A/N: Here is my gift to you, heather, and those who are interested in seeing the alternative ending I had in mind. To answer your question: yes, the sequel - if I ever get around to it - will have Link since the setting of the story takes place four years after the boys disappeared.
For sure this will be my last update for this story. I will now focus on rewriting some if not all of the older chapters. Many, many thanks to everyone who have read and enjoyed this story! I am really grateful for your kind words. Now please, enjoy the final alternative chapter!
Alternate Ending: Farewell
"We should give up…"
They were words Yun-seong had muttered hours ago before the cold night fell on them once again. Cassandra felt her remaining hope dwindle to nothing and the same could be said of everyone else that gathered around the burning campfire.
Cassandra, Sophitia, Seung Mi-na, Yun-seong, Taki, Kilik, Xianghua and Talim were all situated around the only source of heat and light in the desolate wasteland littered with crumpled stone, boulders and the occasional fallen dead tree (which was their main source of firewood).
The group hid amongst the piles of rocks that were once towering, twisted spires of stone. Sheltered from the cool autumn winds of the night, the group had made a temporary base near the remains of the dreadful mountain.
For five weeks, the warriors have waited for the valiant little boy named Link to return with the one whose heart had been taken by evil, the one named Siegfried. Lasting for only seconds, the white light created from the collision between the Master Sword and Soul Edge had swallowed the swords' wielders and left nothing in their place.
Cassandra and everyone else had held their breath at the mystical sight, thinking that they had succeeded in opening the path that would save the man who was lost in darkness. The gloomy sky was vanquished and the evil that scoured the land was quelled. Moments after the light had faded, the bright yellow sun cast its warm rays upon the torn mountain, signaling the end of evil's reign.
However, the mountain was quiet and the spot Cassandra had last seen Link and Nightmare was empty. Everyone silently waited for something to happen – for any indication that the two were still alive and their bodies restored. But there was nothing but stillness in the air.
Soon after the moment of calm, the mountain and rock towers started to slowly fall apart around them, forcing the injured group to retreat down the slope and far away from the crumbling structures. All the while, they kept glancing back at the top of the sinking mountain in hope of seeing the boys again. The mountain was nothing more but a pile of broken boulders and dust, half the size of what it used to be hours later. The body of the Lizardman, the one that risked its life to aid Link in the final moment, was buried under stone.
Hours became days. The remaining group had little food and water remaining and their injuries needed proper care. Left with no choice, the group left the barren land and found a nearby village six days later to restock and rest. The least injured stayed for only two days before setting back out to the wasteland on horseback. It was another five days before the rest of the group joined the others, bringing additional supplies to the ones on watch. Since then, they each took turns in resupplying the group after each week, all hoping to see the return of the lost warriors.
Their hope was fading after each passing day. Autumn was nearing its end and winter was looming. They could not stay in the wasteland any longer.
Sitting atop the pile of rocks and facing the peak of the crumbled mountain, Cassandra heaved a weary sigh as she placed her head within her hands. She did not want to give up but the situation was growing bleak. There had been no sign of the boys, making her and everyone tired and frustrated. Perhaps Yun-seong was right… They should give up.
She felt a hand on her shoulder as someone sat beside her on the uneven rock. She did not look up for she knew who it was.
"Are you tired, Cassandra?" Sophitia asked her quietly, "You should get some rest."
Slowly, the younger sister shook her head. "Do you think…" she whispered in her hands to hide the sad frown, "that they're alive?"
The eldest gently squeezed her shoulder. "They are. I just know it."
Again, Cassandra shook her head. "But it's been so long. They told us that they became children within one day… It's already been five weeks and they're not here." She dropped her hands and stared up at the full moon in the starry sky. The night was calm but still chilly. Her cloak was hardly keeping her warm. "What if something happened inside that portal? What if… they disappeared?"
Having no answer, Sophitia was quiet beside her.
Someone soundly came up behind them. The monk named Kilik stood beside the younger Athenian, his eyes distant as he gazed at the mountain remains. "Perhaps we should honour their sacrifice," he quietly told the sisters. "Soul Edge's evil was taken within that light… We should be grateful for that."
"Sacrifice?" Cassandra repeated, almost a whimper. She bit her trembling lower lip as the man's truthful words cut into her doubts. "Could they really be…?"
She stopped herself when she saw a flash of white above the remnants of the mountain. She gasped and pointed. "Did you see that?" she exclaimed, standing abruptly.
"I did," Sophitia replied, standing as well. "It…"
"It's them!" Cassandra cried, waking up those who were sleeping by the fire. "It has to be!" Before she knew it, she was hopping down the broken stones and dashing towards the mess of boulders and rock.
