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The Ghosts That We Knew

Chapter Text

Ghirahim laughed as his Master summoned the sword from within him. It was painful, but he didn’t mind; he reveled in the pain, especially since he would be properly wielded to finally be rid of his pest problem. The whelp in green had gotten in his way one too many times, and the humiliation he caused the great Demon Lord was unforgivable. Ghirahim had faced detestable defeat, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth and an unfathomable rage in his heart. Yes, despite the searing pain, he was beyond willing to aid Demise in destroying the insufferable little twit of a “hero” once and for all. All of his efforts to revive his Master would not be in vain; in the capable hands of the Demon King, Ghirahim’s blade would pierce the sky child’s—Link’s—heart. The victory would be most glorious.

A cry of pain burst from the Demon Lord’s lips as the blade fully tore from his chest. Unconsciousness tugged at the corners of his mind as he slumped forward with fatigue. Strange… Had all this time without being used as a proper sword weakened him? He had never felt this exhausted when his true form was summoned. Pathetic. He would be sure to remedy this later with some apparently much-needed strength training.

As he felt himself slipping deeper into the depths of oblivion, Ghirahim couldn’t resist the urge to steal a glance at his enemy. Link stood proud and determined, the newly-formed Master Sword clutched tightly in his left hand. The demon sword could sense that the youth was scared (Good.), but the young man’s determination to protect those important to him and fulfill his duty outweighed the fear. Truly, Link was a man of great courage—that Ghirahim could not deny. It almost impressed him.

Almost.

Yet despite the courage Link exhibited, Ghirahim noticed something else in the hero’s bright blue eyes: pity. His eyes were focused on the sword spirit, the corners of them crinkled slightly in sympathy. The sight enraged Ghirahim. He—the great Demon Lord and ultimate weapon of the all-powerful Demon King Demise—did not need some filthy human’s pity! This was his duty; it was the only purpose he had, and he was proud of it. What right did this infuriating scamp—Goddess-chosen be damned!—have to look upon him with such mockery? The great Lord Ghirahim was not some pathetic, disgusting charity case! This was an outrage! Had he not been a worthy adversary to the boy? Did he not gain the upper hand by returning to the past and freeing his Master, just when the fool and that sniveling Spirit Maiden thought they had won in the present? Regardless of his humiliating defeats at the hand of the hero, he was still a powerful force to be feared and admired! What reason did this pest have to look upon him like that?!

Link’s hand tightened slightly around the hilt of his sword, just for a brief moment. It was a gesture of reassurance, although Ghirahim could not fathom for what. Then it occurred to him: Link was drawing upon and simultaneously showing support to the spirit within the Master Sword. The spirit—Fi, was it?—was not just his weapon, but also his greatest companion. She was his guide and confidant, and the love and respect Link held for her was apparent. Ever with him, Fi would ensure the hero would never be alone; her, as well as Link’s human friends and Skyloftian community. He was loved and supported, which empowered him to keep fighting no matter the odds.

Link was loved and loved just as deeply himself. The sight of Ghirahim reduced to such a state—broken, deranged, used only as a tool—all for the affection of a Master with no affection to spare was the cause of Link’s sympathy. Link (and Fi) were cherished and empowered by their friends; Ghirahim was treated with apathy (on good days) and ultimately alone. As if that mattered! All that Ghirahim valued were power, prestige, and beauty—all of which he possessed. Anything else was a waste of time and made one weak. Despite the green-clad brat’s conviction otherwise, Ghirahim knew such trivial things like friends would only lead to one’s destruction in the end. Link had already lost that wench Zelda, hadn’t he? No matter how emboldened he appeared, Ghirahim could tell Link was demoralized. Yes, he was going to contribute to Link’s destruction with great pleasure.

His vision fading fast and the haze of unconsciousness shrouding his mind, Ghirahim locked eyes with Link. With a smirk, the demon lord mentally cursed the hero:

One day, you will lose everything and know true loneliness. When that time comes, I will return to revel in your despair.

With those thoughts in his heart, the demon succumbed to blackness as his being absorbed into the blade held in Demise’s hand.

Chapter Text

Link exhaled as he removed the Goron mask and felt his body shift back to normal. Goht had not been a difficult adversary, but he was exhausting (because he was annoying), which left the boy with a throbbing headache and a need to just. Sit. Sit, and possibly find a place to grab a much-needed bottle of milk.

I’d go to the Milk Bar back in Clock Town,’ he thought. ‘but I don’t have “proof of membership” or whatever. Seriously, who needs a membership just to drink some milk?’

He sighed again and shook his head.

“Jeez, what’s with you?” Tatl asked, flying in front of his face. “You just beat the Big Bad of this region and set another giant free, that means we’re halfway there!”

“Living on a prayer at this point,” Link grumbled under his breath. “Sorry, I’m glad, but it’s hard to celebrate when I’ll have to reset time again and have all the progress we made be erased.”

He was so sick of time travel. Moreover, he was sick of risking life and limb for everyone only to have everything taken away in the end. In Hyrule, he had traveled through time seven years into the future to defeat Ganondorf and restore light to the land. He had made many friends along his journey, and their strength and belief in him helped push him to victory; he should have known that it wasn’t meant to last, however. When Zelda sent him back to his own time, she didn’t realize that sending him to the point before Ganondorf could carry out his plans would erase valuable friendships to Link. Not having to worry about the Gerudo King anymore meant that Link had no reason to meet the people he helped, and the bonds that brought them together were broken. All of the toil and sacrifice Link went through as an adult (in body only) would never be recognized. Sure, he wasn’t in this hero business for the glory specifically, but it would be nice to have his name remembered along with his title: Link, the Hero of Time.

It was something he could build a place to belong with…

He would love to return to the Kokiri Forest—return home—but that was out of the question. He wanted to be with Saria and his other Kokiri friends again, yet he knew he could never stay. After leaving the forest and discovering he was actually a Hylian, he knew there was no going back to the only family he had ever known. Sure, integrating with other Hylians wouldn’t necessarily be hard, but he would never truly belong with them, just as he never truly belonged with the Kokiri. He was different, and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing to him—not when it came to finding a place to fit in with.

Worse yet—and the whole reason he was currently stuck in a new world trying to save it—was that his most cherished friend left him. Navi had left after he returned the Master Sword to the Pedestal of Time for good. Link had won; he saved Hyrule, so there was no more need for him to have a fairy guide. The little blue fairy—the one being he trusted and depended upon more than anyone else—flew away without so much as an explanation or a simple farewell. Link had waited for her to return (he was so sure she would), but she never did. He refused to believe Navi simply abandoned him now that Hyrule no longer needed him. Something could have happened to her, which was why he had set out on this new journey; he needed to find her.

Yet here he was, stuck in Termina serving as a hero who once again would be forgotten by the people and losing precious time.

“Hey, don’t start having a pity party!” Tatl exclaimed. “Once we stop the Skull Kid for good, I’m sure everything will be fixed! Sure, it stinks that you have to keep losing progress to make progress, but all your hard work will pay off in the end!”

Link smiled.

“Yeah… You’re right. Thanks, Tatl.”

Although they had started off on the wrong foot, he was grateful he had Tatl for company. He didn’t know what he’d do without the yellow fairy’s help. This world was strange and not his own, so Tatl’s expertise was definitely appreciated.

“You’ve got a little over a day and a half before you have to reset time,” the fairy observed. “You should take a moment to appreciate your accomplishments.”

Link nodded. That wasn’t a bad idea. He could definitely use a break (and he still wanted that bottle of milk). Securing Goht’s mask in his pack, he made his way outside of Snowhead Temple. Immediately he noticed the difference; the temperature was much warmer and the snow wasn’t nearly as thick as it had been on the way up to the temple. When they made it to Mountain Village, Link was awestruck by the difference. All the snow had melted, leaving behind vibrant green grass and colorful wildflowers. The ice that formerly coated the lake and froze the stream had thawed, allowing the boy hero to clearly see the fish merrily swimming free from their frigid prison. Birds sang cheery tunes and butterflies fluttered around the flowers. Spring had finally come to the Northern Mountains. Link smiled to himself as he absorbed the warm sunlight and took in the sounds of the earth in bloom. Most importantly of all, he knew the Gorons were safe; they were no longer at risk of freezing and starving to death. The natural cycle had been restored, so the mountains were safe once again—for now.

Link’s mind wandered to the fallen Goron hero, whose ghost besought the boy to save his people in his stead. Link had healed the spirit’s pain, and was thus rewarded with the Goron mask necessary to complete the task of saving the mountains.

Rest in peace, Darmani…’ he thought. ‘Your people are safe now, and your legacy lives on…’

It was funny, in a twisted sort of way. Not very long ago at all, Link remembered being full of innocence and had no reason to think of such “grownup” things like one’s legacy. When he had set off to save Hyrule, he learned much, but there was still that sense of childhood naiveté within him. When he first drew the Master Sword from its pedestal, his body had aged seven years, but his mind was still that of a ten-year-old boy.

Oh, how quickly had that changed.

Zelda had sent him back in time to “regain his lost childhood,” but the irony of it all was that now his mind was that of an adult stuck in the body of a child. It was impossible to regain that which no longer existed; he was forced to grow up immediately the moment he took up the mantle of hero. The proof was manifest in this new quest: Termina depended on him to save it; he was a hardened warrior now, not a child. As much as he wanted to, he could never go back to how he used to be—to properly grow up like he should have been able to—and he never felt more alone.

“Hey, here’s an idea! The Goron races are held during the spring!”

Tatl’s voice startled him from his thoughts.

“Huh…?”

“The Goron races! You could totally use that Goron mask to compete! You might just be good enough to win first place, what with all that practice you got chasing that monster around in a giant circle.”

“Uuugh, don’t remind me,” Link grumbled. “But alright, I’ll look into it—after I check on Goron Village.”

Taking a moment to stretch his tired limbs, Link yawned loudly before starting his trek. When he reached the village, he saw that all was well—except that the Elder’s son was missing. Finding a secluded area, Link slipped on the Goron mask to make inquiries and to make sure the very young Goron was safe. Much to his relief, he noticed immediately that the Elder was back at the village (and no longer trapped in a block of ice on a frozen lake). That was a good sign, so the kid was most likely safe. After receiving a hero’s welcome (for “Darmani,” of course), Link was informed that the Elder’s son was waiting at the racetrack and that was that. He made his way to the track, successfully blew away the boulder blocking the entrance, and followed the Goron child inside. It made him a little sad knowing that the kid’s suffering would start all over once he reset time, but as Tatl said, that suffering would be gone for good once he retrieved Majora’s Mask from the Skull Kid and freed the remaining giants.

He was half tempted to restart time this very second so he could get this mission over with as soon as possible, but something in his gut told him not to. Link wasn’t sure what it was, but he gave into the feeling and took his place at the starting line of the racetrack. A competitive spark ignited within him; he would win first prize. Now was the time to enjoy himself and have a little fun. Once the signal was given, Link pealed off as fast as he could, knocking the other competitors out of his way (because apparently you could do that). Although he had only been a Goron for a little over twenty-four hours, he felt comfortable in the hulking form. He had mastered rolling, so the race wasn’t too difficult. Once the finish line was in sight, he pushed himself as hard as he could to ensure his victory.

When a Goron crept up on him and nearly passed him at the last minute, Link quickly knocked him away and lunged for the finish. That action had resulted in another close-call, but he made it; he had taken first place. With a big smile and an adrenaline rush, Link stood and threw his warms to the sky. The onlookers chanted and cheered, and Link reached out to receive his prize: a bottle of gold dust.

Huh?’ he thought. ‘I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’ll take it. What the heck am I gonna do with it, though? Sell it?’

Well, beggars couldn’t be choosers. He’d figure something out.

Taking the bottle, Link bid the Gorons farewell and left the track. Beside him, Tatl flitted happily.

“That was awesome,” she said. “Told you you could get first place!”

Link removed his mask and smiled.

“Yeah. But what am I supposed to do with this gold dust?”

“Didn’t those guys at the smithy say they could enhance your sword to the most powerful version if you gave them gold dust?”

Link had completely forgotten about that. The day prior he had helped the blacksmiths—Zubora and Gabora—unfreeze their furnace, and in return they had modified his Kokiri Sword into the deadly Razor Sword. The only problem was that the Razor Sword could break after too many uses.

Some upgrade,’ he had thought at the time.

But Tatl was right; Zubora had told him about the gold dust. Yes!

“...Yeah, you’re right! C’mon, Tatl, we’re headed back to Mountain Smithy. I could use a stronger sword.”

As fast as his legs could carry him, the boy hero rushed to the smithy. With a grin, he hurried inside and held up the bottle of gold dust.

“I’d like to upgrade my sword, please! I have gold dust!”

Zubora shot up from his place on the sofa in surprise.

“Whoa, kid, way to give me a heart attack!”

Link rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

“Sorry… It’s just...I have this bottle of gold dust and last time you mentioned upgrading the Razor Sword with it?”

The blacksmith stared at him for a moment before looking at the bottle in his hand.

“Well I’ll be. Alright, and upgrade it is! Gabora, you giant deku stick! Fire it up!”

Behind the counter, the giant masked blacksmith roared. Link unbuckled his sword from himself and set it on the counter along with the gold dust before turning back to Zubora.

“So...how long will it take?” he asked, hoping he had enough time to wait.

Zubora stroked his chin in thought.

“Since you helped us out a great deal while the weather was out of whack, for you I can get it done in two days.”

Link paled and his stomach dropped.

“I...I don’t want to be pushy, but...is there any way you could do it faster?”

The small blacksmith raised an eyebrow.

“You can’t rush perfection, kid!”

“I’ll throw in a hundred rupees.”

That got the man’s attention.

“...I’ll see what I can do, but the quality—”

Link held up his wallet, ready to hand over the money.

“Two hundred for guaranteed top-quality control.”

Gabora moaned from behind the counter. Zubora turned and shot him a look.

“I know it’s a good deal, bonehead! Of course we’re gonna do it!” Turning back to Link, he said, “You drive one hell of a bargain, kid! We’ll make you the best damn sword you’ve ever seen in record time. Gimme a day and a half.”

Link grinned and gave him two silver rupees.

“You got a deal.”

With that, he thanked the blacksmiths and left them to their craft. Outside, Tatl buzzed.

“Where the heck did you learn to negotiate like that?!”

Link grinned.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in such a short period of time, it’s that money talks. Why do you think I smash so many random pots all the time? For fun?”

“I assumed that was part of it, yes.”

“...Yeah, maybe that is a little part of it.”

The two shared a laugh. It was nice to relax a bit, even if it was just for the tiniest moment in time. Link smiled and glanced at his fairy friend.

“Well, since it’s probably a bad idea to go picking fights with random small enemies, I think we should go lay low back in town for a bit.”

“Yeah,” Tatl agreed. “Maybe you can find other people to make happy and get some new masks. Clock Town has loads of problems.”

Link snorted.

Don’t we all?’ he thought.

“Good idea. Who knew masks could be so useful?” he asked, pulling the Ocarina of Time from his pack.

“You’d be surprised,” the fairy replied, waiting for the boy to play.

With a small smile, Link played the Song of Soaring and transported them back to Clock Town. Although all of the songs he knew were useful, this particular one was a favorite of his. It didn’t just take him to temples like the songs Sheik had taught him; it took him all over Termina. It was strange, but despite the fact he was stuck saving the world again, he felt...freer in this new land. The faces were familiar to those in Hyrule, but everything was completely different. The cultures, the deities, the customs—everything. The only thing he would change if he could (besides the ever-present threat of the literal moon falling onto Clock Town) would be the land’s fixation on time. Sure, he was the Hero of Time and it was his thing, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. Here, time was sacred. It was sacred in Hyrule, too, but not to this extent. In Hyrule, the holiest of holies was the golden Triforce left by the three creator Goddesses; in Termina, there was only Time—the concept, and the goddess of it.

Time, time, time—he could never escape it! He couldn’t even escape his own thoughts! Ugh, why was he the “chosen one” again?

Link groaned, the headache from earlier returning with a vengeance.

“On second thought, helping the denizens of Clock Town can wait for another day,” he said, clutching his head. “Right now, I wanna take a nap. ...And drink a nice, cold bottle of milk.”

“Well, looks like we’ll have to sleep outside or something, ‘cause I’m pretty sure all the beds at the Stock Pot Inn are taken right now,” Tatl replied. “And good luck getting milk anywhere in town that’s not the Milk Bar.”

The boy rolled his eyes and crossed his arm.

“Gee, thanks for that. Well, that’s not gonna stop my from trying. I mean, there is that Deku flower outside the inn; I could always just...sneak inside after the place closes and use one of the empty bunk beds in the room the Gorman Troupe is staying in…”

What?! People paid for that room, you know!”

“Yeah, but the Rosa sisters are never there at night—they’re too busy dancing in West Clock Town all night! I’m sure those juggler brothers won’t care since they’re too busy playing cards—they even asked if I wanted to join the last time I was there. And that Gorman guy doesn’t seem to use the room either, so that’s three beds not being used!”

Tatl pinged in outrage.

“What kind of hero are you?!”

Link smirked.

“One who uses his resources, because he’s tired and deserves at least one night in a proper bed after spending so much time trying to save the world. Besides, I can reimburse them if I need to. It’s not like I’m just going to take advantage of them, because I don’t wanna do that. I just. Want to sleep. Just for a little bit.”

Tatl sighed, lowering her wings in defeat.

“Fine, I can’t argue with that. You’re still a kid, after all, and kids need all the sleep they can get.”

“Yeah, see, exactly. That said, when I restart time again, I am definitely getting a room of my own at the inn.” Link nodded, the plan formulating in his mind.

“Yeah, yeah, good luck with that. C’mon, let’s just go already!” Tatl said.

The young hero nodded and began to walk. If he could just secure that bottle of milk, he’d be set. ...Maybe he could bribe a Milk Bar member to smuggle him out a bottle. Either way, Link decided he’d be happy with whatever he got and be grateful for it—be it a bottle of milk, a bed for the night, or a shiny new sword made with glittering gold. Whatever came after, time would tell; but for now, it could wait.

...Though he couldn’t shake the feeling that for some reason, perhaps he shouldn’t have traded his gold dust for a new sword…

That’s stupid,’ Link mentally chastised. ‘I’d need a new sword eventually, and Zubora and Gabora do good work. I’m just antsy that I’m stuck without a sword at all for the next day and a half.’

Yeah, that was it. All he had to do right now was be patient and wait. With time literally held in his hands, he could afford to be patient. Once he had his sword again, he’d be golden.

Yeah…

For now, all he was going to do was focus on finding a bed to nap in. With a determined glint in his eye, he made his way for the Stock Pot Inn.

Chapter Text

Everywhere he looked there was darkness—deep, endless darkness that smothered any glimmer of light that was stupid enough to try and shine through it. It weighed heavily on him, and it made him realize that he was completely, utterly alone. Abandoned, forgotten, expendable. Images raced through his mind of all the people he loved—the people who had forgotten him, who had left him, who had never actually existed. Zelda crossed his mind, and his blood boiled. He didn’t want to fault the princess; just like she didn’t know better when they first met and acted upon her prophecy, she hadn’t known better when she sent him back in time. She was only trying to do what she thought was best, be it for Hyrule over all or for him. There was a reason she was blessed with the Triforce of Wisdom, but...her actions were what nearly caused the destruction of the kingdom. Her actions left him with an empty hole in his heart that would never be filled again. Unintentional repercussions, of course, but repercussions nonetheless.

He cared for her deeply; he considered her to be a wonderful friend—she had entrusted him with the sacred Ocarina of Time basically forever, after all, which was his saving grace in Termina—so why was he so angry with her?

Because even though she claims to be your friend, she will keep herself locked in her castle and rarely have time for you as you both grow older. She left you alone—both on her own, and through her actions of severing the ties you had made after meeting her. She assumed the memories of her would be enough for you, so she doesn’t have to put forth an effort.

He looked around apprehensively. Who was that? He didn’t recognize that voice, yet...it also sounded familiar…

“That’s...no, that’s not true… Who are you…?!”

A low, amused chuckle rang through the darkness.

ghirahim

“What…? I don’t…I don’t understand…”

Silence. Crushing, deafening silence. He was once again alone. Despite himself, he felt tears well in his eyes. Stifling a quiet sob, he furiously rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. Crying would get him nowhere.

yourfateistobealone

He knew the owner of voice was messing with him; whoever it was spoke perfect Hylian earlier, but now they spoke in a language he couldn’t understand.

“Stop messing around…!!” he shouted, starting to grow angry.

Your fears called to me. Your doubts, your despair. They have reached me, and I have answered your call. You are a broken boy, I see it clearly. Though I must admit, you were not what I was expecting.

“Enough of this! Tell me who you are!”

All will be revealed in time, little forest child.

“You—”

“HEY!! Wake up already!!”

Link jolted upright at Tatl’s shouting in his ear.

“Huh…? What…?” he muttered groggily. “Tatl…?”

“Jeez, were you having a nightmare or what? You were tossing and turning and groaning like you were in danger or something!”

Link yawned and sat up.

“How long was I asleep for?”

“A long time, almost to the point of overstaying your welcome. You’ve been asleep for almost a full day!”

The boy’s eyes widened.

“So, wait. It’s…”

A large tremor shook the earth. Link knew immediately what that meant.

“It’s the Final Day…” he whispered.

“Almost evening of the Final Day,” Tatl clarified. “The nice inn lady decided to let you stay and sleep while she was cleaning—after I begged and sweet-talked her for you, so you owe me! She and her family are leaving this evening, so you need to get out!”

“Right, right…”

After taking a moment to stretch, Link stood up and grabbed his equipment. He almost panicked when there was no sword to be found, but then he remembered he had left it at the Mountain Smithy for an upgrade.

“...Do you think those guys are done working on my sword?”

Tatl snorted.

“Don’t push it, Mr. Hero. They said a day in a half. You’re pushing it real close, so I’d suggest checking back later tonight. Maybe even in the early hours of the morning before dawn since you know. The moon will fall then.”

Link sighed. She had a point. He knew he was pushing his luck, but he had faith regardless. If he really wanted to, he could reset time, face Goht early in the morning of the First Day, win the gold dust later that same morning, and have his new sword by afternoon of the Final Day at the latest. However, he’d already made it this far, and he really didn’t want to waste more valuable time in his ultimate mission to find Navi by repeating essentially the same three days. If his sword wasn’t completed tonight, then that was that; there would be no new upgrade.

“Here’s to hoping,” he said with a shrug. “So, what should we do in the meantime?”

“Well, why not do what you’re good at? Wandering aimlessly.”

The hero glared at the fairy.

“Wow, rude.”

“I’m just being honest! And you asked, so I gave you a suggestion!”

Link rolled his eyes.

“Whatever, let’s just go.”

Feeling agitated, the boy made his way out of the Stock Pot Inn. As he roamed the streets, his mind wandered to the dream he had. It was horrible, and it felt so real. The feelings of anger, sadness, and loneliness were so intense, and the arrogant voice that taunted him in a foreign language sounded so clear and sure. It was annoying. He hated the way the darkness and voice in his dream amplified the feelings he tried to ignore. He didn’t want to be angry at anyone, especially not at Princess Zelda, and he wanted to take solace in the fact that he did still have friends who would always remember him—Saria, Malon, Zelda.

...And Navi. Right?

Stop, she’d never forget you!’ Link thought. ‘She just wouldn’t…’

Just because she wasn’t there with him didn’t mean their friendship was any different. She left to do whatever she had to do, but she would always be his friend. This he knew.

She abandoned you.

Link furiously shook the thought away. No way. Navi did not abandon him. He’d find her, ask her why she left, get an explanation, and have his fears put to rest when she told him she had to go. He’d understand. No stupid dream would convince him otherwise. He may be alone, but there were still people who were in his corner and believed in him.

But they won’t remember your accomplishments. No one will, and you’ll die alone in obscurity.

Where were these thoughts coming from? He refused to believe them!

...But then again, he knew they were his own; they were what he felt deep in his heart. What was the point in being a hero when no one would ever remember you and what you did…?

Tatl’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Hey, are you okay? You’ve got this look on your face.”

Link looked at her.

“What look?”

“A look of pain.”

“Well, I’m fine. Just thinking about my dream. Sorry for worrying you…”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Well, alright. But if you ever want to, I’m here.” The fairy paused to choose her next words carefully. “I know…we’re not close or anything, but we’re still in this together, so… I’m here to listen.”

Link smiled, his frustration melting away. Although he knew they would part ways when their journey was over, he truly appreciated her. He loved her as his friend, and he was grateful to have made a new valuable connection with someone who would always remember him even when they were apart.

“Thanks, Tatl. I appreciate it.”

The fairy nodded.

“Alright, enough of that, then!” she said. “We’ve got some time to kill before we get that sword of yours, so let’s go!”

“Right!” Link said, grinning as they continued on their way.

They decided the best thing to do would be to make their way to Mountain Village by foot. The hike took them a few hours the first time, but then again it had been covered with thick snow. Link was certain it wouldn’t take as long with a clear path, so he meandered about on the way up. He took in the scenery this time and determined that the mountains would be a nice place to live—second to the forest, because mountains were cold and wide open; forests were temperate and dense, which Link preferred most of all. Ignoring the pang of homesickness in his heart, he pushed forward. By the time they had reached the village, it was well into the evening.

The ground trembled more frequently now, and the red of the night sky ominously foretold the destruction to come. Although Link was used to such phenomena by now, it still chilled him to the core every time. If he didn’t have his sacred ocarina, Termina would have been lost already, and he most likely would have been as well. He was very fortunate indeed.

As tempted as he was to enter the smithy, he stopped himself; he would give it until midnight. In the meantime, he walked about to and fro, idly moving and lost in thought. The moment he heard the distant chime Clock Town’s clock tower, he rushed for the door. Upon entering, he was greeted by a chipper Zubora.

“Great timing!” the blacksmith exclaimed. “We just finished. C’mere, have a look at this bad boy.”

Link bit down his giddiness as he approached the counter. There, resting in all its glory, was the most beautiful weapon he had ever seen. The blade was long and white, with three large golden diamond shapes proudly gilded into the bottom, center, and tip. The hilt was a deep red and vibrant white matching the blade, a smaller gold diamond-shaped jewel studding the center of the red. It was glorious.

Zubora grinned.

“I give you the Gilded Sword! It’s my finest piece of work, if I do say so myself. That blade will never break—I made sure of it.”

Link looked at him curiously.

“Really?”

Really. And it’s sharper than any other sword out there! It’ll never dull, my friend!”

The boy hero’s eyes widened.

“How is that even possible?” he asked, bewildered.

The blacksmith smirked.

“Your generous patronage warranted the use of something special. You see, kid, the secret to making a beauty like this lies with a special little stone: diamonds.”

“Diamonds…?”

“Harder ‘n sharper than any stone or metal out there, I’ll tell you that! Normally I don’t break out these bad boys since they’re rare and expensive, but I like you, kid. Since you helped me out quite a bit, consider this my debt to you paid in full—with interest and all that. That sword has been reinforced with only the finest quality of diamonds. It’s a lovely compliment to the steel and gold~”

Link was left flabbergasted; he’d never heard of such a thing before, and it was so generous of Zubora and Gabora to do all of this in such a short period of time. At a loss for words, the boy simply picked up the sword to get a feel for it; he was not disappointed. The balance was perfect and the weight of it felt comfortable in his hand. Although it was a bit big for his small stature, he knew he could wield it well enough—and grow into it, which was even better since he had no plans of replacing it. It was perfect; a blade meant only for him that he never had to give up. It was his and his alone, and nobody could ever tell him what to do with it or how to use it. It was all he could ever want.

“Incredible…” he mused.

“Ain’t that the truth!” Zubora said. “That sword’ll outlive us all, I’d wager. ‘Cause you know, diamonds are forever.”

Link only nodded in response.

I’ll make sure I’m buried with this sword when my time comes,’ he thought. ‘This is a champion’s sword.’

After another moment of admiring and testing his new weapon, the boy smiled at the blacksmiths and bowed respectfully.

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s perfect—way beyond my expectations.”

Gabora grunted in satisfaction and Zubora rubbed his hands together in mirth.

“Our pleasure,” the small man said. “Do great things with that masterpiece, kid!”

Link nodded (a bit too enthusiastically) before sheathing the blade and turning to exit the smithy. Once he was outside, he unsheathed it again to admire it some more.

It truly was a work of art as much as a deadly weapon. It really surpassed anything Link had ever wielded—including the Master Sword itself. The fact of the matter was that this was his—Link’s—blade, not a legendary hero’s blade meant to serve only one purpose. It was made for him specifically and no other.

“Wow,” Tatl said. “Sure surpassed my expectations. You really love it, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” Link replied, beaming ear to ear. “I feel chic and powerful with this thing!”

“It’s an improvement, for sure. But, uh, you might want to reset time if you want to keep admiring your sword.”

“Ah…!”

Link nodded and scrambled to retrieve his ocarina. Closing his eyes, he recalled the melody of the Song of Time. His notes echoed clear and true, and the world began to shift. Bracing himself, he descended into the familiar bright light that took him backwards in time. Once again he found himself standing outside of Clock Town’s clock tower on the dawn of the First Day, rupeeless, bombless, and arrowless, but masks and new Gilded Sword in tact. Despite the small pang in his heart for progress lost, he grinned.

“Yes! It’s still here!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “Now we can get back to work, but with style.”

Tatl rolled her eyes.

“Okay, you don’t love that sword. You’re in love with that sword.”

Link grinned cheekily at her.

“Guilty as charged. At least it’ll never leave me~”

It was meant to be a joke, but the weight of his words stuck with him. Of course it wouldn’t leave him; it couldn’t. It was just an object.

“Hey, hey, hey, stop that!” Tatl cried. “You’re dampening your own good mood for no reason! Seriously, what’s your deal?”

“Sorry, sorry! It’s nothing, I’m fine. Seriously.”

Tatl eyed the boy suspiciously before sighing and relenting.

“Alright. What’s our next course of action, then?”

The young hero answered without hesitation: “We go get Epona.”

“Your horse, right? Yeah, good idea. It was weird how that girl wouldn’t let you have it back when you stopped by that ranch last time.”

Her,” Link corrected firmly. “Not ‘it.’ Epona is a girl, and she’s my friend.”

“Fine, her. Sorry, sheesh! Anyway, I’m guessing something happens between now and the Final Day that’ll make it impossible to get your horse back. Since you have the means to blow that boulder blocking the way to smithereens now, we can get her today!”

The boy nodded in agreement.

“Sounds good, let’s go. Hopefully we’ll be back in time to properly book a room at the inn.”

“That again?! Jeez, you’re not letting it go, are you?”

“Nope~ Not a chance.”

Chuckling to himself, Link made his way to the Bomb Shop in West Clock Town for a Powder Keg. The next couple hours flew by as he warped to Milk Road, destroyed the boulder obstructing the path to Romani Ranch, was recruited by Romani to help her defend the cows from “Them” (whoever they were), and was finally reunited with his horse companion. He hated how they had gated her during her time there; Romani and Cremia had taken care of her well enough, but Epona needed space to roam around. Regardless, though, that was in the past. What mattered was that Link and Epona were together again—and with enough time to reserve a room (more like steal the reservation, since the guy who booked it shared his name) at the Stock Pot Inn. With a whole twelve hours to go before he had to be back at the ranch, Link flopped onto one of the two large beds in the Knife Chamber.

“Aaah…” he sighed. “These beds are much better than those bunk beds…”

“Hmph, this is still a pretty ramshackle inn,” Tatl huffed. “But we’re staying for free, so.”

I think it’s nice. I mean, we get our own fireplace and everything!”

“You’re impressed way too easily.”

“I lived in the forest all my life and never left until recently. Can you blame me?”

The fairy sighed.

“No, I suppose not.”

Link nodded and got up to gingerly place the Gilded Sword and his shield on the other bed.

“Seriously?” Tatl asked.

“You’re not gonna use it, so yes. Seriously,” Link replied huffily. “Now, I’m gonna take a nap. If I’m going to help defend Romani Ranch tonight, I think a little rest is warranted.”

“Fine, I’ll wake you up later tonight.”

“Thanks.”

Link removed his boots and hat, then flopped back onto his chosen bed. Stretching out, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

The darkness returned, and with it all the horrible feelings he tried to fight. The voice he heard before wasn’t there, but Link still felt overwhelmed and frustrated. He tried to find his way out of the abyss, but all his efforts were in vain; he was trapped. Alone and overpowered, it took all his strength to resist the urge to sink into his despair. Instead, he forced himself to wake up. When he opened his eyes, he noticed that the sun was beginning to set. All was quiet, save for the crackling fire in the hearth and Tatl trembling inside his hat.

...Wait.

Why was Tatl hiding inside his hat? Furrowing his eyebrows, Link opened his mouth to ask her what was wrong, but a deep chuckle from behind him interrupted his train of thought. Jolting up in alarm, the boy turned around to see a strange man sitting on the previously vacant bed. He was like no man Link had ever seen before: tall—ridiculously taller than a normal man—and thin, pale grey skin, snow-white hair covering half of his face, dark charcoal eyes, and...was he wearing makeup? Or were the white lips and purple markings around his eyes actually part of his skin?

He donned an elegant red cloak, the inside decorated with a familiar gold diamond pattern. Beneath the cloak he work a white one-piece suit, with large diamond-shaped cutouts running up the entirety of his legs and torso—as well as up the arms of his matching white gloves. A blue diamond earring glinted from his ear, and a large red diamond glimmered proudly on his golden belt. A golden, diamond-patterned bangle decorated his upper right arm. Everything about him reminded Link of the Gilded Sword.

Worst of all, the man wore a cocky smirk upon his lips, and his dark eyes glinting coldly.

“My, my. You certainly weren’t what I expected,” he practically purred. “I wasn’t expecting to see you as an actual child.”

Link gritted his teeth and reached for his bow.

“How are you here?!” he demanded.

It was a stupid first question to ask, but he was so taken off guard that it was the first thing that came out of his mouth. The stranger’s smirk widened. Link could tell the man understood his meaning, but his answer hinted at something else:

“Why, Link, haven’t you heard? Diamonds are forever.”

Chapter Text

Link stared at the man, thunderstruck. Said man only chuckled in response.

“What ever is the matter?” he asked. “Bokoblin got your tongue?”

Link had no idea what a “bokoblin” was, nor did he care. What he did care about was that there was an uninvited stranger in his room,.

“Who are you,” the boy demanded. “How did you get in here.”

“Ah, here I am being absolutely uncivil once again! Apparently green-glad urchins have that effect on me.”

Link’s blood boiled at being called and urchin. The hubris of this infuriating man oozed into the air. If there was one thing the young hero couldn’t stand, it was people who were too full of themselves. He was about to tell the arrogant stranger off, but the man continued with his unnecessarily long introduction.

“My name is Ghirahim,” he said, flipping his hair flamboyantly. “I usually prefer to be addressed by my full title—Lord Ghirahim—but you may refer to me as the former.”

Ghirahim. Ugh, Link didn’t have to even say the name out loud for it to leave a bad taste in his mouth.

“Okaaay…” he said, at a loss for words (and not in the mood to chat). “What are you doing here? What do you want?”

Ghirahim grinned. The expression unnerved Link.

“Why, I’m here to keep you company, of course! I’m here to watch you bumble through your miserable life and relish in your failures and misery~ Unfortunately, I’m afraid I cannot let go of past offenses, and I’ve been hanging onto this one for several hundred years now.”

Link furrowed his eyebrows.

What? That’s so stupid, I’ve never done anything to you! Several hundred years? I’m only ten!”

The white-haired man sighed.

“Oh, I see that. I’m quite annoyed that I have to serve as a babysitter, but I’ll take what I can get.” His frown immediately twisted into another unsettling grin. “You are so full of rage and despair, it’s absolutely delightful! You’re a broken boy, so different from the man whom you owe your wretched existence~”

The young hero grit his teeth, his eyes blazing with fury. He had no idea what was going on, and this self-assured asshole sounded exactly like the voice from his dream.

...Wait.

You!” he cried. “You’re the voice from my dream!”

Ghirahim chuckled and clapped his hands.

“How observant~”

Link seethed.

“I’ll ask you again: how are you here?”

The strange man clicked his tongue and picked up the Gilded Sword. Link fought back the urge to lunge and try to grab it from him.

Exquisite,” Ghirahim mused. “My former shape was an object to behold, one of great beauty, but this. This is the very essence of radiance! Its power, its form! From the ashes I have risen, and I have become positively divine~!”

Link started at him, absolutely aghast.

“That…that doesn’t answer my question!” he exclaimed. “What are you even talking about?!”

Ghirahim tore his attention away from the sword and focused on the hero.

“I suppose I’ll have to abridge my story so your tiny child brain doesn’t implode.”

“You slimy son of a—”

The white-haired man held up a hand, interrupting him.

“I am a sword spirit once belonging to the great Demon Sword of the ancient Demon King. My former Master clashed with the Hero of the Sky—the very first incarnation of you—and lost. In the process, my previous form—again, the Demon Sword—shattered.”

He paused to flip his hair again, a dark expression on his face.

“However, due to time travel—I traveled back in time to revive my former Master since he was defeated in the present—my most current self was destroyed, but my past self still lived, Masterless and aware of a future that went awry. Having no Master to maintain the Demon Sword, over the centuries it began to crumble. Since I am a sword spirit, I cannot die unless the blade housing me is destroyed. During the final battle with that wretched sky child, I cursed him; I said I would return when he knew true loneliness. I sensed your despair and was awakened from my slumber. I was on my last leg, to be sure, since the Demon Sword was all but dust, but you provided me with a new body—one far more glorious than the last~”

Link tried to let the story sink in, but he had so many questions. Sword spirit? Demon Sword? Demon King? Hero of the Sky—an incarnation of himself? A curse? This was just too much. Not knowing what to say, he glanced back at Tatl.

The fairy must have interpreted his look as a call for backup, for she forced herself out of the boy’s had and flew to his side.

“What a load of crap!” she exclaimed. “I don’t care who or what you are—I won’t let you cause Link any grief! He’s with me, so he’s under my protection, you hear me?!”

Ghirahim’s lip curled in distaste.

“A fairy. And one with a big mouth, no less. How dull.”

WHAT?! C’mere and say that to my face, you creep!”

The sword spirit waved a dismissive hand at her. Tatl trembled in rage, which upset Link even more.

“Okay, let’s get one thing straight,” he said darkly. “I have a lot of questions for you, but I’m gonna tell you right now that you will not disrespect Tatl like that. Say whatever you want to me, I don’t care, but leave my friend out of this.”

Ghirahim examined his hand disinterestedly.

“Fine, I have no qualms with your fairy. However, I will not hesitate to defend myself should she start trouble with me.”

Excuse you! You’re the one who started all of this!” Tatl snapped. “You think I’m just gonna sit back and let you run all over Link like that?! Shameful! You’re the worst of the worst, you absolute lowlife!!”

Link couldn’t help but smile at Tatl’s courage and loyalty. He held up a hand to calm her.

“Thank you, Tatl…” he said warmly. “Don’t worry, though. I can handle this jerk.”

The fairy lowered her wings, upset with the situation.

“I know you can,” she said. “But it still makes me mad that he’s saying such horrible things to you. You don’t deserve any of that. You did nothing wrong, and nobody has any right to hurt you or kick you when you’re already down.”

Link’s smile broadened.

“You’re a true friend, Tatl.”

Ghirahim made a gagging motion, drawing the attention back to himself.

Spare me your sickening display of friendship. Ugh, what a loathsome taste it puts in my mouth.”

Link scowled at him.

You in general put a ‘loathsome’ taste in the mouth,” he growled in retort. “Anyway, if you’re now living in my sword, doesn’t that make me your new Master?”

The white-haired man’s face twisted into an awful sneer.

Technically,” he hissed. “But I refuse to serve you like I served my former Master. You have my gratitude for providing me with a new body and lifeline, but know that I am only here to watch you suffer. I am owed that much for all the shame your former self brought me.”

The boy hero snorted and crossed his arms.

“You brought shame to yourself. That’s what you get when you do evil.”

“You understand nothing, child!!” Ghirahim shouted, his proud demeanor dissolving into one of derangement. “You think you know what good and evil are, yet who decides those terms?! The world is not black and white—how are you so quick to judge me when you know nothing of my intentions?!”

Link was stunned by the spirit’s unexpected outburst. Despite his hubris, apparently Ghirahim had more insecurities than he let on. Still, Link frowned at him.

Evil is defined by your actions,” he answered. “You sit here claiming to only be here because you want to see me suffer due to something that happened in the past—something that I personally had no control over. I am not this ‘Hero of the Sky.’ We may share the same spirit, but we are not the same person. Even so, taking pleasure in someone else’s pain just because you’ve been slighted is wrong. Wanting to hurt someone out of spite is evil.”

Ghirahim growled in response.

“You have no idea of the struggle I have been through—of the oppression I’ve had to endure.”

“Nor you have any idea of mine!” Link snapped. “Don’t you get it?! Revenge accomplishes nothing! What good does it do you to watch me struggle?! All it does is give you something to stroke your ego over—it doesn’t change anything!”

The boy paused to calm himself, his breathing haggard and his heart palpitating intensely. He did not break eye contact with the man.

“...We can work together,” he continued, soft yet firm. “If you’re stuck with me, why allow yourself to be stuck in a constant state of hatred? I don’t want you to suffer, and I don’t want you to hate me, especially since we’re in this together now.”

The sword spirit stared at the boy, his face having gradually shifted into a neutral expression. Although the hero was literally a child, he clearly possessed a wisdom beyond his years. The fierce determination in his large blue eyes was the same as the Hero of the Sky’s, but his heart was completely divergent. Though this boy shared the ancient hero’s spirit, he had been tempered in an entirely different way—a way that allowed the child to recognize and empathize with the pain of others. Within this boy there was no sympathy to be found; there was only empathy. He had experienced loss and grief his former incarnation could never fathom, and the result was a young hero who understood true suffering and sacrifice.

Ghirahim chuckled. Although he still didn’t care for the boy, he had at least earned his respect.

“Alright, little forest child. I hear you. I will put forth and effort to work with you. However! Do not anticipate any sort of camaraderie from me. I am only willing to serve as your sword. Nothing more.”

Link exhaled in relief, allowing himself to relax.

“Fair,” he said. “That’s fair. I’m not asking you to like me, I’m just asking for your cooperation.”

Ghirahim laughed—not his usual condescending, ruthless laugh, but a genuinely amused one. This kid really was something else! They hadn’t known each other for even an hour, and already the tension between them had decreased.

“You have my word,” he replied with a chortle. “I will cooperate with you.”

Despite himself, Link grinned.

“That settles it, then.”

Beside him, Tatl buzzed anxiously next to his ear.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked. “I don’t trust him at all.”

“Well,” Link said, considering her words. “I don’t either, but we don’t really have much of a choice.”

Ghirahim snorted in response to their conversation.

“I presume the expression ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ is lost on you.”

The young hero blinked at him in confusion.

“But you’re not my enemy…? At least I don’t consider you one—anymore, at least.”

The sword spirit smirked.

“We shall see, forest child~”

Harrumphing, definitely not in the mood to play games, Link threw his pillow at the man, smacking him square in the face. Ghirahim gasped in outrage and threw it back at the boy with force, knocking him clear off the bed and onto the floor.

Ow!” Link shouted.

“Serves you right, you scamp! How dare you mess up my perfect hair!” Ghirahim retorted, trying to fix his pride and joy.

“Could you not be so full of yourself for five seconds?!”

“Could you not be so annoying for one?!”

“Why you—!”

Tatl sighed as the two bickered. She had a bad feeling about this, but she knew there was nothing she could do to stop it. Link had made up his mind, after all, and there was no stopping the stubborn boy once he got an idea in his head. She just hoped her friend wouldn’t come to regret letting this demon stay with him later down the road. It was wise to “keep your enemy close,” but she wasn’t sure that he should be kept that close. There was no way Ghirahim had completely changed his tune as a result of Link’s (surprisingly wise) lecture; he definitely had something up his sleeve—there’s no reason he wouldn’t, especially if he had been waiting for this moment for centuries. She would keep a close eye on the spirit while she was with Link, but once their journey together came to an end…

Well, she just hoped Link’s belief in Ghirahim wasn’t misguided.

...Only Time would tell...

Chapter Text

Link was exhausted. Ghirahim’s sudden appearance had interrupted his rest, and any attempt to try and go back to sleep had ended in some sort of argument with the sword spirit, hence making sleep impossible. He had left Clock Town around midnight to ensure he was at Romani Ranch and prepared for battle before 2:30AM. When “They” appeared, Link rushed into action, adrenaline waking him up—that, and Ghirahim’s unnecessarily loud comments in his head (“What are those?!”). Honestly, it unnerved him that the man could be inside his head when he resided within the Gilded Sword (which they agreed would be whenever Link was in public or when Link was traversing dungeons—so, most of the time), but in a strange way it was kind of comforting.

Ghirahim had complimented him on his horseback archery skills, which filled Link with pride. He sensed that the “demon lord” or whatever he called himself was not easily impressed, so Link accepted the compliment appreciatively. The spirit had also proven himself quite useful, as he would notify Link if one of “Them” was getting too close to the barn or guiding him where to shoot an arrow in the midst of the fray. He was also composed and patient when he was in an assisting mood, severing as the sort of mentor the young hero had always wanted but never had before.

...It was kind of nice…

After spending all night riding around and shooting (ghosts? Beings from another world?) “Them,” Link was rewarded with a large bottle of Romani Ranch milk for his efforts, as well as the title of “little hero” from Romani herself (which was much better than “Grasshopper” in his opinion). Now, he found himself sitting on the grassy hill, bottle of milk open in his hand, with Epona grazing and Tatl resting on his shoulder. Ghirahim snapped out of the Gilded Sword in a flash of gold and black diamonds and stood beside him. Together, they all watched the sky and waited for the sun to rise. Link took a hearty swig of his milk, currently at peace with the world.

“Feel better now that you finally got that bottle of milk you wanted?” Tatl asked.

Link grinned.

Oh yeah. I really needed this.”

“Good!” the fairy exclaimed. “Now maybe you’ll stop complaining!”

“Hey!”

Ghirahim chuckled in amusement.

“I would have demanded more of a reward for such efforts,” he announced. “Your contentment with such a simple payment is both concerning and amusing.”

Link snorted and took another drink of milk.

“Well clearly we just have different preferences,” he retorted. Glancing at the spirit, he extended the bottle to him. “Want a drink?”

The white-haired man recoiled in disgust.

“And be subjected to your filthy backwash? Absolutely not!” he shrieked.

The boy hero shrugged and brought the bottle back to his lips.

“No skin off my nose. More for me, then~”

Ghirahim rolled his eyes dramatically.

“What atrocious manners! Have you no class, child?”

Mimicking the demon lord’s dramatics, Link theatrically brought a hand to his chest.

“I am what they call a diamond in the rough,” he retorted with mock pretentiousness.

“I would not take that as a compliment. How uncouth.”

“Well I do, and I don’t care, so that’s that.”

To drive home his point, Link stuck his tongue out at the man. Tatl laughed from her place on his shoulder, and even Epona appeared to snicker—in her own horsey way. He felt smug when he noticed Ghirahim’s eye twitch. That smugness didn’t last long, though, when the demon lord got in his face and stuck his own tongue out.

….His freakishly long, pointed, disgustingly animated demon tongue...

Link scrambled backwards in shock and repulsion. Tatl flew way back, sure to stay out of the way.

Gross!!” the hero yelped. “Put that thing back in your mouth!”

Ghirahim smirked and made it a point to lick his lips before complying.

“Mmm, that’s a game you don’t want to play, Link~ As you can see, clearly I have the advantage~”

“Ugh, that’s disgusting,” the boy said with a grimace. “Fine, I won’t stick my tongue out at you anymore. Anything to never see that again.”

“Yeah, good!” Tatl agreed, feeling sick to her stomach. “I never wanna see it again, either!”

The demon lord chuckled and flipped his hair (Farore, was that getting annoying).

“I accept your surrender~” he purred. “I gladly claim this humble victory~

It was Link’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Just shut up already and enjoy the sunrise.”

My, someone is irritable.”

Gee, I wonder why?”

Tatl sighed. The last thing she wanted to hear was more of their stupid bickering, but she knew she needed to get used to it since she had a feeling it would be happening often.

Deciding to interject in an attempt to shut them up, she said, “Hey! Now that the sun is nearly up, maybe we should decide what we’re doing for the day?”

Link and Ghirahim looked at her. The boy decided to take the opportunity to elbow the demon in the side; said demon hissed in outrage.

“You’re absolutely right, Tatl,” Link said, ignoring Ghirahim’s cursing. “I was thinking we just hang out here today. There’s a ton of stuff to do that seems like fun.”

“What about the ocean giant?” the fairy asked.

“That comes next. Right now, I want to take a break. Besides, maybe the people around here need help. We already helped Romani and made her happy, so why not bring happiness to the other people here?”

“Well, alright. Can’t argue with that. Maybe you’ll get a couple new masks out of it.”

The boy nodded.

Exactly.”

Ghirahim scoffed behind him.

“You expect me to stay cooped up in that sword all day just so you can play and run other people’s errands?”

Link shot him a look.

“That’s exactly what I expect you to do, yeah,” he deadpanned.

The sword spirit sneered in response.

Outrageous! After all the assistance I provided you with tonight, this is the thanks I get?”

“I gave you more recognition and praise tonight than I’ll ever get in my lifetime, probably,” Link grumbled under his breath. “Are you really this selfish?”

An awkward silence filled the space between them. Link felt Ghirahim’s eyes on him, but he kept his gaze averted. The air was tense and uncomfortable, and he found himself regretting ever saying anything at all. This was just great; he was making himself vulnerable in front of the person who wanted to see him reduced to such a state. How pathetic was he?

He heard Ghirahim sigh and glanced over at him.

“Alright, Link, I will do as you ask,” he said. “I concede.”

With that, the demon lord snapped his fingers and flashed into the Gilded Sword. Link sighed as well.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

Tatl flew to his side.

“You’re not okay, Link,” she observed. “I have no idea what happened to you before we met, but clearly it wasn’t good… Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

Link shook his head.

“No, but thank you. I’m…not okay now, but I will be eventually.” he paused to smile at his friend. “I just have to keep going and I’ll find my way.”

The fairy studied him sadly, but knew better than to push the issue. Instead, she relented again to this enigmatic boy from another world.

“Alright, Link,” she said, echoing Ghirahim’s words. “You win.”

The young hero smiled at her and nodded.

“Thank you,” he said again, right before the cucco crowed to rouse Romani Ranch’s residents into a new day.

~~~~~~~~~~

Link had thoroughly enjoyed his day at the ranch. He had won several bets at Mamamu Yan’s dog races, had helped baby chicks grow into fine cuccos for Grog the cucco keeper (and received the Bunny Hood for his troubles), and got in some target practice with Romani. As evening approached, he was informed that Cremia was going to Clock Town to make a delivery for the Milk Bar and figured he would hitch a ride back with her. Although he was used to seeing Romani and Cremia by now, he couldn’t help but think of Malon every time he saw them.

After he had to leave the Kokiri Forest (for the second time, but this time without a quest to save Hyrule), he spent much of his time at Lon Lon Ranch with her—more than he was able to when he was first serving as the Hero of Time. They had a lot of fun together, and she had taught him Epona’s song. She had even allowed him to take the horse off on this current quest. He missed Malon, so part of him felt obligated to help Romani and Cremia because he felt like he was helping his dear friend by extension. In a way, it made him feel like he had more of a purpose again.

You must really like this Malon girl.

Link jolted at Ghirahim’s sudden voice in his head. Thankfully Cremia hadn’t noticed.

Don’t scare me like that!’ he mentally chastised the demon. ‘And stop reading my thoughts!’

It’s not like I can turn you off when I’m stuck in your sword. Believe me, I would love nothing more than to tune you out if I could. But alas, this is an unfortunate burden we both must share so long as I am your weapon.

I never asked you to be my weapon in the first place. You just barged in uninvited and took over.’

The curse I cast would be fulfilled regardless if it was you or any other reincarnation of the Hero. You just so happened to be the unlucky winner because you are the first to experience true loneliness. It’s actually quite sad, even for me . You’re so, so young; it doesn’t feel right.

Link quietly snorted as Cremia droned on.

My age has nothing to do with it.’

Your age has everything to do with it.

I’m old enough to still be a hero.’

That responsibility was thrust upon you far too soon.

What do you even care?’

I don’t. I’m just disappointed that I can’t torment you like I had planned. I do not toy with actual children . I may be a demon, but I’m not a monster .

The young hero furrowed his eyebrows.

You’re strange.’

As are you. There is no other child your age like you.

Link was about to respond, but the wagon coming to an abrupt stop distracted him. He looked up and saw a large gate blocking the path straight down Milk Road. That had not been there before. Something wasn’t right.

Link, ready your bow.

The boy nodded to himself and drew his bow, right as Cremia echoed Ghirahim’s command:

“Boy, get your bow ready.”

The woman steered her wagon around the gate and onto what appeared to be a large racetrack. She tried to turn out at a nearby opening, but that “opening” was also gated off. Cremia muttered something unladylike under her breath.

“Looks like we have to take a detour through ugly country,” she said. “Hold on, I’m going to try and get us through as fast as I can. If anyone starts chasing us, ward them off with arrows. We need to keep this cargo safe.”

Link didn’t understand why anyone would want to chase Cremia and destroy her cargo, but clearly someone had it out for her. Not matter what, he would not fail in defending her.

Wicked emotions permeate this place. Be vigilant, child. Whoever is lurking about in the shadows intends to do harm.

Link gripped his bow tighter and nodded.

I’m on it.’

As if right on cue, two masked figures wielding pitchforks came riding out of the shadows. Cremia let out a startled gasp as she spurred her mules into a full gallop. Link growled and raised his bow, aiming to ensure that no one would be hurt but would be startled enough to stay back. As one of the masked villains drew closer to the wagon, pitchfork raised to strike a jar of milk, Link fired an arrow. The fiend fell back. With an obnoxious whoop, the second rider attempted the same feat; Link in turn repeated his defense.

Idiots,’ he thought, irritated that the two bandits kept repeating the same motions over and over when it was clear that they wouldn’t be getting close to the wagon that way.

I was going for something a little more fitting for swine such as them: dumbasses.

Link snorted, a small grin spreading across his face. Maybe it wasn’t so bad having Ghirahim in his head after all.

Look sharp, Link!

At the same time Ghirahim shouted his warning, Tatl screamed her own: “Whoa, what’s that jerk doing?! Look out!!”

“Huh?”

He quickly looked up to see one of the riders raising his pitchfork, as if to throw it straight at Link. The boy’s eyes widened as he fumbled with an arrow. He raised his bow to aim, but he was too slow; the rider hurried closer to the wagon and hurled the sharp tool right at Link’s face before falling back again. In his shock, Link accidentally dropped his bow, too preoccupied with the incoming pitchfork just inches away from his face. It was as if time had slowed way down as he stared at imminent death.

His final thoughts: ‘So this is how I die… Death by pitchfork to the face… Could be worse, I guess…’

Then, in a flash, Ghirahim manifested himself, pulling Link close with one arm to shield him and catching the pitchfork with his free hand. Cremia screamed at the events unfolding in the back of her wagon, but she pressed on, desperate to get away from the volatile bandits—escape now, ask questions later. Link’s mind froze, his hand clutching the fabric of Ghirahim’s cloak. What just happened?

He glanced up at the demon lord, whose face was contorted into a dangerous snarl. Ghirahim’s arm tightened around the boy, the pitchfork held aloft as if to launch it back at the attacker. Before Link could tell him to stop, the man threw the pitchfork with such force that it would surely cleave someone clean in two if it hit. Thankfully, it barely missed the attacker, whose horse panicked and bucked him off before fleeing. The violent man tumbled to the ground; Link could have sworn he heard the sound of bones cracking before the cries of pain. The second rider yelled and turned away, wisely determining that it was too dangerous to continue pursuing the wagon without his colleague.

Ghirahim growled, “Be grateful I chose to miss for the child’s sake! Otherwise your blood would have stained the earth crimson and the vultures would have feasted upon your rotting corpse!”

“Wh-what…?!” Cremia shrieked from the driver’s seat. “What’s going on?! Who are you?!”

“Do not concern yourself with me!” the demon lord snapped. “Just drive, your pursuers are no more.”

The poor woman swallowed and nodded, slowing her mules down to a much more leisurely pace as they finally exited the track onto the edge of Milk Road, right before it opened up into Termina Field.

Link!” Tatl cried, flying close to his face. “Are you alright?!”

Link nodded silently, hand still clutching Ghirahim’s cloak. What was this feeling…?

Ghirahim sighed and released his hold on the boy. With a frown, he carefully checked him over to make sure he was indeed still fully in tact.

“Right, then,” he grunted. “No more commentary while you’re in the midst of battle unless it’s strictly strategic advice. Noted.”

“...You saved me…” Link whispered.

“What was that, boy?”

You...saved me…” the child hero repeated, feeling tears well in his eyes. “No one’s...ever saved me before…”

No one had ever cared enough to put their life before his—not that anyone had really been put into that situation, but still. Link was so used to being the one who did the saving that he never expected needing anyone to save him. Ghirahim hadn’t hesitated; he was shielding him so quickly that Link didn’t have time to process anything at all! The boy had felt vulnerable before, but never to this extent; with this new sort of vulnerability, he felt like the actual child he was—a small person who was sometimes in need of an adult’s protection. He wasn’t fond of this realization, but nevertheless he appreciated that someone was willing to prioritize Link’s safety over his own. He appreciated that for the first time in his life, an adult was there to actually protect him.

Quickly wiping his eyes, Link added, “Thank you…”

Ghirahim exhaled and ran a hand through his snow-white hair. He nodded.

“You are my Master,” he affirmed. “It is my duty as your sword to protect you, even if there’s a bit of bad blood between us. And—

“If you say ‘you’re just a child’ one more time, I’m gonna elbow you in the side again,” Link grumbled. “And I’m not even in the mood to argue about the bad blood thing. Seriously, can’t you let it dry?”

The demon lord opened his mouth to utter some witty retort, but none came. Instead, he closed his mouth and glared at a milk jar. For once, he was at a loss for words.

Tatl laughed.

“There he is!” she cried in relief. “Good as new!”

Link grinned at her and nodded.

“Sorry for worrying you…” he said, rubbing the back of his head.

“As you should be!” the fairy huffed. “Don’t ever do that again! Out of all the ways for you to go, death by pitchfork to the face would be an insult!”

“...There are worse ways to go,” the boy grumbled.

Cremia cleared her throat, garnering everyone’s attention.

“O-okay,” she said, trying to calm herself. “Alright. Would someone please explain what is going on? What happened?”

“Oh! Uh…” Link wracked his brain for a good, simple explanation. “Well, you see, one of those guys chasing us threw a pitchfork at me, and my...friend...saved me.”

Cremia turned her head to glare at Ghirahim.

“Yes, your friend. Who wasn’t in my wagon when we left the ranch. How did you get in here? What even are you? You’re certainly no normal man!”

The demon snorted and rolled his eyes.

“Let’s just say I’m a magical spirit living inside this young hero’s sword. He needed my protection, and I saved him. End of story, no more explanation needed.”

The woman huffed.

“You sure are a rude one.”

“I simply don’t have enough patience and time to be explaining myself to every human I happen to make an appearance to.”

Cremia was about to argue with this strange spirit-man-demon-person in the back of her wagon, but Link’s frustrated groan stopped her.

“My bow!” he lamented. “I lost it! I need to get back there!”

Cremia shook her head.

“Just...just hang on a little longer, okay? We’re almost to East Clock Town. Once I get this milk delivered, we’ll go back and look for it. I’m sure after the run you gave those two goons earlier, we don’t have much to worry about…”

Ghirahim sighed.

I will go get it. Be back in a flash~”

With that, he snapped his fingers and vanished. Cremia gaped, Tatl sighed, and Link groaned again. Perhaps the demon lord really was more trouble than he was worth…

Seconds later, Ghirahim snapped back into the wagon, Link’s bow in hand. The young hero let out a triumphant whoop and latched onto the demon in gratitude. Forget that previous statement, Ghirahim was amazing.

“Thank you!” he exclaimed. “Thank you, that was awesome!”

The sword spirit cleared his throat and awkwardly patted the top of Link’s head, not used to—but not exactly opposed tohugs. Especially hugs from heroes—particularly of the pipsqueak variety. This situation was strange, and he didn’t know if the feeling inside his stomach was repulsion or something warm and fuzzy. He certainly didn’t care for the boy, but...perhaps there was a tiny fragment of fondness reserved for him. Perhaps. Or perhaps it was just the heat of the moment and he would return to resenting the little hero. Then again, the boy had said he was “awesome,” so...perhaps it truly was fondness. Perhaps. Just a little bit. The boy was his new Master after all. So, perhaps.

Cremia cleared her throat again as she slowed the wagon to a stop.

“Alright, we’re here. Wait right here for a moment while I get this milk delivered. I really need to reward your for all your help,” she said, smiling at Link.

Link grinned and nodded in response.

“Do you need any help with the milk, at least?” he offered.

Cremia shook her head.

“I got it. Just relax for a bit, hm?”

“Alright…”

With that, Cremia unloaded the milk jugs from her wagon and transported them into town. Link hopped out of the wagon to stretch his limbs and wait.

“It appears this is my cue,” Ghirahim said, looking at the boy. “Back into the sword I go~”

Link nodded.

“Yeah, good idea. Oh, and Ghirahim…?”

“Hm?”

The boy looked up at him, large eyes wide with gratitude and new-found trust—a look that took the sword spirit by surprise.

“Thanks again…”

The corner of Ghirahim’s lips twitched, but he quickly stifled any hint of a smile that might have formed. Instead, he simply nodded.

“Again, it is simply my duty as your sword to ensure your safety. I accept your gratitude, but it truly is unnecessary.”

“Still… I really appreciate it…” Link glanced away shyly for a moment before looking back at the demon with a big grin. “You have my trust from now on!”

Ghirahim scoffed, ignoring the burning sensation in his cheeks at such an open display of honest faith in him.

“Yes, well. We’ll see how wise that is, little forest child. Do try to not get nearly impaled by any more pitchforks in the meantime, will you?”

Before Link could respond, the man snapped his fingers and returned to the Gilded Sword. Link huffed slightly and shook his head before turning his attention to Tatl.

“He is weird,” the fairy stated, looking back at the young hero.

“You’re just noticing that?”

The two shared a laugh as Cremia returned to the wagon. She glanced around for a moment, confused by the sudden lack of the boy’s whatever-he-was, but felt too exhausted to ask questions. Honestly, she didn’t think she wanted to know. She just wanted to thank the kind boy and go home.

“Thank you again, Link,” she said, remembering what his fairy friend had called him. “You were really brave and showed great responsibility. That’s a sign of being an adult, so I think I have it within good authority to give you this.”

She held out her hand, and Link accepted the mask she offered. He looked at it curiously, and Cremia smiled.

“It’s called ‘Romani’s Mask,’” she said. “It shows that you’re considered to be an adult, and you can use it as proof of membership at the Milk Bar. If you go, I recommend trying the Chateau Romani! It’s my ranch’s specialty vintage milk, after all, produced only from the best of our specialty-bred cows~”

“Wow, really? Thank you!”

Link beamed from ear to ear; not only had he been acknowledged as an adult officially, but now he could get into the Milk Bar and drink all the milk his heart desired! He was definitely going to try that Chateau Romani tonight.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

Link looked back at the woman expectantly. Cremia smiled and pulled him into a tight hug, being sure to put all of her big-sisterly love into it—just like she always did when she hugged Romani. Link’s eyes widened in shock as he allowed the woman to hold him, and after a moment he forced himself to relax and hug her back. He felt all warm and fuzzy inside; he had never been hugged before, and he decided he could definitely get used to this.

After a moment, Cremia let go of the boy.

“Come by the ranch anytime you’d like, okay? Don’t be a stranger,” she said.

Link nodded and grinned.

“Definitely.”

The woman smiled warmly and nodded before climbing back into her wagon.

“Take care, Link!”

“You, too! Be safe going back!”

The two exchanged parting waves before Cremia headed back toward Romani Ranch and Link entered East Clock Town with Tatl.

Slipping Romani’s Mask on, the young hero looked at his fairy friend and asked, “How do I look?”

Tatl stared at him for a moment before bursting into laughter.

“Oh man, if that’s what’s required to be considered an adult in this town, you probably should just stay a kid!” she said, clutching her sides as she kept laughing.

Link pouted.

“Wow, rude. Well, I don’t care what you think, I’m an adult now, and I’m going into the Milk Bar.”

With that, he knocked on the door and was allowed entrance. Thankful he made a ton of money betting on the dog races earlier (Chateau Romani was a whopping 200 rupees per bottle!), Link indulged himself; he drank so much milk that he ended up passing out in a stupor (who knew milk could do that to a person). Although he was pretty far gone, he was still there just enough to feel someone pick him up and carry him outside of the establishment. The feeling was comforting, and Link found himself snuggling further into the chest of whoever it was that carried him. As he drifted further and further into the realm of sleep, he felt himself being placed into his bed at the Stock Pot Inn. A large, cool hand gently brushed the hair from his face before the blanket was pulled over him. Soft, soothing singing graced his ears—the voice was deep and rich, reminding Link of fresh honey added to a glass of warm milk or a slice of layered spice cake. He didn’t understand the words, but he took comfort in them nonetheless.

When he finally succumbed to slumber, he dreamed of giant colorful birds and a little paradise hidden in the clouds.

Chapter Text

Link yawned loudly as he sat up in bed. He felt great! When was the last time he had woken up feeling this good? He couldn’t recall, so it must have been a long time. The events of the previous night rushed back to him, and he wondered how he was able to sleep so well after all that action: nearly having a pitchfork lodged in his skull, Cremia’s hug, being acknowledged as an adult, the Milk bar…

...Ghirahim’s stalwart determination to save him in the face of danger…

The boy glanced over at the other bed and saw the man fast asleep in it. He managed to bite back a laugh at the sight, but he couldn’t contain his grin.

For as elegant and refined as the demon lord was when he was awake, he was an absolute mess when he slept. He laid on his stomach, his long limbs dangling off the bed (primarily due to him being just too tall for a human bed) haphazardly. His face was shoved into his pillow—angled just enough for Link to see that his mouth was wide open—his freaky demon tongue hanging out from the side. His pride and joy—that pristine, well-kept hair of his—looked as if someone had taken several fireworks and set them off in those silky white locks; it went everywhere, in all directions. One arm was twisted at an awkward angle by his head, and one leg was drawn up at his side, making him look like he was attempting some obscure martial arts move—and failing miserably. A white substance (lipstick, Link knew it!) was smeared across his cheek and mouth, revealing grey lips the same hue as his skin; the purple around his eyes was perfectly in tact, indicating that those were a natural part of the demon’s features and not makeup, unlike his lips (Link figured the he had been too exhausted to think about the lipstick, hence why he didn’t remove it prior to sleeping).

Remembering that he had a pictograph box from the Southern Swamp, Link scrambled for his pack and retrieved it. As quietly as he could, he crept over to Ghirahim’s bed and found the perfect angle. With a smirk, Link captured the most glorious pictograph of the disheveled demon. Oh, he was definitely figuring out a way to make sure he didn’t lose this one when he reset time again. The only thing that would make it better was if the pictograph had been in true-to-life color. That would be perfect.

Tatl yawned from inside the hero’s hat, so he turned around to greet her.

“Morning, Tatl~” he whispered, not bothering to hide how chipper he felt.

“Morning…” the fairy mumbled groggily, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. When she looked at the boy, her eyebrow raised. “What are you doing?”

Link held up a finger to his lips, a wide grin still plastered on his face. He was up to some serious mischief, Tatl could tell, but she found it refreshing; Link hadn’t smiled like that during their entire adventure thus far. It was a beautiful thing to see the boy acting his actual age for once…

Link tiptoed back to his own bed so Tatl could see what he found so funny. Seeing the sword spirit, the fairy quickly slapped a hand over her mouth to muffle her snickering.

Please tell me you put that pictograph box of yours to good use,” she whispered giddily.

The boy hero held up the device victoriously.

“I wouldn’t pass up this opportunity for all the rupees in Hyrule and Termina~” he replied merrily. “Now I just have to figure out a way to keep it when time resets.”

“Maybe you can have it developed?” the fairy suggested. “You keep most of the physical objects you get when you reset time, except for easily restockable things, so maybe having a physical copy of the pictograph would keep it from vanishing in time?”

“Hmm, definitely worth a shot. Good thinking, Tatl!”

“I mean, what else is new?”

The two friends snickered together.

What are you two nuisances giggling about at such an ungodly hour?” Ghirahim growled, voice husky with sleep.

The duo froze and glanced over at the spirit’s bed. Seeing him awake in such an unkempt state made the whole situation ten times funnier. As hard as they both tried (and they really did try), Link and Tatl couldn’t contain their laughter.

“You look ridiculous!” Link cried, clutching his side. “You’re a really ugly sleeper, you know!”

“Not that it’s anything to be ashamed of,” Tatl added, wiping tears from her eyes. “We all do it! It’s just...really unexpected from you!”

Ghirahim scowled and sat up.

“Silence!” he snapped. “I will not be ridiculed by two peasantsfor my sleeping habits!”

Link and Tatl exchanged glances.

“...Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” the hero said.

“Can you blame him?” the fairy asked. “He barely even fits on it!”

The two laughed again, even harder. Ghirahim seethed.

Enough!!” he thundered, his voice dropping several octaves deeper in his rage.

The two laughing youths abruptly ceased. Frozen in place, they both glanced at the furious demon.

I’ll be back,” said demon hissed, the fury on his face making him look frightening despite his current appearance.

With a snap of his fingers, Ghirahim was gone. Link suddenly felt guilty for laughing at him. The shame rising in him, he looked at his pictograph box and debated on erasing the candid image. He was about to press the button to do so, but he hesitated. Although Ghirahim was angry about being teased, the boy appreciated seeing the more vulnerable side of the demon lord. Knowing that the man trusted Link enough to risk being seen in such a state filled him with pride; he was not going to take the spirit’s trust for granted, especially given the man’s original feelings toward him. Link decided that he would keep the pictograph as a reminder to never take Ghirahim for granted, and that he would explain himself as soon as the spirit returned.

Which apparently was just a few minutes later.

Ghirahim had snapped back into the room, looking as prim and proper as ever, showing no sign whatsoever that he had previously been such a mess. Even his anger appeared to have dissipated, for he smiled haughtily at his companions.

“Mmm, much better~” he purred, delicately brushing some hair from his face. “Do I not leave you breathless? Anyone can appreciate true beauty~”

Tatl made a gagging noise, but Link just smiled.

“Yeah,” he said to humor the demon lord. “Exactly that. But, um...I’m sorry for laughing at you earlier. I didn’t mean to upset you, I just...wanted to have some fun… I realize now that I was in the wrong, and that I should appreciate that you trust us enough to let us see you like that. I promise I’ll never take your trust for granted ever again.”

With that, he bowed his head in respect to the sword spirit. Said spirit could only stand there agape, completely blindsided by the hero’s little speech and display of respect.

What could he possibly say to that? Here he was, ready to defend himself from further ridicule, but now there was no need. It wasn’t that he trusted either of them—he had simply closed his eyes for a moment without thinking about it and had accidentally fallen asleep—but he couldn’t deny that Link’s interpretation of such a humiliating display touched him. He had never felt this way before, and he couldn’t recall the last time—if any—he had been shown respect out of genuine appreciation. Out of all the possible scenarios he anticipated on meeting this current incarnation of the Hero, he never expected this. He couldn’t even begin to dream of his sworn enemy (in any form) treating him with any sort of esteem, and yet here they were. Link, the Hero of Time, was a strange boy indeed; Ghirahim could tell that there would never be another Hero quite like him. No, no other Hero could ever hope to compare to this child, regardless of his courage or strength. This small boy and his broken heart contained more love and compassion than any other Hero could ever hope to achieve. Truly, the Goddesses did not deserve to have their wretched way with him; they were unworthy of this boy, “divinity” be damned.

Taking a moment to breathe deeply and collect his thoughts, Ghirahim knelt before the young hero to be more level with him. Link stared at him with large, sagacious eyes—eyes that should not be so shrewd and tormented for one so young—in anticipation. Of what, the boy knew not, but of something. Ghirahim exhaled and placed a hand on top of the boy’s head, allowing it to rest there as he looked the hero in the eye.

“As infuriating as you are, you naughty little imp,” he began, trying his damnedest not to smile (Link broke into a bright grin, which made the feat a thousand times more difficult). “I cannot bring myself to begrudge you for simply being a child. I accept your apology with great humility.”

Link felt a surge of happiness swell inside his heart. For all his unsettling behaviors and sometimes ill-intentions, Ghirahim was proving himself to be not that bad. In fact, Link was beginning to think that deep underneath that “evil demon sword spirit” façade, Ghirahim actually had a good heart. Maybe—just maybe—he was only “evil” because of something that happened in his past. After all, he knew all too well how certain events could completely change a person for the worst; he was a living example, after all.

“I’m glad,” he said. “I was worried that...well, never mind. I’m just glad you’re not on an angry rampage anymore.”

The demon scoffed and pulled his hand away. He then stood up and examined his nails.

“I was not on a rampage. I was simply irritable.”

“Yeah, irritable enough to probably kill someone,” Tatl grumbled.

“I would never!” Ghirahim exclaimed, glaring at her. “I’ll have you know that I have never harmed anyone unwarranted. It’s only if someone gets in my way will I take action against them.”

“Oooh, how noble of you.”

“I don’t appreciate your tone, fairy.”

Okay,” Link interjected. “That’s enough of that. I think it’s safe to say I can keep that pictograph, then?”

The demon stared at him.

“What in the world is a pictograph?”

“Well, I guess the best way to describe it is an image of something captured in real time? It’s almost true-to-life, but it doesn’t capture color.”

“How fabulous! That would quite come in handy for...wait. You didn’t.”

The boy smirked and clutched his pictograph box close.

“Oh yeah. I’m definitely keeping it now.”

With that, he bolted out of the room before the spirit could even hope to take it from him. Tatl laughed while Ghirahim took a moment to process what just happened. His dark eyes narrowed and he frowned.

“Get back here this instant, you wicked little scamp!!”

