THE FIRST DAY
-72 Hours Remain-

It was a fine, summery day, with a sweet, wavering wind. Cottony clouds dotted an endless blue sky; the view in all directions was marred only by an unusually large and menacing moon which hung low over the land. The moon had been growing larger and larger by the day as of late, but Romani could not bring herself to care. After all, that was grown-up stuff, for grown-ups to worry about. Romani did not concern herself with grown-up stuff.

A fine day such as this would clearly be wasted, were it spent on chores. Romani resolved to milk and feed the cows as quickly as she could, and then see if she could get away with not dusting and tidying the insides of the modest home she shared with her older sister.

She was just scattering grain on the ground in front of the barn for the happy cuccos to eat when she spotted a figure in green in the distance, by the entrance to the ranch. "Oh!" she cried in excitement, hurling the rest of the grain into the air, causing a commotion among the cuccos, and dashing off.

Upon approaching this stranger, who appeared to be about her age, Romani discovered that not only had she never seen him before, a rarity for a sociable girl of Termina, but that he was definitely not from around here. His odd clothes indicated as much. A foreigner was almost unheard-of in the shielded lands of Termina, and these facts made the strange boy irresistibly interesting to Romani.

"Hi!" she welcomed him, bubbling over with curiosity. "What's your name? Where are you from? How did you get here? What do you want at our ranch?"

Rather than respond with equal enthusiasm, the boy merely smiled faintly and bowed his head to her in greeting.

Perplexed at this non-reaction, Romani considered the boy for a moment, then pressed on, "Well, if you don't tell me your name, I'll come up with one to call you. You have funny clothes, and they're bright green, just like the color of a grasshopper. So I'll call you Grasshopper!"

The boy nodded, evidently unwilling to argue this choice of a name.

"Okay! So come on then, Grasshopper! I'll show you the ranch. It's the most wonderful place in all of Termina! And maybe the whole world, too, but I don't know because I've never been outside of Termina before." She turned to walk backwards and face him as she talked. "Have you?"

The boy considered for a moment the countless adventures he'd had in Hyrule and beyond, and felt justified in nodding.

"You have! I knew you weren't from around here! What's it like?"

Once again, the boy did not answer. His face betrayed very little emotion, indeed. Romani found him quite strange.

They continued walking along over gently sloping hills until the house and barn came into view. Suddenly, the boy's mouth dropped open in shock, and he dashed off towards the horse Romani had corralled in the small pen adjacent to the house. The filly's arrival circumstances had been most unusual; Romani had discovered her that very morning, grazing near the house, alone, with no bridle, saddle, or indication of an owner. Romani fancied that she might have seen a scarecrow floating away in the distance at the time she'd found the young horse, but of this she could not be sure. It would not have been the strangest thing she'd ever seen, but then, the sunrise might have been playing tricks on her eyes.

The boy raced towards the horse, and the horse reared and whinnied excitedly. Romani watched her caress the boy's shoulder, and realized that they must know each other. "That your horse?" she asked.

The boy nodded, and she finally saw some emotion on his face. He was smiling as he pressed his cheek against the filly's soft muzzle, and he closed his eyes, obviously overjoyed to have found his friend again. "She's a really sweet girl," Romani said conversationally, walking over to open the corral gate. He nodded again, still smiling. "I've got a horse, too. Her name is Leaf." She gestured towards the barn. "Let's ride!"

Romani retrieved Leaf and clambered aboard with the help of a box that was sitting out in the open nearby. A scruffy white Scottie dog came zooming out from behind the house just then, yapping playfully and dancing about the horses' hooves. The boy mounted his horse and looked to Romani for direction. She gave Leaf's chestnut rump a light smack, and yelled, "Come on, Grasshopper! Try to catch me!"

Romani and her new friend played together for the rest of the day, taking turns at racing, jumping fences, or charging around an obstacle course she'd set up that featured balloons in the shape of large, black, spindly creatures. The boy shot each expertly with his bow, causing the little girl to squeal and clap her hands with delight.

-.-.-.-

Dusk began falling quietly upon the ranch. Romani and the boy leaned against the wooden crate in front of her house and watched the last faint rays of the sun dipping behind the trees. Leaf and the boy's horse grazed nearby.

Romani sipped from her steaming mug of broth. "You know why I had you run that obstacle course?" she asked, turning away from the horizon to look at him. "I need your help. They're coming."

The boy looked at her questioningly, inviting clarification.

"The aliens! They're coming tonight. I have to stop them. My sister Cremia doesn't believe me, so she won't help me. But you believe me, right? The aliens come to steal the cows. If you help me, we can protect them. Can I count on you?"

The boy nodded, showing neither skepticism of nor belief in her tale.

"Thanks! They'll be here tonight at 2AM. I'm so glad you'll help." They sat for some time more, as the sky slowly changed colors and the sun sunk further and further out of sight. Romani sipped from her mug again and smiled at her friend. He did not notice, however, and instead was gazing at the fearsome moon, the moon which did not glow like the moon he remembered from Hyrule did. His brow was furrowed. Romani stared at him intently, her eyes traveling curiously over each worried line of his face. Suddenly overcome with emotion, she leaned over and hugged him as hard as she could. "I really like you, Grasshopper," she whispered in his pointed ear. Even as she did all this, even as she felt his body tense and then slowly relax, she knew that this boy held a loneliness in his heart that she would never be able to imagine.

The pair sat there, holding each other and sipping from their mugs occasionally, until the stars twinkled sweetly in the heavens above them. Romani instinctively understood that there was something different about this boy, something that indicated his soul was far older than his young years suggested. He carried a weighty burden, it seemed, a burden that no child his age should be able to bear.

"Come on," she said softly to him, smiling as warmly as she was able, in hopes of melting some of the ice freezing his insides. "Why don't you stay on the ranch with us tonight?"

The boy stood, and together they walked inside.