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Legend of Zelda: Hero Search

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Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of Zelda or any of the characters.

Chapter 1: Where It Started

The field surrounding the massive form of Hyrule Castle was quiet in the dark night. Pale light was cast onto the grounds by the moon, which was halfway through waking up for the cycle. Going through its prescribed path and changes, the moon wasn't bothered in the slightest as a figure darted out from a secret passage from the castle gardens to the grounds. With sure steps born of confidence and familiarity the figure ran across the sloped grounds leading away from Hyrule Castle. It moved in a direction that would allow it to bypass Castle Town, which lay sleeping at the bottom of the path from the castle. It had been another long day and barely anyone would be awake to notice their passing, but the figure didn't want to take any chances tonight. They had a mission, one they had been planning for quite some time. Almost four years in the making, possibly even longer depending on where one considered everything to have started.

For the figure, this had all started the day she had been eaten by the giant water deity, Lord Jabu Jabu, which her people revered. She was none other than Ruto, princess of the Zora people, an aquatic race that lived in the lakes and rivers that resided in the land of Hyrule. Four years ago, it had just been a regular day when she had gone to give the daily offering to Lord Jabu Jabu. He favored her, and had allowed her inside him to explore his belly when she wanted adventure but her father didn't allow her to leave the Domain. That day her father had told her she was to be engaged to some Zora noble's son twice her age that she knew nothing of. So, she had done what any self-respecting princess would do, she had run away to somewhere she felt safe. Unfortunately, Lord Jabu Jabu's belly was not the same safe place it had once been. While asking for entry she had been violently swallowed up whole.

Inside of Lord Jabu Jabu, Ruto had been confronted with horrifying monsters and parasites that had infested him. Her rough entry had led to her spraining an ankle, limiting her movement, and to losing her trusty boomerang, her only form of defense. In addition, she had lost the most important object to her, the Zora's Sapphire. The beautiful gem had been passed down by generations of Zora, from parent to child and so forth. Ruto had received it from her own mother, and had kept it close since. Her mother had told her only to give it to the man she would marry by her own choice, an engagement stone. Eventually after they were joined as one with children of their own, Ruto would pass it on to the one who would rule after her. Without the sapphire her childhood fantasies, of which she had more of each day, would end unfulfilled. Not one to give up easily, Ruto had set out, ignoring her injured ankle, and gone in search of the sapphire.

The parasites had corrupted Lord Jabu Jabu's belly beyond recognition, slowing down her venture. She had been close to giving up when surrounded by electrified jellyfish floating through the air like it was water, but a savior had come, dragging her out of danger to safety. She had been surprised to find that her savior was none other than a human boy her age dressed up in the garb of the Kokiri forest sprites. He had a large dagger he wielded like a sword, a crude wooden shield in the other hand. A blue fairy flew around him, chiding him for rushing into danger.

"Think before you rush into danger like that!" chided the fairy. "You don't have any weapons that can hurt those things, remember?"

"I know Navi!" the boy replied, ignoring Ruto to argue with his fairy. "But she was in danger!"

"I don't know who you are," interjected Ruto, drawing the boy and fairy's attention to herself. She had stood up as straight and regal as she could manage, wincing only slightly at the pain in her ankle. "I was perfectly fine without your help! But I guess since you did help me, even though it was unnecessary, I can allow you the thanks of Princess Ruto of the Zora. Now, name yourself!"

"I'm Link," responded the boy, seeming perplexed by her lack of gratitude. "I was sent here by your father to save you!"

"My father?" asked Ruto. She was slightly happy to hear that, but became displeased when she remembered about the arranged marriage and how she was still angry at her father. "I never agreed to that!"

"Huh?" asked the fairy, Navi, confused.

"What do you mean?" asked Link. He took a step towards her. "Everyone's worried about you! Come, let's hurry and get you home!"

"No way!" snapped Ruto, moving away from him. "You go home!"

Ruto started to run away from the strangely dressed boy. A jellyfish rushed at her from a hiding place and as she tried to dodge she took a misstep, causing pain to lance through her injured ankle and throwing off her movement. The monster bore down on her and she braced for the strike, which never came. The monster was swatted away as Link hit it with his sword. But electricity surged through his sword and into his body, zapping him. He screamed in pain and fell to one knee.

"If you strike them with your sword you'll be shocked!" chided Navi, flying worriedly around her companion.

"A-are you ok?" asked Link, looking up at Ruto. He panted as he used his sword to prop himself up. He held out his hand to her. "Now come with me."

Ruto had just regarded him for a moment. He was oddly persistent, even for someone sent by her father. He was just a kid and hopelessly outmatched by the monsters he couldn't even hurt. But that didn't seem to be stopping him.

"I'll leave, if you help me retrieve my mother's stone!" replied Ruto, crossing her arms and using the toughest voice she could manage. "I dropped it when I was swallowed by Lord Jabu Jabu."

Link just studied her for a moment, looking a bit shocked by her reaction. Then his face became determined.

"Alright!" he yelled, starting to run off. Ruto reached out quickly and grabbed the back of his shirt, pulling him up short.

"Hold it!" she yelled angrily. More pain lanced through her foot as she stood her ground. "Do you intend to leave me behind all alone?"

Link had just sighed and then crouching down allowed Ruto to climb onto his back.

"To carry me is considered a great honor. You should consider thanking me," boasted Ruto, feeling herself flush in embarrassment at being so close to someone else. She could feel the heat in his back and it made her even more conscious of herself. At least Link hadn't been able to see her face, because she had doubted she could hide it at that moment.

Together they made their way through the dungeon. Dodging past monsters, Link eventually came across Ruto's lost boomerang. She didn't mention it was hers though, since he was being gracious enough to help her. With the new weapon, he was able to take out the electrified jellyfish. Ruto had to admit to herself that he was quite gallant rushing through the dungeon, taking out monsters and carrying her at the same time. A lot like a knight from the stories, rescuing fair maidens and princesses, like her. The more they explored the dungeon together the more Ruto wanted the stone. Once they were safe from the monsters she would present it to the dashing boy, freeing herself from her father's arranged marriage and claiming Link as her husband.