~~~~~~~~~~

Much to Ghirahim’s displeasure, Link did keep the pictograph. The little tyrant even had the accursed thing “developed” onto some special type of paper just so he could keep it on his person to view whenever the pleased. Horrible. Absolutely unacceptable. All of that just to see if the damn thing wouldn’t disappear when the boy reset time. Ghirahim prayed that it would, but as those detestable deities would have it, Link’s efforts had paid off. Blast.

Link grinned as he strolled toward West Clock Town, the dawn of the First Day starting anew. He was hoping the Western Ocean wouldn’t be too terrible of an experience, but he knew better; any temple involving water was nothing but trouble and headaches. He had experienced enough water “dungeons” to last him a lifetime—even if it had only been two until this point. He just prayed that Great Bay Temple wasn’t a psychological torture device like Hyrule’s Water Temple had been (not to mention the belly of Lord Jabu Jabu, ugh). After that experience, he never wanted to visit Lake Hylia again regardless of his love of fishing. Never. Again.

Passing the guard at the gate and emerging into Termina Field, the young hero played Epona’s Song to call her. Within moments the young mare appeared, and Link smiled wide. It was so good to have her back.

“Alright,” he said, climbing onto her back. “Let’s go!”

It didn’t take long for them to reach the coast. Link looked around in amazement; he had never seen the ocean before. It appeared to never end, as it stretched far beyond the horizon; he wondered what was on the other side. Did the water taste just as salty as it smelled? How different it was compared to the lakes he was familiar with! His admiration of the scene was suddenly interrupted by the shrill cry of a seagull—several, to be more exact. He scanned the area to see what was amiss, but Tatl beat him to the punch.

"Over there!” she shouted at him. “There’s someone in the water!”

Link hurriedly glanced around and spotted a man floating face-down in the water, a flock of seagulls swarming around him. The boy’s heart lurched as he spurred Epona over to the water’s edge. He could see that the man was quite a ways out, and he wasn’t sure if he could get to him in time since he was a slow swimmer. Trying not to panic, he hurried into the water nonetheless.

Then he remembered something important.

“Ah—Ghirahim!”

The sword spirit made himself manifest.

“No need to ask. I’ll be back,” he announced, already aware of what Link wanted.

Snapping his fingers, he teleported over to the drowning man and fished him out of the water (he absolutely refused to ruin his perfect hair by getting into the water, so he chose to walk on it instead). With no extra effort exerted, he snapped back to shore and carefully set the strange man down on the sand.

“I’ve never seen a creature such as this before,” the demon lord mused.

“He’s a Zora,” Link said, quickly kneeling beside the aquatic being. “Water people, that is. They live mostly in water.”

“Ah. So fish people. Fascinating. Peculiar way to find him, then.”

Link glared at the demon before turning his attention back to the injured Zora.

“Hey,” he called gently. “Can you hear me?”

The Zora groaned in pain.

“Y-yeah…” he wheezed. “Thanks…”

Link smiled, relieved that he was still alive. With some red potion, the guy would be good as new and—

Then he noticed the blood. Lots of blood, spilling onto the sand at an alarming rate. His blue eyes wide in horror, he quickly found the large open wound on the Zora’s side; it looked as if he had been cleaved with a sword, the wound far too large and deep to even hope of healing. Link’s heart sank. Ghirahim noted the grief eclipse the boy’s face—grief for someone he did not even know.

The Zora man groaned and attempted to stand. He managed to force himself upright and staggered a few steps toward the water, but then he collapsed. Link and Tatl rushed to his side.

“M-my name...is Mikau…” the Zora rasped. “I-I’m a descendant of great...Zora warriors… Lulu...our band’s singer...she l-laid some eggs...but they were stolen by pirates… She lost her voice… I need to...I-I need to get those eggs back… D-damn pirates…!”

Link fought back the tears threatening to spill and shakily reached for the Ocarina of Time. Mikau didn’t have long, and his heart was tormented by the pain of failure and the awareness that he would not be going home. He was determined to bring back those stolen eggs, but his body was failing him. Link bit his lip.

“...Let me get them for you,” he said. “I promise you, I’m here to help heal this place…”

“Lulu…” Mikau gasped. “I-I…”

“...Let me heal your pain…” Link whispered.

Steadying his trembling hands, he brought the ocarina to his lips and solemnly played the soothing melody of the Song of Healing. Although the notes couldn’t heal physical wounds, at least they could heal a wounded heart, and that was all that mattered. The only tragedy about it was that no matter how many times he played the song, Link never felt any different himself.

But that was unimportant. The only thing that was important was that Mikau’s soul was healed so he could pass in peace. However, this time was much different than the others. Before when he healed the souls of the suffering—like Darmani—they had either been dead already or simply needed a healing hand in their lives. This was the first time Link had to watch someone die. Sure, he was no stranger to seeing death, but he had never witnessed an innocent person actually dying . He had watched in horror (when his journey first began) as the Great Deku Tree passed away, and the grief of that loss never left him. However, the Great Deku Tree Sprout—still the fatherly figure Link k new, just reborn anew—appeared to resume the duties of its former self. The Great Deku Tree had come back; Mikau would not. None of the people Link knew who were dead would come back. He knew this well, but he never expected to watch the process unfold before his own eyes, save for when his own death finally came to claim him.

The Song of Healing was working; Mikau had relaxed, and an express of peace graced his tired face. All the regrets he had in life melted away, and all that was left was to cross into the afterlife. Turning his head, he looked at Link and cracked a smile.

“Wicked sweet skills you got there, kid…” he murmured. “You’ve been blessed by the muses for sure… Before I go...will you listen to my last request…?”

Link nodded, still trying his hardest to contain his tears.

“Of course, Mikau…”

The Zora man nodded slightly.

“The Bay...something’s wrong… The water’s become so murky that we can’t find any fish…”

“I’ll fix it,” the boy hurriedly said. “I’ll make sure your people are safe and Great Bay goes back to normal…”

“Thank you… And my band, the Indigo-Gos…they...need their guitarist for the Carnival…”

“I’ll stand in for you…”

Mikau nodded, pleased with the idea.

“And...Lulu…”

Link’s lip quivered as he placed a comforting hand on the Zora’s shoulder.

“I’ll let her know...how much you care for her…” he whispered.

The Zora warrior chuckled quietly and closed his eyes.

“Then...let my spirit help you…

With one final exhale, Mikau was gone, leaving behind only the fish-bone guitar he had strapped to his back. His body had vanished, and a mask shaped in the likeness of a Zora had appeared in his place. Link carefully picked it up. Now that the Zora guitarist had passed, Link allowed himself to cry. Deep sobs wracked his small frame as he grieved—for Mikau, for Darmani, for the Deku Butler’s son, for every person in Termina who was aware of their impending doom and all those who were not. He grieved for all the people he couldn’t save, for all the friends he loved and lost. He grieved for his lost innocence and the death of all he could have been had he never been sent back in time for good.

...But then again, if he hadn’t lost what he had, he wouldn’t be here. He wouldn’t have met Tatl or Romani or Cremia or all the other people he was working hard to make happy. If he had stayed seven years in the future…

He hiccuped and looked up to see Ghirahim watching him somberly. The demon looked so worn down and tired despite his proud posture. What was that about?

“I-I…” Link choked on another sob and sniffled wetly. “I couldn’t s-save...him…”

He hiccuped again and fell into another fit of weeping. His throat burned as he gasped for air through his sobs. His chest ached and his body shook with such force, he was certain he would literally fall to pieces. All of this was just too much…

Tatl flew next to him to offer her silent support; she had no words to say, so she would be there for the boy in the only way she knew how at the moment. Above them, Ghirahim exhaled slowly.

“Such is the way of life, child,” he said gravely. “You cannot save everyone, no matter how strong your efforts. The gods are cruel creatures. They give life to a myriad of beings, yet they care little for their creations. To be sure, they are benevolent to their faithful—sometimes—yet they do not bother to concern themselves over the grievances of their children. They only thing they care about is having their praises sung as the singers grovel on bended knee. What transpires among mortals is no business of theirs, unless something threatens to silence their praises for good. Then will they bother. The point is, boy, that the world is one of chaos and agony, and though we cannot control what happens in it, the best we can do is take care of what matters most, because we are ultimately on our own.”

Link looked up at him, confused.

“I-I...I don’t understand…” he quietly admitted.

Ghirahim shook his head.

“You do not have to. Not for a long time, anyway. The only thing you must understand, Link, is that you are one person. Although you are a hero and have accomplished many great feats, you cannot do it all; even you have limitations. But that’s fine.” The demon lord knelt beside the boy to look him in the face. “You simply must do what you can. Anything outside of that is not your fault. This man’s fate is not your fault, Link… It truly isn’t…”

Link started to cry once again as he threw himself at the spirit and latched onto him. He sobbed into the man’s chest and clutched to him like a lifeline. Although Ghirahim hesitated at first, he relented and wrapped his arms protectively around the boy. Link wept for a long time; Ghirahim held him tightly all the while. Tenderly, the demon pulled the hat from the boy’s head and set it aside; he then proceeded to soothingly card his fingers through the child’s sunshine-blond hair. The boy hero snuggled further into the man, comforted by the gesture.

“Lament for as long as you need,” Ghirahim murmured. “Death is a shocking thing for a human to witness, I’m sure, especially when it’s the first time. You carry a heavy burden, child, and it will only get worse from here on out.”

“I-it’s so hard,” Link whimpered. “It’s so hard…”

“...I know… And it will never ease, I regret to say…”

Tatl angrily flew into Ghirahim’s face.

“Don’t say that!” she exclaimed. “Link needs comfort and reassurance right now, and you’re doing an awful job at it telling him something like that!”

The sword spirit frowned at her and tightened his hold on Link.

“Sugarcoating the truth will not help him,” he replied gruffly. “I will not lie to him. The path of a hero is one of suffering and sacrifice. He is well aware of this, and I am only affirming what I’m certain he already knows. Trying to coddle him with false reassurances will only hurt him more. How do you not realize that?”

“Since when do you care?! You said you wanted to see him suffer, and I think you’re just saying these so-called ‘affirmations’ to force the process! How do we know you’re not taking advantage of his grief and playing mind games with him to lower his morale?!” Tatl snapped, wishing she could slap the insufferable man. How dare he pretend to care about Link when he made it clear he didn’t. “How are we to know you’re not trying to lead him into a false sense of security, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike?”

“Regardless if I like it or not, the boy is my Master!!” Ghirahim snapped. “As such I cannot—will not—hurt him like you so unjustly accuse me of plotting!! You insufferable insect!! You have no right to act in his defense when you’re going to leave him in the end!!”

Link flinched in the demon lord’s hold. Taking a deep breath to compose himself, he eased himself free of the embrace and wiped his eyes.

You—” Tatl began, her rage reaching the tipping point.

Enough…” Link uttered as firmly as he could manage. “Both of you, knock it off.”

The two supernatural beings looked at him.

“Link...” Tatl said, flying close to him. “I—”

The hero shook his head.

“Tatl, I appreciate your concern over me… But Ghirahim’s right when he says making false reassurances would only make things worse for me. I do already know that my path requires great sacrifice and suffering. I live with both of those every day.”

Tatl lowered her wings and hung her head in defeat. Link held out his palm to her, which she hesitantly took a seat on.

“...But you have a really good point, my friend…” the boy continued, looking at Ghirahim.

The demon lord narrowed his eyes at him.

“After all of this, are you seriously taking her—”

Link held up a hand.

“Let me speak! As I was saying, Tatl has a point when she says that it’s hard to know what your true intentions are, especially after all the things you told me when we met, but.” He paused to lock eyes with the white-haired man. “But...I know deep in my heart that you’re being genuine when you say you wouldn’t hurt me… Whether if it’s just because of your duty as my sword or not, I...I still appreciate all the things you’ve done for me so far… We haven’t known each other for long at all, and already I feel like I can trust you. Maybe not fully—yet—but...I think we’ll get there no problem…”

Link noticed Ghirahim’s shoulders relax just slightly, even though he turned his nose up at the boy and scoffed at his words. Link couldn’t help but smile at that.

“Just...promise me one thing, if you’re genuine about helping me from here on out.”

Tatl looked at him, placing her hand on his finger comfortingly. Ghirahim lowered his chin and looked at him expectantly.

“...Promise me…” Link said softly, looking straight into the demon’s charcoal eyes. “Promise me that no matter what, even when Tatl has to leave and I have to go back to Hyrule, that...you’ll never leave me. Promise me that you’ll always stand with me, no matter what happens from here on out. If you can promise this to me and mean it, then you’ll have my complete trust, Ghirahim.”

Ghirahim was taken aback by the sheer power in such a childish request. This boy really was something else. With a slight smirk and a chuckle, Ghirahim knelt before the hero and bowed his head.

“Very well, Link. I swear my unwavering allegiance to you as your sword. Even well after your bones have turned to dust and the world has all but forgotten your name, I will still be there for you. On one condition.”

Link tilted his head questioningly, silently waiting for the sword spirit to state his request. Ghirahim raised his head to look at him.

You must not replace me. No matter how tempting the weapon or regardless of some fool’s command, you will never take up any sword but me.”

The boy’s eyes widened at the words. Despite the heaviness he still felt in his heart, he smiled and nodded.

“I mean, I wasn’t ever planning on it,” he replied. “The moment I held the Gilded Sword sword in my hand, I knew that I never wanted to let it go...”

Ghirahim chuckled, bowing his head yet again.

“Then until my blade is broken and my life is forfeit, I will ever be by your side.”

Link’s smile broadened slightly.

“I was told that it was an unbreakable blade, being tempered with diamonds and all…”

Ghirahim raised his head and smirked.

Exactly,” he said, winking.

Tatl rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“You were seriously swooning over the dang thing,” she said to Link. “Don’t try to act all cool about it now.”

“Wh—hey…!” the boy cried, face flushing with embarrassment. “I was not…!!”

“Were too! You couldn’t stop admiring it!”

“Traitor! This is betrayal, Tatl!”

“I’m just stating the facts!”

Ghirahim laughed and rose to his feet, dusting himself off.

“No need to feel ashamed~” he said. “I tend to have that effect on most~”

Ugh, shut up!” Link exclaimed, face beet red. “We...we have stuff to do—pirate butts to kick, eggs to find, temples to purge—l-let’s get going!”

Ghirahim and Tatl couldn’t help but look at each other and share a smirk. Link ignored them and instead turned to erect a grave marker for Mikau. Even though the grief he experienced still lingered, he felt a little lighter. He knew his burden would never go away, but as long as he had his friends by his side, he knew it would be much more manageable. He didn’t know what the future would bring besides more pain and strife, but he wasn’t going to allow that to get in his way anymore. Perhaps he could start to entertain the possibility that maybe he wasn’t as alone as he thought he was—not anymore, at least. It was strange; he never expected someone like Ghirahim to show up in his life, yet here they were. Although their meeting had brought much confusion and tension into his life, Link was certain that any animosity that should linger between them had disappeared completely after today.

At least that’s what he hoped.

It was clear that Ghirahim no longer associated him directly with this “Hero of the Sky” person, which was an undeniable improvement. That, and the fact that he had already saved his life once and appeared to take his job as Link’s sword seriously. Which was kind of weird, if Ghirahim had supposedly hated him at first? Well, whatever. Link wasn’t going to complain. The demon lord seemed to see something different in him than from whatever “incarnation” came before him; he seemed determined to help Link in times of crisis—be them physical or emotional. Funnily enough, the eccentric spirit brought more comfort to Link than anything. Just having him around made carrying his burden a little easier, and his heart felt like it could start to mend properly with the demon lord’s help. Link fully admitted to himself that it was nice to feel a little less hopeless for once since he became the Hero of Time.

Perhaps, no matter how bizarre the whole situation was, Ghirahim was somehow Link’s own “Song of Healing” in all of this.

 

 

Chapter Text

Are we finished with this abhorrent temple yet?

Link groaned as he lay on the platform of Great Bay Temple’s innermost “boss” chamber. Even with the Zora mask on, Ghirahim was still able to communicate with him loud and clear (emphasis on loud). To Ghirahim’s credit, his advice did make traversing through the temple much easier; Link had cut his average exploration time nearly in half with the demon’s help, having defeated Gyorg by early morning of the Second Day. He had also been a huge help at Pirates’ Fortress, where his snapping to-and-fro ability was much appreciated in the retrieval of four Zora eggs; he wasn’t so helpful with the other three at Pinnacle Rock, however. If Link had to hear about the spirit messing up his “marvelous hair” one more time, he was going throw the Gilded Sword into the sea and leave it there.

Farore, will you shut up for a second and let me catch my breath?” he grumbled.

“What did I do?” Tatl asked defensively. “Rude!”

Link turned his head to look at her.

“Sorry, not you, Tatl. Ghirahim. In my head.”

“...Ah. Okay, that makes much more sense.”

Link chuckled and nodded, looking up at the gaping hole in the ceiling he had fallen from to get here. He stood by what he thought earlier: water temples were still the absolute worst. At least Great Bay Temple was more exciting than Hyrule’s Water Temple. He also didn’t have to confront his dark self and all the internal baggage he brought with him, which was icing on the cake. Plus, in order to get to the ocean temple, he had to wake up a giant sea turtle and ride on the back of said giant sea turtle! Best. Day. Ever. Who else could say they were transported to a temple in the middle of the ocean via giant sea turtle? Nobody he knew, that’s for sure. His overall assessment: Great Bay was pretty awesome (especially Zora Cape; Zora Hall was incredible), the temple was annoying, but overall this region wasn’t bad.

Are we going yet?! The mask is right there !

I. Am tired, Ghirahim. Gimme a break, I was just chewed up and spit out by a stupid giant fish monster! Several times!!’

You’re wasting time!!

‘You’re wasting breath!’

The audacity ! You brat, how dare you speak to me like—

I’m ignoring you now.’

Link smirked to himself as the demon lord cursed up a storm, knowing he had complete control over the situation if he chose not to respond. Which he didn’t, because Ghirahim was being an impatient jerk. And he was supposed to be the child, according to the demon. Ha!

After a couple more minutes, Link stood up and stretched.

“Alright. Let’s do this.”

Removing the Zora mask, he grabbed Gyorg’s mask and freed the giant. Now all that was left was to make sure everything around the Bay was safe (he knew it was, but it never hurt to double-check) and stop by Zora Hall for a much-anticipated jam session with the Indigo-Gos. He took his promise to Mikau very seriously and meant every word when he said he would stand in for him at the Carnival; he also just happened to have a passion for music, and Termina’s Zora were phenomenal musicians. Needless to say, he was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of playing in a band. Termina really was a great place; what could prevent him from staying when his quest was over? Hyrule didn’t need him anymore, so what was the point in going back? It’s not like he had an actual home to go back to.

Even if you did stay, Hylia would intervene and make it so you ended up back in Hyrule eventually. It’s part of her “Chosen Hero” nonsense. She wants you near her blood at all times.

Wait, Hylia? What, like the lake?’

Ghirahim snorted; Link could tell that this one was an amused snort (he was getting pretty good at deciphering the demon’s various snorts since there were a lot).

No, like the goddess . The Goddess of Time, to be more exact.

Well, that was news to Link. Suddenly a lot of things made much more sense given everything he was “chosen” to do as the Hero of Time.

I’ve never heard of her before. I only know about the Golden Goddesses: Din, Nayru—’

And Farore. Yes, yes, I’m familiar with them as well. How do you not know Hylia ? Do you humans no longer worship her? Oh, she will not be pleased with that.

I mean, there’s Lake Hylia, so…? And there’s a Temple of Time, where the Master Sword rests. I know it was built by the ancient sages to protect the Sacred Realm and house the Master Sword, and yeah…’

I see. It seems from the information you’ve given me, I think I can confidently conclude that this “Temple of Time” of yours has been built on the grounds of the old Temple of Hylia, especially since that was where my former Master was imprisoned and the Hero of the Sky used the Triforce to destroy him. I do not have fond memories of that place. That, and that it’s named for what Hylia is in charge of: Time. Ugh.

That’s so weird… Why wouldn’t they just call it the “New Temple of Hylia” or something? This is the only time I’ve ever heard her name before except as Lake Hylia…’

Interesting. Has she fallen out of favor among the mortals, I wonder? Ooh, she would be absolutely furious . I could see her shrieking about “everything she’s done for them” and all that nonsense.

Link was officially interested in this sudden revelation of ancient knowledge. Why had no one told him before? Did Zelda know?

Zelda ?

Yeah? Princess Zelda, of Hyrule. She’s the one who entrusted me with the Ocarina of Time, and she’s the one who told me about the Golden Goddesses, the Temple of Time, and her prophecy that started everything. She’s my friend.’

Ghirahim chuckled (a bitter one; Link was getting good at telling the difference between the demon’s chuckles, too).

Oh, of course . I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s only natural that she with blood of Hylia made herself princess of her new little world.

...Wait. Wait what? Blood of Hylia? Zelda?’

If Link’s world hadn’t been shaken to the foundations before, it certainly was now.

Yes. Zelda. The first Zelda was the direct mortal reincarnation of Hylia. She was gravely wounded by my former Master—the Demon King Demise—and in her final stand, she sent the remaining humans into the sky and entrusted them with the Triforce. She then sealed Demise away at her temple—the vain little thing—and perished some time after.

“...Okay, what’s going on?” Tatl asked, flying into Link’s face. “You look absolutely shaken. What’s going on in that head of yours?”

“It’s—hold on, I’ll fill you in on the details. I’m learning some important, life-shattering information right now.”

“Ah. I’ll leave you to that, then.”

Link had to sit down before he fell down. Swallowing hard, he plopped down onto the sand and let the waves lap at his feet.

So...Zelda—my friend—she’s a goddess?’

Ghirahim laughed.

Oh, goodness, no! If I had to guess, I would assume that similar ly to the very first incarnation of the girl, Hylia’s blood was passed down through the ages by mortal means. I am quite surprised your little princess friend is unaware of the one who started this whole Hero-Goddess-Demon thing, though. Or I suppose now this whole Hero- Princess -Demon thing. My goodness, I can’t believe the spirit inside the Master Sword never filled you in on these details.

There’s a spirit inside the Master Sword?! Wait, wait, wait, okay. Ghirahim? Start from the beginning. The very beginning. I’m confused.’

You mean she’s never spoken to you? At all when you had the sword in your possession?

‘No! It was just a sword!’

Admittedly, Link felt a little hurt by this bit of news. If he had been chosen by the Goddesses to be their Hero, why had the spirit within the Master Sword stayed quiet? Was it because he had Navi guiding him? Or was it because he was unworthy to hear it…?

Link, I’m sure it has nothing to do with worthiness or not. Perhaps it was because you already had your guide, as you thought. The spirit was the Hero of the Sky’s guide during his quest—which he would have failed if she hadn’t been there, I’m sure—so it makes perfect sense that she figured she wasn’t needed this go-around because someone else was doing her job. That, or she is simply dormant in slumber because her primary task had been completed long ago.

Yeah. Yeah, that made sense. It would be pretty pointless having two guides on his journey—at the time, now didn’t count. Navi did the job just fine by herself. It also made sense that if the Master Sword’s spirit had completed her task long ago she’d go to sleep. Taking a deep breath, the boy nodded to himself.

Okay, yeah. Anyway, back to the beginning. Tell me everything.’

As you wish.

And that was how Link learned of the rise of Hylia, whom the Golden Goddesses entrusted with the Triforce in their stead; the ancient war between Hylia and Demise; Skyloft; the rise of Link, Hero of the Sky (who also traveled through time, the jerk, that was his thing!); the forging of the Master Sword from the Goddess Sword; the Gate of Time; and the curse that Demise had uttered with his dying breath—where he cursed those with the spirit of the Hero and the blood of the Goddess to fight with an incarnation of the Demon King’s hatred for all time, hence Ganondorf. He felt like he was hit by a ton of bricks; it really was just too much. His head was pounding.

Still, there was one thing bothering him that he needed to ask.

...Wait, I thought you said the Hero of the Sky was my very first incarnation? If Hylia had a chosen hero a thousand or so more years before he came along, wasn’t there a Hero before him?’

Gracious no! I was there when the war first began; there was no hero then. It’s simply a time paradox. You see, Hylia is the Goddess of Time and the one who chose the Hero in the first place. She would have most likely foreseen what was to happen. Thus, when the Hero of the Sky traveled to the past chasing me—since it was my brilliant idea to use the Gate of Time—Hylia saw him and the events that transpired. She was still there when I brought Zelda to the past, so she chose the first Link for that reason. The “Ancient Hero” stories he was told were about him the entire time .

...I still don’t understand anything you just said, but it make sense. I think.’

That’s enough storytime for today. Don’t you have a “jam session” to get to?

“How can I jam out now with all of this on my mind?!” Link exclaimed aloud, startling Tatl.

“Whoa, what the heck?! What happened, I need to know!” she said.

“I...I gotta process it all, it’s a lot, it’s just. About the past and things. It’s probably best you didn’t know,” the boy said, cradling his head in his hand.

“Don’t keep me out of the loop!”

Later, then! Just! C’mon, we gotta get to Zora Hall.”

Putting on the Zora mask once again, he dove into the waves and swam for the Hall.

...What about you, Ghirahim? What’s your story besides being Demise’s sword and trying to free him?’

That’s...a story for another day. Perhaps when you’re a little older.

Link was getting sick and tired of being treated like a child. He may have physically been one, but he was still the Hero of Time and had experienced more things most adults ever would—more dangers than normal adults could even handle. He lived as an actual adult for weeks and needed to mentally mature in that small amount of time so he could fulfill his destiny. Anything the demon threw at him he could manage just fine.

Don’t even go there. You know by now that I can handle anything you tell me.’

...I do know, yes. Maybe some other time, then. But not right now. I’ve already overloaded you with information about the past. It wouldn’t do to distract you further when you have things to do.

The hero sighed as he surfaced at Zora Hall. Right, right. Of course. What was he hiding? Link knew this tactic well: “I’ll tell you later” usually translated to “I’m hiding something big and don’t feel comfortable talking about it.” He had used it several times before himself, so Ghirahim couldn’t fool him no matter how hard he tried. He would take him up on that “some other time,” and he’d take him up on it soon. For now, though, he had more pressing matters to attend to—that being playing some music with the Indigo-Gos. Making sure he was out of sight, he removed the mask for a moment to allow Ghirahim to manifest.

“I’m pretty sure the Zora won’t give you a second thought,” he said in response to the demon lord’s bewilderment. “I mean, they might look at you a little funny because you’re abnormally tall, but otherwise.”

Ghirahim harrumphed.

“I am not abnormally tall. Mortals are just pathetically short.”

Link rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, okay, sure. Just don’t cause any trouble, okay? I thought you’d enjoy watching and having a moment to move around, so you’re welcome.”

Ghirahim didn’t know whether to smirk with pride or take offense at the boy’s comments; he had always been relatively saucy, but it appeared that he was growing more saucy the longer he spent with the demon lord. It was simultaneously beautiful and infuriating.

“Tatl, keep an eye on him for me?” the young hero asked his fairy friend.

Now Ghirahim was truly offended.

“I do not need a babysit—

“You got it!” Tatl interrupted, giving her friend a small salute. “I’ll keep him in line.”

Link grinned and nodded.

“I have full faith in you~”

The fairy returned his grin and nodded. Ghirahim sulked in outrage. Link slipped on the Zora mask and hurried off to meet with the Zora band. What an egregious situation.

“C’mon, sourpuss, let’s go get a better view of the stage,” Tatl said, floating off to find a better viewpoint.

“Do not call me that,” the sword spirit growled, reluctantly following her lead. “How absurd. This is an insult to my very existence! Absolutely unacceptable.”

The fairy rolled her eyes.

“Oh, give it a rest already. It was just a joke.”

Ghirahim grunted in response and took a seat on a ledge overlooking the Hall; it provided a spectacular view of the gargantuan clam shell stage. Tatl made herself comfortable on his shoulder. Although he wanted to object to the fairy’s nonchalant violation of his personal space, he gave in and allowed her to rest there. Though he was often at odds with the pesky creature, perhaps she wasn’t that detestable. He couldn’t fault her for always rushing to the defense of Link; fairies were naturally protective of their companions, after all. That was something the two of them had in common, he supposed.

Down on the stage, Link helped with soundcheck and setup. He did his best impersonation of Mikau when speaking with the band members (although admittedly most of it was guess work because he didn’t know the guitarist, but it seemed to work); it was especially challenging trying to act “normal” around Lulu. It was clear she liked Mikau just as much as the late guitarist liked her, so their interactions were especially awkward for Link. Still, he made a promise, and he always kept his promises. She had already been sad enough when he first met her; she didn’t need to have the burden of loss thrust upon her so soon—especially since she was feeling better and excited to perform at the Carnival of Time. He would break the news to her and the rest of the Indigo-Gos later.

Smiling at something the singer had said, Link nodded and pulled out his near-perfect replica of Mikau’s guitar. It never ceased to amaze him how the Ocarina of Time changed its form along with him whenever he wore one of the different race masks; it was extremely convenient and made blending in so much easier. He also thanked Farore that he was a naturally skilled musician and could acceptably play any instrument he was given on the fly—otherwise, his quests through the various regions of Termina would be awkward.

“Alright, places!” Evan called, clapping his hands. “Everyone familiar with the new song I wrote? Good. Let’s run through it.”

Japas exchanged a look with Link that clearly said, “He wrote?” and shook his head. Link grinned and shrugged. After all, as the bassist had explained to him earlier, what their band leader didn’t know wouldn’t kill him—and he was a stickler about band members writing music without him for whatever reason, so it was best to let him live illusion. Behind them, Tijo tapped his drum sticks to set the tempo.

“One, two, a-one, two, three, four,” he counted.

On four, the Indigo-Gos began to play. Link bobbed his head to the music, thoroughly enjoying the groovy style Termina Zora were known for. It was refreshing, and more importantly it was fun—so fun, in fact, that it completely distracted him from everything Ghirahim had told him prior to their arrival at Zora Hall. It wasn’t that it was bad information, it was just a lot to process in such a short amount of time; “information overload” seemed like an appropriate term. The music served as an appropriate coping mechanism, apparently, because Link felt much better about everything; he was completely caught up in the beat. Music, after all, was his greatest escape.

Up on their ledge, Ghirahim and Tatl watched the hero play with great interest.

“...He truly is gifted in the art of music, isn’t he?” the demon commented. “It comes so naturally to him.”

The fairy nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, you should see him with the Deku Pipes and the Goron Drums. He could be his own one-man band if he wanted to!”

Ghirahim chuckled, albeit dejectedly.

“I can imagine, though I cannot picture him going through with it when combat is in ingrained into the very fabric of his soul—not of his own doing, mind you. It is an unfortunate trait destined to be passed on. Even if he wanted to live a carefree life of music and peace, his calling is to serve the goddesses of his homeland. The only path I see him taking is one of a soldier, although I pray with all of my heart that I am wrong.”

Tatl’s wings drooped.

“That’s so sad…” she said. “I don’t know much about what he did before we met, but I know he’s been through some serious stuff. Obviously he’s done this hero thing before, so it’s a good thing he’s here, but...I can see how sad it makes him…”

Ghirahim’s dark eyes remained focused on Link, a solemn expression on his face as he watched the boy strum his heart out on the guitar.

“It is not my place to say, since I’m certain he would prefer to confide in you on his own, but I will say that it is not necessarily the ‘hero thing’ alone that haunts him. He enjoys helping people and doesn’t mind saving them; it’s more that he never receives any much-deserved recognition for his efforts. He suffers through so much and sacrifices pieces of himself with every quest, yet no one ever remembers his name or what he did for them.”

Tatl’s eyes widened in distress.

What? That’s—I mean, I kinda figured that with some of the things he’s said to me before, but you mean to tell me he saved Hyrule all by himself before coming here, and nobody remembers?!”

The sword spirit nodded his affirmation.

“That’s messed up!!” the fairy exclaimed in frustration. “He works so hard and rarely does anything for himself, and that’s the thanks he gets?! That’s...that’s—!!”

Reprehensible,” Ghirahim finished with a scowl. “The gods truly have no shame.”

Tatl looked at him.

“You really don’t like the gods, huh?” she inquired.

“Of course not. They’re despicable beings. And do you not agree, seeing their cruelty before your very eyes?”

The demon lord gestured to Link. The fairly hung her head, crestfallen.

“Good point…” she sighed. “What about you, though? What...changed your mind about Link? You came here with the intention of hurting him—or at least to make fun of his misery—but now...you’re different. What changed?”

Ghirahim looked at her and pondered the question before exhaling.

“I cursed the Hero of the Sky for looking upon me with sympathy because he knew I was alone while he was surrounded by many who adored him. I returned to revel in his incarnation’s loneliness as an act of revenge, but Link—this Link—proved to be completely beyond anything I could have ever expected. He is so different from the previous Hero, and it doesn’t sit right with me that he is only a child—an actual child, who should never have known the ways of war until he was several years older like his former self. Because of this atrocity thrust upon him, his heart…” The demon lord paused, fists clenching over his lap. “...His heart has become a precious thing indeed. The love he has—and the type of love he contains—is...well, it’s moved me. I don’t have a definite answer to your query, I just know that something about this boy spoke to a part of me I thought died eons ago.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that in a way...Link reminds me of myself once upon a time, when I was just as young as he is now. Although I am quite taken with myself—do not think I am merely acting—I am very self-aware. For all I have worked to achieve and the admiration I hold for myself, there are blemishes under the surface of my radiance I cannot eradicate. ...Oh, I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this nonsense! Forget this conversation ever happened!”

The demon lord turned his head away and waved a dismissive hand at the fairy. Tatl rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“You have issues,” she said.

“Don’t we all?” the man retorted.

With the silence tense between them, the two beings turned their attention back to the stage. Link looked genuinely happy in the moment as he played to his heart’s content. Indeed, he deserved so much more than what he was given; knowing that he would never have a truly happy ending hurt more than either of them could bear

Ghirahim prayed that the boy—with his burdened heart still overflowing with love—would not turn down the same path he did so long ago.

For everyone’s sake.

~~~~~~~~~~

After his epic jam session, Link was left feeling elated for the rest of the day. Even though he knew he still had so much to do, he decided he would take the time to enjoy this rare moment of joy and really explore Great Bay. He determined that he really liked the ocean (he couldn’t decide if he liked it better than the mountains or vice-versa, though), especially during the sunset. He hummed a cheery tune as he sat by the fireside with Ghirahim and Tatl on a tiny, isolated islet just off the coast; it was a good end to an otherwise traumatic day. Even though Mikau’s death still weighed heavy on his heart, he knew the Zora guitarist wouldn’t want him to grieve forever. In fact, in the short interaction they had, Link was certain that Mikau would prefer that he try to be as happy as possible despite the outcome. The Zora mask suddenly felt warm at his side; Link took it as a sign that Mikau personally agreed with his assumption.

Then there was the information dump Ghirahim had dropped on him earlier. It was daunting at first, but now that he had time to process it all, Link thought it was really interesting overall. Sure, there were a lot things that bothered him, such as Demise’s curse, but it was nice to be privy to ancient secrets that not even the Hyrulean Royal Family seemed to know—or care to dig up in their archives, maybe. He felt like he had been entrusted with precious information not meant for the ears of anyone else, and he was determined to guard that information with his life. No one else would ever know—not even Zelda herself.

Most importantly of all, there was Ghirahim and whatever he was hiding.

Link glanced over at the demon lord, who was in the process of adding more kindling to the fire. His expression was grim as his eyes focused on nothing in particular. Clearly he was lost in thoughts that bothered him, for his usual pompous demeanor was, well, not so pompous. Something was bothering him, Link could tell.

“...Ghirahim?”

The demon didn’t look up from the fire, his eyes transfixed on the flames.

“Hm?” he absentmindedly hummed.

The boy frowned.

“Are you alright?”

This time Ghirahim looked at him.

“I’m fine, Link. Why do you ask?”

“You seem...distracted. And not in a good way. Like in a, ‘I’ve got some serious burdens I’m carrying and I don’t want to tell anyone but I’m not good at hiding it’ sort of way. You’ve been weirdly quiet since Zora Hall.”

“Have I? Hmm, well perhaps I’ve just been reflecting on all of the information I have given you today. Just as it was overwhelming for you to receive, it was overwhelming for me to recall. That’s all.”

Link raised an eyebrow, his frown deepening.

“I don’t buy that for a minute,” he said. “Does this have anything to do with your story? You know, when I asked you about it earlier?”

It was barely noticeable—if Link hadn’t been intently scrutinizing him in that moment, he would have missed it—but the demon lord actually flinched. So it was about his past. Concerned, he scooted closer to the spirit and placed a comforting hand on his knee.

“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to…” he said quietly, deciding that he wouldn’t push the matter. If Ghirahim didn’t want to talk about his past, then he wouldn’t force it; he would let the demon lord come to him on his own in time. “I won’t ask again, if you want…”

The white-haired man looked at the young hero, his expression unreadable. After a moment of silence, he chuckled and patted Link’s hand appreciatively.

“My, you truly never cease to amaze me, forest child. That’s incredibly mature of you, and I mean that sincerely.”

Link smiled and nodded.

“Well, yeah,” he said. “I wonder why?”

Ghirahim chuckled again and shook his head.

Tatl watched this exchange with intrigue. Earlier Ghirahim had told her that Link reminded him of himself when he was that young; was he suggesting he was just as warmhearted and virtuous as Link once? Or did he see something else that she was missing entirely? What exactly did he mean? The fairy wouldn’t lie; she was beyond curious at this point.

“I promised I would tell you my story in time,” the demon said, looking at the boy. “So I shall decree that the time is now. Be forewarned, however; it is a troubling tale for most. There are many…unsavory moments not suitable for young ears to hear. Are you sure you wish to know?”

Link narrowed his eyes and nodded affirmatively.

“I can handle it. You...know all about my pain,” he murmured. “Now please allow me to know yours…

Ghirahim looked legitimately uncomfortable as he silently recalled his past. It was unnerving to see; the man was so sure of himself and vainglorious that the thought of him having any sort of insecurity never crossed Link’s mind. Had it all been a front the whole time? No, that wasn’t it. Ghirahim did truly love himself, but something from his past prevented him from fully exerting his narcissism. There was a well-hidden shame that plagued him; maybe finally confiding in someone would help ease his pain.

The demon lord took a deep breath and squared his shoulders proudly.

“So be it. Although I have one condition you must abide by.”

“Name it.”

“No matter what you hear, you will not under any circumstances pity me. I don’t care how you feel after I conclude, I don’t want to see any sympathy on your face, understand? Although there is a combination of factors out of my control mixed with choices I made that have contributed to my glorious self you presently know, I refuse to play victim. I have overcome much throughout my existence, and this is no exception. I chose to be the man I am today. I have no regrets. I took control over what little I could and persevered through what I couldn’t. I am a creature to be respected, not pitied. Do I make myself clear?”

Link couldn’t help but crack a smile.

“Or else you’ll curse me?” he asked.

The corner of Ghirahim's mouth twitched; Link could tell he was fighting back a smile of his own.

“Exactly that. You’ve been warned. I lack mercy when I’m slighted, you know.”

“Yeah, I think we kinda figured that,” Tatl said, taking a seat on top of Link’s head. Now that we’ve heard your introduction monologue, can we hear the real stuff now?”

Tatl,” Link scolded, though he was trying not to laugh. “This is serious, don’t push him, yeah?”

“I’m not! I was just saying!”

Ghirahim snorted and rolled his eyes.

“Impatience will get you nowhere. Be thankful that I’m in a generous mood today, as I’ll proceed with my story as planned. Otherwise I’d stop here and not say anything more on the matter.”

Yeees, Lord Ghirahim,” Link and Tatl chimed in unison, proud that they had both thought of the same response.

The demon lord smirked and primped his hair, flattered at the use of his preferred title by his companions.

“Well, I certainly can’t deny you after that,” he said. “Alright. Listen now to my tale and know me.”

Chapter Text

In the beginning there was darkness. Nothingness. An endless void of emptiness lacking any potential for creation. It was a godforsaken abyss not worthy of the Divine’s attention, and it had remained as such for eons.

Then, suddenly, there was light.

Three small glimmers cut through the silence and shadows, growing more and more prominent until they forced the darkness to yield to them. Decked in gold, three sister goddesses rode upon sacred flames of red, blue, and green. In their hands, they held the essences of Creation to shape the void into their image.

Din—Goddess of Power—sculpted the earth with her powerful arms. Nayru—Goddess of Wisdom—shaped the sky and established Law, Order, and Magic. Farore—Goddess of Courage and the most benevolent of the three—created all flora and fauna to inhabit this new world and uphold her sister’s Law. Together, equal in might and brilliance, the Golden Goddesses created a world with a myriad of lands and creatures. To commemorate their great accomplishments, each goddess produced a golden triangle representative of her virtue, dubbing the relic the Triforce. The land that would much later become known as “Hyruleserved as their seat of influence, and thus the Triforce came to be housed there. From this land they ruled for millennia, along with the assistance of lesser deities they invited to bask in their glory.

However, the Goddesses eventually grew frustrated with overseeing their creation. Through some flaw in their haste, the creatures that inhabited the world were imperfect in their hearts and minds, and both Magic and the very earth itself could become corrupt under certain circumstances. Din and Nayru blamed Farore for her negligence in creating the various races. Farore argued that her creatures were exactly as she intended them to be and blamed Nayru’s Law to be the issue, for it was easy to exploit and challenge it. For the first time ever, since the beginnings of their existences, the three sisters fought. Though this action, not one noticed that their animosity toward each other began to take physical shape.

Deep beneath the ground, a new substance was created from the goddesses’ new-found enmity: malice. At first, this substance was not sentient; it was simply an oozing force that leeched from the earth and infected the hearts of all moral creatures, giving rise to hatred among the mortals. Soon, though, the hatred every mortal ever felt made its way back to its central source. The malice within the earth began to develop consciousness from the memories of morals, and it eventually began to take humanoid form. This was the birth of a powerful creature of darkness—the most powerful. He named himself “Demise,” after the overwhelming desire to bring destruction and torment to everything the Golden Goddesses had made. Yet he was still far too weak to confront the Divine and take the sacred Triforce as his own, so he chose to bide his time by drawing strength from mortals’ hatred and corrupted Magic.

The more skilled Demise became in the ways of Magic, the more he recognized his potential to create his own creatures—beings completely separate from the “righteousness” of the Divine, and ones much more powerful. Through his hatred, he created demons—creatures that were almost human in appearance, but were so much stronger and naturally wielded dark Magic. These demons were capable of creating their own monsters, though said monsters were nowhere near as beautiful, powerful, or intelligent as their creators.

As time progressed, a natural hierarchy formed among the dark beings. Naturally, Demise sat at the top as the Demon King. Beneath him were four elite demons named Malehim, the Demon of Destruction and the highest ranked among them; Vigirhim, Demon of Greed; Uhirim, Demon of Cruelty; and Tordanim, Demon of Wantonness. Beneath these elite demons were the rest of the monsters who swore allegiance to Demise, and the hierarchy among them was based upon individual strength. Deep in the earth, this tribe of demons honed their power and waited for the perfect opportunity to strike at the surface, for Demise desired to rule in place of the Goddesses and reshape the world to fit his desires.

On the surface, the Golden Goddesses grew weary of quarreling among one another and decided it was best to return to the Sacred Realm from whence they came. The burden of watching over the world become too tiresome, thus they chose the lowest-ranking deity of the Divine hierarchy to watch over it in their stead: Hylia, the Goddess of Time. Entrusting her with the Triforce and well-being of the world, the sister goddesses departed as suddenly as they had appeared. Hylia maintained goodness and light within the world, for she was benevolent, but she was not unbiased. The goddess favored humans above all else and treated them with the most esteem. She tolerated the other races of the land and blessed them with her grace whenever it was needed, but it was the humans she gave special treatment to. However, she had her biases among the humans as well.

Those who immediately accepted her as their protector without question never went without; their prayers were always answered and the easing their troubles was always Hylia’s priority. Those who doubted her or sinned against her, however, were shunned until they bent their knees to her in repentance. Still, she offered her light to the world and swore to protect it along with the Triforce; it was a duty she took very seriously. The light she shone throughout the land kept most of Demise’s minions at bay. Demise himself was not unaffected by Hylia’s light, for his power waned under her influence.

The Demon King grew impatient with his elite demons; they were shaping up to be cowards in the face of the Goddess of Time’s power, for they refused to venture to the surface no matter how much their king demanded. Demise considered destroying them for their insolence, but decided against it; he knew he would need their power when he decided to wage war against the Divine. Instead, he used what current strength he had to create a new elite—one who would serve him faithfully. That elite’s name was Ghirahim, Demon of Conceit.

However, Ghirahim was different from the others. He was the lowest-ranked, and he took a form similar to a human child. Demise did not have the strength to create another fully-grown demon, so Ghirahim would have to grow and earn his place. Until he reached the peak of his power, he would have to age like a human. The other elites ridiculed him for this.

Also unlike the other elites, Ghirahim was an ugly little thing. Although all of his kin mocked him for it, it was Uhirim who tormented him the most over this fact.

“Ha!! Tell me, what conceit is there to be had for one so hideous? You would be better off going to the surface and hiding away in a hole to rot. You are not worthy of the life you have been given, Ghirahim, seeing how you are. Surely Demise only created you for the amusement of us actual demons,” he said one day, looming over the demon child with a cruel smirk.

Ghirahim flinched and looked away. He was used to such words, but the pain never went away no matter how many times he heard them.

“I’m...still growing,” he replied, not meeting Uhirim’s eyes. “You’ll see. I’ll grow into my role.”

Uhirim laughed maliciously.

“Of course you will~” he taunted. “Never mind the fact that you need to grow, with it being a visible reminder of your inferiority and all that~”

Ghirahim clenched his small fists over his lap.

Standing up and turning to walk away, he said, “I’ve got things to do, Uhirim. Good day.”

The Demon of Cruelty only laughed harder as the demon child turned his back on him and left the room. Ghirahim frowned even more and hurried down an unused corridor of the demon palace—one that led to his secret special place. At least he could find peace and quiet among the trees of Faron Woods. If he was lucky, he would be able to observe the humans; they were always fun to watch. He wanted to talk to them, but he was too scared to actually approach them. Maybe someday he would work up the courage to do so, but today he preferred to just watch—like every other day he dared to venture out onto the surface.

Also unlike the other elite demons, he often did something the others would never dare to do: pray to one of the Goddesses. Hylia was out of the question—he hated her, just like he was supposed to. Demise was obsessed with power, so praying to Din didn’t sit right with the small demon for some reason. Wisdom was something rare where he was from, it seemed, so he doubted its validity at this point, making Nayru less than ideal to pray to as well. So that left him with Farore.

He had once heard a human father telling his daughter that Faron Woods were named for her, the Goddess of Courage. When the little girl had asked what courage was, her father said it was facing your fears and doing what you need to; it wasn’t a lack of fear, but an act of overcoming fear. Ghirahim had liked that idea—to overcome one’s fear—so he decided to reach out to the Goddess of Courage.

Talking to her—even though she never responded—made the demon child feel less alone, even if it was just temporarily.

“I know I probably shouldn’t ask anything of you, great Farore, but…is there any way…I could have a friend…?” he whispered. “It gets really lonely down there, and...I’d like to have someone to talk to who won’t mock me or belittle me. Demise never looks at me or acknowledges me, and the other demons only think I’m useful for their amusement. Everything I do is either ignored or someone else takes credit for, and I’m really…sad…I guess… I don’t think demons are supposed to get sad, but…I know that’s what this feeling is… It hurts my heart…knowing that I’m all alone… So, if you could please answer this one prayer, I promise I’ll never ever ask you for anything again, but I also promise I’ll be eternally grateful to you! Thank you in advance, great Farore.”

With a glimmer of hope in his heart, the demon child stood from his kneeling position on the grass and decided to take a stroll through the woods. The deeper he wandered into the trees, the louder a peculiar cacophony of sounds became. Ghirahim frowned; those were not natural sounds of the forest. Curious, he cautiously walked closer to the noise. When he reached a clearing deep in the woods, he noticed many humans busy at work building something. Whatever it was, it was disappointing that the humans were building in a place with such a lovely view of the sky. If he had found this place earlier, he’d have chased them away before they even found it. It would have made a nice napping spot, or maybe even a spot to each lunch and watch the clouds.

Ah, well. Too late now.

What were they building? It looks like they had already set the foundation of their structure, and it was massive. Were they starting a new town here? Or were they building a place of worship? Was it for Farore? If it was, he would love to visit it when it was completed. He inched closer to get a better look. Without paying attention, he accidentally stepped on a large fallen branch. The snapping noise was unusually loud, which garnered the attention of the humans. Ghirahim froze in place, terrified. He opened his mouth to say something, but a man had started yelling before he could get a word out.

“What in Hylia’s name is that thing?!” he exclaimed, pointing in the demon child’s direction.

“By the Goddesses, it’s hideous!!”

“Quick, does anyone have a sword?!”

At the mention of “sword,” Ghirahim turned and ran. Behind him, he heard more shouting.

“After it!! Don’t let that thing get away!!”

Then came the thundering footsteps. His heart pounded as he forced his small legs to carry him faster. He zigzagged through the trees, doing his best to be careful as to not run into one or get smacked in the face by low-hanging branches or overgrown shrubs. His eyes stung with tears; was he truly that much of a monster that even the humans were appalled by the mere sight of him? He recognized that he wasn’t anywhere near the perfect beauty of the other elite demons, but he at least thought he was “normal looking” by human standards. Apparently he had thought wrong.

No wonder he was always alone and neglected…

Blinking back his tears, Ghirahim sprinted for the hidden passageway leading back underground. It was close, he knew, but he was running down an unfamiliar path so quickly that it was hard to spot from where he was. He was too busy trying to locate the passageway that he failed to notice a figure step out in front of him.

He ran right into whoever it was. Rubbing his head in pain, he looked up.

There, standing in front of him, was the most beautiful creature Ghirahim had ever seen. Long, plaited hair cascaded from the woman’s head, glittering in the sunlight like strands of the purest gold. Her wise eyes glowed with divine light, shining a radiant ice blue that seemed to pierce his very soul. Large feathered wings were folded neatly behind her back, and in her hand she carried a golden harp. Her elegant white gown flowed to the forest floor, yet it seemed to be unblemished by the dirt and grass. Her very presence radiated a warm, gentle light. Clearly, she was one of the Divine. She must have been Hylia.

Ghirahim felt unworthy to be in her presence.

“I-I…” he started, lowering his gaze to the forest floor. “I’m…”

“Why are you here, demon?” the goddess asked, her voice regal and cold.

The demon child flinched.

“I-I was just…” he began. “I didn’t mean…”

Hylia did not wait for him to form an intelligible answer.

“You and your kind do not belong in this world of light. Begone with you! Return to the darkness from whence you came! Otherwise you will leave me no choice but to let my people have their way with you. Go, and never return. If I find that you have returned to the surface at any point in time, I will destroy you myself.”

The demon child trembled in fear. Swallowing hard, he shakily nodded and hurried toward the secret passage. The entire way, he felt the goddess’s eyes on him. The moment he rushed into the opening and began his descent, he heard the unmistakable sound of the opening being sealed shut; he would never be able to return to the forest again on his own. He would never have a chance to find a friend, though that was probably for the best; apparently humans wanted nothing to do with him anyway.

Farore had given him her answer, it seemed; Ghirahim was destined to suffer through his torment alone, as per usual.

…Well fine. He didn’t need her to answer his prayers! It was a ridiculous prayer, anyway. What would he do with a friend? They wouldn’t be able to help him. No, he only had himself to rely on. If Farore was anything like Hylia, then he wanted nothing to do with her. Good riddance.

With a scowl and a heavy heart, the demon child made his way back into Demise’s palace. He was about to head to his chambers to just forget about this horrible day, but it seemed fortune did not favor him; he was stopped my Malehim.

Ghirahim lowered his head in respect, as was required when addressing Demise’s second-in-command. He knew that this encounter would not end pleasantly, no matter how polite he was.

“Where are you going, Ghirahim?” the eldest demon asked, narrowing his eyes at the boy. “Or should I ask where were you? You reek of Divine. What have you done, you foolish child?!”

“I didn’t do anything!! I just...I was out for a walk on the surface, and—”

Malehim’s eyes narrowed in rage.

“Did you say you were out on the surface?” he asked darkly. “Because last I recall, I forbade you from ever stepping foot outside of this palace, did I not?”

Ghirahim shrunk into himself, knowing what came next for defying the highest elite’s orders.

“I-I—”

Did. I. Not?”

“You did…” the boy whispered.

Malehim grunted and lifted him by the throat.

“Then come, little one. You deserve only the most painful of punishments for defying my direct order.”

As Ghirahim struggled to breathe, Malehim dragged him into a nearby room and proceeded to execute his punishment. Apparently it had indeed been the most painful punishment the demon child had ever received, for he had passed out some time during the process and woke hours later with daggers in his palms, pinning him to the wall. He didn’t know which pain was worse: the feeling of daggers through his hands or the rest of the pain in his body. Everything felt broken and strained; Malehim had literally beaten him within an inch of his life. The only thing he didn’t touch, it seemed, was his face. Then again, he was used to that, too.

Nobody touched his face. Whether it was because they were too disgusted by it or if they couldn’t because he was the Demon of Conceit he didn’t know; all he knew was that it was something to be grateful for. He was still holding out hope that someday he would be worthy of his title.

With a pained moan, Ghirahim forced himself to rip his hand free of one of the daggers. Biting back an agonized scream, he pulled the twin dagger from his other hand and collapsed to the floor. He lay there in a pool of his own blood for a long time before he finally forced himself to stand. His legs buckled beneath him, but he remained upright by using the wall for support. Fighting down feelings of anguish and hopelessness, the demon child staggered down the hall for his chambers. Yet as cruel fate would have it, it seemed he was not finished being punished by the forces of the universe, for Tordanim and Vigirhim walked in his direction gossiping among themselves.

Tordanim was the first to notice him.

“Why, Ghirahim~” she said. “Whatever did you do now? You look positively dreadful~”

Vigirhim snickered into his hand.

“I didn’t think it would be possible for you to look even more dreadful than you already do,” he added with a smirk. “But it appears you’ve gotten on Malehim’s bad side—again. Oopsie~”

The two elites laughed, just as they always had when Ghirahim was the butt of their mockery. With every word, Ghirahim felt whatever bit of innocence—if demons even had innocence—slowly wither away and die. He had already been insulted and injured enough today. With a growl, he moved around them and continued for his chambers; he would not dignify their taunts. When he finally arrived, he bolted the large double doors shut and sat at his vanity. Peering into the mirror, he scowled at his reflection. The longer he looked at himself and the more he replayed the day’s events in his mind, the angrier he became. His heart ached worse than his body, and the waves of hopelessness and despair were too much for his young mind to take. All at once the dam had broken; every bit of torment he had fought hard to keep locked away burst forth with a vengeance. The rage, the anguish, the humiliation, the betrayal—he felt it all, ten thousand times more intensly as it all came crashing down on him.

He’d show them. He’d show them all!!

Gritting his teeth, he stared deep into the mirror. Something snapped in his young mind, and he had an epiphany. With this new revelation, his scowl twisted into an unnerving grin. His charcoal eyes widened, their intelligence shrouded by derangement.

He laughed.

Despite the searing pain shooting through his small body, he laughed harder than he ever had before. It was shrill and raucous; it was the very sound of madness. It was a cruel laugh—a tortured laugh—and it empowered him. Starting tonight, he would no longer be the weak, ugly child everyone called him. No, he was going to surpass Malehim himself by the time his journey was over. He would learn grace, he would become strong—the strongest. He would achieve the highest rank of power he was able; could he have surpassed Demise he would, but for now he would have to settle for second-in-command. Most importantly of all, he would become more beautiful than Hylia herself. Yes, he would become the ultimate embodiment of resplendence.

And he would do it all blissfully alone.

Gone was the sniveling Ghirahim who allowed himself to be walked all over and felt sorry for himself. He was a new demon, and he never felt more alive. With a chuckle, the demon child went to clean himself up and tend to his wounds. The next day, everything had changed. Ghirahim had made it his personal mission to be acknowledged. He forced his way into conversations and asserted his opinions without apology. He threw vicious retorts back at anyone who dared insult him, making sure to hit them precisely where it hurt the most. Even when the elites tried to beat him for his insolence, he would simply laugh in their faces and accept every blow with valor. His new behavior had unnerved the other demons, and in time they learned to stay out of his way. Even Malehim would avoid him whenever possible, and Uhirim held his tongue lest it be ripped from his mouth.

Year after year, Ghirahim grew older and more powerful. He had ensured he received only the best training. He practiced diligently in combat and read every text he could get his hands on. He had established respect for himself; he allowed no one to get in his way, no matter their rank. All of his hard work and dedication paid off; the elites not only respected him, but feared him. He had grown more powerful than they, for their hubris prevented them from improving over all those years. They had assumed they would always be on top, that Ghirahim would never reach their level; but oh, how marvelous it felt to finally assert his power over them. To bring the mighty four to pathetic grovelling at his feet was the most exhilarating thing he had ever felt. Malehim was still Demise’s second-in-command, but even he feared Ghirahim’s wrath now. All of that was only a secondary accomplishment, though, for his true success was his body.

He was radiant. Despite starting out as such an ugly duckling, Ghirahim was pleased that he naturally acquired beauty the older he grew. Still, it was not enough. He had put meticulous care into perfecting his look. It had taken him years to find the perfect hairstyle, the perfect outfit, the perfect way to accent his lips. Everything about his appearance was painstakingly fretted over, from the color of his lips to the sway of his hips when he walked. All of the blood, sweat, and tears he shed over becoming the most beautiful being imaginable had paid off. Every time he walked into a room, all eyes were on him. Even those mindless, disgusting monsters that served him looked at him hungrily (until he destroyed one to teach them a lesson about staring for too long). His greatest reward, however, had been the day Demise finally acknowledged him.

The other elites were in a meeting with the Demon King to discuss the full return of his power. Ghirahim had let himself in, making it a point to be fashionably late. The moment he sauntered through the doors, the elites had lowered their heads. Demise, on the other hand, looked directly at him. The demon made sure to flash his king the most dazzling smile he could manage before bowing politely; Demise was the only being he bowed to now. Keeping his gaze to the floor, he felt the Demon King’s eyes linger. After a moment, he was given permission to rise and join the discussion—after he had ordered Malehim to the end of the table so Ghirahim might sit beside the king instead. The look on the eldest demon’s face was priceless. Ghirahim happily took his spot.

The Demon King explained that his power had fully returned, meaning that Hylia’s influence on the surface was slowly-but-surely diminishing. The time to strike was at hand, but he could not lead a war without a proper weapon. Hence, he called upon the elites to choose one to become a sword spirit. Only the most powerful among them would be acceptable, and anyone not chosen would bow to the new spirit as they did to their king. The other elites perked up at this news, but Ghirahim remained silent. As each of his kin gave their opinion as to why they should be chosen to become Demise’s sword, Ghirahim conspired on his own. He had the perfect scheme in mind. The Demon King had fallen for his trap; he would spring it once the meeting was over.

After the elites had been dismissed, Ghirahim stayed behind. Demise looked at him expectantly.

“My king,” the demon purred as sensually as he could manage (he had made it a point in the past to observe every elite and their vices; Tordanim’s was most useful in this situation). “I’m certain you care not for what I can say in order to convince you to let me be your sword, but rather what I can do.”

The Demon King smirked.

“What is it you’re implying, Ghirahim?” he asked huskily.

Ghirahim smirked as well, though it was one of solely meant for himself.

“Well, if your Majesty would permit me, I feel this conversation is best carried out in your chambers, behind closed doors~”

He dared to place his hand on the Demon King’s arm. It was a risky move, but one that paid off exceptionally well. Demise’s smirk broadened.

“Show me how willing you are to serve me on your knees and I may consider your proposition, little conceited one.”

Ghirahim bowed his head, the satisfaction of knowing his victory was assured keeping him from backing out of the situation last minute.

“With pleasure, my king~” he purred, allowing his creator to lead him to his private chambers.

He hated every moment behind those closed doors. He bit back the shame and humiliation of being dominated like he was some cheap whore. He hated being forced into such submissiveness, but it was the only option. Although he loathed the trade, he chose this path. He suggested it. Ultimate power was soon to be at his fingertips; he would swallow the shame and bear it. No matter what transpired, he would hold on to everything he was given. After spending so long in the shadows, alone and unnoticed, it was time to shine brighter than any diamond could ever dream. No longer would he be Ghirahim, Demon of Conceit; instead, he would be Lord Ghirahim, the Demon Sword. The ultimate weapon of the Demon King. He would be the blade that would strike down Hylia and bleed her dry—and oh, how he looked forward to it!

After that night in the Demon King’s bed, all of Ghirahim’s desires finally came to fruition. There was no further discussion; the Demon of Conceit was transformed into the Demon Sword. The process had been painful—what being forced to become a living spirit and physically bound to the sword—but the Magic had done a marvelous job. Ghirahim admired his new body—glittering black, like polished onyx, unique white diamond patterns decorating his legs and torso. His skin was harder than any armor, and he could enter and exit the blade at will. He was still able to summon his own weapons as well. The best part was that he could shift between his spirit form and his demon form at will; as much as he adored this new form, he would be devastated if all the work he had put into his appearance beforehand had gone to waste. Although, he had the strongest suspicion that Demise gave him the ability on purpose, just so he could continue to see Ghirahim’s original beauty. It nearly made his gorge rise at the thought of having to call this creature Master now, but no matter.

Ghirahim had achieved his goals, and it had made him positively giddy. The first thing he did was inform the other elites of his promotion, much to their shock and dismay. Malehim had thrown the biggest tantrum over the turn of events and had the audacity to try and sidekick Ghirahim; it ended with a broken foot and the youngest elite laughing at the eldest’s pain. As amusing as it was to watch the other demons squirm in their discomfort over having to subjugate themselves to him, he grew bored of them. The fun of crushing them under his might was invigorating, but they had outlived their purpose. He had not forgotten all of the pain and torment the four had put him through; he had not forgotten his thirst for revenge. Demise had said that they were useless, and Ghirahim couldn’t agree more. That night, laughing all the while, the demon lord slaughtered the four elites without mercy. They never stood a chance against his hard-earned strength.

From that moment on, it was solely he who was in charge of the monster hordes. As soon his Master had conquered the surface and taken the Triforce for himself, Ghirahim would be the overseer of it all. Faron Woods would be his domain in particular, since the Demon King was aware of how much the new sword spirit fancied the area. The time finally came to strike, and together with the hordes they burst from the earth and brought the surface to its knees. The humans were butchered one by one; Hylia could do nothing to save them no matter how much they begged. To spare the last of them, the goddess planned to send them into the sky along with the Triforce to ensure it never fell into Demise’s hands. However, despite her divinity, it was not a feat she could pull off overnight. No, the Goddess of Time actually had to fight. She had gathered forces from all of the other races throughout the land, and together they put up a decent fight against the monster hordes.

It had been successful; Demise was forced to temporarily retreat. Ghirahim had received the brunt of his wrath. From that moment forward, every defeat suffered at the hands of the goddess was responded to with brutal beatings and for the demon lord. On “good days,” he was treated apathetically. Yet, despite that, he was grateful that he was no longer required to visit his Master’s bed. He would gladly take the beatings and berating if it meant holding on to what was left of his dignity. He was beyond the point of no return; even if he wanted to, he could never dispose of the Demon King. As his sword, it was his purpose and duty to serve him; the devotion to that cause had been forged into him. There was nothing he could do to change this, but at least he had the power and beauty he always desired.

That was all that mattered.

When Hylia successfully sealed Demise at her temple, Ghirahim felt a sense of loss like he never experienced before. Part of it he knew was the artificial need to serve his Master; the other was that he truly had nothing left. Just like before, he was left alone. As much as he tried to convince himself that he didn’t care for such nonsense, he knew better. In his mind, it was better to suffer at the hands of a Master that needed him than to be left alone without a purpose.

That accursed Hylia had taken everything away for a second time now.

He was satisfied knowing that the wench would succumb to the injuries his Master—no, he—had given her in time. Once she was gone, he would do everything he could to resurrect the Demon King. So he waited. A day came over a millennium later when he could finally act, and he did. He had nearly accomplished his mission—had nearly repressed the distaste he felt being reminded of the past—but that pesky Link kept getting in his way and reminding him of his shortcomings. No matter how hard he tried, he could never win against the young man. It was infuriating enough that he was a constant throne in his side, but then he delivered the final blow—literally and metaphorically—at the last moment, just when Ghirahim’s plans had nearly been fulfilled. Without even knowing what he had been through, the whelp figured out that Ghirahim was not as flawless as he appeared to be. The man took pity upon the demon lord for it.

The blasted Hero had seen right through him in those final moments; he had noticed Ghirahim’s loneliness and shame, and all the demon lord had worked for had been undone. After all those years of toil, he had been reduced once again to a child lamenting his plight.

Chapter Text

Ghirahim exhaled slowly after he concluded his story. He didn’t know what he was feeling. Shame? Rage? Grief? Relief? A disorienting myriad of emotions swirled in his mind; he felt so many things at once that he found himself becoming rather disagreeable. He looked at his companions grumpily, expecting to see pity on their faces even though they agreed not to, but he saw none. His bad mood melting away immediately, he relaxed his shoulders. Tatl hung her head, angry with herself for jumping to conclusions so quickly about the demon despite everything he had done for Link thus far; she never would have guessed that he had been through so much and that he became his current self as a form of both revenge and survival. She made a mental promise that she would give the man the benefit of the doubt from that point on.

Link, meanwhile, rubbed at his eyes furiously. He was angry—at those elite demons for constantly tormenting Ghirahim, at Demise for being an awful Master, at Hylia for not even giving Ghirahim a chance to explain himself, at Farore for not answering the demon’s simple prayer for a friend. He was angry for so many reasons. He was also angry at the Hero of the Sky for not noticing Ghirahim’s plight earlier—so much could have been avoided and solved if he had! Worst of all, Link was angry with Ghirahim himself. He was upset that the sword spirit had given into his sorrow so easily. Why hadn’t he put up more of a fight? If he didn’t want to be evil, why didn’t he at least try?

…But Ghirahim had never said anything about not wanting to be evil. He said he didn’t want to suffer all alone, but he had. Link took a deep breath to calm himself. Although he was a little upset with the demon lord, he didn’t blame him. Perhaps if he had been in that situation, he would have done the exact same thing. He liked to think he would fight back against his antagonists and triumph over them by using his pain for the greater good, but he wasn’t sure; after all, it was easy to imagine how one would handle a hypothetical situation. It was much different actually being in it. Sniffling, he looked at Ghirahim.

The demon chuckled softly.

“Out of all the reactions I was anticipating, you being angry with me was the furthest thing from what I expected. Truly you are a boy of many surprises.”

Link shook his head and wiped at his eyes again.

“I shouldn’t be angry with you at all. If anything, I’m more angry at everybody else for hurting you. I’m especially angry that Farore couldn’t bother to answer your prayer. Seriously, how hard is it to guide someone to you in friendship? Stupid.”

Ghirahim chuckled again and shook his head.

“I am a demon. I did not come from the Divine, so I assume now that my prayers were never heard to begin with. How strange it is to self-reflect after so long.”

Link huffed and crossed his arms with a pout.

Still. It’s stupid.”

“Indeed it is, Link. Indeed it is.”

Silence drifted between them, interrupted only by the sounds of the crackling fire and the gentle lull of waves. Tatl pondered everything for a moment before she suddenly shot into the air.

“Wait. Wait!” she cried. “You boneheads, don’t you see it?! Farore did answer your prayer, Ghirahim!”

Both the hero and the demon lord stared at her incredulously.

“Whatever are you talking about?” Ghirahim asked skeptically.

“Yeah,” Link agreed. “There’s no—wait. Wait! No, wait, she’s right!”

Tatl scoffed and crossed her arms.

“Of course I’m right! Jeez, you guys are two peas in a pod—lonely and dumb.”

It was Ghirahim’s turn to scoff, but Link laughed excitedly. Turning to the spirit, the hero beamed. If Ghirahim had eyebrows, he’d raise one.

“It may have taken a while—a long while—but…you’ve got me,” the boy stated confidently.

And me!” Tatl added. “You’re not too bad, so. I think I can give you a chance.”

Link nodded in agreement.

“Maybe it took so long to answer because there was no one who could understand your pain at the time. I do. And maybe Farore knew you’d curse the Hero of the Sky and come back, so she waited. Maybe she didn’t want you to suffer through all that, but…” he trailed off, trying to properly grasp what exactly he was trying to say.

But because you did, you were given somebody who would accept you as you are, no matter what,” Tatl finished for him.

Link nodded.

“Yeah! That’s it!”

Ghirahim gawked at his companions, the weight of the revelation rendering him speechless. He was only viewing his partnership with Link as that of one between a master and servant; it was all he knew, after all. Yet the sudden realization that the boy and the fairy considered him their friend—their equal—shook him to his very core. The dark vice holding his heart hostage suddenly released. His perspective shattered, and it was as if he was seeing the world for what it truly was for the very first time: cruel, unfair, but beautiful in that it contained someone like Link and a voice of reason like Tatl. It filled his heart with rainbows.

He knew now that he had nothing to worry about; Link was so much stronger when it came to dealing with grief. The boy would never take the same path he did, this he now knew without a doubt. He chuckled.

“Well,” he said, looking at the youths. “This is a truly unexpected turn of events. And here I was, thinking I was merely carrying out my duty to you as your sword. I much prefer this current state of affairs~ So be it, then. From this point forward, I, too, will consider us to be friends.”

Perhaps this friendship business wasn’t such a weak thing after all. If Link and Tatl could accept him for everything he was, it just might be a force more powerful than he had ever imagined.

Not that he’d let them know that, of course.

Link smiled vibrantly. It was such a rare thing to see, and it was so warm.

“I’m glad you told us your story,” he said. “Thank you…”

Ghirahim allowed himself to return the boy’s smile—only slightly, though. He still had an image to maintain, after all.

“Thank you,” he replied. “For listening and accepting.”

Link nodded.

“Can we hug now?”

Ghirahim scoffed.

“Who said anything about a hug?”

“Oh, we’re definitely hugging.”

Boundaries, child! I have boundar—aaagh!!”

Too late. Link had launched himself at Ghirahim, and now he was being crushed with surprising strength in a bear hug.

“Group hug!” Tatl exclaimed, moving to join in.

Ghirahim sighed and rolled his eyes, but he permitted it. With a tiny, amused chuckle, he returned Link’s embrace with one arm and patted Tatl with his free hand. Perhaps this wasn’t that excruciating after all.

The three of them remained like that for a long while, silent and content. The echo of soft music drifted across the waves, and all was well for now.

