Chapter 37 – Tragic Night
Wind tore at Link's face. Tension gripped his muscles. Courage reigned in his soul.
Many thoughts blasted through Link's mind in his greatest hour of peril, but he would not surrender himself to hysteria. True it was that he plummeted through the sky, passing through the thick layers of clouds that separated his world from the one above, but his first thoughts were of how he might possibly survive this lethal dive, if he would be able to wrench the Mirror Shard free in time, and if Midna was all right.
Just then, the gusts wrestled Link's cap free from his head, and it went sailing away. He cast his gaze back to follow its trajectory, but it would be impossible to regain it... That was when a little imp's face plowed straight into it, and she flailed her arms, screaming for her sight to return. When she removed the hat she nearly tossed it away, but once she realized that it was Link's she looked down and their eyes met.
Link descended through the currents with the dragon as his buffer against the true force of the winds, his hair now flapping wildly about his face and curling around his ears. ''Midna!'' he called back, and the little imp flicked his hat in the dimension of her magic and flattened her arms to her sides, speeding her way through the few meters between them. Once she was able to grasp a section of the armor that Link had not torn away, he screamed so that she could hear, but she could only make out a few words. ''Get ... my sha...!''
Understanding that he wanted her to retreat into his shadow, she shook her head. ''I'll try to slow its fall!'' she shot back. She was not sure how much Link had been able to make out, but he did not protest even though he most certainly looked non compliant. Instead of forcing her into his shade, he scooped her up with one arm and tucked her between his body and the dragon. She knew that this was because he knew that her tiny fingers would not be able to hold on for too long.
As Link then worked to free the Mirror, their speed finally breaking them through the barrier of clouds, Midna dug deep within herself, concentrating hard. The strain alone made her body quake, and she could feel the thundering beat of Link's heart against his chest.
Once she had conjured a fluttering blanket of twilight magic beneath the beast, its descend slowed, but they were still dropping way too fast. The sudden decrease in speed made the tail behind them flail like a loose tentacle of hair, and it whipped around to smack Link in the cheek. The blow caught him unawares and he nearly toppled off the beast. Though he had not careened over the side, his dagger jostled free of his palm and it was sent flying off. Slightly disoriented from the strike to his face, Link held fast to the armor and scales of his dragon lifeboat.
Sweat poured from Midna's brow as she groaned to stay in control of her magicks, and Link tossed a glance over the dragon to realize their destination would be Lake Hylia. If they were lucky, they would land in the water, but even at this velocity they would certainly die at the touch of the crystal blue surface.
Their descend continued. Rapidly. Midna's strength was failing. The dragon and they were just too heavy and too fast.
''Midna!'' shouted Link, as he noticed that they were very close now to the lake. He could already make out dips and curves of the landscape.
As they fell closer and closer still, Midna released her magical hold on the dragon and huffed a deep breath. She looked up at Link. It was not fear that Link saw within her red eye. It was hope, and rightly so, for it was then – just a few miles above impact – that she wrenched Link from his seat and held him close. In that moment she created a magical shield around them, closing her eye and using every once of what strength was left within her. Link wrapped his arms tight around her, pulling his legs in, hoping beyond all hope that Midna had the strength – the courage – to conquer the forces of nature.
They heard a booming splash and felt the water pelt against them from the crash of the dragon.
Barely a second afterward, they felt a jarring jolt and then water pressed in on them from all sides, crushing them. The force of the water had pushed them apart, and when they again opened their eyes, they realized that they had indeed survived the fall, and luckily the tension had forced them to hold their breath. But neither could find the other.
Midna swam through the water, but the dark of night above made it impossible to see which way was up, let alone allow her to search for Link. She was forced to abandon her helpless search when her lungs begged for breath. She looked for some sign, any sign, to gather her bearings, and what looked like the moon guided her way up through the water.
Thankfully, she had not been led astray and within many long moments she broke through the surface and gulped down a heavy and loud breath of fresh air. Once her lungs had been restored and her mind refocused after its lack of oxygen, she looked about frantically. ''Link!''
No voice echoed hers, for deep, deep below the surface of the water, Link had landed softly against the deepest, darkest reach where the entrance to the Lakebed Temple rested. He had only momentarily lost consciousness, and in the seconds it took him to shake his head loose from its daze, he realized the danger in which he still found himself.