She started to climb to the top, keeping her senses alert for any sign of Link or Siegfried. Behind her, she could hear the rest of the group approach (and Yun-seong's loud complaint of being rudely waken up). They had spread out to search the whole pile of broken stones.
Climbing the crumbled mountain wasn't easy with loose rock and unsteady boulders being the main reason. Her green eyes constantly scanned over the darkest of shadows as she gradually made her way up. She stopped once she reached the middle.
There were voices coming from nearby. They sounded male and different from Yun-seong and Kilik.
"… might've broken another rib…" one of the voices groaned.
There was a growled curse uttered through pain accompanied with the sound of metal scraping against rock. "My back… Why the hell did we land on boulders?" snarled a second voice.
"If I recall, Nightmare pretty much destroyed half the mountain," responded the first, sounding quite strained. "This must be what's left of it."
"Ridiculous. I did not destroy half a mountain."
"I didn't say you destroyed it. I said Nightmare. Remember what I said earlier?"
Following the voices, Cassandra rounded a section of large boulders. She stopped the instant she saw them, mouth agape.
The first to notice her was a young man with bright blue eyes, blond hair and long, pointed ears. He wore a familiar green hat and a matching-colour tunic. Uncomfortably situated atop broken rock and propped on one elbow on his side, he gave the staring girl a wide grin and said, "Hello, Cassandra. Surprised to see us?"
"Link!" she cried, nearly breathless at the elf-boy's sudden change in appearance. Grown to a handsome young man, Link was no longer the short, cute little kid. However, he still seemed to carry that childish charm Cassandra had grown to adore whenever he smiled. From a child to an adult within five weeks, it was truly astonishing.
Sitting close to him was a taller man, leaning heavily against the flat side of a standing chunk of rock. His impressive full-body suit of armour caught her attention first before her green eyes fell on the impassive face. Handsome as well, emerald eyes, partially hidden under strands of long blond hair, stared back at her. The familiar scar running down his right eye was unmistakable.
"Siegfried…" She could not believe the sight before her as she slowly advanced on the blond knight. "It's really you…"
The last she had seen him as a boy – and as himself – was in the forest near the Hymettus mountains. Siegfried had been seriously injured and weak. He should not have been able to move.
However, on that night, he quietly whispered his farewell and ran away… It was on that night, he vanished into the darkness and became what he truly feared…
"I'm sorry, Cassandra," Siegfried suddenly apologized, his emerald eyes reflecting remorse.
Taken back, Cassandra abruptly shook her head and knelt beside the knight. She reached out and gently brushed away a few strands of blond hair out of his face before draping her arms around him. He stiffened at her touch but soon eased up as she pulled him close. "There's nothing to be sorry for, Siegfried," she whispered, holding him dearly much like the last time she was with him, "I should be the one apologizing. It was my fault… I was too weak to help you! If I had been stronger… If I was stronger back then, I could have protected you from Astaroth's monsters and you… You wouldn't have…" You wouldn't have lost your heart to the evil inside you…
"No, Cassandra." A strong hand grasped her shoulder and she was gently pulled away to frown heavily with guilt at the man. Siegfried hardened his gaze at her. "There was nothing you could have done. Astaroth's army would have killed you and the survivors." He shook his head and closed his eyes. "That night, I chose to lure them away. I chose to confront his army with the only power I had. I… willingly became Nightmare… to protect you and everyone else."
Cassandra clenched her fists. "If… If I had listened to you on the mountain and moved faster, we could have –"
"It wouldn't have made a difference. Astaroth would have still found us."
The knight squeezed her shoulder. His expression was full of regret as he met her gaze. "Forgive me, Cassandra, for making you blame yourself for something I chose to do. Please… listen to me: It was not your fault. You, alone, would not have been able to fight against a golem and his massive army. Astaroth only wanted me… He wanted Soul Edge."
Cassandra's eyes widened at the mention of the cursed sword but did not fully understand what Siegfried had meant.
"I was endangering all of you," the knight continued, his voice quiet. "I had to run away but I was forced to fight. But, I was pathetically weak…" He let out a deep, wavering sigh. "In order to fight Astaroth and his army, I had to become Nightmare."
"You…" The Athenian bit her lower lip as tears stung her eyes. She clearly remembered the chaos back in the burning forest. The tension in the air was so thick that she was choking. Chills had constantly ran through her body for all she could do back then was wait, not knowing what truly took place beyond the darkness of trees.
Siegfried was the one that had brought fear to those fleeing Lizardmen and Berserkers she had witnessed running by the survivors' camp. The sheer terror emanating from the soldiers – she could not forget such a disturbing sight.
An enormous army of monsters was instantly decimated from one lone child; a child who had transformed into the fearsome demon known as Azure Nightmare.
