someone coming down the wooden stairs. Lady Mipha, covered with a warm, feather-stuffed coat, shows herself before Link with her arms crossed and an unreadable expression on her face.

“May I sit?” She asks, and Link nods quietly. She takes a few steps inside, sitting herself on the bench next to his and putting her hands together, fidgeting against her knees. Link can’t help but feel the tension rise in the presence of the future queen of Zora’s domain, and he tries to have the decency to look at her in the eyes, despite how tight his throat feels when her expression turns somber.

“Sidon will be fine,” she begins, words that have Link sighing in relief. “All he needs now is some rest and warmth. A few of our knights are staying with him right now.”

A profound silence settles in between them, and Link gives an awkward nod. It’s good, that he has company. The triplets must be over there for him, keeping an eye on him so the previous night’s events never happen again. They must be doing a much better job than him.

“Link, I spoke with Miss Paya, earlier this morning.” Her voice is quiet, and she’s the one to look away this time. “I have learned… a lot. About you, about your childhood, the way you had lived until you came to our domain. It was hard to believe at first, but the ink on your back was proof enough, I suppose.”

Link purses his lips at the mention of what they saw while he was unconscious, but he can’t exactly blame them. He’s not sure what the attackers told the rest of them, but it must’ve been incriminating enough. Paya must have tried to justify it all, to water down what he’s done… And thinking back on the Sheikah woman has him remembering that he still hasn’t had time to speak to her, but if he trusts his gut, it seems like she’s avoiding him. She doesn’t even seem to be in the village right now.

But his past, his descent into a life of shame, was it really her story to tell? Sure, she had been part of it all, but Link had been the one to live in and protect Zora’s domain this whole time. Him being the one to explain would’ve been more reasonable.

Then again, he probably should’ve told them everything a long time ago.

You have my deepest apologies, he signs to the princess, and truly, that’s all he can say for now. What else can he add, now that they know everything?

“I suppose I should apologize as well,” Mipha cuts in, and Link’s ears perk up at the words. “For… shouting at you in that cabin, after we found Sidon. You saved him, after all, but I was so scared to lose him - and you brought him back in one piece, just like the time he was attacked in Lurelin village.”

Has he told you about it? Link signs, genuinely surprised that Sidon would have mentioned it. He had said he didn’t want to worry his sister, yet...

“Just a moment ago, yes,” Mipha replies, a small smile tugging at her lips. “He told me that you came to his aid, that you protected him with all your might. I will be honest and admit that I had considered removing you from the royal guard, but…”

The revelation has Link’s stomach twisting. While he knew that was a high possibility, his current position was truly something he never wanted to abandon. He’s sure the last bit of meaning his life had would be gone if this were to happen.

“...Sidon contested it. He wanted me to know how helpful you had been, how dutiful you had proven yourself to be. He still trusts you, despite everything.”

Hearing it relieves the weight he’s had on his heart, but he knows he’ll still need to have a talk with him. This kind of event doesn’t disappear into the dark, and he needs to hear the words himself, if Sidon is still willing to speak them.

“Besides,” she continues, “Our father knew about all this already, didn’t he?”

Link has to give a small nod at that, unsure of what her reaction to her father hiding this from them could be. Dorephan had read Kapson’s letter enough times to understand who Link was, what he truly needed - and unexpectedly, he had accepted him in the royal guard. He had asked for it to be a secret to most, Link remembers.

Now that he thinks about it, it’s a surprise he wouldn’t even tell his own children.

“I see.” She places her hands against the bench, pushing up to stand and tower over Link once again. “I trust my father, you know,” she continues with a sigh. “I always have. Which means I trust his choices, no matter how odd they seem - he’s rarely ever wrong. I believe he let you in because he knew that you would do great, and he was most likely right.”

Link wants to stop her as she steps out, bending herself down beneath the wooden bars, but there’s not much else he can say. The king’s thought process had been a mystery even to Link, who thought he would be sent to Zora prison instead, or something of the likes.

“I think Sidon feels the same.” Link bites his lip as he hears the words, concealing the sudden sharp sting of anxiety in his jaw. “And I think he would like to see you.”

Link would like to see him too.

Still, it’s terrifying. While he knows Sidon doesn’t completely hate him, the idea of having the prince’s eyes looking upon the outlaw that he once was, of having to talk to him after he broke his trust, it’s… jarring. He knows it will all feel terribly different from now, that he will want to keep a distance…

No, he can’t let that blind him. His closeness with the prince wasn’t something a bodyguard was supposed to have in the first place, and for now that’s all he is, isn’t he? He doesn’t have to think about him that way anymore, because it might never happen again.

It’s how things should be, he supposes.

As Mipha leaves, Link is quick to follow. He walks up the stairs, on his way to the inn where Sidon recovers, but is quickly met with another set of eyes that squint when he gets close.

“Hey.” Tottika stops in front of him, his voice muffled behind a thick, striped scarf around his neck. Link straightens up, realizing just how slouched he was just seconds before, something that has the black Zora relaxing instead.

Hey, Link signs, unsure of what type of behavior to adopt in front of him. In the end, all that he finds to say comes out with hardly a second thought. I’m… sorry. For all this.

“Don’t worry about it, Link,” Tottika raises a hand, placing it against the Hylian’s shoulder in reassurement. “Paya told us all what you guys went through. I know some of us are still upset, but… don’t worry about me. I don’t think you were ever obligated to tell us this, as I believe that people like you deserve to have the chance to redeem themselves if they want to.”

They all know so much about him now, without him having to say anything, and truth be told, it’s not exactly how he would’ve wished for it to go. He can’t blame Paya for wanting to tell the truth, though.

Thank you. I didn’t think you’d want to talk to me after this, really, Link signs, a weak smile drawing itself on his lips as he looks away.

“All you did was try to survive,” Tottika replies with a shrug. “None of us here were ever in that situation, but I understand you. It happens more often in Zora’s domain than one would think.”

Of course, the Hylian knows. Xila had been the perfect example of this. But before he can fall back into his dismal thoughts, Tottika maintains him alert.

“Come with me for a minute?” The black Zora asks, pointing to the hut behind him with a thumb. “I need to buy some supplies for elixirs at the general store. Everyone else is too busy.”

Link should be going to see Sidon, but… perhaps it’s better if he takes a good fifteen minutes to think about what he’ll say. He nods in response, following Tottika in the direction of the only general store of the village. Its doors have just opened to customers, and the two enter with a salute to the owner.

“Good morning once again, Sir Tottika, and…” The Rito woman says, her voice honeyed and like a pretty song, pausing while her eyes wander towards the Hylian.

“Sir Link,” Tottika says, gesturing to the Hylian at his side. “He’s of the royal guard as well. It’s nice to see you again, Miss Misa,” he continues, and Link can’t hide the confused expression that paints his features. His face turns to look at Tottika with a cocked eyebrow, something that the black Zora quickly frowns at.

“Oh, I was hoping you would come,” she muses, walking to the front of her counter and giving a graceful bow to the Zora. “It is really an honor to have you all in our humble store. Please take as much time as you would like to browse our wares.”

Tottika replies with a sly grin, something that has Link rapidly looking between the two of them. Oh, he’s in the middle of something, he sees - there’s something in the air, and even if his senses aren’t as sharp as a Zora’s, he can definitely feel it.

You know her? Link signs discreetly to Tottika while the Zora peeks at the monster parts gathered in the round baskets.

“Uh, I met her just a few moments ago before she opened this morning,” he whispers, glancing at the woman who notices him, and winks at him. “We hit it off pretty quickly.”

Link rolls his eyes. Yeah, right, he replies with a chuckle. She looks like she wants to eat you up, you sure you haven’t done something?

There’s a proud grin tugging at the Zora’s lips, while his eyes wander around the room. “Just being myself, as usual,” he says, and Link shakes his head slowly as he goes back to examining the bomb arrows on display. It’s clear that Link shouldn’t be here, but his friend asked him to come after all - was it to embarrass him? To make him jealous, in some way?

At last, they’ve stocked up for a few more days. The elixirs will need to be prepared later, but at least they have new arrows, new types of ingredients for food they’ve barely tried yet, and there’s no reason for them to stay in there anymore.

“Thank you so much for coming, Sir Tottika,” Misa muses, and it’s like Link isn’t even there at this point. He sighs, stepping away from the two while they have a conversation that the Hylian has no wish to hear. For now he focuses on the two other figures that appear at the top of the next flight of stairs, two Zora women waving goodbye to another Rito woman.

“We really owe you, Amali,” Gaddison says, graciously bowing in front of the pale green Rito. “If it’s truly too much trouble for you the next few days, we can sleep at the stable, you know…”

“It’s my pleasure,” the woman says with a warm smile. “Our guest room is much more comfortable than the beds at the stable, don’t you think?”

It takes a few seconds for Link to register that Gaddison and Torfeau stand just a few meters away from him, and the implications of it. When Torfeau notices his presence, her previous smile fades instantly to give way to a saddened, irritated expression. Just that switch in her mood has Link feeling like an arrow is piercing right through him; He wants to smile to her, but it doesn’t seem like she’ll be receptive.

It’s understandable, he remembers. He had lied to her, just like he had lied to everyone else. He can’t expect them all to react like Tottika did.

He tries to catch her attention, to sign while she walks down the stairs, but the fact that she barely looks at him doesn’t make it easy. He follows her with his gaze, but still doesn’t have the heart to physically stop her once she walks past him, simply staring as if she were going to turn around in an instant.

“...Hey, Torfeau-” Gaddison calls out to her, gently grabbing at her arm to try and get her to speak with the Hylian. The other woman pulls her arm away, continuing her walk and ignoring Gaddison and Link completely.

The Hylian sighs defeatedly, something that the lavender Zora notices.

“Hey, Link,” Gaddison stammers, letting Torfeau go for now. “Uh… Give her some time, okay?” Her voice is somber, shadowing over the peaceful chirping of the seasonal birds, heavy like lead while her eyes lock onto Link’s own.

Link can only nod to this, to accept that his best friend will refuse to talk to him for a certain amount of time. It’s not that unexpected, but it still feels like something is squeezing at his heart. At least Gaddison doesn’t seem too affected, which is somewhat relieving…

Well, for now, if he follows the stairs, he’ll find himself in front of the inn. Sidon wants to see him, at least, doesn’t he? Perhaps meeting the prince will help improve his mood, and perhaps he’ll know just what they are to each other, now that all of this is uncovered.

Because after all, Sidon had come to be a relieving presence in Link’s life. Even with all the bad luck that came during their Hyrule tour, the prince was always positive - it brought peace to the days, to Link’s battered heart. The Hylian knows that Sidon appreciated him, at least, that he wanted more from him, something that Link knows he would’ve happily given.

Gaddison shows him the way to the prince’s room, saluting him once Link stands right before the door. With a deep sigh, he knocks lightly, and a soft ‘yes?’ coming from the inside has him straightening up, shakily pushing the door handle and entering the room.

He closes the door as quickly as possible behind him, unwilling to let the warmth escape; Sidon needs it greatly. The blinds and curtains are closed, the fireplace is lit up, and the tall prince is resting in a large bed, covered with multiple blankets.

“Good morning, Link,” he says with a fatigued voice, still smiling weakly when the Hylian slowly steps closer to the chair in front of the bed. He sits there without a word, his eyes focused onto Sidon the whole time, his throat tight, full of words he wishes he could speak but can only gesture while someone might as well stop looking.

Good morning, he signs, and it’s such a relief to see that Sidon is still willing to look at his words, despite everything.

“I have heard you were very distressed this morning,” he murmurs, and Link pulls his chair closer to the bed.

There is no need to worry about my mental state, Link signs hurriedly, then pointing to Sidon. You are the one who almost died. By my fault, he adds - If Link had come to the hideout earlier, perhaps the prince’s body temperature wouldn’t have gone down so much.

“You often blame yourself for it, my friend,” Sidon replies, his teeth showing in a small smile. “It isn’t like you tried to kill me.” Each of the prince’s words prick at Link’s heart in a way he can’t exactly comprehend, something that stings but feels necessary.

I am your knight. It is my duty to protect you, and I keep failing you. You were never supposed to end up in that hideout. Link is afraid of looking at him at this point, and he lets his stare focus on the fire instead. It crackles softly, its sparks flying here and there and filling the room with a welcome warmth.

“Link.” Sidon speaks his name, his tone stern and heavy. It has the Hylian’s pointed ears perking up, his eyes finally directing themselves towards him.

“Hold my hand, just for one moment.”

Link’s heart skips a beat at the words, and his eyes widen. He removes his mask, his hood, out of respect for the prince who most likely wants to see him completely. He can’t hide anymore.

“Come.” Sidon wiggles his arm free of the blankets, holding his hand out and waiting for Link to take it. Link does so without a second thought, still feeling a certain shudder of anxiety creeping along his spine when the prince’s thumb traces light circles onto his palm.

He can’t sign like this, and he knows Sidon is aware of it. He simply sighs, letting a weak smile show once they’re settled like this, waiting until the prince decides to speak.

After a slow blink, the Zora finally does so. “Things are clear now. You were a Yiga before you became part of our royal guard. Am I wrong?”

Link shakes his head slowly, his hand almost giving a gentle squeeze onto Sidon’s own until he remembers that he’s not supposed to do that.

“You said that you keep failing me, my friend,” Sidon continues after a deep sigh, his slender fingers hugging around Link’s own. “If you did, how would I be alive today? While I do believe in my own strength, I truly thought I would be taken by the cold.” He adds a chuckle to this, something that doesn’t make Link laugh as much as he’d want to. Instead, he simply purses his lips, bending himself to come closer to the prince.

“But you came,” Sidon says, looking up at the Hylian with soft eyes. His voice flows peacefully, feels like a caress of silk onto Link’s cheeks. “You even wanted to sacrifice yourself for me.”

A silence passes by as Link nods quietly, refusing to interrupt his prince while he speaks. There’s nothing he wants to say anyway, nothing he has to say, all he knows is that Sidon needs to speak, and Link needs to listen.

“Miss Paya did talk a lot about the past, about the unfortunate events that threw themselves at you and your family, but I have been thinking about the present,” he continues, his chest heaving with a long intake of breath. “While I believe there would have been… Better ways to handle this situation, doesn’t it matter more that you’ve consacred the past four years to better yourself?”

Link tilts his head to the side at that, his hand briefly moving to leave Sidon’s own to sign again. The prince keeps him there, however - But I’ve done so much wrong, Link wants to say, although he knows Sidon won’t let him.

“I have been swimming in my own thoughts all night, Link, until I could come to a realization,” Sidon utters, “I believe it is thanks to you that I did not die four years ago.”

It has Link’s eyes narrowing as he pulls away slightly in surprise, tilting his head in confusion. The prince had certainly come close to death that day on Lanayru road, but how was the Hylian of any help at the time?

“I know what you want to say,” Sidon speaks before he can sign again. “That it was Mipha who healed me, right?”

Link’s mouth falls at that, completely lost in Sidon’s golden eyes as he speaks words the Hylian can hardly believe.

“You might not know entirely how her power works, but… As much as I admire her, the injury was much too severe to be healed by Mipha’s grace. I know that well, my dear friend, and I have long understood that she wasn’t the one to save me from the fangs of death that time.”

Link swallows the lump in his throat, his hand squeezing Sidon’s own despite how small it is compared to it. The prince replies by lacing their fingers together before continuing.

“It was the dragon you called out to,” he whispers, “I saw you asking her for help.”

Link vaguely remembers it, but truth be told, he had been more focused on the prince’s state at the time. He clearly remembers watching the blood pooling out of his throat as he laid on the paved ground, while his sister desperately tried to save what seemed like a lost cause. He somewhat remembers feeling the cold breath of Naydra against his back as she passed by, and he somewhat remembers signing to her, but… He didn’t think it would truly work at the time. She had done something, that much was certain - but with time, he had come to accept that the one who had saved him was Mipha, and that Naydra’s icy magic had been nothing but a way to keep him awake.

Had he been wrong, all this time? After all, considering the experiences he’s had, it doesn’t seem like a far off possibility that a Goddess or its messenger would be capable of healing an almost fatal wound.

“I never properly thanked you for it,” Sidon speaks again, each word more light and relieving than the next. “So, thank you, Link. For this alone, you have my trust. Everything else… Well, it is part of your story, of who you are. And I refuse to close my eyes in front of the truth. You are what you are to me, my dear friend; And I do not wish for this truth to separate us.”

Link feels something washing over him, a wave of peace and acceptance as Sidon offers him his thanks. It’s not him who should be thanked, really, and Link quickly realizes it; If there’s a being he should worship, now he knows it’s not Hylia.

You have my deepest, most sincere thanks in return, Your Highness, Link signs after he pulls away, putting a hand against his chest and bowing to him. For allowing me a chance in your domain, at your side, even after all I’ve done.

Sidon gives a warm smile, caressing Link’s hand once again. “I do not want to let you go. Not only do I feel reassured by your presence, we all need you here, my friend,” he murmurs, clearing his voice as he goes. “You know how to push away the Yiga clan, and us Zoras know next to nothing about them.”

Link’s gaze falls downward, the only time he truly averts his eyes. He lets his shoulders heave as he thinks - is he really that useful to them, when he wasn’t even the one to get them out of the Yiga hideout?

Paya can do that too, Link signs somewhat defeatedly. He hadn’t seen the woman since their arrival, but she seems much more competent against the thieves than he is.

“Link…” Sidon’s expression falls into a worried frown, and he whispers his name with all the kindness he’s ever contained in him. His hand reaches for him, for his jaw until his fingertips brush at the skin in reassurance. “While I am grateful that she saved us, I do not believe she should replace you. You are the one that I know, that I want at my side. Unless… You would like to leave?”

The Hylian shakes his head rapidly in response before Sidon can even finish his question. It earns him a toothy grin, and another stroke of his fingers against his cheek.

“Good,” he utters at last, and even Link can feel some sort of smile tugging at the corner of his chapped lips. “I do not think I would be at ease without you here, my friend.”

He doesn’t think he expected their meeting to have reassured him as much as it did. He finds himself smiling uncontrollably now, trying his hardest to stop a few emotional tears from falling upon his cheeks.

“Know that I believe in you, Link.”

That’s what cuts all the strings. Link gets up from his chair, kneeling in front of the bed to throw his arms around Sidon’s chest. He nestles his face against the crook of his neck, hugging him tightly without being sure of what level of closeness Sidon would allow from now. It’s an immense relief to feel the prince leaning into their embrace, placing a hand against the back of Link’s head and letting his finger play with a strand of hair. Sidon still feels a bit cold, but it doesn’t matter - Link’s attitude towards the prince had not been the best at times, and now must be the time to make up for it. He breathes against his scales, briefly considering a kiss just there - not now, it’s too early.

“You’re so warm, Link,” Sidon murmurs against his forehead, huddling against him a little more as he seeks for something to warm him up once again. Link quickly understands as he pulls away, hesitating on the next move he’ll make.

Do you want me to share it? He asks, something that brings a warmer color to the prince’s cheeks. He nods without hesitation, and Link wastes no time undressing, setting his armor pieces and his Zora suit onto the floor until only his undergarments cover him.

Sidon doesn’t need to say anything. Link slips into the bed with him, under the warm blankets and into Sidon’s arms. He can provide a good source of warmth like this - he hugs him tightly, letting it flow from him to the prince like a river. It has Sidon sighing in relief, placing his large hands against Link’s back and pulling him even closer.

It sort of reminds Link of that time in the Lurelin infirmary, when they both stayed silent for a few moments, their fingers laced together while Sidon couldn’t help but show that pleased grin, one that Link had long started to crave.

And while Link can’t see his face this time, he thinks he’s starting to decipher his emotions with just his senses, just like other Zoras. Every heartbeat he hears feels like a release of colors into his brain, every breath like something that carries him into a quietude he hasn’t felt in a long enough time.

Hopefully no one will come in.

*

While Link had hoped to stay a little longer, obviously a few of his coworkers needed to see Sidon too. So did Mipha, who must be worried sick despite how well the prince is recovering. He might only be able to leave his bed at the end of the day, but it’s fine, Link supposes - as long as he rests properly, the Hylian can’t complain.

But there’s someone else he needs to see, and she’s not as far away as Link believes. Mipha had informed the Hylian of Paya’s presence just outside of Rito village, waiting for him on one of the islets above Lake Totori. Link dresses warmly again as he goes out, almost expecting a ghost to show up on the bridge, but instead he finds her: Paya in the flesh, her smile long lost to the past with everything that was taken away from her. She’s not the girl Link once knew anymore, and he most certainly isn’t the boy she once knew either.

“Hello again,” she says, letting her hood down and revealing pure white hair that she had grown over the traditional Yiga black dye. The Sheikah emblem painted on her face isn’t something that she seems to hide anymore, and instead presents it proudly by keeping her fringe short.

Link finds himself at a loss of words, not having it in him to start the conversation. He had long accepted her death, had mourned her as he had with Xila and Luwas, and while he’s relieved to see her alive, the feeling of… ‘happiness’ isn’t quite there. There’s too much on his mind that prevents it.

“I don’t understand,” she finally speaks with a sigh, turning her back on him to move and sit at the barrier. Link joins her quietly, a stern expression across his features as he decides to keep his mask on for now. “How have you been running away from them all this time?” She asks.

You mean the Yiga? Link signs, surprised that it’s the first thing she would ask. I… settled somewhere else, for four years. In a place where they wouldn’t find me.

“Zora’s domain,” she nods to herself, reminiscing what the knights had told her. “I still don’t understand.”

Link purses his lips, giving up on explaining whatever Paya is trying to ask. A sharp stab of guilt makes itself known in his heart, and he decides to be the one to ask the next questions.

You’ve been alive this whole time? He signs, examining her once again to make sure he’s not dreaming. How? I saw you before I ran away, with Luwas - you two were on the ground, and you weren’t moving.

“I don’t know, Link,” she replies after a pause “To be honest, I did feel like death had overcome me that time. I don’t know how it works, but I’m sure of one thing,” She turns to face him, her light brown eyes peering right into him and freezing him in place. “Hylia had something to do with it.”

Link feels his heart stopping. Him too had been woken up after a gruesome event, something that should’ve killed him on the spot; Did Paya experience the same thing? It’s not an event he likes to reminisce, but he had long forgotten exactly how it all happened. And just because some priest told him it was Hylia’s work doesn’t mean it was necessarily true.

...Alright, perhaps there was still a little piece of himself that believed Hylia had saved him. But why him? He hadn’t asked for it. All that he had wanted was peace.

And should he mention it to Paya?

You still believe in her? Link asks, somewhat changing the subject. Maybe the Sheikah woman deserved this more than he did, but… It’s not something he can dwell on for now.

“I do now,” Paya replies, straightening herself back up. “When I woke up, I didn’t know why I was brought back. It took me a long enough time to understand, and now I’m certain of it. I’m alive because the clan has to go down, no matter what.”

Link feels himself tensing up at the words, and the volume of her voice raising has the few birds nestled in the pine trees flying away together in fear, leaving the islet more empty than it was before.

… So it was you who decimated some of the hideouts, Link signs slowly, connecting the dots and finally understanding the decrease of Yiga soldiers around Hyrule. Paya gives a quick nod, humbly bearing the responsibility that was given to her.

“I’m simply taking revenge. They all deserve it.” Upon closer examination, Link realizes that she doesn’t bear any visible scars, at least not on her face. She seems to have been fighting with such ease, predicting every movement the Yiga clan could ever think of doing. Link feels his throat tighten, his anguish coiling around it like a snake that threatens to choke him.

What if it had been the reason he was brought back as well? What if this whole time he’d been spending his days somewhat peacefully in Zora’s domain with a new purpose, while he was meant to fight against the Yiga clan and end them once and for all?

The choice had never been his to make. Paya had been taking it upon her to reduce them to ashes, sacrificing the last bit of humanity she had, while Link had done nothing to even contribute to it.

No wonder Hylia despises him.

I think I was brought back by Hylia too, he signs, keeping his head down and avoiding Paya’s eyes. The shame that weighs on him now that he understands her purpose is something that has him cowering, and now he understands what she meant by ‘running away’.

It’s what he’s always done. He’s ran away all his life, be it from justice, his doom, his true duty.

“I figured as much,” Paya replies, placing a hand upon Link’s shoulder in an attempt to reassure him, though it seems like her ability to empathize had long vanished as well. “What did Hylia say, when you asked for guidance? Were you led to Zora’s domain?”

It’s not exactly what happened; Kapson had led him there. He’s not sure he can say it’s Hylia’s decision, really. I haven’t heard the Goddess’s words ever since Xila left us, he replies, and that much was true. Even when I tried to talk to her in desperate times.

Paya lets out a sigh, her hand sliding away and resting against the barrier. “Perhaps you haven’t listened properly,” she replies, and Link feels his heart dropping into his ribcage. Maybe he hasn’t. Maybe he was the one being too stupid to open himself to the Goddess, to be receptive to her words.

“You must be here for the same reason as I am,” the woman continues, scooting closer to him until their shoulders touch. The more she says, the more Link wants to let himself fall into the lake to hide from the shame, to punish himself for being so ignorant. How could he have been staying in that domain all this time, when another duty called out to him?

“Listen, Link,” Paya finally utters, turning to face him once more. The determination in her eyes burns incessantly, the ghosts of her past lending her all their power to fulfill her role. “Come with me. I have a house in Kakariko village; We can live there together, and finish the job. Let’s go home and put an end to the Yiga clan.”

He’s never seen her more decided. Link looks back at her, his gaze frozen, his jaw clenching.

The wind is as cold as the sweat on the back of his neck.

Chapter Text

The very early hours of the morning pass by slowly, something that Link is rather thankful for. Standing up while being on guard duty had brought a strain to his bones, and he can’t help but slouch against his chair in the main hall of the inn. He watches the clock through his half-lidded eyes, listening to the tick, waiting for the exhaustion to catch him.

He could be waiting in his bed, but he’s not sure he wants to be completely alone for now. His thoughts always get the best of him when he has nothing or no one to occupy his mind; And thankfully, Rivan and Dunma are sitting with him, devouring their dinner a lot later than everyone else had. The two had somehow managed to get rooms in the inn, while some other guards had been forced to ask for the Rito villagers’ hospitality due to the lack of available rooms.

Link had done the same, reluctantly. Sleeping outside in Hebra was never a good idea, and he knows that much. The harsh cold of the mountaintops always tends to descend onto the village, swallowing the air in its icy wind that could make even a Rito shiver. Teba, a Rito warrior had offered him his guest room, something that Link had accepted with almost no hesitation. Sleeping in a stranger’s house wasn’t something he’d expected he’d have to do, but he supposes it’s not too bad, if it only lasts a few nights.

Surprisingly, Rivan and Dunma had accepted Link’s secret as easily as Tottika did. Well, Rivan had always been a good friend, and Link can remember his words, ‘Those were just a few stolen rupees, right?’ Link isn’t sure he’d give it such a light description, even if in the end, it was the truth - the Hylian had never physically hurt anyone in his Yiga days, aside from his previous master. Perhaps that felt more forgivable, for some.

Everyone in their group is settled inside for now, be it in their rooms, in the hall, or in front of the royal siblings’ doors to watch over them. And it’s a surprise to Link that his Zora friends all seem to wear clothing this time, even while inside - after all, the bird-people had enough feathers on them to withstand a bit of chill into their homes. But the climate is something that the residents of Lanayru are far from used to; They wear basic black shirts, the sleeves rolled up to let their ulnar fins breathe. The sight has the Hylian smirking to himself; It’s unusual to see them wearing any kind of clothes, and to be truthful, it’s pretty comical to see them like this. Not that it didn’t look good.

“Link, you really should go sleep,” Dunma says,  covering her mouth with her palm to conceal her obvious yawning.“What will Teba say if you wake up his entire family when you get there? You’ll look like a burglar.”

Link shrugs it off, waving his hand in dismissal. He told me I could enter by the window to the guest room. Ritos are surprisingly chill about that sort of things, you know.

“I see,” she replies, her eyes bleary and looking nowhere near his direction. She could be sleeping too, instead of giving him advice that she won’t even follow herself. “By the way, you haven’t spoken to Torfeau or Bazz yet, have you?”

Her question has Link feeling a sharp sting to his heart, something he tries to smother in whatever way he can. I’ve been trying , he begins, heaving a deep sigh that laces itself with anxiety. They don’t even want to look at me right now, he signs defeatedly, looking down at his feet and fidgeting with his wristplates.

With his words, Dunma’s eyes fall to the floor as well. But before she can open her mouth to speak again, her father is the one to do so.

“I don’t know about Torfeau, but I know Bazz has been in the worst mood since we got here,” Rivan says, scratching as one of his forefins in contemplation. “Let’s just say… He’s tense, and I know him well. He hasn’t seen his boyfriend in nearly a month. You know how it is.”

Dad ,” Dunma grumbles into her palm, rolling her eyes in second-hand embarrassment. “I don’t know if that’s the reason, but it almost sounds like the poor guy will snarl at anybody right now. Maybe you should talk to him a bit later, when the tension has died down.”

Link thinks for a moment. Talking with Bazz seems even more terrifying than it is with Torfeau - he’s the guard captain, after all. If he truly hates him now, he could make his career a living hell. That is, if Link does stay in the royal guard.

Paya’s proposal is still anchored into his mind, despite his desperate tries to bring his thoughts to another, more relaxing place. He needs some time to think, and he had made that much clear to the Sheikah woman. Is he ready to leave the domain, to leave behind the friends he’d made the past few years and all his accomplishments?

He still baffles himself when he realizes that he’s still hesitating. What a coward.

I’ll wait, Link signs, concealing his anguish by averting his eyes. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me, though.

“Come on, don’t say that,” Dunma pipes up with a tired smile, shaking her head and placing a hand upon his shoulder. “He’s a softie, deep down. He appreciates you too much to let this be the complete end of your friendship.”

Link sighs to himself. Their words don’t reassure him too much - he still has to prove himself to be the dutiful guard he’d been, something that he can’t exactly convince himself of at the moment. No matter what they all say, the self-doubt, the self-loathing is still there, trapped into the depths of his soul and reaching for his brain like vines.

He really should go to sleep.

*

It doesn’t seem like Torfeau will fall asleep anytime soon.

The bitterness is stuck in her throat still, stirring through her until she feels nauseous. Every now and then she sits up straight, takes deep breaths only to lie back down and let her thoughts come back into the same pattern. The exhaustion laughs in her face like an annoying bokoblin that would’ve caught her off guard, but its weight isn’t enough to help her eyelids fall shut.

“Are you going to stop shifting around?”

A voice makes itself heard in the room, quiet but clear enough for the black Zora’s disoriented mind to understand. Torfeau turns around, her eyes finding Gaddison’s own - the other woman lies onto the bed at the other side of the room, her body covered in a warm blanket. The two had been part of the unlucky ones who couldn’t join the inn, but thankfully, the gentle Rito lady who goes by the name of Amali had graciously offered them both her hospitality.

“No,” Torfeau replies bluntly, rubbing at her eyes when they water with the fatigue. “No, I’m not. Sorry that you have to deal with me.” She mumbles under her breath, turning her back on her with an annoyed sigh.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Gaddison replies, a hint of guilt showing in her tone. “Look, I understand that you’re upset, but you really need to sleep. You’re exhausted.”

“I’m really trying, you know,” the black Zora mutters defeatedly, turning to face the ceiling once again. “I haven’t spoken to him yet.” Her voice is quieter, apologetic. She’s probably being a burden, talking out loud about her problems like this.

“Link?” Gaddison asks, the corners of her mouth falling as she frowns. “Why?”

Torfeau stammers, the start of a sentence catching itself in her throat before she can truly feel like speaking. “I can’t do it,” she explains, “I thought I could talk to him about anything, and I thought he would talk to me about anything too. I was under the impression that we were best friends by now! Turns out it had all been a stupid joke.” She feels the tears well up as she speaks, something she tries to push away by biting at the inside of her cheek. “Why didn’t he let me know? I would have helped him.”

Gaddison lets a silence pass as she watches her, seeing only a few movements in the dark of their room. It feels strangely cold all of a sudden, and Torfeau can’t help but grumble as she pulls the covers over herself.