It was cold. It was dark. He could barely see, he could not breathe, and his foot was caught in something.
He could not wringle his foot free, so he grasped his ankle and discovered that the slimy vegetation that grew within the depths of lakes and oceans had coiled around his foot. Unable to wrestle free even with the aid of his slipping fingers, he called forth his only dagger remaining and sliced through his bindings.
He knew which way was up because he had been caught by the seafloor's web; that, and he strained his eyes in the frigid dark and called for the vision of his lupine entity. However, even with these devices and his hungering and absolute need for air, he did not yet ascend.
Something near him glimmered and caught his attention.
He realized that the dragon had come to a halt close to him, and he quickly swam over to it. He slithered between its wings and found – beyond all possibility – that the Mirror Shard still lingered in one piece. Amazed at the power of this seemingly frail glass, Link pried it away with his dagger and held it close as he pushed off from the dragon and made his way up to the surface. Already, though, his lungs suffered and buckled, forcing bubbles of toxic carbon dioxide from his lips.
Just then, something that no one could have expected happened, but the worst was that the Mirror Link held tightly to his chest with both arms did such a thing, even if perhaps it knew that Link's only intent was to bring it to its brethren.
First, it turned even blacker than its shining surface already was, and it was the cold, sinister force emanating from it that drew Link's attention downward. For a moment, he could not understand what was happening, for he was both struggling his way up with only his legs and the absence of oxygen that was beginning to fog his mind. But even with his spinning vision and the dizzy feeling in his head, he knew that something was wrong.
Before he had the time to react, though, a strange black energy field encircled the Shard and pressed against his chest, squashing it so that even more air escaped his mouth. Surprised by the sudden attack of the Mirror, Link's eyes widened, but before he could do anything, the field around the Shard exploded in a whirl of black energy, crashing into Link and propelling him through the dark waters. At the same moment, his grip around the Mirror loosened, and both he and the Shard flew away in opposite directions. The violent blast struck Link so hard that he hovered motionless in the water, unconscious.
But he soon recovered from his daze, opening his eyes slowly, just to find the Mirror Shard sinking rapidly into the depths below. A fright so deep came upon him, the fright of loosing the only object he and Midna still needed to knock the evil usurper of the Twilight from his stolen throne.
The surface was just metres away, so he summoned up the last of his strength and oxygen to dash upwards, breaking through the water and sucking in a deep, strained breath. Midna was just a few yards away as she swam towards the shore, turning around abruptly when she heard him. ''Link!'' she shouted as she swam in his direction. ''Link, are you okay?''
''Go to the shore!'' Link called in a scratchy voice as he readied himself. ''Don't wait for me!'' He saw the silver shimmer of the Shard shine ever so faintly through the black water as he took in a deep breath and dove under. ''Link!'' Midna screamed, but he was already out of sight. A nagging fear gripped her body when she saw him disappear, and she momentarily considered the thought of swimming after him, but thought better the next moment. She would only slow him down or distract him, and she didn't want him to be in danger just because of her.
With pounding heart, she made her way through the cold, dark wet of Lake Hylia, not knowing what perils her Hero was facing at that very moment.
Link faced the ground far below and swam after the escaping Shard. He gathered all the energy that was left within his body to swim even faster, for the Mirror had a remarkable speed, as if it was intending to escape the fate already decided for it.
The time passed. Slowly. And Link continued to dive deeper and deeper into the dark. The Shard came closer, but it descended nearly as fast as Link, whose lungs and muscles suffered at the constant straining horrendously. He already wondered if he would have enough energy to bring the Shard back up to the surface when he had succeeded in catching it, though at that moment, the Mirror's descend suddenly slowed.
Link took his chance immediately and performed a few powerful strokes with his legs, holding out both arms to grab the sharp edges of the Piece. His fingertips nearly touched its glimmering surface, but it took him several strokes more as to gain a sure hold on it.
It was perhaps his clouded mind at having not breathed for quite a while and the desperate situation in which he found himself, surrounded by dark and water with the surface now far out of reach, that had let him act so naively. Because, just as he clutched the Mirror Shard tightly with his hands, it used its dark power again.