The glowing crimson glare full of hatred and malicious intent – the memory of the battle against the dark demon up on the mountain flashed before Cassandra's eyes.
Her voice quivered as she muttered the only words that came to her mind; "I'm so sorry…" Siegfried furrowed his brow, seemingly annoyed to hear another apology coming from her.
"Hey," Link cut in, his tone was soft as he formed a small smile at the girl. He had not moved from his position for it seemed to pain him if he did. "Don't worry about it, Cassandra. Everything worked out in the end. Siegfried and I are back to normal!"
His smile widened into a grin, lightening the Athenian's grief she had felt in her heart for the past few dreadful months. "Yes… Y-You're right," she replied, wiping the tears out of her eyes with the back of her hand. She smiled warmly at the elven warrior before shifting her eyes back at Siegfried. "The both of you have returned. I'm so glad… My, look how you've grown!" she teased, reaching over to playfully tussle Link's hair.
"Hey!" the boy in green cried with a pout as he straightened his hat.
"We've all been waiting for you."
"You waited for hours?"
"Hours? No… We waited five weeks."
"What?", "Five weeks?" both Link and Siegfried exclaimed respectively at the same time.
The girl nodded. "Yes. It's been five weeks since you two opened the portal of light."
Both males stared at her in disbelief. "How did so much time pass by?" Siegfried murmured, glancing down at Link.
The younger man only shrugged his shoulders. "The power of Time works in mysterious ways," was Link's vague reply. "That reminds me, have you seen our swords? They didn't fly off again, did they?"
Cassandra merely shrugged before frowning with worry. "I can't say I have… Does that mean Soul Edge is –"
"Gone," was Siegfried's sudden answer, forming an actual smile – one that was neither forced nor fake. Always did the man have a scowl or look of irritation when he was a boy; always was he burdened with sorrow and regret; not once had Cassandra seen such a happy expression on Siegfried's face. "We destroyed it completely."
"You did?" someone asked in bewilderment, making Cassandra look over her shoulder to see the rest of her group peering around the large rocks. She wasn't sure how long some of them had been listening before they had gathered.
Everyone was there. Most were staring and gawking with mouths hanging open at the two men that were once children. Stunned, astonished, amazed and completely flabbergasted – the range of emotions on everyone's face was priceless. (Except for Taki for she, unsurprisingly, was the only one who could limit the amount of shock to show on her features.)
Link was grinning broadly at them while Siegfried merely snorted before smirking. The older man's smile eventually became one full of relief and rare happiness as he nodded to answer the previously asked question; "Soul Edge and Nightmare are no more."
The news brought gasps of surprise and sounds of relief. More questions were asked but it was Sophitia who interjected, saying that they should take the two back to camp since the devastated mountain was hardly a comfortable place to hang around and talk.
Cassandra turned back to the blond males, unable to hide her growing joy. "Let's get you guys out of here," she said but quickly remembered the situation the two were in. "You're both injured. Was it from the fall?"
"Well, that's partially the reason," Link answered, carefully shifting into a sitting position with a grimace on his face.
"We will tell you later," Siegfried told her and everyone else. He tried to rise but found that he could not, prompting Cassandra and the others to help him and Link.
Back at camp, the excitement of Link's and Siegfried's return never faded amongst the group. Seung Mi-na was practically squealing and even had the nerve to pinch the blond warriors' faces. Besides the pain it left on his cheek, Link didn't mind the girl's attention too much. Siegfried, on the other hand, was pretty annoyed with her.
"Hey! Keep your hands to your appointed task, woman!" he had demanded, lightly smacking her hand away when she playfully tugged at the man's cheek. Both swordsmen were seated by the campfire, in the midst of taking off their equipment to get their wounds treated (for Sophitia would not rest until she made sure they were properly taken care of).
Mi-na giggled and formed a sullen smile. She had offered to help the stubborn man slowly take each piece of his upper armour off, but was instead too occupied with playing around. "Oh, still got that temper of yours, little man," she teased.
"I am no longer little!" the knight lowly hissed, baring his teeth in irritation. Seung Mi-na only laughed. She reached over and mussed up the man's hair, eliciting another smack of the hand and another annoyed growl in her direction.
Link, seated on the other side of the blond knight, was laughing along with a few others that were nearby. Cassandra and Sophitia were by the fire, heating water and preparing a small meal. Taki was quietly observing not too far away, leaning against what used to be a pillar of rock.
The young girl named Talim and her companion, Xianghua, sat across the fire, watching the childish display with amusement. Their male companion, Kilik, rested above them atop a towering pile of fallen stone. The three Destroyers have all been informed of Link's and Siegfried's 'little' mishap, as well as the following events that occurred on their journey, prior to the blond warriors' return.
