Wind's Hyrule, or 'the Great Sea' as he called it, was vast. But it was not lonely in the way that Wild's was, or wrought by destruction as Hyrule's was. Its many islands brought a sense of quaint peace, and none more so than Outset.
Wind has been ecstatic when they'd switched worlds. He had whooped in joy, bringing his grandmother and sister rushing out of their home for "I missed you's" and "welcome home's."
They had fed well. Wind's grandma had insisted on making them all eat seconds, because "they were all so skinny."
They'd laughed and told stories of their journeys, all while conspicuously leaving out the personal details.
Now the cloudless sky grew pink with dusk. The Links, sans Warriors and Legend who were still down at the beach, talking to someone named Orca, had set up camp in the forest at the top of the island. Wind's grandmother had been horrified when they said they were fine sleeping in the woods, but there hadn't been any other option. There was simply no way they could all fit in Wind's house.
And it was fine. The woods were protected from the breeze by tall cliffs, and the trees provided ample shelter from any storms that may come by.
They'd found the nicest location they could and set down their things. Wild lit a fire and browsed his slate for an evening snack.
They had all laughed around the campfire, Sky and Time played a duet for them. Wind had recounted tales of his expeditions in New Hyrule.
Though, now it was mostly silent. Warriors and Legend were still down at the beach, probably bickering. Four polished his sword. Hyrule was leaning against a tree, eyes closed. Hot coals provided a warm glow against the ever-dimming sky.
Twilight muttered something about taking first watch. He stood and began to walk away from camp…
...and promptly ran right into a breathless Legend. Twilight scowled, and looked about to rebuke him, but Legend deftly ignored the Ordonian. He had a mischievous grin plastered on his face, and was holding something behind his back.
"Guys," he began. "You won't believe what I just managed to steal."
Despite Time's nonchalance, everyone's curiosity had been piqued.
"What is it?" Sky queried after a moment's pause.
Legend's grin grew wider. With a dramatic flourish, he pulled a small object from behind his back.
It looked pretty boring, honestly.
Twilight moved to stand next to Legend from his place behind the blond.
"I'm afraid I don't follow," he said. Everyone else's expressions told the same story.
Legend scoffed, and lowered the apparently-amazing-but-also-kinda-boring notebook. But his grin soon returned, this time with a more snarky undertone.
"It's Warriors' notebook. And possibly-" once more he flourished the notebook, "-his diary."
Wind gasped, his earlier confusion all but forgotten. Wild had an amused smile on his face. "Is it really?" he asked. "How did you get it from him?"
Legend chuckled, and took a seat by the campfire. The glowing coals lit the contours of his face as the blond settled down to tell his story. Wind leaned in to listen, his excitement evident.
"Well," Legend began. "The story itself is not too exciting, I'm afraid. Warriors was distracted talking to that Orca guy. It was the perfect chance, so-" he held up the notebook, "-I took this!"
Legend stood. "But that's just the boring part. What's really exciting… is what's inside of it."
Wind grinned. "Well, read it! C'mon!" He insisted
Legend sighed good-naturedly. "Oh Wind, ever the impatient one. Never fear! Your wish shall be granted."
Legend stood dramatically, journal in hand. Then, without further ado, he flipped it open to the first page.
The camp sat in rapt silence, even the usually responsible of them wanted to know what the captain thought.
Alas, the frown that had suddenly alighted Legend's face told them such a thing would be harder than they first thought.
"What's wrong, vet?" Twilight questioned.
Legend huffed and set the journal on his lap. "It's not written in my Hylian."
Wind scowled and leaned away from the fire. "That's a little disappointing."
Legend nodded. "See if any of you can make something of it, eh?"
Like clockwork, Legend passed the journal around the camp. Most of them couldn't figure out the unfamiliar writing, but sometimes someone could make out a word or two, like 'strong' or 'blind'. But a few words here and there had them no closer to deciphering the writing.
Legend looked about to give in before an idea came to him. He chuckled, bringing the group's attention back to him. Grabbing his pack, he began to shuffle around. The other Links watched as the blond pulled out a bright green book.
"What's that?" Wild asked.
"This, my friend, is the Book of Mudora," Legend replied. "Hyrule, hand me the journal. I'm gonna see what the captain has to say if I need to translate this whole thing."
Not another word was said as Hyrule passed Legend the journal. He had already pulled out paper, ink, and quill, and had the book open beside him. The sound of the feather tip against parchment pervaded the camp, only accompanied by the fire crackling and the whispering of the trees.
As the minutes wore on, the Link's interest began to drift away from the madly scribbling Hero of Legend. Time got out a rag and started to polish his armour. Four began to settle into his bedroll. Sky and Hyrule had struck up a conversation about something or another. Even Wind was lazily tracing pictures in the dirt.
None of them noticed as Legend's expression slowly descended from concentration, to shock, to horror, and finally, to unbridled fury. None of them noticed how hard he was gripping the quill, or that this was already his third one, the first two lying broken on the dirt.
None of them noticed when he finally closed the green book, and only stared at the loose pages upon his lap with unmatched disgust.
They only noticed when he stared up to the distant stars, his eyes knowing nothing but betrayal, and screamed, cursing the gods and all they had done.
They find out what Legend is so upset about.
It only gets worse from here >:)
Everyone reacted immediately. Wind was the first to rush to Legend’s side, followed closely by Hyrule and Time. Everyone else remained seated, though all of them visibly shocked.
Hesitantly, Time began to question Legend.
He was cut off when the stack of translated papers were shoved haphazardly into his arms.
“Read them,” was all Legend said.
After staring at the furious blond for a few moments, Time stood. He shuffled the papers awkwardly, glanced around, then began to read. The camp watched on in silence.
“Legend: His items are his most valuable weapon. Once he is weakened, separate him from his bag. Especially his magic rods, that will cripple him. But always keep an eye out, you never know what tricks he might be hiding. He is experienced. Always be prepared.”
Time stopped reading and stared. Everyone else did too. Not a sound was made, even the breeze seemed to hold its breath.