The black energy bursting out of it send him flying off again, and it also used the scrawny mass of Link's body as a support to gain speed and sink far out of his reach.
Again, the blow had struck him into unconsciousness, and the moment it took him to refocus, he was surprised by a red cloud blurring his vision. Barely a second afterwards, a smarting pain shot up his chest, and he cast a dazed glance downward to find the source of the red fog.
It was his own blood that poured out from under his green tunic, colouring the water around him crimson. Yet, as he felt around his breast with his shaking fingers, he couldn't find any wound in his current state since his mind was still focused on getting the last Mirror Shard.
At the thought of it, he looked down, and saw just a flicker in the dark that caught his attention and showed him the position of the Piece. Without even thinking, he faced the ground once more and stretched out one arm to help his body stay in the direction, which was not up like he should have chosen to survive ... but down.
This was the most terrible mistake he ever made in his life.
His choked lungs couldn't sustain him any longer, and in the instant he moved his legs to start swimming, his outstretched arm immediately shot back to grab his red tainted chest. His body started to convulse, throwing his head violently about as the remaining toxic air in his lungs came in bubbling gasps out of his lips. Just after that, his chest heaved by itself to fill his lungs again, but there was no air around him and Link swallowed a large amount of water instead. Frantically, he clapped a hand over his mouth to stop this deadly reflex, but he could not prevent the fact that more water entered his body. A burning agony emanated from his breast as the water made contact with his lungs, letting him groan out a stifled scream as he clawed his fingers into his chest and gritted his teeth in torment. It was just then that he realized. If he not soon got the water out of his body, there would be no Hero any more to save Hyrule from Evil. He had to move upward, had to breathe, and he was just about to rotate his body into the right direction, when the silver flicker of the Shard called for him again.
His darkening mind worked hard at that moment. By the unbearable torture in his chest, he knew that he needed air beyond all else, but as he gazed down and saw the shimmering black of the Shard, the choice became difficult. If he now surrendered to his shattered lungs that were pushing him up, he would perhaps never find the place again where the Piece had landed.
But he needed that Shard. Midna needed it.
With a light moan of pain, he tried as best as he could to ignore the biting agony in his thorax and threw his body back down to once more descend into the depths of Lake Hylia, guided only by his duty to bring the Mirror Shard into safety.
This act of complete selflessness and loyalty would be his death.
As he swam, the constant lack of oxygen began to take action, slowing down his movements and turning his vision wildly around until he became so disoriented that he didn't even know were the ground laid. But the Mirror needed only to summon up a few more flickers of its glistening surface to show Link the correct direction into his doom.
And as if he were in a state of trance, Link followed, not realizing the mortal danger in which he was about to dive.
The Shard had come to a rest at the bottom of the lake, one end of it buried in the slimy, sandy ground. As Link approached it, arms outstretched, it turned once again blacker and cloudier, gathering all the darkness around it to prepare an even more brutal attack on its prey. Link was already too dazed to comprehend what was happening, and as his fingers touched the glass, the Mirror released its blast, but apparently not satisfied with one strike alone, it shot out blow after blow, hitting Link violently every time he was about to approach the Piece. It took it such pleasure to see him writhe in pain every time he got hit by the blasts that it stopped only after around twenty strikes, satisfied at seeing the thick, red cloud around Link, who hung now motionless in the water, a few meters above the ground.
His torso was cut in many places, short but deep incisions scattered all across the upper part of his body. There was no air left in his lungs to let him hover upward, and so, he slowly sank down to land softly on the ground.
The Shard was pleased. It had managed to kill this intruder in the most painful way, guiding him at first away from the surface to let the water and the lack of air take action, and then releasing all its hatred and cruelty on him to cause him as much pain as possible before his life bade him farewell.
And it had succeeded.