Her mind full of dreams, when Ruto saw the stone laying on a raised platform she started to yell in excitement. As she asked, Link helped her up onto the platform and she hurried over to grab the stone. But right as she made it to the stone the platform shook and suddenly moved quickly upwards. The platform moved into a slot in the ceiling and she had been confronted by a giant Octo which had started to move towards her. Grabbing the stone up with a yell Ruto had quickly fled out of the room, the door closing behind her. She only stopped when she realized she was further inside Lord Jabu Jabu than she had ever been before and had no clue where she now was. Not able to go back due to the giant Octo, she just continued to limp forward, pain lancing into her with every movement. Despair started to fill her as she ambled through the dungeon, so much worse now due to the flicker of hope that she had been offered.

"Link," she sniffed, walking through a door to a large dead-end room. "Please come and find me. I don't want to be in here anymore! I just want to go home!"

Things got worse though when a giant monster crashed down from the ceiling, blocking off her exit. She backed up in fear, clutching the stone tightly to her chest. Something moved on the monster and Ruto realized that it was actually a large collection of electrified jellyfish connected to a giant pulsating blob by electrified cords.

"Stay away!" yelled Ruto, tripping onto her rear. She glared at the monster, fighting back her fear and tears. "Don't you dare touch me!"

Ignoring her cries, the monster advanced on her, the jellyfish attached to it starting to move away from the main body and starting to rotate around. They picked up speed with each pass and started to make an ominous noise as they sliced through the air. When all looked lost though, a boomerang flew through the air and struck the main body. The blow disrupted the electric cords and sent the electrified jellyfish flying uncontrollably through the air, striking the walls in various places and being crushed by the force. Ruto saw Link rushing through the room at the monster, sword drawn. An antenna on the monster turned to face Link and crackled with energy.

"Look out!" yelled Ruto. A powerful bolt of electricity crackled through the air at Link. It made a booming noise as it flashed…and missed Link as he rolled to the side right in time. The monster wasn't able to fire off another shot before Link leapt up and slashed down, chopping through the monster with a surprisingly strong blow, ending its life in an explosion as the foul energy inside of it released. Chunks of purple gore and blue blood rained down on them as Ruto stared in amazement at Link.

"Princes Ruto!" yelled Link, running over to her.

"What do you mean leaving me like that!" yelled Ruto, trying to resist the urge to just cry in relief.

"Sorry, sorry," apologized Link, holding his hand out to help her up. "Let's get out of here!"

"I…I was a tad scared near the end there," sniffed Ruto reluctantly, finally letting her emotions show a bit. He just smiled good naturally at her and helped her up when she grabbed his hand.

"The truth is…I had originally come here with the intent to hide," admitted Ruto.

"Hide?" asked Link, confused.

"My father…went ahead and arranged a marriage for me without consulting me!" she had raged, finally letting her emotions show. "That geezer is always saying 'oh, my lovely Princess'. I have my own feelings! I-I'm not my father's little doll!"

Link had just stared at her for a moment then made that silly smile that she had already started to enjoy seeing.

"Being a princess sure is tough," said Link, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. Ruto wondered if it was a sign of exasperation or something similar. "But…I'm envious of you. Your father seems to care for you so much. As for my parents…the Great Deku tree told me that they died. I never had a chance to meet them, but you have a loving father who's worrying about you. Let's go home."

Ruto was speechless for a moment. Then she turned away from Link as she felt herself blushing.

"Well…If it's okay, then will you come with me?" she said shyly.

"Eh?" asked Link, confused by her reaction. Ruto turned back to Link and held out her mother's stone to him.

"This is the Spiritual stone of Water, the Zora Sapphire," she declared triumphantly. "It's the engagement ring of the Zora's! I'm giving it to you!"

"Alright!" Link had yelled happily. Smiling he had accepted the stone from her.

He had helped her out of Jabu Jabu, carrying her on his back. The monsters had all been cleansed from the body when the giant blob had been defeated. Ruto now recognized where she was going and directed him out. Link left her with her very grateful father and rushed out of Zora's domain, smiling and waving at her as left.

"My beautiful Princess Ruto!" gushed her father, rushing over on his stubby legs to hug her. "I'm so glad you're safe! Rest tonight, and I will postpone your meeting with your betrothed until tomorrow. He'll understand the need for such."

"Too bad for you and him," said Ruto smugly. "I already gave the stone to someone else to be my husband and he accepted!"

"What?!" cried her father in horror. "Who?!"

"Link," replied Ruto with a wistful smile.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: As Times Passes

Back in the present Ruto smiled at the memory as she climbed out of the river she had been swimming in to speed up travel. No matter the direction or strength of the flow, water was never an impediment for a Zora. She looked around and saw that it was still well into the night. She still had quite a large portion of Hyrule field to trek until her destination, but she probably had enough of a head start that no one from the castle would be able to catch up to her to take her back. For the last several years Hyrule field had been at an unprecedented level of safety for travelers. It was said that the evil that had plagued the land in the years before had been from a sorcerer from the Gerudo desert, Ganondorf.

He had been the King of Hyrule's advisor at one point before Princess Zelda of Hyrule and Link had exposed his plans to steal the sacred power of the Goddesses. Ruto had suspected that there was more to the story than what was publically available to everyone. Link had gone around and collected the three stones said to open the door to the sacred realm, and had gathered them up almost a month before Ganondorf had been arrested and executed. Something else had happened, but no one had ever told her what. Link and Zelda both seemed to know more, but they were both tight lipped about the topic.

Zelda and Ruto had been friends for years, playing together when their fathers had been in royal conference with each other. Ruto respected the other girl, despite her bragging about how she was a much better princess. Zelda had…gifts. She saw things other people didn't, and knew things she shouldn't. Zelda never showed them openly in front of Ruto, but the Zora Princess was smart enough to put two and two together. So, when Zelda told her she had no idea about the story behind defeating Ganondorf, Link's role in it or where the green clad boy now was Ruto hadn't believed her.

