A/N: This is for Insane. certifiably's Across the Fandom project. I would love some opinions on this... I really can't decide if I like this or not. Does it seem like the romance is too one-sided? All my friends thought so, and they suggested having Link and Medli kiss, but then I thought about Medli having a beak and... heheh... yeah... XD

Reviews are welcome, even if you don't like the story. Criticism can only help me improve, so I don't care.


Duty before Love

By TwilightWakerofTime


How had it come to this?

Her heart pounding, she leaned against the boss room's door, wincing as she heard another crash. Oh, great spirits of water and sky… please let him be all right…

Sighing, Medli turned around again, slumping against the cold, locked door of the Earth Temple. Of her temple. Even if she lacked their memories, ever since Laruto awakened her she could sense the presence of her ancestors, the deceased Sages that once empowered the Master Sword. She was left to take their place, to guard the temple and aid the Hero.

It wasn't the aiding the Hero part that she found hard – she'd just gone through an entire temple with him, flying to places too high to reach and breaking barriers with her harp's song when necessary. No, it was the guarding part that worried her.

Would she be… stuck here?

Would she not be allowed to go with him? With Link?

The ground shook again as something heavy hit the wall hard. She took in a sharp breath, then exhaled slowly, silently chiding herself for being so jumpy. He'll be fine. He's the Chosen Hero. He'll be fine.

Another thud. He doesn't sound fine…

Stop it! She shook her head. This was crazy! She was sitting here, moping and fretting while Link risked his life. It was unfair. Why couldn't she have gone instead? At the least he could have let her in the room with him! But, no; apparently as the Sage of Earth, she was too precious to risk getting harmed. And… with the pleading look he gave her when he asked Medli to stay behind… she just couldn't say no. But surely there had to be some way she could have helped. Didn't she possess some kind of special powers as a Sage? Something… anything could have helped him…

Desperate to distract herself, Medli thought about her home on Dragon Roost Island. Unfortunately, it only brought up painful memories. She still didn't know if she'd be able to go back there. She might never see Quill or Komali again.

For some reason, she began to think of the first time she met Link. He was the youngest human she'd ever met. Everyone else that came to Dragon Roost from the outside were sailors, older men usually from Windfall, and she wasn't old enough to leave the island on her own yet (which reminded her – she would be in so much trouble when she got back home). So she'd never seen a boy his age out alone on the sea. Hoping for some kind of assistance from this boy, she asked for his help to get into Dragon Roost Cavern. Then she'd been captured. She'd really thought that was the end… but then he'd saved her!

And now he was fighting for the Great Sea – for her life and everyone else's. And she was stuck out here, possibly with no way to ever return home.

She closed her eyes. She had to stop being so negative.

It was then that Medli noticed something odd. Something had changed in the room. Something felt… different…

Her eyes shot opened as she realized what it was. The sounds of battle from inside the boss room – they'd stopped!

She pressed her hands against the door, pushing with all her might, hoping it would open. But it was no use. The door was securely locked. She held her breath. No! That couldn't mean… Link hadn't failed… had he?

And suddenly, the door slid open.

With a small cry of surprise at the unexpected lack of support, she stumbled forward –

– right into the arms of someone standing there.

Link blinked down in surprise at the Rito girl. He opened his mouth to say something, but Medli seized him in a tight hug and released a soft sob.

"Oh, gods! You're here… okay… and you… I was… I couldn't… you weren't… you left me here!"

He let out a sound between a sigh of relief and a groan. "Medli… it's great to see you, but you're hurting me."

"Oh!" She quickly pulled away, for the first time noticing the state he was in. There were multiple scratches on his arms and strange blackened marks on his green tunic – singe marks? Were those from fire? Great Valoo, what had happened during that battle? "I'm so sorry. I wasn't… I didn't… I'm just glad that you… you're… I… and I…"

"Medli," he said gently. "You're stammering."

She brought a hand up to cover her mouth, which had made an 'o' of shock. "You're right! I'm sorry! I don't mean to. I only–"

Link grinned at her. "It's okay. But we need to restore the power to repel evil to the Master Sword now. We'll have to play that song one more time."

She closed her eyes and nodded. "Of course." Her duty as a Sage needed to come before her feelings for Link. She couldn't let herself be distracted at such an important moment. Even one mistake in the song could… She paused. Well, she didn't really know what would happen if she made a mistake while playing it. Hmm. Hopefully she wouldn't have to find out.

The pair walked into the center of the room, where the Triforce emblem was displayed on the stone floor. Medli gazed around herself with mild fascination – the whole place, surrounded by spikes and thorny towers, seemed familiar, but she couldn't quite place where she'd seen it before. Of course, throughout their expedition in this temple she'd had thoughts like this; this wasn't the first time she'd felt like she'd been somewhere in memory that she'd never visited physically.

Link raised the Wind Waker and looked at her expectantly. "Ready?"

Snapped out of her thoughts, she swiftly swung the harp over her head and cradled it in her arms, her calloused fingers poised to play. She checked to make sure it was tuned into the right key before nodding. "Ready."