Link had just enough strength left to move a hand up to his chest, his body twitching as the pain became numb to his dying soul. His forehead lowered itself to touch the sand beneath him, doubling up slightly as his body was disturbed by a few more convulsions that let him breathe in the water through his mouth open a crack. From somewhere deep within his lungs, the little bit of air remaining pressed itself through his gritted teeth and bubbled out of his mouth, instantly replaced by an involuntary swallow of water his heaving lungs forced Link to take. A last spasm shot through his wounded body as it writhed from its lack of oxygen before he turned immobile, the hand on his chest sinking feebly down on the ground beside his lifeless body. His vision became indistinct, his eyelids drooping weakly, having not the strength any more to widen in torment.
It was then that a strange feeling came over him. It wasn't pain, for the agony in his lungs was already suffocated by his clouding mind. No, this feeling was not bad, rather good, a relaxing warmth washing over him to ease the last moments he had to live. It was as if he bathed in hot water, the sensation submerging him in blissful delight. He would have exhaled a breath of pleasure, but it was a wave of water that escaped his drowned lungs instead.
His eyes closed just the moment his heart ... stopped beating.
The Mirror Piece let out a screech of victory, terribly exhausted by the many attacks on Link but jubilant at seeing him die from the bloodstained hands of its dark power, the power which would soon rule over Hyrule, no, the entire World! This was the end of the Hero chosen by the gods who had dared to face the sacred power of the Twilight!
Or ... was it the end?
A blinding light suddenly radiated from the symbol on Link's left hand, drowning the darkness around him to shine bright and powerful. The Shard shrieked in fright and anger, not understanding what was happening. No, this wasn't possible, this could not be possible!
Link pressed his hands into the sandy ground and pushed himself up, raising his head to look at the Mirror. His eyes were filled with a raging fury, glistening with the hatred of ages as the light of the Triforce reflected itself within his twin oceans. The power of the gods gave him the energy he needed to stand up, to grab the Piece with his arms and to push off from the ground. Pressing the Shard against his injured chest, he ignored the amount of blood seeping out of his many wounds and battled his way up as fast as he could.
The Shard was now even angrier. It found itself yet again in the hold of this ... this damn Hero who was normally supposed to be dead! How could this be?! It had seen him dead, it had sensed his heart stop beating, how could he still be alive? Unfortunately, it would need more time to reassemble its forces once more, but when it had succeeded in gaining enough power, it would kill this intruder once and for all!
The sacred power that had woken Link already weakened, its light upon the back of his hand darkening again. Link staggered, fighting anew against the crushing agony in his torso and the absence of the energy the Triforce had granted him. But this time, he would not surrender, he would not give up. Even if his life energy was fading away with every meter he swam, every second he lingered longer in the water without breathing, he would do what he had to do. He had to bring the Mirror Shard to Midna, even if he was sure to really die attempting, since the Triforce was too weak now to save his life a second time. But his life didn't matter. He had to use it just one more time to bring the Piece to his companion, and she would be able to get to her realm and finish what they had begun together.
How long was he already underwater from the moment of his impact? He had lost every sense of time, so he couldn't tell if it had been a minute, or an hour, or perhaps even an entire day. His vision was darkened, his legs barely performing any stroke, but he continued to fight his way up with the heavy Shard in his clutch. After a moment, he felt the evil power encircle the Piece once more, and to be sure that its violence didn't knock it out of his arms again, he tightened the grip around it so much that the sharp edges of the Mirror sliced in his arms and hands.
The Shard was still exhausted from it's many attacks on Link, but it managed to gain enough power to perform two more explosions. The strikes were particularly violent due to the fact that the Mirror was so close to Link's chest, though Link, this time, didn't let go. The second blow hit him so brutally that blood also seeped through his clenched teeth and out of his mouth. But he ignored it, having only the approaching surface in his mind.
All at once, he felt his strokes become easier to perform, saw the water around him brighten with the dim light of the moon.
And at the next moment, he at last broke through the surface, spitting out water and blood.
He could have taken a deep breath of fresh air, but in the instant his chest heaved to breathe, his body sank back into the cold water, pulled down by his wet clothes and the heavy mass of the Mirror Shard.
Midna, who had retreated to a shore nearby, had searched the surface of the water all the time. She had already sunken to her knees in sorrow, her cheeks wet with tears, but as she heard the second blast of the dark power explode not far away, she sprang to her small feet again and flew out a few meters across the water, searching the surface unblinkingly.
As she saw Link break through the surface, she raced to him, but as he again sank underwater, the look in her eye transformed into horror.