Everyone jumped at the sudden noise. Wind cleared his throat, voice raspy. “Did Warriors really write that?” he finished.
No one answered. No one needed too.
“There’s more,” Legend growled. “Lots more. Keep reading.”
Time coughed into his hand, then looked back down at the papers. His voice rang out like a bell as he began to read once more.
He hesitated. It was harder to speak now that they knew what was coming.
“Sky,” he said more firmly. “Far too trusting. Deception is key. If that's impossible, make sure he can't get another weapon. The sword won't let him hurt any of her former masters, but he is too good of a swordsman to take on one-on-one. Keep him talking, then strike when the time is right.”
As if on cue, everyone’s heads swiveled to look at Sky. The first hero looked… devastated. There was no other way to describe it. Mouth parted, eyes wide. He didn’t seem to see everyone staring at him.
Obviously trying not to look at the effect his words had had on Sky, Time continued to speak.
“Wild: Separate him from the Sheikah Slate at all costs. He is nothing without it. If he does get a hold of a weapon, he is a decent swordsman, but a better archer. Overwhelm him before he has a chance to do anything.”
Wild’s reaction was seemingly minute. But the slight tightness of his lips and the stone in his gaze portrayed something different. His hands strayed to the faintly glowing slate at his hip.
There was a longer gap of silence this time. Time seemed reluctant to continue, not unreasonably. But he did so anyways.
“Twilight: I suspect he's the wolf.”
That sentence alone gave Time pause.
“That could be a trump card if I need one. He's easily manipulated emotionally. Far too quick to rush to Wild's aid. He is a strong fighter, but he takes too long to plan out an attack. Strike before he has time to think. Don’t fall into a pattern while fighting him, and don’t, under any circumstances, let him team up with Time or Wild.”
Twilight did not bother to hide his anger. His hands were clenched, lips pulled back in a snarl. He glared down at the dirt as if it were Warriors himself.
Once everyone’s attention drifted back to Time, it became clear who was next on Warriors’ list. They let him take his time.
Eventually, their reader coughed, eyes still locked on the papers. Then he began once more.
“Time: His right eye's blank. Don't know if it’s magic or if he can't see through it at all. Regardless, he usually keeps it shut, so that's his blind side. He is a heavyweight fighter, so he’ll try to overwhelm you. Be swift, and most of all be unpredictable.
“Uhm, and then there’s a footnote,” Time mutters. “It says, ‘I suspect there’s something big he’s not telling us. Incapacitate him before he can reveal it.’”
Time didn’t waste a second. “Could someone else read, please?” he rasped.
It takes a few moments before Legend steps up. “I’ll read the rest.”
Time gratefully hands over the papers.
“Sorry for shoving that on you,” Legend adds, almost as an afterthought.
Time’s response is barely legible. “S’fine.”
Once Legend had returned to his spot, he immediately started where Time left off. His voice felt stronger, harder. His anger very thinly veiled.
Legend already knew what was coming. Be it a mercy or a curse, no one knew.
“Four,” Legend began.
The Hero of the Four Sword tensed, awaiting his verdict.
“His sword's his secret weapon. Get it out of his hands before he can do anything. Everything else is predictable. That being said, he is incredibly coordinated. If nothing else is possible, do everything you can to confuse him, then immobilize him.”
Legend did not wait to see Four’s reaction. He plowed on, barely taking a breath between sentences.
“Hyrule: Using too much magic leaves him weak. Drain him if necessary. Thunder is his most powerful spell, but I suspect he has much more up his sleeve. His sword looks powerful, but he doesn’t have any training. Wear him down, then strike.”
Legend hesitates for the first time. “The last entry is about Warriors,” he mutters. “It says ‘ If you're reading this, and something happened to make me betray my team, firstly; I'm sorry. Secondly, distract me- I get too focused on one enemy, and that leaves me vulnerable in the back. I am cocky, too. You can exploit that.”
By now, the embers of the fire has burned themselves out. All there was to light the forest was the stars and moon.
“That’s all it says,” Legend finishes.
“Wait,” called a voice. It was hard to see who in the darkness. “That can’t be it. There’s… I don’t have one.”
Wind, his face ghostly pale (it’s difficult to tell if it’s just the lighting or not), had his hand held in the air, like a schoolchild asking a question.
Legend stutters, at a loss for words. “Uhm, well…”
He swallows, then picks up Warriors’ original journal. “There’s this.”
He gestures at a couple scraps of paper still bound to the spine. They were blackened slightly, as if they’d been burned out of the journal instead of ripped.
“It’s good to know he still has some kind of conscience,” somebody hisses. Maybe Twilight, maybe Wild. It didn’t really matter when they’d all been betrayed by the one person they always thought they could trust.
To say Warriors was a fan of swords would be an understatement. Anyone could see that, really. So it wasn’t unexpected when he had immediately gone in search of the swordsman Wind had spoken so highly of. It was unexpected when Legend had come along with him, but he let it slide. Though, Legend hadn’t really seemed to enjoy himself when the swordsman- Orca, as he’d called himself- had toured through his collection, or when he’d walked them through his techniques, so Warriors didn’t really know why he’d come in the first place. But it was no surprise when Legend finally stated that he was going to meet up with the rest of the group, and hastily exited.
Warriors didn’t mind all that much. It was Legend’s own fault in joining him. And anyways, it was much easier to converse with Orca without him looming over his shoulder.
It was later than he expected when he finally said his farewells to the swordsman. But who could blame him? It wasn’t as if anyone in his own group would enjoy such conversation, at least as long as Orca did. And anyways, the older man had seemed way too happy to finally find someone who shared his interests. Something about his brother always yelling at him, or something.
All in all, Warriors felt quite satisfied when he picked up his pack and left for the camp. Though he did have to navigate across an unfamiliar island in the dark, but that was fine. He was experienced. He could handle a couple Chu Chus.
The trees rustled peacefully as Warriors made his way up the forest path. He had never been to an ocean, besides briefly in Wild’s world, but he found he quite enjoyed them. Though maybe it was just because they reminded him of Wind.
