In which Riju encourages Ganondorf to man up.


"I'm going to use the bathroom," Zelda said.

"Break a leg," Riju replied, swiping off her phone and shoving it into the glove compartment. She didn't feel like answering Urbosa's furious storm of messages. They would get there when they got there, and then Zelda could explain everything herself.

Riju stepped out of the car and stretched. Ganondorf sat on the hood as he waited for the gas to finish pumping. Riju joined him. They had been driving in the shade of the Gerudo Valley canyon walls for more than an hour, but the metal was still uncomfortably warm.

"I noticed you've been using magic to keep the mileage steady," she said in Hylian. "Where'd you learn how to do that?"

Ganondorf made a noncommittal noise. That was fair; it wasn't really a question. Where did any of them learn these things? His mother probably taught him.

"We're going to be out in the desert during the hottest part of the day," Riju continued. "Do you have any magic for keeping the engine cool?"

"I'll see what I can manage."

"You do that. This car is my vehvi. Treat her nice."

Ganondorf didn't respond. Riju studied his expression. He was staring blankly at the way station, careful not to watch Zelda walk across the parking lot.

Sidon hadn't told her much about the situation, only that Zelda was in trouble and might need to leave Hyrule for a few days. Sidon usually wouldn't shut up, and the fact he wouldn't give her any details was concerning, especially since he'd called at the shining asscrack of dawn. Riju vaguely assumed there was some idiot voe involved, and she hadn't expected to show up at Sidon's house to find Zelda in the company of two of the most attractive men she'd ever seen in her life. The Hylian was a bit short for her taste, but the Gerudo had legs for days and could slice bread with his cheekbones.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that this was the unfortunately named "Ganondorf." He'd taken a shortcut along the sunset roads to join them, and he stepped back into the light right behind her without properly announcing himself. Whoever had given him such an impossible name obviously hadn't taught him any manners. Riju didn't waste any time making her opinion known, but when he replied he spoke like someone in one of the old sagas she'd had to memorize as a child.

This Ganondorf was a strange one. Riju had met any number of people like him before, Gerudo who grew up in Hyrule and didn't speak a word of their own language, but they almost never knew magic, and they certainly didn't know classical Gerudo. When Ganondorf spoke to her, he apologized by saying that he'd been admiring the car in the "Twilight," using an archaic transliteration of the Hylian word. He asked if the car belonged to her, and it was so bizarre to hear him say such a mundane sentence in such poetic language that she couldn't help laughing.

Once Riju established to her satisfaction that Ganondorf was a good driver – probably one of the best drivers she'd ever met, even despite being a voe – she spent the ride teasing him in Gerudo. Instead of getting annoyed, he made conversation by repeating bits and pieces of what she said with slight variations. She enjoyed tricking him into saying outlandish phrases, but it didn't take him long to realize what she was doing. No matter what she said, he would invariably use his limited vocabulary to return the conversation to solid ground. Oddly enough, he didn't speak like a Hylian but had one of the most bizarre accents she'd ever heard, like someone living in a literal cave next to some goddess-forsaken oasis out in the high desert. To give him credit, he was starting to get better.

Meanwhile, Zelda was obsessively focused on something on her laptop. Riju knew Zelda tended to get sick when she read in the car, but she also knew better than to interrupt her while she was working. There was no point in trying to bring her into the conversation. Riju assumed she'd hear all about it later whether she wanted to or not. Speaking of which…

"You really like her, don't you?" she asked Ganondorf.

The nozzle of the gas pump clicked, and Ganondorf walked around the side of the car to remove it.

Riju stood up and followed him.

"Don't try to act cool about it. You turned down the air whenever she got a single goosebump on her arm, and you turned it back up every time she so much as raised her hand to brush her hair away from her forehead."

Ganondorf paid for the gas without responding. Riju couldn't decide whether his unwillingness to discuss the nature of his relationship with Zelda was cute or just plain stupid. That's what you get for being raised in Hyrule, she thought. And Zelda was the same way, may the Sages help them both.

"She's not a delicate flower, you know. You can set the air at a reasonable temperature and leave it there, she'll adjust."

"She's been in the bathroom a long time," he said.

"She had a lot of coffee this morning."

"You should go check on her."

"How about I give her some privacy instead."

Instead of answering, Ganondorf walked to the back of the car and stretched his arms above his head. Despite the stiff fabric of the shirt he wore, Riju could see that he had nice shoulders. He unbuttoned his cuffs and began to roll up his sleeves. It was strange that this man spoke classical Gerudo yet still insisted on dressing like a Hylian on a trip to Lanayru. She wondered whether he'd had the good sense to bring sunglasses.

"You don't have to worry about using magic once we're past Gerudo Valley. You can make the car fly if you want."

He looked at her over his shoulder. "You didn't tell me the car flies."

Riju was taken aback. Had he actually made a joke?

"I'm just saying you can drive as fast as you want. There aren't any Sheikah in the desert."

It might have been a shadow, but Riju thought she saw a hint of a smile cross Ganondorf's face. "We'll see about that. Don't you want to find out if your vehvi really can fly?"

Riju considered the possibility. Most people took the train from Hyrule through the mountains to avoid the sun, and there wouldn't be much traffic on the road. She was already bored with their impromptu language lessons. This man was clearly talented, and she wanted to see what sort of magic he was capable of.