''Link!'' she shrieked, stopping in mid-air and looking frantically at the place where her companion had disappeared. She could feel the dark power of the Mirror very close as it battled to pull Link down, and without hesitation, she dove into the water after him.
Link was holding the Shard in one arm, the other trying desperately to help his legs in pushing him up, but the Piece had turned dark and cloudy again, absorbing the darkness around it to perform another explosion. Midna swam to him and wrapped her tiny fingers around his arm, pulling at it with all her strength to help him up.
As they broke once more through the surface, Link grabbed the Shard with both arms, holding it away from his body.
''Wait, Link, I'll help you!'' called Midna as bubbles surrounded her once more, and she flew toward him to take his arm again, widening her eye at the sight of blood pouring over Link's chin.
But Link shook his head violently, struggling to stay afloat. ''No!'' he gasped, sputtering and coughing. ''Take ... the Mirror ... quickly!''
For a moment, Midna couldn't move, frozen by fear and horror. But as Link yelled and sank deeper, his strength leaving him anew, she shook herself loose from her shock and shot out her hair, transforming it into a big, orange hand whose fingers enclosed the Shard carefully so as not to push Link even deeper into the water.
But she only then realized why Link had urged her to take the Mirror, for suddenly, it was encircled by an enormous, black energy field which choked the air around them and send an eerie, sick feeling into Midna, who stared horrified at the Piece suspended in front of her face, uncomprehending. But neither she nor Link had the time to react as an ear-piercing crash as loud as a cannon exploded from the Shard, bursting out in all directions and sending Midna flying away. Link, who had just started to fill his lungs with the cool air of the night, was propelled down and back underwater.
The air he had just gasped was squeezed out of his lips, forming a thick cloud of bubbles that ascended back to the surface. Link, in his daze, could not move, paralysed by the blow that had been the most brutal of all, fed with all the hatred amassed in the Mirror Shard. His face twisted at the upcoming pain traversing his upper body, for another deep, bloody cut stretched from his neck across his belly and down to his right side, the final strike of the Shard in its cruel attempt of causing him as much pain as possible.
His choked lungs were heaving, his injured body slowly sinking down as his mind clouded over. This time, not even the power of the Triforce could save him, for the mark upon his left hand darkened, turning grey and lifeless. He opened his eyes a crack, saw the distant surface above him and the distorted frame of the moon shining down on him. Its dim brightness shone through the water, filling the entire lake with rays of crystal blue light, a silent beauty that seemed to keep him alive a few minutes longer. With this, he found the strength to lift a pleading arm up to the surface, but even this last call for aid sank back down, and the blue light around him faded away as his soul turned into blackness.
As Midna opened her eye and pushed herself up to sit on the sand on which she had landed, the dark power around the Mirror just faded back to normal. She winced slightly as a painful sting shot up her arm, but she didn't react to it at first, having only the Mirror Piece in her sight. Frowning in anger, she sprang to her feet and ran to the shore where the Shard laid just in front of the water, preparing her magicks to suffocate its dark power. But just as she was about to release her spell, an invisible power blocked her away; however, by the exhaustion of the Piece due to its last strike, she managed to separate it into black speckles before it had enough time to reassemble its forces.
As the Mirror Shard was locked safely away in the dimension of her magic, she huffed out a breath of relief, the thought washing over her that she and Link had finally collected the last Piece of the puzzle.
But her elation immediately faded away, replaced by a frantic look that raced around her in all directions. There was no one near her on the shore, neither could she find anyone in the lake swimming in her direction. Fear, horror and the deepest trepidation exploded in her mind, and without thinking, she flew to the last place where she had seen Link and dove into the frigid water of Lake Hylia.
Cold enshrouded her instantly as soon as she was surrounded by water, but that was just a small detail of the true problem in which she found herself. The night above made it impossible to see more than two meters around, and as she faced the ground and propelled herself down, she soon found herself in complete darkness.
How would she ever rescue Link if she wasn't even able to see him?
Desperation crossed her face as she looked around in all directions, but she couldn't find any sign of her companion. As her lungs started to protest, she moved up to the surface and gulped down a deep breath of air, just to throw her head back into the water to once again continue her helpless search for Link.