Smiling ever so slightly, Warriors entered the darkened woods.
It was silent as he approached the location of the camp. Briefly, he wondered if everyone was already asleep. But that wouldn’t make sense. Normally, at least Wild would be up.
Well, it doesn’t matter. It’s been a long journey for all of us. It’s not a big deal if they want to get more sleep.
With his uncertainties quelled, Warriors pushed past the final layer of brush and into the camp.
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d have the courage to show your face again, hero.”
Warriors frowned. What…?
The fire had died, but the moonlight was bright enough to cast the faces of his companions into sharp focus. But… something wasn’t right, he could gather that much from the devastation on Sky’s face, the anger on Twilight’s, the shock on Time’s…
And then his eyes drifted to the center of the clearing, where a small book laid. No, not a book, a journal…
And just like that, everything fell into place.
...Or rather, it all broke apart.
"So? What? Did you just come back to gloat? Revel in the glory of having us all figured out?"
Legend did not care how the words sounded. He did not care when Warriors' eyes widened in shock. He really didn't. He kept telling it to himself through his own fury, he didn't care he didn't care.
It was almost a satisfaction to see Warriors stutter like a fish out of water. Almost.
"At a loss for words, hero? I'm hardly surprised, after what you did," he snarled.
But the words felt empty. Cold.
He ignored it.
"Please, just let me explain."
Twilight felt as if he would boil at Warriors' words. Explain? As if it were some simple misunderstanding?
"I think your journal tells us enough, Warriors."
Twilight tried to keep his tone even, but it was so hard when Warriors was just standing there! He desperately wanted the traitor to hide to flee, anything!
Seeing him so… beaten made him look too much like he was still their friend. He wasn't. He couldn't be.
Twilight tried to ignore it.
"I think we should let him talk, it's not like we'll get anywhere yelling at each other."
Had it not been for the suffocating silence, Hyrule would not have been able to hear his own words. He stared at Warriors, spying the grateful glint in his eyes. Hyrule only sighed.
"It's not for you, Warriors. It's for us."
Hyrule did not care to keep watching after that. He stared down at the dirt.
He was angry, of course he was. But he was tired too.
He did his best to ignore it.
Time tried to breathe evenly, but gods was it hard.
I wasn't prepared for this. Why? Why would he do that?
It was hard to hear whatever Hyrule was saying when his heart pounded in his ears. Taking another deep breath as quietly as he could, Time tried to calm himself. Hylia forbid he start breaking down in the middle of this…
Time jolted as he realized everyone was looking at him.
"Time? Do you think we should let him talk?"
"Oh… yeah, uh, that's fine."
He pursed his lips, trying to keep calm.
Just try to ignore it.
Sky would not let this happen. He barely heard the noises of surprise as he stood, glaring straight into Warriors' eyes.
"Why should he deserve to tell us anything after what he did?" He snarled.
Hyrule turned to stare at him. "Sky, I think you're being unreasonable-"
Sky's face was cold as he spoke. "Maybe I am. But I'm tired of being nice to people who don't deserve it."
With that he swung back to glare at Warriors.
"I think he should go," he spat.
What if you're wrong? his conscious whispered.
The still-bitter part of him hissed back, I'm not.
...Sky ignored it.
"I say we let him explain himself!"
"I, for one, think Sky is right."
"Maybe we should just calm down…"
"Why the hell should we calm down? Warriors-"
Four snapped back to attention just as Warriors shouted "wait!"
Four wanted to say something, anything, but the right words evaded him. He was angry, who wouldn't be? But he was also shocked and confused and it all mixed together to make something he didn't recognize.
"Please, let me explain. I promise there's a reason."
With each word Warriors spoke the voices clamoured for his attention. He could feel another headache coming on as the seconds passed…
He gave his best effort to ignore it.
"Then let's hear it."
Warriors gave a watery smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Thank you, Wild."
Wild could feel Sky's glare boring into him, but chose not to react. It was already hard enough to wrap his head around what Warriors has done, and if there was any chance that there was a forgivable reason for it, Wild would take it.
He wouldn't lose another friend. He won't-
But doubt nagged in the corners of his mind.
Wild ignored it.
Wind nestled closer to the tree he was leaning against. Emotions flashed through his brain, one after the other, on an endless loop…
And he was going to do something about it.
The real angst is coming next chapter ;)
The end of something treasured.
Don't lose them too.
Warriors thought he had been prepared for everything. He had watched, analyzed, recorded and encrypted. He was never going to be betrayed again.
...And in doing so, he had done exactly what he had fought so hard against. He'd always known that, in a way, but the reality of it had never quite struck until now.
The feeling clawed at his stomach, digging a deeper and deeper pit for his heart to fall into.
...But he was strong. He was going to fight. He had determination, and most of all a shard of hope.
So he held up his head and locked eyes with his family.
I will not lose you.
"Look," he began. "I know it's not pretty, but it is necessary. I trust you guys, I really do, but if there's even the slightest chance of something happening-"
A shuffling from the corner of camp caught his eye and cut him off. A wedge of darkness shifted, and…
"What? You mean one of us stabbing you in the back? Do you really think so little of us?"
He looked furious.
And it was all directed at him.
Wind's words cut into him and left him breathless. It was hard to believe that this was the same little brother he had carried upon his shoulders not a day ago.
And, for just a second, Warriors' resolve wavered.
Keep your strength, Link. Keep going.
This isn't the end of things.
And just like that, he snapped back. "Its happened to me before, and it could happen again. I will not take any more chances."
It was Legend who responded this time, though Wind looked no less infuriated by his words.
"Really, Warriors?" The blond snarled. "Who do you think is the real traitor here—"
Legend stood and moved so he was face to face with Warriors. "Us—" he thrust a thumb at himself, "who have treated you as an equal and a brother all this time, or you—" he pointed an accusatory finger at Warriors' chest. "Who has kept a book of not only our physical weaknesses, but emotional too? Honestly, how low can you get?"
Warriors knew he should've been hurt by Legend's words, but something had changed inside him.
His voice was deadly cold as he responded.