“I’m not even a good enough friend,” she adds, stifling a sob and biting at her claws. And here she thought she knew everything about him, so much that he had told her had been lies - it feels surreal, to feel like she doesn’t even know him anymore.

“...I think you should try and let him explain himself next time you see him,” Gaddison says, sighing deeply. “It’s not easy for him, when you don’t even look at him. He was rather saddened today when he crossed our path.”

Torfeau thinks for an instant, reminiscing the look of the Hylian’s face as he watched her go. While it hurts, she would surely have yelled if she had spoken at the time, something she’d like to avoid in the middle of the village that welcomed them so warmly.

“Well, he has Prince Sidon to make him feel better, I suppose.” She shrugs to herself, closing her eyes once again.

“Now, that’s a childish way to think,” Gaddison replies, almost scolding. “Giving him the silent treatment isn’t going to help at all. You want to be a good friend? At least give him a chance to convince you.”

Torfeau feels her jaw aching as she grits her teeth, almost giving a retort to Gaddison before realizing that she’s most likely right. She could do better, she knows, yet she still feels as if Link would only lie to her again.

“I guess I can try,” Torfeau whispers defeatedly, trying to let the conversation drop for now . It must be so late now, perhaps three in the morning, and she has no business being awake at this hour - the same goes for Gaddison. Why is her friend awake at this time, anyway?

“You’re in love with him or something?” Gaddison asks, a slight tremble to her voice as she tries to keep quiet to not wake up Amali and her family.  With a confused frown, Torfeau sits back up again, staring in disbelief at the other woman.

“I don’t like men that way,” she replies, as if it were that obvious. She thought it was, honestly. “We’re best friends. It’s only natural that I would get upset, isn’t it?”

Gaddison hums to her words, laying back onto her bed. The black Zora can’t quite see the expression that draws itself on her, but she can detect a shift in her mood, something she can’t quite put her finger on for now.

“I see. Forgive me for being inconsiderate,” Gaddison adds, and Torfeau shrugs it off. Still, it bothers her.

“Do you care?” Torfeau asks, a hint of hope in her voice, her fingers curling around the bedsheet. She’s come back to a state of complete awareness now, and she curses herself, knowing the next day will be difficult to go through.

“Hm, maybe a little bit.”

It’s all that the lavender Zora replies as she turns to face the wall herself this time. It seems to put a stop to their conversation, without so much of a goodnight, and Torfeau can’t help but feel frustrated with everything - if she had hair, she would be pulling at it to calm herself down.

She lets herself fall against the mattress once again, sighing deeply and giving a weak flick of her tail.

*

The night passes, restless for some, peaceful for others. It’s Sidon’s first real night of sleep since they’ve reached Tabantha, and as unusual as it is, he falls into a deep slumber as soon as the sun goes down. The guards do their best, taking turns on watching the sibling’s rooms, eventually getting a few hours of sleep before another day in the cold region.

Link finds himself waking up a bit later than usual, bleary-eyed and feeling outright disgusting. A shower would be perfect right now. The light of day comes through the blinds, a little too bright for his liking, but it helps him get up at the very least.

Once he’s made himself more presentable, he walks out of the guest room, meeting Teba, his wife and their son sitting at a their round table. The three greet him with something of a smile, if they could even do that with their beaks.

Good morning, Link signs, ruffling a hand through his hair. It’s a little embarrassing to show himself like this, but the Ritos were the least judgemental race of Hyrule, he had noticed.

“Did you sleep well?” Teba asks, gesturing for him to sit and eat breakfast with them. Link nods in response, signing a small thanks when Saki offers him a plate. The breakfast consists of a sweet omelet, decorated with currants and various berries Link doesn’t know the name of. They’re all somewhat sour, with a pleasing taste that has Link smiling a little more, helping him wake up completely.

“Dad!” Tulin suddenly speaks up as he stuffs his beak with more food. “Can Link come to the flight range with us today? I want to see how Hylians fly!”

“Tulin,” Teba begins, rolling his eyes. “Hylians can’t fly. Besides, I’m sure Link has other business to take care of today.”

Tulin’s wings fall down defeatedly, a pouty expression showing on his fluff-covered face. He’s an adorable child, energetic like a cricket and turbulent like a tornado. Link finds himself chuckling at his antics, briefly considering the kid’s idea.

He isn’t sure that he would have time to do so, but he would really like to blow off some steam. And the only way to do that for him is to use his physical skills, be it by using a sword or a bow. Firing arrows at anything could help right now, after all that’s happened, and using a training method was probably better than going out to find some dangerous beast to fight.

I might be able to go with you for a bit, if Prince Sidon and Lady Mipha are already with their guards. And I have a paraglider, so I can somewhat fly, he says, looking at Tulin with a bright smile, and eyeing Teba for a permission.

“Well, I did see the two of them leaving for Warbler’s nest accompanied with two of their knights…” Saki says, carefully cutting her food into pieces.

“Oh.” Teba faces Link again, his natural resting bitch face still managing to scare the Hylian a bit. “Well then, I don’t see any problem with you coming along. I’ll admit I’m pretty curious about how someone would use the paraglider and fire arrows at the same time.”

Link gives a quick nod, already wanting to leave the house and head to the flight range. He hasn’t done that kind of tricks in a while, but he’s sure it’ll come back to him soon enough - besides, it’ll help him perfect his combat skills, something he feels like he’ll need greatly, and soon.

*

The path to the Warbler’s nest is a little treacherous, but it’s nothing Sidon can’t handle. He had recovered nicely from his hypothermia, and now he can actually allow himself to go out on a stroll to enjoy what the region had to offer. They can’t wander too far in the monster-ridden mountains, but the surroundings of the the village are nice enough - besides, the atmosphere is a little different here.

While his trip in other regions was mostly to visit places, to admire them aesthetically, Hebra is full of locals wishing to share their culture. The Ritos all seem overjoyed to have them, and Sidon already feels like he’s made friends with them, somehow.

He follows Kass, a Rito bard, an exotic type who often wanders far away from home. His five daughters lead the way, the small colorful birds a group that he’s sure he’s seen before on the night Dinraal showed at the great bridge. Mipha, Torfeau and Gaddison come along, coming to a halt when they reach the hill.

Five strangely shaped pillars stand in a circle,  and each of them bear a single hole in them. Before he can ask what they are, Kass speaks up.

“These are some kind of ancient instruments,” he begins, gesturing at the stones. “When the wind passes through them, they all release a different melodious tone. They were carved long ago, before I was even born,” he adds, gesturing for the Zoras to follow him a little further. “I usually use my own instrument when we practice here, though.”

Kass takes his accordion, holds it firmly as he makes sure the instrument works well. The five little girls hop around, soon standing in a line in front of their father.

“And they’re my singers. It is really an honor to have you here - people willing to listen to our music always puts us in a bright mood,” Kass says, his smile warm and his eyes softening when the Zoras sit in the grass.

“My brother and I are fervent musicians as well,” Mipha muses, something that has Sidon letting out a startled sound. He’s not used to revealing his hobby to others, but he supposes it’ll be fine, if Kass is as passionate as he is.

“Oh my, is that right?” Kass asks, his eyes widening in pleasant surprise. “May I ask what instruments you two play?” The little girls turn to them, their eyes full of sparkles while awaiting their response.

“I am a singer,” Mipha replies, “Though it’s become quite difficult to train, lately. I might be a little rusty.” She clears her throat as she speaks, turning to Sidon to push him to reply as well.

“I play the cello,” Sidon says, somewhat embarrassed. “I would have loved to accompany you, but I wasn’t able to bring my instrument, seeing how large it is…”

“No way!” One of the rito girls calls out, jumping in place and waving her wings around. “Mom plays the cello too!”

“What a pleasant coincidence!” Kass utters, his eyes lighting up with interest. “I’m sure Amali wouldn’t mind lending it to you. You could show us what you can do!”

“I missed watching you perform,” Torfeau addresses the siblings, “Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity? I am sure everyone would love to hear you.” Her grip on her spear loosens as she speaks up, flashing a toothy smile.

“Perhaps it would help us relax a little,” Mipha replies with a sheepish smile. “But for now, why don’t you show us what your band can do? I cannot wait to hear your music.” Sidon nods to her words, avoiding the subject for now. Performing in front of an audience is something he hasn’t done in a while, and truth be told, he’s not sure he can keep up with his sister.

“Of course, Your Highness,” Kass says, finally turning to face his daughters. The five girls stand up straight in front of him, their fluffy, vibrant feathers puffing in enthusiasm. “Ready? One, two, three…”

The bard begins, playing a few notes that are already pleasant to the ears. The accordion plays a traditional Rito song alone at first, with Kass’s light feathers tapping onto the keys, leading the sound into melody. It feels lively in the middle of this empty hill, a delight to hear, and soon, his daughters join him.

They harmonize, each of them singing a different note. Their tweeting is much more tuneful than the actual birds’ chirping, light whistling that accompanies the breeze winnowing through the tall grass. The Zoras have gone quiet as they listen, enjoying each and every note, soon swaying to the gentle rhythm. Sidon closes his eyes after some time, enjoying the sound, nothing else - it helps him forget about the cold, about the ache in his side where the ground has scratched him a few nights ago. If only the next few days of his trip could be that peaceful, he thinks he couldn’t ask for anything more.

But as the music plays on, it’s as though his surroundings disappear into nothing. Only the song is here, accompanying him as he breathes, slowing down with a change in its tune. It sounds unnatural, he realizes - it goes off-key, descends an octave until it’s nothing but a cacophony of deafening sounds. He wants to open his eyes, to try and understand what’s going on; They stay closed, as if stuck in time as he feels a cold sweat onto the back of his neck. Low speaking can be heard, incessant chattering around him that whistles into his brain.

The eye of the Yiga flashes before him like lightning, the mask of a blademaster facing him one more time. It has his throat tightening so much he can barely breathe, desperately searching for something to hold onto, to prevent the thief from taking him away once again.

“Sidon!”

His sister’s voice resonates through him like a bell, shaking through his entire body as he opens his eyes. He catches his breath in his throat, his gaze finding itself onto the band once again, who had kept playing their song without interruption.

“What happened? Are you alright?” Mipha asks, shaking him slightly by the shoulder to help him come back to his senses. Sidon takes a good look around, his breathing slowing down when he realizes that all of this had only been some kind of nightmare he’d made while wide awake.

“...Yes, I’m fine,” he stammers, his hands finding their way onto the ground at his sides. He feels the grass beneath his palms, grounding himself into reality once more. “I just felt… some sharp pain in my back, that’s all.” He lies, obviously. There’s no need to worry his sister with meaningless images he had seen out of nowhere.

Mipha pulls back, her expression showing concern as heavy as the atmosphere now. “Sidon… I worry about you. You don’t seem well at all.” She scoots closer to him, speaking quietly enough as to not bother the musicians. “Do you want to go home?”

Sidon’s head turns sharply, his tail landing in front of his shoulder with the force. “No! Of course not!” He replies defensively, shaking his head. “I’m not done yet. I still have to visit Eldin, why would I stop now?”

“Because you were attacked multiple times, and you’re exhausted,” Mipha says, pinching at the pink skin under her brow. “Are you sure you want to go on? You can always come back in a few months, you know. This isn’t urgent.”

Sidon grits his teeth, surprised at his own irritability. “Yes, I’m sure. I can handle this, trust me. I am not a child anymore.”

“Alright,” Mipha finally gives up, her shoulders dropping. “I will send a letter to father to let him know how things are going. But do not lie to me, alright? If you don’t feel well, I need to know.”

Sidon finds himself forgetting about the music for now, his head dropping to stare at the grass. “Yes,” he simply replies, not wanting to address the subject any longer. It’s true that he’s been feeling… out of it. But he’ll get over it, won’t he? It’s what he’s always done, after all. There’s no need for his sister to worry, or anyone else for that matter.

They end up staying there for a little longer than planned, but well, it’s not like they had other places to be anyway. Kass shows them a collection of songs, their origins all differing from each other: He even knows one traditional Zora song, something that has them humming along. Even so close to the mountains, the sun still shines brightly enough to make the air warm, and Sidon removes his coat, only keeping the shirt that had been offered to him.

If he had to pick a favorite place to be during his Hyrule tour so far, it would be this one.

A little pitter-patter can be heard from further away, the sound of talons prancing through the grass. Sidon turns his head around, his eyes meeting the shape of a small Rito child covered in white feathers. He approaches excitedly, though somewhat timidly once he notices the presence of the royal siblings.

“Oh, hello Tulin!” Mipha salutes him with a wave of her hand, to which the child hops in joy.

“Hello, Prince and Princess!” He greets them, bowing adorably and almost tripping onto himself. “The weather is so nice today!”

Sidon’s smile grows as he watches the child, barely noticing the two other silhouette walking towards them. It’s only when he raises his eyes that he sees Link, silver bow in hand and a quiver full of arrows. He’s accompanied by a Rito, one he assumes must be Teba.

Meeting the Hylian again relieves the weight that was pressing on his heart just moments ago. Link’s mouth is covered by his usual mask, but the Zora can tell that he’s smiling - it’s a rare sight to see, and Sidon finds himself staring for perhaps a little longer than intended.

“Since it’s so sunny,” Teba begins, crossing his wings together. “We were thinking about eating outside, at the flank of our mountain. What do you think?”

“That sounds lovely!” Sidon exclaims, giving a full smile. Truly, it’ll help to be surrounded by as many people as possible - he’s still feeling a little jumpy, and he’s not sure he can be left alone with his thoughts.

“Then let’s meet over there in about half an hour.”

*

They’ve started to settle themselves in the tall grass, reunited in small groups. A few Ritos accompany them, including Teba and his family, Kass and his family, and… a plum-colored Rito whose identity is a mystery to Sidon. She must be related to the others in some way.

The Zoras and Ritos all gather food at the designated spot: Mostly cold meat, various types of salad and pastries for dessert. The sight is truly breathtaking, now that Sidon looks up; He can see the mountaintops from there, raising towards a bright blue sky with only a few clouds sprinkled here and there. The air isn’t warm enough for the Zoras to remove their turtlenecks, but the prince has begun to enjoy the clothing anyway, something he didn’t believe would happen anytime soon. The fabric is soft enough to not roughen up his scales, and not too tight around his shoulder fins.

Before Sidon can even sit down, Kass saunters over to him and his sister with amazement shining in his round eyes.

“Amali brought her cello,” he says, gesturing to his wife, and Sidon turns to face her. The green Rito shows up with her instrument, carved in a wood much darker than Sidon’s own. It’s a lot smaller, most likely because of her own size, appearing as if it had just been tidied for the occasion.

“Oh, are you going to play, Your Highness?” Bazz asks, showing his first smile since they’ve arrived at the village.

“I suppose I can try,” Sidon replies sheepishly, taking in hand the instrument that Amali lends to him for now.

Truth be told, he would’ve liked to spend a little more time with Link, to speak with him about a few… issues, but he can’t abandon his hosts now, can he?

At least, Link seems pleased with the scene that’s about to play in front of his eyes. His gaze focuses on Sidon the whole time as he takes the chair that Kass’s daughters give him, sitting himself on it.

“Will you allow me to accompany you with my voice?” Mipha asks as she stands, joining her brother with a smile, standing between him and the little Rito singers.

Kass is the one to begin the music, the traditional Zora song that had been played a bit earlier in the day. It’s been a long time since Link has heard it - it was played most often during the annual festival, or other exceptional events. But the Hylian still doesn’t know the lyrics, even after four years.

Sidon soon follows with the cello, his hand moving gracefully as he slides the bow across the strings, his fingers changing positions onto the neck with every different note. While he seemed certainly nervous at first, he seems to find peace in what he does, his smile growing as the music goes on, his muscles relaxing to let the tune flow naturally. Link can only admire his talent, the hard work that must have been put behind it all - while the Hylian knows next to nothing about music, he’s sure the cello must be difficult to play.

It’s the singers’ turn to add themselves to the song, fading in slowly, growing in volume like a miniature choir. Mipha’s voice stands out, much more mature and sharpened with skill, an incredible vibrato that could make anybody tremble.

The lyrics are in an ancient tongue, one Link can’t exactly decipher. It tells tales his mind can only make up as the music goes on, something the Zoras must hold dear, seeing how Rivan’s eyes water whenever the chorus ends.

But as the show goes on, stomachs start to growl for them to dig in. While Sidon is still playing, Link is unsure who he should eat with; Rivan and Dunma are hanging out with Bazz, and Link isn’t sure he’s ready to confront him just yet. Tottika is alone with Misa, entranced as she sings along, and there’s no way he’ll go and bother them. He supposes he could find Teba again, but as he tries to reach for the white Rito, a scaly hand tugs gently at his wrist.

Link turns around, and his eyes meet Gaddison, who gives him a toothy smile. She doesn’t seem to want to say anything, instead gesturing where Torfeau is, and Link shrugs in confusion.

“Come eat with us!” Gaddison finally pipes up, and she doesn’t give him a choice, really. He’s already tense when his gaze settles on Torfeau, who still hasn’t looked at him and would rather look at the hearty radish salad she’s about to stuff her mouth with.

Perhaps now is the best time to say anything, if she even wants to look up. Link gives a hesitant nod, letting himself get dragged towards the black Zora to sit at her side.

“I almost forgot!” Gaddison explains as soon as he’s settled down, using her poor acting skills as she places a hand against her own cheek. “I need to go talk to Bazz for a moment. I’ll be back soon!”

Link sighs to himself, only more stiff now that he finds himself alone with Torfeau. Come on, he thinks, after all, she’s his best friend, and conflict never ever solved itself without communication, did it?

Except, the atmosphere feels as though a meteor was gravitating around them, threatening disaster at any second. After a full minute of silence, Torfeau finally raises her head, forgetting her meal for the time being. Her eyes look… softer than he had anticipated, and Link can’t help but avert his own.

“Listen, Link, I-”

Link interrupts her immediately, waving his hand in dismissal in front of her face. She pulls back in surprise, and Link starts to sign. Waiting any longer will just make himself look like an idiot at this point.

No, no, he begins, pointing to himself. I’m sorry. You already know all of what I did, so I won’t try to defend myself with that. It was wrong to step into your hometown like a fortunate stranger, without ever saying what was up with me.

He pauses for a moment, watching the way Torfeau’s mouth falls into a saddened frown. She waits, unwilling to speak until Link finishes doing so.

Only a handful of people knew all along, all very close to the king, he signs again, his head dropping. But I never tried to tell anyone else. I… should’ve told you. I should’ve told you when we became close friends, that I wasn’t the type of person I made myself out to be.

As he explains himself, he realizes one thing: If this matter had never come to light, would he have even considered telling the truth to others? Probably not. So what is he expecting to get out of it? He’s lying to himself, and he knows it.

I’m sorry, he signs it again, and he would do it over and over, if it meant he could obtain her forgiveness. Being her friend made his introduction into Zora society much easier than it would’ve been, were he alone to try and understand his new lifestyle. You taught me so much, yet I didn’t have what it took to stop lying, like a real friend would have.

It’s as if the tension drops, the music continuing but barely noticeable now that Link lets his thoughts reach the black Zora. She stares for too long, long enough that Link starts to believe he’s said something wrong - but anything he’s ever said to her was wrong, anyway.

“I’m… at least reassured that you see me as a friend,” Torfeau starts speaking, and Link’s ears perk up to not miss a single word. “In these four years, perhaps I didn’t know everything, but your behavior had always been somewhat enigmatic to me. You were avoidant at times, you would often hide in weird, unreachable places…”

Link can’t deny it. In the early years of his arrival at the domain, self-loathing, grief and regret were almost the only three emotions he would ever feel. He couldn’t let it show so easily to his new acquaintances, his friends, his partners, and so he would hide, drowning those emotions into gross alcohol until he felt nothing but the sickening sway of his vision. Maybe it would’ve been different, if he had taken the risk of revealing everything to the friend that had accepted him so easily despite his shitty personality.

“Some kind of amalgam formed itself in my head, when I learned so brutally about your past,” Torfeau continues, a sheepish smile spreading across her tired features. “I started thinking your avoidance meant that you were only pretending… to be my friend. That you were only there to betray us. Sorry, this is probably a ridiculous thing to say.” She rubs a hand against her own arm, her gaze downcast before Link catches her attention again.

It’s not ridiculous at all, Torfeau, he signs hurriedly. I can understand why you felt that way. I was a jerk, always running away from situations and never facing them. I didn’t want you to know how miserable I was, I couldn’t accept how miserable I was.

He pauses for a moment, taking some time to realize how relieving it is to finally say what had been on his mind. I want to be a better friend. I want to be a better person in general, and I promise I’ll do whatever I can for it.

“Link…” Torfeau whispers his name, her mouth trembling. Her emotional state and lack of sleep must have drained her so much that she can’t retain the few tears, and as soon as Link is done talking, she pulls him into a strong hug.

“I’m sorry that I’ve been so angry,” Torfeau says, choking back a sob and holding him tight. “You’ve grown so much, even if it only has been four years… But no matter what, promise you’ll come to me if you become lost again.”

Link breathes in, throwing his arms around her and nodding against her shoulder. He truly had been the worst, all this time, yet his friend is still willing to forgive him - Hylia bless this woman. The thought has the hope rising in his chest again, that maybe he could go back home with them all.

Gaddison returns once they’ve started eating again, assuming they’re done with their conversation. It was considerate of her to leave, in the end; Link doesn’t think he would’ve been able to say it all, had she been present.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to eat with Sidon. Once their concert had been done, he had stayed with his sister, making up for all this time they’d been away from each other. Link can’t exactly blame him for this - the prince needed space after all, just like Link did sometimes.

It’s only when they start to move away, to progressively go back to their own activities that Sidon shows himself. He walks towards Link, a somewhat hesitant expression across his face - he scratches at his forefin, and Link decides to speak.

You’re really talented with that cello, he signs, pulling down his mask to reveal a smile. It has Sidon beaming up with joy, a red hue obviously spreading across his cheeks.

“Oh, thank you, Link-” He stammers, seemingly embarrassed by the praise. “I am glad you enjoyed that.”

An awkward silence falls around them, as if the both of them were waiting for something to happen - what, exactly? Link can’t help but look around, to see if someone is looking at them standing in front of each other without speaking.

“I was thinking,” Sidon finally breaks the silence, a huge relief to the Hylian who was starting to think the prince was waiting for him to say something interesting. “You have… Been spending your nights in a local’s guest room, right?” He asks, and Link only has to nod, gesturing to Teba further away with his head.

“Right, well,” the Zora starts again, adorably flustered. “I was wondering if you would perhaps prefer coming to the inn? Perhaps it would feel more… familiar.” He clears his throat, and Link can’t help the smirk that tugs at his lips incessantly.

You want me to sleep in your room? Link asks, pointing to the prince and back at himself repeatedly.

Sidon finally nods, pressing his hand against his tail until it rests onto his back. “If you would like to, I can make more room for you in… my bed. There’s only one - I mean-”

Link is sure he’s never seen Sidon so red-faced before. The great Prince Sidon, losing his composure over such a simple request? It’s unlike him.

Still, Link truly didn’t expect the proposal. While his emotional closeness with the prince seemed to stay the same after what happened, the Hylian thought their physical bond would fade, for some reason.

I would love that, Your Highness, he teases, briefly brushing Sidon’s hand with his gloved fingertips. The look on Sidon’s face after that reply couldn’t ever be traded for anything else. He stops worrying about his bashfulness, instead showing pure emotion, and Link can’t help but return it.

The contrast between this and Paya’s own expression is staggering.

While Link could have been doing many other things to occupy his afternoon, for example walking up to the flank of the Hebra mountain trail like everyone else, he decides to go back to the flight range. He had gotten quite used to the combination of his paraglider and his arrows, as unpractical as it seems - it’s as if time stopped whenever he would nock an arrow, allowing him to aim towards the targets in the crevice.

He has to perfect this technique. Anything that will help him fight to protect others, he’ll train for it. Teba isn’t even there to watch, but Link doesn’t mind being alone, at least that’s what he believes he is until he turns his paraglider around.

From above, he notices a figure watching him at the edge of the crevice. Paya stands there, leaning against one of the wooden pillars, arms crossed as she looks up at him. Link stops concentrating for a moment, trying to convince himself once again that she’s not a ghost.

He knows she’s not waiting for him to come down. He knows she’s not here to praise him for his improvements on archery. Her heart is much too heavy with tragedy, begrudging acceptance that she’s not surrounded with her family anymore. She only has Link left, but what good is he if he can’t even fight the Yiga clan properly?

It’s become difficult to read her. For now she follows along, watching over their group without showing herself. If their Hyrule tour continues despite the incidents, will she follow until Link comes with her? It’s what the Hylian deduces from her stare, anyway, and knowing her ever since he was a child somewhat helped.

He can’t blame her. He’s been supposed to hold the same responsibility as her all this time, and he can’t run away anymore. For now he buries his heartache, swallowing the bitter taste in his mouth as he remembers that he’ll have to leave his home.

It’s not quite right, he realizes.

He never deserved to call Zora’s domain ‘ home ’.

*

“I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

Torfeau turns around, meeting Gaddison’s eyes once again. The night has already settled, the stars forming little dots into a darkened sky. The moon is full, and the black Zora already knows the natural phenomenon makes her restless - as disappointing as it is, it doesn’t seem like she’ll get much more sleep this night either.

“I’m glad too,” Torfeau replies, removing her armor plates and setting them against a corner of the room. It relieves her from the heaviness, has her feeling light enough that she could levitate. Gaddison does the same, leaving her rare lavender scales completely uncovered.

“I didn’t get the chance to ask you,” Gaddison continues, sitting at the edge of her bed. “But how was the trip, until you came here? Did you enjoy Gerudo town?” She opens her eyes wide, waiting for an exciting story and kicking her legs slightly.

Torfeau hums happily, rummaging through her bag for a moment. “It was beautiful, and everyone was so nice there,” she replies, reminiscing the beautiful women and the many compliments she had received, being among their rare Zora visitors. “I spent almost a whole day there, so I got to see pretty much everything.”

“I’m jealous,” the other woman lets out a chuckle, her teeth gleaming in a smile. “I wish I could go there one day. I should take some days off, considering how much I’ve worked for the past two years,” she adds with a yawn, eliciting a giggle from the black Zora.

“It’s true that you’ve been hard on yourself,” Torfeau says, taking out the jewelry she had bought on her visit to the desert region. The sapphire circlet is still settled neatly into its black, velvety box, and she opens it under Gaddison’s eyes. “Doesn’t this look lovely?”

“Hmm, it does,” Gaddison muses, her hand moving, retracting as to not touch the luxurious ornament. “Can you put it on? I want to see,” she adds, her gaze focusing on Torfeau until the black Zora accepts.

Torfeau takes the circlet in hand, carefully placing it on top of her head, sliding it around her tail. It’s definitely not made to be worn like this, but it’s not like she can do anything about it - besides, it’s still comfortable, and still charming in her opinion.

“You’re beautiful,” the lavender Zora comments, resting her head against her hand.

“Stop it,” Torfeau waves her hand in dismissal, turning her head to hide the sudden warmth that reaches her cheeks.

“I mean it,” she says, finally standing back up and walking closer to her friend. She steps slowly onto the wooden floor, her arms soon reaching Torfeau, pulling her towards her until their forms are locked into a sweet embrace. Torfeau finds herself stiffening, unresponsive for now - she still rests her chin onto Gaddison’s shoulder instinctively.

“I really missed you, you know?” Gaddison murmurs, caressing the back of Torfeau’s tail in long, languid strokes. “We usually see each other every day, so I wasn’t used to you being so far away from me.”

Torfeau hums with a faint smile, progressively relaxing in her hold. “It’s unlike you to be so affectionate,” she replies, wrapping her arms around the other Zora’s waist. “What happened?”

“Nothing happened!” The lavender Zora replies defensively, pulling back to let her eyes meet Torfeau’s own. “I just- I felt like saying nice things, for once. I’m not completely heartless, you know?”

Torfeau feels her heart swell at the simple gesture, reassuring words coming from her… friend with benefits. It had only ever been that way between them, and she had understood that much, but it still feels nice to know that the other woman cares about her, even if sometimes she wished for a little more. She moves forward, gently bumping her forehead with Gaddison’s own.

“Now you’re the one being affectionate,” she says as she lets her eyelids close, pressing a quick peck onto the black Zora’s cheek.

“Yes, well,” Torfeau sighs, cupping the other woman’s face with her hands and letting her golden gaze peer into Gaddison’s own. “Perhaps I did miss you too.”

She pushes forward, pressing her lips onto her own and keeping her in place. Gaddison replies instantly, hugging her tighter, her fingers twitching against her back. It feels so tingly, so nice - Torfeau could live off of it, if she had the chance. For now she kisses at her slightly chapped lips, feeling the taste of her dear friend once again, a deep and passionate sensation that she unfortunately craved.

If only things were easier, but the word ‘easy’ was never meant to be in the same sentence as Gaddison’s name. It’s fine after all, Torfeau often thought, at least she has something to hold onto, even if it never meant anything more.

“Do you want to have a little fun?” Gaddison asks as she pulls back, a smirk growing onto her lips.

“What? Gaddison, we’re in someone else’s house-

“They can’t hear anything from where they are, can they?” Gaddison retorts, keeping her distance as long as she doesn’t have the other woman’s permission. “I’ve missed that too, you know. If you still want me, I promise I’ll be careful.”

Torfeau shudders at the thought. It’s true that it’s been a while, and Gaddison might go back to the domain with Mipha soon, only separating them even longer. And who knows how long their trip to Eldin will last.

Perhaps it’s not so bad of an idea, after all.

*

Link has to admit: the bed in Sidon’s room seems much more comfortable than the weird hammock he’d been sleeping on in Teba’s guest room. The place is warmer, too, and even if it’ll be his turn to keep watch outside of the siblings’ rooms eventually, he knows he’ll have a good few hours of sleep beforehand.

“I hope the space in my bed will be sufficient for you,” Sidon muses, hanging his coat by the door and keeping the dark shirt on. “And you shouldn’t hesitate to wake me up if I… move around too much. I tend to be quite restless when I fall asleep.” He says it with a sheepish smile, sitting himself at the edge of the bed and watching as Link removes his armor plates.

Thank you again for letting me come here for the night, he signs, sitting at the prince’s side and sighing in relief. The day had been long, exhausting after all that time he’d spent in the flight range, but he feels like his archery has improved, at the very least.

“...It is my pleasure, of course,” Sidon replies with a side glance towards the wall, moving hesitantly to remove his ornaments. The neck brace he’s been exceptionally wearing seems a bit too tight around him, and Link can only imagine the discomfort he must have been put through all day.

Why didn’t you remove it earlier? Link asks, pointing at the silver piece of jewelry that Sidon puts onto the nightstand.

“Us Zoras rarely ever show ourselves without ornaments,” Sidon replies, seeming somewhat surprised that Link didn’t even know. “It would be considered shameful for a prince to remove part of it in front of his people.”

Link hums, nodding in understanding. So it’s like clothing, sort of. It would be more than shameful for a Hylian to run around naked in front of anyone.

Sidon laughs at that, his teeth gleaming in a genuine smile. He seems reinvigorated after today, despite the previous day’s events. Strange, for someone who had just been kidnapped - is it truly normal, for him to be so content now?

“I suppose the social implications are the same, yes,” Sidon replies, running his fingers along his own neck to feel his scales breathing again. They find their way to the back of his neck, accidentally touching the large scar there.

Link doesn’t like the way he flinches. He doesn’t like the way Sidon’s pupils narrow, the way his throat hitches as he pulls his hand away, the way the silence drags on to the point of being uncomfortable. Link’s gaze travels along his tail, finding the frost-shaped marks covering a long slash under it.

Does it hurt? He asks, somewhat hesitant, tilting his head to meet Sidon’s eyes. The Zora faces him, letting a faint smile play at the corners of his mouth.

“Sometimes,” Sidon replies, his shoulders dropping. “It always has, since I was attacked, you know…”

Link’s eyebrows raise, and he almost takes Sidon’s hand in his own before noticing that the prince is fidgeting to keep himself calm. It’s unusual of him, but then again, Link would never force him to smile when he doesn’t feel like it.

