Good Gravy. This isn't Wednesday… nor is it even the same week. What a horrible person I am! Really, though… I just didn't have as much time to write as I thought I would. Life sucks like that sometimes.
On a more fun note: My neighborhood is on fire! Er, well, there's a brush fire in my neighborhood. My house isn't in danger or anything, and they have it contained… but it's still cool! There's all this smoke everywhere… it's like I'm back home in New Mexico…
Anyway. Here you go: The last update for Hit List. For real, this time. Really.
The rest of Link's week was plagued with random visitors.
The day after Link's return to consciousness, he was awoken from his mid-afternoon slumber by a sharp rap on the door.
Grumbling darkly about his lack of privacy, Link called out for whoever was so rudely knocking to enter.
With a creak, the door swung open, and Link found himself staring at a grinning, wheelchair bound Kafei Dotour, his long purple hair as luxurious as ever, a garish lime-green cast encasing one of his legs and carrying of all things a pineapple in his hand, complete with a large red bow.
Before Link could ask why he was toting random tropical fruits through the hospital, his purple-headed friend called out leisurely, "Are you a fan of delicious flavor?" and lobbed the spiky golden snack at Link's head.
Link barely managed to bring his free hand up and catch the fruit before it collided with his face, a wave of pain rolling through his body at the sudden jerky movement. He hissed as the rough exterior stabbed into his palm, and he shot the beaming boy a dirty look.
"What the heck was that for?"
"What?" he asked, sounded genuinely confused.
"I'm pretty sure it's against hospital regulations to go chucking fruit at its patients." Link deadpanned, still glaring for all he was worth.
Kafei waved Link's remark off airily, wheeling himself into the room with one hand, the door swinging shut behind him as he slowly creaked into the room, pausing just beside the chair Zelda had been occupying earlier and propping his good leg up on Link's bed.
"Well, I wasn't aware it was a crime to spread delicious joy." He replied lightly, smirking at Link's indignity.
"It is when the joy has lethal spikes on the outside. Where'd you get a pineapple from anyway?"
"The Hospital's gift shop, if you'll believe that. I bought it for Anju originally, since she thinks pineapples are quirky, but as she's not really awake yet…"
Link suddenly felt sick. "She's… she's not awake yet? Is she ok?"
Kafei nodded, but carefully avoided making eye contact. "Yeah, she's ok… She just got out of surgery yesterday; I guess getting shot in the gut really messes up your intestines. The doctors say she's gonna pull through, but it'll be weeks before she can leave the hospital, and it might be months before she can get back to her life. That's part of why I brought you the pineapple; when I heard you were awake, I couldn't believe it. I guess I thought you'd be in surgery as long as she was, since you had similar wounds. You must have some crazy supernatural healing powers or something."
Link's only response was a weak grin. What was he supposed to say to that? That as the chosen wielder of the Triforce of Courage, he really was gifted with supernatural healing properties by the goddesses which was why he was already awake and responsive while his poor girlfriend had to suffer through weeks of bed rest and physical therapy?
Kafei seemed to notice his discomfort, however, and rolled his eyes. "Don't be like that, Link. It's not like I hate you for healing faster. I'm glad you're ok, really. So don't get all noble on me and start feeling guilty. I'm sure Anju would be relieved to hear you're already up and awake too."
If anything, Kafei's little speech made him feel even more uncomfortable, though for an entirely different reason. Casting his eyes about for a way to change the subject and hide his embarrassment, he finally settled on the cast around Kafei's shin.
"How're you holding up?' Link asked, gesturing with his free hand.
Kafei shrugged nonchalantly. "Meh. Ganondorf's bullet shattered my tibia, and my fibula doesn't look much better. They did some surgery, realigned the bones and slapped a cast on me. Normally I think they'd make me stay at the hospital a while longer, but what with the shooting and all… They're kinda running out of rooms. Ordon hasn't got the biggest hospital. So they let me go. I'm not complaining though- at least I get to wear pants."
Link snorted and Kafei shot him a cheeky grin.
"Too bad you're wearing shorts though," Link chuckled, gesturing to the khaki cargos the purple upperclassman was wearing. "If you had pants you could cover up that hideous cast of yours."
"Ugh, not you too, Link!" Kafei groaned loudly, throwing his head back dramatically. "First my mom, then Mrs. Pots, then Anju's friend Cremia… I swear, nobody gets my sense of style except me, Romani and Aryll."
"Aryll's been to see you?" Link asked, his attention perked.
"Oh yeah." Kafei replied, settling back in his wheelchair and folding his arms behind his head. "She and Zelda stopped by a few days ago during lunch to check on Anju, and of course I was there. In fact," he added, glancing down at his wrist and pushing back the length of his purple sweatshirt to get a better look at his watch, "I actually have to get going. It's not that I don't wanna stay and chat, I just… I really wanna bet there when Anju wakes up."
Link nodded sadly, his heart going out to his injured friend.
"Tell her I said hey when she wakes up."
"Will do. Later man." Kafei replied, quickly wheeling his chair back around and rolling back toward the door.
When he got to the handle, however, Link stopped him.
"Hey Kafei, hold on a sec."
"What's up?" he asked, glancing curiously over his shoulder.
"It's just… when you see your dad, tell him I said thanks."
Kafei looked perplexed.
"You know," Link said, gesturing with his free hand, "for what he did for Sheik. He didn't have to do that. It was really nice of him."
Kafei smirked and shook his head ruefully. "Link, come on. Were you expecting anything less? You and Sheik… you saved Anju's life. You saved a lot of lives. My dad's the mayor; he has a responsibility for the people in this community, and he owed you guys for what you did… we both do. And us Dotours, we pay our debts."
He didn't say anymore. With a cheeky grin, the cocky teen wheeled out of the room and was gone, leaving Link chuckling lightly to himself.
Link didn't get to relax just yet, however.
Not even fifteen minutes after Kafei's departure, just as Link was beginning to fade out of consciousness, the door to his room was thrown open and the sound of it reverberating against the wall had his head jolting up in alarm.
A wicked jolt of pain flashed through his body at the start but he gritted his teeth and bore through it, struggling to blink away his sleepiness and see who the intruder was.
He needn't have looked, however. He'd know that obnoxious voice anywhere.
"Oh. My. Goddesses. Roonie, it's him! It's Link! You were right, he's alive! This is so exciting!"
Link felt completely pole-axed as the high-pitched squeal of her voice washed over him, and he found himself mumbling in a horrified, disbelieving sort of way, "…Ruto?"
She squealed again when she heard him, the sound of it rattling through his brain like the discordant tones of a cat being tossed down a staircase. The overly excitable cheerleader quickly flounced across the room, stopping precariously close to Link's bed and hovering over him, rocking back and forth feverishly on her toes as she gazed at him admiringly, her eyes wide and sparkling with awe.
"Din, Link, you look terrible!" she said, not sounding sorry at the least for his condition. "Did Ganondorf do that to you before you killed him? I heard you rushed up to the top of the building to save that new girl. Is she your girlfriend? Oh, was it a forbidden love kind of thing, and the evil guy made off with her and you had to fight your way through hordes of bad guys to get to her, only after all the dramatic tension, right after you'd found her and managed to sweep her off her feet the villain made his dramatic appearance and stabbed you in the chest and left you to die on the floor while he killed the woman you loved in front of your very eyes?"
Link was left staring in dumbfounded stupefaction, his mouth hanging open slightly as the perky girl's overly exuberant words washed over him. He couldn't even tell where she was getting the air to say all that from, because she was talking way too fast to let her pause for breath… But she just kept right on going, talking animatedly to herself about Link's daring bravery and boundless feats of courage as he struggled to save the woman he loved from the evil wicked bad man. To be honest, he wasn't even sure she was paying attention to him anymore, as lost as she was within the fantastically dramatic love story she was spinning for herself.
His rescue came in the form of another teenager who's presence at Link's bedside was every bit as absurd as his girlfriend's.
"Whoa! Hold on there, babe!" Darunia, the high school quarterback, chuckled amiably as he strutted across the room to join Ruto, his arm snaking casually around her shoulders, drawing her flush against his side. She stopped talking immediately, though she kept staring at Link with fervid admiration, breathing heavily through her nostrils like a winded rhinoceros.
"Give the poor guy a little room to breathe, yeah? He just took a dive from Sahasralah's window! Like a boss, might I add." He added, winking conspiratorially at Link as if the two were buddies and had planned Link's final blow against Ganondorf together in the locker room after team practice.
"And so brave…" Ruto chimed in, clasping her hands together in front of her chest.
"I can't think of a better way to have taken that prick down." Darunia said darkly, taking his hand off his girlfriend's shoulders for a moment to crack his knuckles menacingly. "I just wish I'd been there to do it myself. Maybe I could've helped you out, Hero. Stopped you from getting stabbed."
The two teens grinned down at Link, Darunia looking smug and triumphant, Ruto looking ready to burst from repressed excitement. To Link, the entire thing was surreal. What in the world were Ruto and Darunia, the two most popular students at Ordon High, doing visiting him in the hospital? They weren't exactly friends; they never got along in school, Ruto having marked him a social outcast back around seventh grade and Darunia nearly always made sure he didn't have to be on a team with the 'losers' back when they had gym together. To say he was surprised to see them would be like saying the gaping hole in his midsection was only a minor inconvenience to his health.
It took him a moment to realize they were waiting for him to respond.
"Oh, um, yeah. Yeah, maybe." He said quickly, trying not to look too bemused as he wracked his brains for the appropriate response. They seemed not to notice his discomfort however, and kept right on grinning down at him.
"So, uh… What, uh, what brings you guys here?" Link asked awkwardly, inwardly wishing they'd hurry up and leave so he could get some rest. He may be pumped full of pain killers, but that didn't mean he enjoyed being conscious and deal with his aching, throbbing body if he didn't have to… unless, of course, Zelda or his real friends and family were around.
"We stopped by to visit some of the guys." Darunia said, shrugging lightly. "Not everyone on the football team was blessed enough to make it out of that building without a scratch like we were, but we have you to thank for that, don't we?"
Link suddenly felt uncomfortable. "Really, guys, it's not a big deal-"
"What are you talking about?" Ruto said, sounding scandalized at the very thought. "Hero, you're like… the most popular guy in school! You're all anyone can talk about! Do you have any idea how jealous the girls were when I told them I'd been rescued by the Link Hero? They were, like, crazy! I bet you could get any girl you wanted to go with you to Prom this year!"
"If we even have a prom…" Link muttered, but neither of them seemed to hear him.
"Heck, I'd ask you out right now if I weren't already taken by the dreamiest man alive!" Ruto proclaimed proudly, and Link was glad that the couple was too busy giggling at each other to notice the look of utter revulsion that flashed across his face at the idea.
"So Hero, spill!" Darunia said, turning his attention back to Link, who quickly schooled his features so that the duo wouldn't see his impatience at their presence. "Tell us what really went down! The news isn't telling us squat!"
"Well, I-" Link started, frantically thinking of a viable excuse to not have to explain anything when a sudden thought crossed his mind.
"Hey, wait. What exactly has the news been saying?"
"You mean you haven't been watching it?" Ruto gasped theatrically.
"Er, well no… I've sorta been unconscious for the last few days, and…"
Ruto's voice ran right over him. "Oh, just wait til you see it, they've been talking about you on TV for days! Everyone in the country knows your name, Link! You're going to be so excited!"
And with that, she snatched the remote that had been dangling, forgotten, off the side of his bed by the thick white cord that prevented it from getting lost and directed it towards the flat screen on the wall opposite him.
With a brief flash and a quiet hum, the television came to life, the sounds issuing out of the tiny speaker on the remote rather than from out of the TV itself.
"-found out anything new regarding the incident at Ordon High earlier this week, although rumors have begun circulating that Link Hero, the courageous young man who took on the key orchestrator in what has been confirmed as the largest school-based massacre in Hyrulian history in a terrifying tussle to the death, has finally awoken from his coma."
"See, Link!" Ruto squealed excitedly, drowning out the voice of the news reporter, "It hasn't even been on for ten seconds and they already mentioned you!"
"Yeah…" Link muttered weakly, his eyes glued to the screen, something very much akin to dread welling up inside of him.
"Officials have been unable to confirm or deny this, however, and for the time being police have made no motions to question the boy on the truth behind what actually went on behind the vicious assault."
The reporter, a middle-aged blonde woman with too-white teeth and too-tan skin, gave a fake smile that was emphasized by her excessive makeup and sharp blonde hair. Link almost felt like she was taunting him through the screen, as though she were demanding that he answer the question immediately.
The next scene they showed wiped all other thoughts from his mind.
"Here again, the stunning footage taken four days ago during the final moments of the shooting of Ordon High. Viewers are once again warned that some of the images you are about to see are of a highly sensitive and potentially offensive nature. Discretion is advised."
And then Link was watching it; the final events of his showdown with Ganondorf as seen from the outside world. At first there was nothing special; just a camera panning the building slowly, seemingly waiting for something dramatic to happen, the camera man fervently anticipating a scoop. The occasional gunshot could still be heard, signaling that the police raid was still happening on the lower floors, but all other sound was suddenly drowned out by a collective cry of alarm issued from the crowd of reporters, police officers, EMT's and concerned parents as, with the distinctive sound of shattering glass, the entire third floor window of Principal Sahasralah's office exploded outward.
The camera snapped up haphazardly to focus on the newly formed hole on the side of the building, and you could see the glass raining down, glittering like raindrops as they slashed through the air, the tacky blinds slowly trailing after them like streamers. There was a moment of confusion, and you could hear the crowd murmuring amongst itself as they examined the broken glass and the now wide-open expanse of windows, struggling to piece together what had just occurred and what it meant…
A moment later, someone screamed.
There, for a moment, a brief flash of movement was visible through the hole. The camera jerked upward once more, zooming in as far as it could, focusing all of its attention on the hole.
