The echoing pluck of the harp strings and ringing whistle of the ocarina tumbled in an energetic duet through the haunted wood. Mists and shadows faded at the musical promise of play and mischief, and for a few precious moments the warm sunlight poured through the treetops to reach the chilly dampness. Insects, birds, spirits and beasts alike quieted reverently for the melody, and even Kouga almost forgot the deadly battle that had taken place not a few moments prior.
Clawed fingers tapped impatiently against his forearm fur until the song finally ended. Already pale blue eyes were icy, and his lip twitched in to bare his fangs. His glare did not falter, even with the unusual magic that shone from the instruments.
"This song will bring you back, should the need ever arise," Sheik intoned calmly as he sheathed his harp. "Just play this song and you will be transported easily."
He finally turned his attention back to the wolf demon, and fierce crimson burned right back. Link and Navi silently worried to each other at the deadly staring contest, before Kouga's patience finally cracked with a toss of his head.
"Awright listen up cuz, I'm only gonna say this once," he warned, and he stalked up to the lithe fighter. "I've made it a habit not to fight against humans-" he halted in front of him, towering over the shorter warrior, "but I'll be willin' to make an exception if ya ever come after me again, got it?"
The tension was clear in the shadow warrior's forehead, but whether it was actual fear of the wolf-demon, or restrained hostility was difficult to discern. "I understand." Sheik answered simply. "You won't need to fear any more altercations with me."
"An' let's keep it that way. Wouldn't want to injure your pretty little face."
Sheik's eyes flashed a moment, flicking to Link before dropping them again. Whatever his feelings, the mask well hid his intentions. Silently contending, he took several steps back from the pair, but cast one last look to the green-clad hero.
"Link-… watch yourself." He warned, just before he chucked a deku nut to the floor. Kouga and Link grunted from the flash, but when they finally managed to open their eyes, the shadow warrior was nowhere to be found.
"Che, good riddance," Kouga scoffed. But his good mood stopped abruptly when the young boy-man suddenly collapsed. "Oi, oi, kid!" He knelt down in front of the panting youth. "Jeez, what happened all of a sudden?"
"C-Couldn't…" he flinched, one hand holding onto his middle. "Let h-h-him sssssee…"
"So you can talk after all, but I guess you're not as green as ya look," Kouga noted, but his lips quirked in approval. "Ya never wanna show your weakness in front of someone ya can't trust."
Navi huffed. "Or he's just trying to act all macho like a certain someone," she implied in suspicion, but Link merely leered from the corner of his eyes.
"C'mon, we're not far." Kouga said suddenly, and took Link's wrist to bring his arm over his shoulders, and hoist him up.
"Far from what?" Navi inquired as Link quickly put away his instrument.
"The spring, of course. Ain't no better way for a human to heal around here."
Here, Link quirked a row skeptically, yet Navi jingled excitedly. "The fountain! Of course! I couldn't remember where it was because everything changed so much! You know where it is?"
"Course I do," he cracked a wolfish grin with a jerk of his chin. "When you been stuck in these woods long as I have, you learn at least one trick or two."
Kouga had at least given Link the dignity to let him walk on his own two feet, but he still needed the healthier wolf demon for support. The demon stomped down on the underbrush to clear the way until they reached a large hole in the forest floor.
"Toldya I'd find it," he boasted, just before he hoisted his cargo's hip and leaped into the darkness, carrying a yowling Link with him.
And the boy kept screaming until gravity weakened enough to slow his descent. His voice teetered off into a sigh of relief when his thick leather soles touched pure white marble. Almost instantly, the soft pink glow emanated on the white marble surrounding the crystal blue spring. The weary warrior peered up, and silently thanked his lucky stars. The bubbling water was clean and clear, much like the lair of the Great fairy, and it glowed almost ethereally in the murky cave. Kouga eased him to the edge of the pool. When one healing fairy swirled around him, he could finally release Kouga and stand on his own. He rotated his shoulder to test it as the wolf-demon appraised him.
"There we go," He approved. "Now ya actually look like you're ready to face some demons."
