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Hunting the Wild

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After a long day of hiking up and down rocky terrain, Twilight wanted nothing more than a nice meal and a good night's rest. Unfortunately for him, they didn't have food.

At some point during their hike they'd run out of almost everything—they didn't even have enough to make a simple soup. From the looks on the others' faces, they didn't have the energy to go out and gather food.

Except for Wild, that was. They were in his Hyrule right now, a terrain he knew well. The mountain climbing had barely taken a toll on him. He walked around in his fancy climbing gear all day, constantly leaving the others behind and having to wait for them to catch up. So when Wild turned his pack upside down and nothing but apples fell out, he looked up with a sheepish smile. "I can go out and get food."

Twilight wanted to protest, or at least offer to go with him—night in Wild's Hyrule was especially dangerous, they'd recently figured out—but he barely had the energy. Already, his eyes drooped. He'd probably be more of a hindrance than help. Nonetheless, he struggled to a standing position.

Wild seemed to catch on, because he shot him a look that said I'll be fine.

"It's dangerous to go alone. Night is falling fast," Hyrule said. Well, Twilight thought, at least he wasn't the only one concerned for Wild's safety.

Wild waved him off. "I'll be fine. I know this place like the back of my hand."

That, they couldn't argue with. After the countless shortcuts and secret passageways Wild had shown them throughout their trek, no one could say that he didn't know his way around.

When the others shared uneasy looks, Wild sighed. "We all need to eat, and the only other person who's not completely exhausted is Time, who needs to stay and keep watch."

Time just shrugged in response. No protest from him.

Twilight sighed. "Just be back fast."

Wild saluted him. "Will do." He disappeared into the trees.

Twilight sat back against the tree and watched Warriors start a fire. He prayed to Hylia that Wild didn't get himself into any trouble.


When an hour passed and there was no sign of Wild, Twilight could no longer sit still. When the thirty-minute mark passed, his exhaustion had dissipated. Now, with another thirty minutes gone, he felt nothing but shaking nerves. One glance at Time told him that his mentor didn't feel right either.

Legend tapped his foot anxiously, the only sign he was worried. "You think he'll be back soon? I'm hungry."

Twilight glanced into the trees where Wild disappeared over an hour ago. The sun had completely set not long after, and now a thin, nighttime fog rested over them, growing denser by the minute.

He looked around the camp. Most of the heroes were in some state of half-awake except for Wind, who snoozed by the fire, his head against Four's shoulder. Four, however, was alert, his eyes darting between the trees and Twilight. His hand rested next to his blade, creeping closer with each passing moment that Wild didn't return. "Should we go look for him?"

Yes! Twilight wanted to scream. Of course we should! But he didn't speak. Wild was fully capable of taking care of himself. He was probably just out hunting and lost track of time. He knew the younger hero well enough to know that he'd hate it if they sent out a search party for him.

But when another fifteen minutes passed with no sign of Wild, Twilight gave in.

"Dammit, I'm going after him." Twilight pushed off the ground and started toward the trees.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned. Time looked at him with concerned eyes. "You can't go alone."

Twilight gestured toward the camp. "No one's dressed and I don't have time to wait. And you need to stay and keep watch."

"The fog is too thick," Time argued. He lowered his voice and added. "You'll barely be able to see, wolf or human. Someone has to watch your back with a light."

Four stood. Wind made a noise of protest but didn't wake up, only curled up in a ball on the ground. "I'll go too."

Well, if it was going to be anyone, Four was the best option. Fast, stealthy, and he knew his secret.

Time nodded. "Be careful and be fast. I don't think this fog is natural."

Twilight agreed.

They set out. The further they went into the forest, the thicker the fog got, until it pressed in on them from all sides, suffocatingly thick. Even with his senses heightened in his wolf form and Four carrying a lantern, Twilight could barely see past a few feet in front of him. It had to be much worse for Four, trudging along next to him. To make matters worse, his ears rang, a soft whine that annoyed him to no end.

"This isn't good, this isn't good…" Four kept muttering. Twilight wanted to tell him to shut up, but all he could do was growl softly in warning. Four seemed to get the hint, though, and shut his mouth.

The forest, usually teeming with life, was completely still. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound. It was as if the fog smothered everything, snuffing out all signs of life. It made Twilight's fur stand on end.

There were no signs of Wild. Not even a hint of a scent. Wild was good at covering his tracks—something he'd learned to do to survive after the Calamity—but he wasn't this good. His scent of piney woods and earth and wildflowers, despite nearly disappearing into the scents of nature surrounding him, always stood out. There was something unmistakably Wild about the scent that didn't blend perfectly with, well, the wild.

They searched for nearly half an hour before Four finally said, "We have to get the others."

Twilight shifted. "I know. I can't pick him up anywhere."

"I can't see anything," Four said. He held his hands out in front of him and waved them in the fog. Now in human form, Twilight could barely make out the outline of his hands. The fog almost swallowed them whole.

"Let's go," Twilight said, and shifted again.

They creeped their way back to the camp. The eerie silence had them both on edge. Twilight feared with every noise they made that they would alert an enemy lurking in the shadows. His ears still rang.

As they neared the camp, the scents of his friends wafted his way, a small but needed comfort. It seemed to lighten the fog a little, just enough for him to feel comfortable to move quicker. Before he could take off towards the camp, though, another scent mingled with those of his friends. He stopped in his tracks.

Woods, earth, wildflowers.

Blood.

A bolt of ice shot through Twilight's heart. He took off towards the scent, and Four followed him after a moment of confusion.

It came from the opposite side of the camp. Twilight skirted the edge, his heart pounding in his chest. As the scent grew stronger, something else mingled with it. Something dark and feral and unworldly. It was like the feeling the fog gave but so much stronger. It almost stopped him in his tracks, but he pushed through. Four seemed to sense something was wrong too, because he faltered before regaining his footing.

Twilight could hear it now. The ringing that had been bothering him since they set out. It wasn't ringing at all, but laughter. Deep, quiet laughter that set his every nerve on end and tilted the world sideways.

Twilight pushed through some foliage and emerged in a small clearing, barely a quarter of the size the one they'd set up camp in. It took a second for his eyes to adjust, and in that time Four crashed through the leaves behind him, panting.

"Goddess, what is that noise?" Four gasped. He clutched his head, doubled over in pain. "It feels like my head is splitting in half."

So, Four could hear something too, but not laughter. Curious, Twilight shifted, and was immediately overcome by a high-pitched ringing. With a gasp he shifted back to his wolf form. Despite the unsettling nature of the laughter, he'd rather have that than the terrible ringing noise.

Four pulled his headband over his ears and looked around the clearing. The scent of Wild and blood surrounded them now. Twilight had no idea how he didn't notice it before. He scanned the clearing.

There, on the leaves to the right, were tiny drops of bright red blood.

Twilight pushed through the brush and emerged to a sight that stopped his heart.

Leaned against a tree, clutching a sword and covered in blood—Wild's blood—was a Shadow. Not the Shadow—it didn't possess that same power the enemy they sought did—but a solid Shadow nonetheless. The scent of Wild's blood washed over Twilight in waves, smothering him. An otherworldly feeling emanated from the creature. Its eyes shone bright red, as red as the blood on its tunic.

Four gasped.

When the Shadow saw him, it grinned—Goddess, that was a horrible grin—and pushed off the tree. With a roar, Twilight launched himself at the creature.

Its grin fell and it tried to dodge, but Twilight was too fast. He raked his claws down its side, and the thing cried out in pain and stumbled to the side. It opened its mouth, but Twilight didn't care to hear what it said. He didn't want to hear its taunts or jibes. There was too much blood on it. Too much of Wild's blood for him to be-

No.

No.

He wouldn't think like that. He couldn't.

But even as he tried to push the thought out of his mind, he knew, deep down, that tonight his world would shatter. Tonight, he'd have to face a loss so terrible that it could very well end him.

Twilight didn't want to hear the creature talk.

He sprang at the creature and closed his jaws around its throat. The thing gave a disgusting wet gasp as Twilight crushed its windpipe in his teeth. It struggled in his grip, but it couldn't break free. Its blood, disgustingly thick, flooded his mouth. With a whine, Twilight took off towards the camp, dragging the creature with him. Four followed close behind.

When he reached the camp, he tossed the creature into the center. Everyone was awake. Some gasped when its body cracked on the ground, but they all reached for their swords.

Twilight didn't give them the chance to approach.

This was his kill, secret be damned.

He shifted.

The creature struggled weakly, blood pouring from its throat. Twilight stood over it, watching it writhe. If its glowing red eyes could express emotion, he imagined they would be filled with fear.

With a cry, Twilight lifted his sword and plunged it through the creature's chest.

The light of its eyes blinked once. Twice.

And went out.

Twilight's knees buckled, and he sank to the ground, still clutching the hilt of the sword protruding from the creature's body. Was he breathing? He couldn't feel the rise and fall of his chest. A horrible numbness overtook his body. He couldn't hear anything, see anything, except for the dead body in front of him.

Four fell to his knees beside Twilight and pulled the sword from the creature. He tossed it to the side and put a hand on Twilight's arm, pulling him out of the numbness and back into the world. The others whispered amongst themselves, staring at the body and at him. He didn't care. So what if his secret was out? Wild was… was…

A sob broke from Twilight's throat.

Time grasped his arm and helped him stand. "Wild?"

Twilight shook his head.

Time's face crumpled.