Link began to move the conductor's baton, and Medli played the Earth God's Lyric with practiced ease, her fingers gliding across the harp strings. Immediately she realized she didn't need to worry about messing up the song – backed up by the spirits of her ancestors, she felt like she'd played this a million times… like this song was a part of her. She barely noticed the Master Sword beginning to glow from where Link had placed it in the center of the Triforce as she lost herself in the music.

She didn't notice Laruto until the music stopped. She gazed at the fallen Sage of Earth, who was supposedly was her ancestor. When Medli first saw her, she'd been shocked by her fish-like and wingless appearance, but she was prepared this time. Now she heard the Sage's voice echoing in her head. "Your half of the power to repel evil has returned to the Master Sword." Medli sighed with relief. "However," the Sage continued, making her stiffen, "your task is not complete. You must remain here and play the Earth God's Lyric to ensure the Master Sword does not fail again. This is your duty to Hyrule and the Goddesses."

Her eyes widened and her heart shattered almost instantly at the sound of these words. No! This was exactly what she'd been afraid of hearing! She couldn't stay here forever, protecting the power of an ancient relic, no matter how important it was! How could she sacrifice herself like that – how could the gods be so impassive, so apathetic, so cruel? This wasn't fair… she wanted to travel… she wanted to–

"Medli?"

She looked up, noticing Link regarding her with concern, the half-empowered Master Sword in his hands. She glanced to the side, realizing that Laruto had already disappeared. Her hands balled into fists at a sudden rise of anger. Even her ancestors didn't care about her!

"Is something wrong?"

She turned back to Link, and tried to calm herself, pasting a completely fake smile on her face. "What? Oh, no. Nothing is wrong."

She struggled to hold back tears and sustain the smile as he tilted his head to the side curiously. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

His frown clearly showed that he didn't believe her, but she couldn't stand to say anything more. "Okay. Then we should go now."

Just keep smiling.

"You should. But I can't come."

"What?"

She bit her lip to prevent it from trembling – the smile had fallen from her face by now, but she didn't have the strength to restore it. "I can't come. I… I need to stay here and fulfill my duty as a Sage. I have to keep playing so that the power to repel evil doesn't wear out."

"You… That's silly," Link said, laughing nervously, a confused expression on his face. "The gods can't expect you to do that. You've done enough."

"It's my duty," she quoted Laruto quietly. "To Hyrule and the Goddesses."

For a moment, Link just stood there, frozen in utter shock. Finally, he growled, "That's not your duty. All you needed to do was restore the power to the Master Sword – and you've done that!" He held up the ancient weapon as proof. "Now all it needs is the Wind Sage's power, and it will be the Blade of Evil's Bane again. You're done!"

"Laruto told me," she whispered, a few tears trickling down her cheek. "Laruto said that I had to stay here. Otherwise, its power will fade over time."

"No!" Link shouted, grabbing her hand. "I won't let you do that to yourself. What about the Rito? Doesn't Valoo need an attendant?"

"I can be replaced," she argued halfheartedly. In all honesty, these were the things running through her mind, too. Since Komali's grandmother had died, no one had been left to teach her, so she'd needed to struggle through reading ancient texts in the old language and further her training on her own. It was difficult, and she only managed to get through it because she held some previous knowledge – for someone new, learning how to be Valoo's attendant would be next to impossible.

"This isn't fair! You're throwing your life away just for this stupid quest!"

"Link…"

"You can't do this. There must be some other way."

"Link?"

"We can just leave, right now," he continued, turning around to pace, deep in thought. "Maybe there's somewhere we can hide, where you won't have to–"

"LINK!"

He looked up at her, startled out of his rant by Medli's uncharacteristic outburst. He was shocked to find tears flowing freely down her cheeks. She couldn't hold them in any longer.

"Please, just stop," she sobbed, her voice echoing off the walls of the Earth Temple. "You're making it worse."

Letting out a big breath of air, Link visibly deflated, his gaze softening. "I'm sorry. I just–"

"I have no choice," she sighed, sounding hollow. "It's not just me, or you, or the lives of the Rito at stake. It's everyone. Every person in the Great Sea." Her voice dropped so low that Link could barely hear it. "Duty must come before love…"

For the first time during his quest, the Chosen Hero had no idea what to say or do.

"You should go now," Medli mumbled, gesturing toward the glowing portal that had appeared.

After holding her gaze in silence for a long while, Link nodded mutely. But instead of moving towards the portal, he approached Medli one last time.

"I'll come back," he promised, staring into her eyes firmly.

Medli allowed herself a sad smile. "I know."

"Besides, the gods can't keep you here after Ganon is dead, can they?" Link said, a kind of desperate hope in his eyes.

"I hope not." Could the gods be cruel enough to keep her here forever? At this point, she wouldn't be surprised…

He stepped back, away from Medli and toward the glow of the enchanted wind that would take him outside the temple. She only watched, helpless, as the wind began to envelope Link. He gave her one final smile before disappearing.

Medli was alone. He was gone.

She dropped her gaze to the floor and sighed, trying to release the despair she felt welling up inside of her. Reaching over her shoulder, she grabbed the harp. To push back the tears forming again, she played a sad, minor chord on the strings, and then started the Earth God's Lyric.

She had a feeling she'd been doing this a lot from now on.