As she swam downward, performing wide, powerful strokes just as Link had shown her that other night in Kakariko, she suddenly had a strange feeling, as if something came nearer from behind. She stopped short, adjusting her body to hover head up and feet down, and slowly turned around, just to be greeted by a blinding light that approached her at high speed.
It was enormous, wriggling like a snake through the water, and the form and brightness of it reminded her a bit of the Light Spirit Lanayru, but as it came closer still, she realized ... it was Lanayru!
The Light Spirit swam swiftly through the dark water and illuminated the entire lake as it dove underneath Midna to get to the other side. Just as she, too, wanted to rotate her body to follow Lanayru with her gaze, her sight was caught by the water surrounding her instead. Something was not quite right, she thought, for as she lifted one hand, the now illuminated water showed a strange colour, transparent … but with red lines cutting through!
The taste of blood greeted her tongue as her jaw fell agape in fright. At that moment, Lanayru's voice, a soft lamentation, drew her attention behind her, and what she saw let her cry out, but she instantly clapped a hand over her tiny mouth as water entered from her airless scream.
There, in front of Lanayru's gigantic serpent head, Link hovered, blood all around his body which laid horizontally in the water, arms a little outstretched, his head tilted back. His eyes were closed, his face silent as if he was asleep, though his brows were slightly pursed, the aftermath of the atrocious pain he had endured. From his partly open mouth, there were still a few small bubbles issuing out, drifting their way up and losing themselves in the darkness above where they disappeared out of sight. But what was more frightening about his appearance was the blood seeping out from under his green garb. The amount alone that hung around him was enormous, and Midna could not guess how much he had lost during his ascent with the Mirror Shard. He had to get out of the water quickly, and she was just about to propel herself forward, when Lanayru moved into action.
The Light Spirit lowered its head until the upper part of its snout touched Link's back, and gently, it pushed him up. Link's body arched slightly at the water's pressure above and the Spirit's strength underneath him, his feet and head slightly overlapping Lanayru's magical light body.
Midna watched on as they moved up, and only her aching lungs shook her loose from her shock at seeing Link in such a state. Rising her head to the surface, she swam her way up as fast as her small limbs could paddle.
She broke through the surface not far away from the shore and turned her head to find Lanayru depose Link's limp body softly on the sand below. As he laid on the ground, the Light Spirit noticed that the young Hero was still carrying his sword and shield, which were underneath him and pushed his torso up a bit. To free the youth from unnecessary weight, four tentacles of light coming out of its chin moved in serpentine motions towards Link, pressing themselves carefully under his upper back and pushing him gently up so that his torso drew itself up. Link's head was at first hanging back loosely, his mouth open a crack, until the strength of the golden tentacles adjusted his upper body to lean slightly forward so that his chin collided with his breast. With quick, agile movements from its helping arms, Lanayru removed the scabbard of the Master Sword along with the Hylian Shield to deposit them in the sand not far away. It then let Link sink back down to the ground, and just as his head was about to fall back limply, it shot one of its tentacles forth in the split of a second, catching his head and holding it at the same level than the rest of his wounded body to lie him down gently once more.
Just as the Spirit straightened itself, Midna came running along the shore to fall on her knees beside her companion. Her small hands resting on his chest, she raised her head, looking into the golden eyes of Lanayru, relief and gratitude but also confusion in her single eye. The Light Spirit bowed its head slowly as it nodded its thanks to her for looking after the young Hero, then silently turned away to retreat into its cavern, its light slowly fading into blackness again.
As Lanayru had disappeared, Midna immediately looked down to Link, worry in her eye at the sight of the blood all across the upper part of his body. Something confused her, though, for even if the wounds were under his green garb, the tunic showed not one single rip or hole. It was as if the blasts of dark power had traversed his clothes and chainmail to cut the skin and flesh underneath them.
So ... the last of the Mirror Pieces had been enchanted, and she knew exactly who would be capable of performing such a cruel magic on something as valuable as the last Mirror Shard in order to protect it. It was getting time that this demon of a thief was blown off his high seat! Was punished for the fear he had spread over Hyrule, for the Evil he had engaged in the Twilight Realm, for the horrendous suffering he had caused Link ...
