When the evil was vanquished and the battle was won, all that was left was for the heroes to return to their respective times.
It was... difficult to say the least. They all knew that it was coming, that eventually that their newfound family would have to split. The existence of some of them together was simply paradoxal. A time where the hero failed. A time where the hero returned. A time where the hero never came. It was for the best. They all had lives to return to, lives of long deserved peace and rest. It didn't make parting any less bittersweet.
"I'll...see you again." Time said as he gave Twilight, his protege, his descendent, his legacy, one final hug. "Not that you would remember me."
Twilight hugged the older hero tighter. "...don't joke like that old man." He didn't want to think of the Hero's Shade right now, of the sad fate that his ancestor will suffer.
"Maybe it's not regret that will keep me earthbound...maybe it's the hope to see you again pup."
And the tears that Twilight never knew he was holding back flowed freely, fat ugly happy tears that he sobbed into Time's neck.
Twilight opened their hug out to Wild who was awkwardly standing to the side. "Come here, cub. You're as much as part of this as I am."
Wild joined his two predecessors in the embrace. They never quite figured out where he fell in the timeline, there was over ten thousand years separating him from any other hero, but the impact that these two heroes had left on him was impossible to ignore.
"Don't think I won't be looking out for you." Twilight said, ruffling Wild's hair.
"You have." Wild grinned. "You will."
Off to the side, Legend and Hyrule carefully stood just out of arm's reach of each other as they watched the cuddle pile form.
Hyrule stiffly turned to his predecessor. "So..."
Legend scowled. "If you think that I'm going to fall for that fucking mushy stuff-" then he suddenly grabbed Hyrule into a tight embrace. "You're damn right, you stupid tunic thief!"
"I don't give a damn right now!" Legend cried, sobbing into Hyrule's shoulder. "Next time I see you I'll be a fucking ghost! I'm so fucking proud of you! Don't let the goddesses jerk you around like some puppet, ya here!"
Hyrule accepted his fate and sighed. "Of course."
Sky and Four stood a little further out. There would be a time for group goodbyes and bone-crushing hugs later but for now, they would let their successors have some time to themselves. It was reassuring to know that Hyrule will thrive for many millennia to come.
Wind tried his best not to break down into tears. Yes, just about everyone else was crying but he had to stay strong. After all that has happened he didn't want them to be treating him like a little kid again.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Warriors. "Don't get yourself into too much trouble." the knight said.
"I'm the greatest pirate in all the Great Sea!" Wind declared. "There's no way I'd get caught!"
Warriors gave a tired groan. "You know that's not what I'm talking about. Just please please try not to get a giant bounty plastered to your head."
"You already know how that'll turn out." Wind said, grinning up at him.
Warriors tried to look exasperated but he could hide his tiny smile. "Yeah. You're going to give me a giant headache. I hope, no I promise, you get cursed with a kid that's just as troublesome."
"Hey!" Wind cried, ducking out of the way to avoid Warriors ruffling his hair.
Then Warriors took off his scarf and draped it over Wind's shoulders.
Wind paused, holding the cloth in awe. "This is your-"
"It's yours...for now." Warriors said with a knowing grin. It was so odd seeing him without his scarf, it made him look both more mature and childish at the same time. "Give it back when we meet again."
Wind wound the scarf several times around his neck and threw back a toothy grin. "It's a promise."
And so that was the end...
Or was it just the beginning?
For as far as Link could remember, it has always been him and his Grandpa. His parents had died is some tragic accident soon after he was born. It was sad that they were dead but honestly, that was all Link felt towards them. Grandpa was the one who raised him and taught him everything he knew. He had been there in his brightest moments and his darkest days. Family was Grandpa and Link wouldn't have it any other way.
Link dodged out of the way of the incoming sword, leaping back as it sliced into the ground where he stood. His opponent growled, trying to yank his weapon out of the tree trunk. Link smirked and ducked between the man's arms to shove him in the abdomen. The man stumbled backwards and fell over his two companions. The three tumbling into a pile of limbs and curses.
Heh, that’ll teach them. Just because he was twelve, that didn’t make him an easy target.
Grandpa was surrounded by a dozen burley men with the leader of the group standing before him.