"Wait… Wild's coming back right?" Wind's voice broke through the horrible silence that settled over the camp. "Right?"

Wind was growing hysterical. Four tried to set a hand on his shoulder, but Wind pushed it off and grabbed his sword. "No, no, you just didn't look hard enough. I'm going out there."

Someone else—it sounded like Hyrule—started to console Wind, but Twilight couldn't listen anymore. He just wanted to run off into the woods, the Shadow infected woods, and hide until this all turned out to be a bad dream and he could wake up again. Only Time's firm grip on his arm kept him from disappearing entirely.

Everyone was silent now, even Wind, who seemed to have given up his idea of a search. His sword laid forgotten on the ground, and he stared at the Shadow.

"Why…" Sky began, breaking the silence, "why hasn't the body disappeared yet?"

Time let go of Twilight's arm and approached the Shadow. He nudged it with his toe. "I'm not sure…"

In a daze, Twilight walked up to the creature and stared at it. He couldn't feel his legs.

A small green flame, barely bigger than a rain drop, appeared above the Shadow's chest. It flowed out, other flames joining it. They swirled up and out, spinning into the form of a beautiful Zora girl.

She kneeled next to the body, her hands on its chest. She looked up and met Twilight's eyes, her gaze filled with pity, almost mournful. She turned her eyes back to the Shadow and waved her hand over its mangled throat. Over where Twilight's sword had pierced its chest.

She smiled softly. "It was my pleasure." As quickly as she had appeared, she disappeared.

With a gasp, the Shadow jolted up. Its hand flew to its chest.

Twilight's heart stopped beating.

A Zora princess. Her name was Mipha. She healed my wounds.

A conversation they'd had only a few weeks ago.

The Shadow pulled something out of its tunic. A Sheikah slate, the only Sheikah slate, hidden in the folds of the dark fabric. A few buttons, a few taps on the screen, and the dark clothing disappeared, replaced by that familiar blue tunic and long blond hair, now unbound and matted with blood.

Wild.

Twilight almost vomited.

The camp exploded, everyone exclaiming in surprise and shock. Everyone tried to rush to Wild, but Twilight moved first. He lurched toward Wild, his mind moving before his legs.

Wild was alive. Wild was alive but Twilight had killed him. Had crushed his windpipe in his jaws like it was paper. Had tasted his blood and torn out his throat and run his sword through his chest. He'd relished it, had made it deliberately slow and agonizing. He'd let Wild choke on his own blood while he dragged his body back to the camp.

Wild held his throat now, visibly shaking. When Twilight stumbled toward him, his eyes widened, and he scrambled backwards. Twilight stopped short.

Wild's eyes darted back and forth between everyone in the group and Twilight. There was something wild in his gaze, like he wasn't fully there. It was the same look he had when he woke from a particularly vivid nightmare. The same look he'd had when they first found him at the beginning of their journey, injured and dazed, stumbling through a thunderstorm trying to find shelter.

Twilight held one hand out and crept towards Wild like he was an injured animal. "Wild…"

Wild shook his head and scrambled further back, almost to the edge of the camp. The shadows from the fire made the hollows of his cheeks more prominent, giving him a feral look. His hands twitched where they gripped at the ground.

Someone grabbed Twilight's tunic and yanked him back. Warriors. "Stop. You're just making it worse."

Twilight shoved him away. "Get off me. I have to-"

"Have to what?" Warriors interrupted. He grabbed Twilight and pointed to Wild. "Look at him!"

Twilight couldn't not look at him, so small in the firelight. Still-wet blood covered his hair, face, and neck. His eyes still darted around the camp, coming back to rest on Twilight every few seconds. When he looked at his mentor, his gaze held nothing but fear.

Twilight deflated. Warriors held his shoulders, keeping him standing as Twilight's knees threatened to buckle.

Time approached Wild, much the same way that Twilight had, but Wild didn't react well. In a flash, he scrambled to his feet and took off into the woods, his shoes scuffing on the ground as he ran. He didn't even bother to be quiet, and Wild was always quiet.

Four swore and took off after him, Hyrule close behind. When they were out of sight, Twilight's knees finally gave way, and he sank to the ground.

What have I done?

Chapter Text

Run, run, faster, faster!

Wild's feet pounded on the ground as he sprinted through the woods, dodging trees and jumping over thick brush. He didn't care where his legs took him, he only needed to get away.

His breathing was ragged, tearing its way out of his throat in labored gasps. He could still feel it—the blood pouring from his neck, gasping for air and inhaling nothing but the sticky liquid. He could still feel the panic, white-hot and blinding, as he struggled against the jaws clamped down on his throat.

The memory of that panic made his legs move faster. He flew over the ground, barely feeling the undergrowth beneath him. He hadn't run like this since the night of the Calamity.

When he'd gone out into the woods in search of a meal, he'd thought nothing of donning his dark armor. Sure, it didn't provide a lot of defense, but it was the best outfit for hunting during the night, and he doubted he would run into any enemies that needed more than a few blows to dispatch them. But when he'd encountered Dark—the Dark—out in the woods, he'd been in for it. With no time to change into better armor, and too far away to call the others for help—he'd hefted his sword and fought with everything he had.

Alone, he was no match for Dark. The perfect combination of every one of them, he fought with the strength of nine heroes. Why he was here now after nearly a month since his last appearance, Wild had no idea, but he obviously hadn't lost any skill since the group's last encounter with him. In no time, he had Wild on the ground, bleeding from a stomach wound.

Wild had braced himself for a killing blow, but none came. Instead, Dark had leaned down with a menacing grin and whispered something that sent chills down Wild's spine.

They'll kill you. And they will enjoy it. They will never take you back.

And then he disappeared.

Wild hadn't known what he meant at the time, but now it was clear: a curse. That was the only explanation. Dark had cursed him—cursed them all—and now Wild would die if he set foot near his friends again.

That was, quite possibly, the worst curse he could've received.

He heard his friends crashing through the woods behind him now, not too far off, following the destructive trail he left behind in his desperate attempt to flee. Wild shuddered again as he imagined Twilight in his wolf form, tearing his throat to shreds. He was probably chasing him down too, following his scent in order to kill him again in an equally gruesome way.

With a new burst of energy, Wild leapt up and grabbed a low tree branch. He swung himself up onto the branch and jumped for the next one.

All those months of climbing weren't for nothing.

Deftly, he moved through the trees, leaping from branch to branch, occasionally climbing higher or lower. He had to throw off his scent, and with no water in sight to distort it, this was the next best option.

The minutes between Mipha healing him and his desperate escape were all a blur, as they usually were whenever he was revived. He remembered scrambling to get away from the others around him, but he couldn't remember who was who. All he knew is that they were closing in on him, and he had to get out. He didn't even grab his sword.

Wild dropped back to the forest floor. He'd put some distance between him and the others, and now all he had to do was shake them off for good.

Wild burst from the trees, the forest ending abruptly at a cliffside. Far below, water flowed along, deep and serene. Well, it wasn't like he hadn't done this before. Wild took a few steps back and steadied his breathing. It wouldn't be long before they caught up with him; he couldn't afford to hesitate now.

Wild sprinted to the cliffside and leapt into the air.

There were a few moments where he could hear nothing but the air rushing past his ears. If he weren't falling off a cliff, the scenery would've been quite beautiful. The stars shone bright, completely unobstructed by clouds. The land stretched far into the distance, showing him far-off shrines and villages. Well, at least there were places he could go until he sorted this mess out.

He hit the water hard.

Wild surfaced with a gasp and struggled to the riverbank. The river moved fast—faster than it had looked from the top of the cliff. He let the current take him further rather than fight it, making slow but steady progress towards the shore. Finally, he hauled himself out of the water, breathing heavily. He prayed to Hylia that the others couldn't see him from so far up.

He did a quick assessment of himself. Thanks to Mipha, he had no injuries left, just the memories of them marked by bloodstains and scars. He didn't even have to see in a mirror to know he'd bear the mark of Twilight's jaws for the rest of his life. The memory of the injury was enough to tell him that.

He hadn't grabbed anything in his mad dash to escape, not even the Sheikah Slate, which he would probably curse himself for over and over in the coming days. Well, he wasn't the Hero of the Wild for nothing; he just had to be resourceful.

Wild scooped some water from the river and washed the remaining blood from his face and throat. He pulled his tunic off and washed the blood from his chest and stomach too. The stomach wound from Dark hadn't scarred too bad, but the one from Twilight's sword was stark white against his skin. He grimaced when he saw it and quickly pulled his tunic back on.

After washing the blood from his hair as best as he could, he braided it back in order to hide what he couldn't wash out. He'd clean it better once he reached an inn.

Wild hauled himself off the ground. The wind sent a chill through him, the cold air clinging to his wet clothing. Well, he'd buy a cloak in the next town if he could find some rupees. With a sigh, he set out.

This was going to be a long journey.


 

Four knew one thing for sure—running through the woods was hard.

First, he spent nearly an hour picking his way through overgrown foliage hunting for Wild. Then he'd chased after Twilight, who hauled the Shadow's—no, Wild's—body behind him. Now, he sprinted through the forest, struggling to keep pace with the resurrected hero himself.

Goddess, Wild was fast.

Hyrule ran beside him, breathing heavily but keeping pace. Together, they followed the trampled undergrowth Wild left in his wake. Suddenly, though, the trail ended. Four stopped short, Hyrule nearly crashing into him.

