It all changed within a blink of an eye.
One minute Fran was watching, his heart torn with despair, as the Princess hovered above them all, howling with laughter as her dark energies scoured the oncoming Calatian army, soldiers evaporating with tortured screams. Mystral, her body shivering and her skin singed, was in his arms, a picture of complete dismay painted on her face. At least, Fran realised with a sense of relief, she was still alive. He hugged her tighter to him, and she glanced up, a forced smiled pressed on her lips.
He still couldn't believe it. Nor could he even fathom what exactly was going on. That the Zelda he had called a Queen, the Zelda he had served, the Zelda to whom he had lost his daughter to while trying to offer his aid, that this Zelda had now been brought back to life, possessed, and an instrument of darkness, made his stomach lurch.
His heart heavy, Fran picked up his bow once more, tested the string with a flick of his finger, and hooked in one last arrow. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the King and Impa swinging wildly with their swords, a futile gesture that was probably more a release of tension than an actual attack.
Bringing the bow into position, Fran lined up the steel tip of the arrow with the Princess' heart. He hesitated, swallowing. She was distracted, too busy with the slaughter that she was revelling in. A wave of nausea washed over him. This was not Zelda. He pulled back the string, letting the tightened cord bite into his fingers and -
then the next minute, the Princess paused, a blank expression on her face. She spun slowly in the air, her eyes focused on some distant point in the sky. "No," she gasped. "I've cheated death for so long. How could such a worthless young boy bring it to me? I see it...by my ancestors, I see it...it is the Void...and it is dark, cold, empty...so very empty."
Fran released the arrow, his shoulders juddering from the recoil. It spun through the air, getting closer and closer and...the Princess screamed, one last inhuman roar of pain and defiance. The world froze for just one split-second - and then, with a burst of dark magic, she exploded, green flesh splattering the onlookers. Fran, dazed, saw his arrow plunge into the ceiling harmlessly.
Something dropped from the air, something small and triangular. Fran watched it hit the ground, spin on one of its sharp points, then dissipate into smoke. Still he didn't know what had just happened. All he did realise was that, from the very jaws of defeat, they had been granted a victory.
The world shimmered, then was engulfed in a flash. Fran blinked, rubbing his eyes, and heard the trickle of running water nearby. They were outside. Blinking again, Fran looked up...and up and up and up. A smile, slow to form, but genuine in its emotion, played on his face.
"What is it?" Mystral asked, awestruck. "What happened to Castle Dragmire?"
"It's been...renovated." Standing before them, white marble gleaming and thin towers pricking the sky, there stood a castle, encircled by a moat and crowned by a ring of clouds, the sun creeping up from behind. "Now that," said Fran, "looks very familiar."
Nearby, Montero stood to attention, barking orders, a wide grin planted on his face. "Free all the Calatians from their prisons!" he called. "Impa!" The Hylian woman bowed. "Send word to our allies. Round up every Hylian and Zora they can find. And make plans for a feast!" His hand curled into a fist, shaking. "A victory feast!"
The days passed slowly and still none of the confusion lifted. That, however, did not bother the Calatians, revelling in their freedom and holding celebratory banquets night after night, the singing, dancing and feasting lasting until dawn. All that they knew was that they'd been overrun twice - once by the Hylians and their mad Princess, and the second time by the mysterious Zora - and that their King had rescued them.
The Hylians and Zora were hunted down, their hands shackled as they were paraded through the streets, the Calatian crowds spitting, cursing, and throwing fetid fruit. Only Fran, Mystral and, naturally, Impa were exempt. They spent their time in the Castle, pouring over the ancient scrolls and pondering on what had just taken place. Impa's musings led them to believe that whatever had just happened had been resolved elsewhere, and that the demon had been slain by someone's else hand.
Not that the King had been convinced, though. All he'd seen was Fran's arrow hurtling towards the Princess and then the creature exploding. His eyes now held the humbled light of respect whenever he looked at the hunter. Fran hated it, but his mind was elsewhere. He knew, he knew, deep down in the very core of his heart, that Link had been responsible for the demon's demise. He couldn't, however, voice those suspicions. Mystral was still distraught, and Fran didn't want to raise her hopes unnecessarily. And anyway...even if Link had played a part in all this, that didn't mean he was still alive now.
