Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, they all belong to Nintendo
Everything Has a Price
There was a quiet rustle coming from somewhere among the bushes. For a moment it was as though a green blur had been visible on top of the castle wall. The many guards patrolling the garden of Hyrule castle – it was Princess Zelda's favorite spot and it would not do for anyone unwelcome to make it inside – all shook their heads and pretended like nothing. They often imagined things (it had to be because they took their job very seriously and were therefore on the alert) except the occasional time when the legendary hero graced them with a visit.
The Hero of Time was in reality nothing but a forest boy, by the name of Link. No more no less. Although there were words from neighboring countries of his great deeds no one could remember why he would be the hero of Hyrule. At least the people liked him and did not question the title, which had begun as nothing but one of Princess Zelda's cunning games if you asked the guards. Naturally, they threw him out on sight.
"Talk about stupid," Link muttered to himself. It would take a massive effort to praise these men. If their incompetence had not been what let him see Princess Zelda he would have made sure that they were replaced a long time ago. Getting past them was a walk in the park and he did not have to hunch long behind the bushes or be the least careful when he walked on top of the castle wall, in plain sight had anyone thrown a glance his way. His green tunic was good for camouflage but he could probably have dressed up as one of the Great Fairies and remained unnoticed.
Link rounded the last corner and she was sitting at the bottom of the steps in front of the window where he had first met her. Her hair was blonde, like his – fairer even – and fell all the way down to the ground when she watched one of the many yellow flowers in deep thought. That was until she sensed his presence and her blue eyes moved away from it to him.
"You seem to be in a good mood," Zelda commented when he approached her with his hands held behind his back.
"Hello, Princess," he greeted her. "Can you guess what I've got here?"
"A letter," the princess said without missing a beat.
He held it out, because indeed it was a letter, a deep sigh. Zelda scanned through it, Link's eyes not leaving her for a second as she did, and once she finished she looked up at her friend.
"Super Smash Brothers? Did you not enter that contest last year?"
It had been a new event where famous people, with more or less battle skills, faced off against each other to claim a generous prize. She had promised last time that she would come and watch him – as his childhood friend feeling required to watch. Unfortunately she had, due to some unforeseen business, been unable to attend, which was an even bigger shame considering he had ended up in one of the top places. The winner had been Super Mario if her memory did not fail her. However, it had been a low-budget arrangement and a huge flop. She was surprised that they would host the contest this year again.
"This time I'm going to win for sure," Link said and balled his hands into fists. "I am representing Hyrule and because our holy princess..." He smiled at her. "Is Hyrule herself, I, as its chosen hero, will be fighting in your name."
In spite of the humorous glint in his eye he got down on one knee in front of the princess on the stone steps and held a fist over his heart. She took his hand with both of her own and when he looked up he found that she had the most curious expression on her face.
"Come sit," she said softly. He sat down next to her on the grey stones that were cold despite the warm season. His blood was starting to pump faster through his veins. This close, and she had asked him. His hand inched closer but after a long inner battle with himself he could not bring himself to grab hers and exhaled a puff of hot air. Well, next time, maybe.
"I won't make the same mistakes as last time."
He started a full resumé of the matches last year. Zelda only had half a pointy ear on his story, since she had heard it a few times already, but she nodded and made a remark or two every now and then to avoid hurting his feelings, and it was not unpleasant listening to him.
"This time, will you come and watch me?"
All of a sudden he was staring down at his own hands, the tips of his thumbs rubbing against each other.
"I will see what I can do," she said and gave him a reassuring smile. She did not dare to promise him this time, in case the unforeseen business would rear its ugly head again.
"I better go and make myself ready then," Link said and jumped to his feet. He stretched his arms and swung his torso from side to side to loosen up his muscles. "I'll have to look good if the princess herself is coming to watch me."
"Sure," she laughed and glanced at the letter still in her hand before she handed it back. "It's two months from now. Do you need that much time to make yourself ready?"
"You're laughing now but one can never be too prepared, as you way too often tell me."
He saluted her and the princess broke into laughter, trying to silence herself by hiding her small mouth behind her hands. He smiled, she not realizing the affection behind it, before he turned to sneak back out from her garden.