Yun-seong was on Link's other side, silently giving the injured boy a hand. The redhead had been oddly quiet since Link and Siegfried had returned. The Hylian had given him a few questioning glances but Yun-seong seemingly chose to ignore them.
"Indeed, you are not," Seung Mi-na abided with Siegfried's retort, bearing a wide grin. "Look at you! All grown up into a handsome knight in shining armour!"
Siegfried rolled his eyes and angrily huffed to the side. Link was certain the older man's face was turning red from the remark but it was too dark to tell for sure.
By the time the odd pair managed to strip off several pieces of shoulder and arm protection, Link was already shirtless and wincing in pain as he felt his heavily bruised side.
"How many bones did you break?" the redhead asked, carefully prodding the Hylian's left ribcage. It was the first Link heard him speak that night.
"Four – Ow! Okay, maybe five…" the blond swordsman corrected his answer when the redhead pressed against another tender spot.
"Yun-seong, do you even know what you're doing?" Seung Mi-na asked, peering around Siegfried at the other as she struggled with something on the knight's right side.
The young man pouted at her. "Yes, I do, Mi-na," he grumbled at the woman. "I had broken ribs before, remember? I know how it goes."
Yun-seong grabbed a roll of bandages just as the woman growled out mostly to herself, "How does this thing come off?"
"There should be a buckle – No! Not that one! The other one! Just let me do it!" Siegfried ordered with a sigh, waving the girl away.
However, Seung Mi-na was persistent and continued with her work. "No, no. I got this. Move your hand! I said move it!"
Link turned back to Yun-seong when the redhead quietly mumbled, "This wasn't just from the fall, was it?" He gently applied a strong-smelling salve over the other boy's injury.
The Hylian shook his head and sheepishly smiled. "Nah. Nightmare got me."
Yun-seong froze. His brown eyes narrowed slightly and shifted to the older man arguing with Seung Mi-na. "Nightmare?"
"The real Nightmare," Link clarified, his voice quiet. Yun-seong gave him a questionable look. "Inside the portal, we fought against the true evil of Soul Edge. Siegfried and I, we battled against Inferno and Nightmare."
The redhead was confused. "How exactly when Nightmare is…?" he trailed off and frowned as he once again glanced over at the knight.
"Perhaps it is time you spoke of your ordeal within the portal?" a voice from behind the boys cut in, making them both jump.
Link hissed from the stabbing sensation caused by the sudden movement. Yun-seong turned sharply around and growled, "Damn it, Taki! Don't just sneak up on us like that!"
"My sincere apologies," the huntress quickly apologized yet her stoic expression remained the same. She looked between Link and Siegfried before finally settling on the older man. "I wish to know… The Soul Edge that was once in your possession, what has become of it?"
"We wish to know as well," informed the man named Kilik. He hopped down from his perch and approached the fire to stand beside his two female companions. His face was stern under the light of the orange fire. "The reason we have remained here was to wait for your return with the evil sword so we could put an end to its existence. However, you have stated that it was destroyed. Is that really true?"
Everyone's attention fell on the two blond males. Link was grinning when he answered, "Of course, it's true. We wouldn't be here now, would we?" He gave the man a bold smile. "I pierced the eye of Soul Edge with my Master Sword and its evil vanished within the dark void."
"The dark void?" exclaimed Xianghua, her eyes wide.
"Indeed. The same one where you defeated me with Soul Calibur," Siegfried answered, meeting her gaze.
The dark-haired woman frowned. "That was really you. I… When the void collapsed, you were trapped inside along with Inferno…"
"It was punishment that I deserved. Do not take pity on me." Siegfried nodded at both her and Kilik. "I am grateful that the two of you were able to defeat me back then." He lowered his eyes to the ground before him. "As Nightmare, I have committed so many terrible sins… All I can ask from all of you is to forgive me for the pain and suffering I have caused over the years and from the recent battle up on the mountain. But even that is not enough to atone for everything I had done… or tried to do…"
"Forgive you?" Yun-seong lowly spat, glaring hatefully at the knight. His anger only lasted for a second before he turned away. "Damn brat –"
"You are more the brat than I," Siegfried snapped in irritation.
Yun-seong snorted. "Whatever. Sorry," was all he said and nothing more.
Link quirked an eyebrow. Since when did Yun-seong ever apologize to Siegfried? Even the older blond seemed a little surprised by the redhead's behavior.
"What has gotten into you?" inquired the knight. "Usually you would be loathing my presence and whatnot."
"Nothing's wrong! Forget I said anything!" the other shot back indignantly. He refused to look at anyone, keeping his face downcast.
"Never mind him," said Seung Mi-na, giving the redhead a concerned glance that went unnoticed. She then gave Siegfried a pointed look. "I thought we already discussed this back in Athens. Siegfried, you were controlled by Soul Edge to do those terrible things. I don't blame you for any of it. There is nothing to forgive."