"I grew up with the men who betrayed me. We lived in the same barracks, followed the same protocol, went through the same training, we fought side by side for years and they turned on me, they turned on all of us, and cost us double the lives the enemy did. If they betrayed me after years of camaraderie, what should make me believe you're different, what assures me I won't wake up with your sword at my neck!"
He was almost screaming by the end of his rant. Something pricked at the corners of his eyes, but he rubbed it away.
To his surprise, Legend looked… defeated. No, not defeated… exhausted.
Legend let out a long sigh through his lips. "I'm not going to argue with you, Warriors. We've done enough of that. If you really think that we'd ever do something like that, then maybe Sky was right about you."
Legend turned and sat back down. He did not look at Warriors, only whispered, "I think you should leave. We don't need you."
We don't need you.
Ignore him, his resolve whispered. He's angry, you have to keep going, just keep it up until you can convince them. You are strong-
But it felt like a lie.
We don't need you.
In a hollow effort to push down the guilt rising in his heart, Warriors raised his head and stared around the camp. The faces of his brethren ranged from downright furious- Twilight, to deathly still- Wild, and beyond. Even Time looked like he might start crying any second.
Wind still stood before him, watching with that silent fury as Legend had made his argument.
"What, getting cold feet, brother? " He hissed.
Maybe it was the venom with which Wind had said the word 'brother', or maybe it was simply coincidence. But that was the moment when Warriors finally snapped.
Tears rushed down his cheeks as it all came pouring out.
"I killed them all, you know," he said to Wind. "Every. Single. One. All of the traitors in the Hylian army fell to my sword, and there was no time to question it. A country falls apart faster from the inside and if we fall apart then our enemies steamroll us and take the civilians. Had we been better prepared for an insider job we could've saved thousands of men that day and after!"
Warriors' voice cracked on the last line, and he took a shaky breath to calm himself.
It didn't help.
"None of you get to lecture me about trust until you see a man who spent years training you to serve your country point his sword at his nearest compatriot. Wars are won by those who survive. And I survived. I won. But it cost everything. "
And faster than he could blink, all his strength was gone.
It was almost torturous to lift his head to stare back at Wind, back at all of them. His brothers. His family.
"Sky really was right about you."
Warriors sucked in a shaky breath. "W-what?"
Wind stepped forward, his face devoid of any emotion. "I said, Sky really was right about you."
Slowly, slowly, Wind paced closer to Warriors. "I have fought countless battles, almost died hundreds of times, and been through more than can be fully explained. All of us have, and that includes you."
Wind straightened to his full height. Although that wasn't much, the boy almost felt taller than Warriors.
"But you do not see a single one of us treat other people as anything less than how they treat us."
Wind's voice had begun to tremble, but from rage or grief, Warriors could not quite tell.
Wind's fists were clenched tight, so that his fingernails dug into the palms of his hands. He continued to speak in that voice that seemed too old for him.
"It is so hard for me to say this, Warriors. But you need to leave."
For the first time, Wind looked down at the darkened grass. "I honest to gods thought of you as a brother. I loved you, so, so much."
Warriors stared, and suddenly Wind stared back. "I still love you, I don't think I'll ever not love you. B-but-"
Something seemed to break inside Wind's eyes in that moment.
"But I don't think you love us in the same way."
Wind turned around before he could see Warriors' expression fall, fall, fall, right along with his heart.
"I like to think that I'm wrong," the ocean boy whispered. "But in the end it doesn't matter. We can't rely on you like we thought we could. Like I thought we could.
"So please. Just leave."
Warriors did not see how the tears had started to fall down Wind's face. He did not see Hyrule clutch Legend's shoulder like a lifeline. Neither did he see Wild's façade finally break as he sobbed into Twilight's tunic. He did not see it as his family shattered like a mirror with no frame to hold it. For he had already fled down the darkened island, past the silent houses, to where the water eroded away at a dirty beach.
It was there he collapsed and began to sob.
But there was nobody there to hold him. Only the silent swish of the waves and the cawing of far away seagulls.
And so it continues.
This one's a bit shorter than usual, but no less angsty :)
"Do you think I did the right thing?"
It was meant to sound… casual, he supposed, but it came out as more of a rasp.Wind huddled closer to Sky's side.
Sky, not Warriors.
"Do you think you did?"
Wind huffed, and lifted his face out of Sky's tunic. "Don't do that. You were as angry with him as I was."
Sky bit his lip. "I was… it doesn't matter."
He shifted a little to better look at Wind's face.
"I'll be honest though… I don't know if it was quite the right thing either. But I do know that having him stay would have only hurt us more. One way or the other, we all just need… time to heal. And maybe we'll always need more. Who knows."
Wind didn't quite know how to respond to that, though Sky didn't seem to mind. He pressed his cheek against the first hero's shoulder so that he was looking at the rest of the camp. Everyone was asleep, or at least pretending to sleep.
...Wind doubted any of them could actually get any real rest.
He wondered vaguely if Warriors had been able to, but soon after shoved the thought away. He didn't want to think about what had happened. And, judging by the oppressive silence of the camp, neither did anyone else.
It was all too loud.
Why did things have to change?
Every part of him was sore from sitting on the hard-packed sand of the beach, but he couldn't bring himself to go anywhere else, much less move at all. The sound of the seagulls pierced his ears, the pounding of the waves rattled his skull.
Where would he have gone anyways? He had no control over which world they traveled to. He might very well still be bound to the rest of his family-
Stop calling them that.
...It felt so strange to be alone now. All his life Warriors had had the Hyrulian soldiers, Zelda, Lana, and now the other Heroes of Hylia. It was nothing short of second nature to call them family.
How was he supposed to cope with this?
Another dry sob escaped him at the thought. He felt bitter, but also… selfish.
Bitter at not being understood. Selfish of even having the thought.
But there was no one to talk to, no shoulder to lean on. His world was far, far away, not only in distance but in time.
He wondered if he'd be allowed to go back, or if he'd continue to be tied to the other heroes, always bound to return to them.