~~~~~~~~~~

After their emotional night at Great Bay, Link restarted time once dawn had come on the Final Day. Now back in Clock Town, he headed for the East district. All that was left to do was purge the temple and free the giant in Ikana Canyon, then the final showdown could begin. He was so close to saving Termina and getting that dumb mask back to the Happy Mask Salesman. Honestly, he couldn’t wait to finally have a moment to rest without worry before he resumed his initial search for Navi.

Are you sure you want to keep searching for your other fairy friend?

Of course I’m sure. It’s the whole reason I’m here. I can’t go back without her.’

What if you never find her? Will you search forever?

Link frowned. He knew Ghirahim had a point, but he didn’t like it.

I don’t know! That’ll depend on if I find any clues to her whereabouts, I guess! Or until I’ve searched all of Hyrule Forest, whatever comes first.’

At least you have some sort of idea.

Of course I do. I also have a prayer in my heart.’

The demon lord went quiet after that. Link nodded to himself and looked at Tatl.

“You’ve been really quiet,” he stated. “Are you okay?”

The fairy looked at him.

“So…I was thinking about answered prayers. I know Tael will be alright and I’ll see him again soon, and I know you’ll save Termina from the Skull Kid, but I remembered something from when we stayed at that inn the other night.”

“Oh?”

Tatl nodded.

“The innkeeper, Anju…I heard her praying through the wall. She was praying to the Goddess of Time, asking to receive any sort of word from her fiancé. Someone named Kafei.”

That name sounded familiar to Link.

“Kafei? Like the guy Madam Aroma asked me to find?” He paused to pull out Kafei’s Mask. “This guy?”

Tatl shrugged.

“I think so. I haven’t heard of anyone else named ‘Kafei.’”

Link sighed and smiled at her. He did enjoy helping people, after all; even if it put him behind schedule.

“Alright,” he said. “We’ll help Anju find Kafei. I’m gonna go stock up on essentials, then we’ll go get a room at the inn and investigate.”

The fairy bobbed in place excitedly.

“Yes! More answered prayers!” she exclaimed. “For true love!”

“Right!” Link agreed.

Love? How revolting .

Oh, be quiet. I think you’re just jealous because you don’t have a girlfriend.’

Mmm, hard to be jealous of that when I’m more interested in men~ But women are just as enjoyable~ I suppose it just depends~

“…Oh. Well, still. My point stands.’

As does mine. Love? Drab .

The young hero rolled his eyes and allowed the demon lord to have the last word—for now. Truthfully, he still didn’t understand the intricacies of love, even when he was an adult. He knew the love of friendship very well, but the kind of love that caused people to get married and all that? Not a clue.

Good. You shouldn’t have to concern yourself over such nonsense. Not for a long time, anyway. There is no need to demolish what little innocence you have left.

Okay, okay! Let it go already! I get it!’

“Are you two arguing again?” Tatl asked at the look on Link’s face.

Link rolled his eyes.

“I’m getting lectured again. For no reason. Again.”

Tatl snickered.

“He sure loves to hear himself talk, huh?”

“Of course he does! I mean, have you met the guy?”

The two shared a laugh.

After spending the morning gathering bombs, arrows, rupees, and anything else useful, Link made his way back into town. When he arrived at the Stock Pot Inn, the Postman had beat him to the desk. He heard Anju gasp as she opened the letter she was given.

“Where…where did you get this…?!” she asked, eyes wide.

“From the postbox,” the Postman answered.

“Th-that’s not what I mean! Which postbox?”

“I’m afraid that’s confidential patron information.”

“Please…!!”

“I’m sorry, Anju.”

Link frowned as he witnessed the exchange. What was the Postman hiding? What was in that letter? Was it from Kafei? It must be, judging by the innkeeper’s reaction. This was a promising start. Patiently (or at least as patiently as he could manage), the boy waited on the lobby sofa for his turn. Eventually—about fifteen minutes later—the Postman left. Anju sighed sadly and looked at the letter in her hands before she noticed her guest.

Oh! I’m so sorry!” she cried, giving Link an apologetic bow. “W-welcome to the Stock Pot Inn! Did…you have a reservation?”

Link smiled at her.

“It’s no problem. But yes, I do. It’s under ‘Link,’ please.”

Anju smiled and retrieved the Knife Chamber key, then gave him directions to the room that he had memorized already. The boy thanked her and pocketed the key; he then pulled out Kafei’s Mask.

“Actually, miss, I’m looking for someone. Have you seen this man?”

Anju gasped again, accidentally taking a step away from the hero.

“You’re also looking for Kafei?! Th-then I have a request! Tonight—midnight—please meet me in the kitchen.” She gestured behind her. “I have information that might help you…”

Link nodded.

“Kitchen at midnight. I’ll be there.”

A kind smile brightened the innkeeper’s face.

“Thank you so much…”

Link nodded again and went to his room. Once they were behind closed doors, Ghirahim snapped out of the sword.

“Well, that was quite convenient timing. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.”

“Yeah,” Link agreed, kicking off his boots. “Weird.”

“Maybe it’s a sign,” Tatl suggested. “Like we’re supposed to help.”

“Maybe,” Link replied. “Well then, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be sidetracked for a while, so I’m gonna take a nap.”

“What about at least scoping out Ikana Canyon? It might be difficult to get up there, you know.”

“We’ll be fine. If anything, Ghirahim can just snap us there in a flash.”

Ghirahim snorted.

“I most certainly will not. Since we have established that we are friends—therefore equals—I refuse to allow you to take advantage of me like that. You’re the hero, so it’s up to you to figure out your own path.”

The young hero groaned.

“The only time you used your powers was when you helped Mikau out of the ocean and when we were getting Lulu’s eggs back from pirates! Oh, and that time when I dropped my bow. Why can’t you make this quest a little easier on me?”

The demon lord smirked.

“What kind of friend would I be if I allowed you to grow lazy? Next thing you know, you’ll be having me doing the adventuring for you. Which, quite frankly, I have zero interest in doing. I’ll assist where I can when you’re in need, but otherwise it’s all up to you.”

Link sighed and pulled his boots back on.

“Fiiiine. Let’s go check out Ikana Canyon while we wait.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Tatl’s speculation about getting to the Eastern Canyon had been annoyingly accurate; Link decided that living Bombchus were the absolute worst, and he so badly wanted to beat the shady man who refused to show him the path to the canyon with a deku stick. Who had time to go looking for a super-specific mask just to gain access to a stupid path?! …Apparently he did, because he had gone to Ikana Graveyard and challenged Captain Keeta in battle for the Captain’s Hat—but apparently that wasn’t enough for that “gatekeeper” jerk! Link was at wit’s end!

“Can you at least give me a hint?!” he snapped, glaring up at the hooded figure.

“You’ll never save the tormented souls of this accursed place without something to summon the spirits of the ninja clan that spied on the castle atop the cliff, yee hee hee!”

Oh, for the love of Farore.

“So a ninja mask that summons the dead. Got it. Thanks.” Link shook his head and turned Epona back toward Clock Town. “Well that was a bust.”

“Told you it was a good idea to check it out in our downtime,” Tatl replied.

“Well we could be up there right now if someone would just help us out,” the hero grumbled.

You’re doing a fabulous job on your own~ Keep up the good work~

Oh, shut up, you traitor.’

Haaa~

Tatl suddenly gasped.

Oh!!” she exclaimed. “Those riders who attacked Cremia! They had on some creepy masks! I wonder if you could find one yourself?”

Link shuddered at the memory of near-death via pitchfork to the face. He heard Ghirahim growl in his mind, signaling that the sword spirit wasn’t too fond of that memory, either.

Change of plans. I will help you.

Link brightened up at the words.

So you’ll snap us up to the canyon?’

Heavens no, that’s still on you. However, I will go and locate this “ninja mask” for you; you focus on helping that Anju woman.

Seriously?! Wow, you do have a heart!’

Well of course I do, you brat! Ungrateful. An absolute outrage.

Thanks, Ghirahim~ You’re the best~’

Hmph. And don’t you ever forget it!

With that, the demon emerged from the Gilded Sword and snapped away.

“Where’s he going?” Tatl inquired.

“He’s gonna find us that mask while we help Anju.”

“…Wow, what a pal!”

“I know, right?!”

Maybe now this mission would be a whole lot easier. At least, that’s what Link hoped as he rode back to Clock Town.

~~~~~~~~~~

Link listened to the ticking of the clock as he lounged on his bed. Midnight was still a few hours away, and Ghirahim still hadn’t returned, so the boy was bored. He had gotten used to the demon lord’s company and had nearly forgotten how quiet it was without him. If he was being completely honest, he didn’t like it; he missed Ghirahim and his constant chatter. He found himself thinking way too much without the spirit there to distract him.

“It is way too quiet,” he muttered to himself.

“That’s because it’s late at night, genius,” Tatl retorted.

Link snorted and turned over on his side.

“You both do that a lot,” the fairy observed. “Snort, I mean. At things you think are annoying.

“Do not,” Link protested.

“Yeah, you do.”

The hero snorted again.

“Ha! See?! You just did it again!”

“Whatever! Is it midnight yet?”

Stupid question, but at least it got Tatl to stop. He just wasn’t in the mood after the morning he had. His mind wandered to the demon lord and his mission to find that stupid mask. Admittedly, he was touched by Ghirahim’s offer to find it for him, considering he had previously made big deal out of not helping him. He also appreciated that the sword spirit cared enough to do whatever possible to prevent him from going back to that area on Milk Road. Link wouldn’t have cared personally; he could handle it, but it was nice to know that someone was looking out for him. He’d find a way to return Ghirahim’s unexpected kindness someday.

The sound of muffled voices coming from the room next door broke him from his thoughts. Tatl scoffed at the fact they could hear voices at all, but Link was curious. He made his way over to listen.

“Eavesdropping, eh?” Tatl asked. “Is there no low you won’t sink to?”

Link glared at her, bringing a finger to his lips. The fairy sighed and relented.

“It’s Anju,” Link muttered. “And some older lady… Her mother? Yeah…”

Anju’s mother sounded angry; Anju was doing her best to not get angry, he could tell. The argument had to do with the letter Anju received. The innkeeper’s mother accused Kafei of running off with Cremia, and that he was only stringing Anju along at this point. Link automatically knew that wasn’t true; he’d seen it with his own eyes and heard Cremia talk about the upcoming wedding. She called Anju her best friend and clearly cared about the innkeeper’s happiness more than her own. He knew Cremia would never hurt Anju like that, no matter what her feelings were.

Thankfully, Anju knew this, too, for she jumped to her friend’s defense:

Cremia would never do something like that, and neither would Kafei! Yes, I know about her feelings for him—she told me herself!—but I also know that she’d never act on them! She’s a good person with a good heart, so don’t you dare bring her into this, Mother!”

Yeah, you tell her, Anju!’ Link thought with a smirk.

The argument continued for several more minutes. In that time, Link learned some of the content of Kafei’s letter: that he was sorry for disappearing so suddenly, that he wanted to see Anju, that he had no desire to cancel the wedding. It seemed that Kafei really regretted leaving. Putting what pieces he could together, Link assumed something bad must have happened to the man, which meant he needed to find him as soon as possible.

Turning away from the wall, the boy sighed and looked at Tatl.

“Yeah, we definitely have to find Kafei now. I’m guessing that he’s hurting as much as Anju is.”

The fairy nodded in agreement.

“Yeah. Well, we’ll reunite them soon. I can just feel it!”

“Right!”

Tatl smiled.

“You know,” she said. “you really are the answer to a lot of people’s prayers. They might not realize it or remember you, but I’m sure deep down they appreciate all you do. Gratitude like that just doesn’t go away, even if time resets and they’re back to square one. Because you helped them the first time, there’s hope in their hearts that their problems will be solved. You put that hope there, Link.”

Link smiled, his heart warmed by her words. Although he wasn’t quite sure if he believed them completely, he certainly wanted to hold onto that hope.

“I appreciate that. Thank you for those kind words, Tatl.”

“Anytime. And I mean them.”

“I know.”

The two youths smiled at each other and nodded. The next couple hours were passed in silence, but it was comfortable and fit the mood perfectly. Before he knew it, Link noticed it was time for his meeting. After a quick stretch, he hurried downstairs to the kitchen where Anju was waiting.

“I’m sorry to bother you at such a late hour,” she softly said, looking at Link apologetically. “But it’s about him… Kafei…”

The young hero smiled and shook his head.

“You’re not bothering me at all,” he replied. “I’m more than happy to help.”

Anju smiled kindly.

“Thank you… I have a clue, I think, that might help you find him. He wants to meet me tomorrow afternoon… He says that he has a lot he needs to tell me, and that…for whatever reason…he’s scared… I don’t not want to see him, but…I’m scared, too… He’s been missing for well over a month, and this is the first I’ve heard from him in all that time. I…don’t know if I could handle seeing him hurt or worse… I…I can’t go…”

Link nodded in understanding.

“So you want me to go in your place,” he surmised.

The innkeeper nodded.

“If that’s alright,” she said.

“I’ll do it, then.” Link smiled brightly at her. “I’ll update you when I find him. Did he say anything about where to meet?”

Anju sighed and shook her head.

“No, but he did leave a hint, I think. He mentioned ‘the spot where the phonograph player practices at night.’ I’m assuming he means the phonograph player of the Gorman Troupe staying here, but I have no idea where he goes at night. I was planning on asking him in the morning, but…”

Link new exactly where he needed to go.

“I think I have an idea,” he said. “Did he say what time he wanted to meet?”

“Just sometime between four and five in the afternoon…”

“Alright. Leave it to me!”

Anju smiled and nodded. She then handed the boy a letter.

“This will explain everything to him. If it’s not too much trouble, could you please put it in a postbox first thing in the morning?”

Link grinned.

“I’ll do it right now,” he declared.

“Thank you so much… For everything,” the innkeeper said, giving the hero an appreciative bow. “Please, have a good rest of your night.”

Link nodded and went on his way. After depositing the letter into the nearest postbox, he pulled out Romani’s Mask and slipped it on.

“I say we have some time to hit the Milk Bar,” he announced.

Tatl rolled her eyes.

“Of course we do. Alright, have it your way. But don’t go over the top like last time! Ghirahim isn’t here to carry you back to the room if you pass out again.”

So it was Ghirahim who helped him out before. Jeez, that guy… He also had a great singing voice. Who knew? Link just shrugged.

“Just a bottle or two. Promise,” he said.

“If you get Chateau, one bottle is enough,” Tatl grumbled.

“Yes, Mom.”

“Ugh, Ghirahim’s right! You are a brat!”

Link grinned cheekily and shrugged.

“It’s what I do best, I guess~”

“Whatever! Just go get your stupid milk and go to bed!”

“Riiight, right~ Let’s go, then~”

That night, milk had never tasted more amazing.

~~~~~~~~~~

When he awoke late the next morning, Link wasn’t expecting to see Ghirahim sitting at the table lost in thought. The demon lord’s eyes were narrowed and a frown was set firmly on his face. He was staring at something—a mask!—in front of him. Link wondered what that was about.

Sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he said, “Hey, you’re back…”

Ghirahim looked at him.

“Indeed I am, and I come bearing the fruits of my success.” He tossed the mask to the boy, who caught it and started at it curiously. “I believe it’s called ‘Garo’s Mask.’ I traced it to those fiendish Gorman Brothers. As I suspected, it was those barbarians who attacked the wagon and tried to kill you. Needless to say, I was quite disagreeable and undiplomatic in our exchange, so that mask was acquired by force. My apologies.”

Honestly, Link didn’t mind that bit of news. Did that make him a bad person?

“Well, what’s done is done,” he said. “They won’t remember when I restart time, anyway. Thank you, Ghirahim…”

The spirit nodded. Link started at him.

“Are…you okay?” he asked tentatively. “You seem bothered.”

“I’m…” Ghirahim trailed off, trying to find the right words. “Concerned.”

Concerned? About what?”

The man sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“Do you feel it?” he asked, looking toward the window. “That dark influence? I’ve felt it ever since I was revived, but it seems to be getting stronger everyday, regardless if you reset time or not. I am concerned…for you, Link.”

The hero raised an eyebrow.

“For me? Why? This isn’t my first time dealing with ‘dark influences,’ you know. I’m sure I can handle it.”

Ghirahim sighed again and shook his head.

“I mean that I’m concerned for you because I’m uncertain of what it will take to destroy it,” he clarified. “This is not like the monsters you’ve slain in the world already. It will take more than a mask and a sword to defeat this evil. The Master Sword was a sacred force meant to specifically seal away evil. You do not have it now, and my assistance may not be enough.”

Link considered the sword spirit’s words, but ultimately stood by what he said before: he’d be fine.

In a moment of wisdom, he said, “A sword has no strength unless the hand that wields it has courage. The Master Sword alone can’t do anything without anyone to use it. I believe in us and what we can do together. I have faith in you, Ghirahim, so have faith in me.”

“I have the utmost faith in you, Link. However—wait. Are you suggesting that I’m weak without you?!”

Link laughed, holding up his hands and shaking his head.

“Not at all! You’re the exception, Ghira!”

The demon felt himself flush at the use of such a nickname, but he acted as nonchalant as he could. He nodded and crossed his arms with a grunt.

“I had better be, because I’ll have you know I am magnificent on my own. Watch me in action and you’ll see that I am positively fabulous at what I do.”

The boy hero chuckled.

“I never doubted that for a moment,” he said.

Good. Now, what are we supposed to be doing today?”

Link filled him in on yesterday’s details and informed him of the meeting taking place later that afternoon. Ghirahim nodded, although he thought the whole situation was ludicrous—sending a child as a messenger to solve the affairs of lovers. Had he not been too exhausted to receive a lecture from Link, he would voice his opinion that both adults in this situation were cowards. If they couldn’t solve their own problems and properly communicate with one another, what was the point in marriage? This whole thing was completely absurd, but Link had his heart sent on helping them, so it was pointless to try and argue. Whatever the boy decided to do, he would support him (even if he did loath some of the ideas). His prayer from long ago had been answered, after all, so he would not abandon his friend—even if some of the missions he attempted were foolhardy.

Chapter Text

The Laundry Pool was one of those places that could just put one’s mind at ease. Tucked away from the rest of town, it offered the perfect spot to take a break from the usual hustle and bustle. Link could see why Kafei would choose to meet Anju here. It was quiet; private.

Lovely little spot for a lovers’ rendezvous.

Yeah. I hope Kafei isn’t too disappointed when he sees me instead of Anju.’

If he is, then that’s his problem to deal with. You’re doing them both a favor. If they are unhappy with your services, then they may not need your assistance as much as they pretend.

Link sighed. Again, Ghirahim had a good point, but he didn’t like it.

Well, I still want to help them anyway.’

Your intentions are noble to a fault. Truthfully, they should be solving their own problems. Relationships— especially marriages—will never last without proper communication. These two seem to be lacking in abundance.

Link snorted.

What do you know about relationships—especially marriages?’

I’m a romantic at heart, believe it or not.

Yeah, I don’t believe you at all.’

Believe what you will. It is not my concern if those two last or not. For all the trouble you’re going through to assist them, however, I hope they do.

Link sighed and shook his head.

Glancing at Tatl, he said, “Be grateful you don’t have to listen to him go on and on in your head, too.”

“Trust me, I don’t envy you at all.”

The hero chuckled and took a seat on the bench to wait. He wasn’t sure when Kafei would show up, but at least he knew he was in the right area. He looked up at the dreary sky, anticipating rain. Although it stunk getting caught in it all day, he liked it when it rained. It was comforting, and it made today perfect for a secret meeting since nobody else would be coming to the Laundry Pool any time soon. Hopefully Kafei felt the same way and didn’t back out at the last minute. Adults had a tendency to do that a lot if they felt inconvenienced. To Link, it was the most frustrating thing ever. Why make obligations if you couldn’t be bothered to stick with them?

He was broken out of his thoughts by the steady pitter-patter of the Postman. The man didn’t notice (or didn’t care to acknowledge) the boy as he jogged over to the Curiosity Shop bell. Link didn’t mind; it was best to go unnoticed as he observed. A brief moment after the Postman rang the bell, the shop door opened and a violet-haired boy wearing a Keaton mask hurried over to meet him. Link could have sworn he’d seen this boy before…

Wasting no time while they were distracted, he quickly moved for the shop door as stealthily as possible. When he made it inside, he climbed the stairs leading to a makeshift bedroom. Suspicious.

Be vigilant. I sense powerful magic nearby.

“Ghirahim says he senses powerful magic,” he relayed to Tatl.

Tatl nodded in agreement.

“I feel something, too. Stay sharp, Link.”

The boy nodded and glanced around the room. The door opened, and he straightened. Alert and ready for whatever came next, he waited. The violet-haired boy reached the top of the stairs and stared at Link from behind his mask. Link felt like he was being sized up by an adult; the other boy seemed to radiate that kind of aura.

Ghirahim’s observation in that moment didn’t help:

He’s the source of magic.

Link squared his shoulders and put on his sternest expression. He was there for a reason, and nobody would get in his way. He raised his chin slightly, challenging the mask-wearing boy to speak.

He did.

“Green hat, green clothes… Anju wrote about you in her letter.”

What? How did this kid know about Anju’s letter? Link was about to ask, but the kid kept going.

“It seems you are looking for Kafei. Can you keep a secret?”

All Link could do was nod. The other boy exhaled behind his Keaton mask and paced a bit.

“Anju trusts you,” he said, stopping to look at the hero again. “I shall also trust you.”

The boy removed his mask and stared at Link with intense red eyes.

I am Kafei.”

Tatl scoffed.

“The Kafei we’re looking for is an adult,” she said, somewhat rudely. “When I look at you, I only see a child.”

Ah, so the magic is a curse. I see.

Link furrowed his eyebrows. Kafei sighed.

“I was turned into this by an imp wearing a mask. Though, this is not the reason I went into hiding. You see, on my way to the Great Fairy’s Fountain, my wedding mask—the Sun’s Mask—was stolen from me. Without it, I can’t face Anju. Not without shame.”

“You’re just careless,” Tatl retorted. “Like my partner here.”

Tatl,” Link hissed. “Could you be a little nicer?”

The fairy harrumphed and went quiet. Link snorted and looked back at Kafei.

“Sorry about that,” he said.

Kafei chuckled.

“Ah, so you can talk.”

The audacity ! That’s it, we should leave. I refuse to let you continue with this if you’re going to be insulted.

Link’s eyebrow twitched, but more in response to Ghirahim than Kafei.

Quiet! You insult me all the time, anyway.’

Details, details.

“Are you alright?”

The young hero snapped his attention back to Kafei.

“Sorry, yes, I’m fine. Anyway, you were saying?”

“I was targeted because I look like this. A grinning thief attacked me and stole my wedding mask. Anju and I had made a promise to exchange masks for our wedding, and without mine I didn’t know how to prove that I’m me to her.”

“Oh my,” Tatl said dryly. “I pity you.”

“Perhaps it’s a good thing you came in her place,” Kafei continued. “I made her a promise, and right now I can’t keep it. I am going to find my mask first. In the meantime, might I make a request?”

Link nodded.

“Of course.”

The cursed man reached into his shirt and retrieved a pendant. Taking it off, he handed it to the boy hero.

“Please give this to her. She’ll know what it means. It’s a symbol of my devotion, as well as a promise to return soon so that we may exchange our vows. I will not leave her alone again. I just need to tie up some loose ends and get my mask back first.”

Link accepted the pendant.

“I’ll make sure she gets it,” he said. “Good luck with your search. If you need any help. I’ll be around.”

Kafei nodded in gratitude.

“Please don’t tell her about any of this. I want to explain everything myself.”

“Your secret’s safe with us. Right, Tatl?”

Tatl huffed and rolled her eyes.

“Of course it is! I’m not a blabber, you know!”

Link grinned and nodded at Kafei, who in turn chuckled.

“Thank you, green hat boy.”

The hero nodded once more before turning to leave. As he hurried toward the Stock Pot Inn, he heard Ghirahim scoff.

All of that over a mask? How absurd. There are several ways he could have proven his identity to her, and a mask can always be replaced. It sounds like an elaborate excuse to hide his shame to me. Rather than letting the supposed love of his life know right away what happened, he chose to run away and hide like a coward. It shows how little faith he has in her and in himself.

I don’t think that’s the case at all,’ Link thought with a frown. ‘I think he’s doing what he thinks is best to keep Anju safe. Clearly he regrets going into hiding, but maybe he’s afraid she’ll get caught up in the curse, too. Maybe he doesn’t want to cause her more pain than necessary. If she knew what happened right away, I’d bet she’d rush into action to try and fix things without thinking about the details. Sure, it might seem like a cowardly thing Kafei’s doing on the surface, but I think it goes much deeper than it appears. He wants to protect Anju.’

He could just feel it in his heart. It may have not been the right thing for Kafei to do, but it seemed to be the best option he had. If there’s one thing Link could say for sure, it was that love is complicated.

“I don’t know if I like that guy,” Tatl stated. “It’s hard to say why, but something about him rubs me the wrong way.”

“Not you, too,” Link grumbled. “You and Ghirahim both are being quick to judge Kafei. Sure, okay, he comes off as a little shady, but I can tell that he’s a good person and is only doing what he’s doing for Anju.”

“You know, that may be true, but you have a tendency to trust people too easily or have too much faith in them. Some people are just bad people, Link, and they don’t want to change.”

“Kafei’s not a bad person!” the boy snapped. “You’ll see!”

Tatl sighed.

“I hope you’re right, Link. I really, really do.”

“I am right, and you n’ Ghirahim are gonna eat your words. Besides, it was your idea to help them in the first place, Tatl.”

“I know, I know! Alright, I got it! Sheesh…”

Link huffed in frustration as he approached the inn door. He decided he was definitely going to the Milk Bar after this for a nice, cold bottle of Chateau Romani. Doing his best to not look as displeased as he felt, they young hero opened the door and approached the desk.

“Oh…!” Anju exclaimed when she saw him. Her expression was pensive, as if she had been thinking of a thousand different scenarios where the boy came back empty-handed. “Did…you see him…?”

Link smiled and fished Kafei’s gift out of his pocket. When he offered it to the innkeeper, she gasped. Her hands trembled as she clutched it close to her heart.

“I-it’s definitely Kafei’s…” she affirmed. “Thank you so much…”

The look on Anju’s face was all Link needed to know that his efforts had been worth it. He still had more to do, he knew, but the end result would be more than worth it.

He nodded.

“He says that he has some ‘loose ends’ he needs to take care of first, but he’ll definitely show up soon.”

The innkeeper smiled and nodded in response.

“I understand. I’ll stay here, then. I’ve decided to wait for him. Again, thank you for so much… For everything…”

Link grinned, feeling great after speaking with her. He wanted to make sure Anju was happy, and he was going to continue doing everything he could to ensure it. With a bit of pep in his step, the boy said goodnight to her and make his way straight for the Milk Bar. Today was a complete (er, maybe near-complete) success; that definitely called for a bottle of Chateau. Two for when he reunited the lovers, and three (or maybe four) after he saved Termina for good. Yeah, that was a plan.

Ignoring Ghirahim’s and Tatl’s protests, the boy hero took a seat on his favorite stool and ordered. He was miffed with them, and he was going to prove them wrong about Kafei. He was aware that he had a tendency to trust people too easily, but this time he knew he was right about the lovers. There was no changing his mind on this one; he was seeing it through to the end no matter what.

~~~~~~~~~~

Link was awoken late that evening (or early in the morning? It was hard to tell) by muffled shouting from next door. In the other bed, Ghirahim snarled at his beauty sleep being so rudely interrupted. Even Tatl groaned from inside Link’s hat.

“What in the name of the goddess…?” she slurred sleepily.

Someone will pay dearly for this affront,” the demon lord growled, summoning his demon tribe sword.

“Put it away, Ghirahim,” Link groaned, rolling out of bed. “I’ll take care of it.”

Feeling just as cranky his companions, the boy hero shuffled over to the wall separating his room from the staff room. His head was still a little fuzzy from the milk, but he was able to make out Anju’s mother’s complaints.

“Idiot child!! You’d risk your life—no, throw your life away!—just to sit here and hope that worthless man of yours decides to show?! What if he never does? Then what? You’ll die alone for no reason!! I refuse to let you stay here; you’re coming with us to Romani Ranch tomorrow even if I have to drag you there myself!!”

Link jolted at Ghirahim’s irritated growl right next to his ear.

“Shrieking wench,” he hissed. “What kind of establishment is she running? Outrageous! You had best receive some form of compensation for this mockery.”

“Ghira, it’s—”

Before Link could finish his sentence, the white-haired man began to beat on the wall.

“What abhorrent service!” he yelled. “We are trying to sleep, and you’ve woken us up with your shouting! Have you any idea what time it is?!”

The awkward silence that followed was palpable; neither Anju nor her mother said anything. Link gaped at Ghirahim in disbelief. Tatl snorted from inside Link’s hat. Ghirahim still seethed.

“I trust you’ll be finding a way to make this up to us,” he continued. “I don’t care if the world is ending, that does not give anyone an excuse to disregard common decency! How uncivilized.”

With that, the spirit made his way back to bed. With an undignified grunt, he crawled back under the blankets and closed his eyes.

“There,” he grumbled. “Problem solved.”

Link sighed and shook his head.

“That’s…not how I was going to do it, but…”

“At least it worked,” Tatl mumbled, on the verge of sleep. “Told you this was a ramshackle inn…”

Link sighed again and pulled on his boots.

“Well, I’m going to get some air. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep after all that.”

Ghirahim snorted and sat up.

“Then I suppose you’ll want company.”

“No, I’m fine. You two stay here.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not allowing myself to let you go unaccompanied.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“I never said you couldn’t.”

“Just go already,” Tatl interjected. “I’m going back to sleep.”

Link rolled his eyes and threw his hands up.

“Fine, alright. Come on, Ghirahim.”

The demon stood up and combed his fingers through his hair to make it somewhat presentable. He then threw on his cape and gestured to the door. Link walked with him out onto the open-air area of the second floor and took a seat by the large bell. He sighed softly as the spirit sat next to him. They sat in silence for a moment and stared at the ominous moon above.

“What an atrocious face,” Ghirahim commented after a moment. “If I was subjected to live under such a hideous rock, I’d want the world to end.”

Despite himself, Link chuckled.

“Yeah, it is pretty ugly, huh? Can’t wait to get rid of it for good.”

The sword spirit nodded in agreement. More silence followed. Although it wasn’t uncomfortable, it certainly was tense.

“…Ghira?”

“Hm?”

“Have you ever been in love before?”

The question caught the demon off guard.

Me? Heavens, no. Though I suppose I might have fancied someone once upon a time.”

Link looked at him curiously.

“Really?”

“Indeed. Though it was nothing important and didn’t concern me at all. It was merely a fleeting attraction.”

“Oh…”

“Why do you ask?”

Link shrugged.

“You just seem so against helping Anju and Kafei. I don’t really get the kind of love they have, but I think it’s nice. I want them to be happy. I guess I was wondering if you…oh, I don’t know…”

“Empathize with them, perhaps?”

“Yeah, that. Do you?”

Ghirahim chuckled.

“Of course not. Being attracted to someone has nothing to do with being in love. I personally think that sort of thing is a waste of time realistically.” He glanced at the boy, heart twinging slightly from his sad expression. “…But that doesn’t mean I can’t have some sort of appreciation for those who are. I simply loath the way those two are handling their plights. Again, that’s how I feel. You may be absolutely correct in your speculation and I may admittedly be a bit biased.”

Link glanced back at him and cracked a smile.

“Are you…admitting you might be wrong about them?”

“Of course not! Don’t be absurd. I simply said I might be biased. Although I feel this situation will end one way more than another, my mind is completely open to numerous possibilities. Cheeky scamp, having the audacity to assume that I could ever be wrong.”

The boy raised an eyebrow at the demon lord.

“…Don’t give me that look, child!” the demon exclaimed. “I won’t stand for such an insult!”

“You’re getting defensive,” Link teased. “That means you’re wrong about not ever being wrong~”

“How dare you!!”

Link laughed, feeling much better about helping and Anju and Kafei now. Underneath those layers of callousness and narcissism, Ghirahim really did have a good heart, and it became more apparent the longer they spent together. Maybe someday the demon would be completely open to helping others—but Link wouldn’t hold his breath. For now, he’d appreciate everything else the sword spirit did.

“Thanks for talking with me, Ghira,” the boy say. “That actually helped a lot.”

“Hmph. You’d hardly be fit to solve other people’s problems if you’re brooding. You’re right to be grateful. I rarely offer up such services you’re privy to.”

The young hero nodded with a smile.

“Noted. Well, I suppose I could try going back to sleep now, now that I feel better and all that.”

Ghirahim stood up and dusted himself off.

“Yes, good. I would much like to get some rest after that ridiculous episode from earlier. Since this is a business, I’m sure that obnoxious woman has long since shut up and gone to bed as well.”

Link sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Right? I know she’s upset about Anju choosing to stay behind, but…it’s Anju’s choice to make. And I’ll make sure Kafei does show up before I have to reset time again. So, her mother can just…leave. Because I didn’t appreciate her yelling, either.”

“Wisely said, Link. Wisely said indeed.”

In a moment of weakness, Ghirahim couldn’t help but lightly pat the boy on the head. At first, Link was left dumbstruck by such an action, but then he beamed up at the demon lord. Said demon lord cleared his throat and pulled his hand away, pretending as if nothing had happened.

“Come, then. Back to bed with you,” he said, turning away from the hero.

“Right!” Link agreed, still beaming as he followed Ghirahim back to the room.

Yeah, Ghirahim really did have a good heart. Just like with Anju and Kafei, Link knew that for a fact.

~~~~~~~~~~

The following afternoon, Link decided to check in with Kafei to see if there had been any new updates. He was pleasantly surprised to find the door unlocked, so he let himself in. To his not-so-pleasant surprise, it wasn’t Kafei he met—it was the Curiosity Shop owner. Flustered that he walked in on the wrong person, the boy sputtered an apology. The Shop owner just laughed.

“No need for that! I had a hunch you’d drop by, I kid you not! Kafei told me all about you. I’ve known him since he was little, so it didn’t surprise me that he came to me for place to stay. As you can see, he’s not here. He left last night for Ikana Canyon. All I know is that he got a lead about the guy who stole his mask.”

Great. Of course he was in Ikana Canyon. Good thing Ghirahim found that Garo mask, then.

Link nodded along as the Shop owner rambled on about his friendship with Kafei. He was about to think up an excuse to leave, but he stopped when the gentleman held out a mask—Kafei’s Keaton mask. He stared at it for a moment before looking at the Shop owner quizzically.

“I think he’d want you to have it,” the man said with a smile. “I know I do, ‘sepcially after everything you’ve done so far for that kid. Please, take it.”

The boy hero graciously accepted the mask. He was touched that he had been entrusted with such a precious memento; he would be sure to take the best care of it. With an appreciative bow to the Shop owner, he bid him farewell and turned to leave. Hopefully locating Kafei wouldn’t be too difficult.

“That was nice of him,” Tatl commented. “Giving you that mask.”

Link nodded in agreement.

“Yeah. It’s filled with many precious memories from Kafei and the Curiosity Shop guy. I think this is definitely one of the most precious ones I have so far. Well, they all are because they’re all meaningful, but yeah…”

What do you plan to do with all those masks when this journey is over?

I think…I’ll keep them,’ the hero decided. ‘Even if their special abilities stop working when I get back to Hyrule, I still want to keep them because of how meaningful each one is—as symbols of prayers answered.’

If that wasn’t such a sickening sentiment, I’d be touched.

Oh, don’t start! You can’t fool me, you’re totally touched. You closeted softy.’

Why, I never !

Link just laughed.

As they made their way to Ikana Canyon, the young hero grimaced at the sight of the hooded figure sitting on cliff ledge; he really didn’t like that guy. Fighting back a pout, he pulled Garo’s Mask from his pack and put it on. Here’s to hoping…

“Ah, that’s a fine mask,” the mysterious man commented. “It’s a mask portraying—”

“‘The ninja clan that spied on the castle upon the cliff,’ yeah, I’m aware. Can you show me the way now? Otherwise, I’m climbing that cliff face by myself!”

“Link, calm down,” Tatl sighed.

The hooded figure chuckled.

“That mask will do nicely! Just be cautious in how you throw around all that vitality of yours. It doesn’t belong in this land of death, and the dark forces will be sure to snuff it out if you are not vigilant! Yee hee hee!”

With that, the enigmatic man disappeared; in his place stood a dead tree. Link sighed and pulled out his hookshot.

Finally,” he grumbled, allowing the chain to pull him to the top of the cliff. “Let’s go.”

Tatl shuddered the deeper they ventured into the canyon.

“Do you feel that?” she asked warily. “The bloodlust in the air?”

“Yeah,” Link answered. “But we’ll worry about that later. Right now, finding Kafei is our priority.”

Let us hope he did not fall victim to whatever dark forces roam this land.

Not helpful, Ghirahim!’

I’m simply preparing you for the worst case scenario. Either way, you’d be able to reset time. Relax. I sense his presence nearby.

The hero relaxed slightly at that news. As he approached the large river splicing through the gorge, the overwhelming presence of death and anger washed over him like a tidal wave. The air was thick with bloodshed and regret. Even the very grass he currently stood upon seemed to cry out in mourning. Link could feel the tortured souls that occupied this land; there was darkness here of the worst kind. He glanced at the gargantuan cliff face and spotted a painted wall—belonging to this infamous “castle” the hooded figure kept going on about, no doubt. He wondered what horrors were waiting for him up there, but right now he had to push curiosity aside.

He needed to find Kafei.

Which way, Ghira?’

To your right. Keep going.

The boy nodded and gestured to Tatl. The two of them moved silently, following the river. Eventually, they stumbled across a suspicious-looking boulder in the cliffside and a couple of large rocks off to the side.

There. Check behind the rocks.

Link hurried over to the rocks and peered around them. Just as Ghirahim said, there sat Kafei.

“Hey!” the boy said in greeting.

Kafei jumped to his feet in alarm, his red eyes wide in shock.

“A-ah,” he said, breathing a sigh of relief when he was it was only Link. “It’s you, green hat boy.”

Link,” Tatl corrected testily. “His name is Link.”

“What are you doing out here?” Link inquired before Tatl could start an argument. “I heard you got a lead?”

The cursed man nodded.

“I found him. His name is Sakon, and his hideout is just behind that rock door. He came into the Curiosity Shop last night, and I followed him here. I’m waiting for him to return so I can sneak in and grab the Sun’s Mask.”

Link nodded in understanding.

“I’ll wait with you, then. You never know what might be behind that door.”

Kafei studied him.

“You’re quite wise and mature for someone your age. You managed to make it all the way out here alone, which means you clearly know how to survive out in the wild with those weapons of yours. What exactly is your story, kid?”

The young hero shook his head.

“It’s…complicated. I don’t like to talk about it.”

“Then I won’t push you.”

“Appreciated.”

Kafei chuckled.

“You almost sound like an adult. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume you were in my position—a grown man trapped in the body of a child.”

Well, you’re not exactly wrong,’ Link thought.

“Nah. Like I said, it’s just complicated,” he said instead.

The boy sensed that Ghirahim was about to comment, so he shushed him.

Nope, don’t start! Not in the mood!’

Hmph! How incredibly rude. Fine, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

‘Thank you.’

Silence drifted between Link and Kafei as they waited for the thief to arrive. The hours ticked by, and soon night had fallen over the Eastern Canyon. As expected, the ambiance of the gorge grew twice as eerie after the sun set; ten times as much with the tremors caused by the moon preparing to fall. Everything was ominous and heavy; it reminded Link of the Shadow Temple back in Hyrule. He shuddered slightly at the memory of it. Before he could dwell on the past any further, however, the sound of footsteps approaching the large rock door echoed softly in the silence. Beside him, Kafei stiffened and cautiously peered over the rocks.

Link peeked over them as well and watched as Sakon glanced around suspiciously before opening the door to his lair. Smiling like a fool, the bald thief traipsed into his hideout, leaving the door wide open in his overconfidence. Without a word, Kafei bolted inside; Link followed suit with Tatl. Inside, the boy spotted a glass case containing an intricate golden mask.

“The Sun’s Mask!” Kafei exclaimed when he saw it.

Without thinking, the violet-haired man hurried over to the case. In his haste, he failed to notice the large switch on the floor; he stepped on it, setting off the alarm system. The mask began to slowly inch away from the case down a conveyor belt that must have led to an escape room.

“Ah—shit!! Now I’ve done it!” the cursed man exclaimed, hurrying to run through the open door.

As soon as he stepped off the switch, however, the door slammed shut.

“Step on that switch!!” he ordered Link, clearly panicked.

“Who are you to order us to do anything?!” Tatl snapped in response. “We’re doing you a favor—we’re not your servants!!”

Here, here, Tatl! Excellently said~

Link ignored both of his friends as he stepped on the switch. Kafei gave him a quick appreciative nod before hurrying into the room. When he found the next switch and stepped on it, he watched in horror as the door to the previous room opened on the other side of the conveyor belt.

“It...it looks like we’ll have to work together to get through this place!!” he called to Link, the anxiety rising more and more within him. “Please, I can’t do this without you!!”

Tatl scowled and looked at Link.

“I don’t trust him, but what choice to we have?”

“I know, I understand, but you’re right—we don’t have a choice. Will you help him over there?”

“Ugh, fine. Let’s go.”

The hero nodded and hurried through the open door as Tatl flew to assist Kafei. He still trusted Kafei and didn’t mind being told what to do in this case—clearly the man was distressed, and Link knew more than anyone that people said or did things they normally wouldn’t because they’re scared. Gripping his Gilded Sword tight, he slashed his way through the monsters that Sakon had somehow managed to get into the place to open the door for his acquaintance. On the other side of the belt, Kafei frantically navigated through puzzles to find the correct switch for each new room with Tatl’s guidance. Each new puzzle and advisory became increasingly difficult; they were losing time and started to fall behind the Sun’s Mask. It didn’t help that some switches made the conveyor belt move faster, but thankfully there were switches that slowed it down as well.

“How the hell did this guy get Wolfos in here?!” Link exclaimed, growing more frenzied with each second that passed. “What kind of hideout is this, anyway?!”

Focus, Link!! The moment you start panicking, the battle is lost! Breathe. Focus and exploit your foe’s weakness.

Following Ghirahim’s advice, the boy hero nodded and forced himself to calm down. Narrowing his eyes in determination, he managed to strike down the Wolfos obstructing his path. Kafei’s door opened, and the pattern resumed. Kafei opened another door for Link, and the hero was relieved to see that it was the end of the conveyor belt. Wasting not time, he hurried over to the switch to let Kafei in. The Sun’s Mask was perilously close to the gaping hole awaiting it.

“It’s the last room!” he shouted. “Hurry, the mask’s about to drop!!”

Kafei sprinted inside with all his might, but it was too late; he didn’t reach the switch in time. Time seemed to slow down as both Kafei and Link watched the Sun’s Mask tip over the edge of the belt and tumble down the chute. Link clutched his head while Kafei fell to his knees in despair; all their hard work had been for naught.

Dammit!!” the cursed man cried, pounding his fist into the ground. “I was so close…!! Now it’s gone…!!”

Link trembled where he stood. He knew he could reset time and redo this whole thing, but all of his time he spent getting to this point would be wasted. He was crushed; he really wanted to make sure he didn’t have to redo anything. He wanted to reunite Anju and Kafei as soon as possible, but he failed. Trying his best not to cry, he fumbled in his pack for his ocarina. Even Tatl was upset with the situation, as she wiped at her eyes and hung her wings in defeat.

Ghirahim decided it was the perfect time to make himself manifest.

“Oh, everyone stop your blubbering. I’ll be back.”

With a flip of his hair, he snapped out of the room. Kafei stared in shock.

“What…what was…?!”

Oh…!!” Link exclaimed. “Ghirahim!”

“Come again?”

“My friend! He’s…special. He has special powers, so he’s getting your mask from Sakon!”

The look of shock and disbelief on Kafei’s face was priceless, in Tatl’s humble opinion. Link let himself plop onto the ground in relief, his legs having turned to chu jelly after all that excitement. Kafei still stared in disbelief. Before he could utter a word, Ghirahim snapped back into the room with the Sun’s Mask in hand.

Hmph. I wiped the grin off that bald fool’s face rather quickly, I assure you.”

Ghira!!” Link exclaimed triumphantly. “You’re amazing!!”

The demon lord smirked and flipped his hair.

“I could say that you should tell me something I don’t know, but I’m not opposed to hearing the facts be confirmed~ Anyway. I believe this is yours.” He handed the mask to Kafei. “I see you have questions, but I’m rather exhausted after that little game of chase, so I’m afraid you’ll have to be left in the dark.”

With that, he snapped back into the Gilded Sword. Link sighed and shook his head, a grin on his face.

Thanks, Ghira… Seriously.’

As if I’d allow your efforts to go to waste for such pathetic reasons. Please . Even I’m not that heartless.

Link smiled and nodded to himself. Kafei shook his head.

“You…are full of surprises,” he muttered as he came to his senses. “I…now I’ve seen it all. But thank you. Thank you, especially, er…spirit?”

Link’s eyebrow twitched slightly from Ghirahim’s response in his head.

Looking at the violet-haired man, he simply said, “Ghirahim says ‘my pleasure.’”

Kafei exhaled and nodded.

“Right, then. We better get out of here. I’m headed back to Clock Town. I have to make a quick stop on the way, but I’ll see Anju soon.”

“I’ll let her know,” Link replied. “I’ll keep her company in the meantime.”

“Thank you, green hat—no, Link. Thank you, Link.”

Tatl nodded approvingly while the young hero beamed. Without wasting any more time, they all hurried out of Sakon’s hideout. Kafei darted off into the night. Link played the Song of Soaring to get back to town quickly. It was already midnight; they didn’t have much time left before Link absolutely had to restart time. He prayed Kafei’s errand didn’t take long. He thought of Anju waiting all alone, so he quickened his pace as he ran to the Stock Pot Inn. He was grateful he would be able to reset time after the lovers reunited; it wasn’t fair that they’d finally be together again, only to meet a terrible fate mere hours later. It also wasn’t fair that he had to rip them apart again after they were together, but at least they wouldn’t die. Once he defeated the Skull Kid and retrieved Majora’s Mask, Kafei’s curse would be broken and they would reunite on their own. He could feel it.

As he walked into the inn, he was unsettled by the silence. The only sound he heard was the steady ticking of the clock, which seemed to grow more menacing with each passing second. A twinge of dread hit his stomach as he climbed the stairs to the second floor. Had Anju’s mother succeeded in dragging her to Romani Ranch? Was Anju trying to escape right this minute? With a nervous breath, he reached for the doorknob of the staff room door. When he opened it, relief washed over him when he saw the innkeeper sitting on her bed, waiting.

“Oh!” she exclaimed when she saw the boy. She smiled kindly, albeit a little apologetically, before saying, “My mother put in a lot of effort, but she couldn’t force me to go anywhere.”

Link smiled and took a seat next to her.

“I’m glad,” he said. “I was worried there for a second, especially since Kafei’s on his way here as we speak.”

The innkeeper’s face lit up.

“He is?”

The boy hero nodded excitedly.

“He should be here soon. I told him I’d keep you company in the meantime.”

Anju smiled.

“You’re a special boy,” she said. “You’ve helped me so much when you didn’t have to. I know I won’t be around much longer to truly appreciate all you’ve done, but please… Know that you’re my hero.”

Link blushed, feeling a rush of pride. He was always happy to help those in need, especially people like Anju. She deserved to be happy—truly happy. It was moments like this that made the whole “hero” business worth it. Though, moments like this also made it ten times harder because he knew no one would remember him. He wanted to be remembered, whether as “Link the Hero of Time” or simply “Link the Brave Green Hat Boy Who Made People Happy.” All he wanted was to be a part of the lives of people he helped. In a way, that would make him part of a family—a large, extended family; a family he never had. Yet no matter what he wanted, his fate was to live out his life in obscurity; he knew this, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t let it go.

Stop,’ the thought. ‘This isn’t about you, Link.’

It will always be about you. Without you in the picture, none of this would have been possible. The Divine made you a catalyst; everything you do—whether you reap the consequences or not—causes a reaction in the world, be it this one or your Hyrule. Regardless if anyone remembers you or not, these worlds revolve around you. Without you, child, there would be nothing but chaos and destruction.

Link wasn’t sure if he liked this or not. Ghirahim knew what he was talking about, so he didn’t doubt him. It was just…so much responsibility for one boy. The fact that he had to go through this alone was almost too much to bear.

But you’re not alone. Not anymore. Just as you assure me that you will never let me be alone again, I will never allow you to be alone. I will always remember you, Link.

The hero felt himself tear up, but he quickly blinked them away lest Anju ask questions.

You know, Ghira… I think…you might just be the answer to my prayers, too.’

Then it is safe to reason that Farore is indeed the most benevolent. If she takes the time to answer the prayers of demons and forsaken child soldiers, then maybe she’s not so bad after all.

