"Three hundred and thirty... SIX!"

Marth positioned himself in-between the warrior who huddled behind his shield, sprawled in a rather undignified heap on the floor, and the arc of Ike's second casual broadsword swing just in time. Uttering a particularly unpleasant expletive, the mercenary pulled the blow at the last instant to avoid killing his friend.

"Ike! No! This is the REAL Link!"

Ike scratched his head, making even more of a mess of his spiky dark blue hair, which was tied back with a headband he had made by tearing a strip of cloth from his cloak.

"You sure?" he asked.

Marth nodded.

"He's been with us since before the incident." he assured Ike, "We were all in Swords-R-Us looking in the bargain bin when a big crowd of them came in and started buying out their entire stock. We had to grab hold of him to make sure we didn't accidentally leave with the wrong one. We ran like hell, and now he's hiding in here until the fuss dies down."

"The real Link would've been able to block my swing on his own." argued Ike, "He's, like, supposed to be a legendary warrior. You sure you didn't grab the wrong one by accident?"

"I've had a b... bad time of this crisis. I've had no time to train in months!" said Link, glaring at Marth, "You said nobody would attack me in here!"

"I didn't expect this stupid bastard to walk in here and start trying to kill my guests!" Marth glared at the mercenary, "Ike, you've been away for six months without telling us! Where've you been?"

"Hyrule." said Ike, walking over to the sofa. He sat down and started polishing his sword, "There's a bounty on those false Links. Five hundred per head."

"Oh, I'm glad you weren't ignoring the crisis completely!" said Marth, "Honestly, going off without telling us and not coming back to help when you knew perfectly well there was a crisis!"

"Can't you three sort it out on your own?" asked the mercenary, indicating Roy with his eyes before snapping his gaze back to Link. The younger of Team Fire Emblem was sprawled on a chair, playing on his DS.

"Ike, what happened to 'I fight for my friends'?"

"I don't say that no more. Everyone laughs at me when I say that."

"Hey, hey, quit bugging me, okay? I haven't been entirely useless! Look, I got us all this money!"

Roy peeked out from behind his DS just as Ike opened the suitcase. His eyes opened wide.

"Holy Saint Giygue, Ike, how many did you kill?"

"Already told ya. Three hundred and thirty si... five." he said, "They're nowhere near as good as the real Link."

"Yes, we're always a little rusty when we first reincarnate." said Link, "We're born fully grown and with some memories of battle, but we still need to train ourselves to use a sword properly again. Sometimes I don't even remember how to use my arms and legs."

"That's okay, Link-dawg, Ike here still doesn't know how to use his brain." commented Marth.

"So, what made you come back if you were on such a roll?" asked Roy.

"Well, I was thinking, I've got all this money, there are no decent sword shops in Hyrule, the Link supply isn't running out..."

"Are there still so many of me?" asked Link.

"More than we can hold back, and I've got all the Grail Knights with me and a few other friends." he grinned a wolfish grin, "This whole mission is totally futile, but I haven't had so much fun in years!"

"Ike, this is him you're talking about killing!" yelled Marth, "Show some subtlety for once!"

"N... no, its okay to kill them, I... think..." muttered Link, "They shouldn't exist. I know that much. But I don't think continuing to kill them is going to really solve the problem. I'm worried the server will overload and stop working altogether. Then when I die..."

"Don't die, then!" suggested Ike.

"Everyone dies in the end, Ike." said Marth.

"Except Nintendogs." contributed Roy.

"Except Nintendogs." amended Marth.

"Ike, you do know that when you're fighting this futile mission of yours..." said Link, "If and when you die... you may well be reincarnated as a Link too?"

Ike rested his sword on his knee and scratched his head again. He was silent for a long time after that. The look on his face was as unreadable as a corrupt disk.

"Ike?" asked Roy suddenly. The mercenary looked up at him.

"If you just came back to buy swords, why haven't you got any new swords yet?"he asked, "If I had that much money, I wouldn't bother coming back to HQ first, I'd be running down to SwordMart!"

"I... er... I was going to fetch you so I can buy you both a new sword each as well!" said Ike, grinning a rather skeletal grimace, "Yeah, that's right. It was going to be a surprise, but..."

"Ike, you're lying." said Roy, "You suck at lying. Even this puppy could spot you trying to lie. Even if you were going to share the money, you'd buy your own sword first so you could spend the lion's share on your own sword. Then you'd try and lie about how much you earned."

Ike sighed.

"Oh, okay, I'll tell you the truth. But this is strictly between you, me and Marth. Okay? That means we talk in private. Away from Link. If that really is Link."

"I'll be in the b... basement if you need me." Link sighed, slinking off out of the door. Roy got up to check that he wasn't trying to listen on the other side of the door, then he locked the door and walked over to Ike and Marth.

"Truth is, you see..." began Ike, "I m... met a... uh..."

"A what?" demanded Roy.

"A girl!" said Ike, "And I'm going on a date tomorrow!"