They shared a look and stood still for a few moments, listening. There, in the distance: the faint sound of movement.

They took off again without a word.

Their marathon was cut short when they emerged from the trees to see a massive cliff, however. Four looked around wildly but could find no sign of where Wild went. Hyrule peered off the edge of the cliff. His shoulders slumped forward. "It's too far. I can't see anything except a river."

Knowing Wild, he'd probably done something reckless and stupid. Four could see it now, Wild taking a leap of faith off the cliff and into the crashing river below. "We can't go down there."

Hyrule nodded. "Let's go back."

Defeated, they trudged back to the camp. When they returned, the camp was in chaos. Sky and Wind held Wild's Sheikah Slate, the former tapping wildly on it, trying to figure out how it worked. Twilight sat near the fire, head in his hands, while Time talked to him. Warriors paced back and forth, wringing his hands and muttering. Legend was digging through Wild's bags, searching for Hylia knew what.

When the others saw Hyrule and Four, they stopped their activities abruptly. "Well?" Warriors asked.

Four shook his head. "We lost his trail at a cliffside."

"Think he took a leap of faith," Hyrule added.

Twilight swore and stood. "I'm going after him."

Time put a firm hand on Twilight's shoulder and sat him back down. "That's not a good idea." Twilight tried to protest, but Time cut him off. "No. You'll probably scare him further."

At that, Twilight slumped forward, shoulders hunched as if he were trying to hide from the world. Time kept his hand on Twilight's shoulder, offering silent support.

"What now?" Sky asked. The Sheikah Slate rested in his lap, the screen glowing softly. Four wondered if they had tried to track Wild through it. Could it do that? The slate seemed to have endless capabilities; it didn't feel too far-fetched for it to be able to connect to Wild and track him when he was away from it.

"Well, he left that behind." Legend gestured to the slate. Everyone's gaze turned to the device. "He can't have gone far. We'll find him."

Twilight muttered something, not lifting his head from his hands.

"What?" Legend asked.

Twilight looked up, eyes narrowed. "He's the hero of the goddess-damned wild," Twilight snapped. "Far? No. Hidden? Yes."

Legend threw his hands up and stomped away from Twilight, muttering "well curse me for trying to be optimistic, wolf boy."

Right, Twilight's secret was out. Four glanced at Twilight. At Legend's nickname, he turned a weird shade of gray-green.

"We can't be optimistic," Warriors said, none too gently.

Legend turned to him. "Yeah, well what do you suggest? Acting like he's dead already?"

Four flinched. Twilight's face paled further, and he turned away from the fire, breathing hard. They were going to get nowhere acting like this. Tensions were already high enough with Wild missing; they didn't need infighting too. "Can everyone just calm down?"

Seven heads turned to him.

"We're not doing Wild any favors by arguing," Four continued. "We need to put our heads together and figure out a plan."

Time nodded. His gaze swept across the camp, pinning each of them in place. "Four is right. We all need to sit down."

They complied, albeit begrudgingly, and sat around the fire. Time passed around the apples from Wild's discarded bag. Four really wasn't hungry anymore, but he was thankful for the gesture nonetheless. He started to carve the apple with a dagger, taking comfort in the repetitive motion.

Once everyone settled, Time said, "Twilight, Four, you need to tell us what happened."

Twilight flinched, barely noticeable. Four caught it, though, and decided to spare him from having to describe the events of the past few hours over again. "Well, when we first set out, the forest was silent."

He went on to describe everything in detail, from Twilight catching the scent to them finding Wild, in Shadow clothing, leaned against a tree and bleeding. "Then Twilight took him back here, and well… you know."

Time nodded. He opened his mouth to speak, but Twilight cut him off. "You forgot the laughter."

Four's eyebrows drew together. The laughter? He didn't remember any laughter. The most he remembered was the horrible ringing in that clearing, and he'd described that. "What?"

Twilight sat up straighter, some color returning to his face for the first time since Wild's disappearance. "The ringing." At Four's confused look, he continued. "It wasn't ringing at all. I only heard it because I was…" He trailed off.

"A wolf, yes, we know," Legend said. "We'll get to that detail later."

Twilight sighed and said, "Anyways, it was laughter. I think it was Dark."

At that name, the entire camp flinched. The firelight seemed to dim, the shadows growing larger. They all knew Dark well. Their last encounter with him had left them limping to a nearby town in Time's Hyrule, licking their wounds. He hadn't shown his face since then, but he'd been an ever-present thought in the back of Four's mind. He was pretty sure that the others kept an eye out for him too.

Many of them had fought their own Shadow before, but this was different. This one had a personality to him, and not like Four's own dark counterpart from his adventure. This version was… everything they weren't. Both the perfect combination of their skills and the opposite of their attributes. And he was one hell of a nuisance to fight.

Wind cocked his head. "But it was-"

"I know it was Wild," Twilight snapped. At Wind's hurt expression, Twilight sighed. "Sorry. I know that it was Wild we found, but I think Dark set it up. The fog, the laughter—or the ringing, I guess—and how quiet everything was. He set us all on edge, and then…"

"We took matters into our own hands," Four finished for him. Twilight nodded.

Time sat back, a contemplative look on his face. "I think you might be right." He jolted forward suddenly and grabbed Wild's slate. He tapped a few buttons and pulled up a map. Now that they were in Wild's Hyrule, it showed them exactly where they were. "Wild can't have gone far, and he has no supplies, so we need to predict where he'll go now."

Warriors joined Time in peering at the slate. "Probably a town or stable. Maybe Kakariko?" He pointed to a spot on the map that Four couldn't see. Warriors could be a bit self-absorbed at times, but Four had to admit that he was their best strategist. If anyone could predict where Wild was headed, it would be him.

Time pursed his lips. "That's where we were headed. He might go to the next town over instead."

"Or try to beat us there," Legend murmured.

They continued to discuss plans, which Four tuned out. He could strategize when he wanted to—Vio was especially good at it—but he was exhausted. He glanced around the camp and found Twilight sitting alone at the tree line, scanning the woods with tired eyes. Four walked over to him. "Mind if I sit?" Twilight shook his head, so Four plopped down next to him and offered an uneaten apple slice, which Twilight took with shaky hands.

Four didn't speak. Twilight seemed unsteady enough already, he didn't want to upset him further. So instead, he waited for Twilight to speak first.

He couldn't imagine how Twilight felt right now. When they'd found Shadow-Wild, Four started to suspect that Wild hadn't made it. Knowing Twilight, he'd probably had the same thoughts. To go from thinking you were avenging your friend to finding out you killed him… Four shuddered at the thought.

"Do you think we'll find him?" Twilight finally asked.

Four nodded. "Yes."

"How do you know?"

It was weird, comforting Twilight. The older hero had always seemed so… steady. Being Time's protégé, he'd learned how to be a steady pillar in a raging storm. Twilight didn't normally need reassuring, or if he did, he never told anyone. In fact, Twilight usually did a lot of the comforting, especially to some of the younger heroes.

"Well," Four began. "I know because we're all here, aren't we?" At Twilight's perplexed look, he chuckled and explained, "For some reason, Hylia pushed us all together for a mission, and I don't think she'd let us lose one so easily."

Twilight rolled his eyes. "I wouldn't put anything past Hylia."

"You're starting to sound like the old man," Four said with a laugh.

That got a chuckle out of Twilight, which made Four relax. "Guess I'm turning into him."

"Nooooo," Four said. "One disapproving old man is enough."

Twilight laughed a real, genuine laugh and shoved Four's shoulder playfully. "Don't knock him. He has good intentions."

Four laughed, and they fell into a comfortable silence. They watched the woods, taking comfort in the lack of fog. Four occasionally stole glances at Twilight to make sure he was okay. His smile was gone now, and he watched the woods longingly.

Twilight's eyes softened a little and he sighed. "Hey Four?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

Four smiled. "Anytime."

Chapter Text

The next day, they set out for Kakariko Village. After almost an hour of deliberating, Warriors and Time decided that the nearest village was their best bet. Even if Wild beat them there and was long gone by the time they arrived, the townspeople would most likely be able to provide information.

Twilight held Wild's pack, carefully strapped to his own. Inside, he'd placed Wild's cloak, neatly folded to keep it safe. He wanted to be the one to return it when they found him.

Warriors kept the slate. It was their only map of Wild's Hyrule, and since he and Time were the planners behind this excursion, he'd elected to hold onto it. Twilight didn't mind that much; looking at the slate almost made him feel worse. He felt he owed it to Wild to carry the rest of his belongings, though.

Twilight brought up the rear of the group, eyes scanning everything he could see for any sign of Wild. He could see forever, it felt like. It was like last night's fog never existed. The sky was nearly cloudless, the temperature comfortably cool. It was fall in Wild's Hyrule, but it only got cold enough for cloaks and warm clothing at night.

Wind trudged along in front of him, rubbing his eyes. He'd slept about as much as Twilight, which was barely any sleep at all. Twilight had already offered to carry him on his back, but Wind declined the offer. Watching the young boy now, Twilight wondered if he should ask again.

Time stopped a traveling merchant, who nearly fell off his horse when the group approached him. He pulled out a dagger, hands shaking like a leaf in the wind. "Stay back!"

Time held up his hands. "We just want to know how long a trip it is to Kakariko Village."

