Even after days-weeks-months in Termina, Link didn’t pretend to understand how Lady Hylia’s powers over time worked. He didn’t know why some things were undone when he reset the clock and some things stayed, why rupees stayed in the bank but not in his pocket, or why masks did and arrows didn’t. Mostly, he just assumed Hylia was handling it.
There was a lot of blind trust in this quest. But he and Tatl had both gotten used to that.
“What’s that song you’re playing?” Anju asked, voice soft. For all her declared faith in Kafei, Link could tell she was still nervous; she fidgeted with the covers and with her dress, and tensed when the room shook with the approaching moon, and she wouldn’t take her eyes off the door.
Link shrugged. He’d been playing a couple different ones, comforting himself and Tatl and Anju with the familiar sound of his ocarina. The royal lullaby and Saria’s song, the prelude of light and the serenade of water and the minuet of forest. He liked them all, even without their abilities.
He couldn’t really say the same about the melodies he’d learned here. The only one of those he still liked was the song of healing.
“I hope you don’t mind my asking,” Anju said after a moment, quiet and careful, “because I’m very grateful, but… why are you waiting with me? We only met just three days ago, and everyone says…” She trailed off.
Link hummed. An hour had passed since Link had joined Anju to wait for Kafei, and he still wasn’t sure Kafei would make it in time. It was making Link a little nervous. He usually tried not to skirt so close to the deadline, if he could help it. Not since the first time.
But he had been trying to help Anju and Kafei for… two weeks? Three weeks? Some amount of time. He wasn’t going to back down just because they were now two hours, twenty-three minutes from the deadline.
“Link likes to see things through to the end,” Tatl provided, with the gentle sort of faith that Navi had had towards Link by the time he put the Master Sword away. “He won’t really consider his job finished until he sees you and Kafei back together.”
Link played the nocturne of shadow into the minutes that followed, kicking his feet lightly against the table. Then the requiem of spirit, and then circled back to Saria’s song.
It kept his ocarina right at his mouth, his fingers on the notes. He knew by experience that if he needed, he could switch right from one song to the next without completing the first, and it would be fine.
The song of time took one minute, twenty-one seconds to play. He would have much more warning than that.
“…Thank you,” Anju said, and then, “You seem very mature for your age. How old are you?”
Twelve, Link signed with one hand, pausing in his playing for only a moment. He didn’t mention his time as an adult, which hadn’t felt real even while he was in that body, or that he didn’t know how long he had been in Termina, but that it had probably been long enough for his birthday to pass if time had been working normally.
None of that was what had matured him, anyway. Experience aged your soul much faster than time did.
“I didn’t know you were twelve,” Tatl said, sounding a little unnerved despite all they’d been through by now. “I thought you were older.”
Link shrugged. That had been a pretty common reaction since he’d left Hyrule. People tended to assume he was a really short teenager, and some had even thought him a tiny adult.
“Twelve…” Anju said softly. “Thank you for putting so much time into helping Kafei and I. I’m not sure how to repay you.”
Link shook his head. It didn’t really matter. Even if he didn’t get anything from this, he would just be glad to have it done. And it was a good payoff for the weeks he’d spent doing nothing but following every townsperson around, writing down their schedule and keeping track of their movements and activity. Those notes had rarely been quite as helpful as they had been while he was trying to help these two, and since he’d only come this far a few times before, it had been a good chance to help some of the other townsfolk get away as well.
Two hours, four minutes until the deadline.
“…You’re very good with that ocarina,” Anju said, after a few more songs. Link actually took the ocarina from his mouth to give her a small smile, which she might not have noticed. He put it back and kept playing. “You’re… a Kokiri, aren’t you? I’ve never seen one before.”
Link nodded. It was close enough, and sometimes having Tatl made him almost feel like he was home again. It had been so long now since he was in the forest.
He missed Navi, though.
The room shook and rumbled again, and none of them acknowledged it.
“I haven’t told you anything about Kafei, have I?” Anju said suddenly, when there was one hour, fifty-nine minutes to the deadline. Link shook his head. “He and I have known each other since we were very young. We used to play hide-and-seek in the sewers, only I would be a lost maiden, and he would be the dashing hero looking for me. Little did we know it would one day be the other way around, hm?”
She sounded wistful and sad. Link chanced just one pass at the song of healing before quickly switching to the minuet of forest again.
“I’m sorry,” Anju said, abruptly very small. Link stopped playing and looked at her. She was fidgeting with her dress again. “Are you… do you want me to be quiet? Your playing is very nice, I promise.”
Link shook his head and put his ocarina back to his mouth. He liked hearing what Anju had to say. He hoped Kafei arrived soon, though. He didn’t seem the type to get distracted along the way, not like Link was, but…
“It’s okay,” Tatl assured Anju flippantly, when she failed to keep speaking by the time they reached one hour, forty-seven minutes to deadline. “Link’s just not very good at using his words. He really doesn’t mind listening to you talk.”
“Oh, good,” Anju said, relieved. “Thank you, I’m just…” She fidgeted again. “I know he’s coming, of course, but…” She bit her lip. “Have you seen the moon?”
Link nodded. Sometimes he would just look up and watch it for a while. Sometimes nothing at all could make him look up, not even Tatl.
“I hope he’s okay,” Anju said, very quietly, and then drew herself up. “I’m sure he’s okay. He’s always been like a force of nature, did you know? Not hell or high water or fire or ice can stop him from doing something when he’s determined. And he always keeps his word.”
She nodded to herself, looking reassured by her own recollection, and settled in to wait again.
Link played the prelude of light.
At one hour, thirty-one minutes to deadline, the door opened, and all of them looked up. A half-second later, Kafei walked into the room.
Link smiled into his ocarina.