As soon as Link was out of sight, Zelda walked inside to contact the producers of Super Smash Brothers. Since Hyrule was not even near a high technology country she would have to use a so-called gossip stone that was quite the rare thing. It was important to preserve the natural course of modernization so they would still not import phones. Luckily, Hyrule did not care much for the outside world so the special stone had never provoked any Hyrulian's jealousy. Zelda quite enjoyed using it. Its green glow cast such a beautiful dim light over the circular room it was kept in.
"Hello, Master Hand speaking."
The voice answering on the other end was the one of an older man, middle-aged Zelda assumed.
"Yes, Mr. Hand, I am calling because I'm wondering if it would be possible to reserve seats for the Super Smash Bros event?"
"Oh, sorry, but how can you know about that?"
Zelda blinked at this response. Maybe they had not begun to make any advertisement yet?
"One of the contestants is a friend of mine. I heard it from him."
These silences were suspicious, Zelda thought as she waited.
"That's very weird, who sent out the invitations?" the person seemed to mumble to himself. "How did you get our number?"
"It was in the letter, Mr. Hand."
Zelda's eyes widened when Mr. Hand muttered something that she could make out to be a word people never used in front of a princess.
"I would be honored if you would share with me your troubles. Oh, and I beg you to please excuse my forgetfulness. I have not even properly introduced myself. I am Princess Zelda of Hyrule and if there is anything I can do to help I will gladly comply to offer it," Zelda said with her most convincing amiability. She even put a hand over her heart even though the one she was talking to could impossibly see her. She disliked using her title but it often worked to get people a lot more eager to let you know things that common people should stay out of.
"P-Princess? I'm so sorry for... I did not insult Her Highness?"
"No harm done," Zelda ensured, patient as ever but eager for the speaker to get to the point.
"You see, Your Majesty, I don't think we can afford hosting the contest this year. We had some plans at maybe giving it another try and most things are in order but we can't do anything without a sponsor. The invitations were sent out by accident. I will of course send out letters and apologize for this. I don't think there ever will be another Super Smash Brothers event."
Zelda felt her hopes falter. No contest? She could already see Link's disappointed face in front of her. Having spent most of her life locked up one could easily say that the princess had no social life whatsoever. Maybe a suitor every now and then but other than that, nothing. Link had always been her one closest friend. He mattered the world to her. She would not be able to stand seeing him disappointed. She knew how eager he was about this.
"Maybe I could sponsor you?"
"R-Really? You are too kind, milady. It will be very expensive, I'm afraid and I wouldn't want to trick you into anything."
"That will not be a problem, but can I remain anonymous?"
Zelda prayed for a good answer. Even if she would rather avoid that Link heard about her arrangements it was not the reason for her question. She was aware that she was doing a bad thing deciding this on her own and wasting such a great part of the royal fortune.
If things had turned out differently back then, her father would probably not have minded. After the death of Zelda's mother he had fallen ill and lost every ounce of love for Hyrule and life itself. His temper had changed for the worse, he was erratic and his judgement was wrecked. Nowadays, it had gone so far that he stayed behind closed doors and let the royal council take care of his kingdom.
The royal council had been established to prevent an abuse of power but now it was reduced to a bunch of greedy old men who were a bit too comfortable with their range of influence. They were like raptors, always keeping a watching eye on the princess and fighting with sharp beaks and claws to have things their way. Zelda was still not the legitimate queen as long as her father was still alive, and as long as she remained unwed, so they could at present gang up on her.
The princess tried not to think too much about it but she often felt like a bird in a cage, as her father had turned bitter even towards her. His neglect of his daughter and country gave the advisors of the council more power than they deserved. Of course, they wanted nothing more than to be rid of her before she could become queen, because then playtime would be over. They had tried presenting her suitors of their choice, kings that would let them do as they pleased, and often resorted to their favorite pastime that was finding faults in her so that she would be dethroned.
"Oh..." The voice trailed off. Zelda waited. "I guess that you could be anonymous, but you see, I haven't mentioned that you will have to enter the contest."
It sounded ridiculous! Entering such a contest would only mean one thing. If the advisors got a reason to kick her out they would buy new boots for the occasion. Zelda knew all too well that their rule would mean dark times for Hyrule.
