A flash of blue. A glimmer of yellow.
A glint of silver.
Link shot up once again, and his hand instinctively whipped above his shoulder as a he reached for a sword that wasn't there. It was just a dream, he told himself as the initial shock of the dream wore off. Between heavy, labored breaths, he did his best to distinguish between what was real and what wasn't.
His bedroll. That was real.
The voices he'd heard. Not real.
The hair falling in front of his eyes. Real.
Random bits of color flashing through his vision. Not real.
His blue tunic, the ground he lay on, the other Champions, the stabbing pain in his head, those were real. The stars in the sky, the crackle of the dying fire, the smell of smoke and monster guts, the incessant gurgle and snore of a nearby being, all...
His eyes grew wide and a knot formed in his stomach. Slowly, carefully, as if any sudden movement would kill him immediately, he turned to his left. Please don't let the it be real, he pleaded silently. It's only Daruk. Daruk snores, doesn't he?
But Daruk didn't smell like monster guts. The monster to his left, on the other hand, did.
Lying there, fast asleep, was an enormous lump of black flesh, its singular eye shut tight, its knobby little fingers wrapped around the beaded necklace adorning its impossibly flabby neck. Link could make out the glint of weapons tied to said necklace, obviously trophies of the monster's previous victories.
Fire love and wind, Link thought. It must have showed up while we were sleeping. Though he wasn't certain why the Hinox hadn't decided to attack them when it saw them, that bit of information was about the furthest thing from his mind at the moment. All he could really focus on was trying not to die.
The Hinox did not stir, thankfully, but Link knew that there was absolutely no possibility of escaping from it. Even if he managed to wake the others without making enough noise to alert it to their presence, they would have to leave their entire camp—horses and all—behind. Without their supplies, they'd starve before they even made it through the canyon.
Link understood the stakes, and there was only one solution: he would have to kill it.
Killing it in its sleep would be ideal, but difficult. He could take a sword or a spear and gouge its eye out, rendering it blind, but that would only make it even more dangerous; even a blind Hinox had a formidable sense of smell. He considered weaponizing Urbosa's lightning, but this black Hinox wasn't as wimpy as its red-skinned cousins. Electricity would probably not do much more than make it angry and give it even more incentive to squash the five Champions into a pulp. If he could make it to the beast's neck he could slit its throat, but with all the flesh protecting its jugular vein, that would be hard to accomplish without giving it enough time to attack him.
He mouthed a curse word, deciding that giving it a peaceful, silent death was out of the question. It was just too risky.
He was going to need the other champions.
Making as little sound as he possibly could, Link grabbed his sword and stole away from his bedroll, making his way over to Urbosa. He glanced at the Hinox again, and the brute turned over in its sleep.
Miraculously, it didn't wake.
Sighing in relief, he put a gentle hand over Urbosa's mouth, and her eyes shot open. She grabbed his forearm and started to shriek, but Link kept his hand firm over her mouth, muffling the sound. She looked at him, scared and confused, and he put the index finger of his free hand to his lips.
Urbosa nodded, and he removed his hand. He jerked his thumb in the Hinox's direction; Urbosa followed his gaze and held both her hands up in confusion. Though she used no words, her message was clear: What do we do?
Giving the Hinox another quick glance to make sure it was still sleeping (thankfully, it was), Link pointed at Urbosa, then to Mipha. Wake her up. His index finger returned to his lips. Quietly.
She nodded, hopefully understanding his message, and silently crawled to where Mipha slept peacefully. Urbosa leaned down and whispered into the her ear, and she began to stir.
Two down, two to go.
Waking up the other two Champions wouldn't be as easy, though. Revali wasn't fond of being startled, especially where sleep was involved, and Daruk, goddess bless him, was the loudest person Link had ever met.
He snapped his fingers at Urbosa, and she met his gaze. What? she mouthed.
For the first time in his life Link was grateful that lip-reading had been a part of the Champion training regimen. Daruk and Revali, he sent back. Any ideas?
Urbosa shook her head, and turned to Mipha, who also shook her head. Link gritted his teeth. Things were looking worse and worse by the second.
