Goddess help me.

I knew I should have thought of something witty to say, just to rub it in his stupid, arrogant bratty know-it-all face. That would have felt amazing.

After all the taunting I wish I had had a comeback brilliant enough to make him stop dead in his tracks. Wish he could feel the humiliation that he'd brought upon himself. Taste sweet, sweet justice.

Plus it'd be nice to not get in trouble for once either.

But no. I was too focused on beating the crap out of him to think of something that brilliant and glorifying.

So now I'm here, huddled up in the tiniest position possible (I could make a contortionist jealous), hiding from inevitable punishment. It's not nearly as comfortable as I would like...after all, hiding inside a rotting log can hardly be considered relieving, and I've got several tiny pieces of wood stabbing into my arms and legs as proof...but it's going to be nothing compared to what she's going to do to me. Hell, I'd take a beating over her anyday.

She doesn't yell at you or punish you like anyone else would. She doesn't scream or demand answers from you or attack you with every fiber of her being. No, her wrath is not at all like that of your average old-person.

It's ten thousand times worse.

First, you get the glare. Most people give you that "I'm-going-to-make-you-regret-you-ever-did-anything-wrong-in-your-entire-life" look, where their eyes narrow and their mouths twitch at the corners like they're tasting something disgusting. That's got nothing on her glare. Her eyebrows furrow slightly, but it's the eyes that do it. She's got these dark gray eyes that bore into your soul and instant make you feel ashamed of yourself. You don't even get a chance to explain yourself. You just want to melt into a pile of pathetic goo before her feet because you know that until your entire being has shrunken into your shoes, she won't let you slink off. And then and only then does she let you sulk on your own.

And you know what's funny? She doesn't even have to say a word.

Not one. She never does. It's a punishment worse than punishment.

And for someone with a troublemaking streak like me, I can completely argue just how much more painful absolute silence can be than getting your head ripped off.

She doesn't show up around here more than once every few months. I never understood why she came down here in the first place, seeing as she's always busy with something or other. I guess she was just checking up on things when she met me and then took it upon herself to ensure that I feel like crap everytime I do something like this. When she wasn't guilt-tripping me, I felt like she kind of grew on me as a companion. But when she was, there was nothing I wouldn't give to get out of it.

"I thought by now you'd have realized that hitting him won't make anything better."

I hear the cool voice above me and I know it's over. I crawl out of the log and straighten up to my full three-feet-four-inches and look up at the wise Sheikah with my most innocent face, eyes watering and all. But of course, Impa doesn't fall for it. Although I can see the corners of her lips twitching into a half-crooked smile.

"He called me the sissiest little nobody to ever shame the Deku Tree," I pout. "He said the only Kokiri who ever went this long without a fairy finally admitted he was useless and decided to do a favor for the world by getting himself lost in the Lost Woods and turning into a stalchild, and that maybe I should take the hint."

Impa's carefully monitored mask cracks a little bit and the half-crooked grin becomes a whole one. "I think you proved you weren't a sissy when you left him with a bloody lip," she says, her tone expressing the humor she finds in the situation, much to my dissatisfaction.

"That's not the point," I reply huffily. She knows exactly what's gotten to me, but she avoids it, so as not to delay the "lesson" I should be learning here. I'm already anticipating the melting-into-my-shoes.

"It may not be," she agrees, her typical Sheikan facade shooting up once more, "but it does not excuse your actions in any way, Aeria, as I am sure you know deep in your heart already."

Cue the eyes.

Guilt washes over me in a cold, harsh wave and I droop to a mere two-feet-eleven-inches. Yes, he had been unnecessarily cruel. But punching him hadn't really solved anything. I had stooped down to his level. And I knew, if there was one person in this world who I would never, ever want to imitate, it would be Mido. I can feel my insides liquefying and I once again experience the feeling of being a puddle. The time to slink off in shame is now.