Link bit back a chuckle.

I guess not… But that sounds awful when you say ‘child soldier.’”

It’s true, is it not? You were called to war before trainees several years older than you are even knighted. It’s a mess .

Well, yeah. Okay, you’re not wrong there…’

Of course not! I recognize a disaster when I see one.

I guess that explains why we work so well together, then, since it takes one to know one~’

Cheeky!

Link grinned to himself for a brief moment before looking around the room. He noticed Anju’s wedding dress, complete with a mask similar to Kafei’s. Judging by the shape and color, he assumed it was the Moon’s Mask. The entire ensemble was beautiful; Anju would look stunning in it.

When the clock struck 3AM, Anju’s smile faltered slightly. She was worried Kafei wouldn’t show, and admittedly Link was becoming increasingly more concerned himself. Only three hours remained before he absolutely had to reset time; Kafei was cutting it close. Link stood up, about to go see if he could locate the cursed man, but the sound of a door opening from downstairs stopped him. He straightened up and held his breath. Soon enough, the bedroom door opened and in stepped the man of the hour with Sun’s Mask in hand. Anju stared at him for a moment—not out of confusion or concern for his current form, but out of relief—before she stood and grabbed her own mask. She smiled.

“I’ve met you before,” she said softly, kneeling in front of the violet-haired man. “What a familiar scent. Long, long ago… Yes. We were still young… We made a promise…didn’t we? The masks of the sun and moon… We were to exchange them on the day of the Carnival of Time…”

Kafei smiled and nodded. Link could tell that he was restraining himself from jumping the moment too quickly in his joy.

Instead, he said, “Anju… I’m sorry I’m late.”

The innkeeper’s smile broadened, tears of joy gently streaming down her cheeks. Her tears were contagious, for Kafei allowed his own tears to fall.

“…Welcome home,” she said, pouring all of her love, joy, and relief into those two simple words.

Link and Tatl could feel it from where they stood. Kafei trembled slightly, his composure breaking as he ran to embrace his fiancé. Anju unflinchingly returned the embrace, and they both held each other like nothing else mattered—because in that moment, nothing else did. All that mattered was their love, and that they were together again. They held each other for a long time.

Tatl giggled quietly.

“They’re lovers, but they look just like a mother and child,” she observed. “But that doesn’t matter. Kafei’s curse isn’t even something Anju is concerned about right now. She only cares that he’s here, he came back for her even at the end of the world despite everything that happened to him, and that’s…really romantic.”

Link nodded in agreement. The two watched as the lovers wiped each other’s tears away. Their happiness was powerful—more powerful than any magic or other force could ever hope to be. After a few more minutes, Anju and Kafei pulled away from each other and held up their masks.

“Let us exchange the promised masks,” Anju said with a smile.

Kafei nodded. Linked watched in awe as the lovers pressed their masks together. A bright light suddenly filled the room—as if the gods themselves were bestowing their blessings. Link and Tatl shielded their eyes. When they looked back at Anju and Kafei, in their hands was one mask instead of two; it was a completely new mask from what either of them previously had.

“We have given our oaths and have become a couple,” Kafei announced, looking at Link. He glanced back at Anju, who nodded approvingly, before continuing. “You are our witness. Please, take this mask as a symbol of our deepest appreciation.”

Link walked over and took the mask from them. If this was a symbol of two individuals becoming a couple, then it was fitting to simply call it the Couple’s Mask. He nodded at them in both appreciation and respect. Anju’s kind smile illuminated her face.

“Please, take refuge,” she urged. “We are fine here. We’ll greet the morning together.”

Kafei smiled and squeezed her hand. In return, Anju kissed his cheek. Link exhaled softly and nodded.

“I’m glad you two were able to be together again,” he said. “I promise, I’ll always treasure this mask.”

The couple smiled warmly.

“It’s all thanks to you,” Kafei replied.

“You answered our prayers,” Anju added, heart full of appreciation and fondness for the mysterious boy. “You must be an angel…”

The hero shook his head.

“No, far from it, but…I’m glad I was able to help. You both deserve to be happy.”

“We are happy,” Kafei said. “We’re together now, and will never be parted again. But please, go. The moon will fall shortly.”

Link nodded and turned to leave. He would ensure—with all his power—that the couple would have a true “happily ever after.” To do that, he needed to purge the temple in Ikana Canyon and square off with the Skull Kid on top of the clock tower. The final hours drew nigh. With a burst of determination, the young hero retrieved the Ocarina of Time and brought it to his lips. The notes of the Song of Time echoed clear and true. Right before they all fell backwards in time, Ghirahim spoke:

Good work, Hero of Answered Prayers.

Link smiled, letting himself drift back through the current of time. All would be well. He’d make sure of it.

Chapter Text

The moment Link stepped foot onto the top of the cliff, he knew he was in for some serious critical thinking. A strange house with gigantic phonograph horns sat next to a riverbed, while Gibdos ominously circled it. To his right, the large, intricately painted doors of Ikana Castle were sealed shut. A few abandoned houses were scattered about the area, and a long-dried out well sat atop the hill to his left. Further back, a threatening passageway shaped into the likeness of a monster was carved into a cliff; he could only assume it was the entrance to Stone Tower Temple. The boy hero knew there was a lot of work to be done.

“There are more Garo presences all around,” Tatl observed. “If you lured them out, maybe you could get some more useful info…”

Link shuddered at the memory of the ghost ninjas with glowing green eyes and self-destructive practices.

To die without leaving a corpse. That is the way of us Garo.”

He wasn’t sure if that was completely insane, or absolutely awesome. What did he know was that aside from being creepy, they were dangerous. Each time he fought one of these restless spirits, he needed to be on top of his game; one wrong move and he’d be joining Ikana Canyon’s ranks of the dead.

“I think we can figure it out,” the he responded to Tatl. “We’ll start with this riverbed. Judging from the waterwheel on that house, I don’t think it’s supposed to be dry. There’s a cave over there that looks like it might be the source.”

“Hey, that’s a good observation!” the fairy said. “Look at you, making a strategic plan~”

“…I’m ignoring that.”

With a huff, Link sneakily avoided the Gibdos as he headed for the cave. An overpowering feeling of dread gnawed at his insides the closer he got. When he ventured into the cave, the presence of darkness practically suffocated him. A foul stench burned his nostrils, and he quickly glanced around for the cause. There, in the center of the chamber, he spotted a large hole in the ground filled with sickening purple sludge. Bones of long-dead animals—and people—littered the outer edge of the hole. Looking at it, it became clear to the hero that this hole was the source of the river, but it was being blocked by the toxic ooze on the surface.

Ghirahim snapped out of the Gilded Sword and glanced around.

“How deliciously symbolic,” he mused. “Water is said to be the very essence of life itself. It’s quite fitting that the source of the river has been cut off in this land of darkness and death.”

“We gotta find a way to unblock it,” Link stated. “C’mon, let’s look around.”

“Something doesn’t feel right, guys,” Tatl whispered. “Listen…”

Ghirahim and Link went silent. As they listened, the sound of faint, ominous music floated around them. Link was about to comment, but a sudden disembodied voice interrupted him.

“You who walk among the living, what business do you have in this land of the dead?”

Ghirahim growled and summoned his demon blade.

“Show yourself!” he demanded. “Perhaps I’ll take it easy on you.”

A cruel laugh echoed throughout the cavern, causing Link to flinch. Above the water hole, a shadowy apparition appeared. Its features were indistinguishable save for its glowing green eyes and curled mustache. In its hand it held a conductor’s baton, indicating that he was the ghost of a musician. It looked familiar to Link.

“How queer,” the ghost said coldly as it stared at Ghirahim. “A demon helping a human child? I’ve never heard of such madness both in life and the afterlife. My business is not with you, however. It is with the one brimming with life.”

The boy stiffened as the ghost turned its attention to him. Ghirahim moved closer to him.

“You do not belong in this place, boy. This is a place darkness, only meant for the souls of the damned. Its accursed soil must be nourished by bloodshed. It is no place for one so full of vitality such as yourself.”

“I—”

The apparition cut him off.

“Unless you’re saying you wish to join the dead? Very well. Then allow me, Sharp, composer of the Ikana Royal Family, to lull you into eternal slumber with this melody of darkness.”

No!!” Ghirahim shouted, moving to shield Link from harm as the faint music crescendoed into a raucous cacophony.

The demon lord was about to snap the young hero away from the area, but he was stopped. Link lightly pushed at him with one hand while clutching the Ocarina of Time with the other. Immediately the sword spirit released him, for he knew what the boy was planning.

Closing his eyes and fighting against the biting pain Sharp’s music caused him, Link brought the ocarina to his lips and played the Song of Healing.

…It was ineffective.

Link’s eyes widened when he realized the song had no effect on the vengeful ghost. He grit his teeth as he felt his life force drain away. Ghirahim once again moved to flash the boy out of there, but Link once again stopped him; he remembered something important.

Here is written the song that shall cleanse his cursed, black soul. The thousand years of raindrops summoned by my song are my tears. The thunder that strikes the earth is my anger!”

That’s why Sharp seemed familiar. Flat was his younger brother, who had composed a song that summoned a squall at will: the Song of Storms. Link had spaced that meeting in Ikana Graveyard. Shakily bringing his instrument back to his lips, he used most of his strength to play Flat’s song; Sharp’s malice was draining his life at an alarming rate.

Thunder boomed throughout the cave and heavy rain fell upon them. To Link’s surprise, Ghirahim made no comment about his hair being ruined. In fact, he said nothing at all about his appearance. He only kept his charcoal eyes focused on Link, ready to bail him out if this backup plan failed. Link’s chest felt warm and light knowing this. Above them, Sharp clutched his head and spun in circles before vanishing. The hole of toxic sludge suddenly cleared, and fresh water gushed forth into a steady river flow. The sound of distant cheery music suddenly drifted into the cave from outside; was that the strange musicbox house?

Sharp reappeared before Link could ponder this further. The elder Composer Brother hung his head in shame.

“Oh, Flat,” he lamented. “Forgive your foolish brother! Perhaps it is not meant for the dead to linger here after all…”

Ghirahim quietly exhaled in relief and withdrew from Link; he was safe now. Tatl relaxed as well, her own fears quelled. Link just nodded, listening intently to Sharp speak. The ghost then turned his attention to the boy.

“Ye who do not fear the dead, I thank you for breaking the curse that was placed upon me. It all started when the masked one opened the doors of Stone Tower. Perhaps you may be able to break the curse over all this land and reseal the doors of the dark temple. Within the ruins of Ikana Castle, the king awaits one who will save our restless souls. You will need his ancient wisdom if you wish to enter the temple.”

The young hero nodded and gave the ghost a respectful bow.

“I understand. Thank you.”

The composer bowed his head to the boy before vanishing again, this time for good. His soul could finally rest in peace after so long. Link released the breath he didn’t realize he was holding. The trio stood in silence for a moment before Ghirahim placed a hand atop Link’s head. The hero looked at him.

“Magnificently done, Link,” the demon said quietly. “Very well done indeed.”

Link smiled and pushed the man’s hand away after taking a moment to appreciate the rare gesture.

“Thanks. And thank you for protecting me.”

Ghirahim shrugged.

“I regret to say I didn’t do much. I allowed you to stay here through the whole ordeal because I had faith in your plans. You did all the work.”

“Still, you rushed in to shield me without a second thought… It means a lot, really…”

The demon lord hesitated with his response, as if he was internally debating on if he really wanted to say what he had in mind.

With a small sigh, he looked at Link and finally said, “And I’ll do it as many times as necessary…Master.”

The young hero flushed and shook his head.

“Don’t call me that,” he protested. “That’s so unlike you and makes me feel weird, like I own you or something…”

The sword spirit laughed.

“You own the Gilded Sword, don’t you? The sword is me, so technically you do own me.”

Link made a face and shook his head in defiance.

“Nope! No. I think of it as you letting me borrow your services, that I’ll repay somehow. You know, like friends do? Wasn’t it you who made a big show out of us being equals earlier? ‘Cause that still stands, y’know. You’re not my servant; you’re my friend who just so happens to also be my sword. So. Sword friend. Yeah! You’re my swordfriend.”

Tatl snorted in amusement.

Swordfriend?”

Yes,” Link affirmed haughtily. “Sword. Friend.

Ghirahim chuckled.

“Alright, fine,” he said. “We’re equals through and through. I’ll gladly be your swordfriend.”

Link grinned.

“I knew you’d see things my way~”

“Not like he has a choice,” Tatl remarked. “You’d make him live with it regardless!”

“Wh—would not! If Ghira hated the term then I wouldn’t use it! Simple as that!”

“Is anything you do ever ‘simple as that?’”

Hey!”

Alright,” the demon interrupted, amused. “That’s enough banter. We’re wasting time and must make haste to Stone Tower as soon as possible. Link, what’s our next course of action?”

The boy pondered the white-haired man’s question.

“…To the well,” he decided. “My gut tells me there’s something down there we’ll need. I’ve also done this kind of thing before, so that seems like the most logical step.”

“Then to the well we go.”

~~~~~~~~~~

It was a good thing Link decided to make a quick stop at the musicbox house. Not only had he saved little Pamela’s father with the Song of Healing, but he also gained a nifty new mask from it—the Gibdo Mask, which allowed him to speak with the undead creatures. The very same undead creatures that guarded every door under the well and asked for things in exchange for passage.

In other words, it was a maze down there and it was taking forever to get through because trying to fight his way through did nothing and there were just so. Many. Gibdos.

“This is taking too long!” Tatl bemoaned. “Their requests keep getting more and more elaborate! Soon we’ll have to leave and come back—probably often!”

“I know, I know!” Link groaned. “But what else can we do?!”

Ghirahim snapped out of the Gilded Sword.

“Allow me. I’ll investigate and see what I can find. Wait here.”

And then he was gone. Link smiled.

“I think he’s really warmed up to us,” he said. “He’s a lot more willing to lend a hand and make things easier.”

“Yeah, or he’s just more impatient than he lets on. But honestly, I do think he’s warmed up a bit. You tend to have that effect on people.”

“What do you mean?”

The fairy studied her companion intently.

“Well, even when others treat you badly—like…like I did at first—you’re always kind and helpful regardless. You have faith in everyone you meet because you believe in their goodness, and if they truly aren’t good people then you feel bad. You listen to people and help them without asking for anything in return, and you suffer in silence because you don’t want to burden anyone. Seriously, Link, how could anyone not ‘warm up’ to you?”

The boy felt his cheeks flush and was grateful his face was currently hidden behind a mask. He was at a loss for words. Honestly, he wasn’t as great as Tatl was making him out to be. Despite those good qualities of his, he could hold a grudge. He bottled up his anger towards his fate and kept it buried deep inside himself. Sometimes—many times—he just wanted to run away and hide from everything. Underneath what he allowed others to see, he knew he was actually an angry, bitter coward who often felt sorry for himself. He hated this about himself, but he wouldn’t deny it; it was as much a permanent part of him as the good things, and the best he could do was actively work to be a better person than his most base, shameful self.

“I appreciate that, Tat,” he murmured. “But I’m not as great as you make me out to be.”

Tatl was about to refute him, but Ghirahim returned almost as quickly as he had left.

“I found a room with a large treasure chest,” he stated. “There’s an intricate puzzle to solve and a ladder leading to somewhere beyond an enormous block with a depiction of the sun painted on it. If my analysis is correct, I would bet the way out leads directly to the castle.”

“That’s amazing!” Tatl exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Link agreed, smiling at the demon lord. “Will you take us there?”

“Of course. I see no point in dillydallying here any longer. The stench is appalling and the humidity is dreadful for my hair. Here.” He offered his hand to the hero. “Hold on. It might leave you a bit frazzled traveling this way, I should warn you.”

“I think we can handle it,” Link said, gripping the spirit’s hand while Tatl took a seat on his shoulder.

Ghirahim snapped, teleporting them to the room he found (Link refused to admit that maybe he was a little frazzled from the experience). Immediately the hero set to work solving the puzzle—which, of course, didn’t take long. Smirking, he opened the treasure chest to claim his prize.

“A shield!” Tatl said excitedly.

“A mirror shield,” Link emphasized. “I’ve used one before. They’re great for reflecting light.”

“Mm, before you move, hold it up,” Ghirahim ordered.

Link rolled his eyes and begrudgingly complied, knowing exactly what was coming next. In true Ghirahim fashion, the demon checked his reflection in the shield’s surface. After taking a moment to fix his hair, he nodded approvingly.

“Perfect. The delightful image of suffering depicted on your shield isn’t bad, either.”

“Yeah, okay, weirdo,” Link grumbled. “Now let’s get out of here already.”

Brandishing the Mirror Shield, the young hero reflected rays of light on the gigantic block obstructing their path. It vanished immediately, and the trio pressed forward. After ascending one final ladder, they emerged into the courtyard of the ancient castle. Tatl let out an impressed whistle. Ghirahim shrugged, unimpressed.

“It’s quite small for a castle, I must say. It doesn’t exactly speak to my aesthetic taste as far as grandeur is concerned, but it’s not the worst place I’ve seen.”

“No one asked!” Tatl retorted. “We’re not here to admire it, anyway! We gotta find the king!”

Link sighed and shook his head, making his way to the entrance. Ghirahim nestled back into the Gilded Sword with a hum. Tatl sighed and followed after the hero. Once they entered the castle, the demon lord let out a noise of approval.

I stand corrected. The outside may not be much to look at, but the interior design is positively delightful~

Link sighed yet again, but he smiled nonetheless.

Then we’ll explore a little so you can appreciate it more,’ he thought. ‘As a token of my appreciation for all your help.’

I’m touched~ Carry on, then~

Nodding in response, the boy took his time navigating Ikana Castle. He had to admit that it was impressive, if also a bit unsettling—kind of like Ghirahim.

…Huh. No wonder the demon lord liked the inside of the castle so much.

After a couple hours of problem solving and disposing of monsters, Link finally arrived at the throne room. Steeling himself, the strode through the door.

I know I don’t need to tell you to be on your guard, but I’m telling you anyway: be on your guard.

The room itself was rather simple for a throne room; it was mostly empty save for the humble-looking throne atop the equally humble dais. Three small windows on the right wall were the only light source for the room. It was so different from the throne room in Hyrule Castle; that one was elegant and boasted the Royal Family’s wealth, whereas this one appeared to demonstrate the modesty—or possibly the apathy—of the Ikana Royal Family. In a way, it almost looked like a personal arena for combat.

Oh.

As if on cue at this realization, drapes were lowered over the windows and a deep, regal voice echoed through the darkness.

“Oh, insolent one who has brought the unthinkable into a land as dark as Ikana… My servants have fallen namelessly before the light that guides you. However…”

The sound of footsteps caught Link’s attention. Startled, he turned to see a crowned Stalfos take a seat on the throne, while two armed Stalfos warriors took a place at the crowned one’s side—the king and his men, no doubt.

“The darkness in which my servants live is, after all, fleeting,” the king continued. “You shall see with your own eyes…just what kind of thing true darkness really is.”

Before Link could utter a word in response, the Stalfos king gestured for his servants to attack. The young hero drew his sword, prepared for anything. Tatl flew around the room, calmly assessing the situation as she looked for weaknesses to exploit. She had an idea.

“Link!” she called. “The curtains!”

The boy dodge-rolled away from the large sword that nearly clipped him. In the heat of battle, it took him a moment to process what Tatl was suggesting. Just then, Ghirahim appeared, his own demon tribe sword drawn and ready.

“Two against one? How uncouth,” he scoffed. “It’s best we even the odds.”

Link grinned as the Stalfos warriors were taken aback.

The demon lord winked at him and silently mouthed, “I’ll stall them.”

The boy sprung into action, pulling out his bow and fire arrows. Wasting no time, he fired three shots at the windows and smirked when the curtains caught fire. As they burned away, the Stalfos king gasped in alarm. Light was their weakness, and now the throne room was filled with it. Ghirahim laughed triumphantly.

“Come now, surely a little light won’t hinder our battle,” he taunted. “Don’t disappoint me. I haven’t had a worthy fight in ages.”

The two undead warriors growled and charged at the demon. Link moved to jump into the fray, but Ghirahim clearly had the situation under control. Link watched, awestruck, as the demon lord fought. He was graceful, powerful, and appeared to anticipate his enemies’ every move. He was confident, yet vigilant (perhaps having fought against the Hero of the Sky and lost made him more cautious). Link aspired to be that kind of warrior: powerful, poised, and prepared. Seeing Ghirahim in action, the young hero knew he still had a long way to go.

The battle was over in minutes; the Stalfos warriors didn’t stand a chance against the demon. Before he could gloat over his victory, however, the king stood and drew his weapon. Ghirahim smirked, prepared to battle yet again, but the king ignored him; he rushed straight past him and charged Link. The boy frowned and gripped his Gilded Sword. He was ready.

“The king is mine!” he shouted to Ghirahim as he clashed swords with the Stalfos. “I can’t let you have all the fun!”

The demon lord chuckled and nodded casually, as if Link wasn’t locked in combat against a strong, undead adversary.

“Very well. I will merely observe, then~”

The fact that the spirit didn’t feel the need to argue filled Link with pride; he figured the man had confidence in his abilities, which he took as a great compliment. Not that Ghirahim had ever shown any real doubt in his combat skills, but it was still nice. Link was definitely emboldened by this. With a smirk, he lured the Stalfos king into the sunlight and struck. The king groaned in pain before scurrying back into the shadows.

“Alright! That’s the way!” Tatl cheered.

“Quite impressive,” Ghirahim agreed. “But he won’t fall for the same trick twice.”

Link was well aware of this. The king was intelligent and a seasoned warrior. Unlike his two servants, he exhibited restraint and calculation. Luring him into the light the first time was lucky, brought about by the king’s surge of emotion; any warrior worth their salt knew that emotion on the battlefield was the quickest way to a violent death or at least a humiliating defeat. The Stalfos king regained control of himself and continued with caution. Link both loved and hated the challenge that intelligent enemies presented. He couldn’t just swing his sword blindly and hope for the best; he needed to think and strategize. He readied his Mirror Shield.

The king chuckled. In a move completely out of Link’s strategic prowess, the Stalfos detached his head and his body became transparent. Link’s eyes widened as both the head and body advanced toward him. He reached for his bow and readied an arrow. He moved directly into the sunlight and aimed at the king’s head. The king’s body marched toward the light, unaffected. Link hurriedly fired an arrow at the floating head; the body swung its large sword at the same time. The hero was able to dodge the strike last-second. A window of opportunity opened as the Stalfos king took a moment to reattach his head; Link struck. The king yelped in pain, and the hero knew he found his strategy. He needed to focus on defense and strike when the opportunity presented itself.

It took awhile, but finally Link was able to deliver the final blow that brought the king to his knees. Panting, the boy sheathed his sword and straightened up. Tatl and Ghirahim celebrated his victory. The Stalfos king’s body faded away, only his floating head remaining. He acknowledged the boy’s triumph with a dignified nod. Before he could speak, the heads of the Stalfos warriors appeared and began to bicker over whose fault it was that they lost. The king lost his patience.

“Silence, you fools!!” he shouted, immediately shushing the two. “Can you not recognize the problem before us?!”

Link stood attentively, ready to listen to the king’s grievances as he scolded his men.

“The kingdom is being ruined and us left in this state… Isn’t it petty little battles like this that caused it?” He then turned back to Link. “Believing in your friends and embracing that belief by forgiving failure… These feelings have vanished from our hearts. It all happened when someone first thrust open the doors to that Stone Tower long ago. It appears someone has done it yet again, thus the curse still thrives.”

“I’ve heard,” Link responded. “And I fully intend to close them again.”

The king chuckled.

“You who bring light into darkness, I am the King of Ikana Kingdom: Igos du Ikana. The spellbinding that had been cast upon us was broken by that light which you carry. Should you succeed in sealing the doors of Stone Tower, that will return light to this land. It is the only way. However, it is an impenetrable stronghold. Hundreds of my own soldiers would not even begin to infiltrate it. It is far too reckless for one boy, his fairy, and even a demon to take on such a challenge unaided.”

Ghirahim harrumphed and was about to refute, but Link gestured for him to wait. The demon lord reluctantly complied, and Igos du Ikana continued.

“…And so… I grant you a soldier who has no heart. One who will not falter in the darkness. You shall remember this song: the Elegy of Emptiness!”

Link quickly pulled out his ocarina and listened to the king hum. Taking a moment to memorize the notes, he mimicked the song flawlessly. A strange feeling overcame him; it felt as if someone doused him in cold water that left him feeling empty inside. A sensation of lightheadedness gripped him, and he swayed slightly. He stumbled forward a couple steps. When he turned around, he saw an unsettling likeness of himself staring blankly back at him. He gaped at it.

Yikes,” Tatl said, astounded. “Good night. It doesn’t do you justice, does it?”

“I’m not so sure,” Ghirahim said with a smirk. “It’s practically Link’s spitting image~”

Hey!” Link cried.

Igos du Ikana cut in.

“This soldier who has no heart is your twin image. A shell of yourself that you will shed when your song commands it.”

The king then disappeared, but his final words rang loud and clear throughout the room: “On my kingdom…shine the light of justice…”

The young hero nodded and turned to his companions.

“Alright. To Stone Tower.”

Tatl and Ghirahim nodded. Silently, the trio proceeded to exit the ancient castle. Once they were outside the gates, Link looked at Ghirahim.

“You know, you don’t have to go back into the sword if you don’t want to. I know you like moving around freely, so…yeah. I could really use your help—you’re amazing in combat!”

“Yeah!” Tatl agreed. “That was awesome what you did back there!”

Ghirahim shrugged.

“Truly, that was nothing. Those two were so base in form and execution that I would have been insulted had I not offered to distract them for you.”

Still,” Link said. “If that’s what you can do with trained warriors like that—and you think they’re too easy—then I’m excited to see what you can do when it’s an actual challenge!”

“Mm, well then I guess I’ll take you up on that offer to move about freely and offer my assistance when needed. However, don’t expect my help often. If you want to get to even a fraction of my level, you must constantly push your mind and body. Hence, as we agreed before, the temples are yours to deal with alone. I will offer advice when you need, but you must continue to push yourself if you desire to grow. I will not hold your hand. You wish to be acknowledged as an adult, so you must prove yourself one. You’ve done well thus far, but you must keep going. Understand?”

The young hero nodded.

“Perfectly.”

The demon lord returned the gesture.

“Fabulous. You’re well on your way, then.”

“You seem to be full of useful advice and compliments lately,” Tatl said. “What gives?”

The sword spirit shrugged yet again.

“I merely desire to ensure whoever I accompany is victorious, that’s all. I don’t care to associate myself with failure.”

Or you’ve warmed up to us~” the fairy teased. “Admit it, you’ve had a soft spot for Link especially ever since Great Bay.”

Link could have sworn Ghirahim was blushing, but it could have just been a trick of the light. He smiled as the demon denied Tatl’s accusation, but he knew it was only for appearances’ sake; Ghirahim had already proven Tatl right through his actions, and Link had been on the receiving end of his private compliments. They all knew the truth, and that was all that mattered.

“Alright,” the boy said. “Let’s get going. Hopefully we’ll be in and out of Stone Tower by tomorrow evening with enough time to reach the clock tower and end this.”

“Are you sure you won’t need a break after this?” Tatl asked warily. “I mean, you’ve been through a lot today and are going through a lot more soon.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ve—”

“You’re taking a break,” Ghirahim interrupted. “You’ll die for sure otherwise. After Stone Tower, you will reset time and rest while we wait.”

Link was about to argue, but he knew he’d be fighting a losing battle since Ghirahim and Tatl would make him take a break anyway.

“Fine. I’ll do it,” he grumbled.

Good,” both Ghirahim and Tatl said simultaneously.

They looked at each other and smirked. Link rolled his eyes and shook his head, disliking that he was outnumbered.

Alright, enough of that,” he said with a huff. “The entrance to Stone Tower is literally over there. Let’s go, we’re wasting time!”

The two supernatural beings nodded and followed the boy toward the monstrous carved entrance. Ghirahim faltered slightly once they reached it, his eye twitching at the intense weight of darkness that suddenly swarmed him. The whole land of Ikana was full of darkness, but this…

This was something else entirely. It…was actually affecting him.

“Ghira?” Link suddenly asked, breaking him from his momentary trance. “Are you alright?”

The demon lord exhaled deeply and gave the hero a small smile.

“Of course I’m alright,” he said. “I was simply taken aback by the repulsiveness of this entrance carving. I don’t care to look at this thing anymore.”

The young hero raised an eyebrow at him; Ghirahim knew Link was suspicious. Regardless, Link just nodded and didn’t question him, even if he knew he was lying.

“Yeah,” the boy said. “C’mon, we’re almost there!”

“We’re so close!” Tatl agreed. “This is the last one, then we can finally put a stop to the Skull Kid and save my brother!”

Link and Tatl hurried into the gaping maw of the entrance. Ghirahim sighed and ran a hand through his hair before following after them. The darkness of this place was absolutely delectable . He prayed to Farore that he would be able to resist its enticing promises of power . He refused to revert back to old habits; he had a new purpose now. Link’s light had moved his heart, and he would ensure that he assisted the hero in bringing that same loving light to the land— not because he cared about it, but because Link did . The boy was his companion—his very first and therefore most treasured friend— and nothing would change that. His mind was made up; he was a servant of light now. Darkness of this sort had no place in his life anymore. That was the past; t hings were much different now. Stone Tower would not have him. He would be stalwart in the face of temptation.

For Link’s sake…

 

Chapter Text

The mystery had been solved. Ghirahim now understood why such a terrible darkness emitted from Stone Tower. It should have been obvious from the moment they approached the entryway to the stronghold that this was a place of depravity. Images of creatures—demons—were everywhere. That should have been expected. What was unexpected, however, were two things: 1. the ability to turn the entire world upside down (what sort of creatures possessed such powerful magic—magic on par with the gods themselves?), and 2. the very obvious motif of the Triforce carved on the underside of the floating blocks used to enter the temple. On the faces of the blocks was the same consistent image of a creature—demon—sticking out its tongue; one would never guess that said tongue was licking the Triforce on the underside. Once Link used his new Light Arrows to literally turn the world upside down, Ghirahim was taken aback by the imagery. It was clear as day: the carved blocks portrayed a demon sitting on the Triforce and licking it. The image was intentionally designed to be a lewd, provocative insult; it was meant to blaspheme the gods—more specifically, the three Golden Goddesses.

Whoever was responsible for constructing this insane tower obviously held contempt for the Goddesses, which meant that they shared the same lore as Hyrule. From what he had noticed, the rest of Termina was not aware of the Creators; they had their own deities. Clearly the people who built this place were ancient. Perhaps the knowledge of the Goddesses was ancient knowledge in this world, and had long been forgotten and replaced. If Ghirahim had to guess, he suspected the Goddesses created this world in the same fashion as Hyrule, but they felt it was inferior compared to their first creation. He guessed that they created the Four Giants to serve as Termina’s deities in their stead, thus explaining the worship of the Giants. Word of the Golden Goddesses entrusting their sacred relic to Hylia must have somehow reached Termina, hence introducing the concept of the Goddess of Time here as well. The ancient people who created this unholy place might have loathed the Golden Three because they knew they had been abandoned. In their rage, they turned away from the light and scorned it. They instead took to dark magic that could alter reality itself and worshiped the demons that provided them such power. In their worship of the unholy and with their prominent power, they became enemies of Ikana Kingdom, thus requiring the doors of the temple to be sealed lest their curse destroyed the land—like it was currently doing.

Though this was all only speculation, of course.

Ghirahim couldn’t really be sure what the true cause to construct this sacrilegious place was; the only thing he could be sure about was that it was purposely insulting to the Divine. The people who built Stone Tower rejected the teachings of the gods and turned to their own idols. In this place, darkness was superior to light. Darkness was more powerful. Perhaps the flipping of the world due to a Light Arrow was symbolic in that light was chaotic and disruptive, whereas darkness was stable and safe—it was normal and right. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility to assume that flipping the world upside down served some sort of training or ritualistic purpose to teach this lesson. This was an interesting place indeed.

He couldn’t deny it no matter how hard he tried: he adored the temple. Its obscene, evil energy resonated with him—called to him—but he refused to listen. As much as he enjoyed the it, he would not be tempted. There were more important things in his life now.

He glanced at Link, watching as he and Tatl discussed how best to proceed through this topsy-turvy labyrinth.

“We’re close,” Link announced. “We just need to get the Big Key and find the monster’s lair.”

Tatl nodded.

“Right,” she said. “The chest is up ahead, as we saw when we weren’t upside down. You should have no problem getting it now.”

“Yeah.” Link turned to look at Ghirahim. “You’ve been really quiet ever since we left Ikana Castle. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Don’t worry about me,” the demon replied. “Focus on overcoming the remaining obstacles of this place. I assure you, I’m fine.”

“I really don’t believe you.”

“Then don’t. However, dwelling on whatever it is you assume is wrong with me won’t get you through this temple. Come, let us make haste so we can leave as soon as possible.”

Link eyed him suspiciously before sighing and continuing onward. Although Ghirahim would rather not be reserved, he knew that being completely open about the current situation would only cause unnecessary stress for the young hero. The boy needed to focus on conquering this final temple to save the world, not doubt if Ghirahim’s intentions were still trustworthy when challenged by darkness. They were, but he preferred not to add that kind of strain on their new, delicate camaraderie. It never hurt to ease some of Link’s doubt, however.

“I’ll tell you once we leave this place,” Ghirahim promised. “Right now is not an appropriate time.”

Link looked back at him, his shoulders visibly relaxing. He cracked a small smile, his crystalline blue eyes glinting with trust. The sight touched the demon lord’s heart.

“That’s fair,” the hero said. “You’re right. We’re so close to the finish line, so it’s best to focus on that first.”

“Exactly!” Tatl agreed. “Now c’mon, let’s finish this already! This temple weirds me out!”

Link nodded and continued forward. It didn’t take long for him to figure out exactly what he needed to do to obtain the temple’s Big Key. Before they knew it, they were standing at the door to the innermost room. They stared at the hole in the “floor” once they entered.

“…Falling into the sky,” Link muttered, looking a bit anxious. “This is a first for me…”

“If you can fall through time itself, you can handle falling through here. It’s most likely a portal, anyway,” Ghirahim said, fairly awed by this phenomenon.

The hero shot him a quick glare before a mischievous smirk spread across his face. The sword spirit was intently studying the “portal,” so he failed to notice Link inching slightly closer to him.

“Well, if that’s the case,” he said, smirk broadening. “Maybe you should go first since you have the most experience~”

Before Ghirahim could respond, Link pushed him off the ledge. Normally, the demon lord would have simply teleported back into place and thrown the insolent brat into the hole for this affront, but he was taken so off guard that he didn’t have time to think properly. All he could do was let out a startled cry and fall. Link watched in awe as Ghirahim plummeted for at least a solid thirty seconds before he disappeared entirely.

“Well, that answers that question!” Tatl said with a grin. “It’s definitely a portal.”

Link snickered and retrieved the newly-acquired Giant’s Mask from his pack, knowing he’d need it for the battle to come.

“Right. Well, here goes nothing!” he exclaimed, jumping off the edge.

When he landed, he was surprised to see that the room wasn’t a room at all; instead, it was a sprawling wasteland littered with ancient ruins—ruins with obvious depictions of Majora’s Mask all over them. This place radiated evil and destruction. Could this perhaps be the former center of power for the “Ancient Ones” the Happy Mask Salesman told him about? Could they have built Stone Tower as a center of worship? It would make so much sense…

His theorizing was interrupted by a very irate demon lord.

You!” he shrieked. “You impudent scamp! How dare you pull such a stunt on me?!”

Link just grinned at him.

“I’m not sorry~” he said. “Because that was hilarious.”

Ghirahim threw his hands up in exasperation, realizing that his insults and offense were ineffective on the boy.

“Just you wait,” he growled. “Vengeance shall be mine for this insult.”

“Oh, calm down, Ghira. You’re fine. Clearly.”

The demon was about to argue, but a sudden rumbling beneath their feet silenced him. Link went fully alert, drawing his sword in anticipation for battle. The wind picked up, resulting in a blinding sandstorm. Two giant insects suddenly erupted from the sand, their roars echoing across the waste with fury.

“Oh, gross!” Tatl shouted with disgust. “Use your mask and squash ‘em, Link!!”

The young hero nodded and slipped on his mask. A rush of pain coursed through him, causing him to scream as his body morphed into a new form: a gargantuan version of himself. He felt the magic flow within him as he rushed into action. His movements were much slower than he was used to, but at least he now gained equal ground with the humongous bugs.

Ghirahim watched with wide eyes. Despite existing for eons and possessing a great wealth of knowledge, this land of Termina and its magic masks truly alluded him. Shaking his head, he snapped himself into the Gilded Sword to offer assistance to Link, his anger completely dissipating. His head felt foggy due to the intense amount of evil emitting from the ruins, but he was otherwise fine; he would not abandon his friends.

Although the insects (“Twinmold,” Tatl called them) were frustrating due to their constant retreat into the sand and attempted surprise attacks, Link found that they were not as difficult to fight as he originally anticipated. Feeling the magic of the Giant’s Mask dwindle, he knew he had to end this quickly. With a mighty roar of his own, he swung his sword with all his strength and completely sliced through one of the creatures. He felt his adrenaline surge as he turned to the other insect with a growl. Yelling again, he charged for it and sliced off its head. The monsters’ bodies exploded into black smoke, leaving behind one of their hideous masks. The evil had finally been vanquished.

Link removed his mask and shrank back to his normal size. He sighed in relief and took a moment to catch his breath before moving to retrieve the remains.

Yeah!” Tatl whooped. “That was awesome! Great job, Link!”

The boy grinned at her.

“Thanks~ I couldn’t have done it without you.” He then turned to Ghirahim, who had snapped out of the sword, and smiled. “Or you, Ghira. Thank you.”

Ghirahim exhaled and nodded.

“Although I’m still quite irritable because of that little prank you pulled, I would never abandon you to deal with your enemies alone. Come, let us leave this dreadful place.”

Link nodded and stepped into the portal that would take him to the last giant. Now that all of them had finally been freed, he could stop the moon from falling for good. The deities had asked him to “forgive their friend,” despite all of the evil the Skull Kid had done. It wouldn’t be easy, but if the imp showed true remorse for his actions, then Link would be less reserved in doing so. True strength was found in being kind and forgiving, after all. He didn’t want to be bitter and resentful about all of the bad things that happened. If he could forgive Tatl and Ghirahim, he could forgive the Skull Kid. He just had to stop him first, and the imp needed to turn away from being a harbinger of misery and destruction. Otherwise, Link would not relent until the threat was purged entirely from Termina. He sincerely hoped it wouldn’t have to go that far.

With a soft sigh, the young hero pulled his ocarina from his pack. Before he played it, he looked at Ghirahim again.

“So what was bothering you earlier?” he asked.

The demon lord took a moment to formulate a response.

Finally he said, “The sheer amount of evil energy emitting from Stone Tower was having an effect on me. It was tempting me to exploit the dark forces, which I gladly would have done in the past. It was quite the challenge to resist, but I did a marvelous job if I do say so myself.”

Link was unsettled by this news. Knowing that Ghirahim was actually tempted to return to his old ways scared him; he didn’t want to fight and lose his new friend—not after everything they had been through together already.

Ghirahim recognized the boy’s concern.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “It was easy to fight the urge knowing I had a secret weapon.”

“And what’s that?”

The sword spirit cleared his throat awkwardly and glanced around to avoid looking Link in the eye.

Fighting off the heat in his cheeks, he quietly admitted, “You. Both of you.”

Link and Tatl gawked at their friend, thunderstruck by his confession. Ghirahim shuffled uncomfortably in place, wondering when and how the hell he became so soft. Still, he meant what he said, and he truly appreciated his two companions. They were, in every sense, lights in the darkness. Had they been there thousands of years ago when he cared about that sort of thing, his life would have been completely different. However, he had come to realize that his past suffering only made him appreciate this friendship all the more. He wouldn’t change anything.

Link suddenly broke into a huge grin and latched onto the demon. Ghirahim stumbled backwards in surprise.

“Wha—”

“Group hug!” Tatl shouted, also hugging the white-haired main.

Ghirahim sighed loudly and rolled his eyes. He was really starting to enjoy this hugging thing, but he still wouldn’t let his companions know that. With a chuckle, he returned the embrace.

“Now that we got that out of our systems, let us return to the First Day and prepare for the final battle.”

Link and Tatl nodded.

“Right,” the hero said, readying his ocarina. “Here we go.”

With that, he played the Song of Time.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Do you think the Ancient Ones built Stone Tower?”

Ghirahim looked over at Link. The boy was lounging on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He hadn’t mentioned the temple all morning; it was odd that he was mentioning it now after they had checked into the Stock Pot Inn.

“Why do you ask?”

Link shrugged.

“Dunno. I just saw a lot of images showing Majora’s Mask there, especially in the wastelands. The Happy Mask Salesman told me that an ancient tribe made Majora’s Mask to perform sacrifices and dark magic rituals. He said that the mask’s power became too great, and they ended up destroying themselves. It seems to fit with whatever dark purpose Stone Tower was built for.”

“Hey, that makes a lot of sense,” Tatl said. “That place seemed like darkness was meant to be there, unlike the other temples!”

“Indeed,” Ghirahim agreed. “I noticed that it was a place of demon worship. Did you notice the Triforce motifs? Whoever built the place clearly knew of the Golden Goddesses and scorned them. The entire temple—and quite possibly Majora’s Mask—is meant to blaspheme their divinity. That’s why the wickedness there called to me, no doubt.”

Link exhaled deeply.

“…Do you think Majora is a demon?” he asked quietly.

“I have no reason to doubt that,” the demon lord answered. “That, or a deity of darkness much like Demise was. If these ‘Ancient Ones’ sealed some of his power into a mask, it is no wonder they were destroyed.”

“Creepy…” Tatl said with a shudder. “If that’s the case…do you think the mask might have…possessed Skull Kid? Because he was never this cruel before… He was mischievous, sure, but not…not evil…

A moment of tense silence passed between the trio. Link looked over at Ghirahim in anticipation for his thoughts on the matter; he hoped that possession was the case, because he had no qualms about destroying an evil mask. Having to hurt a good friend of Tatl’s? Not so much.

Ghirahim mulled over the fairy’s question before nodding.

“I can’t say for certain, but the probability for such a thing is high. I’d say it’s rather likely this ‘Skull Kid’ of yours is being manipulated by the power of that mask. I can already tell that the dark power of Majora’s Mask is nearly identical to the evil within Stone Tower. If it was a fight for me to resist it—being a creature born of darkness myself—then those of a weak or neutral disposition wouldn’t stand a chance against such power. It can easily snuff out the light if one does not exercise the utmost caution.”

He looked directly at Link as he said this. The hero met his gaze and nodded.

“I’ll be fine,” the boy said. “I know this because…I have you two with me. I’m unstoppable with you by my side.”

Ghirahim’s heart ached from the young hero’s words; nobody had ever said anything remotely close to that to him before.

We’re unstoppable,” Tatl said with a grin. “When we’re together, evil doesn’t stand a chance!”

Link beamed and nodded in agreement.

“Right!” He paused to look back at the sword spirit. “Right, Ghira?”

“…That…is exactly right.” Ghirahim nodded seriously before smirking. “My assistance is clearly invaluable to you. Where would you be without me?”

Link huffed and rolled his eyes.

“I’d be fine, thank you very much. But I admit you do make things easier.”

“As I thought~”

The hero sighed and cracked a smile.

“…This is it,” he said. “The battle for Termina is upon us. I’m ready.”

“I’m ready, too,” Tatl declared. “This time we’re prepared.”

Ghirahim chuckled.

“I haven’t had a decent battle in ages. I’m looking forward to something new, what with fighting the forces of evil this time instead of serving them.”

Link smiled at him.

“You’re free now, Ghira.”

“That’s right. I set my own terms for my life now. The only thing that’s still the same is how positively stunning and powerful I am~”

“Oh, brother,” Tatl grumbled, making an exasperated face.

It was Link’s turn to chuckle.

“Then I hope you’ll lend me your strength, my friend.”

The demon lord’s smirk broadened.

“With pleasure, dear boy.”

Link felt indomitable. He had two amazing friends by his side, as well as the strength of happiness and healing at his fingertips in the form of masks. There was no way he’d lose. He would succeed in saving Termina (and hopefully the Skull Kid), no problem. He had grown so much during this adventure; he was stronger, wiser, and braver than he had been since the start, and he was proud of that. He forged personal connections with many of Termina’s inhabitants—even if they didn’t remember—so he was fighting for them: Cremia, Romani, Anju, Kafei, Lulu, and so many others. He would not fail them. He refused to let any more lives be lost. Darmani’s and Mikau’s deaths would not be in vain. He would save this strange, wonderful land no matter what. With Tatl and Ghirahim at his side, he was practically invincible.

Majora wouldn’t know what hit him.

~~~~~~~~~~

Midnight of the Final Day. Six hours remained.

Link held his head high as he ascended the stairs to the top of the clock tower, where Skull Kid waited. He was ready. With every step, the anticipation swelled within him.

It ended here. Tonight.

When Link reached the top of the stairs, Skull Kid was exactly where the boy expected him to be: floating in the center of the platform, arms crossed in disinterest. Link furrowed his eyebrows, his hand hovering over his ocarina. The Skull Kid stared at him silently.

Tael suddenly flew forward.

“Sis!!”

Tael!” Tatl cried.

“Swamp. Mountain. Ocean. Canyon,” the younger fairy said hurriedly. “Hurry! The four who are there, bring them here!”

In a sudden burst of anger, Skull Kid swatted at Tael with a growl.

“Don’t speak out of line!! Stupid fairy!” he snapped.

Tatl seethed, her teeth gritted and her fists clenched.

“That’s it!!” she exclaimed. “I won’t let things go the way you expect them to, Skull Kid!”

Link nodded in agreement, slowly retrieving the Ocarina of Time. The Skull Kid scoffed.

“Well, whatever,” he said dismissively. “Even if they were to come now, they wouldn’t be able to handle me.”

He chuckled wickedly and tilted his head at the moon directly over them before continuing.

“Just look above you. If it’s something that can be stopped…then just try to stop it!!”

With a shrill yell, the imp cast a spell that shook the heavens; he was causing the moon to fall.

“Quick, Link!!” Tatl shouted. “Call the Four!!”

Ghirahim snapped out of the Gilded Sword.

“Let’s do this, Link,” he said. “It’s time to put this pest back in his place!”

Link nodded and brought the ocarina to his lips. Calming his nerves, he began to play the Oath to Order. Beside him, Ghirahim took a deep breath and began to sing in his ancient language.

Link enjoyed the demon lord’s singing immensely; he had such a lovely voice, and the ancient words he spoke only emphasized how mesmerizing his songs were. However, now was not the time to be distracted. Finishing his part of the song, Link put the ocarina back in his pack and waited.

The earth trembled violently. The Skull Kid looked around frantically, clearly taken aback. From all four corners of Termina, voices of righteous fury thundered across the land—the sleeping giants were now awake, and they were coming. As the voices of the deities continued to ring out, the Skill Kid clutched his head. Shaking his head violently, he let out an anguished shriek that shook Link to his core. The sound of large footsteps echoed from the Four Regions; the giants approached Clock Town at the same steady pace. In unison, all four threw their arms toward the falling moon and caught it. The earth continued to shake from the impact, and the giants struggled momentarily from the force and weight of it, but all eventually went still. The deities stared at the moon, unwavering in their promise to protect the people of this land. They stood perfectly still, and all was eerily quiet.

On the clock tower platform, Skull Kid collapsed to the ground, unconscious. Ghirahim scoffed and flipped his hair. Tatl just sighed in relief.

“It stopped…” she said. “We…we did it…! It stopped!!”

Tael flew toward her with open arms.

“Sis!!”

The yellow fairy embraced her brother tightly and laughed.

“Tael!!”

Link smiled as he watched this exchange between the fairies. Ghirahim chuckled and patted the boy’s head approvingly. The jubilant moment lasted for a bit longer before Tatl turned her attention to the unconscious imp.

“The giants’ call worked on the Skull Kid. Good,” she said. “Hey, Skull Kid! Do you realize what you’ve been doing to everyone?!”

Tael put a hand on her shoulder.

“Wait, Sis… Don’t be so hard on him…”

Tatl gaped at him.

“Wha—Tael! Why are you defending him? Aren’t you mad about him hitting you?”

“…He…was lonely…”

Those words hit Link hard. Even Ghirahim shifted slightly in place. Both of them understood exactly what that was like. Ghirahim could almost empathize with the Skull Kid, for he too had once taken drastic measures as a result of his loneliness; however, an enemy of Link’s was also his enemy, and he would not show mercy so long as that was the case.

Tatl huffed at her brother.

“He was trying to destroy everything around him! That is not the same as a lonely child! We can’t allow that!”

Link flinched slightly at her emphasis on “lonely child;” he knew she was referring to him.

“The power of the mask made him do it,” Tael argued. “It was too much for him to handle!”

Link and Ghirahim exchanged glances, recalling their previous conversation about the Skull Kid possibly being possessed. Tatl remembered as well, as she relented slightly. Then, in her anger, she shook her head. Influenced by the mask or not, the Skull Kid was still in the wrong.

“It’s ‘cause he doesn’t know his place!” she snapped. “On top of having a weak will and no strength of heart…he’s a fool!”

Ghirahim stifled a chuckle. He looked at Link fondly, knowing that Tatl was comparing the Skull Kid’s weakness to Link’s strength. He knew firsthand how powerful the boy’s heart was.

An unknown voice suddenly spoke out, addressing Tatl.

“Certainly, he had far too many weaknesses to use my power.”

Yeah!” the yellow fairy agreed. “That’s right! Admit your stupidity! …Wait…”

Everyone turned to look at the Skull Kid, only to be surprised by the sight of his limp body floating in midair. Link took a startled step backwards. The voice was coming from the mask.

“A puppet that can no longer be used is merely garbage.” The mask abruptly dropped the imp as if discarding a broken toy. It floated there, staring directly at Link and Ghirahim. “This puppet’s role has just ended.”

“I-it can’t be,” Tael stammered in disbelief. “Then that moon…!”

The moon’s mouth opened wide, and Majora’s Mask was swallowed up into it. Link watched in horror as the eyes of it began to glow. The mask spoke through it.

“I…shall consume. Consume… Consume everything!”

The rumbling resumed, and the giants groaned from the strain. They were suddenly forced back, barely able to keep their hold on the moon.

Damn!” Ghirahim exclaimed, attempting to analyze the situation for a new solution.

“Waaah!!” Tatl cried. “This isn’t good!! Let’s go back! C’mon, let’s go back! The Song of Time, Link! The Song of Time! Hurry!!”

No,” the hero said sternly. “We have to get up there. It’s the only way to stop this!”

The yellow fairy shook her head.

“Aw, no… You’ve got to be kidding me…”

“Nope,” the boy said with a grin. “Stay here if you want. We’ll be back. C’mon, Ghira!”

The demon smirked and nodded.

“Up we go~” he sang.

“I’ll go, too!” Tael suddenly said. “I won’t run away anymore. If I had only been stronger, then Skull Kid wouldn’t have…”

Tatl sighed and shook her head.

“I get it, but I’ll go. These two are in constant need of supervision, and I’ve been with them long enough to know how to deal with them, so. As much as I don’t want to, I’ll go up there. Jeez, all of you are really stupid and stubborn…”

Link nodded, his grin broadening.

“I knew we could count on you, Tat,” he said.

“Mm, I don’t see why this of all things should frighten you,” Ghirahim added. “It’s not like this is anything new to you.”

“Whatever!” Tatl huffed. “C’mon, let’s just get this over with already!”

Link and Ghirahim nodded, hurrying for the portal that had previously carried Majora’s Mask into the maw of the moon. They were sucked upwards ungracefully. Link hurriedly reached for Ghirahim’s hand to steady himself; the demon gripped his hand tightly in return, as if afraid to be separated from the young hero.

Everything went white.

The next thing they knew, the trio found themselves standing in a grassy field that extended as far as the eye could see. A bright blue sky hung overhead, and the only point of interest was a single tree standing on a small hill. Ghirahim snorted.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this. Fascinating.”

“Yeah…” Link agreed. “It’s nice… I guess we should go check out that tree?”

“Solid plan.”

As they advanced toward the tree, Link noticed five children gathered around it. Four of them were laughing and running around, while one sat alone under the tree. Upon further inspection, they were all wearing masks—the temple monster masks, to be precise. The child under the tree donned Majora’s Mask.

Link cautiously approached the nearest child, who wore Odolwa’s mask.

The child stared at him for a moment before saying, “Nice weather, isn’t it? …Masks… You have a lot… Will you too become a mask salesman…? Then I’ll play with you. The masks… Give me some…”

Immediately the hero know that he was being tested. Without protest, he gave the child several of his precious masks.

“Thanks…” the child said. “You’re a nice person, aren’t you? …Hey, can I ask a question? Your friends… What kind of…people are they? I wonder… Do those people…think of you…as a friend?”

The question blindsided Link. He had to really think about it. Technically, he had many friends. However, he had also lost most of them due to numerous factors beyond his control. So…no, not all of them thought of him as a friend because they didn’t even remember him. Of those who did, he liked to think they felt the same as he did regarding their friendship. They were all good people; they had to, right?

Ghirahim harrumphed and placed a hand on his hip.

“Of course we do,” he said snidely to the masked child. “What a nonsensical question.”

The boy giggled before abruptly disappearing. Link blinked for a moment, dumbfounded, before he looked at the sword spirit.

“Thanks, Ghira…”

“Think nothing of it.”

With a nod, Link moved to approach the child wearing Goht’s mask. Just like the first child, this one asked for some of Link’s masks—which, of course, he gave.

“Can I ask a question?” the child asked in the same manner as the previous one. “You…what makes you happy? I wonder… What makes you happy…does it make others happy, too?”

“Friendship makes me happy,” Link answered.

“And it makes me happy as well,” Ghirahim added, placing a hand on the hero’s shoulder.

“And me!” Tatl agreed.

Link smiled. The child with Goht’s mask giggled and disappeared as well. Everything about this situation was so...strange.

Link repeated the pattern with the child wearing Gyorg’s mask.

“The right thing…” he said. “What is it? I wonder…if you do the right thing…does it make everybody…happy?”

The question really hit home for the boy hero. He generally knew what the right thing was for him to do—save the world, be the hero he was required to be—and it made many people happy. Many excluding himself. Sure, he was glad to have a higher purpose, and he was more than willing to make others happy, but overall it left him feeling hollow—like a shell of the boy he used to be. The right thing was to be the Hero of Time, but it left him alone in the end: forgotten, isolated, misunderstood. Even so, he always knew that sometimes—most times—doing the right thing in general had a high chance of upsetting people just as much. Sometimes the right thing was confused with the wrong thing, and vice-versa. Doing the right thing often brought some kind of pain, regardless.

“…No,” he said softly. “It’s impossible to make everybody happy, even if you do the right thing—whatever it may be.”

The child wearing Gyorg’s mask studied him for a moment before vanishing. Link sighed and walked up to the child wearing Twinmold’s mask.

After receiving the last of Link’s masks (save for the Deku, Goron, and Zora masks), he asked, “Your true face… What kind of…face is it? I wonder… The face under the mask… Is that…your true face?”

What was his true face? He always tried to be true to himself and act upon the good while inwardly accepting the bad. At least that’s what Link always assumed. Was there a chance that there was more darkness in his heart than he originally thought?

“…Anger. Sadness. Cowardice,” the child with Twinmold’s mask said as he stared at Link. He then turned his attention to Ghirahim. “Fear. Desperation. Insecurity.”

The demon lord bristled defensively.

“How dare you, you insolent insect?!” he snapped. “You know not the faintest thing about us!!”

The child only giggled and faded away like the others. Ghirahim felt sick with anger after that exchange. Outraged, even!

Infuriating,” he fumed. “Absolute scoundrel.”

“Let it go, Ghira,” Link said, shaking his head. “He’s gone now. Besides…we are more than our weaknesses. …Much, much more…”

He wasn’t sure if he believed his own words entirely, but he knew that there was way more to his heart than those things. His anger he quelled with practicing temperance; his cowardice he overcame through sheer determination to get the job done (because who else would?), thus transforming it into courage. His sadness…

He cracked a small smile and reached for the demon lord’s hand.

His sadness never stood a change as long as he had a friend like Ghirahim.

“If…you’re scared, you can always count on me to be there for you,” Link murmured. “If you’re desperate for anything, I’ll make sure you get it. And if you ever find yourself feeling insecure—even if it’s extremely rare—I promise I’ll always remind you of how great you are, and how much you mean to me. You’re…my best friend, Ghira…”

It was true. In the short time they had been together, Link felt they had grown so much. They had been through some of the most difficult trials—many of them internal—and overcame them side-by-side. Most importantly of all, he knew with all his heart that the demon meant every word when he promised to never leave him; they were stuck together now. Good, bad, or otherwise.

Ghirahim snorted and looked elsewhere, but he gave Link’s hand a heartfelt squeeze nonetheless.

I’m not the one you should be concerned about,” he grumbled. “Let’s not dawdle. We haven’t much time left.”

The hero grinned and nodded, pulling his hand away. He then looked at Tatl.

“You, too, Tat. You’re—”

“Save it!” Tatl exclaimed, turning red. “No sap! No time! Let’s move!”

Link couldn’t help but laugh. He truly did love those two—with all his heart.

Putting on his determined face, he approached the child wearing Majora’s Mask. The child looked up at him.

“Everyone’s gone away, haven’t they?” he asked. “Will you…play with me?”

Link nodded and answered, “Yes.”

The child stood up.

“You don’t have any masks left, do you? Well, let’s do something else. Let’s play good guys against bad guys. Yes. Let’s play that.”

From seemingly out of nowhere, the child handed Link a new mask. He was taken aback by the uncanny resemblance it had to his own adult face, save for white hair and colorful facial tattoos. A dark, ominous energy pulsed within it. Ghirahim scowled at the thing.

“Whatever you do, do not wear that mask,” he whispered. “Its dark power is on par with Majora’s. Should you wear it, you’ll risk tainting your own heart. Using it is sacrilegious to the Triforce of Courage you wield. The gods will not be pleased should their chosen Hero decide to blaspheme them.”

Link couldn’t deny that the temptation of ultimate power spoke to him. With this mask—a Fierce Deity’s mask—fighting Majora would be child’s play. Yet Ghirahim was correct: he needed to rely on the power of light, not darkness. He would not stoop to Majora’s level. He shoved the mask into his pack and drew his Gilded Sword.

“Are you ready?” the child with Majora’s Mask asked. “You’re the bad guy. And when you’re bad, you just run. That’s fine, right? Well… Shall we play?”

“Let’s play,” Link growled, ready.

The scene suddenly shifted into a colorful, demonic chamber. It was simple enough, but isolated and full of wickedness. The child was gone; all that was there was Majora’s Mask, much larger than it had been previously. Multiple red tentacle-like appendages protruded from the back of it that writhed disgustingly. Link gripped the Gilded Sword while Ghirahim summoned his demon tribe blade. The demon lord took a deep breath, as if he was fighting back a wave of nausea. Link shot him a concerned look, but the man shook his head. The young hero sighed softly and nodded, turning his attention back to the mask. With a battle cry, he charged. Ghirahim smirked and followed suit.

Link was struggling to get a proper hit on the creature, but Ghirahim had been successful in severing one of its appendages. The mask shrieked in pain—a horrible, bloodcurdling sound that shook the room. Ghirahim reveled in it, enjoying the fact that his enemy was suffering. He was, after all, a weapon without mercy.

“Yeah, Ghira…!!” Link shouted approvingly.

“You must step up your game, Link~” the demon lord responded. “I thought we were working together as a team?”

The boy simply grinned and nodded, more determined than ever to get in a hiton the mask. Majora hissed and floated away from the warriors.

Careful, you guys,” Tatl warned. “I can’t get a good analysis on this thing, so I don’t know what to expect!”

“Mm, that’s what makes a battle interesting,” Ghirahim said with a smirk. “It’s a learning experience~”

“Yeah,” Link agreed with a smirk of his own. “I’m not worried about it.”

Without warning, Majora’s Mask screeched and twirled toward them, its appendages whipping around to strike. Ghirahim teleported out of the way, and Link dodge-rolled away. The mask landed on the floor and whipped in all directions, making it incredibly difficult for Link to dodge and limiting spaces for Ghirahim to teleport to.

“Bad guys don’t get to have a sidekick,” Majora said, continuing to twist about.

Before any of the three companions could ponder the mask’s meaning, several appendages shot forward and coiled around Ghirahim’s arms and legs. Link immediately sprung over to cut him free, but Majora’s other appendages gripped him by the foot and tossed him aside; it kept a hold on Link to ensure he couldn’t get to the demon lord, despite the boy’s desperate struggling. Ghirahim only scoffed.

Disgusting,” he snarled, summoning several floating daggers to cut himself free. “You think a dirty trick such as this can stop me—

He suddenly collapsed to his knees. Darkness poured into him in alarming amounts. Every evil instinct within him surged to life from the onslaught of dark energy coursing through him. The demon lord fought against Majora’s influence with all his strength—he truly with all his heart and soul fought his damnedest—but the darkness was just too irresistible for his most primal demon inclinations. The rage and hatred he thought he had overcome flooded his mind—hatred for Majora, hatred for his fellow demons and Demise, hatred for the gods, and hatred for the Hero of legend all overwhelmed him. The need to just destroy all who opposed him and his desires overwhelmed him, and he laughed—a vicious, unhinged laugh.

No!!” Link screamed, panic rising within him. “Ghirahim!!”

“Fight it, Ghirahim!!” Tatl yelled, not knowing what else to do. “You have to fight it!!”

The demon lord smirked wickedly as he rose to his feet, Majora having released its hold on him. Licking his lips in his desire for bloodshed, he slowly sauntered toward Link with his blade drawn. The young hero paled, feeling his heart break into a thousand pieces. There was no way it could have been that easy; there was no way Ghirahim would fall under some stupid mask’s influence just like that!

…Unless…they had all severely underestimated the mask’s power.

Link struggled against the appendages keeping him pinned to the ground. Managing to free his right arm, he swiped his sword from his left hand and proceeded to cut himself free. Majora shrieked in pain and withdrew. Ghirahim chuckled darkly as Link scrambled to his feet and out of Majora’s reach.

“It’s adorable how that lesser creature thinks it can control me~” he purred. “It thinks that by flooding my senses with darkness I’ll bend over for it and let it have its way with me~ Ha! A man of my disposition could never be overpowered by one so base. It thinks itself a god, just like the arrogant Master I used to serve.”

A small twinge of hope shot through Link. Perhaps Ghirahim wasn’t completely out of it after all.

“Although I must thank it for reminding me how truly powerful I am, and what I’ve desired to use such power for for so, so long~”

“G-Ghirahim…” Tatl stammered, fearful. “Hey, c’mon, knock it off…”

The demon ignored her as he stared down Link, his sadistic smirk never leaving his face. With a low chuckle, he licked his blade.

“I believe we have unfinished business, you and I,” he said coldly. “Legendary Hero.”

Link gritted his teeth, not knowing what to do. He knew that Ghirahim didn’t really want to do this—he could feel it—but he had no idea how to break through to him. All the while Majora regained its strength and transformed itself into a humanoid figure, its tentacle-like appendages morphing into two arms, two legs, and a “head” consisting of one large green eye and two small horns. The mask served as its torso, and it ran around frantically. Link knew that there was no way he’d be able to fight both Ghirahim and Majora—not in his current state. He was too weak on his own, being outmatched by two powerful demons. He needed to find a way to get Ghirahim to regain his senses while also keeping Majora at bay for the time being. But how? How?!

He remembered the new mask Majora had given him—the one with his face. The mask that promised ultimate power.

Narrowing his eyes, Link reached into his pack and pulled out the Fierce Deity’s mask. Tatl buzzed in alarm.

“What are you doing?!” she cried. “Don’t you remember what Ghirahim told you earlier?!”

Ghirahim laughed.

Put it on~” he coaxed. “I need a challenge. Put it on, Link! Don the mask and meet me in combat! Come to me!!”

“Shut up!!” Link snapped, furious. He would not let this continue. He would save Ghirahim, and they would defeat Majora together. “I won’t let him win.”

Steeling himself, he put on the mask.

A harrowing scream ripped from his chest as he felt the transformation begin. The darkness flooding his senses was agonizing, but the power that came with it was incredible. Every fiber of his being became fortified with strength, and the only desire he had was to conquer. He would crush anyone who challenged him. Anything that stood in his way would be destroyed. He felt no emotion in his new adult body; he only felt power. He drew his sword—a large, double-helix blade—and pointed it at Ghirahim.The demon chuckled in delight.