The only reason that she said no to the freedom she longed for and agreed to walk around in these monstrous dresses every day was that she wanted to protect her beloved Hyrule. Her position had been given to her by the three goddesses and she had to live up to her fate. If she did not, the advisors would surely take over after her father. Now would that not be a day of joy?
"Well, you see, Milady, that we are bound by certain rules when we're hosting these things and since the invitations were sent out with a date for the contest... Hmm, let me explain. We have a time limit to get sponsors and the invitations works as a guarantee with a set date so the time has already run out for us. We can't afford to do this all by ourselves so we have to cancel the whole thing. The only chance is if a contestant donate his or hers own money. It's also so bad that we hardly have access to any arenas, no money for marketing or to hire people, no winning price... Nothing! We will need a small fortune to pull this off."
"Can I call you back?" Zelda asked as her pointy ears caught the sound of one of those advisors sneaking around outside the room.
"O-of course, Milady. I'll be waiting for your call. I'm sorry if I-"
"No, please, no need for you to apologize. I'll get back to you."
There was the gliding sound of soles being dragged over the floor. A peering gaze that made Zelda feel like a worm watched by a fisherman sent a chill down her spine.
"Now what are you plotting, warrior princess?"
She turned around to answer the councilman with a cold stare. Her title was of little use against these men and no matter how much she disliked the idea that people were of different worth, it was quite out of place of them to think that they could mock her as they liked.
"Call for the council, I have something to discuss with you," she ordered.
"As you wish," he said and bowed a little too deep, to make sure that she caught the mockery, before he went to fetch the others.
Zelda braced herself. It felt as if she was already drained of energy and one the meeting was over she would be exhausted for sure. This would not be fun at all.
"Absurd! Out of question!" one of the advisors exclaimed and rose from his chair. The matter had been explained to the council with well chosen words as they sat gathered around a table.
"We should have expected something like this from you," another accused.
"A suggestion worthy of the queen chosen by the holy goddesses?" A third smirked.
Zelda resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It was always the same but she could agree that a princess entering a fighting contest sounded a bit wrong even to her ears. At least the sort of princess they wanted her to be.
They kept arguing with the same persistence as if she had asked them to feed on worms from now on and Zelda was starting to get fed up with being interrupted all the time. It did not matter how strong of a case she had. No matter what she said she was ignored. This was getting her nowhere. She had to change her strategy. If it meant that she could make Link happy, then perhaps she could stand being humiliated in front of thousands of people and appear as utterly defenseless?
"What if I lose all my matches?"
The all fell silent and seemed to consider this new offer.
"Of course I will have to win once or twice or it will look strange but if I act gracious and-"
"And you think you can do that?" One advisor eyed her with doubt.
"She think she can win matches," another whispered to the one next to him but still loud enough for her to hear. "She must have been training with that bloody assassin of a nursemaid again."
Zelda pursed her lips. Impa, her nursemaid and bodyguard, was the last survivor of the Sheikah tribe. Indeed assassins, but also the most loyal servants of the royal family. Impa was like a mother to her and an insult to her was more than a thousand times worse than an insult to herself. She locked her hands together under the table and continued the debate. She would prove that she was the one with the most stamina.
"Unfortunately, I think that some unforeseen business has come up that prevents Your Highness from going," an advisor said with an expression that did not say that he thought it was very unfortunate at all.
"What may that be? Pray do tell," Zelda said.
"Darunia wishes to discuss the current mine situation of the Gorons."
"I would never turn down a request from the leader of the Gorons," Zelda said and the advisors slumped in their chairs like they were disappointed that she was being such a good girl. "When does he wish to see me?"
One cleared his throat. "Uhm, about that, when did you say this Support Smack Toast thing would take place?"
Zelda resisted grimacing and forced herself to endure. In the end they would forced to give in, even if she had made a few sacrifices to make them agree.
"Fine, Princess. You may participate but you must lose a majority of your matches."
"I understand," Zelda said with a nod and made a quick curtsy before she left the room. There would be no use wasting more time with the advisors and she wanted to get away from the tense atmosphere. She could hear their whispers as she left and she finally allowed herself to sigh when she headed for the gossip stone.