The boy-man grinned and pulled down his arm guard, reveling in the creak of leather as he clenched his fist. Navi snickered. "Now I know you learned that from him," she teased. Link displayed his clear maturity by sticking out his tongue.
It was not quick work capturing a fairy in one of his empty bottles. The boy-man had to chase down the sprites flitting about the spring even as they tried to heal him. His reach was too long, and he tripped more than once in the shallow waters in his attempt to capture them. It took nearly four tries, with three fairies tagging him before he finally managed to snag one. His boots and tights were practically soaked, but he still whooped joyfully and corked the bottle before spinning about to hold it above his head triumphantly.
"Yeah, yeah, good for you." Kouga rolled his eyes and cocked his hip. "Now if you're done playin' can we go now? A deal's a deal. I got you to your temple, and showed you this spring. Now get me outta these cursed woods."
Link was disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm and the quick desire to leave, but it could not be helped. It was not like he was with Shippou or Kagome. He put the bottle in his pouch with pursed lips.
"You got it," Navi assured, and Link didn't bother to signal the wolf as he took off running.
The trip through the woods was easy. There were no more demons to hinder them, or engage with them. But the thick silence was oppressive. And when they arrived at the village, the quiet was more eerie than ever.
"Call me crazy, but didn't a bunch of kids used to live here?" Kouga asked as he gazed around the desolated village.
"They're not kids, they're kokiri." Navi huffed. "… And they were here. Seven years ago."
The once bright and open village was cast in eternal shade. Wild trees had invaded the village square and walkways. Their canopies spread far until their branches tangled and knotted to create a topiary ceiling. Cobwebs draped between the vines and low hanging branches, telling Link that more skulltula had moved back into the area even after he burned down the old ones.
Both the warrior and his guardian bowed their heads in shame, and the boy man's eyes darkened in guilt. Every house, every crevice, every tunnel was deserted. Not a single kokiri soul remained alive in this place. Link swallowed thickly and clenched his fists. Sango had lost her entire village. And in a twist of fate, it seemed he had as well. And it was all his. Stupid. Fault.
"Probably stuck in the forest too, somewhere." Kouga assumed. "That would explain the laughter I kept hearing."
Link snapped his head up hopefully, and Navi jingled excitedly. "You mean you saw them? They're alive?"
"Nah, didn't actually see 'em. But every now and then I swear I heard voices comin' from somewhere." He grasped his chin thoughtfully. "Usually happened at midnight, right around that temple you were looking for."
"That's perfect!" Navi jingled and swept around Link excitedly. "That means all the kokiri are in the temple!" The warrior nodded enthusiastically in agreement, and for the first time since he entered the woods, his heart swelled with hope.
"Sure hope those kids are still all right." Kouga dropped his hands and turned his attention to the exit. "I should listened to him when I had the chance."
"Listened to who?"
"Ah, just one of those "kokiri" kids I came across when I found this place. He warned me I would get lost in here but I didn't listen." He turned his scrutiny to Link, quirking one eyebrow in response. "You kinda remind me of him, actually."
Navi and Link blinked at each other before the boy-man shrugged and his guardian rose up in the fairy equivalent. "Well I know that couldn't have been us. We would've remembered you."
"Yeah, yeah I know," Kouga and closed his eyes and tapped his temple a few times. "Your scent is pretty similar, but this kid smelled of death and graveyard soil."
Link almost, almost squeaked in alarm, but managed to hold in the shocked reaction. Yup, definitely not him.
Kouga opened his eyes and dropped his hands. "Still, you better be careful out there. Would hate for the kid I rescued to end up dying after all."
"Thanks, Kouga," Navi and Link looked to each other uncertainly. "I think…"
"Look, if you ever do make it out of here alive, just howl. Havin' at least one familiar face in this crazy world is better than none. 'Sides, never know when you might need some help with somethin' else out there."
"Will do," Navi assured, and Link smiled as he waved. "Goodbye, Koga. Take care."
For a moment the wolf demon seemed surprised. Then he chuckled, and flicked his bangs out of his face. "Almost sound like her. Right back atcha." He saluted then turned and sped off in a dusting whirlwind to the exit.