Sadness crossed her still wet face as she looked over Link's unconscious form, but a thought much more important shot through her mind. Even if he had been so long underwater, he had made it! He had succeeded in getting the last Piece of the Mirror of Twilight and had survived!
A soft smile adorned her lips, her single eye lingering on Link's silent face, which seemed a bit sad and ... strangely lifeless ...
Slowly, her smile faded away, her single eye stopping any attempt of blinking, widening in disbelief.
Link laid there on the ground before her, but he didn't move ... he didn't move ... at all ...
''You're not breathing ...'' she stammered, not willing to believe what she saw. ''No ... No!''
For a moment, she knelt there frozen by fear and indecision, racking her brain for something to do. When Link's words from that night in Kakariko played again in her mind, she didn't waste another second to take Link's head into her hands and press her small mouth on his.
It's just air a victim needs, if the heart is still beating, Link had said. She breathed deeply and blew all her air into his lungs with effort, at once recalling with a start that his airway was likely full to the brim with water. Huffing in frustration, she screwed up her eyes and instead sucked at his mouth with all the strength she had left. Water mixed with blood she spit out, remembering the crimson liquid pouring over his chin when he had surfaced.
''Come on, Link!'' she puffed, now blowing into his mouth once again. Pulling back, she looked briefly for a reaction, and seeing none she dove for his lips again. ''Please! Wake up, Link!'' she pleaded in between breaths she took for him, but even at the tenth try he didn't budge.
If the heart is still beating... Eyes wide, she pulled back again and instead pressed her ear on his bloodied chest. Remaining there for a few seconds, her hearing searched desperately for the pounding of a very weak heart. All she could perceive was the blood slowly but surely flowing out of his veins. No beating, no pulse … nothing.
''No!'' she screamed. ''Link, please don't let me alone! Don't die! Wake up! Breathe!''
Full with frustration and sorrow, she hammered wildly on his chest with fist balled, occasionally stopping to take a deep breath and driving it down the Hero's crippled airway. Tears cascaded down her cheek the more her moves became desperate and violent, and her broken voice squealing his name echoed against the wall of the red rocks surrounding the otherwise quiet lake.
''No Link … don't do that to me …'' she sobbed as her strength was leaving her and blighted every attempt to revive her drowned Hero. She kept on struggling for her friend's life long after her arms had fallen limply to the ground, instead pressing mouth against mouth as she laid collapsed next to his head, mixing the water covering Link's face with her own flowing tears.
Soon, even her breath didn't sustain his dead lungs any more, instead her lips lifted from his, her hands slowly reaching up to embrace his face gently. By the touch of his skin, she realized just how cold he was, as if she was stroking over a face carved into glistening ice. His body felt freezing to her own which she drew closer to him and laid alongside him, trying at least to give him the bit of warmth she could offer.
She was now crying softly while she caressed with one finger his ashen face, those harmoniously curved lines composing his cheeks and forehead, going over to his small but elegantly shaped nose, his pointed ears fitting perfectly to the rest of his beautiful face. Her gaze rested then on his lips, those two lines sweetly curved, skin-coloured yet slightly purple by the cold. She had not been able to save him, even if she had saved his life so many times. Not this time. She simply didn't have the strength any more.
The only thing she could do was try one more time to breathe for him. Her wavering breath floated like mist over his blue lips, encircling his mouth like a cloud of life clinging to a body long gone. She embraced it once with hers and warmed it with the air that was meant for him. But her lips, instead of forming the threshold for another breath, moved slowly over his own, cold as ice, caressing over them, her tongue wetting them with saliva salty from the stream of tears running down her face. She was somehow attracted by them, affected by the whole beauty of his face which she had learned to love over these past few months. Gently she fondled his mouth, all her affection for him flowing into the gesture that was … so filled with tenderness, mourning and Love … a kiss.
She was kissing him. Desperately clinging to him, not wanting to let him go. Pleading silently for him to come back again, to not be dead. Trying to wake him from his endless sleep, to rouse him back to life, back to her. She kissed him because she loved him, and because she could not allow him to die for her. Not for the hideous little imp that had taken advantage of him from the beginning. For all the others that waited in Kakariko, in Ordon, in Castle Town, in all of Hyrule, he had to come back, had to save their lives and rescue their homeland like the duty he carried demanded it. He could not die just because she had not been strong enough for him.