Mr. Hand was happy to hear that she would participate and could donate such a large sum of money.
"I will arrive in the morning so that we can put things in order," Zelda told him. She would arrange this to a success. Then they would have no problem with money ever again and she could return to her cage.
The green light faded. She left and walked down the narrow halls..Felt the red carpet under her shoes and entered and exited the fields of light pouring in from the row of windows. She had been victorious, she had won the argument and yet she felt solemn. Then again, she always felt down after having to deal with those old raptors, mostly because she should not have to go through these arguments at all.
It seemed like she had moved to the garden without having given her destination any thought, but she felt happier here than anywhere else.
"This is as free as I'll get," she murmured when she looked up at the small part of the blue sky that was framed by the high castle walls surrounding her courtyard. Two birds flew past in a hurry and she sighed longingly.
"Finally," she heard a voice behind her mutter.
Zelda turned around to find Link sitting cross-legged on the ground with a sour look on his face. The long green hat was tossed on the ground beside him and there was a leaf in his messy blond hair.
"I thought you had left to make yourself ready," she teased, feeling like sunshine had reentered her life.
"Well, I figured I made such a short visit that I better come back and besides I want to know if you're coming to watch."
Link stood up and brushed himself off. Zelda stretched out a gloved hand and removed the leaf, feeling his gaze like a tickle on her face while she did. She thought about whether she should tell him or if she should wait for a letter like the one he had received, now when she was also a contestant. To tell him now would probably not be too wise.
"I'll be there," she said slowly and decided not to say anything else about it.
"That's great!" He lifted her up and spun her around. It felt as if the few dark feelings left flew off her and she closed her eyes before he far too soon put her down.
"Link, I can hardly wait to see my dearest friend gain the honor he deserves," she told him with a warm smile. Link's own smile stiffened a little and he withdrew his hands that had lingered on her waist.
"Will you sit in the front row so I can wave to you?" he asked.
"I am not quite sure, but hopefully I will be so close that you will feel no desire to wave. My, I almost forgot – just so you won't have to sneak by the guards for nothing – I'm going on a small trip for a while."
"A suitor again?" Link said and wrinkled his nose. He had only met one of her suitors in person and considering that this suitor had been handpicked by the advisors he had not lived up to Link's demands in the least. The suitor had been at fault but what Link had done had nearly got him thrown in the dungeons (mostly because the whole castle guard was out to get him and the advisors did not exactly sympathize with the princess's favorite). Luckily, Zelda had been able to save him from such a sad fate and the suitor had never showed up again to both Link and Zelda's great delight.
"No suitor, it is about business."
"Can't your father take care of it then?"
"It's complicated. He has his duties and I have mine. I am certain I will be back so we can see each other before you go to SSB," she said and gave him a light peck on his cheek. "Now I must go and plan my trip."
"Sure, have a nice trip," Link said a bit dazedly. Zelda walked inside, smiling elusively over her shoulder but looked away before she could see him bring his hand to his cheek to feel the spot just touched by her lips.
Princess Zelda had no need for any means of transportation, unless she wanted to make the right impression. The royal family of Hyrule had always been gifted with strong magical powers, even though some, like her father, could not as much as create a sparkle. It had taken some energy to teleport this far but she allowed herself to take a cappuccino at a café and relax for a bit. She had never been to the East and was quite intrigued by the cars and shops around her.
When there was nothing but white foam at the bottom of the white porcelain cup she rose and stretched her arms.
"I better find that office now," she thought aloud and repeated the address in her mind. She walked into one of the smaller streets and stopped outside a really old and small place crammed in-between two other buildings. It looked like it had been deserted for years. She stood outside and looked at it in shock before she shrugged and went inside.
She entered a small room with a brown leather sofa by the wall and a small desk in the centre with two doors behind. She guessed that one led to the WC, judging by the lock, and the other one was probably an extra room. The place was really dirty and there were only a broken lightbulb and some cobwebs in the ceiling. She sat down on the couch and folded her hands, fixing a crease on her glove.
"Hello?" she called out to see if anyone was there. Immediately the door flung open and a giant hand came flying towards her at the speed of a madman.