“It is as though I was patched together, without ever being healed… On the inside.” His words come out slower as he pronounces them, and he soon averts his eyes, shaking his head in dismissal. “I apologize. This must not make much sense to you,” he adds with a weak laugh, pulling his tail against the scar as if to hide it from there on.

Truth be told, Link understands perfectly. Hylia, the Mysterious Healer, whoever the fuck had pieced him back together and brought him in the Korok forest sure had made a great job doing so. But the pain, the shame he had felt as he laid still in the canyon is still there, and it doesn’t go away. But telling this to Sidon will make him believe the Hylian is crazy, won’t it?

You don’t need apologize for telling me how you feel, Link signs, burying his own thought in a corner of his mind. I’m… actually glad you feel comfortable enough around me for that. Even after what I’ve done to you.

“My friend, let us not go back to this subject again,” Sidon suddenly says, bringing a hand to the side of Link’s face and tucking a strand of hair behind his pointed ear. “I said that I trusted you, didn’t I? I know your heart is overflowing with sincerity. You have shown that much, all these times you have helped me in one way or another.”

Link can’t help but feel a certain warmth to his heart, one he’s started feeling every now and then around the prince. What if Sidon sees it, somehow?

For now, he bows his head in thanks, returning to some kind of formality before he trips over his own thoughts again. No, he’s a grown man, and his words shouldn’t have him reacting like a groupie. Sidon had enough of those.

Can I ask you something, then? Link signs, pointing to the prince’s left forefin, to the other scar that parts his scales. How did you get this one?

Sidon touches it, a proud smile spreading across his features before he straightens up. “It was long before you settled in our domain,” he begins, “A giant octorok was causing trouble at Hateno beach. Naturally, I had to take care of the matter.”

There it is. While Link knew there was much more to him than this, he’s still a show-off after all - not that Link was bothered by it anymore. It had even started to become endearing to him.

“I fought it with all my might,” Sidon continues with a newfound confidence in his words, his hands gesturing left and right. “But in a short moment of inattention, the beast swallowed me whole.”

Link’s face scrunches up as he imagines the scene. Not only it sounds disgusting, but it must have been a huge octorok, considering how large Sidon is.

“The scar comes from an object that was in its stomach, perhaps some kind of glass shard,” he says as he taps at his forefin, seemingly much less bothered about the event that must’ve still been terrifying at the time. He recounts it as though it’s the kind of experience all Zora royals have to go through at some point in their lives. “I made my way out by spearing its stomach.”

Gross, Link signs, chuckling at the imagery. He knows the prince won’t mention how gruesome it was, how he was most likely covered in monster innards after that.

“Link, I have seen you doing worse than that,” the prince speaks, teasingly pushing the Hylian away with the tip of his finger. “Do you remember the black bokoblin that almost entered the domain? You ripped it apart until it was mush. It was terrifying.”

Link shrugs, rolling his eyes exaggeratingly. I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘awesome’.

“It certainly was,” Sidon replies, sighing mid-sentence, “awesome.”

A silence passes through, a comfortable one this time. They stare at each other without restraint, none of them daring enough to make a first move. Link desperately wants to, or wants Sidon to, anything that will make the situation advance. The prince’s eyes glimmer with affection, with a want that Link knows he won’t speak of. Does the Hylian always have to do it himself-

Some noise can be heard right outside the window, and it has the two jumping in surprise. A knock, but not on their door - on another house nearby, followed by complete silence.

Link moves around to watch closer, peeking through the window and finding Tottika standing still further away, in front of someone else’s door.

“I thought he already went to his room,” Sidon whispers, as if he could be heard from where he is. “What is he doing there?”

Link doesn’t reply, despite having an idea of what the black Zora must be up to. He simply squints, waiting until the door he had knocked on finally opens.

From where they are, none of them can see who stands through the door frame. All that Link can make out is Tottika speaking to them as he puts a hand against the back of his neck. It only lasts a few seconds before a wing catches his arm through the door, dragging him inside the house before slamming it shut.

“Oh.” Sidon’s tail perks up. “So that is why this Rito lady was outside with us earlier. I must say I’m impressed.”

To think he has a room in this crowded inn and he’s not even using it, Link throws his hands up in mild frustration, falling against the bed to lay there.

They stay silent again, and Sidon’s eyes focus on the window, despite not having anything interesting to look at anymore. He seems pensive, and Link can’t help but notice the way his tail flicks nervously.

“Link, um…” Sidon begins quietly, enough that Link has to raise himself up to hear a little better. “I haven’t had the chance to tell you this, considering all that happened, but I really enjoyed myself that time at the great bridge inn. I hope… things are not uncomfortable between us now, because we were so hurried,” he adds, turning to face Link with a sheepish smile. A slight red hue is spreading across his cheeks, and Link can’t help but react just the same.

The Hylian thinks for a moment, his eyes looking into nowhere. He expected that topic to be brought up, honestly, but because he was the one reduced to a breathless mess that time, it’s a bit more embarrassing to talk about. I had a great time too, he signs, his heart swelling when Sidon’s smile widens. Things are not uncomfortable. It’s only a bit… awkward, I suppose, because you haven’t made it clear why exactly you wanted me in your room tonight.

Sidon’s breathing stops, eyes widening in surprise at Link’s words. The Hylian is still determined to prove that he’s much bolder than him, and if he has to wring the answers out of his prince like this, he will.

“Well- I did feel like the matter might have been too private for everyone around to hear, when I asked you,” he replies with a quiet laugh, clearing his throat in obvious embarrassment. “But it all depends on you, my friend. While I clearly wouldn’t be against being intimate with you again, if you simply wish to fall asleep at my side, I would still be greatly satisfied with that.”

Link shifts closer to his prince, sitting near him and looking up. You really want me? He asks, realizing the question is stupid - Sidon had made that clear enough already. But maybe Link wants to hear more, maybe he craves Sidon’s praise, maybe the sound of his voice is just that enchanting, maybe…

Oh, no.

“Yes, my dear,” Sidon murmurs, a large hand moving to cup Link’s cheek. “As long as you feel the same.”

Oh, Hylia, if she even exists, hopefully she will hear Link’s plea for mercy. He’s fought it, he swears, but it’s not the kind of battle he can win.

Because he’s fallen in love, desperately so.



Chapter Text

 

Hebra grows far too cold in the nighttime.

The clouds surround Rito village, heavy with snow and ice. They leave a chilly wind in the air, a breath kept away by the sturdy constructions. The city guards shiver as they watch the town, huddling together near a fire, waiting for their shift to end. It’s the kind of weather that has some searching for warmth anywhere they could find it, be it under covers, in a hot bath, in the arms of their lover.

The wind whistles through the trees, the owls hoot along, and in the silence of the night, other sounds can be heard. Whispered words laced with want, a startled gasp, a door being slammed shut.

Tottika is used to eagerness. He’s not the type to make others long for it, to make them wait; No, he’s much too hungry himself to pretend he likes the chase. And Misa, the beautiful and entrancing Misa, seems to be just as impatient as he is.

His senses are invaded by her sweet perfume as she wraps her wing around his arm, dragging him inside her house until their instincts take them to what seems to be her room. The minute it takes them to stride towards it feels like it drags on, although Tottika can’t help but grab the places he’s wanted to reach for when he could do nothing but stare in awe.

It elicits a soft sigh from the Rito woman, who takes him past the door as she closes it behind herself. “I’m so glad you came,” she coos, hurriedly taking off her clothing and throwing it to the floor. “I’ve been thinking about you all day…”

Every word she says has Tottika yearning for whatever he can get from her, as inexperienced with Ritos as he is. There’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?

“Hm, really?” Tottika utters as he takes off his armor pieces and lets them fall somewhere around the room. The light is too dim to see where, but all he needs now is to see her, to focus on her beautiful form. Her feathers puff in excitement at the sight, and she drags him towards the bed, throwing him onto it so he lies on his back.

“Yes, Sir,” she murmurs, and the way his title rolls of her tongue has Tottika’s gut wrenching already. While he didn’t expect it, there’s no way he’ll stop her, and truth be told, he would love it if she could call him that the entire time. Did she even remember his name?

Misa kneels onto the bed, straddling him before she gets down to bump her beak against his crested brow. The gesture is a little sweeter than what Tottika expected, but for now, he places his hands behind her thighs, tugging her closer. “Come here, then,” he purrs, a grin spreading across his face. “I’ll eat you up.”

The words alone have Misa whimpering in anticipation as she obeys, shifting until Tottika’s head is right between her thighs. Because how good would any night with him be if he didn’t show his partner how delightful his longer-than-average tongue felt in those places?

“Oh, Sir,” Misa sighs, putting a wing against her own chest to feel it expanding with each deep breath she takes. The sight from where Tottika lies is unlike any other, and even if it only lasts one night, he’ll make sure to savor it.

The space between her legs isn’t so different from what he’s used to, aside from the feathers that he has to gently part to give himself more room. Seeing how wet she already is, she must have been playing with herself before he even came in - the thought alone has a jolt of arousal shooting through his every nerves. He wastes no time tugging her nearer, pressing her slit against his mouth as he hums into a languid kiss. Misa trembles above him, toppling forward until she keeps herself up with her wings settled on the bed.

He kisses here and there, feeling her warm up all the more onto his slick lips. She takes sharp breaths every time he stops to hum, and the sharpest of them comes when his slender tongue slowly traces her entrance. It shifts into a high-pitched whimper that laces itself with a pleased laugh, something that intensifies with each lascivious lick.

It doesn’t take much stimulation for her to open up, and Tottika isn’t one to tease - his tongue wanders to wherever seems sensitive, and thankfully enough, he guesses right. Each swipe of his tongue has Misa moaning without restraint, her eyes growing darker, her wings twitching and threatening to give out.

While her room isn’t that warm, Tottika can barely feel the chill anymore. The feeling of being smothered by the woman’s arousal like this, his forefins brushed by her feathers, has him already shivering in excitement.

“Ah- you’re so good,” the woman says in between breathless moans, her beak hanging open, her face scrunching up in pleasure. Goddesses, being on this trip hadn’t given the black Zora many chances of satiating his drive for senseless sex, so he’s determined to make this night something to remember for the both of them. His tongue moves slowly, giving time Misa to revel in the feeling as her hips move in small, subtle circles in search for more friction. Tottika hums against her, and her feathers ruffle in an intense shiver, a loud, needy moan escaping her.

She feels so warm on his tongue, so sensual, and Tottika knows he could lose himself, were it not for the feathers that tickle at his face and arms to keep him alert. His mouth grows insistent, almost overwhelming for Misa who can’t help but writhe above him, her talons scraping and tearing the bedsheets they lay on.

“Gonna come- Sir,” Misa breathes out, her hips rolling as she seeks the warmth of his mouth with impatience. Tottika has no idea if her senses work the same way as his, but he can feel her approaching the edge, and he knows a few more movements of his tongue will be all it takes. He’s so focused that he almost forgets how much he aches, how much he drips every time she squirms in his hold.

He keeps her in place, his claws digging into her feather-covered skin. Misa’s moans make themselves more frequent, higher-pitched, and he’s sure he’s never heard someone so loud before. The Rito lady suddenly throws her head back as she tenses up, her talons curling in release, and Hylia, her taste is maddening .

Tottika’s pupils grow a size larger as he helps her come down, his thumbs tracing slow circles onto her waist. Misa’s head hangs above him, her beak widely open, weak puffs of air escaping her until there’s nothing left in her lungs.

He lingers there for a few instants, licking up at her in gentle motions, chasing her taste with ravenous want. It’s only after he’s heard a few whimpers of complaint that he pulls away, giving himself room to breathe, swiping the tip of his tongue at his lips. A satisfied grin draws itself across his features, and he wonders - what comes next?

“Oh my,” Misa whispers as she moves, staring down between his legs before throwing another glance at him. “You have… two.”

With the words, Tottika’s eyes force themselves open, and a startled sound catches itself in his throat. Right, he had completely forgotten to warn her about it. Of course a Rito wouldn’t be used to that kind of anatomy. Would that put her off? He can’t imagine that she won’t be at least a little weirded out.

“Yeah, I do,” he replies, his tone growing apologetic, his hand reaching down to take hold of one of his lengths. He’s hard as a rock, slick with precome, and the friction has him twitching already. “That’s what us Zoras are like. Sorry I didn’t warn you.” His smile fades to make way for a concerned expression, and he’s about to assure her that she doesn’t have to go any further, before Misa stops him.

“It’s fine,” she says with a gentle puff of laughter, “More than fine, actually. I’d like to ride them.”

Oh, Goddesses above. Even Tottika finds himself reddening at her boldness, and he’s sure he’s even harder than he was before - he didn’t think that was possible.

“Both? You sure?” He asks, but Misa is already moving back, straddling his thighs and looking down with a hungry stare. This would be an extremely risky reaction, if she were a Zora - the chances of impregnation would rise drastically, but thankfully, that won’t work with a Rito. Fatherhood is certainly not something he’s ready for yet, Goddesses no.

“Yes Sir,” she says with her tuneful voice as she raises herself up. Tottika thinks long and hard, really - but how can he really come up with something to say when he’s about to bury himself in someone as wonderful as her?

He lines his cocks up with her entrance, and feeling her eager warmth onto his tips has him sighing in delight already. It’s an absolute wonder how ready she is, even right after a climax.

He slips inside with ease, and Misa does the rest of it. She sits further down, a gasp escaping her as soon as he invades her. She doesn’t seem to find any type of discomfort as the black Zora stretches her open - rather, she lets out a surprised whine, one that sounds pleased nonetheless. He’s so deep inside, and he doesn’t think he can get over just how delicious it is to feel his lengths squeezed together like this. “Amazing,” she whispers in between pants, and she starts to ride.

The way she does is nice and slow at first, to let him savor each and every second of it. And oh, he could get drunk on this, on the way her hips roll against his own, on the way she screams his title. Tottika grinds his teeth together, feeling his jaw ache more and more from it. He finally lets himself groan without restraint when she fucks herself onto him, making sure to hit her sweet spot. She takes everything, steals Tottika’s gaze as it remains on her, captures just a little bit of his patched up heart.

It’s a little sad, he thinks to himself, that he’s so vulnerable to this, that he can get attached after just one night, but he can’t let it trouble him for now. Her rhythm is exactly what he needs, and her warmth is exactly what he’d been seeking ever since he’s left the domain. Thank Hylia he’s found someone willing to share it after only two days of knowing him.

He thrusts his hips upwards each time her legs give out, keeping the fire in his pit alive, burning him to the core. He’s sure he’s let the roughness overcome him by now, but Misa doesn’t complain in the slightest - Instead, she commands, orders him around as she looks down at him with the most lustful eyes.

“Don’t stop, ruin me,” she shamelessly cries out, and Tottika, once again, hates to keep others waiting. He keeps her in place, his hips rolling up with all the stamina he can gather. Her moans resonate through his entire being, the sound of her voice coiling around his gut and squeezing. He’s a lost cause.

Misa doesn’t need to ask for him to accelerate his movements - he does just so, and she feels so tight, so perfect - is this really the last time he’ll get to experience this?

It takes much longer to get her off, with how hard she had come while he was eating her out. But she’s close once again, and it feels even more intense than before; “Come for me,” Tottika whispers shakily, pounding into her with the force she’d been begging for.

“Yes!” Her word drags on, and her back arches. Tottika can feel her come dripping onto him as she climaxes once more. It soaks him down to his slit, and her body trembles just as much as her gorgeous voice. Tottika follows soon after - he feels the stars exploding in his eyes, clouding his vision with light and fire. He slams his hips up one last time, his release filling her up to the brim as a grunt vibrates in his throat.

Misa settles onto him, catching her breath, almost collapsing onto him. Her wings trap the Zora onto the bed once again as he swims into the afterglow, his mind much too unfocused to say anything remotely coherent.

All that comes out is heavy breathing, and all he knows is that it’s some of the best sex he’s had in a while .

He pulls himself out of her after some time, watching as his cum dribbles along her thighs. And out of all the sights he’s seen in Hebra, he’s sure this is his favorite.

“That was so fucking good,” Misa whispers, shifting to lie at his side. They’re both still out of breath, as if they had ran three miles through the Hyrule field non-stop. The Rito woman puts a wing to her beak, gasping at her own language use in front a ‘refined’ Zora. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Tottika replies, taking a deep breath and swallowing down the dryness in his mouth. “Do I look like the kind of Zora that keeps his manners at all times?”

“Not really,” she giggles, looking at the ceiling through half-lidded eyes. The black Zora looks towards her, locks his eyes onto her - she doesn’t stare back.

“Do you have to leave the village soon?” She asks, her voice suddenly quiet. It carries a certain emotion that Tottika can’t quite decipher yet, even when he searches into her eyes for the simplest spark of something .

“Tomorrow,” he replies just as quietly as her.

It takes some time for Misa to reply, however, as she brings the back of her wing to her forehead. She’s even more beautiful after all this, the black Zora thinks to himself.

“What a shame,” she utters, sighing in disappointment.

An arrow pierces the tiny, tiny piece of heart she’d stolen.

So, that was it.

Should he really be surprised? He’s lived off of one night stands for years now, and it’s always ended the same way. A nice romp on a creaking bed, a side glance towards his face, a tired sigh. No kisses, no nothing. Why would he expect more?

That might just be his fault, after all, he thinks as he sits upright. Misa lays still, barely a word leaving her.

Tottika picks his jewelry back up.

*

Bazz hadn’t felt this upset in a really long time.

Truly, he wishes he were enjoying himself more during such an exceptional trip, but lately he finds himself growing irritated at the smallest inconvenience. There were several reasons for it, obviously, and Bazz hopes the tension will die down soon enough, but that’s not even the main problem at this precise moment.

No, the real problem now is that the Zora prince and Link are having sex right next to his room - he can smell the Hylian’s scent from here, and he’s pretty sure he’s just heard a few compromising sounds. This isn’t something he would normally care about, but it’s getting on his nerves, and even hiding his head under his pillow doesn’t remove the image from his mind.

Damn it, Bazz misses his lover. Cleff is still in Zora’s domain, taking care of his shop while the guard captain is busy fighting thieves and whatever throws itself at him. ‘Your life must be so much more exciting,’ the blue Zora would often say to him, but Bazz would kill for just a few days of rest with him.

Even just one night . How long has it been since they’ve left the domain? Three weeks? It doesn’t seem like that long of a time, but when you’re used to sleeping with your partner almost every night, the absence of it all becomes hard to handle as the days go.

And the fact that Sidon and Link are going at it in the other room doesn’t help in the slightest. It reminds him just how lonely he feels, how long his nights have been growing. He’s tried so hard to chase that kind of thoughts away, but lately, it’s made itself impossible.

What if… he indulged himself, for once?

Sure, that won’t make Cleff come closer, but maybe it’ll improve his mood at least a little bit. That, and well, it should give him the satisfaction he’s been craving for the past few days.

Bazz pulls the covers of his bed over himself, relaxing in their warmth as he closes his eyes. He tries his best to bury any negative thoughts in a far corner of his mind, instead letting his imagination wander until it finds what he’s looking for.

He thinks back on the last time they’ve seen each other. It was the night before Bazz left the domain, when he knew he would be away for quite some time. The black Zora had invited Cleff to his home, taking him to his cistern as they both removed their jewelry.

They had slipped into the pool with haste, already entwined with each other as soon as they were submerged. Bazz remembers with fondness the way Cleff’s hands had settled themselves onto his hips, pulling him closer than what was even possible; The slight pricking that came with his sharp claws, his teeth against his neck to mark him with his desire. The water had felt so welcoming back then, engulfing them as they dove down until only the slightest glow of luminous stone could be seen from above the surface.

This is enough for Bazz to feel himself grow hotter already. He can’t help but slide a hand between his thighs, letting it rest there for now, falling back into the depths of his thoughts.

He remembers his own fins flaring with eagerness, spreading in the water as Cleff admired them, tracing them with the tip of his fingers. The blue Zora’s own were much smaller, and he had always been fascinated by his lover’s - but Bazz was having none of that. He needed him, and he was determined on letting him know. He had wrapped his legs around Cleff’s waist, pulling him in, capturing him in a heated and passionate kiss. He remembers seeing a string of bubbles escape him as he sighed at the contact, and it didn’t take long for him to rock his hips against his lover’s own.

Bazz bites at his own claws, his brow furrowing in frustration. He can remember the feeling so clearly, it almost drives him mad. If only Cleff were there with him, he could whispers words of reassurance to his worn out soul, he could…

Grinding against him had felt like heaven, and just that had him throwing his head back. As soon as he came to look at Cleff once again, the blue Zora was biting at his lip, and his pupils had grown about four times their normal size.

‘Give it to me,’ Bazz had mouthed underwater, prompting his lover to grind back. Cleff had done just that, moaning when Bazz had let his fangs nibble at his collarbone to entice him. The more they merged, the more excited they were, and Cleff was so caught into it that he had pushed his lover against the wall of the pool, trapping him there with dominant hands.

The black Zora feels his slit swelling as he explores his own memories, unable to resist to the tentation of letting his fingers help to part himself. He rubs at it slowly, letting out a gasp at the contact he yearned for, and he covers his mouth to muffle anything else.

He hadn’t been able to do that in a while. Sleeping in tents or in shared rooms gave him little privacy, and it certainly didn’t help to make him feel better. He’s alone now, though, and he has to use this opportunity.

With the help of his own fingers, his two lengths emerge slowly, already dripping with desire that needs to be sated. With a slow hand, he takes hold of the both of them, wrapping it around them and letting his thumb slide across one of the tips.

“Hnn,” He lets out a slow, needy noise, punishing himself for it instantly by biting on his lower lip. The teeth sink in hard enough that Bazz knows it’ll leave a mark, but he couldn’t care less about it for now.

He keeps his eyelids tightly shut, concentrating on whatever images he could dig out of his memories. Some of them are still so vivid, still associated with a scent, a sensation that has his gut wrenching; His back against the wall, Cleff’s webbed fingers pressing around his thigh, the blue Zora’s other hand stroking Bazz while he keeps his eyes on him. The guard captain had stopped being embarrassed about being watched - he had looked back, letting his lover’s stare swallow him up while he squirmed in pleasure in his hold.

If he weren’t surrounded in covers and sheets, it would feel almost real. His hand moves to the rhythm of Cleff’s own in his memories, making his body jolt, and he instinctively brings a hand to cover his mouth. He blocks out all the sighs that sound a little too noisy, a little too indecent, and lets himself drown into the waves of pleasure that wash over him. He imagines Cleff’s presence, faint and flickering around him, while in his reverie, it drags him out of his troubles and into the welcoming depths below.

“Cleff-” He accidentally says aloud, though he’s not sure he even feels like covering it anymore. Surely he would be fine, right? It’s fine for him to do this. He needs it.

He remembers his lover guiding Bazz’s hand lower, letting it slide across his abdomen as the black Zora reached for his cocks. Cleff was so hard, so eager and ready, and Bazz could absolutely not resist. He had pulled him closer and closer until their limbs tangled underwater, and the space between was reduced to nothing. It took the blue Zora’s help to press their lengths together, pumping up and down in slow yet hungry strokes.

The taste of Cleff’s lips on his own had felt delightful, and he tries his best to channel his memory of it now. It only makes him crave it more, leaves his teeth frustrated and aching.

It’s like everything around him vanishes now, and he’s left alone with his thoughts, wandering through them like in a museum. A collection of pictures shows itself to his eyes - Cleff’s expression as they merged, the bubbles escaping his mouth as they puffed up with his silent moans, the way his back arched as he came undone right onto the black Zora’s hand.

It doesn’t take much more for Bazz to feel the heat pool in his lower half, rapidly growing and spreading across his entire body. It leaves him whimpering behind his palm, curling his toes as he peaks, his release covering his trembling digits.

He stays still for Hylia knows how long, landing back to reality little by little.

Finding himself alone again, his legs relax against the mattress, and he opens his eyes. His vision wavers as though he were still submerged in the cistern. There’s no disappointment or regret to find here; He knows his lover must be doing the same, during his loneliest nights - and Bazz knows there’s so much more that awaits him at the domain. He thinks of Cleff again, and this time, his image has the black Zora smiling softly.

“Hang in there, Bazz,” he whispers to himself as his breathing slows down. “We’re almost going home.”

*

Gaddison feels… different. Many would say she was the toughest, the roughest of the royal guard, given how fearless and skilled she had come to be. She wouldn’t hesitate a single second to go attack a pack of monsters alone if needed, and for that, people had come to call her “The Heroine”.

But people don’t know Gaddison, or at least they don’t know her the way Torfeau does. They don’t know gentle her fingertips are when they brush over the other woman’s chest, how soft her lips are when she kisses incessantly. Her eyes grow dark with longing, but Torfeau can still see the small glimmer in it, some kind of nervousness that lies under all her confident actions.

She’s just like her, after all. While they both know what they want, in the end, their feelings are interlaced with uncertainty. Like always, Torfeau thinks to herself, but maybe for now it’s better to not let it bother her.

Their foreheads bump together again, but the more it happens, the more they lean into the gesture. With their jewelry set aside, they sit on Torfeau’s bed, Gaddison straddling the black Zora and gently rolling her hips. Torfeau’s lips part to let her tongue slide in, deepening the kiss until they’re impossibly close. The black Zora’s arms are wrapped around the other woman’s waist, holding her with passion, with a deep desire that feels much more than carnal. The goal isn’t to stop when they get too excited, even if they remain in someone else’s own house, someone that was kind enough to host them for the few days they stay in Hebra.

No, instead, Torfeau indulges in the growing sensation of heat in her midsection, knowing well what it will lead to. Gaddison must feel the same, but the rolling of her hips stops, while she instead focuses on running her fingers along the other woman’s body.

They meander along her figure, her waist, until they find Torfeau’s gills. They trace along them, slightly tickling, as if a feather was being dragged along the thin, dark lines.

“Hnn,” Torfeau quiets herself, letting her dear friend explore her once again after their long separation. Her mouth is soon captured in another kiss, and she hums into it as if to send Gaddison a message. The black Zora trembles in her hold, her core melting like lava from her own sensitiveness.

“Hey, Torfeau…” Gaddison says as she pulls back, a quiet whisper that has Torfeau’s eyelids fluttering open. The other woman’s golden eyes peer into her own, pupils fluctuating in size, and she raises a hand to her.

“I trimmed my nails,” she utters, a coy grin spreading across her lips. Torfeau can’t help but laugh as she throws her head back, taking Gaddison’s hand into her own.

“How subtle,” she sighs, kissing at the lavender Zora’s forehead. “It’s alright, Gaddison, you can… do what you want.”

Gaddison bites at her lower lip, her cheeks flushing in a red hue. She places a gentle hand on her chest, sliding down slowly, finding its way between the woman’s thighs. Torfeau’s expression melts into a relaxed one, a mouth hung open as she gulps in the sweltering air of the room. A single movement of the other woman’s hand has Torfeau letting out a trembling sigh, her legs twitching with an eagerness she’d desperately tried to conceal. They spread without Gaddison needing to do much more than this, giving room for her to trace the length of her slit with a finger.

“Ah-” Torfeau gasps at the sudden sensation, covering her own mouth in an attempt to prevent any sounds from coming out again. But Gaddison isn’t making any easier - each lascivious movement of her finger only excites Torfeau more, and soon enough, she opens up in arousal. She’s almost ashamed of how soaked she is already, with only a few of Gaddison’s touches. The lavender Zora looks almost fascinated with her reaction, her eyes glinting with desire as she looks down.

“Come closer,” Torfeau murmurs, her hand flat against Gaddison’s back as she pulls her towards her. “I want to please you too.”

“Not now!” Gaddison says, swatting the black Zora’s hand away under Torfeau’s stupefied stare. “Let me do my thing first. I want to focus on you.” She licks at her lips, her fingertips back to where they previously were as she rubs at the other woman’s sensitive, flushed flesh in slow circles.

Torfeau knows she can’t say no to that. Her hand is pulled away until it rests on the bed, and she brings her wrist to her lips, concealing her own voice. Gaddison hums in satisfaction, kissing at Torfeau’s brow in reassurance, or praise, she’s not too sure. Her legs shift until they’re further apart from each other, and she lets her head rest against the wall. She can only hope her panting is quiet enough, and that it somehow won’t escalate to be any higher in volume.

“Does it feel good?” Gaddison asks, intentionally pressing a little harder against her clit to have Torfeau moan despite herself. It works as expected, and Gaddison can’t help but continue, feeling sparks of electricity on the tip of her fingers as she plays with the other woman.

“Curse you,” Torfeau hisses, though there’s no venom behind her words, as she wouldn’t reject the pleasure, no matter how risky the situation was. “Yes, keep going, Gaddison,” she breathes out, grabbing at her shoulders to pull her closer for yet another embrace.

Their lips lock together once again, their breathing almost syncing as Torfeau’s hands wander anywhere she can reach without being pushed away. It burns inside her, and Gaddison is just as warm as she is, her scent so enticing that the other woman wants to throw her on the bed and ravish her all night. But she’ll be patient for now.

Or, in other words, she’ll let herself be transported by Gaddison’s talented movements as she rubs at her enough so that she feels eager for something to enter her, to fill her up just the way she likes.

And the lavender Zora knows just how much she likes it. Her middle finger moves lower, reaching her entrance, teasing her a little more. Torfeau groans as quietly as she can, making a motion to bury her face against the soft curve of the other woman’s neck. “Just do it,” she whispers, sucking the air through her teeth. “Fuck me.”

Gaddison seems too impatient herself to make her wait any longer. It’s only a few seconds before her middle finger slowly enters her, engulfed between the other woman’s thighs and her inner walls. She readily welcomes the shape of Gaddison’s slender digit, her back arching when her ‘friend’ massages her.

“Oh Hylia,” Torfeau whispers, her hips subconsciously pushing forward to take more of it in. Gaddison gets the message quickly enough, and she brings her index finger down, letting it join the other one inside of her.

Torfeau feels as hot as when she was in the Gerudo desert, when the sun beat so hard upon her that she could’ve fainted. She’s absolute mush in front of Gaddison, and not just because of the pleasure - the lavender Zora looks at her with the softest of gazes, lashes fluttering, eyes darkened by lust, and… maybe something else.

Is it wrong for her to get her hopes up?

Is it wrong for her to fall deeper in love with every second that passes?

She’s loved Gaddison for long enough, and she wonders if the woman knows. Had she told her? Had she accidentally slipped out the words, in one of their previous heated encounters? She doesn’t remember.

She holds onto whatever she can for dear life, taking every show of affection from the lavender Zora and keeping it close to her heart. The words are ready in her throat, somehow stuck there, growing until they ache. She might melt down in a few days, when they part again, when Torfeau will know that she missed the opportunity again.

Her thoughts are soon clouded by pleasure when Gaddison thrusts her fingers inside of her, using her other hand to keep giving some attention to her clit. It’s so much, so good, so deliciously overwhelming, and Torfeau can’t help the high-pitched whimper that drips out of her bitten lips.

“You’re really cute, Torfeau,” Gaddison whispers to her, her voice velvety, a song that the black Zora could listen to for the rest of her life. She doesn’t know what to respond, not when her mind accidentally falls into a pit of unwanted emotions.

She chases the thoughts away, soon enough finding herself in her reality, and she’s close .

“Ah- Gaddison,” she whispers, her face scrunching up in pleasure as she tries her hardest to warn her fake lover of the heat that rises in her middle.

Gaddison seem to understand, and it only prompts her to give more. Her movements accelerate as she touches all the right places, a proud sigh escaping her. Her eyes are glossy, and once again, Torfeau finds herself dazed, stuck again in the insane wheel that is their relationship.

She knows when to put a hand in front of her mouth. Torfeau’s toes curl as she throws her head back, a muffled moan escaping her lips. The electricity shoots through each of her nerves up to the tip of her fingers as she climaxes, her entire body jolting in pure bliss. It leaves her dizzy for a few moments, her very soul spinning in and out of her body. 

As she comes down, Gaddison is watching her, her lips parted and her mouth full of words that die as soon as they’re thought. Her fingers are gently pulled out, and the lavender Zora can’t help but rub at her again with the slick warmth spread onto her scales. “So good,” she mutters against the other’s lips, peppering them with light kisses before she’s pushed back by a determined hand.