I'm already trudging away in defeat when unexpectedly Impa says my name. I slowly turn on the spot, feeling like a kicked dog cowering away with my tail between my legs.

"You should also make sure Mido gets his story straight before you let him insult you," she says, her eyes softening a bit in sympathy, but the same crooked grin is coming back too. "Jealousy of a certain fairy-less Kokiri would lead him to be dishonest."

Mido? Jealous?

I de-puddle-ify into a more gel-like state. I'm not fully solid yet (if you were gored by those eyes, you wouldn't be either), but I'm already storing away this information for future blackmail purposes. The prospect lifts my spirits slightly.

Impa can tell. I know she can tell, because I'm frollicking out of the Lost Woods as best I can with my now solidifying jelly-legs, and I can hear her sighing behind me. But it's an amused sigh.

Troublesome as I may be, she knows she loves me.

About as much as Mido's going to hate me when I use this against him.

I lied.

Mido's not going to hate me anytime soon. Well, I mean, he does hate me already, but I mean over the blackmail I have on him. Despite how much I'm dying to see the look on his face, I'm still feeling sort of numb from Impa's death-glare. So I won't use it against him.

Until Impa leaves, that is.

For now I amuse myself by drawing stick figures in the soft dirt beside the small pool near the only source of income we Kokiri have. It's a nice-looking shop I suppose, but appearance doesn't change the fact that I can find deku nuts and sticks anywhere in the Forest as opposed to spending 30 hard searched-for rupees for them. It's getting late, luckily, and the girl who usually sits on top of the shop has left to go home and get some sleep, so I'm left alone to do as I please.

I look at my dirt-art proudly. Stick-me has just conquered Stick-Mido once and for all, and Stick-Mido begs on his hands and knees for forgiveness. Better yet, there's purposely no Stick-Impa to tell me not to let him grovel. I grin despite myself. Oh, what Impa would say to this...

The moon's risen above me, and the muffled voices of the other Kokiri have died out. They must have fallen asleep. At this hour, it's no surprise. By now I'm bored of my stick figures, so I abandon them to admire the pool. The moonlight glints prettily in the water, and I admire it for a few seconds before examining my reflection. My dirty blonde hair falls around my face and my bright blue eyes stare back at me, challenging me. I grin, and my image takes on a distinctly mischievous expression. It's no wonder Impa worries so much. I'm probably the most troublesome eleven-year-old girl she's ever met.

And the most tired eleven-year-old girl, I realize as I yawn. It's too late for any Kokiri to be awake at this hour. Even those who don't have fairies to nag them to go to sleep.

I suppose there is a benefit to my little fairy issue.

I walk back to my house, passing out as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Everything's cold. Numb. Lifeless.

I'm going to die.

There's no doubt about it.

Everyone's dead.

Bodies litter the floor. I can't identify their faces, but every single one of them shoots another icy pang through my chest.

I knew them. I knew them and I loved them.

Blood stains my skirts, my hands, the entire floor, and I feel like puking, but something tells me to keep going and hide. The servant's corridor is the nearest exit I have, so I make a break for it.

A voice comes from above. Someone's standing at the top of the staircase. I duck behind a column.

"They're dead," the cold voice sneers. "Both of them. Neither of them was prepared for the attack. The seal is broken, and the King has returned, to greater power than ever before."

My heart is pounding harder than ever, but I manage to keep silent.

A deep, terrifying voice echoes in the hall, and I feel a tremor of cold run down my spine.

"It is not complete. It is not mine." His displeasure is apparent. "Where are the other pieces?"

"My lord..." the other voice replies anxiously. "I don't understand how this can be..."

"Their blood lives on in another," the deeper voice growls. "Through sacrifice they have temporarily denied my victory."

He pauses and my breath catches. As quietly as I can, I slide the secret door open.

Just before I manage to close it, I hear him bellow.

"Find the child!"

I wake up in a frenzy, both terrified from that stupid, repetitive nightmare and shocked by an excruciating pain in my forehead caused by a glowing bluish dot.