Shortly after news of Ganondorf's treachery had reached Zora's Domain the rulers of the various races had been asked to meet at Hyrule Castle for a summit. Ruto had traveled with her father, curious to confirm rumors she had heard. A strange boy in green clothes and a fairy had traveled around Hyrule saving it from various evils. Ruto knew this had to be Link. She had heard it said that he currently resided at Hyrule Castle, a special guest of the King and Princess. The Zora Princess had been excited to meet him again, but also a little scared to check out another one of the rumors, that the strange boy was dating Princess Zelda...

Ruto had arrived at the castle and had found to her delight that Link was in fact staying at the castle. He was safe, healthy, not dating Zelda and apparently glad to see her. Together with Zelda they played together practically non-stop while emissaries arrived for the summit. There were several times during the summit though that Link was called in for reasons unknown to her. Ruto wasn't allowed in during those parts, to her chagrin. During the parts she was, she decided to instead play with Link. Her father would fill her in on anything important, and had actually seemed happy that she was playing with kids her age instead of harassing him.

Ruto had enjoyed those days the most of her childhood to that point, minus maybe meeting Link. Playing with the boy she loved had been like a dream, but something had been off about him. The most obvious change had been the lack of his fairy companion Navi. When Ruto had asked Link where Navi was a look of utter sadness had flittered across his face. The next moment he had smiled at her like usual though.

"She's gone," he had replied. "She went back to live in the forest."

He had refused to say more, but Ruto had known something was wrong. The lack of his friend wasn't the only change that seemed to have affected him in the month since they had first met. At times he seemed much, much older than he had before, or should have been able to be. Certain sights or phrases seemed to cause him pain, sadness or longing. There was one point that when playing Ruto had caught him staring at her with a look unlike any she had ever seen on him before. He hadn't seemed to know that she could see the look of sad longing on his face, the same she had seen on her father when he was thinking of her mother.

When Ruto had been about to leave for Zora's domain Link had pulled her aside to say goodbye, something she had thought she would need to be the one to initiate.

"Have a safe trip back to Zora's Domain," Link had said, looking shyly at his feet instead of looking at her. "I had a lot of fun playing with you these past few days."

"I enjoyed playing with you too," Ruto had replied, smiling back at him. He couldn't see her, but she didn't care. She had spent two months worrying that Link would never return to her, that he had just taken the Spiritual stone from her or if he did return, she was just forcing him against his will. Playing with him, and hearing him talk like this had taken a huge lode off of her heart. "If you ever want to play again, remember that you're free to visit Zora's Domain. There will always be a place for you there."

She paused for a moment. He still hadn't looked up at her, but she knew he was listening. She managed to choke out the next line, feeling her face turning bright red with the effort.

"And I would also love to see you again," finished Ruto. Without warning Link moved forward and enveloped her in a tight hug. She had gasped in surprise at first but returned the hug. Neither of them said anything, just keeping the embrace for several minutes. The two children had only broken away from each other when Ruto's Father's voice had bellowed through the halls, telling her it was time to go. Ruto had looked once more at Link and flashed him a smile.

"See you again!" she had said happily, dashing away, her face burning red, and a stupid grin refusing to leave it.

Time passed quickly for Ruto after that. On arriving back to Zora's Domain her father decided to increase her studies and training for becoming Queen one day. Her freedom to run off was restricted by the mass of tutors lining up outside her door every day to teach her whatever subject they took the most pride in. History of the Zora's, History of Hyrule Continent, History of the Kingdom of Hyrule(focusing mostly on the Hylians themselves), classes on etiquette and culture of the multitude of races that populated Hyrule(way more than Ruto cared to count, with more seeming to appear daily for her to learn about). In addition to all this Ruto was finally allowed to do something she had never thought to be able to do; fighting lessons.

Since the Summit at Hyrule Castle her overprotective father had actually relaxed several of his previous restrictions on her. This included wielding weapons, or being allowed to even be near a weapon. Her combat instructor seemed to be a fan of the legend of the Zora Warrior Queen Rutela, who her own name was derived from. This meant that her instructor believed that she could shape the Zoran Princess into a Warrior Queen worthy of the legend. The first few months she didn't even touch any weapons, just conditioning training. Every night she went to sleep sore. At least the lessons gave a reprieve from all the other more boring lessons. Then it was deemed ok to start with weapons, starting with boomerangs. Her child's toy didn't even compare to the heavier weapon she was trained with. Misjudging distance and speed was a common starting mistake which led to many smacks to her chest, arms and sometimes, unfortunately, her face. She went to sleep even sorer after weapons training.

Her days were too packed to do any of the messing around or relaxing she had done previously. Her only period of rest came when she had to deliver the offerings to Lord Jabu Jabu. Eventually though she started to adapt to the rigors of her new daily life. Excessive soreness was a thing of the past and concentrating on boring chatter and recalling and reciting facts was now something she could do on demand. Slightly more than a year after the summit Ruto finally found time to do something she had been meaning to for just as long. One night after a slightly easier training session than normal, she sat down at the desk that had sat basically unused in her room up to that point. Taking a pen to paper Ruto composed a letter to Link. In it she described everything she had been doing up to that point, apologizing for taking so long to write. She filled several sheets with idle chatter, every couple of sentences asking for details about the different aspects of his own life at Hyrule Castle. The letter ended with an invitation to visit if he had nothing else to occupy himself. Satisfied with all she had written, Ruto had passed out later in the night than usual.

It was already the afternoon when she found that her father had ordered she be allowed the day off for rest and relaxation. He had taken the offering to Lord Jabu Jabu himself already. Ruto had been angry to find out about it after the fact, but she realized quickly that her father meant well, and that she did probably deserve a day off. She had asked her father if a messenger could deliver her letter anytime soon. He had replied that someone would be heading to Hyrule Castle on routine business in two days, and that it could be delivered then. Impatient but knowing only the Goddess of Time could speed it up, Ruto spent the rest of the day writing a similar letter to Zelda, although only half as long as the one to Link. The messenger left on time two days later with both letters, leaving an excited Ruto behind.