Another strange occurrence took place. Slowly and slowly, day by day, the King's green skin faded, replaced by a golden tan, like the bronzed skin of the desert-dwellers. Fran knew that Montero was only half-Gerudo, and the last of his race at that. It seemed now that the King had lost even that part of him, too, though why was another question altogether. Montero had not been pleased, however. He'd taken pride in his Gerudo heritage and silently raged at the fate that had befallen him.
The day came when the King decided to pass judgment on the usurpers. A makeshift court was set up outside the drawbridge of the Castle, large enough for a mob of rabid Calatians to attend, the prisoners standing in the centre, their heads bowed. Montero and Impa sat at a long table set at the head of the area. Towards one side was where the spectators stood, hissing and catcalling. Towards the other side, at another table, sat Fran and Mystral, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Royal assassins encircled the whole area, standing guard.
The hunter decided that it was a shame that the King had picked this day for such an occasion. In the distance, twinkling with its myriad colours, a rainbow arched over the land. He would have liked to have taken Mystral away from all of this for a while. His eyes fell to the prisoners, noting their downcast expressions and the grime on their clothes. He recognised some of the Hylians - Deak, the Elder, in particular. The Zora he didn't know, but the gossip on the streets informed him that the regal looking female, standing with her back stiff, was the Duchess, Ruto.
Fran pursed his lips. Ruto. Interesting.
Montero slapped his hand on the table, killing the murmuring of the crowd instantly. He opened his mouth to speak, but before any words were allowed to form, Ruto stepped forward.
"Failure," she spat. "You're a failure of a King. You and your kind have done nothing but break up the land and its people. You split apart that which had been joined, and created factions when there had once been unity. Whatever you decide today, know that the Zora will stop you one day. We owe it to the land."
A chorus of boos rained down upon her, but she showed no hint that she was affected. Fran squirmed in his seat, glancing at Mystral. This was not going to be very pretty.
The King held up a hand in an appeal for calm. "On the contrary," he said, his words measured. "It is you who have failed. And." He paused, glancing at the crowd. "You accuse me of betraying the land, but as far as I can see, it was you and your people that spilt blood, not me, and certainly not anyone under my command."
A cheer burst from the assembled throng, almost deafening in its volume. Ruto stood still, her eyes cold, a muscle in her cheek twitching.
Montero turned to the Hylians. "And you," he said. "What do you have to say for yourselves?"
Fran felt Mystral fidget beside him as Deak stepped up, his eyes glancing furtively. "We..." More boos cut him off. He swallowed, then tried again. "We have nothing to offer. We followed our Chief...we felt...we felt it was our right as Hylians to reclaim our land. We were wrong." He glanced up at the King. "All I ask is for your mercy. Punish us...the Elders. But the people, let them free...they were just doing what we...what Servion...ordered. They didn't know better."
Silence fell as all eyes turned towards Montero. Fran felt a tight knot in the pit of his stomach. Mystral's fingers brushed against his, and he grasped them, holding tightly.
The King cleared his throat. "For the Zora," he said. "They have three days to return to the depths from which they came. Within that three days they are to pay blood money to any Calatian family that suffered from their invasion."
Fran tapped his fingers against the table. Clever. Since most of the victims of the Zoras' attack had been Hylian, they were receiving a lenient sentence. This way it would seem to the Calatian populace that justice had been served, and that no sympathy had been given to the Hylians. The people of the city would be pleased indeed.
"After those three days," Montero continued. "If any Zora is found in these lands, they are to be killed instantly. As for you," here his eyes fixed upon Ruto, "you remain imprisoned in the Castle's dungeons indefinitely. Since you were clearly the motivation behind the attack, I certainly can't have you plotting and planning with your people, can I?"
The Calatians roared their approval as Ruto held her head up high, her lips straight, her eyes burning.
"For the Hylians," the King continued. The crowd leaned forward on their toes. Fran felt a twinge in his heart. "The Hylians started this mess. For that reason...you are all hereby banished from the city of New Hyrule. You will have your own settlement far from here, where you can live as you please. It is from my mercy that I don't have you all put to death. You will not interact with the Calatians, and neither will they interact with you. However...if Servion Boarhound ever returns to your people, he is to be brought to me...for immediate execution."