“Alright, my turn now,” Torfeau says with a weak smile, doing her absolute best to straighten up and grab the other woman by the hips. It doesn’t take much force from her to lie Gaddison onto the bed, her head resting against the pillow like a princess waiting to be served. Her face flushes red, and it feels good to be in control once again.

The lavender Zora’s heartbeat has only been growing faster since they’ve entered the room, although she hopes that Torfeau won’t notice. And touching her hadn’t helped at all - now Gaddison’s slit has already parted itself, and she twitches in arousal, feeling a wetness between her thighs. Torfeau kneels in front of her, her hands gently placing themselves onto Gaddison’s knees and spreading her legs.

She’s completely exposed, and Gaddison won’t lie - this vulnerable side of her is something that she’ll only ever show to Torfeau. She’s not so sure what to say now, she who always seems to have an answer to everything, but her words are nothing but a mush of incoherent sounds in her throat while the black Zora bends down to kiss at her neck.

“Be quiet, alright?” Torfeau whispers against her scales, her pupils growing in size. “We don’t want to be heard.”

“It’s not as easy for me as it is for you,” Gaddison replies with a pout, though it’s quickly wiped off when Torfeau’s lips slide down to her chest, to her abdomen. She comes to a halt, looking up at the other woman with playfulness in her eyes.

Gaddison simply sighs, throwing her head back against the pillow and shivering in anticipation. She can’t see Torfeau anymore, but she knows what she must be about to do. It’s not long until the black Zora’s head is buried between her thighs, her tongue an exquisite warmth that reaches for the other woman’s sensitive flesh.

“Ah!” Gaddison can’t help but moan as she squirms in Torfeau’s hold, and the other woman does just what she needs to keep her in place. Her hold is strong onto her waist, and Gaddison could go crazy just from this.

“I said be quiet,” Torfeau interrupts herself, only to go down on her once again with a hunger that she must’ve contained for too long.

“I can’t-” Gaddison breathes out, her legs twitching and hoisting themselves onto Torfeau’s shoulders in a way of supporting herself. It almost feels as though she’ll fall into a pit if she doesn’t and her hands find their way to the pillow, clutching at it as she desperately tries to catch a glimpse of the other woman. “You know how much I like this-”

You know how much I like you.

It’s a thought that briefly crosses her mind, comforts her in her choices to be doing what she’s doing right now, but… Is it really right, to keep going without a say? Is it right for her to keep her emotions to herself, all of this while they continue on with their chaotic relationship?

Torfeau knows she doesn’t want her to stop. Her tongue grows all the more insistent, licking at her clit in long slides and wringing the most shameful whimpers out of her. Gaddison’s thighs tremble as she desperately grinds against her tongue, gritting her teeth every time she knows she’s being too loud. How does the other woman do it?

Torfeau’s claws dig into the other woman’s scales, tugging at her hips for her to grind harder. With ragged breathing, Gaddison does just so, her hold onto the pillow tightening with every second. She’s so good at this, and she must know it, seeing how her eyes shine with pride every time the lavender Zora shudders.

“Sweet Hylia,” she says in a breathy moan when Torfeau’s tongue flicks rapidly, her lips sucking at her every time the opportunity presents itself. Gaddison grinds hard enough to smother her partner with her arousal. It’s perfect like this. It has sparks of heat flickering across her entire existence, filling her with warmth as her heat leaps out of her chest.

And as Torfeau gives more and more, Gaddison realizes how lucky she is. There’s no one in Hyrule that can make her feel the way she does, be it sexually or emotionally. It all laces together now, coursing through her in confusing tremors that have her eyes watering.

The black Zora’s tongue slows down, giving slow attention to her clit as she holds dearly onto the other woman’s hand. Gaddison’s face is buried into her palm at this point as she muffles her moans, her voice sounding like a sob, her legs spreading to have more . “Torfeau-” She calls out her name, two fingers parting to watch her. “Torfeau, Torfeau, Goddesses-”

She utters her name in desperation, and she wants to say it - but Torfeau can’t stop, not now, she’s so close-

Her climax hits her before she knows it, the knot in her midsection snapping and giving way to an intense eruption of pleasure. She bites at her palm through it, forgetting the pain that her sharp teeth bring, forgetting everything that troubles her for just a few instants. As she keeps the back of her head settled right onto the pillow, her chest heaves, her legs tremble with sensitivity.

But she soon watches Torfeau as she kisses at her slick thighs, licking at her lips gently, her eyes growing unfocused. There’s something akin to melancholy in her eyes, a profound desire that the lavender Zora knows way too much. Steadying her breathing, Gaddison wishes so badly that she could say the words - all that comes out is a torn sob, one that has the black Zora’s eyes snapping open in confused surprise.

“Gaddison? Are you crying?” She asks, kneeling back up and gently letting go of her legs. No, no, Gaddison didn’t want her to see this; How weird is it to cry after an orgasm? It’s never happened before!

“Hey, are you okay?” Torfeau repeats, crawling closer to her and pressing her brow against the other woman’s own. “Did I do something wrong? Please talk to me.”

Her words make everything so much worse.

“You didn’t do anything wrong!” Gaddison replies immediately, not wanting to worry her any more than she already had. She’s tired of running away, of denying her own feelings - Torfeau never deserved any of what she had put her through. “It’s me. It’s all me,” she chokes on her own words, wiping at her eyes insistently to erase all traces of her weakness, to no avail. The other woman knows her too well to let it slide.

Torfeau’s shoulders droop, and her eyes show that she must have an idea of what Gaddison’s talking about. The lavender Zora’s legs fall against the mattress at last, numb and tingly as she tries to speak.

“I’m such a jerk, all the time,” she whispers, her face scrunching up to retain more tears. “I always use you like this for sex, but I keep pushing away the day I’ll tell you why I even do it. I can’t go on like this, Torfeau.”

“What? What do you mean?” She asks, and Gaddison sits up, facing the black Zora and looking at her right in the glossy golden of her eyes. She takes her hands in her own, her head hanging in apology.

“I mean I love you!” She finally blurts out, her tears running down her cheeks and onto the covers between her legs. Saying it feels like it unties a rope that had been coiling around her tongue for years, liberating her feelings and letting them flow right at the woman she cherishes so dearly. “I’m in love with you, and I can’t even fucking make that clear. I’ve never even said it, during all the times I’ve had you with me because I was so scared to ruin what we already had.”

A silence settles in, still filled with Gaddison’s cries and Torfeau’s ever so quiet breathing. Her eyes are wide open, unblinking as she listens to the lavender Zora’s every word. “I kept telling you I couldn’t handle relationships instead, and I played you like a toy. I’m sorry, Torfeau,” she adds, sniffling through it, crushing every last bit of doubt she has.

“I love you so much,” she repeats, her shoulders heaving in a deep breath. “I’m an idiot.”

Gaddison looks up, her eyes reddened and  her eyelids swollen. It doesn’t take long for her to notice that Torfeau has a hand in front of her mouth, her eyes watery as she stays still. The lavender Zora wants to rush towards her, to hold her tightly and cover her in kisses; But instead she remains in her seat, silent and ashamed.

“Are you… saying the truth?” Torfeau’s voice is shaky, and Gaddison can only nod, her cheeks flushing in a red hue.

“I am,” she says, wiping at her lower lids with the back of her hand. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” She asks, and she’s the one to throw herself in her arms. “Goddesses, Gaddison, how can you say something like this? I was the one worried that my feelings would ruin what we had! I always thought you wanted nothing more, how can you just -”

She stops mid-sentence, her arms feeling so weak that she just lies against the lavender Zora. Gaddison runs her fingers along the scales of her back, feeling herself choke back another sob. Her heart pounds so hard under her chest that she might fall unconscious if she’s not careful.

“I can’t believe you, Gaddi- I can’t believe us . Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” She asks, her teeth gleaming into a truly happy smile, and seeing her like this - it has Gaddison smiling uncontrollably, giggling like a teenager in love. Had she been wrong, all this time? Had she really waited all this time in fear, all this time for a reason that was never there?

Does it matter, still?

“You love me?” She asks in a unusually quiet tone, her face growing red, her shoulders raising in anticipation.

Yes !” Torfeau insists, cupping the other woman’s cheeks with her clawed hands. “Yes, Gaddi, I love you to the moon and back!”

And right at that moment, Gaddison’s heart finally bursts.

It’s like everything clears up, and if Kass’s family hears them laughing, so be it. Torfeau had felt picked apart by it all for all this time, yet she would always come back - and she had been so right. Thank Hylia she’d stayed for it, until the woman she loved so dearly finally dared to reveal what she truly felt. All these times they’d spent sharing a bed, brooding over their failed love story, drinking a bit too much to forget it all… It could’ve been avoided, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Gaddison is in Torfeau’s arms, and the space between the two was never meant to remain.

“Torfeau?” Gaddison speaks again, pulling back to meet her lover’s eyes. “Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah?”

The woman looks down, her gaze flickering with nervousness. “I know it’s going to sound really silly after what we just did, but…” Her voice comes quietly, timidly, something that almost feels out of character for the lavender Zora. “Will you go out with me?”

Torfeau’s heart blooms in happiness, her cheeks twitching into a content smile. She titters at the irony still, at the fact that she even has to ask .

“Yes, love,” she murmurs, burying her face into the curve of her neck. “I’ll go out with you.”

*

Sidon had experienced cold for far too long.

Perhaps he must still be freezing, because Link’s skin burns against him, his warmth lingering everywhere he touches. The prince can’t help but pull him closer, feeling the heat envelop him when Link’s lips find home onto Sidon’s own once again.

Their movements are slow, unsure, as if they had never done that kind of things before - well, he supposes it’s only happened once so far, after all. But it gives a certain sense of sincerity, of carefulness that has Sidon thinking that maybe all of this is more than a little game. Link holds onto him desperately, sighing with every kiss, trembling every time Sidon dares to pull away from him, even with just a centimeter separating their lips.

“Link…” It feels as though there’s so much he wants to say, but each and every word dies on the tip of his tongue as it brushes past the Hylian’s lips. Their sudden need for affection still has them taking their time, much unlike the hurried way they had gotten together a few nights ago, when the desire was so raw that it all felt like a fever dream.

But now, it feels real. Link is right here, his hips held by Sidon’s large hands to keep a constant contact with him. He sits in his lap, bare-chested, pressed against the prince’s body while his heart beats loudly enough for Sidon to feel it resonating through his ribcage.

When Link does pull away, his eyes are shiny, his pupils larger than usual. He gives the sweetest, most gentle look Sidon has ever seen on him, and it doesn’t take long for Sidon to go back to kissing him.

He takes some time to remember about what Link had been through. His experiences can be felt through each of his movements, each intake of breath, and Sidon can’t help but wonder: Is the prince really qualified to be in his arms? Is it wise for him to be so close to somebody who could very well have been his undoing years ago?

As if Link had read his thoughts, he shushes him, burying his face in the crook of the prince’s neck in a warm embrace.

It feels right. That’s all Sidon knows, and it’s more than enough for him.

Link sighs against him, hugging tighter, his fingertips wandering around every inch of the Zora’s body. And Sidon is ever so careful, holding him and making sure that the tip of his claws won’t scrape at his skin and ruin the moment. They lock together like a tangled mess of unspoken feelings and emotions, sounds catching themselves in their throats whenever their two forms find a satisfying grasp on each other.

When the prince pulls away, it isn’t for long either - he comes back to kiss at the underside of his jaw, humming against him when Link instinctively tilts his head back to give him more room.

“You are truly wonderful,” Sidon whispers, a hot breath that has Link’s skin shivering. “I want to see more, my dear…”

He wants to woo him, he wants to please him until Link is nothing but a flustered mess. He knows it takes a lot for the other man’s pointed ears to droop in embarrassment, however; Still, he won’t gain anything without trying.

What he doesn’t know is that Link has different plans.

He pulls back with a soft smile, his ears fluttering in excitement. Even during their previous intimate moment together, Link hadn’t looked this passionate, and even the way he blinks has Sidon’s heart swelling, ready to burst at any moment.

And soon enough, the Hylian is the one to press his mouth at the prince’s collarbone. He kisses at his soft white scales, hums resonating in his throat as he drags his lips across the length of his neck. Sidon can’t help but gasp when his teeth ghost over him, threatening to bite without doing so, eliciting an impatient reaction that the prince tries to conceal.

As small as Link is compared to him, the Hylian unexpectedly tries something that Sidon hadn’t quite expected; With his two hands pressed flat against his chest, he pushes him down onto the mattress.

His lips are on him, adoring him, devouring him with kisses the whole time as Sidon can do nothing but let himself be laid down. He doesn’t dare utter a word, not when his dear friend is giving him so much of the attention he’d craved. But of course the Hylian wouldn’t be satisfied with just this; Not that he would complain. Now the prince’s wrists are being grabbed by Link’s smaller hands as he pins him down, preventing him any sort of movement even if Sidon dreams of touching him like he already did back at the great bridge inn.

Slowly, Link lifts his head back up, his eyes boring into Sidon’s own as he looks down at the much taller man under him. It’s not without a playful grin that he finally releases his wrists, freeing his own movements to finish undressing himself.

Link undoes the button on his pants, removing them and throwing them on the floor. The covers are already a mess with how much they’ve shifted around, and Sidon feels somewhat guilty for a brief instant for the extra mess they’re most likely about to make in the inn’s room. It’s short-lived, however, as all he wants to do right now is let his hands wander around his dear friend.

When he reaches for the Hylian’s thigh, tugging at the string of his underwear, a smaller hand stops him, pushes him away until his own hand is pinned back onto the bed again. As confusing as it is, Sidon will admit that being handled like this is… More than enticing. Still, he wonders if he’s done something wrong, but Link answers his thoughts quickly enough.

You were the one who ‘explored’ me last time, he signs, a coy smile spreading on his lips. Now it’s my turn.

Sidon’s head falls back as he chuckles, his fingers twitching. “I suppose that is only fair,” he replies, a sharp fang biting at his lower lip in anticipation. While watching Link coming undone again would’ve been absolutely delightful, he can’t be selfish. “May I ask, what do you intend to do?”

His question is asked in a playful tone, almost implying that Link doesn’t know where to go from this moment on. But the Hylian had mentioned having experience with Zoras, hadn’t he? He might know more about them than Sidon even knows about Hylians, on second thought.

I want to blow you .

At that, Sidon’s tail perks up, his eyes widening in sheer astonishment. “I’m sorry?” He asks, the words almost dead quiet on his tongue as he examines the ready look on Link’s face and the way his eyes wander down.

You know, suck you off, Link signs nonchalantly, sliding his thumb across his bottom lip to try and have Sidon understand his wording. I know it’s not a thing most Zoras do, given how… sharp your teeth are, he continues, entirely confident while the Zora prince is utterly speechless. I promise you you’ll like it, though.

Something flares right in Sidon’s stomach, and he’s not sure if he should be terrified or aroused - his imagination is already acting up, piquing his curiosity, and… maybe he should be honest.

“I…” Sidon gulps, giving a sheepish smile and averting his eyes in strong embarrassment. “Indeed, I cannot say I have tried that sort of things before. Are you sure this will be alright?”

The revelation has Link’s smile growing even more, a glimmer of pride shining in his eyes. You don’t have to do anything, Sidon, he signs, giving a reassuring kiss to the prince’s lips. I can take care of you, if you let me.

Sidon looks at him again, giving a small nod. He had heard of such a practice before, but it never crossed his mind to try it, as it would be nothing but painful if a Zora were to perform it. But… Link is a Hylian, so it should be fine, right?

Still, it’s so uncommon that he isn’t sure what type of pleasure he could expect. But he trusts Link, and the Hylian seems to know what he’s doing, so… It shouldn’t be a problem to indulge him.

“Wait, just…” Sidon begins, reaching down to take  off the shirt the Rito had given him to handle the cold a bit better. He barely has time to pull it over his chest before Link tugs at his wrists to have him stop immediately.

Keep it on, Link signs, pulling the shirt down in front of Sidon’s stupefied stare. It looks good on you.

Sidon’s not sure he understands how a piece of clothing would provocate that effect, but then again, Hylians are different. Maybe a little strange, too, but not in an unpleasant way. Still, Sidon knows he’ll have to learn more about his reasoning. “How so?” He asks, letting his hands rest onto the bed once again.

It’s just… Link hesitates, gesturing left and right, until his hands find their way to his chest, his fingers tracing around the v-shaped collar. It’s tight around you. It accentuates the shape of your muscles, and how big you are compared to me.

Sidon titters, tilting his head to the side with a coy grin. “So my general size excites you, then?”

That’s not the only thing, Link replies, somewhat pouty at all the questioning. But yes, it’s very enticing.

Not the only thing, he said. Sidon can’t help but feel his heart flutter at his words, and he’s sure Link doesn’t know just how content they make him. Even if they’ve had moments of intimacy, it feels nice to know how the Hylian feels, or why he wants him so much. He won’t ask any further questions as to what the other “things” that excite him are, given how embarrassed he’s growing, but for now, this is enough for him to let out a satisfied sigh.

It’s not long until he feels Link’s hand sliding down his chest, his abdomen until he reaches the sensitive slit between his thighs. The Hylian keeps his eyes on Sidon while he rubs his fingers along it, awaiting a reaction that Sidon is quick to provide. The prince’s shoulders jolt in surprise as he grinds his teeth together, concealing whatever sound was going to come out of his mouth. He feels almost too ashamed to look into Link’s eyes again, but the imploring gaze the Hylian gives him is enough for him to cave in.

Another movement of his fingers has Sidon rolling his hips forward, pushing against his digits to search for more. So far, this isn’t any different from what he’s used to, but the Hylian shows talent and experience with just this.

He trembles at the contact, and Link’s pleased hums carry him through it. It’s not easy to sign while one hand is busy, but he tries his best; the guard gestures a simple question.

Good? His gorgeous blue gaze travels along him, always coming back to peer into Sidon’s eyes. If the prince is honest with himself, feeling so vulnerable is far from unpleasant. In fact, it might be just what he’d needed.

“Yes, my darling,” he murmurs with finally enough courage to keep his eyes on Link. “Keep going, please.”

While it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, Link is much more familiar with Zora anatomy than Sidon is with Hylians. Was he that used to it? How many encounters had Link been through, to know exactly where to touch to have his prince already squirming in anticipation?

Just as his lengths slowly begin to emerge out of his slit, Link comes closer, giving a hungry bite to Sidon’s collarbone.

“Nn-” Sidon’s body jerks in surprise as he lets the Hylian suck on his skin, his teeth too blunt to make any real damage. It still leaves a small red mark once he pulls away, kissing at the now sensitive, reddened patch of scales.

If Sidon wasn’t certain that Link loved to take him by surprise, now he understands - his little love bite, while quite pleasurable, was also a mean to distract him while the Hylian took hold of one of his members with a gentle hand. Sidon’s hips buck up slightly at the sudden sensation, thrusting into Link’s hand in eagerness under his fascinated eyes.

Impatient , he signs with his free hand, giving languid strokes with the other. Sidon can only give a nervous smile, looking at the other man with darkened eyes. Link watches his own movements with unbreakable attention, licking at his lips before he comes to a halt.

You’re big , he signs, kneeling up and moving away from him until he’s off the bed. He expects Sidon to follow somehow, but as soon as he notices the prince’s confused stare, he gets on his knees.

Come on, sit at the edge of the bed for me, he signs, patting the covers where he needs his prince to go. It’s all so awkward for him, not knowing how it goes, but he still moves and sits where he’s told to so Link’s head is settled right between his thighs.

“You’re awfully close…” Sidon utters as he watches Link facing his two cocks, his eyes tracing them with thirst. “Is it even pleasurable for you?”

Link finally looks up, brushing a strand of hair away and tucking it behind his ear. He nods in response, following with more signing, It is, in a different way. Will you trust me?

Sidon bites at the inside of his cheek, spreading his legs to give the Hylian more room to move. “Yes, my darling.”

It’s all that Link needs to keep going, wrapping his hand around one of Sidon’s shafts and giving a few strokes. Sidon tries to not close his eyes in pleasure, and thank Hylia he doesn’t - Link’s tongue reaches the base, sliding up until he reaches the tip, and just that has Sidon letting out a muffled moan as he places a hand in front of his mouth. No, he can’t let himself be heard - one of the guards is most likely keeping watch in front of his door, and he doubts the walls are soundproof. But the Hylian isn’t making it easy, especially when his tongue swirls around him, in the most tantalizing way.

“Link - Oh, Goddesses,” Sidon can’t help but say his name, desperate and needy, and he can just feel the grin that the Hylian wears proudly. The warmth of his tongue brings a new sensation, and once Link wraps his lips around him, Sidon can’t believe he’s been missing out all this time.

Link goes down, keeping Sidon steady with a hand on his trembling thigh. The Hylian pushes him as far as he can, barely choking, using his hand to please what he can’t reach. It’s almost overwhelming, and Sidon might get lost if he’s not careful. He bends his head forward, keeping a hand on the back of Link’s head and feeling it move up and down at a steady pace.

“This… feels amazing,” Sidon breathes out, his tongue tangled around his words. Not only it feels wonderful, it looks wonderful, to see his dear friend enjoying himself so much while he pleasures the prince, to see his lips around him. Each of his impatient sounds send an incredible vibration through Sidon, one that has his heart leaping out of his chest.

If Link were to ask anything from him, Sidon would do it in a heartbeat. He’s completely bewitched, caught in a spell that takes him apart piece by piece, and there’s no way he’ll ever complain about it.

Sidon keeps both of his hands against the back of Link’s head, fingers carding through his hair. He tries to calm himself, to keep a reasonably quiet voice, but Hylia knows he’d sing out all the praise he could give him if they were in his private chamber back in Zora’s domain. For now he can only whisper half-coherently how perfect Link’s mouth feels.

The Hylian pulls back for just an instant, kissing at the head to make Sidon squirm, eyes focusing on him to make him flush in embarrassment. You taste so good, he signs, going back to his activities as soon as he’s expressed himself.

His mouth drags itself along the length, his eyelids fluttering with pride when Sidon releases a startled moan that he doesn’t have time to conceal. The Hylian sucks and licks with insistence, letting a string of saliva fall from his hanging bottom lip and onto Sidon’s cock to slick it up once again.

It’s difficult, almost impossible to gather the strength to say anything; But Sidon manages all the sweet words he can, tugging ever so slightly at his hair just to hear Link whimper from it. “You drive me crazy,” he utters, though he’s soon cut off by another one of Link’s movements.

The Hylian’s middle finger wanders, soon finding itself tracing one side of the Zora’s slit. Just this is enough to have Sidon’s leg accidentally kicking the air, but it all gets even better when it reaches the very spot where the two lines join themselves.

He presses his digit against the top of his slit, rubbing circles, feeling the soft warmth that twitches at the sensation. Sidon’s heart beats so quickly that he can hardly process it, but he’s nearly falling apart by just this. How did he know that this spot was one of the most sensitive? He’s sure Link doesn’t know what exactly it does to him, but he hopes the way his voice flares is enough to tell him.

“Link, wait-” he halts him abruptly, though he’ll admit the feeling of Link’s tongue at the base of his cock almost makes him want to give up on whatever he was going to say. It catches Link’s attention, however, as he suddenly looks up to meet Sidon’s golden gaze.

Hylia damns it all, Link is absolutely gorgeous.

What’s wrong? Link asks, pulling away, placing his hands back against his prince’s thighs. Sidon catches his breath, feeling himself already aching for more already, and he knows exactly how to make Link feel just as good.

“What you just did, right there,” Sidon begins, his own fingers traveling down to his parted slit. “It’s… It’s what I want. But I want you to feel good too. I know you’re aroused, I can sense it.”

Link rights himself, his grin so smug that Sidon can’t help but feel a warmth spreading within his entire body. Sidon’s not sure how the Hylian can get aroused from performing such an act, but now he knows he can’t leave him like this.

“Come closer to me, my darling,” he murmurs, gesturing towards him until Link finally, finally gets up to join him on the bed.

Alright, he signs before placing a small kiss at the Zora’s cheek. What do you want me to do to you?

Sidon gulps in anticipation, tugging at the string of Link’s underwear. While he feels himself trembling on the inside from what he’s about to suggest, it doesn’t stop him from gently pulling down the Hylian’s garments, revealing his leaking cock that must be aching from the lack of attention.

“I… think I have an idea.”

A large hand places itself onto Link’s back, gentle yet demanding, as Sidon pulls him closer. It doesn’t take much for the Hylian to sit in front of him, his lips parted and slick with Sidon’s precome, and Link doesn’t even bother wiping it off. He’s much too proud of himself for eliciting such a reaction, and he wants Sidon to know.

“Stop me if I do anything wrong,” Sidon whispers, his voice a trembling sound as he shifts closer. His two lengths are settled against Link’s own, and just that is enough to have Link gasping.

Sidon’s hand guides Link’s own, and they’re soon both wrapped together, shaking and twitching against each other. Link could die just like this, he thinks as soon as Sidon starts pumping up and down, pleasuring the both of them at once.

“Ah-” Link moans through a hung mouth, and it’s so relieving, so good, he had waited for this for so long. Sidon’s hand is huge compared to his, and feeling his cocks squeezed against his own like this… It’s heavenly.

“That’s it, Link,” Sidon pants, bringing them together in the best of ways, licking at his dry lips. “Goddesses, sweet Hylia-”

Link lets himself be guided by Sidon’s movements, going at his tantalizingly slow pace. His other hand finds his way against the prince’s hip, keeping a possessive hold onto him while Sidon is breathless and oh so beautiful.

It’s almost stupid, how hard he’s fallen. Every word Sidon utters carries Link into another world, one where he feels at peace, at last. Sidon is always there, keeping him close, whispering to him, and Link knows his heart must be beating out of his chest.

I love him, he thinks to himself as he watches Sidon’s eyelids flutter.

I love him, he thinks to himself as Sidon’s other hand cards itself through Link’s hair.

I love him, it hits him like a storm, and he lets it wash all his doubts away.

I love you.

He spells it out with a finger, onto Sidon’s slick scales, as coherently as he can. I love you, he spells again, and Sidon doesn’t notice.

Maybe confessing right in the middle of sex isn’t so good of an idea.

“I want more of you,” Sidon stammers, pushing at Link’s back to pull him even closer. Link’s length slides right between Sidon’s, his tip finding itself right onto the sensitive skin beneath his slit.

“If you do not mind indulging me,” the prince murmurs, gently taking hold of Link’s cock and guiding him to the small space where his scales have parted. His slit feels so warm , and so slick with natural lubrication it has the Hylian humming in agreement and excitement as he listens to the other man’s every word. “Please, I want you here.”

Link lets his tongue slide across his lips, looking down. A pleading whimper escapes Sidon as he comes closer to Link’s ear, kissing at it lightly.

“Link, fuck me.”

It’s all that the Hylian needs to run his hands right under his prince’s thighs, spreading his legs to give himself more room. And Sidon’s reaction to it is gorgeous, especially the way he parts his lips and shivers in anticipation.

Link pushes forward with a grunt, grinding his cock right into the prince’s slit. Sidon rewards him with a moan as he throws his head back, his body falling against the mattress for more comfort.

“Yes, right here,” he breathes out, two fingers reaching down to spread himself even more. “Ah- Goddesses, Link, this feels so good-”

The Hylian isn’t too used to this, really, but the Goddesses damn it all, it feels amazing ; He’s shuddering above him, his hold on the prince’s thighs tightening in possessiveness. Something subconscious prompts him to bend down,  silently ordering the prince to raise himself so he can at least capture his lips in a hungry kiss. The Zora moans into it while Link thrusts his hips forward, and the Hylian swears he’s caught a glimpse of his gorgeous eyes watering from the stimulation. He goes on in slow movements, biting at Sidon’s bottom lip, feeling him squirm in his hold. A pleased smile spreads across the prince’s lips, and Link has to free one of his hands to sign the best he can.

You’re so cute , he says, biting at his own bottom lip. He can’t help but revel in the way Sidon legs twitch in his hold, the way his sharp teeth grind together.

And the way he is, all of him, Hylia.

Link’s got it bad.

“You are flustering me,” Sidon says, biting at one of his own fingers. “Please, keep going, my darling,” he picks his pleading back up, gripping at the sheets while his legs wrap themselves around Link’s hips.

The Hylian knows how sex can feel for Zoras, how the mixture of sounds and scents can cause one to feel a little lost in it all, and he wouldn’t be surprised if he were mutating into one. Sidon feels so warm, so good - if only Link could speak, he’s sure he’d be praising him to no end.

“Oh, Link,” Sidon manages to speak through it still, and the way his hips rock against Link’s own has a groan resonating in his throat. The more he pushes, the louder Sidon gets; And truly, he’s not sure he cares about being heard. There’s no way he’ll pass up this opportunity to feel just how sensitive his prince is right there .

“May I-” Sidon begins, panting uncontrollably as his mouth hangs when Link gives a particularly good languid thrust. “May I bite you, please? Just a little,” he asks, and the Hylian doesn’t even need to think about it.

He shifts until his neck is as close as it can be to Sidon’s mouth, nodding vigorously to his words. It’s not long until he feels Sidon’s hot breath ghosting over his shivering skin, all hungry and lustful.

Sidon’s teeth reach him, tentatively at first. Link can tell he’s trying so hard to be gentle, even if he must yearn for much more - the taste of Link’s blood on his tongue, the sight of a scar…

For now, Link keeps on grinding himself against the prince’s slit, his arousal leaking and dripping over him, and it’s fucking perfect . He can’t wait to see what it’ll look like next, how good he’ll look covered in come.

Link can’t see much like this, but the feeling of Sidon nibbling at him is enough to have a moan escaping his lips. The trembling in his jaw causes the Hylian to move closer, and the razor-sharp things sink in until they’re close to breaking the skin.

He doesn’t break the skin, however, but that’s good enough for Link, who can’t help but accelerate his pace. Sidon bites lightly, running his tongue across his skin, tasting him until his eyes roll back under his lids. The Zora is almost whimpering at this point, his body jolting as he finds Link’s gaze when he pulls back. His mouth leaves a pretty circular mark, one that Link touches briefly with a look of fondness.

He’d like to believe they belong together.

The prince’s eyes are like abysses by now, and they swallow Link up as the pupils fluctuate in size. “Link, I’m- going to come-” he murmurs breathlessly, taking hold of his his tail and bringing it over his shoulder. It’s a strange gesture to Link at first, but he’s quick to pick up on the way he pulls at it, on the way his pleasure seems to grow when he does.

And even if spelling might not be the most effective way to get the message through, Link tries it anyway - Come , he spells on the prince’s thigh with the tip of his finger, rocking his hips harder.

It’s not long until he sees it - Sidon’s face is scrunching up for just a second, sucking the air through his teeth before his mouth hangs, the prettiest moan rolling down his tongue. His release spills over his abdomen, and this sight is something that Link wants to have memorized forever. It only excites him more - soon, his body adopts a jagged pace as his thighs tremble in exhaustion. The heavenly friction pushes him over the edge before he can warn Sidon, but the prince doesn’t seem to mind; He arches his back, rolling his hips against Link in hopes to drive him crazy.

And it works so well .

The Hylian’s head is thrown back as he grunts, his voice leaving his lungs in sounds that he knows he’ll be embarrassed about later. But it feels amazing, so how could he not let the other man know?

His entire body shudders as it finally gets what it’d been craving. Everything he was holding onto is released, except for the prince’s thighs; His grip tightens, his fingers digging into his skin, and the undying fire in his being burning all the brighter. His come sprays right onto Sidon’s slit, exactly where the prince had wanted him, and Link feels oh so lucky to be able to see such an imagery.

But it’s when he looks at his beautiful face that he realizes again, as he slowly descends from his peak; He loves this man, and he would follow him anywhere. Does Sidon feel the same? The way he looks at the Hylian could mean so many things, and Link doesn’t want heartbreak, so he shuts up for now, instead listening to the voice in his head that tells him that being in love feels amazing.

And for the first time in a while, he feels truly happy.

