Link scowled as he adjusted his backpack. He never thought he would be here, of all places. In fact, for most of his life he'd gone out of his way to avoid the better-known branch of the Nohasen family. All of his ancestors did, ever since the schism centuries ago that split the family.
But the Nohasen scholarship enabled him to attend college. And when one of the Nohasen Corporation's representatives contacted him with a possible job offer, he thought it foolish to refuse.
He walked through the revolving glass doors, into the lobby of Nohasen Co.'s northern branch. Even the company's satellite offices had granite walls and flooring, not to mention a statue of its founder, Tetra Nohasen. Legend said that she had been a pirate, and that was where the family got most of its fortune early on. Link sneered at the confident look on her face, the simple breeches and simple scarf contrasting so deeply with the finely tailored suits of low-level managers scurrying about the lobby from one room to another.
His side of the family had no claim to the fortune, but maintained that they kept Tetra's spirit in mind more than the oligarchy. Most of them, male and female, had been miners, fishermen, soldiers, and other things that paid little but required a certain strength of spirit.
Still, he wondered how far that would go in an interview. He looked down in some trepidation at his shoes, well-shined but obviously second-hand. His suit had been his father's, well-made but out-of-date in the eyes of those who paid attention to such things. Then again, the interview was not for an office job. It was for just the sort of thing his family was good at.
The immaculately coiffed secretary directed him to a hallway to the left, and he found several applicants already sitting outside an office door, made up like mannequins in pressed suits and ties. One snickered and elbowed his friend as Link walked by. The young man did not pay him any attention. Fine clothing would not mean much where this job was going.
Sitting down, Link pulled out his resume and the sheet of paper outlining the position. It involved several months at sea, in cramped quarters, with canned food and dangerous forays into underwater crevasses in a small submersible. This particular branch of the Corporation involved shipwreck scavenging and underwater archaeology. He spent the next few minutes going over and over his qualifications in his head, as well as the answers to any questions they might ask, while the other boys chatted away.
Finally, someone called Link's name. He was a small, rotund man whose mustache flared out from beneath his nose. "My name is Talo," he said in a voice not much bigger than he was, staring at the paper he had in his hand. "Follow me, please."
Talo led Link into his office, its walls decorated with paintings of faraway scenes and the furniture made of cherry wood. Link sat down in front of his desk, in a chair that looked more comfortable than it was.
"Hmm, hmm." Talo stared at the resume Link gave him and nodded slowly, firing off a few questions about what he did in college, where he saw himself in five years, the usual useless queries. Link wondered if Talo would look at him at all; he kept his eyes glued on the paper, as if Link could have just as well walked in wearing a paper sack.
"Ah." Suddenly the man's eyes lit up, and he looked straight at Link for the first time. "You know how to use a sword?"
The boy blinked. Out of all his skills, why on earth had he latched onto that one? "It's a hobby, sir."
"But you believe you could hold your own in a fight?"
"I believe so, yes."
Talo nodded once, then stood. "This looks promising. I want you to speak with someone else who luckily is in the office today. You don't mind, do you?"
"No, of course not." Anything that got him closer to a job was a good thing.
Shuffling his little pile of papers back in place, Talo motioned for Link to follow him to a side door. They entered into a hallway with small offices on each side, sparsely but tastefully furnished. After turning left once and right twice, Talo took a card from his pocket and swiped it through a small reader in front of another door. As Link walked inside, he found only a small room with a young man at a desk, a phone bud in his ear.
He smiled upon seeing Talo. "Hello. What can I do for you?"
Link didn't hear what Talo said. He was too interested in the gold plated sign over the oaken door next to the desk, which read, Zelda Nohasen, CEO.
Apparently she has her own office in the regional buildings, too, Link thought weakly. He had heard that the heir of the Nohasen fortune had also taken on the role of company leader just a year ago, and she was not much older than him. He didn't budge until he felt Talo gently pushing him to the door.