“Now the fun can really begin~” he said, pointing his sword at Link. “Let us see how much you’ve grown in the art of combat.”

Link said nothing—thought nothing. He silently charged forward, sword raised. Ghirahim smirked and parried the hero’s attack with poise, unwavering in the face of the boy’s newfound power. Link growled and let loose a flurry of blows, aiming to find and opening through distraction. The demon lord smiled as he reflected every swing of Link’s sword.

“It’s like you’re not even trying,” he sighed, rather melodramatically. “This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. I’m starting to get offended.”

Link scoffed. In one quick, fluid motion, he jumped back and performed his signature spin attack. Ghirahim should have anticipated the move, but his nonchalance got the better of him; he was knocked to the ground. Link lunged forward, sword raised with the intent to drive it through the demon’s heart. Ghirahim growled and teleported out of the way, just barely evading the lethal blow.

Cheeky,” he hissed. “I won’t make that mistake again. Playtime is over.”

Link smirked, the thrill of combat pulsing through his veins. The demon lord was a near-omnipotent adversary, which made defeating him all the more vital; killing the demon would be the ultimate demonstration of strength. When he succeeded, he would be akin to a god, more so than the mask he wore promised.

“Wipe that smug expression off your face, boy,” Ghirahim snarled. “You’ve not the faintest understanding of my power. Behold!!”

With a yell, the spirit summoned a wall of black and white diamonds that shrouded him. A metallic twang laced the demon’s voice as he chuckled, and his footsteps sounded like heavy armor treading the ground. When he emerged from the wall of diamonds, he looked completely different: skin as dark as obsidian, completely exposed and adorned with white diamond patterns all along his body; sleek white hair styled out of his face entirely, revealing both of his eyes devoid of irises; sharp, pointed canines bared in a cruel sneer. A large grey diamond stood out on his chest, and Link immediately assessed that it was the demon’s weak point.

Tatl watched in terror as her friends charged one another, their blades clashing in an unholy cacophony of screeching steel. Both of them were overcome with hatred, and they both had only one thing on their minds: absolute triumph over the other. Darkness exuded from them, and their bloodlust was overwhelming; pitched against one another, the two were the embodiment of depravity.

All the while, Majora honed his power. While the hero and demon lord were distracted by their desire to destroy one another, the evil deity built up its strength, preparing to obliterate them both simultaneously. He wasn’t concerned in the least; he had plenty of time to prepare his devastating attack. In the meantime, he would enjoy the show.

Link yelled in pain as one of Ghirahim’s daggers embedded itself into his thigh. Infuriated and spurred on by the intense desire to dominate the battlefield, he charged at the demon with blinding speed, putting all of the force he was capable of into a strike directly to the diamond on his chest. Ghirahim gasped as the protective coating shattered and the blade impaled the newly-exposed golden jewel. Yelling in rage, he ignored the searing pain and returned the gesture by stabbing the tip of his blade straight into Link’s left shoulder. The corrupted hero screamed in agony; with his dominant arm crippled, he was at a disadvantage. Still, he fought with everything he had, as did Ghirahim.

Stop it!!” Tatl screamed, having been trying to get their attention the entire time. “You’re going to kill each other!! If you two die, Termina is doomed!! You can’t allow Majora to win!!”

“Their hearts are corrupted by darkness,” Majora laughed. “They can’t hear you, nor do they care!”

The fairy hiccuped, tears of sorrow and fear streaming down her cheeks. She needed to do something. She refused to let either one of them die; they were her friends.

She flew directly into Link’s face and placed both of her hands on his chin.

“Wake up!!” she sobbed. “This isn’t you, Link!! You would never hurt your friends!!”

Link swatted her away, too absorbed in fighting Ghirahim. She yelped from the impact, but she would not yield. Gritting her teeth, she flew back into his face.

“You’re the only one who can bring Ghirahim back!! You don’t want to hurt him, Link, I know you don’t!! You don’t want to hurt anyone!! You’re more than this stupid mask!! Are you seriously going to fall into the same trap as the Skull Kid?! I just said you were strong!! Was I wrong?! Are you actually just as weak, allowing a mask to control you?! Are you seriously going to allow it to kill your best friend?!

Link snarled, about to swat her away again, but he stopped. Slowly, clarity came to him; he was starting to regain control over his thoughts. What was he doing?

“Look at him!!” Tatl yelled. “Look what you’re doing!!”

The hero looked at Ghirahim, who was barely able to keep himself upright with his life jewel so severely damaged. Still, the demon refused to relent; he would not stop until one or both of them were dead. Link’s heart shattered seeing his friend in such a state; he had done this. He had reduced the proud spirit to this. Completely regaining control, Link gasped as tears rolled down his cheeks. He lowered his sword, his hand trembling. He shakily reached for the spirit.

“…Ghi…ra…” he rasped, his adult voice cracking with emotion. The tears fell faster, and he let out a sob. “Ghira…him…”

The demon lord growled, about to exploit the hero’s moment of weakness, but he froze at the sight of his tears. Blood poured from Link’s wounds—wounds he inflicted—and a feeling of dread overcame him. He hurt him. He hurt him. He remembered a promise—a sacred promise—he made to this man. No, to this boy. He made a promise to always be there; to protect him. Why, though? There was something about this boy that caused the hatred to fade away, but what? What was so special about this boy that made him want to stop fighting?

Everything suddenly clicked in Ghirahim’s mind. Majora’s influence over him shattered, and his heart lurched painfully. Not bothering to hide his own tears—the first tears he shed in millennia—he pulled the hero into his arms and held him as if the world truly was ending. Removing his hat, he carded his fingers through the boy’s hair, desperately trying to provide some sort of comfort to him.

Link sobbed and clutched the demon like a lifeline. How could he allow this to happen? How did he lose control of himself this much? How could he allow himself to hurt his cherished friend?

“G-Ghira…!” he choked, nuzzling into the crook of the sword spirit’s neck. “I-I’m sorry… I-I’m so sorry…!!”

“Shhh…” Ghirahim soothed, ignoring the pain that wracked his body. “It is I who needs to apologize… I beg your forgiveness, Link…”

“A-always… I-I forgive you…”

Tatl slumped in relief. She was overjoyed that they were back, but now was not the time to celebrate. Majora was still there, readying his attack. He—

Look out!!” she screamed right as the evil deity fired a large, deadly beam of energy in their direction.

Ghirahim immediately wrapped his body around Link to serve as a protective shield; there was no time to try and evade the attack. Link screamed as the energy crashed into the spirit. Ghirahim hissed in pain, feeling his metallic skin crack from the force of impact; had he not been in his sword spirit form, the attack would have surely torn him apart. His body went limp as it returned to normal. He was losing consciousness…

Ghirahim!!” Link cried, ignoring his own pain as he pulled away from his friend to try and help him.

“I’ll…be fine…” the demon lord slurred. “…Just need…rest…”

“H-here, get in the sword… I’ll handle this…”

“Before I do…”

With the last of his strength, Ghirahim summoned one floating dagger and directed it at Majora. The evil deity shrieked in pain and rage as the blade pierced the large eye of its head. With an exhausted, satisfied smirk, Ghirahim returned to Link’s sword. He was loath to leave the boy alone in this fight, but at least he was able to level the field somewhat.

Link tried to remove the Fierce Deity’s mask, but it wouldn’t come off. He almost panicked, but he then figured that he would have to win a battle in order to remove it. He cursed to himself since he couldn’t retrieve a red potion to heal himself, but he’d have to make do. His thigh and left shoulder continued to bleed, but he didn’t have time to deal with them. He would simply have to push through the pain and fight the best he could with a disadvantage; at least Ghirahim had greatly hindered Majora for him.

Majora shrieked again as he transformed once more. This time he took a more definite humanoid shape. The mask portion of his body shifted into a breastplate to serve as armor for its new torso. His arms and legs became more pronounced, as if suddenly gaining a mass of muscle. His “head” became an actual head, complete with a gaping maw of sharp teeth, four horns protruding from the top of the head, and three eyes—two where eyes were supposed to be on a face, and a large one in the center of its forehead; though that eye looked like it had been popped from being pierced by Ghirahim’s dagger. Connected to its hands were sinister whip-like weapons that were reminiscent of the tentacle-like appendages of its mask form.

“You now face Majora’s Wrath!!” the creature roared, swinging its whips in fury. “Now you will die the most painful of deaths and my body shall feast upon your soul!!”

“Ugh, shut up,” Link grumbled, wielding his double-helix blade in his right hand.

Tatl stuck her tongue out at the monster and nodded in a “Yeah, shut up!!” manner. Link grinned at her.

Majora screeched and lunged for Link, swinging its weapons wildly. Link could tell that Majora let emotions control his actions; he was used to getting his way all the time that he could only throw tantrums whenever he was challenged. Pathetic. No matter how strong the enemy, any warrior worth their salt knew that being overemotional in battle would lead to defeat. It also appeared that the creature was having difficulty seeing properly thanks to a certain pretentious demon lord, even with three eyes. This was perfect.

Link carefully dodged the deity’s attacks and kept up his defenses. His thigh and arm were in agony, but he stood his ground. Majora kept rushing him frantically, trying desperately to get a hit on the hero, but Link wouldn’t allow him to. With Ghirahim out of commission, Tatl served as his primary advisor, helping him dodge and block before he even realized what was happening. He was starting to feel a little lightheaded from the blood loss, but he persevered. Majora’s Wrath roared and kept charging at him, but every time he did, Link was able to find an opening: he struck—multiple times.

Majora continued to shriek, the shrillness of it giving Link a massive headache (he would definitely, definitely need a bottle of Chateau Romani after this). The hero was starting to get annoyed; he couldn’t wait any longer. Breaking his defensive pattern, he charged for the creature, taking it by surprise. With the power of the Fierce Deity’s mask, delivering the final blow to Majora was surprisingly easy: he ran the evil deity through, his large blade severing its torso. Majora howled its death knell and collapsed. The room began to quake, and a bright light burst forth from within the monster, dissolving it from the inside out.

And just like that, it was over.

Link dropped to a knee, panting heavily as the adrenaline wore off and exhaustion set in. With a trembling hand, he successfully removed the Fierce Deity’s mask. He stared at it for a moment with disdain. Ghirahim had been right when he said Link would run the risk of tainting his own heart with the mask’s darkness; he could feel it there, lingering, serving as a permanent reminder of his mistakes. It left him craving more power, but he would not give into the urge to seek it. Not this time. As tempted as he was to just toss the mask aside to never look at again, he decided he would keep it—to remind him of his own weakness and his folly. Utilizing the power of this mask had almost cost him everything, and he would not run from the invaluable lesson he learned today.

He may have blasphemed the gods by donning the mask, but he didn’t regret it. Even though he hurt Ghirahim because of it, he felt that their friendship had now developed into something completely unbreakable after the whole ordeal. Because of that, he would honestly curse the gods’ names a thousand times if it meant always having the demon lord by his side. Their companionship was what won this battle, not the divine power he had been bestowed just a short time ago. All he needed was Ghirahim, Triforce of Courage be damned.

The room continued to shake as the light enveloped Link and Tatl. He had to shield his eyes from the brightness. When he opened them again, he saw that he was kneeling in Termina field. The Four Giants still held the moon, but not for long; the wicked-looking thing suddenly dissolved into a colorful prism of light, gone forever. All around, Link heard the cheers of Termina’s inhabitants. They were safe at last.

“We did it!!” Tatl exclaimed, throwing up her arms. “We really, really did it!! We defeated Majora and saved Termina!!”

“Y-yeah…” Link said with a tired grin. “All thanks to you, Tat…”

“Wh—me? I didn’t do anything!” the fairy protested.

“You saved me… You woke me up, so I could wake up Ghirahim… Without you there, we would’ve died inside the moon and everything would have been lost… You’re the real hero here, Tatl…”

He gave her his most heartfelt smile and a respectful nod. Tatl blushed, shaking her head rapidly in embarrassment.

“W-well, when you put it like that…” she muttered. “…I told you you two boneheads needed supervision.”

Link chuckled.

“Thank you, Tat… For everything… And…for being my friend…”

The fairy looked at him and smiled. She affectionately flicked his nose, earning a chuckle from the boy.

“Even if we’re far away from each other, we’ll always be friends,” she said. “Even if I can’t be there for you like Ghirahim can, I’ll always support you, y’know. In my heart, and in yours, too.”

“…I know,” Link said with a smile.

He did know. It took a whole new adventure and many misfortunes to realize it, but he knew; no matter what happened to him or where he went, the friends he made along the way would always be there in his heart, supporting him. That was all that mattered.

An intense wave of lightheadedness suddenly hit him. The young hero’s body couldn’t handle it anymore; he fell to the ground, his consciousness slowly slipping away.

Link!!” Tatl cried.

“…‘m….fine… Just….need rest…” Link mumbled. “…Just a few minutes…”

He stared blankly at the grass for a moment, deciding to try and reach Ghirahim before he passed out.

‘…We did it, Ghira…’ he thought tiredly. ‘We won…’

He wasn’t expecting the demon lord to respond, seeing how he needed to rest and heal inside the sword. Still, he figured it would be best to update him nonetheless; that’s what friends did, after all. He closed his eyes, willing sleep to take him as well. Just as he was on the verge, he heard a familiar voice faintly reply inside his head.

Marvelously done, Link… Well done.

Link smiled and let himself slip into the abyss.

Chapter Text

The first thing Link heard when he came to was singing. It was low and comforting, and the melody sounded familiar. The boy relaxed, keeping his eyes closed as he listened. Whoever the singer was, they had and amazing voice; Link could listen to it forever. It soothed him and made all of his worries fade away, although he wasn’t sure if that was due to the voice, the melody itself, or a combination of the two. Either way, the hero felt at peace.

Suddenly, memories of the battle against Majora came rushing back to him: using the Fierce Deity’s Mask, fighting Ghirahim, his injuries—they all replayed vividly in his mind. His eyes snapped open and he sat up. It was only then that he realized he was in a bed at the Stock Pot Inn, and that his wounds no longer felt agonizing. He checked himself over and saw some pretty gnarly scars, but they were completely healed. What happened?

“Ah, so you’ve decided to rejoin us after all,” came a familiar voice—a voice Link wanted to hear more than anything.

The young hero quickly looked in the speaker’s direction, his eyes wide.

“Ghirahim!!”

The demon lord chuckled.

“In the flesh,” he said.

Link teared up and hurriedly stumbled out of the bed, launching himself at the white-haired man. This time Ghirahim didn’t make a spectacle of pretending to be aloof about being hugged; this time, he returned Link’s embrace wholeheartedly.

“Y-you’re okay,” the boy hiccuped.

“I am…” the sword spirit replied, nuzzling into his hair. “More importantly, you are okay.”

“What happened?”

“For myself, it doesn’t take long for my wounds to heal; although I did have a little assistance. The innkeeper saw you unconscious on the ground and brought you to the Great Fairy’s Fountain. The fairy healed your wounds, then called to me. She then healed mine as well, so I’m right as rain. From the look of things, so are you.”

That made sense. Link would have to thank Anju later. He glanced around, noticing that Tatl was absent.

“…Where’s Tatl?”

“With her brother and that imp. She asked me to inform you that they will be waiting for you in South Termina Field. Also, the mask salesman was looking for you. I had to chase him away so you could properly rest. He says he’ll be waiting inside the clock tower.”

Link sighed and rubbed his face. He had a feeling he missed out on a lot while he was out.

“…What about the Carnival? How long was I asleep?” he inquired.

“About a day. The denizens of this world have decided to extend their festivities through tomorrow. Thus far nothing terribly exciting has happened, so I assume they’re saving the best for last. You haven’t missed much.”

The boy smiled. Now that his wounds were healed, he wanted to enjoy the Carnival of Time before he returned to Hyrule and continued his search for Navi. He fought hard to save Termina and nearly died for it; he figured he deserved a moment’s respite.

“Oh, and one more thing,” Ghirahim said. A fond smile graced his lips, and a glimmer of pride shone in his charcoal eyes. “I think you’ll be pleased by this next bit of news: it seems that you have not been forgotten. Not completely, anyway.”

The hero straightened up at this news.

“I…haven’t…?” he asked quietly, bewildered by this turn of events. “Who…?”

The demon lord chuckled and affectionately ruffled his sunshine-gold hair.

“Two lovely redheads, a little bow enthusiast, and a man who just returned after missing for over a month.”

Link’s eyes widened.

“They remember me?!”

“Not in a, ‘Oh, it’s Link!’ sort of way, but they felt you were familiar in a way they can’t explain. The consensus is that you are somehow important to them, and they anticipate your awakening.”

Link smiled, his heart warm from this news. Although they didn’t remember him, they at least recognized him in some way. Even better, they were waiting for him—to meet him, to talk to him. This was more than he could have ever hoped for.

“…How do you know this?” he asked, looking back at the demon.

Ghirahim chuckled.

“I’ll give you the abridged version of events. After an awkward introduction to Anju at the Great Fairy’s Fountain, she asked me about you and informed me that she thought you looked familiar, and that she felt she owed you her utmost gratitude. Last night Cremia and little Romani stopped by to celebrate the world not ending. Anju mentioned you, and the other two said you sounded familiar and wanted to see you. Then that Kafei fellow showed up this morning, his curse broken. Long story short, happy reunions all around and all that nonsense.”

Link couldn’t help but laugh. Typical Ghirahim.

“I’ll definitely talk with them later,” he said. “Right now, though, I just want to breathe for a second. …I’m so glad you’re okay… I was really scared that I could’ve killed you…”

The demon lord exhaled and caressed the hero’s hair.

“I cannot die unless the Gilded Sword is broken. You can injure me and weaken me, but you can’t kill me by normal means. There was no need for concern there. I, on the other hand, am glad you are stable now. I almost killed you… I must forever live with that shame.”

Link shook his head and hugged the demon again.

“It’s not your fault. It was Majora’s. We underestimated his power…”

“Yet I knew the risk. I chose to stay and fight, when I admit that I should have stayed within the sword. I accept full responsibility.”

Don’t. I wanted you out there with me. You were only doing what I asked.”

Wrong. I did what I wanted. It just so happens that you wanted the same thing.”

The two squinted at each other, neither one willing to stand down. They stared at one another for a long time before Ghirahim smirked and Link snorted. They both snickered and held each other tightly.

“We’re really dumb,” Link commented with a grin.

Ghirahim scoffed.

“I think you mean you’re ‘really dumb.’ I simply let hubris be my downfall. I told you specifically to not wear that mask no matter what.”

Hey!!”

Ghirahim laughed—a genuine, wholehearted laugh. It felt so good that tears stung his eyes; tears of mirth and mourning. He never had the opportunity to just laugh before—his old life and duty never allowed it—but now he was free. Link not only allowed him to laugh in joy, but he also made him laugh. While corrupted by Majora’s power, he had wondered what made Link so special as to have such a profound influence over him; he realized that it was this. Being free to laugh and find pleasure in life—that was all Link’s doing.

He could admit it now: he loved the hero. Dearly.

It was a completely new experience. He had never felt love before—familial, romantic, platonic; all were lost on him. He sneered at such a concept and always thought of it as a nuisance that made one weak, but he saw now that he had been mistaken. This boy—no, this young man—was his family. Link gave him purpose, and he cared about the demon lord with all his heart. Ghirahim couldn’t ask for more. How had someone like him—a demon and (former) servant of evil—come to be so blessed? Truly, Link was a miracle in his own right.

Link rolled his eyes and chuckled himself. It was so nice hearing Ghirahim laugh (even if he was being a dumb jerk). He hoped now he’d be able to hear it often for a long, long time.

A moment of silence passed between them as they smiled at each other.

After a moment, the young hero asked, “So what now?”

“That’s up to you,” the spirit replied. “Who do you want to see first?”

“…You,” Link answered. “Just a little longer. Let’s take a walk or something, then I’ll talk to the Happy Mask Salesman, then Skull Kid, then Anju and company.”

Ghirahim chuckled.

“A walk sounds lovely. We could both use one, certainly.”

Link nodded and stood up to pull on his boots.

When he was ready, he said, “Alright. Let’s go.”

The demon lord nodded.

“Let’s, my friend.”

The bright smile that lit up Link’s face felt like it would split him in two—in a good way.

~~~~~~~~~~

Talking to the Happy Mask Salesman was more or less a waste of time. All he wanted was to lament about how “the evil was gone” from the mask (uh, wasn’t that the point?), as well as comment on the fact that Link’s masks were filled with “truly good happiness.” If Ghirahim hadn’t said something (“What abhorrent manners!”), Link probably wouldn’t have even gotten a thank-you. Seriously, that guy was a whole box of mysteries Link didn’t care to open. Maybe it was for the best that the evil was completely gone from Majora’s Mask. The young hero shuddered at the thought of the man carrying around that mask if it still contained its power.

“What a fool,” Ghirahim grumbled as they left the clock tower. “I wouldn’t trust him with my sheath, let alone an evil mask.”

Link nodded in agreement.

“Yeah. He should’ve never found that mask. Look at all the damage he caused because he was careless.”

Excellently said, Link. The bumbling buffoon.”

The hero chuckled and nodded.

“Yeah…”

There was one thing the salesman said that stuck with him, though.

Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, parting need not last forever. Whether a parting be forever or merely a short time… That is up to you.”

He had to part with many people, and even though he wanted it to be for a short time, some of them were forever. In those cases, it was out of his control; it wasn’t up to him. Yet, he could still try with Tatl. He was preparing for their inevitable farewell, but maybe they could try and meet up again every once in awhile. Even if they couldn’t, though, she would always be in his heart.

Even more so, Ghirahim would always be with him, and he would always be there for the demon. That was all that mattered.

As they strolled through South Termina Field, Link noticed that the heaviness he carried in his heart felt much lighter. He knew that he had grown so much during his time in Termina. Of course he still planned on searching for Navi, but it didn’t feel as pressing now. He had new friends to depend on, and more than one.

…Thinking about it, maybe that’s why Navi left: to force him to make friends on his own and learn how to take care of himself since he wouldn’t receive a hero’s reward for his efforts—whatever it was—and would have to learn to grow up alone.

Well, maybe not alone. Not anymore.

“You look like you’ve just had an epiphany,” Ghirahim said, breaking him from his thoughts.

“I just realized something,” Link replied. “Something I probably should’ve figured out a lot sooner.”

“Which is?”

“My friends will always be with me, even if they can’t remember me. Our hearts are connected forever. And maybe the point of being alone is to figure out how to grow and depend on yourself…”

Ghirahim studied him intently before chuckling.

“You truly are a wise young man. Quite frankly, it unsettles me sometimes because I don’t expect you to have moments of sage-like clarity. Yet here you are, speaking wisdom I wish I would have known myself when I was young.”

Link grinned at him.

“It comes with the whole hero thing, I think.”

“Possibly. Though the Hero of the Sky wasn’t nearly as shrewd as you.”

“Yeah, well, what can I say? I’m just like that, I guess~”

Tatl’s voice suddenly caught their attention.

“There you are!” she said, flying over to them. “You’re both alright! Well, I knew you guys would be alright after the Great Fairy and all, but still!”

Link smiled and held out his arm to her, which she took a seat on.

“You missed a lot after you blacked out,” the fairy continued. “The Four Giants told Skull Kid that they always remembered him, and that they still thought of him as a friend. He just learned a very valuable lesson after all this. Here, this way!”

She flew toward the hollowed out tree arch; Link and Ghirahim followed.

“Perhaps I should give you some privacy,” the demon lord abruptly said before snapping into the Gilded Sword.

You don’t have to,’ the hero thought. ‘You’re part of this, too.’

I’m well aware. However, my awe-inspiring presence may make the imp child uncomfortable.

Link rolled his eyes and walked under the tree arch.

“Hey, you’re okay!” Tael exclaimed when he saw him. “It’s good to see you up and about and not bleeding.”

“Told you he’d be fine,” Tatl remarked.

Link smiled and nodded at Tael before looking at Skull Kid, who sat on the ground apprehensively.

“Hey,” the young hero said, taking a seat next to him.

“Hi,” the imp responded quietly.

An awkward silence fell between them. Link shifted uncomfortably before clearing his throat.

“Was there…something you wanted to talk about…?” he coaxed.

The Skull Kid glanced around before he finally looked at Link.

“Friends…are nice to have,” he said. “Will you be my friend, too?”

The hero was slightly surprised by the question. He opened his mouth to answer, but the imp quickly added onto his question.

“And I’m sorry for turning you into a Deku scrub and everything! It was the mask’s fault, I swear!”

Link blinked, then he chuckled.

“I know,” he said. “And I accept your apology. I’ll definitely be your friend.”

Skull Kid giggled and nodded enthusiastically.

“Then we should do something! Yeah, let’s play!”

Link grinned and returned his new friend’s enthusiastic nod. When was the last time he actually played? For fun?

“Yeah!” he exclaimed. “What should we play?”

“Hmm…tag! You’re it!”

The imp took off running, Tatl and Tael following behind him. Link laughed and gave chase, feeling at peace for the first time in a long time.

They spent the rest of the afternoon playing; tag, hide-and-seek, skipping stones, making music and singing songs—they did it all. It was the most fun Link had in forever; it made him feel like the actual kid he was supposed to be: carefree and happy. It really was nice to just do cartwheels through the field and climb trees. Even better, it was nice to have a friend to do those things with.

They ended their day by carving a picture into a tree stump secluded deep within the woods: an image of Link and Skull Kid standing with the two fairies, smiling happily. Link and Tatl grinned at each other.

“If you keep going straight this way, you’ll eventually cross back into the Lost Woods,” Skull kid said. “You seem to know your way around them, so you’ll be fine.”

Link nodded, surprised that it was that simple to cross between the realms of Termina and Hyrule. Well, simple for them, perhaps; a normal person could never make it this far, especially traveling through the Lost Woods. He would have to keep the path in mind, because he definitely wanted to return to Termina someday. He hoped he would be able to, as someone with all the time in the world and not as a hero.

“I guess this is where we say goodbye…?” Tatl asked, her voice heavy with emotion.

The young hero smiled and offered his arm.

“I still have some stuff to do here first. I know you’ll want to stay with Skull Kid and Tael, so yeah… But.” He looked at all three of them. “I’ll visit the Lost Woods as often as I can. When I do, I’ll play my ocarina so you’ll know where to find me.”

Tatl smiled and nodded.

“It better be both you and Ghirahim,” she said.

“Oh, definitely~”

“Sis,” Tael said, warranting everyone’s attention. “Are you sure you don’t want to go with him? Skull Kid and I will be fine.”

The yellow fairy shook her head.

“Me n’ Link both know we have to part ways, but it’ll never change the fact that we’ll always be friends, even if we’re far apart. Besides, he has someone he’s looking for, and I have no business being part of the quest.”

Link exhaled and gave her a warm smile.

“Well, I’m still sticking around for the Carnival of Time,” he stated. “You’re more than welcome to hang out with me n’ Ghira for a little while longer, y’know.”

Tatl returned his smile.

“I’d like that very much…”

The hero nodded, beaming.

“Let’s go, then.”

With that, the group made their way back to Termina Field.

~~~~~~~~~~

The milk was seriously starting to go to his head, but he didn’t care; he’d drink as many bottles of Chateau Romani as he could—especially when they didn’t cost him a rupee. Beside him, Cremia laughed.

“Wow, I’m impressed!” she exclaimed.

“The kid sure knows how to handle his vintage milk,” Kafei commented with a smirk.

Anju sighed.

“Don’t let him go overboard, you two…”

Link smiled into his glass while the three adults laughed. He was glad to see that Kafei was back to his normal self, that Cremia and Romani were alright (and that They hadn’t returned, even after resetting time), and that Anju was finally happy. When he approached them at the Stock Pot Inn, they insisted on treating him to milk at the Milk Bar and getting to know him. He didn’t tell them about how he had helped them before; it would be too awkward to explain. That didn’t matter, though. They knew that he had been the one responsible for calling the Giants and getting rid of that menacing moon.

They knew that he was their hero.

And so here he was, drinking all the Chateau his heart could desire and anticipating Anju and Kafei’s wedding tomorrow morning—as their guest of honor. Truly, today was a great day (and he knew tomorrow would be as well).

Looks like you’re on your way to being a beloved figure in Termina’s history. You’ll be part of this land’s legends for generations, and it starts with these three. Four if you include that Romani girl.

Link smiled.

You will be, too,’ he thought. ‘We did this together.’

We did indeed.

And we’ll do many more things together from here on out, right?’

Say the word, Link, and we will set off on whatever adventure your heart desires.

What other lands do you suppose are out there?’

If you want to see, then we shall find out.

Link took a swig of his milk, his smile softening with fondness.

And we’ll always do things together.’

Precisely. Always…my friend.

“Aww, you look like you’re thinking about someone special~” Cremia teased.

The boy chuckled and shook his head.

“I’m just talking to my friend,” he replied. Since they already apparently knew about Ghirahim, he saw no reason to lie. “We can do it telepathically whenever he’s inside my sword.”

Fascinating,” Kafei commented. “You’re a boy of many surprises.”

“It’s because he’s an angel,” Anju reasoned. “He’s Termina’s guardian angel, sent to us by the gods in our darkest hour to bring us light…”

“Here, here!” the violet-haired man agreed. “Barkeep, another round of Chateau, if you would be so kind!”

Link blushed. He certainly was no angel, but he appreciated the sentiment.

You’re not an angel, you’re right, but I stand by what I said before: Hero of Answered Prayers.

The young hero smiled, face still red from all the praise.

Thanks, Ghira…’

After a couple more hours of drinking (milk) and chatting, the group left the Milk Bar to head back to their respective sleeping quarters. Link rubbed his eyes sleepily as he kicked off his boots and trudged over to his bed. Ghirahim snapped out of the Gilded Sword and made himself comfortable on the other one.

“I really like those guys,” Link murmured. “I hope their lives are always filled with happiness…”

“They’re certainly just as fond of you, it seems,” the demon lord said. “You fit right in with their little group. Maybe in a few years you can come back and catch up with them.”

“I’d like that…”

Ghirahim chuckled and removed his cape, preparing for bed.

“Then we’ll keep that in mind.”

“Yeah…” Link paused to yawn loudly. “But that said, sleep. G’night, Ghira…”

“Good night, Link. Pleasant dreams.”

The hero closed his eyes and listened to Ghirahim get himself settled. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. He might not be remembered here for his deeds as a hero overall, but he was content; having four people he was particularly fond of somewhat remember him and accept him into their lives was more than he could ever ask for. His adventures in Termina shaped him for the better, and he received many, many blessings because of it. Right now, he was happy; genuinely happy—a little sad he had to leave and say goodbye to most of his new friends, but still happy regardless. He didn’t know what the future had in store for him, but that didn’t matter. He would always look back on his time in Termina fondly.

A dark sensation suddenly stirred within Link’s heart. He frowned and pushed it away the best he could. He was well aware that it was an unfortunate after-effect of using the Fierce Deity’s Mask, yet he refused to answer its call. Instead, he focused on the things that brought him joy until he drifted off to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

Link’s last day in Termina—the last day of the Carnival—was spectacular. That morning, he, Tatl, and Ghirahim attended Anju’s and Kafei’s wedding outside of West Clock Town; Link had even caught Anju’s bouquet. Afterwards, he practiced shooting bows with Romani while Cremia enthusiastically cheered them on. Later in the afternoon, he danced with the Rosa Sisters on stage (after teaching them Kamaro’s dance—again) and played every carnival game he could find. He ate so many snacks that he nearly threw them all back up (much to Ghirahim’s dismay) and he listened to retellings of ancient Terminan legends.

The highlight of the day came that evening, when he played as lead guitarist during the Indigo-Go’s concert. It was painfully awkward explaining how he was able to transform into a Zora (they had already learned of Mikau’s fate, so he didn’t have to break that news at least), but the band seemed happy enough to have him. He was completely in his element while he performed; Tatl’s boisterous cheering and Ghirahim’s smirk of approval certainly helped with that. He played his best in honor of Mikau, whom he could feel guiding him and watching from beyond the grave. Overall, he had a great time with it. Afterwards, he celebrated with the band for a bit and honored Mikau’s memory with them. Lulu had even given him an appreciative kiss on the cheek!

Now, the hero currently sat on the clock tower platform to watch the fireworks. Tatl perched atop his head, and Ghirahim sat next to him. This had to have been the best day of his life—food, fun, and friends; it didn’t get much better than that. He knew he would remember this day for the rest of his life.

“Wooow,” Tatl breathed in awe. “The fireworks are amazing this year!”

Even Ghirahim appeared to be enthralled by the show.

“I would certainly expect as much,” he said. “Coming that close to annihilation and living to see another day would certainly warrant the very best of celebrations.”

Link nodded in agreement.

“Yeah,” he murmured. “It really makes you appreciate how precious life is…”

“And how fragile,” Tatl added. “So it makes sense that this is probably the best Carnival of them all.”

Link and Ghirahim agreed with her. They glanced at each other and shared a smile. Life was indeed precious, especially their lives to each other. After their near-catastrophe fighting one another, something truly remarkable opened up in both their hearts. Link had a feeling that their friendship would be one that transcended time—and even death itself. When it came to each other, their lives were anything but fragile.

“So…where are you going from here?” Tatl asked them. “Back to Hyrule to look for your other friend, I know, but after that?”

“Don’t know yet,” Link answered with a shrug. “We’ll have to see when we get there, I guess.”

“One step at a time,” Ghirahim said, nodding.

The young hero looked at Tatl.

“What about you, Tat?”

The fairy shrugged.

“I’ll go back to what I’ve always done: wandering the woods with Tael and Skull Kid. You find a lot of cool things in the forest, you know.”

Link chuckled and nodded.

“Yeah, that’s true.”

A comfortable silence fell between them as they continued watching the fireworks. After a moment longer, Link yawned and stood up.

“I think it’s nap time,” he said. “We’ll be leaving early in the morning, so a couple hours of sleep would probably be a good idea.”

“Yeah, good plan,” Tatl replied.

She watched the boy for a moment before squaring her shoulders and flying into his face. Fighting back tears, she hugged his chin.

“I’ll never forget you, Link…” she murmured. “Thank you…”

The boy bit back his own tears and hugged back the best he could.

“I’ll never forget you either, Tat… Thank you…”

The fairy kissed his nose before pulling away and flying toward Ghirahim. The sword spirit chuckled and held out his hand, which she gladly stood on. When the man brought his hand close to his face, Tatl hugged him as well.

“You take good care of him,” she said with a sniffle. “I mean it! If anything happens to him, I’m coming for you!”

The demon lord chuckled again and nodded.

“Of course I will,” he promised. “You needn’t worry.”

Good.” With that, Tatl kissed Ghirahim’s cheek. “…I’m glad to have met you…”

“The pleasure has been mine, Tatl. Your advice and companionship have been invaluable. Take care of yourself.”

Link smiled softly as he witnessed this exchange. As much as he felt like crying, he just couldn’t bring himself to. He recalled the words of the Happy Mask Salesman; their parting wouldn’t be forever. He’d make sure of it.

“We’ll meet again,” he said with a grin. “That’s a promise.”

Tatl returned his grin and nodded.

“You boneheads better keep that promise. I’ll be waiting!”

Both the hero and the demon lord replied in the affirmative. They turned to part ways, but Ghirahim stopped and did something surprising.

Extending his arms, he asked, “Group hug?”

Link and Tatl gaped at the sword spirit for a moment before they both beamed.

“Group hug!” they exclaimed in unison, rushing for the man.

The trio exchanged their best hug yet. They held each other for several minutes, none of them willing to let go any time soon. Eventually, forced themselves apart and shared smiles.

“It was fun,” Tatl stated.

“Tons of fun,” Link affirmed.

“It was indeed quite riveting,” Ghirahim added. “May we meet again for a new adventure soon.”

Link and Tatl nodded.

“…Well, see you guys around,” the fairy said.

“See you soon,” the hero emphasized.

“Undoubtedly,” the demon agreed.

Tatl gave them her brightest smile before she turned away and flew off into the night. Link exhaled heavily; Ghirahim placed a comforting hand on his head.

“Come, little hero,” he said soothingly. “Let us get some rest. We have a long day ahead of us.”

“Right… Let’s go.”

Unable to feel heavyhearted for long, the two of them bid farewell to Termina and went on their way. After a short rest, the duo set off into the early morning mist for Hyrule.

Chapter Text

The past seven years had been…eventful. Despite his best efforts, Link never was able to find Navi. He had searched for months after leaving Termina, but there was just no sign of her. When Ghirahim had finally managed to convince him to abandon the search, he remembered crying for days. He cried and cried until he reached his limit, and all the while Ghirahim held him tightly in solace. It took several months for Link to accept that his beloved Navi was gone for good, but he did it. To keep himself preoccupied, he spent his days wandering the forest and training with Ghirahim. True to their word, they would often meet up with Tatl (and Tael and Skull Kid) whenever the days weren’t too busy; those were some of the best days, filled with music and laughter. Even better were the days when he and Ghirahim would simply explore Hyrule together and discover secrets long lost to time.

One of those secrets was their tree.

Deep in the forest, far beyond Kokiri boundaries and the Lost Woods, they had stumbled upon an ancient, enormous tree—or rather the remains of one. Ghirahim’s eyes had widened in recognition, and he explained that it had once been simply known as “The Great Tree” thousands of years ago. According to legend, the demon had said, it was planted by Farore Herself, and its Magic protected the forest. Meaning, it was a sacred tree, even in its current pitiful state. Link decided it would make a great spot for them to hang out at and spar, and Ghirahim agreed. The only thing that bothered him was that he couldn’t feel the tree’s Magic; something was preventing him from doing so, and he had an idea of what it was.

To add insult to injury, Link noticed shortly after returning to Hyrule all those years ago that the Triforce of Courage no longer resided within him; the gods had apparently deemed him unworthy of its power and stripped him of it. Of course he was upset about it at first (while Ghirahim was irate), but he got over that turn of events much quicker than he expected. Truth be told, he cared little for the Triforce; it had always been that way ever since he finished his mission as the Hero of Time. He figured being deemed unworthy was due to the darkness within his heart, brought about by the Fierce Deity’s Mask. Ghirahim was correct when he said the Divine would be upset (okay, maybe furious was a more appropriate term) by their Chosen choosing to utilize dark magic; they had punished him for it.

Zelda had been highly upset when he brought it to her attention. She had demanded to know why he would ever go to such lengths for power, and that’s when he introduced her to Ghirahim.

Needless to say, the princess and the demon lord did not get along, even after all these years.

Zelda lamented that Link had been “cursed.” He didn’t blame her, though; he had lost his right to the Triforce of Courage, darkness festered within his heart like a disease, and his most trusted and beloved friend was a demon—a demon who had succeeded in sacrificing the princess’s past incarnation to the Ultimate Evil, no less. So, things being tense between them was a gross understatement. Zelda blamed herself for Link’s “downfall” (despite his constant asserting that he was fine), but she also blamed Ghirahim for “corrupting” him. Since Link would always take the sword spirit’s side over any other, things were rather tense between him and the princess as well. Regardless of such unfortunate events, however, he would always do his part to protect her—both because it was still his duty and because she was still his friend.

Hence, on the day of his seventeenth year (or what he and Ghirahim assumed it was), he decided he would become a Knight of Hyrule. He broke this news to Ghirahim under their tree.

The demon lord sighed and shook his head.

“I knew you would come to this decision one day,” he stated. “I said as much years ago. Combat courses through your veins; it is your destiny to fight. You are a grown man and must carve out your own path. My only concern is that you do not come to regret this choice.”

Link exhaled and ran a hand through his hair.

“I’d honestly prefer to live the life of a wanderer,” he replied. “Our adventures into the unknown give me a sense of fulfillment that’s becoming evermore difficult to come by. Yet I know that regardless of if the Divine have forsaken me or not, I must remain here and serve Zelda accordingly. You told me as much before, way back when in Termina.”

“Yes, I remember. Hylia and the rest of them are such foul creatures. Damn them all, I say!”

The former hero chuckled.

“Well, I think Farore at least still favors me. I feel Her presence every once in awhile, as if She’s telling me She’s still here.”

“Well, then Farore is the exception. Praise be and all that.”

Link met the spirit’s gaze and smiled.

“She favors you, too. I can tell.”

Ghirahim snorted.

“Oh, I’m sure. But—loath as I am to admit—right now isn’t about me. When do you plan on going to the castle?”

“I was gonna say tomorrow, but I think I’ll give myself the rest of the week to prepare. So, first thing next week.”

“I shall accompany you, then.”

“Ah, you don’t have to do that. I can—”

The demon lord held up a hand to silence him. Link shot him a small glare before complying.

“I know I don’t have to. However, I am not too keen on the idea of you training alone, especially when they might force you to use some other sword instead of mine. It will not stand with me, especially since you made me a promise.”

Link couldn’t help but laugh. How typical of the demon to concern himself over such matters.

“You know I would never take up any other sword, old friend. I take my promises very seriously, you know. I won’t let anyone convince me otherwise. I’m just saying that you can stay home if you prefer. You don’t have to come with me and stay inside the sword the entire time. Not only would you go mad, but you’d drive me mad as well!”

“You wretched brat! What an awful thing to say!” The spirit harrumphed and placed a hand on his hip, flipping his hair with the other. “Although you aren’t wrong. If I go down, I’m taking you with me.”

The former hero grinned and nodded.

“As the truest of friends do~”

Precisely.”

Link chuckled and took a seat beneath the tree. He smiled at his friend as he did the same. They sat together in comfortable silence for a moment before Link decided to pull out his ocarina. He was surprised Zelda had permitted him to keep the Ocarina of Time as his own personal property, but he wouldn’t complain. Now that he was just a normal man bereft of divine power, the instrument no longer granted him use of its mystical properties. He could no longer control time with it, but he didn’t mind; he just wanted to play music for music’s sake.

Smiling at Ghirahim, he asked, “Will you lend me your voice, Ghira?”

The demon lord chuckled.

“As if you need to ask,” he answered. “What song shall we perform?”

“Mm, I wrote a new one, but I don’t have lyrics for it. I was wondering if you’d be able to come up with something?”

“Oh, undoubtedly. Let’s have a listen. I must properly prepare and hear what I’m dealing with.”

Link nodded and brought the ocarina to his lips. Tapping his foot to keep time, he played a sweet melody that reminded Ghirahim of the dawn. It sounded like a soft spring morning, when the flowers were covered in dewdrops and the sky consisted of pastel pinks and purples, and the world was still fast asleep. The key changed, and suddenly it sounded like sitting on the edge of a cliff on a crisp autumn afternoon, watching the ocean waves roll lazily along under a bright blue sky. It was a melody of tranquility and wonder; in every sense it was lovely, and it filled the sword spirit with a sense of serenity. When Link finished playing, he looked at the white-haired man expectantly.

Ghirahim exhaled and murmured, “That was…extraordinary, Link. Bravo. I think it’s quite fine as is.”

Link smiled and shook his head.

“It’s meant to have lyrics, preferably in your ancient tongue. If anyone can make it better with their singing, it’s you.”

The demon hummed in response.

“Of course I can. Since you’re practically begging me to sing, what sort of gentleman would I be to deny your request? So be it. I shall provide. Come, once more.”

The former hero grinned and began to replay his song. Ghirahim’s rich tenor reverberated throughout the forest, causing all other sounds to cease so all creatures might hear him. The demon lord sang of life and death; joy and despair; and how the fates of two miserable beings collided, thus creating euphoria so profound that the gods themselves could not possibly sever their bond. Several times Link had to force himself to keep playing despite the hitching of his breath. Although he couldn’t understand the demon’s words, he could feel their meaning; they were perfect.

When they finished, the duo exchanged silent glances and smiled at each other.

“See?” Link said after a moment. “Told you the melody needed lyrics.”

“Mm, I suppose it did~” Ghirahim agreed. “What are you planning on calling this score?”

The former hero had to think about it, as he hadn’t really planned that far ahead when he first composed it.

“…Friendship Hymn,” he said at last. “That’s what I’ll name it.”

“Hm. A bit lackluster, but it fits.”

Link scoffed and rolled his eyes.

“Well excuse me for not having the same noble creative naming capabilities as you, oh great Lord Ghirahim.”

Ghirahim smirked and flipped his hair.

“I suppose I can find it in my heart to forgive you~”

“You are most gracious,” the former hero deadpanned, rolling his eyes.

“I can be when I feel like it, yes.”

The two men shared a laugh. Here under the sacred tree—their tree—it was easy to laugh and relax. It was as if all their troubles and doubts disappeared completely when they were there. Time itself seemingly stood still, and they were free do do whatever they wanted. They could be completely honest about everything and never had to worry who might overhear. Indeed, the Great Tree was a sacred place—not because it was planted by a Goddess, but because it was now a symbol of unyielding companionship.

After another hour had passed, Link stood up and offered his hand to the demon lord. Ghirahim chuckled and accepted it, and Link pulled him to his feet.

“I suppose we should start heading for Lon Lon Ranch,” the golden-haired man said. “Malon wanted to do something for my birthday, though I’m not sure what she has in mind.”

“Probably a bonfire or something along those lines. She is a woman who certainly takes pleasure in what she considers to be ‘excitement.’” Ghirahim briefly reflected on his words before adding, “…I mean that with the utmost respect. She is very charming.”

Link laughed and nodded.

“I know what you meant. She is pretty great, huh?”

The demon lord nodded, but slipped into silence; his mind wandered. When he realized Link was watching him, patiently waiting for him to speak his mind, he sighed and ran a hand through his perfectly styled white hair.

“Do you fancy her?” he asked, taking the former hero by surprise. “I ask because now is the time to start considering your legacy. I…do not enjoy thinking such things, but…”

“But one day I’ll die,” Link finished for him. “I know. But…”

He shifted awkwardly, his crystalline blue eyes darting about.

“But?” Ghirahim coaxed.

Link sighed.

“But I’m not interested in taking a wife and fathering children. Malon is one of my dearest friends, and I know she…feels things for me, but I just… I don’t feel the same way for her…”

Ghirahim chuckled softly and nodded.

Just to poke a bit of fun, he teased, “What about your dear Zelda, then?”

No,” the golden-haired man huffed, crossing his arms. “First of all, if it’s my destiny and every other Hero’s to serve her and her later incarnations, it wouldn’t make sense for us to be together—we need to keep our bloodlines separate, don’t we? Secondly, it’s already awkward enough trying to be a knight serving under her when I’ve fallen out of her good graces; I don’t think I’ll ever win her favor again since she’s convinced herself that I’m cursed. Thirdly, the two of you don’t get along at all. And most importantly of all is that even though she’s upset with me, I still think of her fondly—as a sister. You’re a jerk, you know that? Jeez.”

The demon lord laughed and patted the former hero’s shoulder.

“Each Hero will be different,” he stated. “so no one knows what their lives will entail. However, that’s not important. It’s clear that in your life, you two are not meant to be. I certainly won’t complain. Your affirmation puts my heart at ease~”

Link snorted and punched the spirit’s shoulder, earning him another laugh from said spirit.

“You laugh now, but that just means you’re stuck with me forever, you know!”

Ghirahim chuckled and nodded in response before declaring, “And I wouldn’t have it any other way, my friend.”

The former hero sighed and chuckled himself.

Shaking his head, he said, “You make it so easy to be mad at you while also making it impossible to stay mad at you. Dammit, Ghirahim!”

“What can I say? I simply can’t control how magnificent I am and the effect it has on you and everyone else~”

“Oh, save it, you blowhard.”

Ghirahim laughed again, and Link followed suit. The duo glanced at each other and grinned.

“We should get going now, before we’re late,” Link said, picking up his gear from the base of the tree.

“Yes, let’s. Best not to keep Malon waiting. After her little party, would you like to continue our tradition?”

Link smiled and nodded. Every year on his (assumed) birthday, he and Ghirahim would traverse the Lost Woods until they came across a familiar stump with carvings of a boy, an imp, and two fairies etched on it. Link would play a certain song, and three old friends would meet them. As Link grew older, however, more often than not it was just one friend joining them: Tatl herself. Link didn’t fault Skull Kid for hesitating to see him now; Kokiri and stalkids tended to avoid grownups as much as possible. Despite not seeing him in person, however, every birthday Skull Kid would leave some sort of gift on the tree stump for Link, indicating that they would still be friends no matter what, and that was all that really mattered.

“Tatl would probably be angry with us if we didn’t,” the former hero commented.

“Quite. She would never allow us to live it down,” the demon lord agreed.

“…Do you suppose…we could try one last time…?”

Ghirahim looked at Link, understanding his meaning. His heart hurt for his friend, and his hatred for the Divine only grew. For whatever reason—whether because there was simply no longer a need or because he lost the Triforce of Courage—Link was unable to cross the threshold into Termina after they crossed back over into Hyrule. They had tried countless times, especially on the man’s birthday—but they never had any luck. Tatl, Tael, and Skull Kid all attempted to figure out what the problem was, but to no avail. All they could assume was that it was divine intervention that prevented Link from visiting the world he grew to love, and it crushed him.

“…One last time,” the sword spirit said. “If it doesn’t work this time around, then I’m afraid we must abandon the idea of returning altogether; especially now that you have decided to take up arms as a knight.”

Link nodded his understanding.

“…I want to try now,” he abruptly stated. “I’ll explain everything to Malon later. Honestly, I’m not really up for a party right now. I just want to have a quiet evening with my two best friends and explore. I know I won’t have this much free time once I step foot in the castle next week. So let’s go. Let’s meet up with Tat and see if we can enter Termina this time.”

Ghirahim chuckled.

“She’ll be quite displeased when she realizes her efforts were wasted on you, but frankly I agree with you. I much prefer this new plan of yours.” He smiled at the sunshine-haired man and affectionately squeezed his shoulder. “And this time, I will do my damnedest to get you to Termina. Consider it my gift this year. We will cross over this time.”

The former hero smiled vibrantly and nodded, patting the demon’s hand in appreciation.

“You’re the best, Ghira.”

“Oh, I know~ By all means, keep telling me as much~”

Link rolled his eyes and shook his head, but grinned regardless. Ghirahim smirked and kept his hand on the other man’s shoulder; he snapped and teleported them to the three stump to save time. Link smiled when he noticed a little pouch sitting atop it. Curiously, he picked it up and peeked inside, delighted by the sight of several red and purple rupees.

“How generous,” Ghirahim commented. “They must have searched far and wide to find rupees worth that much. It appears they wanted to give you an ‘adult gift’ this year.”

The former knight placed the pouch in his pack.

“I appreciate whatever they give me regardless,” he said. “No matter how old I get, they’ll always be my friends and any gift from them will always be cherished by me.”

“A heart like yours is a rare and precious thing,” Ghirahim muttered. “Those accursed gods deserve to be forgotten and abandoned for the fate they so malevolently bestowed upon you. Given the opportunity, I would cut all of them down myself, save for Farore. For all Her own vices, She is the only one who has chosen to not forsake you.”

Link chuckled softly and shook his head.

“I don’t mind it so much anymore,” he said. “Yeah, it still hurts knowing I’ll never be remembered by Hyrule and Termina—with the exception of Anju, Kafei, Cremia, and Romani—but I have you now. You came to me at my lowest point and have stood beside me, ever unwavering. For all the heartache and suffering my life entails, having met you makes it all worth it.”

Ghirahim’s frustration melted away with those words. He returned Link’s smile and sighed.

“The sentiment is mutual. Must you always spout such saccharine drivel every time I express my disdain for the Divine? You make it impossible to remain upset when you do that.”

The former hero gave the demon lord a cheeky grin and simply shrugged. Snickering in response to the scoff he received, he took a seat on the stump and pulled out his ocarina. He then proceeded to play the song that would call Tatl to him. When he concluded, the two men waited in silent anticipation. Soon enough, they spotted a soft yellow orb floating in their direction.

“Tatl!” Link exclaimed excitedly, jumping to his feet and waving.

Tatl grinned as she flew over. She affectionately flicked his nose, then turned to Ghirahim and did the same. Both men chortled fondly at the gesture.

“About time you two showed up!” she said. Looking at Link, she continued, “I can’t believe you’re an adult now. Jeez, time flies!”

Link laughed and nodded.

“Right? Though now that I actually got to experience those transitional years, I definitely feel like one—more than ever before.”

“Did you get the gift Skull Kid left you?”

“Yeah. Please give him and Tael my thanks. And thank you, Tat.”

The fairy nodded, then turned her attention to Ghirahim.

“Still as fabulous as ever, I see~”

The demon lord smirked and flipped his hair.

“That will never change~” he said proudly. “My beauty transcends time~”

Link rolled his eyes and shook his head, trying to hide his amused smile.

Typical,” Tatl said before laughing. “Seriously, though. I’m glad to see you guys.”

“We’re glad to see you, too,” the former hero replied. “We’re going to try one last time to cross into Termina. This is the last opportunity I’ll have since I’ll be leaving the forest to train as a knight for the Royal Family.”

“There will be no try tonight,” Ghirahim interjected. “Only do. We’re crossing over.”

Link smiled and nodded.

“Right.”

“We’re definitely making it happen, then,” Tatl declared. “If this is the last time we get to meet like this and our last chance to visit Termina together, then we’re pushing through this time!”

The two men hummed in agreement, and the trio began to walk. Link could feel the protective forces of the forest repelling him, and his heart sank. Still, he wouldn’t give up. Ghirahim and Tatl were doing their best to get him through, and he believed in them. Yet despite their best efforts, the force dividing the worlds would not yield. They held strong as ever; the former hero would never be allowed to pass. Link’s shoulders slumped, defeated. He hung his head and fought back tears. Tatl yelled in frustration, and Ghirahim cursed.

The demon lord was about to stubbornly try again, his patience waning, when a thought came to him.

Enter the Sacred Tree with Courage to seek the Land of Giants. For this rite of manhood, passage shall be granted.

Ghirahim immediately deduced that the Goddess of Courage Herself planted the thought into his mind, as he had no knowledge of the Great Tree granting the ability to traverse worlds until now. Or at least Farore was able to make it into a portal at her leisure; it wasn’t an actual portal. She truly was the most benevolent of gods.

“Wait,” the sword spirit said, gaining Link and Tatl’s attention. “You truly are favored by Farore, Link. She has given me the idea to use Her tree. We must enter it, and She will grant us passage to Termina.”

“What…?” Link asked, astounded. “But how? It’s a tree…

“One detail I failed to mention is that the Great Tree is hollow. The original entrance has long since been lost, but I can get us inside.”

“So it’s a portal, then?” Tatl inquired.

“Not particularly. However, since it is Farore’s sacred tree, She can do whatever She wants with it. To celebrate Link’s passage into adulthood, She is gifting him the chance to visit Termina this night only.”

Link swallowed the lump in his throat and closed his eyes to say a silent prayer of thanks to the Goddess of Courage. He had always assumed that the gods would not directly interfere with the lives of mortals, but it appeared that sometimes exceptions were made. It was nice to know that he wasn’t completely abandoned; it was reassuring to know that his patron goddess still watched over him.

“Then let’s go before the night is wasted,” he said, the anticipation bubbling up inside him.

Ghirahim chuckled and nodded.

“Of course. Hold on.”

Link took the demon lord’s arm and Tatl settled on his shoulder. With a snap of his fingers, Ghirahim transported them to the tree—inside the tree. Link wasn’t surprised to find himself in total darkness; what did surprise him was the sense of vastness he got simply from standing there. He didn’t need to see to know that the interior of the Great Tree was intricate and spacious, much like the inside of the Great Deku Tree had been. It would make an impressive shrine or temple, he figured.

“…Okay, so what now?” Tatl asked, breaking the silence. “How do we know when we’re there?”

“I was merely told to ‘enter the Sacred Tree with Courage.’ I assumed it meant simply show up and Farore would take care of the rest. Unless…”

“Unless?” Link asked.

Ghirahim hummed in thought, pondering his idea, before saying, “There is an ancient melody dedicated specifically to Farore. In ancient times, before the rise of Demise, it was sung as a song of worship for the Goddess of Courage. Then Hylia turned it into a ‘key’ for the Hero of the Sky to unlock what was known as Farore’s Silent Realm, although She did not create it Herself. It was meant to be a trial of soul to test the Hero, but I digress. Point being, perhaps the Goddess wishes to hear Her song. It has long since been lost to time, but fortunately you stand in the presence of one who knows the lyrics.”

The former hero had so many questions, but he would ask them later. Right now he just wanted to get to Termina.

“Alright,” he said, retrieving his ocarina. “How does the melody go?”

The demon lord hummed the tune slowly at first so Link could finger along with the notes, then repeated it at its proper tempo. Link began to play, and the sword spirit sang:

Link enjoyed the sprightliness of the song. It reminded him of the playfulness of the forest and its spirits, and it left him feeling motivated. Ghirahim’s eloquent voice almost sounded a bit too heavy for the piece, but he still made it work. The song was still incredibly beautiful and caused the intended effect on the listener. Tatl even bounced along to the rhythm, completely engrossed in the music.

As the song drew to its conclusion, the former hero couldn’t help but add his own interpretive flourish to the end. Ghirahim chuckled in amusement.

“A nice little touch. It compliments the piece quite well,” the demon commented. “Your musical genius never ceases to amaze me~”

“You two make an amazing duet!” Tatl exclaimed, clapping. “You sound so good working together like that!”

“Mm, you should listen to Link’s new song he composed if you wish to be impressed~”

“You wrote a song?!” The fairy gawked at Link. “Now that I have to hear!”

Link smiled.

“Sure thing,” he said. “Later, though. Right now, we should see if Farore’s song worked.”

“It’s titled Farore’s Courage,” Ghirahim clarified.

“Noted,” the former hero replied. “Let’s see if it got us to Termina, because I don’t feel any different or like we were just magically transported. How do we even get out of here, anyway? Will teleporting outside even work? Do you suppose there’s another way?”

“Calm down there, impatient pants,” Tatl laughed. “Have a little faith!”

Link sighed and chuckled.

“Right… Faith, patience, all that good stuff.”

Ghirahim snickered.

Patience is a virtue you tend to lack~ Always has been~”

“Oh, like you’re one to talk, Mister If-I-Don’t-Get-My-Way-I-Lose-My-Cool!” Link retorted with a huff.

Tatl sighed as the two men began to bicker. Some things just never changed.

“Two boneheaded peas in a pod,” she muttered with a snort.

She glanced around through the darkness, hoping to find some sort of exit, when a faint ray of light suddenly pierced the darkness. Link and Ghirahim fell silent as they noticed it and looked for its source.

“There!” Link said, pointing upwards. “It looks like an opening…”

“Almost like a window,” Tatl added. “C’mon, let’s check it out!”

With Ghirahim’s assistance, Link climbed onto the ledge of the “window.” He peered outside and realized that he was standing in a large tree hollow he had never noticed before. It was minuscule in proportion to the scale of the Great Tree, but large enough for a grown man to walk through. It was high up, making entry difficult, but it wasn’t impossible. Carefully, the former hero climbed down to the forest floor. He immediately noticed the change in atmosphere of the surrounding woods—it was less foreboding, and the woods lacked the distinct smell of magic found in the Lost Woods. He knew he was deep within Termina’s forest.

The former hero’s heart soared.

“Did…did Farore tell you that I could be here only for tonight? Or did She say She would only grant me passage into Termina for tonight?” he asked quietly.

“She didn’t say specifically,” Ghirahim answered. “However, I say it’s better to take courage and stay for as long as you desire. This is your only opportunity to visit, so make it count. It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, after all.”

“Yeah!” Tatl agreed. “You’ve been prevented from coming back for years. You deserve this!”

Link smiled and nodded.

“You’re right,” he said. “This is my last week of being able to do whatever I please, so I’ll take your advice. I’ll stay here for the rest of the week and relax. Will you join us, Tat?”

The fairy grinned.

“Like you even had to ask,” she replied. “It’ll be just like old times, only without have to fight monsters and prevent the world from ending!”

Link laughed and nodded his agreement. With courage in his heart and confidence in his stride, he made his way to Clock Town. He was absolutely certain Malon and Zelda would be furious with him for “disappearing” for an extended amount of time, especially since they both typically did something for him on his birthday, but he could deal with it. Right now, leisurely exploring Termina and catching up with old friends took priority. He couldn’t wait to see what had changed. How was Cremia doing running Romani Ranch? Was Romani a professional archer now? How were the Indigo-Go’s doing? Were they still a major hit? How were Anju and Kafei fairing? Did they have children?

That last question caused Link’s stomach to drop, as he recalled his previous conversation with Ghirahim. He quickly pushed the uncomfortable feelings aside; Anju and Kafei had nothing to do with that discussion. Focusing on the fact that he was in Termina again, he continued forward, determined to make his visit one of the best weeks of his life. With Ghirahim and Tatl beside him just like old times, and the prospect of reconnecting with old friends, he was confident it would be.

And it was. It genuinely was.

Chapter Text

“Captain! Her Highness requests your presence in the throne room, sir!”

Link looked up from polishing his Gilded Sword. He cracked a smile and nodded at the soldier addressing him.

“Thank you,” he said, standing.

The soldier nodded and turned to leave now that his message had been received. Link sighed and sheathed his sword before making his way to the throne room.

In the three years that had passed since he first came to the castle as a trainee, he had proven himself to be the most competent warrior of them all. He had quickly climbed through the ranks and was recently promoted to Captain, making him the youngest knight in the Royal Hyrulean Army to do so. Because of his expertise in combat and his relationship with the princess, he had become Zelda’s primary strategic advisor (second only to Impa). Additionally, being the one who warned the Royal Family of Ganondorf’s plans—thus leading to the Evil King being sealed away at the ambiguous Arbiter’s Grounds—he naturally held the princess’s favor despite their strained relationship. More often than not, Link was asked to personally investigate suspicious activity throughout the kingdom because he was deemed to be the most qualified one to do the job. He didn’t mind, though; it gave him and Ghirahim plenty of quality time alone to just be themselves.

Link removed his helmet and held it under his arm as he entered the throne room. Seeing Zelda sitting upon her throne, he took a knee and bowed. The princess bade him to rise, and he obeyed. He noticed her glance at his sword with distaste; it took everything within him not to roll his eyes. It had been over ten years since the former hero had introduced Ghirahim to Zelda and three years since he became a knight, yet still the princess would not accept their companionship; she tolerated it, but never accepted it. In Zelda’s eyes, Ghirahim was an evil that needed to be purged from Link’s life (a conversation overheard, but of course the princess wouldn’t say it to him directly) and loathed the fact that the knight was adamant about keeping the demon lord by his side. How Zelda favored Link enough to personally call upon him to keep the kingdom safe despite this was beyond him.

“You summoned me, Your Highness?” the former hero asked, keeping his gaze lowered out of respect.

Zelda nodded.

“Yes. I have received word that an evil presence has made itself known at the Forest Temple. Given your ability to traverse the Lost Woods without issue and your familiarity with the area, I humbly request that you investigate and defeat whatever evil entity is plaguing those sacred grounds.”

Link nodded in response.

“Of course, Princess. I’ll leave at once.”

“Thank you, Captain Link.”

Link hated how everything was so formal between them now. He realized that part of it was due to growing up and following the rules of nobility and rank, but he knew that part of it was also due to the ever-increasing rift in their friendship. He didn’t fault the princess—she did carry the blood of Hylia, after all, and was sworn to protect Hyrule—but he didn’t understand why she refused to trust him like she used to when they were children. He served her faithfully—he was her friend—so why was there a hint of contempt in Zelda’s voice whenever she spoke to him? It was so confusing; if she distrusted him because of his decision to stay by a demon’s side, why did she rely on him to defend Hyrule in her stead? Link just couldn’t fathom this bizarre paradox of favor and distrust.

Bowing to his princess once more, the knight made his way to the stables. He smiled when he saw Epona, and he lovingly stroked her muzzle. The horse nickered affectionately in response.

“Let’s go home, Epona,” Link murmured, moving to mount his trusty steed.

Spurring her on, Link raced for his house. If he was to scout the Sacred Forest Meadow, he figured it was best to let Ghirahim know. Most likely, the demon lord would insist on tagging along, and he certainly wouldn’t complain. After all, when it came to questing and exploring, the two of them were inseparable. When Link first joined the Knights of Hyrule, Ghirahim had refused to leave his side; he had stayed in the Gilded Sword until Link had completed his training and was free to go home at the end of the day (trainees were required to stay at the castle until they officially became knights, much to the demon lord’s dismay). Thankfully that didn’t take long for Link, but he still felt guilty that Ghirahim confined himself to the sword for him instead of staying at home. At the same time, however, Link could never get over how much it touched his heart every time the demon lord stubbornly chose to remain by him. Promise or no, Ghirahim refused to let him be alone; that meant more to Link than words could ever describe.

