Here's the next chapter! It has a little bit of action in it, so I hope it's satisfactory! Enjoy, don't forget to leave your reviews and constructive criticism! I love you all =D
Chapter Twenty-Six: The Hylian Inquirer
Nabooru could hear Damita shifting in her bed while she sat, cross-legged, on the tent floor. The Gerudo had not been able to sleep, and had decided to make some last minute preparations for the journey at dawn. Damita, as usual, had under-packed, so Nabooru added everything she thought they would need. She knew this would be a long journey—both literally and metaphorically. To Lake Hylia, the trip was short, but it was an extremely tedious trek to Death Mountain. Both would be difficult to persuade; the Gorons and the Zoras had never particularly liked the Rebels. They had remained loyal to the Royal Family, and Nabooru had no idea how they were to convince them to prepare for war against the monarchy. And if what Ganondorf said was true, then Link was on his way to do the same, which made their mission much more difficult.
That wasn't the reason Nabooru couldn't sleep. She had come up against situations such as this. What she was worried about was Damita. She had been distracted lately, and could barely manage to carry out assassinations she once could with her eyes closed. Even worse, Nabooru knew that Ganondorf had a plan; he always had a plan. She was frightened for Damita and what the Rebel leader might do to her. Above all, Nabooru worried about Link. Perhaps even running into him...Damita would crumble.
Nabooru believed the entire situation to be humorously ironic. She knew that Damita would never do anything to hurt Link. She still loved him too much, and wouldn't let herself do that. Yet the assassin firmly believed that, given the chance, Link would take everything from her. And Link felt the exact same way: it was a cycle in which neither wanted to confront the other, for fear that they would either die or be forced to kill.
Should she get the chance, Nabooru wanted to kill Link. If the situation were to arise, however, she wasn't sure if she would be able to. Just as Sheik had left Damita alive for Link's sake, Nabooru might leave Link alive for Damita's sake.
Frustrated with the situation, Nabooru threw her bag to the ground and ran her hands along her face.
Can't she just get over him already? She's going to ruin everything.
Nabooru paused for a moment, and her face slowly fell.
She will move past it. Just like I had to.
Zelda didn't normally have trouble organizing her thoughts. But when she and Link dismounted their horses in Kakariko Village, she could barely comprehend her own mind. Before entering the village, Zelda had lifted the hood of her cape to conceal her face, and was no longer the princess—in fact, she was not even a refugee anymore. Her role was now Link's dumb cousin, incapable of speech since birth.
"What do we say if anybody asks me why I put the hood up?" she had asked him.
"Just tell them you don't feel comfortable around strangers. These people don't usually care enough to pry."
Zelda looked around her as Link tied the horses outside of the Kakariko Inn, and memories began rushing back at the sight of sturdy houses, fleeting conversations, and the orange ground. She recalled walking these streets with her father as the civilians lined up around them, clapping and screaming, "Long live the King! Long live the Princess!" Her mother had, of course, been sick in bed. Zelda had been about six years old. She could not remember why her father had taken her on that trip; all she remembered was his perfect way of communicating with people, his perfect way of being a king. They had loved him so much.
"Zelda, keep your bow and arrows with Flare," Link instructed, jarring her from her nostalgia.
"What? Why? I don't feel comfortable without them," she replied. Link clenched his jaw and sighed.
"Princess, I need you to trust me," he said. "I won't let anything happen to you."
For a moment, Zelda was taken aback by the warmth in his voice, and simply stared. The corner of his lip twitched into a crooked smile, and as if controlled by an outside force, Zelda put her bow back onto Flare's saddle. The sun was only peeking above the horizon and was slowly sinking. They had arrived exactly when Link predicted they would.
"Good evening," the man at the inn's reception greeted. "How may I, um, help you?" He was looking at Zelda with an odd expression, but she ignored it.
"A room for two, please," Link replied.
"How many nights?"
"Hanch and Sera."
"Here are the keys to your room."
Zelda, before Link had a chance to grab the keys, nudged him in the side. When he looked over at her, she threw him an eager glance, one that only he could discern beneath the hood.
"Oh, and a newspaper please."
Armed with their knapsacks, rusting keys, and a crumpled newspaper, they made their way up the rickety stairs to their room. Link opened the door for Zelda, and as soon as it was closed, she lowered the hood and took a deep breath.