"But I –"
"Siegfried," Link interrupted sharply, giving the older blond a hardened stare. "Nightmare has always been a separate entity from the very beginning. How else do you think Soul Calibur would have chosen you as its wielder? You and I both fought and defeated the real Nightmare in the dark void."
Siegfried was slowly shaking his head. "I was the one who created him."
"And you were the one who put an end to him. You defeated your own evil, isn't that enough?"
Again, the stubborn knight shook his head. "No. What I have done as Nightmare to you and everyone else…"
"If you are really seek forgiveness then I forgive you for everything." Link's expression softened. "Even Lizard's death. 'To be forgiven, I must first forgive myself': those were your own words, am I wrong?"
Sophitia, carrying a bowl of hot water, approached the knight and kneeled before him. She placed a hand over his right, bare, curled fist and softly spoke, "There will be some who will not forgive you. There will be some who will hate you. But I, among others, fully understand who you truly are, Siegfried. I bear no hatred; I bear no spite. Seung Mi-na had said so herself that there is nothing to forgive."
Siegfried had been staring at her hand as he listened. Slowly, he lifted his head to look at her before glancing around at everyone. "Surely not all of you feel that way. If you hate me then I understand. Yun-seong," he addressed the young man in a firm tone, keeping his face reserved.
The redhead met the older man's gaze evenly. "I overheard your conversation with Cassandra," Yun-seong began, his voice low. "What you did, you had to do, right? Better to fight back than die…" The redhead slouched forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "The battle against Nightmare changed my opinion on certain things. I saw the truth behind the so-called 'legendary sword of salvation' and finally understood what evil truly was." He looked away and formed a little smirk. "I don't hate you but I don't like you either because I will always remember you as that little punk that got on my nerves."
Siegfried huffed at that last remark and hid a smirk of his own.
Xianghua stood up and walked towards the knight, her expression unreadable. "Kilik and I lost a dear friend on the day we battled Nightmare. When we saw Nightmare again up on that mountain, all I could think about was revenge." She stopped shortly before the knight, her dark eyes reflecting a hint of anguish. "However, when I learned that there was another inside that demon – a man whose companions wanted to save – revenge turned into salvation. I hated Nightmare, but I do not hate you." She unexpectedly started to smile in a teasing manner. "Well, maybe a little. I'm envious that Soul Calibur is now yours to wield and you were the one to defeat Nightmare."
After a moment of staring silence, Siegfried shortly laughed at the dark-haired girl. The burden he carried in his heart appeared to have lightened. "If you want it back, you may take it," he said with a smirk.
"Are you kidding?" Xianghua placed her hands on her hips and sullenly glowered. "Soul Calibur's way too big and heavy now! What did you do to it?"
"I did nothing. Like Soul Edge, Soul Calibur changed its form to match its wielder. It will probably revert back to its smaller form if you take it."
"No, I tried. It's stuck in the rock."
Unlike the first time the portal had swallowed the two warriors, the aforementioned blade along with Link's Master Sword did not separate and fly off across the land. The two sacred swords had landed atop the remains of the mountain, both deeply embedded into solid rock. Kilik, Xianghua and Taki had found them but could not free them. Link and Siegfried would have to retrieve them later once they have regained their strength.
"I don't mind though," Xianghua continued, her smile turning into relief, "Knowing that it has chosen you is fine by me."
"You should have seen him," Link began, grinning at the knight, "Soul Calibur covered his armour in beautiful crystal. Did the same thing happen to you, Xianghua?"
The woman's mouth was agape. "What? Crystal armour?"
Kilik quietly chuckled at her reaction.
The younger blond swordsman cocked his head to the side. "I'm guessing no?"
"Would you mind telling us everything that happened in the portal?" Talim kindly asked, her wide eyes shining with curiosity.
"Of course." The Hylian gave the young girl an assuring nod before glancing at the knight. "Shall I start from the beginning, Siegfried?"
"Do whatever," was the older man's grunted response as he returned to his armour. Within seconds, he finally succeeded in taking his full breastplate off, revealing his torn black undershirt and two large nasty, bleeding gashes on his left side.
Sophitia gasped and immediately went in to examine the wounds with deep concern all the while scolding Siegfried for not mentioning the severity of his injuries sooner.
Link frowned at the terrible sight. He did not assume that Siegfried was injured that greatly. "I thought Soul Calibur healed your wounds."
"Only the armour. How unfair is that?" The older man snorted rather amusingly as he carefully rolled up the dark fabric.
"You even got stabbed!"
"Didn't hit anything vital." He scowled irritably at the younger swordsman and everyone else who gave him worried looks. "I'm alive, am I not? Stop worrying."
