A/N: Here it is, guys - the final "chapter." It's been an amazing journey, over five years in the making, and I thank you all so much for joining me. It's been an honour being part of such a supportive community and I will certainly miss you guys. Thanks for making this such a wonderful experience!
Disclaimer: I don't own the Legend of Zelda. Yay, I don't have to say it anymore!
A pair of bright blue orbs blinked widely through their reflection in a body-length mirror situated within a large, stone room. Link was standing before the mirror and studying it carefully, leaning forward slightly as he traced over his image. His normally-tousled hair had been carefully combed in place and a crisp new uniform had replaced his worn tunic ensemble. Straightening again, Link began to fumble with the stylized clasp hanging at his neck and nervously smoothed the thin cape draped across his shoulders. He was trying desperately to ignore the growing anxiety gnawing away at his stomach, though not to much avail – sighing heavily, his shoulders relaxed and he turned a reluctant gaze to his reflection once more. What a relief it would be when this day was finally over.
A metallic glint reflecting in the glass caught the man's attention, and Link's eyes focused on the sheathed sword and shield that could be seen propped against the stone wall behind him. Sighing softer this time, he didn't turn to face the Master Sword, but only stared at its reflection.
Eight months had passed since Link stepped into the golden light.
He didn't remember much about what happened inside it, aside from being alone and surrounded by a white void. There a voice had spoken out to him, muted and intangible, and asked him to state his wish. His only thought had been for the restoration of Hyrule, and when the golden light cleared, he found himself standing next to Zelda amidst the cobblestone square of Hyrule Market.
The warrior snapped from his reverie at the sound of the voice, turning slightly to see Zelda making her way carefully across the room. She was robed in rich silks of periwinkle and plum that trailed in elegant folds around her, and adorning her brow and collar were embellished jewels of fine gold. A warm smile instantly crossed his face at the sight of her, earning a shy smile and a slight blush from the princess in return. Once Zelda reached his side, Link turned to face the mirror once more.
"How's it look?" he asked, the nerves returning anew.
"Very handsome," Zelda replied as she straightened his collar gently. Link seemed to ease up a little and smirked at her in the mirror.
"Don't forget dashing," he added. Rolling her eyes, Zelda smirked and softly nestled her cheek to his shoulder while drawing his hand into her own. Noticing the tension in him, she began to brush his fingers soothingly.
"You ready?" she asked quietly. Link inhaled deeply as a bleak expression seemed to overshadow his features.
"I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be. I never realized getting formally introduced to a kingdom would be quite this stressful." Zelda nudged him with her elbow playfully before wrapping an arm around his.
"You've faced worse."
This was true. Link's mind wandered back to the battle held with Ganon on these very grounds; it was by far the worst enemy he'd ever faced. And yet, in this moment, Link felt far more fear for the mass of Hyrulean citizens gathered outside than any he had felt for the Gerudo King.
Oddly enough, no one seemed to know what had become of Ganondorf or his followers. In fact, no one aside from Link or Zelda seemed to recall any of the events that had transpired since Ganondorf's rise to power. Link assumed that his wish had somehow nullified the memories, however it was something that neither he nor Zelda fully understood.
"I just hope they accept me," Link said finally.
"I'll be with you," she reminded, earning a grateful smile from the man beside her. A sudden knock caught their attention, and turning together, they glanced back to see the captain's head poking in through the door.
"Link, Princess Zelda, I've been asked to retrieve you – it's almost time for the ceremony to start." Link instantly tensed up again, while Zelda only smiled.
"Thank you," she said, at which the man's head disappeared once again. She spun to face Link once more, who now had an expression of full-blown panic. "Let's face this together," she said, her tone calm and confident. As she spoke, her hands wrapped around his reassuringly; Link gulped once and only nodded wordlessly.
The trek across Hyrule Castle was uneventful as apprehension for the task at hand kept them largely silent. Any half-hearted attempts at conversation quickly fell flat within two or three exchanges, so instead the two simply walked arm-in-arm, each taking comfort in the other's shared anxiety. They were nearly to the main staircase when an unexpected voice greeted them from across the room.
They turned in unison, setting sights on a man who was instantly recognizable by his vivid blue hair. Link immediately perked up, while Zelda groaned under her breath and buried her forehead in Link's shoulder. Marth hurried over with visible delight, grinning from ear to ear as he came to a stop beside them.
"What a joy to run into you here, I didn't think I'd see you until well into the evening!"
"Hello, Marth," Zelda responded with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. It was taking everything Link had in him not to snort at the blatantly disgruntled expression plastered on her face.
"It's been quite some time, hasn't it?" he continued eagerly, beaming at the princess. "But I was hoping I'd run in to you so I could congratulate you on your engagement. The whole kingdom is thrilled for you!" As if to cement his point, Marth took Zelda's left hand and bowed forward slightly to kiss it.
"Thank you," Zelda answered, looking drained by the formality.
"And this must be the lucky man here," Marth said, turning to face Link. "I'm certain we'll have plenty of opportunities to get to know each other as the respective heirs of our neighbouring kingdoms." He offered a hand, which Link promptly took. "I look forward to it."
