Chapter Six

December 25th 2010

Year of Farore's Wind

Soldier's Log: Link

Day 372

A Christmas Party is to be held today in the Mess Hall. It is supposedly the one day of the year when we come together and celebrate all that we are blessed with. It is on this day that we can break out our spirits and sing our songs and laugh our laughs. This is the one day of the year when at long last, we return to being Men.

Until that cruel hour when the mask of a Man falls and the Soldier must come out again.

Man and Soldier, we all are. Jekyll and Hyde. There are times to make merry and times to fight. When the Good in the Man clouds the Resolve of the Soldier, all shall be thrown to chaos.

But is that true? Is each of us not one man, but two: the emotional being and the cold machine? Or are we all not one, but many?

Marth used to ask questions like that. Marth used to ponder the answers day and night, murmuring to himself as he lay awake and stared at the stars. He used to speak up- quite randomly, might I add- at mealtimes with a new theory as to what Man was.

And every time he asked me, I would always give him the cold shoulder. I had always meant to someday come up with an answer and tell him. I had always meant to give him yet another theory to ponder over. I had always meant to remind him that there was much more to life than pondering over the makings of Man.

But never shall I speak with him again.


It was snowing.

He was burning.

A fire roared behind him.

It was freezing.

Laughter rang through the air.

It was cold.

He stood there, face pressed against the glacial windowpane, sharp blue eyes glaring out into the snowy landscape before him. Never before had he noticed how truly disgusting the snow looked. They laid there, those flecks of snow, corrupted by the dirt, blood, and woe it tried so hard to disguise.

Nothing could hide from those sharp eyes. Dark though it was outside, he could still see- quite clearly, it must be added- the light flecks of red upon the seemingly immaculate surface. He gritted his teeth as he saw this.

To who did those red drops belong?

More laughter behind him. The sound, once a joyful tune to his ears, had long been reduced to taunting jeers. Without his being aware of it, his cheeks went chalk white as his large, usually gentle hands curled into fists. How dare they laugh and be merry when one of their one was dead? How dare they celebrate this holiday when any one of them could be next?

How dare they not care?

No one, save himself, had gone to the funeral. Ike, his longtime friend, had refused to come out of his room. Moreover, the others had not known Marth as he, Ike, and Pit knew him. And on top of all of that, Pit had his duties to carry out. There wasn't even time for him to go and mourn the loss of his closest friend, Red.

Indeed, the news of Marth's passing had devastated Link. The Hylian had been half tempted to punch the unfortunate messenger, Lieutenant Falco, then and there. He wanted to rage, to kill, to destroy. He wanted to pick up his gun and march right over to Tabuu himself, to make him pay for all he had done. He wanted so much, but could gain so little…

Marth would have hated such thoughts from him. The gentler man was one who dreamed of treaties and of doves. Of olive branches and of handshakes. To him, that was how all disagreements should be put an end to. A treaty here, a treaty there, and soon there would be world peace.

Oh, why could it never be that simple?

No longer did he, Link, understand why they fought this war. Long ago, it seemed to him that they fought because the Subspace Ruler had been hiding weapons somewhere in his country. But now, it seemed to him that they were fighting for the sake of making war. Every day, more lives were lost on both sides, more children became orphans, more anarchy spreading throughout all corners of the country. And it seemed to him that no matter how hard he tried, he would never truly be able to find a reason to fight.

"Marth…" the name was said in a whisper. A broken, emotionless whisper. Faintly, Link's Hylian ears could detect the gritty edge of tears hidden deep within.

"Hello, Ike…" Link said quietly, turning to look at the larger man next to him. This had been the first time since Marth's death that he had seen the former mercenary out of his room.

Ike, to be said simply, looked the worst Link had seen for a long time. In the short time since he had heard of the young man's death, Ike had shrunken considerably. What was once great, yet lean muscles, had long given way to little more than skin and bones. Deep purple circles framed both eyes, as if he hadn't slept in weeks. His mussed blue hair fell in flat bangs all over his face. With his ghost white skin and lined face, he looked as if he aged a thousand years.

"Marth," Ike repeated. He said it much shorter this time, as if he lacked the breath to speak it.

"I know…" Link answered. "I miss him too…"

"Marth…"

There was no point in attempting to engage his friend in conversation. That much was made clear to Link. It was with a heavy heart that the young man was forced to place a hand on Ike's shoulder and steer him out of the room. Ike simply sat there in a chair, babbling Marth's name over and over again as Link helped him clean his teeth and carefully put him to bed. He was still mumbling when the Hylian left the room.