He wondered if he'd already severed those ties, and he was fated to be lost in an unfamiliar land.
The dam broke and he began to cry again.
Just let me go home. If nothing else, just give me this.
Warriors squeezed his eyes shut tight, and waited… waited for anything to change.
When he opened them he was met with the same ocean, tinged pink with the rising sun.
Warriors hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep until warm hands began to shake him awake.
Groaning, he put an arm over his eyes to block out the bright morning light.
"Wake up, Link."
"Open your eyes."
The person said something else that he didn't quite catch over the pounding ocean. If he was honest, the rough sand rubbing against every part of his body was way too distracting for him to be listening, even if he could've heard the lady.
She shook him again, more roughly this time. He ignored it once more, too tired to speak, much less move.
That is until she slapped a small but firm hand across his face.
"Ow! Watch it!"
"Finally!" The lady groaned. "You're going to get washed out with the tide if you stay here any longer! Why don't you come inside and let grandma make you some soup?"
That sounds pretty nice.
So, with a shiver and a stumble, Warriors brought himself to his feet.
Wind's grandma, as he now realized her to be, smiled warmly at him. "There you go, darling. Come along now, my house is just down the shore…"
Warriors was still rather stiff, so it took longer than it should have to make it to the warmth of the beach house. But Wind's grandma was patient, and did not hustle him, even as the approaching storm drew closer.
When he finally collapsed on the padded chair by the fire, it was like the Golden Goddesses themselves had come down to bless him.
Warriors must've fallen asleep again, because when he opened his eyes, the fire was lit and a bowl of soup was gently steaming on the side table.
He wondered if Wind's grandma would be so kind to him if she knew what he'd done.
Speak of the devil…
He pushed all other thoughts aside in order to give the approaching lady a friendly, albeit tired smile. She returned it in equal radiance as she stopped next to him
"I found this caught in a bush," she murmured. "I saw you wearing it earlier, so I'll assume you'll want it back… sorry about the condition it's in."
From behind her back, she pulled a royal blue scarf. His scarf.
And straight down the middle, almost splitting the fabric in half, was a ragged and gaping tear.
Advice is given.
There was no organization to the morning. Everyone woke up at different times, if they had even fallen asleep in the first place. Wind knew that he certainly hadn't, and it showed. His hair was more frazzled than usual from resting against Sky the whole night, and he could barely keep his eyes open. But he couldn't bring himself to care.
For a minute, he contemplated maybe going down to the beach for a swim, but soon dismissed the thought. The possibility of having to talk to… well, anyone, was all too real. And anyways, it was kind of cold outside.
The voice barely registered in his brain, but it was enough for him to open his eyes a fraction of an inch.
What he saw, on the other hand, was enough to make his eyes go wide. Wild was holding out a bowl of what looked exactly like his grandmother's soup.
"Is that…?" Wind began. Wild nodded, a tentative smile on his face.
"Your grandma gave me the recipe before… well, she gave me the recipe. And, I thought I'd try it? I don't know if it's going to be anywhere near as good as how she makes it, though… but I thought it might help."
Wind smiled weakly. He doubted the soup was that magical, but it was very thoughtful of Wild to try. He reached out and took the bowl, bringing it in close to his chest. The warm steam enveloped him, taking the edge off the bitter morning.
It did make him feel a little better.
Wind began taking tentative sips as Wild walked off. It wasn't exactly like how his grandma made it, but that hardly mattered. It made him think back to what Sky had said the previous night.
"I'll be honest though… I don't know if it was quite the right thing either. But I do know that having him stay would have only hurt us more. One way or the other, we all just need… time to heal. And maybe we'll always need more. Who knows."
Wind felt a smile playing about his lips. Maybe… maybe they would heal, like Sky had said. One way or the other, it'd be okay.
Warriors awoke with a pounding headache and the taste of sand in his mouth. He took deep breaths, trying to remember where he was. The slight chill in the air and the grime in his mouth told him it was the beach, but the heat pressing against his side and the cushions on his back said he was still at Grandma's. Slowly, slowly, he cracked his eyes open. A sigh of relief escaped him when he saw the familiar walls of Grandma's house. The chill, he realized, was a draft coming from the crack beneath the door. Warriors shifted closer to the crackling fireplace, attempting to escape it.
It was no use in the end, as he had to get up and pour a glass of water for himself anyways. The taste of sand just wouldn't leave his mouth.
As soon as Warriors sat down with his cup, his mind got to work. Think how cold it must be out there. It told him. They have no cozy fireplace. Don't you think they deserve it more than you?
Warriors only sighed, massaging his aching temples as best he could. It was no use thinking about them. They didn't want him, and, if nothing else, he was capable of respecting that.
Warriors only realized how much he was sleeping in his brief moments of consciousness. Though, honestly, it was a bit of a mercy. There wasn't much else he wanted or could do.
Grandma looked concerned about it, but he waved aside her worry. Every hour he spent asleep was an hour he didn't have to think about the bare skin where his scarf should have rested.
It was only when Grandma sat down next to him with a determined look on her face that he began to take her seriously.
"You need to talk to them," she stated, blunt as ever.
It took Warriors a moment to process that.
But Grandma was already talking over him.
"I'm not saying now, or even today, dear. Obviously you need to give them some space. But sooner or later, you guys are going to have to communicate. And that'll happen whether you like it or not," she finished with a knowing look.
Warriors did not respond. What could he have said?
Grandma sighed. "Look, you will never meet anyone like them again. Are you really willing to give them up so easily?"
"They don't want me," he snapped as soon as she'd finished.
"And you are right to respect what they wish," she fired back. "They need time to recover from what you did, and you need time to make it up to them. But the only way you'll ever be set upon that path is if you do it together."
Warriors gaped. He had not told Grandma what had happened.
So how does she know?
"Think on it," she said with finality. "Later, when all of you have rested, we shall see what happens."
And with a pat on his shoulder and a sweep of her dress, she left.
Things get better. For a while.