The movement appeared again, then again, just enough to make out a flash of red hair… and then suddenly, Link was looking at himself, pressed up against the wall beside the pane-less window as Ganondorf was bearing down on him.
He heard the crowd's collective cry in fear and alarm as their eyes alighted upon Ganondorf for the first time, and over the panic of the audience he heard the distinctive barks of police officers shouting frantic orders, struggling to take control of the situation.
The crowd screamed again as Zelda suddenly came into view, charging at Ganondorf, and then… she was knocked backward, but nothing had touched her. He could hear the confusion in the crowd's cacophonous babble, but deep down Link remembered what had happened; the dark energy Ganondorf had exuded from his hand to keep her at bay.
When the police snipers fired, Link actually heard the gunshot. It was probably because they were so much closer to the camera than they had been to Link from way up on the third floor. In any event, the sound was so loud and unexpected that he actually jumped in shock before realizing what was happening.
He watched numbly as the first bullets missed, then suddenly began ricocheting harmlessly off of what looked like thin air, letting the shocked and fearful whisperings of the crowd grow louder and louder in his ears as he waited, feeling slightly sick, for what he knew was coming next.
The movement on the screen hardly seemed dangerous, but the memory echoed throughout Link's body and made his actual stab wound throb with the ghost of the pain.
In the moments that followed, as the confused crowd struggled to understand what was going on, Link felt himself break out into a cold sweat as the dark memories of that moment came flooding back to him. He could feel the sickly warm and wet feel of his own blood oozing out onto his fingers. He could feel the razor sharp edges of the knife slicing through him for a second time as he struggled with gradually less responsive digits to pull the weapon back out of him. And he could feel his legs falter as he struggled to lunge forward and drive the bloody blade into Ganondorf's own heartless chest.
He didn't know when he stopped breathing. It might have been when he watched the tiny version of himself on the TV collide with Ganondorf, or maybe when the two started teetering precariously over the edge of the window and the crowd began its collective gasp. All he knew for sure was that as he watched Ganondorf's body tumble towards the ground, one of the machines started beeping loudly, and a nurse he didn't recognize came flying into the room looking alarmed.
It wasn't really until she had forcibly kicked Darunia and Ruto from the room without so much as an explanation that Link began to realize that something was wrong; his heart was pounding too loudly in his ears, he was having difficulty breathing, and the world was starting to spin around him. Yet still, he couldn't bring himself to tear his eyes away from the television screen as he watched himself dangling precariously out of the window, the only thing preventing him from free falling to his death was the trembling arm of a familiar, beautiful blonde girl…
"Mr. Hero? Mr. Hero, can you hear me?" The nurse called out loudly from her position less than a foot from the side of his bed. He wanted to answer 'yes, of course I can hear you, you're yelling for Din's sake!', yet he couldn't make a sound, his eyes glued to the screen, watching as his slick, bloody hand began to slip slowly from Zelda's desperate grasp.
"Mr. Hero?" The nurse said again, lowering herself down and gazing at Link in concern, lifting a hand and thumbing his eyelid.
He continued to ignore her, staring in horror at the screen just over her shoulder, watching Zelda's lips move soundlessly, hearing the frantic, terrified screaming of the crowd, waiting for the moment that he'd begin to fall…
The nurse finally seemed to notice what he was staring at. She reached down swiftly and plucked the remote from off his bed, and just as his body began its terrible freefall…
The screen went black.
Link lay there, motionless, his chest heaving, his heart hammering painfully against his already bruised and battered ribcage. He felt sticky and cold from sweat, and every muscle in his body had gone taut, straining against bones that hadn't fully healed yet, sending shockwaves of pain throughout his musculoskeletal system.
In his minds eye, he could see all of the horrors of that day replaying over and over like the news footage; the screams, the gunshots, the panic, the blood… Sahasralah, Viscen, and Salvatore stacked neatly behind a desk… the nameless shooter who'd killed himself before Link and Aryll had gotten to his room… Anju, laying crumpled on the ground, her body pale as porcelain, the pool of liquid surrounding her as scarlet as her hair…
Sakon, face-first in a pile of dirt, a bloodless bullet hole in his back…
With a jolt, he came back to reality to find the nurse standing over him, gently shaking his shoulder as she did her best to speak to him in soft, gentle murmurs.
"Mr. Hero… Mr. Hero, listen to me, you need to calm down, everything's ok now… It's over, you're safe now. I need you to calm down, ok? Breathe… That's right, just breathe… Everything's ok…"
It took awhile for his heart rate to drop back down to normal levels, and even longer for his muscles to unclench. His nurse said he'd had a panic attack, likely brought on from watching the footage of the attack and threatened to unplug his television if he even thought about turning the news on again. She needn't have worried, though. Link wouldn't have gone back to watching the news if his life depended on it.
His nurse told him she would be turning away any more visitors for the day, which was fine by Link, only he discovered when she left the room that he couldn't sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, visions of what he'd seen on the television flashed before his eyes and he'd jolt awake, his breathing erratic, trying hard to calm the frantic beating of his heart as to not draw the attention of his nurse again.
Just when he was beginning to think he'd have a sleepless night, the door opened once more. He turned his head, expecting to see the doctor there to run more tests or his, and was surprised to see not one, but three figures standing in his doorway. And two of them were arguing.
"Please, Chief, don't go in there, not right now, not for this. He's had a bad day, this isn't a good time to make him go over this-"
"Ma'am, with all due respect, there will never be a good time to go over this." came the exhausted voice of one haggard looking chief of police, Rusl Smith. "Now please. Your supervisor already instructed you to let me pass."
Link's nurse, who Link could already tell was fighting a losing battle, clenched her fists, pursed her lips, and exhaled heavily through her nostrils. Finally, with a sigh and an apologetic look to Link, she said, "Fine. But make it quick. My patient needs his sleep.'
Rusl strode into the room without further delay, followed quickly by the third figure; his son, Colin.
Rusl immediately folded into the chair at Link's bedside, his head slumped back with a groan. He looked haggard; the top buttons of his navy police shirt undone, his sleeves rolled up, his pants wrinkled, his face gaunt and sleep deprived. He'd likely been working all-nighters every day since the shooting. Link felt pity for the exhausted man welling up inside of him. Colin followed after his father much more hesitantly, lowering himself slowly into the empty chair beside him, his eyes glued to his shoes as he ignored Link's quizzical gaze.
Link turned his attention back to Rusl and said without preamble, "You look like crap."
Rusl shot Link a wry look and said, "I could say the same about you."
There was a pause, and then the two broke out in conspiratorial grins.
"Ah, Link, it's good to see you're ok. Uli was hysterical after you took your dive from Sahasralah's office. She cried for hours until we heard you were alive and in surgery. And now look at you; awake, alert, cracking jokes… You'd never believe you were near death not even a week ago. Amazing. Truly amazing."
Link said nothing. How was he supposed to respond to that anyway? Thankfully, Rusl wasn't expecting a response.
"Now, as for why I'm here… Your nurse is right, you need to get some sleep. And quite frankly, I need some too, so we're going to keep this short and sweet. I've been putting off coming to see you ever since I heard you were awake. I wanted to give you some peace before asking you to relive the nightmare that was the Ordon High Massacre, as some upstart reporter has so lovingly coined it. Honestly, I'd really rather not have to do this at all, but the fact remains… we need your testimony, Link."
Link blanched. He didn't know why, but somehow, he wasn't expecting this. Maybe because Sheik had said the trials were already over. Maybe because some part of him was hoping that they'd show him mercy and not make him do this, or that he's missed it all when he was unconscious. He could feel the dread from earlier welling up inside of him; the beginning vestiges of the panic that had incapacitated him when Darunia and Ruto had turned on the news.
Rusl seemed to sense his disquiet.
"I don't need to hear everything, Link." He said quietly, and Link could tell he was trying his best to sound soothing. "We got most of what we needed from your friends, the faculty, and the shooters themselves. What we really need from you is your account of what happened in Sahasralah's office between you and Ganondorf. That's all."
Something dark settled in Link's chest. He wanted to know what went down between him and Ganondorf… What was he supposed to say? He couldn't tell him the truth; about Ganondorf being the reincarnated King of Evil or his plot to reunite the Triforce for the first time in centuries and take over the world. He'd think he was nuts!
"You need to cross examine my testimony with Zelda's?" Link asked, trying to delay the moment where he'd be forced to come up with a convincing lie.
"I never asked Ms. Nohansen. I assumed it would be easier if I were to ask you because you know me, rather than having some random officer question her. I didn't want to cause any more harm than had already been done."
Link smiled at the man weakly. It was a kind gesture he supposed, only now that he was the one being questioned he couldn't help but resent Zelda slightly for getting away so easily. He wracked his brains, searching for a plausible story.
"Why don't we start from the beginning. You ran off after you heard Ganondorf on the loudspeaker, and…"
And so he began, spinning a web of lies and deceit and praying he didn't trap himself in it. For the most part he kept as close to the truth as possible, detailing Ganondorf turning his gun on Zelda, him kicking Link, Link assaulting him with the stapler, wrestling the gun away from him. It was at this point, however, that Link hesitated.
"Ok, so… you wrestled the gun away from him and…? What happened to the gun?"
"It, uh, it broke. It hit the wall and fell apart and was sort of forgotten."
Rusl nodded, scribbling something on the paper. "Yes, we found the fragments against the wall. What happened to the desk?"
"The desk?" Link asked blankly, his thoughts in disarray as Rusl leapt ahead in the story.
"Yes, Sahasralah's desk. We found it in pieces on the floor. Was there some sort of explosion in the office? Is that what blew out the windows?"
"The, er… The windows?" Link could remember perfectly well what made the windows explode. The wall of dark energy Ganondorf exuded from his body. Only, he couldn't tell Rusl that. "They were… Oh! Oh, explosion! Yeah, he had a, um… A bomb. He had a bomb. And it… exploded."
Rusl stared at him blankly. "He set off a bomb?"
"In the room?"
"With all of you still in it? And none of you were hurt?"
There was a moment of silence as Rusl fixed him with a look of complete and utter disbelief. Link broke out in a cold sweat, his fingers twitching nervously. Please, Farore, let him move on, don't call me out, just ignore how stupid I sound and move on…
With a disparaging shake of the head, Rusl thankfully chose not to comment again on how much of an idiot Link sounded. He was eternally grateful.
"Ok… so after the… bomb… that was when you were stabbed?"
"Yes." Link said with conviction, eager to change the topic. "Yes, but you could see all that from the window, right? It's on tape. I saw it."
"Right, but we're just making sure. Can you explain what was happening with the snipers?"
"Yes, the snipers. They were attempting to shoot Ganondorf from the moment you were stabbed up until the two of you toppled out the window, however none of their shots could get through. Can you explain that?"
This, Link knew, was the real reason Rusl was there. It was why he let his bomb comment slide. He didn't care about the rest, only why his snipers were ineffective. Link wracked his brains for an answer.
"Um… the snipers… I don't really… I don't really remember that, sir."
"You don't." Rusl said flatly, irritation starting to shine through his words.
"No. But then," Link said, with a sudden rush of inspiration, "I sort of had a knife in my gut. I wasn't really paying attention to anything other than my imminent death."
Rusl was taken aback by Link's bluntness, and he could see the chastened look on his face. Clearing his throat roughly, he sent Link an apologetic look and said, "Right. I'm sorry, Link, I didn't mean to…"
Link shrugged nonchalantly. He felt bad for taking a shot at Rusl like that, but what else could he do?
He fully expected Rusl to get up and leave then, but was surprised when, after a moment of shuffling through more papers, he looked back up at Link and said, "I have one final thing I need to discuss with you, Link."
"You do?" he asked tentatively, awaiting the moment where he'd have to perform more imaginative gymnastics to avoid telling Rusl the truth.
"Yes. The general consensus we've received from the students is that Ganondorf was the leader of the attack and that he had four main subordinates. Can you confirm this?"
"Yes." Link said, feeling relieved. He didn't have to lie about this. This was easy.
"Can you give me their names, please."
"Well, there was Zant, Vaati, Sakon, and Sheik. Only, Sheik was-"
"I know, Link, I know. I was at his trial, after all."
Link sent Rusl a grateful look. "Is that all you needed to know?"
"No, that wasn't the question. We already knew that, I was simply confirming. No, what we need to know is this: We have confirmation on the fates of all five conspirators but one. Sheik was mostly pardoned for turning sides and working to save everyone. Ganondorf, as you know, met his fate at your hands by being stabbed in the chest and falling three stories to his death, and then having your body fall three stories and land on him-"
"Wait, what?" Link cut in, flabbergasted. "I landed on him?"
"Yes. Well, mostly. The right side of your body hit the concrete which is why you have more injuries on that side, but it's believe that the main reason you survived the fall is because his body cushioned you. A bit ironic, don't you think?"
Link was at a loss for words.
"Now," Rusl said, peering back at one of his papers and continuing where he left off, "we have multiple eyewitnesses that have informed us that Zant was killed by Sheik due to a fatal blow to the throat, crushing the cartilage in his esophagus, suffocating him. Vaati likewise was suffocated, only by chemical gas and by the hand of a boy named Shad."
Link felt sick. Hearing these things read off so casually made them sound all the more horrible. Sheik got Zant, and Shad did in Vaati. That only left…
"And finally, we have Sakon. His body was found in the Principal's office laying facedown in a pile of dirt and broken pottery. His skull was partially crushed and there was a bullet wound in his back. We've received numerous reports that you were in the main office at least twice during the attack. Can you shed some light on Sakon's demise?"
He felt his throat stick at the unpleasant memory, but he forced himself to swallow through it and whisper hoarsely, "It was me, Rusl. I did it. I killed Sakon with the pot. When Kafei and I escaped from the room they had us trapped in, Sakon found us… there was a tussle over a gun, he was about to shoot me, I reacted instinctively… And that's it."