She shrugged. "Sure, why not?"

"I think you should check on Zelda."

"Ah, sa'oten. Fine."

He was probably right. Riju made a rude gesture at him as she crossed the parking lot and entered the station. She winced when the air conditioning hit her face and squinted against the overbright fluorescent lights. She couldn't spot Zelda in the store, so she headed down a side corridor for the bathroom.

When she opened the door, the first thing she saw was the reflection of Zelda standing in front of the sink. Her eyes were bright red, and her cheeks were wet.

Zelda quickly grabbed a handful of paper towels and pressed them to her face.

"I'm so sorry," she said in a muffled voice.

"Oh, honey." Riju allowed the door to swing shut behind her and went to embrace Zelda. "What's wrong?"

Riju felt Zelda shake her head against her shoulder.

"Did your dad do something stupid?"

Zelda shook her head again.

"Is it that voe? We can leave him here to die of exposure. Just say the word."

Zelda laughed and stepped away.

"It's just," she said, interrupting herself to wipe her nose. "It's just all so much. All at once."

"What is?"

"Do you ever wish magic weren't real?"

What? Magic? Why would Zelda say that? Was this about her mother? Had her father done something?

The bathroom door opened behind them.

Ganondorf stood in the doorway. He was wearing a ridiculous pair of sunglasses with neon orange plastic rims. The stems were lined with imitation rhinestones.

"I thought you might like something to drink."

He held out a plastic bottle of apple tea, the Hylian kind that was at least fifty percent sugar. It didn't escape Riju's notice that he'd gotten the brand Zelda liked.

Give it to her yourself, Riju mouthed silently, glaring at him. If this silly voe was Zelda's boyfriend, then he should stop being a coward and act like it.

Riju stepped back as Ganondorf walked inside. He twisted the cap off the bottle and offered it to Zelda. She accepted it but was careful not to touch Ganondorf's fingers. Riju frowned. There was something funny going on with the two of them.

"We'll give you minute," Riju said. "We'll be just outside, okay?"

She grabbed Ganondorf by the arm and dragged him back into the store. "What happened to her?" she whispered in Gerudo.

"I think she should be the one to tell you," he answered quietly in Hylian. "But we should eat first."

"Not here."

"Obviously."

"Listen, when she comes out of that bathroom, you need to hug her. Or at least put a hand on her shoulder. Or something."

"She wouldn't appreciate that."

"You're even dumber than you look if you think that."

Zelda walked out. Her eyes were still red, but her face was dry and composed.

Ganondorf offered her his hand. "Are you okay?"

Don't do that, you idiot, Riju thought. She'll act like she thinks you just want the bottle back.

For a moment Zelda seemed as if she were going to do just that, but then she put her hand in his.

"I'm feeling better, thank you."

The stony expression on Ganondorf's face softened, and the hard line of Zelda's shoulders relaxed.

Riju clicked her tongue and shook her head. These two nerds were adorable, but there was definitely something weird going on. There was no way they'd slept together, and Riju was beginning to doubt that they were even dating. So why did Zelda insist on bringing Ganondorf with her? The last time she'd had a real conversation with Zelda, Ganondorf was just some creep she'd been having nightmares about after he'd showed up at her apartment.

Urbosa called Riju back to Lanayru before she could pursue the matter, but Riju talked to Mipha, and Mipha talked to Sidon, and Sidon talked to some Sheikah agent named Link, who assured him everything was fine. Then it turned out that Sidon had started dating Link, and Link was friendly with Ganondorf. That was far too many voe for Riju to bother with, and she had other things to worry about besides who Zelda may or may not be dating at the moment. In addition, she'd been more than a little hurt when Zelda asked to move in with her only to move out a month later.

Riju had been even more offended when Zelda wouldn't talk with her about magic, or about her mother, or even about the nightmares she'd been having. Weren't they friends? Couldn't they share anything with each other? Riju assumed Zelda just needed time to process her decision to get away from her awful family, and she had every intention of giving her as much space as she needed – until she got the call from Sidon. What if there were something truly disturbing going on?

In any case, she would have to talk with Urbosa when she got home, and then she needed to sit down and have a serious conversation with Zelda. This Ganondorf, whoever he was, could get in line.

She had to admit that she liked him, though. There was something odd about him, to be sure, but he was easy on the eyes. Zelda seemed to trust him; and, in the end, that was all that mattered.

"Let's stop for lunch at the next station," Riju said. "They have a nice café there. They serve hydromelon parfaits as big as your head, and maybe we can get this guy some decent sunglasses."

"These are fine," Ganondorf said, deliberately adjusting his glasses.

"Well, it's your face," Riju responded, "but your shades don't have nearly enough rhinestones, in my personal opinion."

Ganondorf gave a solemn nod. "I concede the point. I won't settle for anything less than gorgeous."

Riju met Zelda's eyes, and they shared a smile. Yes, she decided, Ganondorf was all right. Zelda's visions might have been prophetic, and he might actually be the reincarnation of a legendary demon. Still, if an impending apocalypse was what it took for Zelda to walk out of the shadows and start standing in the sun, Riju supposed she couldn't complain.