Warriors sat at the edge of the beach, watching the tide lap against his boots. Thankfully, it had warmed up since the previous day. It wasn't much, but he would take the little spark of happiness it gave him to sit in the sun, especially with the stress of thinking he'd seen Twilight walking up the path to the woods earlier.
He'd thought a lot on what Grandma has said to him in the past few hours, disrupting his usual routine of sleeping, eating, then sleeping again. Oh yes, he'd thought lots about it. But he couldn't bring himself to do anything more than think.
Warriors knew he'd have to talk to them sooner or later, and with Grandma still giving him passive-aggressive glances, he could bet on it being the former. But each time he thought he'd convinced himself to walk the path to where he knew the others were camping, his muscles turned to molasses and he couldn't move an inch.
...Did he know they were still camping there? Did he even know they were still in this world? He thought he'd seen Twilight earlier, yes. And the rest of them a few other times. But it could've easily been one of the Outset residents. He had no idea.
So why don't you stop being paranoid and go check?
Warriors frowned deeply at the ocean as if it had wronged him. Just go check. Baby steps, right? You don't even have to speak to them. Just make sure they aren't gone.
It scared him to stand, right then. He didn't know what he'd do if they were gone. He couldn't even imagine a future without the other Heroes.
But it was better than whatever Warriors was doing now. Which, quite frankly, wasn't anything.
So he stood, and before he could lose his nerve, began to climb the path to the darkened forest.
Warriors didn't remember the woods being this large, but maybe that was just him. He knew where the camp was, or at least where it should be. But he found himself stalling– looking at interesting mushrooms or watching a bug crawl across his arm– and by the time he saw the clearing through a gap in the trees it had been nearly twenty minutes since he's first set out.
He breathed deep through his nose, accepting his fate. You don't have to talk to them, he repeated to himself. You don't have to talk to them. They won't even see you. It'll be fine. It will be fine.
He took another step, snippets of the argument that had resounded here flashing through his head. It made him feel dizzy. He kept going.
Soon, he began to hear whispers through the trees. Warriors felt a warm relief settle in his stomach. They were still here. They weren't gone. Strangely enough, the relief made him feel dizzy too. He frowned a little at that, but the sight of what he suspected to be Wild walking out of the camp brought his mind away from it. He needed to go now, or else he'd be spotted. And as much as he was desperate to make up with the other Links, he knew in his heart it was too soon for them. Too soon for all of them, perhaps.
Warriors smiled a little as he tip-toed away from the clearing. Grandma would understand. Maybe she'd be proud. "The stress wasn't good for you, dear." She'd tell him. "Just don't go spying on them, now!"
The thought made him laugh a little.
It'd be okay. They all needed time, but they would heal. They would. They had to.
Suddenly, he stumbled on a rock buried in the ground. The dizzy feeling came back full force. Warriors groaned, pressing a hand to the headache suddenly pounding against his forehead. Vaguely, he heard a shout coming from the direction of the camp. The dreaded realization of what was happening was the last thing he felt before the world fell out from under him.
Wind breathed in the salty ocean air, relishing in the immense feeling of home. Things had been rough lately, sure. But they had handled rough before, and gotten through it with only a few scars to boot.
He hoped the others felt the same as he did. But even if they didn't, the air didn't feel so oppressive anymore. So at least things were getting less tense.
There had been a lot of feelings in their makeshift camp lately. Many of them conflicting. The other Links tried to hide it, Wind knew. But he could see it in the stoniness of Wild's face, the slight grimace on Legend's lips, and the way Time's finger tapped against his knee. Wind knew how much anger and sorrow and regret and misplaced guilt was sown into the leaf-strewn earth beneath their feet.
But it would pass. Wind knew that for sure.
Wind knew something else, too. He knew he wanted to talk to Warriors. Maybe not today, exactly. More like the next morning, or sometime around then. And not to forgive him either, no. He still wasn't sure if he'd ever manage to do that completely. But he was sick of seeing him out of the corner of his eye when he went down for supplies. At the very least, he wasn't ready to abandon him. Whether they liked it or not, Warriors was a hero, and they needed him to fight against whatever shadows were out there. Even if they didn't forgive him, they needed him.
Wind knew he saw it in the other's eyes. He saw it in the way the tension had dissolved this morning, too.
Wind saw a lot of things. He wondered if they realized that.
He relished the salty air one last time before sitting down for a snack. He briefly heard Wild tell them he was going hunting before he munched down on some jerky. It tasted… not the best, but he didn't care.
Wind stood once he'd finished it, and almost fell when a wave of vertigo hit him hard. A ringing started up in his ears, and he suddenly and horribly knew what was happening.
No, not now. Not when things are so close to being better. What if Warriors doesn't come with? What if he does? What are we going to do?
In some distant corner of Wind's mind, he could hear Hyrule shout "switching!"
The yell echoed in his ears, and he could hear the undertone of panic in it each and every time.
Not now, they were all thinking. Not when things are so close to being better.
And with that, the world went dark.
Wind and Sky have a conversation.
Warriors awoke with the smell of soil in his nose. Groaning, he twisted, trying to get back on his feet. The grass was slick and cold with dew, and it left streaks of water on his clothes and skin when he eventually rose to his feet.
He blinked in the bright sun, spots of color flashing behind his eyelids. A giant tree towered in front of him, wood flecked with patches of lichen and moss. Its roots dipped in and out of the surrounding land, providing shade for a variety of mushrooms that were much too bright for him to handle at the moment.
He'd switched worlds, though to whose he had no idea. At best it proved that he wasn't trapped in Wind's, at worse… it meant the others weren't far off.
Now that the feeling had come back to his body, Warriors began to feel the panic settle in his stomach.
It was kind of stupid, honestly. The best strategist in the Hyrulian army and he had no idea what to do. Though, he supposed his current situation was a lot different than all-out war. But that didn't make him feel much better.
Deciding for now that the best course of action was inaction, Warriors settled himself in the shadow of the giant tree and began to wait.
As soon as the vertigo faded, Wind was back on his feet. Everyone else was doing the same general thing, checking up on each other, organizing their gear, getting everything back into working order after the abrupt world switch. Wind would have joined them, but he just couldn't put himself through the motions. Dread had coiled around his heart, and it was all he could think about.