"Today's the day we take you in, Pirate!" the leader scowled with his cutlass raised. "That million rupee bounty will be ours!"
"Ha! And you'll bottle the winds on the same day." Grandpa sniggered.
The men all charged but Grandpa leaped above them and backflipped over to where Link was standing. He grabbed the boy by the waist, hauling him like a flour sack as they ran from the field.
"Grandpa!" Link whined. "Why can't you tell her you're sorry?!"
"Saying sorry means admitting defeat and I'd never say that to that old hag!" Grandpa said, his blue scarf whipping behind them as he ran at speeds near impossible for his age. Grandpa was old, older than New Hyrule, yet he still moved like he was only a quarter of his age - like the winds of youth had never left him. "Besides, it's good character building for you, brat."
Link pouted. "Well I'm going to be late!"
"Oh? I thought you said being train engineer was stupid?" Grandpa teased.
"It's better than being chased by bounty hunters all the time!"
"Don't worry kid, you won't be late for your first day."
The bounty hunters, having finally untangled themselves, were hot in pursuit. They chased the pair through town, ramming through any citizens or property in their path.
Blocking their path was a closing boom gate. The bells and whistles alerted them that a train was on the way. Their pursuers were closing in from behind.
They could make it.
Link felt Grandpa tightening his grip around him. “Get ready kid.”
The train was rapidly approaching from the left - unrelenting in speed with no chance of stopping. Grandpa ran up a stack of crates near the boom gate. Then, as the locomotive zoomed pass, he jumped.
The pair landed on the roof of the leading train carriage. Their pursuers were left far behind them shouting curses and waving their swords high above their heads.
A burly man a red bandana peeked his head out of the window. "Link?! Is that you up there?! Get in here, the both of you!"
"Thank you Alfonzo for taking my grandson as your apprentice." Grandpa said while Link was trying to make his engineer uniform look at least somewhat presentable after their chase.
"It's the least I can do for an old family friend." Alfonzo planted a heavy hand on Link's head, earning him a scowl from the boy. "Maybe it'll finally get those silly ideas out of the brat's head."
"Being a knight isn't stupid." Link growled, swatting the hand away. "When I grow up, I'm going to join the military and fight for Hyrule!"
"Yeah, yeah. You've got another six years before you're old enough to enlist, squirt."
Grandpa crossed his arms and chucked. "Don't dismiss him so easily. Who knows, we might have a future captain in this room."
Link beamed. Grandpa always had his back, always supported him no matter what. One day he was going to be a knight, a warrior that would make Grandpa proud.
-Four Years Later-
Link held his head up high as he made his way uphill. At the end of the path, on a cliff overlooking the Great Sea, was a lone cottage with smoke piping out the chimney. A stupidly wide grin spread across his face.
He tried opening the door only to find it jammed. Again. With a sigh, he kicked it open.
"Grandpa! You dead yet?!"
As expected, the interior of the house was completely trashed. The floor was littered with knocked out thugs. Through the window, Link could see that Grandpa was locked in a swordfight with one of the thugs right on the cliff's edge. Link sighed again, some things never changed.
With his sheathed sword in hand, Link leapt out the window and snuck up behind Grandpa's opponent.
"The bounty is mine!" the thug yelled, crossing swords with Grandpa once again and pushing him closer to the edge.
Grandpa, spying Link, smirked but kept his eyes on his opponent. "If I remember correctly, the warrant said I had to be taken in alive."
With a strong shove, Grandpa knocked the thug off balance and sent in tumbling backwards. Link then smacked the thug’s face with the hilt of his sword, sending him flying back all the way to the house.
"Can't you spend one day without having someone after your head?" Link groaned as he slid his sword onto his back.
"Bah! What a boring way to live. And whose this pretty boy knight and what has he done to by grandson." Grandpa said, jokingly pointing his sword at Link's chest before sheathing it with a hearty chuckle. "So you've finally accomplished you're dream, eh?"
"Not yet. I still have a long way to go before I'm a full knight." Link said, but he couldn't help puffing out his chest to show off his chainmail and grey tunic with the royal insignia.
Grandpa scoffed. "Well you've already got the attitude of one." He started walking down the hill. "C'mon, kid. These old bones need a good swing of whiskey or two after that fight."