Rusl stared at him for a moment, his face expressionless. "And the bullet wound?"
"That…" he hesitated briefly, choosing his words with the utmost care. "…was after the fact. Kafei… and I, we didn't know if he was unconscious or… or not. And we felt like it was too big a risk to leave up to chance."
Rusl nodded slowly before saying softly, "…Alright. Thank you, Link, for telling me that. It's one less loose end we have to worry about."
"Anymore questions?" Link asked, feeling a little rung-out, emotionally speaking.
"No, that should be good. Told you it was short." He flashed Link a small grin as though to clear the air between them and stood, stretching his back with a groan.
"My Din, am I sore! Well, best of luck to you, Link. Give Aryll and Granny Hero my best when you see them next, because Nayru only knows when I will." He chuckled lightly, casting the folder in his hands a rather sadistic look. "I expect Uli will be along sometime to see you. She was so worried about you and your sister during the attack…"
Rusl trailed off unexpectedly, and he and Link both turned their heads toward Colin who had stood up suddenly, facing Link, his hands balled into fists, his arms and shoulders rigid. His head was hung low, however, and he refused to make eye contact. He was trembling.
"Link…" Colin muttered tensely, then hesitated, looking unsure.
Link raised his brow in confusion. "Er… Colin? You ok?"
"Link." He said again, only this time he held his head high and squared his shoulders. He had a fiercely determined look in his steely grey eyes, his jaw clenched rigidly, looking for all the world like he was about to do something incredibly unpleasant.
Link was baffled. What in the world was going on?
"I'm sorry." He said suddenly, and Link blinked in surprise. Rusl leaned back, a troubled look on his face, and studied his son quietly.
"Uh…" Link said blankly, but Colin cut him off.
"I'm sorry that I betrayed you to Ganondorf. It was my fault that he went looking for your friends. I told him where you all were… and I… I understand if you… If you can't forgive me."
There was a tense moment following his pronouncement in which Rusl fixed his unreadable gaze on Link, Link stared in amazement at Colin, and Colin stared resolutely at the floor.
Finally, Link snorted and said, "Colin, what are you talking about?"
Colin look up in mild surprise. "Huh? I… Link, I'm trying to apologize for-"
"Yeah, no, I got that." Link said, waving it off impatiently. "But I mean, why?"
Colin merely stood there, looking confused. "Aren't you… Aren't you mad at me?"
Link laughed. "Uh, no? Colin, really, come on now. Ganondorf had you at gunpoint. What were you supposed to do, die? If I were you, I would've done the same thing. Anyone would. You don't need to beat yourself up over it."
"But Link," Colin said, ready to argue, but Link rode him over.
"And another thing. From what I understand, you flat out refused to give Ganondorf his information unless he promised not to hurt my sister, right?"
Colin's mouth gaped like a fish, but no sound came out.
"Right." Link said, matter-of-factly. "You did what you did not for yourself, but for your girlfriend; my little sister. You were trying to keep her safe. How am I supposed to be mad at you for that?"
Rusl was grinning now, but he hid it behind his hand so Colin couldn't see it. Link could tell; he'd been worried that Link would hold a grudge against him for what happened back at the school, and they both knew Colin was beating himself up over something that really was out of his control.
"Besides, Colin," Link said, his voice growing a little softer, "do you honestly believe you did that much harm?"
Colin, who'd been staring at his shoes in embarrassment, jerked his head back up at Link's words. "But Link, I sold you and your friends out to Ganondorf! I stopped the police from invading-"
"No." Link said flatly, cutting the spluttering boy off once more. "Think about it logically for a second, Colin. Ganondorf had that entire attack planned out methodically. His goal from the beginning was to get me and make me pay for ratting him out and getting him sent off to Juvy." He carefully skirted around the bit about the Triforce and the predestined battle between the Hero of Time and the King of Thieves. "Do you really think he needed information from you for his plan to succeed? And honestly, Colin, that information didn't even have any value. When the attack started everyone bolted out of their classrooms and those who couldn't escape were rounded up and put into other classrooms. You telling him where we were was completely pointless, and he knew that."
Colin's face had gone completely pale, his eyes wide with this newfound revelation. "He didn't… I wasn't… but then why ask? Why make me give him answers and agree to the deal in the first place?"
"Because he was playing you, Colin." Link said gently. "He was playing you because he knew you were Rusl's son, because he knew you were dating my little sister. When you came to get her, he was never actually going to let you go. He probably had some ambush set up for the two of you before you got out."
"But why?" Colin gasped, his hands tearing through his hair.
"Because he's was sick and twisted. Because your pain gave him pleasure. So stop giving it to him. Just let it go."
"But… But the radio frequency, I still-"
"No, Colin." Rusl said, speaking up finally, casting his son a sorrowful look. "You didn't do any harm there either. The decision of when to invade the school was entirely my call, and the fault for us coming so late belongs to me. If anything, you helped us save the day. The frequency you gave them allowed us to trick them into thinking we were coming through the kitchen rather than the gymnasium. True, you didn't plan that, but honestly… Son, no harm came to any of the students because of your actions. Listen to Link. You need to forgive yourself and move on."
Colin was quiet for a moment before sinking onto the bed beside Link's feet, his arms slumped forward on his knees, his head in his hands.
"It doesn't matter." He said softly. "Aryll still hates me…"
Link rolled his eyes. "Aryll's an idiot. And she doesn't hate you."
Colin snorted. "You say that now. You didn't hear her and Sheik after they found out what I'd done."
"No, but I did hear her defend you after you confessed to your dad." Link pointed out, and Colin blinked. "Besides, Aryll and Sheik… You need to give them the benefit of the doubt there."
"What do you mean?" Colin asked, shooting Link a confused look.
"Well, take Sheik for example. Sheik's the kind of guy who blames himself for everything and judges himself too harshly besides. That's just who he is as a person. I honestly think most of his anger towards you was anger he was really deflecting from himself. You were both in similar situations, committing similar crimes… But you know, if he really hated you he wouldn't have stood up for you to your dad and Officer Shiro. I'm not sure if he'll ever fess up and apologize, but… Well, that's Sheik too."
Colin was staring down at his hands now, laying absently on his lap, drinking in Link's words.
"Aryll's anger is more justified… but her feelings of betrayal and hurt are compounded by our own family history. Aryll and I… we're all that's left of our family, aside from Granny. She's already had to deal with so much loss in her life, I'm sure in that moment, when she found out about your deal with Ganondorf, she felt like you, her boyfriend, a person she's supposed to be able to trust and rely on, had just broken that bond in the worst of ways and threw away the last piece of her family. So she was hurt, yeah. It's understandable. And it may take awhile for you to be able to rebuild that trust… But don't give up hope, Colin. She cares about you, you care about her, and Din burn me if another guy exists in the world who I'm ok with dating my baby sister."
Link laughed at that, half expecting the other two to do the same. He was surprised, however, when Colin remained silent for a moment before unsteadily wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. Clearing his throat gruffly, he stood from the bed and fixed Link with a watery stare, slowly extending his hand.
"Thanks, Link." He said quietly, his eyes swimming with unshed tears.
"Anytime, Colin." Link replied, taken aback at how emotional his little impromptu speech had made the boy. He reached out and accepted Colin's handshake bracingly, hoping he was right about Aryll. He could be wrong, she may not ever forgive him, but he just had this feeling…
Rusl stood then, hooking his arm around Colin's shoulders and bringing him in for a brief one-armed hug. Then with a nod and a grateful smile, he shook Link's hand as well and with a warm farewell, shepherded his son out the door, leaving Link to his thoughts for the night.
Thankfully, the rest of his stay at Ordon Hospital was less emotionally jarring. His family, true to their word, visited him for a couple of hours every day, usually around lunchtime. Link was hard-pressed to decide if he enjoyed these visits or not, because while he was grateful for the company, he loathed how his sister and grandmother seemed to always bring in delicious take-out from various restaurants when they came to see him to tease and dangle tantalizingly before him, unknowingly mocking him for the strict clear liquids diet the hospital staff had placed him on upon waking; apparently, they'd performed complex reconstructive surgery on sections of his intestines that were damaged by Ganondorf's stabbing, and until his digestive tract was up for the challenge he wasn't allowed to eat real food.
Honestly, the inability to ingest anything other than juice, popsicles and gelatin was probably his biggest inconvenience, other than being unable to move. The collective pain of his injuries were rapidly abating as the days went on, and the doctors and nurses were baffled, unable to explain the phenomenon that was his incredibly rapid healing. He still had the sutures in his abdomen, yes, and it was likely he'd have permanent scarring, but that didn't really bother him. The accursed itchiness of his casts, however…
His limbs were healing just as rapidly as the rest of his body, but his leg and arm had taken the worst of the impact after he'd toppled out of the building. His leg had snapped in three places, and he didn't even want to consider what he'd been told about his arm and shoulder. Still, the doctors refused to believe that bones as damaged as his could be knitting together so quickly and were insistent that his casts remain on full-term. So far his attempts to dissuade them were falling on deaf ears. He yearned to be able to flex his limbs once more, unused as he was to being confined in a single place for so long.
His reprieve came in the form of his visitors, the only real dent in the never ending void of boredom that had become his stay at Ordon Hospital (he'd forsaken even the thought of turning on the television after Darunia and Ruto's visit in fear of bringing on another panic attack). His family, of course, was a given; Aryll's cheerful humor and Granny's snide remarks were always enough to brighten up his gloomy room. Sheik and Midna also made frequent visits, filling him in on their many wacky adventures in the magical land of community service. Whether they were assisting the elderly at an old folks home or picking up trash on the side of the road, somehow they managed to get themselves into bizarre situations that were guaranteed to make Link laugh until he cried… which wasn't very difficult, considering how painful laughing still was.
Zelda also visited him daily, although the two never got time alone together. She always seemed to show up whenever someone else was visiting, or else had her visit cut short by the doctors and their incessant testing. As annoyed as he was that they couldn't get any one-on-one time, he was still always happiest when she was around. She made it a point during her visits to sit in the same chair she'd been in when he awoke, their hands interlocked, their respective Triforce marks glowing a little brighter at the close contact. They were forced to angle their hands awkwardly so the others didn't notice this little oddity, but neither of them cared much. It was worth it.
Kafei would visit occasionally, and although the two would exchange witticisms and banter like old friends, Link could never fight off the lingering shadow of despair that came with him; the kind that settled like a mantle over the room when he would announce that Anju still hadn't come to yet. And try as he might, Link still couldn't help but feel slightly guilty that the Goddesses had blessed him with such incredible healing power, yet he couldn't do a thing for Anju…
Link still had plenty of other more cheerful visitors to help prevent him from ruminating constantly over his still-suffering friend, however.
A couple days after waking, Aryll's friends Saria, Malon, and Mido had come fumbling into the room, looking a little unsure of themselves. Link knew why; while his and his sister's friends had occasionally hung out together in the past, and while he knew and liked most of them well enough, they weren't really all that close individually. He was touched, however, by the concern in Saria's eyes when she asked how he was feeling, and chuckled earnestly when Malon brandished a silly cow plushy from her large purse, plopping the stuffed animal on the windowsill and claiming it was there to brighten up his drab room. Mido was still a bit of an idiot, but he didn't have to show up in the first place, so Link was pleased all the same. He decided to make it a priority to get to know Aryll's friends a little bit better. Who knew; maybe they'd become his friends too.
If seeing Aryll's friends was unexpected, they had nothing on his next visitor. When Linebeck, the janitor, sidled awkwardly into the room the next day Link had merely stared at him in bewilderment. He hadn't stayed for long and had merely mumbled something about him 'promising to check up on the kid' and something about someone named 'Sparky' before slinking back out the door. Link had heard from Midna that Linebeck had actually come through in the clutch, helping to save her in the gym and driving the bus load of kids to safety, so he assumed everything he had thought about the lazy janitor was wrong. If anything, coming to see him even though the two had never really interacted only further proved the point. Still, he remained staring at the door for a while after the janitor had departed, struggling in vain to understand what made the bizarre man tick.
The biggest surprise came from Shad and Ashei.
"You're not coming back to school?" Link blurted out in shock in the middle of their conversation.
Shad, who'd seated himself in a chair beside Link's bed, casually adjusted his glasses and fixed Link with a bemused look.
"Honestly, it can't come as much of a surprise, Link. I imagine a significant portion of the students won't ever come back. They were afraid for a while the school would be shut down permanently. As it is, it's already been closed down for the next month while they perform the necessary repairs and search for anyone desperate enough to fill the vacancies in the faculty."
"Yeah, but still…" Link muttered, unable to imagine attending a class without the brainy Shad or the eternal tomboy Ashei. The two had been staples since kindergarten. True, they hadn't been particularly close until the shooting, but even so… They were friends now, and he would miss them.
"Hey, cheer up, yeah?" Ashei said, lightly rapping Link's good leg with her knuckles from her spot beside Shad, "You'll still see me at the girl's Volley Ball games when my new team shows up to thrash Ordon next year. As long as you show up, I mean. And you will show up."
Link sent her a small smile to show he knew she was teasing, but he had to work to make it seem real. When she'd shown up at his room being pushed in a wheelchair like by Shad, he'd been stunned. He had no idea the two hadn't made it out of the building through the air vent when they'd split up. He couldn't help but feel slightly guilty for the bullet wound in her upper thigh that prevented her from walking and for Shad's newfound case of asthma. They had glossed over the details of what had happened; a run in with Vaati, shots were fired, random chemical spills, the usual for the dynamic duo. He assumed they hadn't wanted to drudge up the memories themselves, but they made the mistake of dropping Zelda's name, so he made a mental note to quiz her later.
When he realized he'd been quiet for too long, he asked, "So what brought up the idea of a private school?"