Nearby, the Hinox suddenly grunted, and all three Champions' heads whipped in its direction. The beast lifted one hand to its face and rubbed its eye sleepily.
Link's throat closed and he watched in horror as the Hinox slowly but surely rose to its feet. He had known that it was huge, but now that it was standing up Link was sure that this particular Hinox was bigger than any he had ever seen before. Where most stood at just above nine feet, this one towered above the rest at around twelve.
And as it yawned and stretched, it focused its large yellow eye straight on Link.
Link had killed Hinoxes before, but none as large or terrifying as this one. Its eye seemed to peer right into his soul in a way none had before. He tightened his grip on his sword as the beast seemed to inspect him, tilting its head to the side and grunting curiously. It even scratched the top of its head in confusion, something that might have been amusing to Link if his life hadn't been in the balance.
"Hey, Urbosa?" Link squeaked, not looking away from the Hinox.
"Yeah?" came her nervous reply.
"I need Revali." He brought his sword from its sheath. "Now."
Urbosa leapt to action, shaking Revali awake. The Hinox, startled by Urbosa's sudden movement, roared angrily and bounded toward Link. It picked up its foot and stomped forcefully on the ground with what seemed like enough power to crush a house.
Link deftly rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding being squashed. Thank heavens Hinoxes weren't as fast as they were strong.
Unfortunately, Link's dodge only seemed to anger the Hinox even more. It bared its teeth and flailed its arms at Link, who didn't have time to get out of the way. One of the beast's gargantuan hands connected with his chest and sent him flying several feet. Upon hitting the ground, his momentum left him rolling over and over and over, unable to stop himself.
Everything spun. Suddenly the ground fell out from underneath him and he plummeted through the air. He couldn't tell if his heart was beating too fast or not at all. Through his dizziness, he could barely make out the sight of the cliff above him.
The blasted Hinox had just knocked him off the Mesa.
He was going to die.
In a few seconds he'd be nothing more than a heap of shattered bones and splattered blood lying at the bottom of the chasm. He squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself for impact, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that his life was over.
He never hit the bottom. Before he could tell what was going on his body lurched to a halt, suspended in midair. As quickly as he had fallen, he began to rise through the air once more.
He looked up and saw Revali's beaked face staring down at him. The Rito had grabbed him in his talons and was carrying him through the air, back up to the mesa.
"Be more careful next time, Hylian!" Revali shouted over the rush of the wind. "You're not dying today!"
Link grinned and shouted back his thanks. Revali deposited him in the grass before soaring away overhead, and Link directed his attention back to the Hinox, who was currently in a fierce battle with Mipha, Daruk, and Urbosa. The Champions were holding their own, but the sheer strength of the Hinox seemed to be wearing them out. Mipha in particular was struggling to avoid the monster's blows. In terms of raw speed she outperformed the Hinox, to be certain, but her movements were gradually becoming pained and sluggish, and Link was well aware that even one hit from the ogre would likely kill her.
Not going to happen, Link thought, gritting his teeth. Not as long as I have something to say about it.
Sprinting forward, he dove headfirst between the Hinox's legs, rolling when he hit the ground, and plunged the blade of his sword deep into the back of its calf. It howled in pain as it clutched its bleeding leg. Link reached for his sword, still stuck in the Hinox's flesh, but the beast took a step just out of his reach, and his hand grabbed onto nothing but air.
A flash of crimson blurred in his field of vision as Mipha vaulted atop the Hinox's shoulder. She twirled her spear above her head before jamming it into the brute's neck. It howled in pain and smacked its neck as if it were swatting a fly. Mipha launched herself off the Hinox's large hand and landed gracefully next to Link.
"Thanks for that," she said as she brandished her spear.
Link nodded and dodged another swipe from the Hinox. "Of course."
An angry roar ripped through the air, and Daruk ran headfirst into the Hinox's legs, knocking it over. The earth shook as the ogre hit the ground, and Link nearly lost his balance. It tried to sit up, but a well-placed arrow sprouted from its eye. Shrieking in agony, the Hinox pawed and grasped at its own face, trying to remedy the source of its pain. Link glanced above him and spotted Revali nocking another arrow.