And yet he had.
Now she kissed him because she was lonely, because she was desperate, because she was guilty. There was nothing she could do for him but give him all the Love she had for him. She had never voiced it to him, and now he would never hear it. But maybe he felt it, where he was now, her small lips embracing his with endless passion and Love. Maybe he felt the little movement of her chest against his hand … the twitching …
No … that was what she felt. That was what her own palm felt.
She was slowly returning to reality by the movement she felt under her left hand which had wandered down to his chest. When she opened her eye, her mouth not leaving Link's, she saw a frown on his forehead, saw how his eyelids screwed up to a painful grimace. She immediately straightened her torso, tearing herself off his lips reluctantly as he moaned out, racked with pain, his hand shooting up to clutch his chest tightly. Just as she released him, his body rolled to the side away from her, and Link spat out a large amount of water. Just after that, he breathed in deeply and loudly, his panting transforming into coughing as at last his lungs inhaled fresh air again. His arms which held him up gave way as his strength left him, lying him down on his chest as it heaved with his deep and painful breaths.
Midna just sat there, not able to shift one single muscle. Her eye stared into nothingness as she desperately tried to believe what was happening.
Link was moving … he was breathing … he was alive!
As she finally managed to move, standing up to lean over Link who laid on his stomach with his back turned to her, she touched his shoulder gently to show him her presence without startling him.
''Link?'' she asked carefully.
Link, whose breaths came now a bit calmer and easier, pushed hard on his left arm to roll on his back again. He was too exhausted to even open his eyes, but he could feel Midna's presence beside him, for her tiny hand never left his shoulder. Midna knelt down once more next to him, her look lingering on his face which slowly took on its natural colour again.
''I'm so tired ...'' he muttered, barely able to get his whisper audible.
Without really noticing, Midna let out a breath of relief at hearing him speak, and she slowly leaned over him, caressing his forehead gently and whispering just one word in return.
She heard him breathe in deeply, relaxing his strained muscles a bit more and turning his head slightly away from her to find a more comfortable position in the sand. She, in return, let herself sink to the ground beside him, her hand still touching his shoulder to assure herself that he was truly there next to her, alive, and also to show him that she wouldn't leave him, that she would remain at his side whatever should come.
It was at those moments, as she laid beside his torso and gazed up to his face deeply asleep, that the true gravity of the situation just passed came crashing upon her. Link had already been lifeless when Lanayru had heaved him out of the water, and she just then realized that, would she only have waited two seconds longer in attempting to revive him, he would perhaps not have woken from his deepest unconsciousness.
She had managed to save him! She had saved his life just like he had done! She had kissed him …
Suddenly widening her eye as the pleasant memory toyed with her agitated feelings, she realized that she had really – truly – kissed him, and the thought of it drew the tears back in her eyes. This feeling of kissing him had been a good one, such a good one, and still it felt somehow ... wrong. As if she had taken advantage of his unconsciousness to soothe her own heartache, her own desire that he cared about her. This selfish thought alone made her feel so bad, so amiss, but it was difficult to hold back her tears with this and the memory of having seen him so lifeless, dying.
A faint muttering drew her out of her musings and let her look up to Link's face. He was trying to say something, and immediately she straightened herself to sit next to him, listening carefully. He was pronouncing her name, that she knew, but something came with it that she couldn't make out at first. As if knowing that his whisperings were difficult for her to understand, Link said it again, and at the third time she at last knew what he wanted her to hear.
''Thank you … Midna … ''
As he fell silent again, Midna could no longer hold back the water breaking through her defences. She lowered herself back down, burying her face in her small hands as the deep sadness within her came in crying sobs out of her being, releasing all the pressure that lingered on her from the shock of that cold night, releasing all the feelings of guilt amassed in her mind at having led Link to such suffering. That night, she purposely misplaced every pride that was hers, for if she would have suppressed the feelings bursting out of her, she would have exploded from their raging fury storming through her entire being.
It felt so assuaging to let it all out.