Sidon catches his breath, his legs falling numb into Link’s hands. The Hylian gently lets them go, resting them on the mattress before crawling to his prince and letting his fingers caress his face.

...You did so good, Link signs lightly with exhausted hands. I-

Sidon waits with a parted mouth, his teeth gleaming in a content, yet questioning smile. And Link’s heart is pounding out of his chest, he can even hear it.

I really liked it, he signs, bending down to kiss at Sidon’s lips lovingly. The prince sighs into it, his strong arms wrapping themselves around Link’s back and pulling him close until their bodies are pressed together.

“I did too, my dear,” he murmurs into Link’s hair, peppering his forehead with kisses. Sidon feels himself coming down from it all, his chest heaving with long breaths. Even with Link above, there’s still some kind of melancholy that roots itself deep into his heart. It laces itself with something else, a warm feeling that he hasn’t known in a while.

“It is quite pleasant to have you so close to me,” he says, his fingers running along the skin of Link’s back and tickling slightly. “I feel safe with you.”

Link can’t exactly sign this way. He stays still, allowing himself to wrap his arms around Sidon’s neck in a sweet embrace.

“You’re amazing, Link,” Sidon whispers again, kissing at the Hylian’s red, fluttering ear. “Thank you, for everything.”

And as much as he had tried to push the feeling away, it doesn’t seem like he can ignore it anymore.

In the middle of the emotional shipwreck that is his mind, there’s something that grows, something that pulsates with warm colors, something that Sidon watches without knowing what to do. He had met it in dreams, that mysterious entity that left him at a loss of words more than once.

He holds onto Link with possessiveness, letting him bury his head against the prince’s neck. They’ve never held so close before, at least it hadn’t ever felt like this . His dear friend’s heartbeat resonates against him, and Sidon realizes that for once in his life, he can’t seem to find any words to express himself at the moment.

Just sounds, just movements, nothing verbal. And there’s only one person in the world who would ever tell him that it was alright to keep quiet when he had no idea what to say.

And that person is Link.

Perhaps that’s why Sidon doesn’t feel as energetic as he usually is, perhaps that’s why his knees weaken at the mere sight of his Hylian friend. Perhaps that’s why his face feels so hot whenever Link smiles, perhaps that’s why he’s started nibbling at his claws at night.

Perhaps that’s why he’s fallen in love.

 

Chapter Text

The sun had risen above the mountaintops early in the morning, waking Sidon before he had planned to. He’s a right mess, honestly - he must’ve slept for about four hours, and he’s sure everyone can tell.

But well, at least this time it wasn’t because of insomnia.

“There is no way I am leaving you out there on your own for another day,” Mipha speaks clearly, her tone stern as she ties her snow-proof boots for the day. Sidon watches quietly for now as they sit under the gazebo, his hands buried deep into the pockets of his coat. “I will come with you to Eldin,” she adds, and Sidon can’t help but pout like a child.

“I am not on my own, Mipha,” he retorts, leaning himself against the back of the bench. “I have bodyguards, remember?”

“Maybe,” she replies, sitting up once again and brushing some dust off of her tail. “But do they have my resurrecting power? I do not believe so. Be it you, Link, anyone - if you encounter the thieves again, who knows what could happen? I would never rest easy if I were to go home now.”

Sidon wants to protest, but how can he? She’s completely right. Had it not been for her presence on that horrible day in Tabantha, Link would’ve surely died protecting him. “I will not argue with you on that,” he replies defeatedly, “Does that mean someone will be following me at all times?”

Mipha sighs, putting her hands to her hips. “I’m afraid it does,” she says, and her eyes stay on him when he sighs frustratedly, her gaze strangely suspicious.

When the silence drags on for too long, Sidon looks up at her, frowning in confusion. “What? Is there something on my face?” He asks, and Mipha steps closer until she can sit at his side.

“You are being sassy,” she says, pointing to him with a judging finger. “Is the Hylian guard’s general behavior influencing you?” Her eyes remain deadpan as she fixates him, but Sidon doesn’t budge.

“I don’t believe so,” he replies, his shoulders rolling in a weak shrug. “It is normal for me to feel somewhat discouraged at the fact that I will not have a single moment of peace. You know I loathe being constantly watched.”

“Right, right,” Mipha waves her hand in dismissal as she finally drops the subject. Sidon already knows it won’t change her mind; With everything that’s happened recently, it’s only natural that they reinforce security. But it’s not like Sidon was going to stray away from his bodyguards again anyway. He lets it go for now - he’s sure the trip will still be enjoyable for him, at the very least.

“Speaking of, I saw Link this morning, he was finishing guard duty,” Mipha speaks suddenly. “I saw him going for a bath, in his casual outfit. There was this oddly large bite mark on his neck.”

The prince doesn’t need to look at her to know she’s staring at him, waiting for an explanation. Of course she knows what’s going on - it’s nearly impossible to hide any of it, as a Zora. Sidon finally faces her, and while he tries to remain serious, a smug smile is tugging at the corner of his lips.

“A bite mark? Really?” He asks, eyes wide in feigned surprise, and Mipha instantly sighs.

“Oh, I have no time for your games,” she says, though her words are full of humor as she gets back up and heads towards the exit. “Come on, you wanted to see the Hebra Plunge, did you not? Torfeau and Gaddison are coming with us.”

He gets up with a smile, following her sister outside. While he looks in all directions, he can’t seem to find Link - well, the Hylian must be somewhere else in the village, perhaps buying more supplies. He would’ve wanted to say hello, but he supposes he’ll keep it for later.

Because unfortunately, Link hadn’t been able to stay the entire night in Sidon’s room. It would’ve been delightful to feel the other man snuggling up against him for longer, after their passionate reunion. The prince doesn’t regret any of it - he still thinks of it now, of the way Link had held him, of the way he had kissed him like this would never happen again. It had felt like their hearts were melting together like chocolate, merging until they had nothing but each other.

But Sidon hadn’t confessed, and he isn’t sure he wants to just yet. He’s completely unsure of Link’s feelings on the matter of… getting in some kind of relationship, if he even loves him at all. While it’s a little frustrating to remain in uncertainty, there’s that pleasant feeling that stays there for now - it’s a wonderful thing, to be able to look at someone and think to yourself, ‘This is the person I love.’

In a way, Sidon finds he can comfort himself in that. He could just spend the day looking at his smile, watching his hands as they signed stories, falling deeper in love with each second.

It’s a little scary to think about, too. He knows of Link’s many burdens. He knows how painful they are, and how much they affect his life. Would it really be wise to try and add Sidon’s romantic feelings on top of it all? Did he really need it?

He’s not sure of the answers, but Sidon knows he can keep it to himself for now.

He follows his sister outside the village, finding Torfeau and Gaddison who wait for them patiently.

*

At the top of Rito village, Link is sure to be ready for the day. He feels a lot better than the day before, really; His heart is filled with optimism, which is rather rare for him these days. Sidon must be influencing him.

He thinks about it with a fond smile, his eyes falling onto the horizon as he watches the distant mountains. It’s a bit of a shame that no one can really visit these places - they’re so full of monsters, so hostile that it’s not so uncommon for people to never come back from a trek in the snowy lands.

“You ready to go?” Link hears a voice behind him; Tottika. The black Zora is done preparing himself to go outside, his neck wrapped in a colorful scarf that he’s gotten from… somewhere?

Link nods, settling his spear against his back and pulling up his mask. The reason why they’re outside now tugs at his heart painfully, but he’d rather not show it: After what happened to Telum in the Tabantha snowfield, the group of travelers need to rent another horse for the rest of the trip.

There’s a stable right to the southeast of Rito village, and that’s where they’re headed. Link walks at Tottika’s side, eyeing him with suspicion every so often and instantly turning away when the Zora notices.

Oh, this is none of Link’s business after all.

But Hylia damns him for it, he’s curious as all hell.

So… what happened last night? He signs when Tottika watches him, obviously tired. But the black Zora’s pupils fall into a frown, and Link keeps his eyes on him still.

“I should be asking you that,” Tottika mumbles, and Link feels instantly offended.

Me? Why? He asks, putting a hand to his chest in disbelief. No, I have nothing to do with this. I saw you get into Misa’s house last night though, he adds, smirking in mischief, and the Zora’s eyelids twitch only slightly before going back to their regular deadpan expression.

“Oh, you don’t know?” Tottika says, his voice teasing. “Alright, I went into a woman’s house yesterday, but you should see yourself. You’re covered in the prince’s scent.”

Link feels himself turning to stone, the weight of Tottika’s words instantly shattering him like a sledgehammer would. Yes, he’d been messing with him, such was his sense of humor after all - But Tottika looks utterly serious, and that’s certainly not the reply he expected to receive.

His scent? He asks, and he’s sure his brow is already sweating. You’re fucking with me.

“I swear I’m not,” Tottika replies, letting out a laugh at Link’s mortified expression. “Come on, really? No one told you about this?”

Link shakes his head, his brow furrowing in half-fear, half-disbelief. Oh, Hylia no.

“When you sleep with someone, you carry their scent on you for about a day. It’s something only us Zoras can notice, given how sharp our senses are,” Tottika explains, and Link feels himself dying slowly. He wonders if he’ll wake up in the Korok forest again this time. “So, yeah. I know you slept with Prince Sidon.”

An unwelcome warmth invades the Hylian’s face,  so intense he could evaporate on the spot. How can he even deny it when he’d spent three rounds ravishing him on the same night? Oh, no- what if Sidon learns that it’s not a secret anymore?

“Link, it’s really not a big deal,” Tottika says nonchalantly, shrugging as he walks down the stairs to find the bridge. “I don’t know why that kind of stuff is so taboo for Hylians. Sex isn’t a bad thing, no one cares who you’re doing it with, at least in our culture.”

Sure, Link would agree to that kind of positivity, but… Isn’t it really uncomfortable to know that everyone’s aware you just fucked? Link asks, and Tottika is absolutely bewildered.

“No one is even going to mention it,” he replies, giving a pat on the Hylian’s shoulder in attempted reassurement, yet there’s still an intention to tease the poor man about all this. “Besides, I saw the prince this morning, and he seemed really proud to have your scent on him. It’s not a secret to anyone, we knew ever since we got in Tabantha.”

And that’s the killing blow. While Link thought he knew everything of Zoras to the point of acting like one, here he is, an idiot completely oblivious to this part of their culture. He doesn’t think he’s felt this hyper aware of his own scent before, but he can’t notice anything in particular - it really is a Zora thing, after all.

Although… he can’t help but feel a little flattered that Sidon would be so proud of it. That’s one good thing to remember.

That’s unfair to me then, Link signs, directing his attention back to the black Zora. I can’t tell if you’ve fucked or not. It’s not as fun.

Tottika averts his eyes, his steps rising in pace to avoid speaking of the matter in detail. “If you really want to know,” he begins, the volume of his voice quieting as they pass by a confused Rito guard. “Yeah. I railed her.”

Link claps his hands together, letting out a laugh loud enough for anyone at the stable to hear. There it is! He signs, though Tottika chooses to ignore him completely as he makes his way towards the stable.

There’s no horse at the stable that strikes Link as particularly good. Then again, it’s just one meant for traveling, but looking over them still has him feeling a certain emptiness. He’s still mourning Telum, really, and replacing him so soon feels… brutal, in a way. Even if Telum was never really his horse.

He finds himself brooding over it, frowning every time his eyes land on a horse that looks slightly like him. No, if possible, they need something completely different.

“Hey, Link,” Tottika alerts him, his voice strangely quieter than usual. “Paya is over there. I feel like she wants to talk to you.”

The Zora’s head gestures to one of the campfires, where Paya sits as she finishes a meal. She seems a little less somber than usual, Link will have to admit that, but he can hardly believe she managed to become so intimidating in the first place.

“Just go,” the Zora says again, his tone resigned. “I’ll take care of the horse.”

Link thanks him silently with a nod, slowly approaching the campfire where Paya rests. His steps are obviously hesitant; He’s not sure how to act around this woman anymore, really.

“Good to see you, Link,” she pipes up, her hand moving from under her cloak to gesture him to sit at her side. The Hylian does just that, keeping a reasonable distance between them as she gets rid of her plate. “Though I’m assuming you’re not at the stable for fun.”

Cold. Link examines her face for a few seconds, finding guilt and compassion in her eyes, still. “It’s my fault that your horse died, and for that, I wanted to apologize.”

The Hylian sighs, not finding it in himself to resent her for it. Sure, she’s the one who caused the avalanche, but can he really complain? Had it not been for her, he would’ve been taken by the Yiga without a doubt. It’s a miracle that he’s even still walking.

How did you… even get in the hideout without being noticed? He signs, looking over to her with curiosity. The small, red pin in her hair reminds him of what she used to wear as a child.

“There was this new recruit, a woman of the same height and body type as me,” she replies, unsheathing an eightfold blade from under her coat. Jumping slightly at the sight, Link decides to let her speak. “I got rid of her and stole her uniform. It was pretty easy to trick the Yiga into thinking I was on their side.”

Link gulps subtly, his eyebrows raising in mild terror. Sinister, he signs, something that Paya shrugs at lightly. I never thought you’d become the kind of person to say such things with a straight face.

“Four years is a long time, Grasshopper,” she begins, her tone tired and… somewhat bored? She takes out a gourd as she speaks, uncapping it with slender fingers. “Many things happened during those four years. I’m assuming it’s the same for you.”

Link’s eyes fall to the gourd, his mind wandering for a second to the question of what kind of drink would be inside. I guess I did change in some ways, he signs still shaking his head in disbelief. She’s Paya for sure, but not the Paya he knew. Would Xila be proud of her, now that she doesn’t need him to protect her anymore? While I give great importance to my current job, I can’t help but look for dangerous fights with random monsters. It’s a bit like challenging death, I guess.

“Challenging death, you say,” she hums to his words, taking a quick sip of whatever is inside her gourd. “Or rebelling against Hylia’s will?”

How in the hell-

You still seem to know me more than I know myself, he signs with a laughter, though there’s something akin to fear hidden beneath it. In the end, you’re probably right. She wanted me alive, and I hate her guts, so…

“That’s where you’ve changed,” the Sheikah woman interrupts him, pointing a judgemental finger in his direction. “You would never have used such wording towards her before. Are you sure you want to anger her?”

She doesn’t wait for a reply, instead handing the gourd to Link with a small smile. Wary, the Hylian takes it with a grateful nod while he brings it to his lips, bracing himself.

...And to his surprise, it tastes sweet and fruity.

Is this… wildberry juice? He asks, a grin playing at the corners of his lips. Not what I expected.

And Paya gets almost defensive, her cheeks tinted a pink hue. “Please don’t laugh at me,” she stammers, “You know I can’t handle alcohol.”

Yes, that’s Paya alright.

Link drinks a little more of it, appreciating the slightly sour aftertaste under his tongue. He vaguely remembers Luwas making the drink himself, back in the day. After a few seconds, he hands the recipient back to his friend, and he’s thankful that it’s healthier than alcohol. Perhaps he should have a little more later.

By the way, Link continues his questioning, leaning forward as he rests his elbows onto his knees. You mentioned living in Kakariko village. How did you get there? Did they recognize you?

Paya’s expression darkens, her eyes locked onto her feet. “They did.” Her tone is stern and quiet, an obvious rancor taking hold of her words. They hadn’t been the nicest of people to her, even as a child. “Even when I came back with black hair, they knew it was me. I thought they wouldn’t want to help me at first, but I saved the village from a Yiga attack, so they felt compelled to offer me shelter until I had enough rupees to buy a house.”

Link’s eyes are wide open at this point, his mouth hanging as he processes it. But Paya yet again doesn’t wait for a reply - she places a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently.

“Luwas and Xila… Life without them feels so lonely,” she begins, her eyes watering only slightly. “It’s like they left and didn’t wait for us. It’s important that we go back to greet our people before we pass like they did.”

His people… the Hylians. Link hadn’t met many, while he was hidden in the safety of Zora’s domain, and he hadn’t intended to. The fact that most folks of Hateno village knew him personally still brings the realization that yes, his parents died to protect him, and it’s all his fault. There’s a chance these people despise him for it.

“Link, please, when this trip is over… Go visit Hateno village, even if it’s only for a few days. I promise it’ll help you as much as it helped me.”

Her words bear a weight that compresses his heart to the point of crushing. Surely his previous neighbors would remember him, his aunt as well; But how could he explain his disappearance? The last time they saw him, he was about seven years old, and now he’s twenty-five. How would they react?

“And after that,” Paya continues speaking despite Link’s silence, “We can join our forces to take down what remains of the Yiga clan. That’s what we were brought back for, isn’t it?”

She extends her hands towards him, leaving her palm open for a handshake. “Will you join me, Link?”

The Hylian had thought about it, had turned the question over in his head incessantly ever since she’s mentioned it. He had felt needles pricking at his heart at the thought of leaving Zora’s domain, of leaving Sidon. The decision had been harder to make now that he knows he’s desperately in love with him - but it was never his own choice to make, was it?

And while he doesn’t want to leave all his Zora friends behind, he has to.

He holds his hand out, taking Paya’s own to shake it in agreement despite how deeply his entire soul aches.

*

It’s only after a few hours that their belongings are packed, and their horses ready for another trip. Eldin is at a great distance, and it’ll most likely take a few days to get there.

It’s almost saddening to leave Rito village. The locals had been so welcoming, so charming, and so helpful to Sidon’s recovery after all, it feels like abandoning new friends. Tottika is still taken aback by it all, by how much happened since they’ve left the domain, and the only thing he can hope for now is that the rest of the trip will go smoothly enough. He’s not sure his poor heart can take another dramatic event.

The black-scaled Zora stands at the bottom of the wooden stairway, tying up his bag and settling it on his shoulders. One thing he can complain about would be the weight, the pain in his back and ankles, but that’s what traveling usually came with, he supposes.

“Tottika?”

A voice interrupts his thoughts, one he has no trouble recognizing instantly. Still, he turns around, his eyes meeting Misa’s own - the Rito lady shows a heartbreaking expression, and Tottika moves to close the distance between them.

She remembers his name.

“I’m…” Misa is obviously awkward, one of her wings rubbing at the other. “I can’t help but wish you could stay longer. It really was an honor to have you here.”

Tottika doesn’t smile just yet - he refuses to get too excited, if he knows that there’s nothing much behind her words. “Rito village is amazing,” he begins, “I wish I could stay a few days more, too. But, well… I have to protect the Zora prince. It’s why I’m here in the first place.”

“Yes of course, I understand,” she replies quietly, fumbling in her pouch until she takes out a small piece of paper folded in half. Carefully, she hands it to him, placing it in the Zora’s palm and closing his fingers on it.

“My address,” she says, averting her eyes in embarrassment. “Will you write to me?”

Tottika feels something waking up his heart again, having it beat as much as the previous night when he had joined her. He stays silent, dumbfounded for a few seconds, noticing the sudden look of concern on her face.

“Only if you let me give you my address too.”

The smile that Misa wears is one that could illuminate the sky at night, one that could give life to withered flowers. He remembers the last time he’d told himself that love was a lost cause for him, that it wouldn’t happen again, yet…

He might be a little enamored. Just a little.

*

The road is treacherous from there. It goes upwards as they cross ‘wilder’ parts of Hyrule, making them wish they could actually be on horseback. But no, they still travel by foot, their ankles sore and their hearts tired as their boots soon step onto a thick layer of snow.

Very few travelers ventured in the Tabantha Hills. It’s just as cold as the Hebra peaks, and as hostile as the bogs of woodland. The monsters lurk in the ruins of a village, and it’s the only path they can take - thankfully, the lizalfos and moblins’ behaviors have changed over the years, as dumb as they can be. They still remained important to the ecosystem as long as they didn’t rampage and attack populated areas, and so they stay still, their scarlet eyes focusing on the group of travelers that ignore them while staying wary.

Still, it’s so cold that Link wouldn’t be surprised if he froze to death and became a moblin’s meal. He can only imagine how jarring it must be for Sidon, who suffered from hypothermia only a few days ago - but when he looks to him, the prince remains calm through it, at least that’s what he shows to everyone else.

And when Sidon looks back, Link can’t help but feel his heart leaping out of his chest.

The travelers barely exchange words as they move forward, the clattering of their teeth preventing them from coming up with anything interesting to say. Link feels his eyes watering from the wind, his toes numbing even in the protective boots. The fog is so dense that he can only see a mere three meters ahead of him, so he focuses on the Zoras in front of him to guide the way through the path. It’s Torfeau and Gaddison - Oddly enough, the two stand much closer to one another today than they usually do. He often catches a glimpse of Gaddison huddling against the other woman, and he hears a giggle - wait a minute.

Link gathers what the Zoras taught him. Scent, right? He tries to concentrate, to focus on Torfeau for a moment and lets his nose pick up on whatever he can find. It’s not useful; The two are so close to each other, if Link were to find Gaddison’s scent, he knows it’ll be because she’s standing right next to her.

Why is he even doing this? This isn’t any of his business. Well, he supposes it kind of is - he’s been supporting Torfeau’s crush on Gaddison the whole time, encouraging her to act. Surely she would tell him if something happened, right?

And as though she could hear his thoughts, Torfeau turns her head back to look at him. He sticks out his tongue, as any best friend would do in any embarrassing situation, but she replies with the warmest smile she can give.

And to his surprise, she signs.

I did what you told me, she says, pointing to Gaddison discreetly. It worked.

Link picks up on the way her cheeks warm up as she gestures the words, and the Hylian nods excitedly, giving her a simple thumbs up in response. Finally. He doesn’t think he could be more happy for her.

If only he could muster as much courage as she did.

A few meters behind, Paya follows with silent steps and a calm expression, her entire body covered in warm clothing. It reminds Link of the first time he’d met her, under the downpour in Necluda as she hid behind Xila’s back. Some of the Zoras had tried to engage in conversation, as unapproachable as she seemed - Dunma had done a nice job, surprisingly. While it hadn’t lasted very long, it had seemed to at least bring a small smile to Paya’s face, having someone to joke around with her as though she were a friend. Link wants to imagine that the Sheikah woman had at least a few people to talk to all these four years, but he doubts that’s the case.

Thankfully, the fog seems to clear up as the day goes by. It’s still terribly cold, and Link’s muscles have contracted so much from trying to warm himself up that he would give anything for a long, hot bath. But for now, he’s happy enough when he sees the lights from the stable in the distance. It’s settled at the side of the path, surrounded by an immense snowfield as the travelers gather around for warm drinks and campfires. They’ll have to stop here for the night, Link knows, and he hopes for a great night of sleep - they’ll most likely have to travel another entire day before they can even reach the base of the volcano.

But for now they rest, enjoying their last taste of the traditional food from the region, while chattering by the warmth of a fireplace. The main hall of the inn is packed, but it doesn’t prevent them from sitting around in a circle, telling each other about their respective trip, and Link finds himself dozing off more often than not.

“So, Link,” Torfeau whispers at his side, quietly enough that no one but him will hear. “I think I should thank you for your help with… You know, all that stuff.”

Link’s eyes snap open as he’s suddenly shaken awake by her words. What?

“I mean Gaddison!” She whispers a little louder, flashing a toothy grin. “We finally figured things out. It’s kind of ridiculous that it took us so long, isn’t it?”

Link rubs at his eyes, a yawn escaping his mouth. Come on, I didn’t do anything, he signs, giving the usual light, affectionate punch to her arm. It was all you. I’m happy for you.

“Thank you,” she says, and Link doesn’t think he’s ever seen her look so peaceful before. He nods to her words, preparing himself to doze off again before she pipes up.

“What about you, Link?” She asks, glancing at the prince and making sure he’s not hearing her. “Are you still figuring things out?”

He really can’t hide anything from anyone.

Well, that’s how it’ll be, he supposes. Link lets out a sigh, biting at the inside of his cheek. I think I know, he signs discreetly, watching Sidon from the corner of his eyes. The prince is chattering with his sister and Bazz, his back leaning against the wall, completely relaxed in the safety of the secluded inn.  

I just want to be with him.

Torfeau hums, her eyes full of warmth and reassurance. “It’s nice to see you finally admitting it,” she replies, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I knew you had a thing for him since we visited Gerudo.”

Link cocks an eyebrow, his cheeks still flushing with a slightly red hue. I didn’t even know I had a thing for him when we visited Gerudo. At least not romantically.

“Why don’t you tell him?” She asks.

You should know it’s not that easy, he replies, sighing deeply as he rubs at his temples. Especially because he’s, you know, the actual Zora prince.

“Ah, fair point,” Torfeau says with a titter, her tone still compassionate. “I can see how scary that would be. But I mean… Haven’t you done much more than simple words, when it comes to communicating with him?”

Link lets his shoulders drop. He really needs to get used to the whole… ‘Everyone knows who you slept with’ thing. It’s not the same thing, he signs, somewhat exasperated. Besides, you were in the exact same situation. Sex doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want it to, so that’s why I’m unsure.

“Link, stop. He’s looking.”

The Hylian turns around, finding Sidon’s gaze directed at him, a content smile accompanying it. While it’s unlikely that the prince can hear Torfeau from where he is, he can still read Link’s hands - it’s too risky to continue on with the conversation for now.

“Anyway,” Torfeau continues quietly enough, “If you need me, I’ll always be there for you. Don’t start getting sad like I did, alright?”

Link gives a quick nod, and only her can see the grateful smile that he offers. The black Zora soon returns to her girlfriend, spending the rest of the evening at her side and bumping her brow against hers. It’s adorable to see, and he finds himself being a little envious; Could he have something like this with the prince, something that would allow them to be publicly affectionate with each other? Zoras were certainly open-minded when it came to that type of displays, but… Would it be any different for Sidon?

He sleeps alone that night, huddled under the thick blankets of his bed. The inn is certainly adapted for the region - it feels nicer than any inn Link’s ever been at, actually. It doesn’t take long for him to drift off into a restful slumber, and while his thoughts are still rather disoriented, he knows it’ll have to wait.

It takes them the entirety of the next day to cross Woodland, a region with so few paths that they’re mostly forced to walk in zigzags between the landforms. There isn’t much to see here, aside from the military training camp that they briefly walk by; It was never really a place meant to be visited, really. It’s a surprise that Sidon never went to Eldin before, as the region is closer to Lanayru than one would think. It’s how they almost reach Sidon’s hometown before making a sharp turn until the imposing, intimidating Death Mountain shows itself in the distance. Are they really going to climb on top of that? Link must admit, he had never done it before, and his role as a guide is almost handed over to Mipha at this point.

And the volcano seems to get taller the more they approach. Link can’t help but look up most of the time, and the lava is so bright that he can still see it from here. His attention is so focused on it that he barely notices the end of the day coming, the sky darkening to a cloudless blue.

Thankfully enough, the foothill stable is soon in sight. It’s a humble one, with not so many travelers, so the few that are here watch the group of Zoras, bug-eyed and even more confused at the sight of the Hylian guard disguised as one of them. They’re still greeted with immense respect, as if they were the first travelers they’d seen in a while.

It’s much too late to engage in the climbing path for now. But what Link’s sure of is that the maw of Death Mountain looks like the gates of hell, now that he’s venturing there to find some fireproof lizards. The critters would be of great use for the elixirs, and they’ll need to make enough to survive on the volcano for at least a few days. Their scales are unfortunately covered in a thin, slimy layer of a particular bodily fluid that gave the creatures their high resistance to scorching heat. It clings to Link’s gloves, making him wish they actually some kind of traps to set up instead of having to catch them like a bunch of cavemen.

After making the potions, it feels much more reasonable to sleep as soon as possible. Link doesn’t start guard duty just yet, thankfully, but it’s a little difficult to have a single moment alone with Sidon once again. He’s always occupied by his sister while she shows the surroundings, by the stable owners and travelers who try to engage in conversation with him. He understands, he truly does, and truth be told, he’s not sure what he would even say if he were to find himself alone with him again.

But he doesn’t have much time to think it through. Right before they head to their respective rooms, the two stand in the hallway, stopped in their tracks upon the realization that no one else is here.

It feels almost stressful, and Link didn’t expect it. Still, he tries to keep his composure, straightening himself and rolling his sore shoulders as he looks up at the prince with a pleased smile.

Are you ready to climb the volcano tomorrow? Link asks, a question to fill the silence, watching as Sidon’s expression melts into something a little less tense.

“I’m a little nervous, but if Mipha did it… It shouldn’t be too bad, should it?” Sidon replies, his teeth gleaming in a grin. “I am most eager to see Goron city. It will surely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I do not mind having to exert myself for a moment.”

Same here, Link replies, the movements of his hands a little slower than usual. His hand is on the doorknob before he can help it, ready to say goodnight and move in his room. 

“Link?” Sidon calls out to him, gentle and smooth, extending his hand towards the Hylian. “May I ask you to come closer?”

Link’s heartbeat picks up a rapid pace, his throat tensing up as he nods. He walks closer to the prince, soon standing right before him, his entire attention directed towards him and his hands somewhat shaky. This whole situation didn’t have him turning shy, of course not - but afraid to mess up at every second he spends with him? Surely. Sidon has already forgiven so much of his behavior, and the Hylian can’t allow himself to make another single mistake.

To his surprise, Sidon kneels before him.

He still towers over him, obviously, but the gesture is enough to have Link stepping back, something he instantly regrets.  He remains in place from there on, waiting for his prince’s words, almost forgetting to breathe as he does.

“Forgive me if it is a little strange of me to ask,” Sidon begins, his hands tentatively hovering around Link’s own. “But… May I kiss you?”

The Hylian’s heart grows a size, pulsating with warmth and rapture to the rhythm of his words. With widening eyes, he nods silently, waiting for Sidon to make the first move.

Time slows down when the prince comes closer, and the sound of the clock ticking inside Link’s heart falls silent. Everything sets him aflame, from the way Sidon’s hands rest onto Link’s hips, to the way his lips brush against his own somewhat timidly.

And when they kiss, it feels like it’s the first time.

Sidon’s taste hasn’t changed, but there’s an added emotion, something Link wasn’t quite comprehending before that. The prince’s hands are light and careful onto him, and his lips are tentative, exploring him again.

Link’s own hands tremble, having difficulty to find a place to rest upon. They settle onto Sidon’s broad chest, his fingers tracing circles onto his skin, subtly spelling a confession once more. It’s much too subtle for Sidon to notice, however; He soon pulls away, licking at his bottom lip as a nervous laughter escapes him.

“I suppose this is how we say goodnight,” he says, his eyes shying away and his hands unfortunately leaving the Hylian. “Should I… expect this to become a habit?”

Link knows his face must be searing hot at this point. Still, he tries to keep his composure, hoping Sidon won’t notice it in the dark. He has some kind of image to maintain.

If you want it to, of course, he replies, and Sidon lets out a quiet sigh of relief. Even in the unlit hallway, Link can see the glint in his eyes, and it takes many efforts and inward arguing with his own impulse control for him to not pull him in for another kiss.

“Thank you, Link.” Sidon’s voice comes as a whisper as to not wake up those who have already fallen asleep. “I shall rest for now. I will see you in the morning, yes?”

The Hylian nods to his words, waving him goodbye before the prince enters his room. Link does the same, locking the door behind himself, and he buries his face right into his palms.

Hylia really is testing him after all.

He bathes and goes to bed right away, throwing his clothes in a corner of the room. He hopes for another restful night, but the chemicals in his body don’t seem too keen on granting him that. As he lies under the covers, his eyes feel so adjusted to the obscurity that it barely feels like it’s the middle of the night, and they’re wide open, fixated on the wall, the door or the ceiling. The sight of Sidon comes back to mind no matter what he does, and it weighs heavy on his eyelids, the golden of the prince’s eyes a color now etched into his very soul.

He’ll be tired tomorrow, he supposes.

He does get some sleep, after a good amount of time turning and shuffling around in his bed. He still wakes up much earlier than everyone else, when the sun begins to rise. Another concern is on his mind; Would they truly have enough elixirs to survive the scalding air of the volcano? He can’t imagine that they’ll last as long as simpler elixirs, seeing how strong they are.

He sits in front of the cooking pot, preparing a few more bottles. Thankfully, the fireproof lizards are everywhere in this area; After catching a few more, he throws them into the pot along with a few monster parts that he’s bought from the freckled merchant. He watches as it boils, feeling the cool morning air tickle at his face before a voice breaches his tranquility.