The treeline of the forest came into view, and he carefully navigated through the thicket. Nestled in a secluded grove just on the outskirts of the Lost Woods stood his house. It was a quaint, cozy place that provided the former hero much-desired privacy, as opposed to the bustling streets of Castle Town. Years ago, while out exploring, he and Ghirahim stumbled upon the place. It had been abandoned for quite some time and was falling apart; clearly nobody was coming back for it, so Ghirahim decided then and there that they were claiming the place (“I refuse to keep sleeping out in the open, vulnerable to who-knows-what.”). Together—and with a little assistance from Mutoh and his carpenters—they repaired the house and expanded it to fit their needs.

Although Ghirahim preferred to live lavishly, he was perfectly content with their little house; it was home, and they had built it up as such. Once Link had been granted the title of knight, Zelda had offered him land and a manor house, but he politely declined. He had confided in Ghirahim about it, and to his surprise the demon lord rejected the idea of leaving the house as well. He said he had grown accustomed to the solitude and didn’t want to deal with servants bustling about, but Link knew better; the sword spirit was just as attached to the house as he was, and loved it because it was the fruit of their combined labor.

Dismounting Epona, Link carefully led her to the stable. After giving her some carrots and a pat, he headed inside. Ghirahim sat at his desk, pouring over various texts. He was so engrossed with the task that he didn’t bother looking up.

“Done for the day?” he asked, scribbling some notes in his journal.

Link exhaled and ran a hand through his long sunshine locks.

“No, I was just stopping by to tell you that I was given an assignment. Apparently some evil creature is romping around by the Forest Temple. I’ve been tasked with finding and destroying it.”

At this the demon looked at him. Sighing, he stood up and grabbed his cape.

“Well there goes the rest of my afternoon,” he complained, albeit halfheartedly. “I’m hoping this doesn’t take too long.”

The former hero rolled his eyes.

With a cheeky grin, he responded, “If you’re tagging along, it definitely will with all your complaining.”

Ghirahim snorted and crossed his arms.

“Cheeky brat! Some things never change.”

“Nope~ You’re stuck with me and my antics~”

“And here I thought it was I who cursed your past life all those years ago. Now I see that it is I who is cursed.”

Wow. Rude.”

Both men stared at each other blankly before snickering. Link patted Ghirahim’s shoulder as he moved around him and headed to his bedroom for supplies. He approached his weapons chest and opened it. Taking a moment to decide what to equip, he settled on grabbing his hookshot, bow, and several of each elemental arrow to put in with his normal ones. Satisfied, he closed the chest and turned to exit the room, but a sudden headache stopped him. Gritting his teeth and clutching his head with a hand, the former hero glanced over at his wall of masks. The Fierce Deity’s Mask stared back at him, whispering to the darkness in his heart and tempting him with power. Link pushed the desire to take the mask aside and scoffed.

No,” he growled. “You have no power over me. No matter how many times you try to convince me otherwise, I will never wear you. Your only purpose is to remind me of my past failures. Do not think for a moment that I won’t hesitate to burn you.”

His headache subsided, but the darkness inside him churned violently. Still, Link held fast and strode out of his room. He was above the darkness; just because the gods stripped him of his right to the Triforce of Courage didn’t mean he needed to rely on dark magic to be a great warrior. He had already proven himself a true hero when he was ten years old , and the only reason he donned the mask in the first place was because he hoped it would help him save his friend. Now that he knew the consequences of utilizing such a dangerous power, he vowed to never use it again. Enough darkness had already entered his heart because of the mask; he didn’t need more.

“You’re looking rather pale,” Ghirahim observed, breaking the knight from his thoughts. “Are you alright? There may be cause for concern, seeing how you weren’t this pale merely moments ago. What ails you?”

Link took a deep breath and shook his head.

“Just a headache,” he answered. “…It’s the mask.”

The demon furrowed his brow.

“That accursed thing? It’s tormenting you again, is it? Then I propose—again—that you destroy it. If you refuse, then I shall do it myself.”

“I…”

Link didn’t know why he hesitated, let alone every time the suggestion was made, but he did. Again . As much as he hated that wretched mask, something deep in the back of his mind convinced him to keep it around. He always said it was to remind him of his failure—to Ghirahim especially—but was it as simple as that? He didn’t rule out the possibility that the Fierce Deity’s Mask still had some sort of influence over his mind. After all, it did try to tempt him time and time again.

The knight shook his head.

“We’ll discuss it more when we return,” he said.

Ghirahim harrumphed and placed a hand on his hip.

“We’re not going anywhere just yet,” he retorted. “Not with you looking so peaked. I would prefer for you to not put yourself at risk of collapse or worse out there, so I refuse to allow you to leave this house as you are. Sit down. I’ll make tea.”

Link wanted to protest, but he knew it would fall on deaf ears. Ghirahim was horrible about following through with his threats (“I’ll beat you to within an inch of your life!” Yeah, uh-huh. Sure .), save for when it came to the former hero’s well-being. If the spirit said he wouldn’t allow Link out of the house yet, he sure as hell would not let him go. He learned that the hard way years ago.

Sighing in defeat, the knight plopped into a chair and waited. A few minutes later, Ghirahim returned from the kitchen and handed him a cup of tea. Link couldn’t help but smile as he accepted it.

“Thanks for looking out for me, old friend…”

“Mm. If I don’t, nobody else will. You’re positively inept at looking after yourself. How you survived without me for as long as you have is an enigma.”

Link laughed and took a sip of his tea.

“Well, I had a little help before meeting you.”

Ghirahim snorted.

“Clearly.”

The knight chuckled while the demon lord took a seat next to him with his own tea. They sat in comfortable silence as they sipped. Link was already starting to feel much better. He was grateful that Ghirahim often prevented him from acting impulsively; he would have immediately set off for the Sacred Forest Meadow despite how he felt had the sword spirit not been there, and who knows what would have happened then.

“…What are you reading, by the way?” he asked, breaking the silence.

The demon lord gazed at him for a moment before replying, “Ancient texts regarding the history of Hyrule. Since I have all this time on my hands now, I want to catch up on everything I’ve missed over the centuries. Don’t you dare mention this to the Princess, but I’ve been…borrowing materials from the Royal Archives. Fascinating stuff.”

Link snickered.

“My lips are sealed, you criminal.”

He was relieved to know that Ghirahim found a hobby to pursue in his spare time. Before Link had been knighted, the demon lord spent the majority of his time training the former hero in combat and exploring Hyrule with him. Once Link entered the Royal Army as a trainee, Ghirahim spent the majority of his time providing advice and again helped Link cultivate his combat skills. Now that he was a Captain in the Royal Guard, the sword spirit figured he wasn’t needed for that purpose anymore and decided to stay at home on normal days. It was reassuring to know that the demon lord found a new purpose than simply being the spirit of the Gilded Sword.

“What all have you learned?” the knight asked, interested in what his friend had to say.

“Many things, to be sure,” the demon answered. “How the Kingdom of Hyrule was founded, how and why your Six Temples were constructed, the creation of the Spiritual Stones, and the origins of your precious Ocarina of Time. Oh, and I was absolutely giddy reading about the Hyrulean Civil War and the dark secrets the Royal Family is hiding~ My, my what delicious gossip indeed~”

Okay, Link had been interested before , but now he was really interested. Curiously, he leaned forward.

“Dark secrets?”

Ghirahim beamed.

“Oh, where to start? The purpose of the Shadow Temple and the dreadful things the Sheikah have done to silence enemies of the Royals? Perhaps this group of magic-wielders called ‘the Interlopers’ who came to power during the Civil War and were banished to some place called ‘the Twilight Realm’ because the gods feared them and their Magic? Certain military experiments the Royal are conducting? There’s just so much to discuss, and it makes me positively giddy to see how far Hylia’s ilk have fallen. Yet, it also infuriates me that you are being punished for using dark magic—with the intent to save me—while the Sheikah use it all the time for the Royals. Typical. Those cowards fear soiling their own hands, so they have others do the dirty work for them.”

Link opened his mouth to comment, but the demon lord held up a hand to stop him. He continued speaking.

“And don’t you dare tell me having my minions carry out tasks on my command is the same thing. They did the grunt work while I did the nasty part of executing the plan once things were in order. Despite my position, I’m not some sorry sod who relies on others to execute my plans. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself and all that. I was the one who swiped Hylia’s mortal incarnation from the sky. It was I who searched extensively for clues to revive the Demon King while my minions tried—and failed—to deal with the Hero of the Sky. It was I who performed the spell that successfully sacrificed the goddess’s soul to Demise.”

Link laughed softly.

“I know, Ghirahim. I wasn’t going to say that at all! I was just going to say that I agree with you, and that this information also makes me…disagreeable. Why must I be completely free of darkness? I’m human. Like you said, I allowed the Fierce Deity’s Mask’s darkness into my heart because I thought it was the only way to bring you back without being killed. I understand that one with a ‘righteous heart’ and all that nonsense was needed to combat Ganondorf’s evil, but…expecting me to not make mistakes and not have darkness—even just a little—within me is ridiculous, just like expecting those who turn to evil not to have any light within them is. I believe that Ganondorf had the potential to choose good over evil, but he was led astray. Look at you. You were once ‘evil,’ but now you’re not. Your strength comes from darkness and dark magic, but you also have the brightest glimmer of light in you.”

The demon glanced away for a moment, at a loss for words.

Then, hesitantly, he said, “Because you put that light there. You gave me a purpose and a reason to care. You are the answer to a prayer I made millennia ago, so of course there would be a ‘glimmer of light’ within me. I realized that true companionship will do that.”

The former hero smiled and finished the last of his tea.

“I guess so,” he agreed. “But seriously, fill me in on the details of your research.”

“Mm, later. You look much better, so it may be in our best interest to discuss this after you complete your mission. There’s quite a bit to go through.”

“Fiiine,” the knight sighed. “Be that way.”

“I will, brat.”

Link laughed and stood up. After trekking to the kitchen and placing his cup in the wash bin, he returned to the living room to retrieve his pack.

“Long way or short way?” he asked, looking at his friend.

Short way, of course,” Ghirahim replied. “Why waste more time than necessary?”

“Thought so.”

Link placed a hand on the demon lord’s shoulder; Ghirahim nodded and snapped his fingers. In a flash, they were standing in the Sacred Forest Meadow, right outside the Forest Temple. Link glanced up at the entrance before scanning the immediate area. His gaze fixated on the little stump Saria used to sit and play her ocarina on for a brief moment before forcing himself to look away. Regaining his focus, the knight concentrated on sensing the evil presence. Beside him, Ghirahim did the same.

“…It’s inside the temple,” they said simultaneously.

The two men shared a small smile, then Link pulled out his hookshot. Ghirahim snapped himself to the top of the crumbled stairs while the former hero pulled himself up. Together, they cautiously entered the temple.

Link remembered the place as if he had only been there the day before. It was exactly the same as it was all those years ago, minus all the monsters that once infested it due to Ganondorf’s power. He remembered every corridor, every door, every vine-covered crevice—everything . Only now it was too eerily quiet, almost like the walls were giving him a warning to turn back; but he wouldn’t. He was tasked by the highest authority to smite the evil lurking here, and he refused to let whatever it was defile the sacredness of his dear Saria’s temple regardless of orders. This place was special to him, and nothing had the right to disturb its sanctity. He would protect the Forest Temple—and by extension the forest—with his entirety.

“It’s headed for the innermost chamber,” Ghirahim stated. “For what purpose, I have no idea.”

Great,” Link muttered. “I swear, if I have to go Poe hunting again, I’m gonna be really agitated.”

“Poe hunting?”

“There’s an elevator that leads to the innermost chamber. In order to use it, four different colored flames need to light the surrounding torches. Last time, four Poe sisters took the flames and made me chase after them all around the temple. It was a nightmare. Navi and I had no idea what we were doing because it was our first temple, and yeah. Poe hunting. I’d rather not.”

Ghirahim chuckled.

“Well, if you do, remember that you stand before one who can save you time wandering about the place. You need only ask politely.”

Link grinned and nodded.

“Right. Thanks in advance, Ghira.”

“You’re quite welcome, Link.”

The knight smiled and pressed onward. He opened the door to the elevator room and saw the four flames burning brightly in their torches. Tentatively, he approached them. To his surprise, not a single Poe Sister appeared to take the flames. Again, he noticed how quiet it was in the room—almost as if the forest spirits were calling for help by silencing whatever critters inhabited the place.

“…Well. At least that makes things easy,” he stated.

“No Poe hunting?”

“No Poe hunting, thank Farore.”

“Down we go, then.”

The two men stepped onto the elevator and descended into the room below.

“Once we take care of the nuisance, I would very much like to roam about for a bit,” Ghirahim stated as they advanced toward the inner chamber door. “Its aesthetic speaks to me.”

Link rolled his eyes and chuckled.

“Sure thing. There’s a really pretty courtyard—two, actually—right in the center of the place. I wouldn’t mind taking a breather there when we’re finished.”

“Marvelous~ Honestly, this place seems more like someone’s private estate than a temple, wouldn’t you say?”

The former hero had noticed that; long ago during his first visit, in fact.

“…Didn’t you say you read up on why the temples were built and what their purposes were? Did you not find anything on the Forest Temple?” he inquired.

“From what I read, it seems this place was built over the old foundations of Skyview Temple, which—like the Temple of Hylia your Temple of Time now stands upon—was constructed long before Hylia sent the humans into the sky. It was also where I first met the Hero of the Sky. Fancy that. Anyway, the texts never mentioned this being someone’s manor prior to it being a temple, and its purpose is to serve as a refuge for the spirits of the forest as well as the dwelling place for the Forest Sage. So—”

The demon lord suddenly fell silent, his charcoal eyes widening as if he had just received a revelation. Link opened his mouth to question him, but his companion’s words clicked in his mind. His own eyes widening, he turned to face the demon; said demon stared back.

“This was the house of the first Forest Sage!” they exclaimed in unison, grabbing each other by the shoulders.

“After the humans returned to the Surface, Sages needed to be appointed to serve as leaders in newly-settled areas!” Ghirahim speculated.

“Leaders that eventually came to represent the different races that evolved throughout Hyrule!” Link added enthusiastically.

“Thus leading to the construction of these current Six Temples—”

“As places of worship or other important purposes—”

“And as dwelling places, houses—

“That were most likely expanded upon and refashioned over the years—”

“And for generations, Forest Sages used this temple as both a holy place and as their private estate!” they concluded together.

“Until they couldn’t anymore,” Like said solemnly. “I wonder if the first Forest Sages were Hylians, but they couldn’t keep up with the ever-changing nature of the forest and the spread of its magic, so the mantle was taken up by a Kokiri, since they’re guardians of the forest? But since Kokiri have no need for Hylian houses, they just left it as it?”

“That’s a possibility,” Ghirahim said with a nod. “…Look at us, we’re absolutely brilliant~”

“Right, though?”

They both chuckled. Speculating the origins of the Forest Temple helped Link take his mind off of the growing sense of anxiety within him. He wasn’t sure why he was feeling anxious so suddenly, but something wasn’t sitting right with him the closer they drew to the door of the innermost chamber. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Add that to the sensation of darkness restlessly stirring inside him and voilá: it was a recipe for the perfect storm. The former hero prayed it was simply his nerves and imagination, but he doubted it. Something felt wrong.

“You’re tense,” Ghirahim observed. “What troubles you?”

“I’m…not sure, honestly. Something just doesn’t feel right, beyond the obvious ‘evil entity in a sacred place’ sensation. I can’t help but anticipate something bad happening.” The knight looked at the demon lord, concern clouding his vibrant blue eyes. “Be on guard…”

The spirit exhaled and let out a quiet chortle.

“Well, now you’ve got me fretting over your wellbeing. I will be fine.”

“I know,” Link said with a sigh. “But I still worry anyway. Would you mind being my sword for this battle?”

Ghirahim ran a hand through his hair, considering the request, before he reluctantly agreed.

“Very well. Should events take a turn for the worst and your feeling turns out to be correct, know that I will not hesitate to take matters into my own hands.”

The former hero couldn’t stop the soft smile tugging at his lips. He nodded in understanding.

“Thank you, old friend.”

The demon snapped himself into the Gilded Sword. Link nodded to himself and approached the door. The lock on the chamber door had been forcefully removed; it had been tossed haphazardly on the ground, leaving the knight perplexed. What kind of creature possessed such brute strength that it could rip a chained lock off a door so easily? His stomach sank as his bad feeling intensified. Taking a deep breath, he opened the large door as quietly as he could and crept inside.

He stealthily ascended the stairs, being sure to keep low as to not give himself away.

It’s way too quiet,’ he thought, unnerved. ‘There’s nowhere to hide in this room, and there’s only one way in and out. It couldn’t have left already, could it?’

No. It’s here. It’s waiting .

‘…Great. Fabulous. That’s always a good sign.’

Focus, Link. Don’t allow your apprehension to distort your judgment. This is not new to you.

‘…Yeah… You’re right. We’ll be fine.’

Exactly.

With a surge of confidence, Link pushed away the uneasiness roiling in the pit of his stomach and climbed to the top of the stairs. Whatever was waiting for him, he would face it head-on. He drew his sword and looked toward the center of the room; his eyes narrowed at what he saw.

There, standing perfectly still with its back turned to him, was an armored figure. Yet the armor it wore was unlike any the former hero had ever seen. It was heavy-plated with excessively large pauldrons, gauntlets, and poleyns; everything—from the plates to the chainmail—was solid black save for ornate gold accents. The large crested helm obscured the face of the wearer completely. The figure—even without the armor—towered over Link; it was easily twice the knight’s size. It gripped a hulking broadsword and round shield, while a rapier rested at its side on the hip. Although it was humanoid in shape, Link immediately knew this thing wasn’t human.

Ghira, what’ve you got?’

A brief moment of silence passed as Ghirahim attempted to analyze the creature.

It’s unlike any creature I know of directly, save for its similarities to an Iron Knuckle. However, it stands to reason that this brute is called a “darknut.” It possesses incredible strength and battle prowess. Do not underestimate it. It is not on the same level as the Iron Knuckles you are so used to.

Link grimaced.

Any idea where it came from? It is one of Ganondorf’s minion monsters?’

It’s hard to tell. I would assume so, but I’m not entirely convinced. It feels more like a “rogue” agent of some sort that has perhaps been corrupted by darkness—be it in general or via Ganondorf’s lingering influence. I’m not sure, therefore you must exercise the utmost caution. I don’t know what it’s fully capable of.

The former hero frowned and gripped the Gilded Sword tightly. Taking a deep breath, he stood tall and approached the darknut. Upon his approach, the creature sprung to life. It wasted no time charging at the former hero. Link was nearly thrown back by the force in which their swords clashed, but he stood firm. He realized then that normal sword techniques wouldn’t be enough to defeat this adversary; he would have to use the special techniques Ghirahim taught him and the secret skills he himself developed.

Thinking quickly, he dodgerolled away from the creature’s blow and crouched behind it. With a smirk, he performed the Back Slice. It grunted in pain, then swiftly swung its sword behind it; Link barely had time to evade. The knight cursed under his breath. Although the darknut’s armor was clearly hindering its speed, it was still much faster than a fully-armored Iron Knuckle. Once he stripped away the monster’s heavy plates, he knew that he would have to be light on his feet if he didn’t want to end up in pieces.

Would you like some assistance? Perhaps a distraction?

No. I can handle this.’

Continuing to use his advanced skills, Link began to gain the upper hand over the darknut. Feeling confident, he swung the Gilded Sword in a well-aimed blow to its head—until the unexpected happened: the darknut grabbed the blade of the Gilded Sword mid-strike. Link’s eyes narrowed as he moved to yank the weapon away, but the creature’s grip was too strong. As if sensing the knight’s distress, it squeezed . It was unnerving to see, but Link wasn’t worried. After all, the Gilded Sword was unbreakable. He was confident that the monster’s plan was futile.

…Until he heard a sickening crack and Ghirahim’s pained groan echo in his mind.

Link’s eyes widened in disbelief. This thing was actually strong enough to crack his sword ; it could break it. Panic overcame the former hero as he desperately tugged. Another crack resounded throughout the chamber, and Ghirahim’s agonized scream shattered the knight’s confidence. Ghirahim could die…

Ghirahim could die !!

The realization that this thing was killing his most cherished friend suddenly sank in. Something in Link’s mind snapped.

With a guttural, enraged roar, the former hero doubled—no, tripled— his strength and successfully wrenched his precious sword away from his enemy. All rational thought ceased within his mind. Although he logically knew that excess emotion in the heat of battle was a surefire way to lose , he didn’t care. He didn’t care that the darkness within him clouded his judgment. He didn’t care about the unrestrained power unleashing said darkness would grant him. Hell, he didn’t even care about defeating the monster—at least not for his mission’s sake.

He only cared about one thing: protecting Ghirahim.

Bellowing another roar, Link surged forward and once again clashed with the monster. The Fierce Deity’s Mask’s darkness writhed inside him, threatening to boil over. His senses heightened beyond those of a normal Hylian; his speed, agility, and strength increased tenfold. In a matter of mere seconds in this adrenaline-induced state, the knight had stripped the darknut of its heavy plate armor. The creature—still more human in shape than anything, but covered head to toe in chainmail—cast aside its broadsword and drew its rapier. Fencing was not Link’s forte—it was Ghirahim’s—but he didn’t care; he would destroy this atrocity for hurting the sword spirit.

As he had anticipated earlier, without its armor the darknut moved with unnerving speed and accuracy. Link growled and continued to attack with his secret techniques. Even so, he was barely ahead of the game against the creature. He performed a Shield Attack and meant to follow up with a Helm Splitter, but once again the darknut gained an advantage. It parried his attack and in one swift movement struck at the knight’s face, successfully slicing across his right eye. Link recoiled, an angry cry of pain escaping him. He clutched at the wound, dismayed by the sheer amount of blood seeping through his fingers. He snarled as his enemy let out a revolting sort of chuckle.

He was about to charge the creature yet again, but a familiar snap reverberated through the air. Ghirahim suddenly stood in front of him—in sword spirit form—with his demon blade drawn. He growled and stood in his poised attack position. Before the darknut could react, the demon lord rushed forward and struck at it with immense strength. The creature stumbled backwards, but still managed to keep its footing. Ghirahim snapped his fingers and summoned several floating daggers, sending them flying; all of them pierced the chainmail and stuck inside the darknut’s flesh. It howled in anguish, yet still managed to perform a powerful attack—which Ghirahim effortlessly parried.

Link was able to catch a glimpse of his friend’s face and was appalled to see deep, jagged cracks—golden in color, just like the exposed opening around his life gem was all those years ago—snaking down the right side of his face, all the way down to his right shoulder. He knew the cracks were a warning that the sword spirit—his proud, noble companion—could shatter into pieces. Seeing Ghirahim injured sent Link into another fit of rage. He screamed and surged forward, gripping the Gilded Sword with both hands. Ignoring the pain of his injury and the blood flowing down his face, he summoned every ounce of strength within him. The dark power inside him surged to life. Craving nothing more than the complete annihilation of the monster, he impaled the darknut through its stomach. The creature roared and slumped forward. Link withdrew his blade, but he wasn’t finished. With a savage, sadistic grin, the former hero delivered a death blow: he severed the creature’s head from its shoulders. A disgusting tar-like sludge spattered him and coated his blade, but he didn’t mind. The thing was dead and couldn’t hurt Ghirahim again.

Panting heavily, Link dropped to his knees; Ghirahim hurried to his side. Although his mind began to clear and the adrenaline rush subsided, the knight could feel the dark power continuing to course through him as strongly as ever. He had given into it, and now that darkness would remain with him until his dying day. Yet he just couldn’t be bothered to care. He had utilized the darkness once again to save Ghirahim, and he would continue to do so as many times as he needed. He looked at the demon lord with his uninjured eye and manged to crack a smile.

“…Looks like we match,” he murmured, gesturing to his right eye (or lack thereof; he couldn’t tell). “Except it looks like your eye is just fine…”

Ghirahim sneered and picked him up. Link squawked and struggled in protest, but the spirit ignored him.

Hold still,” he commanded. “The more you move, the more blood you lose. We cannot afford to dillydally for your pride’s sake when you’re this injured!”

Wasting no time, the demon lord snapped his fingers and transported them back to their house. Once he was settled comfortably into his own bed, Link finally felt the full force of pain hit him all at once. He hissed and pressed his palm over his injured eye. Ghirahim hurriedly gathered clean cloth and water. Not bothering to change out of his sword spirit form, he swiftly got to work tending to Link’s injury. The former hero hadn’t realized how uncomfortably warm he was feeling until Ghirahim began to clean his wound; the spirit’s metallic touch was cool and brought him temporary relief.

“Foolish brat,” the demon lord grumbled. “You should have taken me up on my offer to assist you. Now look at the mess you’ve caused.”

As much as he tried to listen, Link couldn’t focus on his friend’s words. Instead, he was too absorbed with scrutinizing Ghirahim’s own injuries. The cracks along the sword spirit’s face were jarring, but they didn’t detract from his features in the slightest. Good. He’d never hear the end of the demon lord’s complaints otherwise. Even worse, he couldn’t bear to see his friend upset. Ghirahim prided himself on his looks and dedicated his life to maintaining them; if his injuries had been worse, he may have very well lost his will to live—or at least suffered mentally and emotionally for a long, long time. Either way, the former hero couldn’t stand it when his dearest friend was hurting; that pain was unbearable to the highest degree.

Struggling against the lightheadedness, he slurred, “…You’re hurt…”

Ghirahim paused and looked at the golden-haired man. He shook his head and chortled.

“Fortunately the damage wasn’t worse. Although it pains me to know my beautiful face has been marred—I’m almost too afraid to look—it is minor compared to the injury you’ve suffered. It’s going to leave a deep, prominent scar. As for your eye, well… It’s still there, but don’t expect to ever regain your vision.”

Link could hear the remorse tinging the spirit’s voice; it made his heart ache.

“Don’t…don’t blame yourself…” he whispered, placing a hand on the demon’s arm. “I don’t mind… I just…couldn’t lose you… I don’t understand how a creature could be that strong… Strong enough to crack an unbreakable blade…”

“…Some things we may never understand, but do understand this: everything has a weakness. Just because there is an ‘un’-something does not mean it’s impossible to destroy it. It’s simply difficult—very difficult. Enough force applied to potential weak spots can cause an unbreakable blade—even one forged with diamond and gold—to, well, break.”

“I’m going to get it repaired first thing in the morning…”

“You will do no such thing. You will rest and recover. I’ll be fine. There’s plenty of time to visit the smithy. Take your time to heal.”

The knight sighed and relented, knowing his friend was right.

“Fiiine, fine.”

Good.”

Link rested back into his pillow.

“…Will you sing for me…?” he whispered.

Ghirahim felt the corner of his mouth twitch. He couldn’t prevent the small smile that then graced his lips.

“Very well,” he answered fondly. “What shall I sing?”

“Friendship Hymn…?”

Ghirahim marveled at the innocence that never seemed to leave the former hero. No matter what sacrifices he made or sins he committed, that little glimmer of innocence always remained with Link and made itself apparent in the most unexpected of times. It truly was a beautiful thing to behold.

“Mm, I shall do my best, but it will be quite the challenge without your ocarina accompanying me,” the demon lord said with a shrug.

Link chuckled.

“I mean I can get it out if it bothers you that much.”

“Nonsense! I’m fine without it. Don’t you dare get up, you absolute child.”

The former hero laughed and held up his hands in surrender.

“I wasn’t! Calm down, Ghira.”

Ghirahim snorted before he let out a soft chuckle of his own.

“Alright,” he said. “I’ll sing.”

Link smiled softly and closed his eyes as he listened to the demon lord’s soothing voice. Exhaustion began to take hold of him, and soon he slipped into dreamless slumber.

Ghirahim watched him intently, making sure the knight was actually asleep before he stopped singing. Sighing to himself, he stood up and moved to retrieve a bottle of red potion from their emergency supplies. As he moved, he couldn’t help but steal a glance at a nearby mirror. He grimaced at the sight of his reflection, knowing that even if the Gilded Sword was properly repaired he would still be scarred. He shifted back to his normal form and inspected the damage with disdain. The scars in this form stretched across the right side of his face like fleshy lightning bolts. They were unbecomingly pallid on his already-ashen skin, almost as if he had walked face-first into a spider’s web. Still, as much as he hated the fact that centuries of beauty maintenance now amounted to naught, he wasn’t too terribly distraught over it. He knew Link would have a difficult time adjusting to his own injuries, so being there to properly empathize would do wonders; they “matched,” after all.

Still, it was disheartening to see himself—and Link—in such a sorry state.

“I’ll just have to make it work,” he muttered to himself, grabbing the red potion he wanted.

Upon returning to Link’s side, the demon picked up an unused piece of cloth and soaked it with potion. He then proceeded to gingerly dab along the knight’s wound. Said knight’s face twisted in discomfort, but he remained asleep. After a few seconds, his face relaxed once more. Ghirahim chuckled quietly in response. Once he was satisfied with his work, he pulled the cloth away and set the remaining potion on the nightstand. Retrieving a pen and a scrap of paper, he wrote a note that simply said “Drink it.” and set it under the bottle. Pleased with himself, the demon lord exited Link’s room and sauntered into his own.

He looked in the mirror to straighten himself out, then donned his cape. With a frown, he snapped his fingers and teleported away.

Chapter Text

Ghirahim looked around in contempt as he walked through the halls of Hyrule Castle toward the throne room. As much as he didn’t want to deal with that self-righteous royal whelp , he had no choice; Link was currently out of commission, and someone needed to inform the princess that the threat had been neutralized.

Ugh .

Sneering to himself, the demon lord strode through the doors as if he owned the place. The Royal Guard were taken aback by his sudden, unannounced entry, but they stood down knowing who he was. Zelda frowned when she saw him.

“Where is Link?” she inquired, a bit more haughtily than she intended.

Ghirahim scoffed and placed a hand on his hip.

Flipping his hair arrogantly, he replied, “ Resting . The fool’s errand you sent him on resulted in him being blinded in one eye.” He paused to gesture to himself. “Even I couldn’t escape unscathed. Yet I’m fairing far better than he is at the moment, hence why I came here in his stead: to inform you that the threat is no more.”

Zelda straightened up and gripped the arm rests of her throne.

“Link’s injured? He’s been blinded?”

“That’s what I said, yes.”

The princess abruptly rose to her feet. She turned to the closest guard and ordered him to ready her horse with haste. Ghirahim observed with a twinge of amusement as the guard stumbled over himself to do his sovereign's bidding. The demon lord could offer to just teleport Zelda to the house, but he wasn’t going to. Why make it easy for her?

“What was it that injured him?” Zelda asked, focusing again on the demon. “Is it an immediate threat to the safety of Hyrule?”

“Your concern for me is so touching,” Ghirahim snidely remarked. “It’s a formidable opponent to be sure. Its strength surpasses that of any creature I’m aware of, and it possesses advanced martial prowess. I believe it is called a ‘darknut.’”

The princess’s eyes widened only slightly, but Ghirahim noticed nonetheless. His own eyes narrowed; he knew she knew what a darknut was. The texts he borrowed from the Royal Archives certainly proved themselves to be useful, especially when it came to being informed about top-secret operations overseen by the Royals. The darknut appeared to be the result of some sort of experiment gone awry. As tempted as he was to state the obvious (“This is your fault for not properly securing your experiments .”), he held his tongue. The princess had no idea that the spirit was able to get his hands on secret documents, and he knew it was best to not let her know.

“…I see,” Zelda said, her shoulders slumping ever so slightly. “Then I must go to him.”

Ghirahim snorted and crossed his arms.

“I don’t recall inviting you to our humble abode,” he responded sourly.

Zelda frowned and narrowed her eyes at him.

“I am your princess, you insolent man! It is my right to visit the homes of my subjects regardless of permission! Although I would prefer to be polite and entertain the notion, now is not the time!”

The demon lord cackled mockingly, exaggerating clutching his sides and doubling over in amusement.

My princess?” he jeered. “I do not serve you. I am not one of your subjects. Regardless of if you pretend it doesn’t exist, I too have a dignified rank. I do not bow to you or your ilk. I am a demon lord. You have no authority over me.”

The princess clenched her fists, her cheeks flushed with rage. She knew he was goading her into humiliating herself by making her angry. She refused to give him the satisfaction.

Regardless of your standing,” she hissed. “you still dwell in my kingdom, and Link is one of my subjects. More than that, he is my champion and my friend. His wellbeing is my top priority.”

Ghirahim laughed again, the bitterness in his tone palpable.

“His wellbeing is your top priority? Just who do you think you’re fooling? Yourself?” He glared at her, the enmity blazing in his dark eyes. “After everything you’ve done to him? Treating him like he’s cursed, sending him on fool’s errands without regard for his health? How many times have I accompanied him on missions when he was absolutely exhausted? He and I understand that he is the best of the best, but many of your little errands are hardly worth his time and can be carried out by ordinary soldiers. You should be utilizing Link only as a last resort. He is one man and has his whole life ahead of him, yet you’re running him into the ground. You avoid him whenever possible. Are you trying to enact some sort of penance on him? When he has done nothing?!”

Zelda bristled, her back going rigid.

“How dare you?” she seethed. “You know nothing. You are the problem! You are proof enough that Link has been cursed! Because of you, demon, he has lost his right to the Triforce of Courage! He has been subjected to your wicked dark forces, and he as become callous and sullen because of it—”

Callous and sullen?” Ghirahim interrupted, on the verge of losing his temper. “Ha! You ignorant royal wench! The Triforce of Wisdom is wasted on you! Your perception of Link shows how little you pay attention to him. You claim he is your friend, yet you choose to ignore his plight because you’re frightened of him and his power. He is not callous. If you watch him interact with others, you’ll see he is still as compassionate as he always has been! He is not sullen, either. Quite the contrary. When he’s not actively doing your bidding, he is still just as good-natured as ever! Perhaps it stands to reason, then, Your Highness, that Link only acts as you perceive him around you. I’d wager that the problem is you and all the damage you caused him. If it wasn’t for you causing him such grief in the first place, he never would have met me and used that oh-so-scary ‘dark power’ you fear.”

“What nonsense is this?! I have done nothing to warrant Link’s contempt!” the princess defended. “How dare you speak to me in this manner?!”

“You’ve done plenty!” the demon lord snapped. “Even if you don’t realize it because you reset the timeline and everything he went through was erased, he still remembers it all and suffered greatly because of it.”

Zelda’s expression changed from fury to confusion.

“…I won’t fall for your evil tricks,” she stated after a moment of contemplation. “You’re speaking nonsense.”

Am I? Ask Link yourself, then. But answer me this: how do you think he gained the Triforce of Courage to begin with? How do you think he knew of Ganondorf’s plans and had the foresight to leave the Kokiri Forest to inform you? Have you never once considered asking him those questions?”

“Of course I’ve asked him those questions! I knew he was a boy of greatness the moment I first met him. He told me the Great Deku Tree informed him of Ganondorf’s schemes and tasked him with delivering such vital information to me.”

Ghirahim released another bitter chuckle and shook his head.

“Yes, that’s part of the story. Yet he left out everything else. He is the Hero of Time.”

“Enough!!” Zelda commanded. “I will not continue to allow you to weave such deceptive stories in an attempt to force the blame of Link’s downfall on me! He is my friend, and I trust him to be honest with me! I’m finished with you wasting my time while he suffers. Leave. I must be on my way.”

Ghirahim snorted and gave the princess a mock bow.

“As you wish, Your Highness. Your braying was giving me quite the headache, anyway.”

You—

Before Zelda could finish, the demon lord snapped his fingers and left the castle. Once he was outside, he scowled.

“Pretentious quim,” he growled to himself. “I feel terribly annoyed after that wasteful quarrel.”

Running a hand through his hair to calm himself, Ghirahim thought about his next course of action. Although he wanted to go home and set up a magical barrier around the property to keep the princess out , he decided against it. As much as he hated her, he would not deny Link the opportunity to speak with his other friends (even though “friend” was a bit too generous of a term for the royal pain, in his opinion ). He would need something to drink—something strong . Fortunately, he knew just where to go. With a sigh, he snapped his fingers and teleported to Lon Lon Ranch.

Once there, he headed for the racetrack. As he anticipated, Malon was there tending to her horses.

“Good day, Malon,” he greeted as he approached.

The redhead spun around to face the spirit.

“Ah, Ghirahim! What brings you here?” Her eyes darted around, obviously searching for something. “Is Link with you?”

Ghirahim shook his head and replied, “I regret to say that he is resting after a particularly troublesome errand he was tasked with. I came to purchase a bottle of honey mead.”

Malon straightened up.

“Resting? Is he alright?”

Ghirahim did his best to refrain from letting his eye twitch. He could appreciate the ranch girl’s concern for Link, but he just said what he was there for; he wanted to get it and go .

“He’s fine,” the demon lied. “It’s just been a long day. I don’t mean to be rude, but I must make haste. The honey mead, if you will?”

“Ah—oh! Of course! Wait right there, Ghirahim.”

With that, Malon hurried for the house. A couple years ago, the redhead decided a second revenue flow would be good for the ranch. Business was booming from milk and livestock profits, but other competitors were on the rise. A few years ago, back on Link’s seventeenth birthday, the former hero had sampled—and thoroughly enjoyed—Cremia’s new product from Romani Ranch: Romani Honey Mead. Upon returning to Hyrule and apologizing profusely for skipping out on Malon’s surprise celebration, Link mentioned the beverage to the ranch girl and she loved the idea. Several months later, after much trial and error (and numerous assaults on Link’s taste buds), Malon had perfected her recipe for Lon Lon Honey Mead. It was, of course, a smashing success.

Malon returned with a bottle and handed it to Ghirahim.

“This one’s on the house,” she said with a smile. “Tell Link to feel better soon for me.”

The demon lord nodded.

“Of course. Your generosity is most appreciated.”

The redhead continued to smile.

“Actually, do you think he would mind if I stopped in for a bit?”

Ghirahim fought the urge to pinch his nose and exhaled slowly. It was bad enough that Zelda was on her way to invade their house; he didn’t need Malon there as well, fawning and fussing over Link. The knight needed rest , and he already was about to be interrupted by that goddess-blood twit. He certainly didn’t need the woman who was head-over-heels for him blubbering about his injury.

“Apologies,” the demon replied. “but now is not a good time. Perhaps—”

“Wait, what happened to your face?” Malon asked, really looking at the demon lord for the first time since he arrived. “Is that—”

“A minor injury,” Ghirahim interposed. “Interrupting is in poor taste, you know.”

“Wh—hey! Don’t you start getting snooty on me! I’m asking because I care.”

“And I appreciate the concern. However, I’m fine, and Link needs to rest. Visiting now wouldn’t be wise.”

The ranch girl stared at him for a moment, scrutinizing him. She frowned.

“You’re hiding something,” she said. “I can tell. That settles it, then! I’m coming over, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!”

Ghirahim opened his mouth to protest the redhead’s decision, but she had already mounted a horse and spurred it into a gallop within the blink of an eye. Speaking of eyes, the sword spirit’s finally twitched. He didn’t even bother commenting to himself; he simply snapped himself back home and took a deep swig of mead straight from the bottle. This day had to be the most infuriating of his life, next to being bested by the Hero of the Sky. He was feeling particularly disagreeable right now.

“Ghirahim…?”

Link’s raspy voice broke the demon lord from his brooding. In an instant he was in the knight’s room.

“Is there something you need?” he inquired.

Link stared at him blearily and shook head.

“Did you go somewhere?”

The demon nodded.

“I went to inform Zelda that you were successful in your task. I then stopped by Lon Lon Ranch to purchase a bottle of honey mead. …However, due to unfortunate circumstances… Well, you see… I objected but…” He couldn’t help but clutch his head in outrage. “Those two fools are on their way here as we speak! I told them you needed rest, told them not to bother you, but oh no! Forget what Lord Ghirahim—the man who knows what’s best for you after all this time by your side—has to say! Let’s just do our own damn thing and bother an injured man anyway!”

Link watched in amusement as Ghirahim moved about dramatically during his outburst.

“Ghira,” he said with a groggy laugh. “Calm down. It’s alright. I don’t mind.”

The demon lord stared at him quizzically for a moment before scoffing.

“It may be alright for you, but it’s far from alright with me! What right do they think they have to invade our house?! None! No matter what that wretched royal twit thinks!”

Hey, watch it. Zelda is still my sovereign and my friend. I know you two dislike each other, but don’t call her names. I don’t let her do that about you, you know.”

“Hmph. Fine. I understand your distress. Still, it is her fault you’ve ended up in this state. Remember those military experiments I mentioned earlier? Well—”

A knock on the front door interrupted him (and was he tired of being interrupted). Scowling, the spirit made his way over to answer it. Zelda stood in the threshold, regal as ever. She obviously rode as fast as she could to get there, yet not a single hair was out of place. Ghirahim frowned and leaned against the door frame, arms crossed.

“You waste no time, do you?” he sneered. “I’d say it’s rather impressive how quickly you got here, but you and I both know I’m not impressed in the slightest.”

The princess returned the demon’s frown and retorted, “It is no concern of mine how you feel, and your quips have no effect. Let me see him.”

“Not unless you ask politely. For one born of the highest nobility, your manners are atrocious.”

“Your very existence is atrocious! I command you to step aside so I may see Link!” Zelda snapped.

Ghirahim scoffed.

Command me? I told you that I do not answer to you. You can no sooner command me to do anything than you can respect Link. Both, it seems, are impossible.”

“You vile creature! I respect Link more than someone like you could ever possibly fathom! I—”

“That’s enough,” Link interrupted gruffly, walking into the room. “Both of you.”

Both of the nobles shifted uncomfortably before Zelda strode over to him. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. She reached out both of her hands to tenderly cradle the knight’s face, but she paused. Her tear-filled eyes widened and her hands began to tremble. Lowering them back to her side, she stared at Link in horror. Her lips quivered, and she quickly covered her mouth as her tears broke free.

“Ah… Zelda…”

Link moved to console the princess, but she stepped away from him. She averted her gaze, her shame apparent in the redness of her cheeks.

“I’m…I’m fine,” she said, wiping her eyes with the back of a gloved hand. “I came to see how you were doing… I heard you’ve been blinded in your injured eye…”

The former hero exhaled.

“…Looks like it,” he replied.

Ghirahim seized upon the moment and stepped forward.

“You should return to your bed,” he murmured. “You’re still exhausted from the whole ordeal.”

Link chuckled and squeezed the demon lord’s shoulder.

“I’ll be fine, Ghira. Besides, someone has to make sure you stay out of trouble.”

Zelda observed them silently. She could sense an increase of dark energy emanating from Link—a worrying amount—but she decided to keep that observation to herself. She did not come all this way to chastise him for his further descent into darkness; she wouldn’t mention it. Not now.

“It’s alright, Link,” she said with a halfhearted smile. “Please, rest. We can talk at your bedside.”

“Really, that’s unnecessary…”

Ghirahim rolled his eyes and pushed the knight toward his room.

“H-hey…!! Cut it out!” Link protested. “Ghirahim!”

“I will not tell you again, you petulant child. If you do not rest, you will not recover properly. I refuse to let you cause yourself more harm than what has already been inflicted. Lie down.”

The former hero grumbled to himself as he was ushered back into bed. Zelda watched as Ghirahim fussed over Link; in return, Link argued with the demon over trivial details. They bantered as if she wasn’t even there. All of the malice that Ghirahim had shown earlier was gone. Additionally, despite his protests and eye rolling, Zelda could see that Link was genuinely pleased with the attention. She just didn’t understand it. She could appreciate their camaraderie, but she couldn’t approve of Ghirahim in general. Not all darkness was evil—she knew this well—but Ghirahim’s was. He was created from malice and unholy magic; he was a creature rejected by the gods—one created by the Ultimate Evil—so he was by default evil. No matter his feelings for Link, he was still a demon. Demons always turned to the darkness in the end and took whoever they could with them. Ghirahim had been right about one thing: Zelda had not been paying enough attention to Link, primarily out of fear for—and admittedly of—his new dark power. She ignored the destructive path he was on.

Well, no more.

Link chuckled as Ghirahim threw up his arms in exasperation at his retort. The demon lord then rolled his eyes and let out a chuckle of his own. Zelda noticed the fond twinkle in the demon’s eyes whenever he looked at Link; it made it difficult to fathom that the white-haired man could be capable of committing atrocities, but he was. The brief mention of him in the Royal Archives highlighted as much. She felt like such a fool for obliging Link’s friendship with the demon; she should have been more assertive. Because of her inaction, Link was now injured—blinded—and the darkness within him was stronger than ever. Although she had faith in the knight and his righteous heart, she could not take any chances. She could not allow another potential Ganondorf-scale threat. The princess would protect her kingdom no matter the cost.

“Do you want any tea?”

Zelda broke from her thoughts at Link’s question. She gave him a small smile and nodded.

“Tea would be lovely, thank you…”

Link grinned and looked at Ghirahim, who in turn scoffed and crossed his arms.

Typical,” the demon lord huffed. “You take full advantage of your injuries by expecting me to do everything for you.”

“Well, I mean you did kinda bring it on yourself~” the knight countered, shrugging. “Every time I try doing anything when I’m injured, you just take over and make me rest, sooo…”

Ghirahim squinted at Link (who grinned back cheekily) before throwing his arms up, relenting.

“Fine! I’ll make tea.” He looked at Zelda and added, “I’m not taking requests. You’ll get the tea I serve you. If it displeases you, fix it yourself.”

Zelda frowned and rolled her eyes.

“I wasn’t going to ask. I accept whatever my hosts provide. I do not exploit their hospitality.”

The demon lord waved a dismissive hand at her before exiting the room. Link sighed and shook his head. He almost apologized for his friend’s behavior, but he didn’t. Zelda wasn’t innocent when it came to that type of behavior, either.

“Link…” Zelda murmured, glancing behind her to ensure Ghirahim was well out of earshot. “I know it upsets you when I talk about Ghirahim—”

Link held up a hand to cut her off.

“Then don’t,” he said. “I’m not in the mood for this, Zelda.”

Listen,” the princess insisted. “It’s important. Earlier, he said… He said I had ‘reset the timeline.’ He wove together an elaborate story calling you the ‘Hero of Time.’ He implied that it was I who was responsible for your suffering.”

The former hero’s eyes widened slightly, but he shook his head. He could have told her everything: from her plan to open the Door of Time and obtain the Triforce to his own adventures to awaken the Six Sages; from time traveling to Sheik, he could have confessed all of it. He could confirm Ghirahim’s accusation that yes, all the suffering he went through was mostly her fault. If she had never tasked him with opening the Door of Time, the whole series of events wouldn’t have happened; Ganondorf would have never gotten his hands on the Triforce of Power in the first place. If Zelda had never sent him back to his original time, he would have been celebrated as a hero. Sure, he would have lost seven years of his life, but he’d cope. Yet, it was as Zelda told him before she reset the timeline: they were so young; they—she—couldn’t have predicted the outcome of their hasty plan. Now here they were.

“…I wonder what made him say that,” Link muttered, averting his gaze. “He’s not one to make things up…”

The words killed him. His heart ached at the lie—at not supporting his dearest friend—but it had to be done. As much as he yearned for recognition and the establishment of his legacy, it was too late. At this point, after everything, Zelda most likely wouldn’t believe him. She was a different person than the princess he saved all those years ago; she was more judgmental and obstinate. Furthermore and most importantly, there was nothing that could be done about it, anyway. Telling the truth would only complicate things more than they already were.

“I don’t know, but I’m not surprised,” Zelda replied. “He’s a demon. I’m sorry, Link, but it’s the truth. He is a creature of unholy darkness. He was created from evil, therefore he is evil. I recognize that he cares for you, but he is dragging you down with him. If he truly valued you, he would release you from the dark web you’ve been entangled in for years. I regret that I failed you as your friend by turning a blind eye until now.”

Link’s mouth slowly gaped as he stared at the princess.

“You…” he muttered, at a loss for words. It took him a moment to properly formulate a response. “You’re on this again?! Zelda, enough of this! How can you not see the goodness in his heart?! If you just paid attention—

“You’ve been injured and have steeped further into the darkness—wicked darkness, not the normal darkness that compliments the light! All because you feel you need to protect him! If he’s so powerful, how is it that he can’t protect himself?!”

The darkness within the former hero roiled with his rage. The Fierce Deity’s Mask whispered to him to punish her for her mockery. He fought back the urge, but he was still livid.

“He can protect himself just fine,” he hissed. “Really, if anything, is my sorry state not your fault? What experiments have you been up to, huh?!”

Zelda paled at the mention of “experiments,” but she held firm.

“…I cannot possibly fathom what it is you’re implying. The issue is right before your eyes. Your partner is a demon lord, created by an ancient evil whose sole purpose was to covet power and destroy the land, and you keep that around!” She pointed at the Fierce Deity’s Mask. “You surround yourself with demonic forces and you fall further and further into the abyss! I trust you with the safety of Hyrule! How can I continue to do so when you keep going further and further down this path?”

“Do you really think so lowly of me? Do you seriously believe I’m untrustworthy? After everything I’ve done for you and this kingdom?” Link tried to contain the hurt in his voice, but to no avail. He was crushed. “I have served you faithfully for years, Zelda! I thought you were my friend.”

The princess inhaled sharply, her heart breaking.

“Of course I trust you, Link,” she said quietly. “I am your friend; that will never change. I’m telling you this because I want you to be safe. I failed you so far, but I will not do so again… I’m simply trying to make you realize that Ghirahim is not someone to rely on.”

Link frowned, lowering his gaze to his lap.

“…Get out.”

“Wha—Link!”

The former hero looked at her, eyes ablaze.

“Get. Out. Princess or no, you are not welcome here.”

It was Zelda’s turn to frown.

“You cannot address me like that, Link. Though you are my dear friend, I am still your sovereign.”

Link scoffed.

“Well excuse me, Princess. I humbly implore you to take leave of me and my home, Your Highness.”

Zelda stood up, fists clenched at her sides.

Link. Please, if you would just listen—

At that moment, Ghirahim stormed into the room. Before the princess could finish, he threw her over his shoulder and snapped away. Link exhaled and fell back into his pillow, trying to calm his palpitating heart. He closed his eyes and took in the silence. His head throbbed from both the stress of the situation and from the Fierce Deity’s Mask’s attempt to entice him. He was reaching his breaking point; he was fed up with the accursed thing. Opening his eyes, he forced himself out of bed and took the mask off the wall.

Don the mask… Reclaim your power…

Link sneered at it. Silently, he walked out of his room to the hearth.

Enough,” he growled. “I’m done.”

Forcing himself to power through his hesitation, he tossed the mask into the fire. A part of him was disappointed that there was no dramatic outcome; everything was silent and unchanged. There came no shrieking from the mask as it burned, and the same amount of darkness remained within him. Yet, he was content. He reveled in the silence; the mask could tempt him no more. He really should have destroyed the wretched thing years ago.

With a sigh of relief, the knight sunk into a chair. He stared at the ceiling and listened to the crackling of the flames, awaiting Ghirahim’s return. Soon enough, the demon lord snapped into the room. Link cracked a smile at him.

“Thanks…” he said. “Can you believe the nerve of her?”

The sword spirit’s charcoal eyes fixated on him. They were clouded with an emotion Link couldn’t quite place, and a frown sat firmly on his white-painted lips.

“No, I can’t,” he said, uncannily calm. “And neither can I believe the nerve of you.”

The former hero furrowed his eyebrows, taken aback by the demon lord’s statement.

“What…?”

“How could you lie like that?!” Ghirahim cried, his expression twisting into one of fury. “How could you take her side—accuse me of making up stories—about your journey as the Hero of Time?! How could you—why would you—deny it?! After everything, why did you not tell her and betray me like that?!”

“I—”

“I thought recognition was what you wanted,” the demon continued, growing more frenzied with every word. “All these years of suffering could have finally come to an end, yet you rejected it! She accused me of lying, and you took her side!!”

“Because it’d be pointless to do otherwise!” Link interjected. “What good would it do me to tell her everything now?! All these years later! Even if Zelda believed me, there’d be no point in trying to honor me! Nobody else would believe it; and even if they did, no one remembers anything, anyway! Dropping my whole story on Zelda would only complicate things even more, and it’s just not worth the trouble, Ghirahim.”

The demon lord’s brow furrowed and a scowl crossed his lips.

“Not worth the trouble, even when it gives her more reason to despise me and scheme to remove me from the picture. Even when it means defending the one person who has been consistently loyal to you all these years, it’s not worth it.”

The knight rolled his eyes.

“That has nothing to do with it and you know it. Quit being so overdramatic about this, Ghirahim. It’s not that big a deal.”

Ghirahim looked as if he had been slapped in the face, and Link instantly regretted his words.

“A-ah, wait, Ghira… I didn’t mean—”

The sword spirit clenched his fists and gritted his teeth.

“Spare me,” he hissed. “You meant every word.”

The snap of his fingers shattered Link’s heart. Just like that, he was left all alone. He sat in stunned silence, replaying the argument in his mind.

Shit,” he groaned, rising to his feet.

Ignoring the lightheadedness that threatened to overtake him, the former hero hurried to grab his boots. He prayed that the spirit hadn’t gone too far, but he knew realistically that Ghirahim could have gone anywhere. Most likely, he went somewhere Link couldn’t easily follow him to, but that wouldn’t stop the knight. He needed to find his friend.

He recalled the way Navi had left him—silently, suddenly—and a feeling of dread washed over him. His blood ran cold and his stomach sank. His heart began to beat violently, the sound of his pulse deafening in his own ears. His mouth went dry, and he began to tremble.

Not again,’ he thought, frantically moving to grab everything he needed. ‘Not again, not again… I can’t lose him, I can’t… Not like this, not again…!!’

In his panic, he failed to notice the sound of a horse galloping up to the house. He ran out the door and fought against the pain burning his face. He needed to find Ghirahim, his injuries be damned.

“Link!”

Link glanced in the direction of the voice, surprised to see Malon jogging toward him. Under normal circumstances he would be thrilled to see her, but now wasn’t the time.

“You’re hurt!” the ranch girl exclaimed upon seeing his face. “Ghirahim said—”

“Malon,” the knight interrupted, fidgeting in place. “Please, now isn’t the time, I need to go—it’s important!”

“You shouldn’t be up like this! You’ll only hurt yourself even more!” Malon argued. “Whatever it is, it can wait—”

No! It can’t! Just…! Wait here if you want, but I need to find Ghirahim!”

“Ah—wait, did something happen? Is he alright?”

Link didn’t have time to answer her. The anxiety wouldn’t let him stay still. Ignoring the redhead’s protests, the former hero sprinted into the woods. The twilight made the shadows larger and the forest more ominous, but he didn’t care; he’d wander the forest all night if he had to. A moment of rationality hit him when he realized he should have taken Epona, but it was too late to turn back; he couldn’t afford to waste more time.

As if Farore Herself was lending Her aid, a familiar neighing cut through the foreboding silence. Link’s eyes widened, hearing the galloping heading straight in his direction. Within moments, Epona burst through the trees and stopped by the knight’s side. Link’s eyes welled with tears as he climbed onto the saddle. He knew Malon had released the horse from her stable for him; he would have to thank her later. With a short cry, Link spurred Epona full speed through the woods. There was no guarantee that Ghirahim was even in the forest—especially if he didn’t want to be found—but it didn’t hurt to check. There were several places to look, after all.

I’m sorry, Ghira… I’m so sorry…’

Although he stood by what he said about it being pointless telling Zelda about his days as the Hero of Time, he should have defended Ghirahim. Even if he concealed the bulk of the story from the princess, he should have said something to counter her. He understood why his friend was upset—no, hurt. He really had betrayed the demon lord, and now he was scared of losing him like he had lost Navi; only this time it would be his fault. He could only pray that he’d find the demon. Hopefully he was sulking at a familiar spot.

The sun had set completely by the time Link arrived at the Great Tree. Already he could tell that Ghirahim wasn’t there, but that didn’t prevent him from calling out anyway (of course there was no response). The former hero sighed and rode in the direction of the Forest Temple. He recalled Ghirahim saying he wanted to explore it earlier, so it was entirely possible that the sword spirit was there.

But then again, when did Ghirahim ever make anything that easy, especially if he was angry?

Still, Link was going to check anyway. It was entirely possible that the demon was there and was betting on the knight assuming that exact thing. Perhaps—even if it was unlikely—Ghirahim wanted to be found.

“We’ll just have to see,” Link muttered to himself.

He rode as fast as he could toward the Sacred Forest Meadow. Despite the darkness, Epona navigated effortlessly through the trees. Link’s inured eye ached from the wind and constant jostling, and it was extremely difficult to see properly in the dark with only one eye. He was grateful that his trusty steed knew exactly where to go. He put all of his faith in his beloved horse, and before long they arrived at their destination.

Link attempted to sense Ghirahim’s presence, but to no avail. Holding out hope that the sword spirit was somewhere inside, he dismounted Epona and pulled himself up to the entrance. For the second time that day, he stepped inside the sacred place. He searched high and low—multiple times—but found no trace of his friend. That meant he could be anywhere in Hyrule, and Link was just too exhausted and sore to keep searching.

Feeling like a lost child, the former hero sat down on the grass in the courtyard. His heart ached, both from loneliness and fear. His mind replayed the day Navi left him over and over again. Logically he knew that Ghirahim would never abandon him—especially on such a sour note—but he couldn’t stop his emotions. He didn’t want to return to that perpetual state of loneliness and sorrow he had suffered as a young boy. He didn’t want to lose another friend, especially because of his own stupid choices. If anything, he at least wanted to apologize for not standing up for his friend better. Tears stung his eyes as he blankly stared at the water. The salt felt excruciating to his injured eye, which only frustrated him further. With a muffled sob, he allowed himself to cry.

Now he really felt like a child.

“G-Ghirahim…” he hiccuped. “I’m sorry…”

Link knew the best thing to do was to go home and wait for the demon lord to return on his own terms, but he was stubborn; he wanted to find him. He wanted to apologize as soon as possible, both to console the demon and to resolve the mounting guilt in his own soul.

…He just wanted his best friend back…

Sure, bickering and petty fights between them were nothing new, but this was entirely different. This wasn’t petty; Ghirahim was seriously hurt. They both had unintentionally hurt each other in the past, but it was never this severe. Link was fully aware of the disdain the demon lord and Zelda held for one another; he should have done the right thing by defending his partner. Yet at the same time, what could he have done? He couldn’t tell Zelda the full truth, so what was he supposed to say? This whole situation was a mess. Ghirahim should have never mentioned anything to Zelda. Sure, he was trying to be a good friend, but the trouble it caused wasn’t worth it. This was his fault for bringing it up. It was Zelda’s for sending Link out to possibly clean up her mess (he needed answers).

…It was Link’s fault for not saying anything earlier. It was his fault for being dishonest and secretive. It was his fault for not ripping the bandage off and coming forward when he had the chance. Bottom line was that even though they all shared fault in this situation, Link knew that he was most at fault. There was no point in denying it.

“I’m the worst,” he lamented. “This is all my fault…”

“Sitting there feeling sorry for yourself won’t change anything.”

Link’s head snapped up and whipped around to face the unexpected voice. There Ghirahim stood, arms crossed and brow furrowed, a tight frown on his face. The knight felt fresh tears sting his eyes.

Ghira…”

The demon lord stared at him, his charcoal eyes cold. Seconds passed, although to Link they felt like an eternity. Ghirahim sighed and uncrossed his arms.

“You look pitiful,” he said, shaking his head. “Although you should feel guilty for betraying me, I take no pleasure seeing you like this. I especially find it egregious that you came all the way here in the state you’re in. You should still be resting.”

Link frowned and shakily stood up.

“Do you seriously expect me to stay in bed when you’re out here upset? I can handle a damn wound. I can’t handle my friend disappearing to who-knows-where when I was the one who caused it! I can’t just sit around and wait!”

“Then why did you take her side to begin with?!”

“I don’t know!! I told you already that it would only complicate things more if I told her everything! I should have stood up for you, I know, but what do I say?!”

Ghirahim scoffed and placed a hand on his hip.

“Just tell the truth!! Even if it complicates matters, even if she doesn’t believe you, even if nothing changes! Stop worrying about what that loathsome wench thinks of you and focus on yourself and the people who legitimately care about you! Why did you keep the truth to yourself all these years?!”

“You know exactly why! And if I tell her now, she’ll only view me as more of a failure than she already does!”

“Who cares?! She knows all about how you saved Termina! Why would it be so hard to believe you saved Hyrule first?! Although she certainly isn’t smart, I concede that she isn’t stupid. I would wager she could put two and two together, especially since the Triforce has been split and you had the Triforce of Courage.”

Link snorted and crossed his arms.

“Yeah. Had. You already know how she feels about me losing it. Now imagine her reaction if I told her I was the Hero of Time.”

“Enough about what she thinks already!! You may be a Knight of Hyrule, but Zelda does not control your life! Forget her opinions, they’re all garbage anyway! Oh, the very fact that you justify her behavior makes me sick with anger!”

The former hero was tired of fighting. Although he disagreed with several of the demon lord’s statements, the man did have a point. Mainly the “who cares what Zelda thinks” bit. He really shouldn’t, but it was easier said than done. Even for all her faults, Zelda was a good person who dedicated herself to the people of Hyrule. She was a fair and just ruler, and she was kind to all (er, most) she met. She really was a good friend; she was just quick to judge, especially when she deemed something to be a potential threat to the safety of the kingdom. He understood Ghirahim’s distaste for the princess, yet he couldn’t bring himself to share his ire.

Yet at the same time he couldn’t forgive how Zelda treated Ghirahim—and by extension himself. He understood why Zelda was wary around the demon, but Ghirahim had proven time and time again that he was loyal to Link and all he did. It was Ghirahim who gave his life meaning, and he couldn’t forgive Zelda for questioning their bond.

Hanging his head, Link yielded.

“You’re right,” he said, glancing back up to look at his friend. “You’re right, and I’m sorry… I’ve got a lot of contradicting thoughts going through my head right now, but you’re right. Will you forgive me, old friend?”

The demon lord snorted and relaxed his arm, resting it at his side. His expression softened as he looked back at the man. He then extended his arms.

Link couldn’t stop his lip from quivering as he jogged into the demon’s embrace. He felt like such a child, but he would never turn down a hug when it was offered. They held each other tightly for several minutes before parting. Ghirahim sighed and cracked a small smile.

“I suppose I can find it in my heart to forgive you,” he teased.

Link chuckled.

“I’m glad…”

“So does this mean you’ll tell her the truth?”

“I…” The knight hesitated, but knew he would have to at some point. “Yeah. I will.”

“Good.”

“I also destroyed the Fierce Deity’s Mask.”

Ghirahim’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh?”

“Mm. Right before you got back. Nothing exciting happened. It just…smoldered. Malon is also at the house. I feel bad running out on her, but I needed to find you. And you still need to fill me in on everything you found out from the Royal Archives. I need to know what Zelda is hiding.”

“One step at a time,” the spirit said, holding up his hands. “Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. We can talk about all of the details tomorrow. I’m ready to go home, even if it means dealing with Malon for a few hours.”

Link smiled and nodded in agreement.

“Deal. You can tell me all about it while we get the Gilded Sword fixed.”

“You petulant brat, I said you needed to rest.”

“And I will, just after I get my sword repaired~”

“Such insolence! After all of this drama, too!”

Link laughed, and after a moment Ghirahim joined in. The previous tensions between them had been replaced with normalcy. Link was relieved that the entire endeavor had turned out to be much easier than he previously anticipated. Like his companion, he too was ready to go home.

“Let’s go,” he said. “I’ll try to convince Malon to leave sooner rather than later.”

The demon lord hummed in agreement.

“If she doesn’t take the hint, then I’m giving her the Zelda treatment. I am not in the mood to entertain their little games.”

“I won’t even argue.”

“A wise decision. I take it Epona is outside?”

The former hero nodded.

“Alright,” Ghirahim said. “We’ll go get her and return to the house.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Without another word, Ghirahim snapped them both outside. Once Link climbed onto Epona’s saddle, the sword spirit snapped again and brought all of them home. Link could tell that dawn would be upon them in a couple hours. He hoped that Malon had gone back to Lon Lon Ranch, but her horse was still there. The knight couldn’t help but crack a small smile at the woman’s stubborn determination; it was a trait he admired in anyone, but especially in her.

“If she’s asleep, I’m taking her back to the ranch,” Ghirahim stated.

“She’ll be miffed and will just come back tomorrow,” Link replied with a chuckle. “If she’s asleep, let her stay. That way I can explain everything to her and hopefully have enough time left in the day for me to take the Gilded Sword to Big Goron. And for you to tell me everything you discovered.”