Deak and the Hylians sagged, their spirits broken, tears in their eyes. Cries of delight rang out from the throng of Calatians, some of them even breaking into song. The King gestured, signalling the end of the session, and the guards swarmed around the prisoners.
Sighing deeply, his heart feeling like a slab of lead, Fran stood, pushing away from the table. His legs trembled, but he steadied himself instantly. He'd expected it. But even the sheer reality of the King's words had struck him hard.
"Our homes," Mystral said. "Our lives...they're all gone."
Fran glanced at her, ready to offer comfort. He paused, seeing not sadness in her eyes, but acceptance. She smiled at him, and the hunter felt nothing but love for this brave, brave woman. "We'll keep going, lassie. That's the way of things."
She nodded. "I know."
A hand touched his arm and Fran looked up to see the King and Impa facing him.
"It was the only way," said Montero. "I hope you understand."
"I do," Fran replied. "You don't have to apologise to us."
The King shook his head slightly. "I'm not. I just want you to see...the Zora...I'm loathe to admit it, but she was right. We need to be united. But it can't happen now; too much has occurred. I need to lay the groundwork for it, I need to give everyone the time to heal and forget."
"I wish you well, laddie," the hunter replied. Taking Mystral by the hand, he moved to leave.
"Wait," Montero said. "In time...I want Calatians and Hylians to be one people once again. But for that, I need people that I trust."
With a sneaking sense of dismay, Fran could tell what was coming. "Spit it out, lad."
"When the Hylians elect their new Council of Elders, I want you three to be on there. You, Mystral, Impa. You'll all interact with me - and only me - as we build for the future." There was a pleading look in his eyes. "What do you say?"
"Is this a command from the King?"
"No," Montero replied, smiling. "It's a request from a friend."
"As for me," Impa said, stepping in. "I accept. I think I can knock my fellow Hylians into the shame. They certainly need it."
Fran looked at Mystral, saw the answer clearly on her face. He turned back to the King. "We'll think about it," he said. "Thank you."
The King shook his head, holding out his hand. "Thank you."
Fran took it, grateful. There was always hope, he knew. There was always hope.
Reluctantly leaving Mystral in the Hylian Quarter, the Hylian hunter made his way back up the winding paths that led to the small hut that he called home. It had been such a long time since he'd been there. Somehow, he'd done it yet again. Once more the world had faced death, and once more Fran had survived. He wondered whether that was a blessing or a curse. He'd lost his daughter the first time. This time, it seemed he'd lost a friend, too. Sahasrahla's corpse was found outside the city as the Calatians continued to clear the damage that the invasion had caused. Fran felt far too tired for grief. Felt far too old, too.
His eyes fell upon his home, his legs pushing him up over the final rise of the hill. Fran stopped, fear biting his heart. The door to the hut was slightly ajar, the light dancing in the windows telling him that someone had already entered. Picking up speed, Fran clutched his bow, his face tight as he wondered when this madness would ever end. Why couldn't life just leave him alone for once?
With a fierce kick, Fran burst through the entrance. Sitting at his table, a man and woman - both of whom he didn't recognise - jumped, their faces lined with shock. "Who are -"
The air changed, and a figure swung down from above, his legs hanging from the criss-crossed beams that made up the ceiling. Fran took a step back, before recognition hit him. "Link!" he cried. "What in the name of the Pit are you doing, skulking around and scaring the last remaining wits out of me! Did you lose your brain or didn't you think I would hesitate to kill any intruder that would dare break into my house?" He paused, his mind catching up to his eyes as he finally realised who exactly he was talking to.
Chuckling, the corner of the boy's mouth tugged upwards in a smile. "I missed you too, Fran."
"And then," Link said quietly as he reached the end of his tale. "She was gone."
The fire crackled in front of them, its heat stroking his face, the acrid smoke tickling his nose. It was a little too hot, but Link didn't notice. The pain that he carried felt like a viscous liquid, tarring his heart, clinging to his mind, and choking his soul. He thought that he'd never felt any other emotion but that pain in his entire life. He also thought that he would feel nothing else but that pain for the rest of his life.
Fran hadn't offered any comments, so Link raised his head to meet the old man's eyes. "I thought I could save her, Fran," he said. "I thought that I'd win."
