Kai bent down and dug her hands into the snowdrift, pulling Issun out. "Whew!" he exclaimed. "I forgot how much easier walking is when you let someone else do it for you."
Kai frowned at him. "Issun, you're not just going to leave Amaterasu and her friends behind, are you?"
Oki scowled behind her. "If you give the wrong answer, Issun, I will personally make sure you never set foot in Kamui again."
"Whoa, calm down!" Issun bounced up to the top of Oki's head. "Jeez, you guys don't have much faith in me, do you? I wanna help Ammy, but I can't get on that ship!"
"Isn't there something you can do from here?" Kai asked.
Issun made a face. "I only know of one thing I can do, and I don't know how it will help…"
"Then you must do it," Oki all but shouted at him. "Even though my own quest to awaken Kutone took me down many wrong paths, what good would I have done just sitting at home?"
"We'll help you any way we can," Kai assured him.
"Well…it's a long shot, but…" he glanced down at Oki. "I'll need some good parchment, a few minutes in one of your houses where I can get a bit of light, and somebody to bring me to Nippon."
"I can bring you to Nippon, and you can use the fire in my hut," Oki offered.
"I can get you parchment, and meet you at Oki's hut," Kai added. "But how is any of this going to help Amaterasu?"
"Well, this is going to sound weird, but you know all the stuff Ammy's done for you guys…I'm just gonna remind everybody is all. Remind everybody of who Ammy really is, the Sun God. And if we have enough people supporting her in her fight, she can use that to win."
"It's as good an idea as any," Oki said, a little doubtfully, but he shifted to wolf form and sped back to the hut on the outskirts of Kamui, Kai right behind him.
After several false starts, spilled ink, and crumpling of paper, Issun presented his painting to the two Oina. "There! Now, that's showing Ammy in all her goddess splendor! What do you think?"
"Oh, she's so beautiful!" Kai exclaimed. "It looks even better than the one your grandfather showed me!"
"I must admit," Oki said grudgingly, "I know little about art, but something in your brushwork pulls at the heart, Issun."
"Then let's get going!" Issun hopped onto Oki's back. "Now that I have the basics down, I can do some more as we go. It's a good thing, too, because I don't think we have much time!"
Oki raced through the subterranean tunnel and out through the fields, headed first toward Kamiki Village. Kushi, working in her fields, took no notice of the wolf until she heard Issun's squeaky voice call to her from it. She ran up to him in surprise. "Issun, who is this? It's not Snowy."
"No time for explanations, babe." Issun handed her one of his paintings. "Look, I know from your little escapade in Nagi's cave that you and Susano at least know who Ammy really is."
"Oh, my!" Her surprise showed on her face. "I had a feeling…but I never dreamed that…"
She called Susano over to her, and handed him the parchment. "My brother in arms is in trouble?" he grunted irately. "Well, the great warrior Susano won't stand for it! Though…er…do we really have time to run over there?"
"Just show that to everyone in the village," Issun instructed him. "I gotta deliver these to the other people that we've helped over the past few months. I'll be back!"
"It's been way too dark for way too long," Issun grumbled as he stood in the middle of Kamiki Village, its inhabitants clustered around him, his voice betraying his worry. "That furball's probably spacing out somewhere."
The fireworks master squinted at the sky, then bent down next to Issun. "That god certainly had a lot of fire in its spirit. Do you think I should send up a few sparks for encouragement?"
"Or some cherry cakes?" Mrs. Orange suggested.
"I'm sure Ammy would love both, but I don't think she can see either one from where she is," Issun replied doubtfully. "I think she can tell we're thinking about her, though. C'mon, everybody. Ammy's helped all of us out a lot over the past few months, and we gotta let her know that we appreciate her, even if she's not slaying monsters or sprouting trees. Give her a prayer…and let her know we're thinking of her…"
"Come on, Link, come on," Midna muttered over and over, shaking his shoulder and slapping his face, her actions getting more frantic as he continued to lie still. Tears stung her eyes as his face turned even more ashen by the minute, though she could not tell if it was his skin or the room darkening further. "Come on, you can't be dead, we haven't even gotten home yet! You promised me you'd help me take my country back! Not to mention your own! What's everybody going to do if you don't come back?"
Suddenly a bright light blinded her. Raising her hand to her eyes, she squinted at this new threat, trying to determine what it was.
A shining white form took shape, edged in crimson, of a wolf with tendrils of light flowing from its body. A mirror that seemed to possess the radiance of the sun flared on its back. Stunned, Midna demanded, "Amaterasu?"
Bathed in ethereal light, the wolf stepped over to Midna and licked her hand; she felt a healing warmth flow through her entire body. Amaterasu whined and bent her head down over the motionless young man, licking his face.