The merchant visibly deflated, so much so that he nearly fell off his horse again. He scrambled to right himself and straightened his back. "Ah! Yes! Of course!" He brushed himself off like he didn't just almost fall on his face. "On foot? Well, it's about a day's journey from here, but there's a stable on the way, so you can stop for food and rest."

Time nodded. "Thank you."

The merchant grinned and gestured to his pack. "While we're here, can I interest you find gentlemen in some of my wares? Only the best prices from-!"

"Oh for the love of- we're leaving," Legend interrupted.

They left the merchant on the path, calling his wares after them.

A day's journey? Not too bad. Looking at the map, the village had seemed so far away, so it was a relief to know that they wouldn't be hiking it on foot for three or four days. Though, the words "stable on the way" worried Twilight. Did Wild have a horse? That could mean missing him at every stop by days at a time. They would have no hope of catching up to him at that point. Rather, it'd be more of a prediction game of where Wild would go next.

Unless Wild waited for them. Twilight hoped for that option.

They trudged on.


To say Wild was relieved to see a stable was an understatement.

His feet ached, his arms felt numb, and he just wanted something besides apples to eat. He'd walked all night, making slow progress across the landscape, narrowly dodging enemies without a weapon to defend himself and collecting plants to sell. He only made one stop to raid an enemy chest while they slept, which produced a single opal. Now, with the sun just peeking over the horizon, he wanted nothing more than a nap.

He couldn't afford a full night's rest.

He approached the stable owner, Ember, with a weary smile, who greeted him with a much more energetic "Link!"

That was a shock to the system. Hearing his own name, his real name, again sent a weird feeling through his body, some combination of adrenaline, excitement, and nerves. It'd been a while since someone called him Link.

"Hello." He tried to muster some energy into his voice, but it fell flat. "I'm in a bit of a… situation. Who's selling right now?"

Ember peered over his shoulder at the merchants asleep in the stable. "Just the usual. What's going on?"

"Well," Wild struggled for a believable story that didn't reveal too much. "I got separated from my friends, and I'm trying to make it to Kakariko, but all my supplies are with them."

Ember nodded in understanding and offered Wild a kind smile. Wild had always liked Ember. Every time he dropped by, Ember made sure he was well taken care of, whether that be with a warm bed or filling meal. "I think we've got a spare sword lying around somewhere, but I can't offer you much more than that and a bed."

Wild sighed in relief. "A bed is perfect. How much to rent one for an hour nap?"

Ember waved him off with a laugh. "Only an hour? Don't worry about it, this one's on me."

Wild didn't have the energy to protest. Instead, he promised to pay him back with a favor and walked into the stable. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.


He woke to someone shaking his shoulder. "Wake up, I let you sleep a little longer than an hour."

Wild groaned and sat up. Usually, he was a lot better at waking up on the fly—probably because of his knight's training before the Calamity—but after the events of the night before, he could barely pull himself out of the blissful forgetfulness of sleep. Somehow, he'd managed to go without having a nightmare.

Ember stood over him, holding something. When Wild's vision focused, he saw it was a sword. Nothing fancy, just a soldier's sword, but it would do. Wild took it gratefully and sat it next to the bed, thanking him.

Ember just smiled. "It really is no problem."

Ember informed them that he'd slept for about an hour and a half, which put him a little behind his hastily planned schedule, but Wild didn't mind too much. He felt refreshed, so he couldn't really complain, and it still left him about half an hour to kick around at the stable.

He sold what he could to the merchants, making a measly profit, but it would have to do. He dug around the stable and found a bag, frayed at the edges and with a torn strap, but functioning. He tied the straps back together and slung it across his chest.

After a quick meal, he checked out a horse and set out for Kakariko village with a promise to visit Ember again soon. The stable owner just smiled and told him that he hoped he reunited with his friends soon. He seemed honest in his hope, but Wild didn't miss the glance Ember cast at the fresh scar across his throat.

On the path to Kakariko, it almost felt like he was back on his adventure. He'd spent all of last night in a state of panic, so he hadn't really been able to take in his surroundings. But now, with nothing but open fields surrounding him and a cool breeze in his hair, it was easy to drift off into memories. Despite the looming threat of Ganon and enemies during his adventure, he'd always preferred being out in the wild. That hadn't changed with his defeat.

He supposed his title suited him well.

Wild closed his eyes, trusting his horse to follow the path, and breathed in the scent of nature. Instantly, his nerves calmed. He could do this. He could get to Impa, and then Zelda and Purah in Hateno if they were still there. If anyone knew how to reverse a curse, it would be them.

With renewed energy, he sped on.

He reached Kakariko by late afternoon. As soon as he entered the gates, he was greeted with shouts of "Link!" and "Welcome back!"

He smiled. It had been a long time since he'd visited.

He stopped at Impa's first. She welcomed him warmly but, as soon as the doors shut, her eyes narrowed. "What happened?"

He really looked that bad, then. "I guess it's no use lying?"

Impa gave him a narrow look, so he explained what happened, trying not to forget any details. It would do him no good if Impa didn't know exactly what happened; what if a detail he left out contained the answer to his problem?

"So, you and eight other versions of yourself," Impa chuckled. She folded her hands. "It seems Hylia has an interesting plan."

Wild nodded. "So, can you help?"

Impa leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "I think your best option would be to seek out Zelda. If this… Dark you speak of is as dark as you say, then perhaps her abilities can combat the curse."

That sounded like as good a plan as any. Wild rocked back on his heels. "Then I'll get going to Hateno."

"Not so fast," Impa said just as his hand touched the door. Wild turned back around, confused. "You cannot go two days without rest, and your appearance has… seen better days." Wild raised an eyebrow, and she chuckled. "Go to the inn, stay there for the night. Or at least half of it." When he tired to protest, she cut him off. "That poor horse needs rest too."

Wild agreed to stay with a sigh. He knew she was right; he would probably drop from exhaustion halfway to Hateno.

Outside the inn, a stable boy greeted him with a smile and took his horse. This stable wasn't near as big as the various ones scattered throughout his Hyrule, but since Kakariko didn't have many visitors right now, there was plenty of space for his horse. He thanked the boy before renting a room for the night. It didn't drain his money nearly as much as he thought it would, but it still left him with very little for the journey to Hateno. He would just have to scavenge and sell again, he supposed.

The room he rented was shockingly comfortable, the bath that came with it even more so. He peeled off his sweaty tunic and trousers and stepped into the warm water, breathing a sigh of relief as it soothed his aching muscles. This, he had needed desperately.

His hair was a mess of dirt and dried blood that took forever to get out. After nearly twenty minutes of scrubbing, he finally deemed himself clean enough and drained the bath to refill it with fresh water for his clothing. Those he washed quickly and hung out to dry on the bedframe. No use cleaning them until they shined if he was just going to get them dirty again tomorrow.

After hanging his wet clothes, the exhaustion finally caught up to him, and his legs wobbled. Dinner was supposed to be served in the main hall in an hour, but he doubted he'd be able to stay awake for it. He deliberated for a few moments before deciding to eat something in the morning. With that planned, he collapsed onto the bed and promptly passed out.


Movement in the hall woke him from his blissful sleep. He opened his eyes with a groan and sat up. Sheesh, he was getting bad at waking up.

Wild stood to tell the people in the hall to shut up, but something stopped him in his tracks.

"We can split up and ask around in the morning. See if he's come through here."

It was a whisper, barely audible, but he'd recognize Twilight's voice anywhere.

Wild froze with his hand on the doorknob.

"Sounds like a plan." That was Legend. "Now, can we get some sleep? I'm exhausted."

A few others mumbled in agreement. Wild held his breath, not daring to make a sound until he was sure they were all inside their rooms. When the last door clicked shut, he breathed out and backed away from the door. What time was it? How were they here already? Surely they'd stopped along the way.

Knowing his friends, they probably hadn't.

Wild pulled his still-damp clothing on and grabbed his bag. He'd have to leave now to avoid getting caught by them in the morning. So much for a good night's rest.

He tiptoed downstairs, careful not to make any noise. He contemplated sneaking into the rooms to try and find his belongings, but the risk was too high. He'd have to survive this journey on scavenging alone.

The innkeeper was still at his desk when Wild crept into the main hall. He started when he saw him. "Can I help you?"

Wild glanced back up the stairs and back at him. "I have to leave, and I need you to do me a favor."

The man's eyebrows drew together, but he nodded. "What is it?"

"If any of those boys that just checked in ask about me, don't tell them anything," Wild said. "Impa knows why." He added, hoping that made the innkeeper more inclined to follow his request.

His eyes darted between the stairs and Wild. Wild danced on the balls of his feet, eager to get going. He couldn't force the innkeeper to agree, but it sure would make his life a lot easier. Finally, the man nodded. Wild sagged in relief. "Thank you."

He left the inn and silently unhitched his horse from the stable. He prayed that none of the others watched out their windows; as soon as he left the stable he would be wide open to their view, and he didn't fancy the idea of a chase.

He rode into the night, not looking back.

No one followed.

Chapter Text

By the time they reached Kakariko Village, the moon was high in the sky. Save for a few guards, the whole village was asleep. Twilight considered suggesting sleeping outside the village so they didn't wake anybody, but one glance at his friends' exhausted faces kept him quiet. They needed a bed and a bath. Badly.

The poor innkeeper looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole when the eight heroes entered. He probably didn't see many heavily armed and armored travelers in his establishment. They silently deemed Hyrule the least intimidating and shoved him to the desk to handle the transaction.

