A/N: Good news! It's May! About time, too, because I imagine we're all about done with school by now. On top of this greatness, I made two major achievements-1) I finished Royal Brawler! and 2) I got this great rubber wristband that says 'This is what awesome looks like', in French.
But, uh, yeah, more on that first one. Like I said, it's complete, and I'm pretty freaking happy with the way it turned out. So yeah, just know that it's gonna have an ending. :)
Thank you Purestrongpoem, Darkblaze40, InkWoven, Pandora151, Gray-Chan Fallen, tswift1fan, and AnriMia24 for reviewing!
Chapter 21: The Trap
She stayed with him all through the night.
After an hour or so, after the medics had performed extensive treatment on Link, Sheik was at last allowed to see him. She stood over him and talked to his unconscious body. When it was clear that he would not be waking up anytime soon, she brought a chair to the Infirmary and sat by him. She continued to do so vigilantly and spent hours in silence. She refused food that was brought to her and didn't budge when the medics insisted that she leave. She only entwined her fingers around Link's hand and persisted in watching him. At last, late into the night, her eyes drifted down. When she next opened them, sunlight was streaming out of the windows.
She stretched her free arm and legs. She looked down upon Link. He was still unconscious, but she preferred to think of him as sleeping.
Sheik gave a emitted a soft sound, like a dove's coo. She brushed a loose strand of blonde out of his face.
"Good morning." She gave his hand an affectionate squeeze.
He said nothing.
She sighed. "I wish you were awake, Link," she said. "Sometimes I like to imagine that you are and you're hearing me, but the truth is that it's really lonely being down here for ages. Although, all things considered, it's not terrible. I really enjoy being around you. Because I think I. . . I think I. . ."
She struggled to get it out of her mouth. They were just three words. Why was it so hard to say them?
Sheik sighed again, this time in resignation. "Well, the important thing is, I really care for you."
Care. The inadequacy of the reverberated in her head.
"So there's that," she said quickly. "You should really get better soon."
She remained in silence for ten minutes before she released Link's hand and stood up. She would have to eat something; she hadn't in nearly twenty-four hours and she knew he would protest if she didn't. So she made her way to the dining hall and stocked her plate with a fair amount of food, dodging any congratulations concerning the Finals in the process.
She sat down at a distance from all the other Brawlers, even Ike. If she did a conversation about the Tournament Finals would be started, and that was the last thing she needed.
Sheik was halfway through her toast when she noticed Krystal come in out of the corner of her eye. She looked down. Sheik waved her over.
Krystal seemed to deliberate on the matter, then she joined her. Once she sat next to her she could see that she was wearing gloves, and her eyes appeared more bloodshot than normal.
"Krystal?" she said. "What's wrong?"
She sighed. "There's just something concerning Fox. How are you? How's Link?"
Sheik studied her. It was obvious that her problem was a little more complicated than that, but she decided not to push it.
"I'm doing fine, I suppose," she said. "Link. . . Well, not quite as good. I'm going to visit him once I'm done eating."
"Visit him?" Krystal said. She snorted. "I think that's an understatement. I heard you didn't leave his side all day yesterday."
"Well, all night, too. I accidentally fell asleep there. What can I say? He needs to have someone to wake up to. Besides, we'll need to discuss our plans for the future."
"Plans?" She tilted her head in interest. "What kinds of plans?"
Sheik looked over her shoulder. All of the other Brawlers were absorbed in eating or talking.
She turned back to the Sage of Water. "Our plans to leave Smash City. We were originally going to do it sometime around now, but we must wait at least a week before we confront Ganondorf."
"Because I haven't found a Forest Sage yet, Link's wounded and I have to beat Snake in the Tournament."
"Wait, you have to beat Snake? Why do you—"
"Because of Meta Knight," she said. "He allowed me to appoint him as Sage of Shadow, but only on the condition that Snake's defeated in the Tournament. Link was supposed to be the one to do it, but that obviously didn't work out."
"Speaking of Link, you said he was pretty wounded. How so? I wasn't there to see either of your Brawls."
"Let's see. . . Incredibly burnt legs, gashes in his stomach from where shrapnel used to be, another gash in his shoulder, a cracked spine and that's not mentioning all the cuts and bruises he got."
Krystal whistled. "That's pretty serious. Is he going to. . . You know. . . Be able to stand anytime soon?"
"I'm assuming he will. You know as well as I that the medical supplies and food available are some of the best this world has ever seen. He'll be fine, and hopefully soon. I just have no idea when; his injuries were severe."
"So how do you plan to leave?"
"Preferably on horseback. I haven't been able to ride Twilight for some time now."