"My Ma." Ashei said, rolling her eyes dramatically. "She figured a fancy, classy place would be less prone to shootings. I can't say I care really, it's only that we have to wear uniforms now, so…"
She shuttered comically, and he grinned. Even after taking a bullet, Ashei was still the same as ever. It was good to know not everything had changed.
"And you, Shad?" he asked, turning his attention to the bespectacled ginger.
"It's thanks to Ashei, actually." He replied, and Link once again had to stop himself from wincing at the sound of his voice. The doctors said they'd be able to treat his lungs, and even now he had to carry an oxygen tank around with him until he was officially discharged him from the hospital. It wasn't the tubes in his nose that altered his voice, though; it was the slight scarring of his esophagus along with bits of his nasal cavity and lung tissue, the kind that wouldn't ever go away.
"My mother demanded that I be home schooled. She's been wanting it for awhile, but I've always been able to hold her off before now. In truth, I didn't think anything would be able to change her mind… until Ashei mentioned the private school she was being sent to. She went on for a bit, embellishing on their scholastic accolades and attention from the nation's premier universities and my mother was sold. I'm just glad I won't be trapped at home for the rest of my life."
Shad sent Ashei a smirk which resulted in an ungainly snort and a derisive comment about what a momma's boy he was, and in a flash the two were off exchanging quips and sarcastic remarks at lightning speed. Link was forced to settle with a rueful shake of his head; at least the shooting of Ordon High had a few positive points. To think an uncanny friendship would spawn in the face of such sorrow…
The duo left not long after, Shad pushing Ashei, his oxygen tank propped up on the back of her chair, her shouting orders at him like he was her chauffer while he rolled his eyes skyward, as if to say 'why me?'.
And then, of course, he received his most flamboyant guest.
When Ralph came strutting into the room a few days later, Link was in the middle of attempting to drink awkwardly from a tiny plastic cup of apple juice. The surprise of seeing him was so great that he choked, the juice going down the wrong pipe, and he was reduced to fit of coughing and splutters.
"Good Farore!" Ralph exclaimed with emphatic gusto, leaping forward and hammering Link on the back bracingly, sending shockwaves of pain throughout his body, worsening the situation immensely. "Breathe, man, breathe! It doesn't do to have our nations hero vanquished by a beverage! What would the press say!"
Still hacking, Link managed to choke out, "R-Ralph… What are… What are you doing here?"
"Why, I came to see you, of course! To think, that one so noble as I would not visit my dear friend Link on his death bed… I'm appalled at the very notion!"
"Er," Link said, hastily wiping his chin with a puzzled expression, "deathbed? I'm not dying, Ralph… actually, I feel a lot better now…"
Ralph ignored him.
"Of course, I would be remiss to pass up this magnanimous opportunity! You, Link, my greatest rival, my most worthy adversary, defeated and cast down to the earth in shame!"
"But alas! Tis I who am shamed by you, Link! Once again you have defeated me! Once again you have crept in and stolen the glory that was rightfully mine!"
"Are you talking about the sixth grade spelling bee again? Because dude, it's not my fault you messed up on 'platitudinous'. You need to let that stuff go."
Stalking to the foot of Link's bed, Ralph turned and struck a dramatic pose. "This is not the end, Link Hero! Soon, my moment shall come and I shall be the one praised and adored for my heroics! Until next we meet!"
And on that pontificating note, he turned with a flap of his odd blue jacket and strutted right back out the door, leaving Link feeling even more confused than normal in traditional Ralph fashion.
Finally, after approximately three weeks, the doctors were forced to conclude that as odd as Link's incredible healing prowess was, there was basically no reason to keep him any longer. They cut sections of his cast away, leaving the portion that stretched from his hand to his elbow as well as the part that encased his shin and ankle, the result being that he could walk provided he carry a crutch. The sutures had been removed from his stomach a week or so back leaving a ghastly puckered scar just above and slightly to the left of his belly button; a menacing two-and-a-half inch reminder of the price of being the Hero.
It was on Link's last night in the hospital that he received his final group of visitors. It was around seven in the evening and Link was lounging back in his bed, his free arm tucked behind his head as he stared languidly at the television (he'd caved in a week or so back on account of sheer boredom, but resolutely avoided the news stations). To say he was excited to be getting out of the stuffy hospital after nearly a month was an understatement; as if the prospect of wearing pants again wasn't enough, his grandma had decided to throw a party in honor of his recovery. Sure, it was a little odd to be having a party in the wake of such horror, but as his grandmother put it, they couldn't sit and mourn forever. Life moved on, and they had to move with it.
Link was just starting to get teary-eyed over the climactic ending of 'A Walk To Remember' (they didn't get the greatest variety of channels at Ordon Hospital. Or at least, that was his excuse if anyone asked to save his manly pride) when he heard the now familiar click of the doorknob.
Quickly straightening up and wiping his eyes, he fumbled for the remote and hastened to change the channel before who he presumed was the nurse walked in and witnessed his shameful moment of insecurity.
To his surprise, however, it was not the nurse.
"Ah, Mr. Hero! Good, you are awake." The elderly man beamed beneath his thick white eyebrows, stroking his bushy mustache with gusto. In behind walked two more surprises; Coach Nabooru and Link's old favorite teacher, Mr. Auru.
The commercial suddenly ended on whatever station he had changed it to, and the theme song for the next show suddenly began to play.
'My Little Pony, My Little Pony, Ahhh ahhh ahhh ahh-'
Link practically leapt out of his skin, nearly dropping the remote again in mortification. Hurriedly mashing his fingers against the buttons, he managed to increase the volume, adjust the brightness to maximum, and turn on the Spanish subtitles before succeeding in finding the power button.
"I, uh," Link panted, his face flushed scarlet under the bemused and slightly disturbed gazes of his teachers, "th-that's not… I wasn't watching… You- You startled me when you came in, and- and the remote slipped, and…"
There was an awkward pause, during which Auru coughed discretely into his hand.
"Right. Of course." Mr. Oshus said finally, in a tone that said he clearly didn't believe that for a second. Nabooru snickered unabashedly, her golden eyes gleaming with mirth.
"Link, how are you feeling?" Auru asked a touch too loudly, settling himself in Sheik's preferred chair on Link's right beside side table with the now-dead vase of flowers.
"Fine!" he replied a little too eagerly, happy to change the subject to anything but the children's cartoon that he was sure would now single-handedly ruin his reputation. "Just great, actually. Yeah, the doctor says they're gonna release me tomorrow, so…"
"Well that's terrific news!" Auru replied, beaming in a genuine sort of way. "Good Farore, that was fast! Were there any complications in surgery? Anything at all?"
"Not really, no." Link said, shrugging. "The surgeon said it was a cakewalk. The first time he's ever seen someone get part of their intestines split open that didn't result in instant widespread infection. He just sowed me up, bandaged up my limbs and sent me on my way. I mean I was in a coma for a bit, but…"
"Incredible… I've never heard of such a thing…" The older man murmured, and Link made a mental note to tone it down a bit; he didn't want anymore awkward questions that he couldn't answer, like with Rusl… Or did he? Would telling Auru be such a big deal? He was the history teacher, after all, and he knew all about the old legends… And most importantly Link felt like he could trust him…
"Indeed." Oshus intoned gravely, finally rejoining the conversation though he didn't take a seat like Auru had. Nabooru was still chortling in the background. "Truly a miracle. What happened that day was an unheard of catastrophe, but never let it be said that the Goddesses forsook us. We have much to be grateful for."
Link was a little unsure how to deal with Mr. Oshus, admittedly. Nabooru and Auru he at least knew on a more personal level; Auru having taught him last year and he took gym as a freshman under Coach Nabooru and Darmani's duel teachings, as all freshmen did. But he'd never taken Marine Biology; he'd had a hard enough time with regular biology. Science just wasn't his forte.
"Now, Mr. Hero, I'm sure you're wondering why we're here." Oshus began again, and Link refrained from agreeing aloud; he didn't want to come across as rude, after all. "Have you had any news on the state of the school since you awoke?"
"Not really." Link said slowly, not sure where this was going. "I mean, I heard it had shut down for the month, but other than that…"
Oshus nodded as if he had expected as much. "Yes indeed. Ordon High was shut down after that ghastly incident, and the remaining students were given two weeks reprieve for psychological reasons. Classes have since resumed, though on the campus of the local community college until the work on the building is completed, however many of our students have instead transferred to other area high schools. Our number of students has greatly dwindled, but I cannot begrudge them their decisions. It has been a trying time for us all."
"Have they already decided on a new Principal?" Link asked curiously.
Oshus smiled. "In fact, they have."
"Really? Who is it?"
"Me." Oshus replied simply.
Link stared at him for a moment, slightly taken aback, then grinned.
"Congratulations. Who's the Vice?"
"That would be me." Nabooru chimed in, stepping up beside Oshus and smirking down at Link. Link tried to hide his grimace.
Great… the new Vice Principal thinks I watch My Little Pony…
"In any case, Link," Oshus said, bringing them back on topic, "we didn't come here to tell you that. We came to discuss a certain matter with you, and when Auru heard we were coming he asked to tag along."
"Oh. Um, ok. What is it?" He replied, feeling baffled and slightly on edge. Whenever the Principal asked to discuss something with you, it was never good… which was an odd way to view the situation, considering Link hadn't been to school since Oshus got the job, but some instincts are simply hard to kill.
"Many members of the community requested that we construct a memorial at the high school; something dedicated in honor of those who lost their lives, to preserve their memory. The mayor approved the idea immediately, and after several generous donations from many prominent members of our society, construction began."
"Great…" Link said slowly. And it was; he just wasn't sure what this had to do with him.
Oshus seemed to sense his confusion and plowed on. "It going to be a flower garden, out on the side of the school. One flower planted for every student and teacher who died. Their names will be inscribed on a stone wall fixture just behind it. They predict it should be ready in about a week, just in time for the school to reopen its doors as an institution for learning. We're planning on having a dedication ceremony… and we would like you to speak."
Link felt his stomach drop out.
"Speak?" He repeated in a strangled sort of way, his voice sounding far too high and squeaky for his liking.
"Yes." Oshus replied, studying Link through wizened sea-green eyes. "I will also be speaking, as will Mayor Dotour and the Chief of Police, Rusl Smith. But we feel it would be best if you were to speak as well, Link."
"Why me?" Link asked, a little too quickly. Public speaking was definitely not something he was comfortable with. He was already feeling faint…
"Well you're the hero of the whole country." Nabooru said, rolling her eyes. "The people want to hear from you."
"What? I'm not a hero!" Link blurted out hastily, scowling up at his one time coach. Her words had touched a sore point; yes, he was a hero. The Hero, in fact. But for a reason they would never know. They wanted to parade him not for stopping Ganondorf, but for putting an end to the senseless slaughter of their children. Sure, it was also a heroic task… but to him, it was a discordant nightmare he knew he'd be fighting his entire life to forget. Things in his life had already become weird enough what with the whole Triforce thing. He just wanted things to go back to normal… or at least as close to normal as they could possibly be.
"Coach, Oshus… I did what I did because it needed to be done and for no other reason. If you put me up there and parade me around like I'm some sort of hero, people are gonna start treating me different. I don't want special treatment for something that I'd honestly rather forget entirely."
"Look, kid." Nabooru growled, starting to showcase her trademark impatience, but Link cut her off.
"No, you look! You want a 'hero' to speak for you? Get Sheik. Or Midna. Or Zelda, or Aryll, or Collin, or Kafei, or Ralph. They were all there; they all helped as much as me. Or better yet, leave us alone! Haven't we done enough already?"
Link didn't even realize he'd started yelling until Auru reached out and grasped his shoulder gently.
"It can't be them, Link. It has to be you." Auru said softly.
Link turned on him, feeling stung; the one person he expected to be on his side…
"Why?" He shot back, his tone scathing.
"Because the students are scared." Oshus intoned sadly, finally deigning to sit in the chair opposite Auru, bringing his gaze level with Link's. "They are frightened, my boy, and I cannot blame them. For many, it will be a serious trial to even venture near a school building again, let alone enter one on a daily basis. They have suffered a great deal, been held captive, wounded, lost loved ones and friends. Any illusion of safety that being at school once afforded them was destroyed utterly, perhaps never too return.
"But in you, Link, they see something else. They see a boy like them who did the impossible, who in the face of grave peril stood up against the rising threat in their defense. A boy who was willing to accept any pain, even death itself, to save them. You carried within yourself that day a light that cast off the seemingly endless darkness of despair and hopelessness that Ganondorf and his accomplices used to subjugate them, and they can never forget that. You carry that light with you still, Link. You, and your friends as well. The school saw it when you broke into the classrooms and delivered them from their captors. The city saw it when you and your friends helped rally the police and lead the students to safety. And the nation saw it when you tackled Ganondorf out of that window, heedless of your own safety. Like it or not, Mr. Hero, you have become Hyrule's light of hope, and they need you now more than ever."
Link's swallowed thickly, struggling to piece together a plausible defense against the wise old man's words, yearning with all of his heart to dismiss everything Oshus was saying… and yet in spite of his better judgment he found himself asking, "What do you mean?"
Oshus sighed heavily, his bulky mustache fluttering in despondence. "If enough students do not return to Ordon High, they will close the school down. They have agreed to finish out the year with however many do come back, but I must confess I fear the worst. If they tear down Ordon High, think of the negative result it will have on our city? How many teenagers will drop out rather than transfer? How many families will move to escape the painful memories? The students are too afraid to return on their own… They need someone to look to for renewed hope in the future, and that person, Link, is you."
"But why!" Link blurted out, his throat uncomfortably tight. "Why would they listen to me? You already have you, Oshus, and Rusl and Kafei's dad! If they can't convince the kids and their parents to stay why in Din's name would I be any different?"