As Link stepped into the office, he stared around in consternation at the numerous decorations on the walls, most of which appeared to be badly torn tapestries and old parchments written in an illegible script. A few of them appeared to be maps, and he recognized the depiction of the Great Sea to the south.
The desk at the far end, framed against a large window, appeared to be made of marble; in fact, it seemed like it had been carved out of another, much larger building. In the middle he could see the Nohasen family crest, a spread-eagle beneath three triangles arranged to make a larger one.
"Hello." Link's head jerked up to see a young blonde woman in a brilliant blue pantsuit that matched her eyes. "Pleased to meet you, Link. I am Zelda Nohasen." She held out her hand to him.
Link took her hand in a bit of a daze. Her grip was strong and confident, not at all what he expected.
"Go ahead and sit down," she instructed him with a smile.
He plopped down in a chair behind him.
"How much do you know about the Nohasen family?" she asked.
"Uh…" Link tried very hard not to blank out. "I know that it's one of the most powerful families in the world…that we have a common ancestor…and that the oldest known family member, Tetra, was a pirate."
A little frown appeared at the corners of her mouth. "Oh? You don't know anything about your family history other than that?"
Link frowned. His grandfather used to tell tall tales about the adventures Tetra had, but he doubted this was what Zelda wanted to hear. He shrugged. "Just a lot of nonsense…about Tetra's husband being a swordsman, and finding a lost city, and fighting an evil sorcerer. Fairy tales."
"Yes, fairy tales." Zelda opened a drawer in her desk and took out an ancient scroll, so old and crackly that Link flinched as she opened it. Surely something this old and delicate should be kept under glass. "Does any of this look familiar to you?"
Link stared at the drawings, faded, smudged with water and mottled with mold. He could make out a kid with a sword, a kind of medieval-type landscape, an old man that appeared to be morphing into some grotesque creature, and a little boy and girl sailing away in a small boat. The same strange script framed the drawings.
He smiled in spite of himself. "Looks like illustrated fairy tales. They must have been around for a long time, huh?"
Zelda frowned at him. "Link, do you know what caused the schism in the Nohasen family?"
Link shook his head.
"Our ancestor, Tetra, lost a great treasure due to a terrible crime committed by one of her ancestors. The family split when one side wanted to search for it, but the other side wanted to let it lie."
"Let me guess. Your side of the family is the one that wanted to look for it, and eventually found it, and that's why yours has all the money." Link slapped his hand in front of his mouth too late.
Zelda shook her head. "Your side of the family wanted to look for it, while ours turned to looking for other things. Link, don't you have anything passed down to you from your grandparents?"
Link immediately went on the defensive. "I'm not giving it to you. Though it's not much…" He pulled a little crystal bottle out from under his shirt, revealing red, green, and blue shards. "Just fragments of pearl…not worth anything really."
To his surprise, Zelda beamed, visibly restraining herself from reaching out and touching the tiny vial. "Yes, I thought so. They aren't worth anything in terms of monetary value, but what we are searching for cannot be bought at any price."
She reached into her drawer once more, and took out a tiny fragment of gold, a jagged square perhaps the size of a dollar coin. He thought he saw it glowing when she placed it on the desk, but as she took her hand away he could see it was just ordinary gold. "This is the only piece that remains, which Tetra took away with her when our ancestor shattered the original."
She watched him expectantly. Not sure what she was looking for, he picked it up to examine it further. He nearly dropped it in surprise as light leaped from its surface, as if reflecting nonexisting sunlight. "Hey, cool! How does it do that?"
Link stared in puzzlement as Zelda stood up, her face alight with promise. "Talo, I think we've found our adventurer. Let the others know, please. We leave in two weeks."
Startled, Link set down the gold piece and stood up. "Leave? Leave for what?"
Zelda turned to him with a beaming smile. "To find the lost country, crushed by the waves for hundreds of years, and bring it back to life."