"The horse I came to Smash City on. I put her in a stable. I check on her from time to time, but the last time she's been checked on was when I asked Link to do it a week ago. . . Say, can you do that for me?"
"I-I don't know if I have the time," Krystal said. "And you haven't seen her in at least a week, right? Maybe you should go and check on her."
Sheik found herself shaking her head before she even finished her sentence. "Absolutely not. I need to have someone check on her for me."
"But if you really care for Twilight you'd make sure she was okay yourself, ri—"
"No, Krystal, please, listen to me." She leaned in close to her ear. "I've put up a barrier around the Smash Arena. No one's noticed because it's only designed to keep one person out."
"And that would be. . . That would be Ganondorf, right? I heard Link mention a Ganondorf."
Sheik nodded. "Yes. But in order to keep Ganondorf outside I have to stay inside the barrier. Link and you and everyone else is free to go wherever they wish, I cannot dwell anywhere outside of the Mansion or Arena. Otherwise Ganondorf will target not only Link and I, but people we hold close to us. People like you. Understood?"
"I. . . I . . ."
"Krystal, do you understand?"
She stared at her, and then she nodded.
"Good," Sheik said. "It's just. . . I have to protect myself and all those that I've come to care for. I'd do anything for them, and so would you."
A dark look swept over her eyes. She closed them and shrugged. "That's true."
She stood up. "I need to go get breakfast."
Sheik knitted her eyebrows. "Krystal, you know that you can tell me anything, right?"
For the longest moment, Krystal looked torn. She looked like she really wanted to say something.
Then she nodded. "Right."
She walked away without another word.
Sheik finished up her breakfast and walked back to the Infirmary. Link still hadn't woken up, so she settled back into the chair and prepared herself for another day of numbing silence.
This time she was so lost in her thoughts that she almost didn't hear the groan.
Her head shot up, her senses suddenly on high alert. She looked to Link to see his eyes part slightly.
She turned her entire body toward him and moved herself nearly to the edge of the chair. "Link?"
He looked at her. Then his eyes closed again. Her hope sunk as quickly as it had risen.
She was startled again when she heard a soft mumbling a few seconds later.
"Link? Did you say something?"
He release a tight, tired exhale. "Hi there. . . Zelda."
She snuck a glance at Samus to make sure she hadn't heard that. She was still unconscious.
"Hello, Link," she said. "How are you feeling?"
His eyes opened again, and this time they stayed open. They wandered around before arriving to her.
Somehow he managed a half-smile. "I've been better. How-" he grimaced, "how long have I been out?"
"A little less than a day."
"Hmm." Link managed to sit up slightly. "How long have you been here for?"
"Almost the entire time," she admitted. "Except for a little while this morning. It was breakfast time, so I went over to get some."
"Good. I'd be concerned if you didn't." Just as she'd predicted.
"Do we have a Forest Sage yet?"
Sheik shook her head.
Link sighed. "Well, we have to find one soon. We need to leave and defeat Ganondorf as soon as we can—"
"No. We're staying until after the Finals."
"No buts. You know as well as I that I have to beat Snake in a Brawl otherwise Meta Knignt won't help me. And even if I didn't, there's no way you will be able to fight Ganondorf in that condition. I won't be able to focus on the Sage of Forest for a while. I have to train."
But would that be enough? Link, the Hero of Time himself was unable to do it even after a week or rigorous training. He was a much better Brawler than her.
If he couldn't do it. . . then how was she supposed to?
Link seemed to sense what she was thinking, because he said, "Yeah, you do, don't you? Because you're not an average Brawler, and with just a little more training. . . well, who knows what could happen?"
And so, over the next week, she trained. She worked herself harder than ever before. She was the first to arrive at the training field and the last to leave. She didn't even go to the Dining Hall with the other Brawlers—she'd just snag food during breakfast, bring it with her to the training area and eat between punches and kicks. Sometimes she rewarded herself with larger quantities of food when she felt that she had done particularly good.
Through it all she made sure to visit Link. She'd often find herself doing so late at night, when all of her training was said and done. Just as she'd hoped, Link was making a very quick and sure recovery. Within three days his burns were mostly gone, the gash on his shoulder mended, all but one of the stab wounds in his stomach were gone and his back was making excellent progress at mending.
Together they began discussing just how they would leave when the time came. Just as she had thought earlier, the common agreement was to go forth to Hyrule on horseback. They and many of the Sages were experienced with riding horses, and those who didn't could simply hang on to the riders. They managed to get ahold of a map showcasing Smash City and its surroundings and set to work at plotting and calculating the quickest route to Hyrule.