"Because you're one of them, Link." Auru said, sighing softly as he ran his hand distractedly through his unkempt graying hair. "Think about it. Teenagers don't want to listen to some faceless government official. Chief Smith? Most of the students think the police are failures for making them wait so long to be rescues. And us? Link, what words could Oshus or any of the teachers say that wouldn't sound hollow and empty to their ears? During the attack we were just as helpless as them, and they know that. They don't need some adult telling them what to do. What they need is one of their own being an example."
"But that's just it." Link growled angrily. "I'm not one of them. I never have been. Ordon High has been plagued with cliques and social classes since long before I ever became a freshman. Most of the students there either hate me or have never given me the time of day because they judge you before they even have a chance to get to know you. Why would my words make any difference? And you know what, I hated that school. I hated everything about it. Maybe it's a good thing that it's getting closed down. No more cliques, no more social pariahs, no more bullying…"
"None of that will change if the school shuts down. The students will go off, scattered to different schools where they'll be absorbed into their cliques and castes and the cycle will continue. But you have a chance to break it here, Link."
"How?" Link snorted. "I can't break down those walls, Auru."
"The walls are already broken, Link. Ganondorf saw to that. He knew the flaws of the system and used them against us. He gathered under his wing the outcasts, turned their hurt and loneliness into rage and hate, whispered evil, cruel things into their ears and then set them free on the school. And we broke, Link. The fragile teenage society shattered, and the pieces lay scattered on the ground, waiting for someone to put them back together. Their waiting for you. Because you know the truth, you know what it feels like to be the outcast and you know what needs to be done to set things right. And because of what happened, because you and your friends saved everyone, you're the link that connects all the factions… er, pun not intended."
Nabooru snorted, but Link just scowled bitterly. He wanted to rant and complain more, but he could already feel the bitter tang of defeat sinking in. He hated it when his teachers were right.
Link sighed, closing his eyes and sinking back into his bed.
"Fine." He muttered sulkily. "I'll do it. Happy?"
"Overjoyed." Nabooru drawled flatly.
Auru smiled in relief. "Great. Thank you, Link. And don't worry; it doesn't have to be long at all, just as long as it's from you."
They got up to leave not long after, and Link had to force himself not to sigh with relief. He shook Oshus's hand firmly and struggled not to wince too openly at Nabooru's vice grip. It was with Auru, however, that he made his mistake.
"Link, what is that on the back of your hand?"
Link froze, his blood running cold. He'd forgotten he was supposed to be hiding the Triforce insignia on the back of his hand… and of course, the one person guaranteed to know what it meant would be the one to see it.
He tried to snatch his hand back, but Auru had a firm grip on it, studying the golden trio of triangles intensely.
"What is it?" Nabooru asked, her curiosity spiked as she strode quickly back from where she'd stalked a moment earlier towards the door.
"My word…" Oshus said in a hushed tone, leaning forward across Link's hospital bed to get a better look.
"It's- Ah, it's nothing!" Link gasped, struggling to reclaim his captured appendage from Auru, who said nothing in response, his eyebrows slowly climbing towards his hair.
"I still don't know what it is." Nabooru stated flatly, looking bored and unimpressed as the two older men continued to stare at Link's hand in awe.
"That's because it's nothing!"
"Link, my dear boy… do you know what this means?" Oshus asked, gazing at Link's mark as if he couldn't believe his eyes.
"Link." Auru said calmly. "Where did this mark come from?"
"Uh…" he said blankly, wracking his brains for a plausible lie. "It, uh… Ganondorf?"
The trio of adults turned simultaneous to stare at Link. He inwardly cringed. He'd spluttered out the first thing that came to mind, which was, of course, Ganondorf. Stupid Triforce…
"Ganondorf." Auru stated bluntly, and Link nodded weakly.
"He gave you a weird tattoo?" Nabooru asked, puzzled. "Well that's stupid. And we care because…?"
"Nabooru, have you no idea the significance of this mark?" Oshus cried in shock. Nabooru merely shrugged.
"It's-" Auru began to explain, but Link cut him off.
"No! No, it's a tattoo! Definitely a tattoo!" No matter what, he couldn't let them know what it actually meant. Otherwise, people would never leave him or Zelda alone.
Auru and Oshus fixed him with identical looks of disbelief.
Nabooru frowned. "Why did Ganondorf bring a tattoo kit to shoot up the school?"
"Uh, it's because he… Because he…" All three adults were staring at him intently now, and he felt himself breaking out in a panicked sweat. He would need to come up with a really good lie to get out of this one. But what could he say that wouldn't bring up any awkward questions?
"Whatever." Nabooru said, loosing her patience. "Will someone please tell me why we care that Hero got a tattoo?"
"Nabooru, we care because it's the Triforce of Courage." Auru said, sounding irritated at his colleagues naivety.
"The who of what?"
"The Triforce of Courage! The mark of the Hero, the blessing of Farore, one-third of the Golden Power! Have you no knowledge of your nation's history?" Oshus demanded, flabbergasted.
"History wasn't really my thing…" She murmured absently, gazing at Link's mark with renewed interest. "And Ganondorf tattooed that on you? Why?"
"He… Because he's deranged!" He blurted out a little too loudly, decided if he was going to lie he might as well stick close to the truth. "He thought-… He thought he was the King of Thieves reborn or something, and I guess that made me the Hero of Time since I'm his arch rival or something. I dunno, he was pretty much nuts."
"Is that why he wanted to fight you alone after the police had basically already won?"
"Yes!" Link said, grateful Nabooru was keeping the conversation going. He couldn't tell if Oshus and Auru were buying it or not; they're faces were unreadable masks. "Yeah, that's why he took Zelda too. He thought she was the Princess of Destiny. He slapped the marks on us when he had us imprisoned. Pretty weird, right? Haha… ha…"
"Zelda Nohansen has a mark as well?" Oshus asked, intrigued.
"Er, yes… sir."
"And Ganondorf; he had a mark?"
"Well, what does it matter? They're fakes, right? It's a shame, though; if Ganondorf wasn't so crazy he'd have had a good future as a tattoo artist. That thing doesn't look like a tattoo at all- it's like your skin is actually golden."
Link didn't exactly know how to respond to that. Oshus sent Auru a disconcerted look. "Well… I suppose… It must be fake. If the boy says it's a tattoo…"
Auru, who'd been staring blankly into space, his face slightly more pale than it had been before, started back into reality and said, "Yes… Yes. It's a hoax, Oshus. Ganondorf can't possibly have been… I mean, he's dead. So it's irrelevant."
He shook his head lightly and stood, sending pointed looks at his colleagues. "Well. I think we've taken up enough of young Mr. Hero's time. We should be going."
The other two nodded, and after another round of handshakes, they set off. Link was left feeling a little odd about Auru's last statement. Just before he exited the room, Link called out for him to wait.
"Yes, Link?" Auru asked, looking perplexed.
"It's just… Well, you said Ganondorf couldn't have possibly been the King of Thieves because he was dead, right? Why would his being dead matter?"
Auru scratched at his arm absently, looking troubled. "It's nothing to worry about, Link. Don't let it bother you."
Auru chuckled amusedly at his one-time pupil. "Come now, Link. You were a better student than that. Ganondorf can't be the King of Thieves reborn because you defeated him. And even if you were the Hero of Time, you can't have defeated the King of Thieves all on your own."
"Right." Link said, feeling slightly relieved. "Because the pieces of the Triforce are equal in strength, so I'd have needed the Triforce of Wisdom on my side."
"Ah, well yes, I suppose that is true, but that's not what I was referring to. The Hero of Time is always the one who defeats the King of Thieves not because he teams up with the Princess of Destiny and together overpower him. The Hero of Time is the only person in history who can wield the Master Sword with impunity, the only weapon capable of striking down the Demon King, and seeing as the Master Sword is still sitting in its pedestal at the Temple of Time up in Castleton…"
He shrugged as if to say 'there you go!' and backed out the door, waving one final time. The door swung shut slowly behind him, leaving Link staring blankly after him, something dark and foreboding stirring in his chest.
The sun was perhaps a bit too bright and cheerful that morning, but that was the nature of April, Link decided. Spring had arrived hard and fast and no amount of human sorrow and melancholy would keep it at bay. Maybe the goddesses were trying to tell them something; time never stopped moving, winter always gives way to spring, and it was time for them to move on.
A little too poetic for his tastes, perhaps, but he was in that sort of mood. Time was moving, and they needed to move with it. If only it'd move a little slower and give him some time to think.
A brief gust of wind caught him in the back, still a little chilly from the last vestiges of winter, ruffling through his neatly combed hair and fluttering the edges of his suit coat. Din, but he hated dressing like this… It was thick and stiff and constricted his movements, and his white collared shirt and appropriately black tie made him feel like he was being strangled. Worst of all, his shoes pinched his toes. All in all, he could never understand why lawyers and such chose to dress like this on a daily basis.
Then again, Zelda had remarked how warm the jacket was when he'd draped it around her shoulders earlier that morning (giving her his jacket was becoming a thing for them, though he'd been forced to take it back when he'd stepped up on the makeshift stand) and it did have a particularly nice smell to it… Maybe it wasn't all bad.
For the umpteenth time that morning, Link swept his gaze across the crowd and zeroed in on his girlfriend. Zelda, her hair straightened somberly and wearing a black dress that didn't suit her personality in the slightest, sat stoically between Midna and Aryll, her gaze fixated on Chief Smith as he spoke from the podium. As though sensing his gaze, her eyes flicked over to him briefly and she shot him yet another encouraging smile before returning her attention to Colin's father.
Link sighed heavily, refusing to do the same, adamantly blocking out the somber tones of Rusl Smith whom the rest of the audience was directing their rapt attention. Link felt trapped, being stuck up on the small, makeshift wooden stage that had been arrayed just to the side of Ordon High. The audience lay out before him like a tiny black ocean, but Link, as one of the speakers, was one of the few unlucky enough to have to sit on the stand. There were only four chairs; one for each speaker and all of them made of ancient, rickety metal that squeaked every time he shifted his weight. Two seats occupied each side of the stage; Link and Oshus on the left, Mayor Dotour and Rusl Smith's now vacant seat at the right, with a gap in between so that they weren't obscured from the audience's view by the small, plain podium. Link regretted not being given even that small luxury.
Not wanting to think about what he was about to be forced to do, he turned away from Smith as his careful and somber speech and instead began examining the newest addition to the school grounds.
The flower bed was lovely. Admittedly, when he'd first heard the idea for the flower garden, he imagined something small, hushed-up and out of the way. What he'd found when he'd arrived for the memorial service that morning, however, was something much more.
It was a large, semi-circular plot of land directly beside one of the walls of the building, situated on the once-blank stretch of grass that made up the space between the school and the football field. A raised stone wall made up the border of the enclosure, approximately two feet tall. The dirt within was the rich chocolate brown of fresh fertilizer, dotted with a few artistically placed boulders of dark moss green and grey and dozens of flowers of varying shades. Link struggled for a moment to recall what Mayor Dotour had said about them in his speech earlier; the dark-red roses he recognized, of course, because who didn't know what a rose looked like? But the odd looking flowers with the purplish-red centers and golden edges he thought were called zinnias, and the pale white and lavender flowers were called columbines. There were a few others and they all apparently had some sort of secret flower meaning, but Link didn't care about that, instead focusing on the way the colors blended and worked together in completely discordant tones that adequately reflected the natures of the people they symbolized. Yet even the beauty of the scene wasn't enough to distract him from focusing on the sheer number…
Forty-two flowers. One for every student, teacher, faculty member and police officer who lost their lives on the day of the Ordon High Massacre. Link hadn't been prepared for that number when Mayor Dotour had initially stated it in his opening remarks; somehow, during the attack and afterwards he'd managed to avoid talking about the casualties. He knew there'd been a lot, he just never wanted to know how many, and somehow he never imagined in his wildest nightmares it would be so high.
Six police officers. Ten members of the faculty, including the principal and vice principal, the school resource officer, at least one janitor, a couple lunch ladies, and one of the secretaries he'd been imprisoned with. Fourteen teachers, including teaching aides and substitutes. Twelve students.
They didn't include the shooters on the list according to the general unspoken consensus.
Link shivered again in spite of his warm, if stuffy, jacket and let his eyes rake the wall above the flower bed. Into the aged russet brick wall had been set a façade of black marble that extended to either end of the semi-circular flower bed. On each end what looked like two-dimensional obsidian Doric pillars had been carved into the dark stone, reaching about eight feet in the air. Atop the pillars were carved the likeness of two long diagonal wooden beams that met in the middle and formed a large, angled archway set against the stone. It was a simple outline; so simple, in fact, that the meaning might have been lost to some, but Link understood immediately: the artist had carved it in similitude of a home. The pillars the walls, the wooden beams the roof, and in center…
Beneath the arch, between the pillars, nestled within their makeshift home, inscribed forever in the shiny, reflective surface of the black marble was the Hylian crest, the stylized wings of a mythical bird in flight. Just below this was written the date of the attack, and the words 'Gone But Not Forgotten'. The rest of the wall was occupied by the names of the victims.
Thankfully, at least in Link's opinion, the names weren't arranged in stuffy, orderly lines; rather, they were distributed seemingly at random and at evenly-spaced intervals all up and down the wall. There was no respecting of position, either; names of police officers were displayed between faculty members and teachers mingled with students. It was like their way of saying that the loss of any single one of them was every bit as painful and difficult to bear as the rest. It made Link's heart swell in spite of the sadness; they were equals.
Link suddenly became aware of the shuffling and quiet murmuring of the crowd, as well as the lack of the deep, bass rumbling he'd associated with Rusl Smith's voice, whose speech he'd been carefully tuning out. Turning his head quickly back towards the podium, he felt his stomach drop out. Chief Smith was returning to his chair. Mayor Dotour was sending him an expecting look. Principal Oshus, who was sitting directly on Link's left, placed a bracing hand on Link's shoulder and nodded towards the microphone.