"You're here! My savior! My goddess!"
If Zelda had not already seen so many strange things in her life she would have been shocked to death, but as it now was she did not even flinch. The hand was covered in a slick white glove that faded into nothingness, which made him look quite neat and orderly. She was a bit nervous about the hand's behavior though.
The giant hand grabbed her small one and shook it eagerly. Zelda's whole body had to follow along and the rough treatment made her teeth chatter.
"N-nice to meet you, I'm Princess Zelda. M-Mr. Hand, I presume?"
"You can call me Master Hand. What should we do now?" he asked.
Self-levitation and telepathy. Zelda guessed that this hand was not as harmless as his careless behavior would have one think.
"Well, you can show me what you already have so that I know what we have to work on."
"Of course, just let me introduce you to the third member of our team." The hand somehow took a deep breath and then he shouted, "CRAZY HAAAND!"
Another giant hand came flying in just as fast as Master Hand had showed up. Only this hand seemed a lot more energetic and would not stop moving his fingers.
"W-what? Oh!" He uttered as he spotted Zelda and went over to shake her hand. Zelda tried not to make a face when she had to endure another handshake.
"Nice to meet you," she said weakly.
"Now, Crazy Hand, will you please get the papers so Lady Zelda can see what we got and what we need?"
"Sure, I'll hand them to you."
Zelda smiled politely at the awful joke and started reading through the text.
"Okay, the most important thing we need is somebody who can take care of the basic paperwork and information, and we need to write an application to get the matches on TV – of what I understand, TV is an important media over here. We also need more arenas, preferably a few new ideas to give the whole thing some extras and of course a house where we can have our office and where the contestants can stay. This place is lovely but I doubt that there will be room for everybody and since it will be such a long stay it would be nice if it was located–" She was interrupted by a honking car. "…somewhere quieter. We need someone who takes care of cleaning and advertising–"
"Woah, That's a little to much for me to remember."
"You two will not have to worry. Let us start with hiring a director and I will inform him so that he can take care of the rest, then you two can assist him and I will pay and be reachable for any questions," Zelda said.
The hands looked deeply impressed, partly because it sparkled around them as they gave her their undivided attention.
"Do you know where we can look for a director?" she asked them.
"We can ask Mario," Master Hand suggested.
"Yes, he helped out a lot with the last contest. Actually, I think it was he who sent the invitations out this time," Crazy Hand said.
Zelda was more than a bit curious to meet this Mario whose name had been mentioned to her more than once by Link so she quickly agreed. Unfortunately, the hands did not own a car nor were they able to teleport so she would have to transport all three of them to the Mushroom Kingdom where the famous Mario resided. It was not very far but still a great distance to teleport.
"You can stay here with Crazy Hand and rest," Master Hand said when he noticed Zelda sway a little after the teleportation. Zelda obediently sat down even though she felt healthy enough to come along. Meanwhile a worried Crazy Hand tried to use himself as a giant fan to give her some fresh air.
Master Hand came back after only half an hour, muttering to himself.
"Always so careless. Thinks everything will be okay…" He stopped and hovered in front of Zelda and Crazy Hand. "It's always the same. Of course-a we'll have a contest, don't-a worry. There's nothing wrong with-a sending out the invitations, it'll work-a out okay," Master Hand imitated with a rather lousy Italian accent.
"How did it go?" Zelda asked.
"Ah, excuse me. He said we could go to Isle Delfino to meet a friend of his. It's an island that is a very popular tourist spot."
"Then we get to teleport again," Crazy Hand cried happily and made something similar to jumping. Master Hand slapped him and turned to Zelda.
"I do not think that I can teleport that far and I cannot teleport to a place unless I know its exact location," she said.
"Then we'll have to take a plane," Master Hand said and Zelda nodded. This would be expensive but it would be worth it.
I really should not start on a new story before I have finished my other one. I do not think that I will update this very often either but I wanted a chapter up so that I can remember to write this sometime.
If anybody wants to know the pairings I will include them in the next chapter (frankly, they take up too much space of the summary). I have failed with romance before so I hope that I will do better this time and of course I hope that you will enjoy the rest of the story.