"So now it's just a matter of getting the right documents and story," Link said once they were sure that they had found it.
"And of finding the next Sage of Forest," said Sheik.
And beating Snake, she added silently.
But she tried not to focus on that when she was around Link, as spending time with him was both her only refuge and the only time when she could really plan. She wounded up recalling many details of their plans to Krystal, who now took a large interest in what their next moves were.
Sheik would be lying to herself if she told herself that she didn't find it very suspicious. But among Link's recovery, their future plans and the Tournament Finals, her suspicion of Krystal was the least of her concerns.
On the morning before the fight she surrounded herself with multiple heavy training bags. She looked from bag to bag. Then she closed her eyes, cleared her mind. . .
And was at the first one within half a second. She punched it high up into the air and kicked the second one up as well. She turned on her heels, jabbed another one several times before jabbing it a final time that also brought it up into the air. She turned around again, jumped, and spun around in midair, sending all three of the airborne bags higher.
She landed with a somersault and moved on to the fourth one. She elbowed it high at its top, then unfurled her chain and wrapped it around a fifth. She swung the fifth training bag into the fourth, causing that to be airborne as well, and dragged it through the air. It crashed into every single one, again reinforcing the fact that they were airborne, and then she pulled the chain off of the fifth.
She put away her chain as she dashed up to the sixth and final training bag. She landed a series of punches on it and then kicked it up into the air.
She spun on her heels and looked up at all of the training bags. She drew out her needles and thrust one at each bag, rapidly, not stopping to see if they had missed. She was sure that they hadn't. Finally she jumped up and met the training bag's height. Her arms were a blur as she landed a jab on each one. She flipped upwards and allowed the training bags to fall to the ground. She did three backflips and landed on her feet before each of the six bags fell down with a crash.
Her chest heaved up and down. Her eyes lingered on the aftermath of her handiwork. Then she stood up straight and took deep breaths in an attempt to make her mind just as clear as it had been before she started.
She assessed her surroundings with a controlled air. Still no one had come to the training area—
Except for Link.
Sheik's eyes widened. "Are you. . ."
"Officially out of the Infirmary?" He smiled. "Yup."
"That's great!" She found herself smiling as well. "Just make sure that you still take care of yourself, okay? That's the only way you'll make a full, complete recovery."
"Yeah, I know. But I can finish doing that on our way to Hyrule. In the meantime we really need to—"
"Appoint the Sage of Forest," she finished. "I know."
"Do you have any ideas?"
"That would work?" She sighed. "None."
"What about Peach? I mean, she already knows that you're Zelda."
"I don't think so. Peach is a monarch, just like me. She's already in charge of taking care of one country; I don't want to place her in charge of taking care of another."
"That's true." He placed his chin on a fist. "The Pokemon Trainer?"
She shook her head. "I've already told you, I don't think he'd be ready for that sort of responsibility."
"Well, if we're going off of responsibility, how about Samus?"
She stared at him. "Samus? As the Sage of Forest? No. I have a very, very strong feeling that she'll ask for something impossible in turn, just like Meta Knight."
Sheik looked down at the thought of the deal she'd made with him. Tomorrow, it was all or nothing.
She didn't know what she would do if it turned out to be nothing.
"You know Sheik, at first I was concerned for you," Link said. "But after seeing you do all of that to the training bags, I'm not as worried. It looks like you'll be able to hold your own against Snake."
"I'm not worried about being able to hold my own against him, I'm worried about being able to defeat him."
"Which is possible."
"That's what we both said about you and look what happened."
Link grimaced at the thought. "Yeah. But don't think about what might happen if you lose; think about what might happen if you win. It can't hurt to keep your head up."
Sheik mulled over the possibility. If she did win, Meta Knight would help them save Hyrule. They'd find the next Sage of Forest in no time and would depart to finish their quest for Hyrule once and for all.
And she, Link and the Six Sages would all prevail.
Link was right. It definitely didn't hurt to keep her head up.
"You're right," she said.
"Just keep on training," he said. "I'm going to arrange our departure the moment this Tournament is over. After that I'm going to go with Krystal rent horses for our journey. In the meantime both of us will try to think of a Forest Sage. Does that sound good?"
She nodded. "Farewell, Link." She embraced him. "And thank you."
Sheik meant to say, for telling me to keep my head up. What came out was, "Everything."
After that, Link and Sheik parted ways. She did everything she could to fine-tune her fighting and adjust to what she had seen of Snake during his and Link's Brawl as the sun rose to its peak. By the time that it came down, if she was honest with herself, she still wasn't sure that she would ultimately defeat Solid Snake.
But she did know that she could.