The three-triangle mark on Link's hand suddenly appeared, and shone forth with a fierce glow. To Midna's immense relief, Link stirred and opened his eyes. "What on earth…?" he said to the divine vision in front of him.
Amaterasu bowed like a puppy at play, wagging her tail and barking. The other two looked at each other. "I think she wants you to shift," Midna suggested.
Link did so. Amaterasu raised her head and let forth a powerful howl that resonated throughout the room; his hackles rising, Link joined her. With another, sharper, commanding howl, Amaterasu summoned the sun and lit up the dark room.
The two wolves leaped forward and attacked Yami. It shifted form into a disembodied hand, balling into a fist and smashing down, but both wolves leaped clear. With howl after howl Amaterasu summoned sunlight, fire, ice, wind, and water. Link and Midna held Yami down as Amaterasu struck the stone hand again and again.
Yami summoned fire, rocket bombs, and poisonous gases. The wolves leaped clear with little effort. When Yami put out the light as if throwing a switch, Amaterasu summoned the sun once more.
Finally, the giant ball let forth a screeching, anguished cry that split stone and made ears bleed. It trembled and sputtered, dark energy scattering around it in waves.
Then, like a nightmare driven away by daylight, it vanished, leaving the Ark and its constellations in its bluish light.
"We did it!" Midna exclaimed as Link shifted back to human form, nearly knocking him over as she hugged his neck. Hearing him gasp for breath, she let go abruptly and pretended that nothing had happened.
"Well, that's finally over. Now how do we get off this thing, and back home?" Link asked no one in particular.
They both turned as they heard Amaterasu make several eager, happy barks. To their consternation they saw Waka rise up from the depths below, alive and well. "Well done, my friends!" he exclaimed.
"You lazy bum," Midna snapped in a half-angry, half-mocking manner. "Decided to take a nap while we did all the work, huh?"
He chuckled, "Ah, my dear, we all played a part, including your little bouncing friend." Amaterasu leaped up onto the platform and began licking Waka's face as he laughed.
Becoming slightly more serious, he motioned for the other two to join him. "But I will confess, we are greatly in your debt. Allow us to repay part of it upfront, by giving you a ride home." Clambering onto the platform with Midna floating after him, Link stared in amazement as Waka pushed a few buttons and the walls around them turned into windows on the world.
"This old thing really can get us home?" Midna's jaw nearly dropped to the floor.
"Now, now! It's actually a very sophisticated piece of equipment!" Waka grinned at her. "It's just been overrun with vermin for a long, long time. We can easily bring you back to Hyrule."
Link sighed in relief as Midna suppressed a cheer. Finally, finally we are going home!
Great white sails appeared on the silver ship, and it slowly turned northward, away from the stunned inhabitants of Kamui. "We have much to do back at the Celestial Plain," Waka told them, "as we have been absent for a long while, and it doubtless was left in ruin. But we will not forget our debt, and we will visit you soon…Issun too, most likely. I can't imagine he would turn an opportunity like this down."
"Yeah, think of all the pretty girls he'd miss out on," Midna grumbled.
Link couldn't help but laugh. As tiring as the journey had been, and as eager as he was to return home, he didn't want to leave his new friends just yet. "We will be happy to accept any help you give us," he told Waka. "We have already walked a very long, dark path at home, and it will only get darker as we go on."
Amaterasu rubbed her head against his hand; he bent down and petted her, scratching her behind the ears. "You can light the way, and Issun can provide us with a little comic relief when things get too grim. All right, all right, enough doggy kisses," he added as she licked his face.
He and Midna watched the fields of Nippon disappear behind them as the silver ship climbed over the tops of the highest mountains, even the twin volcanoes of Kamui. As they reached the peaks, Midna stretched out her hand toward a little patch of brownish green. "Look, you can see Hyrule Field from here!"
"Is that where you would like us to take you?" Waka asked.
"Actually…" Link leaned over the edge of the platform. "We were looking for something in the mountains when we first came to Nippon, but I don't want to wind up in another snowstorm…"
Midna pointed just off to their left. "Look, there's a big house down there…it looks kind of shabby, but it should provide some shelter at least."
As the ship floated just to the side of the ancient mansion, the two Hylians hugged Amaterasu and shook hands with Waka one last time. "You'd better make good on your promise," Midna said, half-jokingly.
Amaterasu barked sharply and wagged her tail, as if insulted that Midna could even suggest that they wouldn't.
Link shifted to wolf form and jumped down onto the snow, Midna on his back. He barked and Midna waved as the ship slowly floated back the way it came. "And tell that Issun there's plenty of treasure to be had," Midna shouted after it. "Rupees in every pot, and treasure chests in every cave!"
That'll make him come running, Link thought to himself as he loped quickly to the entrance of the mansion.