"DIN, NAYRU, FARORE!!" I swear on all three goddesses and the dot (a fairy, I realize) stops kicking my face and crosses her arms.

It's mainly the dream that's putting me into curse mode. I've had the same dream many times now, and it's still been bugging me.

But I figure I'll just let the fly take the full brunt of it.

"If the Deku Tree heard that language..." she scolds. I'm still trying to figure out why she's here.

I'm the girl without a fairy. Remember?

But if she's here...

"You wouldn't wake up," she snorts. "And the Deku Tree sent me for you. Your Sheikan friend's with him. I'd hustle your butt over there."

So much for that. Just a messenger, I think glumly. But I try to look on the bright side.

At least the little squirt won't be waking me up so rudely every morning.

I dig up my room looking for my other boot (much to the bug's amusement), and when it's finally on my foot I race out to the Deku Tree. Mido's not guarding him this time. Instead, he's over talking to the shopkeeper girl, looking rather sulky.

I bet you anything Impa did it. My spirits rise slightly at the thought...

...and sink as soon as I see her with the Deku Tree.

Neither of them look particularly happy.

Oh goddess. I'm dead. I'm so dead.

"I'm sorry!" I burst out in terror. "I never meant to-" A faint glint of amusement flashes momentarily across Impa's eyes before the Deku Tree cuts me off.

"Thou art not in trouble, young one," he says in his slow voice, and I can't help but notice the amusement in his tone. "Thou hath not caused any problems...yet..." My face flushes bright red. Impa looks just as amused.

"We've been discussing your future," she explains to me, her crooked grin slipping slightly. "I would like you to accompany me back to Kakariko Village."

"I can't," I reply automatically, although I am slightly relieved I'm not in trouble. I'm a Kokiri. As exciting as it sounds, I know I'm not going to see the rest of the world. "I can't leave the Forest. None of us can. We die." Impa knows this. I swear I've filled her in on it a million times.

Her grin fades completely. Maybe it's just me, but they're both looking a little more solemn.

Am I really not in any sort of trouble here?

"Thou can leave the Forest whenever thou desires," the Deku Tree says, pausing for a moment to let me digest this information.

I'm a little bit stunned by what he's saying. Actually, I'm a bit insulted as to what he's implying.

"I'm a Kokiri," I reply stubbornly, like I do to Mido every time he makes that jab at me. "Every Kokiri has a fairy," or "No Kokiri would disobey the Deku Tree."

Although I still don't have a fairy. The thought kind of makes me feel sick. I push it from my mind.

"You are as much a part of this forest as the rest of them," Impa says, as though reading my mind. "But you were not born a Kokiri."

I shake my head stubbornly. This coming from the woman who had helped me ignore Mido. Traitor.

"She doesn't believe you," the fairy above my head announces. I give her my best glare. She shrugs. "What, it's true!"

"Listen to me," the Deku Tree begins, the solemness from before etched ever deeper in his features. "When thou was younger, much younger, thou was brought here in need of protection. Thou was accepted into the Forest, brought up in innocence and peace during a time of war and suffering. I offered what I had to give. Thine heart is pure and strong, but thou wilst grow up. Thou was not born in the Forest, and thou art not bound to it."

I'm still stunned. I still don't really believe it. And I'm kind of surprised that the Deku Tree, despite his slow speech, has managed to say all he needed to say in that few sentences. Usually he gives much more detail and uses a billion more words to say it.

"You will grow up," Impa says again, and I notice that her face is once again devoid of expression, carefully concealing any emotion. "You are out of place here. I think it would be best for you to come with me."

I'm a little bit scared.

The Deku Tree doesn't lie.

But all this time...

Mido was right.

I'm not a Kokiri.

I won't give him the satisfaction of letting him know that though. If I have to leave, I'm going to leave before he can find out.