Crisp skirts rustled and the young Hylian turned to face Malon, Harlequin sitting beside her. "Only in the stories, mister," she said. Her eyes held the same sense of sadness that he felt. "The knight saves the damsel and they live out their days in happiness. Or they're both denied their love, and so they end their own lives." She snorted disdainfully to show what she thought about that.
"That's selfish," Link said. "I was selfish. I didn't want her to live for her. I wanted her to live so that I could be with her." He looked away from the banditwoman. It had taken both him and his bandit friend quite a while to convince Malon of what had happened, so shocked and sickened she had been when she'd seen Link stumble out of the City of Gold, Zelda's cold body in his arms. He still had scratches on his face from her reaction.
Link felt Harlequin's hand on his shoulder. "Don't be hurting yourself over this, mister," he said. "If what the Teacher said is true, then the future is safe. Because of you. Think about that."
Fran spoke at last, his voice flat. "Where is she now?"
The young Hylian tried to loosen the knot in his throat. He failed. "We buried her. Outside the City. We left the Black Sword as a marker...except...it isn't black any more. It's not even steel." Fran raised an eyebrow and gestured for him to continue. "It turned crystal. I could see straight through it."
Link didn't tell him that he'd also buried his Oath Blade along with his friend. Didn't tell him that he'd given away the last of his money to the beggars in Lon Lon City as penance for breaking his promise to the One. To the most destitute person he could find, he had left a map, hastily drawn, that led to the City of Gold, with details on how to reach there safely, bypassing the guards to the Trail. He'd even included directions on an alternative path to the City, one that he'd found while exploring, one that wouldn't need the now-demolished stone bridge. He was sure that the woman - her children clinging to her skirts in hunger - would find all that precious metal useful.
It hadn't surprised him that the City had sank into the ground as they left, leaving only one hard-to-see entrance. Link knew that the City must have been lying there like that for centuries, only coming to the surface when it - somehow- sensed Zelda and himself approach. No wonder no one had tried to plunder it. He made sure to include the location of the entrance on the map, too. It was part of his penance.
Fran let out a deep breath. "I never even got to meet her." Something sparkled in his eyes. "That's a shame."
"But you met the old Queen, right?" Link asked. "And the Hero of Time?" He'd seen and experienced too much now for him not to believe his old friend.
"That's right," the hunter said. His voice took on a wry tone. "Actually, I met her again."
Link frowned, but his friend offered no explanation. Everything felt thick. His heart, his soul, his throat - no matter how many times he connected with the One, he couldn't shake off the deep weight of melancholy that now clung to his mind. "It hurts, Fran," he said helplessly. "Even though I knew I did the right thing, that I placed the needs of others over my own, it still hurts."
Poking the fire with a stick, the Hylian hunter pondered over his words. "It hurts because your heart is alive, lad. This Teacher of yours seems like a wise chap. If I understand him correctly, I'm sure he'd say that no one has a right to satisfy their own ego at the cost of other people, but in denying our desires, we still cause ourselves pain." He locked gazes with Link. "That's why people are so scared. They're so scared to face that pain that they'll go to all lengths to make sure they don't endure it - even if they have to inflict that pain on others. It takes a true heart to be able to suffer it, then go beyond it and not to be consumed by it." A pause. "It takes a Hero."
Link didn't say anything. There was nothing for him to say. He'd long gone past the need for tears. The Teacher's words floated back to him - 'We're not here to make ourselves happy, Link. If we put ourselves at the service of the One and of our fellow living beings, that's where true happiness lies. Everything else is a self-centred illusion. We don't have the right to chase our petty desires when it may harm others, or worse, when others need our help.'
The fire hissed, the logs collapsing into ash. No one spoke. Out of the corner of his eye, Link saw Bannock sitting quietly, a silent observer. His Glimmer Bird, although aware of what had happened through their mental link, had offered no sagely advice.
"You know," Harlequin said, finally breaking the silence. "There's this bird at the bandit camp...what was it called?"
"The Trestral," Malon offered.
"Yes, that's it. Thank you, mistress. It always lays its eggs in two sets. You know why?"
Link shook his head. Gentle scorn entered his voice. "No, but I'm sure it'll teach me something wonderful about my life."
Harlequin laughed, making a face. "Well...there's this other bird, see. A Khork...it eats the Trestral's young. But see...the first eggs that hatch...the chicks that come out, they're all defiant like. It was amazing to see. Like they'd been born knowing that their purpose in life was to fight, to be soldiers. The Khork come and attack them, usually killing them after a long battle. But, in that time, the mother and the other hatchlings escape. Escape so they can live and grow and build their lives."