Twilight took the time to observe the inn. The small interior featured a beautiful assortment of banners and wall art that made the already cozy inn even cozier. Twilight could almost feel the history and tradition radiating from the structure of this place, just like it did from every other building in the Sheikah village. If they weren't on a time crunch, he would suggest they stay here for a few days and enjoy a bit of a break. Goddess knew they needed it.

The innkeeper, Ollie, was able to offer them three rooms at 30 rupees each, which was a steal by their standards. In Legend's Hyrule they'd had to fork over nearly 200 rupees for the same number of rooms. Twilight considered that a win for Wild's Hyrule—the only one so far.

They made their way up the stairs, careful not to be too loud in case other residents were asleep.

"What's the plan for tomorrow?" Wind asked as they climbed.

Twilight stepped into the upstairs hall. "We can split up and ask around in the morning. See if he's come through here."

"Sounds like a plan," Legend said. He yawned. "Now, can we get some sleep? I'm exhausted."

The others grunted in agreement, so they split off: Wind, Four, and Sky to one room, Legend, Hyrule, and Warriors to another, and Time and Twilight in the last. Besides their three rented rooms, there was only one other room, which was occupied.

There was only one bed in Twilight's room, which he didn't mind much. He and Time had let the others take the double-bed rooms and left it up to them to figure out who got a bed to themselves. Twilight dropped his bag on the floor unceremoniously before carefully arranging Wild's stuff in the corner under the window. Time laughed from the bed.

"What?" Twilight turned to face his mentor.

Time just shook his head, laughing. "You take better care of his things than your own."

Twilight gave Time a narrow look, but he couldn't find an argument. Time was right; he did care a lot more about the state of Wild's belongings. He felt he owed him that much, at least.

Twilight undressed until he was in just his undershirt and trousers. Time did the same, piling his armor neatly into the corner opposite of Wild's things. They both collapsed onto the bed, exhausted.

Twilight stared up at the ceiling. Tomorrow, the hunt really began. Today had just been about getting to the village; actually looking for Wild wasn't exactly their priority. It was easy to imagine that Wild waited for them in Kakariko when they weren't spending every moment hunting for him. But now, as they asked questions and dug for clues, the same grim reminder that Wild was gone would keep repeating in Twilight's mind. The same few minutes from last night would play over and over again.

He wasn't sure it would stop even after they found Wild.

"Twilight?"

Twilight rolled over to face Time, who looked at him worriedly. "What?"

"You're shaking."

Twilight glanced at his hands and, sure enough, they shook against the bedspread. He clenched his fists and willed his nerves to calm, but they didn't still. He dug his fingernails into the palms of his hands.

"Twi…" Time put his hand over Twilight's. "It's going to be alright."

The words did little to comfort him, but Twilight appreciated it anyways. Time wasn't the best at comforting people—more often than not he floundered in any situation where someone was distressed—so to get even a few words of comfort meant a lot. Twilight took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Wild knows this land better than anyone," Time said with a pat on Twilight's hand. "He'll be okay."

"That's what worries me, though," Twilight said. "He knows this Hyrule. He knows where to hide."

Time chuckled. "I'm not sure hiding is really Wild's style." He stood and peeked out the window. Bright moonlight filtered into the room through the gap in the curtains. "Out there is his territory." He gestured to the hills beyond the village. "He's not one to sit in one place and hide away."

Twilight stood and joined Time at the window. The land looked beautiful in the silver moonlight. It'd be full in a few nights. Just days ago, Wild had promised them that there was nothing like the open land under a peaceful full moon. Twilight had to agree; even now, the world looked serene. "I guess you're right. But what if we stumble into someone else's Hyrule? Will he go too? Will he be trapped here? Or get lost in unfamiliar territory?"

Time put a hand on his shoulder. "Slow down, Pup, you're getting ahead of yourself." Twilight cringed a little at the affectionate nickname. Time chuckled. "If this pattern continues, we have a while before Hyrule changes and, if it does, I think Wild will come with us." Twilight raised an eyebrow, so Time continued. "We don't walk through a portal each time we go to a new Hyrule, do we? No, each of us is pulled in. I think Wild will get pulled in, too."

It was a logical thought, but the idea of Wild getting left behind still nagged at the back of Twilight's head. He decided to try and ignore it for now. Time was right—they did have some time before the world changed again. He needed to focus on finding Wild, not on the what-ifs.

Twilight went back to the bed. After a few moments, Time let the curtain fall and followed.

They would find Wild. Wild had the home-field advantage, but with eight experienced heroes trailing him, his advantage was almost nullified. Twilight was sure that Wild would seek out people he knew, so if they could just explain the situation, maybe Wild's friends would help them. Twilight could only hope.

He drifted off into an uneasy sleep.


The next morning started with breakfast served by a very jittery Ollie. His eyes darted back and forth from the door to their table every few minutes. Twilight hoped he didn't think they were going to hurt him. Sure, they were all intimidating in their own right, but not because they were criminals.

They split up into three teams, the same as their room setup. Time and Twilight decided to start with the guards at the entrance while the others asked around the shopping and residential areas.

The two guards stood in front of the stairs leading to a large building rather than the front gate. Twilight approached them and gave them what he hoped was his nicest smile. "Hello. We were separated from our friend recently and we were wondering if he came through here?"

The guards exchanged a look but didn't say anything. Twilight grit his teeth. "He's got long blonde hair, about this tall… his name is Link."

One guard raised an eyebrow. "Link? Didn't know he had friends like you two." He turned to the other guard. "Did you?"

The second guard shook his head. "Nope. Thought it was just him and the princess usually."

They didn't believe him, then. Of course they didn't—everyone knew Wild here. They would know of traveling companions. Good thing Twilight hadn't gone with his original story of them being relatives; this entire village probably knew Wild's story. All his relatives were dead.

"Please. I'm really worried about him."

"Worried about Link?" The first guard scoffed. The second one laughed.

Twilight's eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to snap something at them, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. "May we speak to your leader? I'm sure this can all be sorted."

The guards exchanged a look. The first one sighed and stepped away from the stairs, the other following suit. "Miss Impa should be in the main room."

Time's hand tightened on Twilight's shoulder, but his voice didn't waver as he said, "Thank you."

They ascended the stairs to the massive doors. Time was quiet the whole way, his body tensed as if he anticipated an attack at any moment. When Twilight asked, though, he brushed it off.

It turned out that Time didn't need to be nervous. When they opened the doors to the main room, the center seat was empty. A young girl, no older than Twilight, dusted a shelf on the wall. When they entered, she jumped and turned around. "Can I help you?"

Twilight swallowed. "Are you Impa?"

The girl jumped again and laughed. "Me? No. Impa is my grandmother!"

"Oh," Twilight said. He glanced around the room. "Is Impa available?"

"I'm afraid not," the girl said. "She's not feeling well today."

Time stepped forward. "I'm sorry to hear that, but maybe you can help us?"

The girl's eyes darted to the door for a split second before coming back to rest on them. It was almost too quick to catch, but Twilight prided himself on being observant. She was afraid, though she hid it well.

The girl set her feather duster down. "Depends on what you need help with."

"We're looking for a friend. His name is Link," Twilight explained. No matter how many times he said it, saying his own name when referring to Wild would always feel weird.

Recognition dawned on the girl's face before it quickly closed off. "Link? No, he hasn't been here in a while."

Something was off. She'd realized something, just for split second, before hiding it. Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Are you sure?"

The girl crossed her arms. "I'm sure I'd remember if a good friend dropped by after months of absence."

They weren't going to get anything out of her. For whatever reason, she wouldn't tell them what she knew. Probably because they were two strange men demanding to know where her friend was, but it still frustrated Twilight. He barely held himself back from snapping at her.

They left with a polite goodbye and promise to tell Link that she said hello.

Back in the center of the town, Twilight plopped onto a bench with a sigh. Time stood facing him, arms crossed. Twilight put his head in his hands. "This is… aggravating."

Time scoffed. "A bit of an understatement, really."

Twilight looked up. "You think she's telling the truth?" Twilight doubted it, but Time was more perceptive than him. Maybe he noticed more.

Time shook his head. "Not at all."

Twilight sighed. Well, on the bright side, at least they were in agreement. He was about to suggest they move on when two little girls, probably no older than six and eight, ran past, giggling. Twilight perked up and flagged them down. The older of the two approached him, the other hiding behind her.

"Hello," he greeted, hoping his smile didn't look too forced. "Do you happen to know a young man named Link?"

Both the girls perked up. "Oh! Koko knows Link!" The oldest said, grinning.

Time's eyes darted to the side. Twilight followed his gaze to a man watching them from across the path, his eyes narrowed. They needed to make this quick. "Well, that's good, because he's my friend. I'm looking for him, have you seen him recently?"

The younger girl stepped out from behind her sister. "Mr. Link was here yesterday! He said he'd play with us but…" she pouted. "I think he left already!"

Time and Twilight exchanged a look. "Thank you girls so much for your help," Time said with a gentle smile. It probably looked a lot nicer than his own smile, Twilight thought.

They nodded and ran off again, giggling.

"We just missed him," Twilight said.

Time offered his hand, and Twilight stood. Time to find the others and see what they managed to find out.

They were on Wild's trail.

Chapter Text

Wild didn't stop riding until he thought he would collapse off his horse. He slid off the saddle with a groan and stumbled towards a tree, barely managing to catch himself on the trunk before he fell. His legs wobbled after riding for hours with very little sleep.