I try to do like Impa, and put up a blank face. "When must I leave?"

"As soon as is possible," Impa says plainly. Mido won't find out then.

But I still sure as hell don't want to leave.

"Thou wilst always be allowed to return to the forest. And thou wilst not be alone," the Deku Tree rumbles, and he looks more serene. Probably relieved because I didn't argue or fight. "Navi will be with thee."


The blue dot all of a sudden flies up in my face, and I find myself going cross-eyed trying to look at her.

"I'm your fairy guardian!" she shrieks excitedly.

I'm shocked.

I have a fairy...

Oh crap.

I have a fairy.

"Come on Aeria, it's time to go," Impa says impatiently from just outside the forest. I'm still standing on the end of the bridge.

Easy for her to say. I'm still not convinced that I won't just keel over the second I step out.

"Stop freaking out, you're not going to die," Navi says in an annoyed voice. "You're not Kokiri, remember?"

I grumble. Thanks for reminding me.

Much as I'm delighted that I actually have a fairy, she can still be annoying.

I take a deep breath and step outside...

Oh goddess.

I'm not breathing.

I'm dying.

I am Kokiri, they're wrong, I'm dying, I shouldn't have stepped off the bridge...

"Stop holding your breath," Navi scowls, before launching a pretty good body slam into my stomach. I'm immediately forced to exhale.

Well. I guess I'm not a Kokiri after all. It's bittersweet. On one hand, all my worst suspicions have been confirmed...

...but on the other hand, I'm not dead. And it's kind of hard to argue against that.

Navi's looking pretty smug, but I decide not to focus on her. I'm big and she's small and I don't know what I'll do to her if I snap. I turn to Impa instead.

"What am I going to do in Kakariko?"

She's already mounted her large white mare. I notice that she's left room for me to sit in front of her, and she beckons for me to climb up. As easy as it sounds, it's just too big for me. I get one foot in the stirrups before she has to grab me by the back of my shirt and put me there herself. Normally I'd have been embarrassed, but all I can feel now is this numbness. She hasn't answered my question. And she's kept her face completely blank the whole time, of course, so she's impossible to read, and I just don't even try.

The mare begins to trot away from the edge of Lost Woods into the rest of the world. I have no idea what to expect of course. I had never believed I'd get to see the rest of the world. So of course I'd just forgotten about it.

We turn into a field and stop, admiring the sunrise. For once, it hadn't been at Impa's insistence that I wake at such an ungoddessly hour, nor the fact that Kakariko was a full day's ride from here.

I swallow.

The world is big.

The full weight of everything that's happening finally hits me, and that gut-liquefying feeling returns, only for a completely different reason. I'm pretty sure if Impa wasn't holding onto the reins on either side of me, I'd have slid off.

I want to be curled up in my treehouse, under my softest blanket, admiring the stick figures that decorate the walls before I go to sleep.

I want to be with Saria in her secret place, talking and playing and fiddling with the ocarina she gave me. We would compete to see who could play Saria's song the fastest. Although I know I never had a chance. It is her song.

I want to be playing with the Skulkids in the Lost Woods, or talking to the Deku Tree, hell, I'd even rather be fighting Mido than this. All of a sudden he seems like the smallest of my problems.

I want to be home.

I'd stayed up all night clinging on to as much of Kokiri Forest as I could, and now I just want to go back, Kokiri or not.

I force myself to think encouragingly. You always wanted to see the rest of the world. You're not supposed to stay in the forest. And Mido doesn't know. Just think about how his face will look when he realizes you're the only one who ever left the forest and lived.

There's some small, fleeting happiness in that thought, but it doesn't make me much less homesick.

At least I've got a fairy now. Which is comforting. As annoying as she is, I'm glad I at least get her as a partner. And at the moment I'm both surprised she's managed to keep her mouth shut this long and grateful that she has the concern to.

Impa's voice snaps me out of my faze. She's finally got an answer for me.

"Start a new life."