Eventually, there was nothing left to do, and the familiar tension began to settle like a fog.
"So…" someone said. Wind thought it was Hyrule, but he was a bit distracted at the moment. "Where are we?"
There was silence for a few moments before Sky raised his hand.
"Mine, I think. This looks like Faron woods."
They all nodded, and then the silence was back.
The question was on all of their minds, but none of them said it.
"Do you think Warriors came with us?" Wind blurted.
"I don't know," Twilight murmured eventually. "I… I can't see why he wouldn't have. Just because he's a backstabber doesn't mean he isn't a hero."
Wind bit his lip. He knew what he wanted to say, but he wasn't sure how the rest of them would feel about it.
"I'm–" he started. Everyone turned to look at him. "I'm going to look for him. For Warriors, I mean."
Twilight grimaced. "Wind, I don't know if–"
"I'll go with him."
Twilight's mouth snapped shut. Sky was standing up, a glint of determination in his eyes. "You'll need help finding your way around. I'm coming with you."
Wind smiled weakly. "Thanks, Sky."
Legend cleared his throat. "Look, guys, I know that you…"
He trailed off when he saw Sky glaring at him. "Legend," Sky said. "I know what he did just as well as the rest of you. But that doesn't mean he deserves to end up dead because we abandoned him."
After a moment, Legend nodded. Twilight looked like he wanted to argue, but said nothing.
"We'll look for you if you're gone longer than an hour," Time tells them. Sky gave him a thumbs up, and then they were walking off together into the trees.
Once they were a significant distance away from the rest of the group, Wind turned to Sky.
"Why did you come with me?" he asked.
Sky frowned at him. "This isn't your world," he said simply.
Wind raised an eyebrow.
Sky looked away. "Okay! Fine. That, and… well, I wanted to talk to him. I mean, I'm pretty sure we all do. You don't really… you don't just get over stuff like what happened. You gotta communicate, y'know…?"
Sky trailed off, then took a deep breath.
"And… I feel kind of bad about how cold I was. I think that even though all that stuff he wrote was really terrible– and I'm not saying at all that he was correct in doing it– but I can at least see why he did do it."
For a minute, all that filled the air was the sound of their footfalls and the birdsong.
"So," Wind started. "Do you think… that, uh…" he bit his lip, wondering how to continue. "Do you think the others want him back?"
Sky gave him his signature smile– somehow both gentle and reassuring. "You miss him, don't you?"
Wind huffed, but it came out sounding a little panicked. "I mean, I… that's, uh–"
Sky cut him off. "It's okay. Me too."
Then there was only the quiet crunching of grass as they walked. It wasn't an oppressive silence, just one of patient expectancy.
"I do miss him, Sky," Wind murmured. "I miss him a lot. And, I feel– gods, this is gonna sound weird. But, I feel… guilty about it? Like, he was doing such an awful thing, writing that journal and then hiding it from us, but…"
Wind looked up at Sky. He could feel his eyes pricking, but the tears didn't fall. Sky still had that smile, the one that made you want to tell him everything. Wind took a deep breath.
"But he's my brother, you know? And I love him. And I feel guilty for that."
Sky stopped walking, instead staring up into the rustling canopy of the giant tree.
"Good people do bad things all the time, Wind," he said eventually. "That doesn't mean they aren't still good people. It's okay that you miss Warriors, because he's not a bad person, even if he did something bad." Sky laughed a little, then. "And something really, really misguided."
Wind grinned at Sky. "Thanks. That… that makes me feel a lot better."
Then he sighed, suddenly drained. "I just… I convinced myself that I just needed time . More time would fix it all, and then I wouldn't have to… to think about what I was feeling, 'cause it would go away if I waited.
"But I don't think that would have ever happened. I don't think we needed more time. I think we just needed to talk. But, I just couldn't convince myself to do it."
Wind stared into Sky's eyes, willing him to understand. The first hero looked thoughtful for a minute before he responded.
"I think we're all guilty of that, myself included. I told it to you in the first place, after all. And yeah, waiting and giving each other some space works sometimes, but not in our case. I should've realized that. So… sorry, I guess."
They stood there, together, listening to the breeze and the birdsong.
"One last thing, Sky."
Sky looked down at Wind. "Yeah?" he said.
"What about Twilight and Legend? They seem really angry at Warriors. Like, actually angry. Are they… I mean, do you think…?"
Sky chuckled a little. "I think Legend and Twi like to bottle up their feelings and never talk to anyone."
They both shared a small laugh at that.
"But," Sky continued. "To answer your question, yeah. I think they miss Warriors too. I'm sure we all do."
Wind nodded. "Okay. And… thanks for talking to me, Sky. You're really good at this whole emotions thing."
Sky laughed again. "It's no problem, Wind. You're pretty good at it yourself. I just wish everyone else was, too. Then maybe we wouldn't be in this mess."
They started walking again, searching for their missing number. The air between them was a little somber, full of things they wished they'd done.
Silently, Wind slipped his hand into Sky's.
At least we're doing them now.
People talk. There's hope again.
It wasn't until twenty minutes after Warriors had deciding to wait that he heard a rustling that sent his heart racing. He tensed, preparing himself for the possibility of it being another hero. But what emerged from the bushes wasn't another Link, or even a Hylian for that matter. It was short, round, and smelled like tree bark and saplings. It chirped a little as it walked on its stubby legs, making Warriors smile a little, even in the midst of everything.
The creature hadn't seemed to notice him, so Warriors tried to stay quiet as it foraged through the grass. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite help himself when it fell over while searching a patch of mushrooms. Warriors snorted, and almost immediately the creature squealed and vanished. He froze for a moment, then frowned, crawling over to the spot to look closer. No... it hadn't vanished. It was just camouflaged. Warriors smiled a little at its timidness.
"It's okay," he whispered. "I won't hurt you."
Slowly, the bush on its back furled inward, and it stood up.
"Who are you?" It twittered. "I don't think I've seen you around before, kikwi? "
"I haven't been here before," he said. "Call me Warriors, though."