"Finally, a real room," she sighed. She hadn't realized how nice the bed would feel after months of sleeping on a mattress inside of a tent. Ignoring Link's eyes on her, she slipped off of her cloak and crawled onto the bed. By habit, she grabbed the pillow and hugged it to her chest. She almost expected to breathe the scent of her own bed when she inhaled the dusty fabric. Link calmly walked over to the crumpled cloak at the floor and put it on the bed.
"I'll put the newspaper on the nightstand for you, Princess," he said.
"Link." Zelda's eyes opened, and she sat up. "Do you want to read it with me tonight? It would be good practice."
"Um..." He shuffled uneasily, but Zelda maintained her exuberant gaze. "I think I'm going to skip tonight."
"Oh," she pursed her lips, "okay then. Whatever you need. And please, just call me Zelda. You've known me long enough. Hand me my knapsack, if you would."
With a curt nod, he placed the knapsack in her outstretched hands. Her stomach churned at the blank expression on his face. The shell still seemed as hard as rock. She had hoped that she had made progress with him, but he was still so closed off; if not to anybody else, especially to Zelda. It was almost enough to bring tears to her eyes, but she kept the composure.
"I'm going to go to the bar across the street," he announced. "I need a drink."
"Very well," she shrugged as she took out the book from her knapsack. "Don't stay out too late."
He nodded again—that infamous, detached nod—and left the room. As soon as the door closed, Zelda's face scrunched up in dismay. She could almost feel the iciness. Just recently, things had begun to change between the two of them. A certain comradery had developed. Even a little bit of warmth. As soon as they had mounted their horses, however, he had regained that same composure she had seen when first meeting him.
Maybe it's me, she wondered. I was acting a bit distant after what happened last night.
She opened her book and found herself staring into the picture, right where she had left it. It was of the boy smiling brightly at the camera with his hand resting affectionately on his horse's neck. She couldn't help but smile back at him, this photographed, mystery boy who looked chillingly like Link. Expectantly, she looked at the back of her right hand: nothing. Pouting, she closed the book with the picture inside it, put it aside, and grabbed the newspaper. In the long, flowing, and sturdy dress that Malon had made her, she sat cross-legged on the bed and opened the newspaper. As soon as she started reading, she knew it was going to be a rough night.
The waitress, with a coquettish smile, placed the mug onto Link's table.
"Enjoy," she winked. He could not even manage a slight grin back at her. With relief, he brought the mug to his lips and thirstily swallowed. The drink was not the heavy kind he was used to back at camp, but it would do in clearing his mind for the night. He could not remember the last time he had sat alone at a bar, trying to comprehend his own thoughts. He imagined Zelda, lost in her newspaper across the street, and actually chuckled. Something about her eagerness for knowledge allured him. There she was, expanding her mind, while he sat drinking away his problems.
At least not as much as those guys, he thought, staring a table full of rowdy men. They were slapping each other's backs, screaming, laughing, loudly clanking their mugs together. All he had to do was look at their bloodshot eyes to know how drunk they were. He found himself wishing that Sheik were there to share the drink and laugh at the men with him.
Hey look, they're even more out of it then you are, Linkipoo, he would say. With another inner smile, Link took a gulp.
Suddenly, there was silence. A draft drifted into the room, and from his drink, Link looked up at the door. Two people had just walked in, and every single pair of eyes was now on them. One was a ragged young man with messy brown hair and beady, piercing eyes. There was a grin on his face, and one eyebrow remained constantly raised. Beside him stood a ravishing woman, wearing a tight red dress revealing her navel and a low-cut (extremely low-cut) collar. Link practically spit up his drink. The girl had mischievous yellow eyes and sparkling red hair.
I should've guessed this would happen...
One of the men at the crazy table whistled. The woman's eyes darted dangerously around the room, and she threw the table a menacing glare. The man beside her, in a combination of protection and demand, grabbed her arm and led her to the front of the bar, where they took their seats at the counter. The conversations were beginning to rise again. Link's wide eyes were still fixed on the couple, which simply seemed to radiate danger.
There are bound to be more.
Dropping a few coins on the table, Link stood up from the table as quietly and inconspicuously as he possibly could. Unfortunately, the flirtatious waitress had just approached his table.
"Oh come on now," she crooned, "what kind of tip is that?"
He knew she expected him to be drunk, and he caught himself before exploding in her face to get out of his way. Before he could say anything at all, her sharp nails were grabbing his collar and pulling him closer.