Ruto's days after sending the letters quickly turned back into the same grueling challenges that they had been before. Her excitement at sending the letters tapered off a bit with each passing day until, after two weeks of no news, it started to morph into anxiousness. The messenger had not returned to the domain either, so Ruto reasoned that maybe something had delayed him in the Castle and the excitedly written responses from Link and Zelda were just burning a hole in the middle of his bag, chaffing at the delay of being delivered to her. The fantasy of the messenger trying to catch flaming letters with his hands amused her for a bit, but even that didn't help as the second week ended, morphing into the start of the third. She tried to distract herself with lessons and training, but not being able to hear promptly from two of the people she held most dear was driving her crazy.

Halfway into the third week the messenger finally showed up, apologizing profusely to her as he found himself confronted immediately upon entry to Zora's Domain by the angry young girl. She let him off easy though due to news that a plague had closed all traffic to and from Castle Town. Grabbing the letters, practically ripping the messenger's arm off in the process, Ruto rushed to her room to read the two letters now in her possession.

Tempering her excitement, Ruto had started by reading the letter from Zelda. It had read much like similar letters had in the past. Pleasantries, descriptions of daily life, mostly all still the same, a description of the plague that had gripped Castle Town in the week the messenger had been in the area, a description of how Link was doing well (this being the part Ruto cared the most about), and some closing statements. Ruto found it all interesting and would probably pursue it later, but she had hardly finished reading the letter before dropping it onto her desk and tearing into the letter from Link. His handwriting was much messier than Zelda's neat, compact script, something that didn't really surprise her. His letter conveyed all the friendliness and boyish excitement she had come to expect from him. It detailed his days relaxing in the Castle. He had started to train with the cities soldiers, and had even managed to best a few. Every word made Ruto feel glad for him and his well-deserved happiness, but she couldn't help but admit that a part of her wished he was doing it at Zora's Domain instead. Link's letter also included a section on the plague from his point of view, although luckily it hadn't affected anyone in the Castle. It sounded like a nasty thing, and Ruto made a note to check with the messenger to make sure they were doing ok. Link's letter ended politely, and Ruto put it down, contemplating what she had read.

Everyone seemed to be doing well, and she was glad of that. But something seemed slightly off to her. She read both letter's once more, paying more attention to their actual contents. Rereading Link's message something struck her as odd. For one, he didn't mention any of the times they had played together that weren't with Zelda. Second was the absence of any mention of the promises they had made, either to get married or to visit Zora's Domain. Third was the position of the parts about the plague. It seemed off and when Ruto thought about it the timing made no sense between when the letters should have been written and when the plague would have happened. Why were the mentions of the plague not on different sheets that had been added to the letters after the fact? And finally, looking over the letters for a third time, Ruto realized they had been written by the same person. The writer had been trying to cover it up in tone and by using their off hand for Link's letter, but how they wrote the symbols were of the same style. It seemed weird to her that Zelda and Link would both write symbols exactly the same, when they had learned on opposite sides of Hyrule.

Ruto had taken the letters in hand and rushed off to meet her father. He had been debriefing the messenger and the two had gotten unusually silent on her entry.

"Ah, my darling Ruto," said her father, speaking first. "I am in the middle of a meeting right now, do you need something?"

"I just thought I'd come and see how Mikau was doing after his trip," she replied, referring to the Zoran messenger. "I had heard rumors of plague in Castle Town and I was rude before on not checking on his well-being on greeting him."

I am doing well Princess," responded Mikau after a moment, finding his voice but still sounding a bit shocked that she would care. "It was a nasty piece of work."

"So, I've heard," said Ruto casually. "The letters I received said that lots of the servants in the castle had come down with the plague; nasty greenish boils."

"Yeah, it took down a large part of the staff before the healers got things under control. It was the reason for my delay, they wanted to make sure everyone was completely healthy before anyone could leave or enter."

"Yes, that does sound bad, luckily it never happened," replied Ruto dryly, her anger at being lied to starting to show.

"Never happened?" replied a confused Mikau. "What are you talking about Prince-"

"I'm talking about these letters!" yelled Ruto, marching up to the messenger and waving the pieces of parchment in his face. "It's all a lie. These letters say that no one in the castle, not even a servant got afflicted. And no mention of greenish-boils. You on the other hand would have me believe that stuff had happened? So, which is it?"

"Princess…." replied Mikau weakly. He seemed in distress, and her father spoke up to his rescue.

"It is not Mikau's fault," replied the Zoran King. "He was asked to lie by Princess Zelda and the King of Hyrule, and I agreed."

"Why?" asked Ruto, tears forming in her eyes. "Why are all of you lying to me? Who really wrote this letter from Link? Why hasn't he come to visit me yet like he said he would!?"

"We lied because we care," replied the Zoran King softly. "Princess Zelda agonized over many days to write that letter. As I understand it she lied to stop you from being hurt because she cares for you. You see, Link has disappeared, and no one knows when he'll be back, or even where he went."

"What?" replied Ruto, too shocked to say anything else. Link, gone? It couldn't be. He had promised to visit her. Not only did he break his promise, he had left to somewhere without even saying goodbye? "I don't believe it. He couldn't have…."

"I am sad to say that he did," replied her father, sounding sincere.

Ruto couldn't even manage anymore words, she just broke down and started to cry in the middle of the throne room. She collapsed to the ground and sobbed. Eventually someone came over and wrapped her in a warm comforting embrace, but it wasn't the one she wanted at the moment, so she just continued to weep.

Ruto promptly shut herself away from the rest of the world, ignoring the friendly calls to leave her room. All tutors and teachers were promptly turned away, and she only accepted the food brought on trays and left outside her door. She turned away her father also. She didn't want to see anyone at the moment, except the one person she knew who would never show up.