The demon lord harrumphed and rolled his eyes.

“Fine,” he relented. “Stubborn fool.”

Link simply grinned and walked into the house.

Sure enough, Malon was fast asleep on the sofa. She looked as if it had been unintentional, as she was sitting up with her head tilted at an uncomfortable angle; her boots were also still on her feet. Link sighed and cracked a small smile before moving to help his friend get comfortable. He removed her boots, then carefully adjusted her so she was laying down. Ghirahim retrieved an extra pillow and blanket.

“There,” the former hero whispered.

“Mm. Now we can sleep. But first, I strongly recommend you drink another red potion.”

“In other words, ‘Drink it or I’ll force it down your throat myself.’”

“Precisely.”

It was Link’s turn to roll his eyes, but he chuckled and complied. Once he drank the medicine, the pain in his eye dulled. He kicked off his boots and trudged to his bed, the exhaustion finally kicking in at full force. He listened to Ghirahim stride to his own room and smiled. He was glad they were able to resolve everything—for the most part—so quickly; he could truly sleep peacefully tonight. Ghirahim was home, and the Fierce Deity’s Mask was gone. He still had issues he needed to address, of course, but for now he would take the victory. For now, he could finally rest.

With a tired sigh, he closed his eyes. Whatever happened tomorrow going forward, he’d deal with it then.

In the other room, Ghirahim frowned as he reexamined his scarred face and replayed the day’s events in his mind. He was still furious over everything—the mission, the injuries, Zelda’s impertinence, Malon’s doggedness, Link’s betrayal and the ensuing argument—but he realized long ago that rage would get him nowhere. Since Link had stubbornly searched for him all night to apologize, he couldn’t stay mad at him. He did understand why Link would lie in the first place, although he disagreed with the decision vehemently. Still, as long as he took the necessary steps to right his wrongs, Ghirahim wouldn’t complain. At the end of the day, after all, his issue was with Zelda. He wasn’t sure how to proceed forward yet; any plans he made would depend on Link’s following through with the decision to tell the princess the truth in its entirety.

For now, however, he needed sleep. Perhaps a proper rest would put him in a much more agreeable mood come the morning. He would think more on these matters later, preferably with a clear and level head. In one swift movement, he removed his cape and fell into bed. Blowing out the candle, he nestled into his pillow and closed his eyes.

Why did he have a sinking feeling that things were about to get much worse before they got better?

Chapter Text

Telling Zelda the entire truth about how he came into possession of the Triforce of Courage—as the Hero of Time—went exactly as Link anticipated: uncomfortably. At first the princess didn’t believe him (as expected), but then she pieced everything together—Link knowing of Ganondorf’s plans before anything even happened, her being compelled to give Link the Ocarina of Time, the Triforce being split, Link saving the far-away land of Termina as if he’d done it before—and suddenly everything made perfect sense. First, she was stunned; how had she not noticed or figured it out earlier? Then she was bereaved; she felt awful for putting Link through so much as a child, only to rip it all away by sending him back to his own time without so much as a “thank you” waiting for him (as Ghirahim, to her dismay, had correctly said). Finally, she was outraged.

How dare Link—the Hero of Time, reincarnated from the legendary Hero of the Sky—forfeit his right to the Triforce by siding with demons? How dare he accept the powers of darkness and utilize them? He was supposed to be a harbinger of light—the one tasked with smiting evil! He used to be a hero, and he gave it all up. As such, the princess saw it as futile to honor him as such (not to mention it had been over ten years since then). Needless to say, Link didn’t take kindly to Zelda’s decision. Ghirahim especially didn’t appreciate her behavior. The demon lord had ended up locked in combat with Impa while Link exchanged heated words with Zelda. The princess threatened to strip the knight of his rank as Captain, but he beat her to the punch: he quit.

Everyone—even he himself—was dumbfounded at the announcement. Ghirahim and Impa had ceased their clash, and Zelda stood agape. After a moment of stupefied silence, Impa argued that Link couldn’t quit serving the Crown unless Zelda permitted it. Ghirahim retaliated that it was well within Link’s right to do as he saw fit, especially after such maltreatment. Link just didn’t care anymore.

“I will not serve a monarch who devalues my accomplishments and strife,” he had said. “Regardless of if I have permission or not, do not call upon me for my sword anymore.”

With that, he left with Ghirahim. It had been ten years since then.

In that time, Link focused on adjusting to combat using only one eye. It had been a challenge at first, but he adjusted just fine. He spent his free time refining his special skills, as well as exploring the land with Ghirahim at his side—just like old times. In one particular fit of passion, Link declared that they should sail beyond Hyrule’s borders to see what other lands awaited them, just as they said they would all those years ago. Ghirahim agreed, and they made ready for their expedition. They even managed to track down Tatl, who enthusiastically expressed her willingness to accompany her old friends. The reunited trio set off on a voyage to new lands, such as the mysterious countries of Holodrum and Labrynna. Link enjoyed having time to simply explore without having to worry about saving anyone. Furthermore, he was thrilled to share the adventure with his two dearest friends.

Yet eventually, adventuring took its toll on the swordsman. The thrill gave way to boredom, and every new place was more or less the same as the last. The extraordinary slowly became the mundane, and Link found himself ready to return to Hyrule. Upon returning, he resumed his training, though it gave him little joy. Seeing his companion slip further into a cycle of futility, Ghirahim suggested the former hero focus instead on music. Although hesitant at first, Link took his friend’s advice and turned his attention to composing songs. Dozens of scores eventually turned into hundreds, and Ghirahim sincerely praised them all as masterpieces. Indeed, Link was a highly advanced swordsman with whom no mortal warrior could compare, but his true skill—and passion—was music. Now free to his own devices, Link’s creative mind saw no limitation. For awhile, his soul found the balm it so desperately needed.

However, not all good things were meant to last.

Just as exploring grew old, so too did composing. Writing new scores eventually became tedious, and the pool of inspiration dried up. Link found himself back at square one: bored, ambitionless, and depressed. Malon eventually reached out and mentioned that the ranch was always looking for help, and Ghirahim included the swordsman in his research projects. Link knew his friends were doing everything in their power to keep him active (both in body and mind), and he appreciated it greatly, but nothing seemed to quell his melancholia. Motivation to get out of bed in the mornings became scarce, and he had no desire to do anything; he simply did what was necessary to get through each day. Ghirahim grew increasingly more concerned (and sometimes irritated, but he did his best to be as patient as possible), thus he began constructing a list of potential tasks for the former hero. Soon enough, he came up with an (“Absolutely ingenious!”) idea: travel around Hyrule working as a swordsman-for-hire. Considering that Link appeared to miss helping people in need the most, the demon lord considered it to be a foolproof plan when he suggested it.

Again, Link was hesitant about this new idea—particularly because it involved charging civilians for his assistance (though he knew he needed to put bread on the table somehow)—but eventually decided to give it a try. After redesigning his armor (as to not be associated with the Royal Family) and tuning up his weapons, the former hero set out once again to offer his services to the people of Hyrule. Thus, ten years after quitting the Royal Army, Link once again found himself standing outside the gates of Hyrule Castle.

“Are you sure you want to answer her summons?” Ghirahim inquired, glaring at the gate. “She hasn’t spoken to you in years, and you yourself told her not to call upon you for your sword. I understand you’ve made a name for yourself, but are you absolutely certain you want to take her money?”

“A job is a job,” the former hero answered, his good eye narrowed. “Zelda wouldn’t send for me unless she was desperate. Whatever it is she wants, the Royal Army is unable to handle it. Moreover, it appears this is an issue even Impa failed to correct. She has no other choice but to call upon me.”

The demon lord sighed.

“I would say ‘Let them figure it out,’ but your mind is already made up.”

Link cracked a smile.

“Guilty as charged.”

Ghirahim smirked in amusement before saying, “Fine, then. Let’s get this over with.”

The golden-haired swordsman nodded and walked with him to the gate. After stating their business to the guard, they were allowed entrance and escorted to the throne room.

“Try not to cause a scene,” Link whispered to his companion.

The sword spirit scoffed in response.

Please. I’m not some barbarian who makes it a point to cause a ruckus. Any reaction from me has always been in response to Her Majesty goading me.”

Link chuckled and shook his head.

“Of course,” he said. “My mistake.”

“Your mistake indeed.”

They slipped into silence as they approached the doors to the throne room. The guard looked at them suspiciously before gesturing for them to wait while he announced their presence. Link silently complied while Ghirahim rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. When the soldier returned and gestured them inside, they looked at each other and nodded. Heads held high, they entered the room for the first time in over a decade to face Zelda, Queen of Hyrule.

Link’s first instinct was to take a knee and bow to the Queen, but a stern glance from Ghirahim kept him on his feet.

Instead, he removed his helmet and tucked it under his arm before speaking: “You wished to see me, Your Majesty?”

Zelda eyed him calculatedly.

After a moment of taking in the two men, she said, “Link. Time has been kind to you.”

Indeed, Link had grown in his own attractiveness. He was taller—to Ghirahim’s shoulder in height, which was no small feat—and his hair had lengthened to his shoulder blades, which he kept tied back in a loose ponytail. His face was always clean-shaven, and he no longer held any reservations about his injured eye; he kept it free of any patches, its milky blankness on full display along with the prominent scar that streaked across the right side of his face. He had always possessed a semblance of grace as a young man, but now he stood with poise befitting nobility. He was, at the very least, striking. He himself couldn’t see it, but he was fully aware of what others thought of him in that regard.

“You are most kind, Your Majesty,” he replied. “As it has been to you, as befitting a queen and descendant of the Goddess of Time.”

The years truly had been kind to her; her beauty had matured and granted her a radiance that smoldered like a fire that kept the darkness at bay. She was resplendent, but that came as no surprise considering that the blood of Divine Hylia coursed through her veins.

Zelda’s cold eyes focused on Ghirahim, who quietly snorted as she looked at him.

“You haven’t changed at all, demon,” she stated.

“I reached perfection eons ago,” the demon lord retorted. “So of course I haven’t changed, save for the unfortunate marring of my face thanks to you. Fortunately, my beauty still captivates all eyes despite it, so I suppose for today I can let bygones be bygones.”

“Apparently your arrogance hasn’t changed, either. No matter. My business is not with you.” The Queen directed her attention back to Link. “I pray that you will accept my request, Link. Please listen carefully.”

Link nodded.

Zelda continued, “An assembly of Gerudo warriors recently came to the castle to inform me of what they deemed to be suspicious activity in the desert. Their leader, Nabooru—ah, never mind. You know who she is, but I digress. Nabooru sent word from the Spirit Temple that she suspected several intruders had infiltrated the temple and had stolen several valuable relics.”

Ghirahim snorted.

“Oh, so you’re sending us on a treasure hunt for the Gerudo? Quaint, but not quite the task requiring Hyrule’s best swordsman, don’t you think?”

“If you would let me finish,” Zelda snapped. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she resumed, “Apparently, twenty years ago, there was a group of defectors from the Gerudo, who devoted themselves to Ganondorf. They were cast out of Gerudo Fortress and exiled to wander the sands. The Gerudo assumed there would be nothing to worry about, as seemed to be the case these past two decades, but rumors have surfaced that these same defectors have suddenly become active. Their alleged goal is to bring back Ganondorf. The Gerudo suspect that the traitors have somehow found the Arbiter’s Grounds and have set up headquarters near it. Nabooru is confident that the intruders in the Spirit Temple were the defectors, and that they were searching for items that could potentially bring Ganondorf back from his prison.”

Link furrowed his eyebrows as he processed this information.

“…They mean to find the Mirror of Twilight,” he mused.

Zelda’s eyes narrowed.

“How do you know about the Mirror?” she demanded. “That is to be a closely guarded secret of the Royal Family!”

“You’d be surprised what slips through the cracks,” the swordsman replied. He definitely wasn’t going to tell her about Ghirahim’s secret infiltration of the Royal Archives. “You learn many things the more you travel, Your Majesty.”

The Queen frowned, her eyes darting to Ghirahim with distrust before looking back at Link.

“No matter,” she said. “I’ve called you here to request that you find these wicked followers of Ganondorf’s and return the treasure they stole to the Spirit Temple. I ask that you do not engage in combat unless absolutely necessary. Rather, I would like you to return here once the task is complete with the location of their hideout. You will be greatly rewarded for your efforts.”

She nodded at a nearby guard, who in turn tossed Link a pouch. The swordsman peered inside and was surprised to see five silver rupees within.

“There will be more upon successful completion of this mission,” Zelda stated. “Is that satisfactory, swordsman?”

Link pocketed the money and nodded.

“A generous offer, Your Majesty,” he answered. “I accept.”

Zelda’s expression softened, and a slight smile graced her lips.

“Despite our…strain, I knew I could depend upon you. Thank you, Link.”

The swordsman blinked in bewilderment before bowing his head respectfully.

“Thank you, Queen Zelda. I will set out at first morning’s light. I would leave immediately, but twilight is nearly upon us and the canyon is treacherous to navigate at night.”

“I understand. Rest for the night so that your strength will be at its peak tomorrow. You’re dismissed.”

Link bowed (while Ghirahim begrudgingly nodded to her) before turning to exit the room. Once they were outside the castle walls, the swordsman sighed.

“I…have no idea how to get to the Arbiter’s Grounds,” he confessed. “I can navigate the canyon in the dark no problem, but I don’t have a clue which way to go, and there’s no point asking the Gerudo since the Grounds’ location is elusive to everyone except a select few. I’ll need to research.”

Ghirahim snorted in amusement and smirked.

“Too prideful to ask the Queen for directions, I see. Fortunately, you stand in the presence of another who knows the way.”

Link’s eyes widened before an excited grin spread across his face.

“Seriously?! Ah, but I’m not surprised. I can always count on you~”

“Hm~ Were you expecting anything less of me?”

“Of course not, oh great Lord Ghirahim.”

“Good, because I would be insulted otherwise.”

The two men laughed as they headed back into Castle Town.

“So, will we have to go through the Haunted Wasteland?” Link asked.

“No. The Arbiter’s Grounds are south of the Spirit Temple, where the desert stretches close to Lake Hylia. Technically we can go through the Haunted Wasteland and waste time, but there’s a faster way going through the lake. We can either scale the eastern cliffside surrounding the lake, or we can attempt to find whatever secret path the executioners take when they drag the most atrocious of criminals to their doom.”

“Can’t we just…oh, you know…teleport up the cliff?”

Ghirahim smirked and flipped his hair.

“What fun would that be?” he questioned. “I already make traveling a bit too easy for you. You need some challenge in your life.”

Link huffed and rolled his eyes.

“How about a compromise, then? We travel normally to Lake Hylia, you snap us atop the cliff, and then we’ll walk the rest of the way through the desert. I think that sounds fair.”

“I suppose that is a fair bargain,” the demon lord said with a shrug. “Though you realize I’m merely teasing, yes? Or did you believe I was serious?”

The golden-haired swordsman snorted and punched the demon in the shoulder, who in turn laughed heartily at the gesture.

“Jerk!” Link exclaimed, unable to contain his own laughter. “It didn’t seem like it!”

“Ah, but I still made you laugh~ That’s all that matters~”

Link rolled his eyes and smiled.

“Sometimes that’s exactly what I need. Thanks, Ghira.”

Ghirahim returned his friend’s smile and nodded.

“Anyway,” he said after a moment. “We shall travel quickly if you prefer, or we can proceed with your compromise if you wish. Regardless, we will save valuable time.”

“I think I need to do some reconnaissance in that part of the desert, especially if we’re looking for a hideout. If you just teleported us to the top of the cliff you mentioned, I can take it from there. To save more time, what say you to splitting up for a bit? You’re able to investigate much faster, so I’m not opposed to you going ahead.”

The sword spirit considered the proposition.

“…To be quite honest, I’m not entirely comfortable leaving you alone in a new area with a potential threat lurking about. That said, you’re perfectly capable at adapting to your environment and handling yourself. What would you prefer to do?”

The former hero smiled.

“I think you know exactly what I prefer to do,” he asserted.

Ghirahim sighed, but returned the swordsman’s smile nonetheless.

“I’ll be as quick as the wind in my investigation, then.”

“I know I can always depend on you, old friend. Thank you…”

The demon lord studied Link for a moment, finding himself reminiscing about the first time they met. The boy had grown into a fine man. Never in ten thousand years would he have ever anticipated befriending the reincarnation of his former adversary, but that special quality in this Link continued to shine just as brightly now as it did twenty years ago: his benign innocence. Despite the years of pain and suffering, that light in the former hero’s eyes never went out; it was inextinguishable. Because of Link’s never-waning faith in him, Ghirahim truly felt invincible.

“You are…such a sentimental fool,” he teased. “Some things never change~”

Despite himself, Link pouted.

“Well excuse me for expressing myself,” he grumbled, crossing his arms and glancing elsewhere.

Ghirahim chuckled and lightly bumped his shoulder. Link looked at him.

“You know I only jest. I’m a bit of a sentimental fool myself.”

The former hero chuckled and nodded.

“I know, I know. At least you admit it~ Anyway, should we go now? Night will provide us with more cover. The darkness and frigid temperature drop can be used to our advantage.”

“Excellent point,” the demon lord agreed. “However, you woke up several hours before dawn today. If we were to go now and expend all that energy, you’d surely collapse face-first in a sand dune. I recommend we gather supplies tonight and rest until tomorrow evening. That way you will be fully alert and have plenty of energy to spare throughout the night.”

“…Fair point. I like that idea. We’ll do that, then.”

“Good. Now then, what all do we need aside from the usual assortment of equipment?”

Link pondered the question before answering, “Let me think on it. Do you think you can draw us up a map so I have a better understanding of the area? Do the texts you’ve studied have one?”

Ghirahim nodded and replied, “I can make us a map. The descriptions in the texts aren’t precise, but I can come up with something relatively useful. It will take time, however.”

“Of course. In the meantime, I’ll hurry and stock up on supplies before the shops close. I might even stop by the ranch to update Malon and ask her to watch Epona for me.”

“Solid thinking. We shall rendezvous at the house.”

Link nodded in affirmation, then Ghirahim snapped away. The former hero hurried along and stopped at several shops for basic supplies: arrows, potions, bombs, water, whatever else seemed necessary for a trip to the desert. Satisfied with his purchases, he ran outside the town gates just in time before the drawbridge was raised. He took a moment to catch his breath before mounting Epona—who had been patiently waiting for him—and spurring her in the direction of Lon Lon Ranch.

As he rode, his mind replayed the interaction with Zelda. He couldn’t deny that it was nice seeing her again, even if it was a semi-formal meeting. Her moment of softness stuck with him; the old Zelda—his friend— was still in there. His heart ached for the loss of her trust. To an extent, he did regret cutting her off completely, yet he would never regret choosing to stand with Ghirahim over the then-princess. Zelda had been a cherished friend, but Ghirahim was invaluable— irreplaceable . Time and time again Ghirahim demonstrated that he was not what Zelda accused him of being ( anymore , sure), but she could never except it; she couldn’t see beyond her absolute loathing for the demon lord and refused to relent. It was tragic, really.

Yet there was also the issue of refusing to recognize Link officially as the Hero of Time. It was a ten year old offense, but it still hurt . Even though he had made a name for himself as a swordsman-for-hire, it just wasn’t the same. Even twenty years later, he still harbored the same regrets and more. He was as content as he could be with what he had, yet the hole in his soul remained. At this point, after everything, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to truly mend it. Sometimes he felt as if he was still a child, wandering forlornly through Termina with a heart burdened by loss.

Link pushed away those thoughts as he rode through the ranch gate. The sun hadn’t quite set yet, which meant that Malon was most likely still working. Chuckling softly, he dismounted Epona and headed into the stables. Sure enough, Malon was hard at work tending to the horses before she ended her day.

“You look like you could use a break,” the swordsman called with a grin.

Malon jumped.

Link!” she exclaimed, clutching at her chest. “You nearly gave me a heart attack, sneaking in here like that!”

“I’d tell you I’m sorry, but I’m not~”

Typical. Anyway, I’m almost done in here. Care to give me a hand?”

Link nodded and automatically knew what to do; his time spent helping out as a volunteer (voluntold) ranch hand helped him memorize Malon’s preferred routine.

“So, what brings you around?” Malon asked after they finished. “It’s good to see you.”

Link smiled.

“Good to see you, too. I mostly came to ask if you’d take care of Epona for me for a couple days. The Queen hired me for a pretty big job, and it’s in an area I can’t take Epona.”

The ranch owner furrowed her eyebrows in concern.

“Of course I can watch her, but what kind of job is it?”

“Classified, I’m afraid. Sorry…”

“Suuure. Well, is that all, then?”

The former hero chuckled.

“Not a chance. Do you have some time to chat?”

“I always have time,” Malon replied with a smile. “Here, come inside. I’ll get us some mead.”

“Fabulous~”

Malon snorted a laugh.

“Thought so, Ghirahim.”

“Ah…” Link began to laugh. “Guess when you live with someone long enough, you kinda sync…”

“‘Kinda?’ Link, you two are basically a hyper-synchronized unit. I swear, if one of you lost the other, neither of you would know how to function anymore.”

Well, you’re not wrong,’ Link thought.

“Hey, cut us—me—some slack!” he said instead.

Malon laughed again.

“I’ll consider it~” she said. “Speaking of, where is Ghirahim, anyway?”

“He’s at the house making us a map. I told him I’d be here, so he knows where I am.”

“He’d probably set fire to Hyrule Field if he couldn’t find you.”

“Hey, not right away. Only if he knew I was hurt and couldn’t find me.”

“…I can’t tell if you’re joking or if you’re serious.”

“Yes.”

They laughed and entered the house. Link made himself comfortable at the table as Malon moved to grab a bottle of honey mead. They enjoyed each other’s company and engaged in comfortable conversation, discussing anything and everything that came to mind. The hours ticked by, and one bottle of mead turned into three. Link found himself loosening his collar from the heat, and he tried to focus on whatever Malon was saying—which was difficult to do when his head was hazy. He noticed her gaze kept wandering to his lips, and he found himself returning the gesture despite his lack of interest.

…She was beautiful, though…

“Link…” Malon slurred, placing her hand on the swordsman’s arm. “I… Can I tell you something…?”

Link knew exactly where this was going. In his inebriated state, however, he didn’t mind as much as he normally would.

“Of course,” he said, placing his hand over hers. “Anything…”

“I…” She hesitated because she knew the truth, but the mead emboldened her. “…I…”

“Say it…” the former hero murmured, leaning closer to her. “Tell me something good to numb the pain…”

If it wasn’t the mead, it was the pain in his eyes that forced Malon to take the leap.

“I love you.”

That was enough for Link to cease thinking. In a shocking turn, he kissed her. Malon squeaked in surprise when their lips met, but she too allowed herself to stop thinking; she reciprocated. Her heart nearly leapt out of her chest. Kissing Link was everything she had ever dreamed of—even if it was in the heat of the moment. Even though she had a feeling nothing more would come of this night, she decided she would enjoy the fleeting fantasy with the man she knew she could never have. What made him kiss her, she had no idea, but if it was what Link wanted, then she wouldn’t suppress her own desire for it.

Link didn’t understand what possessed him to kiss her, but right now he didn’t care; her lips were soft and warm, and he was flattered by her confession. He would deal with the aftermath later and accept the consequences. He would take full responsibility, but right now he would go with the motions. The mead’s hold on him was too powerful, and the sensation of kissing Malon gave him a twisted sense of relief. It wasn’t because he returned her feelings, and it certainly wasn’t because she was a beautiful woman; it was more that she provided solace free from horrors that he (and Ghirahim) had experienced. She had a certain sweetness about her that consoled part of his cracked heart, and he desperately needed that.

Neither of them were sure how it happened, but they had moved upstairs to Malon’s bedroom. Their kiss had turned passionate, and the heat became unbearable. Next thing they knew, they found themselves entangled on the bed in drunken fervor. Everything after that was a blur, and they fell asleep in the afterglow.

Link awoke several hours later in the early morning hours. His head pounded, and his throat was parched. Water was the only thing on his bleary mind as he moved to crawl out of bed. He was confused; this wasn’t his room. An unfamiliar warmth next to him stopped him in his tracks. A sudden dread washed over him, and it took every ounce of strength within him not to panic.

Even in his fuzzy, hungover state he thought, ‘What have I done…?!’

The last thing he ever wanted to do was take advantage of Malon. Had he instigated? Had he lied to her? He just couldn’t recall… All he knew was that honey mead was involved, and now they were naked in Malon’s bed. He felt sick.

Biting back bile, he scrambled out of bed and hurriedly threw on his clothes. He scribbled a quick apology note and left it on her table, then he ran outside and jumped onto Epona’s saddle. He rode as fast as he could back to his house, the shame and guilt gnawing at him incessantly. Tears streamed down his cheeks; how would he ever face her again? What would Ghirahim think? What would, what if, what now ? So many questions ran through his head that he couldn’t answer. All he knew was that he royally screwed up.

The darkness of the night seemed to mock him, as clouds shrouded the night sky. The smell of rain wafted through the air, making the night reflect how the swordsman felt: dismal . He felt so ashamed. This was yet another regret to add to his ever-growing list, and at this point it felt as if he would never find inner peace. Why did these unfortunate events always happen to him? For this one he blamed himself entirely, but there were so many other situations out of his control that he couldn’t help but wonder if he truly was cursed. A bizarre, unwelcome thought suddenly came to mind: was all of this misfortune an unintended side-effect of Ghirahim’s ancient curse? He had cursed the Hero of the Sky with malicious intentions; there was no way he knew he’d end up becoming the partner of that very Hero’s reincarnation. Could there have been more to it than simply returning when Link was at his loneliest?

‘No,’ he thought sternly. ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Link. This time everything was your fault, and you must take responsibility.’

That firm burst of logic calmed him, if only slightly. Ghirahim couldn’t manipulate fate. He was a demon—a sword spirit—originally meant to serve, not a god or a demigod. Future events were entirely beyond his control. He didn’t even know when—or even if— his curse would ever take effect; it could have happened at any time. More shame gripped the swordsman’s heart. How could he ever consider blaming Ghirahim for his misfortune? He really was the worst…

The house soon came into view. With a heavy heart, Link dismounted Epona and quietly entered. He was surprised to see Ghirahim slumped over his desk, asleep in his chair. Had he been waiting for him to return? Guilt overwhelmed him as he carefully approached the demon lord.

“Ghirahim?” he murmured, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“…Where have you been?” came the gruff, sleep-heavy response.

Link swallowed the lump in his throat.

“I…it’s…”

Ghirahim sat up and turned around to face him. His charcoal eyes narrowed.

“You reek of alcohol and sex,” he hissed, expression twisting into one of fury. “Is that what you went to the ranch for? Is that why you sent me home to ‘make a map?!’”

“N-no, not at all, I—!” Link didn’t know what to say. He wanted to defend himself, but he didn’t know how. “I…I made a terrible mistake…”

Clearly.”

“It’s not what you think!”

“Then by all means, enlighten me.”

Link bit his lip and hung his head, too ashamed to look the demon lord in the eyes. He could feel Ghirahim’s eyes burning into him and could sense that he was losing patience.

Trying to hide the slight tremor in his voice, the former hero muttered, “I…don’t know…what came over me… One minute we’re drinking mead and chatting, the next we… Farore!!”

The sword spirit observed him coldly, though not unsympathetically. He hated seeing Link so upset, but he would not move a muscle to console him until he knew exactly what happened. He couldn’t help but feel betrayed; he had been waiting hours for the former hero to return home so that they could prepare for their mission. The hours had ticked by and he had grown restless. The only reason he hadn’t gone out searching for the golden-haired man was because he didn’t sense that he was in any danger. He also understood that sometimes one could end up getting dragged into prolonged situations, be it in conversation or otherwise, and decided to give Link the benefit of the doubt. Had he known his companion would have indulged in such carnal behavior earlier, he would have barged over to Lon Lon Ranch and yanked him out of there himself—both for his sanity and Link’s own benefit. Clearly Link was wishing that had been the case from the look on his face.

“…I don’t remember the details…” Link admitted. “I just remember drinking way too much and my mind going hazy… I know logically I didn’t want it to come to this, but in that moment I remember feeling somber… Earlier I had realized how unfortunate it was to lose Zelda as a friend, but that led to me dwelling on past wounds… I think I was seeking some sort of solace, and in my drunken desperation I took advantage of Malon’s feelings for me…”

The tears began to fall once again. Link turned his head away, weakly attempting to hide behind his hair, though he knew it was futile; Ghirahim would know he was crying even if he wasn’t standing right in front of him. He heard the demon sigh—a sigh mixed of frustration and disappointment.

“You blundering idiot,” the spirit grumbled. “Honestly, I should let you wallow in your own self-pity and force you to bear the burden of your stupidity alone. However.”

Link couldn’t help but steal a glance at his friend, unable to stop the twinge of hope in his chest. Ghirahim sighed again, only this time it signaled that he relented.

“…Come here, you child,” he muttered, extending his arms.

The former hero released a sob as he dejectedly trudged into the taller man’s embrace. It was embarrassing to be crying like a child and needing comfort at his age, but he just couldn’t bring himself to refrain from doing so; not around Ghirahim. The demon lord soothingly rubbed his back and sighed once more.

“No matter how absolutely furious I am with you, I can’t stay that way. Not when your remorse is so painfully obvious. Yet I’m at a loss. For twenty years I have tried to heal your wounded heart, but it appears I’ve never been able to make progress. Progress that’s meaningful, anyway.”

Link shook his head frantically.

“That’s not true!” he rebutted. “You’ve done more for me than anyone else ever has or even could. I’m aware that I have a tendency to slip into bouts of melancholia, but I assure you… I assure you, I would be lost entirely without you here… You’ve always been a boon for me, especially when I needed it most… I’m…happy with you here. I mean that. You are the only person who is capable of truly making me happy, and I regret hurting you more than anything…”

“And yet you still ended up in Malon’s bed. I thought you were uninterested.”

Link pulled away from the demon and wiped his eyes.

“I am,” he said firmly. “If you felt how ill I feel, you’d understand that I wish I still had the ability to manipulate time so I might go back several hours and stop myself from making such a devastating mistake. I don’t know what came over me…”

Ghirahim flipped his hair.

“Hmph. You’re a human. It’s easy for you to succumb to primal urges, even if on the conscious level you want to resist. Either way, what’s done is done.”

“…I’m so sorry…”

“I suppose I can find it in my heart to forgive you and accept your apology. Consider yourself lucky.”

The swordsman couldn’t help but smile.

“If I had a rupee for every time you said that, I’d be richer than the Royal Family. It seems like you have a lot of room in your heart to forgive me and accept my apologies. That, or you’re terrible at following through on your threats. Oh, wait…”

The demon lord scoffed and crossed his arms.

Cheeky! Every time! You truly are insufferable! How we’ve lasted this long together truly baffles me!”

Link chuckled softly, appreciating the moment of normalcy. Ghirahim cracked a smile in response, albeit a halfhearted one.

“I’m sorry, Ghirahim…” the former hero said again. “I know I hurt you—again… I’ll never forgive myself for that…”

The demon lord nodded.

“You should be sorry. Again. However, as I already said, I forgive you. Again. And so long as I know your intentions were not to slight me, I’ll keep forgiving you—again and again, because you are more than your mistakes. I’m quite frustrated right now, but…I recognize your guilt. I know your pain, and…you know I would do anything to rid you of your burdens.”

Link’s heart broke with those words, for he knew they were true. Ghirahim had always done everything in his power to quell his pain—and he often succeeded, though some times better than others. He was always there when Link needed him (and even when he didn’t) without fail. Link hated himself for taking the spirit for granted; he would never do so again. Even so, Ghirahim was probably the only person he could completely rely on now that he messed everything up with Malon.

‘…She’s going to hate me after this,’ he dejectedly thought. Dammit! Why did I let myself do this?! The last thing I ever wanted was to hurt anyone… Especially the people I care about most…’

“You look like a kicked dog,” Ghirahim remarked. “Here, sit down. I’ll make us some tea.”

“Don’t trouble yourself… I think I’m just going to go to bed.”

The sword spirit scoffed.

“Nonsense. You won’t relax, your mind will wander, and you’ll never fall asleep at a decent hour. You’re drinking a cup of tea at the very least.”

“Honestly, I’m surprised you’re even doing this much for me.”

“How asinine. You think I would just up and leave, or ignore you? I learnt my lesson years ago, so don’t even try to suggest otherwise. What, would you prefer I slap you? No thanks. Although you would deserve it.”

Link sighed and slumped into Ghirahim’s chair.

“True,” he said. “…You know that I—”

“Of course I do,” Ghirahim answered, cutting him off. “There is no need for you to keep engaging in self-sabotage. I know full well how you feel.” He paused to glance out the window before continuing, “…And you know how I feel as well. That will never change. So I implore you, cease dwelling on your doubts.”

Link swallowed the lump in his throat and hung his head. Truly he did not deserve the demon lord…

“I’m…still so, so sorry…” he whispered.

“It’s not me you should be repeatedly apologizing to.”

“I know… Malon…I’ll face her when we complete the job Zelda assigned to us.”

“Good idea. Now, tea.”

With that, Ghirahim walked into the kitchen. Link sighed and rested back in the chair, his gaze wandering to his bedroom. Staring back at him were the twenty-three masks of his collection. Without the Fierce Deity’s Mask the collection felt incomplete, but it was for the best. The lingering effects from ever donning the wicked thing still plagued him. Even after destroying the mask years ago, its dark powers still held sway over the former hero—particularly in moments of great stress. Even now he felt the darkness roiling within, urging him to commit unspeakable atrocities to quell his despair (despite the fact that doing would would only make said despair worse). In such moments, he looked to the rest of his collection and focused on the light and hope each one represented—especially the Deku, Goron, and Zora masks.

…He let all of them down tonight…

He let so many people down, whether they were aware of it or not. Even though he was no longer a hero or a knight, he did his best to be a beacon of hope and light. His heart was tainted, of this he was fully aware, but he still did his best to continue carrying out the expectations of the hero he once was. How could he possibly call himself anything worthwhile after all of this? There was evil in his heart, and now it—

The cool sensation of Ghirahim’s hands on both his cheeks snapped Link from his thoughts.

Stop,” the demon commanded, staring firmly into the swordsman’s tear-filled eyes. “…Stop…”

Link’s throat tightened, the burning sensation becoming nearly unbearable. His eyes stung from the tears, and his lips quivered as he stared back into the sword spirit’s charcoal eyes. He suddenly began to sob violently. He squeezed his eyes shut, but that did not prevent the tears from cascading down his cheeks and onto Ghirahim’s fingers. Still, the demon lord kept his hands firmly in place and allowed the swordsman to lament. With a quiet sigh, he gingerly pressed his forehead against his friend’s and closed his eyes, listening to his wails of regret.

As much as Link wanted to throw his arms around the demon lord and hug him— gods did he desperately need a hug—he hesitated. Instead, he clenched his fists over his lap, although he made no motion to pull away from the white-haired man. He didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve this . It was humiliating being in his third decade of life and sitting there weeping like a small child, but what else could he do? It was the only thing he knew how to do in this situation, and Ghirahim accepted it all without judgment.

“Don’t you dare go on with that ‘I don’t deserve this’ nonsense,” Ghirahim muttered, keeping his hands and forehead securely in place. “I know what you’re thinking, and it’s simply untrue. We all make stupid mistakes sometimes. I know you feel as if the world is crashing down around you, but I assure you it is not. This is nothing you cannot handle, hm? I’ve witnessed you handle much worse.”

“Th-this is different…” Link rasped. “This time…I have shamed not only myself, but one of my dearest friends as well…”

The corner of Ghirahim’s lips twitched ever so slightly, unable to help himself.

“You’ve shamed me how many times over the past twenty years? And yet here I am, still here.”

“A-ah…not helping!” the former hero exclaimed, unable to contain the wet chuckle that escaped him as he pulled away from the demon. “Jerk…”

Ghirahim’s eyes softened and he chuckled.

“There, now that’s much better. I much prefer your laugh, even if it is rather weak. Though I suppose the reason for that is acceptable in this case.”

“Fool…” Link replied, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

The demon lord shrugged casually.

“Perhaps. But I still got you to laugh regardless~ Which, of course, proves my point: you will get through this, and you will be just fine. That shame will always linger within you, but you will learn to not let it control you—as you always have with such emotions.”

He locked eyes yet again with the former hero and cracked a small smile.

“You will complete the job Zelda is paying you to do, then you will sit down to talk with Malon and accept responsibility like the honorable man you are. Then, regardless of the outcome, you and I will return here and take a well-deserved break. My point being to all this is that yes, there is a very real possibility that Malon may never want to see you again, but I feel you are discrediting her far too much. Even if she regrets this night as much as you do, I believe she will still want to be a part of your life. She may need time to heal, but knowing her, she too will still be here. You taught me that lesson, and now I remind you of it in your time of need.”

Link still felt reprehensible, but the cloud of wretchedness was slowly beginning to lift. It would take some time—a long time—for him to truly move beyond his remorse, but he was going to try regardless; Ghirahim had a point, after all.

And for that he was more than grateful.

“…What would I ever do without you, Ghirahim?” he asked quietly.

Ghirahim shrugged again, a smirk spreading across his lips.

“Mm, well, you’d be an absolute mess. …Well, more than you already are. You’d be completely lost and a shell of a man wallowing in self-pity. Probably a recluse, wasting away to nothing. Pathetic, really.”

“Wha—rude!!” Link gasped, his hand automatically gripping at his chest in outrage. “Here I am, trying to have a serious moment with you, and you ruin it. Again. You always do this!”

The tiny hint of a chuckle at the end of his sentence caused the sword spirit’s smirk to broaden.

“You asked what you would do without me, and I’m merely being honest~” he teased. “I’ve never lied to you, and I won’t start now. Not that I blame you. Being this talented, beautiful, and generous is quite exhausting, so I hope you appreciate how much I do for you~”

“Oh, shut up, you blowhard,” the former hero said with a snort. “…But seriously, I really do appreciate everything you do. Only you can turn a situation like this on its head and make me laugh when I’m at my lowest. Truly, thank you, Ghira…”

Ghirahim sighed and smiled.

“As I said, it was something you taught me. If you hadn’t taken the time to have the Gilded Sword forged all those years ago, I never would have known of anything beyond vengeance and spite. So as I have told you many, many times, I will always be here. …Even well after your bones have turned to dust—”

“—and the world has all but forgotten your name,” Link interrupted, remembering the promise well.

Ghirahim chuckled and finished, “I will still be there for you.”

The former hero smiled, the grief momentarily melting away.

“And I you, my friend. Always.”

They stared at each other for a long while before Link stood up and extended his arms; he still really needed that hug. The demon lord chuckled and complied.

“Some things just never change,” Ghirahim said, not moving to pull away. “Truthfully, I’m quite glad about that.”

“Yeah…” Link agreed. “Even when I’m old and grey, it’s still gonna be this way.”

“As it should. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me.”

“Ghirahim, I’ve been stuck with you for twenty years. What’s another thirty or forty, honestly? If we haven’t killed each other by now, then we never will. Although I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve been tempted~”

“Oh, shut up and drink your damn tea before I force it down your throat myself. Insufferable brat.”

And just like that, Link laughed—a genuine, joyful laugh. The sound elated Ghirahim, and he ended up laughing as well. They smiled at each other before Link sat back down and picked up his cup of tea.

“…You know, I think I could really go for a bottle of milk, actually…” the former hero said, taking a sip. “Milk sounds great right about now.”

The demon lord gaped, outraged.

“I made you tea!” he cried. “And you will drink said tea and like it! There’s already milk in there, you petulant child!”

Link laughed again, wholeheartedly and loud. He laughed so hard that tears of mirth trickled down his cheeks and his sides hurt. Ghirahim scoffed, but eventually joined in on the merriment. They laughed together for a long moment before Link chuckled and wiped his eyes. It was amazing how much better he felt after a good laugh; he felt like he just added several years to his life. He smiled at Ghirahim, who returned it.

“I needed that,” the swordsman stated.

“Yes, I know,” the sword spirit replied. “I believe I did, too.”

“I still want a bottle of milk.”

“Then get it yourself! You’re a grown man, it should be a simple task—even with your limited mental capacity.”

Hey! Wow, rude. I have half a mind to dump this tea.”

“By all means, be my guest, but don’t expect any further random acts of kindness from me.”

“You? Kind? Never.”

“How insensitive.”

The two men squinted at each other before they both chuckled. Link smiled and resumed sipping his tea. He still felt awful about the situation, but now he was motivated to set things right—or at least own up to his mistakes. The world no longer felt like it was crashing down around him, for he knew Ghirahim was right: he could handle this, he would overcome, and he had indeed dealt with worse situations. All he needed to do was complete the job Zelda hired him for, then he could get his life back on track. Everything would work itself out.

The duo sat in comfortable silence and finished their tea. Now that everything had settled down, the fatigue began to kick in. Try as he might, Link couldn’t continue to keep his eyes open. His head lulled to the side, and soon he found himself drifting. He was on the verge of completely succumbing to sweet slumber when he felt himself being lifted from the chair. He attempted to open his eyes and insist that he could take himself to bed, but he was just too tired. He allowed Ghirahim to carry him (but he would never admit that he appreciated it, as he’d never hear the embarrassing end of it).

“You need a bath,” the demon lord grumbled. “But I suppose that will have to wait until you wake. Until then, I suppose I have no other choice than to tolerate your stench.”

The former hero smirked and mumbled, “You just don’t appreciate funk.”

“Farore help me, I’m this close to throwing you in the tub just to spite you.”

Instead, he dropped the golden-haired swordsman onto his bed. A small “oof” of surprised escaped him, but Link immediately snuggled into the comfortable safety of his own bed. He was asleep before he could feel Ghirahim drape a blanket over him. The demon lord watched him for a moment before sighing and heading to his own room.

“What a mess,” he muttered.

He was utterly frustrated with all of this, even if they had previously shared a good laugh. The important thing was that Link was in fact feeling a little better and confident in himself to address the problem, but it was still a weighty issue. Not only would Malon be upset—or worse— but the hurt Ghirahim himself felt would also need time to heal. He just couldn’t understand what possessed Link to sink to such a low point. The former hero always confided in the sword spirit, and together they worked out any issues to the best of their ability. Knowing that Link gave in to his sorrow and resorted to base human coping mechanisms tore the demon’s heart apart. Was he no longer effective in providing Link with the solace he needed? Or was there more to the swordsman’s feelings toward Malon than he let on?

No, that wasn’t it…

“There’s no point in dwelling on this nonsense,” Ghirahim scolded himself. “What’s done is done.”

Link was entirely devastated over this series of events. Whatever happened, it was as Ghirahim said earlier: a stupid mistake. Maybe it was the heat of the moment, maybe Link felt guilty he was unable to return Malon’s feelings; he didn’t know, and he knew there was no point in caring. All that mattered now was helping the former hero overcome his grief and ensuring that mistakes of this calibre never happened again. For all his own hurt and frustration, he cared more about Link’s discontent and quelling it.

“Funny how that works,” he mused, slipping into bed. “I suppose twenty years looking after such a walking disaster would make anyone soft.”

Ghirahim chuckled to himself and closed his eyes.

And I’ll always pride myself on being the only one who can truly bring him equanimity. Only Link can set everything right, but only I can offer the support he needs. We shall overcome this setback…together.’

With that thought in mind, the demon lord allowed himself to finally rest. Tomorrow would be a rather tedious day, after all.

Chapter Text

When Link awoke, it was mid-afternoon. Yawning loudly, he forced himself to sit up. He glanced over at his nightstand and noticed a bottle of milk sitting atop it. A fond smile graced his lips, and he leaned over to grab it. As he guzzled the precious elixir of life, the events of the previous day came rushing back to him. Once again the remorse overcame him, but he refused to succumb to it again. Instead, he stood up and stretched his sleepy limbs before making his way to the kitchen. He noticed that Ghirahim’s bedroom door was shut, which was peculiar; the demon lord rarely closed his door. It was a little unsettling…

Shaking away any paranoid thoughts, Link set to work brewing tea. He cut himself a couple slices of bread and cheese, then did the same for Ghirahim. Once the tea had steeped long enough, the swordsman prepared the perfect cup for his companion’s taste: a small splash of milk and a minuscule sprinkling of sugar. Satisfied with his work, he approached Ghirahim’s door and knocked.

“Ghira?” he called. “I’m going to take a bath, but I made you some tea and lunch if you want it. I’ll leave it on your desk.”

The only response he received was silence. This unnerved him.

“Ghirahim?” he called again. “…I’m opening the door.”

Peering inside, he saw that Ghirahim was not in fact there. Link sighed and shook his head. He figured the sword spirit was out getting supplies before evening came, but he would have appreciated a note letting him know. With a sigh, he set the tea and bread on Ghirahim’s desk and made his way to the wash room.

Heating the water seemed to take longer than usual, but eventually the swordsman was able to enjoy soaking in a tub full of hot water. It soothed his aching muscles and calmed his racing mind. Thanks to Ghirahim, he was feeling confident to sit down and talk with Malon about their…tryst. He was ready to apologize and explain how he truly felt: he just didn’t— couldn’t , even if he wanted—feel the same. He simply wasn’t interested, nor was he in any other. Perhaps he was just meant to live out his life alone.

Well, not alone . He had Ghirahim.

Still, he needed to be entirely honest with Malon, and he would be. He wanted to go now , but time was not on his side; he needed to complete the job Zelda hired him for first.

…Zelda…

He needed to talk to her, too. Ten years of avoiding the now-queen was a long time, and he knew she was—deep down—feeling the same as him: they were still friends, and there was still hope to regain what was lost between them. Perhaps after the successful completion of his mission against Ganondorf’s followers, Zelda would finally see that Ghirahim wasn’t what she thought he was.

There was still a chance to make things right with everyone…

The sound of Ghirahim snapping into the house startled him from his thoughts.

“Ah… Excellent timing!” he said, loud enough for the demon to hear. “I left you some lunch on your desk! I think the tea should still be warm!”

“How considerate,” Ghirahim answered, walking toward the bathroom. “I do appreciate that.”

Link chuckled and rested back into the tub.

“Well, I appreciated the bottle of milk.”

The demon lord stopped outside the door; Link could tell he was leaning against the frame.

“Our water skins were abhorrently overused, so you’re aware. I did us the favor of purchasing new ones, in case you were curious as to my previous whereabouts.”

“Mm. I figured you were getting some last-minute supplies. Thank you.”

A moment of silence passed before Ghirahim inquired, “How are you fairing?”

The former hero smiled and replied, “Better. Not one hundred percent, but better. You really helped me out, so I wish to return the favor.”

He could just feel the demon’s brow arch.

“Well, I certainly won’t stop you. Pray tell, what have you in mind?”

The former hero contemplated the question before answering, “You said we’re taking a break after this, right? Well, let’s leave Hyrule and go somewhere else for awhile. Just you and I. I remember how much you enjoyed Hytopia, so we’ll go there. You do so much for me, now it’s my turn to do something for you. …You deserve the world and more, Ghirahim… For all you’ve done for me… I don’t think I do nearly enough for you in return…”

Link didn’t even blink when Ghirahim opened the door and resumed leaning against the threshold. The sword spirit locked eyes with him and held his gaze.

“Forgive me for intruding on your bath,” he said. “but I want you to see my face when I say this: you do enough. You do plenty for me and more, without ever having to ask. You taught me that there was more to my being than simply being a servant—a tool. From you I learnt compassion, and I finally understand that love is not a weakness as I had thought for millennia prior. I’m well aware that I am a creature of darkness and that demonic instinct still pulses violently within me, yet I no longer have a desire to act upon it unless I must, and that is all because of you. You were the salvation I never knew I needed, Link. That is why I would do anything for you and only you. Anyone else is not worth my time.”

Link held the demon lord’s gaze for a bit longer before he reached for his towel and stood up. Ghirahim turned away to give him privacy as he dressed. The former hero walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder, giving it a squeeze.

“…Your tea is probably cold,” he said quietly.

“Mm. Nothing I can’t handle.”

They locked eyes again and stood in silence, enjoying the temporary moment of tranquility. Eventually Link removed his hand and Ghirahim chuckled. They walked together to the living room, where Ghirahim sat at his desk and Link occupied the sofa. The spirit used his magic to reheat his tea and took a sip.

“Perfect,” he praised. “A marvelous cup of tea.”

The former hero grinned.

“Only the best for the best.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere~ But I appreciate that you recognize that I am indeed the best~ By all means, sing my praises~”

Link chuckled before literally starting to sing. Ghirahim froze, mesmerized by the haunting tenor that was the swordsman’s voice. Link rarely sang—he preferred playing instruments—but when he did, time itself seemed to stop so that it too may listen. The former hero reserved his heavenly serenading only for special occasions—the most special; the kind of special that happened maybe once every couple years (maybe twice if they were lucky ). Hearing the golden-haired man sing was the only time Ghirahim ever felt unworthy. Not even a chorus of the Divine could compare; Link’s musical aptitude was a class all its own.

“Lend me your voice,” Link insisted, his good eye alight with that precious hint of innocence that never left.

“Someone’s feeling cheery,” Ghirahim chuckled. “Very well. It will be my honor.”

It was a completely different atmosphere. With Link apparently feeling better about the previous day, the house seemed to be filled with light. As they sang together—a duet of grandeur that would surely bring the gods to their knees with weeping—a palpable sense of hope filled the air. Perhaps everything would be just fine after all. Even if it wasn’t, at least they would still have each other. In the end, that was all that mattered.

When their song ended, the two shared a smile.

“When I said ‘sing,’ I didn’t mean it literally,” Ghirahim said, amused. “Though I certainly won’t complain. It is always a pleasure to hear you, and even more so to accompany you.”

Link chuckled and shook his head.

“My singing’s not that big of a deal…”

“Nonsense! Your humility isn’t doing you any favors.”

“Typical coming from you, Lord Demon of Conceit.”

“Why sell yourself short when you know you possess superior skills, Mister Modest?”

The former hero sighed and chuckled again.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m not gonna try and change your mind.”

“Good, because I won’t~”

“I’m well aware!”

Ghirahim chuckled and finished off his tea, and Link smiled.

“Is there anything else we need to do before we head out?” the swordsman asked.

“As far as I’m aware, everything is in order. Hence, we have a few more hours to rest and strategize,” the demon lord answered.

“May I see the map?”

Ghirahim nodded and passed the piece of paper to him. Link studied it intently.

“The area doesn’t look too daunting,” he commented. “Hopefully this goes relatively quick. It doesn’t look like there are many places to hide.”

“Keep in mind that this map may not be entirely accurate,” Ghirahim cautioned. “I did the best I could with what information was available to me.”

“Mm. Do you suppose they might be hiding in the Arbiter’s Grounds directly?”

The demon sorted and replied, “If they are, they certainly aren’t intelligent. The Grounds are literally a prison. It’s laden with an abundance of traps, in addition to the Sages guarding it. Anyone foolish enough to trespass with the intention of pulling off some futile prison break deserves to perish stupidly.”

Link furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

“Wait, Sages? As in the Six? That’s impossible. Since the timeline was reset and my duty as the Hero of Time wasn’t needed again, the Sages never awakened. That doesn’t make sense…”

Ghirahim nodded.

“I agree that this is rather perplexing. I’m not entirely sure what the texts mean by ‘Sages,’ but if I had to wager a guess, I would say that they are Sage Spirits, made manifest by the combined powers of Sages past. Perhaps when a new generation’s Sages awaken, these Spirits come to them and unlock their powers. In times of dormancy, the Spirits remain as they are and guard the Arbiter’s Grounds because they cannot leave that post unless a new Sage makes their pilgrimage to their designated temple and offer their prayers.”

Link pondered the demon’s logic.

“…That makes sense, I guess,” he said. “It’s a better idea than anything I could come up with, even if it’s still confusing…”

“I’m not saying I’m correct in this regard. The gods are infuriatingly perplexing with their spirit guardians and whatnot. They either don’t know how to properly protect the world and need an endless amount of spirits—which, mind you, can barely do anything productive—or they just like to complicate things for the hell of it. Either way, the Divine are a gaggle of dullards.”

Link snickered.

“How you avoid being smote by their wrath is beyond me,” he teased. “For twenty years you’ve done nothing but blaspheme and mock them.”

“Yes, well. I am a demon.”

“Fair enough.”

The two men chuckled.

“Back to the matter at hand,” the former hero stated. “If I had to guess—going off of the knowledge I have of the Gerudo—these defectors most likely carved out hideouts in the cliffs surrounding the Grounds, then. They’d be close enough to swoop in immediately, but far enough to just be out of sight of anyone looking. Their cache, however… That’s a different story. They’re smart; they wouldn’t keep their stolen relics close to their hideout. They could have buried it anywhere. Alternatively, they could have non-essential items on hand in their hideout while stashing away the more important ones. Keeping the relics separate seems more likely, just in case they were to get caught.”

Ghirahim hummed in agreement.

“That way if they lost the non-essentials, they would have time to relocate the relics of dire importance,” he mused.

“Exactly. Anyone who doesn’t know the purpose of the treasure would assume they retrieved the important stuff right away. Those who are familiar with the Gerudo way, however, know that they would never make anything that easy.”

“Well, then,” the sword spirit said, clapping his hands together. “I suppose that means one of us is searching for the hideout while the other is searching for the cache.”

Link nodded.

“I’ll search for the cache,” he declared. “You’re able to quickly and efficiently navigate small spaces. Once you get the ‘non-essentials’ and make note of the location of their hideout, I’d appreciate your assistance scouring the rest of the desert.”

The demon lord smirked.

“Consider it done.”

Link smiled and nodded his appreciation. The two then slipped into contented silence and spent their remaining hours leisurely. It was such a lovely afternoon; Link regretted that he couldn’t fully enjoy it (especially not until he mended things with Malon). Unfortunately duty called sooner than desired.

“Ready?” the former hero asked, securing his pack.

Ghirahim nodded.

“Quite. Are you?”

“…Ready to get this over with, yes.”

“Then let us make haste so we can indeed get this over with.”

The demon lord then proceeded to place his hand on his companion’s shoulder and snapped.

Link marveled at the new scene before him: a new expanse of desert marred with deep fissures and steep, jagged crags. The sun had dipped below the cliffs, casting imposing shadows over the sand. Behind him, far below, sat Lake Hylia. All this time and he never knew how far the desert reached until now…

“Alright,” Ghirahim said. “I’ll go locate their hideout. I’ll be as quick as I can. In the meantime, please do keep yourself out of trouble, will you?”

Link snorted, unable to hide his smirk.

“Just for that, I’m going to put myself in a difficult situation just to make you bail me out,” he replied.

“Hmph. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. At least do me the courtesy of waiting until I’m close by. I won’t be able to sense your distress otherwise.”

The golden-haired swordsman chuckled.

“No guarantees, but I’ll do my best.”

This time the sword spirit chuckled and shook his head.

“Well that settles it, then. I’ll be back shortly.”

Link smiled.

“Good luck,” he said.

“I’m not the one in need of luck,” Ghirahim scoffed. “Good luck yourself.”

Both men squinted at each other before snickering. Ghirahim gave Link a pat on the shoulder before teleporting away; Link chuckled to himself before beginning his trek into the desert. A frigid gust nearly toppled him over as he trudged through the sand, but he held his ground. Still, that didn’t stop the former hero from grumbling to himself about how ridiculous desert climates were and that maybe he and Ghirahim should have stuck together after all. But it was too late now; it was already done.

Link made his way closer to the cliffs, figuring that his chances of finding anything would be greater along the walls than out in the open dunes. He searched for any sort of crevice—notably inconspicuous ones just barely big enough for a person to squeezes through—or visible signs of traffic, but didn’t have much luck. He furrowed his eyebrows, trying to broaden his sense of where to look, when he was hit with an idea. He turned his attention to the gaping chasms of the desert floor. Narrowing his good eye in determination, he made his way over to the nearest fissure and peered inside.

Upon first glance it seemed to be bottomless. The former hero attempted to shine his lantern into the abyss, but to no avail. It was the perfect hiding place. A feeling in the pit of his stomach told Link that he was in the right area, and he needed to descend into the shadows. Securing his lantern to his hip, the swordsman lowered himself into the fissure and carefully climbed down. The further he descended, the more anxious he became. He wasn’t fond of being enclosed in a dark hole with no means of easy escape. For all he knew, there was nowhere to hide at the bottom (and there certainly wasn’t a way to hide when dangling from the side of a cliff). If there was an ambush, he’d be a sitting duck, and Ghirahim would have no way of quickly finding him.

Don’t think of such things,’ he mentally chided himself. ‘Focus on what you need to do and do it.’

After what seemed like hours in the dark abyss, Link’s feet made contact with solid ground. Once he was off the wall, he extinguished the flame in his lantern. He stood silently and took a moment to allow his eye to adjust to the darkness, then cautiously proceeded forward. He kept his footsteps as light as possible and listened for any sign of occupancy. Sure enough, the faint crackling of a flame caught his attention, and he crept in its direction. Soon he stumbled upon a narrow opening in the rock that looked as if it had been expanded upon with tools. Link furrowed his eyebrows and peeked inside.

The narrow passage expanded into a vast chamber. From what he could see, there didn’t appear to be anyone inside; but then again, the scope of his vision was limited.

No other choice but to keep going,’ he thought.

Nodding to himself, the swordsman proceeded through the passage. When he emerged into the chamber, he noticed several details: the chamber itself appeared to be a natural formation, but someone had clearly carved out an additional passageway; lanterns mounted to the walls burned dimly, the smoke escaping through a small hole in the ceiling of the chamber; and Gerudo symbols were displayed throughout. Link wasn’t sure if he found the hideout or the location of the cache, but he did know he (obviously) stumbled upon an important base of operations nonetheless. Whatever was here, it was vital to the functionality of the Gerudo defectors. With the utmost caution, he made his way into the next passage.

This one was easier to navigate, as it was basically a large hallway hollowed out of the rock. Although there wasn’t any place to hide, Link did his best to blend in with the shadows along the wall. As he approached the other end, he noticed the shadow of a person pacing along the backmost wall. Frowning, the former hero crouched low and silently drew his bow was he crept closer. When he reached the end of the hall, he carefully peered into the room. A lone Gerudo guard kept watch over a large treasure chest, as well as a table stacked with documents and relics Link had never seen before. That didn’t matter, however; he didn’t need to possess former knowledge of the items to figure out that they were being used in schemes and rituals to bring back the King of Evil.

No matter what, he couldn’t allow that to happen.

Link readied his bow and drew back the string. With deadly precision, he released the arrow and watched as the tip lodged directly into the guard’s throat. She collapsed to the ground, the horrible dying gasps echoing through the chamber as she attempted—in vain—to remove the arrow. Link exhaled quietly and looked away; death was nothing new to him, yet he did not take pleasure witnessing slow, painful ones—no matter how depraved the person.

Once the guard fell silent, the former hero walked over to the table and shoved the relics and documents into his pack (he made a mental note to read them later). He then moved to the chest and opened it, surprised to see a familiar item within: the Silver Gauntlets.

“What in Farore’s name would they need these for?” he muttered.

Not that it really mattered. They were going to be used in a scheme that attempted to bring back Ganondorf; that was all he needed to know.

Narrowing his eyes, Link slipped off his own gauntlets and replaced him with the coveted Silver ones. With that, he turned to hurry back toward the entrance. He allowed himself to relax slightly, but he still kept his guard up.

That…was incredibly lucky,’ he thought. ‘I wonder if Ghirahim is having just as easy of a time?’

He smirked to himself as he reached the cliff face. All he needed was to climb out of the pit, rendezvous with Ghirahim, and they were home free. With a nod, Link began his ascent. He hadn’t gotten far when an abrupt, agonizing pain shot through his right side. He almost lost his grip on the rocks, but he managed to regain his balance. Gritting his teeth, he glanced over to assess the damage.

An arrow had pierced his side. Eyes widening, the former hero swiftly yanked the bolt out of himself and shakily tossed it aside. He turned his head to scan for his attacker, just in time to avoid an arrow to the skull.

“Shit…!!”

The darkness of the fissure clearly benefited Link’s assailant; he couldn’t see a thing. With no other option available to him, he forced himself to climb through the pain and prayed that the constant movement would askew the archer’s aim. He scaled the crag as quickly as he could manage, and it appeared to be enough; arrows kept missing, some only just barely. Link heard a grunt of frustration echo below, then hurried footsteps rush toward the cliff. The former hero’s eyes widened once more and he forced himself to climb faster.

I can’t die here,’ he thought. ‘I won’t die here!!’

Every movement became increasingly excruciating and his vision began to go fuzzy. Still he climbed. He fought against the lightheadedness as the urgency spurred him higher. The enclosed walls of the pit amplified the sound of his aggressor’s pursuit; they weren’t far behind him now. Link fought back the panic that threatened to take him as he pushed himself to keep going. The stars finally revealed themselves after minutes that seemed to last lifetimes as he approached the top—he climbed with all his might, his pursuer hot on his heels. The edge of the cliff was nearly in his grasp, and he reached for it.

His foot slipped.

The golden-haired swordsman didn’t have time to even gasp as he plummeted. He didn’t have time to think as he reached out to the rocks; he was certain his death was imminent. Just as he was about to meet his doom, Farore seemed to smile upon him: he was able to catch himself on a protruding rock. His head swam and his vision had gone almost completely black, but he persisted. With every bit of strength he could muster, Link propelled himself back toward the top of the fissure. He knew his assailant was right on him—they were incredibly nimble, and Link wasn’t as young as he used to be—but he refused to relent. His stomach churned from the pain of his wound as well as from the adrenaline; he felt the need to vomit, but he fought the urge back. Instead, he focused on just getting out of that godforsaken hole.

His efforts were rewarded. His hand gripped the edge, and he flung himself over into the sand. He lay there for a moment, wheezing, before he forced himself to his feet and drew his sword. Not a moment later, his pursuer emerged from the pit and drew her weapons: two razor-sharp scimitars. Link scowled and held his ground, despite his body’s urge to simply collapse. Where this second defector came from, he had no idea, but he couldn’t say he was surprised; he figured it was odd that only one guard had been patrolling earlier. Still, now was not the time to be thinking of such things. Instead, the former hero let out a war cry and charged Ganondorf’s follower.

His footfalls were heavy and his speed was far from ideal, but he was still able to pose a formidable threat to his new adversary. Still, the Gerudo defector had the advantage; she was evidently younger than him—which meant more energy for extended periods of time—and she was no doubt accustomed to the harsh desert environment, evidenced by the ease in which she moved through the sand. Plus she wasn’t injured, whereas Link felt his limbs grow heavy with fatigue due to the blood loss from his wound. All the while his vision continued to dim, and the pain of the injury hindered his movements. He barely managed to avoid taking a scimitar to the face. As a result, the defector chuckled smugly.

That made Link angry.

With a burst of strength, he charged. The Gilded Sword clashed with double scimitars in a profane clamor. He was losing control of himself at an alarming rate, but he refused to relent. The Gerudo defector grunted from the force of Link’s attacks, but held fast as well. The longer their battle drew on, the more tired—and enraged—the former hero became. He felt as if he would collapse at any moment, and all he wanted to do was close his eyes…

The darkness of the Fierce Deity’s Mask suddenly erupted from within him. A familiar godlike power surged through his veins, dulling the pain and countering his exhaustion. The Gerudo defector stumbled backwards in response to the unexpected burst of power and the golden-haired swordsman’s new glowing red eye. He gave off the aura of a savage warrior who lacked mercy and lusted for glory. Whatever this man was, in her eyes, he wasn’t human; the power he exuded could rival (or even surpass) that of the Evil King. As if pushing aside such sacrilegious thoughts, she rushed the former hero.

Contrary to his previous movements, Link now fought with renewed strength and vigor. His steps were swift—as if the sand and his armor had no bearing on him—and his strikes were calculated and violent. The defector struggled to hold her ground; the tables had turned, giving Link the new advantage. Darkness permeated every part of his body and mind. Raw, untamed power urged him on. He could not lose—he would not lose. It was an unpleasantly familiar sensation, but in this instance it was not unwelcome. He would do everything—absolutely everything—in his power to survive and ensure that Ganondorf’s evil was never revived. No matter what, he would be victorious.

Their blades continued to clash, neither warrior willing to succumb to the other. The Gerudo defector utilized her agility to the best of her ability, but Link’s strength in both his attacks and defense countered her efforts. Both of them appeared to be stuck in an impasse; neither could fully gain a true advantage over the other. Link was beginning to lose patience, especially with his darkness demanding he finish the nuisance off for good. Deciding he didn’t have any more time to waste with Ganondorf’s follower, he honed his power into the Silver Gauntlets for an extra boost in strength and charged full speed at his enemy. The defector stumbled back in surprise, which gave Link the opening he needed. Gripping the Gilded Sword with both hands, he swung with all his might at the woman’s head.