His eyebrow arching, Link said, "That doesn't really make me feel any better."
Fran cleared his throat. "I think what our young friend is trying to say, laddie, is that some of us were born to lose everything so that others would be allowed to live their lives. That's the way of the world, the way its always been, the way it always will be. Why does a mother tend to her baby in the deepest part of the night so that he can have some comfort? Why does she do it when she gets nothing in return, when she loses her sleep, her own comfort, sometimes even her health? It's the way of the world, lad. We don't question it, we don't change it. We accept it." He licked his lips. "Just don't lose sight of what you have while you're busy missing what you've lost."
Something struck Link at that moment. Something that shamed him to the core. Fran had lost something, someone very close to him, someone from the past. He knew that his old friend once had family, and now that family was long gone. Had Fran given them up to help the Queen of old?
"So, it's really over," the hunter said, staring blankly into the fire as orange shadows danced on his face. "No more catastrophes every one hundred summer. No more darkness." He sighed. "But the scars are still here. Those will take time to fade. It'll take time to rebuild."
"At least now, mister," Malon said. "There won't be anything threatening to tear down what we accomplish."
"So, what now?" Link said. "I can hardly go back into service with the King." His hand dropped to the empty space on his belt where his crossbow had once hung. He'd left it behind at the City, not ever wanting to see it again. "I certainly have no desire to be an assassin again."
"Actually," Fran said, clearing his throat. "Montero did have a request for me to convey to you...should I ever meet you again."
"Montero?" Link said, grinning. "Fran Marcaster...since when have you been on first-name basis with royalty?"
The hunter smiled back, his eye twinkling. "Some of us were born to lose everything...others were born to live their lives in peace...I, on the other hand, was born to mingle with greatness."
Link threw back his head and laughed. It felt good to be able to do so, and dulled the pain in his heart. But only for a moment. "So what does he want from me?"
"The Hylians are going to be living rough for a while. They need someone to watch over them." Fran, his face now serious, looked at Link. "He's designated you to be their official Protector."
The former assassin didn't even have to think twice. A chance for him to put others before himself on a day-to-day basis? "Accepted."
He needed to see the Teacher. Needed to inform him of what had happened, and what was yet to happen. He felt a tremor of anticipation in his heart - it would be good to see his mentor again. He might even stop off at the Deku Tree on the way. Link pulled himself to his feet, brushing the dust from his tunic. His limbs tingled from being inactive for so long. He moved for the door, still limping, though he knew that, like his other injuries, his ankle, too, would heal with time.
"Where are you going, mister?" Malon said.
"Let us come with you," Harlequin said, standing instantly.
"No," Link replied. "Stay here. I'll come back."
The banditwoman rolled her eyes. "I've heard that before. Stay here. Bring this. Do that. I swear, I must be his slave or something. Aren't I supposed to be ordering you around, you being younger n all?"
The young Hylian smiled in response. "I have to learn not to lose sight of what I have, remember?" he said. "I'll get back to you both soon. I owe you both a lot. But there's someone a owe a lot more."
"Where will you go?" said Harlequin.
Link opened the door, the cool air a refreshing change to the stifling heat of the small hut. "To the only place I can go."
Mystral sat on the floor of her house, collecting her meagre belongings into a wooden box. There wasn't much, she mused, to mark the thirty summers that she'd spent in the world. She'd never thought about it before, though. She'd thought the only think she'd leave behind would be her brother, raised by her own hand. That was enough for her.
Mama, Papa, I'm all alone again. She sighed, willing herself to stay strong. That, at least, was something she not only had control over, but was quite good at, too.
Mystral could hear the bustle from outside, the urgent shouts and barked orders as the Hylians prepared for their exile. Sadness hung in the atmosphere, as did the trace of shame. They had brought this upon themselves. This time they couldn't blame the Calatians, the Gerudo or even Fate. They only had to look deep into their own souls. They would have plenty of time to ponder, too.
The King's request came back to her just then. She'd never considered herself the political type, never saw herself as part of the ruling class. And yet she couldn't help but feel tempted by the King's offer. She'd lost everything; she'd almost lost her own life, too. Mystral wanted to give something back to the people. Wanted to help guide and fashion their future. It was a challenge that she would relish.