This went on for a week before she finally came to a realization. Sitting around and crying wasn't getting her any closer to Link. He was gone, and probably not coming back. If she wanted to see him again, and get some answers for his actions, she'd need to find him herself. Ruto started by writing a letter to Zelda, explaining that she knew everything, and that she would like any answers she could be given. With the letter finished she secured it in an envelope and dropped in off in the mail room, surprising the courier at the desk as she smiled politely, almost cheerfully, at him. And then, she joined her father for dinner. He was thrilled to have her, but kept gently trying to probe if she was really ok. Ruto answered all his questions cheerfully, never letting on to her real plan.

Her lessons started up again, and she surprised her tutors by being more of an active student. They were pleasantly surprised to find her derailing their planned lessons for questions of her own that they were more than happy to answer. Ruto directed such questions about the geography of Hyrule and the surrounding lands, the Lost Woods, the inhabitants of the woods the Kokiri and such topics. In combat lessons, she pushed herself even further, impressing her teacher with her progress. But at night, alone in her room she sometimes felt as if her goals would never be accomplished. She only needed to stare at the letters on her desk to know that she had to keep going. Unsurprisingly, Zelda never responded to her letter.

Almost a year passed before Ruto had the chance to enact her plan. Her father had to head to Hyrule for another council meeting, and Ruto was going to join him. She convinced him that she was fit to travel and happy to see Zelda and the Castle again. Maybe he was just desperate to believe her, but her father allowed her attendance. Soon they were packed, Ruto's bag slightly larger than in previous years. She insisted on packing herself, and if anyone looked they would have seen a shockingly large amount of travel and survival gear, weapons included. The group of Zoras set off across Hyrule field, a necessary action since they had to bring supplies and objects that would not fare well if they travelled through the river. They stopped off halfway at Lon Lon Ranch to avoid the hottest part of the day, which was a lot more inconvenient for the water dwellers than the Hylians. The three who ran the ranch were happy to see them and their business and made the Zoras feel welcome. Ruto was attended to by a Hylian girl her age named Malon, who was the daughter of the man who ran the ranch.

"-father spent most of his day sleeping, can you believe that! A grown man slacking off!" complained Malon. The girl hadn't stopped talking since her and Ruto had walked off to relax in a shaded corner of the ranch. In the middle of the field horses ran back and forth. Ruto was glad for the break and the company. The ranch girl was quite amusing to listen to, but it was her next words that sent a shock through Ruto. "Although he is better now. I don't know what the Fairy Boy said to him, but my father seemed to reflect on his ways."

"Wait, did you say, 'Fairy Boy'?" asked Ruto, surprised to hear the other girl mentioning him. "Do you mean Link? He walks around with a small sword, green clothes and a fairy companion."

"Yeah, that's him!" said Malon excitedly. "So, you know him?"

"Yes, very well," replied Ruto. "Have you seen him recently?"

"Sadly not. He dropped by slightly over a year ago, bought Epona, that's one of our best horses, although she's still young, she really got along well with him, and left."

"Do you know where?" asked Ruto, hoping to get a hint.

"He didn't say," replied Malon casually. She didn't seem too perturbed by things and hadn't seemed to notice the despair Ruto was feeling. "He disappears for months at a time, I'm sure he'll be back eventually with Epona and the usual cocky smile on his face."

Before Ruto could try to find out more though, it was time to continue travelling. Ruto said goodbye to Malon with a polite smile, but inside she was full of turmoil. Why didn't anyone else seem to be worried about Link? Did they not care about him? Or was she just worrying too much? Should she have more confidence in him? These thoughts haunted her as the Zoras finished their trek across Hyrule Field and arriving at the gates of Castle Town. They were welcomed inside and brought quickly to rooms in the castle. Food was supplied without fuss, the staff knowing how tired they must be from their trek. The council would be the next day, for now the Zora's and other guests were allowed to eat and go to sleep without any hassle.

The next day Ruto attended breakfast with her father. Zelda was sitting in the hall also, but upon noticing Ruto she finished eating quickly and left the hall without a word. Then after breakfast was the council, which was mostly just a get together so that everyone could report on their realms. No one from the secretive Kokiri village was there, not that they ever showed. Ruto knew Link was from there but he was the only one to her knowledge from the Lost Woods who had ever actually left. She had hoped to confront someone from there about Link, but that had been an unrealistic dream in the first place. Among all the topics that the council discussed though, Link was never one of them. It was like everyone had forgotten about him. Only small hints, like the Goron leader Darunia having named his son Link and other off-hand mentions showed that they still remembered the boy.

After the council was over, Ruto finally managed to chase down and confront Zelda.

"Hello Zelda," greeted Ruto cheerfully.

"Good afternoon Ruto," replied Zelda politely. "Are you enjoying the council meetings?"

"Nah, they're pretty boring. I'd rather be doing combat lessons back at home," she responded. "They don't really talk about anything interesting or of worth, like lying Princesses or missing boys in green clothes."

"I should probably be goi-"started Zelda, turning to walk away. Ruto moved forward, grabbed her by the shoulder and twisted her around so that they were face to face.

"No you don't," said Ruto firmly. "I have been waiting a long time for an explanation that has so far never come. There is no one else who can tell me what you can, so please just tell me."

Zelda's features softened at her begging and desperate tone. She sighed before taking Ruto's hand off her should and looking right into her eyes by her own choice.

"Know that I really thought it was better for you not to know. I wanted to stop you from being hurt, so I tried to pretend to be Link. I wanted to delay things as much as possible, hoping he would return on his own. You figured things out much quicker than I would have liked."

"Shortly after your last visit Link bid me farewell. He didn't tell me where he was going or why. Nothing I said could deter him from leaving. I think he had been planning to leave sometime when you had been visiting, and had known that the day was coming. With just a polite farewell he left across Hyrule Field."

"You don't know of any reason he would do so? Or where he would have gone?" pressed Ruto. Zelda seemed torn about telling her something, the conflict clear on her face.