The Hylian eased up and let out a heartfelt laugh. "All right." Leaving the stubborn fool in Sophitia's care, Link began to tell the tale of their arduous battle within the dark realm.
The air was chilled despite the sun shining through the cover of clouds, signifying the onset of winter. Four individuals, draped in thick, heavy, dark-coloured cloaks to keep warm from the bitter winds during travel, stood before the crumbled remains of what used to be an enormous, daunting mountain. Their breath was lightly visible in the morning light.
Slowly, Link approached the marked graved he had made four weeks ago and kneeled before it. He bowed his head in silent prayer with Sophitia joining him shortly after. Siegfried and Cassandra remained standing behind them, bowing her heads with respect.
The grave was a flat slab of rock that stood out amongst the rest at the base of the stone pile. Burned into the hard, smooth surface were letters in both Link's Hylian text and Greek. Using one of his magical fiery arrows, the elf wrote: "May the Gods watch over our dear friend and protector, the great warrior, Lizard/Aeon" and kindly asked Sophitia to do the same in her native language for she had mentioned that Lizard may have originated in Greece upon recognizing the beast's holy weapons.
After a moment of silence, Link stood up but kept his gaze on the standing rock. "Sorry to drag you guys back here," he said, his tone quiet. "I just wanted to see him one last time to say goodbye."
"It's no trouble at all," replied Cassandra. She pulled back her hood and raised her green eyes to the peak of the devastated mountain with a saddened smile. "He was important to you."
"To both of us," Siegfried corrected, removing his hood as well. "If it were not for him, neither Link nor I would be standing here as we are."
The elf nodded and breathed a deep sigh. He turned around and smiled at the last of their group.
Aside from Cassandra, Sophitia, Link and Siegfried, everyone had left, having no real reason to stay any longer.
After the night of Link's and Siegfried's return (and after retrieving their swords), the large group traveled far to the nearby village for rest and, due to Link's constant pestering, a little celebration. The village was tiny with a population of perhaps seventy people. Familiar with the group, the villagers welcomed the warriors and even helped prepare the celebration with extravagant quantities of food. It was a show of thanks, the villagers had said, for getting rid of the evil they had sensed looming in the distance over the past months. The villagers were quick to overlook Link's odd appearance after witnessing his kind (and still rather childish) demeanor.
For over three weeks, Link and Siegfried remained in the village to heal their wounds under Sophitia's strict order. Two days after their arrival, Taki announced her leave. "It is time I depart," she had stated to Sophitia and Siegfried who were the only ones awake that early morning. Light had yet to break the horizon in the distance, keeping the village asleep. The three of them stood outside the village boundary, using a single torch held in Siegfried's hand as their only source of light. "The Evil Seed is no longer present in these lands. With one Soul Edge destroyed, I will seek the other. As promised, I have not spoken of it to Link. I believe the others are still keeping their word."
"I am sad to see you leave yet again, my friend," said Sophitia, reaching over to drape the older woman in a hug. Oddly enough, the ninja returned the embrace.
Siegfried nodded at the huntress after the two separated. "I do not know how to thank you, Taki. You have helped us many times during our journey and that often resulted in you getting injured… I'm sorry."
"Do not apologize." The ninja stepped into the firelight and gave the man a rare, genuine smile. "Seeing you alive and yourself was worth the trouble, Siegfried. We shall cross paths again, I am certain. If you truly wish to follow your path for redemption then our goals will be the same. I may require your power, but let us hope that will not be the case."
"I am grateful for everything you had done."
"And I am grateful to have been of help. Give my regards to Link. I will cherish his gift." She held up the sparkling red gem between her fingers – one of Link's rupees. The boy had given (or forced onto) everyone some of his jewels as thanks. In return, they gave him different pieces of their native currency which consisted mostly of gold and silver coins that bore unique engravings.
She stepped back to give Sophitia and Siegfried one last glance. "Until we meet again. Sayonara." She turned around and instantly vanished into the darkness.
On the following day, Kilik, Xianghua and Talim were next to leave. Gathered around the same spot where Taki was last seen, the remaining group formed a small circle.
"We're hoping to hit the warmer climates before it snows here," said Xianghua, noticeably shivering under her cloak from the autumn weather. She smiled widely, making her face seem childish despite her age. "I'm glad to see you two again, Seung Mi-na. Sophitia. And I'm glad to meet all of you." Her dark eyes scanned over Cassandra and Yun-seong before shifting between Link and Siegfried. "I'm still shocked that you two were only just kids over a month ago."
"I'm sure everyone is," Link replied with a little laugh.
She giggled with him. "I didn't really believe it at first but I guess anything can happen! I never would have thought that there could be another world such as yours!"