"Wait…" Navi faltered as she looked at Link skeptically. "Sound like who?"
Link opened his mouth as though he wanted to answer. He considered it, shut his mouth, and shrugged.
With the final note echoing through the air, the warping magic enveloped the boy-man in a whimsical dance to carry him on the wind. In the slow blink of an eye, he appeared back to the platform. He took a moment to rub his eyes and regain his bearings. Navi zipped around his head gleefully.
"It worked! Now we don't have to worry about trekking through those silly woods ever again. Guess Sheik was useful after all."
Link pursed his lips, expression souring at the mention. He still wasn't sure what to think about this guy after his attempted attack on Kouga. At least the wolf demon was free of the Lost Woods. Still, he wished he could have prevented the poor demon from getting trapped here in the first place.
"You ready? Now we just have to figure out how to get up there."
Link turned his attention to the mentioned opening. With the sheer amount of vines and hanging branches, it almost looked like a knothole. Except maybe that branch there that looked more like a claw.
At the inspiration, Link unstrapped the newest weapon from its place on his belt. The dull metal was angled like an arrow into a deadly point, and the chain wrapped tightly around the neck of the contraption. He took aim, and the glint from the half-light shone just before he fired. The point imbedded into the tree, and Link pulled the trigger mechanism to reel him up to the surface platform. The thin layer of mist curled at his drop, and both of the travelers shivered the moment his boots touched the stone.
"You feel that?" Navi asked quietly.
Link nodded once, and put his hookshot back at its temporary place at his hip. The yawning abyss of the entrance reminded him of the first time he had embarked on his journey; that fateful day when he had finally agreed to attempt to rid the Deku Tree of the curse placed upon him. Bracing himself against the cold chill, he stepped into the gloomy expanse of the old, forgotten temple.
The inside was nothing more than a tangled mass of vines, roots, and moss. Link fathomed it was even more overgrown than the outside. There was a slight haze from the fog that softened the lines of the indoor forest. What was once stone was spongy with moss and grass, with the scent of damp soil pluming from each step. Thin tree trunks grew in a thicket, forcing Link to weave through the area to find his way across. He ducked under branches and stumbled over roots, and a few times nearly sunk into the floor.
"Hey, what's that up ahead?"
The pair squinted in the dim light to follow a small movement bouncing through the fog. Link eased into a small clearing and drew his sword to be at the ready. That's when the demon swooped down from above, making Link duck to the side to avoid getting hit.
No, it wasn't a demon. It was a specter, a ghost, a spirit, a-
"A poe!" Navi jingled. "That's a poe!"
And the despite the danger, Link felt a little better at Navi's recognition. They were fighting something from this world, not another. Link charged forward, and slashed. The sacred sword struck twice before the poe floated backwards out of reach. The tattered clothes swayed with its rocking movement, and glowing eyes narrowed malevolently. The lantern swung like a pendulum, before the flame glowed bright and spurt from the enclave. Four wisps of violet fire flit to surround the warrior. Though the pair expected to be burned, the fire circled and glowed into solid form. Identical clones of the poe snickered to signal the start of a deadly dance.
"Illusions," Navi identified. "This poe can replicate itself too!"
Just what Link had assumed and hoped for, because that meant all he had to do was find the source. He struck out at the one to his left in a blind guess, only for it to fade though his blade. With a maniacal cackle, the illusions vanished and the one to his right shot forward to strike him hard over the head with his lantern. Link stumbled from the hit before reorienting himself and taking another swing. The poe swayed back out of range, but raised its lantern to summon the fire again. Link tightened the grip on his sword and readied his stance. This time when the poe illusions surrounded him, he kept his eye on the original, and only spotted what was different from the others. He lunged and struck, and his guess proved right as the poe screeched with the hit, stunned enough for Link to slash away at it. It vanished quickly, plunging Link and Navi into unlit space once more.