"Link himself made me promise not to tell you this story long before he left."

"Please, if you have a clue, I need to know," begged Ruto.

"You know about Ganondorf, the Gerudo man found plotting against my Father and sentenced to death a few years ago?" asked Zelda, seemingly changing the topic.

"Yes," replied Ruto, confused about the relevance to Link's disappearance.

"Well the one who found out about the treachery was me. I had a dream, a vision from the Goddesses about an evil man trying to steal the Legendary Triforce and about a boy with a fairy who would defeat him."

"That was Link, wasn't it?"

"Yes, Link came here directly from the forest. He had been charged by the guardian of the woods, the Great Deku Tree to come visit me to stop this evil. At my behest, Link collected the three Spiritual stones, of which he already had one, and used them to unlock the door to the sacred realm before Ganondorf."

"So that's why he was in Zora's Domain?" asked Ruto, feeling slightly nauseous. "He was after my mother's stone at your request?"

"Correct," replied Zelda sadly. "But Ganondorf had caught on to us. He used Link's entry to get into the Sacred Realm himself and collect a piece of the Triforce. Due to his evil nature, the Triforce was split in three, the other two pieces choosing two new owners. One was myself and the other Link. Ganondorf sacked the Castle and I hid with my nurse Impa, being trained in the ways of the Sheikah warriors."

"I don't remember hearing about the castle being sacked," replied Ruto, confused.

"You won't because it didn't actually happen. Not in this timeline. When Link unlocked the Sacred Realm, and received his piece of the Triforce, he also came upon the legendary Master Sword. He was its chosen wielder, but he was also still too young. The sword locked him in time until he was old enough to wield it. Seven years later he was free and discovered a hellish land where Ganondorf ruled. Link bravely freed the eight sages who protect the land and defeated Ganondorf, but at great cost. He was granted one final boon though. Link was allowed to return back to our time, both to stop the events of his future from coming about and to live out his lost childhood. Due to his actions, we now live in a time where Ganondorf was stopped and strife never known."

"And Link, has all of his memories of this?"

"Yes, he does."

"And you?"

"I was also made aware by my future self, the wielder of the Triforce of Wisdom and the Sage of Time."

Ruto was quiet for a few minutes, digesting all she had just heard.

"Who else knows this?" asked Ruto softly.

"Every one of the rulers at the Summit," replied Zelda calmly.

"Including my father?"


"And Link made you all promise not to tell me?"


"Why would he do that to me!" yelled Ruto, her voice booming down the empty stone hallways of the Castle. "Why could I never know about all he had to suffer?!"

"Because he didn't want you to know about such suffering. What both he and the land had to go through. I doubt he wanted to ever think about any of it again."

"And he left to escape all of that?"

"No, he left to find Navi," replied Zelda. "She was with him through all of it. She was his best friend. He probably wanted someone like her who could relate to his experience so that he could come to terms with it all. But she left as soon as Ganondorf was defeated. Her mission was to stop him, and sadly after that was done, she had to return to the forest."

"So, he is in the Kokiri forest," commented Ruto. "Where exactly in the forest is he? Why hasn't he returned yet? Have you sent anyone out to find him?"

Zelda just shook her head sadly. "I don't know where in the forest he is. I doubt it would matter if I did anyways, only the Kokiri can find their way through the forest. Every mortal who enters will eventually get lost in the woods and is said to become a stalfos. It's why we haven't sent anyone to find him, I doubt they'd ever return."

"I refuse to believe that that has happened to Link!" yelled Ruto, her voice booming down the empty castle hall.

"I don't like it either," replied Zelda. "But it seems like the truth."

"How do you know that?" asked Ruto. "Has your piece of the Triforce or any of the Goddesses told you something?"

"I've been told and seen nothing," replied Zelda, her voice sounding slightly bitter. "Link and Navi are barred from my sight."

Then come with me and we can find them ourselves!" insisted Ruto. "Together I'm sure we can return them safely home!"

"No!" Zelda yelled, causing Ruto to flinch back from the unexpected outburst. Zelda looked slightly apologetic but her features hardened in determination. "I promised Link that I wouldn't let anything happen to you. Specifically, to you. I will not ever break that promise."

Ruto felt tears coming to her eyes as Zelda's words registered for her. "I appreciate that but don't you see that we need to find him! He's done so much for us, it would be horrible just to leave him to die! I love him, I can't just leave him like this!"

"And what if my worries are nothing and he returns to Hyrule Castle to find you've gone after him and gotten yourself killed or lost in the woods?" asked Zelda. "How am I supposed to explain that to him? How do you think it'll make him feel to lose another person he cares about again? How do you think it'll make me feel if I have to lose you…"

Ruto rushed forward and enveloped Zelda in a tight hug. Zelda let out a small squeak of surprise but returned the hug. Ruto broke of and just stared sadly into the other princess's eyes.

"I'm sorry for pushing you so hard on this," apologized Ruto. "You've been having a hard time with all of this too and I've been inconsiderate. I won't go after Link, I promise."

"Thank you," replied Zelda, tears coming to her eyes again. The two princesses hugged once again, Zelda crying into Ruto's shoulder, all the stress of the past year finally being released. Ruto had just whispered comfortingly into her ear, assuring her that everything would be okay. Zelda had passed out that night from built up exhaustion and Ruto and feeling slightly guilty but also confident that she was doing the right thing, had snuck out of the castle.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Reunion

Now, as the sun started to rise, the dawn greeting the day, Ruto made out the edge of the Lost Forest. Very little was known about it except that the Kokiri lived there, inside lurked many dangers and few returned from trips into its depths. Ruto made one last check of her equipment before entering. She had a water proof pack that contained the food and supplies she'd need for a several days trip. On her belt, she had a heavy boomerang and a rapier, the weapon her instructor had insisted she learn to use. Queen Rutela had used a rapier in addition to her innate magical talent, so the instructor had a fancy for the weapon. Ruto herself was quite happy with it and perfectly fine with her choice. It was enchanted with scales that allowed it to move normally through water, which was another feature she liked about it.