“You’re afraid we won’t have enough?”

Link turns back, and he’s so on edge at this point that anything that startles him could take a swing of his spear. He calms himself down as soon as he sees Bazz standing behind him, ready for the day and awake for no reason, much like himself.

But… It’s the first time that the black Zora speaks to him ever since he had been revealed as a past Yiga. He knew he was angry, but Link hadn’t found it in himself to talk to him yet, not with everything else that was on his mind. He’s somewhat thankful that Bazz is the one to approach him.

Still, he’s not sure what to expect.

“It’s alright. I can help you, if you want,” the Zora says, sitting at Link’s side and rummaging through the bag full of monster remains. The discomfort is visible on his expression, but he still helps, not a single word leaving his mouth so far.

And Link is stuck in thought, staring at him with narrowed eyes. He’s supposed to say something, isn’t he? Bazz can’t just let something like that slide without a word, that’s just not how he is. So the Hylian waits, his eyes locked on his friend, and it takes a few minutes for Bazz to stop to acknowledge Link’s behavior and finally say something.

“What is this look you’re giving me?” He asks, stopping his activities as well.

You haven’t talked to me in days, Link signs, deciding to be completely honest with him. You can’t just come up to me and pretend nothing happened. Don’t you have anything to say? He asks, pulling down his mask.

Bazz sighs, his eyes traveling along a moblin horn. “It’s rather bold of you to ask; I am not the one who has explanations to give. I thought that much was clear,” he states, and Link can’t help but bite at the inside of his cheek. It’s true that he should’ve engaged a serious conversation with him already, and he can’t blame the Zora for still feeling bitter. 

“You know what? Forget about it,” Bazz suddenly pipes up, throwing the moblin horn into the pot. “I already know what happened. You were right, I am the one who should speak now,” he adds, to which the Hylian immediately stiffens.

He swallows the lump in his throat, his eyes falling to his feet. If there’s a time when he should shut up at all costs, right now would be it.

“The first day you arrived to the domain, I knew something was… Off, about you. I could feel that you were hiding something, and the king knew exactly what - And because he never said anything about it, I decided to keep it to myself and forget about it.”

Bazz keeps his eyes on the cooking pot, occupying his sight with anything other than Link. “And I wanted to be angry, at first. Seeing that emblem on your back brought a few horrific memories that made me think exiling you would be the answer.”

The Hylian’s back goes tense as he speaks, and the heaviness of Bazz’s words are certainly not helping. It could’ve happened, now that he thinks about it - He could’ve been exiled somewhere else, and would’ve never been able to see his friends ever again.

“But it didn’t take much thinking to know that I was wrong. Do you still have memories of that day at the Lanayru Promenade four years ago, when Prince Sidon was almost killed?”

Link nods slowly, his insides twisting as he remembers the sight. It’s blurry, but I remember most of it.

“My memories of it are sharp and vivid, almost as though they were in front of me instead of in my brain. Does this make sense to you?”

Link doesn’t reply, and instead raises his gaze, looking at the guard captain in the eyes. Bazz’s expression has changed - his lower lids are twitching in disgust as he recalls the event, his mouth twisting in inner pain.

“I was… Right next to him, just as Lady Mipha was. You might not remember that I had to hold his neck for several minutes as the blood was desperately trying to gush out. In the middle of the general panic, there were the princess’s words, so out of her manners and her usual tone that it felt like thunder roaring upon us.”

He takes a deep breath, leaning back and resting his hands onto the ground.

“And then there was the dread. I saw some Zoras doing what they could to help. I saw some others simply standing there in defeat, accepting that it was already too late for him and closing their eyes in early mourning. Do you know how it felt like? The fear that the prince would die on the cold stone, without ever being able to say goodbye to his father? The fear that I would lose not only the one I was supposed to protect with my life, but also a friend?” He pauses, snapping out of his recollection to not fall into some kind of flashback again.

“...It might not seem like it, but I am much older than him, and my siblings and I watched him grow into who he is today. On that day, I feared that a piece of my soul would be removed. And with your ability to speak to the dragons, you saved him.”

Link channels his memories as well; It was just as nerve-racking, but he knows Bazz must’ve suffered in silence all this time. The Hylian was… almost trying to erase that incident from his mind, as though it had never happened. He was wrong to do so.

“When Prince Sidon was attacked in Lurelin, you saved him. When he was abducted in Tabantha, you came to his aid. It doesn’t even stop there.  Torfeau was the first one to talk to you, and you two became such close friends that it brought back the smile on her heartbroken face. Tottika and you had something that I couldn’t exactly comprehend, but my brother’s heart is divided, and I know one part of it belongs to you.”

There’s a short pause during which the birds fly above, breaking the silence that Link unfortunately cannot fill.

“As for me… I suppose I envied you, in some way. When you were able to spot and defeat the Yiga, I knew it was something you alone could do. For the entirety of this trip, I’ve felt utterly powerless. I’ve never wanted to go home as much as I want to now, Link, and trust me when I tell you that I truly hate myself for even thinking that I want to get away from all this.”

Link’s expression falls into compassion, his eyes settled on the Zora.

“I cannot be upset with you, Link,” Bazz continues with a weak smile. “After all, it’s partly thanks to you that we’ll be able to go back to the domain safely. I believe that whatever happens now cannot be as bad as what’s happened until now, can it?”

Link nods to his words, a tired laugh escaping him. I hope so, he signs, pulling back at the tail of his hood and tugging until it falls. Thank you, Bazz. I don’t think I’m deserving of what you’re giving me.

“Well, you did steal a bunch of things, and break into the lockup of Hyrule castle,” the Zora jokes, rolling his eyes as he recounts what Paya had told him. “I don’t know what took you to Zora’s domain, but I think you’ve done enough to redeem yourself.”

Whatever you say, I still don’t think I’ll ever be as immaculate as when I was a baby, Link replies, the smile still stuck on his face as he smothers the fire to finish the preparation. I’ll never feel like I’m good enough, and that’s just how it is.

“It will surely come in time,” Bazz replies, getting back on his feet with a deep sigh. “For now, know that we are here to help. I am the captain after all, the royal guard’s well-being is important to me.”

Link nods in thanks, jumping slightly when Bazz offers him a gentle pat on the shoulder. It’s an immense relief to have this weight lifted off himself, and he thanks the skies that these people exist; While he thought he was irredeemable, it doesn’t seem like he will be given up on anytime soon.

They depart later in the morning, their luggage and elixirs ready. They leave the horses in the care of the stable owners, as the poor animals would surely burn alive if they were to follow - Link doesn’t need another horse death during this trip.

The maw of Death Mountain opens around them, swallowing them up as they follow a path unlike any other. While the trees were already dried up and dead before, their numbers lower the further they stray, leaving only dirt and rocks. The climbing trail is paved with fire chuchu and keese that they get rid of with ease, swatting them away with a simple swing of a spear. Link watches the smotherwing butterflies wondering how they manage to live and eat in this environment, and he realizes that the air grows hotter and hotter around them, making it difficult to breathe.

The Zoras have already taken out their fireproof elixirs, downing them as soon as they notice the next sign;

Goron city ahead

Non-Gorons use extreme caution

Link swallows dryly, rolling the small bottle in his hand before opening it and drinking the potion. Just as one would expect, it’s thick and bitter, its texture feeling like it coats his insides with a protective layer. He grimaces, wishing that these had a better taste, at least.

And when they climb further, they understand why the air is scorching hot.

The road is surrounded by molten lava, flowing slowly from waterfalls like goo that gathers into lakes. It’s terrifying to remember that the travelers would all be burning alive, were it not for the potions that protect their bodies temporarily. It still feels hot, but it’s a different kind of hot than the desert - it smothers them, hugging around them without ever reaching their skin.

Their trek comes to an end after a few hours, when Goron city shows itself to them at the end of the road.

“Hey, travelers!”

A voice yells for them, a city guard of the Goron. Just like they all are, he’s big and round, his back covered in pebbles to form some kind of carapace. He holds one of the traditional weapons, the usual cobble crusher, Link supposes, seemingly heavy over his shoulders, yet he carries it with ease.

When the group arrives to him, panting and in dire need of water, the guard lets out a booming laugh.

“Are you guys serious, Zoras on Death Mountain? You’d better drink twice as much fireproof elixirs. You look like you’re about to shrivel up and die! Come on, get in!”

The Goron gestures for them to move forward through the gate, and even Sidon can hardly bother to reply to the unusual welcome. He gives a simple, tired nod, walking past the guard and into the city.

Link’s eyes have never seen so much lava in one place. Rivers flow across the city, right around the habitations and under the steel bridges - the whole city is constructed on stone and steel, he realizes. The air is mixed with fire and ashes, and he can hardly believe that there is a civilization that is adapted to live here. He can’t imagine himself or any of the Zoras staying here for too long.

And in the distance, the volcano stands, an impressive giant of stone overflowing with lava. Just looking at it is enough for Link to feel like his insides are churning.

“We’re finally here,” Sidon says, his voice fatigued. “Thank Hylia that we can survive this; I never imagined this place to be so fantastic.”

Link has to take a few seconds to register what he’d just said before looking at him with as though he were seeing through his lies.

But Sidon isn’t lying - he’s genuinely enjoying this, and his teeth gleam into a radiant smile.

“Shall we find a place to rest, then?” He says, addressing the whole rest of the group, and of course, everyone follows. Link is about to step along to try and book a room, until a hand on his shoulder stops him.

He turns around, seeing Paya who barely seems bothered. Her eyes are filled with a determined flame, adding itself to the lava as it reflects into them.

Link knows that anger.

“I’m going, Link,” she begins, keeping quiet to not attract anyone’s attention. “I’ve planned to destroy the Yiga hideout of Eldin, and I will use this opportunity. I thought you would want to know.”

Wait, right now? Link asks, a hint of panic across his eyes. Are you sure?

“You don’t have to come with me, of course,” Paya replies, already turning around. “My plan didn’t include anyone’s help. Protect the prince, that is your duty for now, remember?”

The Hylian can hardly believe that Paya is reminding him of what his actual job consists of, and feels a spark of offense lighting in his brain. You’ll come back, right? You won’t die to them again.

“You know me,” she says, a slight, satisfied smile writing itself on her. “Not again, not ever.”



Chapter Text

The Wolf hadn’t seen sunlight in quite a while - as the chief of the Eldin hideout, he would rarely come out of the dark cave. Now, all the light he knows is the one of the torches scattered here and there, or those carried by the footsoldiers.

And the tension in the air doesn’t help in making him feel a little less on edge. The Yiga chief looks around, finding his footsoldiers and squinting - he had heard of many distant stories, of his peers disappearing or dying to some unknown force. Something was after them, and he knows better than to engage in anything with the Hylian traitor if they’re being tracked down.

“Chief,” one of the guards pipes up, lazily gesturing to their side. “The Mantis of Hebra wants to have a word with you.”

The Wolf scoffs, his shoulders jolting slightly when the light of the torch flickers, illuminating a silhouette standing further down the hallway. He really needs something to help him relax.

He adjusts the mask in front of his face, refusing to show it to anyone who doesn’t belong in the hideout. “What does that kid want?”

“She said she has a report for you,” the soldier replies, looking behind themselves and stepping to their side to let the woman through. “It seems important.”

“Fine,” the chief hisses through gritted teeth, though he knows they’re not waiting for his permission. The Mantis enters the main hall, her small frame appearing out of the shadows and under the light of the torches. She’s a new recruit from Hebra - truth be told, he doesn’t know her that much, but she doesn’t seem that competent. It’s actually completely unlike the Daisy to send someone like her for a report, but he supposes it doesn’t really matter at this point in time; Perhaps the most skilled ones are busy trying to find the source of that rampant curse that’s been taking them one by one.

“My greetings, chief,” she says, her voice quiet yet confident, stepping forward as closely as she can though the Wolf halts her with a hand.

“I don’t need anything more than your report,” he mutters, straightening himself to look somewhat more intimidating. “So speak up.”

“Of course,” the Mantis replies, her head falling between her shoulders as she cowers. “Forgive me for wasting your precious time. I was sent to inform you of your sister’s demise.”

To that, the Wolf has to take a step back. Something hard remains stuck in his throat as he processes the sudden news. “What- The Daisy?  You’re kidding. She wouldn’t die that easily.”

It only hits him now, how subtly sarcastic the revelation had been, from the Mantis’ mouth. It has him digging his nails into his own palms, deducing from her long silence that she’s telling the truth.

“...You can’t be serious. What the hell happened?” He asks, feeling like an iron bar is keeping his shoulders straight and stiff. His heart sinks into a pit of nothingness as he slowly registers it all.

“The hideout of Hebra has collapsed on itself,” she replies, righting herself and raising her head so the eye of her mask can look directly into his own. “There was an attack, and someone shot a bomb arrow into the cave.”

“An attack from who? ” The Wolf snaps, his words nearly resembling growls. The Yiga chief can’t help but bite at the inside of his cheek, stifling the inner pain and burying it like he had buried the rest of his family. He supposes he won’t have a chance to do the same for his sister. “Dammit - Where’s everyone? Are you the only survivor?”

“Yes, I am,” the Mantis speaks quietly, although her tone is far from soft - she sounds far from displeased with the news. “I was outside and watched as it unveiled under my eyes.”

The chief’s teeth grind together so hard they’re almost creaking. “So you saw who shot the arrow, right?” He asks with a tinge of hope shaking through his voice, taking a step forward. “Tell me who it was so I can tear them to shreds.”

“This is extremely delicate information,” the Mantis’ voice falls into a whisper as she looks around for the other thieves. “Will you let me come closer to you?”

“Just tell me!” He orders, stepping closer himself to stop wasting time. Whoever had done this, they have to pay - be it the Hylian or the curse, or anyone else.

He’s so focused into his own thoughts that the sharp object lodged between his ribs takes a few seconds to start hurting.

A choked gasp escapes him, and the pain comes all at once. With a strained movement, he looks down at the reality that he’d feared so much yet let it happen so easily. The woman’s gloved hand pokes out of her Yiga cloak, wrapped around the hilt of an eightfold blade - a Sheikah weapon.

“You bitch,” he grunts, inwardly cursing himself for being so damn careless. Of course he shouldn’t have let her come close. Now the blade is sinking deeper, and the Mantis brings her free hand to her mask, removing it and setting it to the side -

“Snowdrop,” the Wolf utters, his words spilling out of his mouth like his blood, his tone affected by complete defeat.

“You let your guard down,” Paya says, revealing her face and snow white hair as if to confirm her identity. With a turn of her wrist, she digs the blade deeper into his flesh, piercing into his gut. “You’re dead, and everyone else here is. The touch of my gloved hand was enough to poison them all.”

The Wolf raises his head weakly, catching the sight of his footsoldiers as the younger thieves cough up blood onto the walls. Some of them are barely standing anymore, some of them are already lying completely still onto the ground.

“At least be thankful that you can see your sister again in the afterlife,” the Sheikah woman continues, abruptly pulling the blade out and shoving the agonizing chief onto the ground with a swift kick. “So long, you pitiful dog.”

*

Sidon must’ve toughened up over the course of this trip, because the discomfort is gone as soon as he enters Goron city. Sure, his lungs still feel like they’re being filled with fire chuchu jelly, but how could he let that distract him when he now stands in the middle of such a wonderful place?

There’s nothing like it in Hyrule, Sidon is sure of it. It looks like a place straight out of a book, and he remembers that the Goron story books were some of his favorites to read as a child; Their strength, and the brotherly bond they entertained with each other was something Sidon had always admired. Though he has to admit, he’s not sure he understands their appetite for rocks and pebbles.

Oh, no - what if that’s what he’ll have to eat for the next few days?

Suddenly, he’s a lot more anxious. Maybe that’s why his fellow Zoras seemed so discouraged in the first place.

But in a way, the fact that this city is so isolated helps in making Sidon feel a little safer. He’s not so jumpy anymore, at least he doesn’t think so; When he turns to watch his surroundings, it’s the lava he looks at, and he realizes that it’s the first time he sees it from so close. He had never thought while watching Death Mountain from afar that he would one day find himself strolling along its paths.

The inn seems a lot more comfortable than Sidon thought it would be. While Goron usually slept on large slabs of polished stone, the beds there seem to be specifically made for travelers - the mattresses are fluffy, and the covers light, as they most likely wouldn’t need them much anyway. And thankfully, there’s enough rooms for all of them; But before Sidon can book his own, he shoots a glance towards Link, in a sort of silent question.

Did the Hylian want to sleep in the same room again? It’s not something he can ask out loud, not when they’re surrounded with their friends and the inn staff. Somehow, he’s even more nervous about the proposition than he was before; Even if they had slept together, already. Their passionate night in Rito village had put some pieces together in Sidon’s mind, he remembers, and the warmth in his heart had only made itself more present since then.

Thankfully, Link seems to understand - his gaze settles itself on the prince, and he nods, his cheeks flushing ever so slightly.

“Just one room for the two of us.”

They barely speak after this - once again, Sidon is often occupied by Mipha’s words and the scenery. Link often tries to come close, but all they have time to exchange are smiles, even when the Hylian hides himself beneath the mask.

The few hours that follow are full of discovery and banter. They meet the Gorons, getting a tour of the city as Sidon watches the lava flowing all around. They meet the blacksmith, who makes the heaviest weapons in all of Hyrule; They try their hand at some of them, in a training room with stone dummies. Sidon manages to shatter one or two, but not without a strain on his muscles. Only a being made of stone could carry something so heavy. Then they meet the cooks, who offer them something else than skewers of rocks, thankfully. The gourmet meat is seasoned with Goron spice, something that has the prince coughing and his eyes watering more often than not; He relieves it with mango chutney, appreciating its taste and texture as it soothes the burn on his tongue.

And while everyone seems to find some mild discomfort in it, Mipha eats it without a single grimace. Zoras and Gorons alike watch her with hanging mouths, expecting her to falter at any moment, but Sidon knows well that it’s just how incredible his sister is.

The air doesn’t feel much cooler after the night falls; The lava never slept, after all. It feels somewhat better once they’re inside the inn, but they all down another bottle of elixirs before calling it a day.

Link follows Sidon to their room, his throat feeling like it tightens ever so slightly. He’s a little mesmerized when Sidon sits at the edge of the bed, letting out a sigh of relief as he rests his legs.

“It seems like we are in for a chaotic few days,” he says with a titter, his tired smile causing Link’s eyes to soften. The prince removes his ornaments one by one, setting them to the side as the Hylian takes it as a permission to get rid of his own garments. With somewhat clumsy movements, he removes his disguise, finding himself half-naked in front of his prince and sitting at the other side of the bed.

“I apologize if my behavior has made the situation awkward earlier,” Sidon says, his hands resting onto the bed still. “I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that our Zora friends are all aware of this… closeness between us, but perhaps you still wanted to keep a certain privacy?”

Link wants to laugh, but the side effects of the elixir make his lungs too slimy to allow it. He gives a grin instead, shaking his head slowly. I don’t mind, he signs, I was mostly worried about you. For some reason, I thought you’d want to keep it a secret.

Sidon’s teeth gleam in a satisfied smile, and he brings a hand to the side of Link’s face. His fingers trace its outline, and the Hylian can’t help but lean into the touch as he brings his own hand to Sidon’s own.

“Why would I be ashamed?” He asks, not necessarily expecting an answer. “My friend, if anything, I am proud. I know there is a cultural difference when it comes to this between Zoras and Hylians, so I could not help but be concerned about your own comfort.” Everything Sidon says has Link falling harder, truly, but it’s stopped being unpleasant.

A comfortable silence settles between them, during which Link brings the prince’s hand in front of his eyes, examining it as he runs his fingers along his own. Sidon’s hands are much larger than Link’s and it makes him feel safer, in a way; He plays gently with the webbing of his fingers, feeling the thin membrane and sighing in contemplation.

To think this had all started with a kiss on the back of his hand. He likes to remember how it all had grown; From this, to the sensual touches, to the shaky breaths shared between their lips, to the passion burning their middle as they’d spent a night together.

Link smiles to himself, scooting closer and wrapping his arms around the one who’s occupied his thoughts without interruption. Whatever happens now, he knows this feeling won’t disappear anytime soon.

“Link,” the prince suddenly speaks, his words soft onto his tongue. “If I may… I have just one favor to ask you.”

With a tilt of his head, Link looks into his golden eyes. What is it?  

“Forgive me if it is too much, and I will understand if you refuse,” he reassures first, pulling away with an apologetic smile. “But… May I see the tattoo on your back?”

His shoulders go stiff, his fingertips twitching along the prince’s sides before he pulls them away to sign. It’s going to upset you , he signs, feeling suddenly hyper-aware of the ink’s presence behind him. He knows that the sight of the mere emblem of the Yiga clan can bring atrocious memories back to life, and he doesn’t wish to be the cause of any more of Sidon’s suffering.

“It will,” the prince admits, sounding confident despite it all, but Link won’t mention the hint of fear that he can detect. “But I know who you are. I need to see it, and… Get over my fear, if it makes sense to you.”

So you’re afraid of me? Link asks, the sting of the revelation hurting him more than he knows it should.

He knows asking this is the equivalent of backing the prince into a corner; Still, he has to know the truth, but another silence follows. Sidon’s lips purse into a thin line, his eyes closing as the Hylian pulls his hands away from him.

“If you want me to be honest,” Sidon utters, still locking his eyes with Link’s own. “It breaks my heart that I’m afraid of this part of you - though it’s absolutely subconscious. I do wish to learn to tolerate this sight, to grow as a person and find peace in the present, rather than focusing on the past. And I believe that seeing the source of my anguish in a safe context will help me.”

If only Link had as much determination as he does. Ruminating about the past was one of the things the Hylian was best at doing, and it’s truly admirable that Sidon would want to change this part of him. Link has to learn from him. He has to find peace, in one way or another, and he wonders; Would destroying the Yiga clan be the answer to it all?

Is Paya at peace?

I understand, Link signs, shifting so that he can show his back to the prince. Just tell me if you need me to put on a shirt.

“Thank you,” the prince replies with a grateful, almost relieved smile - perhaps he wasn’t expecting Link to accept his words so easily. But truthfully, the Hylian is at a point where he’d do about anything Sidon asks of him. He turns his back to him, exposing his tattoo and expecting an instant negative reaction, but all that follows is silence.

Link doesn’t dare signing, or even moving the slightest inch. He can feel Sidon’s gaze steadily dragging itself across his back, adjusting to the crimson color that matches bloodshed. It doesn’t bring the best feeling to be watched like some kind of test subject, but he can handle it for a few minutes if it means helping Sidon heal, even just a little.

And a few minutes do pass, ones during which Link manages to get used to the feeling of guilt that spreads itself across is back. The acceptance has his muscles relaxing, his mouth parting as he waits patiently for Sidon to feel like speaking again.

“May I touch it?” He suddenly asks in a whisper,  startling Link out of his thoughts. Still, the Hylian nods without hesitation - he’s stopped counting how many times the Zora has thanked him for this simple gesture of trust by now, instead focusing on the touch of Sidon’s slender fingers against his marked skin.

He expects his heart to jump, and he expects his body to flinch, but none of it comes to reality. Once again, Sidon is ever so careful. His claws barely touch him, his fingers feeling like velvet on his back, despite the shivers and the turmoil that can still be felt beneath the prince’s scales. He isn’t peaceful, and Link can tell that much; Does it really help him, to force himself to come face to face with his trauma? Will it really allow him to find sleep in the forbidding quiet of the night?

If this is true, maybe Link can fix all of this. Maybe he can be the one shaking Sidon awake when he’s having nightmares, maybe he can be the one to soothe him when everything goes awry. After all, the prince had done so much to help Link through his sorrows, it would only be natural for him to return the favor.

The abrupt stop in Sidon’s touches has the Hylian subconsciously pushing his back towards him, but the panic hums in the prince’s voice as soon as he opens his mouth to speak.

“Link, please, show me your face.”

Slowly, Link does what Sidon asked for - he turns himself around, raising his head to look up at his prince.

The golden of his eyes shines with unshed tears, and a reassured smile soon plays at his lips, as if he had forgotten that the one sitting in front of him was not the enemy. He seems at a loss of word when he finally sees Link, and the air leaves him in a trembling sigh while he gently wraps his arms around the other man.

For a silent moment, he cradles him like this, and Link feels safe.

He brings his arms around Sidon’s frame, accepting the embrace and resting his head against Sidon’s chest. He needs this; And if he’s understood his prince correctly, Sidon needs it just as much. The slow heaving of the prince’s chest lulls Link into tranquility, and he can only hope this peace lasts.

“Thank you,” Sidon breaches through the silence, hugging a little tighter. “Thank you, Link. I will need time to adjust, but this is truly helping me.”

Link pulls away with a warm smile, brushing a strand of hair away from his forehead. I’m glad this is useful for something, at least, he signs, and Sidon’s smile visibly falters for a moment.

“I wonder if all this was meant to happen in the end,” he starts again, his gaze downcast. “I’ve always felt like anything that Hylia would make me endure was nothing but a way for me to grow. Although, I do wonder about you…”

After a pause, his gaze flickers to the side, as if it were trying to reach for the Hylian’s tattoo. “Do you think this is the fate that she has drawn for you?”

Link sighs at the mention of that damned Goddess. Is it? He wonders. Was Hylia planning all along for him to fail, and live the rest of his new life in neutrality?

I like to believe I picked my own fate, even if she wanted me to do something else, he signs, and Sidon tilts his head, obviously confounded.

“What do you mean by that? What did she want you to do?”

Oh, he might have said too much.

He often forgets that Sidon doesn’t know about his so-called resurrection. No one does, really, aside from Paya who he might as well be lying to. He’s not even sure himself, because after all, what the hell?

He’d tell Sidon to sit down, if he weren’t already.

Do you truly believe in Hylia?

The prince’s confusion grows all the more with that single question. Still, he remains calm, responding with somewhat of a smile. “I do,” he affirms, his tone suggesting that he thought that much was obvious to anyone. “Most Zoras do, in fact. It is in our blood to trust ourselves in the hands of the Goddess and be reverent to her in exchange for her blessings.”

So much bullshit, in one sentence. It’s not Sidon’s fault though, and Link knows he was raised to believe these sayings. He’s even sure that the words he just said aren’t his own - probably something repeated in their books. Still, how can he call her poisonous gifts ‘blessings’ if she had been the one to pick his fate, thus plaguing him with pain and trauma even despite his faith?

“What about you, my friend?” Sidon asks with a newfound softness. “Do you believe in her?”

Link finds himself scoffing, still trying to stay respectful. After all, the prince most likely has his reasons to believe what he does. Well, if she exists, she hasn’t been of any help, he starts, his movements sharp to indicate his certain frustration. She’s brought more distress than blessings in my life, so… I’m sorry to say this, but I hate her. I hate her and I hate her dragons; They’re all the same. Divine beings who won’t help even those who pray the hardest. The only thing I’ve gotten help for was when I called Naydra so she could save you, and even then, I know she was doing it because she expected something in return.

Sidon is obviously hurt by this, Link can tell by the saddened frown darkening his features. The guilt settles in the pit of the Hylian’s stomach, but how could he have watered it down? He still remembers Naydra looking at him expectantly after this, waiting for some kind of offering as Link waited for the prince to come back to his senses. Piece of shit, he thinks to himself. There’s nothing that can redeem them.

“...While I am not sure I can share this opinion, I can somewhat understand wanting to blame tragedy on her,” Sidon says after a pause, obviously deeply swimming in his thoughts. “I have seen some Zoras do it too, after losing loved ones. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t done it myself when my mother passed.”

Taking my friends’ lives isn’t the only thing she’s done, Link cuts in, and he can hardly control his anger at this point, though he refuses to direct it at Sidon. She played with me, and she still does even now. I’m a pawn to her, she only wants me alive so I can do her dirty work and-

Another long pause, this time laden with tension that Link has brought all by himself. He curses himself, emitting a sound full of anger before pressing the heel of his palms against his eyes for a moment, removing them and straightening himself back up.

He breathes in - perhaps now is the time to say it.

There’s something you don’t know yet, Link signs, his eyes flicking left and right to avoid the prince’s staggered stare. About what happened before I came to Zora’s domain.

Sidon’s shoulders drop, and Link can tell just how much is on his mind. He’s obviously waiting for Link to explain himself, and the Hylian’s blood can only race now that he faces the matter that was obviously galloping their way.

When I left the Yiga hideout for the last time, Link begins, gulping subtly. I crossed an entire mountain to escape the thieves. They wanted to catch me, to break my legs and gouge out my eyes - anything to avenge their master. This was a living hell, and I was out of breath for three days straight. When I reached Tabantha again, there was this canyon - Tanagar Canyon. They found me, and I fell down.

That accident had been mentioned to Sidon previously. Still, the prince doesn’t want to speak just yet. His pupils only seem to narrow with every word, his hands fidgeting at Link’s sides. And now, the Hylian knows he has to say the truth.

My whole body snapped when I reached the ground. Every bone I had cracked and shattered, and I know my lungs were teared, filled with blood, everything I can imagine. And yet, when I laid still on the ground, I could still see what was happening around me.

He pauses, expecting a reaction on the prince’s part. Link isn’t so surprised to see him frowning the way he does, after all, his story is loaded with uncertainty, confusion and senseless garbage that he wishes he didn’t have to say, because no one would ever believe him.

And then, I finally fell asleep, only to wake up… somewhere else. There’s this forest in Woodland where everyone gets lost, and I woke up there, in the heart of the woods; I was completely uninjured. All of my bones were patched together, and my wounds were gone. There was nothing that indicated that I fell, but I still know it happened. People told me that it was Hylia who brought me back from the dead.

Sidon’s gaze seems to melt to compassion as he signs, and Link can’t help but look away; Or he might be looking at him like he’s some kind of buffoon.

You don’t believe me, do you? Link signs, ready to give up on his explanation and dismiss it by calling it a nightmare.

“I do, Link,” Sidon replies instantly, placing a hand onto his shoulder a drawing a gentle circle with his thumb. “I trust you, and you know this. While it is certainly unheard of, after all, Naydra practically brought me back to life as well, did she not?”

He has a point. Come to think of it, Dinraal might’ve been the one to bring Link back, and not Hylia - but what would it matter? The fire dragon is nothing but the Goddess’s messenger, or so he’s heard. It doesn’t change anything.

But the last thing he wants is to be pitied. Even by the prince. All the Hylian wants is for Sidon to know without having to feel his pain - he has enough to deal with already.

They all told me it was the Goddess’s work, even if I hardly believe in her. The old tree of Woodland, the Zora priest, Paya herself - Each of them considers it a blessing, but that’s not what I wanted at the time! I just wanted peace! I thought I had found it, and now-- Now it looks like Hylia wants me to get rid of the Yiga clan and leave you behind!

The look on Sidon’s face could almost be described as horror at this point. It seems like something is gnawing at his throat, and it’s Link’s fault again. He’s hurting him again, even after he’d told himself he would never do so - Goddesses, what is wrong with him? Why does it feel like an arrow pierces his chest everytime Sidon’s smile falters by his fault?

“Leave me behind?” He asks, his voice obviously trembling despite the composure he tries his hardest to keep. “What do you mean, Link?”

Link sniffles.

Hylia wants me to get rid of them, he begins, his hands moving in much less coherent gestures. He hopes Sidon can still understand him. And it means I have to leave the domain. I have to resign as a royal guard and help Paya in her quest. It was never my choice to make.

The prince is conflicted, and that much is clear. He stammers, his eyes moving left and right as he searches for something to say, and he seems so desperate it only makes Link want to bury his face against his chest and weep until he’s numb.

“Wait- Link, haven’t you told me that your destiny was supposed to be drawn by yourself alone?” He asks, a nervous smile spreading across his lips. Princely instinct, Link guesses. “Do you have to do this?”

I don’t know, Link replies, wiping at his tears with the back of his hand. His eyes sting, and he can hardly describe the shame he feels over crying in front of his prince again. Maybe I have to, but… I don’t want to. I want to stay in the domain, I want to stay with you because-

His heart pounds with the force of ten thousands hammers against his chest. He can’t blame the sudden warmth of his face on the climate. He can’t hide the shivers on every inch of his skin.