It was time. Time to get up and speak. Farore, why hadn't he been paying attention? For that matter, why hadn't he spent more of his free time in the last week preparing? Procrastination always did get the better of him… He'd never hated his lazy slacker tendencies more than he did now.
Swallowing gruffly, or at least trying to because his throat had gone completely dry, Link climbed unsteadily to his feet. The brightness of the sun was suddenly blinding, and his movements felt stiff and jerky within his uncomfortable suit. Heart rate spiking, he suddenly felt like a laboratory specimen under a microscope as every head in the audience turned toward him with unnerving expectancy. In the back of the crowd, several news stations had sent camera crews to film the event, which he'd been told was being broadcast live across the entire country; apparently his had become a national story and everyone was eager to hear what he had to say.
The problem was… he had no idea himself.
The palms of his hands were sweaty against the tepid wood of the podium. Swallowing again, he attempted to buy a handful of precious seconds by clearing his throat roughly and tugging at the collar of his shirt. It was funny in a way; you'd think he'd become used to complete and utter abject terror after the events he'd been through, but there was just something about public speaking… Link was an action kinda guy, he expressed what he needed to through doing. He wasn't a speaker. This was a whole new level of fear.
He felt a horrible twisting sensation in his gut that had nothing to do with the grotesque scar on his naval and tried not to whimper, the sound of which would have been amplified via microphone to the entire nation. Nayru, help me… he begged silently, praying in his mind for some sort of divine intervention to get him through this nightmare.
As though in answer to his prayer, his gaze subconsciously searched out his girlfriend's. When his eyes met her startling red-violet irises, something inside him seemed to click into place. He felt calmer; not that he was relaxed, but he wasn't on the verge of passing out, either. It was as though his courage responded to her, and he couldn't let her see him falter. Part of him supposed it might have something to do with her knowing he held the Triforce of Courage, but if he was being honest it was probably just because his pride couldn't take it if his girlfriend saw him chicken out.
She smiled at him softly, both encouraging and secretly amused at how uncomfortable he was up on the stage, then silently mouthed to him, 'It's only me.'
He grinned at her gratefully when he understood; of course, there was nothing to be afraid of, he just needed to pretend like he was talking to her and ignore the crowd of people around them. Yeah. Of course. That sounded easy, right? He could do this.
He realized a moment later that he'd been standing at the podium for nearly thirty seconds and hadn't said a word.
Coughing to hide his embarrassment, he gripped the wooden edges of the stand and said, hesitantly, "Good morning."
Good morning? What kind of crap introduction was that? How cliché and unoriginal could he be? Besides, there wasn't anything even remotely good about this morning! Two words in and already he would be known as the crappiest orator of all-time.
Two seats to the left of Zelda, Link saw Sheik snigger at his words, prompting Midna to elbow him savagely in the gut. Zelda rolled her eyes ruefully at their friends before returning her gaze to him, lifting her eyebrows imploringly, urging him to continue.
Something in his friends' stupid behavior helped put him at ease though, and Link sighed, wracking his brains for something to say.
"I know that… a lot of you are expecting some great speech from me." He said uncertainly, letting his eyes sweep the crowd briefly before jerking resolutely back to Zelda. In his one glance, however, he'd seen the faces of the crowd; the broken teenagers, the unimpressed parents, the reporters in the back with their flashing cameras…
"You're waiting here, now, for the same thing you've been waiting the past month for. Some of you want to hear me talk about what happened inside this school that day; you want to hear me tell you what went down between Ganondorf and me in the Principal's office at the end of the attack. But I have nothing to say to you. What happened that day is a tragedy; not something to parade around and celebrate."
There was an unexpected level of bite to his words and you could tell by the look of surprise on the audiences faces that they hadn't been expecting it. Link hadn't either, but he didn't really regret it. From the look of reproach and annoyance on a few of the reporters' faces, he'd accomplished his goal anyhow. From the moment he'd returned home from the hospital a week ago, he and Zelda and their families had been dogged by reporters. It was beyond annoying. Maybe now it would stop… but he wouldn't get his hopes up.
Zelda seemed a little taken aback as well, but she merely pursed her lips wryly and waited for him to continue.
"Others," Link said, turning his attention to all of the parents in the crowd, his eyes landing on the first one he recognized; Shad's mother, "are waiting for me to do or say something to ease your fears about sending your kids back to Ordon High when it opens up next week. But if I'm being honest, I don't have anything to say to you either, because really… what could I say? What could anyone say?
"Nothing, no amount of words or actions, could ever make what happened right again. And let's just be realistic: none of you really expected me to come up with an answer in the first place. You've all made up your minds already."
Link swallowed again before taking a deep, steadying breath through the nose as he hastened to formulate his next sentence.
"No… Today I'm not speaking to the reporters or the people across Hyrule who are listening in. I'm not talking to the parents or the teachers, or to the families of those whose lives were lost; there isn't anything I can add that hasn't already been said by the mayor, Chief Smith or Principal Oshus… No, today I decided that… I wanted to speak to… my fellow students."
Zelda looked surprised, and Link didn't blame her. As far as his friends and family knew, he hadn't planned on speaking about anything in particular; he'd merely said he was going to ramble off some vague sayings and get down as soon as he could. But something about being up there, seeing the memorial and the school and his classmates had caused something in him to stir, and he realized then and there that there was something that desperately needed to be said.
"Guys, look." He said bluntly, dropping all pretenses of polite, formal diction and reverting to his standard manner of speech, knowing that his classmates stood a greater chance of listening if he did. "Some of you know me from school and the rest of you know me from the news, but how many of you actually know me? Me, the person, Link Hero?"
There was a pause as the teenagers in the crowd shuffled awkwardly, giving him weird looks, unsure where Link was going.
"My point is, before the shooting, Ordon high was your typical high school. We have cliques and social ladders and all that garbage. When people don't conform, they get ostracized. It's a vicious circle that's present all over the world. And I'm proof. Today, pretty much everyone in the country knows my name; they've been talking about me on the news for weeks. But a month ago? I could count the number of friends I had on one hand… and one of them was my little sister."
He heard Sheik laugh and Aryll giggle, but the rest of the crowd was silent, still unclear where he was going with this.
"This was fine for me. The 'popular' people wanted nothing to do with me, and I wanted nothing to do with them. But the same can't be said for a lot of others in our classes who were overlooked or judged based upon what they looked like or how they dressed or who their parents was. Some of them weren't lucky, like me. They didn't have that small handful of friends to count on, or a supportive family back home. They were alone, and depressed, and pushed around and ridiculed by their so-called peers. And do you know what happened to them?"
The audience was deathly quiet, though he could see a blank look on some of the student's faces. A number of cheerleaders and jocks had stopped listening entirely, writing him off just like they had in class.
"Ganondorf got to them." He said darkly, his voice grating. "He gathered them together under his wing, and it was easy. He made them feel like they had finally attained what you'd been denying them for years; friends. And then he took their feelings of hurt and mistrust and he turned them into hatred and rage, manipulated their pain, and used them as his disposable soldiers to attack us. And we have no one to blame but ourselves."
A number of people in the crowd began muttering angrily, but Link didn't care; at least now he knew he had their attention. Instead of backing down to deter their anger, he raised his voice to be heard over them, forgetting for a moment that he had a microphone to do that anyway.
"I'm to blame as well!" He shouted over the crowd, and they quieted down a bit. "We all are! All of us! Because we did this, we allowed things to get this bad. Ganondorf was the catalyst, but we laid the foundation, we gave him the tools. But we've been given a chance now to make it better! Now, I'm not saying we have to be all lovey-dovey and friendship is magic or whatever, but guys… We can't let this happen again. I know I said earlier that nothing could be done to prevent this sort of thing, and it's true. I mean, sometimes bad things just happen. But forty-two innocent people are dead now because we couldn't get over our petty differences and we gave Ganondorf the perfect opportunity to strike us.
"We've been given a chance to start over again, and I really, really suggest we take it. There's talk of them shutting Ordon High down if not enough students come back, and then what? We'll all go off to other schools just as bad as we were, and the cycle will just start all over again. Ganondorf broke our walls down, so let's build them back up, the right way. Before the attack, I'dve said it wasn't possible, but now…"
He let his gaze sweep the crowd, focusing on the individual faces of his newfound friends.
"Now, after the attack, after having fought for, fought against, fought with, bled for, rescued, been rescued by, freed, cried, and nearly died for so many of you… You've become… well, important, I guess… I have pride in this school now, the kind I've never had before, because I know what we're actually made of, underneath all of our stupid schisms and drama.
"I know… that real friends do anything for each other." Midna and Sheik grinned at him proudly, Sheik nodding in assent, the shorter girl's head on her boyfriend's shoulder.
"That caring about someone means being willing to give up everything for them, even if it tears you apart." Colin dropped his head in embarrassment, his mother Uli smiling through her tears up at Link.
"That sometimes, heroes come from the most unexpected of places." Linebeck the janitor shuffled in his seat, looking awkward yet pleased. Next to him, Jolene, Coach Nabooru's old assistant, linked her arm with his and gazed up at the portly man in fervid admiration.
"That your enemies can become some of your greatest allies." Ralph's chest swelled like a bullfrog, his startling red hair still as perfectly coiffed as ever.
"That polar opposites can become the best of friends." Shad smirked, adjusting his glasses while Ashei, finally out of her wheelchair, placed her chin in her hands and leaned forward in her seat, grinning up at Link.
"That you shouldn't judge books by their covers." Darunia didn't react, because he clearly had no idea Link was talking about him and Ruto, but when their eyes met he nodded just the same, and Link flashed back briefly to the moment just before he'd saved the two most popular teens in school and how Darunia; ignorant, crass, self-centered Darunia, had been determined to take that bullet for his girlfriend.
"That when you love someone, you don't stop fighting for them, whatever the odds." Kafei, seated next to his mother on the left end of the front row, draped his arm around Anju's wheelchair bound shoulders, drawing her closer. The red-head sent Link a tremulous smile.
"And that sometimes… sometimes fate can mess with your life in the most unexpected of ways." Zelda returned his gaze levelly, and he knew she was thinking the same thing he was.
"I don't know what's going to happen after today. I don't know how this tragedy is going to affect us in the long run, but I do know that the people and the friends that we've lost will stick with us forever. Ganondorf sought to destroy us, but inadvertently I think he drove us closer together. Come Monday morning, I'll be walking into these doors at 8 A.M., and though I'll think no less of anyone who'd rather transfer… I hope to see all of my friends there with me."
Sighing, Link turned to step away from the podium, hoping to scurry back to his seat as quickly as possible. He wasn't sure where that entire monologue had come from or what had inspired him to say it; he wasn't a particularly deep or emotional kind of guy, but what he'd said had been true enough. He only hoped people would listen. But then, why would they? He may be popular now, but give it a few weeks and he'd be a nobody again… just the way he liked it, yes, but a nobody couldn't change anything…
He hadn't taken two steps when a sound from behind had him stopping in place.
Clapping. Someone was clapping. At a memorial service? Nobody had clapped for the other speakers; the overall atmosphere had been one of mourning and reverence, like a funeral, and nobody had wanted to break that. So why now?
Turning, Link glanced back over his shoulder into the crowd, searching out the offender. To his incredible shock, it was…
Darunia. The quarter-back.
He stood alone in a sea of strangers, his face stoic, his shoulders set, clapping for Link. In that moment, Link understood; he was declaring his support for Link's speech, declaring to the rest of the student body without really saying a word that he was on Link's side. After a moment, Kafei stood up and began clapping as well. Not the star athlete, but still one of the most popular and wealthy guys at school. He nodded to Link briefly and let his applause merge with Darunia's.
The change was sudden. First Darunia and Kafei, then Sheik, Midna, Aryll and Zelda, then the rest of Link's newfound friends all began standing, clapping for all they were worth. Before Link could react, others began to stand as well; Coach Nabooru, with a look a grudging respect; Professor Ezlo, for once without a look of animosity; Linebeck, shrugging as if to say 'eh, why not, kid?". The rest of the teachers followed suit, quickly joined by the remainder of the students, the parents, the police, and even the reporters. Link blinked in amazement, suddenly feeling very small; to think he had that sort of influence… He knew that actually uniting as a student body and putting an end to social classes and bullying and all that wouldn't be nearly that easy, but it was a start. It was a start.
The ceremony ended not long after, and Link found himself shaking nearly everybody's hand. He tried to keep up a polite face for most people, particularly his friends and those he recognized from around town, but quickly found his patience waning. Thankfully, he was able to escape the bustling crowd that had gathered by the makeshift stage and stood off by the memorial, awaiting his friends and family.
It wasn't long until he felt a small body slam into him from behind, wrapping their arms around his midsection.
"Link! That was so good!" Aryll squealed in traditional Aryll fashion.
"Uh, thanks." Link said, face reddening slightly as he scratched the back of his head. He was a little unsure how his friends and family would react to his impromptu feel-good seminar, but he knew in a few days he'd be the butt of several jokes from his sister and Sheik.
"Really, Link, I was impressed!" Midna said brightly, giving Link a playful shove on the shoulder. "Who knew you had it in you?"
"Yeah. Real great, Link." Sheik muttered, sounding surprisingly bitter, his hands shoved into his pockets petulantly.
"What's wrong with you?" Link asked, baffled.
"He and Midna had a bet on whether or not you'd faint." Aryll said airily.
"What're you upset about? You cost me five bucks!"
"Really, guys? You're gonna fight about this now?" Midna cut in, lifting a solitary eyebrow in carefully executed disdain. Link decided to ignore that she was just as guilty as her boyfriend.