He froze, the sensation of razor-sharp steel slicing through flesh stopping him in his tracks.

In his gamble to end the stalemate with the defector, he did not realize his attack had left his injured side wide open. He had underestimated his opponent, and now he reaped the consequences.

In agony, he collapsed. The power rush instantly faded, and he was left feeling weak and exhausted. He shivered, feeling cold not only from the desert night, but also as a result of his blood loss. His vision distorted once again as his blood-red eye faded back to crystalline blue. With trembling hand, he reached for his sword, but he knew it was a futile attempt. The defector stood above him and cackled maliciously.

Stupid man,” she taunted, kicking the former hero’s blade out of his reach. “Did you really think you could steal from us and get away with it? No one will get in the way of Great King Ganondorf’s return!”

“T-typical monologuing,” he spat. “Shut up and end it, then…!”

The defector huffed and narrowed her eyes at him.

“As you wish, filth.”

Link stared her in the eye as she raised her scimitar. If he was going to die, then he would meet his demise with courage; he would not look away. The defector growled and moved to swing her blade down onto his neck, but the unanticipated feeling of a sword perforating her in the back ceased her ambitious execution of the golden-haired swordsman. Link watched in awe as a familiar obsidian blade erupted from the Gerudo’s chest. She dropped her weapons and slumped lifelessly. Blood poured from her corpse like an obscene waterfall; it was a dreadful sight, but Link was grateful for it.

“G-Ghira…” he whispered, growing weaker with each fleeting moment.

Ghirahim growled and flung the slain defector’s carcass from his blade as if it were nothing more than a doll made of rags.

Fool,” he hissed at his friend. “Consider yourself more than lucky that I could sense that little burst of darkness from you, otherwise your head would be rolling through the sand right now.”

Link wheezed out a weak laugh.

“I know… I-I’m glad…you made it…”

The demon lord’s gaze focused on the former hero’s wound, and his eyes widened. Fighting back his panic, he swiftly scooped the injured man up and snapped his fingers. Link exhaled and rested against the sword spirit, too worn out to do anything else.

“…It’s cold,” he murmured, the lightheadedness growing worse with every move he made. “…And dizzy…”

“Shhh…” Ghirahim shushed, hurriedly removing the swordsman’s armor and tunic once he got him situated in his own room. “Don’t move. I'll be right back.”

As quickly as he could, the demon rushed to retrieve a bowl of warm water and a bottle of red potion. Once he returned to Link’s side, he examined the wound and winced.

“A bit of a nasty cut,” he commented. “You’ll be fine.”

Link sharply inhaled as Ghirahim cleaned and treated his injury. His head swam and he felt like he wanted to vomit. Plus it was so cold…

The red potion didn’t appear to be working. The demon lord cursed under his breath and attempted to enhance the medicine’s potency with his own magic, but even that seemed to be a lost cause. Only one reason as to why came to mind, but he refused to accept it. He would never give up on the only person he truly cared about.

“It’s…not working, is it…?”

Ghirahim looked at Link and frowned, desperately trying not to be disheartened by the swordsman’s deathly pale face.

“Don’t worry yourself. My magic will stimulate this outdated potion. And if for some reason it doesn’t work, we will go to a Great Fairy’s Fountain.”

Link smiled wearily and placed a shaky hand over his companion’s.

“You know that won’t work, either…” he slurred. “I don’t…have the strength to summon her…”

“Then I will summon her, by gods!!” the demon lord snapped. “No matter what, I’m not losing you!! Not like this! So don’t you dare give up! Should you die now and leave me alone this soon, I swear I will never forgive you!!”

“I don’t…want to give up…” the former hero replied. “I don’t wanna die… I-I’m… I’m scared…”

Ghirahim clenched his teeth and gripped the golden-haired man’s hand.

“You won’t die. I will ensure it. Lay your fears to rest. When have I ever let you down?”

Link smiled again.

“You’ve never let me down…old friend…”

Precisely. And don’t you dare think I will now. Come, let’s not dawdle. We’re going to a Fountain.”

Link groaned as Ghirahim picked him up again. The demon lord grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around the former hero before snapping away.

“Whatever you do, Link, don’t close your eyes,” he commanded. “No matter how tired you feel.”

“Easier said than done, but I’ll try…”

No. You will keep your eyes open, do you understand?”

Link feebly nodded. His vision was blurry, but he did his best to focus on the spirit’s face; it helped. Ghirahim tried his damnedest to look calm, but Link could easily pick up on his clouded eyes, clenched jaw, and the infinitesimal frown he hid so well. The former hero knew he was dying, and he knew that Ghirahim realized it, too. As much as the demon lord tried to downplay the severity of the situation, they both knew it was useless to try and stop the inevitable. Still, Ghirahim refused to simply give up; even if he knew the trip to the Great Fairy’s Fountain was pointless, he wouldn’t let any chance to save Link pass him by—no mater how unlikely. Being aware of this himself, Link’s heart grew heavy with guilt. His beloved friend was fighting so hard for him, yet he couldn’t do anything to reward the sword spirit’s efforts. He knew he would have to leave Ghirahim someday; he just didn’t expect it to be this soon…

“Great Fairy of Courage!” Ghirahim called, his voice deep and loud with authority. “Hear this song and show yourself!”

He proceeded to sing Zelda’s Lullaby. Link’s heart ached hearing both Ghirahim’s celestial voice and the all-too-familiar melody. He still had so many wrongs he needed to right, especially pertaining to the Queen. As much as he felt she was in the wrong, he still wanted to extend the olive branch of friendship and let her know he stilled valued what they had once shared. He still needed to sit down with Malon and apologize for the previous night; he needed to clear up any misconceptions and accept the consequences of his (stupid) decisions. He still needed to return the Silver Gauntlets and stolen relics to the Spirit Temple, then notify the Hyrulean Army of the defectors’ whereabouts. He needed to take that much-anticipated break with Ghirahim. Most of all, he still needed to find himself and finally leave the pain of the past behind; he needed more time. He didn’t even have the opportunity to pass on his swordcraft and further his legacy. For all the suffering he had endured throughout his life, he was going to die in obscurity. Was this further punishment for his dealings with darkness?

Ghirahim’s roar of anger startled him from his musings.

“Insolent oversized insect!” the demon lord screeched. “Can you not see the Hero of Time himself lies here, mortally wounded?! You would dare forsake one of the Goddess-Chosen?!”

Link watched with a heavy heart as his dear friend continued to scream at the empty Fountain. There was no doubt in his mind anymore; this indeed appeared to be Divine punishment. He wanted to cry, but he laughed instead. It was excruciating to do so, but he couldn’t stop. Ghirahim spun around to look at him.

“What in the world are you laughing about?!” he demanded. “There is nothing humorous about this predicament! The Great Fairy refuses to manifest, thus forsaking you to die, and yet you laugh! Please enlighten me as to what you find so funny.”

Link chuckled, tears managing to fall from his eyes.

“Don’t you get it?” he said. “This is my fate. This…is our punishment… We are creatures of darkness, you and I… Th-the gods don’t answer…to the likes of us…”

He paused to cough, blood spilling from his mouth. Ghirahim rushed to his side and pulled him into an embrace.

“Then I will find a way!” the demon hissed, clutching the swordsman close. “Another way! Those contemptible frauds will rue the day they chose to betray you. So help me, I will cleave the gods from their deceitful thrones myself for what they have done!!”

The former hero smiled, the tears further obscuring the vision of his one good eye.

“D-don’t lay a hand on Farore,” he weakly teased. “I don’t think…She has anything to do with this…”

Ghirahim scoffed, trying his best to contain his own tears.

“Of course I would never harm Her,” he grumbled. “She was the only one to listen to a demon’s prayer. Though this time…I suspect the one I have now is beyond Her capabilities…”

Link felt his eyelids grow heavy.

“C-can…we go to our tree…?” he whispered.

“Of course,” Ghirahim answered, carefully standing with him. “Just keep your eyes open for me.”

Giving one last sneer to the Fountain, the sword spirit teleported away to the Great Tree. Link couldn’t help but smile being back in the forest, surrounded by the serene aura of their sacred spot.

“Here we are,” Ghirahim stated, sitting down at the base of the enormous stump. Keeping a tight hold on his most cherished friend, he asked, “Would you like me to sing?”

Link smiled and nodded.

“…Song of Healing…” he slurred. “…Please…”

The demon lord swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded.

“Of course…”

His voice wavered at first, but he quickly steadied it. Link listened to the demon’s comforting tenor and did his best to keep his eyes open, but it was impossible. His vision had already faded substantially, and he was weaker than he had been just moments prior. He trembled, both from the cold he felt and out of fear. He had hoped that the Song of Healing would soothe his regrets like it had for so many others, but this wasn’t Termina; the song’s magic didn’t work here. Even so, it hadn’t worked on him when he was in Termina, at least when it came to his regrets and heartache. Why would he possibly expect it to work now, especially with how overburdened he currently felt?

Maybe he didn’t ask to hear the song to be healed; maybe he just wanted to hear Ghirahim sing the song that first really brought them together.

The former hero wasn’t ready to die, but he knew it was useless to keep fighting. Yet as much as he tried to consign himself to death, he just couldn’t. Too many regrets plagued his restless mind. Plus…

“Thank you…” he whispered, trying to focus on Ghirahim’s face despite his failing vision. “…For keeping your promise…”

“I’m not one to break promises,” the demon lord replied quietly. “There is no need to thank me.”

“…And for…being my friend…”

“Hush now. That will never change.”

Link smiled tiredly.

“Not even…when my bones have turned to dust…and the world has long since forgotten my name…?”

Ghirahim gritted his teeth.

“Not then, and not ever after.”

“…You’re crying…”

The demon lord inhaled sharply and glanced away, not bothering to wipe the tears that flowed down his pale cheeks.

“Don’t worry yourself over me,” he hissed. “This isn’t about me.”

Link chuckled wearily.

“That’s new,” he murmured. “Last time I checked…everything was about you…”

“Cheeky brat.”

“Pompous blowhard…”

Ghirahim snorted, the corner of his mouth twitching with the hint of a small smirk.

“Some things just never change…”

The former hero continued to smile, though his heart still ached with remorse.

“…You won’t forget me, right…?”

The sword spirit quickly looked back to him, his smirk replaced with a deep frown.

Never,” he rebuked. “How dare you even consider such an outlandish thing. After all these years, how could you possibly conceive something that absurd? As if I’m comparable to them.”

Link chuckled again.

“…I know… J-just…wanted to hear you say it…”

Fool…”

The swordsman coughed again, spitting up more blood. Ghirahim clutched him tighter, unsure if the trembling he felt was from himself, from Link, or from both of them.

“I-I’m sorry…” Link rasped, his eyelids growing overbearingly heavy. “But…I don’t think I can keep my eyes open anymore…”

Several more tears leaked from his eyes as he thought of all the events in his life that brought him to this point. He lost friends, he lost his legacy, he hurt the people he loved, and he was dying in obscurity. At the same time, he lived a life full of adventure and companionship thanks to Tatl, Tael, Skull Kid, Malon, and Ghirahim especially. There were so many wonderful memories he possessed, and he had never been happier than when he was with those he loved. Yet right now his regrets and mistakes outweighed the good he attempted to focus on. He felt restless; he desperately needed to resolve the problems that haunted him. He needed time to find the meaning of his life. He needed to pass on his knowledge to a successor. He still needed to grow into someone who was truly content with his lot in life, with Ghirahim by his side. There were still so many things he needed to do…

Yet he would never have the chance to do them. It was too late, and he knew this. He would die harboring his regrets.

“G-Ghira…” he whispered, weakly clutching the demon’s cape. “…Please… Finish what I started…”

The spirit swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded.

“Of course. Just rest now…”

“Y-you’ll forgive me for this, won’t you…?”

“I already have, old friend.”

Link could feel it; it was time. He smiled.

“I hope…someday…I’ll see you again…”

“Either way, I will always be with you, Link…”

Tears streamed from the former hero’s eyes as he rested against his beloved friend. He was so tired…

“M-maybe the next Hero will find you…and you won’t be alone…”

Ghirahim growled and shook his head.

“The only Hero worth my time is you. I don’t care how many reincarnations you end up having, there is only one you. I will not leave you, as I had sworn all those years ago.”

The former hero continued to smile through the tears, his eyelids slowly drooping as his head lulled against the demon lord’s chest.

“…Forgive me…”

With those words, Link exhaled his final breath and went still. In that moment, the woods fell completely silent, the air becoming stagnate and thick with grief.

Ghirahim stared at his companion, charcoal eyes wide as tears cascaded down his cheeks in full force. His body quivered while his mind raced with incoherent thoughts. He gnashed his teeth, the trembling becoming more violent, before he threw his head back and howled. He screamed until his throat became raw from the strain and only hoarse groans escaped him. He looked back at his poor friend, his heart shattered beyond repair; he felt as if he had lost the greatest part of himself in losing Link. It shouldn’t have ended like this…

Bereavement soon gave way to unadulterated rage.

The demon rose to his feet, the fallen swordsman still in his arms. Carefully, he set Link down at the base of the tree and knelt in front of him.

Gingerly cupping his cheek, the demon lord murmured, “I’ll be right back, hm…?”

He stood back up and snarled, summoning his demon blade. With a snap of his fingers, he teleported back to the Gerudo Desert. A sinister grin spread across his lips when he manifested in the defectors’ hideout. Not bothering to conceal himself, the demon lord charged forward.

There would be no need to send the Hyrulean Army to find the Gerudo defectors.

The erupting chaos resulted in a bloodbath; Ghirahim was far too powerful for regular mortals to even remotely stand a chance. Heads literally rolled as the carnage mounted. Guards scrambled to put up some sort of fight against the white-haired monster, but to no avail. Ghirahim was too quick; bodies were mutilated in the blink of an eye, and whoever he couldn’t cut down by hand he disposed of with magic. He laughed in sadistic glee at the fear and pain he caused. What was even better was that Gerudo never grovelled or begged for mercy—they fought until the bitter end, which made slaughtering them all the more satisfying. These detestable defectors were the reason for his cherished partner’s death. They would all pay with their lives, ensuring that they were never able to accomplish their goal. He didn’t care if Ganondorf was a manifestation of Demise’s malice; the Evil King would never see the light of day again so long as Ghirahim had a say.

An enemy of Link’s was an enemy of his, and he refused to allow them any chance of victory. They took away the only person he loved, so he would take away their glory.

The hideout fell eerily quiet once the demon lord had eliminated the last defector. He double-checked to ensure that not a single soul remained before dismissing his blade. He was thrilled to see that he remained relatively immaculate despite being the sole executioner in such a massacre. Taking a moment to check his hair, he nodded to himself and snapped away. As much as he yearned to return to Link’s side, he still had one more stop to make.

Dawn broke as he appeared in front of Hyrule Castle’s gates. He figured Zelda would be awake shortly and decided to kill time by formally requesting an audience with her. Waiting was torture—he desperately wanted to hurry back and properly lay Link to rest—but it was necessary; as much as he despised the Queen of Hyrule, he needed to update her as per Link’s final request. Still, being apart from his friend like this irritated him greatly. The sooner this was over, the better.

…He just wanted to fulfill his promise and guard the fallen hero in his own eternal sleep…

After what seemed to be an excruciating eternity, the sword spirit was finally ushered into the throne room. As expected, Zelda sat upon her throne, elegant as ever. She frowned at the demon, noticing that Link was nowhere to be seen.

“Where is Link?” she inquired. Her eyebrows furrowed as she scrutinized the demon and added, “What is that on your cheek? ...Blood?”

It was Ghirahim’s turn to frown. How could he have been so careless? Huffing, he quickly licked his cheek to be rid of the unwanted stain. Zelda winced in disgust but said nothing in anticipation for the demon’s answer.

“Link is dead,” he stated bitterly.

Zelda’s cold eyes widened, her complexion rapidly going pallid. She shakily rose to her feet, only for her knees to betray her; they buckled, causing her to fall back into her costly chair.

No…” she whimpered. “No, that’s…that’s impossible…”

“The blood on my face is a result of my vengeance,” the spirit continued, too tired to say anything more than necessary. “There is no need to send your army into the desert. All of the defectors are dead. I made sure of it.”

The Queen buried her face in her hands, a loud sob wracking her body. Ghirahim exhaled and looked away, fighting back his own tears. A heavy moment passed between them before Zelda forced herself to stop crying and look at the man she loathed. She studied him intently, noticing several crucial changes to his demeanor: his posture was off, as his shoulders were slumped ever so slightly; he made no attempt to argue with her or insult her, nor did he bother to embellish his speech with eloquent words; the frown on his face was deeper—heavier—than usual, indicating that it was not a frown directed at her specifically. Most importantly, she noticed his eyes.

His charcoal eyes lacked their signature arrogant glint; they were dull, as if all vitality had been stolen from him. Even though his stare was always cold and calculating, it was more intense but lacking its shrewdness; instead, he gazed at her with eyes clouded with anguish. He hid his emotions well in this case, but the subtle changes to the egocentric demon’s manner was all Zelda needed to know that he was defeated. Without Link, he was lost.

“How did he…” she began, unable to properly form the question. Instead she tried, “Where is his body?”

“He fought valiantly, but lost a battle with one of them. He was gravely wounded.” Ghirahim shakily exhaled and ran his fingers through his hair. He then answered, “He sleeps beneath the sacred tree. His last request was that I finish this mission in his stead, which I now have. Keep your money. I need it not.”

“Wait, what sacred tree? I need to—”

He was gone before the Queen could question him further. He did what needed done, so there was no point in wasting more time answering her questions. He needed to hurry back to the Great Tree.

When he arrived, he froze at the sight before him. Two familiar lights flickered around Link’s body, and an equally familiar form sat beside him, knees drawn up and face buried in them. Quiet weeping came from all three. Ghirahim sighed softly and carefully approached.

“…He shouldn’t have been taken so soon,” he murmured. “But I know he would be pleased to see you, Tatl. Tael, Skull Child.”

The three forest dwellers looked at him. Tatl wept loudly as she flew toward the demon lord. Ghirahim swallowed yet another lump in his throat and extended his hand; when the yellow fairy landed on it, he brought it close to his face. Tatl hugged his cheek.

“What happened?!” she wailed. “Th-this is Link! He’s not supposed to die like…like this!!”

“…I know…”

“How could this happen?! H-he’s a hero for goddess’s sake!! Th-the best of the best!! H-he’s…he’s Link…!!”

She fell into another fit of weeping. Ghirahim didn’t know what to do to console her; it was never his strong point, save with Link. He just let her cry and closed his eyes, wishing the whole situation was simply some horrible nightmare that he would awaken from at any moment. He wished he could just open his eyes and see Link grinning his signature cheeky grin and hear him make some smart quip…

But he knew better.

Link would never smile or jest again. He was gone.

Ghirahim opened his eyes when he heard Tael fly over to him.

“We heard you scream…” the purple fairy said quietly. “It was terrifying… We’ve never heard a scream like that before, so we rushed over… Then we saw Link, and you weren’t here…”

“I had business I needed to attend to before I could give him a proper burial,” the demon lord replied. “You all have my sincerest appreciation for keeping him company in my absence…”

“Wh-what do you plan to do after that?” Tatl asked, sniffling. “What will happen to you, Ghirahim…?”

Ghirahim chuckled hollowly.

“Why, I shall join him in the dirt. You remember the promise I made him those years ago in Termina. I intend to keep that promise for all time, so I shall seal myself into the Gilded Sword for my own eternal slumber.”

What?” Tael gawked. “But…”

“I cannot die unless the blade of the Gilded Sword is shattered,” the sword spirit continued. “The thought of wandering about aimlessly for millennia is not appealing to me. I’m also not about to plead with some blacksmith to kill me. No, I will sleep and let time take its toll. Then, someday, I will reunite with my old friend—assuming those Divine rats don’t interfere. Besides, Link would be most displeased if I asked just anyone to break the sword. It was supposed to be him, years from now when he had aged significantly and death—by natural human causes—was about to claim him. That’s…how it should have been.”

Unable to maintain his collected façade, Ghirahim allowed his tears to flow freely once again. A bitter sob escaped his lips, and his expression twisted unpleasantly into one of a man who just lost everything; because he had. There was nothing worth living for anymore. He had no one else who needed him, and he refused to let anyone else wield his blade. He needed no one else either, so it was most logical to imprison himself with the one person who mattered most.

“…Tatl.”

The yellow fairy looked at her friend, wiping her eyes.

“Y-yeah…?”

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

“Of course… A-anything…”

The demon lord walked over to Link’s body and carefully picked him up. He gazed somberly at him, longing to see him smile one last time. Exhaling deeply, he tore his eyes away from his fallen friend and looked at the fairy.

“There is a woman—Malon is her name—whom Link wished to speak with. She is the owner of Lon Lon Ranch. Can I task you with delivering his final message to her in my stead? I cannot leave him again.”

The yellow fairy trembled.

“You don’t have to do this…”

Ghirahim shook his head.

“I do. Plus I want to. Someone must remain with him so he isn’t lonely. Will you please deliver his message to the girl?”

Tatl relented, knowing full well that she could not stop her old friend from sealing himself away. She didn’t blame him, and she would do anything for Link as well.

She nodded.

“Yes… What was his message to her?”

“Tell her that he’s sorry. She’ll know what it means. I doubt she will inquire about me, but if she does, inform her that I am keeping him safe in his eternal rest.”

“Alright…”

The sword spirit gave her an appreciative nod before using his magic to make a proper grave for the slain hero. Tatl hiccuped and flew over to get one final look at her dear friend before Ghirahim laid him in the ground. She touched the golden-haired man’s cheek and whimpered.

“S-sleep well, Link…” she whispered. “I-I hope…we’ll meet again someday… Wherever you are…”

With that, she kissed Link’s cheek before pulling away and doing the same to Ghirahim. The demon lord couldn’t help but crack a smile at her.

“Y-you sleep well, too,” the yellow fairy said, wiping her eyes. “K-keep him safe, you hear? If anything happens that’ll disturb him, I’m blaming you entirely!”

The demon chuckled softly and nodded.

“Of course. In the meantime, take care of yourself.”

“R-right…”

“And…one last thing.”

Tatl looked at the white-haired man expectantly.

Ghirahim looked at Link as he said, “I’m sure you will see him long before I will—if ever. Should a day come when you meet him in the Afterlife, tell him that I… Well, I’m sure you’ll know what to say. For all of my talents, I’m afraid I still lack adequate skill in such saccharine drivel.”

Tatl laughed wetly and nodded.

“O-of course I will… He’d probably be really mad if I didn’t come with some sort of message from you… He’d think you forgot about him…”

“Which I will never do,” Ghirahim declared. “So yes, keep that message in the back of your mind until then.”

“Right… You can count on me.”

“I know I can.”

The yellow fairy nodded again and gave both of her friends one last kiss.

“…Goodbye, Ghirahim…”

The demon lord smiled at her.

“Farewell, Tatl.”

Tatl lingered on for a moment longer, watching as Ghirahim carefully set Link into his grave and placed the Gilded Sword into his hands, befitting for a warrior’s funeral. With a heavy heart, she forced herself to turn away and fly off for Lon Lon Ranch. Tael watched her leave before turning his attention to Skull Kid, who trembled in place.

“…I…” Skull Kid began quietly, head lowered and fists clenched. He snapped his head up to look at the demon before loudly continuing, “I want to look after Link, too!!”

Ghirahim looked at the imp.

“Mm, I suppose the more the merrier,” he said. “Perhaps it is a good idea to have someone awake to look after him as well. So be it, then. I shall entrust you to guard this sacred place. Let no one disturb the Hero of Time.”

Skull Kid nodded vigorously in response.

“I’ll help, too,” Tael added. “For as long as I’m able. And so will Sis.”

“Then I leave it to you three.”

Ghirahim sealed the grave, then turned to face the Great Tree. Summoning his demon sword, he carved the symbol of the Kokiri in the base—large and intricate, implying that something of great importance resided there. He then turned to look at Skull Kid and Tael.

“Farewell,” he said, dissolving into the ground and taking his place inside the Gilded Sword.

The silence and the darkness engulfed him, and he felt his consciousness fading. Should all go according to plan, he would not open his eyes again until his blade crumbled. He prayed to Farore that he would be allowed an afterlife of his own, just for one reason. He let himself drift into the abyss of sleep, only one thing on his mind: the only thing that mattered; Link.

Chapter Text

Light…

How long had it been since he had seen light at all? Had the blade finally shattered? Was he finally free?

No…

No, something wasn’t quite right about this light. As his eyes adjusted, he noticed nothing but a churning mist—mist that blurred scenery both familiar and foreign to him. After taking a moment to process what he was seeing, he finally noticed that in the middle of it all stood a silhouette obscured by the swirling white. His brow furrowed as he attempted to scrutinize the figure.  

His dark eyes widened; he would recognize that stature anywhere. 

Blinking away tears, he reached out for the shadowy figure. He opened his mouth to call his name, but no sound escaped him. His brow furrowed further, perplexed. He attempted once more to call out that cherished name, but he remained mute. He grew more frustrated and attempted to instead march forward, but his feet remained firmly in place.  

Frustration gave way to rage at whatever was preventing him from moving. A silent scream tore through him, desperately wanting to reach the silhouette in the mist. Just when all seemed lost, he was surprised to see the figure shift to turn and face him. He grinned, feeling triumphant that he had been noticed after all. Just as he was about to behold the face of the one he yearned to see, he was suddenly swallowed up by darkness once again. He thrashed against it and frantically tried to free himself, but to no avail. His eyelids grew heavy with sleep once more, and he was thrust back into the clutches of eternal solitude.

~~~~~~~~~~

Link watched silently as the golden wolf transformed into the spectre he was now accustomed to seeing. The towering skeletal figure gripped his sword and nodded to him—a nod that Link returned. Now that he knew the restless spirit meant no harm, he held no qualms seeking him out and learning his secret techniques. In a way, he felt comforted in the presence of the dead man; he carried himself with poise, and his voice—not too deep, nor too youthful—reminded Link of the sweet tolling of temple bells. The apparition was full of ancient wisdom and great mysteries, and his swordsmanship was the best Link had ever seen. He himself had learned many skills from Rusl, but even the great swordsman of Ordon Village paled in comparison to this warrior of a bygone age. Better yet, just like Link, the enigmatic swordsman was left-handed and appeared to be familiar with the burden currently weighing on the young Ordonian. In a way, the ghost was almost familiar.

“Thine eyes burneth with rage unbridled,” the Hero’s Shade observed, his antique Hylian vernacular now more familiar to Link. “Hast thou news?”

The young swordsman exhaled and tightened his grip around the hilt of his blade.

“I…almost lost someone precious to me,” he admitted, the pain still fresh. “She’s alright now, as am I. Thanks to the grace of Princess Zelda, we can continue on our quest. Turns out we need to find the pieces of the Mirror of Twilight.”

The apparition sighed. If he had a face, Link figured he would look wistful.

“Keepeth her safe, your friend. Companionship beith precious indeed, and one so pure beith most difficult to find. Thou hast cometh across a friendship most special, methinks. Pray, do not squander it. Cherish her, dear lad, lest thou wind up with a heart as wretched as mine own.”

The slain warrior brought a ghostly hand to his chest, right where his heart would have been. Link frowned and mimicked the gesture.

“Have you lost someone precious to you?” he asked. “Is that why you’re stuck here?”

To his surprise, the Hero’s Shade laughed. It was a sweet sound, reminiscent of wind chimes or songbirds. Link found it to be soothing, if not slightly mischievous.

“Mercy, one but of many!” the spirit exclaimed. “Verily, that beith a primary reason for this misfortune, though I did not lose him, per se. Nay, ‘twas mine own foolishness at fault for our separation. …Not a day has passed where I do not think of him…”

Link closed his eyes and exhaled deeply.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, unsure of what else he could say.

The spectre shook his head.

“Such saccharine drivel beith of no use here. Come! Let us commence. I shall teach thee the Helm Splitter. Receive it now!”

With a nod, Link listened as the Hero’s Shade explained his new “special skill.” The Ordonian repeated the steps perfectly and brought the Shade to his knees. The dead man chuckled approvingly.

“Excellent, lad. Though I beith not surprised. Combat floweth through our bloodline as steadily as the Zora River floweth throughout Hyrule. As such, ‘tis no wonder that thou art competent in thy swordcraft.”

Link blinked at the words “our bloodline.” That could only mean one thing.

“Wait, our bloodline?” he inquired. “Are you…implying that we’re—

The Shade held up a hand, causing the rest of Link’s question to die in his throat.

“Another time, lad. Time slipeth from our grasp, and I cannot maintain this connection for much longer. Pray, with haste, where wouldst thy journey taketh thee?”

“Er…somewhere in the forest,” the young swordsman answered. “To find the blade of evil’s bane.”

“Thou seeketh the Master Sword,” the Shade mused. “The sword slumbers within a sacred grove. Though I’ve no doubt thou wouldst overcome the trials that await thee, I recommend thou seeketh a…‘proof of friendship’ to appease the guardian of that place. ‘Twould serve to ease thy quest there.”

Link raised an eyebrow.

“Proof of friendship? With all due respect, what exactly would that do? More importantly, what is this ‘proof’ and where would I find it?”

“‘Tis a sword. A…special sword…” The apparition once again placed a hand over where his heart would have been. “‘Twas mine own, and it brought me the greatest joy. …Nay, not the sword itself, but rather what rests within.”

“What rests within?” the Ordonian repeated. “What does that mean?”

The Hero’s Shade chuckled. Link could have sworn he saw the briefest flash of fondness in the dead man’s eye sockets.

“The sword containeth my dearest friend,” the Shade said, a smile in his voice. “He hath protected mine resting place for centuries, but alas… I cannot bear to see him in the ground any longer. Please, dear lad…find the sword and returneth him from centuries of lonely slumber. Keepeth him safe, and inform him that I…”

The spectre trailed off and glanced away. Link knew that if he had a face, the man would look pained. The Shade sighed before looking back at the youth.

“Inform him that I beith well, despite this wretched lingering,” he continued. “And that I thinketh of him often, and that I… …I miss him…”

Link felt a twinge of pain in his own heart. A warm determination filled his gut, and he narrowed his eyes.

With a nod, he replied, “I will. Where can I find this sword of yours?”

“Remember these words and thou shalt find him: ‘The cursed swordsman sleepeth beneath the sacred tree.’ ‘Tis a tree I expect thou art familiar with.”

The young swordsman frowned, his mind drawing a blank, but he didn’t dare argue for the sake of time.

“Alright,” he said. “I’ll search around.”

The Hero’s Shade nodded appreciatively.

“Doest thou recall the first song I taught thee?”

“Yes, vividly. I could hardly forget such a soothing melody. It put me at ease when I was frightened of my wolf form…”

The dead man nodded.

“‘Twas why I sangeth it to thee. The Song of Healing beith its name, and ‘tis a most precious melody. Singeth it to the sword, and he shalt recognize thee as a friend.”

Link hesitated.

“Well, uh…singing is out of the question, I’m afraid,” he muttered, glancing away from the ancient warrior.

The apparition stared at the young swordsman. Although his skeletal face could not express anything, Link could feel the confusion coming from the dead man’s blood-red eye.

“It’s because I’m not good at it. At all,” the Ordonian clarified. “I’m. Not musically savvy. I can howl as a wolf, sure, or whistle little tunes using plants to call animals to me, but otherwise…I can’t sing. I can’t play instruments, either. I’ve tried, but I’m incapable.”

A beat of silence passed between them before the apparition chuckled.

“Yea, perhaps it shalt not matter. I simply request that thou seeketh him regardless.”

Link nodded, looking back to the ghost with determined eyes.

“Understood. I’ll find him for you.”

“Many thanks to thee, lad,” the Shade murmured, a soft smile in his tone. “Oh, and one more thing. He can be…insufferable from time to time, so take heed and steele thyself.”

“Ah…” Link chuckled and nodded. “I understand. I’m confident I can handle it.”

“Good lad. Now, go forth! Continue thine quest, and I shalt see thee again!”

With a flash of light, Link found himself back in the realm of the living. He shifted from his place on the ground and sat up. Midna arose from the shadows and studied him.

“This one took longer than usual,” she commented. “What, were you having a party with that dead guy and forget to invite me? Color me insulted.”

The swordsman chuckled and stood up to brush himself off.

“I would never,” he said with a warm smile. “I don’t think there’s any party that would be a lick of fun without you, Midna.”

The imp sputtered before composing herself and rolling her eyes.

With a mischievous grin, she flicked Link’s nose and replied, “Smooth. Real smooth. I suppose I’ll forgive you for boring me to tears for so long. What kept you, anyway?”

Link sighed and shook his head.

“A lot of information piled on me at once. And a request.”

“Mm, what else is new? People info-dump on you all the time. But a dead man’s request? Are you going to fulfill it?”

Link nodded.

“Yeah, especially if it’ll help us find the Master Sword and a Mirror piece. It’s a bit out of our way, but it seems to be worth it.”

Midna frowned.

“‘A bit out of our way?’ Link, we don’t have time to go ‘out of our way.’ Zant’s on the loose—you saw what he did to Hyrule Castle! You heard what Zelda said! Saw what she did!”

She paused to look at her hands, a pained expression crossing her features as she remembered the princess’s sacrifice for her…

Link knew how deeply his companion cared for Princess Zelda and how urgently she wanted—no, needed—to save her. He owed the princess a great deal himself for breaking Zant’s curse, so he understood Midna’s plight.

“I know, I know,” he said, not unsympathetically. “But…mm, maybe it’s not as ‘out of our way’ as I’m making it sound.”

Midna looked at him skeptically.

“What do you mean?”

The Ordonian gave his friend a reassuring smile.

“We just have to find a sword buried under some sacred tree,” he stated. “Which means it’s somewhere in the forest. The Shade said it was his, and some friend of his is inside it. He said it would serve as some sort of ‘proof of friendship’ to some guardian protecting the Master Sword.”

The denizen of Twilight snorted.

“So we have to find this sword just to find another sword. Yeah, uh-huh, sounds good. Totally not a waste of time.”

“He didn’t show it, but I could tell the Shade was desperate for me to find his sword,” Link said, narrowing his eyes. “It’s the least I can do to repay him for his help. And if it’ll help him rest in peace so he can finally cross over into the Afterlife, then we’re doing it.”

Midna sighed and shrugged.

“Alright, alright. We’ll find this guy’s sword. You said it’s buried under some ‘sacred tree,’ yeah? Any ideas where to start?”

Link placed a hand on his hip and pondered her question. It was a good question, and no, he didn’t have any idea where to start. Still, he needed to come up with something so they could at least get moving. He first thought of the enormous tree stump at the Great Bridge of Hylia, but that didn’t seem right—it wasn’t anywhere near the forest, and it seemed unlikely that the Hero’s Shade’s body would be buried at Lake Hylia, given his ghostly form was covered in ivy growth. He thought of every tree he ever noticed in his own explorations of Faron Woods and beyond, but none of them ever seemed special enough to be considered sacred.

Suddenly, it clicked.

“The Forest Temple,” he breathed, looking at Midna. “The entrance is a gigantic tree stump. It’s a temple, and that’s sacred ground right there. I think that’s as good a place to start as any.”

Midna smirked and lightly punched the swordsman’s shoulder.

“That’s using your brain~” she praised. “Nice thinking. Let’s check it out.”

Link nodded, and together they set off for the forest.

~~~~~~~~~~

The trees of Faron Woods could grow to awe-inspiring heights, especially the deeper one went into the forest. The biggest one of all—at least to Link’s knowledge—was the tree that housed the Forest Temple. According to old Ordonian folklore, the old Forest Temple was once located in an abandoned fortress hidden in a sacred meadow that was protected by the gods’ magic. Because no one was ever able to find it, the Hylians who came to make the forest home took it upon themselves to build a new temple to honor the woods and their spirits. The folktales Link grew up with said that the great Orlon—the founder of Ordon Village and Link’s ancestor—stumbled across a gargantuan tree stump deep within the woods. The Symbol of the Forest was neatly—carefully—carved into the base, indicating that the tree was sacred. Thus, Orlon decreed that the natural colossus would be the foundation of a new temple. Apparently Ordon’s founder was continuously drawn to the tree, like something was hidden there, meant for him and him alone.

He never found it, and neither had any of his descendants.

Link could admit that he too felt a special connection to the Forest Temple tree, but he often pushed those feelings away. After all, his mother’s own fascination with the tree and his father’s overzealous eagerness to find whatever his wife thought called to her was the cause of their untimely demise. Talo would probably have met his own at the temple entrance had Link not chased after him only days before. Hence, the young swordsman stood by what he always thought since the death of his parents: the tree was cursed.

Which made it the perfect spot to find the sword of a cursed, dead warrior.

“Looks like we’re breaking some tiles,” Midna stated, staring at the intricate stonework. “Hopefully we won’t have to face the wrath of the gods or whatever. You know, for desecrating a temple and all that fun stuff.”

Link couldn’t help but chuckle.

“If we do, at least we’ll be in it together,” he said, smiling fondly at the imp.

Midna glanced at him, then rolled her eyes before forming a giant fist with her hair and pulverizing the tiles. Link stared at the newly exposed earth and exhaled. He didn’t have to say anything; Midna knew exactly what he was thinking as she transformed him into a wolf. Link wasted no time sniffing around the area. The dirt reeked of ancient secrets.

He began to dig.

He knew he had to be careful; centuries of weathering had loosened the earth and created a massive chasm. If he dug too deep, he would surely plummet straight through the ground and into the sprawling abyss below. His nose twitched from a new scent: the stench of arcane darkness. Something was definitely down there, and he was close. He slowed down and proceeded with caution until his nose bumped into something cold and metallic. He jolted slightly in surprise before becoming overwhelmed by the smell. Growling to himself, Link gripped the object in his teeth and turned back the way he came.

‘This has to be it,’ he thought, heart pounding obnoxiously in his ears. ‘What else could it be?’

As soon as he reemerged from the hole, he spat out whatever he carried and shook the dirt from his fur. Midna whooped before letting out an impressed whistle. Link turned to look at the excavated object right as he regained human form.

“That’s one hell of a sword, if I do say so myself,” the denizen of Twilight commented. “Looks like it hasn’t dulled at all, either. It’s razor-sharp after being buried for who-knows-how-long.”

Indeed, it was impressive. Link had never seen anything like it. Despite its obvious age, it maintained a seemingly supernatural luster. The golden diamonds glittered in the sunlight, and the jewel at the base of the hilt shined spectacularly. The sword wasn’t just impressive—it was beautiful.

“This has to be the sword he asked me to find,” he stated, picking it up. He startled ever so slightly, feeling the sword pulse once in his hand.

Midna raised an eyebrow at him.

“That’s all you have to say? Really?”

The Ordonian frowned.

“Yes. That’s all I have to say. That, and I could smell an unnatural darkness on it. I have no doubt this is the Shade’s blade.”

Nayru, you are so dry. How can you be so serious all the time? Seriously.”

“Serious times call for a serious state of mind.”

Yes, but all work and no play makes the Hylian a dull boy.

Link jolted and swiveled around. Not seeing anyone, he began to frantically scan the area for the source of the unexpected voice. Midna began to look around with him, although she appeared confused.

“What’s got you so spooked?” she asked. “What are we looking for?”

“You mean you didn’t hear that?” the Ordonian replied, gawking at his partner. “That voice?”

“Uh…no? Are you okay, Link?”

Ah, so you can hear me. Fascinating. Now, care to tell me who has disturbed my resting place and wrenched me away from the only hand allowed to wield me? Also, how much time has passed? Your language sits strangely upon mine tongue—my tongue. Ugh.

“…Midna.”

“You look pale as death! Here, hurry up and sit down before you keel over.”

“Midna, I think the sword is talking to me. Inside my head.”

Midna stared at her partner incredulously. Had Link not been starting at her like he had seen…something scary (he had already seen a ghost, so that was off the list), she wouldn’t have believed him.

“This sword…is talking to you.”

Link nodded.

Inside…your head.”

The swordsman nodded again. Midna sighed.

“Well, what’s it saying?”

I’m saying, you wretched boy, that you have done me a great disservice that shall not go unpunished! Now, again, who are you and how did you find me?!  

“It’s asking who I am,” Link answered Midna. Then, trying to respond to the mysterious voice, “My name is—”

“Oh, don’t tell me you have to answer it out loud,” Midna groaned. “Can’t you respond to it in your head?”

 The Ordonian shot his friend a look before trying again, mentally.

‘My name is Link. Are you the Shade’s…friend?’

An uncomfortable silence answered him. After what felt like hours, he finally got a response.

Link? No, how absurd. That’s impossible. You are not Link. Unless…you are the new Link. I suppose that would make sense. And what do you mean “the Shade?” You speak nonsense, child.

He spoke nonsense? Link scoffed. If anything, the sword was the one speaking nonsense.

‘That is my name, and I was tasked with finding this sword by the Hero’s Shade. He’s a restless ghost full of regrets and hasn’t been able to cross over for centuries—I think. His dialect is almost ancient, like something you read in manuscripts from about five hundred years ago. He practically begged me to find you. He said you could help me on my quest.’

Another long, awkward silence fell between him and the sword.

Tell me, Link. Has this…“Shade”…told you his name?

‘No, he hasn’t. Though…he did seem to imply that…we’re of the same bloodline.’

What?  

The voice sounded shocked, offended, and confused all at once. Link had to hold back a snort.

“What’s with that look?” Midna inquired. “I take it you’re now having some kind of deep, intense discussion?”

Link smiled at her.

“Something like that. Hang on, I better take some time to get everything sorted.”

Midna examined her claws and shrugged.

“Oh, sure, sure, take all the time you need. Not like we’re in a hurry or anything.”

“It’ll only take a few minutes, Midna.”

“I’ll give you five.”

“Well, that’s more generous than I expected.”

“You’re welcome~”

The swordsman chuckled before resuming his conversation with…whatever the sword was.

‘Yeah. I think the Hero’s Shade is some long-lost ancestor of mine. It makes sense, considering he knows so much about me. He’s kind of dismal, but I think I would be, too, if I was in his position.’

Oh, Link…

‘What?’

Not you. Him. This “Shade” you speak of. His name is Link. If what you speak is true, then it appears you have inherited his namesake.  

Link furrowed his eyebrows. He could trace his family tree back centuries to the era of the Great Civil War. He was the son of Marin, who was a descendant of Orlon. Orlon was the son of a rancher named Tarin, who inherited his ranch from his mother, Malon. There was no one else named “Link” in his family tree—at least that he knew of. According to his family records, Tarin never knew his father.

Farore have mercy, Link, what have you done?

The voice startled the Ordonian from his thoughts.

‘What are you talking about? Wait, you can read my thoughts?’

Only when I reside within the sword, so yes. Alas, I fear I am too fatigued and weakened from centuries of slumber to manifest properly. Now I see why you are able to hear me when only my Link would have been able to. Yes, I feel it. His precious blood courses within you, proud and true. The damned fool.  

‘What…do you mean?’

I knew Malon. I knew of her feelings. Unfortunately, Link could not return her affections. It is worse than I feared. As it stands, it looks to me that a drunken evening gone awry had more consequences than either of us could have anticipated.

Link felt himself becoming frustrated. He had a feeling he understood what the ancient sword was telling him, but he wanted to hear it directly.

‘Spit it out already! If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s beating around the bush!’  

My, such a temper. Very well. Your ancestor—this Tarin—was the product of a drunken one-night-stand between Malon and Link. Link was killed before he had the opportunity to resolve his guilt and apologize, as Malon’s love was one-sided. He never had the opportunity to learn of Malon’s…situation…because he was cut down the very next day.

Although the words were biting, Link could hear the anguish behind them; not because of Malon’s unexpected pregnancy, but because the other Link—his Link—was killed and left to wander the earth full of remorse. It was clear that this spirit-or-whatever only cared about one thing: the Shade—Link.

‘You…really care for the Shade—Link—huh?’

He is the only thing that matters to me, yes. Hearing you tell me my worst fears so casually disgusts me. Knowing that he has lingered on here—alone—for so long, and I’ve been asleep just—!!

The abrupt silence was deafening. Link stood there awkwardly for a tense moment.

“Everything alright?” Midna asked. “It’s been five minutes already, but the look on your face tells me that things are getting intense. What’s happening?”

“I’ll fill you in later,” the swordsman said, looking at his companion. “It’s a lot.”

“Ah.”

“He’s gone quiet. It’s a bit unnerving.”

“Well in that case, let’s get a move on! We can’t stand here all day and wait for some disembodied voice to keep talking to you.”

Link nodded and turned to walk. He agreed with Midna; they had already lost valuable time retrieving the sword and couldn’t afford to lose more. Whatever the sword had to say, he’d have to say it while they were on the move. As they walked, the Ordonian couldn’t get what the sword told him off his mind, and he wasn’t sure how to feel about it all.

He was pleased to know that his assessment of the sword—both in location and ownership—had been correct. He was surprised that the spirit within could (and bothered to) speak with him. Yet he wasn’t sure what he thought of the Shade’s—Link’s—past and his own origins. On the one hand, everything made sense. On the other hand, it was…uncomfortable to think about. What had caused the other Link to throw caution to the wind like that? Clearly it was such a grievous offense—whether to Malon or Tarin he couldn’t even begin to be sure—that someone excluded his name from the family records. Yet clearly the other Link wasn’t a bad person; the fact that he still roamed Hyrule with regrets and treated the Ordonian like a son evidenced as much. Link was sure that if the Shade had survived long enough to learn of his child, he would have done his best to do the right thing for everyone involved.

He would have. His heart was always pure.  

Link flinched slightly at the sudden reappearance of his new companion, but he did not falter in his steps.

‘You…really love the Shade—Link, I mean.’

More than you could ever possibly hope to comprehend, boy. Far, far more. You’ve no inkling of how torn apart I am upon hearing that such an egregious fate befell my most cherished friend. Had I the strength to properly manifest, I would search every corner of this land until I found a way to see him and ease his suffering.  

The spirit didn’t have to say it for Link to know he absolutely would. That much was made obvious from the start.

‘He no doubt has been wanting to do the same. If he could. He’s clearly thought about you often, and that’s an understatement.’

What…has he said?

‘Well…he told me to tell you that he’s alright and not to worry.’

The spirit scoffed.

And he said that he misses you.’ 

…Truly?  

‘Yeah. He’s clearly had you on his mind for a long, long time.’  

The voice of the sword chuckled.

Typical.

Link wasn’t sure what more he could say.

‘Ah, but I suppose I should ask your name. You already know mine.’

Ghirahim is my name. …Just Ghirahim.

Ghirahim. An involuntary shudder shot through Link’s spine. The name oozed darkness and released an uneasiness upon him that he couldn’t explain. Still, this was his predecessor’s beloved friend, so he couldn’t possibly be that bad. It was strange having a disembodied voice speaking to him in his head, but then again everything about his journey was strange. For now, he’d simply do what he had been from the start: just accept the weirdness of it all and roll with it. At this point, he didn’t have time to seek out answers to every question he had (not to mention he’d get nothing accomplished).

‘Well, Ghirahim, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Please lend me your wisdom on this journey.’  

Hmph, I suppose I’ll allow it since your manners are up to standard. Very well. What, pray tell, is “this journey?”

Link told him. He told him all about Midna, Zant, the previous quest for the Fused Shadows and the current one for the broken Mirror of Twilight. He explained Hyrule’s plight and Zelda’s sacrifice. His heart grew heavy as he spoke of his personal mission to return the children of Ordon to their village, as well as his chance meeting with the Hero’s Shade. He explained everything to the spirit. To his surprise, said spirit knew about many of the things he mentioned—at least when it came to the Twilight Realm and its relics.

You’d be surprised what you can find in the Royal Archives, kept hidden from public knowledge. Fortunately I’m a professional snoop and have the ability to come and go as I please, with none the wiser that I was even there~

‘Fortunate, indeed,’ Link agreed. ‘Your knowledge of all this may prove to be invaluable.’

Yes, quite. It will be. You should be grateful. Not just to me, but to your ancestor. Without Link’s wisdom and guidance, your journey would be more difficult than you’d like. Treasure his words, because his advice is truly invaluable.  

The Ordonian had a feeling that the sword spirit wouldn’t be giving such praise had he never met the former Link. He wasn’t sure why; he could just feel it.

‘…Anyway. Your Link said that you would be a great asset in the next part of this quest. Do you know what to do? If we’re looking for the Legendary Blade, what must I do?’ 

Why, go to the Temple of Time, of course. The sword is there in its pedestal. No use spelunking around here in the woods. Best you make haste to Castle Town.  

Link furrowed his eyebrows.

‘Castle Town? There’s no such temple in Castle Town.’  

A moment of silence passed between them. Link was about to ask Midna for confirmation to his statement, but Ghirahim spoke once more.

What in blazes did that accursed royal brat do now?! Surely she couldn’t have moved a temple! There’s no way she would have had it destroyed. Hylia would have smote her where she stood. This is outrageous! If not in Castle Town, where else would it be?

The young swordsman looked to Midna.

“Our next destination is somewhere here in the forest, right?”

Midna shrugged and answered, “That’s what I gathered.”

“Thought so. Maybe Rusl will know something.”

“Wouldn’t hurt to ask. If you need something, I’ll be here.”

With that, the imp disappeared into the darkness of Link’s shadow. Link smiled and kept walking. He had a feeling Rusl would be nearby, and considering he was part of the Resistance, he was bound to know something.

‘I don’t know what to tell you,’ he thought to Ghirahim. ‘The Master Sword and Mirror piece are definitely here in the forest. The Shade confirmed that much to me and said having you along would serve as some sort of “proof of friendship” or something. That’s why I found you. If you’re an important element of passage, then I need your help.’ 

I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. Clearly Link knows something that I am not privy to. As loath as I am to admit it, I’m a bit confounded by this turn of events. Ah, but it matters not. If aiding you will put his spirit to rest, then I gladly do so. We shall see what happens when we cross that bridge.

The Ordonian nodded.

‘Right. Let’s see where this road takes us.’

~~~~~~~~~~

The road was apparently chalk full of surprises.

In all his years, Link had never heard about a sacred grove hidden deep within Faron Woods. He had heard of a sacred meadow lost to legend, but never…this. Whatever this was. If someone had told him a week ago that he’d be using a golden cuckoo to traverse unreachable areas of the forest, he’d have laughed. Possibly guffawed. Yet here he was, on Rusl’s insistence, doing just that.

“This is ridiculous,” he grumbled under his breath, staring at the wide gaps in the earth he needed to overcome in order to reach the grove’s entrance.

Your outfit is ridiculous.

The Ordonian scoffed and waited to time his next jump perfectly, lest he be knocked into the abyss below.

‘Is it not your beloved Link’s tunic? I was told by the Light Spirit who granted it to me that it belonged to the Hero of Legend.’

Ghirahim snorted.

The only thing legend has given my beloved Link is the insult of being branded as cursed. The tunic you wear belongs not to the Hero of Time, but to his predecessor: the Hero of the Sky.

Link leaped, letting Rusl’s golden cuckoo carry him to the ledge of a small cliff. Midna cackled at him all the while.

‘Hero of the Sky? That sounds…vaguely familiar, but I’m not accustomed with the story.’

Then I’ll give you the abridged version: he was the first Hero chosen by the Goddess Hylia to unite the land and sky, since they were separated to protect the Triforce from the Demon King Demise. My Link was his reincarnation. I was the Hero of the Sky’s enemy and cursed him in my final moments. That’s how I met my dear friend centuries later.

The young swordsman raised an eyebrow.

‘Now I have more questions.’

I’ll answer them later. Right now, don’t you have a quest to focus on?

Link sighed and stared at the dark entryway before him. He moved to stride through, but a familiar whistling caught his attention. Glancing around, he laid eyes upon a Howling Stone and approached it. Midna made herself manifest and looked at him.

“Change you into a wolf, then?” she asked.

Link nodded. Once he took beast form, he listened closely to the whistling wind and howled the tune. As anticipated, his solo quickly turned into a duet with the Golden Wolf. The usual “take sword in hand and find me” message was skipped this time.

Instead, the Golden Wolf told him, “Thine questions shalt I answer when next we meet. Until then, heed Ghirahim’s wisdom and keepeth him close. Speaketh his name or brandish his blade to the spirit of this place, and he shalt showeth thee passage.”

Link was thrust back to reality and resumed human form. A split second of uncertainty crossed his mind before he gripped Ghirahim’s sword and entered the Sacred Grove. The magic of the place shot through him, causing him to shiver. The presence of several supernatural forces was overwhelming, but he held firm. Beside him, Midna stared at a dead end.

“Great,” she growled. “Just how are we supposed to get through this?”

The Ordonian opened his mouth to respond, but a child’s giggle cut through the silence and rendered him speechless.

“You can’t!” teased the disembodied voice. “I won’t let you~”

Both Link and Midna startled as a small figure—a boy with a ghastly face, who appeared to be made of wood—suddenly burst into view. In his hand he held a lantern that glowed an ethereal blue. Link knew that it was no flame the lantern contained.

“I come bearing proof of friendship,” he declared, holding the Gilded Sword aloft. “With me I have—”

“Mister Ghirahim!” the child exclaimed, jumping in place. “How wonderful! See, Mister Ghirahim? See how he dances in his joy?”

He held up his lantern. The blue light appeared to glow brighter and move gracefully within.

“Do you hear him sing his heart song? Can you hear his happiness? Can you, Ghirahim? Can you return it? Can you? He would love to hear you sing with him! Can you dance? He would love to dance with you, too!”

Link’s eyes widened as small black and white diamonds emitted from the sword before disappearing again. The diamonds kept blinking into existence, only to keep fading away. This process went on for a long, agonizing moment before it stopped altogether.

Link winced as Ghirahim shrieked in his mind.

Damn this wretched weak form!! I must get out—I must!!

The Ordonian looked back at the child spirit, who bounced in place. Beside him, Midna frowned.

“Hey, kid!” she shouted. “Are you gonna guide us through here or what?”

The spirit turned its attention to her.

“Hmmm… I don’t think Ghirahim would like it if I made it that easy for you. And I think my friend would like to know more about you. …I know! We’ll play a game!”

“A game?” Midna growled, her teeth bared dangerously. “We don’t have time to play a stupid game! We have your friend, so hurry up and let us pass!!”

The child giggled in response and retrieved a horn from his back. Taking a deep breath, he blew a loud, uncomfortable note before vanishing. Link and Midna watched as the dead end opened up, but could barely move a step before they were surrounded. Grotesque wooden puppets lunged for them, causing Link to stumble before striking with Ghirahim’s gilded blade. The blade sliced through the puppets like a hot knife through butter; Link had never experienced anything like it.

Skull Child!! Ugh, boy! Quick! After him!

The swordsman didn’t appreciate the sword spirit’s tone, but he was in no position to argue. Instead, he charged forward after the strange child. The grove was a maze—albeit a lovely one—in which he found himself running in circles. With a growl, he came to a halt and closed his eyes to listen to his surroundings. His efforts were rewarded; the faint sound of the spirit’s horn being played guided him in the right direction.

They chased the sound of music around the grove only to be attacked by more puppets. When they finally found the spirit, Link crept over and stuck. The child giggled and blew his born before running away. This process repeated itself—find the “Skull Child” and land a sneak attack, fight more puppets, resume the search, fight more puppets, repeat—until the trio stumbled through the ruins of an ancient temple and found the strange child dancing upon a rock in the center of a circular room. Link narrowed his eyes and drew his bow. Aiming true, he released the arrow and hit his target.

This time the “Skull Child” grew angry. He stomped his feet and trembled as he growled. Instead of running away, however, the child teleported himself to another rock and blew his horn. The dissonance of harsher notes rattled Link’s teeth, but he leapt from his platform to confront the next batch of puppets regardless.

“Let’s take care of this brat once and for all!” Midna snapped.

The Ordonian grunted his agreement and charged. The child spirit didn’t make it easy for them; he teleported this way and that, blowing his horn in their faces and summoning more puppets immediately after they defeated batch after batch. The swordsman was so distracted with dodging puppets that he nearly missed his chance to properly strike.

To the left! Now’s your chance!

Link’s body acted automatically as he rolled to the left and exploited the opening left by the “Skull Child.” The young spirit let out a startled yelp before teleporting out of the Ordonian’s reach. Instead of summoning more puppets, however, the spirit giggled. With a wave of his lantern, a new path opened in the ruins and the child disappeared.

No!!

Link grimaced at Ghirahim’s distress. He was about to respond, but the child spirit’s disembodied voice echoed through the ruins before he could.

“Heehee~ He’s appeased! He’s found you worthy of the next trial, so don’t disappoint him~”

Midna scoffed and crossed her arms.

“The next trial?” she grumbled. “There’s more of this nonsense?”

Link felt the corner of his mouth twitch in amusement.

“I mean, we are on a quest for a sacred—no, the sacred—sword.”

Midna flicked his forehead, causing him to chuckle.

“Yeah, yeah, wise guy. Keep running your mouth and watch what happens.”

What, will she kiss you? Revolting.

Although he tried to fight it, the Ordonian couldn’t prevent his face from turning as red as a healing potion. Midna, of course, noticed.

“…What?”

“N…nothing.”

“You just started blushing out of nowhere.”

“Did not, it’s just…warm.”

“…Uh-huh.”

My, your heart is just palpitating. It appears my suspicions about you are correct.

‘Shut up…! You don’t know anything about me.’

I don’t have to. You’re not as discreet as you like to think you are, boy. You get that from your predecessor, to be sure.

Link scoffed and cleared his throat.

“Alright,” he said. “Let’s go. The sooner we get the Master Sword, the sooner we find the Mirror piece.”

His Twili companion stared at him for a moment before rolling her eyes with an impish grin. Together they walked through the opening into what appeared to be the nave of an ancient temple. To their right was a destroyed set of stairs, a surprisingly in-tact door defiantly standing alone against the ruin of time atop them. To their left stood two identical statues which appeared to be guarding another sealed door leading to—Link assumed—the apse containing the legendary blade. He could only hope, anyway.

This is certainly new. The Temple of Time has clearly gone through some changes. Ironic how it has ended up back in the depths of the forest from whence it first came. How it ended up this close to Link’s resting place will forever confound me.

‘I’m not going to bother asking what you mean. Instead, what do I need to do to open that door?’  

Fantastic question. Beats me. Back in the old days, one needed to collect three Spiritual Stones, place them upon the altar, then play a sacred song using the Ocarina of Time. From what I can see, the altar has been replaced by those statues, and the Ocarina of Time was buried with Link centuries ago. It’s long gone.  

“Well, that’s disheartening,” Link growled, scanning the area for some sort of clue.

“What is?” Midna asked, looking around as well.

“Ghirahim just informed me that the way to get through that door is no longer viable. Apparently this temple has gone through some drastic changes before it fell to ruin. I don’t suppose you have any idea, do you?”

The imp placed her hands on her hips and glanced around once more.

“Well, there is an emblem on the ground that isn’t covered by foliage. It’s right there between the statues and it’s shaped like the Triforce, so…there’s your sign, maybe?”

The Ordonian noticed the emblem and nodded.

“Worth a shot,” he agreed.

With great determination, the swordsman strode over to the emblem and stood upon it expectantly.

…Nothing happened.

“Oh, c’mon!” Midna groaned. “What more do you want from us?!”

Link sighed and nodded along with his friend’s frustration.

Try singing. Like—

‘I don’t sing,’ Link thought.

Ghirahim growled.

Do you whistle, then, you impudent brat? Or are you only capable of howling like a dog?

Link’s eyes narrowed.

‘I can whistle.’

Good. Then listen carefully and repeat this melody.

The sword spirit proceeded to sing with the most enchanting voice Link had ever heard. The tune he sang resonated within the Ordonian’s core, leaving him mystified at the power within those ancient notes. The mysteries of time seemed to unravel before him with every chant; in enveloped him, and he felt as if he could let the coursing of time sweep him away at will so long as he could listen to such an ethereal song.

When Ghirahim concluded, Link stood there in dazed silence for a brief moment before taking a deep breath and whistling the melody exactly as he had heard it. He didn’t expect anything to happen once he concluded, but to his surprise the strange markings on the statues began to glow.

“Whoa!” Midna exclaimed. “What was that?!”

“A song that Ghirahim told me to repeat,” the swordsman answered, staring at the statues. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s clearly working.”

That was the Song of Time. Cherish that melody, for it is the song that began your predecessor’s journey as the Hero of Time. Or, rather, the Hero of Answered Prayers.

‘What?’

Ah, I’ve said too much. Forget it, it’s a long story. Just know that the song I taught you is the chant that was once sung religiously within these ancient walls. At the time, playing it on the sacred Ocarina of Time was the only way to open the Door of Time. It seems that so much time has passed in the renovation of this place that the instrument was no longer necessary. Yet I can all but guess that the song itself was lost to the flow of time, thus none were able to open the door and the temple was abandoned. But this can be explained later. For now, focus on the task at hand. The guardians speak.

“O Youth who asserts the Ancient Melody, accept this challenge and guide us. Only then will the Door to the Sacred Grove open.”  

“What’s happening?!” Midna shouted, looking around as the ground shifted into some sort of puzzle.

The guardians suddenly leapt onto floating blocks away from their original posts.

“No…idea…!” Link replied, equally perplexed. “I guess we’re guiding them? Back to their places, I presume. Alright… Let’s do this.”

It was a strange and dangerous puzzle to solve (he almost missed a jump and plummeted into the void below, and he was almost squashed by one of the leaping statues at some point), but with Midna and Ghirahim’s advice, the swordsman was able to properly guide the guardians back to their positions. Once they returned to their posts, everything returned to normal. Link sighed in relief and shook his head, thankful that the task was now complete so he could continue on.

“O Youth, go now to the sacred place. We yield passage to the Sacred Grove…”

With that, the statues went still and the door to the temple’s apse opened. Midna let out a triumphant hoot and Link couldn’t help but grin. With a satisfied nod, the Ordonian made his way through the door. There, in the center of the apse, stood the Legendary Blade in its pedestal—pristine, prominent, powerful.

Ugh, here we go.

…And the mood was ruined.

Link snorted.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

Nothing, nothing. Don’t mind me. Just pull the sword from its pedestal and get it over with already so we can get a move on.  

The swordsman scoffed and shook his head. Both Ghirahim and Midna were starting to get on his nerves with their constant rushing. Time was of the essence, of course, but having to deal with two pushy companions was more than he signed up for. Refraining from grumbling under his breath, Link kept a straight face as he approached the pedestal. Gripping the hilt of the Master Sword, he pulled. The blade gave way easily, and he held it aloft. The power that surged through him left his nerves feeling tingly even after the initial wave had passed; he had never experienced anything like it. In his hand he held the most powerful weapon of them all, and only he had been chosen to wield it. Whereas anyone else may have had an ego boost by this, the Ordonian was humbled.

“There,” he murmured to himself. “Now we can continue on.”

Seriously?” Mida gawked. “You just pulled the Master Sword from its pedestal like it was nothing and that’s all you have to say?”

Link looked at her.

“Well, we knew I’d be able to. The princess said as much. I had to pull it, otherwise we wouldn’t stand a chance. We’re dealing with something beyond the magic of your people. So—”

The imp rolled her eyes and placed a finger on the swordsman’s lips.

“Ugh, shut up, you’re so dull!” she grumbled, exaggerating a yawn. “Seriously, you could show a little excitement or something, yeesh.”

Link raised an eyebrow and chuckled. When Midna removed her finger, he gave her a smile.

“Well,” he said. “I’ve got you doing that for me, don’t I? I’m a little overburdened with responsibility at the moment, so I’m not exactly in a place to react to things that way.”

Midna rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“Yeah, yeah, your excuse, blah blah. Let’s go, then. We’ve got Mirror pieces to find.”

“Right.”

The Ordonian turned to take his leave. Ghirahim remained silent all the while. Link felt slightly disconcerted, but he pushed on. He chalked it up to the sword spirit being put through such an emotional journey after just waking up after centuries of slumber. Judging from the “Skill Child’s” earlier comments to Ghirahim, Link suspected the child’s lantern contained something incredibly precious to the sword spirit. Plus this area was significant to Ghirahim; he clearly never anticipated leaving his resting place, yet it was happening. Link supposed he’d be silent in his pain as well if the situation was reversed.

He glanced around to really take in the ruins. They were spectacular. Even in their decay, it was almost as if the faintest echoes of prayers sung still resonated in this forgotten holy place. The crumbling walls seemed as if they contained many undiscovered secrets within, even in such disrepair.

Link had a sneaking suspicion that this would not be their only excursion to the Temple of Time.