His body felt like lead. What time was it? By the looks of it, it was maybe late morning, but through his swimming vision and exhaustion, he couldn't tell where the sun was in the sky. He barely remembered to tie his horse up and give her food and water before collapsing under the tree to sleep.


When Wild awoke, the sun almost touched the horizon, casting golden light across the land. He swore and scrambled to his feet. What time was it? Had they caught up to him already? Passed him? He'd tried to hide well in the trees, but that could now mean they would beat him to Hateno.

His horse dozed nearby. She looked so peaceful, he almost didn't want to wake her, but he couldn't wait around any longer. After a few apples from a tree, she forgave him for interrupting her sleep and let him swing up into the saddle.

Wild rode on, praying to anyone who would listen that he could still beat them to Hateno. If they were as smart under the curse as they were out of it, then they would've figured out that he'd left Kakariko under the cover of night within an hour. Maybe sooner. It wouldn't take them long to catch up, especially if they had horses.

Soon after he left the makeshift camp, Wild's stomach grumbled. He grit his teeth; he didn't have any food on him and he didn't want to stop and find some. But after it rumbled three more times, he decided it would be best if he didn't fall off his horse from hunger-related dizziness.

Thankfully, it didn't take long. A grove of apple trees grew only a bit off the path. He picked six and gave three to his horse.

With his stomach full of ripe apple, his mood lightened. He could think clearer when not wobbly from hunger, and a few apples was all he needed to realize that even if he'd taken an extra-long nap, he'd rode like mad through the night. There was no way they could've caught up to him, horses or not.

He stopped pushing his poor horse at break-neck speeds and instead chose to go on at a light gallop, occasionally stopping to pick some more fruit to snack on. He'd missed this—riding out in the open, eating gathered food and letting the wind blow back his unbound hair. There was something inherently peaceful about it.

However, his peace of mind was cut short by a sudden storm.

The rain rushed in out of nowhere, bringing lightning and raging winds that blew his hair into his eyes and mouth. He tried to spit it out, but it just kept flying back into his mouth. Maybe Four was right; his hair was getting a bit too long. Wild pulled his cloak over his head, but it did little to block the sheets of rain that pounded him. He groaned.

Great.

The rain forced his horse to slow to barely more than a crawl, her head bent against the biting wind. Debris whipped past him, nearly knocking him off his horse.

Wild swore. If he had just grabbed his slate, then this weather wouldn't be a problem. He would've been able to see the storm coming and figure out a way around it in time. Or, better yet, teleport away from it. But no, he had to go and leave it behind. He cursed his awful memory.

He could hear the wind whistling through the trees, second only to the deafening sound of rain. It almost sounded like screaming—high pitched screaming. Where the hell had this storm come from? He'd been so busy worrying about the others catching up to him, he hadn't seen the clouds building in the distance.

When a tree branch snapped and blew past him in a gust of wind, he decided to give up and camp out until the weather passed. He led his horse to what looked like a safe clearing and hunkered down.

The trees around them bent with the wind, creaking and groaning. Wild prayed they wouldn't snap and fall, but looking at the woods around him, it didn't look good. He edged as far away from the worst trees as he could, but it was still too close for comfort.

Wild realized too late his biggest mistake: his sword.

He barely had time to react to the sudden crackle of electricity across his back before a massive boom sent him flying into a tree with a resounding crack. The whole world shuddered for a moment—from the lightning strike or a falling tree, he didn't know—before everything spun in dizzying swirls of light and rain.

Wild heard, rather than saw his horse, flee the clearing, but he couldn't even move. He tried to push off the ground, but his vision swam. He thought he heard something crack, but he couldn't even feel his body. His vision flickered with black spots.

Hold on, dammit!

But he couldn't.

The world went black.


Thankfully, Wind saw the storm from miles off, before it was even visible beyond a few dark clouds in the distance. A few taps on Wild's slate, and they had a new route to avoid it.

Now they were skirting the edges of the massive black clouds, only getting hit with the remnants of rain and some mild wind gusts. Twilight was thankful. Even if Wild's slate gave him the creeps, at least it was good for a few things.

They made slow but steady progress, inching their way around the storm. Twilight pulled his fur collar tighter to block out the cold gusts of wind. The temperature was slowly dropping, but he tried his best to ignore it. Hopefully, they'd be able to stop and rest soon.

His hopes came true when Time stopped, looked around, and nodded. "This seems like a good place to stop for the night."

Twilight gratefully dropped his and Wild's belongings. He wanted to continue on and catch up to the missing hero, but he knew his body would give up on him if he tried to go any farther. His limbs felt like lead.

They settled in for the night. Hyrule cooked them a meal of tough meat and vegetables, but it was better than nothing, and after a day of hiking, Twilight couldn't complain. It wasn't Wild's cooking by any means, but hey, at least it filled his stomach.

Time took first watch, and Twilight offered to take second. He just needed a little sleep, and then he'd be fine for a while.

But sleep came fitfully, and in short spurts. He could do nothing to quell the raging anxiety in his stomach. With each passing day they didn't find Wild, he felt more and more restless. What if Wild got hurt? What if he got lost without his slate? Unlikely, considering his well-deserved title, but Twilight couldn't help but worry about the possibility. Even the Hero of the Wild couldn't fight mother nature herself.

He finally dozed into an uneasy sleep. It wasn't great, but it was just enough to revitalize his body and wake him back up. When his watch came about, he tapped Time gently on the shoulder and took over his position at the edge of the camp.

Well, at least everyone else was able to get some sleep. Even poor Wind, who had been struggling to get even a few minutes of rest in the past few nights, was passed out near the fire. Twilight sighed and watched the storm creep along in the distance. Hopefully, by the morning, it would be long gone.

Oh, Wild, Twilight thought. Where are you?

He felt it before he saw it. The change in the sky, the way the air shifted and swirled. The whole energy of the world moved up.

And then it came down in one massive arc of lightning.

Right in the middle of the storm.

Something cracked and shuddered deep within Twilight's soul, and he lurched forward just as the resounding boom of thunder echoed over their camp. The other heroes shot up, eyes moving wildly around the clearing before settling on Twilight, now stumbling back to the center of the camp.

Twilight locked eyes with Time, and something must've shone through in his gaze, because Time stood and put a hand on his shoulder. "Take Four and go."

Time understood. They'd all had that feeling at some point in their own separate journeys. A push from the very world itself, shoving them to where they were needed. Twilight had felt it before, and he'd never once ignored it.

He didn't have to ask what was happening; the feeling in his soul was enough. Wild was out there. Whether it was a push from Hylia, or the Master Sword, or some weird reincarnation connection they all shared, Twilight didn't know, but he didn't care. That feeling was never wrong.

Twilight shifted and, with Four on his back, ran.

They sped into the storm and through the trees, dodging tree limbs whipping around in the wind and getting pelted with sheets of sharp rain. He could feel Four's grip on his fur grow tighter and tighter, but the other hero never lost his hold.

Twilight vaulted over a fallen tree and sped on, not letting the torrential rain slow him down. His heart pounded with the rhythm of his paws hitting the ground, so loud he was sure it was audible over the crashing thunder.

Twilight skidded into a clearing, and his heart dropped.

There, collapsed against a tree, skin burnt a blistered red and clothes torn and singed, was Wild.

Twilight whined and shifted, stumbling over to Wild's collapsed form. With shaking hands, he turned Wild over so he could see the extent of the injuries.

Bright red blisters covered the length of Wild's exposed back. Wicked lines traced their way through the blisters, arching their way into Wild's already-extensive burn scars. His tunic was torn through the back, burned and charred around the edges. Four came up behind him and hissed when he saw the injuries.

Twilight turned to Four, desperation seeping into his voice. "I can't carry you both."

Four nodded. "I can find my way back on my own." He reached into his bag and pulled out what looked like a leather belt. "You need to take him."

Twilight wanted to protest—how could he leave Four here alone?—but looking at Wild's unconscious form, he knew it was their only option. Twilight didn't know if that Zora girl that had revived Wild would come back.

Twilight shifted, and Four used the belt to fasten Wild to Twilight's back. He sent Four one last look—both an apology and a warning to be safe—before he sped off into the storm.

With each crack of thunder and flash of lightning, Twilight's heart sped up. It slammed into his ribcage, almost like it was trying to tear its way out and beat his body to the camp. He moved faster.

Twilight vaulted over the fallen tree from before and pushed the rest of the way to the camp. He slid into the clearing, careful not to led Wild hit the ground.

Everyone was wide awake, and suddenly there were hands on the belt and on Wild, unfastening the latches and pulling the unconscious hero off. Hyrule fell to his knees next to Wild and pulled out countless potions from his bag. Twilight didn't even bother to acknowledge the others before speeding back into the storm to find Four.

It didn't take him long to find Four, picking his way through the brush. He'd used his headband to slick his hair back and completely out of his face. They exchanged a look before Four grabbed on and they ran back to the camp.

When they returned, the commotion had mostly settled down, save for Hyrule and Sky tending to Wild's injuries. Sky's hands shook, but Hyrule's were surprisingly steady. He radiated a calm that instantly spread to Twilight, slowing his breathing and heart rate.

Twilight shifted back, clothing and hair dripping wet, and collapsed against a tree. His arms and legs shook after running for so long. Time approached him and settled down next to him.

"What now?" Twilight asked, his throat dry. He swallowed hard. "When he wakes up?"