Ruto took one last look over her shoulder at Hyrule castle in the far-off distance, only it's very highest point visible over the hill. No one came over them hill as a visible pursuer and she childishly felt a little disappointed. Stuffing down the feeling she shouldered her pack and walked into the forest. Now that she was inside she doubted anyone would pursue her or that anyone would be ordered to pursue her. To the outside world she might as well have just forfeited her life. But Ruto knew otherwise, she was going to save a life.

The Zoran Princess walked with determination through the ever-darkening woods. Only the barest of the light from the progressing day managed to make it through to light her way and she created a small ball of blue flame to light her way. It was one of only a handful of spells that she'd learned, and she was glad for it now. Ruto could hear sounds at the edge of her hearing, howls and growls and see the faintest of movements. Shadows seemed to shift constantly, bushes always rustling as if something was about to come out and attack her. She wondered how someone like Link could have come from a place like this. It was the opposite of everything the green clothed boy was, so what had happened?

Ruto fought to ignore her fears, instead concentrating on walking through the woods and thinking about Link. She thought long and hard about everything she knew of him and every moment they had shared. Neither was a lot but she knew that she loved him and wanted to learn more about him. As a princess, she was told that she'd get married to a guy and then learn to love him. With Link Ruto got to choose, and even if she didn't know him too well, she knew him better than anyone else she'd be forced to marry. This wasn't escapism, but a feeling she truly and honestly wanted to pursue. An adventure she wanted to go on. One that would link her life with that of Link's.

Suddenly Ruto emerged into a clearing, the gaps between trees suddenly widening and the sun managing to shine through in several spots. In the center of the clearing she saw a large tree wider around than any three other trees and rising to stand above everything else. She could only marvel in amazement at the sheer size of the tree. It took her a moment to realize that in the side of the tree was a large shadowy opening that led inside the tree. It was like a large doorway, inviting her in. Ruto was drawn to the tree, part of her wanting to get closer, part of her afraid of the tree and a third part feeling that inside was a clue to finding Link. She started to walk through the clearing as confidently as she could manage, fighting an irrational fear that told her to flee, that the tree was bad news.

Halfway through the clearing Ruto heard a howl. Unlike all the others though this one wasn't far away but close, almost next to her. Ruto barely managed to roll out of the way as a large gray furred wolfos charged into the clearing and swiped at where she had been standing. She rolled to her feet, stumbling slightly, the magical flame in her hand extinguished by her lack of concentration. With her light source out it was as if she was standing in a field of a pool of shadows. Jumping among those shadows was the wolfos, growl menacingly at her.

Ruto drew her boomerang and threw it at the wolfos. The beast jumped to the side, dodging the attack. The boomerang curved back to her, going in the opposite direction than the wolfos had went. It returned to her hand as the wolfos charged at her. The sudden attack made her throw the boomerang clumsily. It cut a gash in the wolfos's arm, stopping its assault and making it back away from her. But since she had failed to throw her weapon properly it kept flying and embedded itself in a tree in the edge of the clearing.

The Zoran Princess drew her rapier quickly from her side, settling into a combat stance like she'd been taught. Her heart beat quickly as she anxiously faced down her first real opponent. The wolfos started to circle around her and she adjusted to always keep her foe in her line of sight. She took a deep breath to steady herself, shifting her feet slightly to try to properly stay in the stance. The wolfos, maybe realizing that it wasn't going to get behind her instead gave a loud howl and charged at her. As soon as the wolfos entered her range she stabbed at it with the point of her blade. The wolfos deftly moved to the side and continued at her. It got in close and swung with a sharp claw, its putrid breath blowing on her face. Ruto moved back and to the side, bring her weapon quickly up. She managed to bring her weapon up just in time and blocked the strike, but it forced her to lose her balance, knocking her back and onto her rear.

The wolfos reared up over her, swinging once more to take her out. Her mind racing in panic Ruto reacted instinctively, sticking out her free hand and firing a blast of blue fire at the wolfos's face. The fire couldn't burn anything but was bright and sudden enough to surprise and stun the wolfos. Ruto leapt up and stabbed the wolfos through the heart with her rapier. The wolfos whimpered slightly and then combusted into blue flames, leaving behind no remains.

Ruto breathed heavily, her heart racing wildly from the shock and adrenaline of the fight. She looked over to the other side of the clearing where her boomerang was and then looked to the opening in the tree. She heard a far-off howl, possibly a wolfos responding to the earlier howl. Ignoring her boomerang Ruto rushed over to the tree as fast as she could sword drawn and looking around warily. When she made it to the entrance she created another blue flame with her free hand, walking into the now illuminated tree hollow.

Inside the darkness was almost pervasive, practically surrounding and swallowing Ruto and her little flame. She poured more power into it, enlarging it slightly. The shadows barely moved back a centimeter and almost felt like they were trying even harder to crush her. She took a tentative step forward and then another. Her mind was screaming at her to leave but she could feel in her heart that this is where she needed to be. Link was here and she wasn't going to leave him there. Ruto felt like she was walking forever, all sense of time having been lost for her. She never encountered the edge of the tree even though the outside wasn't as large as the distance she had walked. So, it was that she had almost resigned herself to walking through darkness forever that Ruto's light illuminated a tree stump, a green clothed figure sitting, unmoving on it.

"Link!" yelled Ruto excitedly. The figure didn't react but that didn't stop her from sheathing her rapier and running the remaining distance. "Link, are you okay?"

The green clothed figure looked up at her and she saw Link, but it wasn't the Link she'd known. Sure he had the same dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes, but there was something else about him. His shoulders were slumped, his body almost limp with defeat. His hair was disheveled and his eyes were dull and almost lifeless. He had bags under his eyes and looked haunted, his expression that of the sadness she'd seen once before at the castle, but this time it seemed to be his permanent expression.