He returned to his spot by the window, only to find that it was currently occupied by someone else. She sat there, wrapped in a cloak, staring out at the snowy landscape outside. In spite of the numbness Link felt, he could not help but feel his spirits lift slightly when he saw her. Now here was someone he could talk to, someone who knew what it was like to suffer a loss…

She looked up and smiled as he approached, her porcelain face seeming to glow from within. In spite of that, however, Link could easily look past her pristine features and see the quiet, sad soul behind her periwinkle eyes. She scooted over, allowing him some room to sit next to her. He was surprised by how warm her body felt against his, a feeling he had not felt in a very, very long time.

She spoke first. "… Happy Yuletide, Link."

"Same to you," he answered weakly. "I… I hope your folks at home are doing alright…"

"Ah, yes," she replied. "I am almost certain that... that there is absolutely nothing wrong at home." Link noted a sense of bitterness in her tone, as if she had swallowed a particularly foul-tasting medicine.

Link chose to change the subject. "Your accent… I can tell you're Hylian, and yet…"

"And yet my accent is most unlike yours?" she asked gently. When Link nodded, she continued. "I am from the Lanayru Province of Hyrule. I became a nurse for this regiment because I wished to do something more than simply embroider and look pretty. I wished to contribute something to the war effort, in spite of my views of this war…"

Link was shocked. Never before had he heard anyone speak so plainly about their motive for joining the army. "I… What are your views of this war, then?"

Her features seemed to fall at his question. "… I believe that while our intentions were good in the beginning, there is no longer any point to this war."

Link frowned. "No longer any point? Zelda, I'm afraid you're quite mistaken. The reason we're fighting this war is to prevent the people of Subspace from going into anarchy… and to prevent anyone else from gaining power. Should we withdraw from this place now, anyone with enough charisma can easily overthrow Tabuu and then we'll possibly have an even worse dictator on our hands."

Zelda sighed, her nostrils flaring as she closed her eyes. "… Yes… yes, I understand that, Link. But have you ever considered looking at it from another perspective? Link, we are no longer simply fighting a war. We are now occupying areas, controlling and manipulating them for our own gain. While some of us claim to help the people of Subspace, we forget that they were leading a reasonably moderate way of life before the war happened."

Link stiffened. "General Ganondorf is the commander of the entire armed forces. If he believes it is wisest to continue fighting, then-"

"Then what, Link?" Zelda demanded. "Then what? Do you not remember who initiated this war in the first place? It was Master Hand, acting under the pretense of Tabuu hoarding powerful weapons in this country. I know that you soldiers have already scoured this place high and low in search of them, only to turn up with nothing." her voice was little more than a whisper now. "Link, don't you see…? We are only making war for the sake of war…"

"No… you're the one that doesn't understand," Link snapped angrily. "The reason we are fighting is to help the people here. Tabuu is a tyrant and must be brought to justice. He is a coward who hides behind his villages and his soldiers rather than facing up to Master Hand like a man. He is-"

"He is a ruler, Link," Zelda countered. "He is a ruler who you may see as a faceless enemy, but who others see as their savior. Link, like it or not, you are invading their home. You are a stranger to them, Link. Yes, there are those that wait with joy in your coming, but there are also those that remain wary of you, even hate you because you are not a man of their blood. They willingly march out to meet you on the battlefield because not only are they under orders, but they are also willing to fight for their home. Rather than resorting to deceit and falsehoods to claim victory, these men- the ones that you claim to be your mortal enemies- march out bravely to meet you, willing to die in the name of their country."

This couldn't be true. He refused to believe it. Although he was always out on the front lines, Link never believed the Primids he fought could ever be human. No, they were monsters. General Ganondorf, Master Hand, Vice President Crazy Hand… all of them insisted that what they faced out on the battlefield were not men, but machines. Monsters trained to annihilate all in their path. For a young cadet such as Link, it was either life or death on that field. Either they got shot or they shoot first.

The number one rule of war.

He hated this place, this war. He wanted nothing more than to return home, to go back to his family. He was sick of the cold, the hunger, and the blood. The longer he stared at his hands each night, the more blood he saw coming off it in torrents. He had done everything he could to numb the pain of all the life he had ended, everything from drinking to drugs to smoking. But no matter what he did, the pain always seemed to grow worse.

He dropped the drugs and smoking, but the bottle remained his savior.