"We talk to him," Time said. "Someone that's not you." He said it gently, but Twilight still flinched. Time's gaze softened. "You know why."

Twilight nodded. His eyes settled on Wild, asleep on his stomach with a blanket draped over him. He was shirtless, and the new injuries peeked out from the top of the blanket, wicked lines like a lightning strike. Twilight swallowed. "Do you think he'll be okay?"

Time's gaze drifted to Wild's sleeping form, lingering on him mournfully. "I don't know."

Chapter Text

Wild drifted in and out of darkness. He floated along on a sea of nothingness, his body both light as air and heavy as lead.

Somebody talked next to him, but the words were muffled, like they came through water. Wild tried to anchor himself in the voice, use it to pull him out of the water, but he couldn't grab hold.

He faded back into the darkness.


He didn't know how long had passed before he was aware again. The person wasn't talking anymore, leaving Wild with nothing to anchor himself to.

He felt the darkness pull at him again. He tried to fight it and stay awake, even if he could see nothing besides an inky gray mist, but he was so tired.

The darkness consumed him again.


He was running. At least, he could see that he was running. He couldn't feel his body.

The world shifted around him. Sometimes it was a forest, sometimes a desert, sometimes a field, but it was always raining. Constantly. Thunder and lightning crashed overhead, but he could never see the arcs of the lightning, only the flashes of light.

He had to keep running. He didn't know why.

The ground gave way and he fell into emptiness. Thick, black fog surrounded him on all sides.

A face flashed in the darkness. His own, but as dark as the fog around him with red, glowing eyes. It flashed constantly, moving closer and closer. He tried to scream, but ink filled his throat, suffocating him.

Wild! Wild, it's okay!

He heard the voice, muffled but audible. He tried to cling to it, but it was drowned out by the fog.

Guys, help!

It's going to be alright Wild. You're alright. Just breathe.

The face flashed again, and Wild fell into the void.


The first thing Wild was aware of when he came to was the breeze.

He couldn't open his eyes, but he could feel the breeze, gentle on his skin. He let out a long breath and let the wind wash over him, cooling his skin that felt like it was on fire.

His head felt fuzzy. What happened? He remembered the storm, and taking shelter in the clearing, but after that…

Oh.

The memory of the lightning strike wracked through his body like a blow to the chest. He'd been struck before, but he'd always managed to recover quickly due to various armors and other protections. He'd been totally unprepared this time.

Wild cracked open an eye. The early morning light blinded him, and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He groaned and sat up, stretching his back. His whole body felt stiff and tired, like he'd fallen down a mountain. How long had he been out?

He couldn't remember much. He knew he'd dreamt, but of what, he didn't know. All he remembered was inky darkness.

Wild squinted and looked around. Where was he? It didn't look familiar. He couldn't remember leaving the forest clearing to go to an inn, but that's where he seemed to be. Had he somehow done it in his sleep? He sat in a soft bed under a handmade quilt. An open window on the wall provided the early morning light and breeze to the room.

He groaned again and tried to swing his legs off the bed. One step on the ground told him he wouldn't be able to support himself. His legs felt like static.

The door opened, and Wild's heart stopped.

Sky.

Wild scrambled out of the bed and fell to the floor, trying to put a barrier between himself and Sky. He looked around wildly for his bag and sword. Where was it? He'd had it when he got struck by the lightning. He grabbed a candle holder off the bedside table and held it out like it was a weapon. Oh goddess, he wasn't ready to die again.

Sky put his hands out, eyes wide. "Woah, woah. Easy. I'm not going to hurt you."

Wild froze.

What?

His mind raced. According to Dark, Sky should be attacking him right now. Was this a trick to get his guard down? Wild looked around frantically for any way out of the room.

"Wild, please."

Sky took a step closer. Suddenly, the second-story window on the wall looked like a much more appealing escape.

Sky knelt in front of him. "I am not going to hurt you." He turned his hands up, showing no weapons. "I promise."

Wild met Sky's gaze. His eyes were so genuine, so full of pleading. Wild's hands shook as they held up the candle holder. "What's going on?"

Sky shook his head. "I don't know. I don't know, but I do know you're safe."

Wild lowered the candle holder. His whole body shook. "What the hell is going on?"

Sky wasn't attacking him. Did someone, somehow, break the curse? Had Dark turned it off for now, just to re-curse them later? Was that even possible? Wild couldn't make sense of his thoughts.

He still couldn't feel his legs.

"You were struck by lightning. We found you in the woods, close to death," Sky explained.

Wild's eyes shifted to the closed door of the inn bedroom. "Are they all out there?"

Sky shook his head. "It's just us. No one's listening, I promise."

Wild nodded. He slowly relaxed his shoulders. "I… I don't understand."

"What?"

Wild let the back of his head hit the wall. "I don't understand. You should be trying to kill me right now."

"What?" Sky blurted, eyes wide.

"You should be trying to kill me," Wild repeated. He looked at Sky. "That's why I ran. You should all be trying to kill me."

Sky shook his head rapidly. "No, no. Why would we… goddess, Wild, I know what Twi did must've been horrible but… we would never."

"No, you don't—" Wild ran his hands down his face. "You don't get it. It's the curse."

"Curse? You're not making any sense," Sky said, shaking his head.

"The… the curse! It's—" Wild lurched forward. "Here, just—" He grabbed Sky's hand. Nothing happened.

Sky stared at him. "I have no idea what's going on."

This didn't make any sense! Sky should be trying to kill him. He'd thought that maybe touch would activate the curse, but that didn't even work. He felt the growing panic in the back of his mind, the idea that it was all just… that he had just been…

Sky grabbed Wild's shoulders. "You're shaking. Breathe, Wild. Breathe."

No, no. He couldn't have been tricked. Twi had killed him. That was real, not just a trick of his mind. Sky confirmed it. Twilight had attacked and killed him without remorse, the curse had to be real, right?

"I don't understand." Wild gripped his hair. "There was a curse! You would try to kill me, and I had to break it, and—Sky, what's going on?" His breathing was shallow, his head light. He couldn't think straight.

Sky's eyes were wide with alarm. "None of us want to kill you! We all thought you were a shadow—"

"What?"

The world stopped. Sky kept talking, explaining what he meant, but Wild couldn't hear him over the ringing in his ears.

We thought you were a shadow.

The dark armor, his own blood, Dark's words, Twilight's tears… it all made sense.

"Oh goddess." Wild brought a shaking hand to his mouth. "Oh goddess."

He'd been tricked. Horribly, horribly tricked into thinking that his friends were going to kill him. Dark had used the situation and twisted it into a horrific nightmare. All the running and pain of the past few days… the constant panic and distress…

It was all for nothing.

By the time he felt the tears in his eyes, it was too late to stop them. They fell without restraint, leaving warm streaks in their wake. Wild shook violently despite Sky's best efforts to calm him down.

Wild drew his knees to his chest. He let himself cry for the first time since he ran. Days-worth of emotions spilled out from him in wracking sobs, shaking his whole body.

The tears soon dried as he calmed down. Sky said nothing, just rubbed Wild's back and hummed softly. When Wild's tears stopped, Sky smiled at him. "Better?"

Wild nodded and wiped his eyes. "Sorry."

Sky shook his head. "It's okay." He continued to rub Wild's back. "Do you want to explain?"

Wild nodded. He needed to. Someone needed to know his side to tell the others, because Wild knew he wouldn't be able to. Despite knowing it was all a misunderstanding, he wasn't sure he could look Twi in the eyes just yet.

So he told Sky about his encounter with Dark, his panicked flight through the woods, and his journey up until the lightning strike. Sky listened intently, not once interrupting, which Wild was grateful for.

When he finished, Sky gave him a look of pity. "I'm so sorry."

Wild nodded.

"Can I…" Sky opened his arms, and Wild nodded again. Gently, Sky wrapped Wild in a hug, still rubbing his back. "It's okay. You're here now, and it's going to be okay."

Wild clung to Sky's tunic. For the first time in days, he felt completely safe.


Twilight paced back and forth in his room, mulling over Sky's relay of Wild's side of the story. His poor protégé had been tricked by Dark. They had all been tricked by Dark. The thought made Twilight's stomach churn.

He wanted to talk to Wild; to comfort him and reconcile with him. It hurt, knowing that he couldn't talk to the one he'd come to think of as a little brother.

Time gently reminded him of that fact when he caught Twilight with his hand on Wild's doorknob.

So now all Twilight could do was pace to keep from going insane. So far, only Sky had been able to talk to Wild. He'd let Wind come into the room, but they hadn't talked much, only played a silent game of marbles on the floor.

Twilight jumped as a knock sounded at the door. Sky peeked his head in with a weary smile. "Hey. He's asking for you."

Twilight opened and closed his mouth a few times. "Me?"

Sky nodded and motioned for him to go. Twilight eagerly shoved past Sky and to Wild's room but stopped with his hand on the doorknob. What did he want to say? Or, rather, what did he need to say? His mind turned, but he couldn't think of much, and even then, the words felt stuck in his throat. He hadn't even entered the room yet.

He sighed and steeled himself. He made a plan: apologize, try to explain, ask for forgiveness. It felt solid enough.

But when he opened the door and saw Wild, sat by the window and watching the sun set in the distance, the words died in his throat.