In the evening, true to his word, Link found himself heading out of the Smash Mansion and through the City alongside Krystal.
She stopped walking at one point. She looked a little uneasy. "Erm. . . Link?"
"There's something I'd like to retrieve before we all head out to Hyrule. Do you mind if we . . . you know . . . go get it before we do our business with Twilight and the other horses?"
"I don't see why we can't."
She didn't look any more settled by his answer. If anything she looked more so.
He decided to change the topic. "So are you excited to see Hyrule?" he asked.
Krystal tilted her head. "But I thought your land needed to be saved or something. That is the point of our business, is it not?"
"It is," he said. "Sorry, I should have clarified. I meant, are you excited to see it once all of this is over?"
She shrugged. "Perhaps. It's true that I have heard a lot about it, among which that it's especially nice during the summer."
"Oh, it is," he said. "Castle Town is incredible. It's a very grand place with lots of activity. And that's not even mentioning Hyrule Castle itself."
"Really? How big is the place?"
"Well, it's impressive, to say the least," Link said. "There's this sprawling aisle that leads you to the throne room when you enter and this really elaborate chandelier and—"
He stopped himself and realized just how much he missed the place. His stomach curled into a knot.
That's why he and Zelda were going to save it.
He headed with Krystal into an alley. At the end he could see a flight of stairs leading into the basement of a building.
"Down there," she said. She took a deep breath. "Let's go."
Link followed her down the flight of stairs. She reached out the doorknob slowly and paused when her fingers were just an inch away from the metal.
An uneasy feeling stirred inside him when she abruptly grasped the doorknob and yanked it open, revealing darkness.
She stepped inside. "Come on."
He hesitated for a moment. He eyed her as he joined her.
"What?" she said.
Something wasn't right.
"Krystal." The way he said it was more of a demand than an address. "What is it that you're trying to get?"
Her face look contorted. The light from outside streamed into the room, illuminating the sheer guilt in her eyes. He could see tears welling up in both eyelids.
She closed her eyes, ultimately reining the tears in.
"Fox and I's safety."
They took off at the same time, but she exited the room before he could reach her and slammed it behind her.
He jiggled the doorknob anyways. "Krystal?" He gritted his teeth and tried again. "Krystal?"
He slammed a fist on the door. "Krystal, what the heck are you-"
A deep moan reached his pointed ears. His blood turned to ice.
He hoped they weren't what he thought they were.
Link spun on his feet and drew his sword. He saw the skeletal figures coming out of the dark and making their way toward him.
How are they in Smash City— He shook his head. He had to focus less on how the ReDeads got there and more on how to take care of them.
Link crept up to the closest one, maneuvered himself behind him and swung his sword from side to side. The ReDead fell, moaning in its wake.
He began advancing toward the other ones—
A screech like nails on a blackboard clawed its way into his core.
He tried to take another step closer toward the ReDeads, but couldn't. He tried again. Nothing.
It was just as he had thought. Crap.
He was unable to attack, run, move as a ReDead went behind him and latched onto his back.
Suddenly Link found himself able to move. He thrashed this way and that, launching himself up and down with all the force he could muster—
His back felt weightless. Link went behind one—no, wait, two, the one he'd thrown off had collided into another one—ReDeads and shoved his sword through the both of their ribcages.
The weight of their dead bodies pulled his sword down. With a grunt, he yanked it out and backed away from the bodies. If they were anything like he remembered. . .
Sure enough, the remaining ReDeads lumbered over to the corpses and formed a circle around them. He still didn't know why exactly they gathered around their fallen, but quite frankly, he didn't want to.
When he was sure that they were too invested in whatever they were doing to know where he was, he silently walked to them and stabbed the first one in its chest.
He extracted his sword before he moved on to the next one.
Stab, extract, move on. Stab, extract, move on. Stab, extract move on stab extract move on stab extract move on stab extract move on—
And then the ReDeads were nothing but a pile of mottled brown bodies.
He released a plunging exhale and barely stifled a groan. Taking on a bunch of ReDeads on the first day out of the infirmary was not a good idea.
But he couldn't stop moving. He ran over to the door. He had to confront Krystal, find out why in the name of all Hyrule she would lock him in a room with a bunch of ReDeads.
He sank his sword deep into the door and sawed it to the side. Then he sawed downward until he reached the floor, and then did it again on the other side. When he again had finished his rugged cut, he kicked down the portion of the door thrice to let in an explosion of sunlight.
Link bent his head, just about to run through the newfound opening when he heard footsteps behind him.
And very near him.
He spun around just in time to see none other than Ganondorf step out of the shadows.
Oh no. Oh no.