"I worry about your liver Grandpa." Link said as he trailed behind him. "And why don't you just get rid of this stupid bounty! I've talked with the princess and she's more than willing to pardon you if you go to the castle..."
"These thugs are nothing!"
"But you aren't getting any younger! What happens if one day you die because of this stupid bet with the old queen?"
Grandpa stopped and turned to him. "Then I die living life to the fullest. I've outlived nearly everyone I know, my sister, my wife, my children...to be honest, I'm tired."
"No." Link whispered. "I'm not ready for you to go yet."
"I know brat!" Grandpa said, slapping Link on the back. "Just promise me one thing: don’t have me bury you too."
"It’s a promise."
Once the thugs had all been tied up and left outside for the authorities, they retired for drinks in the kitchen. Alcoholic, of course. Grandpa firmly believed that age was just a number and had included Link in his drinking nights for years. Link never liked the taste but it was their bonding time.
Grandpa passed Link a small parcel. Opening it, Link found a green tunic and matching cap.
"You've got to be kidding me." Link groaned. "Grandpa, I've told you before. These are completely ugly!"
"It's tradition boy!" Grandpa scolded. "It's the green of the Hero of Courage and courage is definitely something you're going to need if you're going to be a knight! I should have shoved you into these like my Granny did when I was younger."
"Well some traditions are meant to be broken.” Link grumbled. “Why couldn't it have been blue?"
Grandpa scoffed. "That's not going to change for another ten thousand years. Just hold onto it for now. It's good to have a spare change of clothes handy. Though, if blue is what you want..."
Link was shocked as Grandpa took off his scarf and draped it over his shoulders. He couldn't remember Grandpa taking his scarf for anything. When he was younger, he had thought the scarf was part of Grandpa.
"Don't you dare start protesting." Grandpa interrupted. "I've been meaning to give that scarf to you for years and now's a good a time as ever."
"But... this is your scarf."
"And it's yours now." Grandpa settled back into his chair and swirled his glass of whiskey. "Did I ever tell you about who gave me that scarf?"
Link shuffled in his chair. "No. You haven't."
Storytelling wasn't something that happened. Grandpa had always been vague and cryptic about his past, only giving disjointed facts that barely provided the context about whatever situation they were in.
"When I was younger, around the age you got your engineering apprenticeship, I travelled with a group of warriors, each a hero in their own right. It was honestly some of the best months of my life. They were like a second family. Though I was the youngest, they treated me with the same respect as they would each other." Grandpa leaned back and took a sip of his glass. "We adventured, we defeated evil, we did a whole fucking lot of dumb shit...but it couldn't last forever. One of them was a knight. He was the big brother I never had. Before we all parted ways, he gave me that scarf before."
Link stared down at the scarf again. Despite it being decades old, it seemed untouched by age and wear. In the corner he noticed the golden embroidery of the royal insignia.
He imagined the original owner. A knight. A warrior Grandpa greatly admired. A figure standing in the distance with the scarf billowing like a cape - imposing yet inspiring.
"He told me to give it back when we meet again." Grandpa said, smirking into his glass.
"What?!" Link yelled, scrambling to remove the scarf by only managing to get himself tangled in it.
Grandpa chuckled. "Slow down boy or you might tear the thing."
"But your friend-"
"He said to give it back next time we saw each other...and we've met up and parted many times since then." Grandpa said with a knowing smile. "It's yours now. There's the legacy of a brave warrior tied to that scarf, don't disappoint it."
Link smiled, rewinding the scarf around his neck. "I won't let you down."
"Good." Then Grandpa swallowed remaining contents of his glass in a single gulp. "A funny thing about our group. Every one of us was named Link."
Link scowled as he swiped the whiskey bottle out of Grandpa's grasp. "Okay, you've had enough for tonight."
"I'm telling the truth!"
"The alcohol is affecting your memories, that's what! Bed, now." Link pulled the protesting old man out of his chair and towards the bedroom.
"The night is still young, boy! Besides, my memory is perfect! All nine of us, we were all named Link!"
"How did you even manage that? Better yet, how did you even tell each other apart?"
"Divine intervention and nicknames, boy. You'll understand when you get into a mess like that."
"Hah, as if. Nine Links in one place? Impossible."