"Oh, what a charming prince!" Link praised suddenly as they shook hands. A look somewhere between recollection and disturbance dawned on Marth's face upon hearing this, but he said nothing of it. Instead, he squinted at Link while continuing to slowly shake his hand.
"Strange," he commented, his voice seemingly unsettled. "Your face reminds me of a… certain person I met here once." Now extremely wary of Link without quite knowing why, Marth released Link's hand and quickly turned to Zelda once more. "Whatever happened to that lady-in-waiting of yours anyway, Zelda?"
It was fortunate that someone called for Marth from across the room, for at that very moment Zelda's resolve caved and she just barely managed to suppress a snort with her palm. Marth had turned away to see where the voice had originated from, and only afterwards turned back to see Link and Zelda restored to some semblance of composure.
"I don't wish to delay you any further, so I shall take my leave now, but it was a pleasure getting to speak with both of you." He bowed formally before stepping back, a cheerful smile in place. "Again, you have my deepest congratulations."
"Thank you, Marth," Zelda said, a sincere smile on her features now. The young prince inclined his head as he turned to leave, moving in slow, graceful strides across the ballroom.
"Bye, Marthykins!" Link called out in a bell-like voice, at which Marth visibly flinched before increasing his pace to a frantic shuffle. Within moments, the prince was gone and Link and Zelda were free to move on their way in fits of laughter.
The whole encounter had lifted Link's spirits considerably, and he was still looking absolutely delighted by the exchange by the time they reached their destination at the far wing of the castle.
"It's about time," the captain huffed from his spot by the wall, looking somewhat grumpy as the two made their way over. "King Daedalus has been waiting for you to start; I'll go inform him that you're here."
Zelda went to follow him, but Link's hand catching her wrist caused her to stop. She turned back in surprise, expecting Link to say something, but instead he only drew her in close to face him, a tender smile on his face. She opened her mouth to speak, intending to argue that they shouldn't dawdle, but his fingers rising to brush her cheek seemed to wipe all recollection of the thought away. With a shy smile that mirrored his own, Zelda leaned forward and slowly let her eyes drop. Link closed the remaining gap between them and brushed his lips softly against hers, wrapping his arms around her waist as he did so. They stayed like that for a short time, content to let the tender moment linger until they slowly drew apart. As they did so, Link's palms gently came to rest on either side of Zelda's face.
"Do you remember what I promised you?" he asked, voice low and airy as he gazed at her.
"Which one?" she laughed lightly, recollecting the hundreds of promises he'd made to her over their lifetime.
"To take you on a journey across Hyrule," he added, smirking as he tucked a deviating curl back into place behind her ear. "It's something you've always dreamed of, right?" Zelda drew back slightly to stare up at him, wide-eyed and searching as she noted the growing smile on his face. "I asked your father. He's given us permission to travel the kingdom, and we can leave as soon as you'd like." Zelda couldn't help but look incredulous.
"B-But – h-how…?" The princess couldn't quite fathom the thought of her father approving of such a plan.
"I pitched it as a peace-keeping mission for Hyrule, to check in at all the major outlets to see how everyone is doing. He knows that's right up your alley." Zelda quirked a knowing brow at the man, a sly smile forming on her lips as she did so.
"Not mentioning a word about your promise, of course."
"Of course," he grinned back. Their laughter was interrupted by the captain's reappearance a moment later as he emerged from behind a veiled curtain at the end of the hall. He beckoned them forward quickly before disappearing once again behind the cloth and out onto the balcony beyond. The Hylian pair quickly made towards the veranda, the excited chatter of people in the square below growing steadily louder. This time it was Zelda who stopped first as they reached the veiled archway.
"Do you remember what I told you long ago?" Zelda mused, cupping Link's trembling hand in her own as the other lifted to rest against the curtains. Link threw her an inquisitive glance and looked terribly confused as he tried to pinpoint a specific point in time from the thousands of talks Zelda had given him over the years. The woman was a walking library, after all.
"Courage is not the absence of fear," she began, her eyes sparkling as realization dawned on Link's face, "but rather the overcoming of it. It's not something one is born with. Those with the potential for courage-"
"-make the decision to act in spite of their fears," Link finished. Zelda beamed as she squeezed his hand encouragingly, and he felt an immediate glow begin to emanate from the back of his left palm.
"You've more than proven your potential, Link. You're ready for this."
"You're right. Thanks, Zel." He squeezed her hand in return, giving the princess one last grin before straightening up to face the draped archway before him. Zelda nodded and slowly drew back the veil, bringing in a flood of sunlight and cheers from the world beyond. Link paused one final moment to take a deep breath and set his resolve, then stepped out behind the golden-haired woman onto the balcony outside.
It would be the first step of many towards a lasting reign of peace and prosperity in Hyrule.
You guys, we made it! We actually did it! AHHHH! Over four years of writing and plotting to finally arrive at this moment!
I wasn't quite sure about this ending though, haha - I kind of rushed it, so it may need some reworking. But what do you think?! Is there anything you thought was missing or details you'd have liked to be included? I tried to put in some shout-outs to earlier chapter events, so hopefully that was a treat for some of you.
What else can I say? It's been an amazing journey, and all of my readers and reviewers have made my first delve into fanfiction such a positive one. I hope I can come back again soon, but until then, thank you again for everything! I hope that you've enjoyed this journey as well!