"Nice shot!" he called.
"Don't sound so surprised!"
"Link!" Urbosa shouted, running to the Hinox's foot. She yanked Link's sword from its leg, resulting in a geyser of monster blood shooting from the wound, and tossed it to him. "Finish it off!"
He nodded. The Hinox was incapacitated for now, but soon it would just get back up angrier than ever. Link was going to make certain that that didn't happen.
But how? Its body was way too big for him to get on top of it on his own. At his current size he probably couldn't even reach the top of the beast's stomach.
"Hey, Daruk?" Link called with a wry grin on his face.
"Yeah, little guy?"
"You remember that move we tried when we fought that Igneo Talus on Death Mountain?"
Daruk's eyes lit up and he nodded enthusiastically. "You got it!" he called, then curled himself into a ball.
Link readjusted his grip on his sword and charged straight at Daruk. With all the strength in his body, he launched himself from the ground and planted his feet firmly on the Goron's rocky back. Daruk stood straight up, sending Link flying through the air at unbelievable speed. He landed atop the Hinox' bloated stomach, and the beast grunted in pain. It was still writhing and clutching its eye, making it difficult for Link to stay on his feet.
Steady, now, he told himself, taking short, cautious steps to the Hinox's neck.
With a yell, Link drove the point of his sword straight into the ogre's throat. Black blood spurted from the wound, drenching Link and no doubt permanently staining his tunic. The Hinox gagged and coughed up blood before it stopped moving completely.
Link hopped down from the corpse and wiped the blood off his sword in the grass. Adrenaline was wearing off, and his limbs were starting to feel sluggish. He gave the Hinox one last glance to ensure it was dead. When he was satisfied that it was, he turned back to the other Champions.
"Nice job, Link!" Daruk bellowed, raising an excited fist. "You really showed that monster who's boss!"
Link smiled, but the mood was soured as a familiar stabbing pain in his head returned. Clawing at his skull, he cried out and fell to his knees. He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth as he hit the ground.
"Link!" cried Urbosa, rushing forward to grab his arm. "Are you alright?"
Link nodded and pulled his arm away from her. "I'm…fine…" he hissed.
He tried to stand up, but the unbearable pain left him back on the ground in a heartbeat.
A cold liquid found its way through his lips, and his tongue was greeted by the burning sensation of pepper and truffle. He gagged, forcing himself to swallow the vile concoction. His throat burned from the pepper, but within a few moments his headache subsided.
"Thanks," he gasped, as Urbosa hoisted his arm over her shoulders and lifted him to his feet.
"Here," she said gently, "Let's just get to the stable. You can rest there."
"No," he protested weakly, "no…time. Have to…keep…going…"
The last thing he remembered before blacking out again was his arm slipping off of Urbosa's shoulder as he collapsed.
Link awoke to the gentle sound of horses neighing and food simmering over a fire. The savory aroma of meat and seafood frying together made his stomach rumble and his mouth water. Even with the current state of his head—now only softly pounding—his appetite was insatiable as ever. He licked his lips, imagining the succulent taste of the meal he would enjoy soon enough.
He sat up, getting his bearings. They must have made it to the stable, judging from the whinnies of the horses nearby. He was lying in a bed flush against the wall, near a collection of tables where a few Hylians were chatting away about something. The open walls let in the cool canyon air, sending chills up and down his spine. He shivered, pulling the covers up to his shoulders, and was contemplating going back to sleep when he saw Mipha standing over him.
"You're awake," she said, sitting down on the bed. "How are you feeling?"
He stared straight ahead, avoiding her gaze. "Hungry." A brief pause. "Exhausted, too."
"Is your head feeling any better?"
"I guess." He yawned and stretched his arms out. "Right now it's sort of a gentle throb, at most."
Mipha put the back of her fin to his forehead and sighed. "You don't have a fever," she stated matter-of-factly, then pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. "Maybe Impa was right about your concussion."
Link rolled his eyes. "What difference does it make at this point? If I have a concussion, I have a concussion. I'll be okay."