Inch by inch, the warrior turned about and squinted through the trees' shadows. The rattle of glass and metal almost made him lose his nerve. He could hear the rustle of tattered cloth against the thick air, and the crackle of supernatural fire. This time, when the poe emerged into visibility, Link didn't worry about concentrating on the original. When the spirit formed its illusions, he followed the fire in the lantern. And his sword struck strong and certain. The poe combusted into violet fire with a ghostly wail, and the fire fanned instantly to burn away the fog. The closest tree burst in a puff of smoke. Then its neighbor disappeared, then another, until the domino effect spread through the temple hall like popcorn. Link and Navi looked at each other in wonderment, right until the three-foot thick soil and grass burst with a pop, and the boy-man fell to the ground with a yelp. Navi winced when the master sword clattered sharply on the stone alongside the dull thud of his rump and boots. She tilted down and hovered over him.
"Em, you okay?" Link rubbed his sore tailbone with a wince before he nodded. "Hope so… maybe you should stretch out a bit before moving on." He pushed onto his feet, and sheathed his sword, flinching again and deciding the fairy's advice might not be too bad of an idea.
But before he could heed her advice, he finally picked up a peculiar voice through the temple. It was quiet and faint with distance, but kept a steady, unmistakable signal. Both boy-man and fairy darted their eyes about the room with no success as to finding the source.
"You hear that, don't you?" Navi murmured fearfully, to which Link nodded. "It sounds like… crying."
With a beckoning curl of his fingers, Link lifted his hat for the fairy to hide in, and crept forward into the next corridor. Yet once the door opened, he almost froze.
"...well that's not creepy." Navi quipped from under the hood.
For whatever the reason, the moss and numerous mushrooms remained on the side of the corridor, clashingly bordering a rich red carpet. It seemed out of place in the temple-turned-greenhouse, but Link somehow doubted this was the designer's intention. There were short statues lining the red carpet. They were stout and rounded in their oblong shape, and were a single pace apart. The stone guardians smiled placidly, but in the flickering emerald light of the willow wisps, the shadows warped and twisted their expressions ominous grins.
Oh, right, and the floor was literally twisting into a spiral above his head at the end of the tunnel as sobs permeated the flickering shadows. Right, not creepy at all.
The warrior took one long look at the tunnel, and slowly drew his sword to keep it at the ready, before taking the first step forward. His boots hit the solid stone under the thin carpet, and he was grateful for something to ground him. Gravity would no doubt take hold soon, and he would have to prepare to step over a statue and walk on the wall.
"Hello?" Navi called out hesitantly. "Is anyone there?"
With each step there was a statue flocked on either side of him, and Link, despite his best efforts, could not keep his eyes from darting statue to statue. Each movement out of the corner of his eye fueled his fears, only to be proven time and time again that the shadows were just playing tricks.
Perhaps this would not have been such a harrowing experience if he wasn't so convinced that the children's crying was coming from the statues themselves.
"Hey wait a second," Navi emerged from his hat to approach one of the statues in question. The fairy circled about to cast it in a purifying light, and making it seem less foreboding. Almost childish. "Does this thing look familiar to you?"
And now that he saw it in Navi's light, he was inclined to agree. He lowered down to one knee to squint at it, and the fairy hovered by his head. But neither Link nor Navi could figure out where they had seen the placid smile before. Link would have just left it at that and continued his trek, if it wasn't for another movement he caught in the shadows.
"Link? Is something wrong?"
The boy-man didn't seem sure how to answer at first. He raised one finger to point, before taking the initiative to crawl past the line of statues to examine the curiosity himself. When his eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, his jaw almost dropped in shock. "Th-the… the mu-…muuusshrooms…"
"What about them?"
"They're… they're… cuh-crying."
Hi guys. So, uh... it's been a while. Long story short I got swept up in roleplaying and the Kingdom Hearts Fandom and lost muse for the story. Funny thing is that I still remember the direction I wanted to take with it, so hey, some progress.
Now of course you all remember I said I'd give a little something to the person who guessed where each of the characters were? ... well no one got it right. XD One person DID come close, but that was on the other site. So IDK whether or not to count it.
IN BRIGHTER NEWS I'm already half way through the next chapter, so yay me? Here's a slightly longer transition chapter to tide you all over and have some fun with. Next up, TONS OF ANGS- I mean plot. Cough.