"I definitely expect more than that," she whispered, directly in his ear. He shuddered, but continued to tell himself that he needed to get out of there.
"Excuse me, but I need to—"
"Need to what?" she pouted. "You must have a couple more minutes, right?"
"No, I really—"
"'ey!" Link was suddenly pushed away, and he stumbled against the table behind him. It was one of the drunken men.
Great. Now he's going to make a scene.
"'ands off, punk. This un's mine."
"Oh please," the waitress scoffed.
"You can have her," Link said hastily, and began moving toward the entrance. The two people at the counter still had not noticed him.
"You ain't gettin' away that easy!" the man cried.
"Shh, sir, please, don't scream—"
The man pushed the table aside and grabbed Link's lapel, yanking upwards harshly. He brought his rank face inches from Link's, and he could smell his breath, heavy with alcohol, against his skin.
"Come on!" He began to drunkenly shake Link, who was growing more anxious by the second. "Face meh like a man!"
"I have to go, sir, so if you could just put me down..."
"Put ya down? PUT YA DOWN?"
At that point, the man's practically incomprehensible screaming had attracted the attention of all of the customers. Every single one. Link caught the eye of the red-haired woman for a single second, and his stomach lurched at the devious glint that appeared in her yellow irises. Without warning, the man lifted his fist and swung at Link, who was still in his grasp.
With an agile tilt of his head, the fist just barely missed.
Bad at hand to hand combat? We'll see about that, Sheik.
Before the man could make sense of what was happening, Link had cupped his hands around the man's neck and harshly kneed him in the stomach. Blindly, the man, who was now coughing and had let go of Link, swung his beefy arm. Barely blinking, Link lifted his arm to block, twisted the man's wrist, and waited for the scream. When it came, Link swiftly forced the man to the ground with another knee and ran as fast as he possibly could to the front door. As he slipped out of the bar, leaving behind a commotion, he caught a glimpse of the pair staring at him, and he started to run even faster.
The life of Kakariko Village was beginning to fade in the darkness of the night when Link rushed outside. The blast of cold air was surprising after the warm, heavy air of the bar inside, but Link did not take a single second to admire his surroundings or even take a breath. He ran straight to the inn across the street, rushing up the creaky wooden stairs. The man at the counter, startled by the banging of the door, stared at Link with wide eyes.
"Sir, is there anything—"
"No, no." Link did not even glance at the man, but skipped up the stairs toward the room. Heart pounding, sweat running, and mind racing, Link stopped in front of the door and reached into his pocket for the keys. Then his heart stopped pounding. It stopped beating altogether; his pockets were empty.
Why am I so stupid? How could I let myself be so unprepared?
He wiggled the knob with the small hope that Zelda had left it unlocked. He was not surprised to find that it was not. He resorted to knocking loudly on the door, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds at the front door of the inn. He could simply sense the danger approaching. After a few moments of solid knocking, Link began worrying. The princess was not answering the door. He shakily put his cheek against the wood, attempting to look through the small creak.
He heard the door in the lobby open, but couldn't bring himself to look back.
The blood had completely drained from Zelda's face, and the energy from the rest of her body, by the time she was finished reading the newspaper. She wasn't sure if she just couldn't correctly remember the style of the newspaper writers, or if these types of rumors truly were spreading through her beloved Hyrule. The angry ones, those who were beginning to lose loyalty in the Royal Family, had begun to take over the public media. The entire newspaper was filled with conspiracies against Zelda and her ancestors. The Hylian Inquirer had once been the most prestigious, the most credible newspaper in all of Hyrule. In her absence, it had transformed into the very essence of bitterness toward the Royal Family. The headlines made her cringe.
Princess runs away from her own problems?
Search parties still have found nothing—is she still among us?
Princess abandons her people.
Kidnapped citizens still to be found.
Throwing it aside, Zelda lay on her back and stared dizzily at the ceiling.
She had run away from her problems. She had let the Loyalists take her, feed her, train her, keep her safe while her kingdom fell apart.
She prayed to the goddesses that this newspaper did not reflect the popular outlook of her people. Surely they believed in her...or at least believed that she was dead.
"They can't think I abandoned them," she mused, "can they?"
In the midst of her frustrated thinking, exhaustion began to take over. She kept throwing glances at the door, hoping that Link might come in and save her from the piercing loneliness. Before he could, she drifted into a slumber heavy with sadness, fear, and anxiety. She did not even see the key that Link had forgotten by the door before she fell asleep.