Talim soundly nodded. "Your magic is truly fascinating, Link," stated the young girl with admiration. "Those stories of your homeland, I will not forget them."
"Now that Soul Edge is gone, we have no reason to stay here any longer," said Kilik, propping his staff over his shoulder. "It has been an interesting conclusion, nonetheless. Siegfried, let us meet again under friendlier circumstances." The monk met the knights's stare and nodded with a knowing smirk before turning to everyone. "May you all be safe on your journey home."
Xianghua smiled at Siegfried and winked. "Take care of yourself. We may meet again someday as well. And Link, I guess this is goodbye."
"May the winds protect you all," blessed the priestess with a polite bow of her head.
With that, the three of them left with a final wave.
By the end of the same week, Seung Mi-na and Yun-seong were ready to head back home.
"We have a war to win," Mi-na told them with a confident grin. "That is… if it hasn't started yet by the time we get there."
Yun-seong snorted. "I'm sure everyone can hold their own," he murmured yet he still seemed troubled.
The woman nodded. "Yes. They won't give up so easily so we shouldn't either." She dropped the reigns of her horse and approached the eldest Athenian to give her a hug. "Until we meet again, Sophie!" She did the same with Cassandra, then Link, and, much to his annoyance, Siegfried too. "It has been quite an adventure! I'll never forget it!"
The other Korean quietly mumbled his goodbye but Link quickly stepped towards him and drew the redhead into an awkward hug. "Yun-seong! It's been fun – well, we didn't travel together for that long and during most of the time that we did, we were always in danger of something – but still, it was fun!" The hero, bearing a wide grin, pulled back and patted the other young man on the shoulder. "Thank you for everything. It's too bad we can't have a rematch."
Forgetting his worries, Yun-seong laughed at the shorter elf. "No need to. You already know that I can kick your ass," he replied with a mocking sneer.
Link crossed his arms and raised a challenging eyebrow. "Do you want to fight?"
"Hey! Hey!" Seung Mi-na angrily waved her hand between them. "That's out of the question. Link, you haven't fully recovered yet! You'll just end up injuring yourself."
The boy shortly chuckled. "I was only kidding."
"Link." Yun-seong gave the hero one last smirk. "Our journey was short but it was rather… interesting, to say the least. Take care of yourself." He glanced at Siegfried briefly and only nodded. The two formerly bitter companions had managed to tolerate each other's presence over the past few days spent in the village. They had rarely spoken to each other but they had rarely argued either. Thankfully it was Link who occupied the redhead's attention most of the time.
It was not long after that the Korean pair finally said their final goodbye and left the village.
During the last two and a half weeks, Siegfried spent most of his time with the elf. As annoying as Link could be, the knight did not mind having the other constantly around (even though he hated to admit it). Sometimes, the boy would be a pain like always but Siegfried had patiently learned to accept Link for who he was.
He owed the hero his new life after all.
Link's final request before going home was to see Lizard's grave one more time. It was a three-day journey back to the barren wasteland on horseback.
Standing before Siegfried, Cassandra and Sophitia, the boy smiled. His blue eyes beamed with joy for only a moment before they were filled with sadness.
He embraced the sisters and thanked them dearly. Cassandra and Sophitia were the first to help him and Siegfried when they were children, and they were the last to stay with the pair.
"Watch yourself, Link," the younger sister started, playfully messing the elf's blond hair. "I know you're a tough kid and I shouldn't worry, but it can be hard not to, you know?"
The hero smugly grinned at her. "Hey, I fought against a bunch of Lizardmen, a golem, some demons, and even fell off a mountain and survived," he stated with a little laugh. "I've done a lot of dangerous things before I even came here and pulled through in the end so you don't have to worry about me, Cassandra."
The girl nodded with an amusing smile. "I suppose you're right. The Gods really watch over you." Her smile became sad. "I will miss you, kiddo."
"I will miss you as well. You have been an older sister to me and Siegfried." He raised his brow in the older man's direction.
Siegfried sighed and rolled his eyes.
Ever since the elf discovered that Cassandra and Siegfried had pretended to be siblings during their grueling trek through the Hymettus mountains, the boy had been constantly teasing the knight about it.
"You were a cute little brother, but now you're a handsome one." Cassandra lightly giggled and fixed up the hero's hair.
Sophitia placed both her hands over Link's shoulder and gave him a warm smile. "I will never forget you, Link. I have seen the courage and determination that shines brightly within your soul. You are, without a doubt, one of the strongest warriors I have ever met. Our time together was short, but every moment was a blessing." She pulled him into another hug. "May the Gods protect you no matter where you are."
"Words cannot convey how grateful I am to have met both of you," said Link, returning the smile. "Cassandra, Sophitia, be strong and stay safe."