The air tinkled as it laughed. "Funny name! Okay though. I'm Erla, by the way."
Warriors nodded as Erla tottered over to him. "Say…" he started casually. "You wouldn't have happened to see a group of about eight or so people around here, would you?"
Erla nodded, or at least as much as a creature without a neck could. "Yeah! There's a bunch of them just down the path. They looked kind of scary though, so I didn't talk to them. But Link was with them, so I guess they must be okay. You kind of remind me of him, actually."
Warriors smiled, though it was a little sad. Sky must love these guys.
"Thanks," he said eventually. "That's all. It was nice meeting you."
"Okay!" Erla chirped. "Goodbye, kikwi! "
Warriors sighed as he watched it vanish into the bushes. So… the rest of them weren't far off. Hell, he could get up and walk to them now, if he wanted to, and it'd barely take two minutes. But the fear that he'd held in him since he'd fled their camp that day was still coiled deep inside him.
He sighed again, then scooted back to the warm patch of grass where he'd been sitting. He'd keep waiting, though it frustrated him to no end.
He didn't want to wait. He wanted things to go back to how they'd been.
But that wasn't going to happen. Not on its own.
Warriors started as he heard another rustling just past the bushes. He looked up curiously, wondering if it was another one of the plant creatures.
His heart nearly stopped when he saw the familiar flash of a bright blue tunic. The smell of saltwater rolled over him, not doing anything to dissuade the pounding in his ears.
"Hey Warriors," Wind said, a small but hopeful smile on his face. "I wanted to talk to you."
It had been a while since Wind and Sky had first set out to search for Warriors, but already Wind felt more hopeful. He knew that behind every tree and mushroom patch was the possibility of finding their captain, and Sky's hand wrapped around his own only reassured him of that.
Warriors was out there, and they'd find him, no matter what it took.
Suddenly, Wind's foot caught and he stumbled. Sky made a noise of surprise at the sudden imbalance.
"Are you alright?" he asked. Wind nodded.
"Yeah, just tripped on… what is that?
It looked just like a small bush, but it was trembling slightly. When Wind put his fingers to it, it was warm.
"I think it's alive," he muttered. Sky crouched beside him, looking down at whatever it was.
"Oh!" Sky said suddenly. "It's a Kikwi!"
Softly, Sky brushed his fingers against the Kikwi's fur. "It's okay," he murmured. "You can come out."
Slowly, the creature got to its feet.
"Link?" It twittered. "I haven't talked to you in ages!" It went in for a hug, which was a little difficult with such tiny arms. But Sky accepted it anyway. "It's nice to see you too," Sky said. "But I'm afraid we have something important to do. Have you seen someone wearing a blue scarf around? He looks a little like me–"
The Kikwi interrupted with a loud cheep. "I have! I just talked to him! He wasn't wearing any scarf though."
Wind frowned a little. It was unusual that Warriors would be caught dead without his scarf. But nonetheless, Wind was mostly relieved that he was at least in the area.
"Can you show us where he is?" he asked. The Kikwi nodded vigorously, then turned with a bounce.
"Just follow me!" It called.
Wind turned to Sky and slipped his hand back into his. Sky smiled, and they both followed their guide into the brush.
"He's just through here!" the Kikwi said in a conspiratorial whisper. Wind squeezed Sky's hand to get his attention. The first hero glanced at him, his head cocked slightly.
"I think you should go back to the camp. Tell the others I found him," Wind murmured.
Sky's mouth parted slightly, and it was a couple seconds before he responded.
"Why?" He asked simply.
Wind bit his lip. "Well, you weren't really… the nicest to him when we… uh, you know. And, well–"
He sighed, giving himself a moment to think. "And I want to talk to him alone."
Sky's confusion cleared up instantly, replaced with a gentle understanding. He placed one hand on Wind's shoulder. The weight was warm and comforting.
"Okay," was all he said. "I'll see you soon."
Then he vanished back into the green, leaving only the fading warmth of his hand.
"I wanted to talk to you."
Warriors was frozen. The gentle sunlight no longer seemed warm, and was much too bright. Wind was here. Wind.
Why, why, why?
He didn't even look angry. He was just smiling gently, the way Sky always did.
And he wanted to talk to him. Why?
Wind must've seen the panic in his eyes, as his expression grew a little more concerned. Silently, the ocean hero tread over to where Warriors was sat and plopped down next to him, not too close to be suffocating, but not too far as to seem distant.
"I've missed you," he said. It felt like a dream. Wind waited a beat, maybe hoping Warriors would respond. When he did not, his expression grew a little tighter. "I think that you should come back to us," he continued, taking the blunt approach. "This whole… waiting and not talking to each other thing isn't helping us at all."
Wind was fully silent after that, patiently awaiting Warriors' reply.
"I–" Warriors choked out. "I just thought…"
He tried to steady his breathing, with minimal results. "I just thought after what happened… that you all wouldn't want to see me for… I don't know. A long time. Ever."
Wind looked thoughtful. "I thought you might say something like that," he said. "And, I guess it isn't really a baseless assumption. But Warriors, you've got to understand…"
Hesitantly, Wind put a hand on Warriors', testing for a reaction. When he didn't flinch, Wind began again.
"You've got to understand, we need you, Warriors. Goddess, it's been awful without you." He gave a bitter laugh. "It just isn't the same when you're not with us. And yeah, you've done some not so great things, but one bad thing doesn't immediately mean you're irredeemable. You can be better. We can help you be better. Whatever happened to you that made you write that stuff…"
Wind's eyes in that moment were so full of hope, so full of something Warriors had thought he'd lost.
"We can work past it. Together. So… will you come back?"
Warriors eyes were burning, but that didn't stop him.
"Yes," he rasped. "Of course."
Wind grinned, the blinding, joyful one that made Warriors wonder how he could've ever once lived without it. Without another word Wind dove into a hug, one so tight he could barely breath.
But he didn't care. Finally, things were getting better. Finally, there was hope again.
Finally, he was going home.