The group stayed silent then, the four of them gazing up at the marble wall while the crowd behind them gradually began to disperse. Link found his eyes tracing the names, focusing on the ones he recognized (Salvatore, Byrne, etc.) and wishing he could say he'd known the others. After a few minutes he felt a small, cold hand slide into his, and he turned to find Zelda standing at his side, gazing up at him.
"You ok?" she asked softly, and Link shrugged.
"No. But I know I will be."
She nodded understandingly, then turned to examine the wall as well, drawing closer to Link and wrapping her free hand around her midsection.
"You cold?" he asked, realizing for the first time that the memorial was almost entirely in the shade of the building, and that without the bright rays of the April sun on them it didn't feel much like springtime.
"I'm fine," she tried to say, but Link had already removed his suit coat for the second time that morning, draping it over her shoulders. She frowned at him like she always did, then stuck her arms through the sleeves and drew it closer around her body like a blanket. Link laughed.
"You kids ready to go?" Granny asked, coming up from behind them.
"Lead the way, oh wise one."
Granny shot Sheik a brief scathing look. "Alright, well then hurry on up. These old bones aren't meant to be out in the cold for so long…"
Zelda moved to follow her along with the others, but Link held her back for a moment.
"It's just that… well, thanks. I mean, for earlier, when I was screwing up my speech. You really helped me there. I couldn't have done it without you."
She beamed at him for a moment, and Link couldn't resist sliding his arm around her waist and drawing her in close enough for a brief peck on the lips.
"Mmm…" Zelda murmured, smiling at him coyly. "But then, you can't do anything without me anyway."
"Oookay," Link moaned, rolling his eyes sarcastically, and Zelda laughed.
"Hey lovebirds! Can you have your little moment later? I'm starving over here!"
"Alright, alright, we're coming!" Link called back to his best friend with a cheeky grin. Sheik harrumphed loudly.
Taking Zelda's hand, he left the shaded flower garden behind him and stepped into the bright spring sunshine, running off after his irate best friend, tugging his laughing girlfriend behind him. They really were going to be ok, he decided. One day.
The moon rested high in the crisp, cold spring air. Full, its milky beams the only true source of light from the lab's single window. All of the lights in the building were off, the doors locked, the employees long since returned to their homes.
All was calm and quiet in Ordon's city morgue, the tranquil peace befitting of the dead contained within who awaited their eternal rest.
As the soft ticking of a clock mounted high on a wall struck two in the morning, a sudden sound broke the still silence of the morgue. It emanated from within its cold metal confines, angrily rattling the drawers that surrounded it, creating a dense cacophony of metallic noise that shattered the peace and silence of death.
The sound came again a moment later, a harsh bang that echoed sharply throughout the building, and as it came a third time, the face of one of the large drawers dented outward with a tortured screech, and the surrounding drawers rattled all the harder.
There was a pause then, and as the rattling of the metal slowly died away silence once again overtook the building. With a click and a groan, the air conditioning unit shuttered to life and a soft buzzing sound filled the air.
Without warning, a final bang crashed against the drawer from within, and with a loud snap the locking mechanism that had held the drawer in place broke free, spinning wildly across the room, and the drawer slowly slid a few inches open.
First one, then five, then ten; small shapes began to appear from within the confines of the drawer. The ten solid, thick knuckled digits rested lightly on the metal before pushing lightly against the cold, chrome surface. With a soft whisper, the drawer slid slowly open.
In the pale beams of moonlight a dark figure was suddenly illuminated, resting supinely on the cold, metal drawer. The ghostly rays of light turned his hair blood red, and when his eyes slowly opened, they glowed golden with murderous intent.
Casting aside the thin white sheet that covered his naked body he moved to right himself and stand, but stopped with a pained gasp. Clutching his chest with agony he paused, squinting his eyes as sharp pain stabbed throughout his body. Gingerly, he moved his hand and examined the wound.
It was bleeding now. He was unsure how long he'd been out, but the wound looked as fresh as when he's first gotten it. Grimacing, he slid off of the drawer, ignorant of the icy cold floor tiles beneath his bare feet, and gathered up the sheet he'd discarded a moment earlier.
Cursing quietly to himself he applied pressure to the wound and began to think. He'd need time… time to heal, time to plan, before he could seek his revenge on the ones who had wronged him. But for now…
The figure turned away from the now silent room, the pale shafts of moonlight and the vacated drawer. Even without clothing, his footsteps were heavy and his presence dominating. A small smile crept its way onto his face.
Hero may have won this round… but the fight was far from over.
And with that single, glorious thought to sustain him, Ganondorf, the King of Thieves, left the cold, silent office and vanished into the dark of the night.
Warning: Epic length Author's Note. TL;DR version: I love you, review. But feel free to read on if you left me a review, because your response is here… somewhere… I also talk a bit about the sequel down at the end, so skip to there if you don't care about the rest.
Good Gracious… this is it, then, isn't it? This is… a really weird feeling for me… For so long, I thought I was never going to get this done, and now… it's over. My first full-length multi-chapter story… Wow…
So, whatcha think? Did it end ok? I know it got a bit preachy there at the end, and I hadn't planned on doing that, but you know… School shootings are serious business. I know that for awhile there, particularly towards the end, it turned from a 'School Shooting' story to a 'Modern Day Zelda' story, but the shooting elements were still there, and I didn't want to gloss over that. It'd be disrespectful, I think.
So yeah. Let's see… those flowers I mentioned? They do actually have appropriate meanings, so if you're flower-savvy (as I am not; huzzah for Google!), you may have picked up on that. I wish I could draw, so I could show you how I imagine the memorial, because I'm not sure if I described it well enough, but sadly enough I cannot… though if one of you lovely readers wants to take a crack at it, I'll gladly post the link on here and give you mad credit.
One last thing: The body count. I realize, looking back, it didn't seem like nearly that many people died. Maybe if you factored in the shooters, but as I specifically mentioned that they weren't included… In my head, even from the beginning, that was the ballpark estimate for the casualties, and I realize now that I glossed over a lot of that in the actual story for fear of making it too dark and depressing. Suffice to say, Link and his friends didn't see a lot of it… because they didn't just leave their bodies lying around. As Link discovered in the office when he found the Principal, they stacked them where they wouldn't get in the way; I.e. closets, vacant classrooms, bathrooms, etc. Heartless and rather disconcerting, but efficient.
Did any of you recognize your suggestions being implemented in either part of the Epilogue? I already mentioned most of you specifically in part one, so here are those whose suggestions had a direct influence on part 2: Kamil the Awesome, whose name is an accurate portrayal of their personality; all credit for the final scene with G-money waking up in the morgue goes to Kamil. You completely changed the ending of this story for the better. Thank you so much for being awesome… literally. Athletic Nerd and Ricorum Scaevola also deserve mention, and finally, Eternal Nocturne, whose request for a pineapple had me chortling all day. Psych, man… did anyone else spot the pineapple?
Now, for the review replies, which I promised forever ago… I bet most of you don't even remember reviewing, but a promise is a promise. Here, I'll respond to those who reviewed to part 1 of the Epilogue as well when I'm done with Ch. 17, just to keep stuff fun.
R h i a n d u r: Haha, I'm glad you liked it! Yeah, that was about my response too… which is odd, considering I'm the one who wrote it… but yeah. I'm pretty proud of the climax, I think. I think my writing's come a long way.
My Dearest Sally Sparrow: Well… crap. I'm sorry! I didn't mean to make you cry! Shoot, now I feel awful… Well… Um… Can I just say, you have the coolest user name I've ever seen? Like, I thought mine was pretty good, but yours… no contest. I really hope you read this, cause I think this is the only review I've gotten from you and I want you to see that I took your suggestion to heart in Part 1 of my epilogue… Thanks again for the review, Kat. If I can call you that, haha.
Shadow Mario 3: Dude, can I just say you're awesome? You've been one of my long-time reviewers… or maybe it just feels like a long time cause I take forever to update, but still. You're amazing. Thank you so much for sticking with me. Yeah, I actually had never played the ending to MW2 at the time that I wrote this, and had no idea what you were talking about until about two weeks ago when I played it for my grandfather, and I was like 'dude… that was friggin sweet!' haha. You're right, though; lots of bad guys to bring into the sequel, especially now with SS out. Be on the lookout!
Spaz-attack101: What up, Spaz? Yet another one of my favorite reviewers... hahaha, yeah that stapler thing was one of my crowing moments, I think. In a rather morbid way. Honestly, I hadn't planned on that at all when I'd written Link dropping it there in an earlier chapter, it just sorta... happened. But I'm glad you liked it! It was a lot of fun to write! And sorry about the cliffhanger... (it literally was a cliffhanger, too... go figure) I hope the resolution was up to par. Thanks for stickin with me, Spazy. Keep it Zesty. Tropaz
Tsubasa: You have no idea how much reading your review makes me grin, even now. Thanks a lot, man. (If you're a man... you can never really tell on here...) I'm glad you thought it was epic; that's what I was hoping for, haha.
Airian Reesu: Well, you've redeemed yourself by reviewing here! Haha, I totally thought you were going to say something like 'you're story was great… but this last chapter sucked!' and I kinda had a 'Darth Vader Nooooo!' moment 'til I read the whole thing. Thanks for your support, Airian. I hope to catch you in the sequel.
mindpearl: hahaha. On a Tuesday morning, eh? Does it not hold up in the evening, then? Or on any other day? Hahaha. Thanks for the review, mindpearl. And for making me laugh.
misszelda3290: Thanks a lot! Yeah, I'm pretty sad too… this has been in my life for awhile now, always just sorta there in the back of my mind, and now… well, on to new things, I guess. I learned a lot writing it, and I hope I'll write a lot more in the future. And I hope you review those too! Haha, see ya around.
Soosthemoos: Meh, you don't need to log in… especially with such a boss screen name. Haha, thanks, man! Yeah, writing that montage fight scene was pretty fun. Though… foreign characters? Ralph isn't a foreign character, he's from Oracle of Ages… I dunno, maybe I don't get what you meant by that. Anyway, I'm a little blown away that you liked my story that much. Thanks for the praise, and here's hopin' I catch you in the sequel.
MegamanSora: Well great. Thanks to you, I now want a Kingdom Hearts game set in Megaman's universe. This is all your fault. Lab coats and needles? It's a hard-knock life, bud. You'd better not let too many people know you talk to Link and Midna in your head though… the straight jacket may just come back to haunt you. Not that I'm judging; I don't wanna incur your wrath and receive death by poking. That seems unpleasant. Hahaha.
Flutekitty: I'm assuming the 'not logged in' bit isn't part of your screen name… hahaha. Thanks for the review! Nah, I didn't really see a relationship forming between those two… I mean, I felt like I was pairing up too many characters as it was, and they'd only just become friends… plus, in my head she's taller than him, and that's just a deal breaker for Ashei. Hahaha.
monochromXdreams: Sorry, but no. Zelly hasn't learned to use her powers yet. Link has other ladies lookin out for him. But at least I didn't kill him, right? Haha.
Amythist269: Yet another of my favorite reviewers. Haha, sorry for makin you think he was dead. Like I'd kill him off before he got a chance to mack on his hottie… for shame. Yeah, the 'my son' but was a bit of a mislead; I meant it as Farore seeing herself as the Mother of all living things. Plus she has this affiliation with Link… yeah. It makes sense in my head.
Leina 16: Leina! I feel like you're a repeat reviewer too, but I'm too lazy to dig through all my reviews to double check… meh, whatever. I'll treat you special anyway. Hahaha. I'm glad you're on board with Link and Zelda's relationship. I was worried I was rushing it too much a bit there, especially toward the end, so they'll probably be a little awkward around each other for a bit. I might showcase that a tad in the sequel. I dunno. See ya later, Leina!
Laughers Song: I'm psychic! So are you! We're on the same wavelength! Now the real question is… did you see this update coming? Haha. I like your screen name as well, though my inner grammar Nazi is screaming at the lack of apostrophe… Thanks for reviewing, Laughers.
Eternal Nocturne: Is it bad that I read that 'NOOO' in Darth Vader's voice? Hahaha, I'm glad you liked them, though the Twilight and Wind Waker ones were easy. It was the first two that were harder to distinguish because… well, the NES and Super NES aren't nearly as high quality, and the fights are practically the same. And I hadn't even realized that I'd made that parallel with the stapler! Hahaha, that's awesome! Useless items for the win! You're my hero for asking for a pineapple, by the way. Wish granted. I couldn't stop laughing when I got your request. Thanks for sticking with me, Eternal. See you in the sequel.
CrimsonEyes27: Holy cow, that review made my day. I dunno about any awesome emoticons… but I can make a Kirby. See? ('.')#. And look, he has a waffle! Adorable… Anyway, haha, I'm glad you liked it! I really hope you like the epilogue, too. Nothing's worse than a crappy epilogue… But at least Sheik isn't in jail, right? Right. I'm good to you. Haha, catch ya later, Crimson.
Neha: Hahaha. An interesting idea, but I wanted Zelda's magical progression to be more realistic, so no real magic fun til the sequel. And nah, the Goddesses grant wishes when the Triforce is completed. Killing G-money is just… something they expect them to do, I guess. Like Link's some sort of exterminator. What punks. He should go on strike.
hkdfan: I totally read your screen name as 'HDK', because that was my old nickname that I hated at an old job of mine. (Stood for' Scotty Doesn't Know', cause… well, my name's Scott and my coworkers were unoriginal). Anyway, hahaha, thanks for the review! Here's hoping I see you in the sequel.