The hero turned to the remaining member of the party. Blue eyes wavered with emotion as he walked up to Siegfried. He stopped before the taller man, his lips forming a sad smile. "You must be happy now that I'm leaving."
Siegfried frowned slightly but quickly replaced it with a smirk. "Of course," he answered frankly, crossing his arms beneath his cloak. The sound of his armour rubbing against itself was muffled. "You finished what you came here to do. It is time you return home."
Link cocked his head to the side as he studied the older man's face. "I guess you're right." The boy faintly smiled and bowed his head.
"Link." Siegfried met the boy's eyes with deep gratitude. He had already thanked the hero numerous times and had already apologized for everything he had committed. There was no need to repeat himself again for Link already knew how he felt.
The knight put out his left hand.
The hero glanced down at the metal gauntlet and grasped it tightly. Iron fingers held strong around the other, stirring up the memory within the dark void. Link's promise to break the curse – that had been Siegfried's hope within the twisted realm.
Without hesitating, Siegfried pulled the other into an embrace – one where he neither felt uncomfortable nor embarrassed. "You have been a true friend. You have been a brother. I will not forget everything you have done for me. Link," he stepped back and smiled at the grinning Hero of Time, "Our journey had been long and painful but I do not regret the time we had spent as children. You have kept your promise to me and for that I am eternally grateful to you."
"Siegfried, I'm glad I was able to fulfill my promise to you. You are the first friend I have made in this world. I know we didn't get along so well most of the time – I guess it's partially my fault," Link laughed, "But when we did, I was always happy.
"We have shared the same fate on that day. Every day after that had been a fun – and rather dangerous – adventure. I don't regret any moment of it either." Link reached down to his waist to unbuckle something. "I want to give you something."
The older man frowned and waved a hand at the boy. "What? No. You've already given me enough." Link had already insisted Siegfried to keep the purple rupee they were using for their ridiculous bet – Siegfried really did not know who had actually won.
Smiling, the hero handed the other a leather belt and attached to that was the small sword he had used as a child. The blue scabbard was badly scratched and the hilt and guard of the sword suffered from minor damage due to Link's plummet down the mountain. "I know it's not much – mainly because of the condition it's in – but I want you have it."
Siegfried scowled at the small blade dangling in the elf's hand. "Why would you want to give me that?"
"Because it's important to me. This Kokiri Sword is a sacred treasure where I grew up."
"If it's important then you should keep it."
Link grabbed the knight's right hand and placed the sheathed weapon in it. "Take it. I have no more use for it."
Still scowling, the older blond reluctantly accepted yet another gift from Link. He had nothing to give the boy. Unlike the hero who carried all sorts of things, Siegfried had nothing of value on him except Soul Calibur and his armour. (But he couldn't give the elf a piece of his suit – that would ruin it entirely! However…)
"Fine. Then I want you to take this." Siegfried took off his cloak and dropped it on the ground. He reached behind his neck to loosen the clasps that held the long blue scarf that decorated his suit of armour. (He was still uncertain how articles of clothing and equipment could suddenly appear within a time portal. The mystery of 'Time', Link had stated once again when Siegfried had asked.) He freed the flowing piece of cloth and handed it to the boy. "It bears no significant importance to me but it is a part of my armour. And I like my armour. So keep it safe."
Link laughed at that and nodded. "Thank you, brother! I'll keep it with me at all times." He draped the scarf around his neck.
With that, the hero turned and strolled away to stand a short distance in front of the three people present.
"So," Cassandra began to ask, "how are you getting home?"
The hero took out his blue instrument. "With this."
"A song to take you home?" inquired Sophitia, with a curious tilt of her head.
Link nodded and formed a lopsided grin. "Yes. An ancient melody that opens the Gate that links our two worlds. A tremendous amount of magic is required to open the Gate from both sides. So it was a good thing I had all that time to rest and recover!" His face became resolute as he met each of the three warriors' eyes. "This is goodbye. I'm glad to have met all of you and the others who are not here. It has been another great adventure for me." He raised his ocarina and closed his eyes. "This is my final gift to you all: The Song of Passage."
He brought the instrument to his lips and played.
Notes flowed in a slow, enchanting tune that resounded all around them. As the boy played the mystical song, the ocarina he held began to glow. The air around him shimmered with golden particles of light that swirled in an upward circular pattern. Along with the progression of the melody, the flickering light around Link brightened until he was bathed in gold.
Blue eyes opened to look at Siegfried one last time. The knight could only smile as the hero before him vanished within a dazzling display of golden light particles that spiraled towards the heavens. The song gradually faded along with the light, leaving three warriors to stare at the sky in wonder.
A/N: Thank you all for reading! Until next time, take care!