Because I’m in love with you.

And for the first time, his confession isn’t spelled with the tip of his fingers against the prince’s scales, no. It’s a signed, although abashedly, heartfelt confession that he hadn’t planned on making today at all. But Hylia knows he doesn’t care anymore. The tears still shed, run down his reddened cheeks and drip from his chin, and he sniffles like a capricious child.

This is what he might be, in the end.

And after a few seconds, he realizes that he hasn’t looked at Sidon in a while.

Link looks up to meet his eyes, and they’re glossy with tears as well; His mouth hangs open, his hands obviously fighting to hold Link’s own - and there’s a sheepish laugh escaping him out of relief.

“You…” Sidon’s voice breaks slightly as he smiles uncontrollably. “I did not misread it, did I?”

To that, Link can’t help but feel himself sizzling . It’s difficult to look him in the eye, despite how gently the prince is reacting.

“Oh Hylia, Link,” he utters, the warmth rising to his face. “Is this why you seemed so bothered lately? I thought that… That I had done something wrong, that you regretted our night in Rito village.”

And as he speaks the words, Sidon lets out a long, relieved sigh. When Link dares to look up again, he can’t help but notice the small tear that has made its way down the prince’s cheek, something that he tries to wipe away in panic - and in the moment, he can’t seem to find his words to sign. All that he can emit are a few incoherent sounds to shake Sidon out of it.

And after a few desperate tries, Sidon raises his head; The smile on his face is like no other. Absolutely blissful despite the tears, radiant like the sun, overjoyed like him .

It causes the Hylian to smile too. Still, he’s sure his face is redder than Goron spice, but it’s a flutter his heart welcomes this time.

“Link, my dear,” Sidon begins, finally taking the Hylian’s hands into his own. He holds them together, and his are so large that they cover them entirely. “I apologize for my strong reaction. You see, it’s… an immense relief to me. Because I, too, hold such feelings for you - after you’ve showed to me that I could be myself around you, that I did not have to keep lying about what I truly felt… It was incredibly easy to fall for you as well.”

Link’s lips tremble, his teeth gnawing at the inside of his cheek to keep a somewhat steady expression through it all. Ugly crying wouldn’t be the best thing to do right now.

“What I mean to say is,” the prince continues, cupping Link’s cheeks with his large hands. “I love you, Link. You are a beautiful soul, and I hope you can stay at my side.”

Link throws his arms around him, pulling him close, burying his face against his chest to conceal it all. The tears stream down his face, and it’s not something he can control anymore. Sidon returns it, practically enveloping the Hylian’s entire self with just his size.

He wants to stay. Wherever Sidon will be, Link wants to follow. Still, finishing off the Yiga clan is something he feels like he has to do. It’s unfair that Paya had been so far on her own, when the two were on the same boat before it all went down.

Life is unfair, he knows. Just because he wants to stay, doesn’t mean he can.

He’ll keep quiet for now. Whatever he does in the end, he promised he’d keep his lover safe until they reach Lanayru.

His lover. Sidon loves him. And it’s all that matters in this moment.

They hold onto each other as if their lives depended on it. Swaying with the tranquility of the night, they fall on the bed, still tangled together without any intention to part. “I love you,” the prince often whispers, a peaceful lull to his voice, his lips finding the other’s own in slow kisses. I love you , Link signs when he can, and whenever moving grows too difficult, his eyes still say it all.

Somehow, the Hylian finds himself afraid to fall asleep after all of this. What if it had been a dream? This flame sparking between them now could be gone as soon as he awakens.

I don’t want to let go, he manages to sign with one hand as the other one holds onto Sidon’s own desperately. I’m sorry.

“Why are you apologizing, my love?” Sidon whispers his question, kissing at his forehead. “You do not have to let go.”

He isn’t so sure who he should be apologizing to, really. His grasp on the Zora’s webbed fingers tightens, his shoulders dropping into a relaxed position.

He’s right, he doesn’t have to let go.

*

The next morning, Link’s sure he’s never felt so energetic before. He’s reinvigorated, his spirits are high, and he wants to swing his weapons left and right. Training had hardly been followed ever since they’ve left Lanayru, and today might the best day to go through it, even for just a little.

While Bazz, Rivan and Dunma take the royal siblings for a visit around the city, Link and the other guards take some time for their usually weekly training. They spar with smiles on their faces, their silverscale spears gracefully clanking together.

And among the spears, there’s a smaller weapon - the eightfold blade, belonging to Paya. The woman had joined them in their training, something she takes so seriously that she barely smiles.

She hasn’t mentioned the Eldin hideout a single time. She did say she would destroy it, didn’t she? It’s curious that she wouldn’t bring it up, but Link wants to know. Had her plan failed? Is she too prideful to admit it?

They’re far enough from the Zoras that they won’t hear them. Carefully, he puts a stop to their sparring, tucking his spear under his arm.

What happened to the hideout? He asks, instantly picking up on the way her eyes narrow. You said you’d destroy it. I didn’t hear any commotion yesterday.

Paya sheathes her blade, glancing left and right to make sure no one would hear her answer. “It wouldn’t be working so well if I were making noise left and right,” she replies, “but if you’re worrying, I can assure you that there’s no one left alive there.”

I’m not worrying, he dismisses with a shrug. I know what you can do. But… How many hideouts are there left, now? You’ve destroyed the one in Gerudo, the one in Hebra, and now this one…

“Lanayru as well,” she corrects, putting her hair up and tying it into a larger bun to keep it off her shoulders while the air is scorching hot. “And Akkala. The ones remaining are Tabantha, Woodland and Faron.”

You’ve really been working hard, Link signs again, and he knows their training is done for now. Why don’t you relax a little, even for a few days? You’re growing so uptight. It’s not like you.

Paya takes a defensive stance, her shoulders raising in offense. “How can you say that?” She asks, “you know I must do it. You’re acting strangely careless today, did something happen?”

She’s right, he might be a little giddier than usual. But he’s been grumpy for the past four years - what does it hurt, to be happy for once?

That’s a story for another day, he signs, his movements hinting that he would be musing if he could speak. I have to go. Prince Sidon is waiting for me.

“Prince Sidon?” She asks, cocking an eyebrow. “You two seem very close.”

She squints at him - unlike his Zora friends, she wouldn’t know the truth. Link simply replies with a content smile, his eyes rolling.

“I knew it,” she replies to her own inner question, and Link is absolutely ecstatic as soon as he notices he’s coaxed a smile out of her. “You really are something else. I hope you’ll tell me more, when you have time.”

Of course, he replies with a wink, turning to his feet. I’ll see you later. Don’t do anything rash.

*

Sidon sees the Hylian at the spot they’d agreed to meet: Further down the path to Darunia lake, a quiet place abandoned by the monsters. The prince isn’t so sure what to call this - a date, perhaps? There isn’t much to do in the vicinity of a lava lake, but he’s realized that it doesn’t really matter where they go, as long as they go together. Someplace peaceful would be the best, they figured, even if it isn’t for too long; After all, the guards would most likely be on the lookout.

And as soon as Sidon is close enough, he bends down the best he can, placing a kiss upon Link’s forehead. “It is nice to see you again, my dearest one,” he whispers to him, the affectionate name feeling so new on his tongue. Still, it feels natural to be calling Link that way, as though it was meant to be.

“How was training?” Sidon asks, his voice like honey, though he doesn’t have to force it this time.

Smoother than I expected, Link replies, bumping his forehead against his side. Say, I’d like to spar with you one day. What do you think?

“That would be perfect,” Sidon muses, “Once we are back in Zora’s domain, I will make time for you.”

Link replies with just a smile, though it’s filled with love, just like the azure of his eyes. They remain in a comfortable silence for now as they walk along the lakeside, watching the scenery until the prince remembers something.

“I had an idea this morning, as I woke up,” he begins, and truth be told, he’s a bit nervous about coming off as insensitive; But he still has to ask. “I have a friend back at the domain - he’s a tattoo artist. Since you dislike what you have on your back, I was thinking… Why not cover it with another, larger tattoo?”

And thank Hylia, Link’s eyes seem to light up with a newfound enthusiasm. He can do that? He asks, to which Sidon nods vigorously.

I’d love to have something else so I can stop feeling horrible every time I see it in the mirror, he says, I’d need to think of a design. Do you have any suggestions?

“Well, I was debating-”

“Over here, you two-”

As they reach a certain breach in the cliffside, an unknown voice interrupts Sidon. Before the prince can look, Link’s eyes seems to have already met the sight, and the sheer horror displaying on his face has his heart jumping in his chest.

His head whips around, until his golden gaze finds something he had never expected to see.

“Please- Please help me. It hurts so badly, I think I’m going to die-”

A young boy, perhaps a teenager, sits against the rocks, his hand pressed against his own stomach. His hair is of a charcoal black, tied into a short ponytail that looks almost like it’s burning at the ends. As reddened as his eyes can be, Sidon can still see the grey of his irises, a grey so young it has the prince’s heart falling into a pit of despair. His stealth suit is covered in blood, gushing from a deep, terrifying slash across his middle. Scattered around him are a dozen of bottles, ones that must’ve contained the strongest of hearty elixirs.

What he notices last is the broken mask, the one he knows so well, and half the eye of the Yiga.

Link has already pulled out his silverscale spear by now. He stands before Sidon, pointing it slightly forward in a sign of threat to the young boy who simply lies there, fear across his eyes.

“I won’t steal anything, I swear!” He says, followed by a strained cough. The panic darkens his features as soon as he sees the blood splattering all over his hand, all over the ground.

“Please - Just take me to a healer. I promise I’ll leave the Yiga.”

A healer; His sister is the closest.

The usual horror takes a hold of Sidon’s throat, but it’s soon enough overthrown by another feeling he’s never felt for the Yiga before - pity.

He turns the situation over in his head, while Link remains still, at a complete loss of what to do or sign. Those thieves had taken so much, had killed so many. The smell of blood is invading Sidon’s senses, a red alert, and his pupils turn into the thinnest of lines.

The Hylian turns to him, his gaze completely lost, his hands trembling. Do hatred and pity mix? If Sidon weren’t there, would Link be finishing him off without hesitation?

The way his brow sweats is enough to tell Sidon that Link isn’t close to doing so. He’s utterly aghast, and he’s waiting for the prince’s orders.

And what kind of prince he is if he cannot take decisions?

His lips tremble in uncertainty, and he knows he might regret this.

“Let’s bring him to Mipha.”

Chapter Text

 

Time is cruel, when one is left alone with their thoughts. Its flow seems to slow down every time an image comes back to Sidon’s mind, every time the scales of his throat twitch. The curtains are drawn, leaving the room in a quiet obscurity that only makes it colder.

“Your Highness, it would be better for you to lie down and rest.” The soft voice of a nurse comes, though her words sound careful, almost intimidated. He doesn’t speak back - it feels like a block of ice is stuck in the middle of his throat, threatening to shatter at any movement he makes.

And he doesn’t listen to her advice, either. He sits still in his bed, his eyes vacant and unfocused, his fingers clutching weakly at the sheets.

Every breath feels like he’s drinking in the water of the spring of wisdom. What if the ice breaks? What if this fragile piece is all that keeps him alive for now?

No - Mipha saved him. She used her power on him, he should be fine.

The large doors of the infirmary open up, pushed by strong and determined hands. Sidon doesn’t need to face it to know who enters the room ; He can hear the jingle of Mipha’s ornaments, and he can smell her aura. The princess steps closer to his bed, sitting at the chair by his side and placing a hand on top of his head.

He hardly budges, or even looks at her. He can tell there’s a lot on her mind; Sorrow, guilt, relief… Bitterness? Whatever it all is, she doesn’t speak of it. As she always has, she buries her emotions deep into a hollow cave.

“Father is coming to see you soon, Sidon,” she murmurs, and Sidon turns his head towards her ever so slightly. “I know it is hard for you to speak now, but you must let him know you are fine. He is very worried about you.”

His stomach twists. How pitiful he must look now, temporarily voiceless and hunched over himself, his hand hovering around his throat. He wishes to Hylia his father wouldn’t have to see him like this, so weakened and afraid, when he had triumphed so many times in the past; Is it over for him? Will he ever be allowed to go out and fight again?

“I can only imagine what you must have felt,” Mipha starts again, grabbing at his hand and holding tight. “But you are safe now. It may still hurt, but it will fade over time. I promise.”

Sidon’s fingers tremble, their scales feeling paper thin to him. He’s not entirely himself for now, at least he’s sure of this; They must have drugged him on potions, on all kinds of medicinal herbs to have him heal as quickly as possible.

“Thank you,” he manages to speak, his voice breaking through his teeth, his tongue feeling as though some kind of bug were crawling along it. He’s felt sick before, but this is unlike anything he’s ever been through.

“Do not thank me, Sidon,” Mipha says, her eyes avoiding him and finding the floor. “Focus on yourself, on your healing. If you must stay here to recover for months, I will make sure no one comes to bother you.”

Truth be told, the prince has no business being bedridden for more than a day. He’d like to tell her that hopefully, he’ll be back on his feet by next week, but it doesn’t seem like his vocal chords will do him any favor today.

And out of nowhere, it appears again - the afterimage of the Yiga emblem in front of his eyes, and the ghost pain that follows. He chokes back a sound, trying to conceal his coughs, to no avail - it’s only a few seconds before he gives up completely, throwing his face into his palms and breaking down into a sob right in front of his sister and the nurses.

Strangled gasps leave him uncontrollably, along with pitiful whines and tears that mess his face up. He relives every instant of it in the span of a mere five seconds, his tail curling in despair, his teeth gritting so hard they could shatter. Soon, what keeps him tied to reality is a hand, a gentle one placed onto his back without force. “You’re safe, Sidon,” he hears again, and lifts his head to face the princess once more.

“Sidon, you must take as much time as you need to recover, do you understand?” She repeats her words from before, and the prince can only nod. “It is necessary that you are in perfect shape when you show yourself again to our people. As harsh as it seems, they do not wish to see you like this - You have always filled them with hope. We cannot lose this.”

Sidon gulps, and it feels like a spear is descending down his throat. Right, he’s a prince, and princes must never show weaknesses whatever happens, right? He’s always represented strength and confidence. That’s what he is , to everyone. No one but his family must see him like this.

“Keep your head up, Sidon,” Mipha whispers, a string of words he would hear from her every time his spirits were low. “You are strong, and you will make it through this.”

*

It’s with terrified eyes that Link watches them; Sidon as he walks behind him, and the wounded thief in his arms who can’t help but groan in pain with every step the prince takes. The Gorons’ gazes are on them as well, whispering somber thoughts to each other, and Sidon can do nothing but walk past them in the direction of the inn where his sister stays.  

Link steps inside with a knot in his stomach, standing still and silent as soon as the Zoras’ stares are onto him. Trying his hardest to keep his breathing steady, he raises his hands.

Your Highness, he signs with unclear movements, hoping the princess would understand him anyway. We require your help. We found someone, he’s heavily injured-

Mipha doesn’t wait for him to finish his request before getting up, striding through the door where Link came through. He’s thankful that he didn’t have to explain himself just yet, but he already knows she will have questions.

He follows her outside, and it’s no surprise to him that she stops in her tracks as soon as her eyes land on her brother and the young man he carries in his arms. Link can’t quite see the princess’ eyes, but he can feel the tension overcoming her instantly.

“Mipha, please,” Sidon begins, raising the thief slightly in front of her as if she needed a closer look. “Can you save him?”

Link hesitantly steps to her side, ready to try and justify the scene that presents itself right in front of here. But she pays no attention to him, understandably; Her face darkens with what almost looks like disdain, and her lips press together in a thin line as she looks over the agonizing young man.

“A Yiga, Sidon?” She asks as her eyes move up to face his own. A few seconds of silence follow, during which Sidon can’t help but look down, head drooping between his shoulders, while Mipha turns to briefly watch the Hylian. “And Link - Was it you who hurt him?”

“Mipha!” Sidon shouts, catching her attention once again as his foot stomps onto the ground. “I will explain later if I must! Just- Please, I need you to help him.”

“Bring him inside,” she replies instantly, concealing the obvious bitterness that seems to settle into her chest. She doesn’t say any more than this, not even to the guards when they see her walking inside, staring at the thief with horrified confusion.

Mipha’s mind is too preoccupied with the situation at hand to urge them to leave the inn when the other guards follow. They reach one of the rooms, where Bazz spreads a towel across the bed before Sidon lays the wounded thief onto it with the most careful movements. It does come with another cough, another twitch of his trembling hand, something that brings a certain, awful memory to Link’s mind.

As Mipha picks up a chair to sit at the side of the bed, everyone else in the room stands back into the corners, where they know the princess won’t be bothered during the healing process. What good is it for them to watch it all? It’s a question that Link asks himself without any intention to leave; There are a few answers they need to obtain, and perhaps now is the time to do so.

Mipha reaches for the thief’s wound, placing her gentle hands upon it. That simple act seems to have him quieting down already, but she huffs out a quick sigh before her fingers spread.

Unlike any other time Link’s seen her heal anybody, her features stay stiffened, her gaze piercing and focused onto her own hands.

“What is your name?” She asks, and her fingers light up with a faint green glow. The room goes fully silent, as everyone present sharpens their senses to listen to whatever the young man has to say.

“Ylki, ma’am,” he replies, his voice forced out and strained. It’s obviously painful for him, Link realizes - but what else can they do?

A pause follows, with a complete, dreadful silence. Link usually knows the Yiga by their code names, but this doesn’t ring like one; And now that he thinks about it, he’s never seen him before today.

“Is it your real name?” Mipha asks with wariness in her tone, and surely, no one can blame her for that.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, “It’s the name my mother gave me.”

Ylki grimaces in pain one more time, soon relaxing from the warmth of Mipha’s magic that spreads across him. It seems to ease his pain, to allow him to speak without much struggle, for now.

But the princess appears calm, perhaps too calm for someone in such a situation.

“Where is your mother?” She asks, and Link can’t help but throw a glance at Sidon across the room. The prince watches it all through horrified eyes, his hand in front of his mouth as he stands the furthest away from the bed as possible.

“She’s- in Kakariko village,” Ylki murmurs, his chest suddenly heaving in a sharp intake of breath. “She’s waiting for me, I know it. I left because of a stupid argument we had, and look where I am now,” he continues with a blood-stained smile, an expression that soon melts into something regretful.

The sight has Link’s stomach twisting. Something subconscious causes him to wish he could walk there, to shake this kid by the shoulders until he finds enough strength to stand again, yet he stays still, his grip on his spear loosening.

He swallows hard, feeling the taste of dry sand onto his tongue.  

“What happened to you?” Mipha asks with the same steadiness in her voice. She seems to refuse to show any weakness in this situation, despite how much blood is on her hands.

“I don’t remember much,” Ylki replies, and Link’s ears perk up. “It almost feels like I was drugged for a moment, and then all the torches went out.”

As he pronounces the words, someone steps closer to the open door from the hallway. It’s pushed open without warning, letting another person in.

She’s so quiet that hardly anyone notices her coming in, even less the way her eyes lock onto the thief like a predator at her prey.

“There was someone in front of me,” Ylki continues, and Paya takes a step towards the bed, her hand under her coat. “They didn’t say anything. All I felt was their blade on my chest, and it’s a blur from there.”

It’s Link’s turn to step forward, to take out his spear, but not to threaten the thief this time. As Paya slowly takes out her eightfold blade, the Hylian points the silverscale spear right under her jaw, stopping her instantly.

The glare he shoots her is one he’s never used towards her. He forces her to take a step back, his hands trembling in uncertainty. He can’t sign like this, but he hopes he gets the message across with his eyes alone - Don’t come any closer.

Paya’s brow furrows, her jaw clenching at the sight of Link’s spear pointed at her. Is this how it needs to be? Link asks himself, somehow wishing he could ask that question to the Sheikah woman. He doesn’t know the answer, at least not yet - but for now, he lets himself be guided by his emotions alone.

“Why, Link?” She asks, somehow fearful that Link would truly threaten her for the life of a Yiga. She finally sheathes her blade, raising her hands as she straightens herself. “Why are you defending him?”

Truth be told, he isn’t sure of the answer himself. He wants to believe he’s only followed the prince’s orders to keep Ylki safe, but something familiar is aching in his heart, something he’s perhaps locked away for much too long.

Because after all, perhaps Ylki, too, was dragged into the clan with a promise of safety. He’s a child, naive like they all once were, desperate like they all ended up.

Link lets his spear down, giving no response to Paya. Nothing feels right, and she might be utterly blind to it.

Mipha has barely paid any attention to the Sheikah woman’s arrival. She’s still focusing her undivided attention onto him, asking questions every now and then, to try and distract him from the pain.

“I promise I’ll leave the Yiga clan as soon as I get up,” Ylki begins again, biting the inside of his cheek when the wound slowly starts to close itself. The magic seems to work much more slowly than it usually does, and the glow isn’t as vibrant either; Link looks up to meet Mipha’s eyes, and he’s never seen her so detached from the healing process. Something isn’t right.

“I’ll tell you everything you need to know.” Ylki’s whisper is weighed by fear, fear of what his peers could do if they learned of his betrayal. “But please, if you have to take me to jail… Please, let me see my mother one last time.”

The silence in the room only gets heavier with every word he speaks, and Link looks around the room to find all his Zora friends horrified, hanging their heads, or nodding to his request as if they had any say in whatever they would have to do.

And finally, as his breathing slows down to a peaceful rhythm, his voice breaches through one more time.

“I just want to go home.”

The past comes back to Link, like a violent gust of wind. He remembers his Zora friend sitting in the middle of the desert with an arrow stuck to his side, his shaky voice as he pushed the Hylian away, his resignation.

Link hadn’t been able to save him, back then. And this kid - the one right in front of him now, he’s the same as what Link and his friends once were. An unfortunate child caught in a loop he was never made to follow.

“You will be alright,” Mipha says, her voice gentler, like a mother would speak to her child. The glow flickers, leaves the tip of her fingers slowly until it’s barely there. “Close your eyes, Ylki. The pain is gone.”

The young man places his entire trust in her, letting his eyelids fall shut as the seconds drag on. The peace seems to write itself across his messed up features, and the tension in his muscles fades when Mipha gives a last twirl of her finger against his forehead.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, and Link can already tell what is unveiling right under his eyes.

The wound isn’t closed, yet she pulls her hand away.

And all of a sudden, Ylki’s breathing stops.

A mournful silence hangs over the entire room. Not a single soul dares to speak until Mipha does it herself; With a solemn sigh, she gets up from her seat, facing the rest of the room, keeping her head up. Link finds nothing but the same stare she’d displayed minutes before, where the emotion was gone, or hidden so well that no one could find it.

“I am very sorry,” she says, her words sharp, yet quiet. “I could not save him. It was already too late.”

Link’s heart races with a force fueled by a mess of emotions he can’t separate. Mipha had healed injuries much worse than this one before. She had the ability to save him; It showed in her movements, that she had locked Mipha’s grace away.

A cold sweat invades him, and he wants to say something - but who is he, to question the princess’s decision? He keeps his mouth shut, choosing to look away from the scene and to find Sidon in the corner of the room. The prince’s teeth are gritted, his throat tightening around his words.

“Mipha?! You did not-”

“I would like to thank you all,” she says, completely ignoring her brother and interrupting him. “For being respectful and silent while he passed, as to not have him panicking. I will ask for his body to be retrieved, so you shall all leave this room for now.”

Mipha darts out the room, soon followed by most of the guards and Paya. The only ones who remain stuck in place are Link, Sidon, Torfeau and Gaddison who can’t seem to find the strength to walk away. The atmosphere in the room is so heavy that it puts an incredible pressure on Link’s lungs, forcing him to let out a pained grunt.

“This isn’t right,” Torfeau suddenly speaks up, her head falling between her shoulders. “He was a child. We can’t just let this happen.”

Link can only agree, although, what else can they do? It’s over. The young man lies peacefully on the bed, his eyes closed in relief, his heart stopped; He’s gone.

“Why?” Sidon whispers, almost to himself while Link turns back to look at him. The sight has his heart sinking; The prince is fighting it, but the tears are welling up in the corners of his eyes, overflowing and streaming down when it becomes too much. Without sparing the Hylian any glance, he takes determined steps, walking out of the room to follow his sister outside.

Link stands there, watching him go with no idea of what to do with himself.

Sidon quickly finds Mipha outside, and her back is turned to him in a way that suggests she’d rather be alone. But how can he let her go without explanations? She had done the contrary of what she was supposed to do! He grabs her by the wrist, yanking her around to finally face her narrowed eyes, her furious gaze.

“How could you, Mipha?” He asks her, wiping at his own tears, still trying to keep quiet so the passersby won’t hear. “You were supposed to heal him! You killed him!”

Mipha stands up straight, her shoulders stiffening. “I did not kill him, Sidon. I did what I could to save him, and it did not work.” She keeps calm despite the obvious anger settling in her, and Sidon isn’t having it. His pupils turn into sharp lines, like blades that could cut through flesh.

“Liar,” he mumbles, before making his voice clear enough. “You usually use Mipha’s grace when healing dying people. I have seen you do it before! So why didn’t you use it on him?”

He grabs at her shoulders, squeezing to shake her out of it. This isn’t the Mipha he knows. She would always try her hardest to save everyone - how could she?

“And waste my power on a thief?” She finally says, her words venomous despite how hard she tries to soften them. “Be reasonable, Sidon. Mipha’s grace was not meant for them.”

Something snaps inside the prince’s heart. “How can you say this?” He asks, his rage penting up. “He promised he’d leave the Yiga after this! You could have given him a chance!”

And as if it had been the last straw, Mipha pushes Sidon away. He stumbles backwards, steadying himself and trying to process what happened before she bares her teeth.

“How can you be so sure?” She asks, her hands balling into fists. “Why would you place your trust in the Yiga, Sidon? Remember what happened four years ago! Remember what they did to you and how deeply they’ve scarred you!” As she speaks, she points her clawed finger repeatedly at the back of her own neck. “Do you want this tragedy to happen once more? Do you want to end up with a blade stuck in your throat again?”

She pauses, breathing heavily from the unexpected shouting. By now, Goron villagers have begun to stare, while the Zora guards have retreated further down the city as to not disrespect their space. And at her words, Sidon can feel the ghost pressure at his throat at the mere mention of the event. He brings a hand there, feeling his own scales, sighing in brief relief.

“And even if he had been telling the truth-” she continues, pointing at the door that leads to what should now be considered a cursed room. “-you know how much this power takes from me. I would not have been able to use it for the next two days! And what if you had been hurt badly enough to need it? Or Link? Or any of our friends?”

The nausea mounts inside Sidon’s throat. His face scrunches up in an attempt to fight the tears once again, and he lets the silence drag on for much too long.

“So you mean that our lives are worth more than his?” He whispers through gritted teeth, his tail twitching in concealed wrath.

Mipha stares, frowning through it all, her lips pursing into a thin line to hide the pain.

“I had to make a choice, Sidon.”

It’s the most honest answer she can give, and that much is clear to Sidon. His body relaxes ever so slightly, his tears falling once again as the princess looks down, her gaze filled with determination.

“I can only apologize for how it makes you feel,” she begins, her tone slightly softer, “even if I cannot quite comprehend it. All I could do was make sure he would not suffer through it, and for me, that is more than enough. Think of it what you will, and call me selfish if it eases your pain; But I could not waste Mipha’s grace on a dying thief and I am sure you understand, deep down.”

With that, she turns herself around to walk away, to hide her own face - she and Sidon had never argued like this before. He knows it must affect her, but for now, Sidon is more affected by everything else . He watches her go as he bites the inside of his cheek, trying one more time to prevent the tears from shedding. She had said it before, hadn’t she? Keep your head up, Sidon. The guards along with the Goron villagers don’t need to see him like this.

But it’s becoming uncontrollable. So instead, he steps away, heading back to the isolated place he found himself with Link earlier, this time alone. He sits against the cliffside, first letting his hands rest onto the ground as he catches his breathing. He can’t help but consider for a moment that maybe, his sister was right - he’s felt needless pity for that thief, whose fate was only leading to death. He was a Yiga, a thief who would do anything to obtain whatever he wanted, that’s what they all are, aren’t they?

But he knows such a mindset is filled with hypocrisy. If Ylki had been telling the truth, he would be leaving the Yiga after being saved, just like Link had done. He would’ve tried to redeem himself, just like Link is doing now.

Perhaps he deserved that second chance, as well. Perhaps there are many more like him.

Footsteps startle him out of his thoughts, and he raises his head; The only one who’s dared to come find him in such a state is the Hylian guard, obviously. Link stands a few meters, away, a concerned gaze darkening his features, and he doesn’t need to sign for Sidon to understand that he’s asking for a permission to join him.

“Oh, Link-” Sidon speaks, his voice strained before he clears his throat. “You can sit with me, if you’d like.”

Subconsciously, he tries to appear his usual cheerful self, before realizing that there’s no reason to. The half-hearted smile melts into something sorrowful, and he watches as Link steps closer to wrap his arms around him.

His heart beats strongly against his Hylian lover, his lips parting into a relieved sigh. As hot as it is outside, the warmth of Link’s embrace is more than welcome. Sidon returns it, hugging him lightly as to not crush him - Link can tell that he’s troubled, and it’s no use hiding it. It’s alright this way.

“Forgive me for reacting the way I did,” he begins, a sudden self-consciousness settling in as he realizes he’s the only one crying. “It seems… My emotions have been hard to control recently.”

Link pulls away, eyes soft and glossy, his entire concentration shifted onto the prince. Without averting his gaze a single time, he signs; You don’t have to apologize for this, he replies, the words Sidon needed to have the weight lifted off his heart. What happened was difficult to witness. I wouldn’t call it an overreaction.

Sidon wipes at his lower lids, catching the remaining tears before they fall. “But you must think the same as my sister,” he begins, a nervous laugh escaping him. “He was a Yiga. I shouldn’t feel sympathetic. He could very well have betrayed us all, if Mipha had given him the chance to stand back up.”

Link looks down for a moment, searching for his own words. Apart from a mournful expression, nothing else seems to pass him, as though he had witnessed too many deaths to let himself be affected by this one.

You don’t have to lie about how you truly feel, Link signs, and it almost feels like a murmur. I want to help. I don’t see this the same way Mipha does, but I don’t think I see it the same way as you do either. Will you explain it to me?

His honesty, his sincerity - it all mixes to soothe Sidon’s pain. How could anyone ever blame Link? He never should’ve doubted him. This poor man had only been trying to survive, and he must be broken by it all.

It has the prince choking back a sob, his fingers going tense. It’s hard to speak when it feels like something sick is coiling around his throat.

“I… do not know what to think anymore,” he begins, slowly taking hold of Link’s hand. The gentle circles he draws with his thumb have Link looking up to watch him with careful eyes. “Perhaps my thoughts are clouded with conflicted emotions. I would not have cared for a Yiga’s passing before. Seeing how my sister reacted, I am starting to question my own sanity.”

Link squeezes his hand, and it’s a comforting gesture despite their difference in size.

“So, to be truthful, I am not sure how to process this for now. All I know is that… It hurt. It pained me to see this teenager in such distress, even if he was a thief. They may have hurt me before, but meeting you made me realize that there must be a problem in the way we live for certain people to feel forced to stoop to such levels.”

After gulping in the warm air of Eldin, Sidon continues. “I want to believe that something can be done to stop this, that decimating them is not the solution. But I apologize, it feels like… I am being disrespectful to you by being so affected.”

With that, Link jumps in instantly. You’re not, not at all, he signs, I understand how complicated it is for you. I feel different that how you feel right now, but it doesn’t mean I’m relieved about the situation either.

It’s not something I’ve felt before, the Hylian starts again after a silence, moving closer. I don’t know if that kid was telling the truth. My perception tells me he was, but assuming anything about the Yiga would be stupid, I’ve learned that much.

Another short silence passes through, and Sidon looks down at his lover. Link has his eyes still fixated onto the ground, and he signs again.

But he reminded me of Xila, for a moment. Not physically, but the words he was saying - this is… This is what Xila would’ve said. Both of them died wanting to go back home.