"They're all gone," muttered Link, his youthful voice dull and lifeless. "Everyone is dead…"

"Link, it's me, Ruto!" said Ruto leaning forward to smile at him and look right in his eyes. His reaction to her finding him was working to wipe away the smile and to kill the joy she had been feeling. She fought it though. This is what she had been waiting for, she'd be damned now if she just gave up or gave in! "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

"Ruto?" asked Link, finally seeming to notice that it was her who was standing in front of him. He squinted as if trying to make out what she looked like. Horror crept into his face. "It's finally happened…I can't believe it. I had hoped to be long gone before you appeared here. I didn't want to face you in your last moments. I'm too much of a coward…"

"What are you talking about?" asked Ruto, confused and distraught at his reaction. "The last thing you are is a coward! Why wouldn't you want to see me? I….I love you so I came to see you...are you not happy to see me…?"

Tears started to mist up her eyes and roll down her cheeks. Link seemed to notice this and stood up quickly from his stump. He was larger than Ruto remembered but was still shorter than her. Zora's were a tall race and Hylians weren't. He wasn't large of body either, but Ruto could tell he was fit, thin and willowy, a strong warrior. He looked sad to see her tears and reached out to gingerly wipe away her tears.

"Please don't cry," he said despairingly. "I didn't mean that I didn't want to see you, but I didn't want you to see the worthless person I'd become. I didn't want the woman I love to die and come here to death's door to see a coward."

"What are you talking about?" asked Ruto, sniffling through her tears. "I'd not dead, I'm alive! I came to rescue you."

"You're…alive?" asked Link sounding confused. "But how is that possible? The only people who should be able to enter this space are those who died and are on their way to the afterlife."

"But you're here," pointed out Ruto.

"I'm as good as dead," replied Link sadly. "I wandered here after witnessing the death of a world. I spent so much time trying to save it, so many weeks spent in just three days, over and over and over again. It was only as I left that I realized what the true meaning of Termina was. It's the end, the place where the dead go. I didn't save the living, I just saved the dead and nothing can save them again."

"I don't understand," said Ruto, trying to figure out desperately what he was saying.

Like gave a sigh of exasperation. "Skull kid, Tatl and Tayl all made it out alive, they didn't belong there. But Anju, Kafei, Cremea, and Romani, they all belonged there because they were long dead. I was unable to stop Mikau, Darmani or the butler's son from being killed for good… I led Epona to her death on my stupid quest. Majora was right all along…"


"A demon," explained Link offhandedly. "When I was fighting it, it called me the villain of the story and it was right."

"You're not a villain!" yelled Ruto. Link just smiled sadly at her.

"But I was. I abused the power of time to save the world. I went around solving everyone's problems by wearing masks of their dead loved ones. I deceived the Gorons into thinking they were saved by Darmani. I played music with the Zora's who were none the wiser that they weren't playing with Mikau. And I dragged up painful memories for the Deku princess and her butler, making them think of the butler's dead son who they had both loved. How is hurting people like that, and doing it constantly over several different timelines heroic?!"

"Because you saved them!" yelled Ruto. "Because like you saved Hyrule from Ganondorf you saved them all from whatever Majora was going to do to them! It doesn't matter if they're already dead, you still saved them! I know you did!"

"Ruto…" said Link sadly. Tears started to form in his eyes. "I'm sorry that I keep hurting you…"

"Why didn't you just tell me about Ganondorf or that you were planning to find Navi? I would have helped you!"

"I didn't want you to know," replied Link. "I didn't want you to know that I'd failed you once before."

"Failed me?" asked Ruto, confused. "What do you mean?"

"When I fought Ganondorf I had to find the sages before I could make it to his castle," explained Link. "One of those sages was the sage of water. I was unable to save her from her destiny. To become a sage she had to depart from the physical world. The woman I love had to leave everything behind to help me. You had to leave me…"

"Link…" said Ruto, shocked at what she was hearing.

"I didn't know it until it happened, but I'd fallen in love. Zelda gave me a chance to return home to this time to relive my childhood. I knew I'd never be able to regain the time I'd missed, I'd seen too much to become the same kid again. I knew it would give me another chance to be with you, but you were a kid in body and in heart, and I couldn't deal with the reminders. Princess Zelda and the leaders all knew about what happened but they hadn't lived it like I had. Only Navi had and without her I didn't have anyone who could advise or help me. I really did enjoy spending time with you but I couldn't just forget about Navi. So, I went to find her. We got ambushed by Majora, Epona got killed and I realized that Navi can never return to my side…"

"Link, I'm here for you now, you don't need to be alone," said Ruto. She reached over and drew him into a hug, her blue flame licking harmlessly at his back as she did so. He stiffened up slightly but then relaxed, hugging her back. "I might not be the same Ruto as before, but that's okay. You're not the same Link I knew but I know that I won't love you any less. I'll love you more because of who you are and I want you to be able to love me just as much. And if you can't that's fine. I want to at least bring you out of here; to bring you home. Hyrule is your home. Princess Zelda is waiting for you at the castle, Malon would love to see you once more at Lon Lon Ranch and Darunia won't shut up about how proud he is of his son, little Link. We're all your home, so please, come home to us."

Link was silent for a few moments, just breathing into her shoulder. She felt tears occasionally dripping onto her and Link just sobbed. Then, she heard a faint voice. "Okay. Let's go home."

Ruto separated and gave Link a large smile, which he managed to return with a small smile of his own. She looked around, trying to figure out which way she had come. "How do we get out of here?"

"With this," replied Link, rummaging around in his pouch. He pulled out a blue ocarina with the symbol of the royal family on it. He put it to his lips and played a simple melody. Yellow light surrounded the two of them and carried them away. The next thing Ruto knew she was standing in the Temple of Time in Hyrule Castle Town.

Link smiled wearily at her and held out his hand. "Could you help me make it to the castle?" He said, shakily.

"I'd love to," replied Ruto with a smile, taking Link's hand and leading him out of the Temple.