Ganondorf was here, had summoned the ReDeads for him to fight, and Krystal had led him here which could only mean that Krystal was working with Ganondorf, and—
Link took two large, swift steps toward him before stopping himself.
As much as he'd love to put an end to Ganondorf then and there, he couldn't. One of their Sages had yet to be found, another was a traitor and Ganondorf was right in Smash City.
He had to warn Zelda.
He began walking backwards. He kept his eyes trained on Ganondorf, who seemed to be advancing toward him faster than he was getting away.
One chance to get away.
Link spun around and hurled himself at the door, refusing to relent for a second. But he could hear footsteps behind him, and that meant Ganondorf wasn't stopping either and by the Goddesses he really didn't like the way he couldn't see Ganondorf—
Something grabbed his throat behind and Link immediately felt his breath leave him. He thrust the handle of his sword backward, but couldn't feel it hit anything and before he knew it the Master Sword had been knocked from his grasp and his feet had departed from the ground.
He opened and closed and opened his mouth, because dang it he needed air, he couldn't breathe and his lungs were being crushed and he needed to get to her—
Link grimaced and pried at the hand to no effect. It couldn't end like this, not when she had no idea of the danger she was in. If Ganondorf wanted to get to her, it'd have to be over his dead body—
Which, he realized, could very well be the point.
He continued thrashing and fighting, but the longer he couldn't breathe, the weaker he became. Still, if he had to go out, then at least he'd go out fighting.
Which was why he somehow both felt peaceful and intense fear for her as the blackness came.
She only let herself walk back into the room when she was sure that the fighting had stopped.
Krystal fought down a gulp and stepped inside—
Link was on the ground, motionless.
She clamped a hand over her mouth and her eyes became wide. His skin looked much too pale for comfort.
She restrained her emotions as best as she could as she said, "Is he. . ."
"Yes." Ganondorf lazily rolled Link onto his back with his foot. "And it's about time, too."
Krystal was too stunned to speak. Not knowing what else to do, she looked down to the ground, unblinking. She barely noticed the drops of tears hitting the ground.
What had she done?
What had she done?
She'd never thought that it could come to this. . . Oh, what a fool she'd been. What had she expected it to come to?
Oh no, Sheik.
She was going to be devastated.
"Good work, Krystal," Ganondorf said. His tone was almost kind. "You've done well."
She wanted to slap him. No, she most certainly hadn't.
"Now there's just one more thing I require. You simply must go back to the Smash Mansion."
Her head snapped up. She thrust as much hatred into one look as she could.
Ganondorf frowned. "Do repeat that."
"I said no," Krystal said. "What makes me think I'll actually help you again? I'm not going to let another death happen becaus-"
Pain struck at her like broadswords coming from all sides. She screamed and fell to the floor. Tears sprang in her eyes again and there felt like there was something being torn away from her and she just wanted it to stop, stop, stop—
Then it all went away.
Ganondorf spoke again once she'd had a moment to catch her breath. "That was number one. Two more and you'll be as lifeless as he is."
She got up to her knees. "Wh-Why?" she said. "Why's this so important that you'll resort to manipulating me to get what you want?"
"That's simple," he said. "Once, I had control over all of Hyrule. But then the Hero and the Princess showed up and took it from me. After that, the Princess sent the Hero back to his own time, thus undoing all of the events and erasing them from many peoples' memory, to stop me before I even got a chance to claim Hyrule. I was arrested and those worthless Sages unfairly sealed me in the Sacred Realm. But, even through all of this, I still had an advantage."
He walked up to her and knelt down in front of her. She tried not to shiver in the face of his red stare.
Ganondorf rose back up when he saw the look of confusion on her face. "I remembered everything that transpired in the year that never was. So did the Princess and the Sages—we were both at the center of the events. Because of this, I remembered the oath that I had made as I fell; I swore that I would wreak vengeance upon their descendants. But," he placed a finger on his chin as though in thought, "why curse their descendants when I can simply wreak havoc upon the real ones?"
He clasped his hands behind my back. "Now, girl, you say that you don't wish to cause another death. But this wish is in vain. One way or another, someone else will die. But you get to choose whether it is the Princess, or if the one you hold close suffers."
Somehow, Krystal managed to chuckle.
"That's where you're wrong," she said. "Now I know that there's a barrier around the Smash Arena. You can't harm Fox nor Sheik."
Ganondorf just smiled.
Krystal's small victory dissolved into a steadily brewing horror. What did he mean? But he couldn't get past it, and that was why he needed her to do his dirty work, right? Even if he could, why did he tell her that she needed to do yet another job?
The way he continued smiling told her that he knew exactly why.