Sidon’s sympathy directs itself somewhere else for now, as he hums at his words. Link had never talked about his old family before, at least not to him - the prince had learned it all through Paya. Thanks to her explanations, he already vaguely knows who Xila and Luwas were.

“Xila passed in your arms, did he not?” Sidon asks, carefulness etched into each of his words. “I can only imagine how heavily it must have impacted you.”

Truth be told, it’s still a strange story to him. As long as he’s lived, he’d never been aware that such Zoras existed - the ones who would distance themselves from the domain, in a way of rejecting it. Was Xila the only one to go through this? Had there been more Zoras who had felt unwelcome in his hometown?

He did, Link replies with a nod, He spoke a lot before he left us. One thing I never told Paya is that Xila didn’t want to be saved. He wanted it all to be over. He pauses for a moment, only to look back up at his prince with a somewhat embarrassed expression. I know talking about this isn’t going to help. Sorry.

“Oh no, please continue,” Sidon replies with somewhat of a smile, patting Link on the shoulder. “I can tell you are shaken as well. And I want to understand you better.”

A grateful smile tugs at Link’s lips, though it’s rather short-lived. His eyes downcast, he continues.

I feel like it was my fault. He took an arrow that was aimed at me, and when he told me he didn’t want me to take him to the healer, I let him go. The tears seem to well up in the corners of his eyes, something that he quickly wipes away. I don’t know what the right thing to do would’ve been. I could’ve gone against his will and saved him anyway, and maybe he’d still be alive today, but… Would that have been selfish of me? To keep him alive when he was in so much pain all the time?

Sidon, by nature, always tries to comfort. But there’s no response he can give here, especially when the dilemma ended years ago and Xila is already gone. All he can see is eyes full of regret and doubt about what could’ve been done, and there’s nothing he can do now.

Maybe Link isn’t expecting an answer from him at all.

I can’t imagine for one second that I was right to let him go. Paya was waiting for him back at the hideout. She would’ve wanted to say goodbye at least, but I didn’t even give her the chance to do that.

The implication has Sidon’s blood boiling again, at the idea that Mipha did not give Ylki the chance to see his mother again. He tries to shake himself out of it - perhaps the thief was lying, perhaps Mipha was right. Still, he can’t help but feel his throat tightening.

All we could do when we came back to the hideout was bury him. Have a funeral between ourselves. The Yiga… It’s like they expected him to die. Some of them used to hit him whenever he would disobey, or ridicule him for being what he was.

But at least, you know… I had something . As difficult as it was, the funeral allowed us to mourn. For the following two years, life went back to normal as we tried to forget. We hardly ever mentioned Xila anymore, as much as it hurts to say, it feels like… We needed to forget if we wanted to survive.

Link gives a weak scoff, pushing away a strand of hair. It only made things worse for us all. Luwas lost all hope and would often admit that he didn’t believe there was a future for us anymore. It was even harder to mourn him, because all I saw before I left was a corpse in the distance. I don’t even know where he is now. And Paya, well, I lost her too in a way, even if she came back. I can’t call her a friend anymore.

When the silence settles, Sidon lets out a quiet sigh. He places a hand on top of Link’s own, gently entwining his fingers with his own.

Fuck, I’m sorry, Link suddenly signs again, his head dropping between his shoulders. I’m so sorry for what the clan did to you. I want to fix this.

“My dearest one, do not apologize on their behalf. It is partly thanks to you that I survived on that day,” Sidon replies, trying his hardest to appease him, hoping his words would work. “But... it seems like a lot of us were mistaken,” he begins, to which Link’s head shoots up. “How many of them do you think are misled children like you were?  I do not wish for this tragedy to happen once again.”

Link takes a deep breath, adjusting himself in his seat. I don’t know, he begins, I need to talk with Paya; I know she has something to do with Ylki’s death. She just won’t say it.

Now that Sidon’s heard a few more details about Link’s past, something hits him. There’s one more thing he wasn’t told about. One thing that the Sheikah woman had no means to explain, back at the Rito village.

“Say,” he begins with a soft voice, “Paya did tell us that, just like you, she awoke after her ‘death’. But she had no idea what happened to you after you did, what led you to Zora’s domain.”

Link’s eyes widen, as if he’d just realized something. Still, he doesn’t reply - but Sidon truly does think it’s something Link should explain.

“It is true that we were recruiting new guards at the time, but it was an offer for our people. It was never spoken about outside of the domain, so how did you know? What happened between your awakening and your arrival to the domain?”

Link doesn’t seem that bothered by the question. Was it an omission, rather than something he chose to hide? Either way, Sidon would like to know.

And thankfully, the Hylian answers quickly enough.

I went to Akkala, he begins, his hands moving somewhat shyly. I met a Zora priest there. I was pretty desperate for answers at the time, because all I’d been told was that it was Hylia who brought me back. I don’t know what I expected when I asked the priest, he obviously agreed… I guess I just needed some kind of confirmation.

Sidon remembers the Zora priest, who left for Akkala years ago - Kapson. He was the one who recited the prayers when the prince’s mother was laid to rest in the ocean.

“From what you’ve told me last night, I understand it did not put you at ease,” Sidon says, and he can’t help but feel sorry for him. What a shame, that the Hylian considers such a miracle to be a curse. “So you mean… Kapson sent you?”

Link nods quickly, his shoulders rolling as he tries to relax himself. He told me to go to the domain, so I did. I didn’t really have anywhere else to go. I had a letter with me, that he had written to the king, and I got in. I won’t lie, getting used to it took a long time, and it was really hard. You guys are just so… special, he adds with a touch of humor, something that has a smile upturning the corners of Sidon’s lips, at least.

But unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same effect on Link. The Hylian is hunching over himself, his eyes losing themselves into the distant lava lake.

Now that I know this… I don’t think I want to go anywhere else.

At this point, it almost seems like he’s signing to himself. Sidon watches him quietly, feeling a slight warmth enveloping his heart at the words he’s just confessed.

Do you think Hylia would… Take it back from me? He asks, a hint of fear showing into his gestures. If I don’t fulfill the role she gave me, maybe I’m useless to her.

“My love, do not say that,” Sidon instantly pleads, caressing the back of the Hylian’s neck with a careful hand. “I know my views might not be of much value to you, considering we do not hold the same opinion on the Goddess, but… I believe you are a wonderful individual with a great purpose, not some kind of weapon. I cannot speak for Hylia herself, but I am most certain there is much more to this than you simply destroying a clan.”

Link shows a reassured smile, before turning to face Sidon once more. Somehow, he looks a little more peaceful - even the reflection of the flames in his eyes seems to soften. Maybe I need to talk to her directly, he replies, before resting his head onto the prince’s arm. Apparently, I haven’t been listening to her properly. Maybe this time I’ll have answers .

Sidon’s not so sure if Link is being sarcastic or not, but if he is, well… What sounds like a witty remark to the Hylian sounds like an amazing idea to the prince. He hesitates before sharing his point of view - but it seems like the acceptance is there, even if the pair doesn’t quite share the same ideals.

“Akkala isn’t so far from here, after all,” Sidon utters quietly, to which Link tilts his head as he sits up straight again.

What do you mean?

“Once we are done here, why not make a stop to where Kapson lives now? The name is… Tarrey Town, I believe,” the prince replies, growing more and more enthusiastic about the idea. Perhaps it would help, to go back to such an important place. “I am sure he can offer you guidance as well,” he replies, putting a finger to his chin.

Link seems to consider the idea for a moment, without much hesitation. It’s a relief at least, that he would want to try. I guess if you don’t mind… We could make a stop there. I don’t think it’ll hurt to try at this point.

*

It had taken some time for things to go back to normal - after Ylki’s death, the days were quiet, most of them holding a tension in the air that always felt like it was squeezing Link’s lungs. He’s not so sure what they’ve done with Ylki’s body, and truth be told, he doesn’t want to know - all that he has now is a bracelet, one that belonged the young man and was given to him.

He supposes he’s expected to return it to his mother. He’ll have to find some time to do so - the poor woman needs closure, after all.

What bothers him the most now is the dangerous, sharp tension between the royal siblings. He’d heard them argue a few days ago, when Mipha had helped the thief die without pain, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll make up today again.

At least, the princess had agreed on making a stop to Tarrey Town. It’s only a day or so away from here, and once they’re ready to go, they say goodbye to the Gorons and make their way down the mountain.

It’s a relief to find the horses at the stable again. With them back at their side, the weight of their bags can be lifted off their shoulders for good. The Akkala region is an easy region to cross after all, and the climate is a lot more bearable than the places they’ve visited so far - Link doesn’t mind the rain that much anymore.

They walk along the familiar trail that follows the cliffside of Upland Zorana, with seemingly a little more ease now that they’ve traveled so far. The citadel is still as imposing and magnificent as Link remembers, and the scenery that surrounds it is made of trees, their foliage a bright orange that resembles the sunset. Link remembers meeting the fairy, the one that had transformed his yiga suit into the Zora disguise he wears now… Maybe she’s still around. But he doesn’t think he’ll have time to go thank her.

They cross the Sokkala bridges above the waterfalls, saluting the locals who are much more familiar with the Zoras than the rest of Hyrule. Many of them bow down before the royal siblings before going back to their activities.

When the evening comes, so does the rain. It starts in small droplets, falls onto the Zora’s scales as Paya covers her hair with her hood. And as time goes by, the small village appears in the distance. It hasn’t changed much, although it looks even more flowery than before - Goddesses, he hopes his allergies won’t act up on him.

Most villagers have made their ways inside their homes, now that the rain falls like a curtain onto them. Hardly anyone even greets the travelers as they pass through the gates aside from the tiny Hylia statue in the middle of the fountain.

Link looks at her, fighting the urge to grimace uselessly. It’s not long until a voice makes itself heard above the heavy sound of the downpour - Paya, who seems impatient to run inside and find a dry place to stay.

“The inn is right over there,” she says, catching the others’ attention. “Let’s go inside.”

And everyone follows. The Zoras tuck themselves under the door as they open it, and Link feels a sudden nervous chill crawling along his spine - the voice of the priest resonates in the main hall as he greets them with enthusiasm. He most likely didn’t expect to have some visit from the prince and the princess.

“Prince Sidon! Lady Mipha!” He exclaims, despite his tired voice. “What a blessing to have you here. You are on your Hyrule tour, are you not?”

“Yes, indeed,” Mipha muses, bowing gracefully in front of Kapson. “We thought it well to visit you, after all this time. How do you like the village?”

Before Kapson can reply, his eyes direct themselves to the Hylian. He shoots a glance at Link, who can’t help but tense up where he stands. Even with the disguise, he’s recognized him of course - who else could it be?

But the old Zora doesn’t know, that everyone else is aware of Link’s past. Wise as he is, he decides to stay silent about the matter for now, and instead carries on with his conversation with the royal siblings.

They gather around a large table to eat, after their long day of traveling from one region to another. Kapson offers them the traditional food of the stormy region, which isn’t so different from the food of Lanayru, if only a little more seasoned. The Zoras chat around their meals, seemingly relieved of finding food that they’re familiar with - the Goron spices had truly started to feel a little overwhelming.

But as much as Link’s stomach had been growling for something to fill it for the past few hours, now he finds himself staring at his plate, swallowing only small pieces of food whenever the knot in his stomach loosens. He’s lost his appetite.

“My dearest one, are you alright?” A sudden whisper comes to him, and he recognize the voice of his prince at his side. Thankfully, he had managed to sit with him for once. “You seem troubled. Are you not hungry?”

Link takes advantage that the others are busy talking between themselves to sign without being seen. Not really, sorry, he says with a shake of his head. I just… Don’t know if I’m welcome here. I’m not pious like you guys.

Sidon gives him a reassuring smile, putting a hand against his back. “You do not have to worry about this, Link,” he murmurs, dragging his palm up and down in gentle strokes. “But if you wish, I can leave the table with you.”

With another shake of his head, Link smiles lightly. It’s fine, I don’t want to inconvenience you, he signs, I think I know where I need to go, though.

“Oh? Where would that be?”

Have you ever been to the Spring of Power? Link asks - honestly, it’s where he’s thought about going for the past few days.

“Only a few times,” the prince replies, tilting his head to the side. “It’s true that it is close. Is that where you want to go?”

Link nods subtly, fidgeting with his wristplates for a moment. I think it’s where I’ll be able to talk to Hylia, if she allows me.

Sidon thinks for a moment, looking down to find his thoughts. “I suppose it is worth trying,” he says, although with a hint of worry. “I could come with you. I am not sure about letting you on your own.”

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go alone, Link replies, obviously trying his hardest to reassure. I’ll be fine. I’ll bring the spear with me, besides… this part of Akkala is pretty dead. I doubt I’ll encounter anything. And I’ll warn Paya about it.

“Of course, Link,” Sidon replies, a little less tense. “I shall wait for you to come back, then.”

Discreetly, he excuses himself - all he does is a quick sign to Paya as she watches him go while the others are distracted. She’s quick to understand as she nods, making a silent promise to look for him if he doesn’t come back.

He knows he might worry them all, but he has to do this. He walks out of the inn with a determined step, finding the horses outside once more - he picks one of them, mounts on the saddle before prompting her to leave the village.

He crosses the Akkala plains, and sure enough, they’re empty - only a few wild horses here and there that the Hylian avoids angering, in the middle of a wide expanse of green grass. The rain still falls onto him, and he’s sure he’s just as soaked as if he had just taken a shower, at this point.

The comfortable weight of his spear against his back reassures him a little at least, when after a few dozens of long minutes, he arrives at the Ordorac Quarry. If something or someone were to ambush him, this would be the perfect place for them - with a tug on the reins, he stops the horse, getting back on his feet before sliding down the steep descent.

Thankfully, it seems calm. He doesn’t feel the presence of anything around, not even near the spring. After all, it’s so well hidden that very few people came here anyway.

The gate is covered by foliage, making it seem like there’s only a wall behind. But with a slight push of his hand, Link parts the leave to reveal a long curved hallway, made of stone bricks old enough to have cracked in a few places.

He steps between the patches of moss, and at the end of the hallway, he can finally see her.

The tall statue of Hylia stands in the middle of a pond, emitting a strange light that feels almost like a hallucination. But the water reflects it, and if he lets himself think about it, it gives him the feeling that the Goddess had been waiting for him.

What is he thinking? It’s a statue. It’s been here for centuries in the ruined sanctuary, with its broken pillars and its rubble dispersed on the pedestal where he stands, and into the small spring.

Standing there won’t amount to anything. Link brings himself forward, dipping himself into the water to approach her as close as he can. He follows the path, until he’s right in front of her, looking up at her face.

The light has faded into nothing, now that he’s close enough. She’s not the same as the statues in all the villages he’s visited - three times his size, her mouth curving into a smile. There’s something peaceful about this place, even with the hatred he harbors towards her - like something is waiting for him, right here.

He looks around, only to confirm that he’s in fact, alone. Perhaps he should’ve brought an offering, this time.

He sighs to himself. It’s too late to think about it now, he realizes. All that he can feel now, though, is a thrum into his veins, a shift into his pulse that pushes him down.

He kneels into the pond, letting his hands feel the cool water. It feels like it calls to him, in a way… His reflection in the dark almost looks like a real Zora.

A light blue Zora.

Link shakes himself out of it. The waters are shallow enough that he could lie in it for a moment, and try to communicate in some way - for now, that’s all he finds to do. He lets part of his body get submerged by the holy pond, feeling the rain fall onto his face in droplets.

He doesn’t know how much time passes, as he lies there in front of the Goddess, not knowing what to expect. And he’s not sure if he’s fallen asleep, but he must be dreaming; Because the next thing he sees when he opens his eyes is an ocean that seems infinite.

He stands on a shore, watching the horizon with relieved eyes; The light of the sunset is warm, cures him of his troubles for a moment. He stands in one place for what feels like hours, although he knows time might be slowing down in such a strange space where it feels like the sky opens up to another world he doesn’t know of.

He breathes in, thinking of all that he wants to ask; How, and why? What is best to do from here on? Does he have to leave Zora’s domain to do what he was brought back for? Can he remain there and spend his days with the one he loves?

No immediate reply comes, but before he can give up, a voice resonates at his side.

A voice he recognizes.

“It’s been a while.”

Chapter Text

In what seems to be another dimension, Link finds himself feeling utterly lost.

And there’s this voice at his side, one that calls out to him. “I’ve been waiting for you,” it says, but his body can hardly move. The voice distorts at times, coming back to normal after a breath, buzzing in the Hylian’s ears as he grimaces.

With time, his body seems to relax, and he finds the strength to turn around. The ocean in front of him evaporates, leaving a thick fog around him that now makes it difficult to find the silhouette that speaks to him. He thought he could recognize that voice, but as he tries to put a name onto it, several come to mind.

The freckled blue Zora stands a few meters away from him, eyes peaceful while Link can’t help but breathe out in panic. It’s Xila, it’s him - he’s standing right there, alive and safe!

His knees give out, and he stumbles to the ground. Link lets out a groan as he tries to stand back up, but his mind is much too focused on the one in front of him to gather enough strength for that. With a shiver, he extends his hand towards the young Zora, as if to catch him from where he kneels.

“You finally found me,” Xila utters, gentler than he’s ever been. “After all this time, I get to see you again. Come on, get closer.”

Link swallows hard, his breathing shaky. Truly, he would love to - but it’s as if his legs were nailed right into the ground, heavy like lead and sending a spike of pain through his spine. He lets out a frustrated huff, finally managing to get himself off the ground, still hunching over himself.

“You’re tired, aren’t you?” Xila asks, his voice once again shifting to a lower pitch for a split second. “Talk to me. I know you can do that.”

Link tries to smile, but there’s an unease settling into his stomach that has his shoulders drooping. Are you alive? He asks for confirmation - after all, he’d seen him losing his breath right into the sand. Is it really you?

Xila’s eyes go vacant as he holds his own hand out. Link takes one quick second to watch his surroundings, noticing the mist as it travels away, far away behind the blue Zora. The wind ruffles the Hylian’s hair as he awaits for his response, his heart beating with the strength of two thousand hammers. The worry starts to gnaw at his throat when a minute passes, a long minute accompanied with a hiss in the air. He takes one difficult step forward, reaching for Xila only for the young Zora to pull back.

“I don’t know,” he speaks at last, his words tangled, yet the Hylian can still understand them somehow. “Was it me you were looking for?”

As soon as he hears him, Link knows he might’ve said the wrong thing from the start. It would be a lie to say yes. Hylia was the one he was expecting to stand right here, but truth be told, he’s much happier finding his old friend in her stead. He lets his head hang for a moment, gathering his thoughts, fighting the headache.

He raises himself again to sign. Listen, it doesn’t matter. I-

Before he can keep his sentence going, his eyes spot the red marks under his friend’s gills, the liquid that drips along his side and onto the invisible ground. It doesn’t seem to phase Xila, however, as the Zora simply looks to it with inexpressiveness.

You’re bleeding! Link signs again, catching his attention. Wait for me, please. I promise I’ll help you this time. I need you to come back above the water for me. His movements are shaking with panic, his mouth feeling dry.

Xila remains silent as his gaze pierce Link’s own, his mouth slowly hanging to reveal sharp teeth. His breathing seems to stop as the seconds go by, and before Link knows it, the Zora’s hand is raising itself, wrapped around the hilt of a rapier that wasn’t there before.

Link’s reflexes finally catch him as he dodges the blow, rolling onto the ground with a startled gasp. Xila rushes past him, letting out a battle groan, his voice sounding much different than  it was a few seconds ago. His silhouette seems to vanish, giving Link some time to stand back up on his strained legs and to catch his breath.

Why would he attack him? He’s his friend ! Link only wants to help with the wound, he only wants to-

Reality comes back to eat up at his thoughts. Perhaps he should’ve helped the first time. Perhaps then, the Zora wouldn’t utterly hate him to the point of trying to kill him.

He turns himself around, finding the silhouette in the distance again, the rapier still held onto tightly. Its back is turned against him, so he knows in advance that if he signs, his words won’t reach.

I’ve failed you, he signs anyway, his eyelids falling shut for a few seconds. I couldn’t do what I should’ve done from the start.

He’s already noticed that the one standing further away from him isn’t Xila anymore. No, instead of a young Zora, it’s a woman of the same height as him, her entire silhouette dark and smoky, her long hair flowing in all directions as if she were controlling it. As she turns her head around, Link notices that her eyes are red, and she seems to have no mouth; Her body is wrapped in a frilly dress, her hand gripping the hilt of her weapon with strength born from monstrosity.

“Child of ours,” she begins, to which Link’s eyes narrow. “What do you seek?”

Link pauses, staring in disbelief before scoffing at the ghost in front of him. With a swift movement, he brings a hand up, hesitating for lasting seconds before his fingers clasp down, except one of them.

Honestly, he didn’t think for one second that he’d one day end up flipping off the Goddess in another plane of existence. The gesture doesn’t last long, however; He lets it go, unable to prevent himself from grinning in satisfaction. He’d waited so long for this, even if it wouldn’t change much about his situation.

“How crude,” she replies, completely deadpan. “We awaited more from you, silent one.”

Fuck off! Link signs, anger flaring through his entire body. If  he started a fire with it, he wouldn’t be surprised. What did you expect, after taking the form of my dead friend to taunt me? I thought for a minute that I could forgive you, but you’re fucking kidding yourself if you think you deserve my respect. He ends his sentence with a sharp movement, soon noticing that his hand is now carrying a sword as well. He’s not sure how or when it ended up in his palm, but fuck it, he’ll take it.

“We hardly have control over what you see,” Hylia speaks again, her voice resonating from all directions. “But if a quarrel is what you desire, take the first step.”

Suddenly, all the rage that has built up inside him for the past four years boils the blood in his veins, sets off all his senses at once. Did he really believe that he’d find his answers here? Of course not. As long as he stands, he’ll ruin her, even if all of it is just a dream, even if it means earning more of her disdain.

His vision clouds itself in patches of crimson, his feet lifting off the ground as he bolts towards her with a furious grunt, swinging his sword towards her ghostly form.

*

The sky looks much too dark now to see anything outside of the illuminated village. The folks of Tarrey Town have retreated to their houses for the night, and now, only a few travelers and shop owners remain outside despite the rain.

Paya finds relief in the fact that there’s no thunder, at least. The Zoras are safe, but it’s a little harder to handle conversations with them, especially now that Link is absent. He hasn’t been gone for long, at least not long enough for her to start worrying. She knows well what he’s doing, and it’s no use ruminating.

Sitting in front of the fountain, Paya could be looking at the small Goddess statue, but catching a glimpse of her eyes has become difficult. Especially now that the conflict has made itself present in her mind, after all this time going forward without any intention to stop.

The palm of her hand blooms open, her fingers relaxing as she looks down. Here lies the small piece of jewelry, the ‘gift’ that Link had given to her - Ylki’s bracelet. It gleams under the moonlight, the small, polished red stone reflecting the woman’s face as she looks from under her hood.

What is it, Hylia? Was it her intention to put the doubt in her heart, after all she’d accomplished? She had seen it on his wrist, when the thief had taken the swing of her blade. He had been a Yiga like the rest of them, and so, this is what he must’ve deserved, right?

But Link and the Zoras - they all seemed absolutely wracked with sorrow, when he passed. The princess even tried to save him. Whatever went through their heads, it isn’t something she can find an explanation for just yet. If only she had been more skilled, had killed him in one strike, none of the following events would’ve happened. The doubt wouldn’t have reached anyone, especially not her.

But that very doubt is what makes her question her entire purpose today, the day she thought she would be going home with Link, back to Kakariko. The blade strapped to her belt feels heavy, as if Ylki’s soul was bound to it. Never had she felt guilty over ending a thief’s life before. But just like Xila and Luwas were taken away from her, Ylki was taken away from his mother.

The minutes pass, and her mind grows numb. Her fingers clutch around the bracelet, around the hilt of her blade as though she were trying to soothe the poor soul she had taken.

She’ll wait twenty minutes more before going to see Link.

*

“I would like to thank you for having us, father Kapson,” Sidon utters to the Zora priest as they walk outside to find the cool air of the night. “Our visit here was unexpected. We should’ve sent you a letter.”

“Of course not, my prince,” Kapson replies, lightly waving his hand in dismissal. “Nothing brings me more joy than to see you. As much as I love my new home, I do miss the domain and its inhabitants at times.”

A warm smile writes itself on Sidon’s features, and while he’d like to reply, he feels his heart isn’t in the right place. Ever since Link left for the Spring of Power, he hasn’t stopped thinking about him, about what he must be seeing. The prince wants to believe that it’ll help, at least - after all, he’s the one who’s suggested it. He would hate for his idea to be a useless one.

“By the way, I am sure I’d seen the Hylian guard with you before we ate,” Kapson begins, scratching at his chin as he looks to the cloudy sky. “Did he go somewhere else? I cannot seem to find him anymore.”

Sidon’s tail perks up in half-interest, half-anxiety. He supposes it can’t hurt, to tell the truth.

“He… needed to go to the Spring of Power,” the prince begins, “to pray, I believe.”

At Kapson’s incredulous stare, Sidon can’t help but feel his body tense up. He must know that Link isn’t one to truly pray, after all that happened, and truly, the Zora prince can’t blame him. But before the silence grows uncomfortable, he speaks up again.

“If you are wondering whether or not we know about Link’s… ‘secret’,” Sidon begins, feeling a tinge of uneasiness as he pronounces the word, “we know. All of us do.”

Kapson’s features seem to relax after mentally processing Sidon’s words, and soon, his head turns to look at the ground instead. “I suppose it is for the best,” he mutters, something resembling defeat in his tone. “I will say… I felt incredible guilt, the years after I sent him, after you were attacked. I knew Link would never hurt you, but I knew it would be very hard on you if you were to learn about his true identity.”

“I am fine,” Sidon breathes, a hasty thing that suggests he’d rather avoid talking about the incident. “Link has done so much for me to understand that he’s nothing like a violent thief. His troubles are much deeper than my own, so I am doing what I can to adjust.”

The light seems to reach the priest’s eyes as they snap open, searching for the prince’s explanation hidden beneath his words. “What do you mean? I would not write off your experience as ‘less deep’ than anything else. Your feelings do matter, my prince.”

A mildly frustrated sigh passes between Sidon’s teeth as he tries to straighten himself. If there are a few people he refuses to show weakness to, Kapson is one of them. “What I meant to say is that it cannot be compared. What happened to me four years ago was surely traumatic enough to shape me differently, but you see… I’ve always been surrounded by support, and whatever I needed, I could have it. I never ran out of food, I’ve never had to sleep outside under the rain - all this, because I am the Zora prince.”

It seems to be far from what Kapson expected, if the way his wrinkled mouth hangs in bewilderment is anything to go by. But Sidon doesn’t wait for an answer - there are a few things he needs to get off his chest, and he’s had enough of holding back his words.

“Link, on the other hand, did not have that chance. While I could obtain anything I wanted with a simple request, my friend - my beloved had to struggle to simply survive. To this day, it shows in his behavior, that he didn’t grow up the way he should’ve.”

It’s an obvious thing, at least to him. He can never help but notice the heavy melancholy that burdens the Hylian everyday, the guilt and the fear of failing. Even when he signs the sweetest words, there’s a trembling beneath his skin that shows just how scary it all is. Slowly, the prince had made his way into his heart, listening to it, cradling it with the utmost care. Link had done the same for him, after all, whenever he faltered.

“Father Kapson,” Sidon continues, a lot quieter now that the priest stares without a word passing his mouth. “We, as upperclass Zoras, will never understand this. I will never profoundly understand what truly went through Link’s head, all this time. All I know are the stories he tells, the way he describes his reasons, and I can only listen.” After a pause, he scans his surroundings. He sees Mipha - she stands near the cliff, looking to the distance, a mournful expression dawning onto her. At her side, a few guards stand without a word.

“I want to help him,” he says, his voice weakened by an emotion he can’t describe. “As his beloved, I have to help him. But am I truly qualified to do so, father Kapson?”

It’s something he’s asked himself for quite a while now, although the comparison between their two lifestyles only makes it all the more clear. There’s still much he has to learn.

It doesn’t take long for Kapson to answer, however. Calmly, he places his withered hand onto the prince’s shoulder, despite their difference in size. It has Sidon swallowing down the lump in his throat, finding peace in the rain that falls upon him, in the image of Link that comes to his mind whenever he closes his eyes.

“Link is certainly a tough one to reach out to,” the priest begins, so quiet that Sidon has to listen with every ounce of attention he can gather. “But… my prince, you must understand that you were not made to be some sort of ‘cure’ for this man’s heartache. You cannot heal him on your own - it comes with his own efforts, as well.”

“Yes, but-”

Before Sidon can continue, the priest picks up on what seems like a monologue. “Sometimes, listening can be enough. All of it is in the past, now, and you do need to focus on your own thoughts as well.”

Sidon brings a hand to the back of his neck, sheepish and almost ashamed. It’s difficult to consider, now that he realizes that Link barely had anyone to help him through his sorrows for the past four years.

“You cannot heal each other,” Kapson continues, tapping on Sidon’s shoulder, “but you can heal together. My senses may have dulled with time, but when I see you two together, I can feel the peace that radiates from your hearts. You soothe each other, naturally.”

The prince likes to believe that much, but it’s relieving to hear it from someone else. The Hylian, while he might not realize it, has helped Sidon greatly during this trip, and he knows his presence will grow warmer with every day that passes from now on. All that scares him, in a way, is that he might not be able to return it - but if Sidon can provide as much reassurance as Link does, perhaps there’s hope for a better future, and for the both of them.

Yes, they will heal, no matter how long it takes.

*

In the strange realm Link finds himself in, the crashes of metal against metal resonate loudly into his pointed ears.

Hylia’s rapier hits against his own sword numerous times after he’s tried a first failed strike. He blocks it all the best he can, hoping that her much more elaborate weapon wouldn’t cut through the puny traveler sword he holds onto. All that he knows for now is that he has to defend himself from this monster, by any means necessary.

Like a dancer, the Goddess spins around, her rapier cutting the air between them. Link uses the millisecond he has to dodge it as he jumps backwards, sliding on his feet to gain some distance. The floor is covered in a thin layer of water now, making his movements rather difficult to control; But it’s not what’s going to make him give up. Not against her.

“What do you expect to gain from this?” Hylia asks, her expression remaining the same; Then again, she doesn’t really have one.

And well, Link doesn’t expect much. He knows this is probably a bad idea, and he knows this will probably lead him nowhere - but fuck, when was the last time he was able to lash out on a training dummy? Especially one that’s in the shape of the bitch who ruined his life.

In the instant of a blink, however, it’s not her that stands in front of him anymore. It’s the defenseless Luwas, who looks just as young as when Link first met him. He stares with a concerned gaze, as his fingers twitch in anticipation.

“I was hopeless,” Luwas murmurs, lips barely moving. “Hyrule wouldn’t have wanted me any longer.”

Link’s sword drops to the ground, making a splash in the water. Why? He signs, and he can feel the tears welling up at his eyes. It stings. Paya misses you, you know. I miss you, too.

As the seconds go by, the Sheikah man seems to change. He ages rapidly, or rather, the signs of destruction from the drugs and the alcohol start to show on his features, and Link can’t help but feel like his heart is being crushed.

“You and Paya,” Luwas starts again, voice weakened and trembling as he points to his friend, “Had a resolve I did not have.”

Link’s reflexes warn him quickly enough when Luwas takes hold of the rapier again, his eyes glowing in a crimson red. “What answers do you expect, from any of us?”

Link’s vision wavers for a moment before the silhouette changes shape again. It’s back to whatever seems to identify as Hylia, the lady hiding in a cloud of smoke, as she points her weapon to the Hylian. “ Why are you here?”

Don’t fuck with me, he signs, taking a few more steps back in case the Goddess decides to attack. Was it you who brought me back to life after I fell down the canyon? Why did you do this? Do you want me to destroy the Yiga clan?

The silence lasts much too long for Link’s liking. He takes a deep breath, his arm lowering to reduce the distance between his hand and the hilt of his blade in the shallow waters.

“Another entity was meant to do so,” Hylia speaks up, her voice still just an echo inside Link’s head. It’s going