"Will you, though? You were lucky that you didn't have an episode during the battle with the Hinox, but what if you're not so fortunate in the future? What will you do then? What will we do then?"
Link was silent. That was something he hadn't considered. If that were to happen in the middle of a battle and his allies couldn't help him...
A part of him knew Mipha was right: overworking himself wouldn't be good for him. But he didn't want weigh down his friends; they had too much at stake for him to be a hindrance to their cause. It would be better for him to simply press on, regardless of the effect that such perseverance would have on his health.
He shut his eyes and hung his head. "I just don't want to be a burden. After all I've put you through..."
Mipha took one of his hands gently and looked into his eyes. She opened her mouth as if about to say something, then turned away from him.
"I admire you, Link," she said softly. She looked back at him, her yellow eyes sparkling in the firelight. "I admire your selfless heart and your determined spirit. Your unwavering loyalty, your unflinching courage, your abounding kindness… I envy them all. You are brave, possibly the bravest man I have ever met. But you are not invincible."
He swallowed hard. The truth of her statement was not a foreign concept to him, but hearing it come from her mouth made him sick to his stomach. The possibility of death was something he preferred not to dwell on.
"I know," he whispered. "But I am strong enough to handle it. You don't need to worry about me."
"But I do." She squeezed his hand gently. "I care about you. Perhaps not in the same way as before, but you still are very important to me."
He shook his head as memories of them flooded back into his mind. A toddler splashing around in a pool while the Zora Princess supervises him. A young boy gorging himself on mounds of food while the princess laughs. A teenager wincing in pain while the princess heals a gash on his arm. A young man panting over the body of a Lynel while the princess stares, dumbfounded.
A Hylian walking away from Zora's domain while the princess weeps.
Link folded his hands uncomfortably. "Let the past be the past."
"I've tried," Mipha admitted. "For many years. But I cannot, because you are far too important for me to just forget about you, and all the good times we had together. You are a part of my life, for better or for worse."
Her fingertips slowly crossed his cheek. "Perhaps we may never again be what we were then, but that does not change how I feel about you." She flashed him a smile. "And I am not about to let you die because your overconfidence gets the best of you. Like it or not, we need you."
He had heard that so many times recently that he was starting to think it would be the only thing anybody said to him anymore.
He shut his eyes and nodded slowly. "You're right."
Mipha giggled. "I'm always right," she laughed, throwing her arms around his neck. "Promise me you'll be careful."
"I'll try my best," he said, returning her embrace.
They sat there for many moments until Link heard footsteps at the front of the stable, and then Urbosa's voice cut through the room. "Am I interrupting something?"
Link pulled away from Mipha, feeling his cheeks flush from embarrassment. "No, not at all!" he exclaimed, hoping that he didn't look as mortified as he felt.
As far as he knew, the other Champions were unaware of his past with Mipha, and he didn't want Urbosa to get the wrong idea. That wasn't even considering what might happen if she ran her mouth and Revali found out.
"Right," Urbosa said skeptically, raising an eyebrow. "Link, if you're feeling better, we're getting ready to leave."
He gave a quick nod. "I'll be right there."
A/N: I'm trying to make enemies seem more...scary. Hinoxes were remarkably easy to kill in BotW, as was pretty much everything else once you reached a certain point in the game, so I wanted to make the battle, and other monster battles in upcoming chapters, more than just "Link swung his sword. The Hinox died. He picked up its guts and made a stew. There was much rejoicing (yay)." I dunno if that's what I've accomplished here, but bear with me.
Also, I apologize profusely for the delay of this chapter's publications. It's been over a year since I published this story, and I'm only about halfway done with it. Life has been really busy, but that's just how it is so really there is no excuse other than my own personal laziness. I've had this chapter finished since early March and just never got around to actually uploading it. Now that I've graduated high school, I hope I'll have some more time on my hands to write a bit more consistently. In the meantime, though, updates for this story will still be pretty slow (though hopefully not as slow as this update was). Keep an eye on my side projects, because usually those don't take super long for me to write and I may be able to keep working on those.
Again, my apologies. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I promise that I will finish this story even if it takes me another year or any time after that.