She looked up quickly, seeing the man framed in the doorway. "Deak," she said. "How are you?"
"Well enough," he replied. His eyes were downcast, as they always were now since the King's pronouncement. "Come outside. You'll be travelling first, with Tom's family."
A smile touched her lips. "Where are we going exactly?"
"I don't know," the Elder said. "Far away, it seems. The woman - Impa - she has a map."
Mystral nodded. She felt relieved that there would be someone else on this trip that she knew. Fran would be joining them soon, too. She wouldn't be alone, not really. Losing Anju, Hobert, and, to a lesser degree, even Kafei had hurt. They'd been her friends, regardless of their backgrounds. Mystral wondered exactly why Impa had chosen to take this path with her people, since she was guilty of nothing and was loyal to the King. It seemed to Mystral that the Hylian woman had more to her personality than first met the eye. Or perhaps it could be just that Impa didn't want to be the only Hylian left in New Hyrule. That was probably it.
Following the Elder through the door, Mystral stepped out into the afternoon light. All around her Hylians were loading their belongings onto wooden carts, the horses snorting impatiently, their hooves scuffing the ground. Children, oblivious to what was about to occur, chased each other, giggling.
The crowd parted as she walked, their voices hushed. They'd heard stories - exaggerated she was sure - of the part she had played in bringing peace back to the city. They nodded at her, greeting her in respectful voices.
"Mystral, good to see you," said one.
"Mistress...anything we can do for you?" said another.
"It brings joy to my heart to see you alive!"
"We're sorry, mistress...forgive us for everything."
She walked on quickly, her eyes trailing the ground, her cheeks pinched with heat. She didn't like being the centre of attention, and offered only murmured responses to everyone.
She came to a sudden stop, her heart freezing in her chest. Something tingled at the back of her neck, cold sweat rising on her skin. "I know that voice..." she breathed. Slowly Mystral turned around, all the sounds around her fading away. Her heart was pounding now, hammering wildly. Scarlet sunlight dazzled her eyes, and for a moment she couldn't see exactly who had spoken. Then the person stepped into view. Her world stopped. "Link?"
She took a step forward, then stumbled. Again, she moved, first walking, then running, as she drew closer and closer towards his outstretched arms. "Link!" Mystral ran straight into him, almost toppling them both over. His arms closed around her, then picked her up, twirling them both around, their laughs ringing in the air. "Baby brother!" she sobbed. Her heart soared, tears rolling down her face. Her lips ached, so long had it been since she'd last smiled. "Baby brother..." Mystral scanned Link's face, and something twisted inside as she saw the scars lining his skin, saw the tight pain in his eyes. "Baby brother, what happened to you?"
Link raised a finger to her lips. "Later," he whispered. His eyes shone, the smile on his face wide. "I'll tell you later."
She was crying now, her hands clutching him tightly, just to make sure he was there, that he was real. "I thought you were dead." Mystral breathed in deeply; the scent of his skin, the touch of his tunic - all of it brought joy flooding into her heart
Pain flickered across his face. "I thought you were dead," he said. "And that I'd killed you."
"Don't be ridiculous!" she cried, laughing. She couldn't stop the happiness bubbling inside of her. "I thought you'd left me."
"Now you're being ridiculous," he said, looking straight at her. "I could never leave you."
Her hand went to the necklace around her neck, the gift that he'd given her the last time she'd seen him. "I kept this," she said. "It reminded me of you."
Link frowned. "Throw it away," he said, his tone suddenly serious. "I have something better." He reached into his belt and pulled out a triangular shaped locket, spinning from a chain.
"What is it?" she said, removing the necklace with her hand. If Link hated it, she didn't want it. She stood, staring, marvelling that he still existed as her brother place the new chain around her neck. Glancing down for a moment, seeing the pendant resting there in place, she looked back up at him, the question still in the air and in her eyes.
Link drew her closer to him. "It's you," he said, as they turned to face the setting sun. "It's courage."
A/N: It's over! 'The Apprentice' only took me three months, but 'Rebel A' took me fourteen!
Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed; thanks again to the usual suspects (you know who you are ).
Please do leave your final comments just to let me know it was all worth it.
I wish you all well.
'Split Infinitive' aka 'Moo'