Wild looked so calm. Twilight could see his gaze, soft as the breeze brushing past the trees in the distance, but he could also see a small part of the new, wicked scar that ran across Wild's throat. It merged with the burn scars, but they didn't completely hide the jagged white lines. Twilight swallowed back the lump in his throat.

"Hey Twi," Wild said. He turned away from the window and smiled softly.

It was so much worse seeing the scar from the front. Even though it was mostly healed, thanks to the Zora spirit, Twilight couldn't keep from noticing it. Guilt flooded his chest, and any semblance of a conversation plan evaporated on the spot.

Wild motioned for Twilight to sit on the bed. He obliged, back rigid as he sat. Wild, to his credit, tried to hide the nervousness in his eyes as Twilight approached, but Twilight had always been able to read his protégé better than anyone else could (except for maybe Wild's Zelda. He didn't know just yet). He could see the anxiety clear as day.

"You alright?" Wild asked. He pointed to the bedside table, where a still-warm bowl of soup rested. "Sky brought me dinner, but I'm not hungry if you want it."

"I already ate." He hadn't.

Wild pursed his lips and nodded. "Well, it's there if you want it." He leaned back in his chair. "I'm not mad at you."

Twilight jumped, but nodded. "You didn't seem mad."

"I'm not, just… jittery."

"Is that why you didn't talk to me until now?"

Wild shrugged. "I guess I was just nervous. I don't blame you, but…"

"Yeah, I know."

Wild gave him a tight smile, his hand drifting to the scar on his throat.

"Did it hurt?" Twilight blurted.

Wild jumped, and Twilight cursed his nerves making him speak before he thought. "No, wait, you don't have to—"

Wild put a hand on Twilight's arm. "It's okay. And yeah, it did."

Something tightened in Twilight's chest, and he pushed down the lump in his throat. His eyes stung. "I'm sorry." His voice cracked.

"I know. Me too," Wild said. Twilight opened his mouth to protest, but Wild continued. "Don't say I shouldn't be. I'm sorry for sending you all on a wild goose chase and for falling for Dark's tricks."

Twilight wanted to tell him to shut up and not be sorry, but Wild wouldn't take that, so he said, "We were all tricked. It's not your fault."

Wild nodded once and, without warning, jumped over to the bed and sat next to Twilight, putting his head on his shoulder. Hesitantly, Twilight wrapped an arm around Wild, who relaxed into the touch, even if it was a bit forced.

"Will you be alright?" Twilight asked.

"I'm not sure. We still have a lot to talk about."

"I know."

"But not right now."

"Agreed."

Wild closed his eyes and leaned his weight into Twilight, who kept his arm protectively around Wild. After a few moments, the nervous tension in Wild's shoulders melted.

Twilight knew it would be awhile before Wild felt fully comfortable around him again, but he would deal with it. Wild was safe with them again, and that was all that mattered for now. They'd deal with the harder parts of healing as they came.

Wild's breathing changed, and it took Twilight a few moments to realize he was asleep. Gently, he laid Wild on the bed. As soon as Twilight tried to get up, however, Wild's arm wrapped around his waist and pulled him back to the bed.

"You faker."

"Had to force you to stay with me somehow."

"I was going to stay anyways."

"Uhuh, yeah, you weren't."

"I was just getting readjusted!"

"Shut up and sleep. You need it."

Twilight didn't protest.

He was out in three minutes.

Chapter Text

They didn't fall back into their normal dynamic right away, but that didn't bother Wild.

He'd never thought about how much he'd learn about Twilight as they rebuilt their trust.

Like that he really liked his meat more on the rare side, but he didn't say anything because everyone else liked it differently. Or that he occasionally grabbed his left wrist whenever he mentioned anything about his journey. Or that he was really, really bad at baking.

"You have to add it slowly!"

Twilight cursed and yanked his hand back, but it was too late; all the milk had splashed into the pot at once.

Wild shook his head and grabbed the now-empty milk bottle. "And it calls for half the bottle."

Twilight crossed his arms. "I did my best!"

"It's fine, we can still save this. I just have to double everything else," Wild said. He sighed as he added more flour to the now-soupy mix.

Twilight peered over his shoulder as Wild stirred the extra ingredients in. He willed his shoulders to relax as the older hero leaned closer. This was fine, he was fine. "Do you think he'll like it?"

"Well, I hope so." Wild added more sugar. "Still can't believe he didn't mention his birthday."

"In all fairness, yesterday was busy."

Wild had to agree. Between two different moblin ambushes, a massive thunderstorm, and nearly losing their supplies to a flash flood, it was easy to imagine why Wind had neglected to tell them it was his birthday.

"Wow, that was a terrible birthday," Wild said.

Twilight snorted.

Wild handed him the spoon. "Okay, look, now you stir it the rest of the way. I'm going to make sure the oven is good to go."

Wild couldn't thank the innkeeper enough for letting them use his kitchen. The small brick oven was a much better than a campfire for baking. The room felt homey, too. More like a small house kitchen rather than a large one typical of inns. It reminded Wild of his house, with all its well-used utensils and dried flower decorations.

Wild knelt and lit the firewood beneath the oven. Immediately, the heat wafted into his face, and he backed up. "Alright, it should heat pretty fast."

He turned to face Twilight, who was mixing the ingredients, eyebrows scrunched up in concentration. Wild smiled to himself and shook his head. Twilight wasn't the greatest baker, but at least he was trying, and it was nice to be the mentor for once.

"You can stir faster."

Twilight gave him a look that said this is as fast as I will go, and continued to stir at a painfully slow speed.

Wild sighed and grabbed his hand. "If you do it like this," he guided Twilight's hand, "then it won't splash out of the bowl."

Twilight smirked and swirled the spoon around, just hard enough to splash some batter onto Wild's hand. "Hey!"

Twilight laughed. "Sorry, the opportunity was too good."

Wild wiped the batter off his hand as Twilight finished stirring. Once Wild deemed it mixed enough, they poured it into the cake pan and stuck it in the oven to bake.

Wild dusted his hands on the apron he wore. That was the cake out of the way, so… he plopped another bag of sugar onto the counter. "Do you want to make the icing?"

"I'll probably set it on fire." Twilight grinned. "Let's do it."

Twilight did not set the icing on fire, nor did he ruin it. It took them a few tries to get the right consistency, but Twilight paid close attention to Wild's teaching and produced a delicious product. It seemed he was actually getting the hang of baking.

They played cards while the cake baked. Twilight consistently wiped the floor with Wild, who hardly remembered how to play any card games. After his tenth consecutive lost game, Wild threw his cards down and checked the cake. He opened the oven, and the smell of warm chocolate wafted into the kitchen. He smiled and pulled the cake out.

Wild iced the cake while Twilight sliced up some fruit. They worked silently, Twilight occasionally humming a tune to himself. The feeling of icing the cake felt familiar, and something tickled at the edges of his memory. A tradition, maybe? He grasped at it, but it flitted away, lost with the countless other memories he had yet to regain.

They placed the fruits and berries, now coated in sugar, on the cake, and Wild stepped back to admire their work. It wasn't the perfect bakery cake, but it was charming in its own homemade way. Twilight patted Wild on the back. "I'd say we did a pretty good job."

Wild grinned. He had to agree.

At some point during their baking, the others had returned from their various activities around the small village they stayed in and went up to the rooms, giving Twilight and Wild the perfect opportunity to surprise Wind.

With the others gathered around them, Wild kicked open the door to Wind and Sky's shared bedroom. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Wind screamed.

After Wind got over the scare, the heroes dug into the cake. It was gone within minutes. Wild made a note to thank Twilight for forcing him to double the recipe.

The moon rested high in the sky when Wild and Twilight turned in for the night. Wild laid next to Twilight, hands behind his head. "That couldn't have worked out better."

"No kidding," Twilight agreed.

"Maybe I could teach you to bake bread next."

Twilight laughed. "I might burn it to a crisp."

He very well might, but… "Well, you have to start somewhere."

Twilight laughed again. He sighed and turned onto his side. "Night Wild."

"Night."

Wild stared up at the ceiling, listening as Twilight's breathing evened out.

Wild couldn't really put a finger on how he felt. It had been two weeks since his reunion with the group and, although everything had mostly returned to normal, the tension remained. He still caught Twilight's eyes flicking to the scar across his throat.

But today, Twilight hadn't looked at the scar, and after the one moment of fear, Wild hadn't felt anxious being near Twilight. In fact, he'd almost felt… safe.

Wild turned to look at his mentor, asleep next to him. Wild couldn't see his face, but he could see the way he moved with his breathing, even and gentle. Wild placed a tentative hand on Twilight's shoulder.

Twilight stirred but didn't wake. Wild closed his eyes and felt the rhythm of Twilight's breaths wash over him. He willed his breathing to match and his heartrate to slow.

Bickering over cake mix. Using too much milk.

Twilight was his mentor. His brother. His best friend.

Guiding Twilight's hand. Batter splashing from the bowl.

He didn't need to be afraid. Not of him.

A perfect cake, even after the bumps along the way.

Because of the bumps along the way.

A weight, like a stone on his chest, disappeared.

Wild smiled. He never expected working around baking mistakes to be what made him understand, but healing sometimes came from the strangest places, and he wasn't objecting.

Wild moved his hand off Twilight's shoulder and wrapped his arm around him. His heartbeat didn't stutter.

Tomorrow, they would pack up and leave this inn behind. Tomorrow, they would continue their endless journey for answers.

Tomorrow, they would start a new day.

Together.