"It doesn't matter, does it?" Link asked. "Because in the end, someone's going to get shot either way… someone's going to get stabbed in the back and the people who pay are us, the soldiers." his hand curled into a fist, tears pricking his eyes as Marth's face entered his thoughts. "It's the soldiers who get shot, blown up, and God knows what else every single damn battle. It's the soldiers that have to limp home, crippled with lost limbs or schizophrenia or whatever that they catch out here… and what do people do? They sit at home all smiling and happy and thinking to themselves 'hey, at least it wasn't me!'… on both sides, there are people who sit at home and twiddle their thumbs, their biggest worry being the taxes or which politician is going to sing best on election day… they think this is all a game… but it's not…" his voice broke. "It never was…"

"… The civilians… there are some that are indeed like that, yes," Zelda said quietly. "But there are others that have lost much because of this war as well. Do you not know of the many attacks on civilians that have been carried out in the past and still continue today? Yes, it is true that every day, one more man falls for his country… but it is also true that every day, another man- one who has never so much as set foot on the battlefield before in his life- dies as well. When there is war, Link, everyone suffers. Everyone must pay the consequences for their country invading another. No one, not even Master Hand and Tabuu, can escape these consequences. You can claim all you want that it is the soldiers that take the heaviest losses, but what about the people? Do you not know a war-time economy? Do you not know how many husbands and brothers are called away to war and never return? And not just on our side either. On ours, on theirs, and on the people's side who don't even want to involve themselves in this war, Link. Those are people dying out there, Link…"

He hated her words.

"My friend… my brother…" Link's voice was just barely above a furious whisper. "Marth was not killed by a person. No one in their right mind would ever lay so much as a finger on Marth. Those people are not men, Zelda. They're monsters! And they must pay!"

Her pale features seemed to turn to ice, her blue eyes flashed with anger. "Really? And have you ever thought of what they are fighting for? They are fighting for their home, their families! They're fighting to keep their land safe!"

"They're doing this shit because Tabuu ordered them to!" Link snapped. "I bet they'd be glad once we're done with them!"

"Your words are those of a fool, Link," Zelda whispered, tears springing to her eyes. "And I know that you are certainly no fool…"

Link clenched his fist, glaring at the woman before him. Something in him told him to run away now, to back out of this argument before it escalated. Another part of him, however, told him something else.

He was forced back in time, floating within his own memory, watching his fist battle as a young recruit. The Smash Regiment had decided to stage an ambush in the forest, where they knew a Primid camp lay. Unfortunately, the order had been misinterpreted, and the Primids were ready for them by the time they attacked.

Link had been badly injured during the attack, his leg deeply wounded and bleeding from a grenade tossed at the front lines. He had been attempting to crawl away, to escape to a quiet place where he could bleed out and die. His remembered how fuzzy his vision was, tainted red with blood from a wound on his forehead. He remembered his slow, laboring breaths as he managed to crawl his way past numerous falling bodies, eyes searching desperately for a quiet spot to die.

He had collapsed not too long after.

When he next woke, there had been someone standing over him. From the color of the soldier's uniform- tainted red with blood- Link could tell that this man was not a member of his regiment. In fact, the puce green color of the Primid uniform told him that his end would not come from blood loss, but a shot to the head.

The man had been doing something with his leg. When he noticed that Link was awake, he had wordlessly pressed something to his lips. Link barely had time to taste the water within before the canteen was removed and the man was gone. But not before Link caught the kind smile in his eyes.

The look in his eyes continued to haunt the Hylian to this day.

Suddenly, Link was back in present time. Standing before him was the beautiful young woman, her eyes reddened with tears. He hesitated, opening his mouth twice to apologize, but closing it just as quickly. For one who believed so much in the power of Courage, he was ashamed to say that in this moment, he lacked it.

As if sensing his plight, Zelda placed a hand on his shoulder. "Your friend died serving Smashville as a hero, Link… there is no higher honor than that. No matter what happens, there will always be someone out there that will not forget his deeds nor yours, nor Ike's, nor anyone's in this regiment. That's because in spite of the heavy losses you take, you continue to save the lives of the innocents, the civilians. And no matter what, there will be someone out there who is thankful for all you have done to help make this world a better place…"

Link turned to stare at her, the soft firelight casting a radiant glow upon her regal cheekbones. A small smile touched his lips as her words- wise, like the sages of old- echoed within his mind. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps there was some part of him that agreed with her. Perhaps…

POW!


He wrenched open the door, dashing into the room without a second thought. He had not bothered to turn on the light, already knowing full well where it had come from. The gleam of silver upon the floor where the sliver of hall light ended told him everything.

A cold hand wrapped around his heart, wrenching it away from his body. He was a soulless, empty shell. He was blind, deaf, and numb. He wanted to tear his eyes away from this horrid sight, run away before it could be engraved into him forever. But there was no turning back, no running off like a coward.

A red stain spread across the sheets.