SailorZeldatheLightAlchemist: Nope! The Master Sword is still safely in its pedestal… though you'd be surprised how few people brought that up to me. You'd think they'd have noticed a major plothole like that… especially one that has such a large influence in the sequel… (shh! Spoilers!) Oh gosh… I did not… I hate it when I do that. Especially since my spell check won't catch that garbage, cause technically 'heard' is spelled correctly… Thanks for telling me. And yeah, I totally came up with that on the spot. You liked it? Oh good, haha, I was worried the readers would find it too corny. And I'm totally cool with you borrowing anything you want from my stories… as long as it's not like a direct plagiarism or anything, haha. It's actually kinda flattering. Anyway, I hope the ending was good; your opinion in particular is important to me, given your history. I didn't bungle it too much, did I? I wanted to take this topic seriously, after all, but not too much so that it scared or bored my readers away… eh. Thanks again, Sailor. Oh, I think I saw your story, too! I need to go read that… anyway, keep it zesty.
Lady Fai: haha, well staple fighting is a world renowned martial art, I'll have you know… Hmm, that's a good question… I never thought about it because Darunia wasn't all that important to the story… maybe I'll mention that in the sequel. Thanks for bringing that up.
TwilightWakerofTime: Well… you're the 100th reviewer in my heart… *que sparkles. But of course he uses duct tape; greatest invention of all time. Even great evil respects that. Oh you, picking up on his survival because of my careless author's note… hahaha. Smarty pants. Though honestly, I'm surprised more people didn't pick up on that. Huh.
Requiem's Bow: If only, if only… sadly, I can't even help with my own writer's block. Though I've found, when I'm struggling, that going on and writing something else, even something completely off-topic, can help clear your mind. Also, showers. But then… showering is my answer to everything. It's like a warm massage on your back… ahem, uh… yeah. Thanks for reviewing. I'll catch you later.
whosahassa: YES! Somebody picked up on it! Don't worry; I'm fully aware of the Master Sword thing, as you probably picked up by Auru's statement here in the epilogue. And the whole 'Ganondorf not being dead' bit, of course.
ninjafaceify: Questions for the ages, my friend. The coat, as it's never again seen, was burned in effigy by Kafei three days after the incident. He did so late at night, alone, in his backyard while waiting for Anju to wake up.
: Thanks for reviewing! Nothing more can be said except for: He's not dead! Huzzah! Hahaha.
surfergirl3537: Oh girl, that doesn't need to happen in the sequel; that happened now! But don't worry; there'll be plenty of action and romance and all that fun stuff in the sequel. Keep a lookout!
GirlWithTheBlueEyes: Quick question: Are you eyes really blue? I only ask cause… it'd be pretty funny if they weren't. Anyway, thanks for saying that! It's really nice of you to say. Thanks for reviewing!
SgtPeppersLHCB: Uh oh… I hope that's cause you were sad over Link's supposed death and not because it disappointed you…
Iluffedchu: Crap! Not another person brought to tears! I'm sorry! Why must it be this way?
Darkwolflink1: Meh, don't worry. Link falls from crazy heights all the time. It's all in a days work for him.
Magicians Hat: hahaha, Kleenex… classic. Hmm… I'll take that into consideration. Thanks for giving me your opinion. I think I'm pretty sure I'm doing a sequel now, but I'll take extra precautions to make it a phenomenal story on it's own.
Agent Mississippi: Hahaha. The suspense is finally over! Let me know what you thought!
T3rran: It's true, and for awhile there I almost did let him die. But as this is Link, I am also a fan of happy endings, and I didn't want all the negative backlash… I let him live. Hahaha.
Jazzmatazz2000: But of course! How could I not add two of the main characters, and Link's best friends at that, in the epilogue? They're important peeps, after all.
Hiddenigma: ugh. I hate it when I'm forced to wait to do things. Patience isn't my strongest virtue. Which makes me a real jerk for making you all wait so long… hahaha. I hope you enjoyed the epilogue!
Ricorum Scaevola: Actually, no. It was laziness on my part for not wanted to spell his whole name out the entire time; in my head, Ganon was to Ganondorf as Matt is to Matthew… at least in terms of this story. Though I see now I totally could have done something with that… hmm. Well, I fulfilled your request! The others didn't have as poetic deaths as Zant did. I mean, I could have blown Sakon up MM style, but I chose not to. His death did involve Kafei though.
moksori: Reviews like yours are by far my favorite. I'm… actually a little embarrassed that I've been misusing 'bear' the entire time, but that's just a problem I have. Still, it's not quite as embarrassing as the fact that I've been misspelling Colin's name throughout my entire story as another reader pointed out to me… geez. I really do need to find someone else to read these over, because it just gets to a point where my eyes start to glaze over and I'm sick of looking at them. Thanks for giving my story a chance, and I'm glad it wasn't a disappointment. I hope to see you in the sequel.
ZombieKillerLevi: Art Theives? Hmm… Not quite, but there will be theft… or accusations of theft… and actually yes, the happy mask salesman IS the curator! Hahaha. I guess that wasn't that hard to see coming, but kudos anyway. I hope you like it when it's ready to be posted.
Athletic nerd: Of course I can't have a sequel without Link and Ganondorf; which is why they're alive. Hahahaha. I hope you liked my scenes with the minor characters; I actually wasn't gonna mention Aryll's friends til you brought it up. Thanks!
Saria88: That's not horrible. I actually understand that perfectly; sometimes, sad endings are more powerful than happy ones. Still, Link's adventure in my world isn't quite over yet, so I couldn't kill him off. I hope you liked the ending anyway.
Kamil the Awesome: Ah, Kamil… to whom I owe the ending of my story. Seriously, I can't even remember right now what I was going to do with Ganondorf… whatever it was, it was lame and would have come across horribly. Your idea of him waking up in the morgue though… that just struck me in just the right way. Thanks for being an awesome reviewer.
zelinkalwys4ever: Haha, a 'squeal'? I think I can make that happen… actually, I think Ruto does squeal in this chapter… that squeal can be for you! We'll call it 'zelink's squeal'. hahaha. Thanks for taking the time to read my story. I'm glad you liked it.
Chaosgamer19: Really? Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
juju: And the wait is over! But seriously, sorry that took so long. Being tardy is a way of life.
(…random no name person): …no! hahaha.
BOEDADDY: Wow… that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me. Thanks!
angel2882: Angel… you're an angel. Literally. Talk about reviews that blow me away… Seriously, the highlight review of the chapter; possibly the story. It's people like you that make writers want to continue writing. Thank you so much for you words. You're absolutely right about Ganondorf; one of my regrets (of which I have many) is not incorporating him enough in the early chapters. Colin was also a sore point with me because I knew it was something I hadn't written to the best of my ability. I hope I was able to clear the air a bit here in the epilogue; Aryll hasn't quite forgiven him yet, but she's not angry anymore either. She's just being bitter. Her and Colin with have a side-plot in the sequel that resolves a lot of the tension found here in Hit List. Again, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read and review my story. I hope to hear from you again. Keep it Zesty.
Random Asian Guy: …who isn't even a guy. Deceptions within deceptions… haha. Thanks for reviewing!
Shade: Yeah, sorry that took so long… I hope it doesn't disappoint.
Dang it I lost the game D: …curse you and your screen name… Ah well. I guess it's more than I deserve for making you wait so long, huh?
Hero of Time009: Hey, thanks a lot! That really made my day!
Sheikagal: Yeah, the things we writers make our characters go through… monsters, we are.
Heidihammond14: And yet it took me til January to even get up part one… I'm such a scumbag. Can you ever forgive me? And it only took you two hours to read the whole story? Dang, girl. Speed reading can be dangerous.
The-Sun-Princess: Bahahahaha! Oh man… yeah, it kinda was. I dunno if I described it very well; It's large-ish, mostly rectangular with one semi-circular part just behind the desk that protrudes outward, this being the wall with the windows. If that made any sense. I'm glad you liked my story; bringing in random characters from various games became almost a game for me. It made writing fun. Anyway, I hope you liked the ending!
Tex: Yup, that's a nicer way to describe them than I would've chosen. But then again, I was… young… when I wrote them. I have a lot more experience writing now than I had back then. My main concern is that people will read those first and may decide to not keep reading til it gets good… well. Thanks for pushing through. Nice shootin', Tex. See ya around.
herdsker: I'm a bit of a scumbag… but at least you didn't have to wait years, like some of the readers did.
Dequax: Your third read through? No way! That's awesome! And here I am, not posting the epilogue til now… my bust, man. I sincerely hope it's worth the wait.
The Supreme: Well… He's not dead! Does that mean no plagues then, cause me and locusts… we don't really get along.
Wow… that was a freakin' butt load of reviews. Geez… how had I not realized how many there were? Well… here are the responses to reviews for the first part of the Epilogue; don't worry, there aren't as many.
StraightedgeWingZero: I imagine Sheik and Midna are expressing similar sentiments.
Mugen Kagemaru: That's how I am, too, but I know I would've gotten complaints about the length, so I figured I'd go ahead and do it. You know… I actually haven't thought of that… Huh. Maybe I should post that as a question in the epilogue? Yeah. I'll do that. Anyway, just subscribe to me as an author (or whatever that action is called) and it'll notify you whenever I post a story. That way, you won't miss it.
ZombieKillerLevi: Awe, thanks man. That was really cool of you to say. I hope the epilogue was up to snuff, and I'll catch you in the sequel. Keep it Zesty.
Agent Mississippi: Hahaha. That's more than fair. I mean, I took long enough to update as it was. At least I didn't pull a Robert Jordan and die before I could finish it… how sucky would that have been?
monochromeXdreams: Yeah, that was kinda my reaction too… Finally. They kissed. Geez. You gotta feel bad for Link sometimes.
Amethyst 269: And Wednesday came and went and I was nowhere to be found… Seriously, Amethyst, the amount of crap you put up with from me is amazing. I can't believe you've followed this story for so long. You amaze me. Thanks for being there.
SailorZeldatheLightAlchemist: Oh, I still am. I just have to rewrite most of it cause it got deleted. I actually have two, plus another Zelda one-shot that's not MM-related, my sequel to this, a Kingdom Hearts One-shot, and… a Pokemon thing I wrote on a whim and may not do anything with. I put off my one-shots til I finished this, and I'll devote a little bit of time to getting them done before I work on the sequel, so expect me to finish it… soonish.
Kamil the Awesome: Hahaha! I expect that's what most people will have to do. And yeah… I freakin' hated that place… shudder…
Leina 16: haha, thanks! Don't worry, there'll be lots o' romance in the sequel. And lots of action. And lots more of multiple Zelda game references. It'll be a lot of fun. I'll see you there!
Random Asian Guy: Aw yeah, Link's a playa! Haha, but no, really, it's about time he got to kiss her. Fate was being a butt to him for awhile there. And by 'fate', I mean… me.
Eternal Nocturne: Yeah, I really liked writing the Farore bit. It was fun. And who doesn't love a good hospital seen? It's like a drama/humor/feel-good catalyst. Good stuff.
Athletic Nerd: Dude, what are you talking about? Never, ever, feel the need to apologize for a review; particularly lengthy ones, especially when you're trying to help the author out. That's what reviews are for, and those are the kind we want the most. You're one of my favorite reviewers for a reason. Thanks for stickin with me so far.
Intelligently Retro: Well, it was soon… ish… I guess… If you look at it like 'a month is sooner than a year'… right? Right. Hahaha
The Supreme: Haha, no foolin'? Well I'm glad I could be of some inspiration! I'm always glad to help my readers. Keep it Zesty, bud.
Sheikagal: Sorry that took so long, Sheikagal. But I hope it's good enough that it makes up for it.
Magicians Hat: Uh oh… you're probably gonna kill me for getting all sappy and feel-good at the end. But it had to be done, man. School shootings are serious business, and I was taking it kinda lightly there. I needed to be serious about it, at least at the end. Don't be too mad. Anyway, I'm glad you liked the Zelda waking up bit. I thought it was pretty funny myself.
Whoa… holy crap, that was a freaking ridiculous amount of reviews… I love you all, even if my fingers don't at the moment…
And… well, here we are… I suppose. The end of Hit List. It's been a wild ride, ladies and gents. My first multi-chapter story went off with a far bigger bang than I had ever anticipated. I honestly, at the time I started writing this (which was waaaaay back in like '07, by the way), only hoped to get maybe 100 reviews, if I was lucky… and look at me now. Nearly at 300 at the time I'm posting this. That's quite a lot. You guys are amazing, better readers and reviewers than I could have ever hoped for. Thanks for making this happen.
I suppose, for old times sake, I'll ask you to review now; not to shoot for any particular number, but to ask what your thoughts were. Not just of the epilogue, but of the story as a whole. My skills as an author have improved drastically throughout the course of Hit List, but they still need refinement, which is something you all can help with. So let me know your thoughts, what I did well, what I need to work on, predictions for the sequel-
Oh shoot! Sequel! Yeah, totally going ahead with that. I've outlined nearly the entire thing; just working out the ending because I don't like how I have it set up, but production on chapter 1 ought to start relatively soon- I just want to finish all those one-shots that I've been ignoring in favor of this story first. The only real question now is… what do I call it? How about you give me some suggestions. I'll go ahead and tell you now, in case you missed it earlier, the plot:
It's Link and co. taking a school fieldtrip to Castletown, Hyrule's capital. As the centennial anniversary of the Hero of Time celebration, the Museum of Natural History has put together a grandiose display of artifacts from Hyrule's history pertaining to the Hero. Set a year after the events of Hit List and introducing a slew of new characters, Link finds himself once again involved in a perilous situation; only this time, it's not the perils of modern-day society that threaten to make him history… it's history itself.
Right. So. A little vague; just know it involves plot elements borrowed from MM, TP and SS, with a bunch of fun things added from every other game. Also, magic and legends play a much bigger role in the sequel. I'll go ahead and say some new main characters will be Tatl, Groose, and Marin, as well as the Happy Mask Salesman, Skull kid, Dark Link, and… Ghirahim? Dun dun dunnn…
Anyway. Lemme know if you have any suggestions for titles, cause… I'm stuck there. And I'll see you all then.
Now, for the last time… in Hit List, at least…
Keep it Zesty.